IN its pastoral statement read Palm Sunday in churches of the ecclesiastical province of Manila, the bishops used the imagery of the desert as a model for change.
“The history of salvation teaches us that the long road to freedom inevitably passes through the desert of purification and conversion. Having escaped from Pharaoh, via the miraculous crossing through the Sea of Reeds, the Israelites considered themselves liberated. But they were not yet free, because they wanted to go back to their old ways in Egypt,” so goes the pastoral statement entitled “Towards a Morally Rebuilt Nation,” signed by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales and 15 bishops in the suffragans.
This is a perfect parallel or so it seems. The desert is like a university where one learns the ropes of life. It is a linear process so much like the Shakespearean stage where one makes entrances and exits in life and supposedly completes the transit, or “passover” if you may, from a laidback situation to a better one—or a land flowing with milk and honey in the case of the Israelites.
“People were disciplined and converted from their greed (Exodus: 17-21); and the desert which the Israelites feared to enter became for them a place of purification, discipline and conversion, before they could enter the promised land of freedom, forty years later. There are yet no proven easy short cuts to conversion and renewal,” continues the pastoral statement.
But one thing good with the people of Israel in the desert is they had no robbers or thieves or liars. In fact, they were just too willing to give up their jewelries for a common decision to gild a golden calf—although for idolatry which is equally worse. Giving jewelries for the nation was also an experience of late among Thais during the regional financial crisis.
In the Philippines giving one’s resources for the country or for the common good is something that’s “extra terrestrial”. The opposite it true; and that’s were the desert will come in circles ad nauseam.