By Ricardo Saludo | The Manila Times
Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. … I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away." The One who sat on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new."
– The Book of Revelation, 21:1, 3-5
THE winning tandem of presumptive president Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. or BBM and vice president Sara Duterte-Carpio, in fact, need not be told what their paramount post-election task is. After all, their UniTeam branding itself spells it out: building national unity after fiery election fractiousness.
No less than VP-to-be Sara said in her victory statement to the nation: "Thank you for accepting the movement for unity brought by Bongbong Marcos."
To overcome, be one
Healing division and enhancing national cohesion and drive are imperative for the tough months and years ahead. Surging food, fuel and other key commodity prices, massive debt and rising interest rates, continuing rebel and terrorist attacks, typhoons, droughts and other climate change impacts, and the intensifying superpower rivalry between the West and its Eurasian protagonists China and Russia — all that and more challenges and threats face the nation in the foreseeable future.
Even now, as the country rises from two years of the longest pandemic lockdown on the planet, huge swaths of the citizenry are deeply hurting from the economic woes brought on by nationwide measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
As surveyed by the Gallup polling organization, some 60 percent of Filipinos aged 30 or older suffered immensely from the Covid curbs, along with more than half of 15- to 29-year-olds. And it's not over by a long shot, with supply disruptions from both the global pandemic and the Ukraine war pushing the cost of living to punishing levels.
Without unity and cohesion, it would be triply harder to overcome mounting economic, environmental and geopolitical challenges. With over one-fifth of voters backing her, Vice President Maria Leonor "Leni" Robredo could certainly whip up mass protests, driving away investment for recovery. Thankfully, she has urged "respect the voice of the people" while stressing that the struggle is not over.
Unity and cohesion are also needed for major sectors and the nation at large to accept inevitable measures to bring down state debt, ensure affordable and adequate essential goods, and counter disruptive or violent groups.
Just as tens of millions of Filipinos had to follow masking, distancing, vaccination and sanitation protocols against Covid, we must now pay taxes, especially wealthy families and companies, desist from hoarding, undertake personal lifestyles and business decisions to reduce global warming emissions, and most of all, give aid to the poor and the needy.
In sum, Filipinos must set aside me- or we-first mindsets and habits, including those engendered by elections, and give paramount importance and urgent action to the common good and the welfare of others, especially the less fortunate.
Otherwise, self-seeking ways rule, which only bring division, discord and disarray.
Sadly, that is exactly what certain quarters want, especially those seeking to bring down the government or pressure it toward their self-serving agenda.
'Wipe every tear'
However, in the half-millennium of Christianity on our shores, our majority faith should not only help us build unity, but actually makes it morally imperative. For the be-all and end-all of God's Kingdom as preached by Jesus Christ and his disciples and espoused in Holy Scripture is nothing less than oneness in the embrace of the all-loving God.
That's certainly the singular message in the May 15 Mass readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 14:21-27), unity is extolled and advanced is the willingness of early Christians evangelized by Saints Paul and Barnabas "to undergo many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God."
Plus: bringing people from every race and group, Jews and Gentiles, of Hebrew, Greek and Latin tongues, of noble, ordinary or lowly birth, of great wealth or destitution — all united in one baptism of faith and one law of love lessoned and lived by one Lord.
That core principle of unity is, of course, seen and heard in Jesus Christ himself in the Gospel reading from St. John the Evangelist (Jn 13:31-35). Right after his apostle Judas left to betray him to the temple elders plotting his death, Jesus speaks of the love he wants all his followers to show one another, going far beyond the Golden Rule of reciprocating goodness. Rather, Christians must lay down our lives as Christ did.
"I give you a new commandment," said our Lord, "love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
Now, let's not start rolling in derisive laughter all at the same time, as many readers might just do, thinking it's preposterous to call on Filipinos or any other nation, for that matter, to show the fullness of self-denying Christian love. Rather, it may be enough to just keep from tearing each other apart. But charity? Only in heaven.
That is perhaps why the second Mass reading from the Book of Revelation, partly quoted above, looks ahead to "a new heaven and a new earth" with no less than the Almighty coming among humanity to inaugurate a new age of divine love. Only then and not now, right?
Well, if we must wait till the fulfillment of end-times prophecy before we show caring for others, forget unity.
But if we really mean to become one nation, then do as God does: "Wipe every tear from their eyes." Only then will He "make all things new" and bring forth Bagong Pilipinas.