Rejecting an environment prophet
“A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, indeed in his own house” (Mk 6:4; Mt 13:57)
BIBLICAL prophets, strictly, are those whom God appoints to speak in his name and for his sake. They are his mouthpiece; in the fullest sense prophets speak God’s Word, not their own. For Christians Jesus Christ is the quintessential prophet. He does not only speak the Word of God; he is the Word of God himself, the perfect revelation of God his Father. As the letter to the Hebrews puts it, if in the past God spoke through the prophets, “in these last days” he has spoken through “the Son” who is “the brightness of his glory” and the “perfect representation of his being” (Heb 1:2).
Catholics are taught that they share in Jesus’ prophetic mission (Baptismal Liturgy). Their baptism transforms them into like Jesus as bearers and proclaimers of God’s Word.
Part of this prophetic mission is to stand up for the “integrity of creation”. Such is an official expression from Church sources that simply means believers, particularly Christians, are not worth their name unless they commit themselves to the care of the earth, to nurture and protect the environment as stewards. In Genesis we read, for instance, that the Lord God put man into Eden “so that it would be attended and preserved by him” (Gen 2:15).
This is where someone like Gina Lopez comes in. She stands not only for her own principles but also for a larger reality, the cause of environmental justice. We must give to the environment and to the present and future generations their due: a well-preserved and ever better-cared-for environment. But, just like the biblical prophets and even Jesus himself, she has met not only resistance but, more so, a bitter rejection.
The words of John the Evangelist describing the fate of Jesus, i.e., “He came to his own and his own did not accept him” (Jn 1:11) strangely finds an echo in the senate CA decision. She, a scion of a powerful and wealthy family, confronted a few members her own kind. But she sings a different tune; she sings the song of the constitutional right of every Filipino to a well-cared-for environment and the interests of the poor.
Israel of old cultivated, in varying degrees, loyalty to the pagan gods of their colonizers; the Jewish political and religious authorities together with their cohorts had loyalties to the Mosaic Law rather than the Spirit. These two explain in great part their rejection of the prophets and, finally, of Jesus himself.
On the other hand, how does one explain the rejection by the CA members of an environment prophet like Gina Lopez? At this point pro-environment activists have already pointed out where that loyalty and the blame lies: “the voice and control of corporate mining on the CA”.
Considering the Church’s unwavering teaching and stance on creation’s integrity, this latest event is a sad development. But it should not be a surprise. Nor is it a setback just yet. After all, rejection is part and parcel of a prophet’s program of engagement. Besides, the rejection of Jesus ultimately led to his resurrection.
The Church should be aware by now that in Philippine and world politics interests move people better than principles. There are those who subtly declare principles but eventually vote their interests. The hard work of the prophets is to try to show principles as more urgent enough to override vested interests. In the whispers of the unhallowed corridors of wealth and power we should assume that it is not only difficult to hear real principled points of view; it is also unfair to declared their non-existence.
In the end, we submit to the wisdom of the Mother of the quintessential prophet who, at Fatima, urged everyone to pray and do penance “for the conversion of sinners”. We must put ourselves among the first in a long line.
Let’s bear in mind that even the Rejected One did not reject back.