The Death of a Dream

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

Burning Hopes
What really happened on that First Good Friday? Who nailed Jesus to the cross? It was not Pilate because he was trying desperately to find an explanation, any excuse to let him go. It was not the Sanhedrin either because they wanted him dead but they did not have the authority to order an execution. They were under martial law of a foreign power. The definitive power came from ordinary people - a screaming crowd demanding blood. CRUCIFY HIM! Was this the same crowd who was yelling "Hosanna to the Son of David?" What went wrong?

Disappointment. The Jews were bitter, desperate, poverty-stricken, overtaxed people. They have fallen from glory. They were conquered and taken over, filled with despair and resentment. They had only one hope left. A promise that when the Messiah came, he would deliver them and bring them back to their reputation and dignity as the chosen people of God.

Jesus fulfilled the scriptures about the Messiah. He cleansed lepers, gave sight to the blind, allowed the lame to walk, exorcised demons and even brought the dead back to life. When he entered Jerusalem riding on a borrowed donkey, the crowd went wild. They shouted "Hosanna! Hosanna! The time of their freedom is at hand. Their dream of a new Israel is at hand. Israel would be restored to her proper place, a chosen people of God with peace, prosperity and health. So the people cheered, danced and waved their palm branches, filled with hope for a glorious new beginning. It was Passover and their situation was the same as ever. Their presumed Messiah had been arrested. It was all over. The death of a dream.

Too bad. When hope is born and then snatched away, emotions run out of control and somebody has to pay. CRUCIFY HIM! Had they talked it over thoroughly and re-examined their expectations, restoration might have been possible. But here, in the heat of the moment, only blood could satisfy. CRUCIFY HIM!

St. James in his epistle (4:1-2) asks: "Where do the conflicts and disputes among you originate? Is it not your inner cravings that make war within your members? What you desire you do not obtain, and so you resort to murder. You envy and you cannot acquire, so you quarrel and fight."

How often have we been disappointed? How often have we given in to hurt someone? When life doesn't meet our expectations, we lash out. Somebody has to pay.

Sound familiar? Our Lady of Peñafrancia fulfills our expectations and prayers. She heals the sick, comforts the afflicted, and protects all of us. She is the icon of the Bicol people. She is the Patroness of the Bicol Region. She is our Queen and our Mother. Right after the Mass before the image of Our Lady of Peñafrancia is taken out of her Basilica for the traslacion procession, devotees and voyadores cheer and shout VIVA LA VIRGEN! They are filled with hope for a glorious fiesta. Their dream of a grace-filled celebration is at hand. Devotees from all over the land flock to the city full of hopes that their prayers and petitions will be answered by the Mother of God.  As the procession continues along the streets of Naga City, the voyadores are wild. They shout VIVA LA VIRGEN! VIVA EL DIVINO ROSTRO!  So the people clap, cheer and wave their handkerchiefs. Every year the situation is the same as ever. Their presumed INA is insulted, mocked and slippers, plastic bottles and anything at hand are thrown about her. The death of a dream.

Too bad. Emotions run out of control and somebody has to pay. Another voyador will be hurt. A devotee watching along the side street will be in pain. A priest or a seminarian will be injured.


When we cool off and get a different perspective, we look with horror at what we have done and cannot be undone. We cannot turn back the time. The damage is done; the body is in the tomb, the image of our INA is desecrated. That is where the story would end, were it not for the infinite grace of God and His love, stronger than hate, stronger than hurt and stronger than death.

We cannot blame the Jews, the Romans, the Sanhedrin or the cultural influences of the day for what happened. We cannot blame the devotees or the voyadores for what happened. Insofar as we ourselves turn against Christ, we are responsible for his death. Insofar as we do not show love and respect for INA, we are responsible for her defilement. Insofar as we fail to trust God and give way to the "inner cravings that war against our members", we continue to crucify Jesus and insult his mother. Insofar as we refuse to dethrone ourselves and yield instead to the rage of frustration and disappointment, we continue to scourge him, mock him and break his heart. These in the same way we do to His mother. Unless there is conversion of heart, we will always be responsible for the death of a dream.