THE VIEW FROM RIZAL
A number of young people usually approach me about a year before elections.
They come to ask for advice. Some want counsel on whether or not they should aspire for an elective post. Others ask me how they can win in an election.
I never give a direct, on-point reply to such questions. Jokingly, I say that I do not want to be responsible for the eventual miserable life that one’s entry into politics entail. I always share with them a remark often hears in political circles: “If you want to take revenge on another person, convince him to run for political office.”
The serious advice I give to them is to learn the lesson of Palm Sunday: “Be careful – the crowd who’s cheering for you today could very well be the same people who will later on cry out for your crucifixion.”
I first heard those words when I was the young aspiring public servant. Those were the words of a pastor-friend. I had asked him what lessons one might learn from the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. That was his insight – it’s good for one not to be fooled by the illusion created by a wildly cheering crowd.
“You mean Jesus was not elated by the grand welcome he got?” I remember asking my pastor-friend.
“Because he also has a human nature, I guess he was happy with what was done by the reception committee,” my friend said. “After all, the nature and magnitude if the reception must have been so significant that the political authorities paid attention,” he added.
“But I believe Jesus knew that the pomp and pageantry unfolding before his eyes was illusory,” he explained.
“Why so?” I probed.
“Well, I think Jesus knew that He was about to seriously disappoint that crowd – the palm-waving fans were there to welcome him as a political liberator of sorts,” my pastor-friend continued.
“They thought Jesus had come to instigate and lead a coup against the Rome-backed regime,” he pointed out.
“They were dead wrong,” he added.
“That Jesus proceeded to cleanse the Temple of merchants and money traders after that only aggravated the misimpression and misperception,” he said.
“Was Jesus affected by the grandeur of the welcome?” I asked, trying to fuel a philosophical discussion.
“Come to think of it, He may have been,” I was surprised that my pastor-friend obliged.
“Since he also had a human nature, it is possible that the temptation was there to go and grab the opportunity to contest political power at that point,” he said.
“I guess that is what happens to many when cheering crowds meet them – they are fooled by the moment and made to think that they are Julius Caesar reincarnated,” he continued, half-joking.
“How did Jesus handle that moment?” I continued to probe.
“Well… he kept his focus on the mission,” my pastor-friend answered.
“Jesus came to Jerusalem for one purpose alone, and that was to meet the death for which He was destined,” he explained in a professorial tone.
“He did not let the noise of the palm-waving crowd take his eyes away from that purpose – he was single-minded about his mission,” he added.
“So, do you think that crowd was angered later on by Jesus’ ‘failure’ to lead the coup?” I remember asking, trying to keep the conversation going.
“That is a valid observation,” my pastor-friend replied. “Maybe, the intensity with which they would shout ‘Crucify him!” later may have been fueled by the fact that Jesus disappointed them,” he expounded, reflectively.
“So, it’s not good to play with a cheering crowd?” I asked.
“It is good to keep in mind that the line separating a cheering crowd from a frenzied mob is very thin,” my pastor-friend answered, sagely.
“The lesson is, we can enjoy the affirmation of a large number of cheering people, but must, at the same time, not lose sight of what we were sent to do,” he concluded.
Those are the very same insights I would like to share with young people aspiring for an elective post: focus on the public service mission.
Do not enter politics just to experience the thrill of a celebrity status nor the excitement of being mobbed by a throng of adoring fans.
If that is what you are looking for, go to show business.
If one wants to join the ranks of true public servants, one must be willing to face the prospect of his own “crucifixion”.
As we mark Palm Sunday, let us renew our commitment to the individual and share mission to which we are called.
Let us also pause in a prayer of gratitude for the way Christ embraced His own mission, opting to reject the adoration of fans and choosing instead to remain focused on what He was sent to accomplish.
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