DEFINING A NATION’S ROLE
The Philippines has a prophetic role as God’s light in Asia, and to the world. Only God knows why this is so. The Philippines has nothing to commend itself. It is poor, riddled by crime and corruption, has the scourges of gambling and illegal drugs, is politically unstable, and has over 11% of its people opting to live or work outside the country. The fact that it is a Catholic nation makes such a situation more indefensible. Even with no divorce, there are very many separations. Even with churches full on Sundays, there is much social injustice.
But having nothing to commend itself is the very criterion of God. God already once chose such a nation, Israel. But God told them clearly through Moses: “It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations.” (Dt 7:7). Talk about deflating the national ego!
The inscrutable ways of God
The ways of God are indeed strange to the human mind. But “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Cor 1:25a). Thus it is that “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something” (1 Cor 1:27-28). And for what? “So that no human being might boast before God” (1 Cor 1:29). There you have it. God chose the Philippines, a country that is weak and poor, because it fits His criteria! Also, God chose the Philippines so that it might be clear to all that whatever is accomplished is done by the power of God and not by man. “For great is the power of God; by the humble he is glorified.” (Sir 3:19).
And so the Philippines has become the only significant Christian nation in Asia (the only other Christian nation in Asia is Timor-Leste). It is a bastion of Christianity in a sea of pagan religions and atheism. Thus it has been designated a prophetic role as God’s light in Asia. But how will that happen? With missionary priests and nuns? Filipino priests and nuns have been serving for decades all over the world, but we have not seen any extensive conversions. Would it happen through the Filipino diaspora, 11 million strong throughout the world? Though there are heart-warming stories about Filipina domestic helpers spreading the faith, these are few and far between.
How then would the Philippines become a light to Asia, and even to the whole world?
This will come about as the world observes a visible radical transformation of the Philippines, manifested in many ways. It will happen as we build the Church of the Poor. It will happen when Filipinos experience justice and peace and prosperity in the land. When there is no one in the whole country in need. When the poor will have their dignity restored and take their place as a foremost force in the renewal of society. When crime and corruption is minimized and even eradicated altogether. When the insurgencies of the Communists and the Muslims have been settled peacefully, and all Filipinos live and work in unity. When there is respect for the environment, and the air over Manila is clean. When dead, polluted rivers and streams are brought back to life and once again teem with fish. When the beauty of the country will become a showcase to the world of God’s wonderful creation. When there is great happiness and contentment in the lives of people. When the light of Christ shines forth in Filipino hearts and in Filipino homes.
It will happen when the Philippines reflects very much more the beauty and blessings that are appropriate for the kingdom of God that is in its midst.
It will be then when other countries, that themselves experience problems of poverty and oppression and pollution with no solutions in sight, will look upon the Philippines in wonder and amazement. And they will desire to know the key to the nation’s peace and prosperity. And that is when Filipinos can say it is because they have a God who blesses them.
The countries of the world will want to know such a God.
The call to Israel
In fact God did raise a people many centuries ago, and intended them to be His showcase to the world. He entered into covenant with them, and promised them blessings as a reward for their obedience.
“If you live in accordance with my precepts and are careful to observe my commandments, I will give you rain in due season, so that the land will bear its crops, and the trees their fruit; your threshing will last till vintage time, and your vintage till the time for sowing, and you will have food to eat in abundance, so that you may dwell securely in your land. I will establish peace in the land, that you may lie down to rest without anxiety. I will rid the country of ravenous beasts, and keep the sword of war from sweeping across your land. You will rout your enemies and lay them low with your sword. Five of you will put a hundred of your foes to flight, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand of them, till they are cut down by your sword. I will look with favor upon you, and make you fruitful and numerous, as I carry out my covenant with you. So much of the old crops will you have stored up for food that you will have to discard them to make room for the new. I will set my Dwelling among you, and will not disdain you. Ever present in your midst, I will be your God, and you will be my people” (Lev 26:3-12)
What awesome blessings upon a country! Food in abundance, peace and security in the land. No worries or anxieties, no ravenous beasts (include murderers and rapists in that). Most of all, the abiding presence of God in their midst.
The Israelites did experience such blessings, with the high point being the reign of Solomon. He “surpassed in riches and wisdom all the kings of the earth” (1 Kgs 10:23). And get this: “the whole world sought audience with Solomon” (1 Kgs 10:24)! What God did to and for the Israelites attracted the whole world!
Unfortunately, Solomon proved unfaithful, the Israelites proved unfaithful, and they lost it all.
But wouldn’t God still look to raising a people with whom He would establish His covenant, and bless abundantly as a sign for all the nations, in order to be able to draw all other nations to Himself? I believe He would. I believe He has.
Through the centuries, God has blessed countries in special ways. Ireland was one such. They sent out very many missionaries. But today Ireland is quite secular, even anti-Catholic Church.
Is it then the turn of the Philippines? Why has this country been situated such that it must be given the prophetic role to be God’s light in Asia? And beyond that to the whole world?
The call to the Philippines
As Filipinos witness to the power of God in their country, as they stand in the place of Jesus in carrying on his mission, as true liberation comes upon the land, the countries of the world will see Jesus in this country. And the impact will be as the time when Jesus himself walked the earth. What happened as Jesus healed people then?
“Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.” (Mt 15:30-31)
Allow me, with great license, to rearrange and paraphrase the above passage.
The nations were amazed when they saw the poor uplifted, the economy booming, the food abundant, the air clean, and they glorified the God of the Philippines. Great delegations came to the country, bearing with them their problems of economic malaise, lack of vision for their country, political oppression, and many more. They presented these for counsel, and God provided the solution.
In the case of Solomon, the whole world sought audience with him, to hear from him the wisdom that God had put in his heart (1 Kgs 10:24). When the queen of Sheba witnessed his great wisdom and the magnificence of his surroundings and the happiness of his people, “she was breathless” (1 Kgs 10:4-5). So too will the whole world be amazed at what God can do for a people, and when they come to witness things firsthand, their experience of God’s blessings will take their breath away!
And just like the queen of Sheba, their response can only be to say “Blessed be the Lord, your God” (1 Kgs 10:9). The key to the evangelization of Asia and the world is the bountiful unimaginable blessings God will pour out upon His chosen nation, the Philippines.
Filipinos who take to this prophetic vision can easily stand accused of having a messianic complex, of thinking that they will save the world. But we know that it is the messiah who saves the world. But we also know that God uses instruments to accomplish His will.
“So too, all men are of clay, for from earth man was formed; yet with his great knowledge the Lord makes men unlike; in different paths he has them walk. Some he blesses and makes great, some he sanctifies and draws to himself. Others he curses and brings low, and expels them from their place. Like clay in the hands of a potter, to be molded according to his pleasure, so are men in the hands of their Creator, to be assigned by him their function.” (Sir 33:10-13)
Knowing that one is simply an instrument is cause not for pride but for humility. The bright colored clay pot that glows with eye-catching beauty cannot claim any credit, for it is merely a product of the skilled potter and painter. The Stradivarius from which issues beautiful music cannot claim any credit, for it is merely an instrument in the hands of a skilled violinist. If the clay pot is dropped and shattered, it suddenly becomes totally useless. If the Stradivarius is left in the closet, it will cease to give joy to lovers of music.
In the case of Filipinos, they are not just instruments, but they are not even great or beautiful instruments. In fact, whatever God can accomplish in and through Filipinos will be done in spite of them! Through the years, they have shown that they are often the obstacles to God’s accomplishing His purposes for them.
And so God uses instruments, and often such instruments are those who count for nothing in the world. That is what Filipinos are—nothing who will be able to accomplish something great, simply by the power of God.
It seems that nothingness and greatness go together. Our nothingness and God’s greatness are a great combination. In fact, it is dynamite!
Take a look at Mary. She was a young maiden in a town of Galilee called Nazareth. She was not rich, nor of noble birth, nor of any social prominence. But God chose her to be the mother of Jesus. What she said about herself in her canticle, the Magnificat, speaks for itself. “For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Lk 1:48-49). We recognize our nothingness, but we also recognize the great work God is able to do in and through us. And we give the glory to God.
In fact, take a look at Jesus himself. He was born in the small town of Bethlehem in one of the smaller colonies of the far-flung Roman empire. He was born in a stable and wrapped in swaddling clothes. He grew up as a carpenter. He became an itinerant preacher in an underdeveloped region in the world. And finally he died as a criminal and was buried in a borrowed tomb.
This is how God works.
And so God called a people, Israel. They were the smallest among the nations. They had nothing to commend themselves. But God entered into covenant with them and built them up, making them great among the nations.
Now God calls the Philippines. Filipinos are indeed an unlikely choice. They are poor, crime-prone, disunited. They are the basket case of Asia. They suffer under corrupt governments. There is widespread injustice. The country has long-running Communist and Muslim insurgencies. But even with all these negatives, God has a purpose.
It is just like in His call to the Israelites, who had to wander in the desert for 40 years. And what was that purpose? “To test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments” (Dt 8:2). God wants to know if we are with Him only because He blesses us. God wants to know if we will still be there for Him even when the blessings seem not to be forthcoming. God wants to know if we will obey Him only when we get goodies from Him, or if we will obey Him, period! So in spite of all the hardships and trials, if we do not turn away from God, if we in fact cling more to Him and trust in Him, then we would have passed the test.
In fact, Christians are exhorted to “endure (their) trials as ‘discipline’ ” (Heb 12:7), which God sends our way “for our benefit, in order that we may share his holiness” (Heb 12:10). To do God’s work, we need to be His holy people. And to do God’s work that involves us in spiritual warfare, we need to be a trained army. Thus Paul exhorts us to “bear (our) share of hardship along with (him) like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tm 2:3). So the trials endured by Filipinos are both a test and training. They are to be seen as part of the preparation for the work in Asia and the world.
And when the time comes for their vindication, when their misfortunes are finally overturned, when they become prosperous in the end, Filipinos will not forget their proper place. “Otherwise, you might say to yourselves, ‘It is my own power and the strength of my own hand that has obtained for me this wealth.’ Remember then, it is the Lord, your God, who gives you the power to acquire wealth, by fulfilling, as he has now done, the covenant which he swore to your fathers.” (Dt 8:17-18).
The Israelites experienced the blessings promised by God as part of their covenant, but they forgot their proper place. They turned away from their covenant. The consequences were tragic. They lost everything. May it not be the case with the Philippines.
So God has called the Philippines and prepared the Filipinos. They need only respond and be faithful, and be amazed at how God can form them and empower them and use them. And of course if they do not respond, then they will lose the anointing.
If that happens, perhaps God will look to an even poorer and more devastated nation, Timor-Leste, which is now the second Christian nation in Asia.
The role of other nations
What does such a preferential call for the Philippines imply about other nations? Are they then destined to be second-class in the eyes of God? Certainly not. This is just how God works.
God chose a poor maiden in a remote corner of the world to be the mother of God. God chose an ordinary fisherman to be the head of His Church. And through the years, God continues to confound the wisdom of the world. Indeed God Himself tells us that His thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways (Is 55:8). It is not our place to question His ways.
And so God raises a people whom He would use.
Even Jesus focused his mission on the people God had called. To the Canaanite woman asking for deliverance for her daughter, he said “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Mt 15:24). Did that mean Jesus loved her less? Certainly not. Jesus’ actions were only in accordance with the inscrutable wisdom of God, who though always having the salvation of the whole world at heart, had a particular plan of action.
In accordance with God’s plan, other nations benefited as they embraced the God of Israel. This is what happened to the Canaanite woman.
And of course, after his public ministry that was focused on the Jewish people, Jesus instructed his Jewish core group to bring the good news to the whole world and to make disciples of all the nations. From that day of Pentecost, the gospel spread quickly, starting in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria, and finally to the ends of the earth.
To other nations, humility is called for. The nations of the world are to subordinate their national pride to the sovereign will of God, whose ways are inscrutable. Indeed we are all citizens of the same heavenly kingdom. So if God is truly calling and intending to use the Philippines, the other nations should accept that God is indeed working in and through Filipinos, and joyfully accept that reality as God’s plan for their own salvation.
But this prophetic role for the Philippines does not mean that the other nations will sit idly by while Filipinos evangelize the world. On the contrary, God is raising a multinational army, composed of soldiers from all nationalities. God certainly looks to the Indians, Vietnamese and Nigerians, for example, who have many warm bodies to contribute to the mission, and who are themselves already dispersed throughout the world.
Unlike the Jews who scattered from Jerusalem due to persecution, Filipinos are already scattered due to economic need. There are over 12 million Filipinos in practically all countries in the world, many of them in menial service. The nobodies of the world are already in place. The Filipinos just need to be conscious of their true calling.
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So the Philippines is destined to be God’s light in Asia and to the world. Is it up to the task?
Catholics who visit the Philippines are awed at the vibrant religiosity of Filipinos. Churches are packed on Sundays, with many Masses in different parishes. Religious fiestas are robust and are vibrant community events. Events such as the annual Black Nazarene procession draw millions of devotees. Crucifixes are not just in churches but in office buildings, including government offices. Cars have rosaries hanging in front on their rear-view mirrors.
But the true state of spirituality of Filipinos is masked by their vibrant religiosity. The reality is that only about 18% of Catholics go regularly to Sunday Mass. Many more do go, but only on special occasions, or just every now and then as an obligation, or whenever there is nothing more important to do.
Further, when a great majority of the population is Catholic, then it could be assumed that a great percentage of unchristian acts would also be committed by Catholics. And so it is. Filipino Catholics are among those who kill, rape and rob. They are the corrupt politicians and greedy businessmen. They pollute the environment. They use contraceptives. They commit illicit sex. Many are supportive of reproductive health legislation. While divorce is not legal, more and more Catholics are separating from their spouses. While society is still fairly conservative, premarital and extramarital sex is becoming widespread, and there is increasing homosexual activity.
A majority of Filipino Catholics are nominal or cultural Christians. They do not actively live out their faith. Even those who go to Sunday Mass and receive communion might live the rest of the week in sin and unrighteousness.
The faith of many Filipino Catholics seems to be built on sand!
Now there is another ominous threat to the Philippines living out its destiny. It is the tsunami of evil swamping the whole world. It is the culture of death being imposed by world powers under the dominion of the evil one.
Today the dark forces are marshaling their strength globally for a final push against the culture of life and against the Roman Catholic Church. These are very powerful forces—the US government under President Obama, the European Union, elements of the United Nations, billionaire philanthropists, international liberal media, multinational corporations, giant abortion providers, homosexualist and radical feminist groups. These forces are going all out to impose their diabolical worldview on all nations. They are insisting on abortion and same-sex marriage as universal human rights. They are using every bit of their economic, political and military power.
Now with the whole world under increasing evil, would the enemy tolerate a light flickering in the darkness? It would not. It cannot. Thus the Philippines, God’s light in Asia and the world, is a special target by the enemy. We can expect the full force of the enemy to be brought to bear against the Philippines. Satan’s goal is to snuff out this light, and bring this Christian nation under his dominion.
Nation after nation has succumbed to the relentless onslaught of the culture of death. When Malta, a strongly Catholic nation, legalized divorce in 2011, only 2 states were left without divorce—the Philippines and Vatican City. But there are no married couples in the Vatican. And so that leaves the Philippines as the only nation still standing for marriage and family life. Thus we can expect the enemy forces to concentrate their firepower on us. Satan is enraged that the light of Christ is still shining in Asia.
Can we withstand the onslaught? As it is, we cannot.
While many good things are happening in the Philippine Church today, the challenge remains great. There is much activity. There are many effective programs. However, we do see that church attendance is low, and even those who are regularly attending church activities are far from growing in lives of holiness. This includes the clergy.
Let us examine our situation.
* Only 18% of all Catholics attend Mass regularly every Sunday.
* Many corrupt government officials, tax-evading businessmen, and miscreants of all kinds are Catholics.
* Many Catholics, especially among the poor, are still living without benefit of sacramental marriage.
* Many Catholic women use contraceptives, and many Catholics favor the reproductive health bill.
* Many Catholics who have more in life do not share their resources with the poor. In fact, the divide among the haves and the have-nots is appalling.
* Some clerics are not authentic men of God or true pastors.
* Many Catholics are being lost to fundamentalist sects and cults.
* Not many Catholics go to regular confession.
Of the Catholics who are basically good people who still go to church, many are not striving to live lives of holiness. And most do not participate at all in the evangelizing mission of the Church.
So the Philippines, according to God’s plan, has a prophetic role to be His light in Asia and to the world. But is the nation in a position to fulfill its destiny? Can the nation withstand the onslaught of the culture of death? The answer seems to be “no.” In fact, unless something is done, the Philippines may go the way of all other Catholic nations where the faith has greatly diminished, and where secular humanism has triumphed.
We need to prepare for the onslaught of evil upon our land. This is especially critical since the enemy is already within the Church, whether these are dissident theologians, increasingly liberal Catholic educational institutions, feminist nuns, Catholic politicians promoting reproductive health, and so on. But more importantly, we need to prepare to fulfill our destiny as God’s light to the world.