Kibawe's Empty Tomb

There is an empty tomb in Kibawe, Bukidnon. The townspeople built it for their murdered pastor, Father Godofredo Alingal, S.J. And they would have buried him there on Monday, April 20, a full week after he was cold-bloodedly shot dead by hired killers. But over the people's protest and against all tradition, Father Bernas, Provincial Superior of the Jesuits of the Philippines, decided to hand over the dead body of Father Alingal to his sorrowing 85-year-old mother for burial in Dapitan, the town of his birth in far-off Zamboanga del Norte.

As Father Bernas explained it to the people at the final obsequies in Kibawe, he was simply honoring a mother's tearful plea for the body of her son. The people had him in life--his mother should have him in death.

So his tomb in Kibawe is empty--just like Christ's in Jerusalem the day he rose from the dead. There was no wondrous raising from the dead at Kibawe, true, but the promise was there, and the faith in that promise.

Nonetheless, there was a real resurrection. The people who came in throngs to the wake and funeral mass of their pastor were not an intimidated, fearful people, cowed by the violence of his death, which was supposed to be an object lesson to those who would stand up against the powerful. Their numbers spoke not of fear but of courage, not of despair but of hope, not of death but of life. A glorious rising of the spirit.

I pray that the empty tomb, no matter what other heinous crimes will still be perpetrated against the people of Kibawe, will always be a memorial and a pledge of their rising in the spirit from all that now, for them, spells death: poverty, exploitation, injustice, hatred, manipulation, fear, tyranny, violence--the list of evils is long.

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