Thursday, July 22, 2010

KAMAYAN: A Modern Interpretation of the Kingdom of God

(A tribute to a Great painter, Mr. Joey Velasco)
A typical Pilipino family will only use ordinary utensils during meal time. Others would perhaps be contented using their hands in eating, that is why, “kamayan” is very much popular in some other restaurants. We simply set aside and keep our elegant utensils in our cabinets and use these things during fiestas, birthdays, weddings and some other celebrations in the family. Others make use of this as decorations. This is what I observe even in my family. My mom used to keep all these and use it occasionally. But we cannot escape from the reality that sometimes we find ourselves in a formal gathering. Fragile and glittering utensils arrayed in various shapes and sizes in front of us and it seems that we are not comfortable in using all these things simply because we are not accustomed with these. We seemingly become alien, an outsider and perhaps think that we don’t belong to this kind of gathering. When people seem to notice us, they might think that we are not part of the group. Perhaps, they would secretly mock for we don’t know how to use these simple things.
            This was also the impression of the Pharisees seeing Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners during his time. They do not belong and should not even mingle with these people who were considered outcast in the Jewish community but then Jesus break the prevalent notion that time to concretize the content and meaning of the Reign of God. He does not proclaim the Kingdom verbally but he translates it into a way of life. This would mean that his preaching and his ministry are inseparable. In the gospel, Jesus portrayed as always coming from, going to and talking about banquet, feast and meals that is why those people who were against him branded him as glutton and drunkard and friend of tax collectors and sinners.   He is seen as companions at table with the condemned citizens of his time but he chose this medium to proclaim and celebrate God’s inclusive love.
            In the Jewish culture, dining together signals an intimate expression of friendship and communion. It is a manifestation of a deep companionship, belongingness and acceptance. This is what Jesus did; he broke bread together with the low class citizens of his time. “He accepts everyone no matter what their background and social standing. Social distinction, stratification and cultural taboos have been cut of in the presence of Jesus. He accepted people as they are, reached out to them as fellow human beings and in this way he created a new kind of friendship among peoples.”(Bredin, pp115). There is no outsider in the kingdom of God for there is no restriction in the heavenly banquets.
            Another way to make the kingdom concrete is through Jesus’ healing, exorcism and miracles. These are the vivid evidence that the power of God is active to save. Though there are debates existing concerning the authenticity of narrative account about nature miracles. Other authors suggest that these narratives were just a creation of the early Christians. Whatever it may be, what is certain was that it is not a mere display of power but rather an enfleshment of the Reign of God. It is the action that translate the meaning of the word and that is why miracles and exorcism plays an important role in making real the meaning of salvation. Jesus’ actions are actually re-building of broken relationships and communication both with God and his people. But these renovations would always be in the context of faith. This magnificent ministry of Jesus does not only calls for communion but an invitation to the unconditional faith in God; faith that leads to conversion.
As I was pondering, I came to realize the importance of belongingness. We are all incline to associate with others. Perhaps this is also what makes life more meaningful, the feeling that you are accepted and loved by others. I could hardly imagine how they live, those people who were alienated and perhaps even chose to deprive themselves of human relation because of social standard. But here is this man named Jesus who also chose to deviate with what is conventional to revitalize this essential aspect of human existence. The famous “Hapag ng Pag-asa” painted by Joey Velasco is a modern way of bringing into relevance the teachings of Jesus into this modern epoch. “Kamayan” together with these less privilege individuals is a concrete response to the inclusive membership of the kingdom of God.

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