Jessica was a lost child wandering the streets of a Philippine city, picked up by a human trafficker and brought to different places where she was sold as a commodity to foreign sex tourists to be abused.
She didn’t know what was happening to her at 14-years of age. She was raped, exploited and robbed of her virginity. She became angry at the world and felt she was nothing and had nothing. She felt she has no future, no present and no past life.
All was hopeless and when rescued and placed in government shelters, she escaped several times and rebelled as an aggressive and angry young, uneducated teenager filled with hatred and pain.
In desperation, the social workers brought her to the Preda girls’ home, an open home where there are no guards, fences or high walls. The children are free to leave but almost all choose to stay and try a life in a happy community.
So, Jessica stayed by her free choice because she was given that free human choice with respect, affirmation, dignity and the importance and rights that are her due. She found hope, encouragement and support.
Then she volunteered for Emotional Expression Therapy and there in the cushioned room, she cried and shouted out all the pain, hurt, frustration and hatred she carried deep within her since early childhood and when she was cruelly raped and abused.
Then, after weeks she began to change in self-awareness and self-knowledge and grew self-confident and found within herself the courage to file charges against her abusers and find justice. She was by then a strong and empowered young lady.
It was suffering, death to the past life and the beginning of new life. It was a kind of resurrection for Jessica, a coming to life from a dark, pain-filled existence to a bright, hope-filled future with exciting new possibilities of friendship and education and a life of fulfilment.
So, it is with hope that change is possible and that change can be in individual lives like that of Jessica and so with thousands of lives in society. From the darkness of social evil, injustice and all the pain and suffering, hope brings change and makes healing possible.
The cruel dictator can be thrown down from his thrown of arrogance and the trampled upon can recover and stand up to live again.
That is the message of the Gospel story of the man from Nazareth that was so rejected by the leaders, the elders and the mob that he, a good person of absolute integrity, was falsely accused, framed up, charged, and made to suffer the death penalty.
He spoke about truth, justice, human dignity and the rights of all and especially of children and women. He preached equality and sharing and he denounced hypocrisy, exploitation and oppression and he called for change and injustice to end.
Yet having lived a good life caring for others, healing and supporting the weak and the poor and the needy, forgiving those who needed forgiveness, he was judged and condemned as a criminal and nailed to an instrument of cruel barbaric death.
But after such apparent total failure of his work, the scattering of his followers, the collapse of his mission, then what appeared to all to be an end of change in the world, hope lived on. He was alive and lived on in the thoughts, imaginations, feelings and in the belief of his followers.
His powerful intoxicating words promising a happier life if we loved each other instead of killing, maiming and hurting each other was possible. A life of equality and dignity for all was still possible like snowdrops emerging in the depth of winter.
Jessica shared in that same hope and experienced that new life because she came to believe in herself because others inspired by the values of the Man from Nazareth gave her courage, support, care, friendship and comfort in her darkest hours.
Fr Shay Cullen