Turning Points of a Hero

Our national hero is Dr. Jose Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonzo Realonda.

Quite a long name huh? Quite a long history as well.

Jose Rizal has long been venerated by Filipinos as one of the greatest even though he has been dead for more than a hundred years. Numerous rumors and myths come out about him that one friend even quipped, “if basketball was already played back then, Rizal could have invented the slam dunk.” It fetched a lot of laughs especially when you have to spend 10 years venerating his name.

Yes, 10 years. Or maybe 11 or 12 depending on when you started school.

From grade school until high school, the name Jose Rizal along with the names Andres Bonifacio, Emilio Aguinaldo, Gregorio del Pilar, Juan Luna, Antonio Luna, and a denizens more would come out as heroes. As kids, you would just take in the information that Jose Rizal is the national hero without even asking why exactly that man was called thus. You would get more of him when you reach college. If you were lucky, your professors would pull the man back down to the ground where you’ll realize that he also wet his pants and had a tantrum as an infant.

I was one of the lucky ones. My professor in college never venerated the man. Instead he showed to us that he too is human. The pedestal where I placed that name crumbled down. He too wet his pants, and he too had his personal issues. It turned out that he had a lot of issues. Not only him, all the other names mentioned in history books were actually human. Bonifacio’s bolo could be broken as well as Lopez-Jaena’s pen could mess up paper. They were not super powered beings who once walked our planet. They were once babies, too. They had tantrums. They went to school. They came upon hard times. Their farts stink, too.

So what made them that famous to be part of history?

Probably there comes a definitive point in a man’s life that would influence the way he acts. A defining moment. A turning point. Some would experience great poverty, depression, or disappointment. Others may not experience it, but could witness something that would really rock their consciences. Most of these men experienced poverty, disappointment and depression that had to act. Bonifacio grew up in the slums of Tondo, Manila. He sold paper fans to support his reading addiction. Jose Rizal, may have been the son of a Don, but his family was banished from their own land by the friars.

A man needs a definitive moment to change.

Lately, I met a man who experienced such change. He could not be found in the annals of Philippine history. He wasn’t even famous. He was just an old bloke who has seen it all. He said he tried to experience everything in life including the drugs, sex, and booze life. He turned 180 degrees when he got married. He needed to go through so much hardship just to marry his wife including facing his father in law at gun point. Now, he is a new man. He was able to raise 3 accomplished professionals. The old man was happy.

A man needs something to rock his whole world and turn it upside down.

Another man had the same experience. He is well known throughout the world as a man who really turned the whole world upside down using a mallet, a piece of paper and a nail. His name is Martin Luther (He is different from Martin Luther King Jr.). The seventh chapter of the Great Controversy by Ellen G. White, both venerated and grounded the man.

In a time when the major religion is Roman Catholic Christian, Martin Luther’s father was true to his convictions and duties as a Christian. Yet he never wanted any of his sons to enter the monastery. So imagine the rage he had when his son whom he wanted to become a lawyer, entered the monastery. Martin was at one point an impulsive and passionate youth. More so that he even disobeyed his parents wishes.

Born and raised in a poverty stricken environment, Martin Luther’s first school was a playground of violence and harshness. Probably he was also bullied for being poor. He also experienced humiliation when after school, he had to go from house to house singing and asking for alms so as to feed himself. Sometimes he would go hungry for days.

Though poor, his parents made a firm resolve to let Martin reach the highest education they could afford. This coupled by Martin’s hunger for knowledge led them to send him to a university. So with much trouble, they were able to send Martin to the University of Erfurt where he learned to include prayers in his daily study habits. He stayed there until he graduated and received his Master’s degree in 1505.

His father pushed further and sent him to the same school to continue his studies at law, but he dropped out and went to a monastery much to the chagrin of his father. Martin found himself drawn to philosophy and theology. He was a reader and read much books.

His definitive moment came when he visited Rome. He saw all the errors of the church – amassing wealth when his German town was struggling in poverty. His eyes widened when he discovered a Latin Bible. In those days, the Bible was only accessible to the clergy and only in the Latin language. The priests would deliver sermons in Latin and would only get certain common passages like the Gospels. He started reading like the bookworm that he was and found out a lot of errors in the way the church is operating. His eyes were steadily opened but not without struggle. Luther was being trained as a monk, thus his belief in the church was foremost, but after reading the Bible, an internal struggle erupted. It wasn’t until he met Staupitz that his mind was opened. Staupitz’s words left an indelible mark on his head. “Instead of torturing yourself on account of your sins, throw yourself into the Redeemer’s arms. Trust in Him, in the righteousness of His life, in the atonement of His death…. Listen to the Son of God. He became man to give you the assurance of divine favor,” “Love Him who first loved you.”

With those words, he began to be at ease and take action. He questioned most of the principles and practices of the Catholic Church. Indulgences which were sold to the people in exchange for forgiveness of sins was his foremost topic of contention. In 1517, he posted his 95 theses in Castle Church in Wittenburg, Germany.  Once more, the pope, Pope Leo X, demanded that he take back all that he said. But Martin Luther stood firm. He received death threats –a lot coming from priests and bishops, but he still stood firm.

Next he countered the principle of doing good works for salvation; instead, he proposed that salvation is received free from God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He also translated the whole Bible into German thereby granting the Germans access to the Bible. His followers increased but his enemies also increased.

Eventually, Luther became known throughout the world as the leader of the Reformation Movement and one of the pioneers of Protestantism. He is not a hero though, he admits that he was only there as the servant of the real hero: the Almighty God.

“Whatever I do will be done, not by the prudence of men, but by the counsel of God. If the work be of

God, who shall stop it? if it be not, who can forward it? Not my will, nor theirs, nor ours; but Thy will, O holy Father, which art in heaven.”

Every person needs a definitive moment to motivate them to do the right thing. Have you found out yours?

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