Friday, January 27, 2012

Attending an assembly of the CBCP/ Giving a talk on "The Word of God and Basic Ecclesial Communities"

Since last Tuesday (Jan. 24), the Catholic bishops coming from 86 dioceses all over the Philippines gathered at the Pius XII center for their regular assembly. The executive secretaries from various episcopal committee and commissions were also invited - that includes me. The first day was devoted to listening to the results of the study on the diocesan plans and how they reflect the vision-mission and priorities of the second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II). The study was conducted by research centers coming from various Catholic universities all over the Philippines. Among others, the study show that "Basic Ecclesial Communities - BECs" ranked 3rd in the adoption of PCP II priorities reflected in the diocesan plans.

One the second day, 3 bishops gave talks on Benedict XVI's "Verbum Domini" - the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the CHurch. Yesterday, the 3rd day of the gathering, several executive secretaries gave presentations on the relation of the Word of God to various specific dimensions/priorities of  the Church (Catechetics, Liturgy, Youth, Social Action, Social Communications, BECs). I gave a 45 minutes presentation on the topic: "The Word of God and Basic Ecclesial Communities" followed by 15 minutes open forum in the afternoon. I was nervous at first, since this was the first time I have given a talk to the bishops (except for the 10 minutes BEC committee report I gave last July 2010). But I was encouraged by the attentiveness and interest of the bishops.
Tomorrow, the bishops will be listening to the reports from various commissions, followed by discussion on several concerns.
I will be meeting the members of the National BEC team (headed by Bishop George Rimando) immediately after the CBCP assembly on Wednesday.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Faith and Personal Renewal (Mk 1:14-20)

I've been back here in Baclaran since last week. This morning I presided at the 9 am mass and this is what I preached:

"The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel"

We often take pride that the Philippines  is the only predominantly Christian country in Asia. Around 82 percent  of the population are Catholics.

Majority of our people are deeply religious, with deep faith in God and devotion to the our Blessed Mother Mary and the saints –
We have the longest Christmas season – at least we can already hear Christmas songs as early as September and we are the only country that celebrates the Misa de Gallo – the nine early dawn masses before Christmas.
We have the  biggest procession – the Nazareno which was attended by over 7 million devotees and took 22 hours.
We have the  largest attended Novena to the Perpetual Help here in Baclaran – over a hundred thousand come this church every Wednesday.
We have masses not only in churches but in shopping malls and  in government offices – including the Supreme Court where a novena of masses were celebrated before the start of the impeachment of Chief Justice Corona.

Yet, in spite this widespread religiosity and deep faith, we wonder why there is so much evil and suffering in our country.
Majority of our people are poor, there is so much inequality, our crime rate is high,  there is so much violence all around us, and many families are  breaking down.
The Philippines has a reputation of being  one the most corrupt country in Asia.

Two corrupt presidents have been removed by people power and  now we have former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (known for her piety) under hospital arrest, awaiting trial for election sabotage and plunder.  The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court – Renato Corona  (a product of a Jesuit University) has been  impeached and is now being tried in the senate.  There  is a  generals  who have been imprisoned due to corruption (and he is now a lay Eucharistic minister inside).  This week the  chief of the NBI (national bureau of investigation) accused of kidnapping.

So, why is this? There appears to be  a gap between what we believe (faith), and how we live (our morality). 

 Our Gospel today reminds the central message of Jesus as he began his public ministry:
“The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel.”
The response that Jesus expects  in proclaiming  the good news of the Kingdom is  repetance and faith – which are  preconditions for discipleship.

What Jesus emphasizes is not only faith or belief  but also repentance – which is a translation of the original Greek word metanoia.
Metanoia  is not only a matter of being aware of our sinfulness and of being sorry for our sins.
It involves a deeper change in our attitude, our life and lifestyle – a turning around. This means  moving from darkness to light, turning away from sin and becoming the best person that God wants us to be. It means becoming renewed.

Yes, our faith may be deep. Most of us already believe. But there is something that is lacking.
What the Lord wants of us is to repent, to change our life for the better,  to reject sin and evil,
to overcome the dark side of ourselves,  to get rid of, our selfishness, greed and pride, our addictions,
to cleanse ourselves and become the best version of ourselves –
 to be more loving, compassionate, just, truthful, honest and holy.
When we do this, we become true Christians – genuine disciples and followers of Jesus.

This can be concretely expressed by going to confession.
But this is only the first step. What matters most is the day to day struggle to overcome the dark side and to live in the light. It is not only what we do inside the church that is important - it is what we also do outside the church, in our homes, our neighborhood, community, schools and workplace.

There can only be true social transformation when each one of us – including those who call themselves public servants – can respond to the call to repentance and personal renewal.