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).
“The kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel.”
Our Gospel today reminds the central message of Jesus as he began his public ministry:
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.