ON March 16, 2021, the Catholic Church in the Philippines will celebrate the fifth centenary of the coming of Christianity in the country. Today, the Philippines is known as the bastion of Christianity in Asia with 84 million Catholics nationwide and the third country with the greatest number of Catholics in the world. However, only 13 million or almost 15% are actively participating in this faith experience. In the time when the world is deeply influenced by secularism and materialism that leads to the abandonment of faith, there is a need to explore and discover new methods and means for transmitting the “Good News” more effectively to the faithful.
In his Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium”, Pope Francis said there are deficiencies in the popular cultures of Catholic people which need to be healed by the Gospel: machismo, alcoholism, domestic violence, low Mass attendance, fatalistic or superstitious notions which lead to sorcery, and the like. He also said that popular piety itself can be the starting point for healing and liberation from these deficiencies.
“An evangelized popular culture contains values of faith and solidarity capable of encouraging the development of a more just and believing society, and possesses a particular wisdom which ought to be gratefully acknowledged,” Pope Francis said.
In a pastoral letter issued by the CBCP through its President, Most Rev. Romulo G. Valles, DD (Concurrent Archbishop of Davao), our Catholic Pastors likewise reminds us as follows:
Our commemoration of the event is an acknowledgment of this immense gift to our people and our land. We did not only receive the Faith, but also allowed it to take root and grow in our Filipino culture throughout these years. With this gift of Faith, we have become God’s people, partakers of “divine mysteries” (1 Cor 4:1). We are grateful to God for this immeasurable gift.
We are not, however, the ultimate owners of this special gift. We are ‘stewards’ -‘katiwala‘ (tinugyanan, katalek) of God’s gifts. ‘Is there anything that we did not receive as gift?‘ (Cf. 1 Cor. 4:7). Each gift we receive is meant to be shared to one another. And so, ‘we are gifted to give’; we must share the Faith.
Every gift is a responsibility. We recognize every gift, nurture it, generously share it with others, and gratefully return it with increase to the Lord. This is the meaning of the Spirituality of Stewardship.
After five centuries of striving to live the Christian Faith more fully, we heighten consciousness of our identity as stewards. We are stewards of life, talent, time and material resources. These gifts are given to us for service, that we may become channels of God’s Providence to one another. The Holy Scriptures remind us: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). We are certainly blessed not only when we receive, but especially when we give.
God calls us to serve one another more generously, especially our poor brothers and sisters. The Lord Jesus made His own the prophecy of Isaiah, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Lk. 4:18). We, then, take the banner of preferential love for the poor. On this, Pope Francis tells us: “Our preferential option for the poor must mainly translate into a privileged and preferential religious care” (Evangelii Gaudium #200).
Brothers and sisters, we are all part of this endeavor for we all belong to the Church, the one family of God. We all share responsibility for the Church. Thus, we encourage all the baptized to regularly, wholeheartedly and generously contribute to the Church so that we can fulfill our common mission of spreading the Good News, of serving humanity and caring for the whole of creation. For ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it‘ (Psalm 24:1).
Let us not be afraid to give freely and cheerfully, even in times of crisis and difficulty like the COVID-19 pandemic that we are presently experiencing. Let us sustain the spirit of generosity that has spontaneously overflowed during this pandemic and has kept our communities in operation. We will look back with amazement and gratitude at these times, wondering how we got by even at the height of the lockdowns that we thought would seriously challenge the sustainability of our parishes.
St. Paul reminds us: “God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8). May we not waver in our trust in God, for He never fails to provide for our needs. In all things, let God be our priority. Did not the Lord Jesus himself assure us: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides?” (Mt. 6:33).
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