We are a people of dialogue. As such we have the moral obligation to search for the truth in freedom, the truth about God, about life, about ourselves, our country, our society, our world and the events around us.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

How far can we go with Jesus?

It is easy to love those who are lovable, those who love us, or those who are “on our side”.
One does not have to believe or follow Jesus to be able to do that. But to love those who do not care about us, those we consider our enemy, is not an easy thing to do. One question we Filipinos might as well ask ourselves in these trying times for our country is: How far can we go with Jesus in loving for the sake of our country? Are we willing to turn the other cheek. so to speak, to love those we consider beneath us in the hope of evangelizing our fellow Filipinos?
In September, 2004, I issued a new method of evangelization. I called it “Alay Gobyerno Alay Filipino”.

As the title indicates, one can help every Filipino, especially the majority—the poor—by helping the government which at the time was experiencing fiscal crisis. The help I was proposing was a massive, nationwide self-sacrifice available to and attainable by everyone—rich and poor alike. It was a call to self-sacrifice, and I was referring to any self-sacrifice that entails pain and suffering. The objects of the self-sacrifice were the corrupt people in government so that they would be converted, changed, and transformed. It was my fervent hope that once transformed they would so run the government responsibly and effectively as to eradicate the biggest problem of the country—poverty.

How should this self-sacrifice be carried out so as to be effective? I proposed—and I was speaking to Catholic Christians—that the self-sacrifice be offered together with the suffering of Jesus on the Cross, as taught by St. Paul in his letter to the Colossians, Chapter 1, verse 24. Suffering, according to Paul, acquires salvific value when joined to the sufferings of Christ.
I gave the example of St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Pope John XXIII. The Carmelite saint, who never left the monastery, offered her sufferings and pains for the intentions and needs of specific missionaries in Vietnam who later confirmed the positive effects of the nun’s prayer accompanied by self-sacrifice. Likewise, Pope John XXIII asked certain sick and bedridden people in Europe to offer their suffering and pain for the success of the Second Vatican Council which—four decades later—continues to be seen as a shining proof of the vitality and dynamism of the Catholic Church.

Sadly, very few seemed to understand the spirit behind “Alay Gobyerno, Alay Filipino.” Many ridiculed the idea of the Cross entering social and political life in this way. Might we not rethink the matter over and ask ourselves why this kind of self-giving does not appeal to us? Have we totally lost our faith in people’s ability to change, or in the power of our sacrifice to touch sinners? Have we given up hope that the Lord will honor our self-donation, no matter how puny, and grant our aspirations for a more God-fearing country? Or do we see ourselves to be so immaculate that we think it is beneath us to go through pain for the sake of the corrupt?

Church history gleams with accounts of the wayward being saved from perdition due to the self-sacrifice of those who unconditionally love and suffer with Jesus. The unfolding social unrest and political turmoil in our country at present calls for the forgetting of the self for the sake of the common good—is this very hard to understand by a people whose faith is supposedly founded on the supreme act of self-sacrifice by one sinless man who died for all sinners? If we do not take up our Cross today when it is most needed, will we be able to bear it when it is thrust upon our shoulder tomorrow?

Archbishop of Davao
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines