Church: Community of Renewed Sinners
THIS month of March 2018 is memorable because it marks the Fifth Anniversary of the election of Pope Francis to lead the Church. After Pope Benedict XVI resigned on February 11, 2013, Francis was chosen on March 13, 2013. Pope Francis, who constantly asks us to pray for him, is seeking a profound renewal of the Church, a “new chapter of evangelization” (Evangelii Gaudium 1), “a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything” (EG 27). Similarly, our Church here in the Philippines is on a nine-year journey to 2021; through a series of yearly focused themes, a profound renewal—conversion—is envisioned for the local Church.
The Vatican II document on the Church, Lumen Gentium, notes that “the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, [is] at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal” (LG 8). This same perspective (the dual condition of holiness and sinfulness in the Church) is expressed in the CBCP Pastoral Letter for the year 2018.
Philippine Bishops’ Voice. Our bishops speak of “some dismal shadows, brought about by some of our Clergy and Consecrated Persons themselves. There were occasions of frailty and scandals that sadden us. Such misconducts call for sincere reflection and humble repentance and reparation…. May our Priests and Consecrated Persons, in their weakness and woundedness, continue to serve and guide fellow sinners with the joy of the Gospel that leads to the fullness of life.”
The Bishops accurately note that “renewal of the Church requires the renewal of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons.” We agree, and, at the same time, personally accept that this same conversion is asked of each of us. Especially during this Lenten Season, we sincerely strive to become “rehabilitated sinners”! How is this possible?
A Relationship with God. The Gospels portray Jesus as someone who had a deep and personal relationship with his Father. As noted in the CBCP Pastoral Letter, “Jesus never lost that unity with his heavenly Father while he lived on earth. His communion and intimacy with the Father moved him to reach out to sinners and the needy.”
“As Lay, Clergy and Consecrated Persons, we are invited to share in this ‘communion’ and ‘intimate relationship’ between Jesus and the Father. The Clergy and Consecrated Persons are united with Christ…. That is why they are called ‘alagad ng Diyos,’ men and women ‘of God’ or even more accurately, ‘servants of God.’ It is through their very ministry of sanctification that they too are sanctified’ (cf. CCC 1534).”
Our Bishops note: “Let us pray that we may remain ever closely united to Jesus as he is in constant communion with the Father! We pray that all the Clergy and Consecrated Persons continue to abide in Jesus and become perfect disciples of the Lord for the New Evangelization.”
Mutual Support and Service. In addition to friendship with Jesus, an authentic community is marked by the signs of brotherly and sisterly love and compassion. At the Last Supper, Jesus said: “By the love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples” (Jn 13:35). The CBCP pastoral letter for 2018 asks us to practice such fraternal love.
“My dear People of God, please continue to support our clergy and consecrated persons in their journey as ‘servants to the servants of the Gospel.’ As shepherds to the Lord’s flock, may they ‘take on the odor of their sheep.’ As vulnerable ‘lovely feet’ of the New Evangelization, may they encourage others to mission by serving with humility, by loving in action, and by strengthening the poor, the hopeless, the victims of injustice and oppression (cf. Is 52:7; Rom 10:15).” Let us become a renewed and converted Church, truly the community of Jesus’ serving disciples!