Moved with Compassion
DATELINE: Los Angeles, California—After careful deliberations, discussions and reflections, our shepherds had spoken. The much-awaited pastoral letter of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), had been released. They advised the faithful that “the Church respects the political authority, especially of democratically-elected government officials, as long as they do not contradict the basic spiritual and moral principles we hold dear, such as respect for the sacredness of life, the integrity of creation, and the inherent dignity of the human person.”
The bishops stated that they are not political leaders, and certainly not political opponents of the government. The Church has coexisted with the government and has been partners and collaborators of the government in its many projects and programs. They caution though that there are some specific issues when collaboration may not be possible because of the spiritual and moral beliefs, but never impose on the unwilling. The Church recognizes the separation of church and state. When the Church speaks out on certain issues, it is always from the perspective of faith and morals, especially the principles of social justice, never with any political or ideological agenda in mind.
The bishops warn those who were angry due to the insulting statements of people in authority: “remember what the Lord had taught his disciples. Vengeance is never the way of Christ. It is not the way of Jesus to return evil for evil; no, we can conquer evil only with good. Up to the last moment of his breath, he had nothing but words of mercy towards his tormentors, ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do’”.
It is with deep regret that this year, I could not attend the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization or the PCNE 5. I had attended PCNE 1 to 4 (from year 2014 to 2017) and it was really a learning experience which everyone must attend. I love most the segment “Heart to Heart with Cardinal Chito” (Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila), a sharing and witnessing of real life story of persons from different sectors of society. I also wait for the Eucharist, especially the Homily of the Mass Presider. Talks and workshops are also a must attend session.
This year’s theme “Moved with Compassion… Feed the Multitude,” is very meaningful topic in the Year of the Clergy and Consecrated Persons. It is also very timely especially now when the Universal Church is facing many challenges and the clergy and consecrated persons are being attacked from all fronts.
Most Rev. Pablo Virgilio “Ambo” David, Bishop of Kalookan and Vice President of CBCP bared his heart out when he reported the killing of Jennifer Taburada, 27 years old, one of the widows who are leading the support group for extrajudicial killing (EJK) victims in the Diocese. Jennifer is the widow of Ryan who was an EJK victim a year ago. Ryan’s body was mutilated by the killers. They gouged his eyes and cut off his private parts. Jennifer was killed by the bonnet gang or death squad. Jennifer and Ryan were from the Diocese of Kalookan. They were survived by their two children, Princess and Prince Jr., 5 and 7 years old, who are now complete and totally orphans. To make sure that Jennifer was dead, the killers fired more gunshots to her dead body. After killing Jennifer, they just walked away without haste, went to a nearby barangay and there killed Alvin Teng, 36 years old. The killings happened in Caloocan City.
Bishop Ambo cried out in frustration: “I feel so sad that I am unable to protect my flock from wolves. Today, in utter shame and frustration, I declare, ‘I have not been a good shepherd to my flock. The wolves have been prowling the streets and alleys of Caloocan, Malabon, and Navotas. They have killed hundreds already, and I am unable to protect them with my life. I will bow in shame if the Good Shepherd will denounce me as a mere hireling, who remains very safe and very secure, who can get a good sleep in his warm bed while his sheep are being slaughtered.”
Bishop Ambo continued that in his prayers, he heard the Good Shepherd whispering: “You are right, Ambo. You are not the Good Shepherd. I AM. YOU ARE NOT THE GOOD SHEPHERD. I only entrusted the flock to you; they are mine, please continue to look after them. If you love me, feed my lambs; if you love me, tend my sheep; if you love me, be ready to give up your life for my sheep. Do it for no other reason than for love of me. You do not have to substitute for me; you are not the Messiah, I am; you do not take my place. I only asked you to represent me. Speak to your flock and tell them to grow from lambs to fellow shepherds. Never shepherd my flock alone. Only by uniting yourself with your flock that you can grow together into the Church, which is my body, the Body of the Shepherd. Only then can you truly say, I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD.”
The Diocese of Kalookan is in deep gratitude to the bishops, the clergy and the consecrated persons who donated a total of P300,474.30 during the special collection at the Mass on Day 2 of PCNE 5. The amount will be the seed fund for the two children of Jennifer who are now complete orphans. Thank you for your compassion and mercy.