Devotion: Proclaiming liberation from poverty

Devotion: Proclaiming liberation from poverty

World Communications Day was established by Pope Paul VI in 1967 as an annual celebration.

By Bishop-elect Luisito Occiano

May 12, 2024

Naga City

“Communication to a relationship is like oxygen is to life. Without it, it dies.” Ascension Sunday reminds us of the importance of perpetuating the communication of love of the Risen Lord to his people through the apostles.

In today’s Gospel (Mk. 16, 15-20), we are told that when the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, He was not standing alone. His disciples were around Him as He gave them His final instructions to stand for Him in the world, and to proclaim the Gospel to every creature. His ascension to heaven did not terminate His communication with His flock so He sent the disciples to stand up for Him, and continue his mission to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18).

Up until the present, we still need Christ’s assurance of liberty from many forms of slavery. In our country, economic poverty has endured over several decades of Filipino political leadership. Poverty entails more than the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and injustice.

There is a more serious kind of poverty that our nation suffers the moral poverty. It is primarily on the shoulders of society’s political, religious, and business leaderships. This moral poverty is rooted in indifferentism and egoism. Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.

This Sunday, we also celebrate the World Communications Sunday. Pope Francis has always valued the power of the media as a potent tool for evangelization. It is through this man made tool that Jesus can continue to touch our hearts with His powerful command of liberation from captivity of the present social ills.

As we celebrate the success of technology, let us always remember the Gospel values that never fade with the passage of time. Human wisdom has produced technological milestones. Prominent nowadays is the Artificial Intelligence, which the Holy Father is warning us from its misuse and abuse. We may call this another poverty of communications. According to him “the evolution of artificial intelligence systems makes it ever more natural to communicate through and with machines, so that it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish computation from thought and the language produced by a machine from that generated by human beings.” And while the technological developments bring many benefits, they also pose “new challenges to ensure that machines do not contribute to a large-scale system of disinformation and do not also increase the loneliness of those who are already alone, depriving us of the warmth that only communication between people can provide.”

The great enemy of communication, we find, is the illusion of it. We have talked enough; but we have not listened. And by not listening we have failed to concede the immense complexity of our society. Instead of encountering Jesus again, we are drawn away from Him due to the misuse and abuse of the technology. Such can also be called poverty in communication. This is the tragedy of human relationship, when we stop communicating in spite of the enormous success of technology.

Bishop-elect Luisito Occiano has led the Caceres Commission on Communication for the past 20 years. He will be ordained to the episcopate at the Peñafrancia Basilica Minore in Naga City on June 21 and installed as the new bishop of Virac on June 26.

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