Our Faith, Our Joy, Our Mission
Pastoral Letter on the Quincentennial of the Arrival of Christianity in the Philippines
“I have appointed you that you should go forth and bear fruit, and that your fruit shall last.” (Jn 15:16)
Grace and peace in the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all! Let us always thank the Lord our God for the gift of faith he gave us.
Our journey of faith started with the arrival of Spanish explorers led by Ferdinand Magellan on March 16, 1521. It is a historic truth that they first landed on Homonhon Island, an integral part of what would later become the Diocese of Borongan. It is also on record that they were welcomed by our ancestors with grateful hospitality. In the years that followed they also joyfully welcomed the faith the missionaries brought with them.
Five hundred years after it was introduced to us, the seed of faith has become a plant. But, like any other garden plant, it needs to be nurtured. It has not stopped growing. Even as it is being handed down from generation to generation of the Filipino faithful in our diocese, it needs to be nourished and strengthened by catechesis and Christian witness. Catechesis arms our people with the knowledge of the truth of our faith. To teach and catechize our people with the truth of our faith, we will use all venues and platforms available to us in this day and age. But the best and most effective means, of course, is for us to evangelize in person.
I thank the priests and religious men and women, our GKKs in our chapels, our religious organizations, renewal movements, confradias and our lay faithful who are very creative and passionate in transmitting the treasures of our Catholic faith. May I urge you to remain in your firm conviction. Persevere until the end. As the letter to the Hebrews tells us: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope, without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:23). I specifically encourage and thank parents who take it upon themselves to teach and transmit the beauty and the truth of our Catholic faith to their children. You are doing a very admirable mission. I encourage you to continue.
Today the Church has access to various ways and means of evangelizing. But there is no substitute to Christian witnessing. We teach our faith best by the kind of persons that we are, by the words and deeds that we express.
Our faith is a saving treasure. Transmitting it is both our joy and our responsibility. The Second Vatican Council teaches us: “In his gracious goodness, God has seen to it that what he had revealed for the salvation of all nations would abide perpetually in its full integrity and be handed on to all generations” (Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum, n. 7).
Now more than ever we have realized this treasure is an undeserved gift to us. It is for us to cherish, to carry out, to defend, to manifest. But it is not for us to keep for ourselves. We have been given the faith in order to share it. Jesus himself commands us: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). It is a concrete expression of the Catholicity, the universality of our faith that we must proclaim it to others. We are the faith’s stewards best when we share it in its best lights.
We journey together as a People of Faith, Hope and Love as one Church. These we share with the people of our time, in the realities we are in, including its trials and tribulations. As Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, quoting Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 25, our efforts to evangelize “would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and of man’s concrete life, both personal and social'” (Caritas in Veritate, nn. 651, 652).
In all these and for their sake, we pray always for the grace of God’s help, through the intercession of Our Lady our Patroness, of St. Joseph, Protector of the Church, of all the angels and saints.
For my part, I assure you of my own prayers for the blessings from God that we all need.
In Christ Jesus,
Most Rev. Crispin B. Varquez, DD
Bishop of Borongan
6 March 2021
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