Staying at Home: OPO
Our dear under twenty years old church workers,
You miss the church. We miss you too. You are always there to fulfill our Sunday obligations, best dressed in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist. You are always available for any parish activities and projects. You serve well at the altar, sing beautifully with the choir, and read well the Scriptural readings. You are courteous in greetings and ushering your fellow church goers to their seats.
We always see you with your friends on your favorite seats. We know very well your common gestures of standing silently in front of your patron saints and touching reverently their vestments. We observe you spending the time kneeling before the crucified Jesus. How happy are we at the end of the Holy Mass as you reach for our hands, politely asking us: “ bless me Father. ”
We hope and pray we can do those things again, and sooner. This Covid19 pandemic makes you, our dear churchgoers who are under twenty, confined at home. Our government authorities, taking into consideration our common good and mutual safety, ordered this directive.
The problematic and perilous time of Covid19 led to the temporary suspension of mass gatherings, including religious services. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is very limited with the participation of less than ten (10) lay faithful for both the Enhanced Community Quarantine and the General Community Quarantine; and fifty (50%) of the total Church capacity for Modified General Quarantine. Regardless of the enhanced or modified Community Quarantine, those who are above sixty and below twenty years of age are not allowed to travel.
Yes, it is very difficult for you to completely stay at home. But by reflecting deeper, we come to know that your staying at home is like reliving what Jesus did after He was found at the temple at a very young age and before starting His public ministry. The gospel of Saint Luke tells us that “ Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and He continued to be subject to them ” (Luke 2:51).
The private life of Jesus was His staying at home. In fact, there was not much written about it. But the Bible says: “ And Jesus increased in wisdom, and age, and in divine and human favor ” (Luke 2:52). Your staying at home is to lead you to these three most essential imperatives as you transition into adulthood. What are these? They are for you to:
First, whenever there is a task to do or wherever you’re assigned to fill in, you obey . When there are days or times to be present, you show up. It’s obedience.
It is very easy for us to remind you or even correct you because you listen and in the end, you do what is expected of you. There is always enthusiasm as you participate in any parish celebrations. That is your obedience.
Now, the way you obey us in the Church should also be how you obey at your respective homes. The way you listen to us and follow our instructions in the Church must also be the way you obey your parents, and even more. Obey them with much love. Sincerely follow their advice. Be obedient.
The Incarnation of our Lord Jesus is His obedience to God the Father. The daily life of Jesus at home was His obedience to His parents, Joseph and Mary.
The whole life of Jesus was encapsulated by a selfless life of obedience for He completely obeyed the will of the Father. To fulfill the will of the Father, Jesus “humbled Himself by being obedient to death, death on the cross” (Phillippians 2:8). Jesus was also obedient to Joseph and Mary “ by being subject to them” (Luke 2:51). He stayed and lived with them until He started His public ministry after His baptism at river Jordan by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:13-17).
Thus, the very life of Jesus is best described by His obedience to the divine plan of God the Father. The unconditional submission of Jesus to the parental guidance of Joseph and Mary was His obedience to them.
Our dear youth church workers, staying at home is to live the ‘ what’ and ‘how’ to do in the Church. Your home is now your Church. Listen to your parents and obey them.
Second, pray. At the Church you are always asked and reminded to pray. You are always taught to pray. In the Church, prayer is our life. Everything you do is a form of prayer. Your serving at the altar, singing with the choir, leading and assisting the churchgoers to their assigned seats, and doing the collections are all prayers in actions.
The very life of Jesus is a life of prayers. Before making decisions such as choosing His disciples (Luke 6:12), performing miracles like the raising of Lazarus (John 11:41), or undertaking a very important decision such as the agony in the Garden (Matthew 26:34) , Jesus always resorts to prayers. He taught His disciples to pray (Luke 11:1). He invites us to “watch and pray” (Matthew 26:41).
Now, whatever you do in the Church, continue to do them in your home. Transform your home into a house of prayer. Pray before and after you do household activities. Be prayer leaders and share your prayers with your family members.
Staying at home is the most opportune time to be with family at prayers. Speak about Jesus, share your favorite Gospel passages and read spiritual readings to them. Instead of video games or videoke, sing religious or Gospel songs. Instead of dance or picture challenges, heed the invitation of Jesus, urging us “could you not keep watch with me for an hour” (Matthew 26:40)?
At home, we have more than enough time to pray. We have to pray constantly and consistently especially during this troubling time of Covid-19. And at home, we are with God.
Lastly, offer. Our Church is not a meeting place. It is not an excuse to us from our household duties. We go to Church for divine worships and pastoral works. We go to church to celebrate the Sacraments, connect ourselves to God, and be in communion with our people. We enter the Church to participate in our Liturgical services, to perform our ministries, and to provide acts of mercy to others.
You come to the Church to offer, give the best of your time, talents, and even treasures. You do everything in the Church and for the Church to the best of your abilities. You are there not just to be present or just to while your time away. You are with us, in the Church, in order to give something that is not in excess or insignificant. You share yourself not just once but most of the time, your very self. Yes, we miss your availability and visibility here in the Parish. For the safety of all and from the common preventive measures from this Coronavirus, you our dear below twenty years old Churchgoers must stay at home, where you are now most needed. What you offer and do in the Church are now most essential for your family members at home. Can you see that your house is now the continuation of your services at the Church? Can you realize now that what you do in the Church should be extended to your family? To stay at home is to be more productive, useful, and helpful to them. It feels as if Jesus is urging us “go back to your family and tell them how much God has done for you” (Luke 8:39).
The very private life of Jesus was surely involved sharing house chores. He also learned and worked with Joseph as He was called the “ carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55). Jesus did what should be done at home. Being “obedient to them” (Luke 2:51), Jesus followed the house rules and fulfilled the words of Joseph and Mary.
Jesus lived a life of self-giving and offered for our own good. He shared what He had, even His own life, as an offering to the Father for our salvation. Jesus said, “ there is no greater love than this, to give one’s life for one’s friends ” (John 15:13). Because of God’s love, Jesus accepted the cross, carried it, and was willingly crucified. By His death on the cross, He granted to us the Father’s forgiveness. We received God’s mercy which made us, once again, in communion with Him. Jesus continued to assure us of offering what is best and most beneficial to us as He promised “ after I have gone and prepared a place for you, I shall come again and take you to me, so that where I am, you also may be” (John 14:3).
Now, our dear below twenty Church workers, in this troubling and uncertain time of Covid-19, with the preventive measures of staying at home, we learn and live our Obedience , Prayers , and Offering. In our vernacular, our polite way of saying yes is OPO. Here, OPO means our self-surrender. It signifies that we give up our time for our parents and those that are at home. Our OPO is to sacrifice our comforts just to be with them and attend to their needs. Our OPO is offering of ourselves, as to be of service to our family members. It is sharing what we say and do from the Church to our home. Let our OPO be our visible and tangible actualization of the fourth commandment in which the almighty God asks us to “honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12).
After staying at home, with our obedience, prayers, and offerings, we are ready and they will know that we “must be in my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49). Staying at home, OPO.
+Ruperto Cruz Santos
Bishop of Balanga
Chairman, CBCP Episcopal Chairman on Pontificio Collegio Filippino