Telling the world of His love
The Year of our Lord 2020 marks important anniversaries for 3 out of 4 papal visits so far to our nation. These anniversaries are: the 5th anniversary of the papal visit of Pope Francis (Jan. 15-19, 2015); the 25th anniversary of the 2nd papal visit of Pope St. John Paul II on the occasion of the 10th World Youth Day (WYD) being held in Manila (Jan. 12-16, 1995); and the 50th anniversary of the first papal visit to our country, that of Pope St. Paul VI (Nov. 27-29, 1970). During these visits, the Popes reiterated the special mission of the Philippines to evangelize Asia, while also reminding Filipino Catholics to live their faith more deeply in a truly Christocentric manner and to uphold the teachings of the Church on the family.
As the Catholic Church in the Philippines marks this year as the “Year of Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue” in preparation for the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Catholic Christianity in the Philippines (2021), I think it is timely to remember what the Popes taught us about our special role as bearers of the light and the truth of the Gospel in Asia and indeed the whole world, our special role as Filipino Catholics “to tell the world of His love”, as the theme song for WYD ’95 put it. This remembrance will stand us in good stead, by reminding us that in the practice of dialogue with other Christians and members of other religions, our ultimate goal is to show others the light of Christ by charitably witnessing to the fullness of truth that we believe He handed to us through the Church that He Himself founded.
The following are some timely quotations from the Popes’ speeches in the 1970, 1995 and 2015 visits. (All quotations are from the Vatican website: http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html
POPE ST. PAUL VI (1970):
“At this moment one cannot but think of the important calling of the peoples of the Philippine Islands. This land has a special vocation to be the city set on the hill, the lamp standing on high (Cf. Matt. 5: 14-16) giving shining witness amid the ancient and noble cultures of Asia. Both as individuals and as a nation you are to show forth the light of Christ by the quality of your lives.”—Greeting to representatives of various Christian communions, Nov. 29, 1970
“We know how fond the Christians of the Philippines are of external demonstrations of their faith-and rightly so. You are not unaware that you must go further: your faith must be enlightened by study of the Sacred Scriptures, of the Church’s teaching, and in particular of the decisions of the recent Council. To be a witness capable of drawing men to God, your faith must find expression in your life. Because they are Christians, lay people engaged in the apostolate must be the best citizens, the most honest ones and those most concerned for the common good. … Love for God is not something for oneself alone; it must be shared. The committed layman will be urged on by charity to study the concrete situations of his brothers; he will display imagination in the application of solutions to problems and he will show concern for the unfolding of the real values of his people’s culture, whether the values be artistic, intellectual or religious. —Address to the Catholic Laity, Nov. 29, 1970
“Jesus Christ is to be praised not only for what he is in himself; he is to be exalted and loved for what he is for us, for each one of us, for every people and for every culture. Christ is our Saviour. Christ is our greatest benefactor. Christ is our liberator. We need Christ, in order to be genuine and worthy men in the temporal order, and men saved and raised to the supernatural order.”—Homily at Mass at the Quezon Circle, Nov. 29, 1970.
POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II (1995):
“I see that the people of the Philippines are very joyous. Why are they so joyous? I am convinced that you Filipino peoples are so joyous because you received the Good News. Who is receiving the Good News is joyous, is radiant with joy, and also is giving the joy to others. … Enormous tasks lie before the youth of the world; especially before the Catholic youth of the Philippines, of Asia and the Far East, on the eve of the Third Millennium. The largest mission land of the world is in need of workers, and the Church constantly prays the Lord of the harvest to send them, to send us, to send you.”—Homily at the Mass for the Representatives of the International Youth Forum, Jan. 13, 1995.
“What does the Church look for in Filipino youth? For help in saving your own generation from the futility, frustration and emptiness in which so many of your contemporaries find themselves. When I think of all the young men and women who should be the strength, the hope and even the conscience of society, but instead are caught in a web of uncertainty, or are desperately seeking happiness along paths that cannot lead to happiness – then I pray all the more that the young Catholics of the end of the twentieth century will come to an ever more profound knowledge of Jesus Christ and will be convinced of the marvelous challenge and adventure which he represents for every one of us.
In Christ and in his teaching you will find “the way, and the truth, and the life”. In him you will discover the answer to all the fundamental questions. The world and the Church need young people who know that the beauty of living consists in giving oneself to others, in doing good to others. Let the light of Christ enlighten your consciences to true good, and to the evil of sin and everything that tarnishes true love.
Young people of the Philippines, the modern world needs a new kind of young person: it needs men and women who are capable of self–discipline, capable of committing themselves to the highest ideals, ready to change radically the false values which have enslaved so many young people and adults. All this is possible with trust in the Lord, and with the help of good teachers, in the University and in your parishes and groups.”—Address to the Students and Representatives of UST, Jan. 13, 1995.
“How many young people think they are free because they have thrown off every restraint and every principle of responsibility? How many of them think that because certain forms of behavior are socially accepted they are therefore morally right? They abuse the beautiful gift of sexuality; they abuse drink and drugs, thinking that such behavior is all right because certain sectors of society tolerate it. Objective moral norms are abandoned under peer pressure and under the pervasive influence of trends and fashions publicized by the media. Millions of young people the world over are falling into subtle but real forms of moral slavery. And you understand what Jesus means when he says, “I send you to confront this situation, among your brothers and sisters, other young people”.—Homily at Mass at Rizal Park, Jan. 15, 1995.
POPE FRANCIS (2015):
“As the Church in the Philippines looks to the fifth centenary of its evangelization, we feel gratitude for the legacy left by so many bishops, priests and religious of past generations. They labored not only to preach the Gospel and build up the Church in this country, but also to forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good. Today you carry on that work of love. Like them, you are called to build bridges, to pasture Christ’s flock, and to prepare fresh paths for the Gospel in Asia at the dawn of a new age. … Filipino culture has, in fact, been shaped by the imagination of faith. Filipinos everywhere are known for their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary; their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary! This great heritage contains a powerful missionary potential. It is the way in which your people has inculturated the Gospel and continues to embrace its message (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 122). In your efforts to prepare for the fifth centenary, build on this solid foundation.”—Homily at Manila Cathedral, Jan. 16, 2015.
“The Philippines needs holy and loving families to protect the beauty and truth of the family in God’s plan and to be a support and example for other families. Every threat to the family is a threat to society itself. The future of humanity, as Saint John Paul II often said, passes through the family (cf. Familiaris Consortio, 85). The future passes through the family. So protect your families! Protect your families! See in them your country’s greatest treasure and nourish them always by prayer and the grace of the sacraments. Families will always have their trials, but may you never add to them! Instead, be living examples of love, forgiveness and care. Be sanctuaries of respect for life, proclaiming the sacredness of every human life from conception to natural death. What a gift this would be to society, if every Christian family lived fully its noble vocation! So rise with Jesus and Mary, and set out on the path the Lord traces for each of you.”—Meeting with Families at Mall of Asia Arena, Jan. 16, 2015.
“The Christ Child is the protector of this great country. When he came into the world, his very life was threatened by a corrupt king. Jesus himself needed to be protected. He had an earthly protector: Saint Joseph. He had an earthly family, the Holy Family of Nazareth. So he reminds us of the importance of protecting our families, and those larger families which are the Church, God’s family, and the world, our human family. Sadly, in our day, the family all too often needs to be protected against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture.
In the Gospel, Jesus welcomes children, he embraces them and blesses them (Mk 10:16). We too need to protect, guide and encourage our young people, helping them to build a society worthy of their great spiritual and cultural heritage. Specifically, we need to see each child as a gift to be welcomed, cherished and protected. And we need to care for our young people, not allowing them to be robbed of hope and condemned to life on the streets.”—Homily at Rizal Park, Jan. 18, 2015.
It is my hope as a Filipino Catholic that past papal visits will not remain mere memories, mere milestones in nostalgia, but that the valuable teachings and reminders handed to us in those precious days by the Successor of Peter will be rediscovered and acted upon by more Filipinos.