THE BOAT caught in the storm with Jesus and his disciples in it is an apt symbol to represent you and me in the context of our life. Every now and then we feel we are being tossed around by storms on the ocean of life. A storm may arise because of some problem or some economic or health crisis. A storm may arise because of unexplainable event, because of some anxieties about the future. The boat in the Gospel can also represent the Church, the community of believers, to which we also belong. The disciples’ struggle with the storm on the sea is symbolic of the struggle that the Church of Christ today is facing in its mission to overcome suffering, and evils in the world. But the stilling of the storm by Christ is a guarantee that the Church will also come out successful in its mission, because of the presence of Christ in it. Whether the storms we encounter be in our lives as individuals or as a Church, we will triumph over them provided we rely on God’s power and not on own. Like the terrified disciples, let us cry out to God in our stormy moments. But remember that it is so easy to cry out and yet remain in the storm and in so doing still feel engulfed. As we cry out, we need to keep our focus fixed not on the storm but on God. Within his encircling power we always stand and on every side we feel his hand. If our faith in the Lord’s presence is strong enough, we can make it through any storm and regain our equilibrium. (Dasan, SJ Cylwicki, CSB)
Today we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Couples for Christ. We cannot tell nor describe how many and what kind of storms have been encountered by CFC through the years, by individual members or by the community. But this much we can say: many storms have passed and you are still around. That you are still around is reason for thanksgiving and rejoicing. The celebration is reason too for gratefully recalling the many stories that make up CFC today.
Twenty-five years ago, in 1981, sixteen young and daring couples attended the Life in the Spirit Seminar conducted by Ang Ligaya ng Panginoon. The group eventually became an outreach program of LNP for couples and was baptized Couples for Christ, under the guidance and supervision of LNP. Young and daring, CFC went out of Manila base for the first time in 1984 to Bukidnon. Young and daring, CFC went outside of the Philippine for the first time in 1985 to India. Inspite of the many small and big storms the community had to face, CFC is found in 78 provinces and chartered cities of the Philippines. Today, glory and honor be to God on high, CFC world map includes 153 countries.
In the Philippines, they went from one parish to another, from one diocese to another, to conduct Life in the Spirit Seminar and Christian Life Program, bringing simply the credential of their zeal and dedication, and the assurance of the bishop from where they are coming to the bishop to where they are going. Migration for employment or livelihood became their natural access to many countries; that is how the CFC came to be known by foreign priests and bishops, and got their permission for LSS and CLP. This is attested by the many priests and bishops here present for the celebration.
On March 25, 1993, Feast of the Annunciation, CFC ceased to be an outreached program of LNP and was definitively separated from its mother institution, the LNP. From that time on it was complete on its own. It was at that time that the celebrant of the Eucharist, in his homily, announced “There is fire in this room. How I wish it would become a conflagration.” It did, because there was fire in the hearts of every one present at that time, from the leaders to the members. And the fire which comes from the Holy Spirit continues to be contagious and contaminating.
Here is a group which strives to make a difference in their response to the call of Christ. As Frank Padilla prophetically says: “His is a call to radical Christianity. Radical Christianity is normal Christianity. It is the only type of Christianity that the Lord has called all His followers to live out. There is no other.” Essentially it is a life rooted in Christ. This rootedness in Christ is what is discovered in the “womb-to-womb” family renewal ministry. Now CFC has branched out to include Kids for Christ, Youths for Christ, Singles for Christ, Handmaids of the Lord (for widows and unmarried women adults), and Servants of the Lord (for widowers and unmarried men adults).
When St. Ignatius of Loyola was sending St. Francis Xavier to his mission of evangelization, he had only this to say: “Go, Francis, and set the world on fire.” This, I believe, is what keeps the CFC leaders and members on the go in their various social ministries: renewing the lives of different sectors of society, advocating socio-economic renewal, environmental renewal, socio-political renewal, and sustainable development. Their ministries are empowering them to set the world on fire “ad maiorem Dei gloriam”—for the greater glory of God. “Radical Christianity is normal Christianity…There is no other.”
One of CFC’s ministries that is setting many provinces in the Philippines “on fire” with the contagious and contaminating Spirit of Community is the project GAWAD KALINGA 777 with its vision and commitment to build 700,000 homes for the poor, in 7000 communities or sites, in 7 years. Many of you are witnesses to this work of faith, hope and love. Many of you have heard about this “good news.” Many of you have worked in some GK. Many of you have in some way contributed, and will still contribute to some GK. Because there is “that fire” in you, you are indeed part of that mighty force that is called GK one-million BAYANI, GK one million HEROES. But that is only the start…the first one million. Because the movement of the Spirit is unstoppable.
I have read it somewhere…that today the 25th anniversary of your foundation, you proclaim: “We in CFC count our blessings, and are profoundly grateful to God for his faithfulness. We in CFC are now even more determined to give our all in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.” Rather than simply look back at the beautiful tapestry of 25 years, you are looking to the future, to the next 25 years in order to relish all the more, to know, experience and live more completely, and bear witness to the depth and the height, the breadth and the width of the love that God has for you and for the world.
Mabuhay kayong lahat. Purihin ang Dios magpakailanman. Amen.
(Talk delivered by Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, DD, Archbishop of Jaro and President of CBCP, on the 25th anniversary celebration of the Couples for Christ, June 25, 2006; at the Quirino Grandstand, Luneta)