Tuesday, February 20, 2007

On Ash Wednesday: Alay Kapwa, Age 32

THIRTY-TWO years ago, in 1975, on Ash Wednesday, the Lenten project ALAY KAPWA was born. This project of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippine through its Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace has for its objective the evangelization of the Catholic communities towards Christian awareness of their social responsibility with preferential option for the poor.

Alay Kapwa is people responding to the Gospel demand to love as Jesus loves, to care and share as Jesus wants us to care and share (cf. Jo. 15/12). Alay Kapwa is people living and experiencing the solicitude of God for the poor, the abandoned, the victims of natural calamities, the victims of injustice and violence. Alay Kapwa is people united by the spirit of Jesus and of the Father in solidarity with the sorrowing, with those who hunger and thirst, with the pure of heart, the peacemakers and the persecuted (cf. Mr. 5/1-10).

To have the spirit of Alay Kapwa you do not have to be wealthy or powerful or influential, you need only to be good and committed to your neighbor. In order to give to Alay Kapwa Lenten Fund Campaign you do not have to be rich or to have plenty, you need only to be generous, desirous like Jesus to serve (cf. Mk. 10/45) and to give life more abundantly (cf. 10/10).

After 32 years of Alay Kapwa, the task of social transformation goes on. There are still poverty, hunger, thirst, suffering, brokenness, violence. The work of Alay Kapwa must continue. Our vision of social transformation, of an end to underserved poverty, of an end of man’s inhumanity to fellowmen, the birth of hope for those who suffer from calamities, necessarily demands radical personal conversion. No reform is possible unless the reformers are themselves reformed. No renewed society unless the agents are themselves renewed.

The evangelical call is still there: to build a society where truth, freedom, justice and love reign. With or without miracle, we must build it on the foundation of personal conversion to charity. We must build it on the foundation of people willing to forego their personal interests, to overcome their selfishness, to limit their enjoyment and satisfaction for the sake of their needy brothers and sisters. That is being patriotic.

Social transformation is possible. With the help of God we can change the corrupted image of our country. But remember: the work of God does not happen in a vacuum. The material of the work of the Spirit of Jesus in the transformation of human society according to the Father’s dream is in the heart of men and women willing to transform their selfishness into patriotic acts of justice and love.

The inspiration of our Alay Kapwa Lenten Campaign is Jesus himself, Jesus giving, sharing, caring, curing, healing. We are praying for the miracle to start in the heart of every Filipino. We are praying for personal and communal conversion towards total social transformation. This appeal for Alay Kapwa will be preached in all Catholic Churches throughout all dioceses of the country. Let us give generously to this worthy cause of the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace. Alay Kapwa is one way in which our “little” will become “much” when joined with the little which others give. The measure is not “how much you give,” but “how generous you are”.

We are in the beginning of the Lenten Season. Lent is sacrifice. Lent is loving… Jesus has said that whatever is given to the least, the lost and the last of our neighbors is given to him. And whoever so gives repeats the experience of Jesus. He becomes a living reminder of Jesus. He becomes a living witness of the love of God.

What we give may not be much, but Jesus needs it. It may well be that society does not experience the transformation it needs, that the world is denied miracle after miracle and triumph after triumph, that people remain deprived of home, job, opportunity and land, because we will not bring to Jesus what we have and are. Social transformation starts from the heart.

The Alay Kapwa Lenten Program goes on. For many reasons the poor are still with us. The approach to the solution must be double-pronged: addressing both the reasons for poverty and poverty itself. That is why Alay Kapwa is both an evangelization program and a fund campaign. It must hit the mind, the heart and the pocket. It opens the mind, the heart and the pocket. It is for everybody who wishes to be a Christian neighbor.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Christian Unity: Where We Stand Today

In behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, I gladly welcome Your Eminences and Your Excellencies to this Seminar of Asian Bishops’ Conferences on Christian Unity.

This gathering of Asian Bishops on Philippine soil is the first of its kind because it is convened no less by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity whose President is His Eminence Cardinal Walter Kasper, who will help us address a pastoral concern, an emerging challenge which is presented in Asia today by the growth of Pentecostal and Evangelical communities. This particular concern and challenge gains more prominence because in Asia Christians are in a minority – majority of whom are in the Philippines.

Our theme “Search for Christian Unity: Where we stand today?” is an occasion for lively spiritual communion of brothers in the faith. We can help one another understand the internal and external causes of the growth of Pentecostals and Evangelical communities and what they teach us about Catholicism and Christianity, and how their presence can be a positive opportunity for renewing our Catholicism.

During the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” last January 21, 2007 the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us “that ecumenism is a profound dialogical experience, a listening and speaking to one another, knowing one another better; it is a task within everyone’s reach, especially when it concerns spiritual ecumenism, based on prayer and sharing which is now possible among Christians” (L’Osservatore Romano, January 24, 2007).

The spirituality of communion which we shall live in the coming two and a half days will be as described in the theme of the 2007 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: “He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.” (MK 7/37).

Needless to say, Christ can do all things: he can open the eyes, the ears, the mouth, the heart, the mind to achieve the great fruits of Christian Unity. Better still, he is with us and we with Him!

Welcome Remarks
of Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo
Seminar for Asian Bishops’ Conferences
February 8-10, 20076
Pius XII Catholic Center