Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Working and Praying for Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections

A Pastoral Exhortation

"The Church values the democratic system inasmuch as it ensures the participation of the citizens in making political choices, guarantees to the governed the possibility of both electing and holding accountable those who govern them..." (John Paul II, Centessimus Annus, #46).

AS we approach once again the critical moment of our national election on May 14, let us meet the new crossroads in our history with our best efforts to make it an Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Election. Being in a democracy, this is the Covenant of Hope that we are all enjoined to give for our country’s future.

To ensure credible results from the coming election, we call on everyone in the Church and in civil society, and on all participating groups and parties, to CHAMPION the cause of democratic election, by ensuring it to be Clean, Honest, Accurate, Meaningful and Peaceful.
We must disapprove, reject and condemn as immoral all acts of violence and cheating, including the evil of “vote padding and shaving” (dagdag-bawas) in favor of or against any candidate. Let both candidates and their supporters face the judgment of democratic election with humility and magnanimity.

We exhort everyone to be vigilant, to pray and to offer penance for this intention. Let us accompany with extreme vigilance and prayer the crucial period of campaigning, voters’ education, transporting of election paraphernalia, poll watching, and very especially, the canvassing and reporting of the votes. May the hand of God stop evil from getting in control. We need the Lord’s help, without which our best efforts will come to nothing. Thus, we urge everyone to invoke the grace if the Holy Spirit to guide our people in this electoral exercise, for the renewal of our country towards genuine common good.

We want this exhortation to reach every Filipino. Let us be one in prayer, penance and vigilance. In a particular way, we request for the prayers of our contemplative men and women in the monasteries; there are more than a hundred of such monasteries all over the country. As they kneel before the Most Blessed Sacrament, we request them to pray for our country—especially for all voters, candidates, and election officials/workers.

Let our prayer also accompany the work of the PPCRV and NAMFREL, the COMELEC and the thousands of teachers in the field, the social action ministries of CBCP-NASSA, LENTE (Legal Network for Truthful Election), as well as the assistance of the AFP and PNP, and of the hundreds of religious organizations and civil society groups—all hoping and championing the cause of credible election.

We strongly recommend that the parishes organize Holy Hours or prayer vigils in their churches or chapels for these intentions, between May 5 and May 14, with the help of the Apostleship of Prayer and other religious organizations. We likewise encourage the Basic Ecclesial Communities to do the same in their centers. Humble and trusting prayers are needed to safeguard the sanctity of the ballot and of the entire electoral processes.

May our Blessed Mother Mary, the Mediatrix of all grace, and our Guardian St. Joseph the Model of honest and prayerful work, intercede for our beloved country as we face a new transition in our history.

Archbishop of Jaro
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
24 April 2007

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Re-living the Story: the Gift of Easter

“The Lord is risen as he has foretold. Alleluia.”

It is with that message that we climax the celebration of Holy Week which started with Palm Sunday, leading to the Last Supper in Holy Thursday, with the night vigil, and Visita Iglesia, then the Stations of the Cross and its Veneration on Good Friday. A lot of people listened and reflected on the Seven Last Words of Jesus from the Cross. The real message of Holy Week is not only that Jesus Christ died for us, but that Jesus Christ also gave us hope for new life by rising to life from the dead. And so: “The Lord is risen as he has foretold. Alleluia.”

All four Gospels narrate the event of the Resurrection with their respective nuances, indicating the individual author’s reflection with insight on the historic event. All four evangelists—Mark, Matthew, Luke and John—narrate that it was the women-disciples of Jesus, led by Mary Magdalene, a former sinner, who bravely came to the tomb and found Jesus was no longer there.

This Gospel detail shows that sinners are also objects of the Resurrection news and can be channels through whom the Good News will spread. It was through the witness of women that the male-disciples of Jesus came to know about the Resurrection. Mary Magdalene and the other women were the ones instructed: “Go tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him” Mk. 16/17). St. Mark includes the initial and logical reaction of the women. Faced with an extraordinary and unexpected event, it was natural for them to doubt and not to immediately act. In St. Luke’s and St. John’s accounts that was also the initial reaction of the apostles: one of disbelief and wonderment (Lk. 24/41, Jo. 20/9).

The Resurrection account in the Gospel of St. Matthew emphasizes one detail to solve doubt and unbelief. The appearance of an angel at the tomb, while frightening to the soldiers, was intended to dispel the fear of the women: “Do not be afraid. I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. He has been raised, as he said. Come and see the place where he lay” (Mt. 28/5-6). Matthew emphasizes the role of seeing in believing and in dispelling doubt. That is what happened to the women. That is what happened also to the other disciples. They were told “not to be afraid” (Mt. 28/10). They were told to see, to look at the empty tomb. For somehow, to see is to believe. This is told in particular about the “beloved disciple” who reached the tomb ahead of St. Peter: “He saw and believed” (Jo. 20/8). But here, seeing can also mean seeing not only with the eyes, but also with the open mind. And for us in our time to see the resurrection is to believe in the witness of credible lives down through the centuries.

The Resurrected Jesus himself removed the disciples’ doubt and disbelief, “by opening their minds to understand the scriptures” (Lk. 24/45). He told them to remember: “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified and on the third day rise again” (Lk. 24/6). And they remembered. Seeing the empty tomb, they remembered. The Easter Celebration followed by six weeks called “post Easter” is one long season of remembering of the Church. The season includes the many apparitions of the Risen Lord to strengthen the Christian community with the significance of Easter for life.

The gift of Easter is what Christ gives to whomever he appears “Peace be with you” (Jo. 20/21), the peace which enables even a doubting Thomas to believe and say “My Lord and my God” (Jo. 20/28). The gift of Easter is what the disciples then received, and the whole Church now receives: “Receive the Holy Spirit,” (Jo. 20/22). The gift of Easter is in being able to say once more to God “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you” (Jo. 21/15) and to say also to one another “Yes, and I love you too.”

The gift of Easter is to see Jesus again, to remember what He taught and did, to live and celebrate our resurrection in Jesus.

Yes, indeed, the Lord is risen as he has foretold. Alleluia.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President

April 8, 2007