Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Lent--A Call to Moral Renewal

LENT is an opportune occasion for profound re-examination of life, for confronting ourselves with the truth of the Gospel, which demands radical moral renewal. Jesus Christ begins his public ministry with the message: “The time of fulfillment has come … Repent (i.e. change your mind and behavior), and believe in the Gospel” (Mk. 1/15). St. Paul the Apostle gives his rejoinder: “Be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4/23).

Along this line, the scientist, Albert Einstein, offered a formula for solving the problems and crises that churches, institutions and governments are facing when he said: “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created these problems and crises.” We will not solve our problems – religious, social, economic, political- by insisting on doing the same things that have produced the problems. The call of Lent is for moral renewal. To achieve this we need at least a critical mass of citizens-leaders who are willing to “break out of the box,” to jump on to the beginning of a new wave, to move into a new cycle of development, to operate with a new social consciousness and conscience, not for their individual or group security, but for the good of the greatest number.

We stated, some years ago, at the National Pastoral Consultation on Church Renewal, that “failures in renewal have come from a deeper source: our hardness of heart and resistance to conversion….We, as Church, have to confess responsibility for many of the continuing ills of Philippine society.” In a Pastoral Statement on “Renewing Our Political Life” (January 29, 2006), we said, and we can say it again, that “at the bottom of our political chaos is a crisis of moral values, a crisis of truth and justice, of unity and solidarity for the sake of common good and genuine peace.”

The most seriously affected by the crisis of moral values are the poor, the marginalized, oftentimes treated like commodities. Graft and corruption breeds widespread poverty. Widespread poverty in turn breeds graft and corruption. There is a concatenation of crisis and corruption that goes down to the barangay level, up and down and up, infecting the whole of society, like a contagious cancer.

To cure this social cancer we need a new breed of leaders in our country. The forthcoming national elections must not simply be a changing of hats for the same persons, or change of faces but with unchanged hearts. We must be able to gather a critical mass of citizens-leaders with a genuine passion and obsession for good governance and prophetic leadership. This critical mass will be the training ground of other citizens who will lead our country with the values of honesty and justice, truth and integrity, credibility and accountability, transparency and stewardship. These are the moral values that citizens must use to criticize and measure the present brand of leaders and raise up a new breed of leaders.

Archbishop of Jaro
CBCP President