Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The age of the laity

THE present time of the Church has been called “the age of the lay faithful,” and at the same time “The time of the Holy Spirit.” In acknowledging it, the CBCP’s most recent Pastoral Letter has emphasized the importance of lay participation and lay empowerment in the mission of the Church as well as in many areas of lay apostolate and evangelization.

The parable of the Wedding Banquet which we proclaim in the Gospel, presents the on-going invitation of God in the context of a wedding at which the guests are invited to participate. Weddings are events of joy, camaraderie, fellowship and communion. It is this spirit that Jesus wants to be reflected in those which are working for the propagation and promotion of the kingdom of God in this time of the Holy Spirit and age of the lay faithful. The way of spreading the kingdom by way of spreading the Word of God, most especially by “letting the Word of Christ” dwell in the lives of the people (Col. 3/16), in order that they may become “doers of the word” (James 1/22).

In this age of the Holy Spirit, we are witnesses of how lay people are responding to the invitation of God to participate in the wedding feast of the Word of God. On this occasion, I would like to gratefully appreciate the impact of the word of God on the followers of El Shaddai, in particular on El Shaddai’s Founder-Organizer, our friend Mike Velarde, the leader of this charismatic Catholic renewal movement.

Religious movements come and go. A few of them continue to flourish base on the integrity of their leadership and the conviction of their followers. El Shaddai is one of them. El Shaddai is now in its 25th year of its foundation by Brother Mike, who celebrates his 70th birthday, and who 25 years ago was scheduled for the major heart surgery at the Philippine Heart Center. In some mysterious way an “angelic nurse” who read the Word of God for Brother Mike, assured him that his surgery would be cancelled. The miraculous incident led to the purchase of a radio station, DWXI and the program “To God be the glory.” Rallies for the Word of God, with the Word of God, attracted people by the hundreds of thousands. To this date the members of El Shaddai has reached more than seven million with chapters being established in parishes and dioceses here in the Philippines and abroad.

As El Shaddai celebrates the 25th year of its foundation by Brother Mike Velarde, the only words that catch our hearts at the moment are the words “To God be the glory.” The gifts and the charism to spread the Word of God that were given to Brother Mike, are not for him but for the growth of the Kingdom in this age of the laity and time of the Holy Spirit: to God be the glory. The effect of the Word of God on the millions of El Shaddai members are not for the individual recipients but for their families, for the communities, for the church: To God be the glory. Let the wedding even of the Word of God with the people of El Shaddai continue with its work of radical conversion from within, the renewal of Church and society, the good works that produce joy, camaraderie, friendship, fellowship and communion continue in this great and difficult times. To God be the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

(This is the text of the homily of Most Rev. Angel N. Lagdameo, Archbishop of Jaro and CBCP President, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of El Shaddai; August 20, 2009)