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We are sent as gifts, as the answer to the prayer for more workers in the vineyard

(Homily delivered by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle during the Mass to close the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization on October 18, 2013 at the Quadricentennial Pavilion, University of Santo Tomas.)


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Sa awa po ng Diyos nakarating tayo sa pagtatapos ng
PCNE. Napakabait ng Diyos!! Sabi ng aking puso akala ko wala ng wakas. But in a real sense, the experience never ends if an experience is truly a gripping religious experience, it will stay, it will linger and it will even define a bit of our future. So all praise and thanksgiving to God! In fact, we, when choosing the dates of the PCNE, did not realize that we would close this gathering on the feast of an apostle, an evangelist, St. Luke. But it is God’s hand. It is the grammar of God as though the hand of God writing all of this and only now do we realize. Yesterday, St. Ignatius of Antioch, a great pastor and martyr, and October 16, we have St. Gertrude, St. Mary Margaret. We are guided by the witness of these great missionary figures. And it is just fitting that this moment of thanksgiving would end in mission-sending. The Eucharist, which is our supreme act of thanksgiving, ends with “Go! Glorify the Lord. Proclaim the Good News!”

 


Pero alam ko sa maraming parokya kahit sinabi na ng pari o ng diyakono
Humayo kayo!”  hindi pa rin humahayo. Doon lang nagiistambay. No. We go. We go to the ends of the earth. Thanksgiving leads to mission. And our feast for today especially the readings have already determined for us how we will face this mission sending of the PCNE.

In the Gospel, the first point that I would like to raise is Jesus’s claim that the harvest is plenty. There is no problem with the harvest. There is no problem with what will be reaped.
Saganang-sagana raw ang aanihin. But he says the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. How do we respond to the scarcity of laborers? Jesus says, “Pray, ask the Lord of the harvest to send more workers.” Our first response is prayer knowing that the laborers will come from the Lord of the harvest. He will choose and send the laborers. So in this closing Mass we pray hard, we pray hard. We have heard stories from the different dioceses in the Philippines. We have heard the stories of Brunei, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Jakarta, Japan, India and we want to tell them the harvest is plentiful and we are praying with you and for you so that the Lord will send more laborers. And something tells me, someone tells me, “Chito your prayer is being answered now.” “Lord where?” Look around you. These are the laborers that will be sent.” Bakit ayaw niyo ng pumalakpak. Akala niyo iba yung laborers, ha? Nung tayo na pala ang laborers, natakot na. but we are the answer to the prayer of the Church to the Father, “Send more, send more workers to the harvest.” Oh dear Father, thank you for answering our prayer. You here 6,000 strong laborers to your harvest.

I told a gathering of priests in a mass where we used the same reading. I reminded of a song during my youthful days. “You are the answer to my lonely prayer. You are an angel… (
marami akong ka-generation dito)… You are an angel from above.” Imagine. Think of ourselves missioners as the answer to the lonely prayers of people. You are not just sent, you are an answered prayer. Wow! A different way of looking at mission. Through the missioner God answers prayer.

But there is a second point. Jesus sends these apostles, these disciples, 72 of them by two’s, in pairs, not only because the witness of two or three becomes more credible but also to emphasize the communal, the communitarian, the ecclesial dimension of mission. In mission, there is no such thing as lone ranger. We have to go on mission. We have to be answers to the prayers of the people to the Father together. Nobody is sent alone. Nobody is chosen alone. We are always chosen with somebody else.

In the First Reading, we find the situation of St. Paul quite distressing. He tells Timothy, many people deserted me.
Iniwanan ako. They were enamored of the riches of the world and they fell out of love for the word of God, for mission. And here is the clincher. He says, only Luke is with me. Only Luke the evangelist stayed with Paul. I guess it is a stroke of providence that we are celebrating this closing Mass on the Feast of St. Luke who remained with Paul. So my dear brothers and sisters, yes, we are being sent, but please stay with one another. Those of you who will be working in the vineyard of the Lord in the same dioceses, in the same parishes, please, love one another. Be a real brother, sister to each other. In your love, in your communion, people will see the word of God in the flesh.

Alisin na po natin yung malaking sakit ng mga misyonerong pinapadala: yung pagkakanya-kanya, yung pagsisiraan. Hindi po iyan bahagi ng misyon. Kaya para po sa nasa
church organizations and movements, huwag na pong magpapataasan. Mas magaling kami. Ah sila pangbarangay lang sila, kami ang cathedral. Ang choir, ah kami pang-PCNE, ah yung ibang choir pang Bible service lang sila. Naku mahirap iyan. Nakakasira lang sa misyon. We are sent together. We are sent as Church. We are sent as companions. And I appeal to you, let us keep this common journey together. A journey that is done by oneself is a lonely journey. But if you have companions on the way, the work may be heavy, the responsibility  may be crushing but you know you have someone there who shares with you the same vision and also the same mission.

And the third, Jesus sends them as lambs in the midst of wolves. You all look like lambs from this vantage point.
Parang may nasakit doon na kambing. Lambs, humble, vulnerable. We are sent as humble and poor servants of the Kingdom and its message. We are not sent in order to prove something to God or to ourselves. We are not there for conquest. We are there simply to share the riches that we have heard, seen and touched. And so we can go without our purses, without our bags, without an extra tunic, without sandals or shoes. We go only with what really matters, the message of the Kingdom of God. And in our vulnerability, hopefully, we rely on the one who sent us.

My dear brothers and sisters isn’t this also a way of saying, I sent you not only to bring my message but to bring my presence, the presence of the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world? How ironic it is for someone to be sent by the Lamb of God and the one sent looks like a wolf. The Lamb sends lambs. Who represents lambs? The Lamb.
Mga kaibigan sana hindi tayo ang mababangis na hayop. Sana tayo ang mga maamong tupa at sa pamamagitan ng  ating kaamuan pati ang mga mababangis na hayop maging tupa. Let us evoke from them. Let us evoke from the wolves the hidden lamb in them. And we pray that the reverse would not happen, that we become more and more like wolves in the mission.

Sa mga kapatid kong pari, sabi ng mga tao, pag daw mga batang pari parang maamong tupa. Habang tumatagal nagiging mabangis na leon
. In our vulnerability we bring the power of the message and the power of the one who chose us and now who sends. The world that the new evangelization faces is like a wolf. There are some aspects of the contemporary world that might look hostile to us. But dear brothers and sisters one inspiration of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization is to say to us that the world that is sinful, that is wound, that could even be hostile remains God’s world. God is there. It remains God’s creation. And so, let us not completely condemn the world as a total wolf. Maybe the lamb in the world is just waiting to come out. Tame the wolf and let it become a lamb.

Makinig tayong mabuti. At tatapusin ko  po sa pakiusap ng mga kabataan
on the first day. Michael the one who became the spokesperson of the young people said, “Listen to us, understand us, trust in us, take care of us. Many of us come from broken homes. We need fathers among the priests. We need mothers, brothers and sisters among the other parishioners.” In one meeting of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, a Japanese youth told us, “The bishops of Asia,” he said, “whenever you talk about the youth you say we are a problem. We are not a problem. We are human beings. We are a blessing.” Sa ating isusugo sa mga kabataan po, sa tingin natin minsan ang mga kabataan parang mababangis na kalaban pero ikukuwento ko na lang sa inyo ang aking karanasan.

Mayroon akong kaibigan na pinakiusapan ako, kausapin ko raw yung kanyang anak na teenager. “Please talk to my teenaged daughter.” Tanong ko, “bakit?” “
Parang nagwi-withdraw eh. Hindi na sumasama sa amin. Hindi na sumasama sa misa. Hindi na nagdarasal. Parang rebelde.” So this is the observation of the father. The teenaged daughter has been withdrawing from the family, showing disinterest in prayer and family activities so they labeled her a rebel, a rebel daughter. So sabi ko, sige kakausapin. Kinausap ko. Preliminaries muna. Ano ba ang tawag dun? Breaking the ice. And then I went to the topic. I asked her, “Is there anything bothering you. Mayroon bang bumabagabag sa iyo? Ang mga magulang mo ay kinakabahan, para ka na raw lumalayo, para kang rebelde. What’s bothering you? Your parents are concerned that your becoming a recluse and you look like a rebel to them.” Sabi sa akin nung bata, “Kasi po si mommy laging sinasabi sa akin magtipid pero siya pag sabado at linggo napakagastos sa shopping. Si daddy pinagbabawalan akong manigarilyo pero siya chain smoker.” Tapos sabi niya, “Fake! Fake sila.” Tapos tinitigan ako. “Fake kayo!” Pati ako nasabit. “Mommy teaches me to thrifty, to save money but she splurges on weekends. Daddy warns me against smoking but he is a chain smoker. They are fake. You, bishop, are fake. How dare you!” But is this a wolf? Listen to her. Ano ang hinahanap niya? Hinahanap niya integrity. Hinahanap niya authenticity. Hinahanap niya consistency. Hindi siya kaaway. Kaibigan natin ang mabangis na hayop na ito. Talagang sa puso niya siya ay tupa.

We have to listen. We have to understand. Maybe the message is being conveyed to us in a manner that we are not used to. But it is the Lord who speaks. It is the Lord who wants us to count these people as part of the rich harvest.

We end the PCNE on this humble note. We will be sent as gifts, as answers to the prayers of people for more workers in the vineyard. We are sent together. And I hope during these three days you have developed friendships, you have met new friends from other dioceses and even from other countries. And I also hope that these three days would have convinced you to become true lambs so that the lambs will increase in a world that is already beset by so much problems and contradictions. We need more lambs who will mirror to us the love of the Lamb of God.