Rev. Fr. Anton Pascual, our beloved head of Caritas Manila, dear brother priests, our generous benefactors and committed collaborators and volunteers of Caritas Manila, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The 70th Anniversary of Caritas Manila is an important reminder to us of the enduring power of the love of God and the necessity of continuing the mission of salvation of every man and the whole man. God is love. God is caritas. And He wants us to become a living embodiment of this love. In the fourth chapter of the epistle of John, he tells us, “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him… We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
Caritas Manila makes visible and concrete our commitment to live by the greatest commandment of love of God and neighbor in our time today. In the first session of the Synod on Synodality that I have attended recently in Rome, the phrase “humility of concreteness” was mentioned frequently. Synodality is not just an idea or a concept of communion and mission. It must be seen in the most concrete experiences of solidarity and compassion. Our talk of walking together will remain in the ideal and romantic if it is not supported by concrete efforts to change the human situation to an approximation of the Kingdom of God.
One of the topics we have discussed in the Synod is how to understand authority and participation. Indeed, the third word in the Synod’s theme of “For a synodal Church: communion, mission, participation” is the most crucial. Participation is meaningless if we are not ready to review our understanding of authority in the Church. Authority must be understood always in the context of service of charity. “Service of charity”. This is also a phrase that we must learn to normalize in the Church today.
Authority is not domination. It is service. It is imitating our chief Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, in His lifestyle of poverty, humility, and kenosis. It is accomplishing His mission of seeking out the last, the least, and the lost. Yes, Caritas Manila is the lead social service and development arm of our local Church. Through your ministry, we are able to reach out and assist those in the peripheries. We are able to make them feel that they are not alone or abandoned. But we must always remind ourselves that we are not a charity organization or a social welfare NGO alone. We are a ministry in the Church, motivated by our love for Jesus, the poor man from Nazareth. In every man or woman that we care for, we see the face of Jesus.
Our service of charity does not stop in our financial or material assistance to the needy. Our service of charity is always aimed at the mission of evangelization. The poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel. And they have much to tell us about the love and providence of God. They are not just targets of “ayuda”. They are witnesses to hope and bearers of the Good News. They must be given a place in our conversations and decision-making in our communities. They must be given a chance to actively participate in their self-determination and integral human development.
Mga kapatid, napakarami ng hamon ngayon sa aspeto ng ekonomiya, politika at pamilya. Hindi naman lingid sa ating kaalaman ang mga problemang kailangang harapin ng ordinaryong pamilyang Pilipino. Higit sa kalahati sa atin ang namumuhay sa kahirapan. Napakarami ang nakakaranas ng gutom at kawalan ng hanap-buhay. Napakarami din ng biktima ng mga pang-aabuso at kawalan ng katarungan. Kasama na din dito ang napakalaking problema natin sa edukasyon ng mga bata at kabataan. Hinaharap din natin ang mga usapin sa klima at “natural disasters”.
Kung tutuusin at susuriin natin ang mga problemang panlipunan sa ating panahon, marami dito ay galing sa kasalanan at paglimot sa konsyensya. Bahagi ng misyon ng Caritas and paghubog din ng kamalayan at kaluluwa, hindi lamang ng katawan at pang-ekonomiyang pangangailangan ng mga tao. Kung gusto nating mabago ang kalunos-lunos na sitwasyon ng ating lipunan at mga dukha. Kailangan nating isama ang pagpapalalim sa buhay-panalangin at pananampalataya.
Binabati ko kayong lahat sa anibersaryo ng Caritas Manila. Ang bilang na pitumpo ay may magandang pakahulugan sa bibliya. Pitumpong taon na naipatapon sa Babilonia ang mga Israelita. At pakatapos ng pitumpong taon, sila ay nakabalik sa kanilang sariling bayan. Marahil ang ating 70th anniversary din ay panahon ng pagbabalik, panahon ng hubileyo, panahon ng pagpapatawad sa utang, pagpapahayag ng Mabuting Balita ng kaligtasan sa mga dukha at naaapi. Happy Anniversary Caritas Manila. Hipan ang trumpeta. Ipagdiwang ang hubileyo ng Caritas Manila. (Photo by Maricar santos/RCAM-AOC | Photogallery)