[#AwaNgDiyosPH] Jan. 18 Papal homily: The ‘Joy of the Gospel’ as Francis’ reform message



MANILA (The Filipino Connection and Philstar.com)—An entire nation awaits the most important message from a man who’s leading a global religious powerhouse that’s some 1.2 billion people big.

What the Philippine Catholic Church will be hearing at a Sunday afternoon Papal Mass January 18 is what Pope Francis (Jorge Mario Bergoglio) wishes Filipinos —his confrere religious and the millions of Christian faithful, plus people from other faiths who may be interested— will do.

Pope Francis (photo by Malacanang Photo Bureau)

Pope Francis (photo by Malacanang Photo Bureau)

Francis is expected to put together a world record-breaking crowd at Manila’s ground zero, the Luneta Grandstand and Rizal Park grounds, that not only stamps a trailblazing tab on a reformist papacy. (In 1995, St. John Paul II [Karol Wojtyla] put together an estimated five million during the final mass of that year’s World Youth Day.)

Francis will also not just speak to Filipinos, devout Christians who form part of the world’s third-biggest Roman Catholic nation.

The Luneta Mass will give Pope Francis enough leverage to bellow the message of the Church going out to everyone, not just the faithful going inside the Church.

Theologians expect the Pope to expound further one of his famous lines as a Pope: the Church as a “field hospital” that caters and assists the wounded. That line, first said orally and then written in the encyclical Evangelii Gaudium, was among the sound bytes that have made this Jesuit Supreme Pontiff a global phenomenon.

Those two words —field hospital— are reformist words uttered before an ages-old institution. At a Latin Mass before the religious at the Manila Cathedral, the Pope told them: “Be present to those who, living in the midst of a society burdened by poverty and corruption, are broken in spirit, tempted to give up, to leave school and to live on the streets.” At the 2014 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Francis told attendees to be “street evangelizers”.

That is, if prevailing customs of local churches and their faithful allow it. It may depend on how welcoming the lay faithful and the local clergy are.

Take the case of Linda (not her real name), a late 40s former college professor and volunteer at a local parish in Angeles City, Pampanga province (north of Manila). She got used to speaking “equally” to priests like the university president or a faculty regent. When she retired and became a full-time church worker, she got “culture-shocked” when fellow church workers told her that it is not easy, for example, to speak to the parish priest. Being in pastoral groups within the parish is by appointment, she claims. Still she volunteers, though.




Pope Francis homily in Tacloban (courtesy GMA 7)


The question, she says, is how will a reformist Pope challenge everyone. Speaking in Filipino, Linda said: “Can the Church allow people to come inside it if they want to?”

Especially when what the Pope wants, if Redemptorist theologian Fr. Victorino Cueto, C.Ss.R. were to be asked, the faithful to have is “an intense relationship with God.” From that personal wish alone starts the Pope’s desire for “a real renewal of the Church,” Cueto said.

That desire for renewal can be seen during a rainy January 17 morning mass in Tacloban City, Leyte province (eastern Philippines) —the “ground zero” of the lashing of the world’s strongest typhoon to hit landfall: Haiyan (Yolanda local name). An estimated 500,000 gathered at the small airport tarmac, wearing yellow plastic raincoats. Francis wore one too.

Then comes Francis’ consoling words —translated into English from Spanish— for the aggrieved survivors and an entire region lashed by Yolanda’s wrath: “I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. And He never lets us down. Father –you might say to me– I was let down because I have lost so many things, my house, my livelihood.”

“But Jesus is there, nailed to the cross, and from there He does not let us down,’ Francis continues. “He was consecrated as Lord on that throne (the cross) and there He experienced all the calamities that we experience. Jesus is Lord! And the Lord from the cross is there for you. That is why we have a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments of life.”

Simply put, Francis wants a more pastoral Church, says Dominican theologian Fr. Gerard Francisco Timoner III, O.P. “I think the Church is really moving to something that is totally new,” says this newly-appointed member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission (ITC).

If so, will the approaches of dealing with the wounded change? A former ITC member, Salesian Fr. Francis Gustilo, S.D.B., thinks those will dictate the next few months of this reformist papacy, in particular, and the global Catholic Church, in general.

The question, Gustilo says, is “how do we apply Church dogma and ministry in situations today —and how do we apply it with mercy?”

In Filipino, Gustilo explains: “By mercy, mayroon akong damdamin kahit ang tingin ng iba sa akin ay basura. Kasi sa Diyos, ikaw ay tao pa, at dahil tao, ‘kawangis Ko, kamukha Ko’ (By mercy, I am still a person with dignity even if others think I am miserable. In the Lord’s eyes, you are human, in His image and likeness).”

The key Latin word, Francis Gustilo says, is misericordia —a contraction of the word miseria (no worth), miserere (to pity) and cor or cordis (heart).

In five English letters, mercy —that which Francis said is the greatest gift the Lord gave humankind.

As Filipinos will show to the world on January 18 how Filipino-style Christian devotion works in numbers, the Redemptorist theologian Cueto thinks that devotion is not enough. It is only for the individual devotee, but that devotion should be taken out and shared to others, “in mission.”

For the Church as an institution, Francis’ “field hospital” message may lead to a Church that is “a place of welcome and hospitality”. On that score, Cueto wishes the Church can journey together with the wounded, with those wanting to “find a place or space to be just themselves.

Francis will expectedly make Luneta his platform to share the joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) in today’s modern world. “The Gospel,” says Cueto, has to be preached anew all the time. The Church’s teaching has to be lived anew —all the time.”—The Filipino Connection and Philstar.com.


The Filipino Connection covers the visit of Pope Francis in partnership with Philstar.com.



This story can be published / broadcast / posted online provided The Filipino Connection / Philstar.com and the article’s author/s are properly acknowledged. Editorial mistakes are the publisher’s. Email: thefilipino.connection@gmail.com.


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