The Pope is exhorting priests and religious of the Philippines to be steadfast in combatting the “deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society,” telling them that the poor are at the heart of the Gospel.
The Pope said this this morning at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Manila, to a visibly joyous crowd of priests and nuns.
The Pope’s homily began with laughter as the first words of his text quoted Jesus’ words from John’s Gospel, “Do you love me?” As he read the question, the congregation responded, “Yes!” causing the Pope to say, “Thank you very much” as he and the people laughed and he explained that he was quoting Our Lord.
“All pastoral ministry is born of love,” he went on to say. “All consecrated life is a sign of Christ’s reconciling love. Like Saint Therese, in the variety of our vocations, each of us is called, in some way, to be love in the heart of the Church.”
The Holy Father celebrated the Mass just after addressing the diplomatic corps and paying a courtesy visit to the president of the Philippines. Hence his first morning in the nation after arriving last evening from Sri Lanka had the 78-year-old Pontiff scurrying from one event to the next, greeted at every stop by massive crowds of cheering, smiling Filipinos. He flies back to Rome on Monday.
The Pope returned some of his hosts’ affection in the homily, asking the congregation to “bring my affection to all your elderly and infirm brothers and sisters, and to all those who cannot join us today.”
He noted the fifth centenary of the evangelization of the Philippines, speaking of the “gratitude for the legacy left by so many bishops, priests and religious of past generations.”
“They labored not only to preach the Gospel and build up the Church in this country,” he said, “but also to forge a society inspired by the Gospel message of charity, forgiveness and solidarity in the service of the common good.”
The Gospel, the Pope continued, “is also a summons to conversion, to an examination of our consciences, as individuals and as a people. As the Bishops of the Philippines have rightly taught, the Church in the Philippines is called to acknowledge and combat the causes of the deeply rooted inequality and injustice which mar the face of Filipino society, plainly contradicting the teaching of Christ. The Gospel calls individual Christians to live lives of honesty, integrity and concern for the common good. But it also calls Christian communities to create ‘circles of integrity,’ networks of solidarity which can expand to embrace and transform society by their prophetic witness.”
Here the Pope departed from his text to add, continuing in English, “The poor. The poor are at the center of the Gospel. At the heart of the Gospel. If we take away the poor from the Gospel, we cannot understand the whole message of Jesus Christ.”
The Pope said that bishops, priests and religious have to be the first to convert, to reject “worldly perspectives.”
“It means being the first to examine our consciences, to acknowledge our failings and sins, and to embrace the path of constant conversion,” he said, emphasizing again: “Constant conversion. Every day conversion.”
“How can we proclaim the newness and liberating power of the Cross to others, if we ourselves refuse to allow the word of God to shake our complacency, our fear of change, our petty compromises with the ways of this world, our ‘spiritual worldliness’?””
“For all of us, it means living lives that reflect the poverty of Christ, whose entire life was focused on doing the will of the Father and serving others,” he declared, warning against “a certain materialism which can creep into our lives and compromise the witness we offer.”
“Only by becoming poor ourselves, by becoming poor ourselves, by stripping away our complacency, will we be able to identify with the least of our brothers and sisters,” he said, emphasizing again the need to focus on the poor. “We will see things in a new light and thus respond with honesty and integrity to the challenge of proclaiming the radicalism of the Gospel in a society which has grown comfortable with social exclusion, polarization and scandalous inequality.”
The Bishop of Rome asked the young priests and religious to “share the joy and enthusiasm of your love for Christ and the Church with everyone, but especially with your peers.”
He mentioned specifically their mission in a “society which is tempted by confusing presentations of sexuality, marriage and the family.”
“As you know, these realities are increasingly under attack from powerful forces which threaten to disfigure God’s plan for creation and betray the very values which have inspired and shaped all that is best in your culture.”
The Pope said the Filipino heritage of love for God, fervent piety and devotion to Mary and the rosary “contains a powerful missionary potential.”
“In your efforts to prepare for the fifth centenary, build on this solid foundation,” he exhorted.
On ZENIT’s Web page: