EVANGELIZING THE POOR AND BEING EVANGELIZED BY THE POOR
By: Sally Carino and Vien Talisayon
24 May 2015
The Faith and Formation Commission held its annual diocesan Pentecost Recollection on May 23, 2015, 7am – 12nn, at the Mary the Queen Parish Church. A total of 435 participants from 11 vicariates and 42 parishes of the diocese attended the Recollection.
The theme of the Recollection was “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor” (Luke 4:18): Evangelizing the Poor and Being Evangelized by the Poor. In this Year of the Poor, we give special attention to the materially poor, the destitute.
Jesus became one of us to save humankind from the darkness of sin, poverty, and injustice. He was born in poverty, felt the pangs of hunger and suffered in the hands of unjust men. Hence, His public life was devoted to uplifting the least, the lost, and the last. He spent His time reaching out, healing them, feeding them, and forgiving their sins. He loved the poor; so must we, as followers of Jesus.
Bishop Antonio Tobias set the tone of the recollection by reminding all the exhortation of Pope Francis to widen our horizons under the guidance and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. The Church has to be creative in being more open or inclusive. To illustrate, he said that a one-time communion after confession can be given to couples living together without marriage.
In his homily, Msgr. Romulo Ranada invited everyone on the eve of Pentecost, the start or birthday of the Church, to pray for the Holy Spirit to come and transform us and lead us to greater love.
Ate Dolly Salvador, in her testimony, talked about her work with the Social Action Commission of the Diocese of Novaliches. Her immersion in the homes of the materially poor in her parish has taught her lessons in humility and the joy of a simpler life style. She observed the resourcefulness of the poor and their loving service to the church in their poverty.
Kuya Larry Zacarias’ testimony dealt with his experiences as a factory worker and how he helped organize fellow workers in their search for just working conditions. He thanked the Church for boosting their morale, raising their dignity, and giving them hope. He advised fellow workers to go to their parish priest and have dialogues on how the parish can help them and how they, too, can help the parish.
Fr. Ben Alforque explained in his talk the concept of the poor from the perspective of the Catholic Church: the basic and primary definition of the poor is that they are materially poor. He also explained the causes of poverty in our country. The Philippines is endowed with rich natural resources, but the benefits are enjoyed only by the rich and powerful. There is often disregard for the common good which results in corruption and poverty.
What is the role of the Church to alleviate the conditions of the materially poor?
The Church of the Poor embraces and practices the spirit of evangelical poverty;
it combines detachment from possessions with the profound trust in the Lord.
It shows special love, a love of preference for the poor. It does not discriminate against the poor but respects their dignity and advocates for their rights.
It gives preferential attention to the poor. It has pastors and leaders who will learn to be with, work with, learn with, and learn from the poor. It not only evangelizes the poor, but recognizes that the poor themselves become true evangelizers. It orients and tilts the center of gravity of the community in favor of the needy. To follow Jesus, Fr. Ben says, is loving the poor who are most needy, who are the majority in our country, and who cannot give back in return.
In the open forum, questions were on concrete actions for the poor and concerns of solo parents. Questions were given to the participants for their reflection and action when they go back to their respective parishes and communities.
Opening and closing prayers were provided by the Kalipaya Group with its interpretative dance of the descent of the Holy Spirit.
It was a morning of opening our eyes, hearts, and minds to the realities of the presence of our brothers and sisters who are materially poor in our communities.
As a Church, we need to be conscious of their plight and move into a collective action to lift them up from their inhuman conditions. Through our Basic Ecclesial Communities, we can share our time with them, for example, by giving catechesis to the children, sharing the Word of God among families, and learn from them their spiritual connection to God through their personal and family experiences. Love is at the heart of this action to seek justice for those who have less in life.