Day Two: Misa De Gallo
17 December and the night before (Simbang Gabi)
Gen. 49: 2-10
Mt. 1: 1-17
Introduction: Every year since 2011 we have a focus for the year until 2021 – the 500 years of our Christianization as a people. Last year 2016 on the occasion of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis made the whole wide world to focus on Mercy. In addition to this worldwide focus, the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines in view of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress held in Cebu in January 20-31 and the last two Synods of 2014 and 2015 in Rome on the Family, led the whole Country to add the Eucharist and the Family as its focus as well. This year 2017 from the 1st Sunday of Advent 27 November 2016, our focus in the Philippines is “The Parish as a Communion of Communities: Forming BEC’s as agents of Communion, Participation, and Mission.” What is the story of the Parish and BEC in the Philippines? How are parishes and BEC’s fairing in the Philippines?
(1) Just like any institution, even those for lofty purposes as intended by The Creator, parishes and BEC’s are tinged with an interplay of the human and the divine, of good and evil so that God through his Spirit somehow wades through this interplay and comes out the Victor. So Pope Francis insists that the Parish “is not an outdated institution and can possess great flexibility still, depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the Community. The same for BEC’s!
(2) The Church is a mystery of communion flowing from the Triune God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit and overflowing into all of humanity sharing a common faith, journeying together for the full unfolding of God’s Kingdom. This Communion, made possible by the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus, always has a double dimension: a vertical communion with God and a horizontal communion with our brothers and sisters. The Church in the Philippines is a part of the communion of churches so that belonging to a communion is never simply particular but by its very nature is always universal.
(3) The Parish is an experience of the reality that a person has a Christian (universal) Family (the Church) of which each and every one will always be a part. A Christian may be a part of a parish in a remote area but his/her belongingness is to the whole Church. The parish gives attention also to the concerns and issues of the Universal Church, issues raised by the Pope and the priest regularly shares these with his people. The Parish becomes a live-wire community providing light and enlightenment, flowing with mercy and compassion and serving as a sanctuary for the lost and the lonely, the neglected and unwanted, a refuge for the hungry and the homeless.
Conclusion: What is your experience of the Church… of your parish? Do you experience Christ in your Church, in your parish? It is never an experience of either good or evil, of either divine or only human but always both… and!
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches