“Take Courage!” The Resounding Cry of WACOM 4

His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle of Manila (Photo credit: Annaliza Bruce)

Speakers and homilists during the various talks and Eucharistic Celebrations of the 5-day 4th World Apostolic Congress On Mercy (WACOM 4) echoed the need for courage in our times today. That is the courage to do the will of God, to be crucified with Christ, to testify to the Mercy of God, and to become missionaries and messengers of Mercy.

Jesus, I Trust In You

“There is no human need that Jesus could not address. There is no human need, crisis, or difficulty that falls beyond Jesus’ merciful plans and actions. The invitation to us is, will you put your faith in Him?” Said His Excellency Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle in his homily for the Welcoming Mass of WACOM 4 held in the Archdiocese of Manila’s Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, commonly known as the Manila Cathedral, on January 16, 2017.

Focusing on God’s Mercy to those in need shown in the Gospel on the Wedding At Cana, he delved on the prerequisite to receiving graces from God brought about by one’s full trust in God and by one’s obedience to His will as shown by the Blessed Virgin Mary. He said the miracle of the water turning into wine happened after people listened to Mary’s advice to do what Jesus instructed them to.

“So let us not be afraid to open to Jesus those situations in life that we tend to hide because they are embarassing…they will invite Jesus to reveal who He was. He will reveal to us the Face of The Merciful Father,” he urged. “Let us continue showing the Face of Jesus through acts of mercy. And like Mary, let us be sensitive to the needs of others–but remember to do what Jesus tells you.”

Crucified In Christ

One’s trust in God must bear fruit by living out the call to be merciful to the poor and suffering by attaining communion with God and others–as one crucified in Christ described by St. Paul in the Gospel would do so–emphasized by the four talks and eight testimonials of WACOM 4’s Day 2 held in the University of Santo Tomas on January 17, 2017.

“We have the deepest communion with God when we love and obey Him, when we have Faith in His Son, and when we have the fellowship of the Holy Spirit….That is the Trinitarian communion with us,” explained Archbishiop of Cotabato His Excellency Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, OMI, DD.

Laying the foundations of Lumen Gentium’s call to the deep vocation to communion and its attached moral implications, he cited the ills brought by indifference against communion and one’s role in the Body of Christ.

“Will we be indifferent to those being killed?” He emphasized, “We can not be indifferent…When one member of the Body suffers, every one in the Body of Christ suffers.”

Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. (Photo credit: Annaliza Bruce)

Giving weight against indifference, the Diocese of Novaliches’ very own Honorary HIlario Davide, Jr. beckoned everyone to fight for the Sanctity of Life and of Marriage when he testified for the Talk “The Church Receives And Celebrates The Mercy of God Through The Word And Sacraments Especially The Eucharist And Reconciliation”. He cited the reimposition of the death penalty, the move to legalize same sex marriage and divorce, and the distribution of condoms to children as some of the works of the DEVIL: “the first two letters of DEath, the first two letters of VIolence, and the first letter of Lawlessness.”

“Our God is one Who speaks and His Words have always been Mercy, Love, Compassion, and Comfort. It is Mercy that you and I must bring to bear to the world. The Sacrament of Reconcillation will make us effective agents of love instead of hate,” he stressed. “While we make our choices, while we decide about the causes to support, when we voice our pain to express our condemnation, we must stand up for Mercy!”

Expounding the meaning of God’s Mercy and how to stand up for it, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Most Rev. Socrates Villegas, D.D. identified the many fears people have that prevent them from being merciful: of emptying. of being nothing, of being opposed, of pain and suffering, of being too soft, of silence, and of waiting.

“Mercy is the essence of Christianity..And the essence of the Gospel is mercy. And yet it is so difficult to find mercy in the world that God has created. We need mercy yet we are afraid to show mercy…Why? Because we are afraid to look at Mercy in the eyes. And we are afraid that Mercy will challenge us to be merciful and we are not ready,” he said the during the Homily of the Eucharistic Celebration that culminated Day 2.

The Most Rev. Socrates Villegas, D.D.  of Lingayan-Dagupan (Photo credit: Annaliza Bruce)

He then added, challenging every one, “The Gospel of Mercy is a sign of contradictions. The Gospel of Mercy will disturb the promoters of the culture of death. When you fight the enemy, when you fight evil, evil will strike you back…But, brothers and sisters in Christ, the destiny of people who show mercy is martyrdom. And martyrdom is the great act of mercy. And if we want to become a world that is capable of showing mercy, we must be ready to die for one another!…Dare to be merciful. Do not be afraid to be merciful!”

Proclaim God’s Mercy

The challenge to be courageously merciful continued on Day 3 of WACOM 4 with “Remembering And Celebrating The Mercy Of God As A Forgiven And Forgiving Community” given by Bishop Emeritus of Novaliches Teodoro Bacani, DD who sternly reminded, “Every breath is a grace. Every companion is a grace. Every human being is a grace. And the earth on which we live is a grace.”

“Even as we proclaim the Mercy of God, the Mercy of God, let us with boldness–and I repeat, with boldness!–also uphold the rights of human beings, even of the most miserable. As we proclaim life, let us boldly reject unmerciful ways, merciless ways of dealing with the most miserable, including our drug addicts,” he impelled the hundreds gathered in the National Shrine and Parish of Padre Pio in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.

From the miserable state of sin, the Most Rev. Marcelino Antonio Maralit, DD of Boac courageously shared his conversion story from a materialistic, womanizing priest of the Archdiocese of Lipa to the changed man he is now–thanks to a child with cancer that he helped get healed.

The Most Rev. Teodoro Bacani, DD, Bishop Emeritus of Novaliches (Photo credit: Annaliza Bruce)

“Mediocrity, is by itself, the first step towards sinfulness. Because from being just a mediocre priest, I started engaging in things that were not very priestly…I loved being with girls and enjoyed their company so much and eventually I entered into wrong and sinful relationships….living a double life…But no matter how deep I kept on digging my own grave as a priest, and thought I had no hope, our Merciful God knew otherwise. I knew he wanted to save me,” he confessed.

Focusing on one’s conversion as the essence of his Talk “Witnessing To The Mercy Of God As The Church Of And For The Poor” on Day 4 held in the National Shrine and Parish of Divine Mercy in Marilao, Bulacan, Caceres Archbishop Rolando Joven Tirona, OCD, DD highlighted witnessing’s powerful force in one’s life especially in gaining Christian identity because it is a way of life.

“Witnessing is a now reality. It is a present reality. It is true the source of my witnessing is in the past but I must make that real, relevant, true, effective to the moment…It has to be relevant. And the world has so many issues. The Philippines has so many issues. And we are precisely in those present issues in that particular time and moment that we have to witness to the Mercy, to the Compassion, and to the Power of God,” he compelled.

Missionaries and Messengers Of Mercy

Finally, Bishop of Balanga Ruperto Santos, DD in his homily for the Culminating Mass of WACOM 4 held in Las Casas Filipinas De Azucar in Bataan last January 20, 2017 reminded the delegates that their learnings and experiences during the 5-day conference was meant to prepare them to be Missionaries and Messengers of Mercy, who is Jesus Christ.

Most Rev. Marcelino Antonio Maralit, D.D. of Boac (Photo credit: Annaliza Bruce)

He stressed that the delegates’ noble cause is to spread God’s love and teaching to everyone by promoting hope and compassion instead of condemnation in their decisions, actions, words, and daily lives. He invited them to draw from their personal experiences of God’s mercy the strength to become merciful to others.

Reflecting on the day’s Gospel on the Woman presented to Jesus to be stoned to death, he encouraged, “Our Mission is Mercy…Any one who is devoted to Mercy must defend life! Any one who loves Mercy is he who promotes and protects life. Any one who shows Mercy propagates and respects life!”

“We should be like Jesus…Jesus rejected the idea of revenge,” he said.

Hopefully, through the help of the Divine Mercy, not only the delegates of WACOM 4 both from here and abroad, but all Christians who heard the resounding cry for courage will truly live as Missionaries and Messengers of Mercy. (~Minnie Agdeppa)