THIRD SUNDAY OF OCTOBER
DATE: October 21, 2012 (Ordinary Time: 29th)
THEME: Called to Radiate the Word of Truth
READINGS: Is 53:10-11 / Ps 33:4-5. 18-19. 20. 22 /Heb 4:14-16 / Mk 10:35-45
REFLECTIONS BY: Alunday and Castillo
Called to Radiate the Word of Truth – I
Fr. Oscar Alunday, SVD
The fresh wind of renewal (aggiornamento) started blowing a spirit-filled life into the Church on October 11, 1962. This was the opening of the twenty-first ecumenical council of the Catholic Church. This was the second council to be held in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the good and elderly Pope John XXIII injected new life into an ageing Church. And now, on the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican II, another elderly Pope launched the Year of Faith on October 11, 2012 as he summons another Synod of Bishops on the topic of “New Evangelization.”
This event will certainly reaffirm the mission of the Church to discover with greater zeal the seeds of the Word in the world today so that the ends of the earth will vibrate in the light of the Gospel. Thus, moved with the passion to animate peoples in different communities in order for them to experience the reign of God in their lives, the pope asserts that the missionary nature of the Church must once again be affirmed to be at the center of Christian living.
Pope Benedict XVI is fully aware of the conditions of the Church today. Whereas the growth of the followers of Christ has increased, Blessed John Paul II has observed that “the number of those who do not know Christ and do not belong to the Church is constantly on the increase” (RM 3). On account of the urgency of engaging in mission, the pope sees huge population increases as an opportunity to strengthen the mission mandate because “millions of our brothers and sisters, who like us have been redeemed by the blood of Christ … live in ignorance of the love of God” (RM 86).
The Gospel message has to be announced with passion to all peoples. It cannot be kept in the confines of the home and prayer houses, but it has to be proclaimed in creative forms to all peoples. Everyone in the Church is enjoined to participate in the invitation of Jesus to a dynamic faith and to accept salvation and the fullness of life in Christ. Who can replace this unique faith? It is a challenge for all of us to recapture the apostolic zeal of the pioneer believers in their proclamation, teaching, and simple way of living.
Walking in the footsteps of Saint Paul, the model missionary, we are to use our energies and skills, time and treasure, to make the living message of Christ known. We are urged to engage in the mission of witnessing and proclaiming, using new forms of evangelization, e.g. economic assistance to the marginalized and pastoral care for all faith-seekers.
The complexity of the problems, aspirations and hopes of humankind calls for new ways of effectively communicating the Word of God; this must be done in such a way that people in communities will experience both personal healing and community purification. Proclaiming Christ enables one to sense the divine presence. On the one hand, this sensitivity to the divine presence is lacking in a situation where there is a crisis of faith. On the other hand, “hungering and thirsting for God” opens up the possibility of a journey in faith toward a joyful encounter with Christ as a living Person.
This encounter further deepens the enthusiasm of communicating the faith through “new evangelization,” a rediscovery of the joy of believing that the Gospel is intended for me and that I have the responsibility to proclaim the truth in a new way. This proclamation is centered on the kerygma of Christ’s death and resurrection, a kerygma announcing God’s encompassing love for all through Jesus Christ who lived poverty, suffered lovingly, was crucified and died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
Gratitude is our attitude for the gift of faith in God. For faith to bear fruit, it has to be shared and exposed. It is a light that illuminates peoples. It is the most precious gift in our lives “which we cannot keep to ourselves”; it demands to be shared! The urgency to announce the good news is centered in love and charity. Families and congregations of different charisms go out to the world, enjoying their moments of joy and success, sharing their pains and sorrows—all because of love. They encounter varied experiences as they proclaim the name and the words of Christ while witnessing to the life of Christ in both good times and in bad.
Agents of mission societies are instrumental in promoting solidarity and communion in the world. The visible expressions of the proclamation of the Gospel—through struggles for justice and peace for the poor, efforts to respect the integrity of creation, advocacy for the neighborhood and marginalized communities, medical outreach programs in isolated places, poverty alleviation, human development, overcoming ethnic divisions, and the respect for life in all its stages—all these are creative ways of proclamation as loving (charitable) actions. These are different opportunities (gateways) wherein we are all called to radiate the Word of Truth in the world today.
NOTE: Father Oscar Alunday, SVD, is Mission Secretary of SVD Central Province in the Philippines.
Called to Radiate the Word of Truth – II
“Faith and Proclamation”
Fr. Adorable Castillo, CICM
Sometime ago, our present Superior General Timothy Atkin, CICM, (he was then assistant general) wrote an article in our congregational bulletin about preaching. What struck me in his article was his honesty and frankness about the efficacy or the futility of preaching. It is indeed a humbling experience to know that at times, very few or no one ever listens to our preaching. If ever some listen, they seem not to understand or they listen without trying to comprehend. If the purpose of preaching is to convince, and consequently,
to convert, the preacher is one hundred percent sure that he would probably only convert one person. The only person that the preacher may eventually convert is himself. By the same token, I am writing this short homily without the slightest pretention that I would convince a single faithful Christian. I am just consoled and even challenged that I would convince myself in the process!
One Sunday morning I celebrated mass and preached at the Transfiguration of Christ Parish in Antipolo City. I started with the above premise, taking a cue from my superior general and told the people that I intended not to convert everybody, let alone convince somebody. The response was rather ambiguous. I continued the mass without a hint of any surprise or positive outcome. During communion, I positioned myself in the middle and gave a host to the first communicant in the queue. It was a woman sitting in front. Holding the host, I said: “The Body of Christ.” To my surprise, the woman answered: “Father, I believe you.” And I exclaimed: “AMEN”!
No amount of erudite preparation using bible commentaries, homily guides and public speaking techniques can substitute for the authenticity and sincerity of the preacher. Witness of life is the most effective way of proclaiming the Gospel as Pope Paul VI affirms in a barrage of questions in Evangelii Nuntiandi (76): “Do you really believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you really preach what you live? The witness of life has become more than ever an essential condition for real effectiveness in preaching.”
I spent a good ten years in Africa as a missionary, five years doing pastoral work in a mission station in the bush and five years teaching theology in several theological schools and formation institutes. Our Sunday liturgies are practically long but inspiring, even entertaining. Priests usually deliver hour-long homilies, yet the people seem not to mind at all and even participate by asking questions, adding proverbs and supplementing the homily with other local wisdom sayings. If you preach just for fifteen minutes, people would say that you are too lazy to prepare. By and large, people would like to prolong the celebration to express their faith and proclaim it in a participatory manner. It is the community that proclaims and receives the Good News at the same time. Let me end by a story of how a community celebrates and proclaims its faith.
In the 1990s, tourism operators were still plying the route “From Cairo to Cape.” The roads from Cairo, Egypt to Cape Town, South Africa were still passable. Well-equipped trucks were used to bring tourists, usually Europeans, through the rugged terrain of Africa to see its flora and fauna. A group of German tourists arrived in our mission station in Banalia, situated around 130 kilometers north of Kisangani, the third largest city of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). One elderly German tourist suffered a heat stroke (and most probably a heart attack too) and needed hospitalization. There was a local hospital built during the colonization era, but it lacked the necessary medical equipment and supplies. The leader of the tour group was asking the local health worker for oxygen. He just replied: “Here in the forest, oxygen is free and abundant.” Of course, the European meant a supply of oxygen in a tank to help the victim for respiration.
The German tourist eventually died. That was around noontime. The nearest city was still 130 kilometers away. It was decided to bury the body there. They could not afford to carry a dead body for a hundred kilometers along rough roads. The local mayor issued a death certificate for documentation and a “box” (coffin) was hastily made by a local wood worker using local materials. Then the body was brought inside the church. As soon as the news spread, the local people of Banalia and the surrounding villages all flocked to the church to see the body. They came, out of curiosity, of course, but, also out of profound solidarity and sympathy for that group of hapless European tourists. A prayer vigil was speedily organized. Choirs from different villages took turns in singing and praying until the wee hours of the following morning. The German tourist was buried that morning with a diocesan Congolese priest presiding at the funeral rite. The man was born a Protestant, but stopped practicing his religion. His companions surely did not understand a single word of the local language used in the liturgy, but they nonetheless felt the vibrant faith and sincere solidarity of the locals. Practically, the whole town of Banalia participated in the internment of a man whom they just called “Wolfgang.” This is faith and proclamation in action.
NOTE: Father Adorable M. Castillo, CICM, currently teaches at Maryhill School of Theology in New Manila, Quezon City, Philippines.