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Arising to Fullness of Life

Abp. Antonio J. Ledesma, SJ

Pastoral Companion


CHRIST has risen! The message of Easter is not only about Christ’s victory over death. It is also a promise—and a task—for all of us to work towards fullness of life. The Easter vigil symbolisms of Light, Word, Water, and Communion touch the various facets of this fullness of life—embracing the light of our faith; listening to the narratives of the history of our salvation; cleansing ourselves with the waters of baptism; and entering into communion with the Resurrected Christ and with one another.

Two recent developments in Philippine society challenge us to continue striving towards this fullness of life. The first was the recent ruling of the Supreme Court on April 8, 2014, on the “Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.” In unambiguous terms, the Court concluded that “the life of a new human being commences at a scientifically well-defined moment of conception, that is, upon fertilization.” (Decision, p.48)

It also reiterated its stand against abortifacients. This is defined by the RH Law itself as “any drug or device that induces abortion, that is, which kills or destroys the fertilized ovum or prevents the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother’s womb….” (Decision, p.51)  While declaring the RH Law as “not unconstitutional,” the Supreme Court struck down eight provisions as unconstitutional on the grounds that “the State should not use coercive measures (like the penal provision of the RH Law against conscientious objectors)….” (Decision, p.102)

It is in this light that our ongoing ministry on Responsible Parenthood and All-Natural Family Planning should be affirmed and strengthened. Our All-NFP program follows four pastoral guidelines that are consonant with much of the Supreme Court’s decision and provides a positive alternative to the RH Law’s focus on contraceptives:

(1)  We are Pro-Life. We are at the service of life from the moment of conception (i.e., fertilization). We are against abortion as well as abortifacients. These are also proscribed by our Constitution.

(2)  We are for Responsible Parenthood as our goal. We help parents to be aware of their rights and their duties in the procreation and education of their children until they reach the age of independence.

(3)  We are for Natural Family Planning as the means, in consonance with the moral teaching of the Church. Our promotion of NFP includes all modern, scientifically-tested NFP methods as a pastoral imperative.

(4)  We are for enabling couples to make an Informed and Morally Responsible Choice. This requires values formation and adequate information on all NFP methods to help couples form a right conscience and make an informed choice. With regard to planning their family, “it is the married couples themselves who must in the last analysis arrive at these judgments before God.” (Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 50)


The second recent development, with particular reference to Mindanao, was the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014, in Malacañang. In a “Conversations on Peacebuilding in Mindanao” held in Davao City on April 9-10, Catholic bishops and educators viewed the signing with optimism, but also with a renewed commitment to be involved in this quest for peace as our shared responsibility. At no other time perhaps has Christ’s resurrection greeting of “Peace be with you” sounded with more immediacy than at this moment.

The drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), its passage through Congress, and eventual referendum are still works-in-progress. But for us the call for peace-building starts now—within ourselves and in our small communities. We can engage in inter- and intra-religious dialogue, peace education in our schools, peace communication through an accurate understanding of the CAB, and participation in the various stages of the drafting and finalization of the BBL.

In the spirit of Easter, we can keep in mind Pope Francis’ words: “the message of peace is not about a negotiated settlement but rather the conviction that unity brought about by the spirit can harmonize every diversity.” (EvangeliiGaudium, 230)

Acknowledging the tri-people composition of Mindanao, with its diversity of cultures and religious traditions, we are asked to build bridges of dialogue and friendship, with open minds and hearts, and resonate with Pope Francis’ vision: “Diversity is a beautiful thing when it can constantly enter into a process of reconciliation and seal a sort of cultural covenant in a reconciled diversity.” (EG, 230)

Building peace and helping form the human family are thus the two challenges for us in promoting the fullness of life. Filled with joy and hope, may the Easter promise bring us closer to the prayer of St. Irenaeus: “Gloria Dei homo vivens” (The glory of God is man fully alive).

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