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Empty stomach preachers

Filed under: Editorial |

ONE of the most beautifully crafted statements during the first two days of the ongoing 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome came from a Filipino—Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan. Two lines of his much applauded statement were immediately twitted and “favorited” in social media, by a global audience intently following the Synod.

This is the first one:  “The Gospel can be preached to empty stomachs, but only if the stomach of the preacher is as empty as his parishioners’ (stomachs).”

The second one: “Evangelization has been hurt and continues to be impeded by the arrogance of its messengers.”

The ideas behind these lines are age-old, but the way they have been verbalized by the good archbishop penetrates down to the bones with simplicity and frankness as only a “Fr. Soc,” as he prefers to be called, could do. It provoked an spontaneous applause from among the 262 Synod Fathers in attendance from all over the world, together with the Holy Father.

These expressions instantaneously bring one to a deeper reflection about ecclesiastical realities that may have been one of the bigger factors why the “whole night of fishing” always ends up with barely a catch.

Humility of preachers and evangelizers, parish priests and curia personnel, missionaries and catechists should be one of the strongest proofs that the gospel really works in much the same way that arrogance will painfully prove otherwise.  In the same breath, the lifestyle of the messengers of the Gospel should be the fruit of their proclamation.

Undisputedly, what everyone seems to be seeing in this country and perhaps elsewhere is the widening gap between the kerygma and the way the proclaimers live it.   Sad though it seems, but in a small poor community as in the parish, the ones that enjoy a more comfortable lifestyle are most likely those who live in a rectory, being surrounded as they are with modern and comfortable amenities of life that are much beyond the reach and affordability of most parishioners.  Of course, every laborer in the Lord’s vineyard is worth his keep, but that is not the issue when talking about witnessing what preachers preach.

Everybody should hope and pray that in this Synod which bears the theme “The New Evangelization for the transmission of the Christian Faith”, “empty stomach preachers” will find their way from the cold pages of synodal papers and Vatican documents to the streets and ghettoes where the harvest is always great though laborers are puny.


Laity’s involvement and leadership in politics

IN the Philippines today given the general perception that politics has become an obstacle to integral development, the urgent necessity is for the lay faithful to participate more actively, with singular competence and integrity, in political affairs. It is through the laity that the Church is directly involved.

“Charges of careerism, idolatry of power, egoism and corruption that are oftentimes directed at persons in government, parliaments, the ruling classes, or political parties, as well as the common opinion that participating in politics is an absolute moral danger, does not in the least justify either skepticism or an absence on the part of Christians in public life.” (Christifideles laici, 42)

Our Plenary Council stands on record to urge lay faithful to participate actively and lead in the renewing of politics in accordance with values of the Good News of Jesus.

But that politics may truly be renewed, let us all be reminded that Catholics who are given a charge of public life faithful abide by the Gospel and by the moral and social teachings of the Church, given the parameters of religious liberty.  In a special way, in the context of our political imbalances, the following truths must guide the participation of Catholics in political life:  a) that the basic standard for participation be on the pursuit of the common good; b) that the participation be characterized by a defense and promotion of justice; c) that the participation be inspired and guided by the spirit of service; d) that it be imbued with a love of preference for the poor; and e) that empowering people be carried out both as process and as a goal of political activity.

Catholics in politics have to work in favor of legislation that is imbued with these principles.  Knowing that the wrong behavior and values are often rewarded or left unpunished, Catholic politicians have to put teeth to good legislation by making certain that the correct system of rewards and punishments be strictly enforced in public life.

The over-all value that must be infused into the political order has to be that of solidarity, which, expressing concretely the commandment of love, urges “the active and responsible participation of all in public life, from individual citizens to various groups, from labor unions to political parties.  All of us, each and everyone, are the goal of public life as well as its leading participants.  (Acts of the Council, Nos.  348-353)


Acts and Decrees of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, 1991

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