MANILA, Dec. 10, 2013—Faith may dwindle in the most trying times, but it is through the openness of one’s heart that darkness in the face of tragedy may be surpassed.
This was the message relayed by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle as he called on the Filipino faithful to keep their devotion strong amid the challenges that have tested their physical and spiritual resilience in the wake of Super Typhoon Yolanda and the 7.2-magnitude temblor that struck the nation.
“The assurance of faith is somehow questioned by some people in the wake of recent calamities,” Tagle said during the Advent Recollection he facilitated at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Sunday.
“We remember the Zamboanga (standoff), we remember the violence that happens on our streets, we remember the daily violence of hunger and poverty, we have seen images of calamities inflicted not only on houses, buildings, and churches, but also on human lives,” he added.
The senior prelate recognized the spiritual crisis faced by those who felt the wrath of recent calamities, lauding their strong resistance not to fall into the temptation of blaming all of their hardships to the Lord.
“The pain of people shows that they are also searching. They know Jesus comes and Jesus is with us, but in the middle of the darkness, in the middle of disaster, they are asking, ‘Where is Jesus? How does He come to us in the midst of the rubble and the ruins of life?’” Tagle said.
“I know in faith, they declare ‘Jesus is here. Jesus comes.’ But deep inside, they are also asking, ‘How? How does He come? Where will we see Him, and how do we prepare ourselves for a new way of detecting His presence and His coming?’” Tagle said.
With only two weeks left before Christmas, Tagle urged the faithful to seek refuge in the upcoming season, noting that it “is important for the church every year to enter the spirit of holiness as the core of our preparation for the coming of Jesus.”
“Advent is a part of our daily living…It is a never-ending season of life,” Tagle said, referring to the four-week preparation of the Catholic Church for the birth of Christ.
“Life is a perpetual advent, not because life is a burdensome waiting for Jesus. This daily advent of life is filled with excitement because we know Jesus will not come again only in the final day. Jesus comes in every moment to us so our waiting is not in vain. Unlike other forms of waiting that can be frustrating, waiting for Jesus is always fulfilled,” he added.
As an act of communion and solidarity with Filipinos who were devastated by recent tragedies, Tagle urged the faithful to be one with them in seeking Christ as they begin to rebuild their lives.
“With them and for them, we will also search for the ways in which Jesus approaches us. We will search for His voice, we will search for His light, and we, hopefully, will be able to prepare ourselves for the hidden and surprising ways by which Jesus comes as word and as light,” he said.
Response of the laity
Tagle challenged the laity not just to hear the word about the coming of the Lord, but to also listen and act upon it.
“This is advent, an experience that will not be frustrated by Jesus, but are we going to be there to hear and more deeply listen?” he said.
“The word comes to us in different forms, in different sources. The word reaches and affects us…but how do we respond? Do we hear? Or better still, do we listen?…Many are capable of hearing, but how many are really striving to listen?” he added.
Emphasizing the need to live into actions the lessons acquired by the Catholic faithful from hearing the good news, Tagle said that heeding the Lord’s call is “not just a natural but a personal affair” wherein a person can decide what to absorb and let go.
“I may choose to hear and stop there, but I may also choose to hear and listen. Even more, I may choose to hear, listen, and act on it,” he said.
Ignoring ‘false gods’
The failure to listen to His word may be caused by factors such as indifference, spiritual laziness, and selective listening, which all blocks the faithful’s capability to understand the message relayed by the gospel, Tagle noted.
“Advent is the fullness of the word of God. It is not about any other content but the love of God, the mercy, the compassion of God that gives us hope, gives us a reason to strive, and gives us meaning for we know love is here,” he said.
He warned the faithful from loving “false gods,” noting that words that comes from ambition instead of love and care for one’s neighbor is a manifestation of a “half-hearted” love that should not be trusted.
“Other words are not reliable because they come from false love or half-hearted love…Because of God’s word of love, all of our strivings have a meaning, because of that assurance of love, even our pain we know have a meaning,” he said.
“All other words may be unreliable. But the word of Christ who comes to us is dependable. It is the light for us walking in darkness. Will we hear? Will we listen? That is the question,” Tagle said. (Jennifer Orillaza)