CBCP exhorts faithful to counter secularism by reaffirming Christ, good news

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CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas reiterates Pope Francis' words as he encourages faithful to witness to their lives the joy of the Gospel.

MANILA, Jan. 28, 2014—The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in a pastoral letter on Monday called on the faithful to counter the secularist influences of the modern times through rekindling their relationship with the Divine and reaffirming the joy that emanates from the good news.

“Catholic country as we may be, we may have come to think that joy is suppressed by Jesus and His imperatives, and so have begun to pursue joy by walking away from Him in fashionable secular modernity,” the bishops’ collegial body said in a letter signed by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.

The bishops reiterated the call of the Supreme Pontiff to “turn around, and return to Jesus, who is not just a cold concept, not just an old memory, not just a set of ethical demands, but the God who encounters us from the Cross, gazes into our hearts with love, accepts us unconditionally, and moves us profoundly.”

“Crucial in the return to joy, is the return to Jesus Christ…A response may be a resolution never again to walk away from the Lord,” they added.

“We have all too easily walked away from Jesus, and walked into protected comfort zones, cultures of institutionalized hypocrisy, selfishness and sloth; we have found solace in superficial ideologies or shallow religiosity that but mimic the Gospel,” the CBCP said.

The faithful may rekindle this spiritual relationship by spending “more quality time with Him, to converse with Him more regularly, to find silence to listen to Him more intimately, to ‘waste time’ with Him more liberally, to experience more deeply the joy of knowing him personally, of being truly shaken by His love, infected by His values, influenced by his choices, and being convinced in his love of the love of the Father.”

Returning to joy 

Reaffirming the joy that roots from the good news is also vital for the faithful to cope with the challenges of the modern times, according to the CBCP.

“Pope Francis invites us to return to the joy that comes from the Gospel and from sharing the Gospel. That is a joy that comes neither from a covetous heart nor from the frivolous pursuit of pleasures, nor from a blunted conscience,” it said.

“It comes rather first and foremost from a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ. This joy is real and deeply personal in a social world,” the bishops said, noting the need for it to be urgently “shared today in all its fullness, challenge and joy – no matter the danger, no matter the ridicule, no matter the dying.”

Countering secularist influences through spiritual encounter compels the faithful to share their experience to others, the bishops said.

“It is not possible to have met Jesus, then hoard the joy of this encounter for oneself,” they said.

“The encounter with Jesus is genuinely personal, but intensely moving in his love not only for me but for all others– lay, religious, priests, bishops, Catholics and non-Catholics, Muslims and Lumad,” they added.

“It is the joy of this gratuitous personal encounter that impels us to share it, to break out of our zones of comfort, our parish turfs, our intimidating conventos, our moldy libraries and tired ways of thinking in order to share of this joy with those who cry out for it in need,” the CBCP said. (Jennifer Orillaza)

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