MANILA, Nov. 12, 2015 – The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Wednesday, Nov. 11, reminded delegates of the ongoing National Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC) Assembly at San Fernando de Dilao Parish in Paco, Manila of their dignity as “People of God” who are called to become instruments of social transformation, starting with the family.
“The Church is the People of God. We are not a political party. We are not a corporation. Neither are we an NGO. We are God’s people, for no other reason than it is God who gathered us together. And we are with God, in Whose heart we find our beginning and our end,” stressed Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan in his homily, speaking on behalf of his brother bishops.
Church for society
Villegas went on to point out that BEC is not about having large membership given that its primary focus is being not a “Church for the Church,” but being a “Church for society.”
“This simply means that BEC must be a vehicle of communitarian renewal, of change, even for people who refuse to believe in God, and those who mock the Catholic Church. We are all for them just the same,” he said.
The prelate went on to tell the audience that if they wanted to see what being BEC is like they should look no further than the people sitting next to them, saying each one of them mirrors the Divine.
“If you cannot see God in your neighbor, you can never see Him anywhere else. You have to see Him first within you … If you cannot find the image of God in your neighbor, it’s your problem, not your neighbor’s,” he explained.
Knowing God in oneself
According to Villegas, there is no point in wanting to share God to others if one has no prior relationship with Him.
“If you do not know God, how can you imitate God? If you do not know God, how can you follow God?” the prelate asked.
However, Villegas stressed that the best place to find BEC is in the family.
“Where can we find BEC? At home! The family is the first Church. It is the picture of God’s love,” he exclaimed.
Moreover, he warned the faithful that when love is not discovered in the family, there is no hope in encountering it elsewhere.
Trinity = community
According to Villegas, BEC originates in a God Who is Himself a family, a community or “Communio” of Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
“‘Communio’ is directed towards ‘missio’ [mission], solidarity towards fellowship, unity towards concern for all, one-ness towards mutual responsibility,” he added.
In conclusion, Villegas challenged BEC members to be a “Church of the Poor.”
“Every BEC should be a Church of the Poor. It is not because the Church has a duty to provide poor people free with food, shelter, and medicine. It means that they are given a voice and are able to participate fully in the life of the Church,” he said.
Noting that most of them are adults, the prelate urged assembly participants to do their best to woo the youth.
“Young people may not always listen to their elders, but they watch them and learn from their example,” he said.
Furthermore, Villegas invited the delegates to try to reach out and win back fallen-away Catholics, former Catholics who now profess a different creed and those who reject religion altogether.
Nearly 2,000 BEC members from the country’s various arch/dioceses are in Manila from Nov. 11 to 14 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the closing of Vatican II and to take part in the culminating activity for the “Year of the Poor.”
This year’s 3rd CBCP-BEC Assembly is hosted by the Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM) and its suffragan dioceses of Kalookan, Novaliches, Pasig, Cubao, Parañaque, Malolos, Antipolo, and Imus.
Besides Villegas, other prelates expected to grace the activities include Cotabato Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma, and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle.
Quevedo is set to give a talk on Nov. 12, Thursday, entitled “BECs in the Philippines – Thanksgiving for 50 Years of Vatican II’s Spirit of Renewal.”
Palma is scheduled to preside over the concelebrated Mass later that afternoon.
Meanwhile, on Nov. 13, Friday, Tagle is assigned to discuss “BEC in the Philippines: Responding as a Community of Missionary Disciples to the Challenge of Pope Francis to be a Poor Church for the Poor.”
In a statement, Fr. Amado L. Picardal, CSsR, executive secretary of CBCP’s Episcopal Commision on BEC, said that roughly 10,000 leaders and members of BECs nationwide are predicted to join the delegates in the culminating activity at the Cuneta Astrodome on Nov. 14, Saturday, from 12:00 noon to 5:00 p.m.
Motorcades from various dioceses and parishes in Metro Manila will converge along Roxas Blvd. near the Department of Foreign Affairs, the priest added.
Among the personalities expected to share their talents during the program are Jamie Rivera, Jimmy Bondoc, and the singing priests known as “Priests in the City.”
The Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto will read a message from Pope Francis to the assembly while Tagle will celebrate the culminating Mass at 4:00 p.m. with bishops and over 200 priests as concelebrants. (Raymond A. Sebastián / CBCP News)