A Lenten Reflection

This piece was originally published as part of our parish's newsletter. I share it here since I thought it would be useful for our Lenten reflection.

Following is a summary of the main points of a talk by Most Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, D.D.

Celebrating 10 Years of Stewardship in the Parish with Bishop Soc Villegas’ Talk: Stewards of the Church, Servants of the Poor

As part of Christ the King Parish’s celebration of its tenth year as a Stewardship Parish, Most Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, D.D. (Bishop Soc) gave a talk entitled: Stewards of the Church, Servants of the Poor last September 12, 2015. This was held at the Lower Church at 10am.

Bishop Soc set the tone for the morning by inviting the community to sing the song Pananagutan as a way to start the talk. After, he then asked the following question: "In the Year of the Poor, where is the poor in this parish?"

Participants gave different answers from: "In my house." to "In the poor people around us." to "I’m the poor one because I am spiritually poor." Bishop Soc did not agree with and countered all these answers. He reminded us about the image/theme for the Year of the Poor which stated: "Look at Jesus." He then went on to say: "…The poor is not you. The poor is not even in the depressed areas. May damit nga kayo. Jesus, the crucified One, is the real image of poverty… When he was nailed to the cross, He did not even get any lawyer…" When Jesus was nailed to the cross, you could look at it as lipas gutom na patong patong that all He could say was "I thirst." In the end, all He could say was: "It is finished." – "Nagawa ko na yung pinapagawa…Kahit yung mahirap mapapahiya kay Hesus. When you look at Jesus, you will see what it really means to be poor."

After looking at and contemplating on Jesus’ suffering on the cross and realizing that the crucified Jesus is the true image of poverty, Bishop Soc then invited everyone to look at Jesus, eye to eye, and not just to look at His suffering but to see His love and compassion. In the process, we realize that we are all the poor ones because we have not loved like Him. "…The poor is the one who loves least…The one who loves most is the richest of all…" Bishop Soc then reminded us about Pope Francis who stated that if we cannot forgive or love, then we cannot be a Christian.

There is a need to look Jesus eye to eye, to be intimate with Him for if we conclude that we are poor, without going through this then "…we are drawing a conclusion without adequate investigation…" Stewardship is not about the millions of pesos that we give. "It is about how intimate we have become with the Crucified Christ…I want to imitate Jesus – Who has loved much…Stewardship must lead you to holiness…It is being touched by the generosity of Christ…" and generosity is the language of love.
Bishop Soc then went on to say that: "Ang taong hindi marunong magbigay, humihinga pa, patay na." Giving is part of the cycle of life. What you breathe in, you must breathe out. "Yung kinain mo kahapon, subukan mong hindi ilabas bukas, magkakasakit ka."

He asked us to remember three things: 1) Remember that there is a God. 2) Please remember that you are not God. 3) Remember that there is everlasting life.

There is a difference between saying that "I have a soul." and "I am a soul." The phrase "I have" denotes possession and not essence. To say that one has a soul means that "I am my body." but what is true is that it is your body that was added to your soul. We are all souls and our destiny is not the grave. "What you give, you will find in heaven…What I give, I gain…What I keep, I lose…People who love will never die…"

Bishop Soc spoke about Filipinos’ practice of eating "kilo-kilometrong sotanghon o pansit na di pinuputol" to have a long life. We even pray for long life and ask the parish priest to pray for our long life. But our friends should always remind us: "Friend, mamamatay ka din…" It is Satan who wants us to believe that we will live long, that there is always time to change for the better, that we can just repent later…

Bishop Soc also pointed out that there are people who are "buhay pa, pero patay na…" "Ito yung mga taong walang pakialam, mga taong walang pakiramdam, at mga taong walang hiya." We should all guard against indifference, against being uncaring. "…When you pray, you should ask Jesus to change you to be like Him…"

We should learn or continue to cry for the Church, for the community. "…Have we become insensitive that we only care about ourselves?...Stewardship is taking care of each other…" He likewise distinguished between stewardship and philanthropy. Stewardship requires an intimate relationship with Jesus. Philanthropy is being giving out of the goodness of your heart as a human being.

A question was raised after about the difference between stewardship and tithing. Bishop Soc then asked the question: "…Is there money in stewardship? Yes, there is but stewardship is more than tithing…I give because I have been touched by the love of God…We simplify our lives…" We can give people time. We can give them good advice. Meron tayong malasakit."

In response to another question regarding what Bishop Soc needed to learn (as he touched on briefly at some point during his talk about realizing that he was assigned by the Lord to Bataan and Dagupan because he needed it) during his assignments in Bataan and Dagupan, he told a story. He was on his way, walking to another place, with a religious sister and an Aeta guide when they saw a guava tree filled with fruits. "Bihira kang makakita ng ganun – yung bayabas na nahihinog sa puno – e ako naman, di talaga ako mahilig sa bayabas." Sister, on the other hand, really liked guavas and so she ate several pieces. She then proceeded to pick more fruits from the tree to take away with her. Sister prompted her Aeta guide to eat too, to which the guide responded: "Tapos na po. Kumain na po ako." Sister then asked the guide to pick fruits for himself so that he could take these away too and the guide answered: "Baka may iba pa pong dumaan. Baka gusto din po nila." Bishop Soc then said: "Parang gustong ibalik ni Sister yung bayabas sa puno…"

Thank you very much Bishop Soc for sharing your time, talent, and treasure with us as Christ the King Parish celebrates its tenth year as a Stewardship Parish. Thank you to all who attended the talk. For those who missed it, I hope that this summary helps you in your journey to be closer to Jesus and to be more like Him. As Bishop Soc said: "…The important thing about giving is not what you give but that you give yourself with it…" Stewardship is loving like Jesus and living like Jesus. Our prayer should always be: "Lord, change me – even if I am not ready."

The morning ended by praying I Believe in Stewardship, written by Most. Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, D.D., Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan. We share it here, for all to pray:

"I believe in the God of love,
the owner of everything who possesses everyone.
I believe in the God of mercies who has chosen me
to be a steward of Mother Nature and Mother Church,
in spite of who I am and what I have done,
and in spite of the infidelities He knows I will still commit.

I believe in the power of giving
and in the power of loving like Jesus;
because love is the only way to holiness;
giving is the best proof of loving;
and perfect renunciation leads to unlimited fruitfulness.

I believe that in freely giving my time,
in humbly sharing my talents,
and in generously sacrificing my treasures,
the Lord will always provide.
He will take care of all my needs,
And bless me with infinite reward on earth and in heaven.

I will be the first to give.
I will not wait for the others.
I will keep on giving even if others do not give.
I will not be afraid to have none.

I believe that the best time to share is now, not tomorrow,
for tomorrow is an excuse of the greedy.

I will keep my needs and wants simple and few,
for I believe that in reducing my selfishness,
I will grow in happiness and holiness.

I am a steward of the Lord.
I will return all these to Him with abundant yield!
Much is asked of me because much has been given to me.
I praise the Lord for His kindness to me
Now and forever, Amen."

Have a meaningful Lenten Season and a happy, glorious Easter. God bless us all.

[By Angelica Viloria | Tuesday, March 1, 2016]

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