Concretely, this presence is symbolized by the image of the Divine child gifted to the wife of Rajah Humabon of Cebu when both were baptized by the expedition’s chaplain, Fr. Pedro Valderama. This image resurfaced during the Legaspi-Urdaneta in 1565 and was seen as a good sign to start the missionary endeavor. The Basilica Minore del Sto. Nino de Cebu currently houses this same image, and serves as a lasting legacy of our Christian identity as Filipino Catholics.
All over the country, each Catholic is invited to rekindle their faith by sharing the blessings they have received. This year’s theme of Misio ad Gentes, being sent to all nations invites us to realize our giftedness in order to give, “gifted to give”. To whom much is given, much is likewise expected, what we have freely received, we give freely as a gift for others. We say our yes to this mission in varied ways such as visiting pilgrim churches, attending conferences and doing our own reflection on our legacy as Catholic Filipinos. Part of this is the invitation to wear our mission cross, a symbol of Christ’s saving love and also a reminder that we too are called to show Christ’s love specially to our poor brothers and sisters.
This call to freely give likewise challenges the local church particularly our parishes to abolish the practice of having fixed rates for church services particularly in receiving the sacraments. It is clear that the sacraments are freely given, but because of expenses incurred by the parish, these are charged to the faithful. The donation we give is not payment, rather these are contributions we freely give as members of the parish. We are part of the church, it is time to remind us of our responsibility as members of this church, an obligation which should not be compulsory, but a heartfelt offering from coming from a grace filled heart.
Bishop Pabillo of Manila challenges us to go out of our comfort zones and stop treating our Catholic Religion as a thing of the past, an antique or relic good only to be stored in a museum. We are invited to be creative and immerse in what the present generation demands, to enter the digital arena, to reach out to our younger generations, and discern with them how we can make relevant the universal call to holiness. This task would be impossible, without the help of the Holy Spirit, thus let us pray together, that amidst the current crisis we are experiencing, we may find a reason to move away from our fears to celebrate a genuine feast, with our Blessed Mother Mary as we celebrate 500 years of giftedness and sharing our gifts through mission.
Fr. Paul Reagan O. Talavera, OP