Pastoral Letter of His Excellency, Most Rev. Jesse E. Mercado, D.D.
Theme: “Towards a Synodal Church: Stewards Enjoined by God’s Generosity, Empowered to Proclaim the Gospel to the Peripheries”
Dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
It is new year in our Church! As we enter the Season of Advent, we begin a new Liturgical Year (Year A). We will reflect again on the mystery of our Salvation — of God’s incarnation in Jesus, His passion, death and resurrection, and his earthly ministries. It is a whole year recognizing that we have a God with us, a God who accompanies us in our pilgrimage towards His Kingdom. As we continue to rise from the crisis brought to us by the pandemic, we are assured of God’s abiding presence among us. Amid sufferings, losses, and uncertainties, God has been with us through His Church, through His word, through the sacraments, through the ups and downs of life, and through every people of goodwill. Indeed, God has journeyed with us. The Holy Spirit has led us along the way.
Let us stay on this path. As one People of God, we are responsible for each other. Our Pastoral theme this year seeks to deepen this truth as it bears: Towards a Synodal Church: Stewards Enjoined by God’s Generosity, Empowered to Proclaim the Gospel to the Peripheries
TOWARDS A SYNODAL CHURCH
The Synod on Synodality, which our Holy Father Pope Francis opened last year, brings us to a greater awareness of who we are as a Church. In our pilgrimage through life, we are to strive to be in communion with God and with one another amidst our diversities; to participate in the life of our parish, and to undertake our mission in the continuing work of renewed evangelization. This journey has moved us to gather people from every sector of society to listen to their voice. Where are we now as a Church? How do our people perceive the Church? What are our hopes for our Church?
“Ecclesia semper reformanda est,” the Church is always (in need of) reforming; because the Church is alive. We are the Church! Let us continue, therefore, to discern together on how the Spirit wants to renew our Church, and ask His guidance to lead us to the direction and path He wishes us to take. According to the synthesis made from our Synodal consultations, our Church in some ways remains “MALAYO (distant) from the faithful, especially to those in the ‘existential peripheries,’… MALABO (ambivalent) because of our inconsistencies and lack of witnessing, NAKAKALITO (confused and confusing) because of our disorganized and uncoordinated efforts in mission.” How true are these in our own parish communities? We cannot ignore these observations if we aspire to become a Synodal Church.
STEWARDS OF GOD’S GENEROSITY
How? By being Stewards of God’s Generosity! Our first response is to acknowledge that we have been blessed. Yes, we have received much from God as a Church. God has been generous in planting the seeds of the Christian faith in our country through the Spanish missionaries who offered their lives! We are a Church because of God’s generosity, thanks to the first missionaries! As stewards of this unique grace, we are to take care of our Church, to guard and enrich our faith, to be our “brother’s keeper,” and to hand on to others the richness of our spiritual heritage.
How do we live out this Stewardship? We begin with the Eucharist, the font and summit of our Christian life. In the Eucharist, we are nourished at the table of God’s Word, and at the table of Jesus’ Body and Blood. In the Eucharist, we realize our being Church, our identity as brothers and sisters in Christ amidst our diversity in culture, language and color. In the Eucharist, we learn how to support and to serve our Church. Let us then go back to the Eucharist, my dear People of God. Might I add, let us move beyond the practice of celebrating masses online. While supplemental, it will never obtain for us the grace of receiving Jesus fully in the sacrament through a face-to-face encounter with Him in the Parish Church.
SPIRIT-LED APOSTLES TO THE PERIPHERIES
Strengthened by the grace of the Eucharist, we are also empowered by the Holy Spirit and sent “to bring good news to the poor” — to the least, the lost, and the last. We need the Holy Spirit. Without Him, all our human efforts will prove to be fruitless and futile in the end. Only through the constant and continuing guidance of the Holy Spirit can we effectively bring the Good News to where the poor and the neglected are. This is a mission of urgency in our Church. Going to the peripheries is our “permanent state of mission.”
Let us together endeavor to grow as missionary disciples of Jesus. When we go home, when we go to work, when we meet friends and acquaintances, when we encounter the poor, the insignificant and the needy, may we become the living presence of Jesus! During this Season of Advent, let us pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come! And forever abide in my heart and in my soul! Come Lord Jesus, Come! That I may recognize, love and serve You in the poor and the needy!
In Jesus and Mary,
☩ Jesse E. Mercado, D.D.
Bishop of Parañaque
1st Sunday of Advent
November 27, 2022