by Fr. Phillippe Angelo Garcia
Photos from the Dioscese of Kalookan
It’s the time of the Great Jubilee!
I was a grade one student when this song became my favorite recessional song and catholic hymn. It is the theme song of the 2000th anniversary of the Birth of Christ, the jubilee year in the Universal Church. We used to sing it and do the hand gestures of the song often even beyond the year 2000. If you were in a Catholic School from the year 2000 and beyond, I am sure you know this song.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012, when I was a college seminarian at my Rural Immersion at the Diocese of Daet, my co-seminarians and I were surprised when at the end of the holy mass we were attending, the children sang this song with actions as if they make present again the said jubilee year. This means that this song has touched the hearts of many Filipino Catholics to the point that they remember it after many years. On my part, as I was preparing to write this reflection, I was singing this song in my mind.
This year, it is also with great joy that the Catholic Church in the Philippines celebrates the year 2021 as the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity in our shores, a jubilee year. Porta Sancta or Holy Door of selected churches within the dioceses in the Philippines have been opened.
In view of this Jubilee celebration I’d like to share two points of reflection on our Porta Sancta.
First, Porta Sancta teaches us to MOVE FORWARD.
For us to make a good pilgrimage in selected Jubilee Churches, we must first set our eyes towards the porta sancta and enter the church through it. Entering through the Porta Sancta teaches us to MOVE FORWARD.
Our lives may be filled with many movements but the question is, where are we heading? The life that we have been living and the time we have been spending, let us ask ourselves, where will these efforts take us? Where are we heading? Are we heading in the wrong way?
On the other hand, let us ask ourselves, are we even moving? Or our life seems to be stagnant? Are we not moving and at the same time, attracting infections which bring us down in our lives?
The Porta Sancta sets the direction for us. It teaches us that LIFE SHOULD BE MOVING FORWARD TOWARDS CHRIST. LIFE SHOULD BE MOVING FORWARD CLOSER TO CHRIST.
The term Holy Door is derived from Jn. 10: 9-10, Jesus says, I am the door. Those who come to me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture… I have come in order that you might have life – life in all its fullness.
As we reflect on the Porta Sancta, let us be reminded that to move forward means embracing Christ fully. This means changing our movements; leaving the sins of our lives. To embrace Christ is truly difficult but the effect of this is life in all its fullness. The effect of embracing holiness is finding fulfillment in one's life.
We cannot be half hearted Catholics, worshipping Jesus and our favorite sins at the same time. We are called to love Jesus wholeheartedly, this means making a choice. It is loving like the love of Jesus. It is living the life of Jesus. It is deciding to commit oneself to God fully and striving to let go of the sins of our lives. This effort is not just for the ordained ministers and religious-consecrated persons, holiness is our primary vocation. We are all called to be Holy.
As a student of theology, this is one of my favorite terms from the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines which we celebrate the 30th anniversary this year. The Church teaches that to Move forward is a must. Because that is at the root of our Christian Identity. We are followers of Christ, his disciples. Tracing his footsteps in our times- to utter his word to others. To love with his love. To live with his life. This is why we must move forward. To cease following him is to betray our very identity. (cf. PCP II D 34)
If we have been stagnant Catholics, half-hearted Catholics, lukewarm Catholics, or seasonal Catholics, in this jubilee year, let us ask for the grace to fully embrace Jesus as we encounter him at the Porta Sancta.
Second, Porta Sancta teaches us to do MISSION.
The term Gifted to Give is the theme of our present jubilee year. God has given faith to our country and now that we celebrate its 500th arrival, we are now called to do mission.
This highlights that to be a catholic does not just mean attending prayers and fulfilling the Sunday Obligation. To be Catholic also means KNOWING GOD more and serving one’s neighbor as a form of Mission.
In the Sacrament of Baptism, we are anointed to be one with Christ in his priestly, prophetic, and kingly identity. This means we should worship God, know God, and serve him through our neighbors respectively. If we only fulfill one of Christ’s identity, we may be betraying ourselves.
To be a Catholic is not living a passive life. It is living an ACTIVE LIFE, a life that is GIFTED to GIVE.
As we reflect on our Porta Sancta, let us ask ourselves this question, as a Catholic, how have we been instruments of mission? What has been the mission that we have been part of? How far have we been serving God? Have we developed our way of doing mission? We may be Gifted, but the question is, are we serving? Are we giving? We have been blessed with God given talents and skills, the question is do we use them for serving the Church, the body of Christ?
The theme song of our present jubilee year is Awit ng Misyon. The lyrics of the song goes Limang daang taong biyaya, Salamat Panginoon, sa 'Yong punla, Misyong kaloob sa aming puso, Aming sarili ay aming handog, Laging tapat, at laging tugon: "Naririto, handa kami, Panginoon!"
The song teaches us that as a Catholic, we should always be ready to do mission. This mission means our way of being Jesus to one another, because Jesus came to serve not to be served. (cf. Mk 10:45) Our mission as a Catholic need not be large. It may be small in nature, it is better than having none. However, it must also be observed that the Mission should be developing. It should not be stagnant, it should be always moving forward. If you don’t have a kind of Mission yet as a Catholic, approach your parish priest or a lay faithful who serves the Church. In the context of our pandemic, one may be an online missionary.
It is the task of our families to prepare us to serve God. It is the task of our parishes to facilitate doing missions towards the needy. It is our responsibility to do service particularly towards the poorest of the poor.
Doing mission is a grace to be asked for as we enter the Porta Sancta. Holiness does not consist in uttering words towards God alone. It consists of engaging into a relationship with God. To have a relationship with God means to be active in expressing our love towards him.
I must say that only those who love God truly will understand that doing mission is a responsibility. If we claim that we love God, let us not just show it through words, let us also show it through actions. We may show it by serving God through our neighbors.
As we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines, let us pray that we may become better Catholics recognizing that Holiness consists in moving forward towards Christ and doing Mission for others like Christ. The Porta Sancta of our churches gives us the blessing, now as Catholics, let us do our part in MOVING FORWARD and SERVING GOD.