by Fr. Phillippe Angelo Garcia
Service is an act of love.
I’d like to share three points of reflection on service with real stories of my experiences in our parish community.
1. SERVE ACCORDING TO YOUR CHARISM
After celebrating Mass, a parishioner asked me, Father, gusto ko pong mag serve, pero hindi po ako magaling kumanta. Gusto ko pong magserve pero nauutal po ako magbasa. Father, gusto ko pong mag serve pero nanginginig po ang kamay ko, baka hindi ako makapag abot ng communion. Tinanong ko siya, ano ba ang iyong talento, saan ka ba magaling? He answered, Father, ako po ay nagtratrabaho sa carinderia. Tingin ko po ang kagalingan ko ay sa pagluluto. Sumagot ako bigla, edi magluto ka! Magluto ka para sa mga kapos palad na nagugutom! Magluto ka para sa simbahan!
Your first step in serving the Church, the body of Christ is utilizing your God given talent; your charism in life. Serving in the church does not simply consist of serving during liturgical celebrations. Serving in the church means offering our charisms in building up the Body of Christ at our parish community. CCC 798 states that God makes the faithful fit and ready to undertake various tasks and offices for the renewal and building up of the Church through charisms. We all have unique charisms and as St. Paul would put it, they are like body parts. ( See 1 cor 12) When they are all together we make present the whole body of Christ, CHRISTUS TOTUS (cf. CCC 688)
I remember a time when I opened a group chat of the Basic Ecclesial Communities in our Parish, I was surprised to see someone being massaged inside our chapel. I immediately reacted, Bakit po sa loob pa nang kapilya kayo nagpamasahe? My chapel volunteer replied, father sorry po, wala na po kasing ibang lugar, mayroon po kasi tayong parishioner na PHYSICAL THERAPIST, gusto daw po niyang maglingkod sa mga maysakit ayon sa kanyang kakayanan. My surprised turned into a profound feeling that one of my parishioner serves using her charism.
As a priest, it is our task to be a conductor of these Charisms. A conductor, just like in an orchestra, harmonizes the charisms of our parishioners so there is an integral way of serving towards the Church. The task of discerning and harmonizing these charism relies on the clergy.
What is your charism? Saan ka ba magaling? Just like in a body part, it cannot be higher than anyone else. In PCP II, we have the term called equality in dignity. Our dignity is that we are all created in God’s image and likeness. (PCP II C 95) No one is higher or lower from one another. We are equal in dignity and we have a charism to be used in our service for the Church.
2. SERVE WHERE THERE IS A NEED
The motto of the Maginhawa Community Pantry may guide us in our way of serving, we can paraphrase it this way, MAGLINGKOD AYON SA KAKAYAHAN AT PANGANGAILANGAN NG SIMBAHAN.
The needs of the church are discerned by the clergy and as lay faithful we must also be sensitive to the necessities of the church. The next step of serving according to our Charisms is serving where there is a need.
I remember our deacon when he was assisting at a holy mass in a mission station. A dog managed to pee on him. Naihihan siya ng aso. (Perhaps our deacon stands like a tree. ☺) There were dogs in that area. But there were also lay servers serving as marshalls in that area. Since that happened, in order to avoid it next time, the religious sisters in charge of the Mission Station assigned people who will shoo away these dogs whenever they are present at the altar. This is an example of serving according to the needs of the church.
Before the pandemic, many parishes in the Philippines had an influx of altar servers, members of youth ministry, and other liturgical servers. But when the pandemic came, many liturgical servers turned out to be volunteers at the social action initiatives of the parish. Some of them became very active as a social media ministry server. Others have been a volunteer of community pantries and alike. They serve in this aspect because there is a need. I admire many of them who respond to the call of service where there is a need.
It is not enough to serve where we are good at and where we are comfortable with, we must also look and volunteer where there is a need. To volunteer where there is a need is a mark of a Catholic leveling up their relationship with God.
3. SERVE AS AN EXPRESSION OF YOUR LOVE TO GOD.
After a week of our San Roque Cathedral Community Pantry, I was already tired. My volunteers were also tired, I know because they told me. So when our evaluation and recommendation day came, I was expecting that they would request to stop our service in the Community Pantry. But I was wrong, one volunteer told me – Father hindi ba kapag umiibig, napapagod, pero hindi sumusuko. Magpapahinga lang, pero iibig parin. Hindi susuko.
So I was surprised because I was again reminded that we are serving because this is an expression of our love towards God. Loving God may be difficult but the more there is a difficulty the more we can love him truly. As Mother Teresa would even say, loving truly hurts… because it hurts Jesus to love us.
One time I was again approached by a different parishioner, opening up to me her experiences. She told me, “father ayaw ko na magserve. Kasi simbahan pa naman tayo, server pa naman kami, eh kung sino pa ang malalapit sa diyos, sila pa ang gumagawa ng hindi magandang chismisan. Father, ayaw ko na magserve kasi puro chismisan na lang ang naririnig ko.”
I reminded this parishioner that chismisan is truly wrong. It is a sin but I asked her, “bakit mo naman iiwan ang pagseserve mo sa simbahan dahil sa chismisan? Are you serving because of chismisan or are you serving because you love God?” She cried and told her story. I left her with the same question.
After a week, I saw her again. I was not planning to remind her about our recent conversation but she approached me and told me this, “Father ok na ako, maglilingkod ako dahil mahal ko ang Diyos. Hindi ko po iiwanan ang simbahan dahil lang sa chismisan.” This gave me consolation because this parishioner and I were reminded why we are serving the Church, we serve God because we love the Church.
There was a time when I accepted an interview from a non-catholic student concerning the social action activities of our parish. She asked me, “Father, magkano po ba ang kinikita ninyo kapag nagpapamigay kayo ng ayuda sa mga kapus palad? Father, magkano po ang sweldo ng mga tauhan ninyo.”
I was about to answer this student but my volunteer immediately answered for me. She said, “Wala po. We do this because we love God.”
The student goes further, “You mean to say, Father, they work under the sun, wala po silang sweldo?”
My volunteer again answered for me, “Wala po. We do this because we love God.”
I saw the face of the student, she appeared to be confused by the same answer of my volunteer which I affirmed and in turn explained to her. After my explanation, she still appeared to be confused. We just moved on to the next topic.
After the interview, my volunteer brought back the topic on loving God. My volunteer told me, “Father, ganoon po talaga minsan, hindi mo maiintidihan kapag hindi ka nagmamahal. Pero kapag nagmamahal ka, maiintindihan mo. Kapag nagmamahal ka, willing kang maghirap para sa mahal mo.”