THE SERVANT GENERAL
POOR AND THE PURE
Our mission is to proclaim the full gospel of Jesus, with
its spiritual and social dimensions. Our basic mission is
evangelization. An important collateral work is our so-called
work with the poor. One of our core values is “Living
a preferential option for the poor.” We participate
in building the Church of the Poor. In this, aside from bringing
people to Christ, we also look to their material needs.
Because of widespread poverty throughout the world, because
of such patent injustice to the greater majority of people,
this work with the poor is urgent and crucial. Our love for
Jesus and transformation in Christ should lead us to love
our neighbor, especially the least among them. If we have
faith but not works, then such faith is dead (Jas 2:14-17).
But here lies a danger. It is to get so involved in helping
the poor materially that we miss out on the more important
aspect of helping them spiritually. Those who embraced the
theology of liberation ended up going the way of violence
in order to fight poverty and injustice. In our own work,
some of those who were doing the wonderful work of GK ended
up marginalizing Christ, partnering with those who violated
Catholic values (such as pharmaceuticals with contraceptives),
and even bringing New Age into the work.
The Lord did warn us about such veering away. At the center
of our covenant is Jesus, and anytime we stray away from that,
we will be in deep trouble.
The reflection last April 2, 2007, in “40 Days of Lamentations,”
the readings of which are also the readings for today, is
very relevant. It is worth revisiting, as we now do.
Jesus at the Center of our Covenant
Lord is my light and my salvation”
Isaiah 42:1-7 is the first of four “Servant of the Lord”
oracles in Isaiah. These prophecies find their fulfillment
in Jesus Christ. This passage also teaches us about the purpose
of our covenant, sealed by the blood of Jesus on the cross.
Jesus is the center and focal point of our covenant. “I
formed you, and set you as a covenant of the people”
Jesus and his relationship with the Father is our model in
our own relationship of covenant with God. Just like Jesus,
those whom God calls into covenant are those who are chosen
to be His Spirit-filled servants, who become pleasing to Him
and who are sent to renew the world according to His ways.
“Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with
whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall
bring forth justice to the nations” (Is 42:1).
Jesus’ work is to bring justice to the world (Is 42:1,4,6).
Justice in biblical usage is about righteousness and about
giving every person what is their due. To God is due worship.
To every person is due recognition as having dignity as children
of God. To the poor is due an equitable share of the world’s
goods. In other words, Jesus’ mission is to establish
the kingdom of God as God intended for it to be. It is a restoration
of paradise. Of course the fullness of that restoration will
only be fulfilled in the new Jerusalem at the end of time.
For us, as part of our covenant and in living out our vocation
to be God’s people, and in following the way of Christ,
we are to be “a light for the nations, to open the eyes
of the blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and
from the dungeon, those who live in darkness” (Is 42:6-7).
This is our work of global evangelization, proclaiming the
good news in its fullness, including its spiritual and social
dimensions. Through this work, the sorry situation of people
in the world will be reversed—the blind shall see, the
prisoners will be freed, and those in darkness will see the
light. This work is all about salvation and liberation.
is quite a task. It is the work of God Himself. The powerful
enemy will certainly oppose it. There will be hardships, trials,
oppressions, persecutions, pain, crosses. We need to be able
to persevere. We need to carry on in spite of seeming defeats.
We need to depend on strength that is beyond our own. We need
to place our hope in God.
Psalm 27 gives the reason why we hope in God (our theme this
year from Lamentations 3:24). The essence of our hope is our
trust in God. Why do we trust God?
Because He is our light, our salvation and our life’s
refuge (Ps 27:1).
Because He will deliver us in time of trouble and from our
enemies (Ps 27:5-6).
Because His love for us surpasses even the love of our own
parents (Ps 27:10).
Now if we trust God, then we must not be afraid. In fact,
fear and trust are opposites. “Though an army encamp
against me, my heart does not fear; though war be waged against
me, even then do I trust.” (Ps 27:3).
We can carry on, whatever the circumstances in our life and
in our work. We do so because God called us to this work,
God gave us the privilege of our covenant, and God assures
us that He will always be there for us. God will show us the
way, God will not abandon us to the will of those who oppose
us and His work, and on top of everything else, we shall enjoy
the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living (Ps 27:11-13).
There is nothing else then that we need.
Now in doing our work of liberation, there is one critical
point. For us to enjoy all the blessings of covenant, for
us to truly have hope, we must always be focused on Jesus.
Again Jesus is the center and focal point of our covenant.
Because of this, it is critically important for us to realize
that Jesus is the one priority before everything else, including
the mission he gives us to do.
Jesus’ mission is to bring glad tidings to the poor.
That is our mission as well. But when Judas was complaining
why Mary used costly perfumed oil to anoint Jesus’ feet
rather than selling it and giving the money to the poor, Jesus
said, “You always have the poor with you, but you do
not always have me.” (Jn 12:8). Here they had a choice:
to sell the oil and give the money to the poor, or to honor
Jesus by anointing his feet with it. Jesus’ words make
the choice clear to us. We must first and foremost be focused
on him, giving him the honor, praise and worship that is his
due. Then, if we are truly focused on him, if we are living
our lives in him, we will certainly go forth and help the
poor. Indeed, it is Jesus himself who sends us out on such
This is a very crucial point in our life and work. At times,
in our enthusiasm for our work with the poor and given so
much to do, we may neglect our spiritual foundations of prayer
and community life. In our desire to give money to build homes
for the poor, we may deprive community and its mission by
taking the money from our tithes. In our focus on providing
for the material needs of the poor, we may neglect their spiritual
needs. In our passion for liberation of the body, we may miss
out on salvation of the soul. In doing a great humanitarian
work, we might not be carrying out the very plan of God for
Let nothing of that happen, as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
kind of God we have: A God we can trust.
response: Be a light to the world.
action: Examine your ways in doing your share of
our work with the poor, in relation to community life and
Do you fail to attend your households, prayer assemblies
and major CFC events because you choose to rather do some
Do you take your contributions to GK from your tithe to
Do you consciously and urgently try to bring our beneficiaries
and partners to our CFC renewal programs?
Are you just doing some great humanitarian work, or are
you carrying out the very plan of God in allowing CFC to
give birth to GK, in order to bring God’s light, justice
and peace to the world?
prayer: “Hear my voice, Lord, when I call;
have mercy on me and answer me. ….. your face, Lord,
do I seek! Do not hide your face from me; do not repel your
servant in anger. You are my help; do not cast me off; do
not forsake me, God my savior! ….. Lord, show me your
way; lead me on a level path ….. Do not abandon me …..”
(Ps 27:7,8b-9,11a,12a). Lord, I believe I will enjoy your
goodness in the land of the living; I will wait for you, Lord,
I will take courage; I will be stouthearted, I will wait for
you (Ps 27:13-14). Amen.
Because of our veering away, CFC was plunged into crisis,
with the eventual split. This is something that must not happen
again. God already restored CFC (with CFC-FFL), and we must
never veer away again from our covenant and God’s call.
How do we ensure that?
We must learn the lessons God wants to teach us. These are
the lessons of Lamentations. In this Lenten season, I again
bring you to another one of the many lessons of Lamentations
(from Forty Days of Lamentations).
* * *
121 – Social without spiritual
God calls us to be instruments of both salvation (spiritual
dimension) and liberation (social dimension). The two are
two dimensions of the one gospel. At times, those who work
for renewal think only of the spirit, while neglecting the
social. But faith without works is dead (Jas 2:17). Indeed,
the very mission of Jesus is to bring good news to the poor
(Lk 4:18). So the work of renewal is not complete unless the
social dimension is included.
But at times the problem is the other way around. Some work
for social liberation but neglect the spiritual dimension.
Some are so passionate in fighting poverty, injustice and
oppression, but in losing track of the things of the Spirit,
fall into the so-called theology of liberation or into the
gospel of prosperity. This is liberation without Christ at
the center. If we freed people from captivity but are not
able to bring them to Christ, then that would not fulfill
There are many Christians also doing good works but not based
on prayer and the word, or are not undergoing sufficient formation
in the faith. Now even atheists do a lot of good work. But
this is not enough. Our ultimate task is to bring people to
Christ and to build God’s kingdom on earth. We are to
be witnesses, by the way we live out lives, in holiness and
In CFC-FFL, we continue to do our work with the poor and work
for justice through our Social Ministries. We continue to
build communities among the poor, looking to their shelter,
health, education, livelihood and other material needs, without
neglecting the all-important aspect of bringing them to a
vibrant relationship with Jesus and providing a spiritual
environment for their growth in faith.
We are also doing prison ministry. Among other places, we
are working with inmates of the Maximum Security Compound
of the National Bilibid Prison. According to the world they
are the scum of the earth. But to Jesus they are his beloved
In a way, these prisoners are much worse off than those poor
who are homeless.
First, they have no freedom. This has been taken from them
and they are incarcerated, their movements severely restricted.
Second, they have no family. They have been separated from
their families, and for many of them, some of whom are serving
life terms, they have been abandoned and forgotten by their
Third, they hardly have any future. They have lost everything.
Even if they are eventually released, they carry the stigma
of being an ex-convict. Many are afraid of being near them
and would not hire them.
But what they can have is a vibrant faith. In Jesus they can
look to love, peace and joy in their lives. We are privileged
to be Jesus’ instruments for proclaiming this good news
There is much injustice in the world, causing poverty amidst
the bountiful resources provided by God. This is not God’s
in CFC-FFL have been called “for the victory of justice,”
and Jesus has grasped us by the hand and formed us, entering
into covenant with us, so that we might bring his light to
the nations (Is 42:6). We are privileged to be given our mission,
the very mission of Jesus, “to open the eyes of the
blind, to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the
dungeon, those who live in darkness.” (Is 42:7).
Liberation and salvation. The social and the spiritual. The
poor and the pure. Two sides of the same evangelistic coin.
Both intended by God as the authentic and full gospel of Jesus.
May we truly understand, and live out our calling.
(April 6, 2009)
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from Lamentations - Part 3[PDF]