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(Part 23)


March 16, 2011

Today marks the 490th year of the founding of Christianity in the Philippines. On March 16, 1521, the first Mass in Limasawa Island off the coast of Leyte was celebrated by the Spaniards. Others say that the founding of Christianity should be the day when the first convert was baptized. Hundreds of Filipino natives under Rajah Humabon were baptized on April 14 in Cebu. I leave this debate to historians or theologians.

What I want to focus on is that 10 years from now, in March 2021, Filipino Catholics will celebrate 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. That is a milestone. And I believe that 2011 to 2021 will be a decade of grace for the nation. But the Catholic Church in the Philippines will have to respond to that decade of grace, and strongly go about the re-evangelization of the Philippines.

Why is re-evangelization important and necessary? Evangelization is always important, because this is God’s call to His disciples. Our Catholic Church is a missionary church. But there is a specific reason, particular to the Philippines during this time in the life of the world.

It stems from God’s plan for the Philippines. Being for a long time the only Catholic nation in Asia (Timor Leste is the second Catholic nation in Asia after independence from Indonesia a few years ago), God intends the Philippines to be His light in Asia, and even to the world. Indeed, the Filipino diaspora is already 10 million strong, in practically all the countries in the world. In the western world, it is the Filipinos, together with some other Asians, who are invigorating the parishes and keeping the faith alive.

But seemingly strong as this Catholic nation is, there are many challenges.

  • Only a minority of Catholics goes to Mass regularly each week.
  • Many Catholics are nominal in their faith.
  • Many Catholics do not know the Bible.
  • Many Catholics are pro-reproductive health and many Catholic women use contraceptives.
  • Many Catholics in government and private business are corrupt.
  • Many crimes are committed by Catholics.

Further, there are external threats.

  • Born-again groups and cults are taking many Catholics away from the faith.
  • Western governments and anti-life groups are pushing for a reproductive health bill, which inevitably will lead to abortion, same-sex marriage and other abominations (this is the experience of all countries in the world).

So God intends the Philippines to be His light in Asia and to the world. But there are serious internal and external threats that are rapidly eroding the faith.

What needs to happen? There needs to be a massive re-evangelization of the Philippines in the decade of grace from 2011 to 2021.

There should be 4 major areas of focus. These are the most critical aspects of how God wants to reinvigorate and strengthen the Philippine Church and this Catholic nation to be able to face the challenges of this third millennium. These are: (1) Re-evangelization, (2) Renewal of the family, (3) Defense of life, and (4) Work with the poor (building the Church of the Poor). There is only a window of 10 years of grace, and so the work has to be rapid and massive.

How can such a work happen? It can happen of course only through the grace and strength of God. But God works through human instruments. Here is where CFC-FFL comes in. In almost 30 years, God has given CFC-FFL the ways, methods, programs, processes, wisdom and experience to accomplish the 4 areas of focus, and to do so in a massive way. God has already shown us the way! We are now called to share our experience with the whole Church, so that she, under the guidance of the hierarchy, might move with the Spirit that has moved CFC all these years. This will not be about recruitment into CFC-FFL, but how CFC-FFL can share its experience and proven programs and methods with the larger Church.

Given what God intends to do, you can also see why the enemy attacked us severely, to try to stop what God was doing, and to prevent CFC from becoming what God intended for it to become. Unfortunately the enemy succeeded, causing the split in CFC in 2007. But God will not be thwarted. So God raised a remnant, restored to the authentic charism and call for CFC. That is CFC-FFL.

God has been forming CFC-FFL since that time. His formation has included the critical aspects that are crucial for Christians to overcome the severe challenges of mission. These are lessons about hope, joy, trust, reverential fear, redemptive suffering. But we have not quite responded in the way that God expects. There are still infidelities that persist. But the decade of grace is already upon us. This is why CFC-FFL, on its 30th year, finds itself at the crossroad. We either become a holy and faithful remnant and be the servant through whom God shows His glory (Is 49:3), or .....

The world is at a crossroad. The Philippines is at a crossroad. CFC-FFL is at a crossroad. How we respond to God’s call will have a significant bearing on how we present ourselves as servant to the Philippine Church, which hopefully can appropriate the grace that is being made available in this decade. How the Philippine Church responds will determine how God can use this nation as His light to the world.

As we read the signs of the times, we must realize that we have entered into the end times. There is no more time to lose. The final battle is at hand.

Only Christ the stronger man can defeat Satan the strong man (Mt 12:29). But Jesus has called upon us his people to be his instruments. Thus we are thrust into the forefront of the war. And so, once again, as God prepares us for this year and beyond, we look only to God’s strength.

Let us respond in fidelity, in total giving of self, and in holiness. Only then can we truly claim, “My God is now my strength!”

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