What Does The Pope Have To Say To Filipinos?
Yolanda was a blessing in disguise for the City of Cebu and the Philippines. That raging tempest which wrecked the whole town of Tacloban and swept almost the entire Visayan region off the map was a grace from God. It made this poor, little island in the south popular across the globe.
The Cebuanos displayed an image of the true Filipino at the wake of destruction caused by Yolanda. It was a kind of people-power which caught the attention of many world leaders including the Vicar of Christ in the Vatican. Pope Francis must have been moved by the lavish display of mercy and compassion that he decided to make this country the object of his apostolic journey.
In January of 2015, Pope Francis came to the Philippines to meet the victims of Yolanda's wrath. The unwelcoming weather condition did not stop him from pursuing his goal. Despite heavy rains, Pope Francis came and celebrated Holy Mass with the people in Tacloban, Leyte. After that, he flew back to Manila to also celebrate the Holy Mass at the famous Rizal Park in Luneta. Simultaneously, the Cebuanos were celebrating the Feast of the Sto. Niño. They sent the San Diego Dance Company to Manila to perform the famous Sinulog dance before the pope. Heavy rains also did not stop the faithful Filipino Catholics from coming to Luneta to see the pope.
"Filipinos are called to be outstanding missionaries of the faith in Asia", the pope said. Quoting from the scripture, in the letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, he exhorted that God has richly blessed the Philippines "with every spiritual blessing in the heavens" (Ephesians 1:3) because it is the foremost Catholic country in Asia. "It is a special gift from God", the pope added. His exhortation ended with a blessing and a call for all Filipinos to become witnesses of the joy of the Gospel to all parts of the world.
Cebu is the cradle of Christianity in the Philippines. Cebuanos were the first to accept the faith and in three years the Catholic Church will celebrate its 500th year of an institution in the Philippines. Isn't it interesting to note that the Vicar of Christ delivered this message about the Filipinos' faith equally three years past? This must be a reminder for all faithful Filipino Catholics, especially in Cebu. Christianity is at the very core of the Filipino identity. Pope Francis stressed that out in his homily at Luneta Park last January 2015. Cebuanos are the keepers of this spirituality and cultural heritage.
Here is a point of reflection for every Filipino Catholic. "Am I good steward of this precious jewel which God had entrusted to me?" They should ask themselves that question. In the journey of faith, it is also good for people to look back and see how far they have gone. It helps them move forward. And for those who doubt the teachings of the Catholic Church, perhaps this is a call for them to seek the truth of their very own identity.