In his Christmas Day message, “Maligayang Pasko Po! Kaawaan Ka ng Diyos!”, Fr. Gerard Francisco P. Timoner III, OP—prior provincial of the Philippine Dominican Province and the lone Filipino member of the International Theological Commission that advises Pope Francis—said God’s mercy has the power to unite and reconcile people, and that Catholics should learn to forgive like God.
Here’s the rest of the message:
“When Elizabeth gave birth to John, ‘her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her, and they rejoiced with her.’ That a barren wife could still give birth despite being well beyond her child-bearing years was surely a great miracle, and the people rightly saw it as God showing great mercy.
“It might seem hard to comprehend right away, but the gift of a child to a husband and wife is a sign of God’s mercy.
“When Jesus met the widow of Nain during the funeral procession of her only son, His heart was moved with compassion for her (Luke 7:13) and He raised her son. God’s mercy has brought back the only family member she almost lost forever.
“Merciful love has the power to bring people together. Families that have fallen apart can only be made whole if everyone is willing to have a merciful and forgiving heart.
“Someone wisely said, ‘A happy marriage is a union of good forgivers.’
“Pope Francis tells the story of an 80-year-old woman who told him: ‘If God did not forgive us all, the world would not exist.’
“God’s mercy and forgiveness are the reasons why the world exists. If things go bad in our world and we have exhausted all means to right such wrong, we should never lose hope: ‘May awa ang Diyos.’
Mercy and miracles
“It is mercy that moved Jesus to perform miracles. It is the same mercy that compelled Jesus to teach and shepherd His people: ‘He saw a large crowd, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things’ (Mark 6:34).
“Mercy is love that feels and seeks to ease the pain and suffering of the beloved.
“For us Filipinos, mercy is not just a matter of the heart but a matter of the mind as well. It is interesting that for us, to ‘know’ or ‘understand’ is to be ‘compassionate.’
“The Filipino word ‘unawa’ (una ang awa) encapsulates this best. ‘Una-awa. Upang maunawaan natin nang lubusan ang isang tao, kailangang mauna ang awa.’ A merciful attitude disposes us to understand persons and our world better.
“Mercy is no mere sentimentality. It involves not just the heart but the mind as well. Similarly, understanding is not purely cognitive. It engages not only the mind but the heart as well. Unawa makes the heart and mind one.
“Merciful hearts and minds make our world more peaceful, and our celebration of Christmas, an experience of grace.
“Maligaya ang Pasko sapagka’t may awa ang Diyos!”
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), has issued pastoral guidelines on the 2016 elections for Catholic voters.
The 10-point guideline primarily urges Catholic voters to “reject claims by candidates that they are candidates of the CBCP, or of a diocese, or of a particular bishop… Partisanship is an arena into which the Church should not venture.”
“The Catholic voter must evaluate candidates according to the model of Christ, who came to serve, not to be served,” the CBCP guidelines say.
“They must look for the realization of Gospel values in the lives, words and deeds of those desirous of public office, realizing that there are no perfect candidates. There is a crucial difference between one who has been wrong in the past and is willing to amend his ways, and one who exhibits stubbornness and obstinacy.”
No to secularists
Although saying the Church is not partisan, the CBCP letter said Catholics should not support candidates who would stamp out religion from public life.
“A Catholic cannot support a candidate who vows to wipe out religion from public life,” the CBCP guidelines point out.
“While we expect every public officer to give life to the constitutional posture of ‘benevolent neutrality’ in respect to the attitude of the State towards religion, the Catholic voter cannot and should not lend his support to any candidate whose ideology binds him or her to make of the Philippines a secular state that has no tolerance for religion in its public life.”