Duterte’s gifts to our Lord’s mother and His Word

Manila Times - - OPINION - Lec­tio Divino

FIRST, he cussed Pope Fran­cis dur­ing the 2016 elec­tion cam when the Holy Fa­ther ar­rived for the Jan­uary 2015 pa­pal visit. That, and re­marks on keep­ing mis­tresses and killing drug of­fend­ers led Lin­gayen- Dagu­pan Arch­bishop Socrates Vil­le­gas, then president of the Catholic Bish­ops Con­fer­ence of the Philip­pines, to vir­tu­ally call on the faith­ful not to vote for him.

He re­torted that the Church was hyp­o­crit­i­cal in mor­al­iz­ing against him. Then, months into his rule, the CBCP con­demned the thou­sands of sus­pect killings in his anti-drug war. He ac­cused a Je­suit priest of sex­u­ally abus­ing him in Ate­neo de Davao. He also cited a book al­leg­ing in­dis­cre­tions by a prom­i­nent bishop and anom­alies

So, many may won­der why President Ro­drigo Duterte has gifted the Catholic Church with not one, but two state-man­dated re­li­gious cel­e­bra­tions.

For the Lord’s mother and His rev­e­la­tion

On De­cem­ber 28, he signed into law Repub­lic Act 10966, “An Act Declar­ing De­cem­ber 8 of Ev­ery Year A Spe­cial Non­work­ing Hol­i­day in the En­tire Coun­try to Com­mem­o­rate the Feast of the Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion of Mary, the Prin­ci­pal Pa­troness of the Philip­pines.”

That law would en­able 85 mil­lion Filipino believ­ers, among the most Mar­ian in the world, to at­tend oblig­a­tory mass and make other de­vo­tions with­out skip­ping work. The Im­mac­u­late Con­cep­tion is a Catholic dogma that Mary, like her di­vine son Je­sus, was con­ceived with­out orig­i­nal sin, un­like all other hu­man be­ings.

And over a year ago, through Procla­ma­tion No. 125, dated Jan­uary 5, 2017, the President de­clared Na­tional Bible Month to be held na­tion­wide ev­ery Jan­uary.

That ex­tended what was pre­vi­ously a week- long event, and orig­i­nally just one Bible Sun­day. Box­ing cham­pion Sen. Manny Pac­quiao, an Evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian con­vert, had also urged that the last Mon­day of Jan­uary be de­clared Na­tional Bible Day.

Thanks to this procla­ma­tion, more Bible ac­tiv­i­ties can be held over an en­tire month, and even gov­ern­ment agen­cies can have them, since it is a state­man­dated na­tional event.

In pro­mul­gat­ing the procla­ma­tion, President Duterte said the 1987 Con­sti­tu­tion man­dated the gov­ern­ment to pro­mote eth­i­cal and spir­i­tual val­ues of the cit­i­zenry and help im­prove their moral­ity.

The procla­ma­tion said, in part, “it is fit­ting and proper for the mold­ing of the spir­i­tual, moral that na­tional at­ten­tion be fo­cused on the im­por­tance of read­ing and study­ing the Bible.”

It added, mind­ful of the sep­a­ra­tion of Church and State un­der the char­ter, “while main­tain­ing neu­tral­ity in its treat­ment of all re­li­gious com­mu­ni­ties, the gov­ern­ment is not pre­cluded from pur­su­ing valid ob­jec­tives sec­u­lar in char­ac­ter even if it would have an in­ci­den­tal re­sult af­fect­ing a par­tic­u­lar re­li­gion or sect.”

Bring­ing God’s Word into our world

Yes­ter­day, at San Car­los Sem­i­nary, Manila Arch­bishop Luis An­to­nio Car­di­nal Ta­gle kicked off ac­tiv­i­ties for this year’s Bible Month with a mass at­tended by Bible co­or­di­na­tors for the parishes un­der his charge.

Like this writer, many of the Min­istry of Bible Apos­to­late co­or­di­na­tors were des­ig­nated late last year, and given a three-Satur­day crash course in Scrip­ture ba­sics, cen­tered around God’s plan of sal­va­tion as a frame­work for Bible study in homes, schools, and com­mu­ni­ties.

The so-called “MBA” lay min­is­ters got a fur­ther ground­ing in the Church’s bi­b­li­cal ap­proach, which in­volved read­ing the Word of God (lec­tio, in Latin), med­i­tat­ing on it ( med­i­ta­tion), pray­ing over it tak­ing on the di­vine per­spec­tive in the read­ing (con­tem­pla­tio) to see the world and one’s life sit­u­a­tion with the eyes of God.

While it all sounds very ab­stract, the aim is in fact to make the cen­turies- old texts of the Bible rel­e­vant and mean­ing­ful to the ev­ery­day life of ev­ery Chris­tian. Not just his or her spir­i­tual life, but ev­ery as­pect and an­gle of his or her days and af­fairs.

Money or re­la­tion­ship prob­lems at home or in love? Read the Bible for God’s guid­ance.

Daunt­ing prob­lems and chal­lenges in the com­pany or coun­try? See how heaven sees things in Lec­tio Divino.

Even global is­sues like refugees help­ful, even in­dis­pens­able view­points from Sa­cred Scrip­ture, as Car­di­nal Ta­gle re­counted in his homily.

In­vited to a Bible con­fer­ence in the Mid­dle East, he asked the schol­ars and re­li­gious lead­ers gath­ered how their scrip­tural re­flec­tions and re­search could ad­dress the end­less car­nage and suf­fer­ing in the bi­b­li­cal lands. No one could an­swer.

And at a Euro­pean Scrip­ture gath­er­ing in Poland, he again urged that bi­b­li­cal dis­course be brought to bear on world dis­cord, es­pe­cially in the cur­rent is­sue of refugees and mi­gra­tion. One pos­i­tive re­sult: the con­fer­ence agreed to come up with Car­di­nal Ta­gle’s re­quest of a one-page Lec­tio Di guide about refugee mi­gra­tion and in­ter­faith di­a­logue.

With his con­stant urg­ing to bring God’s Word into man’s world, it’s no won­der His Em­i­nence was elected head of the world­wide Catholic Bi­b­li­cal Fed­er­a­tion in 2015, even if he was not a Scrip­ture ex­pert and was shocked to learn of the vot­ing he didn’t at­tend.

Mo­riah in Marawi

Can a book about events and per­son­ages many mil­len­nia ago re­ally be made di­rectly rel­e­vant and in­sight­ful for our era and events? The an­swer is cer­tainly yes for youth groups who staged song, dance and drama pre­sen­ta­tions about Bible study at yes­ter­day’s gath­er­ing.

One de­picted the chal­lenge of get­ting fel­low teenagers steeped in pop cul­ture and daily com­merce, in­ter­ested in Scrip­ture. The an­swer: will be­gin to take in­ter­est in yours.

The other pre­sen­ta­tion opened with a Marawi bat­tle scene, with sol­diers un­der ter­ror­ist fire. One is wounded, an­other is killed. The trooper’s widow mourns but ac­cepts his fate. But the or­phaned boy wants to join the army, so he can take re­venge. He also fumed against God for let­ting his fa­ther die.

The mother re­strains the boy, stress­ing his late fa­ther’s Chris­tian virtues of mercy to­ward others and faith in God. The pre­sen­ta­tion ended with Abra­ham’s obe­di­ence son Isaac on Mount Mo­riah.

Now, that’s Lec­tio Divino.

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