By N. J. Viehland
Manila’s Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle in his short time in the Philippines between the close of the Synod on New Evangelization in late October and leaving for the consistory last Tuesday night found time to explain separately to catechists and lay people the Message of the Synod on Evangelization.
Gaines Marie Rosa Rio of Manila’s Lay Formation Center said the LAYFORCE Chapel in San Carlos Pastoral Formation Complex, Guadalupe, Makati, was unusually packed to require the back panels to be opened that Saturday, Nov. 17 morning. Tagle was the speaker for that session of the year-round recollection series which took the theme: Shaping the Heart of the Laity in the Year of Faith. As usual there was a mix of men, women, older people, students, many in the crowd Catholics.
Tagle painstakingly elaborated each section of the synod message, from John’s story of the Samaritan dwelling on every symbol in the story. He added anecdotes from his own life, and asked the older men and women and the young ones to reflect on what are “empty buckets” in their lives and what are their “favorite wells”.
“It’s not only the Samaritan woman’s bucket that is empty. All of us are searching for some kind of nourishment,” he said in his usual literary Tagalog. He also connected the themes with societal situations, such as next year’s elections.
Shifting to either English or Tagalog language, he shared that some young people had told him they would like to see even “just a drop of integrity” in adults they know. The youngsters complained that parents, teachers and other adults act contrary to what they say or teach. “No wonder our young go to other wells of fleeting pleasures,” Tagle said.
He also invited lay people, “Let us lead our brothers and sisters to the well of Jesus. Let us be like the Samaritan woman and tell others of our beautiful encounters with Jesus. It’s a natural impulse to spread good news. Once you experience something good, you cannot control yourself from telling others about it.”
I can relate to his next point because I have been receiving email messages, surveys and some other invitations using the theme of the synod. Ending his session, Tagle reminded us lay people:
“This evangelization and transmission of the faith, let’s not think we are the initiator. Evangelization and faith experience are first and foremost the action of Jesus, just like in the experience of the Samaritan woman at the well, it was Jesus who first spoke. This is so with the transmission of the faith.
” At the synod, there were repeated reminders that we bishops, the priests and you enthusiastic laity might go right ahead into planning, and thinking of what to do. We were reminded that the initiator of evangelization and faith is Jesus himself, not us. It is the action of grace. It is God’s initiative. It is God’s offer.
“But we have a role. What is our role? Listen to Jesus. Answer him. Let him change our heart, and our plans will be to cooperate with his plans, with his ways.
“It was said in the synod a number of times that maybe sometimes our initiatives are not fruitful because these are our initiatives, and not initiatives of Jesus. So, we keep developing strategies and techniques, but God may have other plans.
“So our first step is to listen to Him and let his actions begin and we in turn will follow so that our actions are according to his action and movement.
Tagle left much food for thought that could provide reflection points for a whole year. I continue to go through some of them now while he is in Rome preparing for the Consistory that will elevate him to the College of Cardinals on Saturday at St. Peter’s Basilica.
He was named cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI on October 24, 2012, as the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization was winding down. Five others, including two other Asians, were also named Cardinals to be created in an unusual second consistory in a year.
Tagle, 55, was installed Archbishop of Manila on December 12, 2011 and left his office as Bishop of the Diocese of Imus, Cavite, the place where his parents live.
Pope Benedict in announcing the new cardinals said, “the Cardinals have the task of helping the Successor of Peter in the performance of his ministry of confirming the brethren in the faith, and that of being the principle and foundation of unity and communion of the Church.” He also asked for prayers “for the newly elected.”
At the LAYFORCE recollection, it looked like Church members came alive, during Tagle’s talk.
Beyond all this, who knows which way The Initiator will lead our Church and new cardinal ? My ears and heart are listening.