28 November 2010
Advent for Our Local Church
Preparing for Christmas. The season of Advent is a time of preparation. We prepare for the season of Christmas, the birth of our Lord. Because of the secular influences and commercialism that pervade the season nowadays, we need to be reminded that it is a religious celebration. That is why we call Christmas, a holy day, though secularism has reduced it to the ambivalent "holidays". Advent is our spiritual preparation to ready ourselves for the grace of the Christmas celebration.
Preparing for the Second Coming of Christ. Advent also seeks to prepare us for the second coming of Christ. The call of the season is taken from 1 Cor 16,22: “maranatha”, which means “O Lord, come”. Our Gospel passage this Sunday advises: “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Mt 22,42).
St. Cyril of Jerusalem explains: “We do not preach only one coming of Christ, but a second as well, much more glorious than the first. The first coming was marked by patience; the second will bring the crown of a divine kingdom. “
Preparing for the Diocesan Pastoral Assembly. In our diocese, another preparation has been added this Advent, that for our Diocesan Pastoral Assembly next year 2011. Yesterday, Bp. Bong Baylon led the launching of the preparations for the event or series of events. This Sunday, we are announcing the start of this historic and crucial process for our local Church.
What is the Diocesan Pastoral Assembly? It is a gathering of leaders and representatives of our diocese – clergy, religious and laity – with the following objectives:
a. review and realize the spirit of the First Legazpi Diocesan Synod held in 2000;
b. identify and respond to current concerns and pastoral demands; and
c. draw up a comprehensive Diocesan Pastoral Plan.
Before the DPA proper, there will be a survey study on pastoral concerns and extensive consultations among our parishes, commissions, ecclesial groups and various sectors.
How do we prepare in general for this process that hopes to bring about renewal in our local Church?
1. Pray for the Church. When we come to Church, let us not just bring our own intentions and concerns. Pray also for the community of the faithful of which we are a part. In particular, we are starting a new prayer to be recited at every Mass celebrated in our diocese: our prayer for Church renewal, the Prayer for the First Legazpi Diocesan Pastoral Assembly.
2. Support the Church. By support we mean not just your financial contribution, but more so your personal involvement in the various expressions of the mission of the Church. Our new prayer contains these lines:
“Inspire us to involve ourselves more deeply and actively
in our communion of disciples, that we may fully become
a Church that strengthens families and nurtures the youth,
a Church that empowers the poor and reaches out to the lost,
a Church that cares for creation and helps build our nation…”
We need more people to give their presence, talents and resources to the family and life apostolate, to the youth ministry, to programs for our urban and rural poor, to the renewed evangelization of those who have drifted away from Church, to advocacies for the environment, and to efforts at changing the face of politics.
3. Get involved more deeply and actively in the Church. Being Catholic means more than just going to Church on Sundays. Because of the big sizes of our parishes and the small number of priests relative to our population (79 active diocesan priests plus several more religious clergy vis-à-vis 1.2 million Catholics), the Church could become seemingly impersonal and unable to respond to the spiritual needs and issues of individual Catholics.