To the People of God:
This year we shall celebrate Lent with something new. We are launching, for the first time in the history of the Philippines, a National Lenten Action Program. It is called: ALAY KAPWA– offering to our neighbor.
Of course not everything will be new. Every year we have been celebrating Lent in a spirit of intensified self-sacrifice. This has been of value. But perhaps we tend to emphasize self control for its own sake. Often we are gloomy about making sacrifices.
This Lenten Action Program, in 1975, is a nationwide, intensive renewal. It reminds us that sacrifice finds its fullest meaning in service to our fellowmen.
Christ our Lord taught the love of God through love of neighbor. When he was asked: “Who is my neighbor?”– he told the story of a man left in a ditch by the road. A kindly stranger came to his rescue.
Christ taught this lesson also by coming into this world, by his suffering and death, that we may live.
He came among us not to be served, but to serve! And it is on our service to others that he will judge us on the last day.
We in the Philippines are grateful for the privilege of being the only Christian nation in the East. Yet we suffer from a serious inequality in the distribution of land, of wealth, and of power. Unemployment and underemployment stare us in the face.
The City of Manila alone has more than a million squatters. Our average per capita income is only about P3 a day. For 70% of our people poverty has become a way of life.
Thus, we have to admit personal and collective failure to share our goods among our people.
For this reason, our Lenten Action Program has been called: ALAY KAPWA–offering to our neighbor. It asks us to look around and identify our neighbor. Who are the people who most need our help?
From this awareness we are asked to reflect on the reasons for this. Why are they poor, lonely, homeless, jobless, hungry, in rags, beggars, squatters?
This is a call to analyze the root causes of misery–not only in terms of individual selfishness, but in terms of socio-economic, political and religious structures that may be causing, or maintaining, these injustices.
Finally, we must ask the personal and challenging questions: “What should I do about this? What can I share, with my neighbor, of God’s gifts to me–my time, my talent, my treasure. Am I not merely the steward, the caretaker, the manager of God’s gifts? Do I have the right to have more than I need when others around me are in dire poverty? Is it not a duty of love to share with others?”
We invite everyone–rich and poor, old and young, employers and employees–to turn our Lenten penance, this year, into occasions to serve our neighbor. And let us do so in joy, not in sadness, “for it is in giving that we recieve, in pardoning that we are pardoned, in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Lent culminates not on Good Friday, but on Easter Sunday — not in death, but in resurrection!
To respond to the Church’s call for Renewal and Reconciliation during this Holy Year, let us renew our Christian commitment to love our neighbor–not merely in words but in deeds–by sharing our time, talent and treasure with others.
May this Lent bring reconciliation between hostile and opposing factions, between the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor. May it bring us to share in the new life of the risen Christ, for “if we die with him, we shall also live with him.”
May the example of Mary who “stands out among the poor and humble of the Lord” (Vatican II L.G. 55) be our inspiration in loving Christ her Son in the “least of his brothers and sisters”. Mag-Alay-Kapwa tayong lahat!
God bless you!
Your Pastors in Christ,
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines
(Sgd.)+JULIO CARDINAL ROSALES
Archbishop of Cebu
Sacred Heart Novitiate
Novaliches, Quezon City
January 31, 1975
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