“Walking in the New Life with Christ”
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: You have been told earlier that the approaching Year 2000 will be a very special year. The Holy Father has announced that it will be a year of Great Jubilee. In his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente , Pope John Paul II calls on all of us in the local churches to prepare and celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s incarnation and of our redemption “as it involves a special grace for the whole of humanity” (TMA 46).
This Great Jubilee will lead to some kind of “recapitulation”, “fulfillment” or renewed fervor for “the new springtime of Christian life” (TMA 18) the series of apostolic endeavours and activities that we in the Church have been doing both in the local and universal level.
The primary objective of the Great Jubilee is “the strengthening of faith and of the witness of Christians ” (TMA 42). In order to achieve this, the Holy Father tells us, we must have “a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of even more intense prayer and of solidarity with (our) neighbor, especially the most needy”. We cannot cross the threshold of the new millennium without purifying ourselves of past errors and infidelity, of inconsistency and slowness to act, of being the cause of division, intolerance and violence (cf. TMA 33-35). Society will be transformed only to the extent that we individually and personally are converted and reconciled.
Vatican II was a “providential event” that prepared the Universal Church for the Great Jubilee. We can also appropriately say that the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, our response to Vatican II, and thereafter our Local Councils, Synods and Pastoral Assemblies are similarly “providential events” preparing us for the Great Jubilee. Considering the complimentariness and basic commonalities of these ecclesial events, we recommend in the implementation thereof a CONVERGENCE of their key elements, stressing the Trinitarian Focus of Tertio Millennio Adveniente.
Let us recall PCP-II. At that time we asked: “What kind of Church must we be to meet the challenges of our society as we enter the Third Millennium? ” (PCP-II 87) What will be our path for the next three years? We will be tracing three interdependent and interconnected paths, like three tributaries pouring their water into a single river, the river that leads to the year 2000.
The first is the path of radical discipleship . 1997 is the year of JESUS CHRIST, Son of God made-man, the only Saviour of mankind, who conquered death and sin. In this year we are challenged to re-discover Jesus Christ, to re-tell his story, and celebrate our discipleship in all its radicality. We are called upon to a renewed appreciation of our Baptism, especially as the basis of Christian Unity and Ecumenism, which the Holy Father enjoins us to foster during this celebration. The Basic Ecclesial Communities which are a “pastoral priority” of the Philippine Church (PCP-II 140), must become Communities of Disciples of the Lord, where the Gospel and the Social Teachings shall bear fruits in the renewal of the moral and spiritual order.
The second is the path of renewed integral evangelization with its dual message of salvation and liberation. This will be the subject of our re-commitment for 1998, the year focused on the HOLY SPIRIT, “the principal agent of evangelization”. The path of the Holy Spirit leads us to the promotion of post-Vatican II ecclesiology and the appreciation of our Confirmation as impelling us to the Apostolate of the Laity. To hasten the advent of the Kingdom in our midst, the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit must be manifested in poverty alleviation, environmental concerns, cooperative development as well as socio-economic and political reforms.
Lastly, the path of “a Church of the Poor” . The focus for 1999 will be GOD THE FATHER, rich in mercy and compassion,the beginning and destiny of our earthly journey. In the spirit of our common heritage as children of one heavenly Father, two commitments should characterize this year: the first is meeting the challenge of inter-religious dialogue towards a culture of peace with our brothers and sisters of different faiths (TMA 53; PCP-II 111); the second, greater preferential option for the poor (TMA 51; PCP-II 125f). To be “a Church of the Poor” is a radical decision that is urgently demanded “in our country where a very great number of our people wallow in abject poverty and misery, while the tremendous social privileges and deferences are accorded the rich and powerful” (PCP-II 312). We are, therefore, enjoined to a greater solidarity with the poor through commitment to justice and peace as a necessary condition for the celebration of the Jubilee. We must lend our voices and hands on behalf of the poor, the disadvantaged and violated in every way, by bridging and helping eliminate the great gap that divide the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless in our so-called Christian society.
In our journey towards the Third Millennium, Mary, our Blessed Mother will accompany us in her triple role as Mother of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, as the handmaid docile to the Holy Spirit, and as the beloved daughter of the Father. Mary will be for us our model in discipleship, the Star of Evangelization.
The Pope enjoins us to prepare and celebrate the Great Jubilee locally in our respective Dioceses and collectively in union with the whole Church. To achieve the objective of the Jubilee, which is “the strengthening of our faith and witness” we recommend the following pastoral indications and specific proposals:
- That there be either diocesan or interdiocesan teams to speak on and promote the Great Jubilee themes as contained in Tertio Millennio Adveniente.
- That preparations and celebrations of Parish Fiestas, their novenas and homilies, be occasions to implement the programs of the Great Jubilee.
- That Diocesan/Regional/National Conventions of religious or lay associations, organizations and movements be so programmed as to become a part of the local church’s preparation and celebration of the Great Jubilee.
- That, since the Gift of Redemption is too great and too profound to be limited to a single celebration, each Ecclesiastical Province or Region have a common gathering (convention or congress) each year of the preparation in order to highlight the Great Jubilee;
- That Jubilees of Parishes, Religious Institutions and Churches be celebrated in view of the Great Jubilee, reflecting humanity’s sharing in the grace of Redemption. (A longer Pastoral Letter contains other suggestions.)
In this time of the “new advent”, we look forward to the approach of the Third Millennium with anticipated joy knowing that the gift of Redemption has already been given to us. We look forward to the year 2000 with deep gratitude for the outpouring of the fullness of grace and life. We look forward to it with enthusiastic eagerness and readiness for what it will reveal to us, as we generously open our hearts to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ: we invite you to journey with us to the Third Millennium, “walking in the new life with Christ”. May the year 2000 be not merely the recurrence of an anniversary in time, but a providential and once-in-a-life-time opportunity to celebrate a Great Jubilee. May our Blessed Mother lead us “to know Jesus more clearly, to love him more dearly and to follow him more nearly” into the new springtime of Christian life, — “Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today and forever”. (Heb. 13/8)
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
+OSCAR V. CRUZ, D.D.
January 22, 1997
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