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Building a “Civilization of Love”



St. Vincent Grammar School Young Leaders 2008
Easter Message

Beloved People of God: We are called to build a “society more human, more worthy of the human person,” (Compendium, 582). This is a mission that we have frequently urged all the faithful to do. Two new factors make the focus on social concern this year more urgent. First, the whole Church is powerfully reminded by the first encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, that the social concern “is as essential to her mission as the ministry of the sacraments and the preaching of the Gospel.{{more}} The Church cannot neglect the service of charity any more than she can neglect the Sacraments and the Word.” (DCE, 22). Secondly, our present Philippine situation calls us to be more actively committed to living out the social teaching of the Church. Political turmoil, moral corruption, and environmental degradation have worsened massive poverty and scandalous social inequality. We are today especially concerned about a pervasive sense of weariness, cynicism, and hopelessness among many of our people.

What can we, must we, as Church do to heal this terrible malaise of spirit? What more can we do to help our people, especially the poor, believe that there is hope?

We believe that today the Lord’s commandment of love, the social teaching of the Church, and the urgent needs of our people are calling us to intensify our commitment to build in our land “a civilization of love” (see, eg. Centesimus Annus, 10). “Love builds up,” “St. Paul teaches (1 Cor. 8:1). With love the Church builds up by prophetically critiquing and denouncing injustice and by promoting “positive activity” that will “promote a society befitting mankind because it befits Christ” (Compendium, 8, 63).

How shall we do this?

  • The Church must continue to build character. Through the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, through programs of formation and spirituality, we shall seek, with the help of God’s grace to build persons of faith and virtue. To build the future, we need to deepen our sense of honesty and integrity, service and responsibility, stewardship and solidarity. Corruption is rooted in a fundamental self-centeredness or selfishness, an evil that contravenes the human responsibility to exist “with” others and “for” others (see Compendium, 165). Transforming persons from this self-centeredness to the life of virtue and social responsibility remains our primary task and contribution to nation building.
  • The Church must build capacity. Poverty is not only about “not having” but also of “not being able”. Poverty is also a question of capability. We have to empower those who are needy to construct a better future. Our social action programs, training programs and institutions, research centers, schools, charitable agencies and organizations, religious orders and congregations, lay organizations and movements, Basic Ecclesial Communities, need to help people grow in capacities, such as the capacity to govern themselves, the capacity to develop their abilities, the capacity to find meaningful and fruitful employment and work, the capacity to care for our environment, the capacity to make leadership accountable. We, therefore, commend our charitable institutions that are at the service of the most vulnerable in our society.
  • The Church must build community. The ruinous divisiveness in our country is rooted in a culture “too focused on the good of small social groups”, on the good of those we identify with, our families, our town-mates, our province-mates, etc. Through formation and education, through various means including the use of the media of social communications, we need to promote, at every level of society and Church, a spirituality of citizenship, which is a concrete way of living out in our country the “fundamental social virtue” solidarity. This spirituality of citizenship fosters a sense of patriotism and being responsible for our country. It develops us into becoming active and constructive participants in social and political life.

To build community in a country battered by various kinds of conflict is to promote peace. This “requires the establishment of an order based on justice and charity.” Concretely, we need to foster dialogue among Christians, between Vincentians of different faiths, and among different sectors of society. For this reason we commend the efforts of many peace advocates, parishes, NGOs, religious groups, and others that actively dialogue for peace.

We end our reflection with a call to decisive action. The late Pope John Paul II reminded us that “the social message of the Gospel must be not considered a theory, but above all a basic and a motivation for action”. Our action must not be merely seasonal or ad hoc or crisis driven. It has to be action that is a sustained “ministry of charity exercised in a communitarian, orderly way”.