CBCP head echoes Pope on Lent: 'Stewardship must hurt'

HOLY WEEK. Pope Francis holds a palm leaf as he leads a Mass in celebration of Palm Sunday in St Peter's Square, Vatican City, April 13, 2014. Palm Sunday for Roman Catholic devotees symbolically marks the biblical account of the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, signaling the start of the Holy Week before Easter. Photo by EPA/Angelo Carconi

HOLY WEEK. Pope Francis holds a palm leaf as he leads a Mass in celebration of Palm Sunday in St Peter's Square, Vatican City, April 13, 2014. Palm Sunday for Roman Catholic devotees symbolically marks the biblical account of the entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem, signaling the start of the Holy Week before Easter.

Photo by EPA/Angelo Carconi

MANILA, Philippines – Help the poor until it hurts, the head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) urged Catholics as he echoed Pope Francis at the start of Holy Week.

In a homily for his archdiocese on Palm Sunday, April 13, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas also said Catholics should learn to “cheerfully keep nothing for ourselves” as he quoted Francis.

Francis, in an advanced Lenten message published Dec 26, 2013, said Lent challenges Catholics to ask themselves “what we can give up in order to help and enrich others by our own poverty.”

The Pope said: “Let us not forget that real poverty hurts: no self-denial is real without this dimension of penance. I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”

Villegas said Christians see this clearly in the “shame and humiliation” that Jesus Christ endured.

Echoing Francis, Villegas said: “Stewardship does not wait for the surplus. Stewardship must hurt. Stewardship must disturb us. Stewardship that does not hurt is nothing. Stewardship is leaving our zones of comfort and convenience."

No to 'shallow excuses'

Villegas added in his homily: “Let the humiliation of Jesus and his dignity and generosity with which he carried it put to shame our many shallow excuses for not giving. The measure of true stewardship is not how much we give but how much we keep. When we have learned to cheerfully keep nothing for ourselves, we have moved closer to the example of Jesus.”

He also said Catholics should view Holy Week “from the perspective of shame and humiliation that Jesus endured.”

He said: “Honor and shame are very important values for us Filipinos. Anyone can face similar humiliation and shame but what makes the humiliation of Jesus luminous in the dark is the immense love with which he responded to his tormentors. No one has ever loved more than Jesus. No one can ever love us as much as Jesus has loved us.”

“This week is holy not because of the shame and humiliation that Jesus endured. This week is holy because God filled this week with infinite love,” the Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop said.

The archbishop of Manila, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, made a similar message at the start of the penitential season of Lent.

In his homily on Ash Wednesday, March 5, Tagle denounced the hypocrisy of people who pray, fast, and give alms “to put themselves up” and not to “return to God.”

Tagle said: “Engaging in religious activities not in order to return to God but to be full of self – that is not holiness. That's definitely not a way to return to God. That's hypocrisy.” – Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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