[OPINION] God is love
My dear children of God in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan:
Through social media, you have been sadly exposed to the cursing, threats, and shaming by the President of our country. Choose to love him nevertheless, but stay in the truth of our faith. Be firm in faith.
He must have received so much rejection and hurts in the past that he blurts out so much hatred and angst now. If he had been loved much, he would be giving so much of that love, too. He could be a victim of his scarred past and his wounded background. Pray for him with compassion. We pray for his healing and for God’s forgiveness of him but we must rebuke his errors about our Christian faith. He is a person in authority and some of you might get confused when you hear him. To pray for him is not enough. We must serve you the truth as we pray for him.
I am writing this to defend you from the gross errors that you have been hearing. If I keep quiet you might be misled. God gave you to us, your priests in Lingayen-Dagupan, as our children. It is our duty to teach you. Some of you might ignore me or even rebuke me; but that will not stop me from teaching those among you who sincerely ask for guidance. I cannot stop serving you the truth.
You have heard the President attack our Christian beliefs. The story of creation is being taunted repeatedly. You have been hearing him curse God. God has been called insulting names – words we always told you not to say or even write. You are even being challenged to leave this Church of your birth, the Church of your grandparents.
Here are some questions and the right answers from the YouCat (Young Catechism of the Catholic Church), and I encourage you to read it.
Why did God create us?
God created us out of love. God is love. God is mercy. Never forget or doubt that.
What is religion?
Religion is man's natural longing for God. God has placed in our hearts a certain kind of restlessness that can only be cured if we rest in God.
What do we mean when we say "God created the world"?
It does not mean that God himself by His direct action created the world all at once, completed in 6 days, as if the Book of Genesis were an eye witness account. This error is called "creationism". (YouCat 41)
Creationism naively interprets biblical data literally. This a wrong interpretation of the teaching "God created the world".
The creation account is not a scientific model to explain how the world began. When we say God created the world, we mean God willed the world. It means the world is not a product of chance.
Each of us is a result of a thought of God, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary. (Pope Benedict XVI).
Does God want us to suffer and die?
God does not want us to suffer and die. Listen to what the saints say.
We have lost paradise but have received heaven; the gain is greater than the loss (Saint John Chrysostom).
Human weakness cannot upset the plans of God. A divine master builder can work even with falling stones (Cardinal Michael Von Faulhaber).
O God, to turn away from you is to fall. To turn to you is to stand up. To remain in you is to have sure support (Saint Augustine).
Is that not beautiful and wise of God to do? Only a beautiful and wise God can turn sin into a great blessing. The devil is opposed to this kind of love. The devil cannot understand or refuses to accept what is so clear. The devil is blinded by pride so he cannot love like God.
What is original sin?
Although sin implies guilt for which one is responsible, original sin is not like that.
Pope Benedict XVI explained it this way. Human beings were born with a drop of poisonous thinking of "not trusting God". Human beings look at God as a "rival" who curtails our freedom. Human beings harbor a "suspicion against God". Human beings think that we can be fully human if God is cast aside. Human beings trust deceit rather than truth. Because of this tendency, human beings sink to emptiness and death. That is what original sin is. Jesus came to lift us out of that emptiness and death.
What does "Church" mean?
The Church is all of us called forth by God. The Church is not just bishops and priests, deacons and nuns. The Church is people, the people called by God together. God wants to redeem us, not individually, but together. The Church continues what Jesus started.
Is the Church a sinful institution?
Viewed from outside, the Church is only a historical institution perhaps with historical achievements but also faults. In its history, the Church had made mistakes and even crimes – a Church of sinners indeed.
But that view is quite shallow and incomplete.
Christ is so involved with us sinners that he never abandons his Church even if the Church betrays him every day.
The Church is an embroidery of sin and grace. In the Church, sinful humanity and holy godliness are one. The holiness of God never leaves the Church.
Is it time to stop believing in God?
Said Pope Benedict XVI: "When God disappears, men and women do not become greater. They lose their dignity and splendor and eventually end up abused and used."
This is what our present national situation is showing us. When we cast God aside and curse his name, killing becomes easier. Stealing is normalized. Vulgarity becomes funny. Adultery is applauded. All because we want God to disappear in our lives.
What is the second Commandment?
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
What does the second Commandment require?
It is a terrible offense to blaspheme God, to curse using God's name. Places, things, names and people who have been touched by God are "holy". Sensitivity to what is holy is called "reverence".
"Reverence is the pole on which the world turns," said Johann Wolfgang Van Goethe. We lose reverence for the sacred and we ruin the world.
What duties do citizens have toward the State?
A Christian must love his homeland. We must defend our nation in time of need, serve the institutions, pay taxes, vote and even run for office if needed. Every Christian has a right to offer constructive criticism of the State and its organs. The State is there for the people, not the individual for the State (YouCat 376)
When must we refuse to obey the State?
If a State should establish laws and procedures that are racist, sexist or destructive of human life, a Christian is obliged in conscience to refuse to obey, to refrain from participation and offer resistance. (YouCat 377).
My dear children in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, please pray the rosary, go to confession and receive Holy Communion frequently. We are in a spiritual warfare against error and sin. Shield yourselves from error and guide your fellow youth in godliness. Read more about the faith. Study the true teaching of the Church.
Harbor no grudge but be critical and discerning. Be respectful of your parents and those in authority and choose good manners all the time even if you hear and see the opposite. Do not bash back at those who bash you on social media. Fill social media with kindness and truth. Take courage but be loving all the time. Be firm in the faith. Bawal ang duwag pero huwag makipag-away. Conquer evil with good (Romans 12:21). – Rappler.com
Socrates B. Villegas is the archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan. He is also a former president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines. Villegas originally wrote this piece as a message to the youth of his archdiocese.