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Gifted To Give

In the year when Filipinos come together to celebrate 500 years of Christian faith under the theme “Gifted to Give,” Ilsa Reyes will be exploring in the forthcoming articles the richness of Pope Francis’ latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti in a new column titled “Unity in Diversity.”

The theme of this year-long celebration, which will commence on April 17 to commemorate the first Easter Mass in our country on Limasawa Island, is “Gifted to Give.” 

According to Apostolic Administrator of the Archdiocese of Manila Bishop Broderick Pabillo, “this is indeed something to celebrate, for in 500 years the Christian faith in the country has not only survived but has been a strong influence in the culture and character of the nation, and is still going strong.”

The Philippine Church has faced countless challenges in the past and recent years: one calamity after another, poverty, COVID-19 pandemic, mental health issues on the rise, especially among the youth, to name a few. Yet it remains a beacon and a source of strength for Her flock. 

This has been possible of course, because of God’s loving direction and mercy, through the openness of Her leaders and the Filipinos’ earnestness to seek His help and draw closer to Him.

The question of the moment is, how do we continue to grow as individual Catholics personally united with Christ, and, amid our unique circumstances and perspectives affected by generation gaps, socio-political factors, subcultures, and our family background, foster authentic unity in the Spirit?

The half-millennium anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines reminds us that through all of these difficulties, God’s unwavering, powerful and deep love for us as a nation persists. 

Acting president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines Bishop Pablo Virgilio David stressed, “Let us, therefore, make it clear: what we will celebrate in 2021 is not colonialism but the Christian faith that the natives of these islands welcomed as a gift, albeit from people who were not necessarily motivated by the purest of motives. God can indeed write straight even with the most crooked lines.”

We celebrate the fortitude of our ancestors, the missionaries who brought the faith to our land, our Church leaders over the centuries, our priests, religious, and lay servants in sharing the very tenets of Christianity with us. We thank them and each other. We are grateful to God for granting us this wonderful gift and responsibility of being Christians, and we pray that as we look back to the past, live meaningfully in the present, look forward to the future, our Christian faith will continue to be our guiding light, as well as a gift we share with others. 

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