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The Pope’s Challenge to Love More
The regular teaching night of CFC, held on Tuesday, January 20, coming just a day after Pope Francis ended his five-day pastoral visit to the Philippines, had an apt topic—the lessons the Pope imparted to his Philippine flock.

Fr. Benedict Lagarde, from the Missionaries of Jesus, was the night’s speaker and he began by emphasizing that the Pope’s visit was all about the Lord shepherding His people through His vicar on earth. The theme of the papal visit, after all, was “The Shepherd in Sri Lanka and the Philippines—the Challenge of Shepherding Those in Leadership.”

Fr. Benedict called the Pope a true shepherd because in spite of his being 78 years old, having only one functioning lung and facing challenges from within and outside the Church, he decided to go on this trip even though he could have opted not to. He made the gruelling trip in order to shepherd his flock.

“In Sri Lanka, it was to reassure the flock, coming out of the ravages of civil war, that he is mindful of their situation as a minority. In the Philippines, it was to reassure his flock that he is mindful of them as they are coming out of the ravages of typhoon Yolanda.”

Fr. Benedict compared this kind of shepherding to the kind of service we as CFC leaders give our members. He said, “This is what shepherding is all aboutyour flock need to be reassured of your intimate presence during their moment of greatest need. There is no excuse for not being there when your flock needs you.”

He continued: “You are excused if you are not around during their moments of celebration and triumph. But you are not excused when something bad happens to the group you are leading and you are not there. Do not make the excuse that you are weak. The Pope has only one lung. Do not say ‘I am old.” The Pope is older. And please do not use the excuse that your member lives so far away. The Pope traveled thousands of miles just to be with us.”

Referring to the Manila Cathedral Mass that the Pope celebrated, Fr. Benedict said that “When you in CFC heard the Pope use John 21:15-17 as the Gospel message, I am sure it sent shivers down your spine, especially the International Council. I am sure they exclaimed in their hearts “Oh my God! The Pope is using the same Bible text that gave life to the theme Love More!”

Fr. Benedict reiterated that Love More is the Pope’s greatest challenge to all of us. Placing Love More within the context of Scripture, Fr. Benedict said that despite Peter betraying and denying him, Jesus was awesomely good in that he resurrected from the dead. Resurrection had to happen so that his disciples may be reconciled with him. If he did not return from the grave, reconciliation could never have taken place. And mission, which is a natural progression from reconciliation, could never have happened.

The Bible text describes that Jesus prepared a meal for his disciples on the seashore. And he did this right after he experienced betrayal, abandonment, and death. “This is what makes Jesus awesome – this was a meal of reconciliation and mission,” Fr. Benedict said. 

Directly addressing the younger CFC present, Fr. Benedict cautioned them “not to forget the generation that came before you. I hope you recognize the sacrifices of those who served before you, the contributions they gave that makes CFC what it is now. Many of the CFC who are now seniors provided a steadying hand when CFC went through severe storms caused by the splits. Let us not forget what they sufferedconfusion, sorrow, lost sleep, tears, broken relationshipsbut in spite of all these, they still provided the steadying hand.“

Moving on to the Pope’s homily during the Mass in the airport in Tacloban, Leyte, Fr. Benedict mentioned that Pope Francis’ message was “I have nothing to tell you.” It is because it is God’s Word that we should seek and speak. Fr. Benedict stressed that if there is one sin we all commit, it is that we always think we have an explanation for what is happening, that our followers, our flock are always waiting for our word.

But they are not, because they are waiting for the life giving word of the Lord, not ours. Concluding, Fr. Benedict exhorted CFC to “Just help the poor. Don’t spend too much time defining who the poor are. Widows, orphans, the sick, the landless and sinners are the least, the last and the lost. And it is exactly to the last, lost and least that the Shepherd was sent.”

Fr. Benedict invited everyone to: First, go back to all the homilies of the Pope; second, have a silent moment and ponder on them, and third, celebrate the coming of God who shepherded us through the coming of the Vicar of Christ. (Aiza Garnica)
Added on Friday, February 27, 2015


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