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The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said more than the traditions, what will make the Holy Week truly “holy” is if one will pour much love into the observance.
CBCP president Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said this can be done by visiting charity wards of hospitals or helping the poor among others.
“You must remember that this week is holy not because of the blood of Jesus Christ, this week is holy not because of the sacrifices we make, this week is holy because among all the days of the week, God has poured so much love into these days,” he told ANC in an interview.
“Therefore, the challenge for us FIlipino Catholics is to pour much love into it also. Concretely what can be done?
We make pilgrimage, we make visita iglesia, what can be done is you can go to seven charity wards of hospitals and visit the sick people there and bring them something to eat as we usually do during Christmas. That is a pilgrimage,” he added.
Villegas said the Scriptures are very clear, the Lord desires mercy and not sacrifice.
“The Lord is pleased when we become merciful with our brothers and sisters,” he said.
This, Villegas said is also their reminder to those who subject themselves to extreme forms of sacrifice such as self-flagellation or crucifixion which the Church is opposed to.
“It’s no longer necessary to shed blood because the shedding of blood is completely done by Jesus Christ for us. We don’t have to hurt ourselves anymore because we cannot add to the merit of Christ’s passion,” he said.
“What we must do is to realize how much God loves me and in realizing how much God loves me, you become more loving with those around you. To be more patient with pains in the neck, to be more forgiving with annoying people. That’s the way to show your love for God,” added Villegas.
He said those who really want to atone for their sins may opt to help the poor instead.
“In Scriptures we say alms giving covers a multitude of sins. So, if you really want to atone for your sins help somebody in need. Somebody who cannot thank you, not just a relative or neighbor who knows you by name but somebody who wont be able to thank you…help that person. That’s the sure way to receive forgiveness for your sins,” said Villegas.
But, he said they don’t want to judge those who subject themselves to self-flagellation and crucifixion especially on Good Friday.
“At the end of the day the question to ask is, why are they doing this? If God looks at what they are doing with pleasure because there is much love in what they are doing then, who are we to judge? But from the externals we say its not necessary, in fact, it’s wrong. It’s contrary to the teachings of Christ,” said Villegas.
(Leslie Ann G. Aquino)