God’s Faithfulness: Celebrate Fil-Mission Sunday!
In the time of the prophet Elisha, in the Old Testament, God already manifested how he cared for the poor and the hungry.
God instructed Elisha to serve a hundred people with twenty barley loaves made from the first fruits, and fresh grain in the ear. These may look meager before the eyes of other people, but these actually sufficed and even exceeded the needs of all. God is always true to his promise: “They shall eat and there shall be some left over.”
A similar miracle happened in Jesus’ time when he multiplied bread and fish for the hungry crowd. Like what happened in the time of Elisha, there was also enough food given to every hungry person and there was an excess of twelve baskets full of leftover. The number 12 is very significant in the Bible. This is the number of the twelve tribes that imploded and suffered serious division. The apostles of Jesus also amount to twelve, and upon their shoulders rested the duty and obligation to spread the Gospel. The Twelve was expected to raise a new and glorious Israel, the new People of God.
If we look closely at Jesus’ apostles, we can get dismayed at what we will discover. First is Simon Peter, he with the mercurial blood and who is good at making promises but not in keeping them. He promised to fight and defend Jesus with his dear life but before the crowning of the rooster, he easily chickened out. John, who is supposed to be Jesus’ apple of the eye, likewise became a source of disappointment. Together with his brother James, John had the gall to demand from Jesus the highest places of honor in Jesus’ imminent kingdom, to the chagrin and envy of the other apostles. Judas was a snake in the grass who sold Jesus for the paltry sum of silver equivalent to the purchase of one lowly slave. All twelve, except John the Beloved, abandoned Jesus at Calvary, and each ran away to protect their hide.
Today is Fil-Mission Sunday. We celebrate the faithfulness of God in every mission work embarked upon by our Filipino missionaries abroad. Like in Elisha’s and Jesus’ time, we continue to hear nagging voices of discouragement, pointing out to us our deficiencies instead of our potential, to our limitations instead of our possibilities, to our poverty rather than our innate wealth as children of God. Some people question the fact that we send Filipino missionaries abroad, bemoaning the lack of priests and religious in some areas in our country.
In 1965, as the Philippines marked its 400th year of having received the Christian faith at the hands of Spanish missionaries, the Philippine bishops made a decision to heed the fresh challenge of Vatican II – that the Philippines will progress from being a mere receiving country towards a sending country in terms of missionary endeavors. To achieve such goal, the Filipino bishops established the Mission Society of the Philippines (MSP), a group of diocesan priests working in mission territories spread throughout the world.
In celebrating Fil-Mission Sunday, we are challenged to renew our faith in God from whom every mission is born. We thank God for the first missionaries who toiled in our land and for the fruits such labor had borne in our midst. We thank God for the gift of faith our nation has received, as we continue to beg God to increase our faith and make it more fruitful and better felt and experienced by people. Present-day missionaries may not be perfect like the first Twelve, but God was able to turn them around and they became tireless and loyal disciples of Jesus.
By Fr. Paul J. Marquez, SSP
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