Repay evil with kindness.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle made this call on Sunday as millions of Filipino Catholics flocked to churches to mark Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week.
In his homily at San Fernando de Dilao parish in Paco, Manila, the cardinal urged the faithful to put an end to the “cycle of sin and injustice” in society by repaying evil works with acts of kindness.
“Evil will spread if we answer it with another devilish action. To put an end to evil, we must be like Jesus. Repay it with kindness and avoid acts that will harm others,” Tagle said.
“Let us accompany Jesus in his journey to Jerusalem. Let us accompany him in our daily lives by doing acts of kindness and helping others,” he added.
Like other priests in Catholic parishes across the country, Tagle also blessed the palm fronds that the faithful took with them to Mass.
Catholics bring along palm fronds to church during Palm Sunday to commemorate the Bible story of Jesus’ triumphal entry to Jerusalem.
According to the Gospels, people laid their garments in the path of Jesus and waived palm fronds as he entered the holy city riding a donkey.
“They were welcoming him because they thought he was going to be a military or political messiah who will bring out them out of Roman bondage,” said Church historian Fr. Emil Quilatan, OAR, noting that the Jews were at the time under Roman rule.
“But when they realized that he was carrying a spiritual message, they mocked him and had him crucified,” Quilatan added.
Learn from Jesus
In the Philippines, many Catholics believe that the palm fronds blessed during Palm Sunday are effective in warding off evil, fires and even lightning. The faithful place them on or above the main door of their houses or in their altars to keep their homes and family safe.
Keeping to his Lenten theme of “journeying with Jesus,” Tagle urged Catholics to learn by Jesus’ example.
“Let us not join him by just taking home our palm fronds. More than anything, to remember Jesus is to embrace him in his fullness, including his death,” Tagle said.
“You know what, someone even wrote to me asking for prayers so that her husband would meet with an accident. She was trying to make me an accomplice in asking God so that her husband would have an accident,” he said.
“Maybe her husband did something evil but if that is repaid with evil, how will it end?” Tagle added.
Surrender to God
Tagle said society bore the marks of many evil deeds, noting that even during Holy Week, vacationers are reminded to lock their homes when leaving to prevent burglaries.
“What do we hear on the radio during Holy Week? We are reminded to keep our homes safe if we go to Mass or if we go out of town. Imagine that, it’s Holy Week and we are warned against burglaries,” he said.
Tagle also noted that Catholics were celebrating Holy Week this year while the universal Church was marking the “Year of Faith” proclaimed by former Pope Benedict XVI.
He said this should remind the faithful to “surrender their lives” to God, like what Jesus did before he died on the cross.
“We want to control our lives but even when Jesus was still young and until his last breath, (He was saying), ‘Father, in your hands I commend my spirit.’ We need that,” Tagle said.
“If we leave in the hands of God our lives and do his will, maybe a new life will spring forth from us. As we begin Holy Week, let us be like Jesus. Let us praise him and follow his example,” the cardinal said.