‘Feast of joy must also be feast of courage’
Catholic Church leaders have urged the faithful to avoid the “toxicity” of violence and falsehood and fight the “contagion of violence” as the country reels from a spate of killings amid a growing culture of impunity.
“To the youth, we elders ask pardon if the world we are bequeathing to you is darkened by toxic falsehood, violence, bullying, vices, greed and corruption,” Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said in his Christmas message.
“Please do not swallow or inhale this toxicity. Jesus the Child is with you,” said Tagle, the archbishop of Manila.
Killings of drug suspects
This year has been shaped by more killings of drug suspects, priests, indigenous people and politicians, including a lawmaker days before Christmas, which critics said were abetted by President Rodrigo Duterte’s vitriol against perceived critics.
From the time of Jesus to the present, Tagle said some nights “have become moments of ominous silence.”
“Crimes and evil deeds are often plotted and executed in the frightening silence of the night,” he said.
“The people who suffer and are continuously threatened and harassed live in endless silent nights. But those silent nights are not holy nights,” he added.
No hope for cowards
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas, also exhorted the faithful to “resist the spread of vulgarity and the contagion of violence,” saying there is no Christmas hope for the cowards and the timid.
“There is violence against political opponents. The statistics of unsolved murders continues to rise. There are more drugs to buy. There are more criminals set free and the opponents are threatened with imprisonment,” Villegas said in his Christmas message.
“Everything is turned into a bad joke. The poor are poorer and the rich are getting poor. We scold children who bully their fellow children but we laugh at elderly bullies who flaunt vulgar humor,” he added.
All these must stop, said Villegas, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
“How long must we endure these? What is Christmas for? Is this what we have become as a Catholic nation? The answer must be no! … Christmas demands that we stand up bravely for the Lord,” he said.
The Church has become increasingly the object of the President’s tirades because of its criticism of his administration’s bloody war on drugs that has left thousands of people dead.
Tagle urged the youth to find refuge in Jesus, who turned “eerie silent nights into holy nights” by pouring “love’s pure light.”
“With Him, renew humanity, society, religions and creation with love’s pure light, tenderness and gentleness. Christmas is for you,” he said, stressing that the youth also deserved genuine joy and peace offered by Jesus.
“My prayer and wish for all Filipinos and for the whole of humankind, especially for our beloved young people, is for us to welcome and live the joy and peace of the Child Jesus, who is God’s pure love, tenderness and gentleness,” he added.
The Christmas story is about the courage of God to defeat evil with love, Villegas reminded the faithful.
“The greater enemy to fight is cowardice and timidity. Tolerance is not a virtue. Tolerance of evil makes us accomplices. It is vulgar to laugh at vulgarity,” he said.
According to Villegas, Christmas is an invitation for all to return to childlike innocence and resist the erosion of good manners.
“There is joy in being innocent like the Child in the manger. When we hear vulgarity, stand up and proclaim the greater power of the innocence of a child,” he said.
“When we hear children curse, turn them away from the bad examples they see and bring them to the Child in the crib. Vulgarity is contrary to Christmas,” he added.
While Christmas is a feast of joy, it must also be a feast of courage, “courage to stand up for Jesus and defend what He taught us through the Christmas story,” Villegas said.
“Let us stand up against vulgarity with the powerful innocence of the Christ Child. Let us defend human life by siding with Jesus and not applauding Herod. Let us stand up for womanhood best taught us by the purity of the Virgin Mary,” he said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.