The second National Mission Congress (NMC) has officially begun on April 17, 2022, with a Mass officiated by Cebu Archbishop Jose S. Palma.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Mission Chairman Socrates Mesiona, Bishop of Apostolic Vicariate of Puerto Princesa joined Archbishop Palma.
As the Congress is a major event by CBCP, Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara of Pasig, Auxiliary Bishop Midyphil Billones of Cebu, Auxiliary Emeritus Bishop Antonio Rañola of Cebu), and other visiting Monsignori and priests took part in it.
Other church luminaries are also expected to attend the week-long (April 18-22) event.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and former Archbishop of Manila, and CBCP President Bishop Pablo David of the Diocese of Kalookan will also be featured later in the week.
The NMC is a part of 500 years of Christianity celebration in the country.
The celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Gospel in the Philippines (1521-2021) was extended for another year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In his homily, Archbishop Palma spoke on the Resurrection with its implication for a mission during the opening Mass for the second NMC at the Basilica Minor del Sto. Nino de Cebu, south of Manila.
“In God’s plan, nothing can be more significant than launching the conference and mission on the day of the Resurrection,” the prelate said.
Referring to the day’s Gospel (John), he said, “Narrating that incident in when early morning, Mary of Magdala and the two apostles went to the tomb.
A simple aspect of that narrative connecting with Mission is “When Mary was aware that Jesus was no longer there, and of course in the succeeding narratives when she met what she thought was the gardener eventually and was told to tell the brothers to go to Galilee.”
The action of Mary in haste is noteworthy that she went to announce the joyful news.
“After 500 years, having heard and shared, and having received the gift of faith, and of course, somehow in many ways, understood the good news, then, that spirit of excitement, that spirit of joy, something that should not be held in us, we know that has to be shared, that has to be brought to the brothers and sisters,” Archbishop Palma said.
“How beautiful to imagine if we would have that spirit of excitement and joy, sharing the good news for we know this is Mission. My dear friends, looking back at another privileged person, having heard the good news,” the prelate said.
Mary went with haste to her cousin, Elizabeth. Perhaps it is time to no longer just feel as if this is simply ordinary. “This is the good news. This, we have to bring and share with others,” he added.
The season of Easter starts with the Gospel reading, with the discovery of the empty tomb, to mean, to signify that the tomb, that death could not contain life – the life of Jesus. But the season lasts for the next seven weeks - ascension. And until June 5, the feast of Pentecost, this is the season of Easter.
“We will be reflecting more and the significance of this event, which is certainly difficult to fathom: a [dead] man risen from the dead – and what it means to all of us,” Palm said.
Regarding the folded linen, in the culture of the Jews, when one eats and uses the linen or the napkin if one is through, just throw the linen there. But if one folds the linen, it means he’s coming back. The clothes were thrown; the linen was folded - which is one way of reminding all that Jesus has risen and will come back.
“And I doubt when He comes back, even if we joyfully anticipate that, we know that something will happen,” he said.
“For sure, before the Lord, we would be asked what have we done with the gifts that we have received? Or did we use the blessing that God has gifted us?” Palma asked.
Referring to the common theme for 500 years of jubilee, Palma said, “Gifted to Give” is that God has given gifts to give and share.
“It was payback time. We thought, a gift truly becomes a gift when shared. And that is what we did. ‘That is what I did,’” he said.
Priests, nuns, and lay Catholics are standing examples of being able to share what all have received.
“The Lord is coming back as we know. And so my dear friends, as I mentioned at the start of the sharing, we will be hearing more insightful, exciting, thoughts about Mission, so stay tuned because we know the week is certainly a blessing,” he said.
The NMC is “our way of concluding 500 Year of Christianity and our way of knowing, even more, the reasons and the ways we can truly be missionaries,” Palma said.
“For the past year, we have been saying “Binunyagan Ako!, Misyonero". How do we become missionaries in the context of the journey that continues after 500 Years of Christianity?” he asked.
In the context of a journey that should be characterized by Communion, Participation, and Mission.
“We know the week promises many of all the wonderful insights we want to hear. And so as we thank already many of our friends, who would be in the pool of speakers, let’s pray that above all, we open our hearts to the grace of God, that He who is Risen, and He who reveals to us that indeed He offers us new life,” the prelate said.
“May we, like the first who had encountered Him, be eager and joyful because we know we have been privileged to meet the Lord, we have been privileged to receive blessings and it is as well, a privilege to share what we have received,” he concluded.
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