Message of His Excellency Most Reverend Socrates B. Viilegas, Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan for the people of God to be read as homily during the Easter Sunday Masses in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan.
It is Easter. We celebrate the greatest mystery of our faith—the words of love at the Last Supper Holy Thursday led to the act of love at Calvary on Good Friday which led us to the triumph of love at the empty tomb today Easter Sunday.
The WORD of Holy Thursday and the DEATH of Good Friday plus the RESURRECTION on Easter morning together make up a whole. It is what our Holy Father Benedict XVI calls the trinity of the paschal mystery.
The paschal mystery is at the heart of our Christian faith. Believing the paschal mystery and living the paschal mystery is what the Church is all about. Without the paschal mystery, all our prayers, projects and teachings become meaningless and unprofitable.
The Church teaches year after year: “The Easter triduum of the passion, the burial and resurrection of Christ is the culmination of the entire liturgical year.”
But the crucial question is: Is there really and effective and dynamic link between our mission and our ministries and the paschal mystery? Is the paschal mystery truly the wellspring and inspiration of the projects and activities of our Catholic community in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan? Do we posses, or better still, are we possessed by a spirituality of the paschal mystery?
As your pastor, I have been trying my best to listen to you by visiting you in the parishes, schools and barangays. I have met many of you through our church seminars, recollections and social gatherings. As I listen to you, I also listen to God and pray to God to help me guide you.
From my conversations with God and with you, I wish to present for your reflection a possible statement of vision that we can follow in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan especially in the context of the Easter season.
ICTHUS in early Christian tradition was an acrostic referring to Jesus Christ, God’ Son, Savior. ΙΧΘΥΣ is Greek word for fish. For the early Christians, to say ICTHUS was to endanger themselves. It was to risk being killed by the emperor. Much more than a declaration that Jesus is Son of God and Savior, ICTHUS was a declaration of commitment to live one’s life as a follower of Christ, crucified and risen. Let us spell the letters of the word ICTHUS.
I is for Integration of faith and life. It is important that we live what we profess. The world does not listen to speakers anymore but to witnesses. Integrity of life is the opposite of split level Christianity. Integrity is wholeness. Integrity is the new name of holiness. The values of the Gospel must be allowed to transform society. We must evangelize politics, culture, economics and all aspects of human life. If we seek integrity from our public officials, we must first live integrity as Church people.
C is for Catechesis, evangelization and mission. We must be a missionary Church surely ad intra, and hopefully in God’s time, ad extra. The call of Christianity is to plunge into the deep and become fishers of men. The harvest is rich but the laborers are so few. We need to wake up a sleeping giant in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan—the laity. Every Christian must be a catechist. Every Christian must evangelize. Every Christian is a missionary.
T is for Thanksgiving. This is the middle letter, the focal point, the source and summit of our vision—the Eucharist. In envisioning to become a Eucharistic people, we do not only mean being “liturgy-centered”; we are called to live what the Eucharist celebrates which is to live and die for one another. The Church makes the Eucharist. The Eucharist makes the Church.
U is for Unity in diversity. We have diverse linguistic and ethnic groups—Pangasinan, Ilocano and Tagalog and even Chinese tongues. We come from varied economic levels. Our Christian heritage is our source of communion. We all came from an ancestry of heroes like Urduja and Palaris. Our faith and our heritage of heroes in Pangasinan must make us one in spite of our linguistic or ethnic differences.
S is for Service, Justice and Charity. We shall promote social service and development. We shall seek justice and liberation for the captives of poverty, loneliness and oppression. At the sunset of life when we shall all be judged according to love, may God find us worthy to sit in His kingdom.
My brothers and sisters of the Risen Christ: Are you ready to be ICTHUS again like the first Christians? Let us be ICTHUS! We want to be like Jesus! When the Lord comes again, may he see us and find himself glowing through us! Happy Easter again. I bless you with Easter life and Easter joy!
From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, April 4, 2010, Easter Sunday
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan