<excerpts of this article was published in the February issue of the World Mission Magazine >
The January 2012 issue of the World Mission Magazine really took my attention, it speaks of many factors and reasons why the church seems to have gain little success in Asia with the exception of Philippines and Timor Leste. Truly I agree on all the key points presented to answer the basic question why Christianity is not so successful is Asia. I hope our leaders in the church would view it the same way like the many contributors of the magazine issue and start to make some reforms that would not hurt the church but would make it truly a Christ led church, which is caring towards the poor, hungry, naked, and victims of injustice.
I hope our leader would truly take this seriously so that the church may gain more acceptance in other Asian countries and at the same time halt the dechristianization of many Filipinos and other people from around the world. For so many times the church seems to be far fetched and is irrelevant in many situations for some reasons. I hope we could once again refine our Catholic religion, which is always a true channel of faith and revelation, that is a church within us, not beyond nor behind us.
In addition I would like to add my own observation why many Filipinos are leaving the church. Our church today, many times seems to be so far away. Many people no longer feel it as a church for poor and the oppressed, but rather has become the church of the wealthy and the powerful. We often see our priests and some bishops living in exclusive subdivisions, partying and feasting with well-to-do people while on the other side of the subdivision’s high walls are their flocks living in a sub-human condition. As we could recall Jesus himself opted to live with the poor and the sinners. When the rights of our lowly brothers are oppressed we could see some clergy man behind this politician and powerful people, trying to provide moral justification for such oppression, they would even offer mass for the intention and blessing of that very same person who causes the suffering of the poor. Many times the church was so silent amidst the wailing of our people. Moreover, often time we see clergy men riding luxurious cars, while their flocks walk in barefoot, we should not forget that when Jesus entered Jerusalem he did not rode the most expensive horse as king would usually use, or a camel such as the merchants would utilize but he used a colt which the lowly farmers would use in their daily works. Lastly, in terms of money collection. I find it unpleasant that many churches has fixed the fee for every sacrament. They said it is only a donation, but i cannot consider it as a donation since the amount is already fixed. What is given for free must be shared for free as we all believe. Many parents cannot afford to have their children baptized because they cannot pay the so-called donation. Our church leaders should not forget that 100 pesos for a daily wage earner means there would be food on the table today. Second, where to perform marriage is now a matter of defining social status, if one gets married in such church it is well known that they are wealthy because they have to pay such price, while the lowly would have to find smaller churches or would opt to be married by judges or mayors. According to many, civil marriage is cheaper. Finally, many times i would hear the priests or the commentator say ‘this mass is offered for the intentions of …” many of whom are well to do people who can afford to insert a couple of money in an envelop or to pay such amount in the office of the parish. I still believe in my little understanding that the feast of the Eucharist was given by Christ for all, and that the mass is to be offered not for the intention of few but for the intention of all. Our priest in our parish would always start the mass by saying “this mass is offered for the intention of all the believers as well as non believers that they may find Christ in their lives”.
For the past years, many of our parishes and religious congregations has accumulated so much wealth, that some of its institutions has appeared to become business/profit oriented instead of being service oriented. As we keep on building big and expensive churches, let us not forget that the true meaning of evangelization as earlier pointed out in this January issue is by living or emerging with the poor and the lowly as Christ himself did. Christ never cared to build a church made out of stone but he build a church made out of people, loving and caring for each other.
I have been critical with such observation since I grew up in the small town where our priest Rev. Fr. Domingo Denniz O.P. had shown us what it means to be a true shepherd of Christ. He administers the sacraments for free, he lived a life of poverty and in communion with the entire community.
May the great and loving God bless more the countless clergy and missionaries who had lived truly a Christ inspired life, being not just teachers or preachers but witnesses of Christ, a true channel of divine revelation in this modern times.