The gift of faith

ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabago-Visaya (The Freeman) - April 15, 2021 - 12:00am

Faith is a gift from God to us. As a result, we are pleased to be marking our 500 years of Christianity in this special jubilee year. We've seen how faith has given our lives meaning. Faith helps us navigate life's journey in a multitude of settings, and it is lived not just personally, but also in the family and in the community.

When we look back at our past, though, we can't help but note the negative aspects of what happened to our forefathers. The phrase "the Sword and the Cross" is often used when discussing the Spanish invasion of the Philippine islands in the 16th century. With some historians and educators depicting Christianity as a colonial instrument, it bears some blame for the violence, abuses, and oppression suffered by Filipinos at the hands of Spain.

For those who have suffered greatly as a result of Christianity's arrival in the Philippines, remembering it can be a touchy topic. Many indigenous practices, values, and rituals were modified, substituted, or ignored during the early Spanish colonial period, despite the friars' best efforts. During the evangelization era, one of the most widely debated issues was the vilification and disempowerment of pre-colonial shamans known as babaylan.

Some progressives and advocates for women's rights blame Christianity for the country's conservatism when it comes to women's issues and the acceptance of patriarchal social structures. As a result of the country's Christianization, non-Christian narratives in Philippine history, such as that of Muslim Mindanao, have been marginalized.

The lack of resources for most Filipinos to explore and learn about Church history, which would make the commemoration more meaningful for many, is one of the most important obstacles in commemorating Christianity's 500-year past in the Philippines.

We would hope that studying Philippine Church history will encourage people to recognize that the quincentennial celebration is also an affirmation of how Christianity has transcended its colonial origins and become ingrained in the culture and identity of Filipino Christians who have repeatedly chosen the faith amid numerous opportunities to reject it. It is a testament not only to the religion's importance, but also to our capacity to establish our own destiny.

Life in the Philippines is difficult, but faith gives us the strength to persevere in the face of hardship because we know the Lord is with us. This is the joy of living in the Lord that has accompanied Christian religion in the Philippines for the past 500 years.

Faith comes with the responsibility of evangelization. We should first deeply understand and appreciate that we are blessed, gifted with faith from the Lord before we can evangelize.

When the Philippines' vaccination program began, churches volunteered to use their facilities as vaccination centers for the government, particularly in rural areas. As a result, we should be a house with open doors that offers hope and strength. We remain, above all, a Church capable of offering charity, grace, and compassion in times of great difficulty.

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