Five hundred years after the first Mass was offered in the country, Papal Nuncio to the Philippines Archbishop Charles John Brown said the Church in the Philippines is invited anew to “go forth” and become a community of authentic missionary disciples.
The nuncio said this in his message for the 500th anniversary of the celebration of the first Holy Mass in the Philippines on Wednesday, March 31, which was read during the Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Eucharist, Limasawa Island, Southern Leyte.
“The love of Christ made present in every celebration of the Holy Mass, impels us to proclaim the Gospel we have received to all the world,” said Brown.
“It is in this sharing of the gift of faith with others that we can best express our thanksgiving to God,” he added.
Brown was not able to make it to the occasion due to the bulletin issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) requesting all embassies to restrict their travel.
In his homily, Maasin Bishop Precioso Cantillas said the Diocese of Maasin felt “privileged” to have the site of the first great gift of God, the Eucharist.
He added:”We try to lead others into being a Eucharistic people.”
“But whichever dioceses we belong to or particular churches we are part of, we should be an active member in making the Eucharist shine more,” said Cantillas.
The church that Jesus established and his disciples, he said, should also be aggressive in proclaiming God’s loving and saving presence today and until the end of time in the places we live and work.
Cantillas said this is because “the world and the evil one are so aggressive in drawing us and humanity away from God.”
“The Eucharist is the real presence of Jesus, the concrete act of his love and mercy for us and we need always to remember this,” he said.
“Yet in the face of this great love and mercy we see that Jesus even in his time when he announced his identity and real presence in his body and blood which is the Eucharist Jesus experienced rejection, abandonment, unbelief and even betrayal,” Cantillas added.
“We see this same betrayal by many people including ourselves of the Eucharistic Lord in many forms and expressions,” he said.
Some of these moments and instances that Cantillas cited is when one does not make the Holy Mass and the faithful participation and celebration of it as the most important activity of their life.
“When going to Mass is not considered as essential to man by those making the decisions for the public health of society which is contrary to the clear teachings of Jesus and his Church,” he said.
The Maasin prelate said he also believes that the Church in the Philippines, the archdioceses, dioceses, parishes, basic eclesial communities, chapels, archbishops, bishops, priests and faithful can humbly admit that for the past 500 years of Christianity “may have failed to make the Eucharist the most important, the most essential, the center of our life as a church and individual disciples of Christ.”
Cantillas then asked everyone to deepen and intensify their faith and love for Jesus in the Eucharist.
The first documented Catholic Mass in the Philippines was held on March 31, 1521, Easter Sunday. It was conducted by Father Pedro de Valderrama of Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition along the shores of what was referred to in the journals of Antonio Pigafetta.