The topic, “Mystery, Communion and Mission for the Churches in Asia,” is assigned to our Workshop.
May I briefly and simply present the message I wish to develop:
In the context of tragic massive poverty in Asia and of its rich and varied cultures and religious traditions, the mystery of Divine Mercy resonates deeply with Asian peoples. Divine Mercy calls Asian Catholics to communion with God, with other Asian peoples, and with the rest of creation. It calls all disciples of the Lord to tell the story of Jesus to Asia: Jesus, the Compassion of God, is our Lord and Savior!
The Mystery of Divine Mercy – Asian Dimensions
We all know that God’s compassion, mercy and love embraces everyone with absolutely no exception.
But from the Scriptures we also know of a special category of people to whom God demonstrates an especially benevolent love – namely the poor (see for example Ps. 41: 1-2; 69: 32-34; 72: 12-14; 113: 7-9; Is. 25: 4). In the Old Testament, they were the widows, orphans, strangers (see for example Ps. 68: 5-6). How often God demanded of his chosen people to take care of widows, orphans, and strangers in their midst and meted reward or punishment accordingly (see Ex. 22: 20-24; Jb 29: 12-13; Is. 10: 1-2; Ez. 22: 6-8; Mal. 3: 5)! These represent all those who were poor and needy, those seemingly without any rights, those deprived of economic security and had less access to the goods of society.
In the New Testament, God sends not just prophets to call sinners to repentance and salvation. He sent his own beloved Son to live among us, to forgive sins and bring sinners back to God his Father. The characteristic saving way of Jesus with those who were considered sinners by others and deprived of God’s spiritual blessings is his reaching out to them, his presence among them, and his forgiving them (see for example Mk. 2: 15-17; Lk. 5: 29-32; 7: 32-35). Remember the three parables of God’s mercy in Lk. 15: the lost sheep, the lost drachma, and the prodigal son. The concluding words of the three parables describe the joy of the compassionate God over sinners who repent: Rejoice with me for what was lost is found! As God’s merciful love is directed in a special way to the poor, so a relationship of love with God depends very much on how one treats the poor, those without adequate food, clothes, health and shelter (see Mt. 25: 31-36; Jas. 1:27; 2: 5).
In the Asian situation of massive poverty and insecurity the mystery of Divine Mercy resonates greatly with Asians. We are a continent of the poor. Two thirds of the world’s poor live in Asia. They live in tragic deprivation of basic material goods. Many Asians die of ordinary illness because they do not have adequate food and access to medicines and medical treatment. They can hardly send their children to school. They spend the savings of a lifetime in order to be able to send a member of the family abroad to work for the sake of the family.
Without material resources and political power, Asia’s teeming millions place their trust in the Divine Mercy. Whatever the divine name might be for the many different Asian religious traditions, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews and indigenous peoples with their own natural religions Asians invoke divine mercy. They put their trust in Divine Mercy. In the midst of life’s tribulations and trials they have no one else to trust in but the Divine Mercy. They thirst and hunger for God.
Asians flock to various religious shrines in search of divine healing. There they take refuge and consolation in the serenity of God’s presence in the midst of daily hardship and suffering. They travel far and wide for advice and healing from priests, other holy people, gurus and sages who are reputed to be healers and instruments of grace. They tell stories of wonderful marvelous cases of Divine Mercy, and especially of liberation from sinfulness.
In the light of this tremendous thirst and hunger for Divine Mercy and in the context of massive poverty and deprivation as well as of varied cultures and religious traditions, Divine Mercy has caught the imagination of Asians. There is no doubt that in Asia the devotion to the Divine Mercy is the fastest growing devotion. Diocesan, regional, national Congresses on Divine Mercy have been held in various countries.
Divine Mercy Calls to Communion
The thirst and hunger for Divine Mercy as well as the experience of God’s compassion for the poor and needy impel us to communion, to be in solidarity with God, with other Asian peoples particularly the poor, and with all creation.
In the Gospel stories when Jesus heals people from their physical ailments he tells them to go and sin no more (see Mt. 9: 1-8; Mk. 2: 1-12; Lk. 5: 7-26; Jn 5: 1-17), to be just, and to rejoice in the wonderful work of Divine Mercy that they have been part of. They are called to reconciliation and solidarity with God and with their neighbor. They are called to give thanks and be true believers in word and deed.
For this reason Asian disciples of Jesus have to celebrate and live their blessings of mercy and compassion from God. How are we to do this? By building bridges of communion and solidarity with others.
How imperative this is for Asians! Asia has always been known as a land of ancient spirituality. Here the major ancient religions were born. Jesus himself was Asian. He was born in Asia. He suffered and died in Asia. He rose from the dead in Asia. Peoples from other continents flock to Asia to search for spiritual serenity, peace and harmony.
But how ironic it is that Asia has become the arena of conflict and war, of division and contestation due to culture, ethnicity, and religious radicalism! Economic and political power, minority and majority relationships apparently play a great role in such conflicts.
We are also deeply aware of the traditional closeness of Asian peoples, especially of the millions of indigenous and tribal peoples, to the environment and to all of God’s creation. Yet now we also observe the gradual but long-term destruction of the Asian environment for short term economic gains.
Such destruction, disharmony and unpeace, gravely offend the deep Asian sense of religiosity and spiritual harmony. The call of Divine Mercy to unity and solidarity – communion – is particularly poignant, powerful and peremptory.
Divine Mercy Calls Asians to Mission
Those blessed in the Gospels who have been touched by the compassion of God felt impelled by gratitude and love to tell others of their marvelous experience with Jesus.
Their stories are fundamentally about Jesus in the Gospels. They tell us so eloquently of the Father’s compassion for us through his Son, Jesus. Jesus had compassion of the “multitude” of the materially and spiritually poor. He lived among them, walked with them, healed them of their various afflictions, taught them the Good News of salvation, blessed them in the midst of their material and spiritual poverty, ennobled them, and called them to be his disciples. He not only had compassion. Jesus, “having emptied himself of his divinity” is the Compassion of God, the Divine Mercy in Jesus’ humanity.
We have all been recipients in one way or another of Divine Mercy in Jesus. Trace your own life back to the very beginning. How innumerable have been the ways and occasions of mercy that the Father, Son and Spirit have blessed each one of us throughout our lives, in riches or in poverty, in sickness or in health! Most of all, Divine Mercy has led us through our own Easter journey from sin to grace, from darkness to light, from death to life.
In our day we are likewise called to tell the story of Jesus, the compassion of God, to all our Asian brothers and sisters. His Asian face is the face of one in solidarity with the poor, at home with the poor, a refuge of the sick and needy, healer of bodies and liberator of souls, a guru, bearer of Good News, the one who dares to call himself not only one with God but God himself and the Savior of the world through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
We are called to be humble in our conviction and belief in Jesus and to be respectful of the beliefs of others. But the mystery of Divine Mercy in our own lives, in the lives of so many other Asians, calls us to be fearless, generous, zealous, and loving in our proclamation of Divine Mercy to all the peoples of Asia.
We can do this mission most eloquently through the silent witness of an authentic disciple-life, a Christian witness that would make our own lives a pointer to Christ, a letter of Christ to others.
May you and I be authentic proclaimers and witnesses of Divine Mercy! Thank you and God bless!
+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato,
PhilippinesWorld Apostolic Congress on Divine MercyRome
Workshop - April 3, 2008
[Some notes for the introduction: Archbishop Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I., was ordained a priest of the Missionary Congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in 1964. He has been a priest for 44 years, including 28 years as a Bishop. More than one half of his life as priest and Bishop has been spent among Christians and Muslims in Southern Philippines. The Archdiocese of Cotabato is his 2nd Archdiocese. It is located on the island of Mindanao with a population of 1.5 million people, 47% are Catholics and 46% are Muslims. Economically underdeveloped, more than 60% of its families are below the poverty line. His interests are: Building Basic Ecclesial Communities, Church Renewal, and Issues of Justice and Peace.]