MANILA - Amid the pandemic and other challenges this year, it is important for the public to remember Jesus Christ and and ask for His help in time of need, Manila Bishop Broderick Pabillo said on Friday, Christmas Day.
Pabillo reminded Filipinos to "hold on to the Lord in faith" as the public continues to bear the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis.
"'Yan ang mensahe ng Pasko. Na sa kahirapan ng buhay, ang Diyos ay pumasok sa atin," he said in an interview with ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.
"Alam niyo po, nung pumasok si Hesus at pinanganak siya sa sabsaban, inaapi ang mga Hudyo ng mga Romano. Andami ng mga problema nila. At that time, God entered," he aded.
(That is the message of Christmas. That in the time of suffering, God joined us. When Jesus was born in the manger, the Jews were being oppressed by the Romans. They had so much problems.)
"Ngayon din, God enters into our story at nandiyan siya."
(Also now, God enters into our story and He's there.)
Pabillo called on the faithful not to lose hope in God.
"It's not that the Lord is allowing this, and He wants it to happen. But probably, the Lord is asking us to trust Him more, to be more sorrowful about our sins, and to help one another more," he said.
"Sa bibliya, kapag may salot na dumadating, kapag sila natalo ng kanilang mga kinakaaway, ang unang reaksiyon ng mga tao ay magsisi sa kanilang kasalanan. Pagsisisi sa lahat… magpenitensiya."
(In the bible, if a pestilence comes, or they are defeated by their enemies, the first thing people do is atone their sins. Repent in all things… do penitence.)
"Ito siguro ang panawagan sa'tin. Siguro may kailangan baguhin sa ating sarili, at lalong-lalo na, na magtulungan kasi hindi tayo papabayaan," Pabillo said.
(This is maybe the call to us. Maybe we need to change something in ourselves, and most of all, to help one another, since God won't abandon us.)
The bishop noted public interest in faith has apparently grown since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Live streaming of Holy Masses, which the Catholic Church in the Philippines encouraged the faithful to watch due to public health protocols limiting mass gatherings to combat the coronavirus, helped previously uninterested individuals to "return to the flock."
"Sa mga pakiramdam natin, at sa mga incidental report, makikita natin na may mga tao na naaabot sa pamamagitan ng mga online [mass] na ito. 'Yung mga tao na walang pakialam noon, ngayon mas nakikinig na sila. Ngayon, mas nakikiisa na sila," Pabillo said.
(We noticed, and in our incidental reports, that more people our being reached by online masses. The people who did not care before are now very attentive. They are now joining much more than before.)
"Kunwari mag-misa tayo, ang simbahan may 500 na capacity. Kapag mag-online ka, may mga 1,000, 2,000 na sumasama sa'yo. Hindi 'yan makukuha kapag nagsimba ka lang sa simbahan, although hindi natin alam kung they stayed there the whole time o dumaan lang," he said.
(If we offer mass, the church has 500-people capacity. If we offer mass online, there are 1,000, 2,000 joining you. That number can't be seen in the church, although we don't know if they stayed there the whole time or just briefly visited.)
Pabillo urged the faithful and the others to strengthen their devotion to Christ amid the health crisis being experienced worldwide.
"As God has fully participated in our life, the challenge for us is, do we also want to fully participate in the divine life na kaniyang ibinigay sa'tin (which He gave us)," he said.
Christmas festivities began Friday, with hundreds of millions across the world under COVID restrictions celebrating a toned-down version of a holiday usually marked by travel and large gatherings.
The tough battle to end the pandemic, which has claimed more than 1.7 million lives, is far from over despite the launching of mass vaccine campaigns that offer the promise of an eventual return to normalcy.
Pope Francis, spiritual leader of the world's 1.3 billion Catholics, celebrated Christmas Eve mass in St Peter's Basilica before fewer than 200 masked faithful, mostly employees of the tiny Vatican state.
He stressed that the birth of a child reminds us not to spend our days "lamenting our lots, but soothing the tears of those who suffer", serving "the poor".
--With a report from Agence France-Presse