MANILA--Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle urged the faithful to emulate Christ and "heal" those who have hurt them, as Filipino Catholics flocked to churches on Palm Sunday.
Carrying palm leaves to be blessed by priests, thousands of worshipers attended the Mass that Tagle led at Manila Cathedral.
In his homily, the prelate said Jesus called his disciple Judas by his name even after the latter betrayed him for 30 pieces of silver. Christ, he noted, also instructed his disciples to refrain from fighting officers who arrested him.
"Ang tugon ni Hesus sa dadakip sa Kaniya, sa magmamaltrato sa Kaniya, ay paghihilom. Siya ay susugatan, subalit hindi Siya mangsusugat sa iba," Tagle said.
"E tayo? Sinaktan mo ako, may karapatan akong saktan ka rin; minura mo ako, may karapatan ako doblehin ang mura ko sa iyo."
(The response of Jesus to those who would arrest Him, mistreat Him was healing. He was going to be wounded, but He would not hurt others. How about us? You hurt me, I have a right to hurt y ou back; you curse me, I have a right to double my curses against you.)
Tagle acknowledged that this makes it easier for people to follow other prideful "kings" and "messiahs" over Christ who humbles Himself. The priest, however, urged followers to follow Jesus' teachings even if it is difficult.
"Nauunawaan natin bakit parang madaling ipagpalit si Hesus sa ibang mga hari at mesiahs. Imposible sa atin na sundan si Hesus kasi iyung hubarin ang sarili, magpakababa, iyung igalang ang umaalipusta sa iyo, iyung hilumin ang sumusugat sa iyo -- hindi iyan ang kalakaran ng mundo. Pero para sa Diyos, hindi iyan imposible," he said.
(We understand why it seems easier to replace Christ with other kings and messiahs. It is impossible for us to follow Christ because shedding off yourself, being humble, respecting those who persecute you, heal those who wound you -- that is not the way of the world. But for God, that is not impossible.)
"Mga Kapatid, simula pa lang ng Holy Week, nakikiusap po ako sa inyo, titigan si Hesus, pati yaong mga mahirap unawain at sundin sa kaniyang salita at lalo na sa kaniyang gawa; huwag pong iwasan, lalong titigan, lalong pakinggan," he added.
(Brothers and sisters, the Holy Week has just started, I ask you to look at Christ, even those that are difficult to understand and follow among his teachings and his acts; don't avoid these, but rather look at and listen to them.)
Tagle before the Mass blessed with holy water the palm fronds waved by worshipers as a symbol of discipleship and their desire to be with Christ through his suffering.
The blessing rite recalls the story of Jesus Christ's entrance to Jerusalem before his passion and crucifixion. He was welcomed by the people with cheers while strewing his path with small branches of trees.
After the Mass, devotees usually return home and hang their blessed palm fronds on their front doors or windows as a sign of welcoming Christ in their homes.
Palm Sunday marks the start of Holy Week, and the 7 days leading to Easter Sunday where Catholics remember the last stretch of Christ's earthly life as recorded in the Bible. These are the most intense days in the Roman Catholic Church's liturgical calendar.
Over 80 percent of the 94 million population in the Philippines are Catholics.
The Catholic Church has been the subject of frequent tirades by President Rodrigo Duterte, slamming it for criticizing his policies, such as the controversial war on drugs and his push for the death penalty.
Malacañang has repeatedly defended the President’s rhetoric towards members of the clergy, saying it was just his way of conveying his message. It has also expressed dissatisfaction with priests and bishops “using the pulpit” to criticize the President.
With reports from Anjo Bagaoisan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters