“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13/8)
Brothers and Sisters in Christ: We are providentially in the last three years of the Second Millennium. In his very first Encyclical Letter Redemptor Hominis (1979) our Holy Father, John Paul II, announced: “This time which God in his hidden design has entrusted to me, is already very close to the year 2000. For the Church, it will be the year of a Great Jubilee” (RH 1).
And now in his Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente , the Pope speaks of the preparation for the Great Jubilee of our Redemption as “a hermeneutical key” of his Pontificate (TMA 23) and the time leading to it as “a new advent”, “an extended advent season” (TMA 23) to “renew our hope in the definitive coming of the kingdom of God” (TMA 46).
The Holy Father calls on all of us in the local churches to prepare and celebrate the 2000th anniversary of Christ’s incarnation and of our redemption “as it involves a special grace for the whole of humanity” (TMA 46). It is, therefore, a great opportunity for us to proclaim with our lips and with our deeds our faith in the one mediator between God and Men, “Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13/8), “the beginning and the end, Alpha and Omega, to whom all time belongs, all ages, all glory and power” (Easter Vigil).
I. PRIMARY OBJECTIVE OF THE JUBILEE
We highly recommend the reading and rereading of the text Tertio Millennio Adveniente as it concretely contains the master plan of the Holy Father for the next three years. What is the primary objective of the Great Jubilee? The primary objective of the Jubilee is “the strengthening of faith and of the witness of Christians. It is, therefore, necessary to inspire in all the faithful a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of even more intense prayer and of solidarity with one’s neighbor, especially the most needy” (TMA 42).
The strengthening of faith and of witness cannot be achieved without personal conversion and renewal, through intense prayer and witnessing service as well as “a personal acceptance of the person of Jesus as Lord and Saviour” (cf PCP-II 64, 73-79). This advent season for the Great Jubilee, this time of grace and the Lord’s visitation, will be to some extent “a three-year retreat” with the three persons of the Blessed Trinity as our focus and with Mary as our companion and guide. But our prayer must also resonate with our growing in solidarity with one another, especially with the most needy through our recommitment to the message of salvation and liberation as we have announced in our Second Plenary Council of the Philippines.
To celebrate “the new springtime of Christian life” (TMA 18), we all need purification and examination of conscience. The joy of the Great Jubilee must be based on the forgiveness of sins, on penance and reconciliation. We cannot cross the threshold of the new millennium, the Holy Father tells us, without purifying ourselves, through repentance, of past errors and infidelity, of inconsistency and slowness to act, of being the cause of division, intolerance and violence (cf. TMA 33-35). In this respect, the celebration of the Great Jubilee of Redemption will be both a personal and social event. Society will be transformed to the extent that we individually and personally are converted and reconciled.
II. THE PATH FOR THE NEXT THREE YEARS
Following Vatican II’s path of renewal and revitalization of Christian Life (cf. TMA 19), we celebrated in 1991 the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines, formulated in 1992 our CBCP Vision and Mission Statement, and approved in 1993 our National Pastoral Plan. We can appropriately say that PCP-II was for the Church in the Philippines a “providential event” for the immediate preparation of the Great Jubilee in the year 2000, as Vatican II was for the Universal Church.
Already in PCP-II (87) we grappled with the question: “What kind of Church must we be to meet the challenge of our society as we enter the Third Millennium?” What is our path for the next three years? The answer of PCP-II is summarized in our National Pastoral Plan (4) as follows: “Given the stark reality of the country, its widespread poverty and tainted structural and cultural systems, PCP-II adopted the Community of Disciple as its primary model. A special attribute of this church that the Council emphatically stated was its option to be a Church of the Poor… The conciliar thrust to be a Community of Disciples where the poor have preferential and participative functions, generated the motive to engage in a renewed integral evangelization with its dual message of salvation and liberation”.
Impelled by the spirit of Vatican II and the challenges of PCP-II, local churches have held or started to prepare their respective diocesan synods or pastoral assemblies. Considering the complimentariness and basic commonalities of the thrusts of Vatican II, the PCP-II, the TMA and our respective Provincial Councils or Diocesan Synods and Pastoral Assemblies, we recommend in the implementation thereof a convergence of key elements, stressing the Trinitarian Focus of Tertio Millennio Adveniente.
The path of radical discipleship . For 1997, this year, the overriding focus is JESUS CHRIST, Son of God made-man (advent), the only Saviour of mankind (Lent), who conquers death and sin (Easter-Pentecost). In this year we are challenged to re-discover Jesus Christ, to re-tell his story (cf. PCP-II 36), and celebrate our discipleship in all its radicality. We are called upon to renew our interest in the Bible and Catechesis as well as our appreciation of our Baptism, especially as the basis of Christian Unity and Ecumenism, which the Holy Father enjoins us to foster during this celebration (TMA 41). The path that Jesus Christ is pointing is the path of radical discipleship. The Basic Ecclesial Communities, which are a “pastoral priority” and pastoral thrust of the Philippine Church (PCP-II 140) must consequently become Communities of Disciples of the Lord, where the Gospel and the Social Teachings shall bear fruit in the renewal of the moral spiritual order. We start the year of Jesus Christ with the celebration of the Fifth National Eucharistic Congress on January 22-26.
The path of renewed integral evangelization . The focus of 1998 is the HOLY SPIRIT who is the “principal agent of evangelization”, the Counsellor whom the Father will send in Jesus’ name and who will teach us all things (cf. Jo. 14/26). The path of the Holy Spirit leads us to the promotion of Vatican II’s ecclesiology and the appreciation of our Confirmation as impelling us to the apostolate of the laity. Genuine evangelization is undertaken by truly spirited, spirit-filled, “spiritual persons” (PCP-II 215), just as it was “in the power of the Spirit” that Christ carried out his evangelizing work. To hasten the advent of the Kingdom in our midst, the fruits and the gifts of the Holy Spirit must be manifested in poverty alleviation, environmental concerns, cooperative developments as well as socio-economic and political reforms.
The path of “a Church of the Poor” . In 1999, the focus is GOD THE FATHER, who is rich in mercy and compassion, the beginning and destiny of Christ’s, and of our, earthly pilgrimage. In this year we are enjoined to respond to the call for radical conversion and reconciliation. Two commitments should characterize this year: the first is meeting the challenge of inter-religious dialogue towards a culture of peace with our brothers and sisters of different faiths. (TMA 53; PCP-II 111); the second greater preferential option for the poor (TMA 51; PCP-II 125f.) May our vision of becoming a church of the poor “harness the transformative power of the poor among us toward the justice and love of God”. To be “a Church of the Poor” is a radical decision that is urgently demanded “in our country where a very great number of our people wallow in abject poverty and misery, while the tremendous social privileges and deferences are accorded the rich and the powerful” (PCP-II 312). In the Gospel, the spirit of the Father has always led Jesus towards the path where he met the poor, the sick, the sinner, the marginalized and excluded members of his own people. To live the Gospel in its radicality is to follow the spirit of the Father which led Jesus to embrace altruistic and pastoral poverty for himself in order to serve the most needy. We are, therefore, enjoined to a greater solidarity with the poor through commitment to justice and peace as a necessary condition for the celebration of the Jubilee. We must lend our voices and hands on behalf of the poor, the disadvantaged and violated in every way, by bridging and helping eliminate the great gap that divide the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless in our so-called Christian society.
What we have broadly traced for more specific and concrete planning in the diocesan levels are three interdependent and interconnected paths, like three tributaries pouring their water into a single river.
In the journey toward the Third Millennium, Mary, our Blessed Mother will accompany us, as our model, our guide, and above all, as our Mother. In Tertio Millennio Adveniente , we are provided a precise Marian Itinerary. We will contemplate Mary in her triple role as mother of the Redeemer, Jesus Christ, as the handmaid docile to the Holy Spirit, and as the beloved daughter of the Father. Mary will be for us in the way to the Great Jubilee of the Third Millennium the star which safely guides our path to the Lord (cf. TMA 63).
III. SOME PASTORAL INDICATIONS
In Tertio Millennio Adveniente we are enjoined to prepare and celebrate the Great Jubilee both locally in our respective dioceses and universally in union with the whole church. The jubilee of our local churches and the remembrance of the men and women responsible for the implantation and growth of our faith-life will reveal to us the historical paths of our individual churches forming the mosaic of 2000 years of journey of the Church.
To achieve the main objective of the Jubilee which is the “strengthening of our faith and witness” (cf. TMA 42) we recommend the following pastoral indications and specific proposals:
- For a more intensive promotion of the themes of the Great Jubilee, it will be helpful to constitute either a diocesan or interdiocesan speakers’ bureau composed of priests, religious and lay leaders, tasked to speak on the various aspects of the theme of the Jubilee in the parishes or vicariates.
- Together with the Commission on Catechesis, the above speakers’ bureau, shall offer appropriate catechesis on various topics described in the TMA master plan, v.g. Baptism (1997), Confirmation (1998), Penance (1999), relating them to the yearly trinitarian focus.
- Novenas and homilies in preparation for parish fiestas must be used as occasions to develop and explain the themes and programs of the Great Jubilee. The lives of saints are a reflection of the grace of redemption which originated from the Trinity.
- Diocesan/Regional/National Conventions of religious or lay associations, organizations and movements could be venues for highlighting the preparation and celebration of the Great Jubilee.
- It is recommended that each Ecclesiastical Province or region have a common gathering (convention or congress) each year of the preparation in order to highlight the Great Jubilee; it will already have the characteristics of ecclesial and communal celebration of the Gift of Redemption, which is too great and too profound to be limited to one single celebration.
- Recollections and retreats of various groups could be occasion to explain and/or celebrate the Great Jubilee. For example: a retreat on “radical discipleship”, or on “The Gifts of the Holy Spirit” or on “God, rich in mercy and compassion”.
- Each region is encouraged to have a Great Jubilee song without prejudice to the adoption of a common Great Jubilee Song.
- The Great Jubilee Prayer may be integrated with other common prayers during benedictions, prayer services, novenas and meetings as well as in Eucharistic Celebrations.
- The Jubilee of Parishes, Religious Institutions and Churches may be celebrated in view of the Great Jubilee, reflecting humanity’s sharing in the grace of Redemption.
In this time of the “new advent”, we look forward to the approach of the Third Millennium with anticipated joy knowing that the gift of Redemption has already been given to us. We look forward to the year 2000 with deep gratitude for the outpouring of the fullness of grace and life. We look forward to the year 2000 with enthusiastic eagerness and readiness for what it will reveal to us, as we generously open our hearts to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our collaborators in the ministry: as we exhort you to be one with us in the preparation and celebration of the year 2000 as a year of the Blessed Trinity, to whom all power, honor and glory belong, we make as our own the following exhortation of Pope John Paul II:
“Christians are called to prepare for the Great Jubilee of the beginning of the Third Millennium by renewing their hope in the definitive coming of the Kingdom of God, preparing for it daily in their hearts, in the Christian community to which they belong, in their particular social context, and in world history itself” (TMA 46)
We entrust ourselves and our celebration of the Great Jubilee to the intercession of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer and our Mother, Queen of all Nations. May she accompany us in our “walking in the new life with Christ” (1997 Theme).