ONE of the most beautifully crafted statements during the first two days of the ongoing 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome came from a Filipino—Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan. Two lines of his much applauded statement were immediately twitted and “favorited” in social media, by a global audience intently following the Synod.
This is the first one: “The Gospel can be preached to empty stomachs, but only if the stomach of the preacher is as empty as his parishioners’ (stomachs).”
The second one: “Evangelization has been hurt and continues to be impeded by the arrogance of its messengers.”
The ideas behind these lines are age-old, but the way they have been verbalized by the good archbishop penetrates down to the bones with simplicity and frankness as only a “Fr. Soc,” as he prefers to be called, could do. It provoked an spontaneous applause from among the 262 Synod Fathers in attendance from all over the world, together with the Holy Father.
These expressions instantaneously bring one to a deeper reflection about ecclesiastical realities that may have been one of the bigger factors why a “whole night of fishing” always ends up with barely a catch.
Humility of preachers and evangelizers, parish priests and curia personnel, missionaries and catechists should be one of the strongest proofs that the gospel really works in much the same way that arrogance will painfully prove otherwise. In the same breath, the lifestyle of the messengers of the Gospel should be the fruit of their proclamation.
Undisputedly, what everyone seems to be seeing in this country and perhaps elsewhere is the widening gap between the kerygma and the way the proclaimers live it. Sad though it seems, but in a small poor community as in the parish, the ones that lavish a more comfortable lifestyle are most likely those that live in a rectory, being surrounded as they are with modern and comfortable amenities of life that are much beyond the reach and affordability of most parishioners. Of course, every laborer in the Lord’s vineyard is worth his keep, but that is not the issue when talking about witnessing what preachers preach.
Everybody should hope and pray that in this Synod which bears the theme “The New Evangelization for the transmission of the Christian Faith”, “empty stomach preachers” will find their way from the cold pages of synodal papers and Vatican documents to the streets and ghettoes where the harvest is always great though laborers are puny.