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Church Reform as Missio ad Intra (3rd Sunday of Lent Reflection)

A priest was held up. ‘Money or Life?’ ‘I am a priest.’ ‘Sorry Father.’ ‘Here, take a cigarette,’ the priest generously offers the thief. ‘Oh no, Father. I don’t smoke during Lent.’ Life is indeed complicated. Here is a story of a thief who does not smoke during Lent, and a priest who smokes even during Lent.

This Sunday, Jesus brings us to the Temple to pray. But He also wants us to clean and reform our Churches.

In those days, it was inevitable to sell cattle, sheep and doves for pilgrims who travel from all over the place. The most practical for them was simply to bring money, change it to local currency, then buy the livestock meant for offering. However, it was Caiaphas, to despise the Jews, who allowed the merchants to do business close to the temple. It contributed to the noise inside the temple and the smell of the livestock distracted them from prayer.

As we celebrate the Year of Mission to the Nations, Jesus is inviting us to commit ourselves to the spiritual cleansing of ourselves as temples of the Holy Spirit and to the reform of our Church and Parishes and the way we minister to the people.

We are temples of the Holy Spirit. We need to clean our hearts of impurities. We should not allow the devil to dwell in our bodies because it is the dwelling place of God. We desecrate it everytime we commit evil. This lent, we need to make a whip and drive out pride, hatred and jealousy. We dream of parishioners who are humble, loving and generous. We also dream of clergymen who are honest with money matters, transparent to the parishioners, and provide genuine pastoral care for his flock.

Jesus asks us to stop commercializing our worship. Our sacraments and services are not for fees. This is the reason why the CBCP is calling for the removal of the Arancel System to fund the operations of the Church and Parishes. Indeed, we need funds for the daily operations of the Church. But instead of asking for fees for the sacraments and services, we must practice giving tithes. Jesus tells his disciples: ‘without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.’ Yes, we dream that one day, a beggar can be buried without paying a single peso or that a poor couple can be married without paying the Arancel for the Church. And we also dream that one day, rich and poor, regularly, generously and freely give their tithes to the Church.

The physical Church is the reflection of the spiritual Church. Behind the beautiful and well maintained Church are the people of God. They are the countless and nameless parishioners who generously share their time, talent and tithes to the God who gave them life, reason and health. Yes, we dream that through our ongoing evangelization, more and more people are converted from a life at the sugalan to a life at the simbahan. We dream that more and more people are converted from a life of bisyo to a life following Jesukristo. Yes, we do not want priests who have vices. And we do not want parishioners who are thieves.

-Fr. Wilmer Tria

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