Year of Faith


          The bald pep squad of the University of the Philippines claimed their third straight crown at the 2012 UAAP Cheerdance Competition at the Mall of Asia Arena recently before an almost 20,000 crowd. In contrast to their flashy Madonna-inspired routine last year, they came garbed simply with nude-toned unitards to honor the “oblation symbol” of their university. They danced to the theme of freedom and equality.
        Showing a lot of jumps, tumblings and tosses, the 8th-time champions moved with ease and confidence in a near perfect technically tough performance highlighted by three pyramid formations. Despite a fall by one of the dancers in the final stunt, they still grabbed the judges’ overall approval. It was a visual feast of proficiency and creativity executing stunts of high degree of difficulty.
          Watching their performance in Youtube, it left me awed. The dancers, I presume, were ordinary university students whose only edge with the other contestants was long term preparation. Yet they looked like professional gymnasts who achieved great dexterity of movements. The performance of the entire squad was all about trust in one another. It was about surrender. They were so brave to surrender even their hair for consistency of purpose especially the ladies. This is what faith is all about.
At the start of the school year, I gave a leadership training seminar to a group of student leaders. One of our activities is the “trust fall.” It’s a trust-building exercise I conducted to the group in which each person allows himself to fall on an elevated position relying on the other members of the group to catch him. I thought it would just be a routine where everybody would go through the exercise. But as it turned out, one was too scared to fall. He tried twice but in both instances he had to cut corners. It dawned on me that faith, for some, is something difficult. They needed to surrender. It’s a trust-fall in the arms of a loving group. 
Faith is an act of total surrender of ourselves in the arms of a loving God.
           In October last year, Pope Benedict the XVI wrote an apostolic letter “Porta Fidei” (The Door of Faith) to usher the Year of Faith. It will start on October 11, 2012 and conclude on the solemnity of Christ the King on November 24, 2013. The opening will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council as well as the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. During the Year of Faith, Catholics are invited to rediscover and deepen their faith-journey in their “conscious and vigorous adherence to the Gospel.”
           In his letter, the Holy Father observes that times have really changed. There was a time when faith was culturally accepted by society and its values were inspired by it. This is no longer true today. Society is affected by a profound crisis of faith. There is now a divorce in faith and culture that makes its practice even difficult. Many even consider faith as a private matter. Thus he offers a challenge by reminding us that faith has a social responsibility. There is the need to  make a public profession of faith. He exhorts us that “it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize.” Hence the challenge is to be made concrete by a “need for a stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization.” The Year of Faith is an opportunity for Catholics to experience a conversion of heart and deepen their personal attachment to Jesus.
            The Visayan-proto martyr Pedro Calungsod will be one of the icons of the Year of Faith. The Church presents him to us especially to all young Filipino as a model of faith and courageous witness despite the hardships of Christian living. Like our new saint, we are invited to appreciate our faith, receive it with love and practice it with courage. In the midst of the tosses and tumbles of life, the Christian is asked to make a stand. For if faith is a rose, this year, we are asked to fertilize it with God’s Word and water it with charity so that it blooms with greater fragrance.
           
 (This article appears in the Faith Section of Cebu Daily News – September30, 2012)

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