Siete Palabras tackles Odette, caring for the poor, abandoned

THE effects of Typhoon Odette and the response of the Catholic Church to aid those affected by it were part of the highlights in this year’s Siete Palabras or “The Seven Last Words of Jesus” organized by the Archdiocese of Cebu on Good Friday, April 15, 2022.The Siete Palabras was held at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral.In his reflection on Jesus’ fourth words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” Fr. Rogelio Bag-ao Jr., the southern provincial superior of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) in the Philippines, said that while Odette brought death and devastation in the Visayas, it also showed how the Church responded to the needs of their flock.Bag-ao also shared his order’s experience of helping Odette victims in Cebu and other areas in the Visayas whose plight they alleviated through aid and constant prayer.Bag-ao said Jesus’ fourth word was meant simply of God’s constant presence amid trying times.In his reflection of Jesus’ fifth words “I thirst,” Martin Dave Deriada showcased the help provided by the Archdiocese of Cebu and its lay groups to assist typhoon victims and assured those of the constant presence of the Church in times of need.Deriada, the current president of the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral’s Parish Pastoral Council and current member of the board of the Archdiocesan Council of the Laity, said Jesus’ fifth words were not just meant to literally quench one’s thirst but also by satisfying one’s faith in God.Deriada also lamented that people nowadays put more importance on technology and automation over faith and the truth.“Ug mawala siya, ma Google Map kaha nato asa ang langit? Makahibalo kaha kita unsay fake news or dili?” Deriada added.(If we lose God in our lives, could we use Google Maps to find our way back to Him? Could we identify which is fake news and which is not?)Other reflectionsIn his reflection of Jesus’s first words, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do,” Cebu Auxiliary Bishop Midyphil Billiones focused on the ego and selfishness of some people that forces them to withdraw their faith from God.Billiones, who is also the moderator of the team of pastors of the National Shrine of St. Joseph in Mandaue City, said people often commit sins out of the excuse of innocence.Billiones urged the faithful to accept faults with full awareness and take responsibility to change.“Ignorance is bliss, but ignorance does not make you innocent nor excuse you of responsibility,” Billiones added.In her reflection on Jesus’ second words “This I say to you, you shall be with Me in Paradise,” Pamela Echavez Uy reflected on acceptance and diminishing prejudice, especially to those who are victims ofsexual abuse and exploitation.Uy is the deputy executive director of the Bidlisiw Foundation, a non-government organization that helps socially troubled children and women that are victims of sexual exploitation.Recalling her experiences of those victims of sexual exploitation, Uy lamented how some people would treat these victims as though they are shunned by society.Uy said like what Jesus did to the repentant thief, the faithful must show love, acceptance and giving fair chances to everyone without looking at their past mistakes.On Jesus’s third words, “Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother,” Sister Maria Perry Inso reflected on the role of women and the essence of a mother’s love.Inso, the coordinator of the Congregation of Our Lady of the Cenacle Cebu Community, also related the Virgin Mary to the less fortunate people today wherein they are often less cared for and taken forgranted.She also urged the faithful to help the poor and the needy and give them enough attention and care.In his reflection to Jesus’ sixth words “It is finished,” Fr. Benedicto Tao discussed the importance of hearing the sentiments of those people who are less heard and sharing the undying grace of God’s love regardless of status.Tao is the episcopal vicar of the Archdiocese’s District 1 parishes which consist of parishes in Metro Cebu North and is currently moderator for the team of pastors at the St. Joseph the Patriarch Parish in Mabolo, Cebu City.In his reflection of Jesus’ seventh and last word “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit,” Bro. Carlito Morante Gaspar touched on the essence of unity and urges all people to participate in doing and promoting spiritual deeds for the common good.Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological & Mission Institute in Davao City.Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma concluded this year’s Siete Palabras.