"Aperite mihi portas justitiae
" (Psalm 118). " Open for me the doors of righteousness." With these words Pope John Paul II inaugurated the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 to commemorate the 2000th
anniversary of Christianity, a Holy Year of Pardon and Renewal, a year dedicated to the honor and praise and glory of the Most Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
With the launching of the Holy Year in our
respective jurisdictions (dioceses), we ended the countdown to the Year 2000 amid euphoric explosions of welcome to the Third Millennium. In the cities all over the world the midnight clouds of December 31st,
1999 were littered with chandeliers of expensive, but short lived, fireworks and a revelry of commercial extravaganza.
While all that noisy welcome is now forgotten, we as Church embark upon the activities of the
Holy Year 2000 as calendared in our respective dioceses. We are reminded in this year of the Trinity that "When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those
under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out 'Abba, Father'. So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then
also an heir, through God "(Gal 4/4-7). This missionary action of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is what we remember and celebrate and live in the Holy Year. Let us open our hearts to the Blessed
Trinity, in whose honor we have convened a Marian Festival in the last week of January this year. Let us open our hearts to the Triune God.
A number of sectoral jubilees or Jubilee Days along with other feasts
and celebrations have been calendared for this Holy Year. In all of these events, let us be reminded that the primary objective of the Jubilee Days is "the strengthening of
faith and of the witness of Christians" (TMA 42) towards the "New Springtime of Christian life" (TMA 18), such as we dreamed to embark upon with the Second Plenary Council of the
Philippines ten years ago. At the end of this year we hope and pray that we shall have become "better Christians".
If we may briefly recall: the Old Testament Sabbath/Jubilee Year has left us a number of
traditions which we are now challenged to reflect upon and discover how we may apply starting this Jubilee Year as our pathways to the Third Millennium. The present does not only have a linkage with the past, but the
past is prophetic of the future. Leviticus 25 in particular mentions these injunctions for the Jewish Jubilee Year: the release of prisoners, the return of families to their ancestral homes, the rest given to
agricultural land, the reduction or cancellation of debts, the restoring of harmony among people on the basis of their respective roles, rights and equal dignity
. (cf. Ex. 23/10;Dt.15/1-6) These are all interconnected.
Brothers and Sisters, we invite you to reflect on these social traditions in order to see how these can help us establish the "communion of
communities" and the "community of disciples who firmly believe in the Lord Jesus" (CBCP Vision).
What do these traditions mean now in the circumstances of our present realities? Jesus must have been
thinking about Leviticus 25 when he applied to himself Isaias 61: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the broken
hearted to proclaim liberty to captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor" (Lk 4/16-20). That is what the traditions meant for Jesus. What do they mean
to us now who are followers of Jesus? Let us open our hearts to the inspiration of Jesus' example.
This Jubilee Year, if we want to enter into the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, the high point of our faith,
we must enter through the Door which is Jesus Christ (Jo.10/9), we must fix our eyes on Jesus (Luke 4/20), our one and only Redeemer "yesterday, today and forever" (Heb. 13/8). After all, the Year 2000, the
beginning of the Third Millennium is being celebrated to mark his coming into our world, his becoming man, his becoming Emmanuel, God with us, God on our side, to make our story his story too, to make his life the
pattern of our life. Let us open our hearts to Jesus.
We are in a new beginning. In response to the call of Pope John Paul II, with this Great Jubilee, let us embark on a journey of renewal, of repentance, of
mutual forgiveness and reconciliation. Let each one look in his/her own heart and see what sins there are, hindering the entry of the Lord into his/her heart and the renewal of our nation. Let each and all acknowledge
their sins and turn their backs to them in sorrow.
The "year of favour" which Jesus announces in the Gospel is for today and everyday. Our Jubilee Days this year are symbolized by the GLORIOUS CROSS that is
now being brought from parish to parish to signify our acceptance to become truly a "community of disciples of the Lord." We are happy to note that this journey of the Glorious Cross is an occasion for the
re-evangelization and conversion of our people.
In addition to the most important gift of mercy which is the forgiveness of our sins, there is a special gift given in abundance during the year of the Great
Jubilee. This is the plenary indulgence which we can avail of by going in pilgrimage to the various pilgrimage sites designated not only in Rome and the Holy Land but also in our respective dioceses.
In the spirit of
repentance, we, Your Bishops, announce a National Day of Jubilee Pilgrimage and Fasting for the Poor on April 14 Friday. We ourselves shall lead this National Day of Jubilee Pilgrimage and Fasting for the Poor all over
the country for our respective jurisdictions. It will be a special day of pilgrimage with fasting, to atone for our sins, to beg for the mercy of God for our country, for our leaders, our President and his Cabinet
members. We shall on that day offer special prayers that our government may uproot the causes of pervasive graft and corruption. It will be a day of fasting in behalf of the poor. Whatever will be saved on that day will
be given either to some poor family or the money given to some charitable institution we shall designate.
We firmly believe, however, that change will come, if each one will open his heart to the torrents of grace
instore this Holy Year. It is of vital importance that we go into the Third Millennium a different people. We should not concentrate so much on what sort of nation we want to create, but rather on what kind of person
each should become on account of the influence of Jesus in his/her life. Our personal conversion and authentic interior renewal must have an impact on the community we live in. With our life, by our life, we must
proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
In the past three years of preparation for the Great Jubilee the CBCP has issued Pastoral Letters on Politics, Economics, Culture and Spirituality. We recall them to you now for
our Great Jubilee conferences and conventions. In them we will find the pathways for personal and societal renewal so much needed in our journey in the new millennium.
But we must go beyond the signs of
Pilgrimages and Indulgence to the on-going renewal of our individual and communal lives by responding to the missionary call
of the Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation, "Ecclesia In Asia". To respond to this missionary call, we must not only care and share, but even dare
to face the risks of becoming a missionary church, a repentant and forgiving church, a church forever reaching out to people in greatest need (TMA 42).
On this occasion, we appeal for prayer for the forthcoming
Second National Clergy Retreat in Tagaytay City on June 26-July 1 this year, and the National Mission Congress in Cebu City on September 28- October 1 also this year. We hope that these two events as well as the various
Conventions and Congresses to be held in our respective dioceses will contribute to the "springtime of Christianity", to "the springtime of holiness". As we "fix our eyes on Jesus", we can
not but also fix our eyes on the Eucharist which is his Real Presence in our midst. The Holy Year is also a Eucharistic Year. We hope to end our Jubilee Year with a Eucharistic Congress in our Dioceses.
In this year
of the Great Jubilee, we dream of exuberant liberation and renewal. We would like to address in particular those who have caused the suffering and poverty of our brothers and sisters. May they not only open their
hearts to Jesus in Holy Communion but also to the victims of their violence. To close your heart to your neighbor is to close your heart to Jesus.
May we all open our hearts to the call for a Christian social conscience.
In the end , we invite you to keep the joyful spirit of this Holy Year 2000. "It's the time of the Great Jubilee."
time of joy, a time of peace, a time when hearts are then set free, a time to heal the wounds of division. Open your hearts to the Lord and begin to see the mystery that we are all together as one family. No more walls,
no more chains, no more selfishness and closed doors. For we are in the fullness of God's time."
May Mary, "the Star of Evangelization" guide our steps in this Year of the Great Jubilee which opens for
us our journey to the new Millennium.
For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines: