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The Roman Catholic
Diocese of Balanga
(Bataan, Philippines)
@ v2013 Diocese of Balanga


Filipinos and the Mercy of God

 

 (Conference talk delivered by Most Reverend Ruperto Cruz Santos, Bishop of Balanga  during the Philippine Missionaries – Japan National Gathering in Japan, 17-21 July 2016 at Sacred Heart Retreat House in Shizuka, Susono, Momozono)

 

Filipinos have a beautiful and meaningful expression which they say often. Whatever situation we find ourselves in, wherever we are, these words come out of our lips almost always spontaneously, unbidden. The words are both blessing and wish:

 

            May God be merciful to you! (Kaawaan ka ng Diyos!)

            God is merciful. (May Awa ang Diyos)

            Through God’s mercy. (Sa Awa ng Diyos)

 

 

May God be merciful to you! (Kaawaan ka ng Diyos!)

 

            Whenever children come to me to take my hand for a blessing I tell each one: May God be merciful to you! (Kaawaan ka ng Diyos!).

 

            This is God’s message to them coursed through us: God will take care of you. God will guide you. He will not abandon you. He will watch over you and save you from harm.

 

            With these words we profess our trust in God. He is all good and He blesses us with so many good things. In turn we entrust our children to the goodness and graciousness of God.

 

            “May God be merciful to you! (Kaawaan ka ng Diyos!)” means that God looks over you and cares for you. That no matter our situation in life—in need or in dire straits—God sees us and looks on us with mercy. He will not leave us but will accompany us and be with us during these moments.

 

            May God be merciful to you! (Kaawaan ka ng Diyos!). Through this expression we admit that while we suffer through life; while we carry heavy burdens; whether we have stumbled and have been weak, and turned our back on Him, God will not be distant; He will not be far from us. He will be merciful to us and in His mercy He will continue to welcome us, bring us up and support us.

            May God be merciful to you! (Kaawaan ka ng Diyos!) is also our expression of hope and desire that at the end, God will be gracious unto us; that at the appointed time we will prevail and be victorious with God and with His mercy we will receive security, refreshment and peace.

 

                In the Gospel of St. Mark, the blind man Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus, “Jesus, Son of David have pity on me” (Mark 11:47). And he was not disappointed; Jesus fulfilled his request. That can happen to us, too. Jesus will heed our pleas: God be merciful to me; Lord be merciful to them.

 

            Let us pause at this very moment and in silence and deep thought let us think of all the people who are asking for God’s mercy; let us think of all the people to whom we must show mercy. Let us recall each of these persons, calling out their names in our minds and hearts, and praying to God: “Lord be merciful to them!”

God is merciful. (May Awa ang Diyos)

 

            I always remember what my father who was a farmer in our hometown San Rafael in Bulacan, would always say whenever there would be a threat of a big storm that could bring torrential rains and strong winds that threatened their fields already planted to rice. Looking up at the darkening clouds and feeling the gusts of wind, he would prayerfully say, “May awa ang Diyos!” He seemed to be saying that more than the rains and the wind, God will pour out His mercy on us. And when the rains won’t come and the earth had become parched and cracked, he would likewise say with faith, “May awa ang Diyos!” Through storms, deluge, drought, and pestilence, God is merciful!

 

            “May awa ang Diyos.” God will always be merciful. It is a manifestation of his omnipotence, His power over all adversities such that whatever besieges us; whatever troubles; whatever burdens us, whatever torments us, God will be with us, beside us, helping us, accompanying us. His mercy is without end. He will always be merciful.

 

            God’s mercy moves us to charity, kindness and generosity because with God’s mercy we know that we can share without limits; we can give without coming up empty, we can love without being bereft. God’s mercy assures us that He understands our

 

 

 

suffering, appreciates our sacrifices and rewards us in His Kingdom. There is no need to be thanked, no need to be recognized. God sees all the good that we do and God is merciful to us.

 

            Let us pause and think of all our loved ones and all the people who are undergoing hardships, who are carrying heavy loads, who are facing extreme trials, who are in pain, and, maybe even facing death, let our whisper to them be carried by the wind: “May awa ang Diyos.” God is merciful.

 

           

Through God’s mercy. (Sa Awa ng Diyos)

 

 

            Some may find it strange that when good things happen, such as promotion in a job, children gaining honors in school, bountiful harvest, profitable sales, hurdling a physical or moral challenge, reaching significant milestones (birthdays, wedding anniversaries, graduation) we often sigh that all these came to pass “through God’s mercy” (May awa ang Diyos.) That without God’s mercy there would be no victory, no recognition, honor and success.

 

            And this belief is true. Everything is grace and comes from God’s goodness. It is not because we are good, strong, and invincible. It is not even because of our perseverance, hard work and dedication because all those virtues also come from God. God wills them for us because a Father always and only wishes good for His children. God wills what is good for us, at all times. And He gives them all to us through His mercy, the channel of His infinite providence and love.

We, Filipinos, have that innate acknowledgement of God’s mercy and our own capacity. It is expressed in this saying, “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa” (Man works. God gives mercy). Thus there is need for action on our part to make God’s mercy be manifested in our life. We must remember three things:

 

Mercy is not a slogan

Mercy is not for show

Mercy is not seasonal

 

First, mercy is not a slogan. It is not a pipe dream, tag line that is just pleasing to the ears. Mercy is an action. It involves doing. It requires presence. In the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me” (25:35-36). These are all actions of mercy, Jesus Himself said.

 

Our actions need not be grandiose or popular; spectacular and sensational. Our actions of mercy should direct us to others, to person beside us, to our family, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, and household companions, anyone we encounter every day. We should see in them Jesus, who is hungry, thirsty, naked, alienated, and lost. Our catechism points us wisely to the works of mercy pertaining to our corporal needs: food, shelter, and clothing. And then there are those that look at the emotional and spiritual; the need of people for acceptance and sense of belonging; to be comforted and consoled; to be respected and treated with dignity. For these actions we must lend our presence, our listening ear, our soothing touch, our caring words and our non-judging attention.

 

Mercy is action, it is not made up. It is not just sympathy or pity. We can feel sorry for the situation of others but more than that we must be able to help, to actively support, to heal their wounds, to unburden them of their suffering and to give them hope, not just with words but with actions.

 

Second, Mercy is not for show. It is not to court praise. Jesus reminds us, “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father” (Matthew 6:1)

 

All that we do should be for God and because of God and we are just fulfilling what he told us in the parable of the Good Samaritan where Jesus asked who was neighbor to the victim or robbers, “The one who treated him with mercy” and Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). God gifts us with mercy for us to be give this mercy to others. We receive His mercy and it is His mercy we must give to others, “we have done what we were obliged to do” (Luke 17:10). God is the one to be praised, glorified and thanked, not us. All that we do should point to God, so that it is His name that resounds, that is heard throughout the earth.  

 

And third, Mercy is not seasonal. It is not a one-shot deal. It is not an act of whimsy that we do only when it is convenient for us or when we feel like doing it. God’s mercy is continuous, unceasing, and everlasting. There is no break in His being merciful to us. There is not time-out in His love and generosity to us. He does not scrimp; He will give us all that we need, in His time and according to His plan.

 

That is why no matter what our situation in life or whatever our offenses to Him are, God will always be there to help us and to answer our prayers and supplications.

Our acts of mercy must not only come from our excess, from things that we don’t need, and with time and effort that are easy for us to give. We must cultivate God’s mercy in us, so that mercy is marks our words, our deeds, our relationships, our lifestyle and our life in this earth. There should be no gaps in our life of mercy; it should be a constant stream of mercy, like life-giving water, that refreshes our soul and allows us to reach out to others with love and service.

 

Every day of our lives, let us “be merciful as the Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

 

 

Ruperto C. Santos, D.D.

Bishop of Balanga and CBCP ECMI chairman 

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