Gospel message of hope often is taught by the poor, cardinal says

IMAGE: CNS photo/Bob Roller

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — In his ministry as archbishop of
Manila and in his travels for Caritas Internationalis, Cardinal Luis Antonio
Tagle said he is reminded of the true meaning of hope by people living in
situations the world would see as hopeless.

“The poor know the frustration of dreaming and working
hard with not much result,” Cardinal Tagle said. “They are betrayed
by persons and institutions. But in their raw poverty, what is left for them is
their humanity. They remind all of us that being human is our true and only

While anyone can be tempted to see the fulfillment of hope
in accomplishments, improved numbers and bigger bank balances, the poor
celebrate the gift of life and praise the giver of life, the cardinal said in a
written interview in early January.

“This is the secret of their enduring and persistent
hope, which those who enjoy comfortable living, yet complain unceasingly,
should discover,” he said.

Cardinal Tagle, 60, will talk and preach about hope with parish, school and
diocesan leaders at the opening session and Mass of the Mid-Atlantic Congress in Baltimore Feb. 15-17.

and self-sufficiency lie on the opposite end from the hope the poor witness to,
he said. “Of the many challenges to hope, I consider pride the most
dangerous. Pride weakens faith that gives assurance to hope. Pride makes me
think I can do better than God. Pride makes me place my hope in myself. Pride
makes me a pseudo-savior.”

“Whether personal or institutional, pride depletes
hope,” the cardinal said.

In addition to serving as archbishop of Manila and president
of Caritas Internationals, Cardinal Tagle also is president of the Catholic Biblical Federation.

Of course, the Bible is the book of hope, and “there
are many Scripture verses or prayers that rekindle hope in me,” he said.

“But one that I ‘run to’ regularly is John 21:1-14,” which
tells the story of the disciples’
miraculous catch of fish.

The cardinal said he often turns to the story, and “when
I have labored hard and long but still end up not catching anything, I know the
risen Lord is close by, watching compassionately and calling my attention so
that he could direct my action.”

The story also brings consolation, he said, because it is a
reminder that mission and ministry are Jesus’ work, and “my role is to
work hard under his direction. The catch will be his, but I must be there with
other collaborators to see the miracle, to haul the net to shore and to
declare, ‘It is the Lord!'”

In that way, he said, “a seemingly hopeless situation
becomes a space to return to my humble role and to witness to the true Lord.”

Cardinal Tagle’s Bible probably falls open to that Gospel
story on its own. His episcopal motto, “Dominus Est” — “It is the Lord” — is taken
from that passage. The Gospel account was the focus of a retreat he facilitated
as a priest. And it was the subject of his homily in 2011 when he was installed as the archbishop of

Moving to Manila after 10 years as bishop of his home diocese, Imus, he said in the
installation homily that the lesson of the passage — that the Lord directs the
catch — is a message of hope for the church community as well as for

“The Lord guards his church. He keeps watch with us on
those long nights of confusion and helplessness in mission,” the new
archbishop said in 2011. “When, in spite of our good intentions and
efforts, there are still the multitude of hungry people we cannot feed,
homeless people we cannot shelter, battered women and children we cannot
protect, cases of corruption and injustice that we cannot remedy, the long
night of the disciples in the middle of the sea continues in us.”

The experience of the long night should make Christians
“grow in compassion toward our neighbors whose lives seem to be a never
ending dark night,” he said, and it should remind Christians that even
when things are not working out as planned, the Lord is near.

The Gospel passage also is a call “to follow the Lord
in our mission not individually, but together as the disciples did,” he
said. “Mission is an event of the church. We will be together in failure,
but we will also be together in listening to the Spirit, in beholding God’s
miracles and in hauling the nets to shore.”

The bishops, priests, religious and laity share one mission,
he said at his installation. “When we take different boats and even
compete against each other to get the better portion of the catch for our own
teams, we are not engaging in mission. Divisiveness and destructive competition
will only help sink the boat.”

Now, after six
years as archbishop and five years as a cardinal, he told Catholic News
Service that “the faith that God is with us, especially in Jesus and in
the animating power of the Holy Spirit, gives me hope.”

“The faith that assures me that creation and history
are in God’s hands and these hands transform death into life, hatred into
forgiveness and darkness into life — this gives me hope,” he said. “The
faith that makes me see how people truly cooperate with God’s action in the
world through sincere love gives me hope.”

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