June 20, 2024

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault bet-ween you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)
The annual pastoral assembly dubbed as Tongtongan of the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe has been a big factor for the local church to gauge her mission to become better.
The late Bishop Francisco Claver SJ had been reiterating the areas of church growth as liturgical, developmental, liberational, and in the Tongtongan, at least both the ordained ministers and laity have the opportunity to examine their respective mission parishes and to see the areas of development.
This year, the Tongtongan committee chose Rev. Fr. Claudio Banasan of the Diocese of Baguio to be the resource speaker. He focused on ideas, strategies, and best practices to help the vicariate participants on responsible stewardship.
On Aug. 16, the Tongtongan started with the blessing of the Bishop Francisco Claver SJ complex gate by Bishop Val Dimoc, who noted the great contributions of the bishop in the Vicariate of Bontoc-Lagawe.
Indeed, the renaming of the complex is a beautiful way to honor him for being a great shepherd of the church.
The first day of the Tongtongan welcomed delegates from Ifugao and Mountain Province. Before the Eucharistic celebration, I was given the opportunity to present the Tongtongan 2023 theme song entitled, “Moving forward together.”
The participants loved the lyrics and music of the original song. That encouraged them to learn and sing it well.
Being the rector of the complex, I was tasked to preside the Holy Eucharist and to preach. The Eucharist is always the best and beautiful way to start the pastoral assembly and to welcome everyone.
I wish to share my reflections for the day based on the bible readings on the feast of St. Rock.
The first reading (Deuteronomy 34:1-12) narrates the journey of Moses and the people of Israel with the Lord. Moses went up to the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo and the Lord showed him all the land but the Lord advised him not to cross over. In the Land of Moab, Moses died at the age of 120. The people mourned for him for 30 days, a month to be exact.
Joshua took charge of the leadership and was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses laid his hands upon him. In effect, the children of Israel obeyed him. “Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face-to-face. He had no equal in all the signs and wonders the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh.”
The synodality of Moses and the people of Israel is seen in the leadership of Moses that is founded on his constant communication with God and his humility to seek the Lord at all times. The journey of Israel was loaded with faith and life challenges and yet Moses remained constant in God.
The gospel of the day underlines two features of synodality, that of fraternal correction as a way to move forward and unity as a way to live.
Fraternal correction is clear in the lines of Jesus. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.” (Matthew 18:15) Unity must be founded in Jesus. “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
True enough, we cannot strip fraternal correction in the synodality of the church. We need it to improve and grow. Bishop Claver underlined the growth areas of the church – liturgical, developmental, and liberational. I consider fraternal correction as the face of the liberational.
The gospel of Matthew underlines fraternal correction coupled with utmost prudence, dialogue that does not impose, and reconciliation that comes from justice.
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