Tagle warns vs creeping 'culture of indifference'
MANILA, Philippines – Starting the penitential season of Lent, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle challenged Christians on Ash Wednesday, February 18, to end the “culture of indifference” creeping unnoticed in daily experiences.
Tagle quoted Pope Francis, who, in his own Lenten message, encouraged Christians to “become islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.”
In his homily on Ash Wednesday, the cardinal described the culture of indifference as numbness to the needs of others. He said this happens when a person is too focused on self-interest.
“When my heart, my inner self, beats for nothing more than my own interests; when my inner self, once opened, doesn't seem to contain a lot – why? Because it contains only, 'me, me, me.' 'My ambitions. My wounds. My problems. My dreams. My tears. My recreation.' Time will come when that heart no longer cares for anyone, not even God,” he said in Filipino.
Tagle made this call as millions of Catholics troop to their parishes for Ash Wednesday. On this day, Catholics have their foreheads marked with ashes to symbolize repentance from sin.
Ash Wednesday, after all, begins the 40-day season of Lent, a period of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving that commemorates the 40 days when the devil tempted Jesus in the desert.
This penitential season leads to Holy Week, when Catholics remember the passion and death of Jesus, and eventually Easter, when they celebrate Jesus' resurrection from the dead.
'Trabaho lang, walang personalan'
In his homily, Tagle gave examples to show that the culture of indifference is becoming “spontaneous” or “second nature” for Filipinos.
One example, he said, is the Filipino mentality that says, “Trabaho lang, walang personalan (It's just work, it's nothing personal)." He suggested that this can lead to an inhuman treatment of others.
“It's as if the person working is no longer a person. What is he, a machine? If we want to say it's just work and it's nothing personal, then let's just remove the persons and replace them with robots. But as long as there's a person, that work remains personal.”
He said the culture of “trabaho lang, walang personalan” can, for instance, lead an employer to berate a household helper “for 3 months” for breaking a flower vase.
The cardinal said: “Because of a broken flower vase, the employer forgets that people's hearts can be broken, too. It doesn't matter if the heart is broken into pieces, as long as the vase is whole. Indifference.”
Tagle also recalled that in New York, when he was a student, he and his companions – a nun and a nurse – once saw a person who collapsed on their way to the bus stop.
Tagle, the nurse, and the nun rushed to help the person.
Alarmed, the bystanders warned them not to help the one who collapsed. They told Tagle and his friends that if the person died, they could be held liable under the law.
“It's as if the law is teaching us to become indifferent,” he said. “You saw someone collapse but no, it's as if you didn't see anything: 'Oh, it's dark.' That is fast becoming our culture. They would even tell you: 'Do not assist. Do not care.' What if God did that to us? What would happen?”
No to 'individualistic' prayer
Tagle then encouraged Christians to perform acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving during Lent.
On prayer, he warned Christians against praying in an “individualistic” way.
He said: “It's not bad to pray for our needs, but how frequently do we pray for others? Could it be that even our prayers are individualistic?…It could be that even prayer is indifferent to others. Even prayer, which is supposed to be holy, becomes individualistic.”
On fasting and almsgiving, he also urged them to support the projects of the archdiocese. One of these is the Fast2Feed program, in which Catholics can donate to the poor whatever they save from fasting. Another, he said, is the fundraising drive Pondo ng Pinoy.
He added: “There are our brothers and sisters with disabilities. There are our rivers, our mountains, our streets that need our charity. There's a lot! We won't run out of venues of charity.”
In his Mass also on Ash Wednesday, Manila Cathedral rector Monsignor Nestor Cerbo also urged believers to deny themselves so they can remember the needs of others. “The challenge posed by the ashes on our forehead is to deny ourselves so we can remember our neighbors, our country, our God,” Cerbo said.
The Pope, for his part, said slammed the “globalization of indifference” and urged Christians not to forget the poor “when we are healthy and comfortable.” – Rappler.com