VANCOUVER (CCN) — A standing ovation from 2,700 people reverberated inside the Queen Elizabeth Theatre even before the smiling Cardinal of Manila spoke into the microphone March 19.
Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, described by some as the “Asian Pope Francis,” made a short stopover in Vancouver with a special message for local families.
“From the beginning, in Genesis, we see how God’s creative love involved family. A man and a woman, looking at each other, and the man exclaiming: ‘At last! Bones of my bones and flesh of my flesh,’ ” Tagle told the vast crowd.
“Husbands: When you wake up in the morning and you see your wife, do you say: ‘At last!’ Or do you say, ‘Alas?’ ”
Taking a cue from Pope Francis, Tagle insisted the right response to today’s “throwaway culture” is sincere gratitude and appreciation for people and objects.
“In our world today, we don’t see gifts anymore in creatures and in human beings. We see things. We see objects. We see commodities. We gauge the value of things and persons according to their use,” he said.
The Philippines cardinal pointed to the watch on his wrist — a gift from his parents for his high school graduation in 1973.
“This is not just a watch for me. This is not just an object. This is a gift. I know my parents worked hard to be able to give their son a gift. I don’t know how many months they paid instalments just to be able to give their son a gift. I will not discard it.”
Appreciation and gratitude are also the right responses to family members, he said. “Let us open our eyes to the many gifts, especially in the family. And when you see a gift, you care for it. You nurture it. You don’t throw it away,” he said. “He or she may not be perfect, but that does not eliminate the quality of being a gift.”
Reflecting for a moment on the resurrection, Tagle added that as Christ carried the wounds of his crucifixion, every person in a family also bears wounds.
“Let us not get angry when we see our spouse, our children, our in-laws, as wounded people. All of us are wounded. But Jesus shows his wounds and invites his disciples to look and to touch,” he said.
“We are invited to look and to touch the wounds of our family members and, in faith, to see the wounds of Jesus. In faith, to be able to say: my Lord, my God, you are present here, in the wounds of my wife, in the wounds of my child.”
As Jesus approached his disciples saying, “Peace be with you,” so those who encounter sins and failings in others should react with peace and forgiveness, he said.
“There is a story of faith woven into the lives of those families,” which seem strong, stable, and loving. “It is faith that gives them a sense of meaning. It is faith that makes them see in a difficult person, in a difficult relationship, still the presence of God. Without faith, how do you look at sickness? Without faith, how do you look at the death of a mother a few hours before the graduation of a daughter?”
With headlines and conversations filled with tragedies and disasters, Christian families can reveal what it means to hope, love, and forgive.
“As the world focuses on stories of gloom, the faith enables us to see another type of story, the stories of valour, the stories of perseverance and strength, which is not a product of human effort alone. Those stories need to be told. Stories of faith, of meaning, of love.”
Tagle, the president of the charity Caritas Internationalis, added that while these efforts begin in the home, they must extend to the wider community, especially to the poor.
“A family that eats together is a good family, but a family that shares food with the hungry becomes more a Christian family. A family that prays together is a good family, but a family that prays only for its own needs will become weak,” he said.
“A family that serves themselves is good. But you’d be a better family of faith, if you start serving also, with a sense of mission, other families and the wider family of society.” That vision, he said, can “keep families in the faith,” and “faith in the family.”
Tagle made his one-day visit to Vancouver during a stop-over travelling from a conference in Los Angeles back to Manila.