Proclaiming God’s Word towards National Transformation
(Based on Jonah 3:1-10 and Matthew 5:13-16)
+Pablo Virgilio S. David, DD, Chairman, Episcopal Commission on Biblical Apostolate
Like “Jonah in the belly of the fish”—this is how I imagine the Philippines in the present moment of our history as a nation. Being the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia (aside from East Timor) we too have been called to proclaim God’s Word to the rest of Asia, the way Jonah had been asked to preach God’s Word to Nineveh. But very much like the reluctant prophet who runs away, we end up in the belly of the fish. We have as it were allowed corruption and social injustice to swallow us and drag our nation into the depths of moral decay. Now—in the belly of the fish—is the opportune time for a collective soul searching; it is the right moment to respond to God’s call to mission if we want to get out of the bowels of the monster that has swallowed us and see the light of day again.
From the shores of Batanes in the north to the mountain ranges of the Cordillera and Sierra Madre, down to the islands of Panay and the hills of Bohol, all the way to the blue waters of Tawi-tawi and Jolo, our mandate is to let God’s Word ring out as Good News and bring about social change in our country. This is a tall order indeed, and like the prophets of old who recoiled in fear and trepidation due to their awareness of their own sinfulness and inadequacy, we too must realize pretty soon that it is God Himself who will do this. It is about Him, not us. All He asks of us is to cooperate with Him, to lend Him our voice and serve as His mouthpiece, so that, by reading the Scripture and proclaiming it vigorously, God’s powerful Word will be heard and will bring about genuine conversion.
To know what it means to prophesy as Jonah did, i.e., to speak on God’s behalf and to bring about moral renewal in our country, perhaps we can follow the words of exhortation contained in the ancient rite of ordination of deacons: “Receive the Word of God whose herald you now are. Believe what you read; teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” While it is important to make copies of the Bible available to every Filipino home so that we get them to read it, we must insist that it is not enough to just read! We must put faith in what we read—as God’s Word for us in the here and now. As recommended by Verbum Domini, a prayerful group reading of the Bible (lectio divina) can be the most potent way of building basic ecclesial communities. This can happen only if our reading allows us to grow consciously in faith together like cells and tissues in the body of Christ. And then again, it is not enough to just believe; we must teach what we believe! The task of proclaiming the Gospel is not a monopoly of the ordained and the religious; the laity too must actively do their part in work of evangelization. Finally, if we truly want to be credible witnesses to the Word, we must practice what we teach! Otherwise, we become like the proverbial “house built on sand” which fell when “the rains came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house.” (Mat. 7:24-27)
Christian life is discipleship in mission. We cannot be a Church turned in only on ourselves and preoccupied only with our Churchy affairs. The final message of the Synod that gave birth to Verbum Domini concludes with “the roads of the Word: Mission”. We are a Church in mission, consciously reaching out to the modern world and witnessing to Christ, our Lord and Savior. His mandate to us is clear: “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” (Mat. 5:13-16)
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The local government of
National Bible Week is a yearly celebration empowered by Proclamation No. 44 by President Corazon C. Aquino and by Proclamation No. 1067 by President Fidel V. Ramos. Both edicts recognize the important role played by the reading and study of the Bible in molding the moral fiber of the citizenry and encourage every Filipino to do so daily. National Bible Week 2012 carries the theme: May They Be One: Pagpapahayag ng Salita ng Diyos Tungo sa Pagbabago (Proclaiming God’s Word Towards National Transformation) and is slated on January 23-29, 2012 and National Bible Sunday on January 29, 2012. The theme is a response to the current administration’s goal of abolishing corruption and promoting the moral development of the people.
This year’s i-Proclaim! 3 will be held at the historic Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit,
Mrs. Nora G. Lucero, PBS General Secretary and Chairperson of the Global Board of the United Bible Societies says “We want to encourage our kababayans to set aside differences, come together and be one in reading God’s Word. This is a public confession – I, and we hope you and all other Filipinos too — will proclaim that we as a people, are putting God’s Word in the center of our national life and that we submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ!”
The i-Proclaim! Bible reading campaign is similar to the Holy Week Pabasa or Pasyon, and is patterned after the Canadian Bible Society’s Proclamation which began in
For details on how you can be part of this historic celebration, or how you can stage your own NBW events, please contact:
The NBW Secretariat
Philippine Bible Society
526-7777 local 620, 524-5337 or visit
The annual celebration of National Bible Week by Philippine Bible Society is empowered by Presidential Proclamations No. 44 by President Corazon Aquino and Proclamation No. 1607 by President Fidel V. Ramos. Both decrees recognized that “national attention be focused on the importance of reading and studying the Bible in molding the spiritual, moral, and social fiber of our country”.
Next year’s celebration carries the theme, Pagpapahayag ng Salita ng Diyos Tungo sa Pagbabago (Proclaiming God’s Word Towards National Transformation) and will be celebrated on January 23 – 29, 2012. Inspired by verses from Jonah 3:1- 10 and Matthew 5:17, it addresses the importance of the Word of God in bringing about a much needed change in our society. Leaders from various churches and organizations came up with the theme in response to the current administration’s goal of abolishing corruption and promoting the moral development of the people.
To kick off this grand celebration, PBS will conduct an I-Proclaim! event, a 12-hour continuous, public and ecumenical Bible-reading, which seeks to bring God’s Word closer to Filipinos and to encourage everyone to explore its riches and relevance to their lives. As more and more people read and study the Bible, the universal truths found in its pages will empower them to live with hope and courage even during unpredictable and trying times. Another highlight of the celebration will be the Handwritten Unity Bible, a historic undertaking that aims to unite Filipinos from all sectors by re-writing the Bible by hand. These activities are slated for January 13, 2012 at the Aguinaldo Shrine in Kawit,
The Episcopal Commission for the Biblical Apostolate (ECBA) is a pastoral commission of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) whose area of competence and service is the biblical-pastoral ministry in its five-fold ministries of:
Animating Biblical-Pastoral Formation
Organizing Bible Celebration
Promoting Bible Translation
Assisting Bible Production
Coordinating Bible Distribution
A Community of Disciples
nourished by the Word of God,
Witnessing to the Gospel,
and Striving to be a Church
that is poor and for the poor,
with Mary, Mother of the Word, as model.