Gaudium et Spes #4 said, “In no other age has mankind enjoyed such an abundance of wealth, resources, and economic well-being; and yet a huge proportion of the people of the world is plagued by hunger and extreme need while countless numbers are totally illiterate.”
When I served in the Mass of Pope Francis at the Luneta Grandstand last January 18, I communed with both opposite poles of humanity, the rich and the poor, as described by Vatican II.
I served in the Mass, though I was not up there on the grandstand near the altar and the Holy Father. I was about 300 meters away, near Roxas Boulevard. My group prepared to help as extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion (EMHC) and ushers. Yet I stayed in a small tent in one of the apportioned parts of Luneta Park for the papal event the night before. I was not alone. I spent a sleepless night surrounded by policemen who huddled outside the tent against the biting cold of that windy Saturday night. They wanted to go inside the tent, but it was already full of boxes filled with ciboria, Mass guides and a small table on which I lay. From night up to morning, the policemen exchanged stories, cursed the cold and their higher-ups who assigned them there, or simply laughed in a futile effort to catch some sleep.
I heard anecdotes about the meager pay, the long hours, and infuriating fellow officers. I also heard tales about free booze, free food and loose women. The point was that it brought me to thinking, “Am I ready to serve as priest to people such as these?” I felt ill-equipped to enter into their lives, to bring more fully alive the already existing presence of Christ within them.
My morning up to late afternoon experience was much different. Parish volunteers came: the elderly men as extraordinary ministers and the youth as ushers. We strove to put order into our place by securing the tent, moving the Portalet queue to its proper position, and preparing all the materials for the Mass.
The volunteers were so eager to help out and were very courteous as they went about their tasks. They used all available tools at their disposal such as cellphones, digicams and tablets to make their work more efficient. They were prepared to give everything they could to make the Mass as solemn and as sacred as possible.
In contrast to the policemen, I felt so encouraged with this group. I felt that I would be so blessed if I were given the privilege to serve as priest to them in the future.
Given the two opposing groups in the Church, Vatican II says in Gaudium et Spes #11, “…the Council intends first of all to assess those values which are most highly prized today and to relate them to their divine source.” The policemen I have met value fair play, humane living conditions, and creature comforts, while the Church volunteers value worship, order, and cooperation. These are the starting points for communion with them. By accepting these brothers and sisters in Christ, we are able to enter into their lives and guide them towards its fullness. We help them to realize the long-present indwelling of God within them and our Lord’s desire to bring greater abundance to their existence. (Photo courtesy of www.scjphil.org)