The timing of the rematch between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley today does not sit well with some Catholic bishops.
Pacquiao’s past fights always fell on a Sunday in the Philippines, but today it coincides with Palm Sunday, the official start of Lent.
Knowing that the fight fans among the faithful will be watching the bout on television, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reminded Filipinos to observe Palm Sunday, which marks the triumphant entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem.
Today, priests in all dioceses will bless the palm fronds carried by the faithful during the Mass.
Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz on Saturday called on Catholics to go to church before focusing on the Pacquiao-Bradley fight, which will be shown at around noon.
Cruz wondered why the fight was scheduled on Palm Sunday. He said the decision may not have come from the Pacquiao but from his opponent.
Cruz, the former president of the CBCP, said he understands the overwhelming support of the Filipino people for Pacquiao. “It doesn’t mean that they must not observe Lent. It’s just that the fight divides their attention,” Cruz said.
The prelate stressed that the people should offer no excuses if they fail to observe Palm Sunday, noting that it only happens once a year.
“Since it only comes once a year, let’s not forget how God loves us. Let us give importance to these holy days, as well as the important events in the life of Jesus from his entry to Jerusalem until his crucifixion,” he said.
CBCP President and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas reminded Catholics not to forget their religious obligations today.
“I think good Catholics will not choose to watch boxing especially during Holy Week,” Villegas said.
He noted that the faithful can go to Church before or after watching the fight.
However, Villegas reminded Filipino on the sacredness of Holy Week.
“The Holy Week is holy because God puts so much love into these days and no one has loved in the same way as Jesus has loved us,” Villegas said.
“This week is holy not because of the shame and humiliation that Jesus endured. This week is holy because God filled this week with infinite love. Only love can sanctify. His generosity in pain is marvelous. His dignity in suffering is awesome. His gentleness of heart despite our rudeness to Him puts us to shame,” he added.
He said that Holy Week can only be holy if the people will pour love, real sacrifices and faith on one another.
He explained that fasting or abstinence will be more meaningful if the sacrifice is offered to help others.
“If you are fasting, it will be best if you give the food that you will not eat to someone who is hungry. If you will not be eating meat, make sure that the nice food that you will not be eating will be enjoyed by someone who hardly gets to taste meat because of poverty,” Villegas said.
He explained that the “component” of real sacrifice should be paired with a corresponding component of helping others, saying that compassion is more important than self-discipline.
The bishop said he was appalled by people who fast just to satisfy themselves.
“This is an ego massage. It’s just like you’re saying to yourself, ‘wow I have the will power to do this.’ But what you save as food, you must share because you must remember we will be judged not according to how much we sacrificed, but by how much we have given, we have loved and we have shared,” he said.
To Villegas, the point of fasting “is to say no so that you can say yes to the needs of the poor.”
He urged the faithful to observe the Holy Week from the perspective of the “shame and humiliation” that Jesus endured.
“Honor and shame are very important values for us Filipinos. Anyone can face similar humiliation and shame but what makes the humiliation of Jesus luminous in the dark is the immense love with which he responded to his tormentors,” he said.
“The measure of true stewardship is not how much we give but how much we keep. When we have learned to cheerfully keep nothing for ourselves, we have moved closer to the example of Jesus,” Villegas added.