IT IS unfortunate that most men understand the evil of sins only after they inflict damage in return.

This was one of the emphases of UST Rector Fr. Rolando de la Rosa, O.P., who was the first preacher in this year’s Lenten commemoration of Christ’s Seven Last Words titled Siete Palabras 2009 held last April 10 at the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City.

In his sharing for the First Word, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”, De la Rosa reminded the audience that God is not to be feared because He punishes.

“Do not be afraid to sin because God will punish you.  Be afraid to sin because sin brings its own punishment,” De la Rosa said.

He also explained that some Christians have an inherent desire to be punished because they wrongly believe that that is the only way by which God will love them. In turn, people have “transformed themselves into other gods” who punish their own selves, De la Rosa said, citing self-flagellation and crucifixion, traditions that Filipinos practice during the Lenten Season, as examples.

De la Rosa said most people find it hard to accept that God loves His people without condition, and fail to recognize Jesus’ words of forgiveness on the cross.

He added that Jesus reminds His people that real power and real strength lies on one’s ability “to control his desire to retaliate and to inflict punishment on others.”

Aside from De la Rosa, other top Dominican preachers gave their reflections during the celebration namely were Fr. Eugenio Cabillon, O.P., Fr. Delfo Canceran, O.P., Fr. Marcelino Saria, O.P. Fr. Filemon Dela Cruz, O.P. and Fr. Tamerlane Lana, O.P.

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Lana, a former rector of the University, concluded the reflections for the event, giving one of the most important lessons of Lent–Christ’s great love that made him a “willing and an active victim” of suffering for the salvation of man.

With the words of Christ, “It is done,” Lana explained that the Saviour meant that men are already saved from sin.

“What was accomplished was the history of God’s great love for us,” Lana said.

Preaching through media

Produced by the Dominican Province of the Philippines’s Provincial Media Board and Institute of Preaching, Siete Palabras was once again held at the Santo Domingo Church in Quezon City and televised by GMA-7.

According to Fr. Nilo Lardizabal, O.P., provincial secretary and Siete Palabras 2009,the goal of the Dominican Province of the Philippines in taking advantage of the available technology is to “bring the truth of the Gospel to all.”

Lardizabal said many Filipinos “are thirsty for the love and mercy of Christ; many are spiritually empty.” In order to respond to this need, the Dominican Province of the Philippines turned to media as a tool to relate message of the Gospel.

In 1984, Fr. Sonny Ramirez, O.P. led the airing of the first Siete Palabras under the “Sharing in City” program.  This Lenten presentation lasted more than a decade under the production of Banahaw Broadcast, Inc.  After a decade, the Order eventually took responsibility of its production. 

In 1995, the presentation started to have Dominican priests to provide reflections on the Seven Last Words.  The Dominican media was entrusted with the airing of the Siete Palabras in 1998, which now run every year.

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In earlier years the show was shot in the studio but the production staff decided to make it more concrete by featuring real life situations accompanied by the preachers’ reflections.

The Sto. Domingo Parish in Quezon City was chosen to be the stage of the Siete Palabras, which houses thousand Christians who join the Order in its tradition of celebrating the event.  

2009 highlights

Organized by the Dominican Province of the Philippines, this year’s Lenten tradition of reciting Jesus’ Seven Last Words on the cross was highlighted by musical and dance performances that served as a tool to enhance and set the mood for the reflection and meditation of the listeners.

Songs and dances that communicate the message of particular words on the cross were rendered and interpreted before the reflections.

Christopher de Leon opened the presentation with a song interpreted through dance by the Salinggawi Dance Troupe.

Selected professors from the Conservatory of Music also rendered a song while the Salinggawi Dance Troupe interpreted another song relating to the third word on the cross.

Hail Mary the Queen Children’s Choir also performed a song by Noel Cabangon followed by the Aquinas University Dance Troupe’s adaptation of Jesus’ suffering through an interpretative dance.

Aside from the performances, the Colegio de  San Juan de Letran Institute of Communication provided video presentations featuring testimonials of faith from Bishop-emeritus of Novaliches Teodoro Bacani, Mowelfund Chairman Boots Anson-Roa and Representative Bingbong Crisologo of the first district of Quezon City.

Bacani, in his testimonial shared the forgiveness he witnessed between his best friend who cheated on him and his mother.  Inspired by their reconciliation, Bacani said that God has given him motivation to forgive others because he was also forgiven.

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On the other hand, Representative Bingbong Crisologo’s testimonial was God’s very presence even in times of despair.  Crisologo said that his story from being detained during the Martial Law to becoming a representative is a proof that God does not forsake His people.

A testimonial on surrendering to God was given by Roa, whose faith was tested by the three consecutive deaths of his loved ones.

“We lodged onto the Lord in faith,” Roa said.

She said that whatever God gives, either a test or a blessing, is given because of His love.

“Whatever comes our way we look at it as gifts of the moment,” Roa said.

Closing the solemn occasion were the Triples de Santo Domingo, UST Liturgicon Voice Ensemble and Dominican student-brothers who rendered a song. Florench May C. Corpuz

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