By Estrella (Star) del Mar

20150619_114938The 9th Plenary Assembly of the Catholic Biblical Federation was held at Ad Gentes Missionari Verbiti at Nemi on June 18-23, 2015 with the theme: HOLY SCRIPTURE, SOURCE OF EVANGELIZATION. Many thanks to our new General Secretary, Fr. Jan Stefanów, SVD, for having arranged and organized everything, that made these five days an enriching and fruitful experience of the Word in its global dimension.

A Lectio Divina guide was prepared that focused on the four aspects of relationship on Word and Mission from the perspective of a “Church which goes forth.” We had Lectio Divina in small groups according to language groups and a mixture of Bishops, Priests, Religious and Lay. This was done every morning before breakfast. The Lectio Divina sharing was so enriching, inspiring and challenging as well.

The Eucharistic Celebrations, prepared by regional groups, were celebrated in the evenings except for the Sunday mass that was held in the morning with the Region of Asia preparing the Liturgy. The Sunday mass was presided by the Bishop from India and the homilist was Bishop Ambo David, DD of the Philippines. His homily is also published in the CBF-SEA website.

Bishop Ambo was inspired by the Sunday readings especially the Gospel and made a good summary of the CBF journey especially the hard and painful times. Now, we do not talk about it. We need to learn from it and move on for a new start, for our new beginnings. He proposed three steps:

  • Learn to leave the crowd every now and then.
  • Quiet, be still!
  • Have faith—in the sense of “remember”.

20150621_164955-1The homilies of our new President, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, DD, from the Philippines reminded us to be humble, forgiving, trusting, caring, and be sensitive to the Spirit to make God’s Kingdom a reality in our world. In his conference, he enumerated several challenges for us to respond to the needs of the times, to do something about the present situation and to proclaim all the more God’s Word in our lives. The Final Statement summarized these challenges there.

We are happy to have a President who leads the way, who guides us with questions and proposals that are concrete enough to show us the directions. Now, we have a lot of tasks to do. The CBF General Secretariat had prepared a blueprint of a 6-year plan of action that is concrete and doable. These were translated into programs and projects by the Regions that could be accomplished in 6 years. A sample curriculum of a 2-year course for a Masters in Biblical Pastoral Ministry was presented to us that we could easily duplicate in our sub-region. A concrete plan (based on the Luxembourg template was already worked out by the Members guided by our new South East Asian sub-regional Coordinator that is ECBA represented by Bishop Ambo David.

CBF PA 2015__DSC5956-2CBF-SEA will have its own Masters’ Program for Biblical-Pastoral Ministry at the SVD School of Theology in Tagaytay City, Philippines – which some of the faculty of the Seminary had already started in the past. We only need to enrich it and invite more CBF Experts to be resource persons. An educational trip to the Holy Land will also be a part of this course. We need to tap the Resource Persons who are already giving courses at the Holy Land. Since some possible participants may not be able to afford a long stay-in course or finish the 2-year program, some shorter modular courses will also be available for them. Bible Translation is given a priority too and need to be given the proper resources for the success of the project. The Catholic Lectionaries could be a joint project of the Bible Scholars and the Liturgy Commission. Since the Bible is to permeate all the pastoral activities of the Church, it is important that our future priests would also get a good training on Biblical Pastoral Ministry and how it is done aside from their Exegesis courses.

Workshops, meetings and communication networks were also planned out and given tentative schedules.

So much had been planned to be worked out and implemented in the next 6 years before the next Plenary Assembly.

The two resource persons: Nuria Calduch-Benages and Maricel Mena López posed challenges in the new way of reading Scriptures highlighting the challenges of Dei Verbum, Verbum Domini and Evangelii Gaudium. Cardinal Tagle put concrete images of the present situation of the world that these new way of reading and interpreting Scriptures would have to be worked out in concrete programs centering on the Word of God. Pope Francis reminded us to look at the lives of the people and their present socio-economic-political situations and make the Word of God speak to them in these present conditions for inspiration, enlightenment and hope.20150621_120436

This is also true to the Catholic Biblical Federation. We cannot continue to dwell on the past that cannot be changed as it had already happened. We had learned our lessons. We move on with wisdom, renewed inspiration and vitality to respond to the challenges of the times in God’s Word. We need to face the present realities guided by the Word which also needs to be read and listened to in a new way.

The Catholic Biblical Federation with its new set of members of the Executive Committee, the Commission groups, the new Coordinators of the regions and sub-regions will move ahead to meet these present challenges to make the Bible, the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God become more and more relevant in the lives of our people. And we begin with ourselves. We need to witness to the people the message of the Word – to build a loving, caring, forgiving, trusting and hoping community.

We pray that our number will grow and communities of the Word will flourish. We dream that people may say to our Federation “See how they love one another!” And we support each other in different ways by sharing whatever we have.

CBF has started the new beginning. Let us rejoice and be glad in the Lord as we thank our great leaders of the past that made CBF grow in number around the world. We are a global community in the Word! How happy we are to stay and share together in these few days and all in God’s Word! Praise be the Lord of love, compassion and mercy!

CBF PA 2015__DSC6394-2


The CBF Crossing Ariccia to Nemi!

The CBF Crossing Ariccia to Nemi

Most Rev. Pablo “Ambo” David, DD

Bishop Pablo David, DD

Bishop Pablo David, DD

Dear Colleagues in the Catholic Biblical Federation, dear brothers and sisters in the Lord:

When Pope Francis came to the Philippines, he popularized what we now call the image of the sleeping St. Joseph. He mentioned during his meeting with families that when he couldn’t sleep because of too many preoccupations and problems that need to be attended to, he would write down these concerns on a piece of paper and press them under the image of the sleeping St. Joseph. That image of San Jose Durmiendo has since become the best-selling image in Catholic religious stores in the Philippines. The last one I got even came with a day bed!

 Today’s Gospel which coincides with Fathers’ Day suggests to me that Joseph had really served as a good foster father to Jesus. He had taught him well; he taught him how to sleep through it all, even in the midst of the storm. Perhaps it’s about time we also popularized the icon or image of the “sleeping Jesus”. The New American Bible’s version reads: “Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was.”

 My late professor Jerome Murphy O’Connor, OP, suggested to us in my student years that Jesus may have already fallen asleep on a cushion or a mat while they were preparing the boat. When the boat was ready, they must have decided to just carry him sleeping rather than wake him up. How very kind of them! And what a stark contrast to the brusque way they woke him up later!

 POPE-FRANCIS-AND-SLEEPING-ST-JOSEPHI wish to share three brief points on how to sleep like Jesus and Joseph – especially during those troubled moments when we feel like Job in our first reading, lamenting or perhaps even cursing the day we were born, asking—like the disciples did—“Do you not care that we are perishing?!”

  • Learn to leave the crowd every now and then.
  • Quiet, be still!
  • Have faith—in the sense of “remember”.
  1. Leave the crowd. Sometimes we get to believe so much in ourselves and our efforts that we begin to behave like everything depends on us. Then we begin to act like we’re indispensable. We plan everything so well using the latest strategies in tactical planning, only to find out one day that not everything would happen as we planned them.

For personalities who are the controlling type, a situation like this may be the beginning of a nightmare. You panic, and the more you do the more you sink. The controlling types of leaders and pastors think everything would stop or would go wrong without them. The result is: they soon get wasted and consumed by worry, stress and nervousness.

Leave the crowd, like Jesus did, if you want to get some sleep. Sometimes, you would have a troop of fans who will say what the disciples themselves said to Jesus, “Where did you go? Everybody is looking for you!” Meaning, “You are a celebrity! Things will stop without you!” When you begin to hear something like this, you can be sure of this much: it’s the devil speaking. Watch out! As the Jesuits would say, agere contra! Don’t rest on your laurels. Leave the crowd; cross over.

  1. Second point for learning how to sleep like Jesus: Quiet, be still! This may sound like a tall order in the noisy and distracted world in which we’re living today. For many people today, silence and solitude have become equated with desolation and isolation. “It’s so quiet here; it feels lonely.”

The crisis that shook up the CBF happened right on the eve of the Synod on the Word of God in 2008. The devil could not have thought of a better timing. We were like a crystal clear lake that was suddenly shaken by a turbulence. Suddenly, the water became murky and muddled up. Of all times, it was at that time that I sat in the EC to represent Asia Oceania – confused by the raging storm. Honestly, I really thought there was no way at all that we could still be saved. The atmosphere of antagonism, doubts about loyalties, fear and panic – extended for years. Correspondences did not help very much. The blame game, the finger-pointing, the mutual distrust, they only worsened the more people spoke and reacted to one another. We were like the disciples in a locked upper room waiting for the Lord to break in.

“Peace be with you” is the Johannine version of “Quiet! Be still!” This is even better stated in the Old Testament: “Be still and know that I am God!”

  1. Third and last point on how to sleep like Jesus: Have faith! Which I propose to restate as “Remember!”

Do not forget the deeds of the Lord! Remember! This is a message that we can perhaps echo to our brothers and sisters in the Middle East as they face a great turbulence called the ISIS. The long applause that we gave Fr. Ayoub after his presentation on the Middle East was an expression of our deep desire to be in solidarity. Have faith! Remember! We have been through countless tough times like these in our twenty centuries of history as a Church; remember the times when we were awed, caught in amazement by God’s saving actions. People who fail to remember will tend to dismember. Perhaps that is why we are constantly brought together around the table of the Eucharist to remember, to break bread “in memory of Him.” Remembering for us is not just about recalling a past event but about sacramentalizing it, actualizing it, making it into a reality in the here and now.

Leave the crowd; quiet, be still; have faith, remember. I propose that we keep these points and make them part of our survival kit in the CBF.

Let me now end with these thoughts. Yesterday, I found myself awed by our GS, Fr. Jan Stefanow’s calm and confident presentation of the Action Plans of CBF for the next six years. As I listened, I caught sight of his Eminence, Cardinal Tagle (our new President) struggling to keep awake, his eyes drooping, his head nodding and… falling asleep. I imagine how tired he must have been, given the load of new responsibilities that have been entrusted to him. I don’t know why, but somehow I felt a certain peace and calm as I saw him that way. Our Cardinal President has learned well from our sleeping Jesus and Saint Joseph! Somehow I heard a voice inside me echoing what we heard from Paul in the second reading: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come for the Catholic Biblical Federation!”

Let us therefore hush for a moment of silence so as not to awaken the Lord sleeping in the boat.

From Ariccia to Nemi, we have crossed over the lake!


The CBF Asia Oceania with Bishop David during their recent meeting with the General Secretary preparing for the 9th PA.

The CBF Asia Oceania with Bishop David during their recent meeting with the General Secretary preparing for the 9th PA.