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Philippine bishop urges social action workers to embrace compassion, go extra mile in service

A Church official in the central Philippines has encouraged social action workers “to do the extra mile” and underscored the need for more compassionate responses to societal issues.

“If they strike you on the right cheek, turn the left cheek. If they want for you to walk one mile, do the extra mile,” said Archbishop Jose Romeo Orquejo Lazo of Jaro in Iloilo City, south of Manila. 

The prelate delivered his homily during the opening Mass of the 41st National Social Action General Assembly, organized by Caritas Philippines and attended by over 250 social action workers from 67 Catholic dioceses across the country. 

Archbishop Lazo called for a departure from traditional retributive responses towards a more forgiving and proactive approach. 

He highlighted the importance of transcending basic human instincts to embrace a higher standard of behavior, rooted in Christian values.

The prelate reflected on three distinct “movements” that he identified in scriptural narratives and their relation to societal behaviors. 

Members of the Social Action Network in the Philippines pose for the camera after the opening Mass of the 41st National Social Action General Assembly on June 17, attended by over 200 social action workers from 67 Catholic dioceses across the country. Photo by Mark Saludes

The first movement, “What I Want, I Get,” addresses the dangers inherent in the pursuit of desires unchecked by ethical considerations. 

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He illustrated this with the biblical story of King Ahab’s unjust acquisition of Naboth’s vineyard and paralleled it with the modern “Nut Rage” incident, emphasizing how power and privilege often lead to corruption.

The second movement discussed, “An Eye for an Eye, a Tooth for a Tooth,” focused on the natural human tendency towards vengeance. 

Archbishop Lazo warned against the escalation of violence and the perpetuation of injustice that often follows retaliatory actions.

Finally, the third movement, which Archbishop Lazo emphasized the most, involves responding to injustices with mercy and an extra measure of kindness. 

He called on church workers to consider not just the presence of faith, love, and justice in their lives, but how these virtues can manifest in their responses to challenges, particularly in the realms of social and environmental justice.

“Our response has to come from within. How much faith do we have? How much love do we have? How much justice do we have to respond to situations that we are confronted [with]?” he said. 

Lazo said the Church “need(s) a firm and strong response coming from the Spirit” and that church workers need to internalize and practice Catholic Social Teachings that aim to foster a community that responds to adversity with solidarity and a firm commitment to the greater good.

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