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GOD’S HANDS… OUR HANDS

Pastoral Letter in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan on the Matter of Orans posture during the Our Father to be read as homily during all the Masses for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

My dear brothers and sisters in the Church of Lingayen Dagupan:

A sower went out to sow (Mt 13:3). The Lord is the sower. We are the seeds. We are seeds in the hands of God. The parable asks us to allow ourselves to be held by the hand of God. In His hands, we are safe. The Gospel also expects us to allow ourselves to be sowed on the soil. The sower scatters us and drops us from His hands and in doing so, we sprout and grow and bloom and bear fruit.

As we look prayerfully at the divine hand of God holding us like seeds, I invite you to look at the other hand–our hands—as we pray and worship. In particular, I wish to address the question of the position of our hands when we sing or pray the Our Father during the Mass a few minutes before receiving Holy Communion.

Let us renew our understanding of the Our Father from the teachings of the Pope himself that this prayer is the prayer of the children of God. This great prayer that Jesus taught us is not just the prayer of the priest or just one of the Christian prayers. The Our Father is the prayer of the whole Christian assembly.

The General Instructions on the Roman Missal is silent on the gesture that should accompany the praying of the Our Father. This silence gives the faithful who recite or sing Our Father great freedom to use any gesture that can best help them to experience and express themselves as God’s children.

For some of the faithful it is in raising their hands in an orans posture that they can express the filial love and reverence contained in the prayer. Let us allow them. Church rules allow them.

For some they want to pray the Our Father with their hands on the chest. Let them be. There is no rule against it.

Briefly, I want to instruct you that there is no Church law mandating us how to position our hands when we sing or pray the Our Father. As I give this teaching, I declare that I carry the collective teaching of the bishops of the Philippines.

Outstretching our arms or keeping our hands together on our chest will neither affect our life of grace here on earth nor our salvation in the life to come.

We should be more concerned about the cowardly silence of our lips and the cold hardness of our hearts as we saw hands pulling the trigger of guns and killing their brothers and sisters. The hands that kill brethren offend God.

We should be more concerned and stand up against the evil hands on the computer keyboards typing lies and composing messages that destroy reputation as they get paid as trolls and employees of fake news. The hands that spread fake news on social media platforms offend God.

We should be more concerned about hands that steal government money fomenting the culture of political robbery at the expense of the poor. The hands that steal and rob whether as pick pockets or big time civil servant plunderers are the hands that deserve our prophetic condemnation. The hands that steal offend God.

We should be more concerned about the malicious hands that caress and fondle their fellow human beings turning them into sex objects and defacing the image of God in one another. Prostitution and the sex business cry to God for vengeance.

We should challenge our hands to be more generous in sharing with the poor and the sick and the hungry. We should challenge our hands to be more ready to hold the hands of the youth and children who get bored in the Church and who find religion irrelevant. Let our hands be their guide. These are the things our hands must be preoccupied with.

We should be more concerned about the hands that refuse to be held by the hand of the Divine Sower. What will it matter, that we position our hands in the same uniform way during the Our Father, but allow those hands to sin and fail to do good?

Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts (1Cor 12:31). The greatest of these is love (1Cor 13:13)

From the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist, Dagupan City, July 16, 2023

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan

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