"Be faith to your duties and don't steal."
That was the message of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle to all public officials during Easter vigil service at Manila Cathedral on Saturday night.
"We are calling on the public servants: Be honest. Don't steal. Don't betray the nation," Tagle said in his homily.
The Philippines has been rocked by corruption scandals, including charges that senators funneled their pork barrel funds to fake foundations to get hundreds of millions of pesos in kickbacks and accusations of overpricing infrastructure projects involving Vice President Jejomar Binay during his tenure as mayor of Makati City.
The three-hour Easter service before midnight leading to Easter Sunday was the culmination of the Catholic Church's Lenten season, the most important event in its calendar.
Hundreds of faithful participated in the vigil, which traditionally begins in pitch darkness.
Tagle led the faithful into the newly renovated cathedral with only candles to light their way.
Resurrection of Jesus
After nine readings, lights were turned on, signaling the resurrection of Jesus as the choir sang "Gloria in excelsis Deo" (Glory to God in the Highest).
Tagle said the resurrection of Jesus was a "great expression of divine and human fidelity."
"We saw God's faith to Jesus, Jesus' faith to the Father, the first witnesses to Jesus. The Risen One has shown faith even to those who have sinned against him," he said.
"The Feast of the Resurrection is a feast of the victory of fidelity. Let us show that we are an Easter beacon through our fidelity," he said.
Tagle invited the couples attending the vigil to renew their vows of fidelity and loyalty to each other, the children to their studies and the workers to their jobs.
Year of the Poor
He likewise reminded the faithful of the Church's teachings and views about the poor.
"[In] the Year of the Poor, let us be faithful to those whom Jesus loves the most. To those who are suffering and in need," he said.
In November last year, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines declared 2015 the Year of the Poor in preparation for the visit of Pope Francis the following January.
The declaration echoes the Pope's message when he began his papacy of creating "a poor Church for the poor."
Easter is one of the most beautiful events in the Catholic Church, as it shows "pure divinity," Tagle said.
"What we are celebrating is pure grace, unadulterated grace," he said, admitting that he himself is often nervous before presiding over the Easter Vigil.
"I am nervous. I ask myself: How can you proclaim pure divinity. We are not worthy. We are humbled by this action of God," he said.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead after he was crucified is a mystery even to the Church, Tagle said. He explained that there is no written account of how it actually happened.
According to the Gospel of Mark, three women-Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome-went to the tomb of Jesus and found it open.
A young man dressed in white was inside and he told them that Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified had been raised.
The young man told the women to go and tell the disciples that Jesus had risen. They went away full of fear and told no one.
The Gospels of Matthew and Luke, both based on Mark, carry elaboration of the basic story in Mark but do not say how Jesus rose from the dead.
In the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus, but the story does not describe the resurrection.
With this mystery, Easter brings joy and faith, Tagle said.
"What is the character of Easter joy? It is quiet, deep and sometimes it has to go through darkness. In the Gospel that we heard, the women did not see the Risen One right away. It took a while for them to see Him. Easter joy is motivated by faith," he said.