The Anointing at Bethany

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[Homily:  Holy Monday, April 15, 2019]

In our Gospel today, Mary anoints Jesus.

Her anointing of Jesus comes just after the seventh sign in John’s Gospel:  Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead.   You recall, when news came of Lazarus’ sickness, Jesus did not go immediately to the side of his friend.  “This sickness is not unto death, “ Jesus said, “but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (Jn 11:4).  When he finally went after two days, Lazarus had already died.  Martha, grieving Lazarus death, met him and said, “Lord if you had only come earlier, my brother would not have died.” (Jn 11:21).  But Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again…  I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live”  (Jn 11:25).   Martha thought he was talking about the general resurrection from the dead, but she had misunderstood.   Very dramatically, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, calling him forth from the tomb.  It was a sign which brought many of those who witnessed it to belief.

But it was also the sign that was intensely provocative. St. John relates that in its wake the scribes and Pharisees gathered in council and asked, “ What shall we do?  This man works many signs.  If we let him alone, everyone will believe in him…” (Jn 11:48).  At the end of their deliberation, St. John recounts, “…from that day on, they plotted to put him to death.”

Mary who had peered into Jesus’ heart and understood him profoundly, knew that his death was near.  The thought of that death revolted her from within; like Peter, she may have wanted to spare Jesus this painful death.  But she understood Jesus had to undergo this.  He was the Good Shepherd come to “bring life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10), who would lay down his life for his sheep (Jn 10:15).  He was the Suffering Servant referred to in the first reading who suffers silently,  “Not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street” (Is 42:2) until he accomplishes his mission “to bring justice to the nations” (Is 42:1)) and “to be a light to the Gentiles” (Is. 49:6).  So, believing him and believing in him, she takes a pound [not just a few drops] of very precious oil and anoints his feet, filling the room with the fragrance of the oil, then wiped his feet with her hair.  It is an act that astonishes and moves those who were present.  It is an act of humility.  But also an act of inner union with what Jesus had to undergo.  It was as if she were saying, “Alright, if you must undergo this death, then allow me to prepare you for death.  Despite everything in me that protests against it, I accept you must do this.   I accept by anointing your feet with oil.”  It was an act of faith in Jesus, and all he had to undergo.  But it was also indisputably an act of love.

Her response to Jesus is the opposite of Judas’ response.  His cynicism betrays his utter lack of insight into Jesus’ heart. “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (Jn 11:5 ).  He rejects all the gestures in love Mary is making before Jesus.   As Mary loved in faith, he hated in rejection.  For but thirty pieces of silver, he betrayed Jesus.

Yesterday, Palm Sunday, we heard the cries, “Hosannah to the Son of David, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Lk 19:30); we also heard, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” (Lk 23:21).  Today we encounter the faith and love of Mary, but also the hatred of Judas.

We are invited to prayer.  We would like to be like Mary.  But precious oil is expensive.  We would hate to be like Judas.  But we talk much about the poor and reject the light of Jesus.

St. John says, “He came to his own and his own received him not.  But to as many as received him, he gave the right to become children of God” (Jn 1:11-12)

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I and My Father are One

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[Homily.  Baccalaureate Mass.  Assumption College of Davao, April 12, 2019]

Your Baccalaureate Mass falls on the Friday before Good Friday.  This Sunday, the Church will celebrate Palm Sunday.  This will commemorate the bitter-sweet entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem when the people cried out, “Hosannah!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord,” but within the week will cry out “Crucify him, crucify him!” Within a week the Church will commemorate the Paschal Mystery, the suffering, death and resurrection of the Lord, the ultimate manifestation of God’s Love for us and of our redemption, won for us on the Cross by Jesus, our Savior.

The situation of Jesus in today’s liturgy is very tense.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus is the eternal Word made flesh dwelling among us.  Jesus is the manifestation of the Father’s love made manifest to us.

But the whole Gospel of John is of how the Word of God, Jesus made flesh, is rejected by some who do not recognize him, even as the whole Gospel of John is of how the Word of God made flesh, Jesus, is believed and accepted as the Manifestation of the Father, our Savior and Redeemer.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus seeks to win the belief of people through signs, like when he changed water into wine at the Marriage of Cana in order to spare the bride and groom the embarrassment of having run out of wine (Jn 2:1-2), or when he fed five thousand from five loaves and two fish in order to introduce himself as the Bread of Life (Jn 6).  Responding to the signs, some were brought to belief in Jesus; they recognized him as the Messiah.  They were empowered, the Gospel of John said, to become children of God.

Others were not brought to belief, but to cynicism, disbelief, rejection and opposition to Jesus. Some of these, scribes and Pharisees and teachers of the law, saw in Jesus a threat to the religious power and social position they enjoyed.  These are in play in the Gospel reading for today.  On the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple, Jesus is in its Solomon’s porch.  He is confronted by the Jews.  “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (Jn 19:24).  Jesus answers truthfully, “I have told you and you do not believe.  The works that I do in my Father name bear witness to me” (Jn 19:25).  Indeed, Jesus had earlier told them, “I am the Bread of Life”  (Jn 6:35).  They did not believe.  He had said, “I have come to bring life, life to the full.”  They did not believe.  Later he would say, “I am the Way, the Life and the Truth” (Jn 14:6) and they still would not believe.  Now Jesus was saying, if you do not believe what I have said, believe what I have done.  Understand the signs:  The royal official’s son in Capernaum was healed (Jn 4: 45-54), the paralytic of Bethesda was healed (Jn 5:1-15), the man born blind from birth was healed (Jn 9:1-7).

But these signs they did not believe.  They believed neither him nor understood the works because they were not of the sheepfold, they were not given to him by the Father.  They did not recognize the shepherd’s voice.  “I and My Father are one” (Jn 19:30), Jesus declared.  Those who believe in me are those whom the Father has given to me.  Those who believe in me are those whom the Father saves in me.  Those who believe in me come to the Father.  Those who do not  believe in me have no belief in God.  “I and My Father are one.” This is the reason they wanted to kill him.  He had made himself one with God.  He was a blasphemer, they declared.  Within days, they would succeed in putting him to death.  But being lifted up on the Cross, he would lift all of us to himself, and being raised up from the dead, he would lift us all back to the Father.

On this day, you give thanks to God for the gift of your education.  Having come a long way, you may be happy that you have successfully passed all your prescribed courses and have fulfilled all the requirements for graduation.  But graduation is famously referred to as a commencement.  It is the end of a long journey; but it is really but the beginning of an even more challenging journey onward.

It is a journey into the world of human and professional responsibility that you undertake with great gratitude for the education that you have received here at the Assumption College of Davao.  You are grateful to your parents who have sacrificed so much to bring you to the joy of this day.  You are grateful to your teachers and administrators who have taught and cared for you, often as their own.  But in the context of our Gospel, it is a journey that you undertake with profound gratitude for your faith.

In our Gospel it is very clear, faith is not the result of a logical argument.  It is not compelled by a personal encounter nor warranted by even extraordinary events experienced in the world.  Faith is a gift.  It is a gift given freely in the compassion of the Father expressed through Son calling forth our belief in him through the Holy Spirit.  It is a gift freely received through the Spirit in believing in Jesus as the Word of the Father.

It is in the context of the faith that as graduates of Assumption College of Davao, with its mission of transformative education, you accept your mission of the transformation of the world in solidarity with the poor, the oppressed, the outcast, the excluded according to the imperative given us by the Lord who came that we might all have life, life to the full!  This is life not diminished by poverty, ignorance, miscommunication, injustice.  This is the fullness of human life that you must contribute to with your educated life.  In so doing, may you accept its necessary sacrifices.  But may it bring you the fullest of joy!

 

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I am the Light of the World

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[Homily. ADDU Assumption Chapel, Monday, April 8, 2019.]

The Story of Susanna in the first reading from the Book of Daniel complements the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11, which was read in all our Sunday Masses yesterday. The story of how Jesus saves this woman from death by stoning would have been read today, but since it was read yesterday, our Gospel reading (Jn 8:12-20) is the nine verses immediately following this story.  Here, Jesus proclaims himself as the light of the world.

Susanna is a beautiful lady, daughter of pious parents who brought her up to observe the Law of Moses. She is married to Joakim, who is wealthy.  In their house they have a garden where, in an enclosed area, she would bathe.  Knowing her custom, two old men, lust after her.  They surprise her while she is bathing alone and demand that she sleep with them, or face death.  She chooses not to sin, and screams for help.  When people of the household come, the two men say she had been sleeping with a young man, who’d overpowered them when they’d arrived.  Because they are elderly and judges of the people, they are believed.  Susanna is shrouded in the darkness of their lie, and she is condemned to death by stoning.  But with wisdom and cunning, Daniel comes and proves the witnesses false.  Interviewing them separately, he proves they are lying.  Daniel’s sense of justice and courage restore Susanna to the light of her innocence and dignity.

Unlike Susanna, who was innocent, the woman in the 8th chapter of John is really caught in the darkness of sin;  she is really guilty of adultery.   According to the Law of Moses, such an adulteress is to be stoned to death. She is brought to Jesus.  He is asked what is to be done with her.  You know the story:  Jesus, who is the light, begins writing on the ground.  What he brought to light in what he wrote, no one knows, except perhaps those who actually saw what he wrote.  Jesus said, “Let those who are without sin cast the first stone.”  Those who had been calling for the death of the woman by stoning left, beginning with the eldest.  The woman was a sinner.  But Jesus, the light, dispelled the darkness. She had sinned.  But the light of his Father’s compassion prevailed.

In our Gospel today Jesus proclaims, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12).  The woman who had been caught in sin, would not be condemned by Jesus, but restored to the light.  “Neither will I condemn you,” he said, “Go and sin no more” (Jn 8:12).  “I do not judge anyone” (Jn 8:15), he says in today’s Gospel. “I am with the Father who sent me” (Jn 8:16),  – I am one with the saving, forgiving will of the Father, God.   I am the Word of God as from the beginning God here in flesh before you (cf. Jn 1: 14).  I am God (cf. Jn 1: 1).   For making this astounding claim of divinity in clear light, the forces of darkness are outraged and conspire to kill him.  But Jesus’ time for death had not yet come.  Today, we can recall his words in his conversation with Nicodemus in John, chapter 3:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved” (Jn 3: 17).  As the woman caught in adultery was not condemned, but saved.

“He or she who believes in him is not condemned,” Jesus says. “But he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten son of God” (Jn 3: 18). The Pharisees did not believe, and in their disbelief they are condemned. 

“And this is the condemnation,” Jesus tells Nicodemus. “The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (Jn 3: 19).    Clinging to their religious power, manipulating access to God to keep them in power, blinded in their own hypocrisy, the Pharisees loved darkness rather than light; their deeds were evil. 

“For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed,” Jesus tells Nicodemus.  “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done by God” (Jn 3: 21).

When we walk in the valley of darkness, when darkness conceals the dangers around us, when we grope in darkness blinded by sin loving the evil things that we do, when we are lost in a pitch black cave of hypocrisy and have no way out, Jesus approaches us compassionately today to say,  “I am the light of the world!”

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Profile of the ADDU Graduate

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[Address. ADDU College Graduation, April 6, 2019]

In the 70th year of the ADDU, in the Church’s  Year of the Youth, where we celebrate you beloved, gifted and empowered as college graduates of the Ateneo de Davao University, I would like to take this last opportunity of addressing you to remind you of what is expected of you as graduates of the ADDU.

You graduate from Ateneo de Davao University with its particular vision and mission.  This includes its being a Catholic, Jesuit and Filipino university in the service of the faith, the promotion of justice, sensitivity to cultures, inter-religious dialogue, and the protection and promotion of the environment.  It challenges you to participate in the Father’s work of reconciling humanity with himself, of reconciling humanity with humanity, and of reconciling humanity with Creation that can only happen through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit.

In this context, we expect that through your studies, personal reflection and growth here at the Ateneo de Davao you have imbibed the values and challenges of that mission and vision.  Let me mention nine distinct points:

First: you are to be educated leaders in society for the common good, especially in Mindanao.  You are to be learned, not ignorant; competent, not inept; life-long learners not dated has-beens.  You are to be ADDU sui generis leaders:  leaders for the good of all with no exception, not just leaders for private benefit.

Second, you are to live your faith through your commitment to justice, especially social justice.

Third, you are to contribute to belief in God in a secular world.

Fourth, you are to engage in dialogue with peoples of different faiths and cultures – and work for peace.  This, especially today in Mindanao.  Labor to let the one God bring together differing faiths in peace; labor to let one humanity harmonize cultural and ethnic divides.  Be guided by the Document on Fraternity signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmad Al Tayyeb in Abu Dhabi last February 5, 2019.

Fifth, you are to live out and promote environmental stewardship.  For this, you do not need to be Greenpeace volunteers. But you can cut your use of fossil fuels, and cut your use of single-use plastics;  you can insist on substantial green spaces in our city and work urgently to protect our fresh air and our sources of fresh water wherever you are.

Sixth, through your spirit of entrepreneurship, you are to fight poverty not by pity and dole outs, but by producing wealth and insisting on its equitable distribution.  Use your knowledge of science, technology, sociology, and entrepreneurship to find innovative solutions to problems in society that can start-up and inspire new industries beneficial to all.

Seventh, you are to work for and with vulnerable communities for their development.  In Mindanao today, this means especially with the Lumad communities.

Eighth, as Catholics, you are to serve the Roman Catholic Church, or as peoples of other faiths, you are to serve your religious communities, with the openness that allows you to be confirmed and enriched in your faith as you encounter the life and holy witness of believers in other faiths.

Ninth, you are to promote educational reform.  Promote access to quality education.  Promote genuine complementarity between public and private education.

Finally, be happy.  You are Ateneo graduates beloved, gifted and empowered.  Be happy in your relationship with God and others.  Be happy in the integrity and fullness of your life.  Be happy in the generosity of your love!

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Life to the Full. Nothing Less!

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[Homily: College Baccalaureate, 4.5.19. 3:00 pm.]

On the eve of your graduation, what is the special message the Lord is giving you through the readings of the liturgy?

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 3.58.27 PMIn the Gospel passage for today from the 7th chapter of John, Jesus is struggling with a situation that will eventually cost him his life.  He is the Word incarnate come to “bring life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10).  But to bring us this life, people must believe in him.  People must believe he is “way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14: 6).  To call forth this belief, Jesus worked out signs:  he changed water into wine at Cana (Jn 2:1-11); he healed the royal official’s son in Capernaum (Jn 4:45-54); he healed the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda despite it being the Sabbath (Jn 5:1-15); he fed the multitude of some 5000 people with five barley loaves and two fish when he later introduced himself at the Bread of Life, the living Bread come down from heaven (John 6: 5-14.35.51).  Later, he would heal the man born blind from birth, and very provocatively raise his friend, Lazarus, from the dead.  The signs he gave made him very controversial.  Through the signs many came to believe in Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah; but through the same signs, others were scandalized, did not believe, judged that Jesus was breaking the law or was outright blasphemous.  This is the context of our Gospel for today.

It is the time of the Feast of the Tabernacles, the Feast commemorating the Exodus when devout Jews were under obligation to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the site of the Jewish temple, but also the center of the scribes and Pharisees, the hotbed of suspicion against and opposition to Jesus.  Here, the Gospel says outright, “the Jews were trying to kill him.”  For this reason, Jesus does not want to go there.  But his disciples, themselves trying to understand Jesus’s signs against the opposition of the Jews, urge him to attend the Feast in Jerusalem, confront his opposition, score a victory for himself and all of them.  But that was dangerous!  Jesus, knowing his time had not yet come, says he will not go.  His disciples should go to the Feast without him.  And they do.

But needing to be faithful to his mission, Jesus goes anyway, at first, secretly, then openly.  He teaches in the temple, provoking controversy, but winning believers.   The Jewish opposition hears of his presence;  they approach him.  They marvel at his teaching, but say he could not be the Messiah because they know he is from Galilee; it would not be known where the Messiah is from.  Jesus insists that what he teaches is true; it is the message of his Father, so why should they want to kill him?  They deny wanting to kill him, even though they did, causing confusion among the onlookers who’d heard they’d wanted to kill him, so why are they not arresting him?  Jesus maintains he is from the Father and one with the Father and the only way to the Father, causing the Jews to want to arrest him, to stop him from misleading their followers.  But his time had not come.

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 4.01.18 PMThe situation reflects what is described in our reading from the Book of Wisdom.  “The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright, ‘Let us assail the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training.  He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself as a child of the Lord…’” (Wis. 2; 1a).  So they harm and torture the just one to see whether the Lord shall save him.  The truth Jesus brought was obnoxious to his enemies.  When his time had come, they cried, “Crucify him, crucify him!”

Screen Shot 2019-04-05 at 4.01.30 PMWhat then is the special message the Lord is giving you as you graduate and look forward to using the knowledge and skills you have over the years acquired at the ADDU?  It seems very clear:  Don’t kill Jesus in your lives.  Don’t plot and scheme to eliminate him from your lives because he is an obnoxious presence in your selfishness and wrongdoing.  Don’t kill Jesus in your lives when he says he is the way, and you prefer your more comfortable way; when he says he is the truth, and you prefer the twisted narratives and fake news that pass today for truth; when he says he is the life, and you prefer the riches and comforts that you insist are necessary for life.  Don’t kill Jesus in your lives who stoops down to wash the feet of his disciples, as he stoops down to wash yours, when you prefer to be served and pampered.  Don’t kill Jesus in your lives when he says, “Take me, eat me, I am the Bread of Life, I am the substance and meaning of your life,” when you prefer to  embrace  a sugar daddy, or ingratiate yourselves with a powerful taipan,  or earn your bread and wine and luxurious lifestyle through your own successful businesses.

From his Cross, as you may have on occasion experienced in our Assumption chapel, Jesus looks into your eyes with compassion, peers into your heart with love.  He lived for you. He dies for you.  He is risen for you:  to give you a full, meaningful and joyful life.  Today, with all of your accomplishments, with all of your knowledge, he invites you to give yourselves to him, not just partially, but entirely.  With St. Ignatius, you are invited to respond: Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty.  Take all my will, my mind, my memory.  All things I hold and all I own are thine.  Thine was the gift. To thee I all resign.

An invitation.  Of course you can say no.  But you can also say yes.  That you may have life, life to the full.  Nothing less!

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Something basic at the end of Basic Education

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Something very basic from basic education.

[Homily: ADDU SHS Baccalaureate Mass, April 1, 2019.]

Today your basic education comes to an end.  Hopefully in basic education you have learned the crucial basics for life.  You know:  if you have not learned the basics in education, you will be crippled going forward in higher education. And if education is for life, if you have not learned the basics, you will not succeed.

On the day your basic education ends, the message that the Lord gives you is very basic.  It tells you a story.   The story is of a royal official whose son was ill.  The official went to Jesus and asked him to cure the son.  Jesus simply replied to him.  “You may go, your son will live.”  The official left, believing in what Jesus said.  Later he learned his son, was well.  He had been cured at the very moment Jesus said he would be well.  The story was a sign.  St. John says it was the second of Jesus’s signs.   Today I ask you: did you understand the sign?  Understanding it is very basic.

The Gospel of St. John is a very rich Gospel.  Every part of the Gospel, like the story of royal official’s son, must be understood in terms of the whole Gospel.  That is very basic to the Gospel of John.  The whole Gospel is summarized in the dramatic words of its Prologue.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning God.  All things were made through him, and without him was made nothing that has been made. 

The Prologue proclaims:

And this Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld his glory, the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth.

But the Prologue also says:

He – the Word – was in the world and the world was made through him, and the world did not know him.

He came to his own, and his own did not receive him.  But to as many who received him, to them he gave the right to become children of God.

The message of the message of the Prologue is very basic.  Graduating from basic education, did you get it?

The Word was God.

The Word came into the world.  As the true light.

But his own did not receive him.  They not only did not receive him.  In darkness, they killed him.  They crucified him.

But to as many who believed in him, they became children of God.

This is very basic. Did you get it?  The story of Jesus’s cure of the royal official’s son that we heard is the second of many signs in the Gospel of St. John.  There are famously eight signs in John’s Gospel.  Seven signs in John’s Gospel represent the seven days of God’s creation, creation that was marred by sin, shame, envy, hatred, darkness, violence and death caused by sin.  The eighth sign is the Resurrection – Jesus’ resurrection after his having been lifted up on the Cross, when he lifted us all to himself, us in all our sinfulness – so that in this, the Father’s New Creation, we might be born again to everlasting life.

This eighth sign of the Resurrection, is very basic.  You who sign yourselves in the Cross live in the life and hope of the New Creation that is the Resurrection.

This is very basic.  In your basic education, did you get it?  Did you come to an encounter with Jesus Christ who changed water into wine to save his friends from embarrassment, who healed the paralytic at Bethesda to insist that taking care of people does not violate the Sabbath, who fed 5000 from five barley loaves and two fish in order to present himself as the Living Bread that we are to take and eat and make part of us, who walked on the troubled waters of the sea of Galilee to tell his disciples, “It is I. Do not be afraid.” (Jn 6:20), who healed the man born blind from birth, and raised his friend, Lazarus, from the dead?  In your basic education did you come to an encounter with Jesus, who suffered, died and rose for you that you might experience yourselves loved, gifted and empowered.  Encountering Jesus, did you believe in him?

This is very basic.  Did you get it?

We celebrate today in the hope that you did, that you have understood God’s signs in your lives and have encountered Jesus, the Father’s Word, who “was made flesh” and said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life;  I have come to bring Life, life to the full.”  This is very basic.  You have no access to God except through Jesus.  You do not know the one God except through Jesus.  You cannot relate to the Father except through Jesus.   You cannot praise God except through Jesus.  You cannot pray meaningfully, except through Jesus.  “For,” as we proclaim at the highpoint of each Mass, “it is through him and with him and in him, O God almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor are yours forever and ever.”  This is very basic.

Did you get it?  If you did, it will basically challenge, change and direct your entire life.  It will determine how you deal with people, some of whom are believers in Jesus, many of whom are not.  It will shape where you find meaning in life and how you make your decisions.  It will certainly – necessarily – bring you suffering, but also abiding personal joy.  This is the grace we beg God for you all as you end your basic education at our Senior High School and commence your journey through college to the rest of your lives.

 


 

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Celebrating Youth, Loved, Gifted and Empowered

[Commencement Address, ADDU SHS, April 1, 2019]

This has been a joyful celebration of your graduation.  But it has also been long.  So I will try to be as brief as possible.

You graduate during the celebration of the seventieth year of the Ateneo de Davao University.  But you also graduate in the Year of the Youth, when the Church celebrates youth, beloved, gifted and empowered.

Graduating from SHS, you are youth beloved.  You are here surrounded by all those who love you: your mothers, your fathers, your sisters and brothers, the friends of your families, your benefactors, and your own friends, many of whom are your own classmates.  All these love you.  You are surrounded by the teachers and administrators who have not only taught you well, but have cared for your individually and personally, loving you often as their own.  You are surrounded also by your God in front of you, above you, below you, behind you, loving you each.  You are youth beloved.

We give thanks for you as youth gifted.  Today we celebrate the gift of your Senior High School education.  Your education is a gift.  It comes from the goodness of your parents, from the skill and dedication of your teachers, from the wisdom of your administrators, from the wealth of knowledge and skills that is passed on to you from generation to generation.  But we can celebrate  the gift of your Senior High School education today only because you yourselves are gifted,  and because you have had the talent and the ability to tackle the challenges of the ADDU SHS and succeed.  You are gifted in the talents your Creator has given you and that your parents have nurtured in you.  Certainly you are youth gifted.

We give thanks for you as youth empowered.  Loved, loved, loved you are empowered to love, love, love. Gifted, you are empowered to give.  Having learned well, you are empowered to learn more.  Having been served, you are empowered to serve others, to be men and women for others.  Having been endowed with so many extraordinary gifts, you are empowered to be to others an extraordinary gift.  Having been given the gift of faith, you are empowered to share your faith with others, not arrogantly, forcing yourselves on others, but humbly, empowered always to learn more from others, allowing God to manifest himself to them through you and to manifest himself to you through them. Certainly, you are youth empowered.

On the 70th anniversary of the ADDU, in the Year of the Youth, I congratulate you, youth beloved, gifted and empowered in the grace of our God.

But even as I congratulate you, I say a special word of thanks to your parents who have sacrificed so much to provide you with the ADDU SHS education that is now completed in you.  Thank you, our dear parents, for entrusting your children to us, and for the great sacrifice you have made to accompany your children to the joy of this day.

May Mary, our Blessed Mother, keep you ever close to her Son, who with the Father in the Spirit missions you in our world today to love, love, love 525,600 minutes a year for the rest of your lives!

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70th Commencement Exercises of the Ateneo de Davao University Junior High School

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Be Ambassadors of God’s Reconciliation!

[Homily: Baccalaureate Mass, ADDU JHS, 4th Sunday of Lent, March 30, 2019]

On the occasion of your graduation from the JHS of the ADDU we anticipate the 4th Sunday of Lent.  The moving Parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32) is proclaimed and interpreted esp. by the reading from the Second letter of Paul to the Corinthians (5:17-21).  Both scriptural passages shed special light on the mission entrusted to you as you graduate from the Ateneo de Davao Junior High School.

The son who had squandered his birthright in loose living and was now suffering from hunger, remembered the goodness of his father, and finally resolved to return to the household of his father to be numbered just among the servants.  But his Father, seeing him approaching yet from afar runs to him, embraces him, and kisses him.  The son, embarrassed and overwhelmed, says:  “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I no longer deserve to be your son” (Lk 15: 21).  Of course, his father hears his son’s confession.   He senses his remorse.  But in his compassion and joy at his return, he orders his servants, “Quickly, bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Take the fatted calf and slaughter it.  Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again, he was lost and has been found!” (Lk 15:22-23).  The father could have remained distant and sullen due the the insult and harm his prodigal son had caused him and his family;  he could have rejected him outright and banned him from his household; or he could have done as his son had actually asked, and just have allowed him to live as one of his servants.  But instead, he restored all to his son, clothed him in love, restored his birthright, and allowed him to walk anew in full dignity in his home.   Even though all this was difficult for the second son to accept.  But his father explained, “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.  But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come back to life again; he was lost and has been found” (Lk 15: 31-32).

The parable is illustrative of many things.  It speaks of how deeply a person can be led astray by the lures of pleasure, adventure, and loose living.  It speaks of how sin can deceive and disappoint.  It even speaks of how despite the  loyalty and good conduct of the second son jealousy could block his ability to understand his Father’s equal love for both of them.  But the parable, told by Jesus, is also beautifully illustrative of his Father’s will to allow us all who have lost our dignity and life through sin to repent of our sins and be reconciled with him and with our brothers and sisters through Jesus, the Father’s Word of reconciliation.  It is a reconciliation that the Father works out in his Spirit of Compassion, ultimately through Jesus’ Cross and resurrection.

In the Second Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, it is stated that the Father “who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, has given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their sins, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us [to all women and men of our age]:   We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:18-20).    On the day of your graduation the Lord tells you:  You have been reconciled to the Father through Christ.  Be ambassadors of his reconciliation.

It is the mission that has been entrusted to Ateneo de Davao to pass on to you in forming you to be servants of the faith, promoters of justice, sensitive to cultures, engaged in inter-religious dialogue and protectors of the environment.  Your mission is to participate in the Father’s work of reconciling all humanity to himself, reconciling all human beings to one another, and reconciling all humanity to creation through the word and work of Jesus Christ. Be servants then of reconciliation: reconciling people who are mired in sin, or lost in the materialism of the world, or scandalized by the sins of the pious [reconciling them] with God.  Be servants of reconciling people with one another, people who have lost their ability to talk to one another, who are unable to cooperate with one another due to ethnic rivalries, who are poor due the greed and corruption of the powerful, who are mired in hatred, violence and war.  Be servants of reconciling humanity with the environment that is suffocating by the pollution and toxic emissions we continue to emit because of our inability to moderate our consumption.  In your mission of reconciliation, promote solid religion, social justice and the common good, and a culture that harmonizes the needs and creative daemons of humanity with the limitations of our environment, our “common home.”  Prepare to fulfill your mission competently  through studies in senior high school and then in college, discerning what it is specifically the Lord wishes you to fulfill in his work of reconciliation.

Meanwhile, we continue with our Eucharistic celebration, in which we offer the Father the one sacrifice that as he wills reconciles us with himself, the Body and Blood of Jesus, offered originally once and forever by Jesus on the Cross.  Offering this sacrifice we say at this Mass, “Look with favor on your Church’s offering and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to yourself…”  In our reconciliation with himself, the Father says, “Now we must celebrate and rejoice, because you, your brothers and sisters were dead and have come back to life again; you were lost and now have been found.”

Dear graduates of the ADDU JHS, throughout your lives be ambassadors of this reconciliation!

 


 

Celebrating Youth, Loved, Gifted and Empowered

[Commencement Address, ADDU JHS, March 30 2019]

During my homily earlier this morning, in the light of the Parable of the Prodigal Son and of the second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, the mission that the Lord is giving to you as you move on from JHS to the rest of your lives is clear.  In the midst of the rift between humanity and God due to sin, in the midst of conflicts between man and man because of greed, corruption, and violence, in the midst of the conflict between the environment and humanity, you are missioned to be ambassadors of God’s reconciliation.  In God’s mission, be a spokesperson and agent of God’s reconciling activity in our world.

It is a mission entrusted to you not only during the 70th anniversary of the ADDU, but also in the Year of the Youth, as the Catholic Church prepares for the celebration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines.  In this Year of the Youth it has celebrated youth, beloved, gifted and empowered.

Moving on from the Junior High School to college and beyond, you are youth beloved.  You are here surrounded by all those who love you: your mothers, your fathers, your sisters and brothers, the friends of your families, your benefactors, and your own friends, many of whom are your own classmates.  All these love you.  You are surrounded by the teachers and administrators who have not only taught you well, but have cared for your individually and personally, loving you often as their own.  You are surrounded also by your God, in front of you, above you, below you, behind you, loving you each.  You are youth beloved.

We give thanks for you as youth gifted.  Today we celebrate the gift of your Junior High School education.  Your education is a gift.  It comes from the goodness of your parents, from the skill and dedication of your teachers, from the wisdom of your administrators, from the wealth of knowledge and skills that is passed on to you from generation to generation.  But we can celebrate  the gift of your Junior High School education today only because you yourselves are gifted,  and because you have had the talent and the ability to tackle the challenges of the ADDU JHS and succeed.  You are gifted in the talents your Creator has given you and that your parents have nurtured in you.  Certainly you are youth gifted.

We give thanks for you as youth empowered.  Loved, you are empowered to love.  Gifted, you are empowered to give.  Having learned well, you are empowered to learn more.  Having been served, you are empowered to serve others, to be men and women for others.  Having been endowed with so many gifts, you are empowered to be to others a gift.  Having been given the gift of faith, you are empowered to share your faith with others, not arrogantly, forcing yourselves on others, but humbly, empowered always to learn more from others, allowing God to manifest himself to them through you.  Having experienced reconciliation in your lives with God, other people, and the environment, you are empowered to be ambassadors of God’s reconciliation.  Certainly, you are youth empowered.

On the 70th anniversary of the ADDU, in the Year of the Youth, I congratulate you, youth beloved, gifted and empowered,  on your completing your Junior high school education and moving on to the rest of your lives….

But even as I congratulate you, I say a special word of thanks to your parents who have sacrificed so much to provide you with the ADDU JHS education that is now completed in you.  Thank you, our dear parents, for entrusting your children to us, and for the great sacrifice you have made to accompany your children to the joy of this day.

May Mary, our Blessed Mother, keep you ever close to her Son, who with the Father in the Spirit missions you to be God’s ambassadors of reconciliation in our world today.

 

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