Research and Development to Accelerate Climate Action

[DENR Mindanao Multi-Stakeholders’ Forum,  Cagayan de Oro City, February 2, 2023]

The Hon. Maria Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga, Secretary of the DENR and fellow participants in the forum:

I have been asked to comment on Research and Development to Accelerate Climate Action.

Presumably, this is based on recognition of the climate emergency in the world.  The last seven years were the warmest years on record.  Within them:  the extreme weather occurrences.  The stronger typhoons and hurricanes, the wildfires, the flooding.  The Philippines has not been spared.

The emergency needs action.  It is appropriate that the action is based on research.

Based on the research of others available, action required is to stop global warming:
Cut the use of fossil fuels.  Cut the use of cars.  Cut the use of airplanes.  Properly insulate homes.  Keep thermostats of air-conditioners at 23 degrees Celsius and above.  Use solar panels.  Cut beef and dairy consumption. 

People need to be informed of what has been scientifically established as necessary to stop climate change. 

We in academe engage in scientific research to accelerate and support climate action locally, that is,  in Mindanao, through:

For example:  Monitoring of environmental indicators:  like toxins, as in Maputi River, Banaybanay (Fr. Antonio Basilio, PhD).  Quality of the air (Dr. Doris Montecastro).  State of water in aquifers (Dr. John Ong).

For example:  Developing new products from waste:  ADDU’s DAVAWENA Project:  Development of Value Added products from Wastes for Environmental and Nanotechnology Applications, e.g reusing polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers “by developing ways of obtaining monomers of the plastics and then using the monomer components to resynthesize polymers, thereby promoting a circular economy.  The monomers may also be used to synthesize biodegradable plastics” (Fr. Antonio Basilio, PhD).

For instance:  Developing the technology and use of renewable energy:  Photovoltaic panels, concentrated solar energy, ocean renewable energy, biomass energy (through the Center for Renewable Energy and Appropriate Technology [CREATE], ADDU)

But today’s environmental emergency is not limited to global warming.  Research and development must support not only climate action but action to preserve the planet – including the environmental integrity of the Philippines.[i]

Citing scientific studies, Pope Francis’ Laudato Si[ii]  links climate change with pollution, waste, and the throwaway culture; it points to the depletion of natural resources like fresh drinking water, the loss of biodiversity, the replacement of virgin forests with monocrop farms, the misuse of our oceans, the destruction of their biodiversity, including their coral reefs – the forests of the seas.

Pope Francis says: “Greater investment needs to be made in research aimed at understanding more fully the function of ecosystems and adequately analyzing the different variable associated with any significant modification of the environment.  Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all  of us as living creatures are dependent on one another” (Laudato Si, 42)

Research and development for environmental action, to save the planet, cannot be forever limited [or tyrannized] by the pragmatic needs of the economy.[iii]  The economy does not trump action to save the planet.  Political action and political structures must control and tame the economy, and not vice versa.  For instance:  DENR cannot just be a government agency to exploit the natural resources of the Philippines in favor of the economy and of the private interests that drive this.[iv]  The DENR must be the protector of the environment for the common weal – make sure that society and the planet are not killed by the vicious “technocratic paradigm” driving the economy.[v] It must be guided by voices of people on the ground, in local government units or in the regions.  A fundamental component of the DENR’s research-based and centralized decision-making needs to be to listen to the cry of the environment in the tears and frustration of people committed to preserving the environment on the ground. 


[i] Consider the studies of Davao Oro State University and Central Mindanao University to preserve the biodiversity of Mt. Hamigitan.  Also Xavier University’s scientific-planting of mangroves, and its Climate and Risk Assessment Analysis (CORA) in association with the LGUs and the National Resilience Council; and its High-Definition and Clean Energy, Weather and Climate Forecasts for the Philippines in collaboration with the Manila Observatory.

[ii] Francis. Laudato Si, #17-42.

[iii] E.g. The controversy involving the current Samal Island-Davao Connector Bridge Project which ignores the damage to a protected coral reef documented by local researchers in favor of implementing a decision in Manila to build the bridge there, despite alternative sites. 

[iv] E.g. SMI’s open-pit mining project on 17,000 has. of Barangay Ned in Lake S’bu, So.Cotabato, which not only violates local legislation but whose product – dirty coal – is to be burned in Mindanao.  This will exacerbate climate change and harm the community through polluted air. 

[v] Cf. Francis,  Laudato Si, The Globalization of the Technocratic Paradigm, pp 72ff.


Photos taken by: Atty. Romeo Cabarde, Jr.

Advertisement
Posted in Address | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To Cure or Not to Cure

[Homily. Assumption Chapel, 31 January 2023.]

Our gospel for today describes two healings based on faith in Jesus.

The first healing is that of the daughter of Jairus, one of the synagogue officials.  As Jesus preached his message of the Kingdom of his Father, opposed to the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, many synagogue officials were hostile to him.  So it was unexpected that Jairus approach Jesus for help.  But unexpected things happen when one’s beloved daughter is dying.  “Seeing Jesus he fell on his feet and pleaded earnestly with him, saying, ‘My daughter is at the point of death.  Please come, lay your hands on her, that she may get well and live’” (Mk 5:23). Sensing the intensity of his faith, Jesus went with him. But when they neared his house, people told Jairus, “Your daughter has died…”  Yet Jesus reassured him, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”  At his house, people were weeping and wailing.  He announced, “The child is not dead but asleep.”  The people ridiculed him for that.  Nevertheless, he went to the child and said, “Little girl, I say to you arise.”  Immediately the twelve-year-old girl arose (cf. Mk 5:21-24, 35-43).

From the Cure of Jairus’ Daughter to the Cure of the Hemorrhaging Women

The second healing is that of the woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years. Because her condition involved flowing blood, she was ritually unclean.  Being unclean, she feared to talk directly to Jesus.  Her faith, however, was that should she just be able to touch his garment, she could be healed.  Within the crowd pressing on Jesus, she did.  And she was healed.  But it stirred Jesus, “Who has touched my clothes?” he asked.  The woman, realizing that she had been cured, approached him in fear and trembling.  Had she been cured wrongly?  Would it now be reversed?  Had she made Jesus ritually unclean because she’d touched him?  Was he now upset because of that?  She fell down on her knees and told him the whole truth…  Jesus responded: “Daughter, your faith has saved you.  Go in peace and be cured of your affliction” (cf. Mark 5:25-34)

The context of these cures in the Gospel of Mark is the Galilean ministry, when people – even his own relatives – misunderstood and rejected him.  His relatives said, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21)  The scribes said, “By the prince of demons he drives out demons” (Mark 3:22).  The accounts of his healings may have helped convince people of the legitimacy and power of his mission:  to make people well and “to bring life – life to the full” (John 10:10). 

But What About Those Not Cured?

We can be happy for the many sick and disabled who put their faith in Jesus and are cured.  The Father is glorified when sick people put their faith in Jesus and are healed:  when the blind person says, “Lord that I may see!” and he sees (cf. Mark 10:46-52);  when the paralyzed person on Jesus‘ command picks up his mat and walks home  (cf. Mark 2:1-13).

But what about those who put their faith in God and are not healed?  As mysterious as those who are miraculously healed by Jesus’ power is the number of people who pray in faith for healing and are not healed – in Jesus’ power.   If Jesus heals in some cases, why does he not heal in other cases? Is there an unjust favoritism at play here?  There are no easy answers here.  But consider this.  In not healing, God may be loving the person more.

Purification to Greater Fruitfulness

God may not cure because of his special care for the person, cura personalis, through which the person, already fruitful in his or her faith, might become more fruitful through the Father’s pruning – which always involves suffering.  Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does he prunes so that it bears more fruit…” (John 15:1-2). Through illness and its suffering, the Father may be pruning the sick person towards more fruitfulness  – towards poverty in spirit, mourning, contrition, conversion, meekness, purity of heart and peace.  Recall the happiness promised in the Beatitudes (Mt. 5: 1-12).  Through the Father’s pruning one is blessed with more fruitfulness.  And joy. 

Perseverance to Perfecting of Faith

God also may not cure because he is perfecting that person’s faith in perseverance, endurance.  In our first reading from the Book of Hebrews its author in its magnificent Chapter 11 has just gone through a listing of great witnesses of faith in the OT – from Abel through Noah through David, Solomon, the kings, the prophets, and the Maccabean martyrs.  It is introduced by the statement, “Faith is the realization [realizing in history]  of what is hoped for [in the future] and evidence [in history] of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). In our reading for today, Hebrews says, “Brothers and sisters:  Since we are all surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us [purification] and persevere in running the race that lies before us [endurance] while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Protracted illness may be a form of purification from “every burden and sin that clings to us.”  It may be our endurance “in running the race that lies before us,” while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.  Jesus is the “leader and perfecter of faith.”   As leader, he is the exemplar of faith:  For the sake of the joy that lay before him [the fulfillment of his earthly mission, heavenly fulfillment]  Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame, and has [since] taken his seat at the right of the throne of God.  Protracted illness may be Jesus’ way of perfecting our faith in uniting us to his endurance of his cross, despising its pain, and looking forward to taking our place in the heavenly sanctuary.  Even to the sick person, Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Those Cured Not Exempt from Following Jesus

The cured dying daughter of Jairus and the woman cured of her hemorrhaging, in all the joy of their cures based on faith, were not exempt after their cures from following Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.  They, too, needed to be purified of their sins and united to the sacrifice of the Cross unto the perfection of their faith.  Faith is not perfected until it unifies the believer with the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord.

God can cure to affirm faith.  He can also not cure to perfect faith.  Faith is perfected in loving endurance, until faith itself is perfect love. “So faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love” (I Cor. 13: 13).  The perfection of faith through hope is heaven’s love – the experience of God’s consummate love for me and my love in return eternally.

Posted in Homily | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Doing God’s Will in a VUCA World

[Homily. Assumption Chapel.  ,Jan. 23, 2023.]

At the ADDU we have been conversing about concerns in our VUCA world.[i]  VUCA is jargon in the business world for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.  In fact, the situation in the world is much worse.  Today’s VUCA world is also violent, unjust, confusing and arbitrary. 

The violence of the world is not only in Ukraine.  In Myanmar, the military junta is destroying Buddhist monasteries and Catholic churches; they are killing innocent worshippers.  In Mindanao, the open-pit coal mining in Brgy. Ned, So. Cotabato and the replacement of biodiverse forests with mono-crop farms are socially unjust.  In the Philippines, the policies on how we are to promote renewable energy to arrest global warming in a milieu that is yet addicted to fossil fuels are confusing.  And citizens’ choices of political leaders and of ideologies are increasingly arbitrary. 

Whoever Does the Will of God

In our Gospel for today, Jesus is told his mother and his brothers were asking for him.   For the evangelist, Mark, these are probably the same relatives who, seeing him so fully engaged with the crowd he couldn’t eat, said, “He is out of his mind!” (Mk 3:21).  Jesus replies:  “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  Looking at those seated around him, he states, “Here are my mother and my brothers.  For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:33-35).

For Jesus, more important than the concerns of his relatives, was the will of his Father. This was already clear when as youth of twelve years of age he stayed behind in the temple to do the business of his father, upsetting Mary and Joseph quite profoundly” (cf. Lk 3:41-50).  

In today’s reading from the Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus says to his Father,  “Behold I come [in the world] to do your will, O God.”  Hebrews then explains,  “By this will we have been consecrated [we have been sanctified, made holy]  through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all” [on the Cross] (Heb 10:5-10).

We know that Jesus’ obedience to his Father’s will “unto death” was not easy for him.  Luke reports that in his agony in the garden, considering the pain his passion and death would cost him. “His sweat became as drops of blood falling on the ground.”  In the end, however, Jesus  said, “….not my will but yours be done” (cf. Lk. 22:39-42b).

As Jesus did his Father’s will, are we not also being invited to do God’s will?

In this VUCA world, what is the will of God?

God’s Will in His Commandments

In the Gospel of Mark, the will of God is expressed in two commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  …  You shall love your neighbor as yourself”  (Mk 13:29-31).

That was a summary of the commandments of God (cf. Exodus 20:2-17; Deut 5:6-12) which do express his will – even for a VUCA world.

I am the Lord, you God.  You shall not have strange gods before me.  Do not idolize money.  Do not idolize fame and glory.  Do not idolize power.  Do not make yourself into God.

You shall not take my name in vain.  Do not say I will what only you will.  Do not say I want war when only you want war.  Do not say you defend my honor when you only kill those I love.

Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day.  In your VUCA world, make time for me.  I exist. Make time for rest.  Have time to talk to me.  Make time for rest.  Appreciate the difference between objects and gifts.  Make time for rest, so that you may recall where you are going. 

Honor your father and your mother.  Love them, respect them.  As they nurture and raise you.  As they grow old and need you.

Do not kill people.  Do not kill people with bombs and bullets.  Do not kill people with hatred or disdain.

Do not steal.  Do not steal money.  Do not steal the honor of another.  Do not steal the future of another. 

Do not lie.  Do not say you are what you are not.

Do not covet your neighbor’s wife.

Do not covet your neighbor’s goods. 

Do God’s will by doing what he tells us to do and not doing what he tells us not to do. 

Imagine how different the VUCA world would be if only people would do God’s will expressed in his commandments!

Beyond the Commandments

Beyond the commandments, do God’s will by understanding what Jesus told us: “I have come to bring you life, life to the full” (John 10:10).  In bringing us life, he accepted conflict with those who were not life-giving; he denounced hypocrites who made it difficult for people to approach his father (cf Mt. 23).  So anything that you do that diminishes life, truncates it, destroys it is not my will.  Anything that you do that is truly life-giving, that is my will.

“Peace be with you, my peace I give you” (John 14:27), he said.  What you do that brings peace, peace not only exteriorly but interiorly, that is my will. 

Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).  Anything that you do that approaches or brings complete joy, that is my will. 

Finally, consider this.  St. James said, “If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?  So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas 2:14-17).   Doing God’s will is not in the air.  It responds to real people. 

That is also what Jesus, the just and eternal judge, demands in the Last Judgement for those who in life were confronted with the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger and the imprisoned.  “Whatever you did or did not do for one of these the least of my brothers and sisters, that you did or did not do for me” (cf Mt. 25:31-48).

What are signs of doing God’s will in a VUCA world?   What you do is lifegiving, even if it brings conflict.  Even in suffering, it brings you peace.  Even in pain, it brings you joy.  And it truly helps the least of our Lord’s brothers and sisters in their need.

Your Kingdom come! Your will be done!


[i] Cf. Concerns and Conversations in a VUCA World: https://taborasj.wordpress.com/2023/01/22/concerns-and-conversations-in-a-vuca-world/

Posted in Homily | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Concerns and Conversations in a VUCA World

[For the Members of the ADDU Community
Sunday, January 22, 2023. ]

We live and function in a VUCA world.  We struggle to make our best decisions in a world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.  Making these decisions is stressful.  You try to decide rationally, according to your best lights.  You pray that you have decided correctly. 

Last year, with COVID still uncertain, we decided that most of our classes this academic year 2022-23 would be online. In this volatile world, the DepEd suddenly ordered that basic education return to face-to-face classes (DO 34 s.2022).  So we shifted to mostly face-to-face.  Once we did, the DepEd said private schools may opt to continue their online classes (DO 44 s.2022).  It was similar with the CHED.  We planned that most of our classes would be online, except for such as lab courses that needed face-to-face interaction. Then CHED came out with CMO 16 forbidding fully-online classes and decreeing that all classes should be 50% online and 50% face-to-face.  We objected that this CMO was untimely, a violation of our academic freedom, and unfortunate for its apparent attack on new educational technology.  When I spoke to CHED Chair Prospero de Vera about this, he agreed.  He recalled the “confusing” CMO for revision.  We live in a volatile, uncertain and ambiguous world.

Inflation and the Need to Raise Tuition

Today, the inflation in Davao City is 7.8%.  That means our buying power – both on the institutional as well as the personal levels – has decreased by this amount.  Investing in new educational equipment for our HISFLEX classrooms and repairing facilities (like our classrooms and our Finster Auditorium) have become much more expensive.  But the heaviest effect of inflation is on our teachers, students, staff members and administrators in their families.  Gasoline and diesel (8.4), housing (7.9%), clothing (5.7%), rice (5.2%), meat (11%), sugar and confectionaries (50.6%), fruit (10.5%), cereals (10%), corn (38.5%), oils (29.3%),[i] medicine, medical care are all more expensive.  During the Christmas season, the cost of cakes doubled;  in the New Year, onions went berserk. 

It is in this context that VP Jimmy Delgado and I are prepared to recommend to the Board of Trustees an increase in tuition in all units by seven percent.  If approved, this will allow us to effect an across-the-board increase in salaries by seven percent.  The University is only required to allocate 70% of a tuition increase to the salaries and benefits of its personnel.  But appreciating the inflation, we will allocate the entire seven percent to a general wage increase.  Admittedly, this does not fully compensate for the entire 7.8 inflation rate.  But we have also in a VUCA world to worry about what parents can afford.  The planned increase in salary will help us to cope, even if it means our students and/or their parents shall have to pay 7% more for their education at ADDU.   

Quality Education We Commit to Deliver

In various consultations that have been conducted with our parents, they understand the need for increases in tuition and fees.  Nevertheless, we must all appreciate the increasing sacrifices parents are making in order to provide their children the benefits of education at ADDU.  Especially as teachers, administrators and staffers, we must commit ourselves to provide their children, our students, learners, and pupils, what is promised in a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino University, whether in basic or in higher education.  For this, we must come together, collaborate in administration, instruction, formation, research and service to the community, in order to deliver the quality University education our parents and our students expect from us.  It is the education that as educators in a Jesuit university we insist – from within – to give. 

Are We Going in the Right Direction?

In the President’s Council we had last Wednesday, January 11, the first of the New Year, 2023, we took a break from the usual agenda.  Instead, our members were asked to answer any one for all of the following questions after having had consulted their constituencies:

Are we going in the right direction in the implementation of our Vision and Mission?  Are we together in our response in instruction, formation, research and service to the community in a VUCA world?

Do we have the buy-in of the students?  Of their parents?

Do we have personal concerns in this year of transition that might be shared with the University Community?

The responses were rich, moving and in part, brutally honest and deeply concerning. 

Confirmation of Appreciation of the Vision and Mission of the University

From the responses to these questions, there was in my view general confirmation that the University’s Vision and Mission expresses in general the right direction for the University.  There is appreciation of and buy-in into our identity as a Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino University – “Filipino” meaning service of Mindanao.  There is confirmation of our mission to participate in God’s work of reconciling humanity with himself, human beings with human beings, and humanity with Creation.  This is a mission to promote faith in God, social justice, and the environment.  We are missioned to engage in dialogue towards lasting peace in Mindanao, to fight poverty in the creation of wealth and its equitable distribution through such as science, technology instruction, research and technopreneurship,  to engage our Asian neighbors in friendship and dedication to Mindanao, to promote lifelong learning, to develop ADDU sui generis leadership, and to work with our alumni/ae. 

As the representatives of our four unions responded:  “Everyone agrees that the University is in the right direction with our Vision and Mission. Our collective identity as a Catholic, Jesuit, and Filipino University is something that we understand, embrace, and live out and is one of the consolations that came out in the conversation.  We acknowledge that it may not be easy to live out at times, but this is something that we continue to aspire to and work on as part of the University community, most especially your mission in Mindanao.”[ii]

There were similar positive statements from the unions relative to the University’s formation programs and “the generous and dignified response of the University in the service of the employees [esp. during the pandemic].”

Questions Concerning the Modality of Instruction

The area where several consultations surfaced questions and concerns, some painful and disturbing, pertained to the modality of instruction.  Our online capability was developed in the time of the pandemic, and our direction had been that we would continue to develop fully online education in the future “new normal” complemented by HISFLEX[iii].   Our teaching would be fully online unless the Online Instructional Delivery Plan (OIDP) of the subject required face-to-face (f2f) instructions, e.g., especially those subjects with laboratory requirements.  The number of HISFLEX classrooms we prepared at considerable expense was based on the number of these subjects.  The rationale behind the predominantly online strategy was the world that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.  Training our students in this world to be actively engaged in and individually responsible for their education through online education would better prepare them for this world.  Increasingly,  preparation for surviving or thriving in this world would no longer depend on one academic degree like accountancy.  It would depend increasingly on active interaction with the VUCA world, and on continuing learning in order to be responsive to the opportunities and demands of this disruptive world though newly acquired learning or skills or competencies, i.e., through lifelong learning.  Skills acquired in successful online education would better prepare students for lifelong learning.

It is this general direction of the modality of instruction – heavily fully online and complemented by HISFLEX –  that earned questions and comments of concern. 

In the President’s Council, a father spoke of his child’s “horrible” experience of online education in higher education at ADDU.   Teachers in required core curriculum subjects don’t show up for their synchronous classes.  Or teachers too easily reschedule their synchronous meetings, disrupting the tight academic schedules of their students.  His child, normally a top-performing student, is discouraged.  Other parents have similar negative experiences.  Disappointed, they want to pull their children out of ADDU to bring them to a school  where face-to-face instruction and learning is guaranteed. 

Other “horrible” stories that were reported:  a teacher who teaches online while driving;  a teacher who teaches ADDU students while simultaneously teaching students of another school; while synchronous sessions are supposed to be weekly, a teacher who only teaches on the first day and then only on the last day.  There are some teachers who just transfer the methods of teaching f2f to the online platform;  “star teachers,” they hog the attention of the students and do not allow them to learn through personal agency or group interaction.  Other teachers just read their PowerPoint presentations.  One teacher argued with a parent online in the presence of all the students.  Another parent, frustrated by a decision of a teacher, shouted, “Damn you!”, humiliating the teacher in the presence of her students.

An administrator spoke of the difficulties of his niece in a fully online course.  She couldn’t take it.  She has meanwhile dropped out.  Speaking of his love for ADDU, he said there is need to clarify whether we are going to continue with this kind of online education.

Another participant surveyed his faculty members.  They affirmed the importance of online instruction during the time of the pandemic, even its usefulness in reaching students who do not live in Davao, including children of our overseas contract workers.  But there are mixed views relative to the long-term strategy.  Some faculty members have become “too autonomous” or “too creative.” They find it difficult to regularly meet their students as required by the OIDP, so they simply don’t.  Nobody appears to be supervising.  The misbehavior persists uncorrected.

Furthermore, the meaning of “blended classes” has yet to be clarified.  How does technology really enhance instruction?  Does “blended learning” mean: face-to-face instruction and online instruction are combined in one subject?  Or does it mean that in a course, some subjects are fully online, others are f2f, and others are a combination of online and f2f? 

Then, with the shift to the online or HISFLEX modality,  did we rethink and update our policies?  How are students to be monitored?  How is the real participation of students to be ascertained?  How are plagiarism and cheating to be checked?  With better hardware, like with more cameras?  With smarter software? 

So while we are thinking that ADDU is preparing students for the VUCA world through online education, the reality may be different.  Learning outcomes today are sacrificed.  The future is compromised.

Challenging Times Call for a Leadership of Conversation

Here the summarizing thoughts and recommendations of our four unions are helpful:

“The realities of the VUCA world has not spared the University. It compelled us to rethink our direction, review our strategies, and institute changes most especially in the area of instruction. At the onset of the pandemic, we shifted from face-to-face to online, from online to hybrid, and from hybrid back to face-to-face. The velocity of changes was sometimes too much to handle that it caused instability and made people feel more insecure. More and more, these challenging times call for a leadership of conversation. This is a leadership that communicates rather than dictates, a leadership that builds trust rather than suspicion, a leadership that is transparent rather than obtuse, a leadership that is pleasing rather than pressing, and a leadership that is life-giving.

“In conclusion, these consolations and desolations brought forth in the conversation made clear the desired direction for the future of the University. For instance, there is an overwhelming preference of employees to go back to face-to-face instruction, enhanced by technology and other online infrastructure, which the University has invested in. In the sphere of leadership, administrators must be capacitated with character and skills that encourage conversation and collaboration with stakeholders that will make them leaders of conversation. Finally, the community’s appreciation of our identity as a Catholic, Jesuit, and Filipino University, which is lived out through our Mission, should continue to be reinforced by instruction, formation, research and service to the community in a VUCA world.”

Through Ongoing Conversation,  Discernment

Through ongoing conversations in the community, or through an ongoing community conversation, perhaps each in this context may now participate in the communal discernment of what our modality of instruction ought now be for the future.  In this community, let the conversations surface the humanity of each, but also empower each to fulfill his or her role in mission.  Let honest conversations thrive, but let administrators administer and guide, faculty members instruct, form, discover and share truth, students study and learn, and support personnel provide the conditions necessary for the functioning of the university community.  It  is the shared vision and mission that unites us.  It is the God of this mission who empowers us, protects us, gladdens us.  God shares his life with us.  He shares with us his Son.  He says, “Listen to him.”

After CHED Chair Prospero de Vera pulled out CMO 16 s. 2022, he said it will be revised to allow each HEI in academic freedom to determine the overall modality of instruction of the HEI.  This we must now discern in communal conversation for ourselves.  On a spectrum of fully face-to-face education on the one extreme and of fully online education on the other extreme, where are we? 

It has been suggested that we should generally return to fully face-to-face instruction enhanced by online technology.  If this is accepted, what shall be the nature of blending of face to face instruction and online instruction?

But do we still want to give a number of courses fully online – to take care of students studying with us from outside of Davao within the Philippines and beyond?  Fully online courses are also preferred by many graduate school students who are working and need to do their studying in whatever time their jobs leave them.  These courses could be identified and grouped as a special offering of ADDU in a VUCA world.  Only qualified teachers who have been appropriately trained (certified?) would be allowed to teach these courses.  They would be based on effective courseware generally prepared by teachers assisted by courseware designers. 

From Conversations to Conversion?

Through these conversations, perhaps we can reflect on the “horrible experiences” of our students under our care and on the “horror stories” of the way that some of our faculty member “teach” especially online.  As has been pointed out, not all of our teachers are like this. But for me the frequency of such reports is truly concerning.  If this is a direction that we may be taking, course correction is certainly warranted.   Involved is a corruption of teaching, a decline in true personal care for delivering learning outcomes, a relatedness to teaching and students that focuses on personal advantage and personal benefits rather than on the students entrusted to us by the Lord of our mission. 

We all generally agree on the vision and mission.  This is not just an ideological statement.  The vision of the school is inseparable from the Lord of compassion;  the mission of the school is inseparable from the Lord of mission.  We might in our conversations wonder what the interventions might be that could prevent such shameful behavior.  It is worth a conversation.  But considering Jesus, the Lord of our mission, we heard in last Friday’s Mass: 

I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts.  I will be their God and they will be my people.

Under the Lord of our mission, when it comes to teaching well, ultimately it is a matter of our interiority, our conscience, our reading of what God has put in our minds and appreciation of what he has written in our hearts.  Here, God’s mission and personal spirituality merge.

From today’s Gospel (Mt. 4:12-23) we hear Jesus’ mantra during his public life, “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  We also hear him call fishermen to be his apostles.  “Follow me. I will make you fishers of men and women.”  Does he not say to us, “Follow me.  I will make you educators of women and men”?

In today’s second reading (1 Cor 1:10-13.17), we also hear what may be a challenge for our conversations:

“I urge you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose.   For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers and sisters, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you.  I mean that each of you is saying, ‘I belong to Paul,’ or ‘I belong to Apollos,’ or ‘I belong to Cephas,’ or ‘I belong to Christ.’  Is Christ divided?  Was Paul crucified for you”  Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?  For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.”

Resilience and Hope

Paul teaches us not to initiate us in Christian discipleship through baptism, but to strengthen our faith in the Gospel of our salvation in the Cross of Jesus Christ, the Lord of our Mission.  If we belong to Jesus, he calls us today to come together to discern and fulfill the mission he gives.  It is a mission he give us from within, placed in our minds and written in our hearts.  From within, we fulfill the mission in obedience, integrity and love.  Should we accept this, he guarantees the success of the mission, not we.  He does not abandon us.  He is with us, Emmanuel

That, I believe, is good news, the source of our resilience and hope, even in a VUCA world. 



[i] Figures are from the Philippine Statistic Authority, Region 11, for November – December, 2022.

[ii] As reported by Atty. Niceforo Solis of the HRMDO.

[iii] Hybrid Implementation Strategy Using Flexible Modality.

Posted in Address, Ateneo de Davao University | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m gonna eat n eat n eat n eat n eat until I die! 

First Communion Homily based on:  Exodus 16: 9-15 and John 6:24-36, 48-51
and the song “Eat Until I Die” from Disney’s Fun and Fancy Free [animated cartoon, released Sept 27, ‘47], sang in duet by Goofy and Donald Duck. This was in turn based the refrain of Pavarotti’s Denza, Funiculi, Funicula.

———————————————————————————————–

When I was your age this is a song that we would sing:

Turkeys, lobsters, sweet potato pies, pancakes piled up till they reach the sky! 
I’m gonna eat n eat n eat n eat n eat until I die! 
I’m gonna eat n eat n eat n eat n eat until I die! 

Can you sing it?  ….

Adapted for the Philippines:

Chickens, lechon, crispy pata too, buko salad, halu-halo too!
I’m gonna eat n eat n eat n eat n eat until I die! 
I’m gonna eat n eat n eat n eat n eat until I die! 

It’s really good if you belong to the group of people in this world that can sing that!  If you’ve ever had Christmas, birthday, or fiesta meals of plenty, gratitude in order! 

But there’s another side of the world.  Their song is different. 

Hunger, sadness, nothing left to eat. Stomach growling, nothing left to eat. 
I’m gonna starve and starve and starve and starve and starve until I die!   
I’m gonna starve and starve and starve and starve and starve until I die!

II

This is even more painful because there are places in the world like the United States, the European Nations, Great Britain, Japan, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, where people sing:

Turkeys, lobsters, sweet potato pies, pancakes piled up till they reach the sky! 
I’m gonna eat n eat n eat n eat n eat until I die! 
I’m gonna eat n eat n eat n eat n eat until I die! 

And places in the Manila, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro and Davao where people sing:

Chickens, lechon, crispy pata too, buko salad, halu-halo too!
I’m gonna eat n eat n eat n eat n eat until I die! 
I’m gonna eat n eat n eat n eat n eat until I die! 

Even though, in places of the urban poor, in communities of the lumad poor, where people cannot earn enough, where people are jobless, or where people have lost their jobs because machines and technology have taken their jobs, they sing something like:

Hunger, sadness, nothing left to eat. Stomach growling, nothing left to eat. 
I’m gonna starve and starve and starve and starve and starve until I die!  
I’m gonna starve and starve and starve and starve and starve until I die!

III

Interesting to ask:  why do people eat?

Chickens, lechon, crispy pata too, buko salad, halu-halo too!
I’m gonna eat n eat n eat n eat n eat until I die! 
I’m gonna eat n eat n eat n eat n eat until I die! 

To many people eat – to die:  They eat too much sugar, they get diabetes, they keep on eating sugar, and they die.  They eat too much fat, they get a heart attack.  They go to the hospital, they get well, but they still begin again  to eat n eat n eat too much fat, and so they die.  They eat too much salt, they get high blood pressure, but continue to eat salt, so their blood pressure soars, and from the high blood pressure they get a stroke, and they die.  They eat too much meat, they get cancer of the colon, and they die.  They drink too much alcohol; they get  liver disease, and they die.  For all their sicknesses they take a botica-full of medicines.  But from too many medicines, they get kidney disease!  And they die.

Did you know?  36 percent in the PH are obese.  14.5 percent malnourished. 
[When I was your age, there were only 2.6 Billion people in the world. Population has since trebled.]
In the world of more than 8 Billion people  (and growing):
more than one billion people (12.5%) are obese –
while 462 M (5.7%) are malnourished – among them children who are wasted and stunted.  Imagine if only the obese people would eat a little less so that the malnourished to eat a lot more!

Jesus was concerned about hunger.   When people who came to listen to him were hungry, he fed them.  With five loaves and two fish, donated by a child, he fed 5000.  He taught his disciples:  Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty.  On this your life – your eternal life – depends.

But he was not only interested in filling their stomachs – which get hungry again.   He was also interested in nourishing their whole person.  “I have come to bring you life, life to the full!” (Jn 10:10). He was not only interested in a full stomach, but in a full life!

Jesus says: I show you the Father’s love. In union with him, I forgive your sins.  In obedience to him, I redeem you.  I bring you to his Kingdom.  I teach you to love:  Love God above all things.  Love your neighbor as yourself. 

Jesus says:  I am the Bread of Life.   I show you how to love. I teach you to be humble in order to love.  I teach you to be courageous in order to love – no matter the cost, to the very end.    

Take me.  Eat me.  Learn to live from me. 
Take me. Eat me. Learn to love from me….

I am the Bread of Life.  From my pierced side flow blood and water – for you. 

Take my body given up for thee.
Take this cup of blood poured out for thee. 
I’m gonna live and die and rise for you for all eternity!
I’m gonna live and die and rise for you for all eternity!

Our response on our First Communion Day – and every day that we Come in Union (Communion) with Jesus:

Jesus, Jesus, Bread of life for me. Feed me, Jesus, make me love as thee.
I’m gonna eat and live and live and give and love eternally! 
I’m gonna eat and live and live and give and love eternally!

Posted in Homily | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Sabbath for Man, Not Man for the Sabbath

[Homily. Assumption Chapel.  January 17, 2023]

In our Gospel reading for today, Jesus and his disciples are passing through a field of grain.  They are hungry.  So they still their hunger by plucking the heads of wheat and munching on the grain.   The Pharisees criticize them for this.  Not because they were eating the grain planted by another, like stealing.  Plucking the heads of wheat and eating the grain were actually allowed by Jewish law (cf. Deut. 23:5).  They were criticized however because it was the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, and on the Sabbath work was forbidden. 

For the Pharisees, even the minimal work of plucking the heads of wheat was forbidden.  Jesus, however, does not agree.  And he uses this conflict situation to deliver a message that for the Jew was as startling as it was important:  “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:24).  More startling, indeed downright outrageous for the Jew was Jesus’ next statement, “That is why the Son of Man [Jesus’ reference to himself] is Lord even of the Sabbath!” 

Remember the Lord’s Rest

In this context, we remember the command of the Lord pertaining to the Sabbath.  It is the third of the Lord’s Ten Commandments: “Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy.  For six days, you shall labor and do your work.  But the seventh is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  For in six days, the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it” (Exodus 20: 8-11).  It was consecrated in memory of the Lord’s rest on the seventh day, the day after he had labored to make heaven and earth – and found that it was good.  “And on the seventh day, God finished the work that had been done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done.  So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested, from all the work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:2-3).  God hallowed the Sabbath, commemorating God’s rest after his work of creation. 

And now the Son of Man, Jesus, was teaching, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”  Jesus justified his defense of their plucking grain on the Sabbath by citing King David and his men eating of the bread of the Temple when they were hungry (cf. Mk 2:23-28, 1 Samuel 21:1-6).

The Sabbath For Man

The purpose of the Sabbath, the Lord’s day, was not just to remember God’s rest; the purpose of the Lord’s day was man – man and woman, humanity.  With authority, Jesus was saying:  Man is not dehumanized or disrespected or disregarded in his humanity for the Sabbath.  Instead, the Sabbath functions for the good of man, the humanization of man and woman, for the ultimate attainment of “the fullness of life” that the Lord came to bring.  Thus, on the Sabbath, Jesus repeatedly confounds – even provokes – his Jewish critics by miracles on the Sabbath.  Recall that on the Sabbath, he cured the man with the withered hand (Mt. 12:10), he cured the long-disabled woman in the synagogue (Lk 13:14), he cured the man born blind (John 9:16), among many other examples.

Enter the Lord’s Rest

In this context let us recall the passage from the Letter to the Hebrews 4:1-12 which we heard last Friday, Jan. 13.  Addressing early Christians who were, like many of us, flagging in their faith, or in danger of falling away from the faith, or of becoming Christians merely in name but not in truth, the author of Hebrews says, “…while the promise of entering his rest is still open, let us take care that none of you should seem to have failed to reach it.”  The Sabbath is not just about you remembering the Lord’s rest on the seventh day, it is about your vocation to enter the Lord’s restHere the contextual image is that of the Exodus when after God liberated the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt, because of their rebellious murmuring, they wandered in the desert for forty years before they entered the rest [not the rest as remainder but the freedom from coerced work, the respite, the repose, the peace] of the Promised Land.  Indeed, because of their lack of faith in the Lord, their disobedience and fear of the Lord’s enemies, there were those whom Joshua could not lead into the peace, the rest, of the Promised Homeland. 

Jesus, the New Joshua

In the Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus, whose name in Hebrew is Yeshua, is the new Joshua, Yehoshua, who is leading Christians, redeemed by his blood as High Priest, to the rest of the seventh day, the peace and glory of the Heavenly Sanctuary.  Christians, therefore, are to stay the course and renew their faith in the good news of the Lord.   When? On which day?  Hebrews actually sets a concrete day.  Not just any day.  But today!  “Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 4:7).  Today, in commemorating the Lord’s Sabbath, “make every effort to enter that rest”  – not just the rest of the Promised Land but the eternal rest, happiness, joy and peace of Heaven after the travails and groanings of history are ended – “so that no one may fall through disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).

The Lord’s Rest is Heaven

The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  The Father worked in Creation and entered his rest on the seventh day.  He created man and woman in his image and likeness.  In freedom, man sinned in disobedience and set himself against God.  Today, the Father continues to work to reconcile humanity to himself, to reconcile humanity with humanity, and to reconcile humanity with his creation through Jesus Christ.  Through Jesus Christ, he works in order to guide humanity to enter the rest of our salvation.  Only through the grace of the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath, do we enter our rest. 

As the Letter to the Ephesians proclaims:

“God who is rich in mercy,
out of the great love with which he loved us
even when we were dead through our trespasses,
made us alive together with Christ –
by grace, you have been saved –
and raised us up with him
and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
so that in the ages to come, he might show
the immeasurable riches of his grace
in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

In sum, keep holy the Sabbath Day, for us Christians, now Sunday!  Work six days to enter the rest of the Lord on the seventh day.  Rest on this day.  Celebrate it.  Let this practice remind you of our hope at the end of our time: after the work and travail of our lives to enter the rest of the Lord in the heavenly sanctuary!

Posted in Homily | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Ordinary Time:  Getting to Know Jesus Extraordinarily

[Homily.  January 10, 2023.]

With the celebration yesterday of the Baptism of the Lord, the Christmas Season ended.  Yesterday, the festive Christmas decorations were taken down.  The precious images of the Belen removed, wrapped and stored for the return of the season again next year. 

Today we are in “Ordinary Time” in our liturgy.  That is a total of 33-34 weeks in the year.  Ordinary Time focuses on the person of Jesus Christ as he affects our lives within the Christian community, and also necessarily on how the Christian community affects the human community and the world.  Unto this purpose, beginning today, we start off Ordinary Time with passages from the Gospel of Mark and the Letter to the Hebrews. 

After seven weeks, Ordinary Time will be interrupted by the Lenten Season leading to the Celebration of the Passion, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of the Lord.  This season then ends with the celebration of Pentecost. 

After Pentecost, Ordinary Time resumes with its eighth Sunday and climaxes in the 34th, the Celebration of Christ the King.  As a summary of his “gospel of God,” Mark says, “This is the time of fulfillment.  The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.”  It is also a summary of our liturgical year, where we celebrate the long-awaited coming of the Messiah into our lives.  In preaching the Kingdom of God, Jesus encounters great opposition, but he fulfills his mission in his obedience to the Father even to the point of death, death on the Cross. In being raised from the dead and lifted up to heaven, he is established as King of Heaven and Earth, Christ the King.  The celebration of Christ, the King, and Judge of the Universe, is the climactic end of Ordinary Time, also the end of the liturgical year.

In this context, I have three recommendations. 

First, open yourselves to a deeper and more intimate knowledge of Jesus – as you would intimately know a close friend.  Of course, this involves knowing many things about your friend:  what he likes to eat, what he likes to wear, how he likes to work, how some people make him very happy, how other people turn him off.  But you do not wish only to know about your friend, you wish to know your friend.  That is very different from just knowing about your friend.  You wish to know this friend as he turns to you, looks you in the eye, and talks to you, and you do the same.  You wish to know him saying, “I like you.  I love you.  I support you.  I share my future with you.  I lay down my life for you.”  You wish to know him listening to you share your concerns:  your problem with your parents, your problem with your children, your problem with your identity, your problem with the dryness within.  Your fear, your doubt, your hope.  For such intimate knowledge of the Lord, Ignatius does not recommend you read and study more.  He recommends that you beg the Lord for the grace of this more intimate knowledge of him.  You cannot and do not produce this knowledge; you can only receive it as God, in his graciousness, gives it to you as a gift.

Second, cultivate a serious prayer life.  If you want to know Jesus more intimately, you have to spend quality time with him.  Set a certain amount of time aside daily for prayer.  That can be 10 minutes a day, that can be sixty.  There are 1,440 minutes in a day.  How many minutes do you reserve to spend with your Lord?  Whatever amount of time you set aside, be careful not to take shortcuts on it.  Like when you set aside 30 minutes, but stop when you reach 27.  Once you start doing that, you will soon be stopping when you reach three minutes.  After a while, you won’t even have three.  You’ll say you don’t have time to pray, when actually you don’t have time not to pray!  Never leave your prayer ahead of time.  In a serious prayer life, you can use such prayers as the Our Father, which was how the Lord taught us to pray, the Hail Mary, and the Glory be.  These prayers should not be chattered; they should be prayed mindfully.  Do not rush, take your time.  Be present to every word you pray.   But beyond prayers formulated by others, do not be afraid to talk to God using your own words.  In the silence of prayer, tell him what is in your heart.  Its excitement.  Its brokenness.  Its hope.  More important, in the silence of prayer, listen to what is in his Heart. 

Third, if you want to get to know Jesus more, spend time with him as he manifests himself to us through the Gospels.  Use the Gospel of the day.  Just spend time with Jesus revealing himself to you and your community through the Gospel passage.  If he is teaching as he is in our Gospel reading for today, listen to him.  Hear his words. See his facial expressions.  See the faces of his hearers as they listen to him.  Understand why the Gospel says, “He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes” (Mark 1:22).  If he is casting out demons from a person, witness what transpires.  Hear how the devils taunt him.  But experience him vanquishing them.  If he is quarreling with the scribes and Pharisees, understand what the issues are, what Jesus’ values are, what the values are of those opposed.

In sum, Ordinary Time is an opportunity for you to get to know Jesus more intimately.  Beg for this grace.  Spend time with Jesus.  Absorb his values:  “He emptied himself…  He humbled himself…” (cf. Philippians 2:6-11).   But he drove the money changers out of the temple. (cf. Jn 2: 13-22).  He fed the hungry (cf. John 6:1-15). He said, “Take and eat, this is my body.  … Drink from this cup all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many [on your behalf] for the forgiveness of sins”  (cf. Matthew: 25:26-29). “Go make disciples of all nations. … Know I am with you [“Emmanuel”, Mt. 1:23] always even to the end of time” (cf. Matthew 28:19-20).

Posted in Homily | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Epiphany:  God Breaks Through!

[Homily.  Feast of the Epiphany.  Assumption Chapel.  January 8, 2023.]

An epiphany is a manifestation of the Holy.  It is a manifestation of God’s holy presence to us. 

In the context of the First Reading, when the Israelites were suffering the darkness and alienation of the Babylonian exile, the words of Yahweh heralded by Second Isaiah were a manifestation of the Holy.  Jerusalem had been destroyed. Not a stone of the great Temple of Solomon was left upon another stone.  The people were expelled and brought into a foreign land.  Among foreigners, in the turmoil of their remorse, in their struggle for their lost identity, in the darkness of their loss, they heard, “Rise up Jerusalem, Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines on you.  See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples;  but upon you, the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.  Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your radiance.”  It was an experience in darkness of the Holy manifesting itself in light and glory – not only for the Israelites crouching in darkness but for “the nations” – all nations.

Then, what would be the effect of this manifestation of the Holy in your life?  Isaiah says, “Then you shall be radiant at what you see. Your heart shall throb and overflow.  For the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.”    Once God breaks through in your life, you are radiant, your heart throbs, your heart overflows.  No riches of the sea can express this.  No riches of the earth can manifest this.   The Holy manifests itself in your life.  God breaks through. 

On this Feast of the Epiphany – “epiphany” meaning not only manifestation, but intense manifestation – you are being invited to be attentive to moments in your life when God breaks through.  Like when you are in intense fear.  You did not mean the accident to happen, but it happened.  You fear the repercussions, the condemnation, the anger; your rue the loss, even the death caused.  But in this moment of dark interior terror, a fellow human being speaks a word of kindness, even forgiveness.  And you know, God is present.  The Holy is manifest. God breaks through. 

It is in this light that we come together today.  Tomorrow, with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, when the voice from heaven breaks through to us and says, “This is my beloved Son…” (Mt. 3:17 b), the Christmas Season ends.  Today’s Gospel can be read as a summary of our whole Advent and Christmas experience, during which in darkness, we experienced the light of God’s beloved Son breaking through – “epiphany,” being intensely manifested – in our world not only for the Jewish nation but for all nations, ourselves included, represented by the magi – the wise men, the kings – bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  In our world, where we have experienced the corruption, duplicity and self-serving violence of many Herods, the guiding light from above breaks through so that we are led to the Light of the Babe in the manger. 

So let the celebration of today’s Epiphany help make “intensely manifest” to you God breaking through to you in your lives as Emmanuel.  Where were the special moments of his manifestation?

For me, certainly, one of them was during the Christmas Liturgical Concert when our Hummingbird, Casti Borres, sang, “To see the face of God is my heart’s desire.  To gaze upon the Lord is my heart’s desire.”  It is a song which echoed and re-echoed within me, heralding how God breaks through.  “…For God so loved the world he gave [to us] his only begotten Son … so that every who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3.16).

For me, another such moment was just the other night when our alumnus and former Sub-Dom singer, Mikail Kevin Gomez, turned meanwhile into an accomplished opera tenor, opened his recital with the words of Second-Isaiah from Händel’s Messiah:   “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.  Speak ye comfortably and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned.  The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness:  Prepare ye the way of the Lord.  Make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Is. 40:1-3).  The overwhelming power and control of Kevin’s singing mediated for me the glory of the entire Advent and Christmas message: “Ev’ry valley shall be exalted, and ev’ry mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain.  And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it” (Is. 40:4-5).

For you, it may have been in your own singing of Silent Night, Holy Night, or of O Holy Night or, today with Joe Mar Chan, “Let love, like that starlight, on the first Christmas morn, lead us back to the manger where Christ the child was born.”

Epiphany – God’s intense manifestation of himself to you and to me for the fullness of life.  That is the center of today’s Feast, not just “Three Kings.”  They brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Many people make this the reason why they give gifts on Christmas.  But in the Gospel, the gold manifests the royal kingship, the frankincense the divinity, and the myrrh the redeeming sacrifice of the Gift the Father gave us in the Child.  The gifts of Christmas only remind us of the Father’s Gift incarnated for us – made intensely manifest for us – in Love.

Be attentive to how the Holy-made-flesh, this Child – Emmanuel – continues to break through – to intensely manifest the Father’s Love – in our lives.

Posted in Homily | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Ignatians, but Jesuits

[Homily.  Titular Feast of the Society of Jesus, Jan. 3, 2023.]

The followers of St. Francis of Assisi were to be called Franciscans. Just as the followers of St. Dominic were to be called Dominicans.  St. Ignatius of Loyola, who prayed for an intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ and in this knowledge prayed to be able to respond with distinction to the call of the King, would not allow the order that he was to found to be named after himself.  The sons of Ignatius are not Ignatians.  He insisted that the company of friends-in-the-Lord be named after the Lord himself.  They were named therefore the Compañia de Jesus, the Society of Jesus:  Jesuits.

That is what we recall today with deep humility on the Titular Feast of the Society of Jesus. 

Our readings celebrate Jesus as our Savior, our Exemplar, and our King.

Jesus, Savior

From the Book of Sirach, prayers directed to Yahweh are applied by the Church to Jesus, the Savior.  “You rescue those who wait for you and you save them from the hands of their enemies” (Sirach 51:8b).  Jesus rescues…  He leaves the 99 sheep in order to rescue the lost sheep.  To save his sheep he is willing to lay down his life.  For many, this is not just a doctrinal truth but a personally-experienced reality.  When I sinned grievously, when I didn’t know how to recover from the setback I’d made for myself, when I was trapped in the mess I made, “You saved me from destruction and rescued me in time of trouble” (Sirach 51:12).

Jesus, Exemplar

Jesus is our Savior.  But in the beautiful second reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippians, Jesus is our Exemplar.  Inspired by his example, we act.  One of the reasons I joined the Society of Jesus long, long ago was because of a friend named Wahoo.  Wahoo lived in plush Forbes Park and drove around in a car his father had given him.  But in the two years before I entered, Wahoo, wearing a very simple T-shirt, jeans and rubber shoes, would take me along with him on a simple public bus to Sapang Palay, then the resettlement area for “squatters” whose homes had been demolished in Pandacan and Tondo, Manila.  There he would help the people in whatever way he could.   For me, in his unlikely simplicity and service, Wahoo was an exemplar, a model of how life could to be lived according to admirable values.  His example inspired me to join the Society of Jesus

In the second reading, St. Paul invites us to consider Jesus as our Exemplar for life.

The example Jesus gives is one of great humility and selflessness.

“Be of the same mind [as Jesus],
having the same love
being in full accord and of one mind.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit,
but in humility
regard others as better than yourselves.
Let each of you look not to your own interests,
but to the interest of others” (Philippians: 2: 2-4).

Those of you still looking for New Years’ resolutions may find inspiration here.  Do nothing out of selfishness;  do nothing out of pride; work in the interest of others.  Be women and men for others. 

You would be swimming against the current.  For this is really quite different from our culture of self-interest and of working hard in order to outdo others in superiority.  To have superior knowledge, superior skills, superior competencies is to be able to be above others in our society.  But against this backdrop Paul invites us to something else:

“Let the same mind be in you
that was in Christ Jesus,
who though he was in the form of God
did not regard equality with God something to be exploited,
but emptied himself
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
He humbled himself
And became obedient to the point of death—
Even death on a cross.”  (Philippians: 2: 5-8).

On this Titular Feast of the Society of Jesus we particularly appreciate Paul’s words:

“Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend
in heaven and on earth and under the earth
and every tongue should confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians: 2: 9-11).

Considering Jesus as our exemplar, we bear his name not in arrogance, but only with reverence and humility, recalling his words,  “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Mt. 16:24).

Jesus, King

Jesus is our Savior, our Exemplar, and the Gospel reminds us:  He is our King. 

Our Gospel for today says:

“After eight days had passed
It was time to circumcise the Child;
And he was called Jesus,
The name given by the angel
before he was conceived in the womb” (Lk. 2:21)

It refers to Gabriel’s words at the Annunciation:

“And now you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,
And you will name him Jesus.
He will be great and be called the Son of the Most High,
And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor, David.
He will reign over the house of David forever” (Lk. 1:31-32).

The Father would give Jesus, the Messiah, the Davidic throne.  The long-awaited Kingdom of God would become the Kingdom of his Son, Jesus, whose mission would be to restore the alienated world back to the Father.  He would do this through his passion, death and resurrection. 

Addressing the Father, we address the Son – in the Spirit.  “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as in heaven.”

Following Jesus, our Savior, Exemplar and King, is not only for Jesuits – but for all Christians.  Since Christians are named after the Christ, the anointed Messiah, we are also all named after Jesus, our Savior, Exemplar and King.

Posted in Homily | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

ADDU Homecoming: Coming Home to the Lord and King

[Homily.  Alumni/ae Mass.  Assumption 30 December 2022]

On the 7th anniversary of the blessing by Abp. Romulo Valles of this chapel of the Assumption, on the seventh anniversary as well of the passing of our benefactor, Mr. Sanjo Dakudao, without whose support this Chapel, the Community Center of the First Companions and Martin Hall could not have been built, on the day of the Grand Alumni/ae Homecoming this evening in The Tent of the Azuela Cove, and, this year, on the Feast of the Holy Family, we come home to ADDU, not only to one another, to old teachers and friends who have influenced us indelibly for life, but we come home to the Heart of the University, the source of its life, mission and whatever success it attains.  We come home to our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.  We have in this week just celebrated his birth, the birth of Emmanuel, God with us, the incarnate Word of the compassionate Father, the Word of Love he speaks to us from the manger as well as from the Cross.  You come home to ADDU celebrating 25 years and 50 since your high school graduation, some less, others even more.  But in coming home to the Lord, you come home celebrating the Father who so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Son not only from the beginning of your lives but from the beginning.  From the very beginning.  Period.  He so loved you from the beginning, and has “blessed you with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose [you] in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him in love.”  This, so that in the fullness of time, we may ultimately come home to him and the Father in the eternity of God’s heavenly kingdom. 

We come home to the Lord, because for many of us, driven by sundry concerns in this exciting, enticing but cruel world, we strayed away from the Lord, like once the prodigal son strayed away from his father.  But today, in the joy of an Alumni/ae Homecoming, in the joy of remembering old teachers, old lessons and cherished Ignatian ideals, like Magis, Ad majorem Dei gloriam, finding God in all things, being women and men for others, we come home – or we are invited to come home (for this cannot be automatic) – to the Lord, who in the Spirit leads us back the Father’s eternal embrace.

In coming home to the Lord, the Heart of this University and the source of its identity and mission, he invites you and all at ADDU to participate in the Father’s threefold work of reconciliation:  first, of reconciling ourselves with himself; second, of reconciling ourselves with one another; and third, or reconciling ourselves with his Creation, our common home. 

We wish to participate – humbly – in the Father’s work of bringing us home to himself.  For some of us, we have abandoned his home and have begun in foreign places to worship strange and graven gods – like lust, or like avarice, like money, like personal glory, like power.  Today we want to come home – or at least consider it.  And to bring others home with us.

We wish to participate – humbly – in the Father’s work of reconciling us with one another.  The Father works to reconcile me with the spouse from whom I am estranged, with the son who has hurt me in disobedience, with the daughter who refuses to listen to my counsel.   We wish to assist the Father in working out lasting peace in Mindanao, in making the economy work for Mindanawons, in fostering the dialogue, collaboration, and understanding between diverse peoples of diverse religions whom he created diverse, in making such as the BARMM work.   We in God’s name wish to participate in the effort to stop the Russian aggression against Ukraine, to stop the cruelty of making freedom-loving people – especially civilian elderly and children –  suffer unbearable cold and hardship in these winter months  We wish to participate in the Father’s work of reconciling the Israelis with the Palestinians, the Iranian theocrats with their people struggling for freedom, the Afghan Taliban with their women shut out from the workforce, China with Taiwan, the US and NATO with Russia and China. 

We wish to participate in the Father’s work of reconciling us with his creation, our common home.  For effectively – in our addiction to fuels that emit greenhouse gasses and cause the devastations of global warming and climate change, in the destruction of our biodiverse forests to make way for mining and monocrop plantations, we have wounded, tortured and destroyed creation as if it were our worst enemy.  Like the way we are allowing the foreign builders of a Samal-Davao bridge to destroy a precious coral reef, which spawns biodiversity in the Davao Gulf.  Without working with the Father to reconcile us with creation, creation will fight back as it is fighting back in the extreme weather occurrences we have seen in the US, in devastating temperature increases, in loss of clean drinking water, in increases in sea levels.

We thank the Lord that part of the great service our silver jubilarians under the leadership of Juan Gadi have promoted renewable photovoltaic energy for needy communities and needy ADDU scholars.  Relative to the use of renewable energy, all of our communities are needy. 

Recalling the letter of Fr. Pedro Arrupe to Alumni/ae of Jesuit Schools worldwide in 1973 entitled Men and Women for Others and his insistence “that participation in the promotion of justice and the liberation of the oppressed is a constitutive element of the mission which Our Lord has entrusted [to our Church],” we wish to appreciate that in each of these areas of participating in the Father’s work of reconciliation, justice is essential. There is no reconciliation with the Father without justice, and no justice without reconciliation with the Father.  There is no reconciliation of human beings with human beings without personal and social justice.  He who says he loves as a Christian without personal and social justice is a liar.  Ultimately, Jesus, the Just Judge says, “Whatever you have done or not done to one of these, the least of our sisters and brothers, that you have done or not done to me” (cf. Mt 25: 40,45).  Whoever honors God’s Creation as his gift for all protects it to benefit not just some but all.  Justice demands that the planet God created for all be preserved and used for all. 

So welcome to you coming home to ADDU!  Welcome to you coming home to the Lord!  Welcome home to consider his invitation to participate in the mission of the University not only as individuals but – on the Feast of the Holy Family – as families and friends.  Welcome home, Blue Knights, to the King, for whom, we “take our stand,” for whom we “fight strong and true,” and before whom, before whose command, “our hearts bow.”

Posted in Homily | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment