Dispute Between the Bishop of Bacolod and St. John’s Institute (Huaming) and Its Implications for CEAP and ECCCE

Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J.
President, CEAP

IMG_2652The yet unresolved public dispute between His Excellency, Most Rev. Patricio Buzon, Bishop of Bacolod, and St. John’s Institute (SJI), also known as Huaming (Lux, Light), necessitates a clarificatory discussion of the juridical personality in the Christian Communion of SJI, a Catholic School operated by Catholic laypersons for the education and evangelization of the youth, its obligations and rights.  The clarification would benefit the relationship between the local bishops and Catholic schools in general.  SJI serves youth in Bacolod, especially those belonging to the Filipino-Chinese Community. In civil society it subsists as a juridical person registered as a non stock, non profit corporation with the SEC under Philippine Law and it is recognized as a sectarian school by the Department of Education.  It is a member in good standing of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines.

The Ecclesiastical Mission of Catholic Schools

IMG_2665.jpgSince its founding 59 years ago, SJI has operated as such a school, participating in the ecclesiastical mission of Catholic schools to respond (a) to “the right of all human beings for an education” and (b) “to the right of all Catholics to Catholic education” (cf. Gravissimum educationis 1, 2).  This education aims not only for the maturing of the human person, “but has as its principal purpose this goal:  that the baptized, while they are gradually introduced to the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of the Father they have received, and that they learn in addition how to worship God the Father in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23) especially in liturgical action, and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth (Eph. 4:22-24); also that they develop into perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13) and strive for the growth of the Mystical Body; moreover, that aware of their calling, they learn not only how to bear witness to the hope that is in them (cf. Peter 3:15) but also how to help in the Christian formation of the world that takes place when natural powers viewed in the full consideration of man redeemed by Christ contribute to the good of the whole society” (ibid).

DSC_0670This mission of Catholic education is echoed in Canon 795, “Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.”   The education that looks to the children’s transcendent and “final end” is sensitive to the mystery of salvation in grace, even as it is clearly to benefit “the good of the whole society” in history.

The importance of the mission of Catholic education for the human community as well as for the ecclesial community is clearly integral to the Church’s substantial understanding of the Catholic school, even as the canonical definition of the school (Can. 803), discussed below, focuses on external formalities.  This canon recognizes the substantial reality of the Catholic school, even should, for whatever reason, it not be formally recognized by the bishop.

The Expected Support of Bishops for Catholic Schools

IMG_2658.jpgIn Gravissimum educationis the Church states, “This Sacred Council of the Church earnestly entreats pastors and all the faithful to spare no sacrifice in helping Catholic schools fulfill their function in a continually more perfect way, and especially in caring for the needs of those who are poor in the goods of this world or who are deprived of the assistance and affection of a family or who are strangers to the gift of Faith.”  In the case of SJI the resources for the continued operation of the Catholic school are gathered, dedicated, and cared for by the lay stewards of this Catholic school, many of them donations of the lay Filipino-Chinese community, evidencing the sacrifice of the faithful in the running of the Catholic school.  Considering that there are opportunity costs for the individual donors in continuing to support this school, the gratitude of the pastors, and not the opprobrium, for the laypersons’ generosity in pooling treasure and managerial expertise towards helping SJI thrive as a Catholic school is appropriate.

Because of the importance of Catholic education, the Church declares it a serious obligation for pastors of the Church to make Catholic education accessible to the faithful.  “Wherefore this sacred synod recalls to pastors of souls their most serious obligation to see to it that all the faithful, but especially the youth who are the hope of the Church, enjoy this Christian education” (ibid).

IMG_2670.jpgIt might be inferred from this “most serious obligation” of pastors that where and Catholic schools are functioning in accordance with the Catholic educational mission pastors support and guide their substantial operation.  This applies to SJI.  Indeed, where SJI in fact focuses its educational efforts on the education and evangelization of the Filipino-Christian community, it resonates not only with the general goals of Catholic education but with a special focus in the educational mission of the Church, namely, on those “who are strangers to the gift of faith” (Gravissimum educationis, 2.)  Over the years, this focus has in fact provided the Diocese of Bacolod with a healthy evangelized Catholic communion of Filipino Chinese, themselves in communion with the Catholic Diocese of Bacolod and with the universal Church.

The Canonical Understanding of the Catholic School

IMG_2657.jpgIt is in this context that the following must be understood:

Can. 803 §1. A Catholic school is understood as one which a competent ecclesiastical authority or a public ecclesiastical juridic person directs or which ecclesiastical authority recognizes as such through a written document.

§2. The instruction and education in a Catholic school must be grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine; teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life.

§3. Even if it is in fact Catholic, no school is to bear the name Catholic school without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.

Can 803 §3 concedes that a school “in fact” can be Catholic, even if the competent ecclesiastical authority, for whatever reason, does not consent that it bear the name of “Catholic.”  It is not the recognition of the bishop that makes the school Catholic in fact, but the actual implementation by the school of the mission of providing Catholic education.  The Catholic facticity of a school is not grounded in the permission of the ecclesiastical authority to call itself Catholic but in what is stated in §2, namely, that its instruction and education are “grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine” and where “teachers are outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life.”  To this may be added the context of Gravissimum educationis.

From the viewpoint of understanding what a Catholic school is, Can. 803 states that the school must be directed either by a competent ecclesiastical authority or a public ecclesiastical juridic person or which the ecclesiastical authority recognizes as such through a written document.  There are therefore three ways by which a school is understood to be Catholic.  In the case of SJI, it is not directed “by a competent ecclesiastical authority” like the bishop nor does the ecclesiastical authority today recognize it to be Catholic “through a written document.” In the interview I had with Bishop Buzon on Jan. 5, however, he declared he had quarrel neither with the teachers nor the students of SJI.  He even said that CEAP should continue to exercise its programs in SJI.  He was recognizing the school as Catholic in fact, even though he was withholding its public recognition because of his public disagreement with its Board of Trustees.

Here, the bishop is relating with the Catholic school as a “public ecclesiastical juridical person” with recognition at least of its implicit Catholic facticity.

SJI Publicly Recognized as Catholic by Four Bishops

Prior to Bishop Buzon, SJI was publicly recognized as Catholic by Bishops Yap, Fortich, Gregorio and Navarra.  Competent ecclesiastical authority therefore had recognized SJI, a public non-stock non-profit corporation constituted by Catholic lay persons as a Catholic school dedicated to the human education and Catholic formation of youth in Bacolod, especial those coming from the Filipino-Chinese community, as the “public ecclesiastical juridic person” of Can. 803 §1. It is constituted by the continued public association of baptized persons of the Catholic communion (and therefore “ecclesiastical”) in a corporation bound by civil law for the manifest purpose of running a Catholic school.  The prerogative to run a Catholic school belongs to the freedom of the children of God.  “The Christian faithful are at liberty freely to found and direct associations for purposes of charity or piety or for the promotion of the Christian vocation in the world and to hold meetings for the common pursuit of these purposes” (Canon 215).  “Since they participate in the mission of the Church, all the Christian faithful have the right to promote or sustain apostolic action even by their own undertakings, according to their own state and condition.  Nevertheless, no undertaking is to claim the name Catholic without the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority” (Canon 216).  Confer also Canon 312.

The “public ecclesiastical juridic person”, the school, once recognized by the competent ecclesiastical authority as a Catholic school, acquires the right to be publicly known as a Catholic school.  This right is recognized and fortified in its acceptance into the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines which is overseen by its Episcopal Commission on Catholic Education under the chairmanship today of Bishop Roberto Mallari.  The school serves the Catholic communion and civil society in the pursuit of its Catholic vision and mission through the implementation of its corporate statutes and ByLaws.  If this right to serve is protected in civil law it ought a fortiori also be preserved in canon law, since the heart of the Catholic school qua Catholic is its evangelization and religious instruction and formation.   Its Board of Trustees serves the Catholic communion in its stewardship of the Catholic school.  Should SJI now be denied public recognition as Catholic by the bishop as a form of punishment, the bishop should in justice after due process kindly clarify why the punishment is imposed in accordance with canon law, considering the harmful impact the unwarranted punishment has not only on SJI, but on the reputation of Catholic schools as reliable educational institutions and on the esteem of episcopal authority and power. “The Christian faithful have the right not to be punished with canonical penalties except according to the norm of law” (Can. 221 §3).  Short of this, the Bishop owes the Catholic-school-in-fact his public recognition, lest his refusal to recognize it be deemed arbitrary and ecclesiastical authority in general be compromised.  In fact, SJI is a school understood to be Catholic as directed by “the public ecclesiastical juridic person” that SJI in fact is (cf. Can. 803 §1).

In my conversation with Bishop Buzon we offered the assistance of CEAP to do an external quality check on the operation of the school to assess its Catholicity according to the newly-articulated Philippine Catholic School Standards.  But for Bishop Buzon the operation of the school as Catholic was not the problem.

Heart of Dispute Between Bishop Buzon and SJI

msgr liu 2.jpgThe public dispute that has led to Bishop Buzon’s withdrawal of his recognition of SJI as Catholic has to do with the use by the Diocese of Bacolod of the SJI chapel under the titular patronage of the Queen of Peace as a diocesan territorial parish.  Twenty years ago, Bishop Camilo Gregorio “elevated” the school chapel into a territorial parish.  The private school chapel thereby took on the functions of a diocesan territorial parish.  Msgr. Gregorio erected the parish in SJI with the consent of one of its founders, Msgr. John Liu, but without the consent of the governing Board of Trustees, against the convictions of another founder, Fr. John Su, and against the advice of his canon lawyer, Msgr. Victorino Rivas. The latter argued that the ownership of the land and structure of the church by the diocese is a normal condition for the erection of a territorial parish.  Canonist Fr Adolfo Dacanay, SJ states:  “The comments of Msgr. Rivas that ‘it is normal practice that we do not create a parish if we do not own the property” is accurate.  A parish is a public juridical person [C. 515.3].  Consequently, it may acquire, administer, and alienate property in its own name.  A parish that does not own land and msgr. su copy.jpgthe structure which constitute it is an anomaly.  The wisdom of the law is proven by the complications that beset the relationship between the school (SJI) and the parish.”   Documents of ownership today are clearly in the name of SJI, based on the donations made by the Montelibano Family to the school.  Competent representatives of the Montelibano family confirm the donations in favor of SJI, contrary to claims that the property was donated to the Diocese.  Because the titles are now in the name of the SJI, should the Diocese assail the SJI ownership it must in justice file its claim in the civil courts which are alone competent to settle the ownership dispute;  to deny resolution of the case in the civil courts and confine it to a spiritual or ecclesiastical plane where it cannot be resolved is unjust to SJI.

The predicament of the territorial parish and the Catholic school in SJI can be likened to a Catholic dog and a Catholic cat being placed by the Diocesan Bishop in a box where the Bishop mandates both to be their natural selves but not to fight because they are Catholic.  After decades of trying to make the relationship work, the relationship between the parish and the school only deteriorated. Recently, parish tarpaulins were taken down, the school administrator was struck by a cleric, the pulpit was used to attack the persons of members of the Board of Trustees, the gates were closed to avert a planned occupation of the SJI grounds by parish GKK.  In this context, the Board of Trustees of the Catholic school decided it was in the best interests of the Catholic school that its Mary the Queen Church no longer host the territorial parish but be reverted to the chapel of the Catholic school.

That is was Boards of Trustees do.  It belongs to their mandate representing the public ecclesiastical juridic person of the school to make decisions according to its best lights in the interests of the school.

The SJI decision was not received well by Bishop Buzon who had been convinced that with more openness, collaboration and respect for the needs of the parish and for episcopal authority on the part of the Board, the parish could continue to function in SJI.  His interpretation, therefore, was that the Board of Trustees had “booted out” the Diocese from SJI, while all it had in fact decided was that its facilities, original meant for the Catholic school, be used for the legitimate prayer and worship of the Catholic community of the school, and not for a parish.  Convinced however that the school had booted out the Diocese, Bishop Buzon “pulled out the Diocese” from the school, even though the nature and consequences of this dire episcopal action are undefined[1].  He operationalized his “pull out” in two decrees, the Decree on the Transfer of the Queen of Peace Parish Church (Reg. No. 2017-002, Book of Decrees) and the Decree on the Relegation of Queen of Peace Parish Church (Reg, No. 2017-001, ibid).  Both decrees were signed by Bishop Buzon as Bishop of Bacolod and by Fr. Roy Christian Gesulgon as chancellor.

SJI’s Alleged Loss of its Catholicity as a Result of Bishop’s Decrees

It his letter to me as CEAP President, Bp. Buzon wrote, “…by virtue of my Decrees on the Transfer of the Queen of Peace Parish Church and the Relegation of the Queen of Peace Parish [sic.], both dated 31 May 2017, the presence and engagements of the Diocese in Hua Ming also ceased.  Consequently, St. John’s Institute also ceased to be a Catholic school.  The Board of Trustees of St. John’s Institute has decided to boot us out of Hua Ming and as such they have to be responsible and accept the consequences of their decision.”[2]

There is no problem with the first decree.  The transfer of the parish to another site was the longtime request of the Board.

But the Decree of Relegation is problematic.  It was not expected.  It is punitive in nature, but does not provide a warrant for the punitive action.  The circumstance of its issuance is “the conclusion of the dialogue between the Diocese of Bacolod and the Board of Trustees of St. John Institute regarding the Huaming controversy” and “in consideration of the position papers, documents and formal meetings conducted with the faithful of the said parish and concerned groups.”  But the particular crime warranting this drastic punishment in these circumstances is not formally articulated.  From my dialogue with Bp. Buzon the punitive action was against the Board of Trustees who had willed its church no longer to be used for the operation of a territorial parish but reverted to a school chapel in accordance with the will of its donors.  In his letter to me, Bp. Buzon charges that the Board of Trustees “booted the Diocese out” of Huaming.  But this was in fact not the intention of the Board of Trustees.  The Decree of Relegation was the Bishop’s action based on his misinterpretation or misrepresentation of the intention of the Board.  While the Board clearly wanted to use its church as the Catholic center of the school where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved and as the venue for Catholic prayer and worship, where the religious instruction on the centrality of the Eucharist and the salvific importance of the Sacraments might be actually experienced by the school community, a privilege in grace enjoyed by most Catholic schools, the Bishop decreed:

  1. That the existing structure, Queen of Peace Parish Church ceases to be a Parish Church and a Diocesan Shrine
  2. That as a consequence to this,
    • there is a suspension of all church services (cessatio a divinis Canons 1212 and 1222)
    • no reservation of the Blessed Sacrament be permitted within the Queen of Peace Parish Church and its Adoration Chapel (Canon 1934 par. 2)
  3. That all clergy, diocesan or religious, are under obligation to abstain from celebrating the sacraments and others rites in the Queen of Peace Parish Church.

But appreciating that the Queen of Peace Church ceases to be a Parish Church in (1), the asserted consequence in (2) is a pastoral if not a canonical non-sequitur.  The Bishop could simply have allowed the sacred structure to be used as a school chapel.  Instead, in an action that was punitive and vindictive, he used his episcopal authority to suspend church services in the Queen of Peace Church, proscribe therein the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament, and obligated all clergy to abstain from celebrating the sacraments and other rites in the Queen of Peace church.

When I shared with the bishop that those who were now suffering from this relegation were primarily the learners and the teachers of SJI who must now take great pains to participate in the Eucharist in a church not their own, he said it is up to the Board of Trustees to explain this to them.  But the Board of Trustees did not boot the Diocese out of Huaming.  The bishop “pulled the diocese out” based on his misrepresentation of the Board’s position.  In his letter to me he wrote, “The Board of Trustees of St. John’s Institute has decided to boot us out of Hua Ming and as such they have to be responsible and accept the consequences of their decision.”  I do not interpret the Board not wanting its church to be used for the operation of a territorial parish as booting the Diocese and the Church out of the Catholic school.

The first non sequitur of Bishop Buzon is that as a consequence of the Queen of Peace Parish Church ceasing to be a Parish Church or a Diocesan Shrine, the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament in the church and the celebration Catholic liturgy and rites follow.

The second non-sequitur is what he writes in his letter to me as CEAP President:

“And so, by virtue of my Decrees on the Transfer of the Queen of Peace Parish Church and the Relegation of the Queen of Peace Parish, both dated 31 May 2017, the presence and engagements of the diocese in Hua Ming also ceased. Consequently, St John’s Institute also ceased to be a Catholic school.”

It is a non-sequitur because the Catholic school is still in fact running – faithful to its mission not only to provide human beings an education but to provide Catholics a Catholic education.

The bishop clearly links his non-recognition of SJI as Catholic to the two decrees, but there is nothing in the nature of a Catholic school that necessitates that it host the operation of a territorial parish.  In his withdrawal of recognition, he implies that there is such a necessity.  Otherwise he could not say, “Consequently, St.. John’s Institute also ceased to be a Catholic school.” Here the Bishop errs.  He punishes the school and its young learners for his error.

There is a third non sequitur:  that considering the circumstances described at the head of the Decree of Relegation, the Decree of Relegation is valid.

Here I quote the comment of canonist Fr. Adolfo Dacanay, S.J., on Bishop Buzon’s Decree of Relegation, which I submitted to Bishop Buzon:

“The decree refers to two canons [cc 1212 and 1222] and therefore something should be said about these canons.

“1)  C. 1212.  Sacred places lose their dedication of blessing if they have been in great measure destroyed, or if they have been permanently made over to secular usage, whether by decree of the competent ordinary or simply in fact.

“(a) The sacred place has not been destroyed in great measure; in fact it is exactly as it was before it became a parish church, when it was a parish church, and after the seat of the parish was moved.

“(b) Neither has the sacred place been permanently made over to secular usage.  The Commentary of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland says:  the place may be made over (to secular usage) by a decision of the appropriate Ordinary whose decree to this effect itself brings about the loss of the dedication or blessing.

“2)  The first paragraph of C. 1222 does not apply to the situation of the Hua Ming (If a church cannot in any way be used for divine worship and there is no possibility of it being restored…).  The second paragraph contains two clauses:

“(a) The first clause:  where other grave reasons suggest that a particular church should no longer be used for divine worship, the diocesan bishop may allow it to be used for a secular by not unbecoming purpose.  The question her is not the structural defect of the edifice but the changed circumstances. Many US churches have been reduced to secular use because populations have moved from inner cities and the church does not serve its original purpose anymore.  In this case, the bishop may reduce it to secular us.  But this is not the case with the Mary, Queen of Peace Church either

“(b) But the second clause of the second paragraph is relevant to the question at hand. ‘But before doing so (reducing the church to secular use) he must first consult the council of priests; he must also have the consent of those who could lawfully claim rights over the church…’

“The New Commentary of the Canon Law Society of America has these explanations:

“[i] he must determine that there is a grave reason for doing so, e.g. inadequate finances to maintain the church properly, or a small number of parishioners together with a shortage of priests.

“[ii] he must consult the presbyteral council.

“[iii] he must have the consent of those who could legitimately claim rights for themselves in the church, which consent is necessary for the validity of the act (c. 127.2.1)

“[iv] he must determine that the good of souls should not be harmed.

“[v] he must determine that the proposed use will not be sordid, which judgment should be made in keeping with cultural variables and local circumstances.

“Those who could lawfully claim rights for themselves in the church would be the juridical person or persons who own the church property.  A physical person might also be able to claim rights, e.g. a major donor to the church whose donation was accepted on condition that the church would continue in use as a sacred place.

“The decree of the bishop is therefore canonically flawed for these reasons.”[3]

We must conclude that the Bishop issued the Decree of Relegation invalidly.

Mary the Queen Church was blessed and consecrated for sacred use by Bishop Manuel Yap in 1966.  It is still a structure that can be used worthily for worship.  Despite his Decree of Relegation, it is still in daily use by the Faithful for prayer and devotion, especially to Mary, Queen of Peace.  But the Decree of Relegation has caused scandal and division in the Christian community, where the Bishop appears to have weaponized the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament and the celebration of the Eucharist and the Sacraments in Mary the Queen Church to punish the Huaming Board for no stated crime in canon law.  In issuing his Decree of Relegation on May 31 2017 he did not have the consent of the owners, SJI.  He did not have the consent of the major donors, the Montelibano family.  On the contrary, both the owners and the donors stand to the sacred purposes for which the property and Church were donated, constructed and consecrated, and so object to the unwarranted Decree of Relegation.

SJI and the CEAP take exception to the Bishop’s non recognition of the Catholicity of the SJI as a consequence of the Decree of Transfer of Parish and the manifestly invalid Decree of Relegation and pray that it be immediately rescinded or be declared publicly as invalid. [4]

Some Important Concerns

Where the support of the local Bishop for a Catholic school is normally the case, the public and scandalous nature of the dispute between the Bishop of Bacolod and the SJI necessitates that the Episcopal Commission on Catechesis and Catholic Education (ECCCE) of the CBCP in dialogue with the CEAP address the following concerns for the good of the Church:

The nature of the Catholic School as a public ecclesiastical juridic person, whether it be run by priests, religious or lay persons[5], subject to the recognition of the Bishop, be clarified.  There is nothing in the nature of the priest nor of the religious that guarantees that either would run a Catholic school better than qualified lay persons.  There is nothing in the nature of the Catholic school that necessitates that its chapel be used by the Diocese as a territorial parish.  What are its obligations?  What are its rights?  Does it have the right to due process.  When it is the object of unjust punitive action, how may it find relief?

That the nature of recognition by the Bishop of a school as Catholic be clarified.  When may it be given?  What is the “written document” of recognition required for recognition.  Many of the functioning Catholic schools would not be able to produce a document of recognition by the local bishop.  When may this recognition be withdrawn?  What is the effect of the withdrawal of the recognition?  This clarification is especially necessary in the light of Canon 803 §3 “Even if it is in fact Catholic, no school is to bear the name Catholic school without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.”   But it is also necessary to protect and promote the Catholic school in fact, i.e., in its evangelization and in its Catholic instruction and formation.

How is the supervisory role of the Bishops over schools in fact exercised.  Today, where the diocesan superintendent oversees diocesan schools, the congregational superintendents or the religious superiors themselves oversee congregational schools, who oversees the Catholic schools run by laypersons according to Can 216?  Could this be a function added to the diocesan superintendent?  Or might the CEAP play a role here in the service of both the Bishop and the school?   How is the supervision of the Bishops exercised over universities whose academic freedom is recognized both in civil law and in Ex Corde Ecclesiae?

How can the Christian community and the public, including the Pastors of the Church who are normally not directly involved in the running of Catholic schools, be assured that Catholic schools are good Catholic schools, i.e., competent in the delivery of human education and Christian formation?  How is quality assurance practiced among the Catholic schools, especially when the schools’ function of evangelization and Christian formation for the common good are concerned?  Here, it may not be enough to use the Philippine Catholic School Standards (PCSS) as an instrument of Internal Quality Assurance.  For greater objectivity, external bodies composed of competent peers in Catholic education using process standards of assessment such as those of the PCSS may be necessary.

 

 


[1] Some have interpreted this as a “local interdict.”  But canon law today no longer provides for a local interdict.

[2] Bishop Patricio Buzon to Fr. Joel Tabora as CEAP President, Nov. 27, 2017.

[3] I submitted the text of Fr. Adolfo Dacanay’s Opinion signed and dated Jan. 3, 2018 to Bishop Buzon together with my letter to him dated Jan 5, 2018.

[4] I have written a formal letter to Bishop Roberto Mallari, Chair of ECCE, in this regard dated 7 January 2018.  I met him personally and discussed the letter with him on 12 January 2018.   I discussed my letter to Bishop Mallari with Abp. Romulo Valles, President of the CBCP, on 13 January 2018.

[5] cf. Canons 208, 215, 216

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Reaching for God in the Sto. Niño

[Reflection for the Celebration of the Sto. Niño at St. John’s Institute (Huaming) in Bacolod, Jan 19, 2018.]

Santo Niño de Cebu

It is not easy to talk to Majesties of Fire and Fury.
They shock and terrify.  They hurt and harm.  They thrive on obedience coerced in fear.
Perhaps one of the most harmful of divine images is that of a God of Power and Punishment, an angry God taking vengeance on the vexatious, sending sinners to hell.
In our shame and brokenness, it is not easy to warm up to such a God.
One is always cowed, one’s head always bowed.
This is not the God of my faith.

My prayer is that of the humble publican beating his breast at the back of the temple:
“Have mercy on me, Lord, a sinner.”  And of God lifting me up.

Much easier to warm up to the black Nazarene,
victim of the chief priests, victim of established power and misjudgment,
carrying the heavy Cross to take away the burden of our sins.
Much easier in touching this divine Man of suffering
to be touched by God’s mystery even in our own sufferings.

Much easier yet in yearning for the God of life,
the source of our consolation and joy,
to talk to Emmanuel, the God who is with us, as a Child.
Much easier in coping with the challenges of my life
And the complicated problems of my day
to converse intimately with the Holy Child, the Sto. Niño.
He always listens.  He is but a child.  He never sends me away.
He caresses my face.

In the Philippines the celebration of the Sto. Niño
recalls the Gift of our Faith that came from the conqueror.
The Sto. Niño was the gift of Magellan to us baptized in the Faith.

But in baptism, the Sto. Niño is really the Gift of the Father,
the Sto. Niño is his Word of Love to us
who grew among us in wisdom, age and grace.

The Sto. Niño is the smiling Child to whom Mary leads us
in our loneliness and sadness, confusion and sin.

The Sto. Niño is the Child from deep within us
that expresses our most profound need in crying, “Abba, Father!”

As Jesus said, “Let the children come to me,”
on this happy day in Huaming, we all pray,
“Let the Holy Child, the Sto. Niño, come to me!”
It is in your Word-made-flesh-in-a-Child, Father,
that all is sanctified, all is consecrated, all is holy.
Thank you for our Filipino-Chinese heritage
that you in your incarnation cherish as yours.
The world rejected that Word, Father, but we do not.
On this celebration of the Sto. Niño, thank you, Father, for our baptism.
Thank you for our school.  Thank you for our church.
Thank you for our Catholic Christian community.
Keep us all together, Father, in your love.

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The Child in the Manger

midnight mass 2017

[Homily:  Christmas Midnight Mass, ADDU Chapel of the Assumption, 2017]

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 6.45.55 PMFinally this long-awaited day has come.  The Church begins its official wait for this day from the first day of Advent, four weeks ago.  But the Philippines bypasses Advent and begins the Christmas season four months ago, with the first day of the “–ber months”.  It begins inevitably with radios airing Christmas carols and televisions transforming their sets with the shapes and colors of Christmas.  Broadcasters, store attendants and waiters wear the red caps of Santa’s elves or the branched antlers of Santa’s reindeer.  Inevitably these days, the voices of Joe Mari Chan and his daughter, Lisa, herald the spirit of the Season:  “Whenever I see girls and boys selling lanterns on the street, I remember the Child in the manger as he sleeps…”  It’s an important thing to remember.  For “The Child in the manger as He sleeps” is what many people forget as Christmas decorations are put up, gifts for loved ones and friends are lovingly prepared, and preparations are made for the Noche Buena after this Midnight Mass and the special meal tomorrow that brings the family and friends together on Christmas Day.   Sadly, the commercial activities that surround the quintessentially Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, have more and more removed the Child in the Manger from their Christmas decorations – and Christmas. Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 6.46.29 PMTraditionally the birth of Christ is recalled by the Belen, with its figurines of the Baby Jesus in the manger cared for by Mary and Joseph, admired by the shepherds from the field, and worshipped by the Three Kings, along with the ox, the donkey, the sheep and the Magi’s three camels.  The Belen was set under a Christmas tree – in Germany, a Tannenbaum, a fir tree –  lit by live candles with a star atop it.  The Christmas tree with its crowning star – which became our Parol – and the trees’ lights were to recall how the star led the magi and all of us to the newborn Messiah.  The first Christmas gift is the Father’s gift to us of the Christ Child wrapped in swaddling clothes and lain in a manger.  The first Christmas carol is the song of the angels, “Gloria in excelsis Deo – Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.”

In some of the malls, the Christ Child, the Father’s Gift to us all at Christmas, is replaced by a giant multi-colored empty box wrapped in swaddling ribbons, the lone Christmas tree replaced by a forest of sparkling trees decorated by colorful balls, tinsel, teddy bears and candy cane, and the unique star replaced by whole constellations of flickering stars intended to bedazzle shoppers and keep them mesmerized in the right spirit of Christmas as their wallets and bank accounts are emptied and bountiful yuletide profits are achieved.

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 6.48.46 PMRecently, I participated in a Kris Kringle exchange.  When I asked, no one knew the meaning nor the origin of “Kris Kringle.”  The Internet said different things.  Most said Kris Kringle is Santa Claus.  One video said, insightfully, Kris Kringle is “the son of Mr. Kringle.”  No one was able to connect to the Christ Child, in German, Christus Kind, or the little Christ Child, Christus Kindlein (“Kindlein,” the diminutive of Kind, Child) or Christus Kindl (“Kindl,” another diminutive of Kind, Child) or Kris Kindl.  Kris Kringle is the Christ Child!

I guess, part of the fun of Christmas today has to be to smile and try to decipher the decorations and relate them to the traditional faith-based symbols celebrating the Birth of our Lord.  When we hang a sparkling parol outside of our house, or give our loved one a gift at Christmas, we are not just repeating an empty Christmas tradition, correct?   Recently, as I wanted to see the movie Coco that people around me were talking about, I watched an unusually long 21-minute bonus cartoon by Disney’s Pixar entitled “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” which, I guess, in a secular world tries to recover the spirit of Christmas.  The Queen and princess of the northern European realm have prepared a wonderful Christmas banquet for their village, but no one comes.  Each must go home, they explain, to fulfill “their Christmas tradition.” Every family has a different Christmas tradition, for some a festive meal, for others a special game, for others a happy dance.  When the Queen and princess in their lonely castle notice sadly that they have no “tradition” with which to celebrate Christmas, Olaf the Snowman goes off generously into the village, then into the forests and mountains, to findScreen Shot 2017-12-24 at 6.49.39 PM a Christmas tradition for them.   His arduous adventure brings him much suffering, but it ends in the discovery that he, Olaf, is the royal family’s Christmas tradition.  The discovery ends the cartoon on a happy note.  But the ultimate message of the cartoon is:  Be happy at Christmas with your family tradition, whatever it is, and may you never be without a family tradition at Christmas, whatever it is, even if it is Olaf the Snowman, whoever he is, or Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, whatever he is, or Santa Claus on Olaf’s reindeer, whoever Santa is, or a striped red-and-white peppermint stick, whatever that means, or a striped Apple with a chunk of it bitten off by Steve Jobs on a gift, the Giant of Technology whose remarkable life – complicated – argues for our need of a Messiah.

The Good News of today is that the Messiah is born. The world sets it aside as
fake news, and conjures a commercial culture without the Belen, or “a Christmas tradition” without the Christ Child.  If we intentionally push Christ out of the malls because not all believe in Christ and Christmas commercialism is for all, if we push the memory of the Christ Child born in embarrassing poverty out of Christmas because it offends against the show-off materialism of the Season, if we push Jesus Christ out of our enjoyment of our Christmas merriment, and put together a grand birthday party but creatively conspire to keep the birthday Celebrant out of it, it’s only because we’ve found our ways of being Christians without Christ, or of being well-bred, educated, technocratic humans without the Messiah.

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 6.50.58 PMBut the bad news is no matter how much the media heralds “Change is coming, change is here!” and no matter how much we need to believe that and pray, “I believe, help my unbelief!” we come to learn that our power to change what we need to change and improve the quality of life for our people is severely limited: our typhoons remain deadly, our rivers Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 6.51.02 PMoverflow, our houses get flooded, our malls burn down.  Our police force is flawed, our military is imperfect, our officials corrupt, our collaborators inept, yet what we want to change in our humanity is stubborn and pernicious.  We love our old ways, we love our old dilapidated jeepneys, we love our old dependencies, we love our old quarrels.  We love humanity, but that Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 6.51.05 PMperson who wronged me – imagine, in my own family! – I refuse to forgive, and for him or her my cold passive aggression totally appropriate and justified!  We also learn that despite our breeding, education and positions of influence, much of what is flawed and imperfect and corrupt and inept and unforgiving is in us.  Things don’t change, because we refuse change.  We are happy with our addictions, and profit from our corruption, and content always to push the blame on others. We can celebrate Christmas without the Christ Child because that baby born of a Virgin is embarrassing, and because we have come to the conviction that life is possible without a Messiah, and that what is wrong, unjust and life-sapping in our society can be righted with a build!-build!-build! economy, a multi-trillion budget, Federalism and martial law.

Of course, we know, that’s not true.  That’s fake news.  And that’s what we must consider as we remember “the Child in the manger as he sleeps.”  There is no Christmas that is possible without the Christ Child, and no Christmas that can be meaningful without personal insight into our need for a Messiah.

So, Christmas is here.  Jesus is born:  Emmanuel, God with us.  With Joe Mari and Lisa, “Let’s sing Merry Christmas and a happy holiday!  This Season may we never forget the love we have for Jesus.  Let him be the one to guide us as another new year starts.  And may the Spirit of Christmas be always in our hearts!”

Screen Shot 2017-12-24 at 6.51.42 PM

 

 

 

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The Dawn from on High

[Homily:  9th day, Simbanggabi, 24th, Martinez Sports Center, ADDU, December 2017]

With what more beautiful words can we end our nine-day Simbanggabi experience than these from the Canticle of Zechhariah?

In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

For nine-days we have come here in the dark of the night.  One can take that literally.  We’ve gotten up in the dark of night to come here; we come here despite the darkness in our homes, in our neighborhood, in our alleyways and streets.  One can however also take “the dark of night” figuratively – to refer to the darkness which hinders sight, the darkness which hides untold dangers, the darkness which is the result of our refusing the light, of choices that bring perilous darkness into our own lives and into the lives of others.  Once conjured, this is darkness that is not only beyond my control.  It is darkness that controls me, and makes me do things I would normally never do, say things I would normally never say, and hurt people whom I in fact would never wish to harm.  This is so, until in my life, what becomes my new normal is the way of darkness:  the cheating has become habitual, the corruption has become necessary, the injustice has become rational.  In this darkness, despite the superficial trappings of success, I know there is no joy.

In this context, these nine novena days of Simbanggabi have been our intensified Advent, as we came in darkness, yet waited for the dawn to come.  We waited, recognizing the darkness around us, yet knowing we have no ability on our own to break the darkness.  We waited consoled in God’s revelation of himself as a compassionate God.  “Com-passionate” – “suffering with”;  a God suffering with his people dwelling in darkness and the shadow of death, feeling compassion for them, instead of abandoning them to cold eternal darkness, suffering with them to help breathe into them new hope and new life.  New hope: in the conviction the darkness can be overcome.  New life: in the conviction the darkness does not lead to death.

Therefore the Good News of this Mass:

In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death…

We have not just come here in darkness.  We have come here in the hope of dawn.  We have come here knowing that the darkness which oppresses us and conditions us to choose to harm others can be broken.  The dawn from on high breaks upon us, shining on us who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.  It was the special experience of our Simbanggabi here in Matina.  Everytime we came in darkness, in this Simbanggabi, we wore liturgical white;  we sang the Gloria;  we celebrated the Dawn.  While all others remained in their dwellings of darkness and the shadow of death, our Simbanggabi became Simbangbukangliwayway – the Misa de Gallo that everyday welcomed the Dawn.  Today we do so with among the most beautiful passages of Scripture celebrating God’s good News:

In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death…

In the tender compassion of God…  God does not approach us scolding us, mocking us, taunting us;  he does not call fire and brimstone down upon us for having rejected his message of the primacy of the Kingdom and for having rejected him.  He comes gently, the tender light of dawn that slowly breaks the darkness, that with the drama of dawn allows the hues and colors of our lives to reappear, that gently replaces the darkness and depression with light and hope.  He comes today having first entered our lives on the wood of a manger, but having won our life back on the wood of a Cross.  He comes today in a manger in soft but brilliant Resurrection light reconciling the darkness with the light, the earth with the heavens, the sinful with the holy, the human with the divine, so that in peace together as the prophet Isaiah once wrote:  “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them” (Isaiah 11:16).

In the light and power of this Dawn let us allow this Child to lead us to Peace.  Too long, the adult has led us to war.  Let his Child bring us to reconciliation.   Let man be reconciled with his God, let creation be reconciled with humanity, and let man be reconciled with with his fellow man: the North Korean with the American, the South Korean with the Chinese, the Saudi with the Iranian, the Israeli with the Palestinian, the Bangsamoro with the Filipino, the Communist rebels with the Republic of the Philippines.

This is the Dawn that we celebrate at this Simbanggabi.

In the tender compassion of our God, the Dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to guide our feet into the way of Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Love is Made Flesh

god incarnation

[Homily: Simbanggabi, Dec 20, 2017]

On the fifth day of our Simbanggabi we are at the midpoint of our nine-day novena of dawn Masses. But I think it can also be said that on this day we recall the absolute pivotal midpoint of salvation history. From our Gospel reading, what we immediately recall is the Annunciation, the Angel Gabriel’s words that we repeat in every Hail Mary: Hail, full of Grace! The Lord is with you.” At these words, Mary was greatly troubled, confused, afraid. The Angel responded to her fear: “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God. Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High…and of his Kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary was a virgin. She asks: “But how shall this be, since I have no relations with a man.” The Angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the Power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the Child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” The announcement was made. The plan of God was exposed. But it was not yet a fact. The entire plan of the salvation of humankind and the created world was made contingent on the free consent of the virgin from Nazareth. The entire plan pivoted on whether Mary would say yes or no. Mary’s response was clear an unequivocal. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” At that instant, Mary conceives Jesus in her womb. Through Mary’s consent, the Annunciation became the Incarnation. In Mary’s immaculate womb, the Word of Father, a word of Love, became flesh. This is why to this date, the Church celebrates the Annunciation nine months before the celebration of the birth of Jesus. Nine months after Mary consents to be the Mother of the Messiah and conceives, she gives birth to the Child, wraps him in swaddling clothes, and lays him in a manger.

In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius has a central meditation on the Incarnation. It is a meditation which pivots on the mystery of the Annunciation. But the focus of the mediation is less on the free consent of Mary to God’s plan of salvation, and more on the free consent of God to the to this plan. The exercitant is invited, as we are all invited today, to gain insight into what it was in the mind of the Trinity, Father, Son and Spirit, that moved him to freely consent to the Incarnation. For the Incarnation need not have occurred. The Word need not have become flesh, need not have been born into this inhospitable environment, need not have consented to the journey that would lead him to the Cross. So Ignatius invites the exercitant to do what is without grace absolutely impossible, to enter as it were into the mind of God, and with the eyes of God regard the world and its human population, and gain insight into how the God of Creation responds. You are invited to hear what people are saying on the face of the earth, to see what people are doing, not with your eyes but with the eyes of God, responding not with your emotions but with the emotions as it were of God. What people are saying: some people are conversing about problems they have at home or at work, some people are sharing news, others are fabricating fake news, some people are teaching history or physics or mathematics, others are insisting on the absolute priority of maximum profits, the necessity of corrupt practices, the euphoric experience of substance abuse. Some are speaking of a compassionate God of peace, others of God’s for war against peace. Some are speaking words of love, others manipulative words in the guise of love. What people are doing: some making love, others making war; some helping the poor, the elderly, the needy, others oppressing the helpless and the vulnerable; some creating goods to respond to human needs, others creating powerful needs to consume created goods; some designing and building awesome green skyscrapers, others building intercontinental missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction, some working to advance the common good, others rejecting the common good to pursue but selfish and private goods. In regarding the world that you and I live in, with its virtue and vice, love and hatred, war and peace, liberation and manipulation, God did not turn his back on the world, but affirmed it, he did not destroy the world, he preserved it; he did not distance himself from the world, he entered it; he did not despise its humanity, he affirmed it. In entering it, he did not merely say that it was good; he made it good, conjoining his divinity to humanity, his sacredness to profanity, his holiness to what had been defiled. He did not have to do this; he did it, attracted by the breath of your life, the surprise of your consciousness, the drama of your dreams, the courage of your commitments, the depth of your problems, the joy of your successes, the disappointment of your failures. He did it, drawn by the excitement of your ambitions, the achievements of your genius, but repelled by your hatred, your pettiness, your wars, your violence, your murders, your stealing, your adultery. He did it, teaching the primacy of the Kingdom of God. He did it, exercising a free and awesome brand of gratuitous love.

In this messy world of drug cartels, and extrajudicial killings, and religious wars and violent extremism, and the Kingdom of authoritarian power and militarism challenging constitutional liberties, they killed him for this insistence on the Kingdom of God. There is no room for the Kingdom of God in a world where people refuse to recognize God. There is no room for the Kingdom of God in a world where people refuse to recognize that dignity of the human being for whom God chose to be incarnate. Yet to this world our Scripture proclaims, “The virgin herself shall conceive and bear a son, and she shall name him Emmanuel,” God with us. That is the awesome mystery of the Incarnation. God is with us. He doesn’t have to be. He is. That is the Incarnation. God says yes to us. He doesn’t take it back. When we enter into his mind-considering-the-Incarnation, we find not a concept of love, we find love.

The love is made flesh. We are invited to respond in in the flesh. In love.

 

 

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In Time and at the End of Time: the Lord

law grad homily copy[Homily: ADDU Pre-Christmas Mass, Dec. 15, 2017]

We come together in the spirit of the Advent season. That spirit is a spirit of preparation. It prepares for the second coming of the Lord. The Lord comes at the end of time. At the end of time, the Lord comes as our King and our Judge. Part of the joy of Advent is our certitude that at the end of time, all things will be made right. All injustice will be undone. All undue suffering will be requited. The just will be admitted to their eternal reward. The unjust will suffer eternal perdition.   Advent awaits the triumph of the Lord as a just King and compassionate Judge. Advent awaits the victory of his justice and compassion, of his Kingdom established over heaven and earth. In hope, we prepare ourselves for his second coming, for we do not know the day nor the hour of its coming.

_MG_1888As Advent prepares for the second coming of the Lord at the end of time, it does so in the memory and joy of his first coming in time. The Lord entered into our time, into our space, to free us from our sin, our darkness, our rejection of God as relevant for our lives, our consequent pride, deification of ourselves, reification of others, our contempt, rejection and hatred for one another, our endless quarrels, our violence, our wars. In time, the Lord comes as a teacher, as a prophet of truth, as a bearer of light. “I have come to bring you life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10). “I, the Lord your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go” (Is 48:17). He comes, teaching us to love God above all things, not to take his name in vain, to keep holy the Lord’s Day, to honor our father and mother, not to kill, not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to lie, not to covet our neighbor’s wife, not to covet our neighbor’s goods (cf. Ex 20:1-17).     Where sin abounds from the hearts of human individuals, he teaches that he does not despise the sacrifice of a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart (cf. Ps 51:17). In time, in the fullness of time, God’s Word is made flesh. God’s teaching becomes flesh, becomes incarnate (cf. Jn 1:14). God’s teaching is the Child in the manger, the wandering Preacher insisting on the primacy of the Kingdom of God, the astonishing Teacher calling the Poor in Spirit blessed, the angry Prophet overturning the tables of the money changers in the House of his Father, the Lord and Master washing the feet of his disciples, the Son of Man sweating blood in agony, the Son of God suffering for our sins. God’s teaching is the crucified Word of God expressing the fullness of God’s love for us on the Cross. The wood of the manger, the wood of the Cross, bearing the Lamb of God, the resurrected Lord, the Judge of heaven and earth. Recalling his coming in time and his being our Teacher is part of the joy of Advent for it has a bearing on our hope in his second coming.

_MG_1911In Advent, we are invited to reflect on how that teaching has affected our lives in our own time, has conditioned our relationships, influenced our choices, even shaped our decision to be part of, or remain part of, this Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino university that is called Ateneo de Davao. We are invited to appreciate how Christ, the Teacher, quietly inspires our lives as teachers, as staff, or as administrators, and how his teachings help shape what it is that we teach or what it is we do to support teaching well. We can reflect on how his presence has helped us overcome momentous hardships in our past year, both in our personal and professional lives, and then shepherded us to positive outcomes for which we are grateful. In the GS, we transitioned to new leadership, to fresh beginnings, to new challenges. We learned we can agree, disagree and dialogue towards shared commitment to the welfare of our students. In the JHS we met the taxing challenges of a PAASCU survey visit, assessing our weaknesses, appreciating our strengths. We were visited, measured, examined, and not found wanting. In the SHS we survived, where survival could not be taken for granted. But we did not only survive. We worked hard together, faced our demons, learned many lessons, and have despite our shortcomings become one of the most successful SHSs in the country. In the colleges, we worked hard on improving ourselves as teachers, on overcoming our interpersonal problems, on improving our research and sharing its results with audiences in other countries, on preparing ourselves for inter- and multidisciplinary teaching of our Jesuit core curriculum, and on achieving outstanding professional board performance in teacher education, psychology, psychometrics, guidance counseling, chemistry, social work, architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, electronics engineering, certified public accounting, nursing and law. Meanwhile, we have become the Technopreneurship hub for Mindanao. We have worked hard 24/7 to fight illegal drugs in our City. We have continued to work hard together for peace, for the rehabilitation of Marawi, for the self-determination of the Bangsamoro, for the improvement of education among the madaris, for the upliftment of the Lumad, for the protection of the environment, and for educational reform both in basic and higher education. We did so, in the presence and inspiration of Christ, our Teacher.

_MG_1881We have much to be grateful for, even as we know we have yet much to learn from our divine Teacher. It is in this context that the Lord says in our first reading, “If you had only paid attention to my teachings, heeded my commandments” you would have experienced prosperity, vindication and descendants like the grains of the sand.” (Is 48:18). It is as if he tells us, “If only you had heeded my teachings, you would have succeeded more, found greater respect in one another’s eyes, and have had as many successful students as the grains of the sand.” My teachings you know: you are educated educators, you know your catechism, you know your theology, you know when it is that you do wrong, you know when you use your knowledge and your power to take undue advantage of your fellow teacher or employee, or to Lord it over your students. You know when it is that you fail to give love – in laziness, in tiredness, in utter selfishness – even to those you love most. You know many things. That is your strength. But your weakness is you use your knowledge to block yourselves off from learning of me, as I teach you truth from the Cross, speaking to you personally in your unique circumstances, urging you to do what will really make you happy.

Part of the joy of Advent is to rejoice in how the Lord comes to us in our time, as a Teacher, as a Savior, as a human being, born in poverty, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lain in a manger. It is that same Lord who at the end of time wishes to welcome us to the joys for which we were created from the beginning of time. If hearing his Word on the wood of the Cross may seem overwhelming, his Word as a baby lain on the wood of the manger may be less intimidating. But to hear it, we must listen in silence free of the customary distractions of the Season. The Word is but a vulnerable baby. But it is an intimate Word of powerful love. It is a forgiving Word of acceptance. It is an awesome Word of God’s irretrievable commitment to us. It is the Good News the Father whispers in Love that we must not miss to appreciate as Christmas nears.

 

 

 

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Of Contractual Relations and Giving Without Counting the Cost

law grad homily copy

[President’s Remarks: ADDU Service Awards, 2017]

It is my privilege to add my personal word of congratulations to all the service awardees celebrating 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and even 35 years of service at the ADDU in the Grade School, Junior High School, and from the various schools in higher education. We congratulate all those who have received special rewards – our retirees. This day we recognize your loyalty over the years, and express our gratitude for your loyal service, that in some cases have virtually defined your lifetime.

_MG_1769As we express our gratitude for your loyalty, we also express our gratitude to the Lord for the Ateneo de Davao, that we all work hard to keep alive in the service of our youth, our society and our Church. The ADDU is the context of your service, your long-term employment, and the benefits that you receive over many years as employees of ADDU. At ADDU, as elsewhere, the employer-employee relationship is defined by a contracts freely entered into with their determinations of legal obligations on both the side of the employer and the side of the employees. We are grateful that these contracts exist. We are grateful they can exist.

_MG_1728But we are also grateful that an essential dimension of your service here at Ateneo cannot be adequately expressed in an employer-employee relationship, because this dimension has to do with the institution’s relationship with the Church, and the institution’s relationship with its God, and the institution’s relationship with its stakeholders.

It also has to do with your individual relationship to the Church, and to God, and to the stakeholders of this university, i.e., your own personal appropriation of the mission of the school in living out your contracted service. In your service here at the ADDU you are dealing not only with an employer and an employing institution. You are yourself responding to your God, your Church, your community.

_MG_1713It is therefore also in this trans-contractual dimension, that your service is rendered.

Therefore, even as we are today grateful for your loyalty in contractual fidelity over the years, we are also grateful today for your generosity.

This is something we cannot contract.

It is something we learn.

It is something we pray for.

Generosity: St. Ignatius taught us to pray for generosity.

  • Lord teach us to be generous
  • Teach us to serve you as you deserve
  • To give and not to count the cost
  • To fight and not to heed the wounds
  • To toil and not to seek for rest
  • To labor and ask not for reward
  • Save that of knowing that we do your most holy will.

In the service awards for this day, we recognize your loyalty gratefully. And proudly honor you. But we also recognize your generosity. And humbly praise God.

 

 

 

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