Jesus Slams Hypocrisy

Woe to you

[Homily.  Assumption Chapel.  Mk. 8:11-13; 14-21.   17 Feb. 2020.]

In our Gospel reading for today, the Pharisees attack Jesus.  They demand from him “a sign from heaven to test him” (Mk 8:11).  But testing him, they expect him to fail.  This really exasperates Jesus.  “He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, ‘…no sign will be given to this generation’” (Mk 8:12).

But Jesus always worked with signs.  In the passage from St. Mark that immediately follows today’s reading and will be read tomorrow, Jesus gives examples of powerful signs which he had set to lead people to faith. Talking to his disciples he asks, “…Do you not remember, when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”  They answered, “Twelve” (Mk 8:19).  “When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”  They answered him, “Seven” (Mk 8:20).  Jesus used these and many other signs to show people who he was.  He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead to life.  And because of these signs, those who were open to truth, came to see who Jesus was.  “This is my beloved Son,”  The voice from on high said.  “Listen to him” (Lk 9:35).

But now Jesus, being challenged by Pharisees to give them a sign, a spectacular sign, to prove that he was the Messiah, replied with exasperation, “No sign will be given to this generation,” meaning, this breed of Pharisees.  I give signs and others see.  But you blind yourselves to the many signs I have already given, then now ask for a sign?

You hypocrites!  You lead people to think that you interpret God’s will, but you do not.   You lead people to think you are the examples of religious virtue, but your thoughts and your actions betray your pious pettiness and moral vice.  Hypocrites!  In Chapter 23 of Matthew Jesus vents his anger against the Pharisees:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you shut up the Kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering it to go in” (Mt. 23:13).  The Pharisees had heard Jesus’ preaching on the Kingdom of Heaven.  They acknowledged the Kingdom of God, but hindered people from entering it, and did not go in themselves.  From Jesus, they knew of the Kingdom of God but refused to mend their ways so that they could enter it, and worked so that others could benefit from what they refused.   Yet, they still asked for a sign.  Hypocrites!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers” (Mt. 23:14).   You know the meaning of the Kingdom of God, its imperatives to compassion and charity, yet because of your privileged positions as holy persons you devour the houses of widows, and for worthless considerations make long prayers.  The prayers do not connect you with my Father, but only with the worthless monetary considerations for which you pray them!   You hypocrites!

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.  For you pay tithes of mint and anise and cummin but have neglected the weightier matters of the law:  justice and mercy and faith” (Mt. 23:23).    You make as if you are law-abiding, but your following the law falls short of what is required for the Kingdom of God.  You know what is required, yet you neglect justice, mercy, and faith.  Hypocrites! “You are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanliness” (Mt 23: 27).

Jesus labored to bring people closer to his Father, to introduce them to the goodness and compassion of his reign in his Kingdom, to make them experience that if they accept the Father’s reign, they are loved, forgiven, and redeemed. In this desire of Jesus, the Pharisees were his opponents.

While they claimed to be guiding people to God, they were actually making it more difficult for them to approach God.

While they claimed to be holy and appeared pious, they were actually taking advantage of the poor and the lowly.

While they followed the letter of the law with fastidiousness, they neglected the substantial demands of the law like justice, mercy, and faith.

Jesus refuses to give them a sign because he refuses to manipulated by their hypocrisy.

Coming from this situation, Jesus will tell his disciples,  “Watch out, guard against the leaven of the Pharisees” (Mk 8:15).   “Leaven,” “yeast,”  the bacteria introduced into the dough that makes dough rise, is in the Bible most often a symbol of evil or sin.  Jesus warns his disciples, beware of the evil and sin of the Pharisees:  hypocrisy.  In your relationship with my Father beware of hypocrisy.

Beware of acting as if you don’t know what is right so that you can continue in your wrong.

Beware of acting as if you don’t know the truth so that you can persist in your lack of integrity.

Beware of denying the light that you see, so that you can remain in darkness.

Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.

I have given you signs in abundance.  You have only to see.  I enable you to see.  Come, follow me in truth, integrity, and love.  Why?  So “that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn. 15:11).

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New Coronavirus:  God Does Not Will Human Suffering


[Homily.  Assumption Chapel. Feb 10, 2020.]

Considering the novel coronavirus today, I do not know whether what you heard today from our Gospel comforts or disturbs you.  When the people of Gennesaret recognized that the man who had come of the boat was Jesus, “they scurried about the surrounding country and began to bring in the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was.  Whatever villages or towns or countryside he entered, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak; and as many as touched it was healed” (Mk. 6:54-56).

There are many such accounts of people bringing their sick to Jesus and his curing them.  Among my favorites is the story of four men who wish to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus.  “When they could not come near him because of the crowd,” Mark narrates, “they uncovered the roof where Jesus was.  So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.  When Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’”  Later, to show that he did have the power to forgive sins, he said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed and go to your house” (Mk. 2:3-12).  The paralytic rose, cured.  But Jesus also cured the man with the withered hand (Mk 3:1-6), the daughter of the Roman centurion (Lk 7:1-10), and raised the son of the widow of Nain to restore him to his mother (Lk.7:11-17).  Jesus was a mighty preacher who enthralled his listeners because he spoke with authority.  But very precious to the people who encountered him was that he was a healer.  He was happy to heal people, even if only by allowing people to touch the tassel of his cloak.

That is why for the past weeks, before every Mass here in this chapel, we have been praying,  “Lord Jesus, in the compassion of the Father and with the healing love of the Spirit, you commanded the lame to walk, the deaf to speak, the blind to see; you brought the dead to life.  You created signs for us to be sensitive to God’s love in our lives.  As the Wuhan coronavirus claims more and more victims, we ask you to stretch your healing hand over the city of Wuhan, the province of Hubei, over all of China, and overall the world.”  We have been praying this since the infections were at about 2000 and the deaths 64.  However, things apparently are getting worse.  Yesterday there were 37,575 cases of the new coronavirus worldwide. Of these 6,196 are severe.  2,915 have recovered.  But 814 have died, including the young Chinese doctor who tried to warn people of the lethalness of the new virus but was censured for doing so by the Wuhan government.

That may be disturbing for some.  Why does our compassionate healing God allow this international health emergency to worsen?  We have prayed that he shield our Filipino people, our city of Davao and our relatives and friends from this virus.  But one Filipino is among those infected in the United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, three Chinese persons have died in the Philippines from the virus.  There is a general feeling of vulnerability.  Many people are scared.  Many are seeking refuge behind masks.

And so we ask, what may God the healer want to convey to us through this coronavirus?

One may be that he is the master of the universe, and it is not the case that man has killed God and has taken over mastery of the universe.  It is not the case that God is dead.  For all man’s science and power and industry, God is still in control.   This may be an occasion to rediscover the presence of God in our world and in our lives, to cease worshipping our false idols, and to bow down to the one God in awe.

Second, if we say have prayed for God to end the coronavirus, perhaps we have not prayed enough.  Perhaps, we have prayed to manipulate him, rather than say, “Thy will be done!”

Third, perhaps we have not shown enough gratitude for the thousands of men and women worldwide who are working night and day and risking their lives, indeed, have already given up their lives, in order to implement the healing will of God.   Or, in this vein, perhaps we have not shown enough gratitude for the health we enjoy.  Perhaps God is already working miracles in our lives.  Unlike the nine lepers he made clean, we must not forget to thank the Lord for the health he continues to restore in our lives (Lk 17:9-17).

Fourth, perhaps we have only shown selfish fear for ourselves and failed in our lives to mirror the compassion and love of the Father for those afflicted.  Those who fall victim to this virus are human.  So too Chinese throughout the world.  Perhaps the Lord is leading us to be more willing to help them, more willing to be in solidarity with them and with the world as it struggles to bring this international emergency to an end.  Perhaps, even in the Philippines, we are being led to be more cooperative with our national health officials who need to make hard decisions to respond to the contagion, to prevent the loss of life, and to achieve the common good.

I am certain:  God does not will human suffering.  But we know:  God writes straight with crooked lines in dealing with human beings he has created intelligent and free.  If we seek to find him in the signs of our times, we must also seek to find him even when in our family or in ourselves illness strikes; or when despite our limitations and fears, we are called to respond to the suffering not only of our close relatives but of our unknown neighbor, whom God commands us to love as we love ourselves.  Often, we are called upon really to be the Good Samaritan who refused to ignore the wounded human being on the roadside but went out of his way to help him (cf. Lk 10: 25-37).  As the coronavirus claims more and more victims and seems to come closer to ourselves, we are called upon not to pray less, but to pray more, and find our trust in the power of the Lord.  After he rebuked the winds and the rains, the Lord said, “Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?” (Mk 4:40).  We are called upon not to be more selfish cowering in fear, but in faith to reach out to others in compassion, courage, and care.  Remember the message of yesterday’s Gospel, “You are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14).

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International Academic Conference on Conflict Sensitive Journalism


[Finster Hall.  10 Feb 2020]

In the name of the Ateneo de Davao University and in partnership with the Media Educators of Mindanao, Inc. (MEM) whose President, Ms. Christian Faith Avila, is the Chair of our Mass Communications Department of this University, in further partnership with the Peace and Conflict Journalism Network (PECOJON), the Forum Zivil Friedensdienst (ForumZFD) of Germany, the Deutsche Gesellscaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC) and the Asian Media Information and Communication Center (AMIC)

it is my pleasure to welcome you to this International Academic Conference on Conflict Sensitive Journalism.

Major religions like Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, major ideological and ethical systems, target the attainment of world peace.  Yet ours is yet a world of conflict.  Consider Conflict in Afghanistan (2M deaths), the Mexican Drug War (115,000), the Yemeni Crisis (83,000), the Syrian Civil war (570,000), the Kurdish-Turkish Conflict (45,000), th Somali Civil War (500,000)  the Mahgreb Insurgency in Africa, (16,873), the Iraq conflict (2.4M), and the Libyan Crisis (42,000).  In the Philippines, the local Marawi uprising claimed 1000 dead even as the country still struggles to find an end to centuries of conflict between Christians, Muslims, and Lumad.

In this world of conflict, the media have an important role to play.  That is why you come together:  to generate academic insights on practicing journalism and communication in conflict settings;   to increase the professionalism of journalism in general and to contribute to peacebuilding in conflict area.

There is much need for discussion – and I suppose, soul searching.  What is “good journalism” in a contemporary situation where journalism has become decidedly tendentious and partisan – so much so that the President of the USA has pronounced mainstream journalism the enemy of the nation… the producers of “Fake News.”  What is good journalism when the professionalization of journalism is so challenged by the democratization of journalism on the internet?  What is good journalism in conflict situations?  How does one achieve objectivity?  Does objectivity allow, if not demand, a subjective sensitivity?  How does one avoid being manipulated and reduced to become a mouthpiece of conflict propaganda? In a world of superficiality and comfort in superficiality, how deeply must one report on the cause of conflict, on the contradictions in governing power structures and on the strengths and foibles of personalities involved in conflict when “people” seems to be happier to receive simpler, if not simplistic accounts?  In situations of war, does media have a role of promoting peace?  In situations of human abuse and violation of human dignity during war, does the media have a role of promoting human rights?  If so, to what extent?  In situations of war where live bullets are flying and mortars exploding, do the reporters have a responsibility to stay alive?  If so, how? How does one keep safe?  And is keeping safe more important than delivering the truth?

When on a cosmic level the profane battled the holy, and evil battled good, and the people cried “Crucify him!” who claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life, Pilate, who condemned him to death, washed his hands of his violence against his own conviction and asked, “What is truth?”  Islam says it is a religion of peace but is compromised every time its members battle against each other “in truth.” Religion is to bring us to the goodness of the God who created us human. Yet journalists today are confronted with lethal conflicts that in the name of truth debase and dehumanize what God has created and loved.

Yes, what is truth? And what is the journalism that helps us to arrive at truth and impels us to share truth? There is much to discuss, and much opportunity to learn from each other.

There is much to discuss, and much opportunity to learn from each other.   But what you discuss, or what you quietly conclude, shall belong to the soul of journalism.

I wish you all a fruitful conference.





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You are the light of the earth.

eye of christ

[Homily.  2.8-9.2020.  Assumption Chapel]

Last week we celebrated the Feast of the Presentation.  We recalled how Joseph and Mary, obedient to the law, brought their firstborn child to the temple to be presented to the Lord.  But in entering the temple they encountered the holy man, Simeon, who had been promised he would not die before seeing the Messiah.  Upon seeing the child Jesus he took him in his arms and blessed God saying, “Now Master you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light for the revelation of the Gentiles” (Lk 2:29-32).  Simeon’s recognition of Jesus as the light becomes a leitmotif of the celebration of the Presentation.  That is why we began that celebration with a procession of candles.   The priest blessed these candles, saying, “God our Father, source of all light, today you revealed to Simeon your Light of revelation to all the nations.  … May we who carry them come to the Light of salvation.”  May we who carry them come to Jesus, the Light.   The Feast of the Presentation is the way the Church finally closes the Christmas season; Jesus enters our world as the Light.  We recall the beautiful passage from Isaiah read on Christmas Eve, “The dawn [the Light} 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” (Lk 1:78-79).

As the ordinary time has already begun, we have been contemplating Jesus preaching, healing and liberating people from darkness and demons within.   We have seen how Jesus shared his work with others, with people like you and me.  In Mark’s account of the calling of the apostles, which we considered recently in our liturgy, Jesus “called to himself those whom he wanted.  And they came to him” (Mk 3:13).  He said, “Follow me” (Mk 1:17),  and they left their nets or their tax collecting and followed him.  He said, “Follow me.”  “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6)  “I am the gate” (Jn 10:9). “I come to bring life, life to the full”  (Jn 10:10).  “I am the Good Shepherd” (Jn 10:11).  And they followed him.  After his baptism, when the heavens opened, the Father introduced him as his beloved Son.  Then, during the Transfiguration, when the heavenly light shone through his humanity, the Father again said, “This is my beloved Son whom I have chosen.  Listen to him”  (Lk 9:35).   Conquering the darkness, overcoming sin and death through his passion, death, and resurrection, Jesus is the Light.  It is this light that rescues us from the shadow of death.  Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, we are baptized into this light.  Called to him, following him, we are called to carry this light into our world.

It is in this context that Jesus tells us in the Gospel, “You are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14).  Having been called to himself, having been invited to follow him, having been baptized into his death and resurrection, he says, “You are the light of the world.  A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;  it is set on a lampstand where it gives light to all in the house.  Just so your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds, and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt. 5:14-15).

How then are you as followers of Christ to be light in this world?  Jesus says, “Love one another.  Love one another as I have loved you.  By this shall all men know that you are my disciples” (Jn. 13:34-35).   By this shall you be light in a love-starved world.  How else?  Feed the hungry.  Give drink to the thirsty. Clothe the naked.  Visit the imprisoned.  “For whatever you do – or not do – to one of these the least of my sisters and brothers, that you do – or not do – to me” (Mt. 25: 40.45).   By acting in God’s love and compassion, you are light.   How else?  We can heed the words of the prophet Isaiah in our first reading.  “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless, clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn….” (Is 58: 7-8a).  Isaiah says further:   “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation, and malicious speech; if you bestow your bread to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted, the light shall rise from you in the darkness and the gloom shall become for you like midday” (Is 58: 10).  How else?   Perhaps, be a little less proud, and a little more humble.  Be a little less domineering, and a little more serving.  Remember Jesus:  “Jesus, knowing the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside his garments, took a towel and girded himself.  After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which he was girded” (Jn 13:3-5).  Later he said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example that you should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:13-14).

To let your light shine as a city on a mountaintop, “In your relationships with one another,” Paul says to the Philippians, “have the same mindset as Jesus Christ who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:5-11).

You are the light of the world.  Come to Jesus.  Follow Jesus.  Have the same mindset as Jesus.  And shine.



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Unity or Division Within


[Homily.  Mark 3:22-30.  Assumption Chapel.  Jan 27, 2020.]

We continue with our contemplations of Jesus Christ in Ordinary Time.  We continue to watch Jesus preach, heal and liberate, continuing to beg for the grace that we get to know Jesus more intimately.

Mark’s Gospel moves very fast. Jesus has been clearly distinguished from John the Baptist.  Upon accepting John’s baptism to show his solidarity with persons in need of reconciliation with God and one another, the heavens open and the Father addresses him as his beloved Son.  From then on he preaches, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the Gospel.”  He must have been a spellbinding presence, for when he called apostles like Simon and Andrew, James and John, they left all to follow him.  Mark says people were “astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority.”  After all, he spoke as God’s beloved Son.   He had enough authority to rebuke evil spirits, to exorcise them from the persons they possessed.  He had enough power to heal not only the mother-in-law of Simon, but the many sick and demon-possessed who had been brought to him from far and wide.  Yet even as he healed he was driven to move into the next towns to teach, where he again met people needing healing, like the leper who said, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”   But in all this, Jesus encountered opposition.  In Capernaum, when a paralytic was lowered from the rooftop, they challenged his power to forgive sins.  He was criticized for eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners, then for allowing his disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath, and for doing good to people on the Sabbath.   For all these disruptive actions, the Pharisees were already plotting to destroy him.  Yet he continued to heal and to free people of the demons that possessed them.

It is in this context that in our Gospel reading for today  Jesus is accused of casting out demons with demons.  “He is possessed by Beelzebub,” the scribes charge. “By the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.”  Jesus responds, “How can Satan cast out Satan?  A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.   A house divided against itself cannot stand. It is wrong therefore that you attribute my work of healing and exorcism to the devil.  That is blasphemous.  The work of God is not the work of the devil.  The work of God, motived by compassion and love, which includes the forgiveness of sins, proceeds through the Spirit.   In believing that his work is the work of the devil, you deprive yourself of the Spirit who can correct your error and forgive your sin.” That is why Jesus warned, “He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness but is subject to eternal condemnation.”

Perhaps this is an opportunity to know Jesus more intimately.   We notice how he is not divided against himself in accomplishing his mission, even as forces in the world would like to divide him against himself, and even we know from the Gospel that he was tempted to such division.  He knows he is for the people.  He teaches them.  He serves them.  He forgives their sins, even when for this he is attacked.  He eats with sinners and tax collectors and people genuinely wrestling with life before their God, even when there are those who would like to reserve him for the holy, the scribes, the Pharisees and the hypocrites of our world.  He teaches that the Sabbath is made for the people, and not the people for the Sabbath.  For this, they wanted to kill him.

Jesus oneness with himself was real only because he was one with his Father.  The way he treated the ignorant, the poor, the sick, the sinners was one with the will of the Father, just as the way he expelled demons for people with consistent with his and his Father’s Love for the victimized people.  It was that Love, that Spirit, which drove the evil demons out of the people and made him teach, as a criterion for salvation, that whatever we do for the least of our sisters and brothers, that we do to him.

Coming to get to know Jesus in this manner may allow us also to get to know ourselves better in the same way.  Are we one with ourselves, one with Jesus, one with his Father and his Spirit?  Or, in a world of self-interest, greed, power, pleasure, and pride, are we a kingdom divided against ourselves?

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Ordinary Time

homily 2020 fisher of men

[Homily.  Assumption Chapel, 13 January 2019.]

Today, as Taal erupts, Australia continues to burn, and the people of Iran explodes in protest after learning that its military had shot down a Ukrainian plane erroneously, we begin Ordinary Time in this liturgical year.

Ordinary Time is the time outside the Advent and Christmas cycle and outside the Lenten and Easter Cycle.

This year, we will celebrate seven weeks of Ordinary Time before Ash Wednesday.  After Pentecost, we will continue with Ordinary Time in June until the 34th Sunday in Ordinary time at the end of November, the Feast of Christ the King.

Yesterday, our remembrance of the Baptism of the Lord was a celebration of another of the Lord’s major manifestations.  On Christmas, he was manifested to us as Emmanuel, God with us, as a babe in the manger.  On the feast of the Epiphany, he was manifested to us as a Savior not only for the Jews but also for the gentiles represented by wise men of different nations and creeds.  On the feast of the Baptism of the Lord, he was manifested to us by Isaiah as the special “servant of the Lord”, the “chosen one in whom the Lord delights” who will “make justice appear in truth” (cf Is 42:1), “a Covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness” (Is 42: 6b-7).

In yesterday’s Gospel, the manifestation of Jesus continues in his identification with sinners through his acceptance of the baptism of John, despite the initial vigorous objection of John.  Upon his baptism, the heavens open, the Spirit of God rests on him, and the Father manifests from the heavens, “This is my Son, the Beloved, he is my Chosen one” (Mk 1:11).  He is “the new Covenant,” through whom the Father gives himself in love to his people, and through whom the people shall give themselves in love to the Father.  The Christmas cycle brings us to this already startling manifestation.  The Easter cycle will bring us to an even more profound manifestation of this “Covenant.”  It is through the blood of Jesus, the new Covenant, that we are freed from our sins and lifted up to the Father.  We are invited then, as at every Mass: “Take this all of you and drink of it.  For this is my Blood of the new and eternal Covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Outside of the Christmas and Easter cycle, in the ordinary time, we continue with the contemplation of Jesus, the way, the Truth, and the Life, in his preaching, healing and liberating activity on earth.  We are invited to pray for the grace to get to know him more intimately through our contemplations of his mysteries and through our daily conversations with him.  It is in this season that we are invited to enter more fully into the new Covenant, who is Jesus.  As the Father says yes to us in Jesus through the Spirit, so are we invited to say yes to the Father in Jesus through the Spirit.

In the Ordinary Time, we encounter Jesus teaching, preaching, healing and liberating.  Our Gospel summarizes his main message, “The time has come.  The time is now.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Turn away from your sins and believe in the Good News that I bring” (Mk 1:15).  That is no ordinary message.  In this world it is not all injustice, it is not all lies and fake news.  I come to “make justice appear in truth.”  In this world, it is not all darkness for the nations, endless wars, endless recrimination, endless killing, endless pursuit of interests that betray the common good. I come as “a light to the nations to open eyes that do not see, to free captives from prison, to bring out to light those who sit in darkness.”  Not all accept me.  But to those who do they are empowered to be children of God.

In Ordinary Time we encounter Jesus approaching ordinary fishermen.  “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of women and men” (Mk 1:17).  The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  He sends ordinary people like you and me to enter the field to bring in the harvest.  To bring to Jesus those who sit in darkness, who are disappointed with life, who have been unfairly bypassed, who are convinced there is no forgiveness for their sin.  To bring to Jesus even those who are affected by volcanoes, fires, earthquakes and all the tragedies of the human condition.  Perhaps, today, at the beginning of ordinary time, you may consider his call.  “If you hear his voice,” the Psalmist says, “harden not your hearts!” (Ps 95).  His call is nothing ordinary.  It is, in fact, a great grace.  If you say yes to it, you are in for quite an extraordinary experience.  Through your lives, you will show people God’s kindness.  In God’s kindness, you will be an instrument of their salvation.


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To God’s High Command Your Hearts Bow

altar assumption chapel

[Mass for ADDU Alumni/ae.  Assumption Chapel.  30 December, 2019]

There are many reasons for coming together on this day, the 30th of December.

The first is Sanjo Dakudao.  Without the usufruct agreement with him that allowed us to build on his property in exchange for the use of some of our new built-up space, the new Community Center of the First Companions, the Martin Hall, and this University Chapel would never have been built.  On this day, Sanjo passed away participating in a basketball game.  This fourth anniversary of his death, we recall his memory and his generosity gratefully.

On this same day four years ago, we blessed this University Chapel in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption.  This chapel has since been among the greatest of God’s recent gifts to us in ADDU community.  It is a space that unites us with the multiple cultures of Mindanao.  But it is all the more a space which affords us silence and solitude for prayer to the compassionate Father, or to his Son Crucified for us on the Cross, or to the Spirit that reconnects us with our deepest selves – where our will in discernment is most profoundly conjoined with that of the Father.  This chapel has since also developed a liturgical culture that is solemn yet intimate, communal yet personal.  It is our university’s most sacred space.   Today we remember its consecration four years ago by Abp. Romulo Valles gratefully.

It was to this chapel that our Dr. Arni Clamor came for daily Mass. She always sat in the second row on the left side of the chapel.  From there, between her classes here at ADDU and in the St. Alfonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI), she prayed in silence before her crucified Lord and united herself with the mystery of the Eucharistic Sacrifice.  She was a formidable teacher who stretched her students to open themselves to the importance of rigorous theological reflection in today’s world and to be better versions of themselves.  Many of you have been her students or her colleagues.  Yesterday, the Lord called her back to himself.  From this chapel, we now pray for her:  that the Lord grant her eternal rest.

December 30th, of course, is the day of the traditional ADDU alumni and alumnae Homecoming,  the day that Blue Knights all, from all over the world, come home to their alma mater.  Over the years this has happened in many venues: in this Jacinto campus, in the Matina campus, in Azuela Cove, and this evening, again in the Convention Center of SMX Lanang.  Coming home to one’s alma mater is not necessarily coming home to a single place, but coming home to many dear friends and mentors, many precious memories of formation and friendship, of discovery and growth, of dreams and fulfillment.  Ateneans come home to deeply engraved ADDU ideals of excellence and being women or men for others.  But also to one’s personal commitment to faith, as one’s conscience may dictate: for most of us, to the Roman Catholic faith, but for others to other faiths as well. At ADDU there is a cherished value of being strong in faith, fortes in fide, our university motto.  It is in this context that we have decided to restore to the ADDU Annual Homecoming also the opportunity to come home to Ateneo de Davao in this chapel through a Eucharistic Celebration, without which coming home to ADDU would be homeless.   Recalling other ideals of Jesuit education like magis, cura personalis, social justice, generosity, eloquentia et sapientia would have no mooring unless anchored in faith.  At ADDU, education was never only about excellent personal or professional education;  it was also always about education and formation towards being liberally educated persons strong in the faith:  fortes in fide. 

On the fourth day within the octave of Christmas, on the anniversary of the blessing of this chapel in honor of Our Lady of the Assumption, the patroness of the school, it would have been possible for us to offer a votive Mass of Our Lady of the Assumption.  Ateneans know:  “never was it known that anyone who fled to her protection, implored her aid, or sought he intercession was left unaided.”  But, knowing that Mary also always leads us to her Son, I have chosen the votive Mass of Christ the King, since Christ the King is the center of our chapel, and presumably the center of our lives as ADDU alumni.  As Blue Knights we now sing, “Men and women , knights in blue, for Christ, King, fight strong and true. … Let all you knights of Davao to God’s high command your hearts bow…!”   The most appropriate image of Christ the King, as you know, is the Crucified Lord on the Cross.  Hopefully, it is also the image etched in your heart that you take home from ADDU or take wherever life leads you.  On his Cross, he was  lifted up for our sake.  On his Cross, he lifted us to himself, and believing in him he lifted us up redeemed to his loving Father.   That happens at this Mass when he takes the bread, says the blessing, and says, “Take this.  Eat it. Make it yours.  This is my Body.”  Then he takes the cup filled with wine, says the blessing, then says,  “Take this.  Drink this. This is my Blood of the new and eternal covenant poured out for you.”

Coming home to Ateneo de Davao you come home to your response to three questions before the Crucified Lord gazing from his Cross at his image in your hearts from your image indelibly etched in his, “If you have done this for me in love, Lord what have I done for you?  What am I doing for you?  What ought I do for you?”

Remember what the Lord said in our Gospel reading, “Whatever you have done – or not done – to one of these the least of my sisters and brothers, that you have done – or not done – to me” (cf Mt. 25:31-46).

Perhaps, at this Mass, looking at the Crucified Lord, you may with St. Ignatius wish to renew an old commitment you made, long ago.  “Take and receive, O Lord, my liberty.  Take all my will, my mind, my memory.  All things I hold and all I own are thine.  Thine was the gift.  To thee I all resign.”  But also take St. Ignatius’ advice.  Be very, very reverent when you make such an offering of your free will.  God does listen to your prayers.  He does take to heart your self-offerings.  And he does accept them.  And it will cost you.   But for you, it may be the beginning of the ”life to the full” (cf. John 10:10) that he comes to you to bring.


Message to the Alumni/ae of Ateneo de Davao University

I am very happy we have been able to celebrate Eucharist together this morning and now to come together for this sale-salo.  I thank my sister, Lelen, and her team from Knights’ Table for the Yahung Arroz Caldo. Yahung in Ilonggo is an empty bowl.  It is a symbol of ourselves that the Lord fills with his life to the full.  I thank all who have contributed to this celebration of his bounty

I have five points to share with you this morning:

  1. Thank you for coming this morning. Let us make it a habit each year, on December 30, the morning of the day of the ADDU Alumni Homecoming, to come home to this Mass and simple table fellowship.  Strong in our faith, fortes in fide, we come home to the Eucharistic Celebration of our faith to give thanks.
  2. Coming home to one’s alma mater means coming home to the values that have defined us through our education and formation at Ateneo de Davao. For many, this is the challenge to excellence and to being men and women for others.  For others, these are the values associated with being ADDU sui generis leaders:  leaders shaped by vision and mission of the university:  a deep faith, a lived life of faith, a commitment to social justice especially in Mindanao, a commitment to wealth creation and its equitable distribution, sensitivity to cultures, esp. the multiple cultures of Mindanao,  openness to religious diversity and inter-religious dialogue, and commitment to the integrity of creation.
  3. We are interested in your experiences as sui generis leaders and in your feedback, on the education and formation, you received here at ADDU. WE want to know how we can collaborate more in implementing the vision and mission of ADDU.  We want to know how ADDU can help you in implementing your mission as sui generis leaders?   The ADDU Alumni Affairs Office will mediate this ongoing dialogue.
  4. Whether you graduated from ADDU 50 or more years ago, 25 years ago or just within the last decade or so, we are certain you have discovered that learning and the need to learn do not stop with graduation. With rapid changes in science and technology, learning is increasingly less degree centric and more focused on what is actually needed in what you are now experiencing in society.  It is for this reason that ADDU has put up the ADDU-Academy of Lifelong Learning (ADD-ALL) now headed by Ms. Ayessa Velaquez-Pastoril.  We are interested in how ADD-ALL can better serve you.
  5. ADDU was founded in 1948. Last year it turned 70, and today we are launching the collaborative history of ADDU published by Tambara under the leadership of Dr. Rey Pilapil and UPO under the leadership of Mr. Mac Tiu. Over the years, ADDU has grown from a small basic education school for boys to the university it now is.  While today it welcomes any help government can give it through the various educational programs of government that support Filipino citizens in private education, ADDU has always been and always will be a private school, dependent for its services and its growth on the support of the private sector through such as tuition, fees, and donations.  This year, ADDU has started a fundraising campaign to support its further growth.  I would like to invite you to consider its various packages of giving but especially its A-1 scholarship program, by making a commitment, or renewing your commitment, to supporting scholars at ADDU through a one-peso (or more) contribution every day for the rest of your lives.

Finally, in the name of the Jesuit Community and the entire University Community of ADDU, I wish you and all your loved ones all of God’s blessings in the New Year.


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