Resurrection Light

[Homily: Easter Vigil, April 15, 2014]

This night Light vanquishes darkness.  The flames of new Fire dance against cold and gloom.  The Paschal Candle bearing the wounds of the Crucified Lord heralds Christ alive, the Light, yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, Alpha and the Omega.  This Light dispels the darkness – the darkness in our Church, the darkness of our world, the darkness in our souls, the darkness of sin. In what is perhaps the most beautiful song in Catholic liturgy, all are now called to exult and rejoice.  Why?  Because “Jesus Christ, our King, is risen.”

They thought he was dead.  They thought they had killed not only him but with him everything he had taught. They thought that all he had said of the Kingdom of God, of his having come to bring life and life to the full, of our need to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves, and of his being one with the least of our brothers and sisters, was dead.

The Father had introduced him as his Son.  He had lived among the people, taught them, healed them.  He had been recognized as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt. 6:16). When his divinity shone through in his Transfiguration, his Father commanded, “Hear him” (Lk. 9:35).  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  To return to God, to overcome the division between God and man, heaven and hell, God’s will and man’s will, the division that had begun with the sinful disobedience of Adam, one must put faith in him.  He stood up against the forces of darkness:  he rebuked evil spirits and cast out demons; he healed the sick, raised the dead; he battled hypocrisy, he attacked those who manipulated God for their own purposes, who instead of facilitating access to his Father complicated it.  He called them “whitened sepulchers, beautiful on the outside but inside full of dead men’s bones” (Mt. 23:27).  He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).  He said, “I am” (John 8:31).  He shocked them, scandalized them, angered them.  So they conspired to kill him.  They demanded the Roman authorities crucify him.  Pilate accommodated.

Jesus suffered immensely.  He died.

But this night, we are called to exult:  With St. Peter we know: “This Jesus God raised up again… Having been exalted to the right hand of God…”(Acts 2: 33).  “God has made him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2: 36). “He is the one whom God exalted to his right hand as a Prince and Savior, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31).  St. Paul says, “Christ became obedient for us unto death, even to death on the cross.  For which cause, God has exalted him and has given him a name above all names” (Phil. 2:8-9-10)

With the Messiah resurrected for all times, the Exultet intones:  “This is the night when Christians everywhere, washed clean of sin and freed from all defilement, are restored to grace and grow together in holiness.

“This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and rose triumphant from the grave.”

At this point, the Exultet goes berserk in its praise and exultation:

“Father, how wonderful your care for us! How boundless your merciful love! To ransom a slave, you gave away your Son”.  Such divine extravagance poured out on us!

Then the Church sings the unsingable, speaks the unspeakable:

“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,

which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”

Do you hear that?  Sin – which caused the rift between heaven and earth, between God and Man, and which we are supposed to avoid at all costs – is spoken of as necessary.  Fault is spoken of as happy.  For it was because of man’s sin and fault that the Father showed us his compassion, sent us his only begotten Son, who in dying dealt death its death blow, so that together we might all live not unto death, but unto life.

I suppose in celebrating Easter it’s important to hear that:  we do not live unto death, even though we all know that death is inevitable, we live unto life.

“I have come to bring life,” Jesus said, “life to the full” (John 10:10).  As Christians, we live unto life – whose fullness comes through the Resurrection.  Through Baptism, what was Jesus’ is ours:

“Do you not know,” St. Paul asks, “that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Rom 3-4).

That newness of life is Resurrection.  It is the prospect of life after death.  But it is also life before death in Resurrection light, so that even here on earth – in this vale of tears – we might live lives impacted by the Resurrection, transformed by it, energized by it.

This Easter, I invite you to reflect on how true this may or may not be in your lives.

It is important to live the moment, to seize the exhilaration of the present.  But it is important not to live just in the moment, but to appreciate the moment enriched by the past and challenged by a future.  For the Christian, that past is in memory of Jesus and that future is not just unto death, but unto Resurrection.  That makes a difference in the value of a sum of money, a marital relationship, a friendship, a lustful attraction, a use of power, or even of a life. It makes a difference in how I treat my child, or in how I treat my workers.  A life can be very dark.  Or it can be enlightened by the Resurrection.

It is in Resurrection light that one recognizes that the highest good that one can attain is after death in an eternal embrace with the Father.  But it is in that recognition that my behavior on this earth must be determined.  It cannot be as if there were no Resurrection; it cannot be behavior that denies eternal life and refuses responsibility in this life.  The goodness that I have received from the Crucified and now Resurrected Lord must be shared with others in the hope that all without exception may flourish together and that all may cooperate toward this common good in Resurrection light.

It is in Resurrection light that one can feel hope, no matter how discouraging the poverty, how insensitive the selfishness, how callous the corruption, how violent the hatred. We are hurt by the 49 lives of Christians killed in a Coptic church in Egypt, we are mortified by the human beings, men, women, and children, killed by sarin gas in Syria, we are dismayed by weapons of mass destruction fired against “the enemy” and the threat of yet more lethal weapons to be unleashed by martial masters against “the aggressor.”  These enemies or aggressors, whether in North Korea or in Afghanistan, whether in Stockholm or in Moscow, whether in the Mediterranean or the West Philippine Sea are all human beings of delicate flesh that hurts and of blood that flows, of sensitive feeling and of deep love.  We are horrified by the costs of interminable killing, the increasing liability of unending sin.  We are tempted to think this is the way it necessarily is.  But as children of the Resurrection, our perspective is different.  Sin has always been there, and some would say necessary.  But it is in this situation that leads so many to despair, that the Christian encounters the Resurrected Lord inviting – commanding – newness of life, change, love, for which Christians must take responsibility, leading towards the fullness of Resurrected Life.

In the light, life, and hope of the Resurrection, I wish you all the abiding joy of Easter!

 

 

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Whoever keeps my Word will never die

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 1.54.19 AM.pngYour commencement exercises take place in the week prior to the Holy Week, when we recall the suffering and death of our Lord, and its meaning for our lives.

The Gospel for today contemplates Jesus locked in conflict with the Jews.  The Jews here presented themselves as close to God, but they were not.  They touted themselves as teachers of truth and life.  But they were not.  They were teachers of darkness and death.  In this darkness they presented a false God, a depersonalized, legalistic, unfeeling, vindictive God, fully boxed-in in the petty concepts of the Jews and manipulated by their pettiness and scheming.   These Jews did not lead people to the God of compassion, light and life.  They led them to hatred, darkness and death.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 1.55.23 AM.pngThat is why Jesus battled these Jews of darkness.  He was the light.  He was the Life.  He was the Word – the Word of Love of the living Father.  “Whoever keeps my Word,” Jesus said, “will never die” (Jn 8:51).  His was a message of life, everlasting life.

Jesus’ statement shocked the Jews.  What was he talking about?  Abraham was the father of the Jews; he was the heroic figure revered in the consciousness of the Jews.  It was he with whom Yahweh had forged an everlasting covenant, “I am making you the father of a host of nations.  I will render you exceedingly fertile; I will make nations of you; kings shall stem from you.  I will maintain my covenant with you and your descendants after you throughout the ages as an everlasting pact, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.  I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land in which you are now staying, the whole land of Canaan, as a permanent possession;… I will be their God.”  Abraham was the father of the everlasting covenant, yet he died.  How could Jesus be promising eternal life if the great Abraham had died?  Jesus’ reply was in effect totally shocking.  Abraham was the father of the Jews.  But he had not heard Jesus’ message:  “Whoever keeps my Word will never die.”

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 1.56.30 AM.pngThese words must be understood, first, in the context of the Prologue of John’s Gospel and, second, in the light of his other public teachings.

In the Prologue it is stated, “In the beginning was the Word.  And the Word was with God.  And the Word was God.  Nothing was made without him.  … And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us” (cf. Jn 1: 1-14a).  The Prologue introduces Jesus as the Eternal Divine Word that enters this world manifesting the Father’s special love.  When Jesus says, “Whoever keeps my Word will never die,” he first means whoever accepts him as the eternal, divine Word incarnated into this world to express the Father’s Love, he shall never die.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 1.58.25 AM.pngBut he also means all who accept his words, his public discourses, all he had revealed in teaching and healing the people he served.  Among these words were:

“I have come to bring life, life in abundance, life to the full” (John 10:10).

“A new command I give you:  Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34).

“I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one can come to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6).

“Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and dies, it remains but a seed.  But if it dies, it bears much fruit.  Whoever loves his life will lose it.  But whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (Jn 12:24).

Jesus meant all of his teachings, all of his words, when he said, “Whoever keeps my Word will never die.” Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, was offering whomsoever accepts him and heeds his teaching everlasting life.

It is the same promise the Lord makes to you as you move on from Junior High School to the rest of your life: “Whoever keeps my word will never die.”  Whoever accepts Jesus and his words will have life, everlasting life.

While Jesus comes to bring the fullness of life, the enemies of Jesus propose a truncated life, a life lacking in human sensitivity, human love, human responsibility for others and the common good.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 1.59.47 AM.pngWhile Jesus teaches, “Love one another as I have loved you,” the enemies of Jesus teach: exploit one another, hate one another, kill one another.  Reduce the other person to your purposes. Convince him, cajole him, bribe him.   Fool him, use him, laugh at his weakness as you subject him to your power.

While Jesus teaches of truth and life and returning to God, the enemies of Jesus speak alternative truths and alternative facts.  They cause confusion intentionally, destroying others’ lives and reputations.  They thrive on wounding and killing, on violent conflict and carnage in war.  They manipulate the concept of God to serve their purposes, making God an inexorable Force of deception. violence and death.

We know, not only the enemies of Jesus but even many of his disciples rejected him and his words.  When he said, “I am the living bread come down from heaven … He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day,” many of his disciples walked away from him.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 2.01.33 AM.pngSo in your Baccalaureate Mass, God speaks directly to you: “Whoever keeps my word will never die.”  Do you accept Jesus as the Divine Word?  Do you accept his teachings?  Do you accept Eternal life?

Your answer defines your faith, shapes your convictions, and determines what you make of your life.  In skepticism and scorn, you can take perpetual issue with his words, and choose to put Jesus to death in your life.  Or, with great humility, reverence and love you can open yourself to the Divine Word crucified on a Cross communicating with you.   Your answer is your choice.

Screen Shot 2017-04-07 at 2.03.21 AM.pngWhat God proclaims in the book of Deuteronomy may help:  “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying his voice, and by holding fast to him” (Deut. 30:19-20).

As you move on from Junior High School, my dear graduates, in all choose life.

 

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A New Saint in Heaven; a Kind and Gentle Man on Earth

[Homily at Mass of Christian Burial of my father, Jose Quiogue Tabora, who passed away peacefully on March 31, 2017 at the age of 97]

joel and jose tabora 2As Christians, we are privileged even in moments of great bereavement to come together in celebration.  Even as we mourn the passing of my father, we also celebrate his life in heaven.

Yesterday I shared with you the story of how God intervened in my father’s life to prepare for him the place in heaven from which I am sure he is smiling on us today.

God involved our Lady of Peñafrancia.  On the occasion of my inauguration as President of the Ateneo de Naga University, she brought my mother and father together – after many years of marital separation and oftentimes painful animosity – in an unlikely reconciliation.

As we were preparing for the inaugural ceremonies, our organizers had been instructed to entertain the groups of my father and mother, but keep them apart.  So, after a day of shopping, my mother’s party was to visit the old, historic Shrine of Our Lady of Peñafrancia.  My father’s party, on the other hand, after a day of touring Mt. Mayon, was to visit the relatively new Basilica of Ina.  But what we had planned to avoid actually occurred.  Because the driver of my mother’s group confused the Shrine with the Basilica, all of a sudden the two groups were facing each other on the steps at the side of the Basilica.  It would be the last time my father and mother would meet before the long illness that eventually claimed her life.  Then, what was totally unexpected occurred.  My mother left her group, quietly walked up the steps to my father, and kissed him.  I firmly believe it was a sacrament of reconciliation and love that Ina had worked out for my father and mother.

joel and jose tabora 1God involved the late Jaime Cardinal Sin and Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who was then the secretary of Cardinal Sin. My father was deeply disturbed by a preacher on EWTN who had threatened all who were in irregular marriage situations with fire and brimstone in hell unless they repent for their sins, see their bishop, and work out their reconciliation with God.  He asked me, his “Father Son,” to make an appointment with Bishop Bacani.  When I asked him why Bishop Bacani, he said that he would be more accessible to him than Cardinal Sin.  When I explained to him it was really the Cardinal he needed to see, he acceded to an appointment with him.  I returned the following morning to Naga and from there called my friend, then Fr. Soc Villegas, to ask him for an appointment for my father with the Cardinal “on a conscience matter.” Fr. Soc immediately said yes.  I told him I would be back in Manila in three weeks, and that I would bring him to the Cardinal.  Fr. Soc however said that if it was a conscience matter it could not wait three weeks.  But he told me not to worry, and that he would take care of it.  Eventually, he got hold of my father not at his home but on the tennis courts of the Philippine Columbian.  The next morning, my father was in deep personal conversation with the Cardinal. Both he and Esther confessed their sins to the Cardinal that morning and received absolution.

Weeks later, at an ordination in Loyola House of Studies, the Cardinal called me to himself.  He told me that my father had shared the story of his life with him in tears for over an hour.  He told me that my father was a very good man and that I was never to forget it.  He also told me that he had encouraged both my father and Esther to return to the sacraments under certain conditions.  He asked me, “Do you know why I told them to return to the sacraments?” “Why?” I asked him.  “Because that’s what Jesus would have done,” the Cardinal said smiling.

It was in this context that eventually, two months after the passing of my mother, I was privileged to preside over the marriage of Dad and Esther.  At that time, Dad was 91.  Many times since, whether in sickness or in health, we have spent happy evenings celebrating Mass and enjoying supper in their home rejoicing in the presence of children and grandchildren.

When I’d texted Soc Villegas, now the President Archbishop of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, and thanked him for his pastoral intervention in my father’s life, he replied: “I am sorry to hear the news of your father’s death.  My condolences.  I am sure he passed away happy and fulfilled.  We have a new saint in heaven.”

I am sure that is what many of us here believe as well.  We have a new saint in heaven!

But in what did that sainthood consist on earth?  Just a few points that I am sure many of you can add to.

My father had a deep devotion to Our Lady.  With Esther he would pray the rosary, or lately, mysteries of the rosary.  Honoring Mary’s role in the Incarnation as Ignatius did, his day began and ended with the Angelus.  When I was a child, it was my father who brought me to church on Wednesdays and taught me devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

My father had a deep sense of gratitude.  This morning Bro. Armin Luistro and Bro. Dennis Magbanua of the Brothers of the Christian Schools were here.  My father was a La Sallite.  (Not all of us can be perfect!)  And he would tell me how grateful he was to the La Salle brothers.  My father’s father, Lolo Manuel, a lawyer, had passed away early in his life, thrusting the family into poverty.  He would tell me how studying in his time was difficult, with his mother working hard to make ends meet, but not always able to make the deadline for tuition and fees.  He would tell me how normally the Christian Brothers would look the other way so that he could continue his studies.  When finally he had graduated and needed to prepare for the CPA exam, he was allowed audit the review session without charge.  He eventually became one of the early CPA’s of our country.

He was eternally grateful to his younger brother, Tito Moning, who upon the death of Lolo Manuel, went to work in order to allow my father to finish his college studies in La Salle.

IMG_1663My father was an entrepreneur. When he had left the foreign service which in our childhood brought us to the United States, he gambled his separation pay on capital equipment that could make cosmetics formulated specially for the Filipina complexion.  He founded “Beautifont.”  In its heyday, Beautifont had become the largest sales organization in the country.  He was a strict manager, but he also understood to call forth the best talents of his people.  He had the true entrepreneurs’ mind, plotting and scheming 24/7 to make and develop new products and programs.

In this way he provided well for his family – even after Avon eventually mounted a hostile take over of the company.

He loved sports, especially tennis – and all the people he came to interact with playing tennis.  Many of you who are here have been companions of my father at the Philippine Columbian or at the BF Homes’ Sports Club.

If we are to sum up Dad’s sainthood on earth, as one of you texted, Dad was “a kind and gentle man.” Those who lived close to him know this well.  He was always concerned about others, needing to be assured that they were properly provided for.

My father died repeatedly signing himself with the Cross of the Redeemer.  He experienced the love of the Father working out redemption for him in the Son and living in the love of the Holy Spirit whose fire purified him in life, consumes him in death, and raises him in the glory of the Father – forever and ever.

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Entreating God For Blessings on Your Leadership

Dave-Daryanani-5,large.1490952945.jpgGraduation is still tomorrow. Tomorrow, you will be declared graduates of the ADDU’s School of Business and Government.  You will receive your diploma.  With your relatives and friends, you will be very happy.

But with all of your requirements completed, already today, for all intents and purposes, you’ve made it.  At this Baccalaureate, you can give thanks to God for the many graces you’ve received in the past four or so years.   Tomorrow you will be grateful with and for your parents and benefactors, your brothers and sisters, who supported you through your college education.  But today, in this solemn celebration, you can breathe a special prayer of thanksgiving to God.  In life you have called on him many times.  In a time of illness.  In a family crisis.  Before a crucial exam.  You know He has helped.  As the momentousness of graduation settles in you, a moment of silent gratitude to the Lord is only fitting.

In the past four years on top of your basic education, you have learned many things.  Some have contributed to your appreciation of yourself as a human being, as a Filipino citizen, as a child of Mindanao.  Others have contributed to your professional development.  As graduates of different professional courses in business management, accountancy, entrepreneurship and governance, you have learned skills of managing people and resources towards optimum productivity, the disciplines of managing money, financial instruments and funds, techniques in how to grow businesses to create wealth, and the disciplines of private and public governance.    Perhaps, it can be said, as many of your quiet expectations and the expectations of relatives and friends may have suggested, your past four years have prepared you not just to sit passively behind a cash register or to handle a monotonous call-center job.  Your past four years have prepared you for leadership.  That is leadership in a world of great responsibilities, where on your skill and judgment, wealth can be created not squandered, fortunes can be made not broken, jobs can be created not lost.  On your judgment, hopefully, decisions will be right not foolhardy, transactions will be just not unjust, projects will be conformed to God’s law not inimical to it, and all will be in advancement of human well-being not corruptive of it.

This is why at this baccalaureate Mass, even as we thank God for the many blessings he has given you over the past four years, we stand before his altar today in humble supplication.  We beg that God hold his saving hand over your lives as business and governance leaders, and that the leaders you become be shaped not by the desire for great wealth or great comfort, but by the mission of your school, its mission to the service of the faith, the promotion of justice, the transformation of culture, dialogue in religious diversity, and the preservation of the environment.   We entreat God that all that has been said about ADDU sui generis leadership be true of your leadership, that you not be leaders who lead others merely to self-interest and selfishness, but inspire them to sensitivity for the poor and the excluded and positive cooperation for the common good.

We pray that your leadership be deeply rooted in your faith, in your experience of Jesus in your lives, in him involving you in his mission, in his calling you to be salt of the earth and light for the world.  It is on this mission that the conduct of your lives as leaders of business and stewards of wealth must depend.  It is a mission that pushes you to love and serve others, to advance their welfare in your business decisions, to care genuinely for the morale of your employees, to promote the welfare of your workers, to serve the genuine interests of your clients, and ultimately, the shared good of the entire community that you serve together.

We beg for this grace, knowing how challenging such a life is.  That is clear from our readings.  In the first reading the wicked plot among themselves to undermine and kill the person who opposes their wickedness and advances the values of God’s goodness.  We pray you do not kill, literally or virtually, the persons in your lives who may represent the values of God or of the common good.   We pray that you never be numbered among the wicked.  In the second reading, we hear anew how people did not understand Jesus who represented the love and compassion of his Father.  Because he was so different from them, they plotted to undermine him and kill him.  We pray you never scheme to undermine and kill Jesus in your lives who from within may urge you in your businesses or organizations to do what is right, no mater the cost.  We pray that your religion never be reduced to an ideology that preserves you in your insensitivity or meanness.  We pray instead that you always be open to the prophet in your decisions, and especially to the urgings of Jesus in your lives.

Today business leaders speak much in terms of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.  It is the stormy uncertain climate in which you shall exercise your leadership. That notwithstanding, may your leadership in business be firmly founded not just on profits, favorable ratings and positive surveys, but on hearing the word of God and doing it, discerning the will of God and accomplishing it.  “Everyone who hears God’s word and acts on it shall be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rains, fell, the torrents raged, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall because its foundations was on rock”.  May the house you build, the empire you found, never fall.

Congratulations on your graduation.  May Jesus inspire you in your leadership throughout your lives.

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Jesus, our Teacher and Friend

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.46.55 PM.pngI hope you have been happy here at the Ateneo de Davao Grade School.  And I certainly hope that part of that happiness has come from the goodness of your teachers. From them you have learned to read and write, to sing and to play.  From them you have learned addition and subtraction, multiplication and division.  From them you have learned about the sun and the earth, the moon and the stars, the mountains and the valleys, the trees and the flowers.  You
feel close to some of them, because these have shown you special care.  They know yourScreen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.53.38 PMnames.  They know when you’re happy; they know when you’re sad.  With some of them you have shared your most secret secrets.  I hope you have been happy here because of your teachers.

But I hope that you have also been happy here because of the friends that you have made here, many of them in the same class as yours.  Some of them are girls; some of them are boys.  Some of them are good at playing games, others are good at drawing and painting, others are really good at learning lessons.  Some of them are swimmers, others football players, yet others outstanding in chess.  I hope you have had many happy days with your friends here at Ateneo.  Many of them, hopefully, will be your friends for the rest of your lives.   Some of them may even be best friends forever.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.53.49 PMI hope that a big part of your having been happy here is because you have been able to come closer to Jesus.   Jesus, of course, was a teacher, like many of the teachers you love.  He taught about the birds of the air and the wildflowers of the fields.  But he also taught about you.  He taught about how the Father loves you more than the birds of the air which he feeds every day; he loves you more than the wildflowers of the field which he clothes more beautifully than can any human king.  He taught that if the Father loves
you more than the birds of the air and the lilies of the field, you really have nothing to worryScreen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.54.04 PMabout in life.  This father created the sun and the stars.  But he also created you, and loves you more than all else he has created.  You can be happy in the love and providence of the Father.

Jesus taught that you are the salt of the earth.  He taught that you are the light of the world.  He was saying that you have an important role to play on this earth.  You have an important role to play in life.  You know how it is when your food lacks salt;  you don’t like it when you are served fried eggs without salt, or French fries without salt.  Salt provides flavor.  Salt makes a difference.  You are called to be salt in the world, to make the difference between something Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.54.25 PMthat is yummy or yucky, pleasant or irritating, good or bad.   Jesus taught that you are the light of the earth.  You know how it is when the lights go out, when you can’t see, when you don’t know where to go to get to where you have to go.  Darkness is scary, so scary, it is often related to evil.  Jesus taught that you are light, just as he taught that he is light.  If you are light, do not hide your light.  Let it shine.  In the sparkle of your smiles, in the twinkle in your eyes, in the brightness of your laughter, let it shine!  Let it shine bright in the knowledge and the goodness you have learned here at ADDU.  “Start Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.54.36 PMbright!” we say to those coming to ADDU GS.  At graduation we say, shine bright!

Jesus was a great teacher.  Great crowds would come on foot from far and wide to listen to him.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” he taught.  “Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  You don’t have to be rich to be happy, he taught.  You don’t have to be rich to get to heaven.  Instead he taught, “Love one another as I have loved you.”  “Whatever you have done to one of these the least of my brothers and sisters, that you have done to me.”  He taught much about the Kingdom of Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.54.46 PMHeaven, the Kingdom of God.  I hope that at the ADDU GS you have understood this message.  He taught that heaven is about God, the King, reigning in our lives, in our hearts forever. He taught that heaven is happiness forever, but that heaven begins now, in allowing God to reign in our hearts.  Now.  That’s why he invited sad people to turn away from their sins, unhappy people to turn away from serving only money, miserable people to turn away from serving only themselves.  “Seek first the Kingdom of God,” he taught. “All else will be given to you.”  If you have learned this important message at the ADDU GS, you are certainly blessed.  For this is the message of Jesus that many people do not understand – up to today. Those who did not understand it became Jesus’ enemies.  They put
him to death on a cross.  But we know that what Jesus taught triumphed in his resurrection.  His message about the Kingdom of God, his message of love, could not be put to death.  His message is alive as he is alive.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.56.04 PMI hope therefore that among the great teachers you have met here at the ADDU GS is Jesus.  I hope that among the many friends you have made here at Ateneo is Jesus.  In being close to Jesus you are close to the Father, because what the Father does, Jesus does, our Gospel says.  What the Father does to make you happy, Jesus does.  What the Father does to show you his love, Jesus does.  In Jesus being your teacher, the Father is as well.  In Jesus being your close friend, he brings you the eternal friendship of the Father.

Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 4.56.08 PMAt this Mass, let us thank God for all the good things you have experienced here at ADDU, especially for your teachers and friends.  But let us thank God especially for the greatest teacher that you have met here, Jesus, who is also your greatest friend.  As you go through life – through JHS, then SHS, then college, then to marriage and work – remember your teachers and treasure your friends.  But may your greatest teacher bring you deep wisdom, and may your best friend forever bring you life’s profoundest joy.  With Jesus as your teacher and friend, be salt and light to the world.

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Bergoglio Awards for Service to the Community

Even as Pope Francis has just marked the fourth anniversary of his Pontificate this month, we can only marvel at the way the Holy Spirit has transformed the Church under his watch.  It is the same Church as it was under Benedict XIV and John Paul II and Pope Paul VI or Pope John XIII or even Pope Pius XII..  But I think it is a changed church: where the fresh air of the Spirit that once filled musty sacristies and cobwebbed chanceries after the Second Vatican Council seems once again to be blowing – challenging the Catholic Church to wake up to the realities of contemporary man and woman.

As Pope, Francis has let in the Spirit.

He has done so by the power of his persona, the integrity of his person, the force of his personality so inextricably intermingled with the saving action today of the Father showing Compassion for humanity in Jesus.

In his Gaudium Evangelii he has invited us to return to a personal encounter with Jesus and recover the joy of sharing the Gospel with others, especially the marginalized and excluded.

In his Laudato Si he has invited us to serious care for our common home, inviting us to challenge our cruel economies of consumption and waste that marginalize and exclude the poor and destroy the environment oftentimes irreparably.

In Amoris Laetitia, the joy of loving, he has invited us to reflect on the quality of our loving as it is nurtured in our families and homes.  He has invited us to compassion for those encountering difficulty in loving, inviting all to a deeper encounter with the love and mercy of Jesus.

In its Bergoglio Awards, UCEAC honors Francis before Pope Francis, the Argentinean Jorje Bergoglio born in Argentina on Dec 17, 1936 to a family of Italian immigrants.

Before he joined the Diocesan Seminary of Villa Devoto he gradated as a chemical technician from a technical school.

In 1958 – almost 60 years ago, – he joined he Jesuits.  He studied theology at the Colegio de San Jose and eared a doctoral degree in Freiburg in Germany.

In Feb 1998 he became the archbishop of Argentina.

He was known for his sober and austere simplicity, riding public transportation, carrying his own bags, and special concern for the poor and the marginalized,  criticizing the wealthy for their extravagant banquets while there we so many poor on the streets, often castigating government in his homilies for not responding to the needs of the poor.

In recalling the Bergoglio that eventually became the Pope,  UCEAC insists that you do not have to be a Pope to have the social sensitivity and commitment to the excluded of Bergoglio.

That being a Francis is not a matter of being a Pope or a Jesuit or a Franciscan or a priest or a religious or a Catholic or even believer,  but  is a matter of having a human heart for human beings – as Bergoglio did.  God does the rest.  He does so, restoring, renewing, uplifting joy, our common home, and love.

It is in this light that I congratulate Atty. Romeo Cabarde and the UCEAC for it new awards.  With the UCEAC, in the name of the ADDU, I am privileged to honor:

The Initiatives for International Dialogue for excellence in Peacebuilding;

The Interface Development Interventions for Excellence in Environmental Stewardship;

The Talikala, Inc. for excellence in promoting Gender Equality;

And the Integrated Gender and Development Office of the Office of the City-Mayor of Davao (IGDO-CMO) for excellence in Good Governance for the reasons cited in this celebration.

In the context of these Bergoglio awards, with the UCEAC I also express my deep personal appreciation to all of our units, sub-units and co-laborers who have in fulfillment of our mission and vision contributed to promoting social justice and the common good.

In honoring Jorge Bergoglio as we honor you, let us beg for the grace have a human heart for human beings – as we return to the joy of God’s Good News, commit ourselves to the care of our common home, and return to the joy of loving in our families and communities!

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God Joins Uwe and Jessa Together in Matrimony

[Homily: Marriage of Uwe and Jessa Panimdim, Old Tagum Cathedral, 11 March 2017]

 

My dear sisters and brothers in the Lord, but especially Uwe and Jessa:

I feel very privileged to have been chosen to deliver this homily on this happy occasion.  In agreeing to do so, I confess I have had the active collaboration of Uwe and Jessa.  I asked them to choose the readings for today’s Mass from an array of many possible readings which I’d offered them.  That they chose the readings we have just listened to speaks of the spirit with which they come to this celebration of matrimony:  the desire to celebrate their union before God as one flesh, indivisible, and the desire to celebrate genuine love as the soul of their union.

With the Gospel reading, they celebrate themselves as male and female coming now together as one flesh.  “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  It is a very earthy coming together that is referred to, an ecstatic coupling in the flesh, ”so that they are no longer two but one flesh.”  But the emphasis of the scriptural passage chosen by Uwe and Jessa for this matrimonial ceremony is strong:  What God has joined together, let no man separate.” (cf. Mt. 19:3-6 ).  They come together in the flesh, but in this sacrament of Matrimony, God joins them together.  What God joins together, no one should pull apart.

With the reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, they share with us the nature of the love that joins them together.  There is arguably no more beautiful nor more profound description of love:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. …

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. (1 Cor 13:1.4-8)

Uwe and Jessa take this description of love and make it the description of their love.  This is their resolve.  Their love has been anything but a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  It has been rather quiet and unobtrusive, but alive and animated.  I asked them to write down on paper why it was that they were choosing to marry each other.

Some of their answers were on the level of feeling.

Uwe said, “She makes me feel I’m the most handsome guy – mas pogi daw kay Daniel Padilla.  She makes me feel very special.”

Jessa said, “He tells me I’m beautiful, even when I’m feeling messy.  He makes me feel he loves everything about me.  He makes me feel he’s grateful for having me in his life.”

Other answers were on the level of what they admired in each other:

Jessa said:  He is a family-oriented person.  He really loves his family;  he takes care of his family.  He is not a boy anymore;  he takes care of himself.  I feel safe being open and honest with him.  He is willing to lay down his life for me.

Uwe said:  She’s maganda;  she’s funny;  she’s independent;  marunong magluto.  She’s everything I prayed my wife would be.

Other replies were very honest.  Statements of struggle, of discomfort seeking relief, of misunderstanding seeking understanding, of goodness seeking perfection.

Jessa said:  sometimes he acts like he knows everything;  that annoys me.  But he only wants to give me the comfort and good quality of life he thinks I need.  He wants to better himself and be his best self.  He really works at our relationship. Three years ago we parted ways.  But after a while we realized we missed each other.  Now, we’re not afraid to express our true emotions; I feel safe being open and honest with him.

Uwe said:  she nags me like my mother.  Sometimes she’ll get offended at the smallest things I’d say.  We’d annoy each other and argue over small insignificant things.  But the more I’d spend time with her, the more I’d notice her flaws, the more I’d look at her, the more she’d nag and get grumpy, the more I’d notice her smile, the twinkle in her eye, the every small and big thing she’d do not only for me but for everyone close to her heart, the more I’d fall in love with her.  Having experienced the pain of separation and the joy of reconciliation, Uwe said, “Yes, with Bababs it’s possible to fall in love over and over again.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth,”  St. Paul says. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Uwe said:  “Thank God he laced my destiny with her!  She had me at the first Hello when I treated her and her friend to a 20-peso ice cream with my first salary.  I couldn’t ask for a more caring, loving woman, for someone who has more of a desire to share her life with me.  I have spent the happiest, saddest, most challenging three years of my life as her boyfriend, and I am looking forward to the rest of our lives together annoying each other!  I could not have gotten a better and more loving partner.   She is my girl best friend, my best girlfriend, my confidant, and the person who allows me to be me.  Jessa Marie is my soulmate, the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.

Jessa said:  “From the day we met to this very day, we are both working towards loving, giving and serving one another to the best of our ability.  I can trust without the shadow of a doubt that he will love me, support me, and make me his main priority in life.  He has always been my boy bestfriend and best boyfriend.  He’s the kind of friend willing to lay down his life for you.  That is love worth holding on to.

So today, we celebrate how in Uwe’s and Jessa’s life God brings them together in love.  We celebrate the sacredness of that love which they elevate today to the status of a sacrament, taken out of the privacy of their lives and allowed to shine for us all as a symbol of God’s love for the Church and of our love for God.  We pray for Uwe and Jessa that what God has joined together no person pull apart, and that the love that has begun to unfold so beautifully be blessed with healthy children, a healthy family, and supportive relatives and friends.  And may the challenges of your love today, Uwe and Jessa, find hope in the fullness of love that is yet to come:

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor 13).

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud….”  “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

 

 

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