[Homily: Opening Eucharist of 1983 ADDU Fiesta]
This Fiesta in honor of Our Lady has been waiting a long time to be celebrated. It was supposed to have been celebrated three weeks ago. So the teams were formed, the choreographies conceptualized, the practices begun – sometimes already going late into the night.
But then the bombs started going off: in Cagayan de Oro, in Iligan, in Cotabato City, then Midsayap, then Kabacan! They seemed to be heading for Davao. In terror, the anonymous explosions seemed to want to make a political point. For a while, even Davao’s Kadayawan was threatened as Mayor Duterte said he was not sure he could secure Davao for this.
After a heart-to-heart, near tearful consultation with the Samahan, we postponed our celebration. We agreed: the security of the students could not be compromised. We celebrated the Mass of the Assumption in our Chapel. But not the Fiesta. We agreed that we would wait till the Birthday of Mary to celebrate that.
So we put the fiesta on hold. The heated preparations were suspended. The midterms were allowed to pass. Long days intervened. Then, finally, with new fervor, in any space this Jacinto campus-under-renovation could afford, the preparations resumed.
Finally, with this morning’s colorful parade, and this Eucharist, the Fiesta that has long been waiting to be celebrated has begun.
The honoree of the Fiesta is Mary: first, from the viewpoint of her Assumption: the celebrated truth that after her life of fidelity to the will God, during which she allowed herself fully to be an instrument of his redemptive will, and so became the mother of God, the mother of Jesus, who on his Cross won for us our Salvation, she was assumed into heaven. We honor Mary, today, second from the viewpoint of her birth, that the life that was God’s gift to her, was also God’s gift to us. Into her life, our Redeemer is born. In her Son, we have her as our Mother.
Today, on her birthday, we recall her love for us, and the many times in our lives, when, upon calling on her, upon praying the rosary, or the Hail Mary, or the Memorare, we know she has helped. That may have been in a time of illness, in a moment of pain, in an hour of loneliness. Today, on her birthday, we recall and renew our love for her, in gratitude for her goodness to us as our mother, for the many times she helped us in times of need, for the many quiet moments when in times of confusion or incertitude or shame, we know she came to our aid.
Those of you who really want to win the singing competitions, or the dancing competitions do well to invite her to be on your team, to ask her to sing with you, or to dance with you or to cheer with you!
Since Mary is our mother, at the outset of this Fiesta, especially on her birthday, I am certain she wants us to enjoy ourselves in Fiesta! She is probably saying: “Wow! What a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday – with so much talent, so much excellence, so much sportsmanship, so much joy, that comes to play at the Ateneo Fiesta!” She is probably also saying, “Wow! Look at the generosity with which the organizers from within the student government have dedicated themselves to the success of these games!” Indeed, on the understanding that among the greatest gifts we can give Mary on her birthday is our joy and generosity on this day, let us give her on her birthday our happiness and service during this Fiesta!
Be happy for the good fortune the Lord has given you. We are not living in Iran, we are not living in Iraq, we are not living in Egypt, we are not living in Syria! We are not living in jail cells, in refugee camps, in once proud cities now torn asunder by the conflict of war. We may have to battle the rain and floods occasionally as climate change barges into our lives, but we are not living in a place where we have no home to go to, no relatives to hug and embrace, no parents to welcome us home, to prepare for us simple meals cooked with love, to watch out that we are properly clothed. In other countries, scourged by the horrors of war, the cities are wastelands of destruction and death, I am not saying that we do not have problems. We do. We know that international conflict over islands can plunge us into the horrors of war. We know: in a region of our country which has been visited too often by injustice, violence and conflict, waging peace is more difficult and more arduous than disturbing it with a terrorist’s bomb. We know that even here in Davao, the peace we enjoy is like artwork of crystal and glass: beautiful, but fragile. But we also know the shared consensus in a Mindanao of diverse peoples, cultures, and interests, is that we must progress and live together, and that the shared commitment is for peace. On Mary’s birthday, we are grateful that we do not live in the abiding fear that one day a rocket may explode in our midst and that from this rocket poison gas may turn the air we breath into an instrument of death.
On Mary’s birthday, today, our Fiesta, we celebrate our peace – as we celebrate him, whom she was privileged to bring into our world, Jesus, the Christ, the Messiah, the Prince of Peace. That is a peace forged between humanity and divinity, but also a peace proposed and promised to all who accept him in faith, the actual historically unfolding peace which we are grateful we enjoy as we celebrate Fiesta, and which together we wish to strengthen against the war and violence in our world, and perhaps sometimes also in our hearts. On Mary’s birthday, we remember her Assumption, the truth that allows us to believe, that if in our lives we say with Mary, “Let it be done to me according to your will” (Luke 1:38), the Lord does marvelous things to us, and through us, transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary, the banal into the miraculous, the earthly into the heavenly, “because,” as Mary sang, “He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear him. He has shown might with His arm. He has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty” (cf. Luke 1:46-55). On Mary’s birthday, we celebrate with her our gratitude in the profundity of this Eucharist, the ultimate ground of all gratitude, as we recall our redemption in Mary Son, Jesus.
So, Ateneans, on this day finally, filled with gratitude profound, celebrate our long-awaited Fiesta in joy and in service! As you compete with one another in fun, let the depth of your gratitude for our fragile peace bind you together in unforgettable joy, enduring friendship and indestructible love!