[Points for Prayer and Meditation at the 85th Homecoming of San Jose Seminary, Nov 20, 2014]
I am truly happy to be here in the chapel of San Jose Seminary again! It has been such a long time!
When I see all of you there, and the likes of Fr. Catalino Arevalo and Abp. Angel Lagdameo, Bp. Nes Ongtioco and Bp. Ambo David among you, I wonder what I am doing up here. I should be profiting from your wisdom and spiritual leadership!
But I have been asked to lead you into prayer using the theme of the Homecoming: Josefino, Bayani at Banal: Liwanag at Anino sa Buhay ng Josefino. For this we depend not on anything that comes from me, but from the Holy Spirit.
At the outset, perhaps it is sufficient just to look at the words, banal and bayani attributed to Josefinos, and just think about what they may connote for us. Banal: the Holy, God himself, our relationship with the Holy, which is our faith, our lived-faith, which may characterize us as holy or unholy. Bayani: the bayan, other people, the community, justice, social justice and our relationship to these in neglect, commitment or heroism.
Perhaps it would help not to think of faith in its catechetical or fundamental-theological definition. Think instead of a lived faith. Or lived spirituality. What is it that “makes me tick.” It is easy enough to explain what it is that makes a watch tick. Perhaps it would be more of a challenge to explain what makes me tick – really! Truthfully. Is it my desire for recognition, or my drive for pleasure, or my need for security? It may be also helpful to ask: what makes the society in which I work tick. Some say money: “Money, money, money makes the world go round.” For others “the shared pursuit of self-interest.” Yet for others: might, conquest or fear.
Now, how does this lived faith impact on my priesthood? How does it impact on my everyday. We all know what the priesthood is all about. The Priesthood belongs to Jesus Christ and to his people. As ministerial priests we are missioned call forth exercise of the universal priesthood in the Christian community. As much as we may know this our lived experience of the priesthood may be different. Reflecting on the routines associated with priestly life – saying Mass, “celebrating” the sacraments, maintaining church property, collecting funds and managing them – priesthood for me may have moved away from mission into something more like occupation. It’s what I do for a living, with a certain number of perks, with a certain number of burdens. Or, looking at my life as a certain bundle of problems – how to take care of my mother, how to help by sister get an education, how to break away from the social constraints of a past life, priesthood may even appear as – a “life solution.” Or, considering the Mass schedule day in and day out, or the visits to the GKK-chapels week in and week out, or the unending attempts to make a difference among the poor which never reach its goal, priesthood is life-sapping routine.
But if priesthood is but “an occupation” or “a routine,” – a life abstraction – where then is life, my life, and how does lived faith impact on it? What is my experience of life in the parish church or in the convent. What is life when I am among people, and when I am really doing the things I want to do, and others may not necessarily see me doing. What is life in the office, or in the mall, or in the bedroom? What is life when I am at work and at recreation? How does lived experience determine that dark denied reserved areas in my life where I wouldn’t want even God to enter.. “You know me Lord…” (Psalm 139). “But best you don’t know about me here.” Nakakahiya!
So, God in my life. Does God at all enter into my “lived faith”? Is my life one of sin, tepidity or holiness? Despite all the routine occupational words that come forth from my mouth about God, have I in fact extirpated him from my lived life? Is there any meaning to the tepidity and dryness and desolation I often feel? Or is God’s presence in my life one of abiding joy, despite my shortcomings and sins, because somehow I he has entered into my life despite my resistance. “You know me Lord,” with all of the lights and shadows, the bright days and dark nights, and it is good that you know me. That you know me and accept me, this is deep consolation. It is liberation. It is you. Banal.
Bayani. How do human relationships in my life affect my lived faith? Theoretically, we know: I am to love God, I am to love my neighbor. “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15), Jesus said. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34; cf. John 15:12. Jn 15:17). “You shall love the Lord, your God… You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 32: 37-40). We know that eternity depends on the way we behave towards our neighbor. God separates the sheep from the goats and determines entry into heaven or eternal damnation based on our relationship with our neighbor, “What ever 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, esp. 40, 45).
How do human relationships in my life affect my lived faith? Here we are talking just about my relationship with other human individuals. We are also talking about my relationship with society based on our personal encounter with Jesus who says, “I have come to bring life, and to bring it to the full.” This is a human fullness that is realized fully after death in the “heavenly banquet” with the beatific vision and the Lord’s embrace. But it is also a fullness this side of death achieved beyond distributive justice, commutative justice in the common good called forth by social justice. The common good names that towards which we strive on this earth, even imperfectly, based on cooperation and commitment and ongoing conversation, theoretical and practical, towards that condition where every person and the whole person can flourish. Here, we may look at our love of neighbor, our thirst for justice, including social justice, in the context of our Lord’s mandate, “Love one another,” and his declaration, “I have come to bring life, and life to the full.” Our parish and our schools can be powerhouses for rejecting the superficialities of the present and dedicating ourselves to “the fullness of life.” This dimension of our parish can be fully exploited, but also fully neglected. One may work with the parish to bring about better housing, education, employment and understanding for the poor, or one may totally neglect this in favor of rites and rituals and the pettiness of parish maintenance. One can be committed to social justice, dedicated to it, or even heroic in its pursuit. We know, the commitment to social justice is fraught with danger. Take the case of Fr. Joy Peliño in Marbel. He knows that defending the B’laans against the humungous investments of foreign and Filipino capitalists is life threatening. Nevertheless, he doesn’t balk at that. He does what he must for the people. Bayani.
Liwanag at Anino sa Buhay ng Josefino. Light and shadows. What are the experiences then in my priestly life of failure or heroism, solipsism or holiness, sin or grace, selfishness or selflessness, superficiality or depth, cowardice or courage, limitation or freedom, consolation or desolation?
St. Ignatius’s doctrine on the discernment of spirits may suggest that these are not “eithers” and “ors.” Instead, it may actually be “both “ and “and.”
In our lived faith: Light casts shadows. Shadows bring out the light.
God is a God of light. He is God of the shadows.
Turned towards us, he is a God of compassion who continues to call us to his mission.
So what makes me tick. How does my “lived faith” – normally in stark contrast to faith – impact on my priesthood.