[Homily: ADDU College Baccalaureate Mass, March 27, 2015.]
Last January, when Fr. Provincial asked Pope Francis what he wanted the Jesuits in the Philippines to do, he first replied, “Address the challenge of transcendence.” But then he also said, “Go to the poor! Go to the peripheries.” During this festive Baccalaureate Mass of your graduation from the ADDU, I thought it would be important to echo these two challenges to you.
First, transcendence: Transcendence belongs to persons who know themselves to be transcendent. By “transcendent” I do not mean merely a special type of excellence, like when a painting is said to be transcendent, or good music is transcendent. A person is transcendent because he is a fullness, yet forges beyond fullness. He is a fullness of experience, and yet from a reality within, rises beyond fullness. He experiences love, hatred, joy, sadness, happiness, misery, living and dying in this world. Dying is his natural end. Yet, living, he knows himself to be beyond the limit of dying. His nature is to be beyond nature. His is not just the love that fills day and night till death, but the love that day and night demands constancy and truth beyond death. Transcendence is the compelling energy that powers one’s strivings to success, or nurses one’s failures to recovery; it is the hope of forgiveness in moral defeat; in moral disaster, it is imperative to move on. Transcendence demands that even in the face of death, so certain, so absolute, death be defeated, “Death, be not proud!…Death, thou shalt die!”
Transcendence is despair unless that to which – or that to whom – it transcends is real. Human transcendence yearns for God, thinks God, demands God, discovers God, recognizes God, hopes in God. The Good News is that God reveals himself to man as loving. Understanding our despair more deeply than we ever could, God holds us in his embrace. Transcendence is holding – holding on to – this God in faith.
In assessing the state of our world, the condition of the globe, the changes in the seasons, the surprises, the shocks, of climate change, in looking for laws of nature, in looking for rules, in determining how we must behave, transcendence is knowing there is a Creator.
Transcendence is knowing this Creator is turned to us in compassion – no matter our ignorance, no matter our confusion, no matter our sin, no matter our despair. He shows us our truth, resolves our confusion, forgives our sin, reverses our despair.
Transcendence is conviction that this God means well for us. Transcendence is saying, praying: “Thy kingdom come; thy will be done.” As Mary did, when God manifested his will to her.
Transcendence is choosing a career not merely as I will for treasure or ambition, or as my parents will for advantage or pleasure, but as God wills.
Transcendence is choosing a spouse beyond qualities of anatomical pleasantness and character of skin, but as God wills – for love, in love, and a manifestation, a sacrament, of love.
Transcendence is being able to resolve not just issues of right vs. wrong, and good vs evil, but more so of good vs. good and right vs. right, with a sensitivity and concern beyond the personal, beyond the private, beyond the “rational” for the good that is shared as God wills.
Transcendence is regarding a Crucifix not just as a decoration on a wall, but as a Sign of Transcendence, through which the foolishness of God confounds the wisdom of man, through which the love of divinity overwhelms the hatred of humanity, through which the compassion of God overcomes the hardness of man.
Transcendence is being educated, being a college graduate, being secure, yet being able to go to the poor. “Whatever you do to one of these the least of my sisters and brothers, that you do to me.” (Mt. 25:6, 9)
“Go to the poor and the peripheries…”
Pope Francis considered it necessary that we address the issue of transcendence. As you graduate from the ADDU, it is a key issue that you must address. This is not a rarified issue just of philosophers or theologians. It is not the concern of romantics or dilettantes. It is an issue of human life and truth. It is in this light, that I share with you Pope Francis’ second challenge: “Go to the poor, go to the peripheries.”
Three days ago, on the Feast of the Annunciation, as the Church celebrated the Incarnation of our Lord, Fr. Provincial released the “apostolic roadmap” for Jesuits in the Philippines which had been approved in principle last month in Manila by Jesuits and partners-in-mission. The Roadmap is greatly inspired by the challenge of Pope Francis. It foresees a shift in the center of gravity of the apostolic works of the Jesuits in the Philippines from Manila to Mindanao. The reason is simple: If Pope Francis is challenging us to “go to the poor, go to the peripheries,” the poor and the peripheries are in Mindanao. Fourteen of the 20 poorest provinces of the country are in Mindanao. In most of these provinces, since 2012 poverty has increased. The poverty index in Mindanao is 41% vs. 33% in the Visayas and 16% in Luzon. On the other hand, the poverty index in ARMM approaches 60%. While Mindanao accounts for 40% of the land area, it contributes only 16% to the total gross national product; ARMM has the smallest contribution. Due to ongoing bungled relations between the north and the south, through which the heroic peace advocates and peace process have been ignored, maligned, misunderstood, peace in Mindanao directly involving some 8 million Muslims, about a third of the Mindanao population, about a fifth of the national population, is elusive. At the same time, among the most neglected and peripheralised populations in the Philippines are the indigenous peoples of Mindanao.
“Go to the poor, go to the peripheries,” Pope Francis challenged. At your Baccalaureate Mass, where before God. you thank your parents and benefactors for the graces of your higher education, your Pope challenges you to transcendence. Consider that challenge. Naturally, some of you may dream of Manila or Tokyo or Singapore or Dubai or London, Paris or New York. You may dream of the glory, the wealth, the status of these spaces. But you are free in transcendence also to consider other places, like Mamsasapano. You may wish to dedicate your lives to truth, to peace, to righting wrong, to being part of a Mindanao that is prosperous and strong.
Isn’t that part of your Blue Knight Song? In transcendence, consider God’s will. In obedience, as Mary, “to God’s high command your hearts bow.”