[Address: Graduation of the Graduate School and Law School, 25 April 2015]
During or Baccalaureate Mass we spoke of Jesus’ commitment to the establishment of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of his Father. We know, I earnestly hope, that that is not a Kingdom that begins to exist only after we die in a Kingdom of Heaven. For us who already know Jesus Christ, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God is only credible if we are authentically engaged in the establishment of a Kingdom of God on earth. The Kingdom of God on earth cannot be a Kingdom of God whose salutary effects are experienced only by a few, to the exclusion of the many. The Kingdom of God is necessarily a Kingdom of God for all. Even for those who in their personal dignity and religious freedom are led to God’s Kingdom in a manner that is different from ours. In the name of God’s Kingdom, we must continue to search, even with or for those who are different from us, for a shared common good in which all persons and communities of differing faiths or even of no religious faith can flourish together. The call to work for the Kingdom of God is the call to work for a shared common good.
We are fortunate that under our 1987 Constitution, which has been aptly described as a social justice Constitution, we are all mandated to pursue the common good. For us Christians today in Mindanao, our participation in the fulfillment of that constitutional mandate is aided by two documents of the Second Vatican Council whose 50th anniversary we celebrate this year: the first is Nostra aetate, which acknowledges the diversity of religions and cultures in our present age, and calls us to celebrate the elements of religion and culture that we share in common rather than focus on the elements that separate us; the second is Dignitatis Humanae, which proclaims the right of all to religious freedom based on the dignity of the human person. These two important teachings shift the evangelical attitude of the Church from one of needing to demonstrate how right and holy she is in her doctrine and practice to a more humble posture of witnessing to the faith it cherishes, yet acknowledging that peoples of other religions and cultures need to be respected in their own manner of receiving God’s revelation and worshiping God. It is a shift from believing one is free only to believe in the Catholic doctrine, to believing that all are free to follow their conscience in religious matters; its corollary insight is that Catholic doctrine is impugned if any person needs to be coerced to embrace it. The constitutional mandate to social justice is also aided by other social teachings of the Church which constantly teach the necessity of pursuing social justice in the common good.
As we search for the common good in Mindanao, and the peace it demands, my prayers is that as graduates of the ADDU you use your higher knowledge and skills in arts and sciences, business and governance, nursing and health sciences, engineering and architecture, education and law towards the achievement of the common good in Mindanao, and today most urgently, towards creating a meaningful autonomy for Muslim Filipinos with full respect for the rights of the affected Indigenous Peoples. I ask you to get involved in the effort to pass a Bangsamoro Basic Law in compliance not only with the particular mandate of the Constitution for an autonomous region of Muslim Mindanao but also with the general mandate of the Constitution for social justice in our country. Social justice in our country is most seriously denied in Muslim Mindanao.
Because the common good that is the product of the pursuit of social justice this side of heaven is never achieved once and for all times, but an ongoing outcome of research, study, conversations, negotiations and structural change, I invite you to continue to return to the ADDU to join, enrich and invigorate its ongoing search for the common good. Continue to support your alma mater in this abiding pursuit, not only by sharing with it of your material prosperity, but more so of your experience, your wisdom and your love. Meanwhile, may the Lord bless you with success in your mission: Go now into the whole world and with your lives convince all of the Good News that comes to us in Jesus Christ and in yourselves in his Spirit.