[Homily at Sunday Mass in Memory of Sanjo Dakudao, Chapel of the Assumption, Ateneo de Davao University, 26 June 2016, 10:00 a.m.]
We come together at this special Sunday Mass in memory of Sanjo Dakudao, who was to me a personal friend. We are very happy that Dita, his wife, is here from California, accompanied by her brother, Tony, and that members of Sanjo’s family from Davao are here as well.
The Ateneo de Davao University is grateful to the Dakudao Family. The construction projects which our Board of Trustees approved as essential for the university – the Martin Hall, the Community Center of the First Companions, including this very Chapel of our Lady of the Assumption, hinged on the Dakudaos’ consenting to allow Ateneo to acquire a family-heritage lot owned jointly by seven Dakudao brothers. I had known none of them personally then, but many friends of Ateneo did. So through these friends the Ateneo de Davao conveyed its urgent request to purchase the property we needed for our project. We were happy that six of the seven brothers consented to the sale. But it was Sanjo who did not. Sanjo I was made to understand, was a free spirit, and was prone to swimming against the current. So it meant that I would have to woo Sanjo to give his consent.
Dita says that Sanjo felt that he was hounded! Eventually, we got to meet. I was confronted with a massive declaration that he did not want to sell. I don’t remember now exactly how I reacted. I think I began to beg. The whole massive construction project depended now on his consent. One meeting led to another. I was led from hope in his willingness to talk to despair at his stubbornness. “I don’t want to sell”, he continally repeated. Finally I asked him, “If you don’t sell, what would you want to do with the property – especially if Ateneo builds all around it, wherever it is?” He said he would want to enjoy it. I asked how? He said he would want to build a dormitory. Or put up a café or restaurant. That’s when I suggested we agree to a usufruct swap. He allow Ateneo de Davao to use his property, then we allocate a space for his restaurant café. He agreed!
That agreement allowed Ateneo de Davao to embark on its urgent construction projects which just recently came to an end. It also opened the way to a warm friendship between Sanjo and myself. We would meet often, mostly at the Marco Polo, to enjoy the buffet there and kill a bottle of Bordeaux wine. It was the best of times: I would choose the exquisite wine, he would pay. And we would talk about many things: his family, my family; his wife, my lack of a wife; his brothers, my brother; his doctor father, my businessman father; his real estate projects and agricultural dreams, and my projects and dreams as a university president. Between himself as a colorful entrepreneur and myself as a Jesuit priest, we even shared confidential problems and personal struggles. That’s where I learned that for all his Ilongo bravado and out-of-the box living, he had a good heart. Even if he had made mistakes in his life, he had a good heart.
Last December 30, the date of the blessing of this Chapel, the news came of the heart attack which claimed his life. The Sunday before the blessing, I had invited him to come. He said he would come. Perhaps, as we celebrated here our Lady of the Assumption into Heaven, he was more present at the blessing than we.
Today, in the same Chapel, we come together in Eucharist, recalling the meal when Jesus broke bread and shared wine in oneness with his body broken and his blood poured out for us in love. On his Cross it was Jesus who taught us the intensity of his Father’s love for us all and the depth of his forgiveness; he taught us how God’s justice is dispensed in mercy, not in punishment. Before this great image of God’s love, we plead today with Sanjo in our shared neediness for mercy. With Sanjo, we hope in his words, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). In the waters that flowed from his side, we pray to be bathed in his mercy. Considering the care that Sanjo had for the little people, the poorly fed, the improperly clad, the workers, the imprisoned, we hope in the Lord’s words, “Come, you who are blessed by my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was imprisoned and you visited me…” (Mt. 25:34-36). In people’s mercifulness, the Lord’s grace works out redemption.
From his Cross, Jesus pleaded even for those who had crowned him with thorns, insulted, battered, whipped and crucified him: “Father, forgive them,” he said, “for they do not know what they do” (Lk 23:32). He had taught us the importance of being able to forgive. Our sins forgiven, we ought ourselves to forgive. In praying, Jesus taught us to say, “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us” (Mt 6:12) “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive yours” (Mt. 6:14).
Let this Mass, which celebrates God’s mercy and forgiveness for Sanjo and us all, be occasion for us to be merciful and forgiving to one another. Was it not Charlie Brown who said, “Lord, I love humanity, it’s just that neighbor next door I can’t stand!” We tend to be like that sometimes: “Lord, in my heart, there is love and forgiveness of all humanity, it’s just the person next to me I hate!” In forgiveness, let us rediscover our love in the Father’s one family. And find peace in the Father’s understanding and compassion.
At the Last Supper, which we celebrate together this morning, Jesus took bread, and gave it to his disciples as he gives it to whomever of us this morning shall accept it. He took bread and gave it to them, reminding them of his words, “I am the bread of life. … This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever. And this bread, which I will give for the life of the world, is my flesh” (Jn 6:47). When Jesus uttered these words, many of his disciples left him. As today many leave him, rejecting the bread shared with sinners. I know, Sanjo did not. He accepted this bread, and while many could not understand wagging their heads in disapproval, he had found the Bread of Eternal Life; he took and ate.
Or, perhaps more appropriately, Jesus, the Bread of Life, had found and consumed him.
In this context, we remember the Psalmist’s words, “You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil. My cup is overflowing. Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life. In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell forever and ever” (Ps 23: 5-6).