[Homily: Special Mass in the wake of the Bombing in the Davao Night Market, ADDU Assumption Chapel, September 5, 2016, 4:00 pm]
Every Eucharist is a celebration of life. In every Eucharist we come together to manifest gratitude for life.
The Father considered human life precious. He rejected that people would demean it, destroy it, throw it away. He rejected that people would let selfishness and greed undermine human community. Or let money replace the values of human life. Or let the human thirst for power undermine the prerogatives and glory of divine power.
His Son preached the Kingdom of his Father, the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom of
God the inalienable value of human life on earth is anchored in divine will and guaranteed in divine power. The Kingdom of God, “the abundant life, the fullness of life for all” (Jn 10:10) was at the heart of Jesus’ message and mission.
In this preaching he was not understood. He was rejected. He was crucified.
But in the crucifixion, he manifested the power of God’s love, as from the Cross he gazed into our soul.
From his Cross, he continues to call us to love. And peace.
Even today as we come together also to recall the bombing in Davao’s night market last Friday. That was not in some battlefield of a southern Mindanao jungle nor far away in the hub of Philippine commerce and industry. It was right outside our Community Center. It claimed the lives of fourteen. It injured sixty-seven.
Among those injured were two of our Ateneo de Davao students. Shrapnel tore into our Steven Tagadaya’s (5th year, accountancy) left leg. But a piece of shrapnel also penetrated into his liver, requiring emergency surgery. His sister, Princess, of San Pedro College, is even more serious. Shrapnel injured her spine. She is now bedridden, paralyzed.
Shrapnel also injured the face of Erol Campos (3rd year, architecture).
Today, wanting to reflect on all this and understand, we find ourselves wrestling with raw emotions within:
There is frustration and anger. Somehow, very personally, we are frustrated and angry that this has happened here in Davao. Davao is our city, the city we love. The peace of Davao is broken, and somehow we feel violated. The paradise that we’d thought would be enhanced by a Duterte presidency has turned into a nightmare.
There is fear. We know: what happened on Friday night can happen again. It can happen anywhere.
There is confusion. We are truly perplexed. Why? Why did it happen? What depths of social alienation were involved? What levels of psychological pathology? What manner of heartless thirst for power? What drive for some religious state? Or manifestation of the power of narcopolitics? Then, how respond? With indignation? Awe? Horror?
There is moral outrage. This ought not have happened. It was not Christian. It was not Islamic. It was not human.
There is the need nevertheless to survive, to move on, even when things look so bleak.
So this afternoon, we come together. First, we come together to one another, and take comfort in coming to each other. But we also come together to take solace in God’s redemptive intervention in our lives. From his Cross, he continues to say: You, you I love.
In this context, as we continue to wrestle with conflicting emotions within, perhaps we may consider:
Anger is not the vice. Quietism is. Or irascibility: chronic angry emotionality. Anger recognizes evil, and channels positive energy to overcome it.
Fear is not the enemy. There are fearsome things in life. Bombs explode. Drugs kill. Evil people do evil things. We should fear these things, but not allow fear to overwhelm us. Fear is not the enemy: cowardice is. Or, paralysis.
Confusion can be a first step towards wisdom. It can be a further step towards understanding what will finally bring about genuine peace in Mindanao, what the concrete demands of social justice are, or how we can finally make quality education accessible to all. It can be a giant step towards willing to act on one’s convictions.
Moral outrage can be well placed. What happened ought not have happened. Fourteen people ought not have died. Jay Andremessin from Surallah, South Cotabato, was a policeman at Davao airport. Christelle Decolongon was a pharmacy student at San Pedro College. Evelyn Sobrecarey from Koronodal was a wife of a policeman and a mother of three. Kristia Gaile Bison was a private nurse at Davao Doctors’ Hospital and a Taekwondo enthusiast. Maria Luz Arrellano was a masahista and mother of two children, six-years old and two. Fourteen innocent people ought not have died, and sixty-seven innocent people ought not have been injured, some of whom may suffer from these injuries for the rest of their lives. Moral outrage may lead us to the action we must take to make sure is doesn’t happen again.
Meanwhile, before the Cross of Christ, there is the need not only to survive, but to thrive as human beings. The Lord comes to bring “life in abundance, life to the full” (Jn 10:10), and from the Cross Christ calls us to the same. That is what this Mass calls us to: Not to be discouraged in the face of evil.
Look at the Cross. The Cross was evil. An innocent man was tortured and killed. But the Cross became a source of life and hope.
In him, we are called to be a source of life and hope.