[Mass of the Renewal of Marriage Vows of Sonny and Jojo Castro, Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, San Pedro Resettlement Area, San Pedro, Laguna.]
This is rather awesome. Forty years ago, you were in this church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of Barangay Narra, San Pedro Resettlement Area, to give yourself to one another in marriage. You had chosen this out-of-the-way church among God’s poor because your cousin, Jojo, was priest-in-charge here at that time, and because it would be an out-of-the-box way to celebrate an extraordinary relationship that began with a blind date on a squash court. Lita and Abade Baltazar, had brought you, Jojo, while Chit Baltazar and Vicvic Villavecencio had brought you, Sonny to that squash court. It was apparently not love at first sight; in fact, Jojo was simply amused at Sonny charging around the court to hit the squash ball, and off-court was more amused at Sonny’s penchant at that time for bright floral Hawaiian shirts and the puka necklace around his neck.
Well, after a series of group dates arranged not too subtly by Lita Baltazar, with two cupids, Ina Ledesma Bautista and Diding Jison, firing amorous arrows their way, they ended up here in this church where vows were exchanged for a nuptial relationship that would in Sonny mirror sacramentally the love of Jesus for his Church, and in Jojo, mirror the love of the Church for her redeemer. Since then, that sacramental love has unfolded in a grace-filled and unprecedented way. It brought Sonny and Jojo from this church of the San Pedro Resettlement Area to Manila, Hong Kong, the United States, Brazil, San Francisco, Miami and even Tagaytay. Its enduring and at times deeply privileged moments of ecstatic love – a human experiencing of how divinity is bound awesomely to humanity in love – brought forth Jonesy, Jamie, Jacky, JV and Joelle. 40 years ago, they were present in this church only potentially, but today they are now here in full actuality, in flesh and blood and smiles, and having plotted and schemed to come from the other side of the world to celebrate the love at 40 that had brought them from heaven into this world.
And today, if you ask Sonny or Jojo what it’s been like over forty years, I think they’d both say it hasn’t been an uninterrupted romantic LA-LA land dance among the stars nor a walk through a thorn-less rose garden. Their walk down the aisle 40 years ago has led them down their camino which brought them to breathtaking vistas and fascinating people, but not without its potholes and hazards and stumbling blocks. Both would say they’ve had to work at their marriage to manage their idiosyncrasies and iron out their differences and learn how to be accommodating and supportive to the point of learning to enjoy one another’s “manias.” Imagine, Jojo is spontaneous and adventurous, liking to savor the experience as it presents itself, Sonny is obsessive-compulsive, liking to plan, manage and control. Jojo loves to travel to places she’s never seen, no matter the risks; Sonny prefers the familiar, and safe places, reserving risks for the serious stuff, not the fun stuff in life; and in the bedroom, Jojo loves the air-conditioner turned to arctic, while he loves the air-conditioner turned to San Francisco. [No, I will not say anything more about how opposites are harmonized in the bedroom!]
But where the Church would say this faithful, enduring, exclusive love that in its imperfection is perfected in God’s providence is the sacrament of marriage, 40 years ago present in this church in exchanged consent then only potentially, but today revealed in this church in all its smiling actuality, manifesting how God loves us in extraordinary adventurous creative out-of-the-box in-the-flesh ways, and how we love God back with all our hearts and minds and bodies and souls. But in Sonny and Jojo’s married life the most sublime manifestation of the sacrament of matrimony is in the communio of their family, the unity of their family centered on love and on one another and in many subtle ways on the communio of the triune God. Ohana is not an immediately Christian category; it a Hawaiian anthropological institution. But in the lives of Sony and Jojo it is a manifestation of powerful divine grace, where Ohana means family, and family means being together even when geographical distance separates, enjoying one another’s presence, looking out for one another, leaving no one behind, relishing the bondedness with each other that overflows generously in bondedness with others. It is a reality which saw Sonny laboring with his OC genius to bring home the bacon, and Jojo frying the bacon into cheerful family breakfasts and, in the bountifulness of their Ohana, Jojo enjoying herself preparing sumptuous meals for hungry family and friends, even preparing baon for her kids and sonny on the go. As Sonny managed the banks and the business, Chef Jojo was also Mang Jojo chauffeuring the kids to school and to all their extra-curricular activities. While other families would bond in free time in restaurants, malls or movie houses, the Castro family would bond in soccer, with Jojo and Sonny having watched some 4,000 games of their superstar children on the football pitch. Where the malady today of many families is the communications gap between generations, it was easy for the kids to talk to Sonny about their education or their careers, just as it was easy for them to talk to Jojo just about anything, with Sonny pitching in the latest jokes in the exchange. Perhaps, that is what we celebrate most profoundly today about this marriage, this Ohana, this unfolded unconditional love for family that mirrors the revealed unconditional love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father in the Holy Spirit, this triune divine Ohana that spilled over into his Church, his Ohana in our world, so intensely experienced in Sonny and Jojo’s family.
What is slightly humorous about all this is that when I asked Sonny to describe how over the years the sacramentality of his marriage unfolded, his first instinct was to turn to the Internet to look up the history of marriage instead of reflecting on the history of their marriage. But his instinct was not unguided, since what he found was that marriage starts with a gift from God. And that was all he needed from the internet. He then started recognizing and savoring the ciphers of how deeply and profoundly they have been and continue to be gifted by God through 40 years of marriage on different continents, with magnificent gifts in Joelle, JV, Jacqueline, Jamie and Jonesy, with precious gifts of loving relatives and loyal friends, with gifts of earthly and spiritual treasure, intelligence, wisdom and fun making up their Ohana, all gift of God’s enduring love, all sacrament of humanity and divinity kissing eternally in this remarkable marriage.