[Homily: ADDU Pre-Christmas Mass, Dec. 15, 2017]
We come together in the spirit of the Advent season. That spirit is a spirit of preparation. It prepares for the second coming of the Lord. The Lord comes at the end of time. At the end of time, the Lord comes as our King and our Judge. Part of the joy of Advent is our certitude that at the end of time, all things will be made right. All injustice will be undone. All undue suffering will be requited. The just will be admitted to their eternal reward. The unjust will suffer eternal perdition. Advent awaits the triumph of the Lord as a just King and compassionate Judge. Advent awaits the victory of his justice and compassion, of his Kingdom established over heaven and earth. In hope, we prepare ourselves for his second coming, for we do not know the day nor the hour of its coming.
As Advent prepares for the second coming of the Lord at the end of time, it does so in the memory and joy of his first coming in time. The Lord entered into our time, into our space, to free us from our sin, our darkness, our rejection of God as relevant for our lives, our consequent pride, deification of ourselves, reification of others, our contempt, rejection and hatred for one another, our endless quarrels, our violence, our wars. In time, the Lord comes as a teacher, as a prophet of truth, as a bearer of light. “I have come to bring you life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10). “I, the Lord your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go” (Is 48:17). He comes, teaching us to love God above all things, not to take his name in vain, to keep holy the Lord’s Day, to honor our father and mother, not to kill, not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to lie, not to covet our neighbor’s wife, not to covet our neighbor’s goods (cf. Ex 20:1-17). Where sin abounds from the hearts of human individuals, he teaches that he does not despise the sacrifice of a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart (cf. Ps 51:17). In time, in the fullness of time, God’s Word is made flesh. God’s teaching becomes flesh, becomes incarnate (cf. Jn 1:14). God’s teaching is the Child in the manger, the wandering Preacher insisting on the primacy of the Kingdom of God, the astonishing Teacher calling the Poor in Spirit blessed, the angry Prophet overturning the tables of the money changers in the House of his Father, the Lord and Master washing the feet of his disciples, the Son of Man sweating blood in agony, the Son of God suffering for our sins. God’s teaching is the crucified Word of God expressing the fullness of God’s love for us on the Cross. The wood of the manger, the wood of the Cross, bearing the Lamb of God, the resurrected Lord, the Judge of heaven and earth. Recalling his coming in time and his being our Teacher is part of the joy of Advent for it has a bearing on our hope in his second coming.
In Advent, we are invited to reflect on how that teaching has affected our lives in our own time, has conditioned our relationships, influenced our choices, even shaped our decision to be part of, or remain part of, this Jesuit, Catholic and Filipino university that is called Ateneo de Davao. We are invited to appreciate how Christ, the Teacher, quietly inspires our lives as teachers, as staff, or as administrators, and how his teachings help shape what it is that we teach or what it is we do to support teaching well. We can reflect on how his presence has helped us overcome momentous hardships in our past year, both in our personal and professional lives, and then shepherded us to positive outcomes for which we are grateful. In the GS, we transitioned to new leadership, to fresh beginnings, to new challenges. We learned we can agree, disagree and dialogue towards shared commitment to the welfare of our students. In the JHS we met the taxing challenges of a PAASCU survey visit, assessing our weaknesses, appreciating our strengths. We were visited, measured, examined, and not found wanting. In the SHS we survived, where survival could not be taken for granted. But we did not only survive. We worked hard together, faced our demons, learned many lessons, and have despite our shortcomings become one of the most successful SHSs in the country. In the colleges, we worked hard on improving ourselves as teachers, on overcoming our interpersonal problems, on improving our research and sharing its results with audiences in other countries, on preparing ourselves for inter- and multidisciplinary teaching of our Jesuit core curriculum, and on achieving outstanding professional board performance in teacher education, psychology, psychometrics, guidance counseling, chemistry, social work, architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering, electronics engineering, certified public accounting, nursing and law. Meanwhile, we have become the Technopreneurship hub for Mindanao. We have worked hard 24/7 to fight illegal drugs in our City. We have continued to work hard together for peace, for the rehabilitation of Marawi, for the self-determination of the Bangsamoro, for the improvement of education among the madaris, for the upliftment of the Lumad, for the protection of the environment, and for educational reform both in basic and higher education. We did so, in the presence and inspiration of Christ, our Teacher.
We have much to be grateful for, even as we know we have yet much to learn from our divine Teacher. It is in this context that the Lord says in our first reading, “If you had only paid attention to my teachings, heeded my commandments” you would have experienced prosperity, vindication and descendants like the grains of the sand.” (Is 48:18). It is as if he tells us, “If only you had heeded my teachings, you would have succeeded more, found greater respect in one another’s eyes, and have had as many successful students as the grains of the sand.” My teachings you know: you are educated educators, you know your catechism, you know your theology, you know when it is that you do wrong, you know when you use your knowledge and your power to take undue advantage of your fellow teacher or employee, or to Lord it over your students. You know when it is that you fail to give love – in laziness, in tiredness, in utter selfishness – even to those you love most. You know many things. That is your strength. But your weakness is you use your knowledge to block yourselves off from learning of me, as I teach you truth from the Cross, speaking to you personally in your unique circumstances, urging you to do what will really make you happy.
Part of the joy of Advent is to rejoice in how the Lord comes to us in our time, as a Teacher, as a Savior, as a human being, born in poverty, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lain in a manger. It is that same Lord who at the end of time wishes to welcome us to the joys for which we were created from the beginning of time. If hearing his Word on the wood of the Cross may seem overwhelming, his Word as a baby lain on the wood of the manger may be less intimidating. But to hear it, we must listen in silence free of the customary distractions of the Season. The Word is but a vulnerable baby. But it is an intimate Word of powerful love. It is a forgiving Word of acceptance. It is an awesome Word of God’s irretrievable commitment to us. It is the Good News the Father whispers in Love that we must not miss to appreciate as Christmas nears.