[Homily: Monday of the 5th Week of Easter based on Jn 14:21-26, Assumption Chapel, 20 May 2019.]
We have begun a process of strategic planning in the university. Last Wednesday to Friday, some 70 of us from the university and its alumni began to assess how we’ve been doing in the University and to plan where we ought to go. We did such things as review the statements of the Vision and Mission. We retained the Vision statement largely, except we underscored that ADDU is ”Filipino” in that it serves Mindanao. We worked out a total restatement of our Mission. It was an exciting process that involved not merely corporate planning, but much time for prayer and discernment.
Among our activities was to reflect on our values as a Jesuit school. These values are often mentioned in our talks and conversations, but unevenly appreciated. During the stratplanning we took time to reflect and pray over these values. Some of these: Fortes in fide – Strong in the faith – our motto at ADDU, magis, truth, humanity, women and men for others, generosity, eloquentia, sapientia, and excellence. As the stratplanning process proceeds, we will name our core values as a university community.
Today we pray at the beginning of this Mass: “Father help us to seek the values that will bring us eternal joy in this changing world.”
We pray this because we know that there are many values that do not bring us joy, much less eternal joy. Lust is one. We lust in the hope of lasting pleasure. But the object of lust invariably disappoints. Covetousness is another. We are deeply unhappy because we do not have what my friend has or my competitor has. Honor is another. We want to be recognized, acknowledged, praised, but it is exhausting.
There are many values that forget that this world is changing. We value good looks, being admired, being idolized for the ways we look. But the way we look changes. And the way people look at you changes as your looks change. In 19-forgotten I had long, wavy hair. Now look what happened! We may have spent many years of our lives building up a marketing company that sells DVD movies. Today nobody watches DVDs. Yesterday, everybody went to the movies. Today the talk is of Netflix.
Our prayer is: “Father help us to seek the values that will bring us eternal joy in this changing world.”
Of the many values that Jesuit schools have like cura personalis, magis, and excellence, participants in our stratplanning activity argued that the most important is: Fortes in fide: being strong in the faith. Being strong in the Christian Faith means being strong in our love for the Father, strong in our intimacy with Jesus Christ, and strong in our sensitivity to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It means that in this confusing world we truly believe Jesus is “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6).
Jesus is the way to ultimate happiness, not isolation, not accumulation, not violence, not corruption, not pleasure. Jesus is the truth, not ignorance, not lies, not fake news, misleading ideologies. Jesus is the life, the fullness of human life, not the fullness of oneself, not the fullness of money, not the fullness of power.
Jesus is the way to the eternal Father, not money, not power, not influence.
Our prayer is: “Father help us to seek the values that will bring us eternal joy in this changing world.” Our prayer could also have been, Father help us to be “strong in the faith” – fortes in fide. As St. Peter wrote in this regard in his first epistle:
“Cast all your cares upon [Jesus], for he cares for you.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, fortes in fide – strong in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world” (1 Peter 5:9).
Remain strong in the faith. The Lord is with you. In the midst of a rising storm at sea, he approaches, walking on the water, to say, “Do not be afraid. It is I” (Mt 14:27). In the midst of hunger, he says, “Take, eat, this is my body. It is broken for you” (Mt. 26:26). In the midst of danger, he says, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” (Jn 10:11).
It was with faith in Jesus Christ, that Peter in our first reading, recognizing the faith of the crippled man, lame from birth, commanded, “Stand up straight on your feet.” In faith, the man “jumped up and began to walk about” (Acts 14:10-11).
It is in response to those who in faith keep the commandments of God that Jesus says remarkably, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn 14:23). In our lack of faith, we often think of God the Father far, far away from us, up above the heavens, and of Jesus only as a historical figure that lived more than 2000 years ago.
But the Gospel is saying, keep Jesus’ command to love his Father and love one another, and experience the Love of God the Father and God the Son who dwell in you.
We return to our prayer, “Father help us to seek the values that will bring us eternal joy in this changing world.” Among these values, help us to be fortes in fide, strong in the faith. In a confusing world, let our faith be strengthened by God dwelling within us.