[Thursday of the 33rd Week in Ordinary Time. Luke 19:41-44]
As a result of a census that was called then by the Roman conquerors of Palestine, Jesus was born in the Davidic town of Bethlehem in Judea, about 10 km south of Jerusalem. But as the Gospels tell us, he was raised by Mary and Joseph in Nazareth in Galilee, in the north of Palestine. He was raised there quietly, where he grew in wisdom age and grace, until his public life. When his public life of preaching, healing and the proclamation of the Kingdom of his Father began in Galilee, he was not unfamiliar with Jerusalem. Luke’s Gospel says that his parents brought him “each year” to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. They would have also participated in other feasts celebrated in Jerusalem: the feast of the gift of the Torah, the feast of the Tabernacles, or the feast of Atonement. Despite Jesus’ familiarity with Jerusalem, the Gospel of Luke frames Jesus’ ministry as moving from Galilee gradually towards Jerusalem. Here Jerusalem is regarded not in its geographical, but in its spiritual light. It is a journey that sees Jesus moving from Galilee through Samaria to Judea upward to climb the mountain of God, the mountain of God being the special place of encounter between God and man. This Mount Moriah (cf. 2 Chron 3:1), or Mount Zion (“heaven”), on which Jerusalem was built, was where the Holy Temple of God stood, where for the Jews one’s climbing the holy mountain would bring one to an encounter with God dwelling in the temple in the Holy of Holies. For Christians it would mean much more.
As Jesus climbed the mountain of God on his final journey to Jerusalem, which precedes our Gospel passage today, he would have recalled rich passages in Isaiah concerning the mountain of God:
The mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream towards it; many people shall come and say: “Come let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways and we may walk in his paths.” He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise their sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. (Is 2:2-4).
Also on Jesus’ mind would have been the promise of God’s saving activity in him on this holy mountain: A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord will rest upon him…
Then the wolf will be the guest of the lamb and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord as water covers the sea. (Is 11: 1. 6-9)
Jesus would especially have recalled Isaiah’s vision not only of a special feast on this mountain but of man’s ultimate redemption.
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy rich foods and choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord will wipe the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove From the whole earth; for the Lord has spoken. (Is 25: 6-8)
All the promise of Jerusalem – for an end to war, for the peaceful co-existence of belligerent foes, for a final festive meal prepared by God himself that would celebrate the triumph of God’s love over death and sorrow and sin – must have been on Jesus’ mind as Jesus climbed God’s holy mountain, accepting for himself whatever would be necessary to keep the promise of God for Jerusalem. It must have been on his mind as he realized how badly the people misunderstood him when they welcomed him entering Jerusalem crying, “Hosannah in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” They did not understand. They understood neither his mission nor the cost to him personally of his mission. They did not understand the cost of their impending rejection of Jesus, crying out hatefully, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” They did not understand how Jesus remained faithful to them in remaining faithful to God’s saving will, accepting death, even death on the cross. They did not see the impending destruction of Jerusalem, as Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, according to Luke, would go beyond Jerusalem to the ends of the earth.
So having climbed the mountain and entered Jerusalem, Jesus in our Gospel reading for today now looked over Jerusalem. He wept over it. Jesus’ weeping was not just a quiet flowing of tears, but a sobbing, expressing almost uncontrolled sorrow, frustration, fear, and perhaps even something of the agony that in Gethsemane would turn sweat into blood. He loved Jerusalem. This was the city that represented God’s chosen people. This was the city where God lived. This was the city where he’d preached the Kingdom of his Father. This was where he healed the paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda on a Sabbath and stirred up a controversy as to whether it was right to heal on a Sabbath (Jn 5:1-47). It is the city where the people did not understand “what makes for peace” (42). They were caught hoping for a merely political peace. He was bringing them more. He was bringing them God’s compassion for them in their sinfulness. And reconciliation. But when he came “they did not recognize the time of [their] visitation” (44b). As John said, “…he came to his own, but his own people did not accept him” (Jn 1:11). They were blinded in their showy rituals and constraining interpretations of the law. He would consequently be lifted up on a cross, killed and raised from the dead. In his passion and death, the compassion and gifted life of the Father would be manifest. But Jerusalem and its people would suffer immensely under the Roman Consul Titus in 70 AD. He would lay siege to Jerusalem, slowly starve its people, then massacre them all. “For the days are coming.” Jesus decried, “when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Lk 19:42-44).
Having climbed Mt Calvary just outside Jerusalem’s walls to establish God’s Peace with the world, Jesus’ journey would proceed from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. In fact, his journey goes beyond this earth into the Heavenly Jerusalem. We walk with him today, resurrected but still carrying his cross. We weep with him, looking on the suffering of our people because we do not recognize him in our midst, in the least of our sisters and brothers, in the poor, the disenfranchised, the discarded; we ask the Father “That we may see…” (Lk 18:41), and that through the Paschal mystery he may turn our tears into joy – every time His will is done, His kingdom comes, on earth as in the Heavenly Jerusalem.
Our world with its mountains and valleys, rivers and lakes, dry lands and wetlands, our mountains in South Cotabato, our fertile rice fields in the lowlands, are gifts entrusted to us for the good of all humankind by a loving Creator. Through the inspiration of St. Francis of Assisi and the prophetic leadership of Pope Francis we are learning that today anew. Created all by a loving and provident God, Pope Francis reiterates in his encyclical, Laudato Si, we are sisters and brothers to the sun, the moon, the water and the seas, every living creature, but especially to one another who share the same human flesh and human spirit. Francis asks: in this fraternity of creatures, who is the poorest of the poor, who is the most oppressed among the oppressed. He answers: Mother Earth. He asserts this because human beings are caught in a vicious cycle of uncontrolled consumerism, and uncontrolled exploitation of the world’s resources through a globally integrated production mammoth that feeds the consumerism, in order to increase the consumption. This is done by continually improving the mammoth production machine of the globe through science and technology, giving the small group of those owners who are eventually controlled by this machine the power to destroy the earth and destroy humanity with it to keep it producing. The machine generates all manner of pollution and waste, much of it toxic, that is difficult to discard, and continually harmful to the environment. Among the most deplorable of its waste products are human beings, who because they are yet unborn or elderly, who for lack of education and training cannot be made part of the continually improving production machine and the privileged human beings who consume what it produces, who because of where they were born or the color of their skin or the shape of their eyes are discarded from the production process and thrown away. In this vicious cycle driven by the technocratic paradigm (101-114), Francis warns the oppressed Mother Earth and the rich diversity of life it supports, including humanity, are clearly endangered.
Today, as undeniable signs point to the resurgence of large-scale open pit mining in South Cotabato and neighboring provinces, we come together to object to this mammoth project that will destroy old growth forests, annihilate precious bio-diversity and displace the B’laan peoples in order to make way for a gaping open-pit mine whose waste products would be toxic and potentially destructive of Mindanao’s fresh water and food supplies for possibly 2000 years. Today we stand to take power against the technocratic paradigm that is the soul of the global productive machine that looks hungrily at the minerals of Tampakan and is willing to destroy local life and livelihood and Mother Earth to get at it.
Today we come together in unity to ask our politicians, esp. our Brother President Digong from Mindanao, to take a position with us against this voracious production machine that feeds the foreign global economy and influences our own, but severely wounds the natural Mindanao environment and throws away people, the B’laans of Mindanao, the farmers of Mindanao, the peoples of Mindanao dependent on God’s creation for fresh water and food. We ask our politicians to view the long term and stand for the environmental rights not only of today’s Mindanawons, but of future generations of Mindanawons, whose welfare we cannot compromise for the short-term, for-profit interests of a privileged few. As Pope Francis urges in his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, good politics must not be subservient to the economy that increasingly marginalizes and throws away people through its technocratic paradigm (177). Good politicians must as part of the fraternity of human beings stand for and control an economy that respects all human beings and respects all the creatures that God entrusted to us for the sustainable good of all human beings. This includes the peoples, the mountains, the forests, the rivers, and the fertile rice fields of Mindanao. Today, taking power into our hands as united citizens, religious leaders, academicians, civil service organizations, local communities and peoples of Mindanao, we – 89 organisational and 425 individual signatories – stand for the integrity of God’s creation in Mindanao and the good of all the peoples of Mindanao, past, present and future, whom he willed to benefit from his creation.
We are one with the peoples of Mindanao and as the Filipino people, united in faith that calls for ecological justice and integrity.
We vigorously oppose, vehemently denounce and verily object to this Tampakan Mining Project of the Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI), whose key player is the Alcantara Group of Companies.
KNOW THE FACTS: The Tampakan Mining Project is a mammoth project and leviathan in its impact. SMI Tampakan covers 4 provincial boundaries , the headwaters of six (6) catchments and 2 major river systems, where:
Nearly 10,000 hectares of forestland will be razed, 50% of which are closed and open canopy forests. The open pit is 800 meters deep, 2.5 km wide and 3 km long.
1000 families will be ejected from their community, relocating 5000 persons, including women and children.
AT LEAST 5000 farmers/irrigators depend on the headwaters in the FMA for their cultivation of prime agricultural lands.
500 hectares will be covered by waste rock high in arsenic and ripe for acid mine drainage. The area sits on geological faultlines and a cluster of dormant volcanoes within 12 km of Mt. Matutum, an active volcano.
SMI Tampakan will leave irreversible impacts on food security, peoples and biodiversity, and is a serious threat to peace and security including Mindanao’s resilience to climate change.
Mindanao is being primed as the food basket of the country with 1/3 of its land devoted to agriculture, even as it ranks high in poverty incidence and heightened conflict areas. It is also home to the critically endangered Philippine Eagle as well as rich flora and fauna species with high endemicity. Globally threatened species are also found in Mindanao.
Protecting Tampakan is defending Mindanao and its key role in the Philippine economy and environment and the rest of the world.
LEARN FROM THE PAST
We do not want another Marcopper disaster: dead rivers, a heavily silted and toxic Calancan Bay, heavy metals flowing in the bloodstream of children, tailings-laced ricefields, from nearly 25 years ago until today.
When the mine tailings are dumped, or the open pit operates, which river systems will die? Can Sarangani Bay survive a power station and a filter plant that will dewater the mine concentrate?
When water to be used in the mining operations is 300 million liters per second which rivers will dry up and how many hectares of farmland will become wasteland? 
When the forests are cleared where will the people go? How will they live when their lifeblood is the forests and rivers? How many threatened flora and fauna species will go extinct?
How will Mindanaoans brace for the impact of natural disasters and remain resilient when the region’s vulnerable ecosystem has become more fragile? Mining accounts for the highest number of human-induced earthquakes worldwide.
CHAIN OF IRREGULARITIES
In 2016, SMI’s permit was cancelled by then Secretary Gina Lopez of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). She had said that the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) should not have been issued at all due to serious irregularities.
In 2019, the Office of the President restored this ECC. How can a cancelled ECC be “restored”? And have the issues surrounding the illegitimate issuance of the ECC been resolved?
In 2020, we learned that the contract of the Tampakan Mining Project was extended for 12 years. The Financial and Technical Assistance Agreement/FTAA expired last March 2020. Apparently, in 2016, the previous administration’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau Director of the DENR Leo L. Jasareno, “approved” the 12 year extension.
But isn’t this being done behind the back of President Rodrigo Duterte who has declared repeatedly that the protection of the Filipino people and the environment is NON-NEGOTIABLE in his term?
Or did President Rodrigo Duterte himself consent to this 12-year extension by his silence? Did he actually consent to a project that endangers the whole of Mindanao, its old-growth forests, its rivers, its flourishing rice fields, the rights of the B’laans and the livelihood of 200,000 farmers in the interests of foreigners, or worse, in the private interest of political allies in business with foreigners? If not, as we suspect, are there not odious signs of malpractice in government in the resurgence of the Tampakan mines?
This October, Indigenous Peoples’ Month, the public learned that tribal rights were “granted” to the SMI Tampakan by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) (NCIP) in a CP (Certification Precondition) issued last September 19. NCIP is charged to protect the rights of the indigenous peoples. News of this NCIP move came after the Koronadal City Regional Trial Court upheld the constitutionality of the open-pit mining ban of South Cotabato last October 12.
How can the actions of government be justified and reconciled?
The silence of DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu is deafening with consent.
The silence of President Rodrigo Duterte fails to protect his Mindanao and its peoples.
Silence means YES. Yes to the destruction fomenting in the horizon:
The brewing disintegration of cultures and peoples especially the B’laans;
The backlash of losing the remaining forest cover of Mindanao in the face of climate change;
The worsening water crisis in Mindanao
The continuing suffering of peoples, especially farmers, women and children in Mindanao
Adverse impacts will be felt not only in Tampakan and the entire island of Mindanao – potentially for 2000 years. As Mindanao is the food basket of the country, a national food crisis in the middle of a pandemic looms.
Recall the 12-year extension of the FTAA of SMI Tampakan mining.
Respect the open-pit mining ban of South Cotabato and ensure the safety of the peoples and environment in all provinces.
Repeal the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and prioritize the Alternative Minerals Management Bill
Reconcile the governance priorities of the national government and local government on its mining policy and its environmental agenda as a whole.
Economic recovery stimuli to cope with the pandemic cannot be an excuse for mining. We cannot afford to compromise the environment especially in a pandemic brought about precisely by the exploitation of nature and biodiversity.
With our youth and young leaders we watch closely especially as the elections draw near – for signs of
genuine and sincere leadership in environmental governance.
We are One for Mindanao and one as a Filipino people. We listen to the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor especially in Mindanao: Oya Mindanao.
We share our voices with our sisters and brothers, our mothers/fathers and children in Mindanao.
Tampakan and Mindanao is Our Common Home: Let us protect Tampakan and defend Mindanao.
SMI Tampakan, leave MindaNOW.
 The final mining area (FMA) covers 9,605 hectares of land covering 4 different municipalities in Davao Del Sur (Kiblawan), Sultan Kudarat (Columbio), Sarangani (Malungon) and South Cotabato (Tampakan). This EXCLUDES the OLI (Offlease infrastructure) area and the Resettlement Area. The OLI includes a slurry pipeline and transmission lines that will traverse the provinces of South Cotabato and Sarangani. The proposed site of the filter plant and power station is at the coast of Sarangani Bay. Potential resettlements sites will affect nine (9) barangays within the areas of the ancestral domain. Research Brief: Mining and Water Governance prepared by the Ateneo Tropics and Ateneo Institute of Anthropology. August 2013. (unpublished research and joint review of the EIA process and results for the Tampakan Mining Project).
 Of the 812 flora species, 247 are Philippine endemics and 52 are Mindanao endemics and 55 species are threatened. Mindanao is called the bull’s eye of biodiversity because 95% of amphibians and reptiles in the region can only be found in Mindanao. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161017150914.htm Also, 437 of 600 birds found in the Philippines are found in Mindanao, of which 32 are endemics and 38 are globally threatened species. https://avibase.bsc-eoc.org/
 This equivalent to the 3 day bulk water supply for most (70%) of Davao city from the Tamugan Bulk Water Supply Project.
This First Friday we consider anew God’s love for us. And our response.
But today, in the light of our Gospel (Lk 16:1-8), let us consider a type of love we may not be used to consider when we speak of love. Normally we think of the love between a lover and a beloved, a friend and a befriended, between a husband and wife, or between a parent and a child. There is another type of love, a love that Francis would call more universal, and therefore more divine.
In our Gospel for today, Jesus tells us a provocative story about a landlord and a steward. Both are men of this world. Both, we can say, are corrupt.
The landlord is an absentee landlord. Such landlords were despised in Jewish society. They did not do the work which made them wealthy. They profited from the needy by charging them usurious loans, which were prohibited by God’s law (Lev 25:36, Ps 15:1). Then, as today, when practices are profitable enough, God’s law tends to be forgotten.
Because he was an absentee landlord, he hired a steward to do his work. This involved not only the management of his estate. It involved the management of all his profitable, because usurious, loans to creditors. How the steward managed each individual debtor was at his discretion. All he had to do was to deliver the proper earnings of the estate lump sum to the landlord.
Our story speaks of the landlord challenging the steward for something he had heard. “What is this I hear about you?” he asks. Though it may not have been true and pure calumny, the way the landlord asked the question convinced the steward he believed it was true. He even commanded him to render an account of his stewardship.
Knowing he was about to be fired, the steward acts shrewdly to secure a future for himself.
Because he only had to turn over the master’s earnings in a lump sum, he had room to maneuver to ingratiate himself with the landlord’s debtors.
So he calls in two debtors, and significantly lowers the interest on both debts – at the expense of the master.
The landlord lost money in his steward’s transactions. But he recognized his astuteness and commends him. In his place, he would have done the same.
To this story, Jesus comments: The people of the world are more astute in dealing with their own kind than are the children of light.
Would that the children of light were more astute in dealing with the world in order to bring about a more enlightened world. Even the children of light shall have to render an account of their stewardship.
Looking at our world, in his new encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis expresses “the hope that in the face of present-day attempts to eliminate or ignore others, we may prove capable of responding with a new vision of fraternity and social friendship that will not remain at the level of words” (6).
Fraternity is the brotherhood and sisterhood of all created things, where one recognizes Brother Sun and Sister Moon and Brother Wind and Air and Sister Water and Mother Earth, but even more intimately the brotherhood and sisterhood of all human beings (cf. 2). Fraternity is especially the family of human beings created by God and redeemed in Jesus Christ, each endowed in creation and redemption with the dignity that is inalienable.
Social friendship is “love which impels us towards universal communion”of all human beings (95). It is “the need [in love] to transcend our own limitations” in different regions and countries of the world “to form a community of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another” (95). It is in every city and country “a love capable of transcending borders”. Genuine social friendship within a society makes true universal openness [to fraternity] possible” (99).
There are 7.8 billion people in the world today, 7.8 billion human beings each created by God. Looking at this universe of human beings, looking at the peoples of Asia and Africa, of Australia and South America, of the United States and China, of Russia and Europe, Pope Francis says, Fratelli Tutti, they are all sisters and brothers created with inalienable human dignity, a “single human family” (9).
But Francis perceives, and decries, many practical contradictions to human fraternity in the way humans conduct their affairs: continued war, and threat of nuclear war, the failure of political life to curb the excesses of economic activity, the loss of a sense of human history which allows manipulation of the poor by the powerful, denial by the powerful of meaningful participation by the poor in political processes, indifference to wastefulness, especially of food, while millions are hungry, the throw-away culture which throws away people, human rights based on the dignity of the human being which are more real for the rich and educated and ignored for the poor.
Considering the story Jesus tells in our Gospel for today, we may on this First Friday consider with which figure might we identify: the rich landlord charging usurious rates in loaning money to the needy, or the steward showing great worldly astuteness in taking care of himself before rendering an account to his landlord.
Or: do we identify with “the children of light” and the Lord’s observation that the children of light are not as astute in managing the affairs of this world “in the light” of their being children of the Father and sisters and brothers for whom Jesus suffered and died?
Yet, all, even the children of light, will be called to account for his or her stewardship in this world, for his or her contribution to or destruction of fraternity. The command to love your neighbor cannot be confined to the private, romantic, or familial sphere. “For whatever you have done to one of these the least of my sisters and brothers that you have done to me.”
Love pushes us to the other to discover how we exist and flourish in the other. I am not lost in my love for my beloved; I am found. On this First Friday, we are challenged to explore the love which pushes us to discover how we exist and flourish in relating to the whole human family, excluding no one, not the poor ravaged by Typhoon Rolly in Bikol, not the drug dependents struggling to free themselves of their addictive habits, not the B’laans in So Cotabato threatened by the resurgence of open-pit mining in Tampakan, not the victims of terror in Vienna, Nice and Paris, not the Muslims deeply offended by Muhammad ridiculed in cartoon caricatures, not the students unable to study in this pandemic because they have access neither to their teachers nor appropriate learning material. We are very astute in this world. Francis challenges us to a social friendship astute in promoting fraternity. He challenges us like the Good Samaritan to respond helpfully to the wounded persons excluded and thrown away by cruelly-functioning systems in today’s society. Why? Because they are all brothers and sisters. Fratelli tutti.
[ADDU Live-streamed Mass, Oct 26, 2020. Ephesians 4:32 – 5:8]
Our first reading for today is from the Letter of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians.
Ephesians for me is a favorite epistle, telling us of our sublime vocation, giftedness and dignity together as Church of God, People of God. Our reading today speaks of necessary consequences of this vocation in the way we live. But first let us recall our vocation.
In the beginning of the epistle Paul blesses God for this vocation in lofty lyrical words. It is among the most beautiful passages in Sacred Scripture. Considering that we pray constantly that God bless us, that he be gracious to us, that the light of his face shine on us, every phrase should call forth and express our own grateful praise of the Father for what happened to us in Christ Jesus. Startling is that our vocation is not just a sudden occurrence impacting on our short-lived lives on earth but happens before time and has ramifications beyond time.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accordance with the favor of his will that he granted us in the beloved. In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us. (1:3-8a)
Even as we praise the Father for blessings lavished on us in Christ Jesus, Paul encourages us to appreciate what has happened to us in this vocation, in this calling, which makes us as believers part of the body to which the Father has given Jesus as head. As church, we are part of Christ’s body of which he is head, eventually to sit gloriously at the right hand of the Father in heaven.
May the eyes of your heart be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens. (1: 18-20)
The Father “put all things under his feet
[all things: “every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but in the age to come” (21)]
and gave himas head over all things to the church which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way” (21-23).
This fullness of Jesus, by the grace of the Father’s mercy and love. eternally includes us:
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions,brought us to life with Christ, raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God. (2:4-8).
Underscored: this is not a matter of cold metaphysics, conjoining a future time with this time, but a matter of his personal mercy, a matter of his personal compassion, a matter of God loving us first, conjoining no less than Jesus to our personal yet shared neediness, our personal yet shared need for light, our need for forgiveness, our need for redemption, our need for guidance, in this time of the pandemic, for affirmation, for solace, for meaning, for energy … our need for renewal. So is he conjoined to us as head of the body of his disciples to which we belong.
Pertinent to our first reading for today, it is in this light that Paul says: “I then a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to live in the manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience bearing with one another through love, striving to serve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace, one body and one Spirit, as you were called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (4:1-6)
Ethical demands follow from the call we have received in Christ Jesus that incorporates us into him. That is what our first reading conveys. As we have thus been called to the hope that seats us with the Father for all eternity in Christ Jesus manifesting the immeasurable richness of his grace, we are not limited by the temporality of this world, not imprisoned by its darkness, not predetermined for despair; we are not locked in to the pettiness and meanness, the shortsightedness, the niggardliness and compulsive greed of those who have no insight into the meaning of their belonging to Christ Jesus. Instead we are freed to “be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven us in Christ”.
Be kind to one another, even during this pandemic. To be kind to others, we are called to first be kind to ourselves. But caring for ourselves, we are invited to reach out to persons in need. As Jesus did in our gospel for today, curing the crippled woman bent over for eighteen years in pure gratuity. Persons who are persons need other persons; they need recognition, respect, friendship, caring, understanding, forgiveness, love. They need joy and laughter. Leaving persons in isolation during this pandemic is not kind; refusing a loved one forgiveness is not compassionate, especially when we know ourselves in guilt and sin first forgiven.
Appreciating how God has called us in sheer love and mercy – in sheer gratuitousness, Pope Francis would say – we are urged to “be imitators of God as [his] beloved children, and [as God is love, to] live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over to us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma” (5:1-2). Immorality and greed must not be part of our lives. Anything that demeans ourselves in body or spirit, any enslavement to unworthy desires, compulsions, or merely passing pleasures, any pettiness or meanness or cruelty, anything that betrays the hope we have of eternal oneness with God, who is Love and Mercy, we must set aside. Instead, we must imitate God who loved us first, who took our flesh to show us the sacredness of our flesh, who extended his arms on the cross to manifest the Father’s eternal embrace.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” (5:8).
Towards Awareness and Reflection on Tampakan Mines. [For the ADDU Community]
During our recent Urgent Discernment on the National Situation, I was saddened to hear from Atty. Meong Cabarde that there seems to be a resurgence of activity in Tampakan Mines. This has been an environmental issue which ADDU has been proud to engage in. We thought permanent progress had been achieved. Unfortunately, as Pope Francis mentions in his recent Encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, dark clouds still hang over our closed world. The nightmare that we thought we were finally free of has once again begun to bedevil our nights.
Since we are looking back, allow me to look back to the five days when anybody who was passionate about anything at ADDU met with me in EDEN just before I was to take over as President of the Ateneo de Davao. One of the things that impressed me most at that encounter was that my new companions at the Ateneo de Davao were passionate about getting involved through research and outreach in Mindanao, and especially in issues of the environment. When, as a result of this encounter, it finally became possible for ADDU to formulate and ratify its Vision and Mission, the protection and promotion of the environment was a clear part of its mission: “It engages vigorously in environmental protection, the preservation of bio-diversity, and the promotion of renewal energy” (version 2012).
Awareness of Tampakan
One of the key threats to the Mindanao environment then were the Tampakan/Xtrata Mines in So. Cotabato. Why? In an open letter, I wrote to then President Benigno Aquino on June 8, 2012 lauding the disapproval for the environmental clearance, I described why:
• THE BIGGEST HOLE IN THE PHILIPPINES WILL POISON RIVERS. Slated to become the biggest mine in the Philippines, the Tampakan Mine of SMI/Xstrata covers 10,000 hectares, destroying in its lifetime 4,000 hectares of water catchment forests, including old-growth forests. It risks polluting the water source of communities depending for their livelihoods on six rivers. The biggest river system, the Mal River, will be most polluted as many streams in its catchment will be destroyed and replaced by the tailings dam, which will devastate fisheries and will harm irrigated crops downstream in Davao del Sur, in the event of a dam failure. The Philippines needs more than ever to protect its water catchment if it is going to feed its expanding population and the apocalyptic Climate Change forecast of PAGASA showing a decreased rate of rainfall in Mindanao, the country’s food basket. (data from Goodland and Wicks, “Philippines: Mining or Food?”, 2006)
• THE 10,000-HECTARE PROPOSED MINE SITE IS ALIVE AND TEEMING WITH BIO-DIVERSITY. SMI threatens a total of 812 flora species, 247 (30%) are Philippine endemics and 52 (6%) are mainland Mindanao endemics. 55 species are under the Threatened Species list of the International Union for Conservation of Nature. For amphibians and reptiles alone, 28% are Philippine endemics, 18% are Mindanao endemics and 20% are Greater Mindanao endemics (data from the Environmental Impact Study of SMI).
• MINDANAO IS A CONFLICT ZONE. Precisely because of the unstable peace and order condition in the Tampakan site and surrounding areas, SMI facilities have been attacked, burned and partly destroyed on several occasions by aggrieved parties. This area is among the most militarized areas in south central Mindanao today. On the pretext of “clearing the areas of subversive elements,” the Philippine Armed Forces with the CAFGUs have continuously launched military campaigns in that area, intensifying the conflict between Anti- and Pro- mining B’laans and instigating fear and terror in the communities, as documented by the Fact-Finding Mission conducted on April 25 and 26, 2012 by the Social Action Center of the diocese of Marbel.
• THE TAMPAKAN MINE IS A MAJOR THREAT TO FOOD SECURITY. Agriculture is the dominant economic activity in Davao del Sur and South Cotabato. The open-pit mining method would create massive disturbance to the environmental ecosystem currently protecting the water catchments supplying water irrigation and drinking water to Koronadal. Failure of the 500-hectare tailings dam (a real possibility due to earthquake fault lines crossing the site or the eruption of Mt. Matutum, an active volcano, which is 12 kilometers away) would kill people and damage watershed and irrigation infrastructures that support Mindanao’s food basket. There are 80,000 farmers farming 200,000 hectares in South Cotabato valley alone, relying on the river systems and water catchments of the surrounding mountains; SMI/Xstrata admits in their Environmental Impact Study that they will impact six (6) river systems. Scientists also project that several aquifers will also be contaminated. (from Goodland and Wicks, “Philippines: Mining or Food?”, 2006)
In closing the letter, I appealed, “that the Tampakan Mine Project of SMI/Xstrata be disapproved with finality. The disapproval should not be based on the conflict of the national (RA 7942) and provincial (South Cotabato Ordinance No. 4-2010) laws alone, but in the context of social justice and the correlate principle of the common good – the shared human good where relationships to God, to human beings and the environment are honored and respected even in our economic pursuits.”
In our open advocacy against the Tampacan Mines, Mr. Paul Dominguez, the chairman of our Board of Trustees, resigned.
But we were allied with many Church and environmental groups working against the mines, including the Diocese of Marbel and its Social Action Group, the Alyansa Tigil Mina, the Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP). When under the Duterte Administration, environmentalist Gina Lopez became Secretary of the Department of Energy and Natural Resources, we even allied ourselves with government. For us one of the most memorable experiences of that was our celebration at ADDU of Oya, Mindanao! in what was then our newly constructed Martin Hall.
Reflection on Tapakan as an Ecological Issue
If as this Pakighinabi intends, we are not only to be reminded of our institutional opposition to Tampacan Mines but to reflect on it, Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si!, On the Care of Our Common Home, gives us many points to reflect on.
First, from the sheer environmental or ecological viewpoint, Francis underscores many reasons for opposing the Tampacan/Xstrata mines: the destruction of old growth forests, the possible pollution of vital water supplies in Mindanao, the destruction of bio-diversity, and the destructiveness itself of mountainous terrain in an archipelagic environment of an open pit 2.5 km wide and 3.0 km long (=17,000 basketball courts) and more than 800 meters deep – deep enough to stack two Empire State buildings one on top of the other!
But in Laudato Si!, Francis insists on integral ecology: not merely an awareness of destruction done to the natural environment, but also awareness of the adverse effects on human beings, here especially the indigenous Blaans, whose “free prior and informed consent “ was dubitable. The mines divided the indigenous community to overcome and conquer it, and gave those who cooperated short term benefits for permanent destruction of their homelands and their forests, which was a betrayal to their identity and culture rooted in their homelands and forests. They would seriously threaten the agricultural livelihood or possibly kill some 80,000 farmers in South Cotabato. With that they would threaten the food security of the people dependent on their produce.
The unity of the environmental concerns with human concerns in integral economy flows from the the awe and gratitude all should have in appreciating all thangs are created created by a loving Father who for his goodness in creating us all deserves our praise. Hence, the name of the encyclical, Laudato Si, “All praise be yours…”, which are the first words of Francis’ famous Canticle of the Sun. The canticle does not only praise God for the wonders of his greation, but grounds this praise in a brotherhood or sisterhood – a fraternity – of all created things. Francis of Assisi praises God for Brother Sun and Sisters Moon and Stars and Brothers Wind and Air and Sister Water and Brother Fire. He even praises God for Sister Bodily Death! The special insight of Laudato Si! is therefore the living fraternity, the universal community, of all created things, of which we are but a created part. It is not just a collective of unrelated, neutral things, but a living, vibrant community of many wondrous creations each reflecting the presence and love of the creator. In him, all are related, all are connected. To him, in the midst of so many wondrous gifts, we respond in gratitude. For each unique creature, as brothers and sisters to all, we express our awe and reverence, and so necessarily our responsibility.
Perhaps, Ignatius of Loyola was inspired by Francis of Assisi as he invited us to find God in all things, to experience him loving us and working for us in all things. All things, therefore are not just things, but gifts, calling forth from us an appropriate response, not just in words but in deeds.
And gifted with the living magnificence of the mountains and forests and lakes and rivers of So. Cotabato with its rich biodiversity, you do not wound it with a hole whose crater is 500 hectares huge and 800 plus meeter deep! You do not wound creation – natural and human – with this project whose proponents are fixed on extracting metals to profit from the voracious world appetite for nikel and gold beneath the old growth forests and the Blaan villages of the project site – no matter the “world class” technology of the mining group.
From the viewpoint of Laudato Si!, the Tampakan project is not like when a man within the nature sustains himself and his family in it, through creative work that dignifies him made in the image of the Creator, in a manner that allows nature to naturally regenerate itself. This is consistent with the Creator’s will for man to live from the earth and care for it.
Instead, the Tampakan project is destructive both of the nature created by God and the people created by God because of what Pope Francis calls the technocratic paradigm that uses science and technology developed especially over the last 200 years. This gives man suddenly an ominous self-created power and dominion over created things. Here created things are no longer appreciated from the viewpoint or purposes of the Creator, but are abstract spaces [neutral realities] over which man exercises his power and dominion to manipulate, transform, or destroy limitlessly in order to feed the ever-increasing, ever more unbridled consumerneeds of men and women. The behavior plunders the earth to generate the products that those who are able can and – under the coercion of the dynamic of this paradigm – must consume, rewarding those who own and manipulate the technology, its managers, its cooperators, its technicians, with the benefits of profits, earnings and therefore of consumption. Here, freedom appears to increase the more one is free to consume. Even as in consuming, the paradigm generates more appetite to consume in quality and quantity; innovation then feeds the technocratic paradigm and bestows on the masters of the paradigm more power and dominion to subject more of creation to consumption. Those however who do not participate in this process, the process ejects, discards, possibly not intentionally, but nonetheless really, and so painfully. These are those who are not owners, not engineers, not professional managers, not empowered by education, those irrelevant to the technocratic paradigm. These are the weak, the old and the unwanted unborn. These are the Blaans who object to the mines and the naïve uninformed farmers whom the project with the latest of technocratic power and dominance discards because they are irrelevant to their power and economic calculations. The technocratic paradigm creates a vicious cycle using more and more sophisticated science and technology to feed increased consumption in order to create more consumption, using science and technology to more and more gravely plunder the earth to feed the consumption, creating a society of consumers and non-consumers, useful people and useless people, the useless people in a distinctly “throw away” culture being discarded.
Germans describe a vicious cycle as a Teufelskreis, the Devil’s circularity.
And throughout Laudato Si! Pope Francis is at pains to tell us the cycle must be broken – for it has ravaging costs on the environment as well as on the marginalized and discarded people.
That is I believe where we can today be challenged to deepest reflection. If one considers Tampakan just as an environmental problem out there, our participation can be neatly wrapped up with a signature on a sharply-worded manifesto of protest, calling for laws that the priviledged don’t follow, enforcement that technocratic lords evade, and a stop to corruption that the mighty ignore with impunity.
But personally and as educators we may be being asked to take position on the technocratic-consumerist paradigm that has bugun to shape our culture as cruel to the environment as it is to the people it discards. Francis says there needs to be “a distinctive way of looking at things, a way of thinking, policies, an educational program, a lifestyle and a spirituality which together generate resistance to assault of the technocratic paradigm. Within the culture we now live in Francis suggests authentic humanity calls for a new synthesis between human beings, the means of production, the created world, and the human society it produces.
Unto this end, first, it is above all human beings who must change. (202)
For: “When people become self-centered and self-enclosed, their greed increases. The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs to buy, own and consume. It becomes almost impossible to accept the limits imposed by reality. (204)
After taking a good look at ourselves, a change in lifestyle may be necessary,
Second, environmental education must not only include information about environmental degradation but include a critique of the myths of modernity grounded in the utilitarian mindset (individualism, unlimited progress, competition, consumerism, the unregulated market).
It seeks also to restore the various levels of ecological equilibrium, establishing harmony within ourselves, with others, with nature and other living creatures, and with God. This resonates with our mission statement where we undertake to participate in the Father’s work of reconciling humanity with himself, human beings with each other, and humanity with creation.
Third,ecological conversion. Where the external deserts of the world are growing, because the internal deserts of human beings have become so vast, Pope Francis suggests a profound personal conversion, where the effect of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them, the basis for reconciliation with creation.
Fourth, building of community networks to address social problems.
Fifth, nurturing a fraternity with all creation. Each creature reflects something of the Creator. Christ is present in all creatures. All creatures are created by one Father.
Perhaps this presentation is best ended with Pope Francis’ Prayer for Our Earth:
All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe and in the smallest of your creatures. You embrace with your tenderness all that exists. Pour out upon us the power of your love, that we may protect life and beauty. Fill us with peace, that we may live as brothers and sisters, harming no one. O God of the poor, help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth, so precious in your eyes, Bring healing to our lives, that we may protect the world and not prey on it, that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. Touch the hearts of those who look only for gain at the expense of the poor and the earth. Teach us to discover the worth of each thing, to be filled with awe and contemplation, to recognize that we are profoundly united with every creature as we journey towards your infinite light. We thank you for being with us each day. Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle for justice, love and peace.
[Homily. October 13, 2020. Galatians 5:1-6; Luke 11:13-41]
In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul declares, “Christ freed us to make us really free, so remain firm, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). It is a statement made in the context of his passionate argument that the non-Judaic Christians are free of the Judaic requirement of the circumcision, and for that matter observance of the Judaic law. For all Christians, the hope of righteousness or salvation comes through faith in Christ Jesus “working through love.”
For John, it is through faith in Jesus Christ that we are gifted with “the power to become children of God” (Jn. 1: 12). It is Jesus who manifests to us the love of the Father ultimately in his passion, death, and resurrection. It is in receiving and experiencing God’s love through Jesus undergoing this for us, that he commands us, “Love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn. 13:34). As his love was not just for the Jews, but for all human beings, believers and non-believers, sinners and saints, so are we as children of God to love not only our neighbor but all, even our enemies, “for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:45). Faith in Jesus works through love. St. James explains what this means. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works. Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also, faith of itself, if it does not have works is dead.” (Ja. 2:14-17).
This may be an appropriate context to recommend to you a prayerful reading of the most recent encyclical of Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, On Fraternity and Social Friendship, published last Oct. 4th, on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. “We are all brothers, “’Fratelli Tutti.’” This is the manner in which St. Francis of Assisi addressed his brother followers and called “for a love that transcends the barriers of geography and distance and declares blessed all those who love their brother ‘as much when he is far away from them as when he is near.’” For Pope Francis this is an invitation “to acknowledge, love and appreciate each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives” (1), regardless therefore of whether he was born in Davao or in Davos, lives in Nairobi or Wellington or Buenos Aires or Brussels or in Bongao. Thus “human fraternity is the universe of all human beings, brothers and sisters, sharing fraternity with all creatures created by a loving God, but especially with human beings: “Francis [of Assisi] felt himself a brother to the sun, the sea and the wind, yet he knew he was even closer to those of his own flesh,” Pope Francis observes. “Wherever he was sent, he sowed seeds of peace and walked alongside the poor, the abandoned, the infirm and the outcast, the least of his brothers and sisters”(2). “God has created all human beings equal in rights, duties, and dignity, and has called them to live together as brothers and sisters,” Francis quotes from the Document on Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together that he had jointly signed with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed Al-Tayyeb on Feb. 4, 2019 (5). Human Fraternity is thus not an abstract concept of humanity, but the humanity of all human beings being addressed, intended, or actualized by social friendship, wherever human beings are, no matter the borders, no matter the walls, real or cultural, in prejudice or hatred, that presently undermine humanity. “A love capable of transcending borders is the basis of what in every city and country can be called social friendship,” Pope Francis says. “Genuine social friendship within society makes true universal openness [ie, openness to all human beings] possible” (99). Social friendship is how the individual or the particular community transcends its local boarders, in the varied ways local borders are experienced in family, local community, nation or region to promote genuine human fraternity where no one is left out, discriminated against, discarded, robbed and wounded and left on the waysides of society to die.
Francis describes his encyclical as a modest contribution to continued reflection on fraternal love, “in the hope that in the face of present-day attempts to eliminate or ignore others, we may prove capable of responding with a new vision of fraternity and social friendship that will not remain at the level of words” (6). The modest contribution is a relentless and often disturbing critique of contemporary failures in human fraternity through denied social friendship, as in the resurgence of war or even the threats to nuclear war, the self-defensive and frantic rejection of migrants fleeing humanitarian crises or simply migrating to find better working conditions to feed their families, the global economy of unbridled consumerism and exclusion that weakens and castrates political life, the loss of peoples’ sense of history and its exploitation by powerful interest groups, cultural colonization, the lack of a political plan to address local and global inequality and exclusion… It is a challenge to all, to all religions even, but especially to Christians, to purposefully address in reimagining human fraternity the suffering and pain in human society not in mere words but in action to overcome these.
In our Gospel for today, a Pharisee is concerned about Jesus not having washed his hands before dinner. But Jesus rebukes him, “You Pharisees, you clean the outside of the cup and the dish but inside you are full of greed and evil…” The Pharisees, as Paul also rebuked, are concerned with external rituals, but neglect the substantial ethical demands of faith, loving God and loving one’s neighbor. In Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis retells the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). A man is left by robbers, robbed, stripped and wounded, by the wayside. Two religious, one a Levite, the other a Pharisee, see the wounded person,. But they anxiously avoid him. They pass him by. Only the outcast, despised Samaritan has the humanity to stop by and be a neighbor to the wounded person. Only he has the social friendship to act to bring the wounded person, discarded by society and ignored even by its religious leaders, back into the fraternity of human beings.
St. Paul declares, “Christ freed us to make us really free, so remain firm, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” Pope Francis prays that in the world covered by many darkened clouds, we be freed to promote the fraternity through social friendship that God created us all to enjoy. This is the human fraternity we have in our selfishness, neglect and sin, robbed, stripped, wounded and left by the wayside to die. But it is this fraternity which Jesus joins in its woundedness; he suffers and dies to revive it and to bring it new life. Placing our faith in him we are invited in freedom, if not mandated in freedom, to stop, pick up our wounded, plundered, violated human society, and work gratuitously to bring it healing. Why? Because we are not related to one another as slaves and masters, conquerors and conquered, wealthy and destitute, educated and ignorant, owners and owned, employed and unemployed, included and excluded, useful and useless, old and young, valued and discarded, but because under God, we are all brothers and sisters. Fratelli tutti.
[ADDU Live-streamed Mass on First Friday, October 2, 2020. Mt. 18:1-5.10; 1 Jn. 16b-21; Ps. 136.]
We come together once again on First Friday to respond to the love of God in our lives. No matter how many times we’ve done this in the past, the love of God is such that we cannot do it enough. That’s why every First Friday, with no external obligation, we come together to recall God’s love. And respond.
We want to respond to the love of God. Having ourselves loved in this life, we know how it is when love offered is not responded to – when an “I love you” hits a blank unresponsive wall, or worse, a cold face that turns away, and arguing the weighty concerns of every day, actually says, “I have no time for you.” It is wordless but painful, “I ignore you.”
So every First Friday we come together to say: we wish, Lord God, not to ignore you but to open ourselves to respond to you in our lives more. Psalm 136, today’s responsorial psalm, says much of it. “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. Great is his love, love without end…”
Give thanks to him because in life you’ve received from him so many gifts. Here, a fervent prayer: that God gives us all the grace necessary to distinguish our accomplishments from his gifts; too often in our obtuseness, we think his gifts to us are our gifts to him. “Lord, look at all the things I’ve done for you. Be thankful to me, Lord!”
Psalm 136, however, does not even say, “Give thanks to the Lord for in our lives he has given us so many gifts.” It says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good… Give thanks to the Lord for he is who he is. And being who he is, “I am who am,” he is good. Not hateful, not overweening, not resentful. Give thanks to the Lord for in his goodness, “Great is his love, love without end!”
Psalm 136 celebrates the Creator God. Give thanks to him because in his love he created the great wonders, the heavens, the fixed land, the oceans, the sun, the moon, our world, and ourselves in it. He created us in his image to be creators and makers as well. But not to destroy his created order, not to rise up against him, as Adam and Eve did, not to kill our brothers and sisters, as Cain murdered Abel, then said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” In our Church, on the initiative of Pope Francis, we are in the last days of the Season of Creation – a yearly period from Sept 1 to October 4, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi – during which we are invited to recall the Creator God and his gift of creation. We recall the miracle of day and night, the joy of the sunrise and the peace of the sunset, the miracle of the changing seasons, the miracle of soaring eagles and awesome egrets, of how seeds grow into trees and are a blessing to us, indeed, life for us. Why? Why all of these? Because, Psalm 136 says, “he is good. Great is his love, love without end.” Created into a fraternity of created beings, with Brother Sun and Sister moon, Brothers Wind and Air and Sister Water, Brother Fire and Sister Mother Earth, we are invited today to recall how we respond to this God in his goodness and to his creation, a gift of his love, hopefully with gratitude and reverence, and not with the disobedience of Adam and Eve and not with the fratricide of Cain.
On First Friday, we also recall the redeeming God. Psalm 136 recalls the loving God intervening in history to redeem his people from slavery in Egypt, and lead them through the Red Sea and the harshness of desert wanderings to the Promised Land, and in recalling this exodus invites us to give thanks. On First Friday, that of course is occasion to recall how Jesus redeemed us once and for all times, once and for our times, in a new exodus, leading us from our sin today to his forgiving Father’s eternal embrace. Let’s understand this new exodus from the perspective of today. He leads us … to our heavenly home. He leads us away from our sin against the Creator in our haughty disobedience, in our endless envy and greed, in our destructive industries, in our uncontrolled consumerism, in our lives terrorized by the money we worship, in our toxic plastics and harmful emissions, in our toxic plastic life-sapping relations to each other, in our violence against each other, especially against the marginalized and discarded, in our violence against Mother Earth, [he leads us from all this] to our heavenly home. That exodus from this oppressed earth to the liberation of his heavenly embrace, took place through his passion and death. Hoping that in our hardheadedness we might be actually lead home, that his redemption might truly be ours, on First Friday, we never tire to recall, how he took bread, gave thanks, and gave it to us saying, Take this all of you and eat. This is my Body given up for you. He took a cup of wine, gave it to us, and said, Take this and drink, this is my Blood poured out for you. On First Friday, contemplating the pierced Heart of Jesus on the first Good Friday, we recall why he did this. He did this “Because God is good. And his love endures forever.” Because his Father is good, and his love survives our enduring folly. He did this because he is with the Father one, the perfect expression of the Father’s love. He did this because God is love.
On First Friday we recall the words of St. John: “God is love, and whoever remains in love, remains in God and God in him.” Listen closely to what John also tells us: “In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in our world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because God first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:16b-19).
As he is love, so are we love in our world. “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:46), Jesus urges.
That is the context of the good news of our Gospel today. We have so many fears. Looking into the future, looking beyond the pandemic of today, looking beyond tomorrow and beyond death, we have great fears. But today, First Friday, we recall God’s love. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.” In our Gospel, Jesus teaches us to appreciate the child. Putting a child in their midst, Jesus says, “I assure you, unless you change and become like little children you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt. 18:3). In Jesus the child responds naturally to God’s love. There is no fear. There is great trust.
Because God is God. Great is his love, love without end! God is love.
One of my favorite ways of starting my prayer in the day is with the opening lines of Ps. 67. The was our responsorial psalm today:
O God, be gracious to us and bless us And let your face shed its light upon us! So will your ways be known upon earth And all nations learn your saving help…. (Ps. 67:2-3)
It is good to start the day with this humble petition. We are in need of God’s graciousness. We cannot carry all of life’s burdens on our own. We are in need of his blessings.
It is good then to ask that the light of his face shine on us. That is a face that is too holy to be beheld, before which Moses and the prophets trembled in fear. “You cannot see my face,” God said, “for no one can see me and live” (Ex. 33:20). Many of us have never experienced that fear. We are educated, sophisticated, and “in charge.” We are not used to bowing in profound reverence before the Holy. In this prayer, even if we do not see his face, we ask that at least its light shine on us.
May his light shine on us so that his ways may be known upon the earth. His ways. Sometimes, knowing how to recite the letters of the alphabet, how to count from one to ninety-nine, and how to rattle off favorite passages of scripture from rote, we think we know his ways. But really we don’t. His ways need to be disclosed, in special moments of intimacy or encounter with God – in God’s time, not in ours. Like in the subtlety of a gentle breeze. Or in the power of a violent storm. Or in the anguished muffled voice of Mother Earth expressing herself in a pandemic.
In this context, we may recall what Isaiah urged in the first reading last Sunday:
Seek the Lord while he may be found Call on him while he is near… For my thoughts are not your thoughts Nor are your ways my ways As high as the heavens are above the earth, So are my ways above your ways… (Is. 55: 6.8-9)
Let the light of your face shine on us that your ways may be known on earth. Your ways are not my ways. Your ways are above my ways. I know that. So often I pray, “My will be done.” I want to do it “my way.” I love to sing, “I did it my way.” But you have taught me to pray, “Thy will be done.”
And so in the morning, it is good to pray, “Be gracious to me and bless me”, because on my own, my way has meant I have done so many things, engaged so many people, hoped so many dreams, yet am unsatisfied, barren, thirsty. What I have spent myself to create and worship disappoint and depress. I am left with the prayer, “O God, you alone are my God – for you I long. For you my body yearns. Like a land parched, lifeless, and without water … For your love is better than life” (Ps 63:2.4)
“Let the light of your face shine on me, O God!”
For us Chistians, the light of God’s face shines on us in Jesus. With Ignatius, we beg to come to an intimate knowledge of Jesus, so that we may understand his way: the fervor of his preaching, the power of his convictions, the tenderness of his feelings, the sting of his anger, the depth of his suffering, the joy of his triumph. “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” Jesus said. “’No one comes to the Father except through me. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him, ‘Master, show us the Father.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I been with you for so long a time, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?’” (Jn 14: 6-10a).
The light of God’s face shines on us in the face of Jesus that all nations may know God’s saving help.
On the Mount of Tabor, the Mount of his Transfiguration, as Luke recounts it, “While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” (Lk 9:29-31).
Jesus’ celestial face on Mt. Tabor is different from his somber face in today’s Gospel, which recounted, “While all were amazed at everything Jesus did, he said to his disciples, ‘The Son of man will be betrayed into the hands of men.’” It is the face of the preacher, the healer, the holy-man eating and drinking with tax collectors, whom they accused of being a glutton and drunkard, now conscious that because of his confrontation with the opponents to the Kingdom of his Father, he would be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. The conversation during the transfiguration between Jesus, Moses and Elijah, unique to Luke, was about the “exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.” Even as his face shone in heavenly glory on Mt. Tabor, the conversation was of his divine mission on earth, the journey he had yet to complete to Jerusalem, whereas the Israelites were liberated by Moses from slavery in Egypt in the first exodus, he would now deliver the people from sin by journeying through his passion, death and resurrection to ascension to the Glory of his Father in a new exodus. “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem and everything written about the Son of Man will be fullfilled,” he later said in a third prediction of his passion. “He will be handed over to the Gentiles and he will be mocked and insulted and spat upon; and after they have scourged him, they will kill him, but on the third day, he will rise’ (Lk. 18:31-33).
What is predicted and takes place as God’s way of his saving help resonates with Isaiah’s words:
Many looked on him with amazement “so marred was his look [his face] beyond that of a man… There was in him no stately bearing To make us look at him Nor appearance that would attract us to him. He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned and we held him in no esteem.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins.
Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole. By his stripes, we were healed… “ (Is. 52:14 – 53:3b-5).
Isaiah introduces this ponderous passage with the words, “See, my servant shall prosper. He shall be raised high and greatly exalted” (Is 52: 13). Later Paul would say, “He humbled himself becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Because of this God greatly exalted him…”(Phil. 2: 8-9).
The face of the broken Lord on the cross, the face of the Resurrected Lord breaking Bread with us, the face of the Exalted Lord today still carrying his cross through the streets and alleys of our broken world in his disciples, is this not the face of God?
So does God let his face shine on us. That his ways may be known on earth. That all may know of his saving help.
And that today we may sing, “Be not afraid… We shall see the face of God and live…”
[At the end of the Mass;]
Thank you for your greetings… In the Book of Numbers (6:24-26), Moses teaches Aaron how to bless the people. It is called the priestly blessing. This blessing I now give to you:
May the Lord bless you and keep you. May his face shine on you and be gracious to you. May he look kindly on you and give you peace. . .
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
In our Gospel for today, Jesus criticizes “the people of this generation.”
He compares them to children in a marketplace playing a game. The children would gather in two groups. One would cry, let’s play wedding, then imitate the merry sounds of the flute and lyre, expecting the other group to dance. But no matter how well they played the music of merriment, the other group would not dance. Then the group would shift from merriment to mourning, imitating the sad dirges of a funeral. But no matter how well they sang of sadness and wailing, the other group would not weep.
The people of this generation are like that, Jesus said. Both John the Baptist and Jesus call to conversion in different ways. But the people look on and do not respond.
John, the prophet in the desert clothed in rough camel’s hair and eating only locusts and wild honey, rebukes the licentiousness and social injustice of the people, and calls upon them to turn away from their sin. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” (Mt. 3:3; Is. 40:3), he cried. “Produce good fruit in your lives, or like barren trees you will be cut down and thrown into the fire!” (Mt. 3:8-10). Let the man who has two cloaks share one with him who has none. Let the woman who has food share with her who has none. Tax collectors should collect no more than what is prescribed. Soldiers should not extort money from the people, but be satisfied with their wages. Do not let selfishness and greed lead you away from the God who reveals himself to you and manifests his will. I tell you this as a prophet, but one greater than me is coming… (cf. Lk 3:10-16).
That was Jesus. He called to the same people, “The time of fulfillment has come. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15). He had rejected the temptations of the Evil One in his desert experience. But unlike John he did not stay in the desert. Instead he mingled with the people, attracting great numbers to himself to hear his word, healing the sick, raising the dead, eating and drinking with sinners. When the scribes and Pharisees objected to Jesus allowing himself to be “defiled” amidst sinners and tax collectors, he said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mk 2:17). He railed against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, calling them whitened sepulchers, beautiful on the outside but inside full of dead men’s bones. In Jerusalem, his call to conversion was rejected. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her,” he lamented in tears, “how often have I longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing” (Lk 13:34).
John’s and Jesus’ calls to conversion were clear. But for “the people of this generation” it was just a game, like the game of the children in the marketplace. The game mimicked real life. The one group imitated Jesus calling for repentance, eating and drinking with sinners, calling people through table fellowship to love one another, and accept himself as the way to the Father, the truth of the Father’s love, and the life for all. Yet the stubborn children would not dance.
Then the group imitated John the Baptist calling from the desert to conversion from greed and social injustice, warning of dire consequences should the people of this generation not live their lives meaningfully. “Prepare for the coming of the Lord” he admonished. “His winnowing fan is at hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Mt. 3:12). You are the chaff, Jesus warned. Yet the stubborn children would not wail.
The Gospel invites us today to reflect on how the call to conversion comes to us. Be converted because of “fear of the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.” Be converted because you do not want to hear the Eternal Judge say to you, “Depart from me you accursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Mt. 25:41). Or be converted because you are first loved by God who loves you in having created you, in having redeemed you. The image of the Son of God peering into your heart from the Cross expresses the Father’s Word of Love for you intimately and personally, generously and totally. Yet for the “people of this generation” it is distant, merely conceptual, cold, just a game being played, where even the little children playing really don’t want to play.
But the Good News for today ends not with despair but with hope: “Wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” Wisdom calls her children to conversion. She inspires their yes to conversion. Her work is vindicated in the restored dignity, rediscovered joy, and peace of all who return to God through her. Beneath her searing light, her children weep in remorse. Against the music of her flute and lyre, her children dance in merriment and joy.
Wisdom here, the Spirit, involves faith, hope and love.
First, faith in the Creator, the Mighty God. “He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the highest mountains as well. He made the sea: it belongs to him, the dry land too, for it was formed by his hands” (Ps 95: 3-5); it is he who initiates a covenant with us, “I am your God, you are my people” (Ex. 6:7; Jer. 30:22); identically, faith in the Word of the Creator-Father, without whom nothing is created and who, incarnated in our world, calls us to the Kingdom of the Father, the Kingdom of his Love and Compassion.
Second, hope: trust in the power of God which establishes his Kingdom whose fullness in the future gives us hope in the present, not only against the pernicious corona virus today, but against the apparently invincible corruption, violence, murder, war, abuse, in our experience, abuse of the name of God, abuse of children and of the poor, but also abuse of creation.
Finally, love. This is not just romantic love, the precious love of a bride and groom. But this is love of the human being for God, despite all the distractions which pull us away from him; this is the love of human beings for one another, despite all of our obstructive faults and foibles; and this is the love of human beings for our common home, despite our virused inability to smell the flowers and know the sublime interconnectedness of all things. This is Love crucified, resurrected, accepted by us in gratitude, lived in us, and shared.
This triple love for God, for humanity, for creation, born of faith and hope is not to be taken for granted. Therefore, the importance of Paul’s words in our first reading: “Love is patient. Love is kind. It is not jealous. It is not pompous. It is not quick tempered. It does not brood over injury. It does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails. … At present we see as in a mirror, but then face-to-face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (cf. 1 Cor 13).
September 1st for many Filipinos is the first day of the “-ber” months. With strains of Joe Mari Chan’s Christmas in Our Hearts in the air, it begins in the Philippines the longest Christmas Season on earth.
But September 1st among Christian Churches now begins another season of comparable importance, but of incomparable urgency. The first recalls the coming of the Savior; the second recalls the majesty and love of the Creator, the primordial intention of creation, and the sublime interconnectedness of the Creator and the created in all we experience or, at least, have yet to fathom in experience. Since Pope Francis’ historical publication of his encyclical letter on the Care of our Common Home, Laudato Si!, five years ago, the first of September till the fourth of October is the “Season of Creation,” a special time dedicated for us yearly to renew our relationship with Creation, and therefore also privileged opportunity for us to renew our relationship with the Creator. It ends on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Eight years ago, Jose Mario Bergoglio was the first ever to take Francis as his name upon his election to the papacy, making St. Francis his special inspiration and guide as Pope. The words, “Laudato Si!” come from the original Umbrian text of St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun in which he praises the Creator through the great works of his creation:
Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures, Especially through my Lord, Brother Sun, who brings the day; and you give light through him. And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor! Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.
The prayer of praise continues with Francis praising the Creator through Sister Moon, Brother Wind, Sister Water, Brother Fire, and Sister Mother Earth.
This year, in his Message at the beginning of the Season of Creation, Pope Francis leads us in a celebration of the Jubilee for the Earth, marking 50 years after first Earth Day in 1970 when 20 million human beings took to the streets, college campuses and hundreds of cities to protest environmental ignorance and environmental degradation and demand a new way forward for our planet. It was the start of the environmental movement. In observance of the Jubilee Pope Francis invites us to five “R’s”: remember, return, rest, restore, rejoice. I urge you to google and read the message in its entirety and urgency. I quote only parts:
“…Remember above all that Creation’s ultimate destiny is to enter into God’s eternal Sabbath. … Remember creation’s original vocation to exist and flourish as a community of love. We exist only in relationships: with God the Creator, with our brothers and sisters and as members of a common family, and with all of God’s creatures within our common home…”
”…Return to God, our loving Creator. We cannot live in harmony with creation if we are not at peace with the Creator who is the source and origin of all things.”
“…Rest and be renewed. …Rest… and let the land heal and the earth restore itself. …Rediscover simpler and sustainable lifestyles.”
“…Restore the original harmony of creation and heal strained relationships.
“…Rejoice too that faith communities are coming together to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. Rejoice also that our loving Creator sustains our humble efforts to care for the earth.
What Francis asks us to remember is remarkable. I confess this is the first time I’ve heard it formulated this way: “Remember above all that Creation’s ultimate destiny is to enter into God’s eternal Sabbath.” I think we should pause a while to consider this invitation. Remember: we were created. Remember the question the sages have posed for centuries: why is there something and not nothing? Why is there anything at all when none of this needed to be? Remember why we were created at all. It is in this context that we have listened to the priestly account of Creation in Genesis. From the beginning, what is, is because the Creator made it. Through six days of divine work, the Creator made it lovingly, in lavish detail, the light, separating it from darkness, the sky, the earth fixed firm against the sea, the lights in the dark above, the sun, the moon, the stars, the birds of the sky and the swimming creatures in the sea, the beasts of the dry land, the cattle, the creeping things, the wild animals, and then the human being made in the image of the Creator, charged with dominion over the earth in the likeness of the Creator, not to destroy, but to make flourish as the Creator did in a community of creatures, that together and in totality the Creator pronounced good. We should take time in this Season of Creation to marvel at the works of the Creator’s hands, hands whose making made holy. And having worked six days, he rested on the seventh, the Sabbath. He worked and he rested in satisfaction that all is good in a fraternity of the created, where man and woman are brother to the sun and sister to the moon and friend of the earth in genuine praise of the Creator. “Creation’s ultimate destiny is to enter into God’s eternal Sabbath” that he commanded us to keep holy because he is from the beginning Holy and in his holiness he made us and all one with him.
Even if in the misuse of our freedom, we disrupted our oneness with our Creator. In our Gospel reading for today, from the Prologue of John’s Gospel, we remember how God’s creative will is inseparable from his redemptive will from the very beginning.
“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning God and all things were made through him and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and the life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. …
“And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth” (John 1: 1-5.14).
The Word without whom nothing is created is “made flesh”; it becomes one with Creation, making holy what is already holy.. It leads humanity, whose disobedience and murderous destructiveness disrupted the interconnectedness of all created things, back to the loving providence of the Father, the Creator, back to the holy harmony of all creation.
So does the celebration of the Season of Christmas actually coincide with the celebration of the Season of Creation.
Of Jesus, St Paul says:
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible… He is before all things and in him all things hold together… For in him all the fullness was to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, and through him making peace by the blood of the cross [through him] whether those on earth or those in heaven” (Col. 1:15-20).
These are great themes; they are all interconnected. They must be pondered and prayed over. All is interconnected in God’s creation, God’s redemption and God’s Love leading us back from our rebellious selfishness, greed and destruction of the environment, to the sublime community of creatures which the Creator was delighted to make good and remake in holiness. You are sister to the oceans and brother to the rivers; you are brothers to the forests and mountains and sisters to the animals and plants; you are sisters and brothers to believers, other believers and non-believers, to the poor and the discarded.
To celebrate this, as Ecoteneo suggests, take a seed. Plant it. Water it. Make it grow. Nurture it. Do not starve it. Do not drown it. Do not force your impatience on it. See how what emerges, the roots, the stem, the leaves, the bud, the flower, the fruit, the new seed, are all interconnected with one another and with the sun, the earth, the air, your alertness, your care, your joy, your God. For it is not you who make it grow, even as it grows for you and smiles in your delight in this Season of Creation that precedes the Season of Christmas Redemption. In this Season of Creation, be one with creation, delight in it, restore it, sacrifice to redeem it, to resurrect it, and praise the Creator through Brother Sun and Sister Moon.