Alhamdulillah! To God be the Glory!

mvp 04-2018

[Welcome Address, Culmination Night, Madaris Volunteer Program, Finster Hall, ADDU, 16 April 2018]

At the end of the third year of the Madaris Volunteer Program (MVP) it is my pleasure in the name of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), the Private Educational Assistance Committee (PEAC) and the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) to greet you. I welcome our esteemed friends from our partner Madaris and communities. I welcome especially our volunteers.

mvp 04-2018 bTo the volunteers, first, I say thank you. Thank you for your sacrifice of your year in freedom in order to be able to share of your education with our brothers and sisters in their respective Madaris. Thank you for your courage to leave your comfort zones to risk experiencing an unfamiliar culture. Thank you for allowing your desire to share your knowledge and your lives to overcome your fears, and for your generosity in sharing what you were able to share in such as mathematics, science, English, history. Through your generosity you have increased the knowledge of those you taught. You have enriched their lives.

To our twelve partner Madaris in Cotabato, Lamitan and Maguindanao, our host families and their respective communities, thank you for accepting our volunteers, taking care of them during their months in your communities. The volunteers came in order to teach, but because of your hospitality and kindness they have also learned much. You have welcomed them into your schools, into your families, into your culture and into your lives. Because of this, their lives have been profoundly enriched.

It was not always easy. It is not easy for students to learn. The lazy and disinterested student remains the prisoner of ignorance. But to the learner willing to listen to and learn from a generous teacher, new knowledge and the foundations of wisdom is a valued reward.

It was not always easy as well for the volunteer unfamiliar with the customs and values of the community. There were many moments of insecurity, uncertainty, fear and aloneness. There were also occasions one made embarrassing mistakes. But the volunteer who persevered, who stayed the course, the reward was the experience of a new family, a new culture, the invaluable insight that one’s original culture is not the only culture, that there are other ways of doing things and other ways of seeing things, and that these other ways are okay. To the volunteer, there was also new knew knowledge and the foundations of wisdom as a graced reward.

The Prophet – may peace be upon him! – taught: “It is obligatory for every Muslim, man and woman, to acquire knowledge.” It is also taught by Amir al-Mu’minin, “The most valuable treasure is knowledge and wisdom, and the worst misfortune is ignorance.” It is also well known that the first word revealed to the Prophet – may peace be upon him! – was “Iqra!” – “Read! That is interpreted as an imperative to seek knowledge, to educate oneself, to be educated. For it is through education that the Muslim ummah is served and advanced.

In the Catholic tradition, the Christian is commanded to seek, find and love God with one’s whole mind, one’s whole soul, one’s whole strength, and one’s neighbor as oneself (cf Mt. 22:37-38). God manifests himself to us, we believe, in Jesus Christ, his Word become incarnate (cf Jn 1:1-8), who is “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). The obligation to find the truth, to grow in knowledge and wisdom, is rooted ultimately in our obligation to find and love God, and in finding him to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is in this love of God and neighbor that we are called to serve the Kingdom of God, the community of God’s disciples.

In both traditions, knowledge and wisdom are to bring us to God and bring us to one another in peace. I hope that that has again been possible in this 3rd year of the MVP. To all who have worked hard and sacrificed much to make this possible, thank you! Shukran! Together we say: Alhamdulillah! To God be the glory!

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Rejoice and Exult! Consider Holiness.

SHS Grad Address 2018

[Address: SHS Graduation, 14 April 2018]

Rejoice and exult!  You are now graduates of SHS in the Philippines!  Your graduation today is historic.  In the Philippines, you are part of the first batch of some 1.2 million graduates of SHS as provided by the Enhanced Basic Education Law (RA 10533).  At ADDU, you are the first batch of 1,676 SHS graduates.  For you, these past two years were very intense.  Your schedule was very demanding, moving you from classrooms to libraries to laboratories to general assemblies to large-scale liturgies to exhausting athletics to tireless dancing and to singing ”525,600 Minutes.  How do you measure, measure a year?” And you have had two!  You had to read much, learn much, understand much – not only to collect concepts in your heads, but through your relentless performance tasks to test concepts in practice.  You had to grow much, in height and in girth, in insight and in competencies, but hopefully also in love.  “525,600 Minutes…  Remember the love!”  “Love, love, love!” became something like a SHS byword.  Hopefully, not just a sloppy soppy slogan, but a reminder of how God loves you, how your family, relatives and friends love you, and even how the sun and moon, the oceans and the rivers, the mountains and the trees love you.  Love, love, love!  Hopefully, also a reminder of how you love God, how you love people, how you love God’s creation!  Rejoice and exult!  The love, sacrifice, and dedication of parents, the love and competence of teachers and administrators, the love and wisdom of legislators and statesmen have brought you to the joy of this day.

With the joy of the day comes its challenge.  With SHS done, what next?

The prospects are more than just work or college.  Rejoice and exult!  The last time we heard that was during the Easter Vigil when we lifted up the Paschal Candle symbolizing the Resurrected Lord to allow its light to break the darkness of death and sin.  The Resurrected Lord:  “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).  To  Peter, the Resurrected Lord asks three times, “Do you love me?”  To Peter’s answer, “Yes Lord you know that I love you, the Lord missions.   Three times he says, “Feed my sheep!”  To Jesus’ question to Peter:  Love? Love? Do you Love me? Peter answers, “Love!  Love! You know I love you!  In the context of Peter’s “love, love, love,” Jesus missions:  Go feed my sheep.

With SHS done:  what next?  “Do you love me…?” Jesus as you. If your answer is yes, like Peter’s, he missions you.

It is that mission that should determine what’s next:  what work?  What college? What course?  Whether in Luzon or the Visayas or Mindanao?  Whether in Manila, Cebu or Davao?  Whether among the natural scientists or social scientists, the soldiers or the teachers, the philosophers or the anthropologists, the ideologists or the theologians.  It is that mission that should determine:  what desires I have, what dreams I have.

And what success God has.

Rejoice and exult!  Gaudete et exultate! This is the name of an apostolic exhortation that the Pope has issued just three days ago.  It provides another important context of your graduation and challenge for you as SHS graduates.  Gaudete et exultate!  Rejoice and exult!  It is an exhortation to holiness.  To your many desires – to be an engineer, to be a lawyer, to be a doctor, to be a teacher, to be recognized, to be successful, holiness may not be an obvious consideration.  But that is the main burden of Pope Francis’ exhortation:  he encourages you, in the unique way that is given you and only you, beneath a great cloud of heavenly witnesses, not to be bland, not to be wish-washy, not to be mediocre, but to be holy, be a saint.  “A Christian cannot think of his or her mission on earth” he declares, “without seeing it as a path of holiness” (19).  Love, love, love?  For the rest of your lives, Love, love love!  It is a formula for holiness.  Be happy!  Be blessed!  Be holy.  And even when they begin to persecute and humiliate you and troll you in Facebook and Twitter for this holiness, “Gaudete et exultate!  Rejoice and exult,” Jesus said, “for great is your reward in heaven!” (Mt. 5:12).

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Jesus Responds to Our Hunger

SHS Bacc Mass 2018

[SHS Baccalaureate Mass, Martin Hall, 13 April 2018.]

Not two weeks ago Christian communities throughout the world lifted the Paschal Candle proclaiming Risen Jesus as the Light and Savior of the world. You graduate today in the glow of that Resurrection Light.

His Resurrection lifted Jesus from the dead who had lifted us all to himself as he was lifted up on the Cross. It lifted Jesus to the glory of his Father for having accomplished the Father’s will in our redemption.

His Resurrection also shed special light on all that Jesus had said and taught. Nothing he said was wasted. Nothing he did was meaningless. In John’s Gospel all is re-visited and re-appreciated “from the beginning” (Jn 1:1). In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth… From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” (cf. Jn 1-16). We are invited to understand how all that Jesus taught and did was of one who “comes from above,” who “comes from heaven” who “speaks the words of God” from above (cf. Jn 3: 31-34) because he is “the Word of God” incarnate.

So too the way Jesus responds to the hunger of people in today’s Gospel. He is incarnated, one with us in the flesh. He feels the churning in people’s stomachs when they have not had enough to eat. The people who had come to listen to his spiritual message where physically hungry. He responded to not only to their spiritual hunger but to their physical hunger. “…Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted” (Jn 6:11). Most marveled at his beyond-the-ordinary ability. But those who understood this as a sign, as a disclosure “from above” already recognized that this was the action not just of a miracle worker but of the long-awaited Prophet (cf. Jn 6:33).

Our Gospel reading is only the introductory scene of John’s profound sixth chapter on Jesus as the Bread of Life. When the people pursue him because they are fascinated by his ability to multiply bread, he works to lead them to insight into the true meaning of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. He tries to lead them to insight into its sign, its message “from heaven”, its meaning “from above”: “Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (Jn 6:27). This food comes from the Father: “It is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (Jn 6:33). Then Jesus discloses a profound truth of himself as Messiah, a truth that the Resurrection confirmed:

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus declares. “Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty” (Jn 6:35). It is not some special delicacy nor some special beverage that will still our hunger and thirst, but Jesus himself. One has only to believe. He comes from above to bring us “life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10).

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one many eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will life forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (Jn 6:48-51).

As the ultimate satisfaction of our deepest hunger and our deepest thirst, Jesus offers himself as true nourishment; he offers communion with himself as life, the fullness of life, the fullness of resurrected life.

“Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me and I in them….” (Jn 6:53-56).

For many of Jesus’ disciples however, this was too much. How could they eat this man’s flesh? How could they drink his blood? Not being brought to insight “from above,” they misunderstood him. “Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” (Jn 6:66). They turned away from Jesus.

But for those who were led to Jesus “from above”, to those who had been “lifted to himself as he was lifted up on the Cross” (cf. Jn 12:32), they knew he and only he had the “words of eternal life” (Jn 6:28). In this light, their memory of his giving them bread and fish by the Sea of Gallilee to still their hunger was only a prelude to the Last Supper where he took bread and gave it to them saying, “Take and eat, for this is my Body” (Mt. 26:26); then he took the cup of wine and gave it to them saying, “Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Mt. 26:28). The Eucharist was inseparable from his Cross, where his flesh “given up” was sacrificed and his blood poured out, as it was inseparable from his Resurrection, where death is conquered, as it is inseparable from his outpouring of the Spirit” – the outpouring of his Love – “to guide us into all truth” (cf. Jn 16:12).

As you graduate today in the glow of resurrection light, in the Spirit he sends be aware of your deepest hunger, your deepest thirst. Allow Jesus to still that hunger. And quench that thirst. He approaches you and says: I am the Bread of Life. Accept me. Take me. Embrace me. Consume me. Do not be scandalized. Do not be scared. Do not walk away. “My flesh is true food; my blood is true drink” (Jn 6:55). If you “eat my flesh and drink my blood” I will abide in you, I will live within you. Within you, I will be your Lord and your God (cf. Jn 20:28).   And in your abiding in me, you too shall take up your cross daily (Lk 9:23), but you will be brought to “the fullness of life” (Jn 10:10) and you “will live forever” (Jn 6:48).

 

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You Have Made History

ACD Bacc Mass 2018 homily

[Baccalaureate Mass, SHS, Assumption College of Davao, April 12, 2018]

We are all deeply grateful to God that you are graduating from Senior High School. When it was finally recognized by our education officials that we had to add two years to our basic education, it was not clear how that would be done. Was one year to be added to elementary school? Then another year to high school? The decision was simply to add two years to elementary and high school. The result was Senior High School. Early on, it was not clear how this would be done. What was decided was a partnership between public and private schools. Government would support students not only in public senior high schools, but also in private senior high schools.   Among the hundreds of private schools that decided to offer senior high school was Assumption College of Davao. It did so at great cost. And to do so it accepted great hardship. Not everything unfolded as planned. But because of that decision by ACD to run a SHS, and because of its perseverance in carrying it out, we are here this morning. You are graduating from SHS. You are among the first batch of SHS graduates nationwide. You belong to the first batch of SHS graduates of the Assumption College of Davao. You have made history. For that we come together in celebration and thanksgiving.

You graduate in the joy, light and challenge of Easter. Not two weeks ago, during the Easter Vigil, we blessed the Easter Fire that defeated the cold and darkness of the night. We lifted up the Paschal Candle and proclaimed “Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End, Alfa and Omega…” We received its light to break the darkness of our lives. We rejoiced in Jesus, lifted up as our Redeemer, and in our exuberance even rejoiced in Adam’s “necessary sin” completely destroyed by the Death of Christ, this “happy fault” that “earned” for us “so great, so glorious a Redeemer.”

It is in this context that we hear the Good News of today. It is a Gospel proclaiming the incarnation, life, preaching, death and resurrection of the Lord as only St. John the Evangelist does. He does so in terms of God the Father speaking a Word. In the beginning was this Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God. The Word was spoken to us. The Word God speaks is true. The Word that he speaks is a Word of Love. It is a Word of Love which is stronger than our rejection of it. It loves us, despite our sin, despite our pride, despite our coldness. And this Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. This Word was God with us – Emmanuel – “who though he was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped at, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on the earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is lord to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:4-11.)”

This is but summarized in today’s Gospel. At the end of Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus it is clear that no one can speak rightly of the Kingdom of God without having been “born from above.” But Jesus, speaking rightly, proclaimed: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (Jn. 3: 16-17). In today’s Gospel, Jesus “comes from above” and is “above all”; he “comes from heaven” and is “above all”. He speaks the words of God. He is the Word of God. Whoever believes that Word knows: “God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath” (Jn 3:35-36).

Therein is the challenge for you of this Gospel as you graduate from Senior High School. You either accept what Jesus says as true, or you don’t. You either accept Jesus as alive, or you don’t. You either accept Jesus as your Redeemer and Lord, or you don’t. You either obey Jesus or you don’t. For you are not only learners who have survived Senior High School as required by the Department of Education. You are for the most part Christian and Catholic learners who have also during your years here at the ACD come to encounter Jesus Christ, not dead, but living; not entombed, but raised from the dead. You are witnesses of Jesus, lifting you to himself on the Cross, then lifting you up to the Father. On you he now bestows the Promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, that you may go forth witnessing to the Good News of Jesus Christ with wisdom and with courage. That is not just idle talk, not just pious chatter. You witness to Jesus alive, not dead, socially transformative, not irrelevant. And if you witness to Jesus alive, not dead, you witness to his bringing us “life, life to the full” through his preaching, his passion, his dying, his resurrection. Your witness entails that you reject hatred, that you reject injustice, that you reject cultural and religious discrimination. Your witness entails that you reject debilitating poverty, the exploitation of the lumad, the destruction of the environment. Your witness entails, as ACD has instilled in you, that as integrated persons you commit yourself effectively throughout your lives to the transformation and true development of society through a spirituality that nurtures genuine solidarity with the poor.   All this because you are witnesses to Jesus alive, not dead, lifting us up to himself, not allowing us – and others – to wallow in the mud.

Hopefully, you welcome this challenge with faith, not with cynicism; with commitment, not indifference. In the Risen Lord, may you indeed be endowed with the Promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, that, filled with wisdom, courage and effective transformative action, you may continue to make history.

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Fortes in Fide

College Graduation 2018

[Address to the ADDU College Graduates, April 7, 2018.]

The developmental goal of the Duterte administration for this country is a worthy one.  It is articulated in Ambisyon Natin 2040.  It is basically a vision of a society where there are no scandalously rich and where there are no extremely poor.  All are educated;  all are smart; all contribute to the shared prosperity of all.  In this society, families are strong, not torn apart by people having to work abroad;  they can come together on weekends and enjoy one another’s company;  they can come together because they all work in the Philippines and because the public transportation that brings them together is actually functioning.

I think it is a national goal worth pursuing.  It is a goal that can be embraced by Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, worshippers of tribal deities, agnostics and atheists.  Citizens belonging to different religions can contribute to the richness of this goal, but no interest group will control the whole.  In the end, the whole will be governed by the common good.

If you think this is a worthy national goal, I hope that as graduates of the ADDU today you offer yourselves to help in its realization.  We are far from a situation that is free of the scandalously rich, and even father from a situation where there are no egregiously poor.  You may yourselves be graduates of the ADDU College, but already you are educated more than the majority of Filipinos in this country.  Many of your erstwhile fellow students have dropped out of formal education;  many of them have not had the quality of education that you have enjoyed.

Most of you are graduating at the age of 20.  Should Ambisyon Natin  actually be achieved by the 2040, that is only a short 22 years from now.  In 22 years each of you would be just past midlife  at about 44 years of age.   Within 22 years you ought to have made your contribution to bringing about a socially just, intelligent and prosperous society in the Philippines.  And you would have the second half of your lives to enjoy it.

But consider well all the things you would need to contribute to, after you have adequately prepared yourselves to make your contribution through education:

First, peace, lasting peace, in Mindanao.  The BBL is being deliberated on in Congress.  Even if it is passed, it will not bring about peace automatically.  All in Mindanao and throughout the Philippines will have to contribute to a socially just society where Muslims and Christians and members of all faiths are integrated into one peace-loving nation.  You must embrace your role in peacebuilding.

Second, the effort to restructure our political society through constitutional change.  There is much talk about federalism and breaking the hold of imperial Manila on national resources.  There is talk of a Federal State run by a parliamentary government to replace the current.  But how does this constitutional change change the persons who constitute Philippine society.  Is moral reform necessary for successful constitutional change, or is constitutional change expected to effect the moral reform? Your active, intelligent and critical participation in this process could be crucial.

Third, you will have to work hard to advocate and contribute to an economy that brings about prosperity in the Philippines without forcing its sons and daughters – or mothers and fathers –  to work in the labor markets of Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Riadh, Dubai, Canberra, or Auckland.  You would have to have the innovativeness to create new business and social enterprises and secure for your co-workers more than a living wage.

Fourth, you will have to work for genuine quality education for all.  The recently passed Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act is as much about quality as it is about access.  You will have to work so that this in the implementation of this law free education is not equivalent to lousy education, and that through education all can contribute to the knowledgeable and smart society that is envisaged.

Fifth, you will have to contribute to charting a course for the Philippines that preserves its sovereignty but deals genially with its ASEAN partners and with China, Japan, and Korea to attain the national interest.

In this context, as you graduate from the ADDU College may you prove yourselves to be ADDU sui generis leaders, interested not only in your private good, but committed to the common good.  In this pursuit may you find your strength in your relationship with God, knowing that your contribution to the common good of humanity is also your contribution to building the Kingdom of God on earth.  May you therefore always be strong in your faith, strong in your relationship with God, fortes in fide!

 

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The Challenge and Promise of Glory at Graduation

college bacc mass 2018

[College Baccalaureate Mass (SAS, SON, SEA, SOE),  Apr 13, 2018.]

Our Gospel for today draws you into the profound Christian challenge of your graduation.  But you must hear the Gospel in its entirety lest you miss the profundity of its challenge.   Instead of responding to the challenge with Christian lives of depth you may fail the appropriate response and live lives of disappointing superficiality.

The Gospel begins with the declaration that “Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples…” John says that this is the third of such revelations, the first being on Easter Sunday evening when he met his disciples locked in a room confused and afraid for their lives.  He revealed himself to them then, then he missioned them. “As the Father has sent me, so also I send you” (Jn 19: 21).  He breathes the Holy Spirit on them, and missions them to go forth and forgive sins, to preach the compassion of the Father to the whole world.

The second revelation of himself was eight days later, when he appeared again to his disciples, but this time with the doubting Thomas present.  He invites Thomas to put his fingers into the wounds of his hands and side; in this manner he reveals himself specially to Thomas.  Thomas’ response is a high point of the Gospel accord to St. John:  “My Lord and my God,”  Thomas confesses. With this confession he is missioned with the rest of Jesus disciples to go forth and proclaim the Good News.

For today’s Gospel, Jesus must reveal himself because for his disciples he seems absent.  Hidden.  They are restless.  Anxious.  They don’t know what to do.  They have been missioned to go forth and spread the Good News, yet they lack the spirit.  Or they lack the courage.  What if people denounce their Good News as fake news?  What if those who put Jesus to death turn their violence on them?  Jesus had appeared to them twice, yet everything, including the appearances of the Lord, all seem so incredible.  They are disciples.  How do they go forth without their leader?

So, Peter says he’s going to do what he has does best for most of his life.  “I’m going fishing,” he says. The other disciples follow.

They fish, but do not catch anything.  They fish into the night, throughout the night.  But that night they caught nothing.  In the darkness of the night, Jesus appears to be absent.  Without Jesus, despite all their experience as fishermen, their work is fruitless.

With the dawn, Jesus appears.  But the disciples do not yet recognize him.  To the disciples he is still hidden.   He knows they’ve had a fruitless night, but he asks them anyway, “Have you caught anything to eat?” “No,” they answered.  They have not only not caught anything, they must now admit they have not caught anything.

The stranger calls out, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat!”  They were the professional fishermen, and they’d worked the whole night without having caught anything.  They’d already hauled in their empty nets, and they were tired.  But somehow, this stranger’s directive was compelling.  They cast their net on the right side of the boat and were unable to haul in all they had caught.

In this extraordinary catch that fishermen can most appreciate, Jesus reveals himself.  “It is the Lord,” John recognizes.   Peter then recognizes him as well.  All then rush to the Lord bringing in the extraordinary catch of fish.  Jesus takes some of the fish and prepares them breakfast.  For joy, for excitement, for exhilaration, the disciples are awed.

Having revealed himself, Jesus missions.  Our Gospel is continued in Jesus asking Peter thrice:  “Do you love me.”  He answers, repeatedly  “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus’ thrice-repeated mission:  “Feed my sheep.”  He issued his mission despite the suffering that Peter would encounter in fulfilling it.

God’s self-revelation to his disciples, is his self-revelation to you.  In life, despite your faith, despite all your instruction in Theology, despite all your personal encounters with the Lord, you often may think him absent.  Confused or depressed you absentmindedly do what you always do, not thinking about how distanced you may have come from the Lord.  In these situations, God reveals himself, he intervenes, his makes his resurrected presence manifest, as he did to Peter and the disciples, often through the very things that you normally do.  Like Thomas, you may doubt that it is really the Lord.  But the Resurrected Lord knows how to reveal himself in his time.   When he reveals himself in a way that you can no longer deny, he missions youBut not without first asking you, “Do you love me?”  To you who may in life have so often denied him, he asks, “Do you love me?”  To you who are in life so timid and afraid, he asks, “Do you love me?”

If your answer is yes, he will mission you.  He will mission you into the deep.  That is the profound challenge the Gospel brings you on the day of your graduation.  He will take all you have learned about your profession and your humanity, and all you have learned about ADDU sui generis leadership, and challenge you to love him truly and freely in your witness to the faith, in your service of justice, in your commitment to the common good, in your sensitivity to cultures, in your openness to religious diversity and inter-religious dialogue.  On the difficult road to peace and genuine prosperity for all, he will mission you too to take up your cross and follow him.

But as he was lifted up loving you, so too will he lift you up loving him not only to himself on the Cross, but to himself at the right hand of his Father.

That is the Christian challenge and promise of your glory at graduation.

 

 

 

 

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Of Nightmares and Dreams

pol sci 2018

[Welcome Address: Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA] Annual International Conference on  “Multilevel Governance in the 21st Century”  Waterfront Hotel, Davao City, Apr 5, 2018]

With the Center for Politics and International Affairs (CPIA) and the Political Science and International Studies Departments of the Ateneo de Davao University, which are jointly serving as the local counterpart of the Philippine Political Science Association (PPSA), it is my privilege to welcome you, experts, academicians and participants, to this Annual International Conference with its challenging theme “Multilevel Governance in the 21st Century.”

That, I take it, is a formulation generous enough to accommodate the wide range of concerns  you are addressing in this forum, including: State Sovereignty in the context of the Syrian-Lebanese Border, Governance in the Philippine Bureaucracy, Nationalism and Populism, Populism and Democratization, Political Science in the Social Media, Trends and Mechanisms in the Filipino Vote; Democracy vs. Authoritarianism; Transparency and Accountability; Local Governance and Development, Participatory Development and Governance; Federalism and Constitutional Reform, Electoral and Party Politics, Healthcare Governance, Elite Politics and Political Dynasties and Disputes Pertinent to the South China Sea.

Another way of looking at the challenge of this Forum is just to consider prominent political figures interacting politically on the world stage today:  Xi Jingpin, Kim Jong-un, Vladimir Putin, Ali Khamenei, Salman bin Abdulaziz, Mohamad Abdulahi Mohamad, Benjamin Netanyahu, Jean-Claude Juncker, Emmanuel Macon, Angela Merkel,  Teresa May, Enrique Peña Nieto, Justin Trudeau, Shinzo Abe, Donald Trump, Pantaleon Alvarez, Aquilino Martin “Koko” Pimentel, Rodrigo Duterte.

The list of names may evoke hope.  Or deep despair.

That only invites greater awe for the task of Political Science:  to try to make sense of the madness?  “America first!” in the context of a country “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal”,  the “common good” so long as it advantages us and not you!  Throw out the dreamers because too many low-class ilk dream of partaking in our national dream.  Germany welcoming the refugees.  But Europe now uniting to keep out the refugees killing themselves to get in to Europe; Britain united to get out of Europe; men, women and children killed en masse repeatedly while the NRA player its violin; China’s Belt and Road initiative that regards the Philippine Sea as Chinese; the Philippine pragmatism that looks the other way; the prospect of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and Federalism in the Philippines as vehicles of social justice.  Where does political science even begin?  And even if practicing this science led to scientific depth, does the historical arbitrariness of powerful world leaders lead it to naught?

Is there any sense to the madness?  In the context of the development of the human race, do we progress in the cultivation of self-interest, or do we sacrifice self-interest to achieve the common good?  Do we progress in freedom and responsibility, or is the only way out of the rut through force, violence, and authoritarian re-ordering of society led by a genial Führer?  Is there some archaic idea or principle that guides the progress of history, or is it all arbitrary and chaotic? Is the cultivation of morality relevant to political progress, or is it all an amoral ride where the only right is might?

Your conference I think is terribly urgent, especially as we are today willy nilly engaged in a process of constitutional change.  That may conjure hopes of breaking the back of Imperial Manila, but the way things are going, we just may wield the dazzling power to change the constitution swiftly, but be impotent in changing our selves, our private and petty consciousness, our mistaking reckless consumerism with human progress, our reluctance to stand for a good beyond ourselves, our inability to recognize the compelling good in ourselves that cherishes the human good for all – all of which conspired to prevent us from appropriately implementing our 1987 Social-Justice Constitution.  So even as documents change ceremoniously, and vain politicians bask in the glory of changing paper, we may fail to use the power in our selves to envisage, coax or even force a more humane tomorrow.  Disillusioned by our realities, we have killed our ability to imagine, and, terrorized by the nightmares of today, we no longer dare to dream.    Of this, I believe, is the stuff of political science.

I wish you an empowering Conference!

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