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Friday, March 14, 2014

Survivors: Pope Francis saved many in dirty wars

Survivors: Pope Francis saved many in dirty wars

SAN MIGUEL, Argentina (AP) — Gonzalo Mosca was a radical on the run. Hunted by Uruguay's dictators, he fled to Argentina, where he narrowly escaped a military raid on his hideout. "I thought that they would kill me at any moment," Mosca says.

With nowhere else to turn, he called his brother, a Jesuit priest, who put him in touch with the man he credits with saving his life: Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

It was 1976, South America's dictatorship era, and the future Pope Francis was a 30-something leader of Argentina's Jesuit order. At the time, the country's church hierarchy openly sided with the military junta as it kidnapped, tortured and killed thousands of leftists like Mosca.

Critics have argued that Bergoglio's public silence in the face of that repression made him complicit, too, and they warn against what they see as historical revisionism designed to burnish the reputation of a now-popular pope.

But the chilling accounts of survivors who credit Bergoglio with saving their lives are hard to deny. They say he conspired right under the soldiers' noses at the theological seminary he directed, providing refuge and safe passage to dozens of priests, seminarians and political dissidents marked for elimination by the 1976-1983 military regime.

Mosca was 27 then, a member of a leftist political movement banned by the military government in his home country of Uruguay. Bergoglio answered his call, and rode with him for nearly 20 miles (30 kilometers) to the Colegio Maximo in suburban San Miguel.

"He gave me instructions: 'If they stop us, tell them you're going to a spiritual retreat,' and 'Try to keep yourself a bit hidden,'" Mosca recalled in an interview with The Associated Press.

Mosca said he could hardly breathe until they had passed through the seminary's heavy iron doors, but Bergoglio was very calm.

"He made me wonder if he really understood the trouble he was getting into. If they grabbed us together, they would have marched us both off," said Mosca, who stayed hidden in the seminary for days, until Bergoglio got him an airplane ticket to Brazil.

Soldiers prowled inside the walled gardens, sniffing for fugitives. But a full raid on the spiritual center was out of the question since Argentina's dictators had cloaked themselves in the mantle of Roman Catholic nationalism. And a constant flow of people masked Bergoglio's scheming from an air force outpost next door.

Several new books assert that Bergoglio's public silence enabled him to save more people.

"Bergoglio's List," by Vatican reporter Nello Scavo, is already being developed into a movie, its title playing on the "Schindler's List" film about the Nazi businessman whose subterfuge saved hundreds of Jewish prisoners during the Holocaust.

Marcelo Larraquy, author of "Pray for Him," told the AP that Bergoglio saved "20 or 30" people. Scavo said about 100 owe him their lives. Both authors say the full number will likely never be known, largely because Bergoglio remains so circumspect.

Like many Argentines, Bergoglio "remained silent in the face of atrocity," but he was determined to thwart the death squads when he could, said Larraquy, who runs investigations for the Argentine newspaper Clarin. "He used back channels, did not complain in public and, meanwhile, he was saving people who sought refuge in the Colegio."

"He locked them up in the compound, gave them help and food, and set up a logistical network to get them out of the country," Larraquy added. "But his condition for giving them refuge was that they had to give up all political activism."

New ways of thinking were running through the lower ranks of Latin America's Catholic Church in the 1970s, influenced by Vatican II reforms announced in 1965. Many lay workers and clergy embraced "liberation theology," which promoted social justice for the poor.

Many were politically active and some were Marxist, but others were simply committed social workers. The right-wing military made few distinctions. Priests as well as Catholic lay workers began to disappear at the hands of death squads.

Sitting in a seminary garden whose tranquility was broken only by the gurgling of a fountain and leaves rustling in the breeze, theologian Juan Carlos Scannone quietly told the AP of the terror he felt decades ago.

Scannone said he was targeted because he promoted a non-Marxist "theology of the people" and worked with slum-dwellers in the city's "misery villages." He said Bergoglio not only defended him against criticism within the church, but personally delivered his writings for publication even when the military was trying to find him.

"It was risky," Scannone said. "Bergoglio told me never to go out alone, that I take someone along so that there would be witnesses if I disappeared."

Scannone said he "wrote a lot about the philosophy of liberation and the theology of liberation, which at the time was a naughty word ... Bergoglio would read it and tell me, 'Don't mail this from San Miguel, because it could be censored,' and he would mail them from Buenos Aires with no return address."

His recollection suggests Francis' view on liberation theology may have always been more nuanced than some of his critics suggested before he became pope. Francis still draws a line against Marxism, but has helped rehabilitate some liberation theologists. The movement's founder, Gustavo Gutierrez, received applause this year during a book presentation at the Vatican.

Bergoglio also intervened, at the request of outspoken Bishop Enrique Angelelli, to save three seminarians after Catholic lay workers were killed in western La Rioja province in 1976. The seminarians were being followed by the same death squads and accused of being "contaminated with Marxist ideas." No one else would take them.

Bergoglio was able to rescue Mario La Civita, Enrique Martinez and Raul Gonzalez just as Angelelli was assassinated in August 1976.

"I watched him save lives," La Civita recalled. "It was a difficult time because two or three soldiers were always walking around in the back of the compound. Bergoglio had a strategy of generating confidence in them so that they wouldn't think he had people hidden."

But Bergoglio couldn*t save everyone he tried to help.

Esther Ballestrino de Careaga, a communist who had been Bergoglio's boss in a laboratory before he became a priest, pleaded with him to hide the Marxist literature in her house after her daughter was kidnapped and son-in-law disappeared. "Those were the books that Bergoglio fought (against), but he carried them away anyway," Larraquy said.

A short while later, she co-founded the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, publicly demanding that the junta account for the missing. Soon, she disappeared.

Bergoglio's role was more ambiguous in the case of two slum priests, Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics. He supported their social work, but not their political activism, much less their contacts with armed revolutionaries, and he made them quit the Jesuit order, leaving them without church protection, Larraquy said.

"Bergoglio told them to abandon their political project in the slum, and they refused; they were insubordinate," Larraquy said.

Yorio, Jalics and some Catholic lay workers were seized a short time later after holding Mass, and taken to the regime's clandestine torture center inside the Navy Mechanics School.

Bergoglio testified as part of a human rights trial in 2010 that he persuaded another priest to fake an illness so that he could hold a private Mass for dictator Jorge Videla and personally plead for the Jesuits' release. They were set free in October 1976, left drugged and blindfolded in a field.

"Bergoglio contributed by helping the persecuted, and he dedicated himself to obtaining the release of his kidnapped priests. Still, he didn't participate at the time in the fight against the military dictatorship in defense of human rights," said Adolfo Perez Esquivel, whose human rights work in Argentina won him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Very few other detainees emerged alive from the Mechanics School, and when Bergoglio testified, he didn't reveal any new details about the others who disappeared, "even when their families are demanding an answer," complained human rights lawyer Myriam Bregman.

Bregman says Francis should clear up doubts by opening the church's archives.

"We've asked for it and we keep waiting. The church was part of the dictatorship, it was a direct accomplice, and today it continues without revealing all that it has in its archives," Bregman said.

Mosca sides with Bergoglio. Referring to Yorio and Jalics, Mosca said: "He did not hesitate in risking everything for my cause. He didn't know me. If he did all that for me, how much would he have done for those two?"


Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield at the Vatican contributed to this report.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Poverty that Dehumanizes, Poverty that Sanctifies

Poverty that Dehumanizes, Poverty that Sanctifies
Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8)

CBCP Lenten Message 2014

As we begin this Lenten Season in the Year of the Laity, we invite you, our brothers and sisters, to reflect on poverty, particularly the types that contradict God’s Kingdom as well as those other types that promote and establish the Kingdom. We do this following the lead of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, whose own Lenten Message takes its inspiration from St. Paul writing about our Lord Jesus Christ: “He became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (cf. 2 Cor 8:9).

There are many forms of poverty. Those that degrade and dehumanize, we are to reject and work against. Those that paradoxically humanize and sanctify, we are to embrace and through them, by God’s grace, be transformed. We encounter such opposing forms of poverty on three dimensions of human existence: material, moral, and spiritual. Allow us now to describe them in a framework that may help us all observe this season of grace more generously and fruitfully.

Poverty that degrades and dehumanizes 

In his earthly life, Jesus was no stranger to poverty. He knew well how people suffered from it and he tirelessly went about lightening their burdens: “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness” (Mt. 9:35).

He worked against this kind of poverty because it degrades and dehumanizes humanity; deforming the very ones created lovingly in God’s image and amounting to a grave insult hurled at God. Such poverty continues to undermine and threaten our existence.

In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis declares in no uncertain terms, “No to an economy of exclusion!” (EG 53) This exclusion is the defining characteristic of poverty in our country and in the world today. As the Pope has stressed, “Poverty in the world is a scandal. In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry.”[i]

Indeed, it is a great scandal that takes us all to task.[ii]

No to Material Destitution 

In the material dimension, poverty that degrades and dehumanizes exists for individuals and families as destitution, which is an exclusion from the basic needs of life. In the past few years the poverty rate of the country has hovered at over 20% according to the National Statistics Coordinating Board (NSCB). This means that one in every five Filipinos are in households earning less than the level of income needed for a family to meet its minimum food and non-food requirements. While the poverty rate has gone down from its peak of 29.7% in the early 90s, to have such a huge segment of our population living in such abject poverty is an unacceptable scandal. These official figures are further enhanced by the real life perceptions of people. In its survey on poverty for the last quarter of 2013, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) reports that 55% of respondents actually consider themselves poor, up from 50% the previous quarter. Clearly, many people see themselves as being excluded from opportunities to live a decent life.

No to various faces of the Economy of Exclusion 

On the societal level, the scandal of material poverty can be seen in various faces of the economy of exclusion.

Exclusion from gainful livelihood. The appalling poverty rate is aggravated by the exclusion of many Filipinos from opportunities for economic advancement. The latest Labor Force Survey pegs unemployment at 6.5% of the national workforce and, more tellingly, underemployment at 17.9% (the latter being the percentage of the workforce that is employed but looking for additional work).

Exclusion from sufficient shelter. Shelter is another basic right to which people are denied when poverty strikes. The Subdivision and Housing Developers’ Association has estimated that the housing shortfall between 2001 to 2011 has reached 3.93 million units. The estimates of informal settlers alone run from anywhere between 1 to 3 million households, not counting those rendered homeless by recent natural and man-made calamities.

Exclusion from rural development. Centuries of inequitable land ownership, peace issues, and lack of livelihood opportunities have excluded poor rural folk from genuine progress, driving them into the cities in search of a better life. Sadly, the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) is set to expire this June 2014, with land acquisition and distribution targets still unmet.

Exclusion from adequate health care. The poor, who can avail of health care at only public hospitals and local government health centers, are at risk of being further excluded from access to basic health care with the proposed privatization of leading public health institutions such as the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital and the National Orthopedic Hospital. Especially vulnerable are children and the elderly, unless government continues to aspire for the ideal of “universal health coverage.”

Exclusion from quality education. While we have had good progress in battling illiteracy, further improvements can be made. The International Labor Organization reports that, in 2010 to 2012, out of every ten grade 1 pupils six finish elementary school and only four are able to finish high school. Overcrowding in schools, large classroom sizes, and double to triple shifts are chronic problems in basic and secondary education. Quality higher education, in particular, is an elusive dream for many. Our Catholic schools in the rural areas continue to suffer from the departure of our well trained teachers in the pursuit of higher monetary gain.

Other faces of poverty. The foregoing are some of the most familiar faces of poverty, but other aspects of poverty also cause concern. In the aftermath of typhoons, droughts, and earthquakes, it is poor Filipinos who are most profoundly affected and further excluded from a decent life. Despite recent progress in the peace accords between the MILF and the Philippine Government, the ravages of war (as seen in the MNLF Zamboanga incursion and the long standing NPA rebellion) continue to affect the poorest who are often caught in the crossfire. The destruction of the environment due to illegal logging and both large and small scale mining disadvantage the poor, especially our indigenous communities, who are often excluded from the benefits of such economic activities. We suffer from ecological poverty due to our neglect of the gifts of creation entrusted to us by God.

No to Consumerism 

On the level of a global ethos, the scandal of material poverty shows itself in the ever-growing influence of consumerism. Pope Francis laments that “The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience” (EG 2). In the end, such poverty leads to a self-inflicted emptiness.

No to Moral Destitution 

In the moral dimension, poverty can be debilitating on the same three levels.

Individually, one can experience dehumanizing poverty as a slavery to vice or sin. “How much pain is caused in families because one of their members—often a young person—is in thrall to alcohol, drugs, gambling or pornography! How many people no longer see meaning in life or prospects for the future, how many have lost hope! And how many are plunged into this destitution by unjust social conditions, by unemployment, which takes away their dignity as breadwinners, and by lack of equal access to education and health care. In such cases, moral destitution can be considered impending suicide.”[iii]

On the societal level, moral poverty confronts us everywhere as the malady of corruption. As we have written repeatedly, “We face today a crisis of truth and the pervading cancer of corruption. We must seek the truth and we must restore integrity.”[iv] More recently, on the pork barrel issue, we renewed the call for vigilance and self-critique, “Our protests should not just emanate from the bad feeling that we have been personally or communally transgressed, violated or duped. It should come rather from the realization that God has been offended and we have become less holy as a people because of this.… We are not just victims of a corrupt system. We have all, in one way or another, contributed to this worsening social cancer—through our indifferent silence or through our cooperation when we were benefiting from the sweet cake of graft and corruption.”[v]

Most widely, as a global ethos, we experience moral destitution as inequality. We see this in the critique of capitalism that Pope Francis makes: “In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting” (EG, 54).

No to Spiritual Destitution 

Material destitution constitutes a scandal. Moral destitution frustrates our striving to respond to God’s call of love. But spiritual destitution is the form of poverty that threatens the core of our relationship with God. Individually, we experience it as loneliness and hopelessness. Mother Teresa declares from her vast experience of being among the poorest of the poor that “the most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved.” Moreover, she is convinced: “We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love…. The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty—it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God.”[vi]

Then, as a society, we see this poverty in religious intolerance. The Pope has spoken out adamantly against it, which exists even within the Church: “The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this [person] is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him.… [T]his ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside…cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and…killing in the name of God… [which] is blasphemy.”[vii]

Globally, spiritual destitution appears as relativism and the loss of a sense of transcendence. According to Pope Francis, “It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It…makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples.… There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.”[viii]

Poverty that Humanizes and Sanctifies 

Poverty that degrades and dehumanizes is all around us. One can be disheartened by all this especially in the midst of struggling against. However, the Christian believes that “the Gospel is the real antidote to spiritual destitution.” Pope Francis precisely encourages the faithful to affirm “that God is greater than our sinfulness, that he freely loves us at all times and that we were made for communion and eternal life.”[ix] In the great wisdom that only God possesses, the Gospel proclaims that Jesus resoundingly defeats this poverty by practicing another kind of poverty, namely, the poverty that humanizes or makes one fully human, the poverty that sanctifies or conforms one to his own likeness. This life-giving poverty also has material, moral, and spiritual forms.

Yes to Simplicity, Commitment, and Surrender to God

Material poverty that humanizes and sanctifies is experienced in simplicity of life. Not all are called to choose a life of actual poverty. Many among the laity, the clergy, and the religious do so admirably, whether as individuals or in community, and as a result give a powerful witness to the Gospel. However, all are called to live lives that are marked by a consistent and liberating detachment from such worldly goods as material possessions, resources, power, and social status—a detachment that allows us to be sensitive and to respond to those with less possessions, less resources, less power, lower status.

Such a readiness and ability to respond to those in need finds a stable expression in the moral poverty of acommitment to the Good, the Just, and the True. It is a sustained yearning to participate in the establishment of the Kingdom manifested in concrete decisions and patterns of behavior that always look beyond the private realm of self and family toward the public world of neighbor and society. It is the natural consequence of professing a faith in a God who identifies with the little ones. After all, “how does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods, and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1 Jn 3:17).

Finally, humanizing and sanctifying poverty endures in its spiritual form as surrender to God (Ps 9:10, Prov. 3:5-6). According to PCP II, to be a Church of the Poor means “a Church that embraces and practices the evangelical spirit of poverty, which combines detachment from possessions with a profound trust in the Lord as the sole source of salvation. While the Lord does not want anyone to be materially poor, he wants all his followers to be ‘poor in Spirit’.”[x]

Christ’s Invitation, especially to the Laity 

This Lenten season, Christ invites all, but especially the laity, to oppose degrading and dehumanizing poverty and to embrace humanizing and sanctifying poverty. In other words, he invites us to imitate his example. We fight poverty with poverty only because Christ has shown us the way. “Our faith in Christ, who became poor, and was always close to the poor and the outcast, is the basis of our concern for the integral development of society’s most neglected members” (EG, 186). Much more needs to be done in translating this faith into effective action, in achieving “a greater penetration of Christian values in the social, political and economic sectors,” which in the mind of Pope Francis is where the Church relies on the laity (EG 102).

Particularly, we are invited to practice material poverty by taking up a simple lifestyle and works of mercy and justice that attend to the poor and aim for an economy of inclusion, for what the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen calls “total human development.” We are to exercise moral poverty by strengthening our resolve to practice solidarity with the neglected and to denounce injustice and all forms of radical inequality. We are to embrace spiritual poverty by deepening our rootedness in Christ, whose poverty alone enriches us. “Let us not forget,” Pope Francis insists, “that real poverty hurts… I distrust a charity that costs nothing and does not hurt.”[xi] At the same time, “We may be sure that none of our acts of love will be lost, nor any of our acts of sincere concern for others. No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted” (EG 279).

May the Lord bless your Lenten observance and send you forth with love and joy.

May Mary, Mother of the Poor show you the way to the heart of Jesus, our pearl of great price!

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, March 5, 2014 Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent


Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

End Notes:

[i] Francis, Meeting with Students ofJesuitSchools, Q & A, June 7, 2013.
[ii] Cf. CBCP, Pastoral Exhortation, “To Bring Glad Tidings to the Poor” (Luke 4:18), January 27, 2014.
[iii] Francis, Lenten Message, 2014.
[iv] CBCP, Pastoral Statement, Seeking the Truth, Restoring Integrity, February 26, 2008.
[v] CBCP, Pastoral Statement on the Pork Barrel, “Hate evil and love good and let justice prevail…” (Amos 5,15), September 5, 2013.
[vi] Mother Teresa, A Simple Path: Mother Teresa, 1995.
[vii] Francis, Homily at Mass in Domus Santae Martae on the feast of Santa Rita, quoted byVatican Radio, May 22, 2013.
[viii] Francis, Audience with the Diplomatic Corps, March 22, 2013.
[ix] Francis, Lenten Message, 2014.
[x] PCP II, 125.
[xi] Francis, Lenten Message, 2014.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Pagdarasal, Pagsunod, Pagsaksi


A Homily delivered by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle
during the Mass for the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene
on January 9, 2014 at the Luneta Grandstand, Manila.

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat. Happy fiesta po, Happy Fiesta!

Nagpapapasalamat po tayo sa butihing Diyos [dahil] tayo po ay Kanyang tinipon na naman at binigyan ng lakas; binigyan tayo ng magandang panahon upang ating maparangalan ang Kanyang bugtong Anak sa Kanyang taguring Jesus Nazareno. Salamat din po sa ating mga government officials, sa lahat po ng  ating mga collaborators at sa inyo pong lahat na walang sawa na ipinapadama sa ating mahal na Diyos ang ating pasasalamat; ang  atin pong pagtanaw ng utang na loob.

Ano po ang nararamdaman ninyo kapag tinititigan ninyo si Jesus Nazareno? Ano ang nadarama ninyo kapag siya ay inyong nalalapitan? Bakit mayroong lumuluha? Bakit mayroong napapangiti habang ang mga mata na nakatitig sa Kanya ay nagluluningning? Bakit mayroong pagkatapos makalapit sa Kanya ay parang iniakyat na rin sa langit? Ano ang inyong nakita?  Ano ang ating naririnig sa Kanya? Ano ang ating nadarama? Siguro po bawat isa ay mayroong natatanging sagot sa tanong na ito? Siguro, sasabihin nung iba, “Naramdaman ko, hindi ako pababayaan ng Diyos.” Siguro ‘yung iba masasabi, “nakita ko kung gaano ako dinamayan ni Hesus.” ‘Yung iba siguro magsasabi, “Narinig ko ang kataga na matagal ko ng hinihintay, ‘Kailan ma’y hindi ka magiisa.’” Iba-iba siguro ang ating magiging tugon, subalit iisa rin ang patunguhan, ganito tayo kamahal. GANITO TAYO KAMAHAL NG DIYOS. Iyan si Poong Jesus Nazareno. Pinasan Niya ang ating hirap. Bakit, bakit Niya ginawa iyon? Walang ibang dahilan kundi PAG-IBIG. Bawat isa sa ating ay mahalaga sa Kanya. Bawat pamilya ay mahalaga sa Kanya kaya’t kaya N’yang pasanin ang lahat para sa atin. Gan’yan tayo kamahal ng Diyos!

Ano ang ating tugon? Ang tugon natin ay debosyon. Kaya maraming deboto pero para sa  Poong Nazareno ang mga deboto ang tawag kalimitan ay mamamasan. Bakit? Si Hesus na pumasan sa ating buhay, sa ating pagdurusa, ang ating namang tugon, Hesus papasanin ka rin namin. Ganyan tayo minahal ni Hesus, ang ating debosyon  ay tugon ng pagmamahal. Love for love. Ang bigay na pagibig sa atin  ay walang ibang karapatdapat na tugon at sukli kundi pag-ibig.

Dalawang taon po ang nakararaan, baka naalaala ng karamihan, mayroon pong balita na magkakaroon ng kaguluhan, baka daw [magkaroon ng] terrorist attack sa kapistahan ng traslacion. May nakausap po ako na isang deboto. Tinanong ko  po, ayon sa balitang iyan, kayo po ba ay hindi na dadalo, kayo po ba ay aatras na? Ang ganda po ng sagot niya. Sabi niya, “Bishop, bakit ako ho aatras? Si Hesus nga pinasan ang ating mga hirap hanggang kamatayan? Bakit hindi ko haharapin ang kamatayan para sa Kanya?” Iyan ang deboto. Naunawaan niya, nadining niya ang pag-ibig, ganito na lamang ang pag-ibig ng Diyos, hindi masusukat, kaya narito ako, tutugon ako. [Sa] ginawa Niya para sa akin, hindi ako manghihinayang  na gawin rin para sa Kanya.

Mga kapatid sa tema ng ating fiesta sa taong ito hinahamon po tayo, sa taon ng layko ipakita ang pagmamahal kay Hesus na unang nagmahal sa atin sa tatlong pamamaraan. Paki-memorize po ito! Tatlong pamamaraan ng pagpapakita ng pag-ibig kay Hesus na unang nagpasan sa ating dala ng pagmamahal.

Una, MAGDASAL. Ang pagdarasal ay pagpapakita ng pag-ibig. Tayong mga Filipino [ay] may magandang salita sa pagdarasal. Sinasabi natin, hindi naman ako nakakalimot tumawag sa Diyos. Ang pagdarasal ay ang hindi paglimot. Di ba mayroon  tayong kanta, “Maalaala Mo Kaya?”  Ang nagdarasal ay laging nakakaalala sa Diyos. Ang pag-aalala, pinakikinggan, kinakausap at ang nakakalala sa Diyos, makakaalala sa kapwa. Kung tunay tayong nagdarasal; kung tunay tayong kaugnay ng Diyos, hindi natin makakalimutan ang kapwa.

Mga kapatid, mga kapwa deboto kay Jesus Nazareno, huwag kakalimutan, kasi malimit makalimutan, ang mga kapatid natin sa Tagum, Davao, na sinalanta ng bagyong Pablo, marami sa kanila hindi pa nakakaahon, nakalimutan na yata. Huwag kalilimutan din ang mga kapatid natin sa Nueva Ecija; karamihan ay magsasaka na dahil sa bagyong Santi ay nasira ang kabuhayan at ang mga pananim. Nakalimutan na yata. Parang unti-unti na ring nakakalimutan ang mga kapatid sa Zamboanga. Baka unti-unti na ring malimutan ang Bohol. At hanggang kailan kaya maalaala ang mga kapatid na nasalanta ng Yolanda? Hindi nakakalimot sa Diyos, [kaya’t] hindi [tayo dapat] makakalimot sa kapwa.  Kasi ganoon ang Diyos sa atin, hindi tayo kinakalimutan kaya ang tugon natin sa Kanya, “Hindi kita malimot”. At kapag laging tumatawag sa Diyos, lagi ring maalaala ang kapwa.

Ang ikalawa, ang PAGSUNOD sa Kanya. Ang pagsunod [ay] hindi lamang po iyong lumalakad ako sa likuran niya. Ang pagsunod, ang ibig sabihin, dahil ako ay nagdarasal, dahil hindi ako nakakalimot sa Kanya, dahil siya ay nasa aking puso, ang kanyang aral, ang kanyang halimbawa, ang nagiging pamantayan ng aking buhay. Hindi pupwede na susunod ako kay Kristo pero ang laging laman ng isip ko ay kuwarta! Hindi pupuwede na sasabihin ko, susunod ako kay Kristo, pero kaya kong dayain at pagsamantalahan ang aking kapwa. Ang tunay na nag-iisip lagi kay Hesus ay hindi gagawa ng mga bagay na taliwas kay Hesus. Ang pagdarasal ay nagbubunga ng pagsunod kay Hesus. Kaya mga kaibigan, araw rin ito ng pagtanong sa sarili, ako ba ay tunay na sumusunod? Ako ba ay tunay na napapalapit kay Hesus at ang Kanyang mga habilin ay aking sinusundan?

At ikatlo, PAGSAKSI. ‘Pag sinabi pong saksi, ibig sabihin pagpatotoo, ipahahayag ko sa kapwa sa pamamagitan ng aking salita at aking gawa na totoo si Hesus, na siya ay buhay! Makita sana sa aking ugali, sa aking pagkatao, sa aking ugnayan na talagang nagdarasal ako, na talagang hindi ako nakakalimot kay Hesus, na Siya talaga ang sinusundan ko. Makikita sana sa aking buhay na ang katotohanan na aking sinusundan ay si Hesus. Hindi po ‘yung, sabi nga nila, ‘yung sinasabi ng labi ay kinakabig naman ng puso. Hindi po. Talagang ipakita na si Hesus ay buhay, lalo na sating pag-iibigan. Mga kapatid huwag tayong mahihiyang ipahayag sa mundo: Mahal ako ni Hesus, mahal ko si Hesus. Nakakapagtaka  nga eh, ‘yung mga dapat ikahiya, hindi na ikinahihiya. ‘Yung pagnanakaw hindi na nga ikinahihiya! Dapat iyon ang ikahiya. Iyang korupsiyon, dapat ikahiya! Uulitin ko, ‘yung mga nakakahiya hindi na ikinahihiya. Pagnanakaw, korupsiyon, hindi na ikinahihiya. Nasa front page pa nga. Huwag ikahiya si Hesus! Mahal tayo ni Hesus, mahal ko si Hesus.

Yung tatlo po, ho: PAGDARASAL, PAGSUNOD, PAGSAKSI. Inaanyayahan ko po kayo na tumahimik sandali damhin natin ang malalim na pag-ibig ni Hesus sa atin at tayo po ay tumugon, mangako magdarasal, susunod sa Kanya.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

True Greatness

A Homily delivered on the Feast of St. Albert the Great at the UST Central Seminary
15 November 2013

Last November 10, we celebrated the feast of St. Pope Leo the Great. He is the first pope to be called “Great”. Imagine this great pope persuading the ferocious Attila the Hun in 452 to turn back from his invasion of Italy…and he succeeded. And today, we are celebrating another saint who is called “Great”…St. Albert the Great. He wasn’t a pope but he was considered the most learned man of his time. In fact, he was the teacher of someone whom many considered as the greatest theologian of all time, St. Thomas Aquinas.

A friend from Rome jokingly told me that if you want to be intelligent, study Philosophy; if you want to be holy, study Theology; but, if you want to be both holy and intelligent, study Canon Law because you cannot enroll in Canon Law unless you finish both Philosophy and Theology. Well, his statements are highly debatable…but St. Albert the Great is not just holy, he is not just intelligent…he is dubbed as the “wisest among the saints and the most saintly of the wise.”

And for all that I have said so far, I want to say that TRUE GREATNESS is not always something visible … it can be, but not necessarily. What do I mean? Well, what ultimately matters is not how the world, or even the church, perceives us but how God sees us. Jesus said that those who are great in the eyes of the world are those who are with power, those who make their influence felt…and He told His disciples that the greatest among them must be the servant of all. Then, He literally showed them how by washing their feet at the Last Supper and dying for them and for all of us on the cross. That is true greatness! St. Paul wrote: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing… Faith, hope, love remain, these three, [tria haec], but the greatest of this is love.” (1 Cor 13:1-3, 13)

I’ve been travelling around the country to facilitate the entrance examinations for the UST Central Seminary…and I’ve been meeting many great persons, your rectors, your deans of studies, your seminarians and other priests in your respective dioceses. I’ve been to Tandag and the newly ordained Fr. Alvin toured me around…I went to Capiz…and met my classmates who are doing great in their respective apostolate …I’ve been to Cebu and the seminarians even sang for me. Fr. Benny Tao is a great musician….I’ve been to Cagayan de Oro and I met Fr. Junbals and I was assisted by Sem. Quevedo who reminded me that CDO is peaceful melting pot of all cultures: Christians, Moslems, Lumads…that is why it is called the “City of Golden Friendship”…I went to Tagum…and during the celebration of the diaconate ordination, I looked at the faces of Rev. Lechido and Rev. Autida…and after the laying of hands, their faces glowed…I might be wrong in my perception but I felt it is the manifested grace that they just received. Next stop would be Bacolod, Dumaguete, Surigao, Vigan and Baguio. I know that I would be meeting great persons as well.

You know what I noticed, most of the Thomasian priests are serving as chancellors, formators, or deans of studies and all other important positions in their dioceses. Thomasian priests are competent and inspiring. In the future you will be put to those positions of greatness as well…Who knows? Sem. Vibar might be a chancellor…Sem. Laingo might be a formator…Sem. Palado might be the dean of studies…Sem. Janaban might be a monsignor…Sem. Sa-onoy might be Bishop S. Who knows?

You are formed today but we must always remember that to be truly GREAT…one must be humble in service and must always be in love, love that emanates from Christ, the true Source of greatness. With that, we invoke the teacher of St. Thomas…St. Albert the Great, pray for us!