At the End of UP's Centennial Celebrations

17 December 2008. Dawn Mass at the End of UP’s Centennial Celebrations
Genesis 49, 2, 8-10; Psalm 72; Matthew 1, 1-17


Note: This homily is intended for the community of the University of the Philippines at the end of the Centennial Celebrations. President Dr. Emerlinda Roman will be present. But the points apply to a general public.

The Gospel today is probably one of the most boring to listen to. All you hear are names that go on and on and on. But to me, it is one of the most significant and relevant in our lives.

First, the Gospel affirms the importance of history. Jesus is a historical person. He also has a genealogy, a family tree like all of us. He did follow certain Jewish traditions with His family. He listened to stories about His ancestors that has been passed on from generation to generation. When we affirm history, we establish identity. When Matthew presented the lineage of Jesus, he established that Jesus was a descendant of Abraham and of King David. To trace the lineage of Jesus to Abraham, he proved that He was indeed a Jew; and to trace his lineage to King David, Matthew established that Jesus indeed is the Messiah, fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah is to come from the line of David.

The same thing with our centennial celebrations. When we joined in the opening of UP’s centennial with a mass at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH), paid tribute to the beginning of UP in Padre Faura at UP Manila, and re-enacted the transfer to UP Diliman with a motorcade, we affirmed UP’s illustrious history. Our past made us who we are today. I remember our president Dr. Emerlinda Roman’s speech. She said that to say in one single sweep what UP is would be difficult. There is no one path to answer the question. She said to arrive at what UP is, we have to tread various paths. We share an intellectual, literary and artistic history, a moral and philosophical tradition, and may I add, yes, a faith tradition.

But history, his and her story, your story and mine, are represented by real persons, with real names and real faces. They personified our past. The great men and women of UP, whether popular or unknown, our national figures and our local servants, all have advanced our way of life and our culture. They are now part of our collective memory. In our particular Catholic faith tradition, we have the name of Fr. Delaney SJ and the numerous members of the university community whose faith built this church.

And so, how do we create our school spirit? We should tell and re-tell our stories. We should not forget. For each new generation that will walk through UP, we should tell them the stories of those who already tread the paths they’re threading. So before they mark a new path, they should have learned from the masters.

And thus, the final point. The next 100 years promises a re-molding of our identity. The birth of Jesus is both the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Messiah and a turning point in salvation. History has it that UP’s identity is multi-sectoral, multi-cultural, pluralistic, and multi-faith. UP is colorful. It is never monolithic, monotonous, and monochromatic. It is not boring. It is open to all, more inclusive than exclusive. It is like a chatroom where people dialogue and exchange ideas. This is a haven for creativity.

Thus, whatever we do in the future, it should follow this kind of line. No group can therefore monopolize UP. Because this university values freedom and diversity. It is tolerant of all sorts of people. For example, you have a different congregation profile in different masses. If there are groups who do not like what we do with all our music and our dancing in the liturgy, then they can go to another mass that is deplete of joy. During World Youth Day, Pope Benedict XVI's mass began with liturgical dancing. His mass was inspiring and energetic. There are groups who love to find life in the practice of their faith. Our youth ministry in UP believes that our Catholic faith is centered on joy. Ours is not a gloomy and rigid Catholicism.

Let me end. I have been enriched by diversity. Little do many people know, that Catholic faith defines our future as a community of love; united in diversity. It is therefore the tradition of UP not to discriminate, but to include those who are different.

If you again look at the genealogy of Jesus, it included the names of Rahab who was a prostitute of Jericho and Tamar who was a seducer and adulteress. It would include the Great King David who murdered the husband of Bathsheba, who became the mother of Solomon. It included Ruth who was a foreigner. Jesus’ history has both the saints and the sinners.

People say that UP is faithless and God-less. I disagree. If you come to UP, you meet people of different faiths. In fact, in the course of my work here, I have befriended them. UP is not faithless. It is full of faith! UP is not God-less. Though people in UP are very much in touch with their sinfulness; but they tell us that they have found God here. God is in UP!

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