28 October 2011 Sts. Simon and Jude, apostles
Ephesians 2:19-22; Psalm 19; Luke 6, 12-16
Homily for the Duffy-Delaney Day of the Ateneo de Manila High School

Let me talk about everything we celebrate today: The end of the Marian Months celebration; the Duffy-Delaney Day; the feast of Sts. Simon and Jude. And since I am new, let me draw my stories from my past, prior to being here in the high school. The common theme of all these is the only over-arching point: Gratitude.

The first time I experienced something like the Duffy-Delaney celebration was in 1995. I was a Jesuit regent, like Bro. Madz here, in Xavier University High School. During that time Mrs. Ria Arespachochaga was a JVP there. She knew that I had five preparations (5 lesson plans), a moderatorship, and three organizations. Come Teachers’ Day, all the students prepared something for us.

I knew that when the calendared date arrived, the same ritual would repeat itself. “You know,” one of the other Jesuits would say to me, “your students will be doing something for you.” And I would say, “Can’t we pass this year?” And so I did just that. I exited and watched “Toy Story” the 2nd top-grossing film by Disney/Pixar that year, 1995. I thought, Teachers’ Day was contrived. Same time last year, same day next year, it goes on and on and the same thing happens. Why would you want students to ‘appreciate you’ when sometimes they don’t show that everyday?

So I retreated to the movie theater, thinking that it would be a time for me to rest. The next day, one of my students wrote me, “Why were you not here, Father? It is our delight to love you.”

And so the first point: We are here to celebrate and remember a value: that of gratitude, in the hope that we become grateful persons. The poet Rumi writes, “Find the real world, give it endlessly away, grow rich flinging gold to all who ask. Live at the empty heart of paradox. I’ll dance there with you - cheek to cheek.” (Notice the backdrop). Like birthdays, a day is set to highlight who matters to us, what value is important. Now, we pray for gratitude, but not to be grateful just here, today, this minute; but everyday. To show our love to those people whom we found in the real world, giving themselves endlessly away, growing rich flinging all they have to us.”

* *

One such person is Fr. John Patrick Delaney SJ. I “met” Fr. Delaney SJ who died in 1956 through the people whose lives he touched in UP. I was chaplain there from 2003-2008. From a book called “Chapel Chismis” his former students compiled anecdotes about him. When UP decided to transfer their main campus from Manila to Diliman, Fr. Delaney went with them. When Ateneo was still in Padre Faura, UP was our neighbor; now, it still is. The first thing that Fr. Delaney did was to visit every household in the area. He scoured every single nook and cranny of UP, that soon, a simple chapel has been built and it was full. Since the faithful community was growing, the congregation decided to build a chapel which you see now. The Church of the Holy Sacrifice had been built by a lot of people, some of them declared National Artists as Napoleon Abueva, Vicente Manansala, Arturo Luz, and Leandro Locsin. These were the people whom Fr. Delaney personally visited first. When I met some of these people in UPSCA, they said one thing: they built the church out of gratitude to the man who “virtually moved heaven and earth to bring Christ to Diliman, the campus of UP.” (Mrs. Narita M. Gonzalez)

And thus, the second point: Gratitude is a response to an initiative of love. It is not to be demanded as an entitlement.

In 1989, I took the small bus to Sapang Palay as a novice. A young boy was sitting in the front seat of our bus when a very old man came in the door. He looked around for an empty seat. So the young boy got up and gave him his. After a while, the boy asked the old man, “What did you say?”

The sitting passenger said, “I didn’t say anything.”

At which the boy remarked, “I thought I heard you say, “Thank you.” The old man thought he was entitled to be given a seat because he was old, and so he need not thank the boy!

Do you agree? Should the old man say, “Thank you” or not? What do you think? Who says, “No, the old man has no obligation to thank the boy.” (Raise your hand)
Who says, he should have said, “Thank you” (raise your hand).

Oh yes, I agree: for one to receive a pat in the back, one has to give support first. Fr. Delaney once said, “Give until it hurts.” And St. Ignatius of Loyola in his prayer of generosity will say, “To give and not to count the cost.” And Christ will say, “Give until death.”

For Mary, the cost was a heart pierced by the sword. The rosary is a meditation of the cost of giving. Sts. Simon and Jude, whose feast we celebrate today, gave all that they have to the faith. The cost is not just hurt and blood, but death. And now we remember them, yes, celebrate them, in gratitude. They have loved us first. But of course, Jesus loved them first. Ergo, their martyrdom is a response of gratitude to those who loved “en todo amar y servir.” (Raise your left hand and say to the person to your left, “Thank you.”)

We are not lacking in examples. If you visit the Everest Faculty Workroom today, you will find a sign on their door (Note the photo.): “Libre Haplos.” This to me is the mark of a true mentor of Ateneans. When we give endlessly, gratitude naturally follows. (Raise your right hand and say to the person to your right, “May maghahaplos din sa iyo!”

Let’s do this: (5 Gestures)

(Sarado) A closed hand cannot receive. The phrase has a Biblical ring, and a biblical wisdom that applies profoundly to everyday human affairs. (Suntok) The person who will not share himself with his neighbors receives little friendship in return.

(Protesta) It’s no accident that in many countries the symbol of totalitarianism is the one that you can’t shake hands with: a clenched fist. (Bawi) A person with a clenched fist, no matter how you give, will never receive it because his hands are closed. (Sarado) But the tragedy is far worse, open a clenched fist: there is nothing there. He has nothing to give.

(Bukaspalad)To be sower of seeds, a person must open his hands. (Bukas-kamay as offer) He must do this, clearly, before he can reap. And the process doesn’t stop there. (Taas Kamay) To possess knowledge or wisdom, one has to have an open mind to receive it. (Bukas-Kamay sa Dibdib) To be loved, one has to love first. (Bukas-Kamay sa Puso)

My first assignment after ordination was actually a return to Xavier University. There in the middle of the main campus is the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception. One day, a little boy and her mother visited the church early morning when the rays of the rising sun penetrated the colored glass windows. The boy pointed at the figures of the stain glass windows, and asked his mother who they were. The mother said, that they were saints.

The boy asked, “What are saints?” His mother replied, they are people who let the light of God shine in their lives, and thus they live happy and grateful all their lives.

I have met many of these modern-day saints in Payatas Dos when we were constructing our small chapel. Fr. RB has seen that chapel. I still remember the glow in their eyes and the excitement they had even when they were sitting on the floor for mass. We have so much to be thankful for. Are you happy and excited to see the final result of our chapel, the central facility and symbol of the Ateneo’s Mission and Identity?

As we see the renovation of our chapel taking shape day by day, let us look into our hearts and pray for gratitude. As it is being constructed, let us also rebuild our lives according to the saints. St. Ignatius of Loyola in his book, the Spiritual Exercises, once said, that the beginning of virtue is gratitude.

We become saints when we smile with gratitude all the time. Today we thank our every day saints, our teachers and staff. Let us therefore begin greeting each other, “Happy All Saints Day!” not just today but everyday especially our teachers and staff to remind us that we have to be happy, like saints, everyday. “Happy All Saints Day!” everyday!


Tani said...

Belated happy birthday last Nov. 6, Fr. Jboy. It was also my birthday so I don't forget your birthday. :) I mentioned you in a tweet and said a prayer for you. God bless you. Thank God for inspirational people like you.

Tani said...

*inspiring :)

God bless always.