This parable [in last Sunday’s Gospel reading]urges us not to hide our faith and our belonging to Christ, not to bury the Word of the Gospel, but to circulate it in our life, in relationships, in concrete situations, as a force that penetrates, purifies and renews. … These talents, these gifts, these bounties the Lord has given us, are for others to grow and bear fruit with our testimony.
— Pope Francis in his Angelus message on November 16
A s the nation gears up for the visit of Pope Francis 54 days from today, what can the Filipino faithful offer as a welcome
Four Jesuits offer lessons on living for the Lord can the Filipino faithful offer as a welcome gift to the Holy Father? From his Angelus reflection last Sunday, the answer is to live what we believe and let Christianity’s message and mercy gush forth through us into our homes, workplaces, communities, and society.
In the reading from St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells of a servant who, unlike two others, did not trade his master’s talents, but buried what he was entrusted, earning nothing. Expounding on the parable, Francis urges Catholics “not to bury the Word of the Gospel, but to circulate it in our life … as a force that penetrates, purifies and renews”, so our fellowmen “grow and bear fruit with our testimony.”
In separate homilies this month, three of Francis’ fellow Jesuits offered basic but often forgotten lessons in living life for the Lord. All three priests teach at the Loyola School of Theology (LST) in the Ateneo de Manila University: Catalino Arevalo, Manoling Francisco, and Timoteo Ofrasio.
‘God has a plan for everyone’
In his homily at his usual 9.30 a.m. Mass at Our Lady of Pentecost Parish Church, Loyola Heights, renowned theologian Fr. Arevalo echoed Pope Francis’ call to devote our lives to God. Citing his vantage point at age 89, the Filipino Jesuit counseled: “God has a plan for everyone. If you fulfill what God wants, your life is a success.”
Arevalo stressed that only we can do what the Lord asks of each one of us. He recounted how Jose Rizal, then aged 14, apologized for his nine-inch Sacred Heart carving given to one of his Jesuit teachers at the old Ateneo in Intramuros. The priest told the future national hero that he and only he could have made the image, which no one else can give.
So it is with every life, said Fr. Arevalo: Only you can live your life and fulfill the plan God has for it. If we do not give it to our Lord, then that would be one life and one soul He would not have to bless, enrich, and take with Him to eternal bliss.
Fr. Arevalo, who likes telling tales of Pope Francis, related how the Holy Father regularly hosts poor people at meals with him. One, however, declined the papal invitation, ashamed of his unwashed odor.
Francis promptly instructed that bathrooms be added to public lavatories in the Vatican. Those facilities for the poor are now part of the Argentinian cleric’s gifts to God. And we too are each given our own unique opportunities to give.
The mother of all churches
Fr. Francisco, better known as a composer of religious songs, gave his homily at the anticipated Sunday Mass for November 9, also at the Pentecost Church. He explained the Gospel story about Jesus telling money changers and other merchants surrounding the Jerusalem temple to leave.
The Gospel was for that Sunday’s Feast of the Dedication of the Archbasilica of Saints John the Baptist and the Evangelist at the Lateran in Rome, considered the mother of all churches, being the seat of the Supreme Pontiff as Bishop of Rome. It was dedicated by Pope Silvester I in 324 A.D.
Fr. Francisco saw in both the Jerusalem temple cleansing and the Lateran Church dedication, Christ’s call for every believer to get rid of anything distracting or derailing him from God. Not just our own sins, but the hatred, injustice, oppression, and corruption in the world.
In the face of immense, all-pervasive, and seemingly intractable ungodliness across the globe, the Christian hope lies in the Risen Christ, who has overcome death and renews our frail and fallen humanity and society. That He continues to do today, Fr. Francisco said, as in the communities rising from Yolanda’s devastation one year ago.
And in this divine elevation from worldly quagmires, we are called to join hands with the Lord in uplifting and renewing our lives and our world.
‘The salt of the earth’
How exactly does the Christian renew and uplift? Fr. Ofrasio explains in his homily on Christians as “the salt of the earth”, at Latin Mass last Saturday morning at Christ the King Church Greenmeadows.
In ancient Israel, salt symbolized purity in its whiteness, preservation for food, and flavor in dishes. Thus, to be the salt of the earth means being paragons of purity, unsullied by ulterior intent, and preserving lives, souls and society from corruption.
And the presence and actions of Christians lend the flavor or character of peace, compassion, and godliness to their homes, workplaces, and communities.
So lots of preaching, finger-wagging, and praying, right? Actually, Fr. Ofrasio stressed that the faithful have impact through life more than lip. “It’s easy to be good around certain people,” he observed, because their actions preach Christ.
We pray that we become such people, salting the earth with our lives.