Homily of Most Reverend JULITO B. CORTES, D.D., Bishop of Dumaguete at the closing of the National Laity Week and the Visayas Lay Leaders’ Assembly, on 1 October 2016, Hotel Essencia, Dumaguete City.
Job 42:1-3,5-6,12-16; Lk 10:17-24
Brothers, Sisters, Friends in the Lord, Good morning!
As we celebrate this Closing of the National Laity week here in Dumaguete, we also celebrate today the memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Carmelite nun and Doctor of the Church. Guided by her who saw things deeply, may I invite you to reflect with me on the word “see.”
From our first reading, taken from the Book of Job, we heard Job say: “I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you.” But now my eye has seen you.
Then, from our Gospel reading from St. Luke, we heard Jesus say: “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky,” when the seventy-two disciples returned after having been sent on mission. Then, when they were on their own, Jesus said: “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.
But how are our eyes? Can they see – can we really see? Can they see with love – do we see others with understanding and mercy? And, after having seen, do we look forward to helping others see what we see, i.e., to see with a sense of mission?
I would like to structure my reflection on today’s readings then – and on some pertinent issues from Amoris Laetitia – according to the following headings: first, See; second, See with Compassion, Love, and Mercy; and, third, See with Mission in mind.
During the feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, we often see roses. Roses are associated with her and are, in fact, regarded as her signature. This was because when she was alive, she promised that she would “shower rose petals down from the sky, a sign of her intercession.”
These past months, however, what have we seen? Definitely, not roses. We have seen persons linked with drugs shot and killed in cold blood – most of them coming from the poor, their blood spilling into the concrete pavement, sometimes with a cardboard with the following lines, “Pusher ako. Huwag tularan.” Then, on our television screens and on the front pages of our newspapers, we see men in power threaten a lady legislator with the screening of her alleged sex video and, seemingly, making us a nation of voyeurs – our children including.
Now, the question is: Do we like what we see? Of course, our liking depends on which side we are at?
If you are, as social media puts is, “a Dutertard,” then, you will like seeing what is happening. But if you are a “yellowtard,” then, you will not like what your eyes behold, your loyalty, supposedly, belonging to the administration of the past. But whether “dutertard” or “yellowturd,” are we not, primarily, “Christtard”? Are we not followers of Jesus Christ, baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit who value life?
Moreover, are the events that we see good for the eyes and minds of our children? If they are not, how, then, do we shelter our children from these graphically gruesome images in our society today? How do we educate them?
See with Compassion, Love, and Mercy
There is only one way of sheltering our children from the ghastly pictures in our newspapers and television screens – shower, if not, fill them with love. There is only one way of educating them – be personally interested in their own welfare, in particular, in their studies and in their personal ambitions in life; spend time with them; make memories with them, while you still can. And, enriched by our Christian Faith, encourage them to lead good Christian lives. As Amoris Laetitia puts it – “love does not have to be perfect for us to value it” (112, 113). Warts and all, then, let us always look at the members of our family with love.
With Facebook and other social media instrumentalities, you will not be able to prevent them from seeing more horrific pictures as they grow up. But the memories of love that you have made with them will help get rooted in goodness and in you.
This seeing with love should not be confined only to family members but must also embrace those who need compassion in our society. In the Church, we often hear the word “living in sin.” But Amoria Laetitia is telling us that “it can no longer be simply said that all those living in any ‘irregular situation’ are living in a state of mortal sin” (301). Rather, it is challenging us to offer “understanding, comfort and acceptance” (49) persons who are in any “irregular situation” (301) like that of a single mother. As Pope Francis brilliantly puts it, let us stop throwing stones at a person’s life (305). In terms of doctrinal teaching, the church has not changed. What is being challenged to change is our pastoral attitude, our pastoral disposition, to “find ways” to reach out, to help, to enlighten, to include rather than just saying “no way” because that is the law!
Indeed, let us pray that our government officials stop in picking up “stones to throw at a person’s life” (305) and concentrate on issues associated with good governance. Again, as Pope Francis has reminded ministers, religious communities and lay leaders: “remember that a “small step, in the midst of great human limitations, can be more pleasing to God than a life which appears outwardly in order, but moves through the day without confronting great difficulties” (EG 44).
See with a sense of Mission
In Amoris Laetitia, we, Church leaders – clergy and laity – are challenged “to avoid judgments which do not take into account the complexity of various situations” and “to be attentive, by necessity, to how people experience distress because of their condition” (296). We are further instructed that “it is a matter of reaching out to everyone, of needing to help each person find his or her proper way of participating in the ecclesial community and thus to experience being touched by an “unmerited, unconditional and gratuitous” mercy (297).
Definitely, our leaders in government are, like us, persons who may be going through or have gone through complex situations in their lives. Thus, while we may not agree with several of their methods in fighting against the drug menace in our society, let us, nevertheless, continue to pray for them, for their enlightenment and conversion. Then, let us See, Judge, and Act accordingly!
As we see the events unfolding in our society, let us not forget that the challenge of mission in mind – to lead ALL to Christ. Loved by God, let us share this love with others so that, they too, will feel God’s presence in their lives.
Lord, let your face shine on me
Our response to the Psalm best articulates for us this experience of seeing – “Lord, let your face shine on me.” That is, as we see, as we see with love, as we see with mission, in the end, what is reflected in our lives is the face of the compassionate God. The God who has sent His only Son to live in our midst so that in the end, through His teachings, suffering and death, all of us may have life.
I wish you all a “Happy seeing” in this day’s big event!
+MOST REVEREND JULITO B. CORTES, D.D.
Bishop of Dumaguete