July 8, 2018
His Eminence Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle
Culminating mass of Genfest 2018
World Trade Center, Pasay City
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, once again we want to express our thanksgiving and our gratitude to our loving God who has gathered us not only today but these past days, but especially today in the Eucharist on this beautiful Sunday.
Sunday where we commemorate the healing love of God in the resurrection of Jesus, healing. Healing wounds, healing divisions, healing but menaces the message of love and the communion that love is suppose to bring about.
To the young people here may I know who are truly young, the true young, please raise your hands. 18 to 34, why am I raising my hand? Well, thank you for coming to the Philippines especially those from other parts of the world. (Applause) Just coming here is already a sign of the theme “Beyond All Borders.” And I want to thank the not so young, our bishops, our dear Apostolic Nuncio, our priests and religious. You know young people of the world, we your elders love you, we really love you.
Please pray for the parishes of these priests. They don’t have masses this morning because they are here with you. No, I’m sure they have contacted some priests to take care of the pastoral needs in their Parishes.
But our gathering is already a living out of the theme “Beyond Borders” and we need this living testament to a world that is increasingly divided in spite of all the talk about globalization, all of these they talk about that but in reality there’s so much woundedness. We even talk about a fractured world. Walls are not only being constructed but existing walls are becoming thicker and higher. And so we need not just words but with living testaments to show that communion, unity, respect for others is a reality. Not just an idea, not just a topic to talk about but something that is lived, and so when you go home you will say, “I have experienced it, I have seen it, I have heard it, I have touched it.” And like St. John, what we have seen with our eyes, heard with our ears, and touched with our hands we in turn proclaim to others.
I pity you, you might have a stiff neck, you may turn your seat for a while. There, that’s healthier otherwise we will have to call first aid. I’m sure during these past days you have had a lot of conferences, testimonies, and sharing in small groups about the theme. So I will not guess and repeat what you have already experienced and talked about. I just want to dwell on the readings, for our three readings can also be a guide, they can give us guidelines on how we can really pursue this life, spirituality of communion, respecting others, respecting diversity, not denying diversity but being able transcend, to go beyond because there is something higher – love. And without love I don’t know how we can go beyond borders. Without love I don’t know how we can transcend the existing boundaries and barriers; economic, social, cultural, political, racial, ethnic, religious barriers, only love. And for us Christians that is not just a sentiment, God is love. It is the divine life and power covered into us and in our community that enables us really, to go beyond the borders that the world sets before us. And that is our only boast, the love that does not come from us, the love that we have received from God.
Now the readings, what are some of challenges to holding beyond borders and love? What are some of the blocks to such love? What are some of the hindrances to that love? Let us start with the Gospel. So there are three points, one point from each of the readings. So, imagine if it is Easter Vigil, nine readings so nine points. So do not complain why there are three reading on Sunday, and so three points.
The Gospel, Jesus comes to his native place. Imagine he goes home and we expect that at home there will be no borders. That’s what we mean when we say “Feel at home, treat my kitchen as your kitchen, treat my house as your house.” So Jesus comes home to his native place and he preached in the synagogue. Many listen to him and they were astonished. They recognize something extraordinary in this person. They could not deny him, they were touched. They knew something special is in this man, Jesus. Until they ask the question “where did this Jesus, this man who belongs to us. Where did he get this talent?” and there the problem started.
The admiration started becoming controversial when they tried to trace the origin of his good preaching, of his talent, of his authority. Where did he get this from? And then they realize, “well, he comes from ordinary family, he is a carpenter, we know his mother Mary, she goes to the market to buy fish, we know his relatives, his brothers and sisters, they are so ordinary.” How could they be the origin of something extraordinary?But deeper than that they could not believe that God could accomplish extraordinary things through ordinary and familiar persons and events.
They were putting some sort of parameters to God’s action and when God starts acting, extraordinarily in an ordinary carpenter even their faith in God, weight.
This is one barrier, one border that we should cross. When this type of attitude reaches cultures, social standing, ethnic considerations this might become what we call bias, prejudice. Can anything good come out of Nazareth? “Oh, Nazareth we know that!” Among the Filipinos here, would say “ah he is Ilocano”, “she is Ilocana.” “kuripot yan, kuripot yan!” Stingy yan, stingy!” They have not even done anything. You have not even asked them to donate, but already in your mind, “can anything, can generosity come from them?” “Ahh, this person, she comes from this country. Oh! She is like this, she is like that.” And even before, we have any concrete personal encounter we have already set up some walls. And no matter how they relate with us, we don’t see them for what they are. What we see is what our barriers called prejudice and even discrimination dictates on us. So it’s a new way of seeing, it’s a new way of respecting God’s action even among those that we, our prejudice and bias would not allow us to see.
So my dear young people, let us show the world that with the eyes of faith, with the eyes that are ready to be surprised by God, eyes that would not rely on what culture, ideologies would make us believe as a prejudice, as a discriminatory attitude. We know that love opens our eyes. They say “love is blind” maybe not, love makes us see what others do not see, and then they accused us of being blind. Maybe it’s lovers that see and not lovers who are blind.
I remember when we were Seminarians, we were invited to sing at a wedding, just like you choir. We were at the choir loft and a ceremony as usual did not start on time. The bride came late, so we were up there at the choir loft like little children, looking down, “is the bride already here?” We waited, and waited, until finally the announcement came, “the bride is here so let us prepare ourselves for mass.” So we looked down and we saw the bride she was like an angel from above. And then we looked at the altar, we saw the groom, we looked at the bride again and then we looked at the groom, and then we looked at the bride and then we shook our heads, and said, “Wow, why would an angel looking bride choose someone, someone like him? and then, we seminarians, we also, you know, we also gossip. And then, so one of them said, “why is she wasting her life, her beauty?” And then one of my classmates said, “Oh, maybe he is rich, so she forgets the face just the riches, the wealth of this man.”
So we were all trying to justify for her this choice of getting married to a person like that. And we were invited after the mass to the dinner. We were placed at the table directly in front of the bride and groom. So while eating we were still looking at them and we could not stop talk said “why? What did this woman see in that man?” One of my classmate said “hey let us stop this conversation ha, we are becoming uncharitable.” Then one of my classmate said, yes, yes we better stop, let us just accept love is blind. Then, the eldest member of our class at that moment I think was given light by the Holy Spirit, he said is she blind or are we blind? Maybe she sees something in that man because she loves, she sees something that we do not see because we don’t love him. But when I remember it I still shake my head. It takes a while to be healed of all this prejudice, and all of these things you inherited. So my dear young people please do not pass on to the next generation this vision.
Refugees, migrants, the poor, drug addicts they are always blamed as though they cannot do anything good for all we know they will evangelize all of us too. If we allow our eyes to see who is this man? A carpenter, an uneducated person, a dweller on the streets, someone from the slum area, they could be God’s chosen instruments for love.
Does that mean I should seat down already and end the program? Okay I will rush on the second point and the third point.
The first reading and this is my second point, from the prophet Ezekiel. This is the vocation story of Ezekiel, his calling. The Spirit of God entered him and set me on my feet. The Holy Spirit sends him to walk on mission, but if I were Ezekiel I would have run away because God said Ezekiel, “I am sending you to the Israelites, rebels who have rebelled against me, who have revolted against me, hard of face and obstinate of heart. I am sending you to them.” Wow, beyond borders! Usually we want to go and we want to be sent to those who are already sympathetic to us. We want to be sent to our own kind, we want to be sent to those who will receive us, who will embrace us.
And so what happens is we talk among ourselves because we understand each other. But God sends Ezekiel beyond even the borders of friendship. You will be sent to those who do not like me. Those who have rebelled against me, those who revolted against me, I will send you to them. Go beyond your borders, of comfort. So don’t go only to friendly territory. Go, even to those whom you know will not listen. And God instructed Ezekiel “you shall say to them,” thus says the Lord. “And whether they heed or resist because they will surely resist, never mind that is not your mission. Your mission is to tell them what I will tell you, to tell them.
Your mission is not to have a success experience, I won them over, You are being sent not for success, just proclaim God’s word even if it will be rejected. This is difficult ha, it is easy to go to a place, to a people whom you know are eager to listen to you, who are sympathetic to our cause, but God sends us beyond friendly borders. So why are you quiet now? But we do not label, we do not label, “Oh this is enemy territory, No! you go where God sends you.
You know dear young people, when I was young like you, I think I’m younger, my dream was become a medical doctor. At the age of thirteen I was reading medical books in preparation for medical school, but something happened, I was sent somewhere else, and look at me now, a hesitant seminarian, even becoming a bishop, I don’t know whether God knows what he’s doing. But I just trust, this is not what I have imagined. This is not the border that I have wanted to cross, but, yeah, I trust.
One of my classmates told me, and he is an accomplished businessman he said “look Chito, had you pursued your medical career probably you would have been by now one of the top doctors, but look, you say mass in the barangays, in the barrios and what do you get? You get vegetables. People offer you bread and eggs.” “Look at us,” and said “we are already accomplished.” And I say, “Yes, but this is the border that I was asked to cross, and it is not always comfortable place where you were sent. And with my ministry as the president of the Caritas Internationalis, I’ve been going to borders that I have never imagined I would cross.
Right now I have experienced sleeping in a room where a soldier would also sleep at the door just to make sure, I don’t know, I don’t know whether they wanted to make sure that I stay alive or what. But I said, “What am I doing here?” but it happens. You’re on the plane and suddenly two soldiers collect and say “we were sent to escort you.” And then I remember Ezekiel, “I will send you.” Yeah, if you had a choice, you would go to a friendly territory, but will you also go to the hardened of heart and the obstinate of fury.
Young people this is not adventure, this is not adventurism. This is Faith. Love, faith can enable us to cross borders.
And finally, thank God finally. The second reading from the second letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians; “We have to cross, to go beyond our inner borders, too.” Saint Paul was an accomplished missionary. He was famous, in fact even before he became a disciple of Christ, he was already known as a persecutor of Christians. His reputation had preceded him and now with his conversion experience he is one of the most energetic of missionaries, crossing borders. Going from one country to another just to speak of Jesus, but he teaches us something in the second reading, he admits so that he would not become proud. God has allowed a thorn on his flesh. It is like an angel of Satan beating him to keep him humble. What is this? Some say he probably experienced some temptations, some said that Saint Paul had a speech difficulty, but aside from all of that he experienced insults, hardships, persecutions, constraints for the sake of Christ.
But recognizing those borders he accepts them as weakness and he crosses, but when he crosses what does he find? “My Grace is sufficient for you,” for power is made perfect in weakness. This is a very delicate matter, sometimes we want to go beyond our weakness so that we could become better persons and I think that is well motivated. But weakness also is a border that is given to us and crossing that border does not mean improving myself humanly, crossing the border of weakness means finding in God’s grace the source of my strength and so I can remain weak and I even boast of it because it is the power of Christ that must be seen and not my power. So Saint Paul is content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecution and constraints because Jesus has assured him “My grace is enough for you.”
Do we still believe in grace? Do we still believe in the power that Jesus is able to accomplish through weak instruments? He experienced that too – Jesus the carpenter, but there was no stopping the power of God Manifested in him. So my dear young people, I know you are achievers, you want to study well, you want to do well in your business, do it, be better human beings you will cross the borders of achievement but the reality is there will always be borders of limitations, weaknesses, sinfulness and even opposition. But cross that border where you’ll find the grace of God. And with God’s grace you can scale any wall and you will be surprised, “how was I able to cross the border?” Not your strength but the grace of God.
I hope my dear brothers and sisters that we will be committed to the spirituality and the mission of this Genfest. To the young people, I would like to apologize in the name of my generation. I apologize for handing on to you a world that is still ruled by division, discrimination, scapegoating, endless blaming, hardness of heart. I am sorry that we are handing on to you a planet that is not as clean as it should be. Where heat is followed by intensive rain and where even young teenagers exploring a cave would be trapped by unexpected flooding. We are sorry that when you turn on your T.V. your social communications there’s is so much bad news and recrimination rather than good news. But as we apologize to you, we beg you, please receive this legacy of the love of Jesus, the grace that God offers to us that will never be wasted and we hope you could had hand on to your children and grand children a much better world, learn from our mistakes and we know you have the energy to do it, you have the goodwill to do it and we have Jesus who suffered all insults even death but he rose again and is eternally alive.
So go, go and continue crossing borders of hatred, persecution and war because beyond the borders someone is waiting for you, our beloved Jesus Christ.
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