This homily was delivered by Fr. Aristotle Dy, SJ, School President, during the mass in celebration of the feast of San Lorenzo Ruiz during Appreciation Day last 27 September 2013, Xavier Grade School.
Jesus said to all: “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps. Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit does he show who gains the whole world and destroys himself in the process?”
(After showing pictures of Lorenzo Ruiz and Confucius)
These two men lived two thousand years apart, but they have something in common. Both are Chinese, and both are great teachers.
Confucius is China’s greatest philosopher and teacher. That is why his birthday, September 28, is Teachers’ Day in China. His teachings about the importance of education and honoring one’s elders, especially one’s parents, are key elements of Chinese culture. That is why you have been learning some lines from his teachings in the book Dizigui.
Confucius is a great teacher because of his wisdom, handed down to us for more than two thousand years.
Now, San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila lived in the 17th century, born to a Chinese father in Binondo. He is also a great teacher, but he did not teach us through books. He is a great teacher because his life is an example for all of us, an example of courage and fidelity to Christ. As you know, he was married and had children, but when he was falsely accused and feared for his life, he joined the missionaries going to Japan, and ironically, it was there that he lost his life during the persecution of Christians. He was tortured immensely, but he refused to deny Christ. He famously said that even if he had a thousand lives, he would give them all for Christ. San Lorenzo is our teacher in courage and fidelity to Christ.
As we honor these two great teachers, Confucius and San Lorenzo, we also take time today to honor our own teachers at Xavier School—those who teach in the classroom, and those who teach by example in the offices and other works that are so necessary so that education can take place at Xavier. Every year, we observe A-Day or Appreciation Day, so that we can give thanks to God for the gift of people who help you become men for others through their words and their example.
In the Gospel, Jesus says that whoever wants to follow him must deny the self and take up the cross. By losing your life to Christ, you save it. This is what San Lorenzo did with his life, and this is what people who work in schools do. There are many more profitable ways of earning a living, but by working in a school, our teachers and staff make a sacrifice. Very often, they have to bring home their work so they can correct your tests or quizzes on time. Very often, the staff need to work at night and on weekends so that our school activities can proceed smoothly. The least we can do for them is to be grateful. You must never get tired of saying Thank You. Today is a special day for showing our appreciation, but gratitude is an attitude, a value that we must always nurture within us.
When Pope John Paul II canonized Lorenzo Ruiz and made him a saint in 1981, he said “To die for the faith is a gift to some; to live the faith is a call for all.” Probably, none of us here will be called to accept torture and death in order to prove our fidelity to Christ, but all of us are called to live our faith by being grateful for our blessings, and by making sacrifices in order to help others, as our teachers and staff do.
So boys, can I count on you to say Thank you? Especially today, say thank you to your teachers, the office staff, the janitors, the guards, everyone who works in school. Every morning, when you come to school and your big brothers from the high school help you with your bags, say Thank you. Every time someone does something for you, say Thank you. Every day, say Thank you to God, say Thank you to Jesus, because they love you so much through the people around you and the blessings you have received. Amen.