The following homily was delivered in Xavier School Nuvali by Fr. Ismael Chan-Gonzaga, S.J. on September 22, 2017 during the Mass for Peace and Unity.
I was invited to celebrate this institutional mass with you as early as last month and was given the theme of peace and unity to preach on. Well, Fr. Xave invited me to say mass first for Xavier School, Greenhills and then asked me to celebrate mass with you too today, but I believe it was providential that yesterday’s mass at Xavier School, Greenhills didn’t push through because until last night I still couldn’t find the right words to share. And so, late last night I just had to be honest with myself and went to our chapel and prayed. I tried to just calmly ask myself why I can’t seem to focus. Then I realized, because I am disturbed! How do I preach peace and unity in a time such as today? How can I make sense of our gospel in the midst of such a seemingly bloodthirsty society? How can I preach forgiveness and justice when our very leaders encourage and espouse hate and anger? How can I convince you, our future generation, that death and vengeance are not the solution to our problems?! How can I, when we have chosen to remain silent and unconsciously brush aside the sacrifice of our forefathers that we may breath the air of freedom and independence and democracy?! How can I talk of peace and unity against the very backdrop of commemorating a dark day in our nation’s history?
And as I searched for an answer, a word kept repeating and repeating in my head — remember! Remember the voices, remember the lives, remember the sacrifice. So, my friends, this morning let us together remember. To be honest, I was born 7 years after martial law was proclaimed. I only have broad stroke ideas of what it was like then. But in college, I met teachers and mentors who were at the forefront of toppling a dictatorship. I met good friends whose loved ones—fathers, mothers, older siblings, cousins, uncles, aunts—are still missing to this day because they dared to speak against Marcos. Ordinary students and professionals then, mostly belonging to a social class most of us here belong to who just could not take the violence and impunity around. Many of them could have been your uncle, or dad, or ahia or achi or mom. They were most alarmed about the killings, the kidnappings. Many of them were tortured, humiliated, even silenced for speaking their minds out. All this while most of our countrymen were made to look like idiots in the face of a government’s web of lies and conspiracies.
We need to remember those times because they were times of division and fear, a period when the arrogance of a few pushed us to a frighteningly silent side. We need to remember because peace and unity must stand on the bedrock of justice and accountability. We need to remember because today we seem to allow the same impunity and fear again as if we have not learned the lessons of our dark history. Today, the culture of death and impunity is unparalleled, and we do nothing. It seems we have gotten too tired to make a noise, too lost to speak, too afraid to even dare resist. It’s so disturbing because instead we cheer and begin to enjoy the insensitive jokes and foul language. It is as if we do not care anymore. Who ever gave us the right to kill another? How have we become too vindictive and angry? When has killing ever been a solution? Jesus made it very clear in our gospel today: Revenge is not the answer. Compassion is. To understand each other, to give the other an opportunity, support, to have faith still in the other! Peace and unity can only be achieved when we learn to treat each other as persons — gifted with the dignity of being sons and daughters of God. Only if we remember how we too are products of second chances and allow gratitude to lead us to reconciliation and love.
And so in this mass, let us quiet down for a moment. Let us pray for each other. Let us ask God for the humility and grace to open our hearts to Him and recognize His abundance in our lives that we too may one day learn to see beyond ourselves and be His love and mercy in today’s troubled word. Amen.