The following homily was delivered by Fr. Roy Cenon Ragas, SJ for the Xavier Grade School community during the Mass in honor of the Feast of San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila and in celebration of the annual Appreciation Day last 29 September 2017.
Let us begin our reflection this morning by watching this short video clip.
Perhaps, we can ask ourselves: right now, which of the two wolves inside my heart feels stronger? Is the good wolf getting stronger than the bad wolf or is the bad wolf getting stronger than the good wolf? Which wolf is going to win?
As the grandmother in the story replied to her granddaughter, the wolf that wins the battle is the wolf that you feed the most. Now, let us reflect on what we feed the good wolf to make it healthy and strong. I suggest three things: GRATITUDE, GENTLENESS, and GENEROSITY. If we teach our hearts to be grateful, to be gentle, and to be generous, the good wolf becomes stronger than the bad wolf.
How do we feed our hearts with gratitude? When we recognize and receive the endless flow of goodness in our lives, we learn to become grateful. When we see not only the good things given to us but also the good Giver of those gifts, we learn to become grateful.
How do we feed our hearts with gentleness? When we recognize and receive in our hearts other people not simply as anonymous people but as neighbors whom we love just as God loves them too, we learn to become gentle.
How do we feed our hearts with generosity? When we receive any opportunity to multiply the blessings we receive by sharing those blessings with others, we learn to become generous.
Now, let us turn our attention to the other wolf —the bad wolf— what sort of things do we feed the bad wolf that will make it strong? I suggest three things as well: GRUMBLING, APATHY, GREED.
What does a grumbling heart look like? Unlike a grateful heart that is full of joy, a grumbling heart is unhappy because nothing is ever good enough for this person. No matter how much kindness it receives from others, the heart is always left feeling dissatisfied, empty, and sad. This heart does not know how to say thank you; instead, it complains a lot and demands to be given more and more things. This heart is also blind because it is unable to see the good Giver of the gifts.
What does an apathetic heart look like? Unlike a gentle heart that is warm, an apathetic heart is cold. Unlike a gentle heart that is tender, an apathetic heart is as hard as a rock. It does not show any care for anyone except his own self.
What does a greedy heart look like? Unlike a generous heart, a greedy heart has never known the joy of seeing how goodness increases several times over when blessings are shared with others.
Today, we remember one person who fed the good wolf in his heart with gratitude, gentleness, and generosity: San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila. There was nothing much extraordinary about him at the start: he was a simple man, son of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother, an altar boy and a calligrapher in his parish, and a member of the Dominican Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary. He got married and had three children. Later, however, he was accused of killing a Spaniard, and for his own protection, he left home and sought refuge on a ship with some Dominican priests going to Japan. However, in Japan, there was an ongoing persecution of Christians and in no time, they were found out, arrested, and subjected to torture. At that most difficult moment, we could imagine how the good wolf and bad wolf inside his heart were fighting with each other. Would his faith in and love for God remain strong amidst terrible suffering or would he choose to be spared from the suffering and preserve his life by denying his faith in God? In the end, Lorenzo chose to feed the good wolf in his heart — grateful for God’s love, gentle and compassionate even in the face of cruelty and violence, generous in surrendering all that he is to God.
Lorenzo died as a martyr for his faith and love of God. We may not be in the same situation as Lorenzo and his companion martyrs, subjected to cruel torture and bloody persecution which cost them their lives because of their Christian faith. However, we too can follow their example of taking care and keeping the good wolf in our hearts ever stronger and healthier than the bad wolf. What can we do to keep the good wolf in our hearts well-fed with gratitude, gentleness, and generosity?
Perhaps on this day that you devote a special time to appreciate your teachers and the many others who help make this school a good place for learning, you can take this as an opportunity to grow in gratitude, gentleness, and generosity. What action, no matter how small, can you do for them today in gratitude for all the goodness they have done for you? More than anything, I guess, we thank them because they are our living examples of what grateful, gentle, and generous hearts look like.