Bishop Pabillo's homily at the Solidarity Mass for hostage victims

1 Cor 2, 10-16 Luke 4, 31-37
August 31, 2010, 8AM
Quirino Grandstand

IN the well-loved song THE PRAYER popularized by Josh Groban, we have this line, sang in Italian and not translated at all in English. It runs thus: Sogniamo un mondo senza piu’ violenza, un mondo di justitia e di speranza, ognuno viva con il suo vicino, symbolo di pace, di fraternita’. Yes, we dream of a world without any violence, a world of justice and of hope, each one living with his neighbor—a sign of peace and of fraternity! This indeed is the world that we dream precisely in this place where violence and senseless carnage took place 9 days ago. In front of this very bad event seen all over the world as the tragic drama unfolded before the eyes of cameras for 11 hours, we dream all the more of a world without violence, a world of justice and hope. We hold on to this dream. This is why we are gathered here today. We do not want our dream to be blown away by that nightmare!

Is this dream a make-believe? No. Our gathering in prayer, in solidarity and in fraternity – from different walks of life, different ethnic groups and even different faiths, shout together: No! our dream is not a make-believe. It is real, and its reality is not based on human possibilities but on our faith in God who is beyond our human wickedness and weakness. We affirm with the Scriptures: where sin increase, grace increase all the more! Our hope then is borne by our faith. The song THE PRAYER makes this appeal to God: Lead us to a place, with your grace, give us faith so we’ll be safe. The phrase is very touching: GIVE US FAITH SO WE’LL BE SAFE! It does not say, give us arms, so we’ll be safe; nor, give us security gadgets so we’ll be safe. It says, give us faith, so we’ll be safe. Yes, faith in a God who loves us, in a God who cares for us.

It is difficult to believe in a God who loves in moments like this. This is why we look at Jesus on the cross. On the cross—expression of human senseless cruelty—Jesus, the love of God for us is found. This Jesus was powerful enough to drive away evil by his words. We hear in our gospel reading how people of his time marveled at Jesus not only for the wisdom of his teachings but also for the power of his words. “With authority and power he commands unclean spirits and they come out!” But Jesus did not only drive evil away by his words. He definitively drove out evil once and for all by himself being subjected to suffering and death—because of his love. Such is the love of Jesus manifested in suffering that “by his wounds we are healed… by his death we are given new life”

It is indeed new life that we are praying and asking for in this occasion. New life for those unjustly killed. We pray that our heavenly Father may receive them and give them fullness of life among our saints and ancestors. New life for those who survive yet are deeply wounded physically, emotionally and psychologically. We pray for their healing. New life for our officials—the judiciary, the police, the politicians, the media, new life for us!

New life for our judiciary. Let justice be done! Justice delayed in justice denied. Here we have witnessed how justice delayed can have dire consequences for the entire nation. Captain Rolando Mendoza is not the only one who had been deeply wounded by the slow grind of our justice system. There are still so many who are crying for justice. Let those who dispense justice do their job well, and soon! This terrible case is also calling out to heaven for justice. Not only the Chinese are calling for a just and swift investigation of this case. We Filipinos demand the same from our officials. Bring out the truth; let those responsible, whoever they maybe, be held accountable. No whitewash! No scapegoats! Let there be new life now for our justice system.

We are asking for new life too from our police and for our armed forces in general. Let them be true keepers of peace, and to be keepers of peace they should respect life and human rights to the utmost. The fact that Captain Mendoza had to violate the rights of others and ultimately violate their lives to air his grievances does not speak well of his police work. He had been long in this career. Did this service not ingrain in him respect for others and respect for life? The big question that should confront all in the armed forces is: Are they trained to protect and respect life and human rights? New life for our police and the armed forces is not just to get more sophisticated arms or to get more training. It is above all to have deep love and respect for human rights and life itself.

New life for our politicians. We are asking for more concern, mas malalim na malasakit, for the people they are serving. It is very sad that this concern was not manifested enough during the 11-hour drama. Oh, may there be really new life from our government officials – looking for the good of the people and not for their own self-interest. Let not this issue be politicized, that is, let it not be dealt with in a self-seeking or self-protecting way. Let real service and real concern be given.

We are also asking for new life from our media people. Media is not measured by its “live” and “exclusive” coverage. Respect for authority, respect for life and the protection of basic rights are also to be considered.

New life is also called forth from us, the Church and the faithful. This atmosphere of violence is a call to us to be more assiduous in working for peace, for forgiveness and for justice. Our message is not heard enough, or is it not proclaimed enough? We cannot just do the usual practices while this culture of violence is inundating our culture. We need to be more creative and self-sacrificing in our evangelizing work.

We are challenged by last week’s terrible event. As we are challenged to act and to do, we are also challenged to hope more and to trust in God. Our God is not just looking at what is happening to us. He is also working among us and in us. We are reminded by St. Paul that we have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God. So in this Eucharist we thank and praise the all powerful Father for his presence and action in the world. He is at work in the Spirit of Jesus among us. We affirm in our Eucharistic Prayer that the Holy Spirit is at work when understanding puts an end to strife, when hatred is quenched by mercy, and vengeance gives way to forgiveness.

In these highly tensed moments there is great danger that strife, hatred and vengeance may get lose. We need the Spirit of God to pour down on all of us his gifts of understanding, mercy and forgiveness. We offer therefore this sacrifice of God’s love for the eternal repose of those who lost their lives, to beg for understanding, mercy and forgiveness from God and from those who have been grieved, and to call for new life from all of us. May those who have suffered and died not been so in vain. May their sacrifice, made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, bring healing and new life to us. So in this nightmare, we continue to dream. Sogniamo un mondo senza piu’ violenza: we dream of a world without anymore violence, un mondo di justitia e speranza: a world of justice and hope; ognuno viva con il suo vicino: each one living with his neighbor; symbolo di pace e di fraternita’: a sign of peace and of fraternity. Yes, let us dream the dream of God!

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