Grade 10 Baccalaureate Mass: Luke 24: 13-35
30 March 2016: Easter Wednesday
The story of two disciples of Jesus on the road to Emmaus is one of the most immortal stories of the Gospel. We are very lucky that indeed it is the Gospel today on your baccalaureate mass of your closing ceremony of your Junior High School.
You know me. So, I would like you to memorize just three points: SUNRISE, SENSE, and SPIRITUALITY.
First, sunrise. The Emmaus story tells us of two men who are walking towards the sunset. This may just be a little detail but it tells us something. Emmaus is towards the west of Jerusalem. The sun sinks in the West. Maybe, just maybe, they are facing the dazzling sunset that they do not recognize Jesus appearing before them. They are walking towards the sinking sun. However it may be, allow me to use this image.
The Christian is a person who walks not towards the sunset but towards the sunrise. In the book of Numbers (21:11), the Israelites journeyed in the wilderness towards the rising of the sun, towards the East. The Christian goes onwards, not to a night that falls, but to a dawn that breaks!
In our lives as Ateneans, walking “towards the West” is different from “walking towards the East.” We keep on walking no matter if we have to go through darkness, because our goal is not the night, but the rising of the sun. In other schools, we do not call this event today, a closing ceremony. In Ateneo de Iloilo where I spent and served in their Holy Week the past days, Fr. Joseph Haw SJ, the President, called it a moving up ceremony. “To end” is “western”; to “move up” is “eastern”.
So we’re moving up towards your dreams. Remember the dreams you shared with me during your retreat? Let me remind you of some I saved in my mobile, which many of your campus ministers sent me.
1) “Gusto kong magkaroon ng lakas ng loob na mas mahalin pa ang aking mga magulang. Ang pinakaninanais ng puso ko ngayon ay yung maipadama sa aking mga magulang na mahal na mahal ko sila.” (I want to have more strength to love my parents more. The greatest desire in my heart is to let my parents feel that I love them very much.)
2) “My dream is to make my relationship with my family stronger. To be closer to my dad. I dream not for myself, rather, I dream for my family.”
3) “My deepest desire is to fix everything. To correct all my mistakes and to make up for all my shortcomings to my family and all those whom I love.”
4) “I want to make others happy. I want to help those people in need. I want to be like my parents, kasi tumutulong sila sa iba (because they help others).”
And my favorite dream is this: 5) “I want to be a Jesuit priest. I want to offer my life to God. I want to serve Him. I want to be make other happy. My dream is to use my talents to inspire God.”
If you look at your dreams, they are not yet fulfilled, but you are getting there. You are already moving up: Not closing nor ending. We always get better.
Second, the Gospel story tells us of the ability of Jesus to make SENSE of things. The whole situation of Jesus’ crucifixion and death seems to the two disciples to have no explanation. Their hopes and dreams are dashed and shattered. There is the bewildered regret in the world in their sorrowful words, “We were hoping that He was the one who was going to rescue Israel.” They are words of those whose hopes have been crushed to death and have been buried.
Then Jesus comes and talks to them, and the meaning of life becomes clearer and the darkness becomes light. Jesus brings them towards the sunrise. And they hardly noticed the change: “Are not our hearts burning?” they said.
We know of great story tellers and teachers who make one of his characters say to another whom he has fallen in love, “I never knew what life meant until I saw it in your eyes.” With Jesus, things do fall into place.
And how do Jesus make things clearer? He accompanies the disciples in their journey by patiently struggling with them in their downtrodden heart. And then He reminds them of Scriptures; of what had been said of him by great patriarchs and prophets and servants of God. He went back at history, perhaps, inviting them rekindle their trust in the Lord’s words. Because trust is a work of history.
That is why in Ateneo, it is a custom that we include God in all of our decisions. We ask for the Holy Spirit to make sense of what is happening. We say, “Pagdasalan mo muna (Pray over it first).” We consciously and deliberately include God in all that we do, and allow Him to go even to the recesses of all aspects of our lives, yes, including our history.
We take into consideration what had been, who made or divided our community, so that we don’t choose them again. It is like the elections: I will say this: I do not want Martial Law again. And I will not vote to bring those who might espouse to bring it back. So to even in school: our Araling Panlipunan (Social Studies) specifically teaches us that we should not let history repeat itself. We should always choose leaders who bring God into the core of our lives, not to the sidelines of its organizational structure.
Finally, the Gospel tells us how these two disciples recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread. During the time of Jesus, there was no sacrament yet. Breaking the break marks Jesus’ identity to his disciples because breaking bread was his custom when they eat — at the feeding of the five and four thousand, or at all dinners like the Last Supper. It is the same way when we recognize our friends: There are some things they always do that we remember them by.
My ideal principal whom we already remember in Ateneo High School, and whom I “encountered” through his greatest contribution to the University of the Philippines, is Fr. John P. Delaney SJ. Many of you do not know him, but he was the one who built the Church of the Holy Sacrifice in UP Diliman. He was UP chaplain; and he too was Principal of Ateneo High School. When we celebrate our Teachers Day, we call that celebration Duffy-Delaney Day or D3. With much reason: Delaney made the Eucharist the central mystery of his ministry to young people because it is at mass that we MOST recognize Jesus. It is what the Church document say, the “peak” of worship.
Jesus is the central figure in school, not the academics, not even our programs. That is why, if there is one thing about the 5Cs that to me is the most important, it is Christ-centeredness, from whom all of the other Cs (competence, compassion, commitment and conscience) find its core and reason. But, of course, to have this kind of leader, you need someone who understands the great mystery of the mass, not just seeing it like a form of ritual, boiling everything down to assigning someone whose main job is clerical: finding a priest to say the mass. This work of SPIRITUALITY is more than just that. This is the reason why Fr. Delaney’s funeral line dubbed as the “longest” for a priest still remains unchallenged.
So let me end with a challenge: “When you move up to Grade 11 with new students from other schools, show them that in Ateneo High School, it is our faith that is the most important. It is our faith that is the core of the high school.” When you are able to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread at mass and in your lives, you will inspire others to seek and be closer to Jesus, and at the same time, you will love others to become “a positive transforming difference in our country today.”