"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

30-Day Lockdown Retreat Journey: To Be Is To Become WITH and FOR OTHERS (DAY 18)

Official Image of San Pedro Calungsod by a Jesuit priest,
second Filipino Saint and lay missionary
who was martyred in Guam on April 2, 1672
together with Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, SJ.

Today is Day 18 of the whole community retreat in light of the lockdown.

Point of Departure: Richard Rohr, On The Threshold of Transformation: Daily Meditations for Men, Loyola Press 2010.

Richard Rohr tells of a legend that the Great Plains warriors would say to their sons first thing in the morning, "It is a good day to do great things." Rohr adds that "if we can't say something like this, we will not experience the quest." Speaking of "quest" we are already in this pandemic journey no one would like to undergo. I always think of my youngest sister who just worked again for straight 16 hours tending the patients in the hospice for the elderly. How can I say to her, "It is a good day to do great things"? But I have to inspire her spirit to remain strong in treading the journey that she has chosen.

"There is a hero within each person, and however corny it may sound to our modern, cynical selves, we should pay attention to the voice of this hero. [The voice] says that your life is not just your own, not just a personal matter. However incromprehensible it may seem to us... the boundaries of our lives go far beyond our particular selves. It's the job of religion to communicate this truth to us in no uncertain terms. Most of us understand that "me" has its limits, which is why we try to dress up our lives in artificial ways. Our inner hero wants to move us beyond "just me" to "we are" and ultimately to the biblical experience of "I AM." By itself, "my story" is too small. "Our story" is too clannish. But "the Story" places the individual in the great parade that manifests God in history. In that story line, we are all hidden heroes." (Rohr, p. 12) I received a very touching message written by the son of a Transplant Surgeon—his father succumb to Acute Respiratory Failure brought about by Covid-19. I quote, "...I choose to remember him like this. Not only as a statistic in the current war we are fighting. Not only as a surgeon who pioneered for the nation. Not only as a father for his family. But as a Citizen of The World who cared for it and fought for it. He will always be our hero." My heart goes out to the families of our heroes who have done great things for humanity.

Grace To Beg For: To ask for what I desire... to have a deeper awareness of my true Christian identity which is to be identified with Jesus Christ in his loving through self-giving.

Word Of God: (See full text below)

1. John 8:51-59 (Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me...")

2. Mark 4:26-34 ("... it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”)

Questions and Considerations to Ponder:

On Day 16 I gave this schema of To Have, To Do, To Exist, To Love, To Be to help us get in touch with ourselves especially our inner selves as we are in the eye of this pandemic. This scheme used by Fr. Florencio Segura, SJ continues by saying that To Be, which involves personal development, is not about oneself alone. To Be is not only to keep receiving and existing but To-Be-With-Others and To-Be-For-Others. To Be "me" means to move beyond "just me" to "we are," and "my story" to "our story," and finally to "I AM" and to "the Story" according to the life and person of Jesus. This is the purpose of our "Being" which is a "Becoming-With-and-For-Others." Through our God given freedom we can choose to serve and glorify God, by becoming the hero that lies within our heart or hearts. Fr. Segura speaks about our goal to become a person who knows oneself, accepts oneself and gives oneself. This is what it means to become a child of God and "to save one's soul."

I had a student in 2007 at the Ateneo de Manila University High School, Alvin Espinosa, who suddenly died of infection caused by Dengue virus. He was only in Grade 9 that same year. I will always remember him as a hero too. I will share with you his beautiful reflection paper on the topic "freedom"--one of the monthly reflection papers that asked each student to make. My prayer to God through Alvin, "It is a good day to do great things."

"Freedom: What is it?"

Alvin Espinosa (1993-2007)

I sit on this couch, lots of scratch papers in front of me, and I am completely at a loss as to what to discuss in this reflection paper. My previous attempts at various discussions have proven to be unsuccessful, and I find myself without any definite topic.

After about half an hour of reflection, I remembered one important point in our discussions about freedom recently. It is that freedom can be understood in two senses: a) freedom from obstacles that hinder us from doing good and b) freedom for growing in the likeness of Christ. And so allow me to discuss this which I think is the most significant point of this course so far.

Nowadays, we are faced with a lot of obstacles that hinder us from being truly free. These realities influence us to act in a self-centered way. However, what's important is that we strive to free ourselves from these things by choosing what is truly good amidst all these forces.

Yesterday, while I was watching TV, I saw this news about a man who tried to snatch a woman's bag but he didn't succeed because the victim was able to report the situation to the police nearby immediately. When asked what's his reason for doing that, he replied, "para lang may maipakain sa pamilya" ("solely to be able to buy food for family"). In this scenario, we can concretely see how poverty forces Filipinos to do unpleasant things. Because of such social oppression, some are forced to commit those bad acts. Indeed, doing what is good is not really easy especially when we are faced with a very frustrating situation like poverty, in the case of the man.

For further reflection, I personally am having a hard time in becoming truly free. A lot of factors prevent me from doing what is good in specific circumstances. For instance, being hooked so much on playing games sometimes lead to my attitude of taking my studies for granted. Nevertheless, as a scholar, I know my responsibility for this opportunity, and that's to do my best for me to excel in class.

In conclusion, true freedom does not mean merely the absence of obstacles but has a purpose. Our freedom is also for growing in Christ's likeness. Thus, to grow in freedom entails a lifetime commitment to following Christ. With this, maybe I can already start now by "acting as Jesus did" (CFC 698).

Prayer Requests:
You can email request for prayers for the dead (Name—RIP) using 8thworkermercy@bloggercom—there is a DOT between 8thworker and mercy. It is restricted so that only me as blog author can read it. Others will NOT be able to read any email; instead they will get a message stating that this is private. We will offer your intentions during our regular 6:30AM Masses in our community of Jesuit priests and novices.

P.S. Feel free also to include the names of all who are sick (Name—Get well soon).

Fr. JM Manzano, SJ
John 8:51-59

Your father, Abraham, rejoiced because he saw my day.

Jesus said to the Jews: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” So the Jews said to him, “Now we are sure that you are possessed. Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? Or the prophets, who died? Who do you make yourself out to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is worth nothing; but it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ You do not know him, but I know him. And if I should say that I do not know him, I would be like you a liar. But I do know him and I keep his word. Abraham your father rejoiced to see my day; he saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” So they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid and went out of the temple area.

Mark 4:26-34

A man scatters seed on the land and would sleep and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
  He said, “To what shall we compare the Kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.