(This written homily was requested by Mano Fel Marpa for the website. Shared reflections with a Power Point presentation
was used on the actual day)
I thank the host group of Midwest for inviting me for this special Fiesta Celebration. Though I am not a son of Carigara,
I was once privileged to be assigned in Carigara sometime in 1980 and thus got to know family-friends and experience the blessings
of Carigara. In God’s mysterious ways we have met again and have kept our faith thousands of miles away from home.
On occasions like this I believe that the appropriate reflections revolve around the understanding of giving thanks for the
blessings of God in our lives. For today, I wish you to understand two main blessings of God that we must always be grateful
of. First, the blessings of creation. We remember scripture on its first book of Genesis telling us “God looked at everything
he had made, and he found it very good.” ( Gen. 1:31) Yes, when we look around our world there is much beauty and goodness
we can experience. And there is much yet to see. On the other hand, limitations and dark side of things and events do happen
in our lives. The good-heart within us teaches us to give thanks to our almighty God.
By creation God shared his original blessings of life and love to all for eternity. And God has given us the task to pass
on his blessings to our families and friends and everyone around us. Can’t you see -- life starts fresh again with new
beginnings every time a baby is born or as flowers bloom, as every living or nonliving creatures appear at dawn? All of creation
show the wondrous blessings of God!
To bless means to unfold or to allow more God’s creation be rightly experienced for the people around us. I liked the
reflections of the popular priest Fr. Ron Rolheiser giving a powerful example of the opposite of blessing. He said, every
time we shout to kids or anyone “Shut up!” That’s it, we curse them. To bless means to recognize the good
things in others. . . to appreciate. . . to affirm. . . to be positive. Really, for us Filipinos it is not merely a cultural
practice of extending a hand to the forehead of kids to recognize respect for us elders, but keeping our common pledge of
“passing on” that joyful faith and blessings to our kids and families. Thus we must daily bless our children and
grandchildren. We must always bless each other in words and deeds and in our prayer. When was the last time we honestly bless
a friend from Carigara with our words of praise?
My congratulations to all Carigaran-on and friends in keeping these Fiesta Celebrations around here in the States! Usually,
we look back to that significant historical event of 1595 when Jesuit Missionaries upon arriving on the shores of Carigara,
Leyte, Philippines planted a big cross to symbolize the beginnings of Leyte Evangelization. If we count way back then –
it is 411 years ago! We have been blessed and inspired for long to keep this tradition and heritage.
Our replica of that Cross here in the altar – and now with this white cloth enthroned around it has become a living
symbol of faith in the Risen Jesus. This must always awaken in us hope and courage to triumph over sin, our weaknesses and
most of all our fear of death. Why? Because Jesus is risen, and His Spirit lives in us. Our faith must be enough to claim
for ourselves that we will rise in Him and with Him.
Secondly, we must see more meanings and significance of the Triumph of the Holy Cross. In fact, it is what I call the second
important blessing in our Catholic faith. Before the death of Jesus on the cross he cried out: “Father, forgive them
for they know not what they do.” ( Lk. 23:34 ) Jesus made that formal blessing for you and me – for humanity to
receive mercy and forgiveness for our ignorance or for our arrogance in living our lives without Him. Jesus continues to
bless us again and again with mercy every time we honestly seek his forgiveness and help.
Today, we have the Holy Cross before us in this altar to appreciate the ever-reassuring love and mercy of God. We must always
welcome God’s grace that makes us better, holier and happier. With this cross we are asked by Jesus to bless others
with our ability to forgive. With this cross we are invited to do and say what Jesus did and said. With this cross we can
truly bless or share divine love and mercy for one another. With this cross, we can afford to smile always.
It is interesting to discover that it takes time to be prayerful and trusting in God’s help. In fact, we humbly realized
that our God in Jesus do not ordinarily provide us quick fixes to our petitions and prayers. Rather, our prayers ordinarily
give us the courage and wisdom to carry on living in confidence and gratitude to God’s gift in spite of the crosses
in life. If you reach this level of experience and treasure it – congratulations! You become a faithful devotee of the
Triumph of the Holy Cross!
We are a people luckily blessed to grow in faith, hopefully all of us in our Catholic faith tradition. Our host of Carigaran-on
will lead us for a blessed and joyful celebration. Take time to humbly share and to listen to life-stories of God’s
blessings. Don’t fail to bless one another with praises and inspiring words, if need be renewal of good will and friendships.
And definitely, all day long will be a flurry of food and dancing – line dancing punctuated with glamorous kuracha and
salvo of dollars!
In this mass, we ask the intercession of the Blessed Mother Mary and our Filipino Saint, San Lorenzo to guide us grow stronger
in the faith. In our gathering, we too look back to remember and pray for those Carigaran-on who were once with us, but now
are with our heavenly Father. They have helped us become what we are now.
Finally, I wish to encourage the various leaders of families and communities to keep on inspiring everyone to participate
and celebrate the blessings of God like we are doing today. Let us lead by example to approach always the altar of God to
offer our thanksgiving and be blessed again with God’s mercy and love. Amen!