My dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are gathered today to gratefully remember and earnestly pray for our deceased clergy and religious who worked in the Archdiocese of Manila. As our priesthood allows us to “offer Christ sacrificed for the sins of all” and make present the “holy and tremendous Victim”, we believe that our eucharistic celebration will cause “a great benefit to the souls on whose behalf [it] is offered” (CCC, 1371). We hope and pray that, in the words of our readings, they may peacefully rest in the hands of God, in the verdant pastures and restful waters of the shepherd’s care, and be welcomed to a seat at the master’s table.
While this mass is clearly for them who have gone ahead of us, our commemoration is also for us who remain in this world. Our predecessors remind us of the certainty and imminence of our mortality, and the deliberateness and intentionality we need to live our priesthood to the full, given the limited time we have. One block to this end is an operative question or motivation behind our actions: “What is in it for me?”
“Ano ba ang makukuha ko diyan?” Consciously or unconsciously, this question has defined a lot of our day-to-day choices. Be it in our financial transactions or investments, the people we befriend or avoid, the invitations we accept or forego, the activities we engage in or decline, and sadly, at times, even in the manner we relate to God.
If we found ourselves reacting to the master depicted in our gospel — who did not seem to intend to give rest to his servant who worked outside the whole day, who would ask him to prepare his meal and serve him first before resting and eating himself, for whom words of gratitude did not seem to be in order — we may be infected by this attitude. Resonating with the servant, have we ever thought: “Ang dami kong iniwan at isinuko para sa pagpapari,di mabilang ang sakripisyo ko para sa bayan ng Diyos, grabe ang pagod ko tuwing araw ng Linggo at para sa parokyang ito,siguro naman mauunawaan ng Diyos ito o iyong luho ko, siguro naman karapat-dapat ako sa blessings nahinihingi ko, siguro naman sigurado na ako salangit!”
The problem with this attitude is that it is self-referential, grossly entitled, and devoid of authentic love. It is transactional in orientation and sees others, and even God, as mere means or instruments for personal gain. In this perspective, since the objective is self-preservation and self-enrichment, we would not bother with something or someone that would not bring us some benefit, nor exert effort more than what is required. We can even place God at the mercy of our efforts.
Our Lord Jesus reminds us that the question that should guide our priesthood is the sole question with which love is concerned: “What is in it for my beloved?” This is the question that defined his life.His ministry, passion, death, and even resurrection were his incarnate attempts to answer the questions: “What is in it of God? What is in it for my neighbor?”
“What is in it for my beloved?” This question knows no limits and is not satisfied with the bare minimum. It always pursues the good of the beloved, even at the expense of one’s own. Its other-orientedness is the other-orientedness of the two greatest commandments, that is the essence of Christianity. It will be the key to be recognized by Jesus as one of his own on the last days. Against the criterion of this pure intention and motivation of love, given our usually limited and faltering efforts, we will be led to confess, with contrite hearts: “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”
As we embrace this new life and mission-defining question, “What is in it for God and my neighbor?” that asks from us painful self-abnegation, we find consolation in the truth that God preoccupies himself with the same question in relation to us: “What is in it for my faithful ones?” As promised in our first reading: “no torment shall touch them; they will be in peace; their hope full of immortality; In the time of their visitation they shall shine; the Lord shall be their King forever; grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.” God is truly the Shepherd of our souls, with whom there is nothing we shall want. Kung susumahin, hindi tayo lugi sa Diyos kailanman. He himself is our inheritance (Psalm 16). What more can we ask for?
Every time we commemorate our dearly departed, we grapple with the inevitability, power, and meanness of death — the cessation of life, the corruption of the flesh, the end of a person’s history. And we think that it might just be the most potent and destructive force on earth. But, in the very same act of remembering our dearly departed, we come to realize that there is a force more powerful than death, and that is the power of love over which death is rendered powerless. We realize that our love for them transcends death, their love for us cannot be terminated, their lives of love will never be corrupted. Death has absolutely no power over love because love is a function of the eternal soul and a fruit of the divine within.
And maybe this is another way of understanding how Christ conquered death. Not only because he was resurrected by the Father, and because he gained for us eternal life. But also because he lived a life of love that can never be obliterated by even the most brutal eradication of his life. He loved. That gave his life, then up to now, eternal significance.This is what eternal life may also mean for us, over and beyond our heavenly reward or being resurrected in Christ. When we live our love to the full, like Fr. Nanding and our departed clergy and religious, it becomes eternally significant to those whom we love. We will live eternally in the eyes of the world, beyond the power and corruption of death.
Let us remember and pray for our beloved dead. Let us also ask for the grace to harness the power of love over which death has no power. May our lives answer the question: “What is in it for God and my neighbor?”
In a special way, we pay tribute and celebrate the life and ministry of one of the most loved priests in the Archdiocese of Manila, Fr. Nanding. Fr. Rolly Garcia shared his gratitude to Fr. Nanding “for being an inspiration to a generation of priests and sharing the joy of the priesthood with us.”He added, “Nakita po naming sa inyo kung gaano kasaya maging pari.” Msgr. Clem Ignacio and Fr. Jun Sescon recognized Fr. Nanding’s impact on the Quiapo Church. “He served the Nazareno with faithfulness & devotion till the end.” Fr. Joseph Alonso paid tribute to Fr. Carpio for having a “heart full of love for Jesus. A benefactor of our seminary, the poor and those in need. A holy man in our brotherhood.”
The Lolo of seminarians and younger priests, Fr. Nanding will be remembered for his holiness of life, for his humility and simplicity, for his generosity and magnanimity, a compassionate confessor and spiritual director, a man of prayer, a priest of Jesus – mabuting pari, mabait na pari, pari ni Hesus.
Minsang tinanong ng isang makata: “Tumatanda ba ang pag ibig?” Dagdag pa niya “Kapag ba nangungulubot na ang balat at namumutina ang buhok, ibig bang sabihin noon nag-uulianin na ang puso? Kapag tumatanda tayo, bumabagal ang pag-iisip, bumabagal ang pagkilos, pero hindi ang kakayahan nating magmahal.” Salamat saDiyos sa mabuting halimbawa ni Fr. Nanding kung paano magmahal ang isang tagasunod ni Hesus, ang isang pari ni Hesus – hanggang sa huling buntong hininga, hanggang sa huling pagtibok ng puso.
The Lord who called Fr. Nanding, “Come, follow me” will now say, “Good and faithful servant. Come and share your Master’s joy.”
Eternal rest grant unto Fernando and all the departed priests and religious, O Lord, and let your perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen. (Photo by Mio Angelo Hermoso./RCAM-AOC Photogallery)