HOMILY TRANSCRIPT | Manila Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, Mass for the feast of St. Thomas, Santisimo Rosario Parish (UST), January 27, 2022, 5:15 p.m.

Rev. Fr. Filemon dela Cruz, Prior Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Philippines, Rev. Fr. Richard Ang, University Rector, my dear Dominican fathers and brothers, administrators, faculty, personnel and students of the university, dearly beloved in Christ, happy feast day to all of us!

As we celebrate the feast of our patron, St. Thomas Aquinas, we thank the Lord for the life, walk and witness of this holy man who through his rigorous faith, seeking understanding truly served as salt of the earth and light of the world.

We call to mind the angelic doctor’s immense contribution to philosophy and theology that has been a solid pillar of thought from medieval times until today. Indeed, his were lips that murmured profound wisdom but considered all has lost and ravished in the light of the surpassing knowledge of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Our theme for today’s feast is, “St. Thomas, deacon of perseverance and hope.”  Given what we have been through the past two years of the pandemic, as an educational institution and in our personal lives, this theme is indeed very timely and relevant. Both teachers and students know the perseverance needed in online teaching and distance learning. Both staff and administrators hope for the end of the pandemic for a safer and more suitable environment to walk and study. Mahirap, nakakapagod at malakas ang tuksong sumuko at mawalan ng pag-asa. Ilang beses na siguro nating naitanong, “Panginoon, hanggang kailan?”

Ano kaya ang maituturo sa atin ng ating patron na si Santo Tomas tungkol sa pagsususmikap at pag-asa? St. Thomas was not exempt from the difficulties and hardships in his life. We remember how his desire to be a Dominican was met with strong opposition from his family, placing him under house arrest for a year to foil his plans.

We recall how his classmates called him the ‘dumb ox’ because of his silence during discussions and his healthy size.  Teaching in an academic climate were pagan philosophy dominated and threatened the faith, embarked on the daunting task of adopting Aristotelian philosophy to serve Christian theology. Promoting the use of both faith and reason and the scientific manner of eulogizing. He had to deal with both the radical Aristotelians on the one hand and the ultra-conservative theologians on the other. He received criticisms from his peers and even condemnation for some of his teachings from the then Archbishop of Paris. His mission as an educator in Paris, Naples, or Beato and Rome, his prodigious and lucid writings on various issues and topics, his comprehensive and systematic summation of the Catholic faith that engaged actual questions and different voices; His preaching ministry like of exemplary chastity and daily devotion to the Eucharist – all of these require his heroic perseverance. Kung kapiling natin si Santo Tomas ngayon, marahil sasabihin niya sa atin, “sige lang, sige pa, laban lang, magsumikap lang. Makakarating din tayo doon.”

What was the secret of St. Thomas for such intense perseverance? Perhaps, it is not too much to assert that the perseverance by St. Thomas was powered by his hope. Hope that he will one day become a Dominican, that he can improve intellectually as St. Albert the Great had predicted: that faith and reason can be reconciled because there is only one truth and its source is God. That theology can and should dialogue with the dominant philosophies and pressing questions of the age and in so doing, infuse Christian meaning and values to contemporary culture that all the sacrifice and effort will eventually make sense and bear fruit. Dahil buhay kay Santo Tomas ang kanyang pag-asa at inaasahan, narausan at nagawa niya ang lahat ito.

Kung hindi malinaw sa atin ang ating pag-asa, mahirap na magpursige. Kung nalilimutan natin kung para saan ang lahat ng ito, nakakapagod ngang magsumikap. Kung hindi nga tayo naniniwala at nagtitiwala sa ating inaasahan, madali tayong sumuko. What is the reason for your hope? Para makatapos at makakuha ng magandang trabaho? Para makatulong sa pamilya at may maihain sa lamesa? Para makapaglingkod sa bayang lubhang nangangailangan? Para humubog ng mga batang matatalino, matutuwid at may buhay na pananampalataya.

Inaanyayahan tayo ni Santo Tomas na linawin ang ating pag-asa upang pag-alabin ang ating pagsisikap. Gaya ng naisulat ni Viktor Fankl minsan, “Those who have a why to live can bear with almost any how.”

What makes our persevering more meaningful and worthwhile is if we do it not only for our own personal aspirations but also for the dreams of those whom we love.

In our gospel today, Jesus expresses his hope for us to become salt of the earth and light of the world, to make a flavorful and colorful difference in the world. While a lot of reflection has been dedicated to the characteristics of salt and light, inspired by St. Thomas, it is good to us as well. What kind of earth and world are we asked to make a difference in?  A world of relativism, disinformation and fake news. A culture that denies the existence of God and is preoccupied with itself. An ethos where human dignity comes __ and easily discarded. An earth that cries out due to the environmental crisis. Ito ang mundo kung saan tayo inaasahan ni Hesus na maging asin at ilaw. Pagsumikapan natin magturo at matuto gaya ni Santo Tomas na nakikinig at nakaugat sa mundo at gumagamit ng buong lakas at talino upang tumugon mula sa pananampalataya. It is important to persevere in this mission of education and formation. Pandemic or no pandemic, if it is our hope to produce Catholic students who are committed, compassionate and competent to face the questions and challenges of our time.

Thomasian education has taught us that our work is not merely gauged in the success with which we have launched and sustained our careers, professions, endeavors and pursuits. That is why in the UST hymn, “we pray to God of all nations to keep us in beauty and truth and virtues in passion embraced.”

Wherever a Thomasian is, in offices, hospitals, schools, institutions, government service, NGOs, church ministries, homes, sa bayan, sa simbahan at sa tahanan, there is compassion, competence and commitment. One alumnus of UST said, ang Tomasino hindi lang mahusay, may puso.

Towards the end of his life, St. Thomas had a mystical experience during one Eucharistic celebration. After the said event, he reportedly set aside his writing tools and said, “I cannot go on. All that I have written seems to me like so much ___ compared to what I have seen and what has been revealed to me.” In the said encounter, he finally met the reason for his hope. The secret to all his perseverance that puts to rest all his persevering. This is confirmed by some of his last words before he died. He said, “All my studies, my vigils and my labors have been for the love of thee.”

During these trying times when our patience and persevering are greatly tested, may we have recourse to prayer and the Eucharist so that we may encounter the ultimate reason for all our hopes who will give us both rest and security and passion to pursue. So that our hope may be confirmed and our perseverance kept ignited.

Like St. Thomas, we persevere in hope so that they may see goodness in your acts and give praise to your heavenly Father so that all of our lives will be for the love of thee.

Santo Tomas, ipanalangin mo kami. (RCAM-AOC)

 

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