Easter Message 2017

THE SYMBOLS OF EASTER

The beginning of the Easter celebration is marked by the blessing of fire and water, two of the most important symbols of life in the Christian tradition.

Scriptures is replete with images of fire and water:

God revealed himself to Moses through the burning bush. A pillar of fire guided the Israelites at night as they journeyed through the desert. The primary task of priests in the Old Testament was to protect the fire in the temple and keep it burning. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles in the form of tongues of fire. A few days after Jesus resurrected, he set up fire and prepared breakfast for his hapless apostles who went fishing all night but came home empty-handed.

The role of a good shepherd is to lead the sheep to quiet waters and refresh their souls. A psalmist compares his longing for the divine presence in the temple to a deer pining for flowing streams. People who trust in the Lord are like trees planted beside the waters that stretch their roots to the rivers. At the well, Jesus offered the Samaritan woman a spring of water welling up to eternal life. At the last supper, Jesus poured water on the apostles’ tired feet and washed them.

Fire and water. Symbols of Easter. Symbols of LIFE and HOPE.

Ironically, water and fire can also be sources of destruction. Fire ravaged more than a thousand homes in a slum area recently. In 2013, Yolanda’s water took the lives of thousands of people and caused unimaginable devastation in Leyte.

We are like fire and water, capable of bringing about life, or death. At Easter God showed us through Christ what the redemptive choice is. Let us be Easter people. Let us be for others, not death-dealing, but life- and hope-giving fire and water.

TO ALL ASSUMPTIONISTS:
HAPPY EASTER!

 

Fr. Joselito C. Henson
University President

Founder’s Day 2016 Homily

Friday of the 22nd Week: Founder’s Day
UAJHS/UASHS@GYM. 02 September 2016

Today is the birthday of Archbishop Emilio Cinense, the founder of this our University. If he were still alive today, he would have been exactly 105 years old, having been born in 1911. He died in 1978 at the age of 66.

Who is a founder? How do we define a founder?

Yesterday, while I was reflecting on what to share to you today, our founder’s day, I googled some of the founders of popular companies. As I was reading their short biographies, I realized that most of them have something in common: that the companies they later founded began with a problem or an obstacle they faced at a particular time. So that instead of whining or complaining or giving up or not caring at all, they decided to take concrete steps and find ways to solve the problem or overcome the obstacle. Instead of cursing the darkness, so to speak, they decided to light a candle.

Just to give some examples:

Are you familiar with UNDER ARMOUR, a well-known sportswear brand? Its founder, Kevin Plank was a former football player. He got tired of constantly changing sweaty shirts he was wearing under his jerseys during games. So he invented a shirt using a synthetic fabric capable of “evaporating” moisture. And Under Armour was born and revolutionized the sportswear industry. Soon, all the other sports brands, Nike, Adidas, etc. followed suit.

What about DROPBOX, the cloud-based data storage facility? Drew Houston, its founder, claims that when he was a student, he kept on forgetting his USB. This led him to come up with cloud-based file sharing service.

I’m very sure you’ve heard about FEDEX, a delivery service company. As a graduating student, Frederick Smith, the founder, began with a feasibility study about overnight delivery service. The feasibility study seemingly did not sit well with his professor, but it served as a foundation for a successful worldwide company.

Have you heard about TUPPERWARE? Earl Tupper was the founder of this company, which he began around the Second World War period. The presumed problem: how to make it more convenient for soldiers engaged in war to store and carry their food in the battlefields. So he invented those plastic containers.

Coca-Cola. The Founder was John Pemberton. He was a civil war veteran. It seems that because of a painful wound he suffered from the war, he became addicted to morphine, a pain killer. To cure his addiction, he experimented on and used a medicinal tonic, which later on would evolve into what is for the longest time a popular soda.

These founders saw a need, and tried to find a way to respond to it. Which brings us to Bishop Cinense, the founder of UA. What need, or what problem led him to found a school?

I think one only needs to know what the early 1960s was like. It was the height of agrarian unrest in Pampanga, an unrest supported by a communist ideology – the root cause of which was poverty and social inequality. While the farmers and their families were starving, the landowners were indulging themselves in luxury, refusing to give the farmers their due.

The previous bishop, Bishop Guerrero, tried to solve the problem by appealing to the religious and moral sense of the Kapampangans. He started in the early 1950s a crusade that revolved around a devotion to the Virgen de los Remedios (whose 60 th canonical coronation anniversary we’ll celebrate this coming September 8)

However, Bishop Cinense, to my mind, took a more radical path in addressing a long-standing social problem. He founded a school. He probably thought that a good education was the biggest long-term solution that could break the cycle of poverty, transform the social landscape of Pampanga, and improve the quality of life of its people.

But I don’t think Bishop Cinense was only after a good education. Not only a good education, but a good CATHOLIC education. That is, good education informed by Catholic values. Excellence not only in learning, but excellence in virtue and communal responsibility as well. SCIENTIA, VIRTUS, COMMUNITAS. Only when informed by Catholic values can a good education be truly transformative.

In the gospel, Jesus said: ‘No one tears a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins.’ Another way of putting this is (paraphrasing Einstein): One cannot solve a problem with the same mindset that created it in the first place. Bad processes cannot produce good results. If the root cause of war is poverty, then the only way to solve war is to eradicate poverty. Peace can never be achieved by using violent means.

Our founder, Bishop Cinense, must have been fully aware of this. And this is why he chose education as the means towards transforming society and hopefully mending the strained relationship between rich and poor. A kind of education that forms

  • men and women of learning
  • men and women of virtue,
  • men and women of community.

If that is so, what is the greatest tribute can we ever offer to our founder? What is the finest birthday gift we can give him? I believe the best tribute, the best gift is our fidelity to his vision: to live a lifestyle of SCIENTIA, VIRTUS, COMMUNITAS. To strive to be BIASA, MAGANACA, MAYAP.

As we remember and pray for our founder on his birthday, let us also remember and be guided by the ideals he himself lived by. Together with Bishop Cinense, let us continue to entrust this University into the hands of the Blessed Mother and pray that all UA graduates continue to make a difference wherever they find themselves in – just as our founder envisioned them to be.

UA College Graduation 2016: “Value-Driven and Socially Responsible Nation-Builders”

To fellow adminstrators, deans, faculty, staff, personnel, parents, guests, and
to the graduates of the University of the Assumption Batch of 2016: GOOD MORNING!

On this occasion, let me take the role of a parent
whose children are about to leave the comfort of home
and want to begin and create a life of their own, away from home.
Perhaps, just like any parent,
I feel excited for you as you are about to embark on a new journey,
but at the same time,
anxious about how you will fit and conduct yourselves
in an environment quite different from where you’ve been used to.

I only have three basic takeaways for you,
takeaways you are very familiar with,
takeaways that we have been trying to develop in you
during the time you were here in this campus.

Three takeaways:
First, be men and women of learning (scientia)
Second, be men and women of virtue (virtus)
Third, be men and women of community (communitas)

Keng Kapampangan:
BIASA, E MAGBIASA-BIASA
MAGANAKA, E ALANG MODO
MAYAP, E DIGPA NING MAYAP

First: biasa, e magbiasa-biasa.

Biasa.
A person who is biasa is one who stands for
reasoned argument,
unrelenting commitment to truth,
tolerance for difference and ambiguity,
and the willingness and passion to learn new things.

He is one who realizes
he has so much more to learn and discover.

Ing biasa, e ya magbiasa-biasa.
Whose unbending stubbornness often betrays
inability to understand complexities.
He doesn’t derive his conclusions
from ungrounded assumptions and hearsays.
And doesn’t form judgments not backed up by data.
He is methodical and goes where the truth leads him,
no matter what it takes, no matter how long it takes.

A person of learning is one who believes
that he can learn not only from the moneyed and the titled
but from the poor and the uneducated as well,
and that therefore anybody is worth listening to and learning from.

When in a conflict,
a person of learning does not raise his voice,
he sharpens his arguments.
In the end, it is the force of the better argument
that convinces and holds sway.

A never ending thirst for knowledge.
I hope this is something your stay at UA has instilled in you.
That UA has only open avenues for life-long learning
and has given you a foretaste of what you still have to explore and discover.

We live in a world characterized by
velocity, volume, and variety of information,
so that what we learned today
may just be considered obsolete the next day.
In such an environment,
ala yang lugal ing magbiasa-biasa.
In such an enviroment,
what we need are people who can think critically,
one who can sift and analyze what is relevant from what is not
and come up, not with simplistic answers,
but with decisions that are informed, nuanced, and thought through.

Maging biasa. Be men and women of scientia, men and women of learning.

Second: maganaka, e alang modo.

When one does not follow the minimal moral or ethical conventions
that are expected of any “normal” human being,
ausan tayang “alang modu.”
“Modo”, in Spanish, means ways of proceeding,
proper protocols to be followed.
In language familiar to the older ones,
“modo” is something akin to good manners and right conduct.
“Alang modo”, therefore, means absence of basic decency
and lack of moral sensitivity.

“Maganaca”, on the other hand, means to live
according to non-negotiable moral standards.
We are sometimes tempted to measure the bad that we do
against the worse things other people commit.
The worse actions that others do
comparatively make my bad actions appear more “morally good.”
Pocketing a thousand pesos is not so bad,
compared to people who rack in millions.

Being late 10 mintues for work
is better than coming in an hour late.
Tabu-tabu mu naman ing kanaku,
ing kaya saku-saku.
This kind of modifiable, adjustable “de goma” ethics
has made almost all wrong doing completely justifiable.

Teddy Locsin Jr, who was Cory’s executive secretary,
has this to say about his former boss:
“There are people who,
just by being there and being themselves,
shape the world around them in deep and enduring ways.”
In the company of Cory, Teddy Locsin confesses,
it is difficult not to be good.

Sana naman pagsumikapan dang maging maganaka mu naman
ding kayabe yu uling atyu kayu.
Your presence facilitates the flourishing of basic decency,
because you try your best to live by it.

Maganaca.
A “ganaka” that is not simply the fruit of one’s personal exertion,
but something borne out of spiritual connectedness
to Someone larger than ourselves
and to whom we are fundamentally accountable.
Call it God, or Allah, or the Transcendent One.
It really does not matter, ultimately.
It behooves us to look for a deserted place once in a while
where we can be in solitude,
and commune with what is deepest in ourselves.
We need to have, as St. Thomas Aquinas puts it, a vacancy for God.
We need to get in touch with this inner sanctum,
this holy, empty space in human life
where only God may enter and which only God can fill.

A life without such a lonely place,
a life without a quiet center easily becomes destructive.

Ing maganaca, atin yang modo.
Maralas, in modo ning maganaca,
yang modo ning Apung Ginu.

Maging maganaca. Be men and women of virtue.

Third and last: Mayap, e digpa ning mayap.

One of the most important contributions of postmodern culture
to bring back to our awareness that
everything that exists is part of one interconnected whole.
That indeed we are a WWW: world-wide web.

That all things are connected.
Intertwined.
And we forget this essential truth only at our own peril.

Being “mayap” means the ability
to go beyond and above one’s self-interests.
To be “mayap” means the capacity for solidarity.
And what else is solidarity
other than the hard-nosed commitment to the common good.

You happen to graduate from a university.
Universe. University. Universality.
All these come from the same root word which means:
all things, everybody, all people, the whole world.
And since you came from and studied in a university,
you are in a better position to
think universe,
think world,
think country,
think nation.
Not just about your self—
your self-image,
your self-fulfillment,
your self-advancement,
and self-preservation.

We all know that this country
would have been better off
if we have paid more attention to the common good.
Perhaps there would be less corruption.
Perhaps there would be less poverty
and less street children.
Perhaps there would be less unemployment.
Perhaps such waste could have been transformed
into better opportunities for many.

“Digpa na ka ning mayap” is a kapampangan expression
usually uttered to someone
who has breached the borders of social etiquette,
or violated a social convention:
Damdaman me ini potang medyu makapal na ka lupa,
at ala na kang kamarinayan.
It is said to someone
who thinks something is owed to him by life in general,
and has a huge sense of entitlement,
often committed at the expense of the larger good.

The greatest insult that can ever be thrown at you
is when somebody says this to you:
“Digpa na ka ning mayap,
megaral ka pa mo Assumption!”

Only people with a firm commitment to the common good
can be genuine nation-builders.
And only genuine nation-builders
can rightfully sing the “pambansang awit ng Pilipinas”
because they alone can offer their lives for the country.
“Ang mamatay nang dahil sa ‘yo!”

Maging mayap. Be men and women of community.

It is probably providential that your batch
has been entrusted to the care of St. Symmachus,
whose work and solicitude for the poor and the afflicted was well-known.
Today we need servant-leaders more than ever,
people whose priorities are wider than their own little selves.

Graduates who are driven by the right values
and committed to the mission of nation-building:
this is the challenge that is being posed before you by the present time.
And we, your elders, are more than confident
that you will heed the call of your generation
and respond to it with competence, with character, and with commitment.

There is supposedly a difference between
a VALUE DESIRED (a value that a person wants to live out)
and a VALUE FORMED (a value that a person actually lives out and practices).
Thus there is that sad possibility
in which a value desired is not always the value formed.
We are hoping that in your case,
the values desired and the values formed are one and the same.

E mu kabud biasa
E mu kabud maganaca
E mu kabud mayap.
Nune, biasa, maganaca, mayap.

Before I end, let me make one final request:
that you remember UA with fondness in your prayers.
To remember your professors,
the non-teaching staff and personnel,
and everybody else who helped you
make the journey less burdensome.
And when at one point,
you will experience the dreariness of routinary work,
and the burden of a flagging spirit,
feel free to come back home
and revitalize the idealism you once had
and relive the dreams you once cherished.

And remember, always be proud to be an Assumptionist!
Congratulations and Best Wishes.
Hail Assumption!

UAGS 50th Anniversary Grand Alumni Homecoming

To all UAGS alumni
alumni officers and organizers,
former and present administrators,
former and present faculty members and staff,
friends and guests:
GOOD AFTERNOON AND HAPPY GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY
to the University of the Assumption Grade School!

We seldom hold Grade School homecomings.
I, for one, have never heard, never been invited to, much less attended a GS homecoming.
We hear, organize and attend high school and college reunions and homecomings.
But homecoming among grade school batches and classmates?
Therefore, I would like to thank and salute the organizers of this event.
I’m sure this gathering was the fruit of countless meetings, late night planning,
networking, text and social media blasts, personal follow-ups,
just to see it through.
What about a big hand to the organizers!

Just a few thoughts on the gospel reading for the 3rd Sunday of Easter
and on the occasion of UAGS 50th Anniversary Grand Alumni Homecoming.

All of us must have heard about Alzheimer’s disease,
a brain disease that slowly destroys memory and other mental functions.
My first encounter with the reality of this disease was through a classmate.
Three years ago, I was in Cebu,
together with 6 other batchmates
to celebrate our silver anniversary as priests.
We were ordained in 1988.
My classmate’s father has married twice.
His first wife died after giving birth to their first child.
He soon remarried and had another child—
This only child by his second wife is my classmate – Fr. Mon.
Early on Fr Mon and his mom noticed on the father
what seemed to be the firsts signs of a memory problem:
forgetting names of otherwise familiar people,
forgetting important dates or events,
asking for the same information over and over,
forgetting about the water he was boiling which almost set the house on fire.
Fr. Mon tells me that Alzheimer’s is degenerative when it comes to memory loss:
slowly eroding and wasting away memories from the most recent to the earliest.
from the past 10 years, and then the next 20 years,
until one’s memory is blank, like a reformatted hard drive.

Loss of memory can inflict so much emotional pain.
Fr. Mon’s mother felt the first stab of pain caused by memory loss
when the father began calling Fr. Mon’s mom – the second wife –
by the name of the first wife.
I love you Inday, he would say endearingly –
when her lving wife’s name is Anna.
Is it only a loss of memory?
Is he referring and talking to the same person, called by another name?
Or is it not only a loss of memory but a complete dissipation of love as well.

Sorry to start this sharing with alzheimer’s disease.
The only point I want to put across is:
what brings us together this afternoon is a common memory.
We are gathered because of a common experience.
The common story, the common narrative that weaves our lives
is what we want to retell and retell so as not to forget.
We are connected much like a rosary –
with rich, unforgettable individual and group experiences,
punctuated by significant people.
It would be such a pity if such a common memory is loss.
Once memory is lost, everything is lost.

The central character in our gospel for this Sunday, as expected, is Peter.
Peter followed Jesus in his public ministry.
He witnessed Jesus healing people,
performing wonders,
forgiving sinners and tax collecters,
mingling with people whom society abhorred and pushed aside.
At around the time Jesus was about to be arrested,
Peter promised that he would never leave his Lord,
even to the point of sacrificing his own life.
All of a sudden, Peter denied Jesus three times.

In our gospel today, Jesus asked Peter: “do you love me?” three times.
perhaps to remind Peter that he had committed mistakes,
but also to make him believe that he, Peter, has been forgiven, and all is well.

We all know that Peter finally offered his life for his Lord.
Opting to be crucified upside down
as he was unworthy to be crucified
in the same position as Jesus
who loved him and gave himself up for him.
Why did Peter offer his life?
I think it was because of his memory
of being forgiven and loved without limits.

I wonder if Peter would have offered his life
had he been, early on, inflicted with Alzheimer’s disease.

Only people who remember give thanks.
Forgetful people are never, can never be grateful.
Gratitude, it is said, is the memory of the heart.
It is not something we do.
something we express or something we feel.
Gratitude, at its deepest, is something that we are.
Meister Eckart reminds us:
If the only prayer we said in our whole life was, “thank you,”
it woud have sufficed.

Today we are not only gathered by a common memory.
We also gather around a common memorial – the eucharist.
“Do this in memory of me” – Jesus commanded us.
And what more could be most expressive of our gratitude
than offering the greatest act of thanksgiving for us Christians?

In this mass therefore we call to memory
and thank God for the blessings of the past 50 years.
We thank God for our teachers:
who, unfortnately in this country, are always under-appreciated.
We thank them for their ability to recognize potential
and help people make them real.
They are indeed the backbone that sustained UAGS in all those years.
UAGS is what it is today,
we are what we are today,
because we have had great teachers.

Of course we remember in a special way
the person who started it all: the late Bishop Emilio Cinense.
Only by hindsight can one really appreciate the vision of this man of God.
He easily recognized the pivotal role education plays
in the creation of “a new heart and a new spirit” (cor novum, spiritus novus).
Indeed, the formation of a new heart and a new spirit
starts not in high school, not in college,
but at its most foundational and elementary stage: grade school.

We also thank the non-teaching staff and personnel
who have been an important part of the UAGS for the past 50 years.
While, most of the time, they have been working behind the scenes
their contribution to the formation of thousands of UAGS students
has been and will remain invaluable.

Lastly, I’d like to sincerely thank you
all you alumni of UAGS for your continued support and trust.
In a very true sense, you are our best advertisers and endorsers
of the quality education that UAGS provides.
A school is only as good as the alumni it produces.
And for the past 50 years
you have been shining testimonies
of the enduring validity of UAGS vision and mission.

A little over a week ago, we held the UAGS graduation ceremony.
As I stood shaking the hands of these little graduates,
I always wonder what they would become in the future.

Perhaps that was the same feeling of the ones
who shook your hands at graduation many, many years ago.
Who would have thought at that early age,
that some would turn out to be business people,
doctors, nurses, engineers, bankers, teachers, priests, etc.
contributing in their own unique ways
in making a part of this world a better place.
And it all began in a school community called UAGS.

The late Jaime Cardinal Sin
on the occasion of his 50th anniversary as a priest said:
At 25, I had my silver.
At 30, I had my pearl.
At 40, I had ruby.
And now at 50, I have my gold.
I consider myself rich, he said,
I am a “bejewelled man.”

UAGS is proud of its priceless jewels:
the memories of teachers, personnel,
alumni and students for the past 50 years.
Memories which, hopefully, not even
an Alzheimer’s disease can take away.
but memories which will tide us over the next 50!

CONGRATULATIONS AND MORE POWER UA GRADE SCHOOL!
HAIL ASSUMPTION!