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A Celebration of Mission, Finding God

Today is the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord Jesus Christ, the first Sunday of 2013, and the first Mission Core Assembly this year. Among my commitments this year is to faithfully attend MC assemblies and teachings and be present in most, if not all, of the activities of the ministry. I'll be honest that it's a little tiring sometimes, especially when you have to wake up early on Sundays. But the little sacrifices that I have to make are nothing compared to the spiritual nourishment that I will definitely gain. And so today, allow me to share the beautiful homily of Fr. Benedicto Lagarde Jr. :)

The Gospel is taken from Matthew 2:1-2.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." 

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet: 'And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; since from you shall come a ruler, who is to shepherd my people Israel.'"

Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from them the time of the star's appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage." 

After their audience with the king they set out. And behold, the star that they had seen at its rising preceded them, until it came and stopped over the place where the child was. They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 

And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Fr. Lagarde began his homily by reading again and stressing the last sentence of the Gospel: And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.

Once the magi encountered the King, the Incarnate Son of God, they were changed. They did not go back to the old way, instead they departed for their country by another way. Fr. Lagarde explained that a genuine experience of God leads to renewal and conversion. When we encounter God, we are pushed, impelled, and inspired to take another path, live a new life. The question is have we been transformed by our encounter with Christ? 

Fr. Lagarde further added that we cannot proclaim our identity (children and heirs of God) unless we are transformed, unless we take the path of mission. He then declared that the celebration of epiphany is a great feast of mission. He challenged everyone to reflect and be deeply troubled if they realize that they're not doing God's mission. He said that an encounter with Christ should not remain in the personal level, rather it must be shared, especially to the poor. One striking statement he mentioned was this: "God is on the side of the poor not because they are more morally upright than the rich, but because more often than not, they have nobody else on their side.

Then he gave a little review of missiology by sharing these helpful and humbling reminders: 
  •  Wherever you go, appreciate God's bounty in what the people offer you, and don't ever think that you are the messenger of the Good News, because God is already there even before you speak about Him.
  • Learn  to speak the people's language. More than grammar, understand their language of hope, of their aspirations, and their quest for God.
  • Love the people who inhabits the land where God sends you, no matter who and what they are
  • Poverty is not God's big dream, rather a life of bounty
  • During moments of weakness and confusion, simply declare this: "This is not my mission. This is God's mission."
He then encouraged everyone to pray for our leaders that they may have God's wisdom and the gift of fortitude. 

His homily was so beautiful and insightful that I felt like I was in either a recollection or a retreat. He apologized for taking so much time but I really didn't notice it was that lengthy. I enjoyed every moment of it and I listened intently because I didn't want to miss a single word. I guess he's right when he said that "it takes a missionary to speak in real terms with fellow missionaries." I truly felt that his homily was God's personal message and reminder to me. 

Praise God for our priests and the religious who have chosen to take the road less traveled. They have sacrificed a lot just to be able to imitate and share Christ. They are the true living witnesses of deep faith, unwavering hope, and selfless love. 

Let me end with a photo I took during the UP Lantern Parade held last December 14, 2012. Fr. Lagarde ended the mass by leading the crowd in declaring this powerful statement: "Mahal ako ng Diyos, hindi Niya ako pababayaan." I end this post with my own version of that statement: "Mahal ako ng Diyos, hindi Niya ako pababayaan. Ang kailangan ko lang ay hanapin Siya." 

(Jeremiah 29:13 says: "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.")

We can never be wise enough. We still need God. :)

P.S. To know more about Fr. Lagarde and the Missionaries of Jesus, you can visit their website here: http://fnd2006.blogspot.com/2007/06/mj-community.html. :)

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