Strength from God’s Word

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Manuel V. Francisco, S.J. -

To build our house on rock is to anchor our lives in Jesus, which entails not only hearing His Word, but also acting upon it. By mooring our lives upon Jesus, which involves both reception and action, our Lord assures us that the fiercest tempests will not be able to buffet and uproot us. Instead, being entrenched in God’s Word will give us a resilience and strength beyond our capacities.

Strength to Confront Enemies. I met Gayyum Accatan, elderly Provincial Board Member of Ifugao, when I, as a newly ordained priest, was missioned to Kiangan, Ifugao. My parishioners said that before my tenure, the NPAs had overrun their most distant barrio, Camandag, forcing the people to abandon their homes and fields and to seek refuge in the Poblacion, a ten-hour hike through the mountains. The story goes that Gayyum challenged the men of her town, “We cannot allow the NPAs to take control of our land. We must evict them.” But her indignation fell on deaf ears. No one dared confront the NPAs. Hence, Gayyum trekked by her lonesome self to Camandag, and like a grandmother scolding her apo, berated the NPAs: “Why are you disturbing our peace. Leave our land. Leave us alone.” She returned to the Poblacion triumphant. The NPAs departed in peace and the people of Camandag returned to their village.

Strength to Forgive. A woman very close to me wrestled with whether or not to visit her husband who had abandoned her 20 years earlier and who now was in a critical condition. Despite being prodded by her family and friends to visit her dying spouse, she refused and resisted. A few days later she asked me to accompany her to visit her husband. After not having seen her in years, in garbled speech, he said, “Ang ganda mo pa rin.” They both smiled tentatively, yet tenderly. Then he humbly said, “Patawarin mo ako sa lahat ng nagawa ko sa yo.” Gingerly, she tapped his hand and, beyond her expectation, said (as she told me after her visit), “Matagal ko nang nilimot yon lahat.” Tears welled up in her husband’s eyes as he smiled radiantly, perhaps incredulous to have been forgiven gratuitously. Several days later, he passed away.

Strength to Hope Against all Hope. As former president Corazon Aquino battles colon cancer, I continue to be edified by her unshakeable faith in and humble resignation to God. At the height of the Hello Garci controversy, Tita Cory was one of the first public figures to call for GMA’s resignation. Her call was not supported by swelling millions. In fact she was derided for linking arms with Susan Roces and Bro. Eddie Villanueva and mingling with shady leftists and rightists, as they marched to the Batasan to pressure our lawmakers to initiate an impeachment proceeding against the President.

I was with her in that march. As the crowds swelled and the narrow road to the Batasan tightened, at one juncture, Lacson and his supporters forced their way into the ranks of Tita Cory and company. The next day, the newspapers splashed photos of Tita Cory with Susan Roces, Bro. Eddie Villanueva and Ping Lacson, suggesting that she had allied herself with all of them indiscriminately.

Despite all the attacks from columnists and the derision of many among the middle forces, Tita Cory remained indefatigable, her spirit unbroken. She told me, “Whether there are ten people or a million people walking with me, I will continue to express my convictions. I will remain true to my beliefs.”

What is common among these three women of moral strength? They were (because Gayyum Accatan has passed away) daily Mass-goers. They heard God’s Word and chewed upon it daily, allowing God’s Word to comfort, confound and challenge them; heal, empower and sustain them. Moreover, they were all dedicated to Mary and her rosary. Daily, they reflected upon the mysteries of the life of Jesus, and through this constant process, became more and more conformed to Him whom they loved and adored.

These three women who built their houses on Jesus the true rock and foundation of human existence, not only received His Word, but also bore witness to His life and values. By doing so, they have become life-giving word to others.

(Fr. Manoling Francisco is a prolific composer of liturgical music and serves on the faculty of the Loyola School of Theology. For feedback on this column, email tinigloyola @yahoo.com)









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