GOD’S WORD TODAY - Ruben M. Tanseco S.J. - The Philippine Star

Transfiguration is transformation. Jesus went through his persecutions, passion and death before his resurrection. It was the resurrected Christ that Peter, James, and John witnessed as the transfigured Christ. And this was how disciples of Christ were called by God to follow him. They heard God’s voice speaking to them: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased: listen to him. . . . Rise, and do not be afraid. . . .” (Mt. 5:5,7) And so they did. They likewise carried their crosses in preaching the Gospel, and died for the sake of Christ, only to be followed by a new life with God.

The ever-loving God the Father joined us here on earth as the ever-loving God the Son to be our guide and companion. We are all lovingly invited to follow his human way of living, and not to be afraid. As St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading: “Beloved: Bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God” (2 Tim. 1:8). The spiritual author William Maestri describes it this way: “All of the glory and exultation is set within the context of the passion and death of Jesus. There is no promise of cheap grace. The holy life to which we are called requires a willingness to suffer and die in Christ so as to rise with him.” (Grace Upon Grace p.24).

Today is the anniversary of the canonization of two saints: St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier, who were both canonized in 1622. Allow me to focus briefly on each one of them in connection with today’s liturgical teachings. Faith-Cross-Resurrection.

St. Ignatius belonged to a noble Basque family, with all its wealth, power, and political influence. As an adult, he was a soldier in the service of the Spanish King. During a battle in defense of Pamplona against the French, he was hit on the leg by a cannonball and was seriously wounded. He went through several operations, followed by a prolonged convalescence. One can just imagine the human suffering that he went through. Physical, psychological, emotional, and what-have-you. To spend his time, he requested reading material, preferably chivalrous romances that he was fond of. But there was non available. Instead, he ended up by reading the lives of saints that were available. In God’s plan, such was the beginning of his spiritual conversion. This went so deep that when he was already physically well, he went on a pilgrimage to Montserrat. Later on, he proceeded to Manresa, and there was where he spent several months of solitary spiritual retreat. This brought him to the conviction of becoming a priest. To make the long story short, he eventually formed a new religious Order which was no less than the Society of Jesus. But in time, their ways of doing things were opposed by other groups in the Catholic Church. Ignatius himself was not free from such controversy. In due time, this controversy subsided, and the Jesuit Order continued to work and spread in different parts of the world. One of the most significant contributions of St. Ignatius to the Church was his Spiritual Exercises, a thirty-day retreat, which was very much appreciated, as it is today.

St. Francis Xavier was one of the original companions of St. Ignatius. His 15-month voyage to Goa was the beginning of a marvelous missionary journey that lasted 11 years. From Goa, Francis did missionary work along the southern coasts of India, and after that, he explored other islands in Southern Asia. Then he proceeded to Japan. Let me quote here what he wrote to Ignatius: “It seems to me that we shall never find . . . another race to equal the Japanese. They are a people of very good manners. . . . They are men of honor to a marvel, and prize honor above all else, in the world. . . . They like to hear things propounded according to reason; and, granted that their sins and vices among them, when one reasons with them, pointing out that what they do is evil, they are convinced by this reasoning.” (From R. Ellsberg, All Saints, 1999, p. 528). He then planned to proceed to China, a very daring challenge indeed, but he became seriously ill. He suffered so much, and passed away at the age of 46. Quite young, indeed. But he had done so much mission work by that time.

Uncanonized saints. Coming now to our own country, we just commemorated a couple of weeks ago our incredible People Power Revolution at Edsa last February 1986. Armed with God’s support, our human love for one another, for peace, unity, and justice, we were able to end a twenty-year rule of dictatorship and martial law, and restore our country’s democracy. The rich and the poor, the old and the young, families and communities – we were all there as one, huge family of God.

This year’s commemoration inspired Arch. Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines, to write a letter to the late Cardinal Jaime Sin, who was an active leader of our Edsa revolution. Let me quote just a part of that inspiring letter:

“For Edsa is not about the enemies of peace and democracy but the faith and bravery of a people who called upon the Lord in their distress and whose cry the Lord has heard from heaven. Edsa is our people’s cry and our God’s loving reply. . . . Against all odds, Cardinal Sin, we will remember. We will give thanks. We will challenge ourselves to live for God and to live for country as you did.”

In this connection, let me just single out our Vice President Leni Robredo and our former President Benigno Aquino III in reminding all of us to be aware that “the fight is not over.”


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