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Moments

‘Bravehearts’

The story is told about a senior citizen, who, while driving, received a frantic call from his wife. “Honey, be careful!” the wife said. “I just heard on the evening news that there’s a car doing a counterflow, going in the opposite lane on the expressway!” “Gosh,” he said. “It’s not just one car, there are hundreds of them!”

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In today’s Gospel (Mark 1, 21-28), we hear how Jesus went against the flow, and astonished His listeners with His message and His ministry. All were amazed by how He taught with authority, and how powerfully He performed His ministry. Here was someone who was not afraid of public opinion, and whose only agenda was to please the Father and not Himself, or the people around Him, or the institutions that controlled Him.

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There is a thin line between fame and shame. A tree that bears much fruit will eventually be stoned. Rightly or wrongly, what matters most is that we stand our ground, and speak our mind, and continue with our mission, in spite of opposition and persecution. Jesus was one big “Braveheart”—unafraid, ready and willing to stand up for what is good and what is right.

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The “Fallen 44,” the police commandos who were killed in Mindanao last week, were “bravehearts.” They went to do their mission, in line with their commitment to serve our people and our nation. There are many questions left unanswered, and many speculations and suspicions. Suffice it to say that these ordinary people from the rank and file are indeed heroes of our nation. I hope and pray that they were not mere pawns used for the personal, financial, or political aggrandizement of individuals blinded with greed and ambition. To the Fallen 44, fame! To their users and abusers, shame!

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Villamor Air Base a couple of weeks ago was such a heartwarming sight, with the arrival and departure of Pope Francis. But last Jan. 29, it was such a sorrowful sight with the arrival of the metal caskets of the police commandos who perished in the line of duty. There are no words that we can say. The Pope taught us that in such moments, all we can do is be silent, cry and pray. Those who think they can “fix,” remedy, or manipulate such moments, please shut up. Just be quiet. Just be there. You don’t have to say much. You don’t even have to say anything.

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A Chinese proverb says: “He who blames others has still a long way to go in his journey; he who blames himself has arrived.” Blaming persons or situations is a sign of weakness and insecurity. Jesus did not blame people or situations for what came to pass. He took full responsibility and suffered the consequences of His words and actions. As I would put it, in a game of tennis, blame neither the racket nor the wind for every point lost or gained. Yes, if you face the light, your shadow is behind you.

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Jesus was a leader who stood for us, sacrificed for us, and even died for us. We need leaders, not managers who just use or manipulate us. Pope Francis, following the example of his Master, is such a leader. Yes, beyond managerial skills and finesse, we need leaders who have a heart. We need so much, in our present day and time, “bravehearts”! “Bravehearts”!

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Wow, it’s February again! How time flies! The message for all of us is that life is short. What are we doing the rest of our lives? Staying on in our comfort zones? Prolonging our lives to enjoy and become more comfortable? Jesus has shown us the way, the truth and the life, and that, indeed, true living is all about giving, sacrificing and sharing. Pope Francis has shown us the way. The Fallen 44 have shown us the way. Shame on those who point us the other way.

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A prayer for those who have gone ahead of us: “We seem to give them back to You, O God, who gave them to us. Yet as You didn’t lose them in giving, so we do not lose them by their return. Not as the world gives do You give, o Lover of souls. What You give You take not away, for what is Yours is ours also if we are Yours. And life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only an horizon, and an horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight. Lift us up, strong Son of God, that we may see further; cleanse our eyes that we may see more clearly; draw us closer to Yourself that we may know ourselves to be nearer our loved ones who are with You. And while you do prepare a place for us, prepare us also for that happy place, that where You are, we may also be forever more.” (Fr. Bede Jarrett, OP)

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“Moments” bring us to another moment in February. Fr. Nicolas Sengson, SVD, my classmate during our formation years, is in town (from his SVD mission in Quebec, Canada) because he is being honored as the Filipino composer at the 40th International Bamboo Organ Festival. Father Nico’s original work, titled “Exodus,” features sacred rhapsodies celebrating the liturgical cycle of the Resurrection. Each evening promises to be a journey of faith through music. The festival premieres with selected works from J.S. Bach and concludes with Father Nico’s “Exodus” (Feb. 26 and 27). My composer-classmate has entrusted the performance of his work to the artistic expertise of Prof. Eudenice Palaruan, music director and conductor, and a selection of renowned artists, soloists, choirs and members of the Manila Symphony Orchestra. Venue is St. Joseph Parish Church in Las Piñas City. For inquiries, please log on to www.bambooorgan.org.

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, teach us to become not only holy hearts but also “bravehearts.” Amen.

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