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The WORD. The TRUTH.

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Homily for Thursday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time, Feast of Sts. Simon & Jude, Apostles, 28 October 2021, Luke 6:12-16

I wonder if you are aware that there are many undocumented Filipinos in the Philippines. I am not kidding. I know that the term “undocumented Filipinos” is usually referring to fellow Pinoys living and working as illegal aliens in foreign countries. Yes, the ones we call TnT (meaning, Tago nang Tago).

It was not until I became bishop of Kalookan that I came to know about undocumented Filipinos in the Philippines. And of all people, it is embarrassing to note that it was through a group of Korean sisters working in our diocese that I learned about it. The Sisters are running a pre-school for poor and indigent children in one of our parishes in Navotas. They were shocked to find out that after pre-school, around 20 percent of the children could not be enrolled in the public elementary schools because they were UNDOCUMENTED. They had no birth certificate or any form of identity to present.

Many children in our slum communities are not born in hospitals or in health centers. Some of them are born at home with the assistance of a midwife. The midwife is required by law to have them registered, but if the family is unable to pay even the services of a widwife, why would they even bother to have their babies registered?

The consequences for the children are terrible. The children grow up like non-entities. They are like non-citizens in their own country. They cannot avail themselves of public services because they don’t have any form of identification. Strictly speaking, because their names are not listed in the National Statistics Office, they are not even counted in the national population.

This is what came to my mind while reflecting on our first reading today from Ephesians 2:19-22. Paul says, “You are no longer to be regarded as illegal aliens or non-residents.”

The concept of CITIZENSHIP was a very restictive thing in the more advanced civilizations like the Hellenistic or the Roman empires in the first century.

When St. Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, the arresting officers were shocked to find out that he was a Roman citizen. They immediately treated him with deference. They knew he had legal rights that were protected y the Roman empire, and that he was entitled to due process by appealing to his Roman CITIZENSHIP.

The concept of CITIZEN was limited to a certain privileged elite in his time. It could either be obtained by birth or paid for with a huge amount of money. Only citizens had rights. The rest were like the Gypsies of Europe, or the Rohingyas of Myanmar, or the Untouchables of India, or the Burakamins of Japan in earlier times.

The Gospel for today’s feast of the Holy Apostles Simon and Jude is Luke’s story of Jesus choosing twelve from among his disciples and calling them apostles, meaning, sent out on a mission. What is their mission about? It is about reaching out to the disenfranchized, the non-entities in the Jewish society and telling them they counted too, that in the eyes of God they were also citizens.

Christianity is founded on the belief that every human being is naturally endowed with dignity and has a lofty calling. That God, unlike human societies, does not discriminate. He calls of us to be his children. He excludes nobody.

St. Paul creates a vocabulary for this apostolic mission. It is about reaching out to the non-entities, those who do not matter in society, those who live at the margins (mga nasa laylayan). Their apostolic advocacy was, as it were, to work for their citizenship. He says, “You are fellow citizens of the Holy Ones and members of the household of God.”

For the apostles, this is the summary of the good news of the kingdom of God. While citizenship among earthly kingdoms is valid or recognized only within the boundaries of those kingdoms, this citizenship offered by Jesus goes beyond the boundaries of nations, or even of this world.

This is a very radical thought, and a very consoling one too, especially for us who have just lost a loved one, my brother Dante who succumbed to Covid last night. He was a lawyer and was an advocate of the rights of the disadvantaged in society. We draw comfort from the thought that he has obtained a borderless kind of citizenship, the kind that our holy apostles St. Simon and Jude were advocates of.

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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