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Feast of St. Aloysius Gonzaga

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HOMILY
HIS EMINENCE LUIS ANTONIO CARDINAL TAGLE
JUNE 21, 2017

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ we give thanks and praise to God on this beautiful day. God has gathered us as one family, as one community of faith. We thank God for the gift of St. Aloysius Gonzaga to the church whose memorial we celebrate today. The Patron of the youth, so it’s good to see a good number of young people here. It is your feast today too. And because of his life as a Jesuit scholastic and later on who served the people who were suffering from the plague. He died because he contracted the plague. He has been declared also the patron of HIV-AIDS patients and those who take care of HIV aids patients.

This celebration has become quite big, I thought it would be a simple celebration but I will pray for you. But what a great surprise, We have the Cardinal Archbishop of Durban, South Africa with us, His Eminence Cardinal Wilfrid Fox Napier, OFM, thank you. He’s here in the Philippines to attend the Congress and wow what a beautiful coincidence. And of course we have in our midst ang pinagbubunyi ng langit at lupa, ang kanyang Kabunyian Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, our Emeritus. Now I see some other faces here, we have Archbishop John Du of Palo Leyte, Bishop Ted Bacani, our emeritus. My tukayo Jose Luis Ponce de Leon, he’s a bishop in Swaziland, South Africa. Thank you. The Vicar Emeritus of Puerto Princesa, Bishop Pedro Arigo. I don’t do the first name but Bishop Norris from Kenya also. The bishop of Imus, Bishop Rey Evangelista, the bishop of Caloocan, Bishop Ambo David and we have the two Monsignors working in the Apostolic Nunciature.The Apostolic Nuncio could not join us this morning, Monsignor Crispin and Monseñor Arnaldo. Thank you. We have our brother priests here and religious.
We have in our midst also Father Alexei, he is a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church. Welcome Father.
And some Pastors of the UCCP say that they would come I don’t know whether they are here, Welcome.

I don’t know whether Father John of the Greek Orthodox Church is with us, he sent a message.
God bless you Father John. Now where is this homily going?

I really do not know but let me start with the day. It’s June 21st, it’s summer solstice. It is supposed to be the longest day of the year so the night will be very short but from starting tomorrow the nights will start getting longer so this is the longest day of the year, summer solstice. It’s all about the tilting of the earth. I don’t know how they measure it but the tilting that affects in a way, the distance between the Equator and the Sun. And in the Northern hemisphere there is a certain tilt that makes this day the longest day. But in the south this is winter solstice probably.
They start also having the longest day. Even the earth, the solar system, they all engage in movement in what we could probably call a pilgrimage. The saint of today, Saint Aloysius had to experience his own tilting and moving around the sun. He belong to a noble family but then he abandoned, he let go of a promising military and royal career in the court, the royal court because he met the Jesuits. It’s dangerous to get to know Jesuits, they distrupt the movement, the pilgrimage of your life and it happened to him.

At first his family could not accept it but he prevailed and who would think that the son whom they thought would promote the family military exploits would become a Saint? He served among the poor, he served especially those who were dying of the plague. A pilgrimage, a change in the tilt from your equator towards the sun.

And today we remember Cardinal Jaime Sin whose pilgrimage of life and ministry led to union with the son. Encountering the never-ending day twelve years ago in this same day. When I woke up this morning, I was surprised to read and email from my former professor, Dr. Joseph who guided me in my doctoral work. He said that he found out though social media that I was turning 60 and he said, I could not pass this day without greeting you.
I’ve been following your speeches and your publications. I would like to contribute something to you. It is a reflection based on St. Agustine about pilgrimage. I almost collapsed I said, I was thinking of reflecting on pilgrimage and here comes an email about pilgrimage. But in St. Agustine he says, Pilgrimage (pellegrinaggio) is not properly translated in the English word “pilgrimage”. In fact he said “pellegrinaggio” is about always feeling a stranger
which is the human condition. You’re always looking for home and that is the story of life. An experience of being in exile and that’s the most important pilgrimage- to go home. But where is home? The readings for today lead us into this experience of exile and by touching bays on that experience of exile, of being a stranger, an alien in this world even in your own life then you hope to make your journey. You will like the earth- experience some tilts here and there. There will be long days, there will be very long nights but the important pilgrimage is going within.

St. Paul tells the Corinthians, “God loves a cheerful giver”. Giving not only externally but how about the heart?
Is it cheerful? Sometimes the physical action does not match the inner disposition. My hand gives something but in my heart I say, Bakit ba hingi nang hingi? I could give externally but is my heart in exile? Is my heart finding my physical action strange? And Jesus addresses that. Externally we do good works. Praying, alms giving, fasting but Jesus says,“check your heart”. Don’t only ask about the destination of my action, the pilgrimage of the alms I have given, the destination of my prayer, the destination of my fasting but how about your inner pilgrimage?
He proposes doing all of these things in secret, in invisibility. He does not tell us to stop praying, giving alms,
or fasting but he is saying do it interiorly too. Do it invisibly meaning, do it from the heart.

It could happen that I am not at home in my heart when I am doing an external action. My heart is not at home in my external action and so I am in exile really. I am truly in exile. I am not at home. I could not understand my prayer. I could not understand my alms giving. In fact sometimes I maybe even resist my own fasting.
I am in exile in the heart and that disconnect. That exile experience is what Jesus calls “hypocrisy”.
Doing external things but in the heart it is not doing good but drawing attention to myself. Notice me, paise me,
so prayer is not about my communion with God but about me. Almsgiving is not about the poor and the people I am serving but about me. Fasting is not about trusting in the Lord but about me losing some. Tama na. I am in exile and I need to come home. I need to come home and do it before God invisibly, interiorly. This is the most painful type of exile, when the heart is not the home of the values that my hands and my body profess to express. Go home to the Father. It is by going to the heart, returning to the heart. Shut your door, go to your heart. See there the values that the Father wants to see and from that return to the heart, sursum corda. Lift up your hands to that pilgrimage where the Father who matters the most could accept your pilgrimage. It’s the longest day. It’s the feast of this great pilgrim Aloysius Gonzaga and our readings are inviting us, continue your pilgrimage and when you experience a sense of exile, it’s the time to go home to your heart. Return to your heart and from your heart lift up yourself to the Father. And that is your reward. The Father who sees in secret will be given a fitting worship. We need this experience of exile that disturbs so that we would take the courage to embark in an interior pilgrimage called integrity, honesty. Hypocrisy is play- acting but it is play- acting that causes dichotomy because I play a role but in my heart I don’t believe in the role. Lives are ruined by such play- acting. Communities are ruined, families are ruined, nations are ruined by hypocrisy but there is hope. As the earth continues to tilt towards the sun, could we also tilt towards the Son Jesus? And in secret, in the secret of our hearts, start this pilgrimage so that we would be exile no longer.
Exiles to ourselves, exile to Jesus, exile to humanity.

Siguro sabi ninyo napaka seryoso naman, seryoso ho naman talaga ang buhay. At maraming salamat dito sa mga kapatid natin sa Tulay ng Kabataan, Yung mga kabataan din at hindi na bata ng Sanlakbay, yung ating Parish Drug Rehab Program.

Salamat, kita niyo sila, the pilgrimage of life, samahan natin sila sa kanilang paglalakbay. Ang kanilang paglalakbay, ang kanilang mga pilgrimage, umuwi sa exile. Walang pamilya, walang nag-aalaga, walang gumagalang pero napakabait ng Diyos. It is God who really is the cheerful giver. He constantly sows seeds of righteousness in our hearts. We are not the cheerful givers, it is God. We need to be cheerful recipients of what God gives and then by sharing them we will have so many beautiful people who will claim we are not an exile anymore.
Nakakatuwa kasama natin sila, huwag kayong susuko. Talagang ang buhay ay ganyan, sana humaba ang inyong mga araw. Let me close with a bit of personal sharing, I did not want to do this pero parang interesado din kayo sa akin hindi lang naman kay San Luis Gonzaga?

Pero masyadong mahaba na yung 60 years I cannot do it. Let me just highlight something here though it still remains a mystery to me, I guess everyone celebrating one’s birthday is in touch with that mysterious pilgrimage. This morning I got a letter from my mother, sinulatan ako, buti na lang natatandaan pa niya and I think she wrote it before she forgets many things.

I want to tell you how you were born. How I gave birth to you 60 years ago. And she said na parang overdue.
I did not want to get out- that was her expression. “You did not want to get out”. Parang probably I felt so comfortable in the womb. I think they were expecting me to get out on the 13th of June, St. Anthony. Kaya may Antonio but I refused to get out and she said her father, my grandfather Lolo Kima gave her some herbal tea- Chinese herbal tea to drink para mapanganak na and she was ask to walk and then her Aunt told her “sige push, push, push”, then she tried and then, “You came out around noon” and I checked today summer solstice is at 12 noon and 20 minutes later. Kaya pala hindi ako natutulog, “You came out”, then she said, “Who would think that you would become a religious personality” and then sabi niya, “Cardinal pa!”. But it’s good. That’s how I began my life here on earth. I did not want to go out. I didn’t want to face the world and now look at me. I’m always being thrown out, “Go there, go there”. And to tell you the truth, when I read the letter I said, no wonder, everytime I had to travel, I suffer. I really do not want to go. It’s an ordeal. It’s the womb again but you go. It’s time for you”. Ang tagal na doon sa womb and now probably it’s not the mother pushing you. Maybe the womb of the church- the spirit pushing you and you go where you rather would not go. Why will I choose to go to refugee camps? Why will I choose to go to Beirut? Why will I choose to go to Ukraine? Why will I choose to go to earthquake- destroyed cities? Why?
The pilgrimage goes on and the joy is that I am assured it is not a journey done in a solitary manner. There is so many people who journey with you. I am happy that my parents are still alive, my brothers here, the extended family of aunts and cousins and those who call tatay and nanay- nakikinanay, nakikitatay so lahat na, buong pamilya.
You have a very big big big community journeying. And even if it’s not summer solstice the day is always bright and let our equators always tilt towards the sun until we experience not only the longest day but the never- ending day in the presence of God. Let us pause and ask St. Aloysius Gonzaga to guide us in our exile so that we could discover our true home in our hearts before God and following God’s will.

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