The Alpha and the Omega of our Life

The passing away of Rev. Fr. Jose Mansueto was a stunning reality for me. He returned to his creator on November 6, 2006 in his hometown in Bantayan Island. When I asked his younger brother how he died, he described it as sudden but sweet. He was still able to celebrate the 6:30AM mass in the parish that morning but complained of chest pain after his mass. He came home to eat breakfast and took a nap from which he never awoke! He slept himself to death; painless and peaceful in style.

I mourned for him as many did. There are always tears for those whom you love. For one who has touched your life, their loss leaves some emptiness and sorrow in your heart. In their passing away, there is something in you that dies with them. Such was Padre Joe as he was fondly called. He was a simple “Island” priest dedicated to his vocation and pastoral duties. In his younger days he was assigned in the Cathedral and Mambaling Parish. But most of his active priestly years were spent in the Island either in Madridejos where he was parish priest for 16 years and Bantayan where he retired. His two greatest virtues were his availability and presence. He was willing to extend spiritual services to his flock whether for mass or for confession and he was always there for them anytime, anywhere.

For me, he was an inspiring model of how to be a good priest. In my days as a seminarian, he provided me with some pastoral exposure. He coached me with practical advices because according to him “inig kamatay nako, ikaw mopuli sa akong lugar.” In those days I would just smile and tell him “kadugay pa ato..” But how the years progressed by leaps and bounds. Today I am a priest. And he is gone!

His spirituality was ordinary. Nothing unusual or excessive. He was simply doing God’s will in his life daily. When I celebrated mass for him during his wake, I found the secret that powered his life. Perhaps it was his motto or his life’s vision written on a white sash pinned on the lid of his coffin. It read:

“Jesus, I live for you. Jesus, I die for you. Jesus, in life and in death, I belong to you.”

Those words were the guidepost of his priestly life. I realize that for Padre Joe, God was the alpha and omega of his life; the beginning and the end. He tried to center his life along the two anchors of faith and love that defined his person. I’m sure when he meets God face to face up there, He will enthusiastically welcome him with the words: “Come, my good and faithful servant. Enter the joy of paradise!”

Each person in this world must have something to live for and something to die for. That is how our life can become exciting and engrossing. When one has something to look forward to with expectant anticipation, everyday is filled with adventure and purpose. There is reason to be happy and filled with hope despite the struggles and stress of daily routine. There is the yearning for unselfish service despite the cynicism and temptation that abounds that no amount of goodness can overcome evil. There is a continued aspiration that one day, in that near future, the kingdom of heaven will come. And the very reason of it all is because of Jesus who never cease to put fire in our hearts.