Candles burn night and day outside the gate of the Ibona residence. Just a week ago, in broad daylight, brothers Ramonito and Cesario were shot dead right at their home. Until now the perpetrators are still unknown. A 16-year old female victim was part of the collateral damage. Though innocent, she just happened to be in a wrong place and in a wrong time. The killing toll continues to rise. We no longer know whether the operation is legitimate or not. It might just be personal vendetta to stump rivalry.
I feel sad for them because they were my parishioners. According to the Philippine Barangay Population 2015, Punta Princesa – Cebu City has a population of 22,369. Their demise has now lessened my flock by three. I may not have known them personally but they are not just mere statistics. They are more than nameless numbers. They were fathers, brothers or friends; they have families whom they were responsible for. Each was a person with basic goodness at heart. Each of them was loved by God.
These deaths reinforce what Pope Francis has brilliantly defined as the “throw-away mentality.” In this culture of accumulation, we amass so much that we throw-away what we do not really need as excess. As we throw-away food and things, we now throw-away lives. We see them as problems to be avoided and burdens to be eliminated. It takes great love to see them as persons with dignity and worth. Only by love that we see our lives and that of others as gifts.
In today’s pragmatic lifestyle, one name towers above all of us: Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Recently Pope Francis declared her a saint. This means that she was a true follower of Jesus who witnessed to him in her daily life. In fact, she is described as “the icon of mercy.” She spread the love of God radically to the poorest of the poor that even those who have no faith would see compassion concretely in more than words. She was heroic in her sacrifice and self-forgetfulness.
Mother Teresa was a prophetic voice who championed the cause of the least and the last. It all began with an inspiration; seeing Christ in the poor. It seemed a lost advocacy with nothing and no one to help her. But her faith was as great as her dreams. Her heart was big enough to embrace a dying stranger, a malnourished child or an illiterate youngster. She believed in Divine Providence and the basic generosity of people. Amazingly her work caught the imagination of the world. She became an international star. People started to call her a “living saint.” Among the honors she received were the Ramon Magsaysay Peace Prize in 1962 and the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.
In 1950, She founded the Missionaries of Charity with over 4,500 Sisters imbued by her spirit of compassion active in 133 countries. Here in Cebu, the Missionaries of Charity run two institutions, “Gasa sa Gugma Home for the Dying Destitutes” is located at Cabantan, Mabolo and an Orphanage right at the very heart of the slum district of Barangay Pasil. The former is a place called home by the aged, dying and abandoned people. The latter is a hospice for the sick and malnourished children. The primary task of the Missionaries of Charity is to love and care for these people nobody of us is prepared to look after.
I remember a testimony by Fr. Julius Sanchez, Rector of Don Bosco Borongan, Eastern Samar. When typhoon Yolanda struck Samar, all communications were cut. There was no way to contact them; they had no electricity and food. Three days later, the Missionaries of Charity arrived with their collaborators in a convoy of three vehicles bringing food and supplies. Though they themselves depend on the charity of others, they go out of their way to be missionaries of compassion for those who are in greater need.
More than ever, we shall need the heart of a Mother Teresa to inspire us to swim against the current of a disposable culture. In this Sunday’s Gospel (Lk 16:1-13), Jesus teaches us that we become shrewd servants if we use the goods of this world to help others. Such a mentality fosters a culture of communion. For Jesus everyone is included, each one is a gift.
(This article also appears in CDN Faith Section’s Sharing the Word, September 18, 2016)
Disclaimer: This section of the website is a personal creative writing of the author and does not necessarily reflect the official views, opinion, or policies of the Salesians of Don Bosco – Philippines South Province. For concerns on the content, style, and grammar of this piece, please contact us.