YOUth Exposed and Immersed
Homily on Wednesday 14th Week in OT, 6 July 2022
Third Day of our FIS Provincial Chapter
There was a lady who took her son named Ali (not his real name) to an escapade in Boracay after two years through the pandemic. While they were there, both she and her son enjoyed the swim in the sea, the sand on the shore and the tour around the island. Later on she found out through a friend that there was in that same island an Ati Tribe Village under the care of a certain congregation of sisters. And she thought of paying them a short visit. So that afternoon the day before they left, she and her son treated the Ati children with snacks bought at a nearby convenience store and donated to them a sack of rice. Very soon Ali, an eight year-old boy, was surrounded by the tribal kids as he tried to interact spontaneously with them showing them some funny pictures and interesting games using his smart phone. The following day as they were travelling back home to Cebu she asked her son what part of the Boracay trip was his most favourite experience. She was expecting him to say it was the beautiful white sand beach, or the long hours of swimming or the tour of the island. But to her astonishment her son Ali replied that it was their visit at the Ati Tribe Village.
My dear confreres, aspirants and our lay mission partners, I feel so honoured and privileged to preside this Holy Mass today on July 6, the third day of our 10th Provincial Chapter. My “thank you” goes to Fr Rooney for assigning me this task, which at first I felt was a burden. The gospel passage we have heard today shows how Jesus in his wisdom chose twelve apostles from among his countless disciples and sent them forth to various towns and villages occupied by the Jews for a kind of immersion program. These apostles after having received due authority and instructions went as they were told by Jesus. They did not go to any pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town, but made their outreach among the lost sheep of Israel preaching to them the reign of God. They cured the sick, raised the dead, cleansed lepers, drove out demons and performed many other miracles.
What can we learn from this passage that can be relevant for us gathered in this Chapter? I guess it is this: that Jesus did not only teach and form his disciples through his words, but also exposed them by showing them his good works and the many miracles he performed. And even much more than that, he also gave them a sort of an OJT (on the job training), so much so that, after having been exposed to his amazing ministry they could learn even more by means of that immersion experience how to do a pastoral ministry among the chosen people of God.
Yesterday our group proposed that in our parishes exposure-slash-immersion programs should be organized for various youth groups and/or families so that our parishioners may get to know our works and be inspired to either enroll in our programs, or be part of the Salesian family or simply be a partner-benefactor supporting the Salesian mission. We are glad the proposal has been approved. We believe that these exposure-immersion programs can be a powerful means of providing life-changing experiences to youth especially when it is accompanied by a Salesian and wrapped up with some group reflection and processing.
I myself can testify to this. When I reached grade six in Don Bosco Mandaluyong, I thought I would not want to become a priest anymore, probably because at that time I was already having a crush on some pretty girl next door. In fact I was never a FAC member at all (F-A-C, not f-u-c-k, which stands for Future Aspirants Club). However despite the seeming “death” of my desire to become a priest I still joined a group of Grade 6 students who were being invited by Bro. Rey Ranjo, SDB (our brother assistant at that time) for a three-day stay in DBJ (Don Bosco Juniorate). I just wanted to be able to say to my siblings and cousins that I also stayed in the seminary even just for three days. Lo and behold at the end of that immersion experience I found myself telling Fr Rector that I wanted to enter the Juniorate and become a priest because I want to serve God and his people. Isn’t that God’s grace working powerfully at that time through an immersion experience?
Today being the sixth of July, we honor St Dominic Savio. We beg the indulgence of St Maria Goretti whose optional memorial we are skipping this year in order to highlight the importance of our first Salesian teenage saint at the midpoint of this Chapter. Two years ago at the start of the lockdown I uploaded on my Facebook account a cartoon video of the life story of St Dominic Savio. And I was glad to know that it soon gained several likes and interesting comments especially from friends. And I was even more amazed to know that some friends who were mothers started making their kids watch videos on the lives of other saints found in the internet, simply because their kids started to like those stories. And coincidentally one of those kids was Ali, who would often request his mom to make him watch another life of a saint before going to bed.
A few days ago I was in a conversation with Ali’s mom who asked me whether we Salesians have a kind of an immersion program in Don Bosco Boys Home designed for kids like her son. She asked because her son who plays forward in football, is already nine years old and had just received his first Holy Communion. He is sometimes dreaming to be a race car driver, sometimes a soccer player or a soldier, and at other times he says he wants to become a priest. And so she wants her kid to be exposed to new realities especially among the poor and the marginalized, wishing that someday her son might indeed decide to enter the seminary.
Confreres, aspirants and lay mission partners, let us continue to tell the stories of Jesus and the saints that will inspire many more kids and young people, and let us make it possible for them to be exposed to our works that they may soon discover their true vocation in life. In this Holy Mass let us ask St Dominic Savio to intercede for us in this Provincial Chapter that we may find the right path towards a more fruitful ministry among the young especially among the poor and the marginalized. God is good…!
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