Thank you very much for your “happy father’s day” greetings. Thank you for considering me your “spiritual father” in the parish. However, I hope you don’t mind me telling you that I do not really feel the celebration of “father’s day” every third Sunday of June because 18 years ago on the Saturday before this civil celebration, my dad passed away shortly before dawn due to a heart attack. It was also the birthday of my mother, June 17, 2000.
Last Friday, I again realized another sad note of this “happy father’s day” for me as a priest when Fr. Richmond V. Nilo was laid to rest in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija. As you all know, Fr. Nilo is the third priest to be shot and killed in the country in six months. Another priest was also ambushed last month but survived the attack.
Am I bothered? Not really for myself but for others, for the nation. Suffering and death is our life as priests. Too often you only see so little of who we are as priests but for those who truly take a deeper look into why we chose to become priests, why we do all these sacrifices, why we refuse to follow the current of the world today, then you start to wonder why we have chosen to be a priest of Jesus Christ.
And there is no easy answer except the Lord. Dominus est!
It is the same for every dad out there: why work so hard, sacrifice so much, love so much, suffer so much for the children and for the mother? Why not must leave everything and everyone behind like others have done? Every time a dad would claim that he bears everything because of love, that he strives hard to keep his family alive and secured, it is simply because of the Lord! It is not being simplistic but simply because it is the truth. That is why when Jesus taught us to pray, He told us to call God, Abba or Daddy. That is who God is, Somebody always around us, ensuring our safety and security, enabling us to fulfill our dreams and aspirations.
Our first reading today beautifully captures this enigma of fatherhood, of priesthood, of our life of love and suffering as a follower of Jesus Christ. “Thus says the Lord God: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its top most branches tear off a tender shoot, plant it on high and lofty mountain… and become a majestic cedar. And all the trees of the filed shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.” (Ez.17: 22, 23b,24)
Recall, fathers, that day when you got married, pledging to love your wife “for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part”? I also felt like you when I was ordained, saying yes to every question of our bishop particularly to proclaim the Gospel, to be obedient to him and his successor, and to remain celibate and not get married. We were all young and perhaps blinded of the whole reality but we all said yes, we vowed before God to be faithful and true without realizing fully what it totally meant. We were like St. Paul and continues to be like him, “walking by faith, not by sight.”(2Cor.5:7) We were nobody. We had nothing to boast in life during that time we were ordained or when you got married. Or when you stepped into college or senior high school, or when you moved out of town or out of the country to work and pursue your dreams in life. Look back to those days and we all realize we were nothing but fresh green shoots of the crest of the cedar tree plucked by the Lord and planted where we are now, fulfilled in our lives amid all the pains and sufferings. God has always been present in our lives though many times we never noticed Him or refused to recognize Him. He makes everything possible and most especially so beautiful. And that is why we forge on despite the many hardships and difficulties our chosen path in life entail. Deep inside us we are convinced “God is greater than our hearts.”(1Jn.3:20)
This Sunday, we continue our journey in Jesus Christ with Mark as our guide. Last week, we have seen ourselves among the relatives and family of Jesus who also misunderstood Him, yet still believed Him as the Christ. Today Jesus begins to teach us in parables, inviting us to be open in receiving Him like a seed sown in the land wherein we would “sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, with us not knowing how.”(Mk.4:27) This is the time of being patient in listening more to Jesus especially in prayer as we discern His mystery for only He knows the secrets of the kingdom of God. Indeed, Jesus is asking us like St. Paul to “walk by faith, not in sight” because the most important things in life are not always visible with the eyes, always hidden in the heart of every person whom we must always love and respect as a brother or a sister.
In 1989, the British pop duo Tears for Fears released their third hit single called “Sowing the Seeds of Love.” Like their previous hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, it had political undertones that remain so relevant up to this day. Its opening line right away leads us to the urgency of their call to sow seeds of love, “High time, we made a stand, And shook up the views of the common man.” Today’s gospel is a call for us to sow seeds of love, to make a stand for Christ, to shake up our views on real love for God, real love for others, and real love for country. There are times we priests like married fathers fail to live up to our vows, even causing others to sin. But, there is no amount of any wrong doing or sin, or whatever differences we may have with others can give anyone the power to destroy that seed sown in each of us because it is only God who makes that sprout into life, germinate and grow until it bears fruit for harvesting. Cheer up your father, thank your dad, and start sowing seeds of love in everyone! A blessed week to everyone! Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022