Homily: 89th Anniversary Mass of The VARSITARIAN, UST

Minsan merong isang dalagita, crush na crush nya ang isang binata. Lagi nya itong nginingitian at minsan sinusuklian din ng binata ang kanyang mga ngiti. Isang araw, di na nakapagpigil ang dalagita. Nilapitan nya ang binata at tinanong: “May gusto ka ba sa akin?” Ang sagot agad ng binata, “Wala.” Napahiya ang dalagita, umiiyak siyang naglakad palayo sa binata. Hinabol siyang binate at sinabihan: “Hindi mo naman tinanong kung mahal kita. Biglang lumiwanag ang mukha ng dalagita at nagtanong, “Bakit, mahal mo ba ako?” Ang sagot ng binata, “Hindi rin. Sige ituloy mo na yang pag-iyak mo.”

Isa pang kuwento. Minsan lumapit din ang isang dalaga sa isang binatang manghuhula – na crush din ng dalaga. Ang sabi ng dalaga, “Tingnan mo nga ang palad ko kung makapag-aasawa ako. Tiningnan sya ng binatang manghuhula at ang sabi, “Hindi ka makapag-aasawa.” “Hindi mo pa nga tinitingnan ang palad ko, sinasabi mo agad na hindi ako makapag-aasawa”, sabi ng dalagita. Ang sagot ng binatang manghuhula, “Di ko na kailangang tingnan ang palad mo. Tiningnan ko na ang mukha mo at di ka talaga makapag-aasawa.”

My dear brothers and sisters, these two stories exemplify the youthful exercise of freedom of expression. Young people nowadays ay mahilig mang-asar, mang-alaska. They want to express themselves no matter what the consequences would be. They want the freedom, but in their immaturity, they may not exercise that freedom with responsibility and with respect for the rights and feelings of others. Mantras such as ‘Just do it”, ‘Express yourself’, ‘Be not afraid, say it.’ Serve as the principles for such obtrusive behavior that debunks the age-old practice of diplomacy and tact in communication.

In the not so distant past, we were careful with our words so that they may not offend the sensitivities of other people and create a wall between us. We communicated based on the principle that communication is intended to develop unity – for people to be of one accord, to live in harmony – and anything that goes beyond those bounds would constitute a breakdown of communication.

We believed that words were given to us by God to forget relationships, to form families, and to develop communities rather than break them. And so we are shocked by the brutal frankness, by the careless choice of words that young people blurt out in the name of freedom of expression. They are all over the social media. The shock is even compounded when even adults are involved in such barbaric choice of words. Di ba tayo pwedeng magdahan-dahan? Sa halip na sabihin mong deretsahan, “Ang baho ng hininga mo!” Di ba pwede mong sabihin, “Your carbon dioxide emission is infringing on my right to inhale clean air.”

But that is how it is now. From the President of the Republic to the countless patrons of social media, the brutal, base, barbaric use of freedom of expression is now the new normal. Are we ready to murder one another by simply the use of the cruelest vocabulary?

Some of us may not be ready. Some of us who may have been trained towards diplomacy, gentleness in behavior, and tenderness in our verbal expression may nurse a rambling, revolting feeling within us. This is what the Gospel is all about. New wine cannot be poured into old wineskins because the wineskins would burst. If there isnew wine, there should be new wineskin. Jesus represents newness – new worldview, new practices, new ways of relating with God and with people. People should be able to accept him, be converted to him, in order that they would be attuned to live the new life which is anchored on the Law of love rather than the literal and canine fidelity to the Law of Moses which thrives on the performance of external rituals.

There is a need to be watchful about the new ideas, new ways of doing things, new values that tend to discardthe old ways that held our societies together in the past. This is where journalists and media practitioners could be most useful. They can scrutinize, analyze, criticize, they can taste and test the new wine that is presented to us and empower people to decide whether to turn themselves into new wineskins. There had been values, practices and jurisprudence that have kept our society intact in the past. Are we ready to let go of some of those and embrace new ones? What are the new values and practices that are being introduced to us, sometimes subtly, at times, abruptly? Will they not impinge on our core values as Christians and as human beings?

Is being searched in one’s home without a search warrant but simply because one’s name is in a drug list made and verified by we don’t know who an acceptable police practice? Who can prevent the police from doing such a thing for cases other than drugs in the future? Is being killed by bonnet-covered men without the benefit of investigation thereafter an acceptable practice for crime suspects? Who will push the police to investigate such killings? Why are there no reported results of investigations conducted, if there were any?

Will the distribution of condoms to students in public high schools really contribute to the good of society? In the past, we were taught to control our urges, even to wear blessed strings or chastity belts around our waists to remind us of what our parents told us: “Magtimpi!” “Mag-control!” “Magpigil kahit nanggigigil”. We were told to avoid pornographic materials so as not to poison our minds and our emotions with lust. And, somehow, teenage pregnancies were as rare as the Philippine eagle in our times. Nowadays, there is a proliferation of pornographic materials everywhere. Our society is not able to put that on check. As a result of poisoned minds, feelings and bodies, teen-age pregnancies are as plenty as the sparrows in the mango trees. The solution: condoms. This is now the new foreskin, rather, the new wineskin. The old wineskin of self-control and custody of the eyes are discarded in favor of rubber! Virtue is replaced by a commodity.

Are we nurturing the right values and practices?

As student-journalists who would be full-fledged writers in the future, the Varsitarian staffers can do well to train themselves to scrutinize, to analyze, to criticize the new wines that are being offered our society to drink and empower the people to decide whether they will turn themselves into new wineskins or reject the new wine and remain to be old wineskins. . . We still have a lot to do.

16 January 2017, 3:00PM, Tan Yan Kee Chapel, UST

by Br. Virgilio A. Ojoy, OP

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