Homily on my Ruby (40th) Ordination Anniversary
ICLA, 10 September 2015
Rev. Fr. Edgar Javier, SVD
My dear friends:
Today, we are celebrating my 40th ordination anniversary, 45th anniversary of my first profession of vows, 30th anniversary of my doctoral defense at the Pontificia Universita Gregoriana (Rome), and, more importantly, my 15th year of teaching at the Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA).
Forty years ago, fifteen (15) of us were ordained. Today, only four (4) of us are still alive and active in the ministry. One is a missionary in Brazil, another one is a missionary in the Netherlands, and two of us, our former Superior General and I are assigned to the Divine Word Institute of Mission Studies (DWIMS) in Tagaytay.
Moments like this are moments of reminiscing, celebration, and renewal. The question is: “How did I come this far? Why did I survive?”
Idealism kept me going for the past forty (40) years....... Great minds had influenced me in my religious, missionary and priestly life. I was influenced by Dag Hammarskjold, the former Secretary General of the UNO. He once said, “I do not know when and where and why, but the moment I said ‘YES’ then my life has had meaning. William Shakespeare, in his Sonnet 29, said that “people with what they most enjoy are contented least.” In my life, I tried to do the opposite – that is, “with what I most enjoy, I was very contented.” Regrets, I have had a few; but in general, I have a happy religious, missionary, and priestly life. Albert Einstein has also influenced me a great deal. He once said, “Make it simple, but not simpler.” I kept that in mind. I tried to live a simple life. And as a teacher, I emulated Socrates, Jesus Christ, and Siddhartha Gautama, who became a Buddha. Like Socrates, I teach by asking questions, like Jesus, I teach by telling stories, and like Buddha, I took silence as the answer to the riddles of life.
On the lighter side of life, I enjoyed the music of Burt Bacharach, especially the song “Alfie” sung by Dion Warwick. As the song goes, “Without true love we just exist.” Love is the essence of life. I love other peoples, other cultures, other religious traditions, and so forth. I love what is different from me, what is different from my culture, religious tradition, and so on. The word “different” had made my life make the difference. I also loved the music of Yanni, a Greek-American musician. He once said that “the best things in life are available to everyone.” Such things are silence, beauty, friendship, happiness, and so on. I believed in what he said and so took advantage of these good things in life.
Of course, prayer kept me alive! I prayed a great deal, but not in the conventional way. I communed with God in a non-conventional way. Believing that the “Earth is God’s Temple,” I enjoyed praying with nature. While praying, I tried to absorb the beauty, majesty, power, and the truth about God revealed in the created world. My prayers are also influenced by the current events that are taking place today. I loved praying for the victims of natural calamities, victims of diseases, victim of unjust structures and systems, and so on. The spirit of liberation theology influenced my daily prayer since the late 1960s when liberation theology was born.
The prayer that I said on the day that we were ordained....... was this: “Lord, give me the grace to finish what you have allowed me to begin in your name. Bless those who have helped me reach your altar.”
What we are celebrating today is not what I have achieved as a religious, missionary priest. Rather, we are celebrating God’s love for humanity and the created world. Grace upon grace was poured out on us and so we celebrate today God’s blessings.
We are also celebrating the missionariness of God. We are celebrating the mystery, the deep and unconditional love of God for us and for the world, and his mission to make us come to the knowledge of the Truth. It is not so much that we understand the mystery, but that the Mystery understands us. It is not so much that we love God but that God loved us first. It is not so much that we come to understand the truth, but that the Truth sets us free from ignorance of who God really is.
We also celebrate today the giftedness of the many peoples whom I have encountered across cultures and religious traditions. Their welcoming smiles, words of encouragement, and prayers had paved the way in building a welcoming and inclusivist Church for contemporary times.
Moments like this are opportunities for renewal....... And so, before you, my brothers and sisters in Christ in ICLA, I will renew my vows. I will recite the formula that we used forty-five years ago.
“And so, I, Edgar Javier, solemnly promise you, O holy and triune God, to observe forever poverty, chastity, and obedience, in accordance with the Constitution of the Society of the Divine Word.”
“Mary, the Star of Evangelization” I entrust my whole life to you. Saint Arnold Janssen (SVD founder) and Saint Joseph Freinademetz (first SVD missionary to China), pray for me.
Thank you for joining me today to celebrate the Eucharist, the bread for our missionary journey. I look forward to celebrating with you – God willing – my golden jubilee on September 5, 2025. God bless us all.