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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, April 2, 2020
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Orient Express with Cecile Genove
Rock & Refuge with Fr. Roy Cimagala

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Orient Express
with Cecile Genove

Journey to Life

Orient ExpressTo say that these are abnormal, uncertain times is an understatement. How we wish that we could simply say that what is happening is a bad April Fools Day joke.

The times also call for drastic measures to address this menace of a scourge everyone is experiencing worldwide.

Considered an unwilling casualty is this year’s Class of 2020 that will be remembered forever in history. Hardly have they embarked on their so-called “journey to life,” these graduates are already experiencing first-hand what life really is -- life in the real world, life in the asphalt jungle, life in a dog-eat-dog kind of existence, the kind of life that stares at you straight in the eye, and the real LIFE away from your “comfort zone.”

​Education Secretary Leonor Briones imparted her message to the members of the graduating class of the 5th Summer Commencement at Silliman Universitysome years back, but which is still useful and applicable had this been addressed at the 107thUniversity Commencement that would have been scheduled last Sunday, March 22.

As Secretary Briones said, “Life is a series of journeys from one stage of life to another.” All of us journey, she explained, even tracing our own journeys to the time of the apostles and the prophets in the Bible – from the time the Israelites journeyed to slavery and captivity in Babylon, and journeying back to freedom, to Jesus Christ himself Who journeyed around Galilee preaching the good news of salvation, to the apostles undertaking incredible missionary journeys. “Peter reached as far as Rome; it is said Thomas reached India, and James reached Spain,” she expounded.Taking it further, she said that “modern man has journeyed to the moon, eminent mathematician and physicist Sir Stephen Hawking believes we can journeyback to the future.”

She said that in today’s highly demanding times, gone are the days when children can simply tell their parents and supporters after graduation that they will do a “PMA” – which stands for “Pahinga Muna, Anak!” This year’s batch of graduates joins some 700,000 new graduates all over the country, many of whom will be looking for jobs. She said that the government itself has admitted that the “present inventory of jobless Filipinos is 2.96 million.” Going into specific figures, Prof. Briones spoke about the reality that “if we include the 700,000 new graduates this year, plus the 15-year-old students who drop out of school, we will have approximately 4 million jobless Filipinos.”

​It has been widely recognized even by international organizations like the International Labor Organization and the World Bank that the Philippines has the highest level of unemployment in Asia. “We have a situation where our economy is growing, our credit rating is improving, but unemployment is rising to dangerous levels,” informed Prof. Briones.

​Once reality sets in for the new graduate, they will come to realize that the real world is tough and dangerous. This has some biblical basis, too, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy when he wrote about “Godlessness in the last days” when “people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness but denying its power.” While schools and universities like Silliman teach students good and proper values like competence, character, and faith, the world will teach the new professionals the exact opposite. It is now up to the individual to grapple with these challenges and hold on to the values he/she had been taught early on in life.

​How does one “arm for the journey,” which is oftentimes punctuated with danger and temptation?Prof. Briones said that one does not need to equip himself/herself with the super powers of Superman, Supergirl, Batman, or the X-men, but only with the “armor of God.”

​Similarly finding a biblical basis in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 6: 10-18, she exhorted the graduates to take solace in the “armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of the dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil and heavenly realms.”

​The Scriptures continues with us “putting on the armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand firm with the belt of truth buckled against your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all these, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.”

​These ring true most especially during these difficult, albeit not hopeless, times.*

Rock and Refuge
with Fr. Roy Cimagala

The word of eternal life


Rock & Refuge

“Whoever keeps my word will never see death.” (Jn 8,51)

           That’s what Christ clearly said. Of course, these are words that have to be taken in faith. Otherwise, there is no way we can take them seriously, especially nowadays when there are just so many philosophies and ideologies that can sound more attractive and seductive, especially if they show and give some immediate advantages and conveniences.

           Let’s hope that we can repeat St. Peter’s words: “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (Jn 6,68)

           We have to be wary of our tendency to be seduced by our worldly cultures and systems. Let’s listen to the warning given by St. Paul: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy…” (Col 2,8)

           And he continues: “For in Christ all the fullness of the
Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” (2,9) This means that the fullness of our humanity can only
be achieved through our full identification with Christ who also made it possible for us to attain it.

           How? Again St. Paul provides the answer: “In him (Christ) you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were
circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working
of God, who raised him from the dead.” (2,11-12)

           It would be good if we can meditate slowly on these words to let them sink in our mind and heart, and in our life in general.
The Good News is that we are already given the key to eternal life while still here on earth.

Yes, it’s a matter of faith, because the reality that governs us is not simply of the rational and spiritual nature, much
less, of our bodily and natural condition. The reality that governs us is, first of all, of the supernatural character, since whether we like it or not, God has wanted and created us in his image and likeness,
sharers of his divine nature. (cfr. 2 Pt 1,4)

           That is why in spite of our human limitations, we always harbor deep in our heart that desire for a life without end, a joy with no shade of sadness, etc. In other words, we desire a life that is not simply natural, space-and-time-bound.

It’s not that our philosophies, ideologies, our cultures and social, political and economic systems have no role to play in our
life here on earth. They do. In fact, they play a tremendous role.
It’s just that, as St. Paul said, “these are a shadow of the things that were to come. The reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Col 2,17)

With our worldly systems, what we have to do is to inspire them with the true spirit of Christ as best that we can. This would require of us authentic fidelity to Christ which is not simply a matter of parroting his words nor aping his behavior, but rather of deepening what Christ really wants to tell us today by discerning the
promptings of the Holy Spirit who intervenes in our life all the time.

This fidelity means that we have to learn to adapt the
teachings of Christ to the concrete needs of the people, not, of course, by changing those teachings but rather by applying Christ’s relevant teachings to the situation on hand.

Let’s remember that the word of Christ is eternal. It
defies time and space. It defies change and death. It is applicable to all human conditions. It is always relevant and useful. As St. Paul said:

           “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for
instruction, for conviction, for correction, and for training in
righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete for every good
work…” (2 Tim 3,16-17)*


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