We are here today because of a great man. We have come because of him. We want to remember all the great works this man has done for us. His life of love and sacrifice is without equal. Every time we remember what he has done, we are drawn to Him, love Him even more, and we desire to imitate Him, to be like Him. This man is Jesus Christ who loved us and delivered Himself unto death for us. We want to give Him thanks today, for his love for us is without end.
We celebrate his love for us, and especially his love for my father whose mortal remains lay before us. Allow me to recall those things that God has done for my father.
A great proof that God loves us is that He gave us the gift of life. In the case of my father, that precious gift was given to him on November 6, 1925, when he was born with his twin brother, our Tio Willy, into a God-loving family. Both of them received the sacrament of Baptism that welcomed them into the Church. Under the maternal care of the Catholic Church, they both grew and developed as good sons of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, members of God’s family and heirs of heaven.
God gave my father a very long life. The Bible says 70 is man’s life on earth, 80 if he is strong. By Biblical standards, Papa must have been a very strong man for he lived up to the full age of 91. He was given the grace to see his children grow up, his grandchildren multiply. He was even able to kiss and embrace his great grandchildren. Because of his long life, he also experienced the love of his children for him. We all took very good care of him. I would like to mention here our Ate Grace in whose home my parents lived for many years, and Jim who was always there for Papa, forever pushing Papa’s wheelchair because he loved bringing Papa out. A little over a year ago, we celebrated his 90th birthday in a special way, with a Mañanita to awaken him early morning, and an unforgettable family bonding in Katrine Lakes, not far from Hyde Park, in upstate New York. It was a God-blessed night that we will forever treasure in our memory.
God gifted my father with 6 of the 7 sacraments that accompanied his earthly pilgrimage. In baptism, my father received the greatest gift of all, the gift of Faith, greater than the gift of life. God provided my father with all that he needed to be a man of faith, a man who believed in God, a man who loved God, a man who also showed his love for God through his service to others, to his family, his friends and especially to the people of San Jacinto. We, his children, would sometimes feel jealous of the people of San Jacinto because even if he did not say it in words, there were times when it felt like he loved the people of San Jacinto more than he loved us. That was how much he loved the people of this town. They were up there in his list of priorities.
Through the Catholic Church, Jesus nourished my father with his Body and Blood, the Holy Eucharist. The bread come down from heaven sustained him and gave him the strength for the journey of life.
When I visited him last January, I said Mass for him every day, gave him Holy Communion everyday and the anointing of the sick every day until the day I came back to Manila. In those Masses, he would say in the hearing of all, words like I love you Jesus, my Lord and my God, especially during the Consecration, when I raised the host and showed it to him. At first I gave him a small piece of the host because he could not swallow a bigger one, but the next day he looked better, so I gave him a bigger host. His health recovered so well that on my last Mass for him, he received an entire host. That was the last time he received Holy Communion. I remember what Jesus said: I am the living bread that has come down from heaven. If anyone eat of this bread he shall live forever, and the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:52). My father will live forever because he believed in the Eucharist, he received the Holy Eucharist.
By means of the Sacrament of Confession, Jesus had forgiven the sins of my father again and again. God never tires of forgiving us, for he is slow to anger, rich in mercy and abounding in steadfast love…Confession is truly the sacrament of joy because it reconciles us to God and reconciliation brings about joy. I have brought my father for confession to another priest many times and he offered no resistance when I asked him if he wanted to go to Confession. It is Jesus to whom we confess our sins. It is Jesus who forgives us and helps us to begin again, to start all over again, after every confession.
Divine Providence arranged things in such a way that my father, already a teenager when the Second World War broke out, survived the brutality and the violence of those years. After the war, the invisible hand of God guided my father so that he continued his studies eventually graduating from Law at UP. It was during the ball for Bar passers of Pangasinan when my father met my mother. They danced the night away, just the two of them. In the Sacrament of Matrimony, God gifted my father with a very loving wife. He too was a very loving husband. He told us to take care of our mother very well when he is gone. Theirs was a marriage that lasted 63 years, and blessed by God with 9 children, each one unique and different, all grown up now with their own families.
My parents educated us not so much by words as by their quiet example. They let us be ourselves, giving us a lot of freedom early one, allowing us to commit mistakes from which we learn unforgettable lessons in life.
My parents had all of us baptized, confirmed, experienced the forgiveness of God in confession, received the Holy Eucharist. They were there when each one of my siblings received the sacrament of Matrimony. Papa sent my mother and our eldest sister Grace when I was ordained to the priesthood in Spain. He stayed behind to take care of the rest of our family.
Papa did his best to provide for us, send us to school, and allow each one of us to find our place under the sun.
It must have been God who inspired my father to want to serve as mayor of this town. He wanted to help the people of San Jacinto. His term as town mayor was the defining period of his life. He will always be known as mayor of San Jacinto. From the time he was mayor till the last moment of his life, this town San Jacinto was the great love of his life. He spent years and years beyond his active service as mayor helping the people of this town. I grew up in a house always with many people coming to ask him for help. And my father was always there for them. He would always find work for them. God must have given him a very big heart and generous to be able to do what he did, a heart as big as this town of San Jacinto.
But we are not only here to give God the glory and the thanksgiving that He truly deserves from us. We are also here to pray for my father, to implore God for his mercy and compassion for him, because even though Papa was a very good and helpful man, he was not perfect.
Though he truly loved God, he loved God imperfectly.
Though he sincerely loved his family, he loved us also imperfectly.
He too had his shares of flaws and imperfections, defects, mistakes, sins and faults, just like each one of us.
Though he loved serving the people of San Jacinto, he could have served them better.
And that is why we want to ask you to pray for my father, offer the infinite value of the Mass, pray the rosary for the eternal repose of his soul.
We shall continue to pray for him and ask God to be gracious and merciful to him.
One of my favourite verses in the Book of Psalms is the one that says sing a new song to the Lord, for He has done marvellous deeds.
This verse resonates with me because when I learned about my father’s death, the same thought came to my mind. The news of my father’s death did not unsettle me. I was strangely calm and at peace. The thought that came to my mind was that my father has moved on to a different life, the life to which we are all called to share, the life where we are meant to sing a new song to the Lord.
Death for us Christians is not the end but the beginning of a new life in God. It is going home, as I told my father when I was preparing him to die. Dying is going to our true home in God to whom we belong. All of us came from Him and we will all go back to Him to be with Him forever.
In the Preface of the Mass for the Dead, we pray for your faithful, Lord, life is changed, not ended, and when this earthly dwelling turns to dust, an eternal dwelling is made ready for them in heaven.
As we continue with this Eucharistic celebration, let us pray for my father so that he who believed in Jesus, he who ate the living bread of the Holy Eucharist will soon live in the eternity of our Father God. May he soon rest in the loving arms of His Creator, gaze at the eyes of Jesus His Saviour, be comforted by Mary his mother, and welcomed by St. Joseph, St. Josemaria and all the saints in the joy of heaven.