The Blessings Of Education and Faith Formation

The Blessings Of Education and Faith Formation

Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD, MA, SThD
Homily during the Mass of the Holy Spirit, PaDDS, June 28, 2013

I would like to begin this homily with a prayer, borrowing the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians which we heard in our second reading: “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, grant each of us the spirit of wisdom and insight to know him clearly.  May he enlighten us so that we may know the great hope to which he has called each of us. Amen.”

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, at the beginning of this school year, allow me to share two important things administrators, teachers, catechists and students must realize about education.

First, we are blessed to be educated so let us be grateful and not put it to waste. Not all people are given the blessed opportunity to study in elementary, high school or even college.  In this morning’s news, a 100-year old woman from Mexico was praised for completing her elementary education.  She said that she was not given the chance to study when she was a child. Here in our country, even though we have public schools that give free education, there are still a great number of young people who don’t or can’t go to school for one reason or another.  Some years back, I remember when I was former bishop of the Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, we had an Educational Summit held at San Jose City, Nueva Ecija, the first for the our growing municipality. In that gathering, we learned from a report that San Jose City had 5000 out-of-school-youths, much worse and sadly, Cabanatuan City had 26,000 out-of-school-youths.  I also recall in one of my pastoral visits to the mountainous regions of Caranglan, Nueva Ecija where I had to walk and cross rivers on foot for hours, I witnessed how one of my Cannosian sisters taught some children belonging to an indigenous community. These children, who had no access to formal basic education, came every afternoon for tutorials in writing, reading, singing, story-telling and other group activities. There were also some adults who came and were enthusiastic to learn reading and writing.  One time, there was this young man from an indigenous tribe, twenty-nine years old and single who assisted us in crossing the rivers. He did not even finish his elementary education.  Because of this, he found it hard to speak and read English. But he was interested to learn so he joined the children.  He was not at all ashamed to learn and join the kids.

It is just sad that there are some students who don’t appreciate and value their education.  They spend more time doing “facebook”, playing video games and watching TV.  There are those who are not serious in doing class work and just contented to get passing grades.  Some even skip classes if they find a way.

Dear students you are blessed to be educated.  Be grateful to your parents and teachers who make this possible for you.  Don’t waste this precious gift which a great number of young people like you do not have in their lifetime.

Second, we are blessed to have a catholic education so let us take to heart the faith formation we receive.During this first year of preparation for the 500th anniversary celebration of the coming of Christianity to the Philippines, we are challenged by the Bishops of the Philippines to take to heart the first of nine pastoral priorities of the Philippine Church, that is, Integral Faith Formation. In the CBCP Pastoral Letter “Live Christ, Share Christ”, Abp. Jose Palma pointed out: “What a blessing it is that this first pastoral priority coincides with this Year of Faith as declared by the Holy Father!…. Faith formation has one objective: a more intimate relationship between Jesus and his followers.”

How can integral faith formation be a priority for students at the beginning of our school year?  Practically speaking, how can our administrators, teachers, catechists and students develop a more intimate relationship with Jesus?

In our first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks in behalf of the Lord and tells the foreigners who converted to the Lord: “Observe what is right, do what is just.” (Is 59:6)  God was telling them that right sacrifice done in God’s altar must be coupled with social justice.  Any holocaust offered to the Lord had no meaning if injustice was done to others.

This message has something to do with what catholic education is all about.  In our parochial schools, it is a great blessing that we are taught about our catholic faith, about what it means to be a child of God our Father, about being close to Jesus in prayer, about going to mass, about valuing the sacraments, and about being holy and doing good.  All these boil down to knowing and practicing our faith.  By seriously studying our faith and sincerely expressing this in our worship life, we observe what is right; and by showing acts of love and kindness to others, we do what is just.

In a recent meeting with students of some Jesuit schools in Rome, Pope Francis told the young students: “Why do you go to school, what would you answer me? There would probably be many answers according to the sensibility of each one. However, I think that it all could be summarized by saying that school is one of the educational environments in which one grows to learn to live, to become adult and mature men and women, capable of walking, of following the path of life….”  He even told them to be magnanimous, explaining to them what magnanimity means: “It means to have a big heart, to have greatness of mind, it means to have great ideals, the desire to do great things to respond to what God asks of us and, precisely because of this, to do well the things of each day, all daily actions, commitments, meetings with persons. To do the little things of every day with a great heart open to God and to others.” (June 7, 2013)

To end this homily, let us go back to the task Jesus commissioned his disciples to do.  He instructed them: “Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19-20)  This task of evangelization is addressed to all of us.  But you and I know that this can only be accomplished if we take to heart what renewed integral evangelization means in the spirit of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) and in this Era of New Evangelization.  What is this? We have heard this so many times, that is:  Before we can evangelize, we first have to be evangelized!  In this sense, being evangelized means not putting to waste the blessings of our education and faith formation.  By seriously valuing them, we become effective agents of evangelization in today’s world.  Amen.