NOT ONE AMONG the 204 warm bodies that showed up at Mary the Queen Parish last Wednesday night took Ate Mila Galinato seriously (I know I didn’t) when she tried to reassure them that Monsi Romy Rañada may be a little late but was well on his way. On the contrary, they were not only sure he was going to show up but also eager to find out what surprise the PREX pastor had in store for that special night. It will mark his first talk on the National Diocesan Association of Parish PREX Secretariat (NDAPPS) 7 Ps (of which he is Spiritual Director) on its fourth year. Because, actually, Ate Mila sounded more enthusiastic than explanatory and, in my heart of hearts, she and I and everybody else shared the same excitement for the milestone sermon.
In the flesh, Monsi soon emerged and, as was his wont, wasted no time in bidding everyone “Good evening” and “Welcome to 7 Ps” like it was his second nature to be cool. He was his usual crowd-warming self as he asked recent Weekenders to stand up and be recognized. Dutifully, the fresh graduates of PREX stood up and received an applause as warm as the asker thereof.
The theme of his talk could not have been more timely. It was the Gospel last Sunday about service, and he stressed that those who wish to be the first must be last and servant of all. He was visibly driven by the presence of the recent completers of the two-day weekend with God because it seemed he was addressing them directly as he essayed what it means to be introduced to evangelization. Which, he said, was like encountering Jesus, who rose from the dead, and whom we meet and eat in the Eucharist as bread, broken for all of us to each receive. If Christ is with them, he promised, their service is like His. Yet he gave them a caveat that it is not enough to go to Church or even receive the Holy Host as the key to the serving act. The thing to remember – and take home – is the Gospel when we leave the church. And he explained why, at the graduation rites, they were asked Sino ang eebanghelyuhin mo? Only when we are living out the Word of God and proclaiming the same can we merit to be deemed disseminators of His name.
The Gospel last Sunday, he continued, was about Jesus and the Twelve traveling in Caesaria Philippi, near the lake of Galilee, and He didn’t want them to know where they are or for the people to know He is there. Not yet, He said, for He will soon be betrayed and killed at the right time. His apostles did not understand why but were afraid to ask, especially Peter, who was already reprimanded (and even called Satan!) because of his human, not Godly, concern. Capernaum, by the lake, is where Jesus frequents because of its silence, and His fisherfolk friends.
Jesus asked them what they were talking about. They could not answer but Jesus knew that they were arguing about who was the greatest among them. Then, as much now, that buzz is still the bone of contention, for people will never lose their pride, which oftentimes overcome their thirst for power, and Christ’s disciples were not exempt from this evil. Therefore, Christ calls them nearer and pacifies them with the now immortal motto of humility, “If someone wants to be first, let him be last of all and servant of all.” As in PREX, Monsi drove further home, “because you serve, you eat last; sometimes even not.” The audience chuckled in appreciative discernment. They have probably been there.
Monsi said that Holy Thursday, during the reenacted washing of the feet, is a dramatic way of Christ showing who He is, what kind of servant He is. And here comes Peter again, who is asked 3 times if he loves Jesus. He may have been demoralized by it but because, overall, he was faithful and humble and did not mind being reprimanded and called Satan, he was made leader. Here is clearly shown the Shepherd’s measure of just recompense for His sheep, albeit his thrice denial. An opportunity, again, for Monsi to highlight the staying formation power of PREX, saying that, “If you hold on, you grow. As in service, you see to it that all is well taken care of before you see to yourself, which is the ultimate test of selflessness. You find your true self when you lose your false self, for true self is selfless. In our evangelizing efforts, let us follow Jesus, the only way to get rid of the many considerations that occupy our thoughts, which get in the way of service.” And he enjoined us to “Forget those motives and just do it,” he sagely segued to mothers as being the happiest because of their fulfillment for their kids, resting only in the certainty that they are sleeping smiling because content, because lovingly tended to by them. Just like PREX, giving back, recruiting, passing Jesus on, masayang tunay dahil natuklasan mo ang tunay mong pagkatao, hindi ka na nag-iisa, pinaglingkuran kaya naglilingkod, may kasama na.
As if we didn’t have enough of Monsi’s exhortation, emcee Ate Lalaine announced that Ate Karen and Kuya Paris Real will address the audience from the ambo with that day’s Gospel and a reflection thereof, respectively. It was still about the Twelve being sent out by Jesus to drive out evil spirits, heal diseases and proclaim God’s kingdom. I became a fan of Kuya Paris’ when he and Ate Karen delivered Talk Number 2 last July at the three-day PREX Refresh. Like my significant Catholic Kuya Noel, Kuya Paris is a lawyer. His sharing was about his dread and fear when they were, of a sudden and without warning, installed by Monsi (who was then Our Lady of Annunciation Parish priest) as PREX Chair Couple. Long story short (and after shedding tears of scare and surprise), they were able to deliver (as I didn’t need to be convinced).
He cited the disciples as fishermen (compared to us educated and professionals (diumano), a curious aside I could not help but characterize as clever) and, if Christ’s chums were able to fulfill God’s will, we can do better. How? We can heal the sick and drive out evil spirits whom we meet daily at home, in school, at work, on the street and even in church (next to Kuya Noel, his honesty is utterly disarming). We can heal by simply listening. He disclosed that he visits hardened criminals, molesters and rapists to listen to them. And when asked, he counsels them to simply accept their sin so that God’s forgiveness may come upon them. They should repent and, if they get out, serve God, because all of us who have pride do not deserve to evangelize. He concluded his piece with St. Paul’s, ” When I’m weak, I’m strong with God.”
Indeed, I inwardly agreed. Indeed.