Celebration for Teachers and Employees

Date Posted: October 10, 2018 at 09:08 AM

October 5, 2018
Readings: Colossians 3:12-17; John 13:1, 4-8,12-15.

We celebrate this Mass as a way to appreciate and thank all of you, co-academic and academic personnel for the work that you do for our community. We thank and appreciate you in particular as we consider the circumstances of your work. For some, it could be the demands of teaching courses that your students find difficult to understand or follow. For some, it could be an immediate superior who questions the delay or correctness of the task that you have been asked to perform. For others, it could be the heavy load of work compounded by meetings that you are asked to attend. For others, it could be the toxic atmosphere in which your department or office seems to have been enveloped with, because of overbearing superior or uncooperative and inconsiderate colleagues. Closer to your persons, it could be the wounded or broken family or personal relationships. Or beyond the immediate concerns of the Adamson community is the general feeling of contentment or malaise in the country. 

Through all these circumstances in which you may experience unease, discomfort and suffering you continue with your honest efforts to heal and remedy an unpleasant or problematic situation.  It is you that Pope Francis addresses with, “Rejoice and be glad.” Gaudete et Exultate (Mt. 5:12).

Rejoice and be glad: with these words, Pope Francis does not mean to trivialize your pain and suffering. Rather he tells you “The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created.”

Rejoice and Be Glad is the title of the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, a letter in which the Pope re-proposes the “call to holiness in a practical way for our time.” The Pope tells us that each one of us is called to be a saint. When we hear the word “saint,” what almost spontaneously pops out of our minds is a statue or image we see in churches or in our homes. Those statues and images stand for the big saints, like the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. Jude or St. Vincent de Paul, canonized saints that the Church proposes as our models. Pope Francis reminds us of the call that the Lord makes to each one of us personally, to be saint each in his or her own way. The Pope refers to it as “the middle class holiness,” the holiness of the person next door, the holiness of the person who works at teaching and serving right next to me. The “next-door” for us is the classroom, the laboratory, the office, where we receive the call to be holy.

Those of you who were here on the feast of St. Vincent would remember what I said towards the end of the homily. Maurice Zundel, a Swiss theologian, talked of “the good and very ordinary men and women who do not regard themselves much, but who say and do marvelous things without knowing it, because, justly, the light of God passes through their transparence.” Maurice Zundel’s thoughts are echoed by Pope Francis when he talks of “the holiness of our next-door-neighbors, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence.” (GE,7). In reminding us of the call to be saints, Pope Francis says that holiness, lived by the ordinary lay people, is the most attractive face of the Church. (GE, 8).

The theme of the celebration of the feast of St. Vincent touches on the empowerment of the laity. This means that in the mission of education we are active partners. I even said that the Vincentians are able to fulfill this mission of education for the poor through you our lay partners, teachers and employees. 

In Gaudete et Exultate, the Pope says that to be holy does not require being a priest or religious. It is a mistake and a temptation to think that holiness is only for those who can withdraw from ordinary affairs to spend much time in prayer. That is not for us. Each one of us are called to be holy by living our lives with love and bearing witness in everything we do, wherever we find ourselves. 

For the Adamson community, this means that called to the service of a teacher or an office worker, there is not only remuneration, praise and furthering one’s career but holiness to be gained in the teachers who shepherd their students with patience and love, in the employee who toil faithfully in the task assigned to him or to her. There is holiness in taking on the responsibility of an added position as chair, director or section head, in exerting the effort to embrace its difficult responsibilities, to study and make sense of the complex and oftentimes confusing institutional demands and academic demands of CHED, DepEd, ISO, OBE. There is holiness in furthering the programs of the department despite the meager resources allowed by the approved budget. There is holiness in being meticulous and faithful to the tasks, never minding the performance appraisal of the immediate superior that may affect the bonuses and incentives. More importantly, there is holiness in embracing the specific responsibility of our classrooms and offices as the privileged places of evangelization and formation of our students. 

The first reading, from the letter of St. Paul to the Colossians is my favorite reading for the blessing of homes. One of the reasons, I guess, why people want the house to be blessed is to drive away evil spirits that may be hovering there.  I normally tell people that driving away evil spirits serves little if the members of the family do not keep the good spirits within the home. The attitudes mentioned here are ways of keeping the good spirits. They are attitudes that persons working in a community setting like ours would be good to have.

For teachers, academic rigor is a non-negotiable; there is no substitute for hard work and competence that we require of students. We know, however, actual practice of teaching shows how kindness and patience are a big help for academic rigor. Teachers will exact academic rigor when they do not forget or set aside their humanity and compassion. Students know and feel you are serious with academic work in the measure that you are kind and patient with them. With regards to the relationship between colleagues in the academe or of the employees in the varied offices in the university, humility and forbearance are necessary. You are all witnesses how the atmosphere in the office and in the department becomes heavy and even unbearable, some of you, call it toxic, when co-officemates and colleagues fail to be humble and bear with each other’s failings. Di ba mahirap makasama o makatrabaho yong mga taong parang hindi nagkakamali o laging naghahanap kung saan ka nagkukulang o nagkakamali? Living or working together alongside others is surely a path of spiritual growth. Pope Francis has very practical advice towards reaching holiness in the office: “don’t gossip, stop judging, and most important, stop being cruel.” To be holy, one has to be kind. Yong mga sinasabi ko sa inyo, hindi ito galing sa akin ha; galing kay Pope Francis ‘to!

And above all, the letter says, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Pope Francis in Gaudete et Exultate says that we bear witness to God in all we do, and all we need to do is to “live our lives in love.” It is love which sums up all the attitudes we have mentioned. To all rules and prescriptions, Christ does not give us additional commands, but presents to us two faces, or better yet, one face alone: the face of God reflected in so many other faces. He asks us to see his face in the most vulnerable and defenseless, as well as in the most unpleasant and obnoxious. Kung hinahanap natin ang mukha ng Diyos, makita sana natin Sya sa mukha na di nasisilayan ng ngiti, sa mukha na nagsusumamo ng pang-unawa, sa mukha na nag-aanyayang tayo’y magtiwala.

The gospel presents to us Christ the teacher who washes the feet of his disciples. In order for us to appreciate the import of his action, it is good to remember that this took place during the Last Supper. The three other evangelists called the Synoptics , Matthew, Mark and Luke, center the story of the Last Supper on the institution of the Eucharist, where Christ presents himself as the Body and Blood offered for our salvation, an offering that was completed on the Cross. When we celebrate the Last Supper in the Mass at the moment of consecration, we end the commemoration with the words, “Do this in remembrance of me.” In the gospel of St. John which we read this morning, there is no institution of the Eucharist. Instead Christ showed his sacrificing love in the washing of the disciple’s feet.  Jesus gave all the explanation about the commandment of love after this humiliating action. He ends by saying, “As I have done for you, you should also do.”

The lesson is clear. We show our love in acts of service. We reach for holiness in acts of service. Jesus the teacher who washes his disciples’ feet is the model of the teacher who attends to the needs of the students. Jesus who washes his disciples’ feet is the model of the courses, which we call “service courses.” He is the model of those who work in the offices and laboratories to assure service to the students and professors. 

If it is service that Jesus gives to his disciples, it is equally the service that professors and employees expect from the administrators, from every administrator. Everyone is addressed by Jesus to do the humiliating act of service when he tells each one of us, “As I have done for you, you should also do.”

Homily delivered by Fr. Marcelo Marcelo V. Manimtim, CM during the Mass in celebration of Teachers' and Employees' Day

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