Most Rev. Teodoro C. Bacani Jr., D.D.
Bishop Emeritus of Novaliches, Philippines


The day started with the celebration of the Holy Mass by Bishop Ted Bacani, together with Fr. Elpidio Biliran Jr. and Fr. Solomon Jardinero at the Malate Catholic School Chapel. Below is his homily.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning.

Now, we have a very beautiful gospel. It is good that we have it at the beginning of this day because remember that all our lives are a pilgrimage. We are walking, and maybe we do not realize it, but we are also walking together and I think many of you are like many of the people I have heard, and myself also, that they feel dejected—dejected during these times for many reasons. I was just talking to a bishop this morning at breakfast, a bishop from Mindanao, and he said to me, “We are under attack from within and from without; spiritually and from so many circumstances.”

And then he lamented, “And we, bishops, we are acting as if everything is business as usual.” And later, there was a lamentation, and a disappointment, and a frustration. And I shared with him my own frustrations. But this morning, I am not going to share with you any frustrations. But what I’d like to share with you is, first of all, the good news that while we may be walking away dejected, or we may be traveling away, sometimes we have failed; the Lord is nevertheless with us. And I hope that during this day, in some way, we may be able to say, at the end of the day, that our hearts are burning within us as we aim to understand a few more things that we did not understand before. And that God is with us.

Let me begin the homily proper by following what Fr. Biliran told me as we met in the sacristy. “Kailangan integration (integration is needed).” What a beautiful word. Integration. Ang ibig sabihin ng integration (what integration means is), “making whole” – ginagawang buo. And then he pointed out what others pointed out before; that we Filipinos are a very religious group. And I think that you can consider Filipinos as the most religious Christians in the world; at least one of the most religious. Our only rival today is probably Poland but palagay ko, matatalo din natin ang mga Polish na tawaging religious (I think, we can win over the Polish people for being labeled religious). But I also like to say this and many have said this before me, that our religiosity is not integral.

Anong ibig sabihin ng ‘di integral? (What does it mean to say it is not integral?) A long time ago, Fr. Jaime Bulatao, a Jesuit psychologist, coined the word for Philippine Christianity as split-level Christianity. And very recently, Bishop Pablo David in his lamentation over what is happening today, he said, “Yes, we Filipinos, we Catholics, our faith is divorced from ordinary life.” I’d like to illustrate this by two ways: First one is alam niyo naman (you would know that) one of the greatest manifestations of religiosity in the Philippines is the procession of the Nazarene, the Traslacion. They say oh, and really, it is something to see. It is something even extremist. It is extreme and there is no doubt that those who participate in the Traslacion, either by going to Luneta just to be able to touch the image of the Nazarene with those who join in the procession, there is no doubt that they are genuinely religious; that they are genuinely, seekers of God, but you know, at the end of the procession, after 12 hours of procession, what do you see? You see so many of the plants trampled upon; you see so much garbage that has to be collected. My goodness! They were very religious, but you know they do not seem to care very much about the environment that surrounds them, that sustains them. Bakit ganyan? Ganyan ba talaga ang relihiyon natin? Walang kinalaman. (Why do you think is that? Is that really how our religion is? It would seem we do not care.)

The other one is the elections. I will give you a true incident. I was about to celebrate mass in a parish in Balanga, Bataan. The parish is a vibrant parish. The priest called me to celebrate Mass, seeing the politicos (politicians). It was election year at that time. “Bishop, dito po sa amin, ang politika, perahan lang (politics here is all about the money),” he said. That didn’t seem so strange. But then he added, “Alam mo, bishop, kasama sa mga namimigay ng pera pagdating ng eleksiyon ay mga taong simbahan. Ayan, mga taong simbahan, very religious. At pagkakuha niya, tumatanggap ng Body of Christ, Amen. Pagdating ng eleksiyon, vote for me, Amen.” (Bishop, did you know that among those who get involved in bribe money during election period are church people? Church people are very religious. They take the money, like they would the Body of Christ, and say amen. Come election day, politicians exact the votes they were promised, Amen.)

And so many other examples I can cite. When I was going to be ordained a priest, I had talks. Why do you want to be a priest? You will take care of many souls. And you will be saving many souls. 53 taon na akong pari. Hanggang ngayon, wala pa akong nakikitang kaluluwa. (I have been a priest for 53 years. I have not seen a soul.)

Marami na akong nakikitang mukhang kaluluwa, pero kaluluwa? Ang mga tao,‘yan ang akala nila. Ang misyon ng simbahan (ay) para magligtas ng kaluluwa at sinasabi pa nga, yung sinasabi ng ating Panginoon sa harap ni Pilato, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Samakatuwid, separation of church and state. Walang kinalaman ang simbahan dito sa mga nangyayari sa politika. Sapagkat ang kaharian ng Diyos ay di sa mundong ito. (This is what people assume. That the mission of the church is to save souls and people even refer to what the Lord said to Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Hence, the separation of the church and the state. The church does not have anything to do in political affairs. Because the Kingdom of God is not of this world.)

It is a mistaken translation. What the Lord meant, “My kingdom is not from this world. It is from the Father.” But it certainly has to do with this world because we pray the prayer He taught us and we pray it every day. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven...”

It is a very earthly religion we have and the resurrection that we celebrate these days is the surest exemplification of what the Lord wants to do. The battered body of the Lord pierced with the lance, and scourged, crowned with thorns. That body was placed in a tomb and you know our destiny is not to save souls; that is just part of it. Our destiny is to become risen people of the risen Lord. Our resurrection of Christ is the beginning of the renewal of the world. It is not only the beginning of the salvation of souls but of the renewal of the earth. And hence, any religion that teaches you, ang sasabihin, “Wait ka lang.” Wait for the pie in the sky when you die. Well, our religion doesn’t want to just wait only for the pie in the sky when we die. But we hope that there will be a pie that will be shared equitably in this world by people in this world. And that we will also enjoy this world, which the pope tells us in Laudato Si’ is common.

So today, in the Eucharist, we celebrate already the renewal of the world, in anticipation. Here we have the Body of the Lord, the Bread, and the Wine. You know what happens. The bread and the wine become fruit of the earth and work of human hands that will become; they become the body and blood of the Risen Lord. And I hope that we will teach people. We ask that, we help them to live a transformed life. What that transformed life is to be, I hope I would be able to help you in the conference today, but for now, hanggang dito na muna tayo (this is where we stop). Amen.