You bring to the ministry of priests in the archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan long experiences in the professional field. To say that you have long experiences being brought to the priesthood is actually a polite way of saying, “You are late in your priesthood.”
Father Jasper: That’s also been revealed by many priests that I am already 45-years old. It’s because I worked before entering the seminary. Before entering seminary, I was…I still am an electronics and communications engineer. I’ve worked for nearly 14 years before entering the seminary. When I was becoming successful, again I asked myself… is this really my will of becoming successful. Or you still want me to pursue or to heed the call that you have given me since I was a child. So, I discerned and I tried to follow that call.
Father Soc: You’re not old. You’re just more experienced than your batch-mates. There is no late vocation. There is only a late realization that you are being called. From Basista to Birhen Milagrosa (Miraculous Virgin) University, to being an engineer, working in Binondo, working in Quezon City, and then looking for the meaning of life. You have many and varied experiences. And then later on, to the Mary Help of Christians Theology Seminary, we gave you many more avenues, pathways of more experiences. Meeting theologians through their writings, meeting the poor in their communities, meeting children in their difficulties, meeting young people in their joy of serving the Lord, your heart is full of experiences – pastoral experiences, academic experiences, spiritual experiences during retreats. All of these, you now bring to the altar of the Lord, in a few minutes.
Father Jasper: It’s not actually late vocation. It is late response. For us, anything is possible. The first vocation, especially Saint Peter and the apostles, were all late vocations. They were fishers of men. They were working when God called. Time and even age does not matter. What matters is answering the call to love.
Father Soc: Today’s the feast of the Holy Innocence. What is more important – experience or innocence? Because we are experienced people. We tend to be sophisticated. We tend to complicate simple matters because we say we have many experiences. It is quite curious that there is a Feast of Holy Innocence but there is no feast of holy experienced people. Innocence is exulted on the day of your ordination so how should you be? Should you be an innocent priest or should you be an experienced seminarian waiting for ordination? Which is more important? To be a priest celebrating with joy or to be a priest knowing how to cry? Which is more important – to become a missionary and say, “I baptize you in the name of the Father…” or to be hidden by the chest of the Lord and contemplate His heartbeat like Saint John the Beloved. Which is more important? Is it innocence or experience? Is it tears or is it joy? Is it contemplation or is it ministry and mission?
Jasper, both are important if you only remember one thing. Only by the mercy of God. Dahil lang sa awa ng Diyos. sola per Misericordiam dei…
Innocence separated from God is ignorance. And it is an imperfection that God does not deserve from you. But experience separated from God is vanity from your intelligence. It can make you proud and arrogant than the rest because you say experience is the best teacher. Tears without the mercy of God can only be depression. Sacrifice without the mercy of God can only be masochism but joy without the mercy of God is hedonism. Glory to God without the mercy of God is a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Ministry without the mercy of God is just social work, philanthropic work. What makes your life different is sola per Misericordiam dei only by the grace of God, dahil lamang sa awa ng Diyos (only by the mercy of God) …that innocence become sanctifying, that experience become sanctifying, that tears become sanctifying, that joy become sanctifying, that our mission become sanctifying, that our contemplation become sanctifying, our sacrifices become sanctifying because of the mercy of God and our joys and our comforts become sanctifying also because of the mercy of God. There will come a time when the mercy of God will be eased out of your life. There will come a time when the constant hearing of those words – Ang galing mo, Father. Ang guwapo mo, Father. Ang buti-buti mo, Father. Ang bait-bait mo, Father. Ang tapang-tapang mo, Father. (You’re amazing, Father. You’re so handsome, Father. You’re so good father. You’re so kind, Father. You’re so brave, Father.) Because of constantly hearing these, you will start to believe that it is really not mercy. That it is your will power, that it is your achievement, that it is your eloquence, that it is your research, that it is your experiences that makes you a good priest. The temptation of the priest is not about women. The temptation of the priest is not about more money. The temptation of the priest is not about disobedience to the bishop. You know what is the first temptation? It is the first temptation that Adam and Eve also received. When the devil said to both of them. Awa ng Diyos? (Mercy of God?) Don’t believe Him. Because if you eat this fruit, you are going to be wise. You’re going to be more intelligent. You are going to know what is evil and what is good. You are going to eat it because it is going to make you better. God does not want you to be better. He wants you to submit to Him. When the “awa ng Diyos” (mercy of God) has become less and less visible in your life, when the “awa ng Diyos” (mercy of God) is already on the sidewalk and not on the main street, believe me, my dear brother, you need to return to it. You need to return to it. Because only by the grace of God, can you live as a priest, can you move on as a priest, can you die as a priest. And when you die, people you leave behind will be able to exclaim about your life. What a good and holy priest we saw in Father Jasper. In innocence or experience. In sacrifice or feast. In tears or in gladness. In kyrie eleison or gloria in kyrie exelsis deo. It is “awa ng Diyos” that will carry you through. Jasper, God calls you. Follow Him. Ask for His mercy. And He will help you to become the priest of mercy that you have been destined to be even before you were born.