I just celebrated my fiftieth birthday. I was thinking of celebrating it with two other classmates from high school, but certain people insisted that I should celebrate the occassion at the parish. So I did, on the 15, 17th, 19th and … there will be another one on the 22nd. I must say that I have been waiting for January 17, 2012 for quite some time now. And this is why …
When I celebrated my 20th birthday in 1982 I was on my last year in Philosophy in Guadalupe, Makati. I remember telling some classmates that to live for fifty years is enough. I didn’t really know what I was saying then. Like people my age, I thought that thirty was already quite old and that after forty, there was nothing really looking forward to. But that view would soon change…
Let’s jump ten years into the future. In 1992, I was celebrating my thirtieth birthday at the Colegio S. Monica in Rome. As part of the decorations I brought out about twelve small clay figurines I’ve been working on during the cold nights of December depicting different biblical characters as boys and girls. The clay figurines were three-dimensional versions of the cartoon character I’ve been drawing on the Sunday songsheets that we used to prepare for the people joining us at mass. I was at the time also finishing my studies at the Biblicum. Knowing that by the summer I would be returning to the Philippines, I told the brothers that my hope is that my public life would be longer than three years recalling that the Lord left the paternal home when he was thirty and spent only three years in the ministry.
January 17, 2002 was a blast. I celebrated my fortieth birthday in a hall decorated as if for a children’s party. My love for cartoons was highlighted then, and the Prior decided to play a prank on me by planting magic candles on my cake. The candles were “magic” because no matter how hard you blow on them, their flames don’t die out. But the moment was magical, you see. Because when I reviewed the ten years that preceded that birthday, I found out that somehow my life’s journey has brought me to a lot of unexpected places. When I entered the monastery, and was asked what I would do, I simply said that I’d like to teach. But there I was at CSA-Bacolod celebrating my birthday as the VP for Academic Affairs! And then there was the internet, still quite new then to a lot of people in the room with me, yet I already had my website at www.agustinongpinoy.com and was already featured at About.Com for “A Friar’s Journal”. Even then I already had a collection of articles posted at Suite101.Com, written from 1999-2001. These are articles that I have expanded during the years and until now still serve me as online resources for the people I teach.
Ten more years after that, and now I am fifty. Last January 17, I celebrated my birthday with the Basic Ecclesial Community I started to work with in 2005. The cell leaders that animate the community attend the Sunday lessons I give at the parish while at the same time making use of my online resources hosted at Biblista.Net. On Sunday, January 22, I will be celebrating my birthday with the cell leaders who operate for different cell groups within the parish. I call them the BEC Cell Animators and they are quite familiar with the BEC formation program that I have been trying to develop these past few years. It is a program based on the following principles:
- that the Word of God is not only Scriptures, but also a person, Jesus Christ, and the memory of the Apostles that is handed on in Tradition
- that the three-fold reality of the Word of God come together in the Eucharist, which is the goal of every true and valid reading of the Scriptures
- that our reading of the Scriptures should be intelligent, and must engage all the talents (memory, imagination included) that God has given to each one
- that our reading of the Scriptures should respect the human element of the text so that we can get into the senses that the Holy Spirit — primary author of Scriptures — would like us to grasp and comprehend
- that our reading and study of Scriptures should make us “Church”, the Body of Christ, the sacrament of God’s encounter with men.
Back in 1990 when I had the article “Reading the Text, in its Pre-Text and Con-Text: Hearing the Word of God Today” published in Views (a publication of the University of San Agustin), I had no idea how a “militant reading of Scriptures” in a Filipino context would look like. But now, after watching our cell leaders work with their neighbors I can see how “militant” they can be … as “militant” as a Church conscious that it has to fight against sin while going about its work of evangelization.
Back in 1985 when I first drew my first cartoon character (it was for a “thank you” card given to a retreat master), I didn’t know that it would be followed by others that would be published in a book. None of my cartoon drawings since 1992 have found themselves in a book, but some have been posted in websites and mostly for instructional purposes.
Back in 1992 when I submitted my final paper to the Biblicum, I did not know I would carry out my ministry in biblical apostolate that the degree SSL required of me. How could I imagine then that I’d be using the World Wide Web as a publishing option and the Basic Ecclesial Communities as my workplace?
Back in 1999, when I published my first webpage for Geocities.Com, I didn’t know exactly what I would do with it. Now, I know what can be done with a text editor, an internet connection and a FTP software for the work of evangelization. And when internet and real life can be combined, then blogging or posting web articles can become a form of witnessing that extends online what one has been doing offline. This was what I told the members of the DOST Roundtable for Spirituality and the Internet. It was a statement that Pope Benedict XVI has since confirmed twice.
Back in 2004, the year I left the education apostolate, I republished “Ten Augustinian Values” in the school’s research journal. The article was written some five years before for the Guidance Counselling Office of the University of San Agustin. Recently, someone asked me permission to have that article published on their school’s website. That is the third time since 2005 that someone has asked my permission for that article to be posted in their school’s website. The first time was for a school in Australia, and the second time, it was for a school in the U. S. I know that it is not the only article I’ve written and posted on the web that people find useful. I only wish that I could write more and publish useful reading materials that people can actually use, whether as students, teachers, cell leaders, catechists and preachers.
Fifty years … Man, I can’t wait till I’m sixty! Who knows what the God of surprises has in store for me.
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