Thursday, March 27, 2008

The making of a sermon

Last Sunday, the priest saying Mass reminded
us that Easter is more important than
Christmas and although Jesus Christ became
man on Christmas day to save us,when He rose
from the dead on Easter Sunday, He proved
His divinity beyond any doubt; no human being
had/has ever risen from the dead.(Coincidentally,
on the way to Mass, that was exactly what my
mother was telling us.)

Sadly, I was certain that most of those
gathered there for Easter Mass were
listening but not hearing the priest’s homily;
neither were they transfixed by the awesome
significance of Christ rising from the
dead. Sermons (now called homilies), speeches at
commencement exercises and various commemorations,
even privilege speeches in the august halls of
Congress have been reduced to mere rituals-
decorative, rhetorical and occasional. At best,
the audience is deceptively attentive yet
stone deaf, and at worse, noisy and
shockingly rude.

Frankly, I am always curious about what a speaker
has to say and if he is a priest,pastor
or minister,I want to know if he is able
to connect God’s teachings to my life as a
member of the Church and a citizen of this Republic.
As early as the XVIth century,when Christianity
first came to our shores, the Spanish missionaries
knew that the vital connection had to be made,
profoundly and urgently, lest their efforts at
evangelization fail.

During the Holy Week, I made my own private pabasa
of Seromones of Padre Francisco Blancas de San
Jose,(edited by Jose Mario c. Francisco,SJ,
Pulong:Sources for Philippine Studies, Ateneo de
Manila University, Quezon City), a Dominican who
arrived in 1595, probably aboard a galleon, via
Mexico. He was assigned to Bataan where he
lived for ten years. To make that vital connect
to the native psyche, Padre Blancas de San Jose
had to learn Tagalog and some Chinese, compile
Tagalog words into a glossary and figure out
Tagalog grammatical construction and write
a book about it. Those valuable tools for
evangelization outlived their author.

Not content with grammar books and glossaries,
Padre Blancas de San Jose had to learn native
concepts of the Almighty, the afterlife,
kinship, political and socioeconomic hierarchies,
values like good and evil,punishment and reward.
He also analyzed songs, legends and myths, and
what we now call performing and plastic arts.
Only after acquiring that vast socio-
anthropological experience and body of knowledge
did the padre feel he could touch the lives of the
natives, make them internalize Doctrina
Cristiana and transform them into thinking
Christians. Needless to say, it helped that the
inhabitants of Bataan were rounded up,
by the colonial authorities, in "reducciones"
or hamlets. However, I do not cease to
wonder whether our present day preachers study
the multifarious features of modern Philippine
society as painstakingly as Padre Blancas de
San Jose scrutinized XVIth century Bataan.

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