This is the full transcript of the homily of Rev. Fr. Andres Rivera, Jr., OSA, the Prior Provincial of the Augustinian Province of Santo Niño de Cebu – Philippines on the occasion of the Solemn Profession of Fray James Alibong, OSA held at San Agustin Center of Studies in Quezon City on September 25, 2021.
This is a copyedited form based from a transcribed homily spontaneously delivered by Very Rev. Fr. Andres Rivera Jr., OSA, Prior Provincial.
One of man’s dimensions is his calling to know and to worship God. By just listening to His voice, man is [surely] called to have a [a sense of] direction. But frankly, my brothers and sisters, I have been a solemnly professed [Augustinian] for twenty-three years already but I have not yet heard the actual voice of God. I do not know what kind of voice God possesses. Has God a male or a female voice, or what? I have never heard His voice. Likewise, I do not know if you have heard His voice as well.
[Hence,] the question here is this: what is the voice of God? Deep inside our hearts and even in our persons, [God’s voice] is the longing to see His Face. This is our vocation. The voice of God may not normally be heard by everyone. But the thing is, when there are [life’s] events when [one is] being disturbed, [there is this birth of] longing to know and to see the meaning of the voice of God.
[It] may not be heard directly. But in the daily events, we encounter and we hear it. We are disturbed by [this voice] like the young Samuel [in] his dream. He heard the voice of God and yet does not [immediately] recognize Him. So, he went to Eli. [This is] so meaningful [since] in our life, brothers and sisters, every time we are disturbed by something, we [are naturally led] to the elderlies [for direction]; we [sense the need] to listen to them. [Just as well] in formation houses, we need formators. Formators are men who would help you discern the voice of God. Since [this voice] is not directly heard, we need to discern the kind of encounter [we are going through].
We are called to seek the face of God. [But] what is the face of God? What does [it] mean? Have you [truthfully] seen His Face? This Face has been identified directly with Jesus. Every time you serve Him [in] the poor and the needy, you [direct this service to] Him. [Likewise, this] means, [that] in the community, we are called to enter and seek the face of God in [its] context of the Church. It is in situations – not the comfortable ones, but rather [those referring to] situations of adversities in the community. This is [also a manifestation of] the face of God. We do not [just] dream about God – who is “nakahiga” – [just comfortably lying in ‘peace’]. [But] no. According to the teachings of Jesus, we encounter God [in a daily basis]. [Hence, His daily presence], especially, if we are encountering evil, [is a source of the] power of God [from whom we ask for help] to resolve it in us.
In the community, my brothers and sisters, we [behold] the face of God because He identifies Himself with the lowly. Some of us in the community may not be rich – not just materially – but spiritually [as well]. We need the assistance of God – His grace – to [assist us] overcoming [our] weaknesses.
As Augustinians, we are called into [life in] the community, not because that we may have a living – para buhayin ka nang community. No. It is [the other way around]: we are [in the community] as brothers, as priests to promote, to preserve and to restore life in the community. We are not making a living here: Hindi tayo pumasok sa community para mabuhay. But we are called to [join so that we may] experience life in the community.
Winston Churchill once said: “We make a living by what we get; but we make a life by what we give.” [You might not have possessed any] wealth when you entered the community or the Church; [and you need not possess] any wealth to contribute [something] to the community and to the church.
If we are not wealthy, let [us set this aside then for this is not the only contribution we can offer] brothers. [More than ever, we ask:] what can we give to the community and to the Church? Primarily, it is one’s change of life. We [may] not be perfect. [But] we are called to enter into the community to seek the face of God in the midst of all the adversities. [Hence, to call] on change of our inner self is a great contribution to the community. Every time there is transformation and conversion among us, it becomes a gift to the community.
So precisely brothers and sisters, this is a call of [Fray] Alibong [as today he is about to] profess the evangelical counsels, not because he has [completed] his initial formation. But this is the beginning of his continuous listening to the voice of God. [Fray] Alibong is marking a new beginning of continuous listening to the voice and to seek the Face of God in the community. [Fray Alibong,] if you can see and discern the face of God, you get a direction. This direction is to live and to do what the Word of God is asking of you.
This is a [religious] vocation. This is not [simply] a civil work. You are called by God to seek His Face in the midst of the community, wherein you are also changed. You [contribute] life to the community because of your conversion. You seek more as you continue to listen to His Voice and His Word. His Word is your direction; [and your direction is] to serve the community and the Church.
[Finally,] brothers and sisters, we continue to pray for our brother, Fray James Alibong because [this vocation to listen to the] voice of God may not easily be heard and [be readily] understood. We [acknowledge the need of] guidance in the grace of God [through] our formators, our leaders and the Church [in order] to have a direction in our ministry in the Church. We pray [for you Fray Alibong that] may God help you.