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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Excerpts from the homilies (On the death of Fr. Jose Saplala, MJ)

  • from the homily of 01 February 2004 PERCY JUAN G. BACANI, MJ

Fr. Joe, your life is a testimony to the truth of what being a missionary means. For you, the test is your truth-telling of what it means to leave everything behind and follow the Master. You did not show any worry or any fear when you decided to be a founding member of our group. You did not calculate your losses or hold on to your comfort zones. You never set any condition for leaving from your former institute. Courage meant for you to lose everything but gaining that which is worth having—tasting and smelling what missioning is in a Filipino way. Fr. Joe, you made the leap in the dark when you left CICM. You left your security. You left a big part of yourself … and that was your first funeral.

Commitment indeed is not staying in a place from which you cannot leave. It is letting go and holding on to a new call. The important thing is not that one spends a whole life doing something, but what one does with one’s whole life and how one does it. Commitment is the fine art of waiting for a thing to become for us what we thought it was a long time ago—makers of our history and partners in God’s mission. Fr. Joe, this was your dream and the dream of your MJ brothers.

Fr. Joe, your presence and determination made a lot of difference in our group. You were in fact saying, by your steady and steely presence, that there is nothing to be afraid of. God will take care of us; He will take care of His mission. Willing to be in the unknown, you told the truth of trusting one another and the truth of God’s Providence. God loves you for seeking Him and birthing Him in a new way. As Meister Eckhart says powerfully, “What good is it to me if Mary gave birth to the son of God fourteen hundred years ago and I do not also give birth to the son of God in my time and in my culture?”

  • from the homily of 02 February 2004 EDWARD LUC MEES, MJ

The way and destiny of Jesus are—or should be—also the way and destiny of the Church. The Church is called to be rooted in all peoples; she is to be a servant to the lowly and those in need, a source of hope and joy, and a blessing. And, in opposing “the proud, the powerful and the rich” (Lk 1: 51-53) and the powers of evil, she is bound to be also a sign of contradiction.

Joe has understood this very well. Manong Joe was, in Archbishop Capalla’s words, a priest and missionary according to Jesus’ heart. He was a true disciple.

Let us give thanks to God for Joe’s presence among us and for the inspiring example of his life as a faithful disciple of Jesus. Like any of us, he was not perfect and had his weaknesses. But I truly dare say that as a missionary, Joe was firmly rooted in his family and Filipino culture, and as such, he was able to enter other people’s culture and reality, thanks to his many human qualities, such as empathy and sensitiveness. He was called by Jesus to be his witness. He lived that call to the full and, within his human limitations, he went all the way.

For all this and so much more, we thank you, good God of life. We know that God, who knows and sounds the depths of our hearts, will reward Joe for it all. Now, Joe may rest in peace.

  • from the homily of 04 February 2004 WILFREDO T. DULAY, MJ

When the personal history of an individual and the collective story of a group intersect, symbols emerge. This has happened, is happening, to José Saplala.

Undeniably, José Saplala was a benchmark in the history of CICM in the Philippines, having been their first Filipino-born member and, significant for the future of MJ, having been in age the firstborn among the Filipinos. Joe is a transition figure, a bridge in the biblical tradition of St. John the Baptist. But, also like the Baptizer, a bridge we had to accept on his own terms.

José was certainly not a mere by-product of colonial evangelization. Though cognizant of the efforts and the merits of the western pioneers of Christianity, he was not satisfied with a religion transposed/imposed from the outside. He wanted a faith that beats with a Filipino heart and thinks with a Filipino mind. Peping was not just a Christian, he was a Filipino Christian.

All his life, José Saplala embodied two conflictive processes: the inculturation of the Christian message, on the one hand, and the struggle for self-determination by former colonies and oppressed nations, on the other. Both the inculturation of the Good News and the pursuit of self-determination are purchased at a high price; in fact, there is no birth without blood.

Bert, José’s younger brother and a former member of the CICM, wondered in grudging admiration: “Joe has nothing more to prove. Why does he have to join the Missionaries of Jesus and risk it all when he is about to enjoy the fruits of retirement in the CICM?”

It is never the wish to settle, to be secure and comfortable, that spells greatness. It is the willingness to risk, dare, and give it all. Instead of retiring in comfort, José moved towards the periphery to meet the Lord and do mission with our brothers and sisters in the margins.

In his late sixties, José Saplala was again invited by the Lord, but to another type of celebration, the celebration of Calvary. Did not the Christ say: “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his Master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him” (Jn 13: 16).

In his letter asking for emancipation from CICM, José Saplala wrote: “I was formed and have grown as a person in the CICM, but there is the mystery of the inner call, the hearkening to the more, the other, the beyond.” José hearkened to the invitation. He remained a faithful missionary of Jesus.

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