Like the stars forever
Here is the full text of Archbishop Socrates Villegas’ homily, delivered during the funeral Mass of Archbishop Oscar Cruz at the Saint John the Evangelist Cathedral in Dagupan City August 28:
“Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, others to reproach and everlasting disgrace. But those with insight shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever“.
This gives me the sure hope that our departed archbishop Oscar, and Tito Cary for his nieces and nephews, will shine in the firmament of heaven forever because he taught us the path of justice and righteousness. He taught us to be true to the truth. He taught us to give life to our faith. He taught us to fear sin as he assured the innocent they have nothing to fear. He taught us to challenge our Goliaths in the name of the Lord almighty.
He did not consider himself pious. He called himself a chuckling mischievous man. He wrote in his last will….Do not worry I will not multo you. Promise! He was not ascetic and morose. He was joyful, funny and witty sometimes sarcastic. He did not like too much attention on him and considered it all vanity. He was against a gathering like this to remember him. He did not like people looking at his cold dead body.
But I know he is a saint and the skies of Dagupan cried on the day he passed away. He is a saint but not our usual one. He was not a saint of pandemics and plagues. He was not a saint in the confessional and the kneeler. He was a different one.
He was a doctor who instructed us in goodness. Does not our faith assure us that such men will shine like the stars for all eternity?
He was a saint who rallied with us and joined us in picket lines against illegal gambling and prostitution, championing social justice and the rights of women. Does not the gospel teach us that what we do to the poor is done to Christ and such acts will be rewarded in heaven?
In his retirement years, he blogged and wrote books making himself an apostle of the desktop, the keyboard and the internet. His pulpit went beyond the ambo. This different kind of saint brought Christ to the city plaza. Does not the Bible teach us those who bring good news have beautiful feet and those feet are beautiful and heavenly?
He was a doctor who taught. His message was Christ, a different face of Christ.
A doctor in the Church is not a healer; a doctor who heals is called a physician. In the Church, a doctor is an expert, a wise man, an authority in a particular field. A doctor is an authoritative teacher whose proficiency in his field is unquestionable and whose counsel is sought and hailed.
Our Archbishop Oscar was a doctor of canon law. He was an expert in law. His advice was sought after. His legal opinions were valued. He was a teacher in goodness. He was a judge in the name of righteousness. He dispensed with justice using his faith grounded on reason with exceptional clarity.
He sought justice on behalf of suffering spouses in problematic marriages. He defended the Church from the filth of clerical misconduct. He was a just man like Saint Thomas More, a man for all seasons, the patron of lawyers, philosophers and humanists. He taught us. He taught without relent. He taught us without trepidation. He taught us until the end. I declare my sure hope that he will shine like the stars for all eternity. He was doctor of the Lord and the Church.
In his twilight years, after his retirement as our archbishop, he always blessed with two take home gifts each time I visited him. He always blessed with two very important gifts from the Lord, the gift of holy anger and the gift of holy courage. Yes anger is a gift and so is courage.
He was angry because he was in love. He was angry because he loved the world and the Church. He was angry at the way things were. It was not an anger that bred revenge and bloodthirst. It was an anger that was coming from a deep craving for something better for the Church, something more beautiful for society. It was an anger born from hope. That anger born from hope nurtured holy courage in him to work his very best so that things will not remain as they are. He always tried. He was not always successful but he never gave up. Larga!
He was an apostle of holy hope, but not the whispering hope of romantic Christmas carols; it was the hope of a dreamer, the hope of a Don Quixote dreaming impossible dreams.
He was a pastor of contagious courage, not the courage of subversives and rebels, but the silent courage of the beloved disciple beneath the cross who never fled from danger and who was never cowed by risks.
This doctor of justice and truth, this apostle of hope, this pastor of admirable courage is now silent. He is silent like the stars in the firmament of heaven. As his brilliance shines upon us from heaven, we look up to him and say “Thank you dear archbishop”. Thank you for showing us a different face of holiness. Speak to us in our silent sadness.
You said as a joke quite often that the fear of the bishop is the beginning of wisdom. Now from heaven you can see, you are not feared in Lingayen-Dagupan. You are deeply loved. As we look up to the heavens and imagine you gazing down on us, we see your naughty smile of mischief telling us finally “It is really love that saves not canon law!”
Let your memory teach us justice and righteousness. Let your memory teach us holy anger and holy courage. In heaven, may your friend Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi welcome you! Greet Cardinal Jaime Sin for me on his birthday on Monday! Bring them my love.
See you in the Father’s house in time. Balbaleg ya salamat ed sikayo! Dakal pung salamat Apung Oscar!
Archbishop it is now my turn to say….larga!
Galingan nyo! Pahinga na po.
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