But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
~ Luke 18:13-14
Yesterday, I joined my brothers in their regular monthly visit to the the retired priests of Pampanga at their retirement house, the Domus Pastorum.
In my advanced age, I still sometimes find myself longing for the glory day of my youth: when I was an accomplished and respected executive, not like other people – thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector; when I would impress people with my devotion and dedication, working long hours, putting in great effort, being seen in social functions and events; when I would lead companies to earn millions and be generous in contribution to worthy causes.
That was all absent when we gathered yesterday. Instead, I felt the genuine care and affection of my brothers for the retired priests, many of whom were our formators, who molded us in our youth into the persons we are today. There was a continuous outpouring of gratitude for all they have done for us. There was humble acknowledgement that we could never thank them enough for what they have done for us.
There was Fr. Greg who shared with us his reflections during the homily. His insights grow deeper and hit closer to home even as he advances in age.
There was Fr. Rex who has been incapacitated by stroke. His child-like simplicity and humor still shines through even as he finds it difficult but still manages to communicate and interact with us.
There was Fr. Tix who was our music teacher imbuing in us a true appreciation of sacred music. He was most expressive of their appreciation of the monthly visits by his former students.
Then, there was Apu Ceto, our retired Archbishop. We all look like prodigal sons of the ever caring father. But the truth is, he has been the one prodigal in his limitless and unbounded love and forgiveness for us, his often wayward sons.
Filled with the feelings of the day – joy, gratitude, humility, generosity, love and care – and coupled with a lot of laughter, reminiscing and remembrances; I can only join the publican in humble prayer, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’