What makes one truly happy or to use the word from the Beatitudes, “blessed?” We can enumerate a number of factors that could contribute to man’s happiness, but most often, they are too mundane that we can rightly see their impact to be very limited or fleeting. If you ask me personally, I would say that I see happiness not as “things” but as “persons” or “happiness personified.” Let me explain:
I entered the Minor Seminary as early as thirteen years old. Then, my older brother, Nong Gabo (my father’s Jr.) was in his first year in high school in the same seminary. Entering the seminary at an early age, I asked, “What could an adolescent really do in the seminary?” I was this awkward and shy guy who’s having great difficulty fitting in. Funny story: I had a very close friend in the elementary who invited me that we both enter the seminary together. But at the very last minute, he changed his mind and opted to study at the Aklan Dev’t Science High School, and so I ended up stuck in the seminary by myself and my brother of course! But as I was exploring the seminary and trying my best to fit in, there was this wonderful person, who initially approached me with a smile and introduced himself. His name was Jesse. He was never called “Jum-Jum” in the seminary. It was a nickname that only his family called him especially by his mom, the late Ate Edna. And so, if you become “family” to him, “Jum-Jum” is the name to call him. Among many friends I’ve known, Jum-Jum was one of those friends, who concretely manifested what “happiness” looks like. Jum-Jum’s aura was so light that you can hardly see him frowning or sad. Indeed, he was “happiness personified!”
In our Gospel, Jesus outlines the beatitudes. They identify essentially the kind of happiness that He wants us to seek. The guideposts that will lead us to true and lasting happiness … blessedness! Allow me to focus on the two beatitudes out of the 2 main sets of the 8 Beatitudes:
1. From the first set of beatitudes: Happiness of the poor in spirit. One of the basic lessons we can learn from the Beatitudes is realizing how poor we are in spirit. It is acknowledging and NOT denying our sinfulness, and in so doing, subject ourselves in total dependence on God’s mercy, as well as His generosity. In short, it could be summed up in “meekness” or “humility.” We can never achieve salvation on our own. We must, therefore, put our complete faith in Jesus Christ.
There was this true story about Fr. Jum-Jum when he was saying a Mass at the Cathedral in Kalibo. He already had diabetes then and with some of his fingers amputated caused by the disease, he had difficulty using his hands. To make up for his disability, he would use an iPad to access the Missal, etc. One time, there was a couple in the congregation who was visiting from Manila and went to that Mass where Fr. Jum-Jum was presiding. Without knowing Fr. Jum-Jum’s condition, the couple reported their disgust about the priest, who said Mass using an iPad within the Eucharistic celebration which they find to be “inappropriate.” The pastor who heard their clamor after Mass, in a subtle way, explained to the couple Fr. Jum-Jum’s condition. Towards the end of his piece, he remarked, “It’s a pity that he can’t use his hands well unlike many of us, but that didn’t keep him from saying the Mass anyway. It was for him, for always, an honor he enjoys doing.” In the end, the couple apologized and never again judged Fr. Jum-Jum’s integrity and dedication to his ministry.
The problem with today’s world is the refusal to trust in God. Fr. Jum-Jum spent his life suffering from diabetes, but he had always trusted in God’s power and aid. Most often, we put too much attention and attachment to what this world can offer (material things, etc.). To things that lead us away from Him. Even in times when we know we cannot handle life’s trials and struggles we remain stubborn by doing things on our own and relying on our human powers. Unless, we possess poverty in spirit, true happiness is unattainable.
2. From the second set of beatitudes: The happiness of the pure of heart. What Jesus meant about being pure of heart is that we cannot be happy if we are hypocrites. The purest of heart is morally pure, honest and sincere. God does not aim at reforming our societies, it is His aim to "change" the hearts of men ... to purify such hearts of sinners like you and me that it may SEE God. As you can see, the heart is the center of all our actions, our thinking, and our decision-making. What comes out from our mouths are what our hearts desire and think about. God wants to purify our hearts that it may SEE Him and that all our actions will be directed to Him and to Him alone.
Moreover, the pure of heart is able to discern the presence of God in others and in the small and ordinary events of their lives.
Fr. Jum-Jum, I must say, was a very positive person. He sees good things in persons, events and situations in life without being hypocritical. When we were in UST, whenever I find myself in the toughest situations, he would be the first person to lift me up. His brother Rhoel once told me how Fr. Jum-Jum treasured our friendship and how he was inspired by me in the seminary. Well, for most the part it was the other way around. I never had the courage and strength that Fr. Jum-Jum had. I remember a time when I was to speak in front of the community in behalf of my Base-Group. I was so nervous I could not speak. I could not remember how I got the part in the first place, but Fr. Jum-Jum composed the piece for me to lessen the nervousness. With my hands shaking to deliver the piece, at the back pew where Fr. Jum-Jum’s batch were seated, a thumbs up came up in the air. It was Fr. Jum-Jum cheering for me. A person with a pure heart lifting me up at the very time when I needed it so badly. At the end of the speech, he came to me to congratulate me even though I knew I did poorly. But for him, it was job well done or at least to let me know that something good happened out of the experience.
People who find positive meaning, even in bad experiences, has the purest of heart – he/she is able to see the GOOD in his/her life pointing them out with reference to the God who is TRUTH, GOODNESS and BEAUTY!
Today, let us call upon the illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit to teach us how best can we be blessed. Let us yearn for holiness and be willing to be persecuted because of it. Let us crave to be lowly - poor in spirit, to have a pure heart, confident that if we are, we will one day see God. ONLY in that can we find true happiness in the presence of our God and so we pray to realize it.
Fr. Jum-Jum, words are not enough to describe how I have treasured our friendship together. It was a chapter of my life worth remembering. It was the climax of a written novel I never knew would happen. You have a special place in my heart which I will forever relish. Rest in God’s embrace and peace. You may have left us so young, but your inspiration has been so great immeasurable by worldly time. Please pray for us left behind. Send our love to your parents and intercede for us like you always do.
Rest in peace my dear friend … Malipayon nga kamatayon ag pagkabahaw kaybahan kay Kristo!