GOSPEL INFLUENCERS

December 16, 2022 – Misa de Aguinaldo, National Youth Day 2022

Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121622.cfm)

Today, on this first day of Misa de Aguinaldo, the Philippine Church also dedicates this day as the National Youth Day with its theme: “Mary Arose and Went with Haste.”

With this emphasis of the gift of the young, I would like to invite you now that we listen to personal faith story from one of our Youth Animators. He serves as an Altar Server in our Parish and a member of the Human Formation Committee of RYM-Iloilo. Let us welcome, Carl Joseph Cajaban.

As a server and youth member of this parish for the past 6 years, there are various values that I have learned from this church community. I actually started my journey of emptiness not really knowing the significant roles and importance of being a servant of the Lord.

I felt, that there was a time when the Lord Jesus made his way so that I get close to him. Even though I am not worthy to be a servant of our Lord, but gradually I developed my relationship with him through the people who have become significant in my faith-journey. Nanay Ledia is one of the devotees of this parish who has become significant for me as young Catholic. She is the one who initiated and encouraged me to serve Jesus Christ in my youth. She dedicated her time and presence to me to help me be enlightened and know God better.

She once said to me, “Tanan na bagay na madako, naga umpisa sa gamay na butang.” What she said seemed to be very short and simple yet for me, he words meant a lot and filled with meaning. Through her, I realized that there is a God who guides me in the way of sending his instruments to awaken my soul. This has kept committed in the ministries I am involved now in our parish.

However, due to some circumstances in my life, sometimes I feel that I am worthless, pity-worthy, and a useless person. Yet for these reasons as well, I joined this ministry to develop my self-confidence and to be a socially responsible person.

Honestly, this parish community helps me a lot, which is why I continue to serve and praise our God. Moreover, this is how I also realized my relationship with our mother Mary, from whom I have experienced her caring and precious heart. This shows me a mother’s concern who continually guided me to be closer to Jesus.

As I close this short reflection of mine, I would like to encourage other young people to join us in the ministry or in any Church ministry that will bring us closer to Jesus. May our act of service to the Lord and to the Church allow us to grow and become mature.

What we have heard from Carl’s faith story was the wonder of having people and even recognizing ordinary events in life that have directed us towards the Lord.

The experiences of Carl remind us of the readings we have heard today. The Book of Prophet Isaiah tells us of the presence of the foreigners. These foreigners have joined themselves to the Lord. They too have recognized the goodness of the Lord God. This tells us that the Hebrew people who have become their friends created a huge impact in their life because through them, they were led to the one True God.

Indeed, it was the joy that they have experienced from the believers of God that they too were assisted to know God. God even promised in the Book of Isaiah that through the presence of the many peoples, there will be joy in the house of prayer, in the community.

This is what we also find in the Gospel. Jesus recognized the person of John the Baptist, his cousin who became that person for others to know Jesus. John the Baptist led the people to recognize God in the person of Jesus by preparing their hearts and minds. This is how John had become a reflection of the True Light. John never assumed that he was the source of Light. John knew very well who the light was. That is why, through his preaching and way of life, he reflected the light that came from Jesus. John, indeed, is the burning and shining lamp for the people.

On this first day of Misa de Gallo, we are reminded too of the person of Mary who through her, God entered in our human history physically. Through her, Jesus was born for us. Mary too is the shining lamp that leads us to Jesus. This is the reason why we have this 9-day Misa de Gallo in honor of Mary because she leads us to Jesus. She brings us closer to Jesus just as how Mary arose and went with haste to visit and help her old cousin Elizabeth.

With that, today our liturgy is also centered on the theme, “Mary arose and went with haste.” This was after the annunciation of the angel to Mary. Even when Mary knew already that she was pregnant, that did not limit her to only look after herself. Mary saw the need of an old cousin and so she arose from her comfort and went with haste without any doubt or hesitation. What Mary brought was only love and commitment to share the fullness of heart to others.

What Mary showed is a movement of encounter. And in every encounter we share life and stories of encounters with God and on how God manifests the divine presence in us and among us. This must be the event as well as Mary dared to encounter her cousin and her husband.

In a way, the faith-sharing of Carl and his story tell us of his encounters with people who have become significant in his faith-journey. Those foreigners in the Book of Isaiah also were able to encounter and know God through their encounter with the Hebrews. The Jewish people who came to believe Jesus, had their first encounter with John the Baptist that also paved the way for them to encounter Jesus ultimately. Such movement of encounter now became the very opportunity for more encounters between a person and Jesus.

This is the invitation for us today particularly to all young people. Considering the way of life of the many young people today, the internet has become a space for encounter, though virtual. In fact, our country Philippines has been branded as the Social Media Capital of the World. As of January 2022, there are about 76.01 millions of Filipinos who social media users.[1] The most active among us are those ages between 25 to 34 years old. Unsurprisingly, the Senior Citizens or those 65 years old and above are part of the 6.5 million social media users. That means, the seniors are not that far behind us!

Again, according to the survey, out of the total population of our country, 82.4% have social media accounts or equivalent to 92.5 million. Majority of us, spend as much as 4 hours and 6 minutes on Facebook daily. But, there is a total of 10 hours and 27 minutes of time being spent by the 76.01 millions of Filipinos on the internet.

I am sure that in this mass, there are also many of you scanning right now, at this very moment, your social media sites through your mobile phones. That only tells us that our mobile/smartphones have become part of our identity, of who we are. Our smartphone, regardless of our socio-economic status, is an extension of ourselves and our connection to the world.[2]

Yet, let us not allow that these will be the cause of indifference among us. Let us not allow that these gadgets will prevent us to become more human and more loving. Do not allow the use of Social Media to make us bitter, pretentious, and source of disinformation and fake news in order to deceive many. Rather, let us maximize the gift of technology by bringing people closer to Jesus through the very gadget in our hands and through the media that we are very familiar with. Indeed, the Lord invites us today, especially the young to be “Gospel Influencers” (to influence through the Gospel) in our own group of friends on Facebook or Instagram or TikTok.

Create encounters with your friends and followers by sharing your God experiences in your social media sites. This include also sharing on how God shows his goodness and generosity to you and your family. Preach to others how God changed your life. Share with others how you have experienced love and forgiveness. Share with your friends the Word of God that has struck you. Share the good news rather than your hatred and bitterness towards others, rather than fake news and misinformation.

Thus, even as young persons, we can be an instrument of hope and love, of transformation and peace by bringing people closer to Jesus. Let us flood the Social Media with love and hope by actively preaching our Christian faith.

But friends, may I also remind you, as we maximize the gift of technology, never forget also the gift of your presence in making physical and personal encounters with people around you, with your family and friends. With that, be a Gospel Influencer by being physically present to people around you just as Mary, our Mother, arose and went with haste to encounter her cousin and to bring the presence of the Lord through her very person.

Lastly, I would like to invite all of you who have your phones right now, after this mass, please take a selfie or grofie with your friends in our Church and share to others the good news that you have received and please use these hashtags, #NYDPh2022  #MaryAroseAndWentWithHaste #FilipinoYouth #StClements #RYMIloilo. Ok lang? Sana all.


[1] https://www.meltwater.com/en/blog/social-media-statistics-philippines

[2] Ibid.

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