Fifty years from now, they will look at the pictures of what we are doing this afternoon. They will look at our faces and say: this one’s dead already; this one too; and also this one. But the good things that we are starting now will still be alive fifty or even one hundred years from now. What we are doing is important and we thank the Lord for the blessing that this house is.
Do you know how much this is (Bp. Soc holding a one thousand peso bill)? How much? One thousand. Do you want this? Who wants to have this? C’mon, don’t be shy. You will accept this, right? One thousand. One thousand, can it be? If I will do this to the bill (Bp. Soc crumples the bill)? Will you still accept this? Why? Because it’s still one thousand. What if I’ll throw this to the ground and step on it, will you still accept it? What if I’ll throw this above a dog poop, will you still accept it? You will wipe it. You really want it. Why? Because the value of the one thousand bill will not change even if it is crumpled. The value of the one thousand bill will not change even if it’s dirty. The value of the one thousand bill will not change even if we step on it on the ground. That is the value of the one thousand bill. If that is the value of the one thousand bill, why are we then changing the value of a human person? Why do we call an addict an animal; but if he/she is not an addict, a person? Why is it that if you are old or young, you don’t have any worth; as if you are of less worth than someone who earns for a living? Why is it that there seems to be a difference between the value of a man and the worth of a woman? Why is it that we look at the rich and the poor differently? Why? Why is it that we look at the educated and the unschooled differently?
This afternoon, Silungan ng Panangaro is telling us that all persons have the same value. We have the same value and there is no person whose value is reduced because he/she committed a mistake, because he/she got sick, because he/she has a missing eye, because his/her brain is not functioning well, because he/she cannot talk – we all have the same worth.
This is what Silungan ng Panangaro is telling us. This is a lighthouse in Pangasinan. And this lighthouse is telling everybody, you are equal before the Lord. Even if we sinned, even if we get sick. Even if something is lacking in our bodies – whether we are bald, have hair, have teeth or none, crippled or can walk, can hear or cannot hear, can read or cannot read. All of us are children of God. And because we are children of God, we have the same value.
But when Jesus Christ came, the equation changed. Because our value are not the same anymore. Because when Jesus Christ came, he chose the wounded instead of the healthy one. He chose poverty instead of riches. He chose the manger instead of a room. He chose to die on the cross as a criminal instead of dying because of a sickness, as someone holy. This means that Jesus raised the value of the wounded, the person who has disability, the person in the outskirts, the person who is rejected by the society, Jesus raised their value. In fact, it is not really equal. It is not equal because Christ gave extra attention to and additional concern for those who lack something here on earth. That is why we are here. It is our Christian duty to take care of our own people. It is our Christian duty to take care of the poor because the poor, the aged, the handicapped, the marginalized, God chose to be with them.
But before he died and rose again, our Lord left us this instruction in the Gospel of St. Matthew: Whatever you do to the least of your brothers and sisters, you do to me. Ask permission from the poor. You want to go to heaven? Ask permission from the underprivileged, from the handicapped, from the forgotten, from the weak, from the babies, from the grandparents, [from the] abandoned. Ask permission first. If these people do not endorse you, I will not let you go to heaven. This house, Silungan ng Panangaro, is gate of heaven. You want to go to heaven, pass here because it is the poor, the abandoned, the marginalized, the handicapped, the sick, the forgotten who will bring us to heaven.
This afternoon, we are starting history. This lighthouse for Pangasinan, this proclaims a very important message: we are equal before the Lord. Our value is not reduced just because we are disabled, because we don’t earn for a living, or because we are mute. We all have the same value. And if you want to go to heaven, stoop down to the poor – to the weak, to the hungry, to those who lack in life, serve them, let’s impress them because they are our way to heaven. There is no other way. There is no other way.
I am sorry to tell you, lighting a candle will not bring you to heaven. Or bringing flowers will not bring you to heaven. Only love. And love for the poor, love for the handicapped, love for the forgotten, love for the least. That is the only sure way. The only key that will open the gates to heaven for us.
This afternoon, let us renew our love for the poor. Because we should not forget that we are all poor before God. We have nothing to brag about in front of God. And we know that in this work, God will help us. Because this work is God’s work and that we only continue this work of His here on earth.