One of the havens in the urban jungle is the Ateneo de Manila campus. Up to the 1990s, it was a model of a well-planned development, remaining faithful to its master plan drawn almost 60 years earlier.
The genius behind this was Fr. William Masterson, SJ, the Jesuit who moved Ateneo from Padre Faura to Loyola Heights, a place one would call the boondocks. It was a move way ahead of its time.
The details of the master plan attest to this. Underground cables, east-west orientation of the buildings to avoid direct sunlight, cross ventilation, the planting of trees—it was an honest-to-goodness green campus way before climate change and care for the environment came into our consciousness.
But the brains, the visionary behind this, suffered for it. According to Fr. Joe Cruz, SJ, the Ateneo community “blamed” Father Masterson for taking them out of the hub of Manila into a “no-man’s land.” The pressure led to a self-imposed exile in Cagayan de Oro.
The loss of Loyola became the gain of Xavier in CDO, where Father Masterson founded the College of Agriculture from which grew the Southeast Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute (Searsolin) dedicated to poverty alleviation and holistic human development.
Suffering for love
You can’t put a good man down. But even more apt is what Fr. Hans Kung, SJ, said: “We do not aim or plan to suffer, but inevitably we will suffer for what we believe in or we will suffer for the one we love.”
Today’s readings give us an overview of this love. In the reading from Isaiah, we hear God’s promise of fidelity to Jeremiah. Then in St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, we have one of the most famous lines on love.
The Gospel narrates the initial rejection of Christ. After he announces his being the fulfillment of God’s plan and promise, he is challenged by his town mates, to which he responds with the famous line, “No prophet is accepted in his own town.”
Let us reflect on our own call to be prophets, prophets of love.
The etymology of the word brings us back to the Greek word, profetes, which means a spokesperson, our common notion of prophet. But the less known or used meaning is “advocate.”
In the context of our Christian faith, we are asked to be prophets of love. All of us are called to be spokespersons and advocates of love.
What is its concrete call in your life? And remember, there is no generic call. As scripture inspires, “By name I have called you, by name I have sent you, you are precious to me.”
Father Masterson saw and expressed this love by being an institution builder. Clearly, what he believed in and built benefited many, the tens of thousands of students who went through the Loyola campus, and the Agri-school and Searsolin in CDO.
On a more global stage, we see prophets of love such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who advocated care for the dying who are alone and dejected; and Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, who overcame the barriers of racial and class prejudice and bridged the divide.
We all have this call to be prophets of love in our own life, who bring Christ’s love into the world through acts of love: the mothers who wake up early to prepare for the day; or the ones who go abroad to send their kids to school and put food on the table. They are prophets of love expressed in care and sacrifice for the family.
The stories and examples here of prophets seem inspiring. They are. But the inspiration also comes from a crucible of pain and rejection: being misunderstood, maligned and ostracized, yet coming out not just stronger but more loving.
They endure pain and suffering holding on to the message. The change they hope to achieve, their advocacy is to love that others may excel, that others may themselves become loving persons.
The greatest and final prophet said, “Love one another as I have loved you. Greater love no man has than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Amen.