Last Tuesday, we celebrated the 12th death anniversary of Geny “Kapitan” Lopez with a Mass with family and close friends. I asked permission from the family to share my homily at the Mass. I believe it embodies one of the basic messages of the Gospel this Sunday: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart; you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30)
When I was preparing for this morning’s Mass, two images came to me very vividly. One was the picture of Kapitan in the front page of the major dailies when he won the bid for Maynilad in the ’90s. It was a picture of joyful triumph, just like the feeling one gets when Ateneo wins over La Salle. (Gabby and Gina, you’ll have to support me on this one.)
The other image was his coffin lying inside Studio 1 (now Dolphy Theater) as we celebrated his funeral Mass. Tita Precy (Psinakis) and I were talking about this earlier in the elevator on our way up here. We realized how time flies, and Kapitan’s death was 12 years ago.
Perhaps these images, these memories remain vivid because Kapitan’s spirit continues to live on in us and in our midst.
There is a description of the leadership of Ignatius of Loyola in the book “The First Jesuits.” It was a description given by one of his closest collaborators in the Society of Jesus, Fr. Polanco, SJ, who many say knew Ignatius so well, if not knew him best.
Polanco said that one of the great gifts of Ignatius was his ability to choose talents that complemented his own. This was seen in his choice of Provincials and other leaders in the early Society, which accounted for the tremendous growth in number and achievements of the Jesuits then. His other great gifts were his vision, his openness to change, and his ability to convince others of the need for change rather than staying the course to achieve the vision.
Polanco continues to describe Ignatius as one who had “certain natural gifts from God”: great energy in undertaking extraordinarily difficult tasks, great constancy in pursuing them, great prudence in seeing them to completion.
What is said of Ignatius, I believe, can be said of Kapitan’s leadership: his choice of colleagues and how he cared for them, nurtured them to their personal best; his vision and his ability to enlist the support of others for life-changing visions.
His life and work also show how he lived and worked with great energy in undertaking extraordinarily difficult tasks. “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” said Alexander Pope. Kapitan saw opportunity where others saw only problems and impossibility.
Kapitan had tremendous vision to undertake difficult enterprises, the fruits of which people enjoy to this day. ABS-CBN is one such undertaking. He constantly pursued these with total dedication, with constancy of effort and faith. And, yes, his great prudence tempered his zeal, the energy and constancy with which he started and pursued these difficult enterprises.
I would like to think his prudence is the care with which he led his colleagues. His care and compassion are legendary, as evidenced by the stories of him going to the desks of his colleagues during Christmas time to personally hand them his gift. His prudence was the love he had for our people and country, a love that guided him to pursue and bring to completion his work that would benefit our people and country.
Loaves and fish
Let me now talk about the Gospel we chose for today’s Mass, the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in the Gospel of John. In a seminar I attended in 1994 with James and Evelyn Whitehead, they used this Gospel passage to talk about abundance in scarcity.
It shows us two principles: the Philip Principle, which only saw the problem and considered it an impossibility to address, and the Andrew Principle, which took the young lad with the five loaves and two fish that made the miracle possible.
It reminds us that often, we need to bring the little that we have for the miracle to take place. It makes us realize that we can either be a Philip or an Andrew. We are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
This passage is also reminiscent of the four glorious days of Edsa People Power in 1986, where everyone brought the little that they had to the altar of Edsa, and because of this the miracle took place.
Like Kapitan, we are now called to undertake the extraordinarily difficult task with great energy, the task to keep alive the spirit of Edsa and animate the day-to-day life of our country and people with this spirit.
I refuse to believe that the spirit of Edsa is dead. It remains an extraordinarily difficult task, yes, but such a task beckons us to exert great energy to make this spirit as the animating principle in the daily life of our people and country.
Edsa is not a once-and-for-all event, but a grace to be lived out with great constancy in pursuing the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of our people. It is our love, like Kapitan’s, for our people and country that will give us the prudence to bring this unfulfilled task to completion.
Today, we pray for Kapitan, as we remember his 12th death anniversary. But I think we also pray to him, so that like him, and like Andrew and the young lad, we may bring the little that we have to the enterprise and allow the miracle to take place—the miracle of men and women undertaking the task to work for the freedom of our people and country with great energy, to pursue this task with great constancy in the day-to-day, and to bring it to completion with great prudence and great love.
In front of the Church of the Gesu inside Ateneo de Manila is the statue of the Sacred Heart. This statue used to stand at the highest point of the campus, on the same knoll where the Gesu is now. Before the Gesu was built, many generations of Ateneans in the college would go to this knoll and sit at the foot of the statue to watch the sunset, nurturing their dreams, at times nursing a broken heart or a wounded spirit, or simply sharing love or friendship in quiet solitude, seated in front of the Sacred Heart.
On the pedestal of the Sacred Heart statue is inscribed part of the passage from this Sunday’s Gospel: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart; you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
We need moments, places, words and symbols like this to remind us of the invitation to “come to me,” that we may renew our inspiration to work with great energy, great constancy, great prudence, and with the great soul and great love that won for us—yesterday, today and forever—the freedom from all that bind and burden us.