|a sign placed by parishioners above the portals of the parish church|
(homily preached during the Mass of the translation of the remains of Fr. Nicolas A. Valeriano III from the Parish Church of San Jose, Tacloban to the Church of the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish, Tacloban, 8 February 2011)
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord
Today we gather before the altar of the Lord in order to pray for the soul of Nicolas III His priest, whom he has called to himself. We gather with sadness in our hearts because of his passing, which caught us unaware because of it suddenness. The Lord had come for his faithful priest in the manner in which he has told us in the Gospels, like the master who comes from the wedding feast (cf. Lk 12:36), like the thief in the night in its suddenness (cf. 1 Thes. 5: 2-4). A saint once likened death to the Lord coming silently upon his saints and surprising them from behind, so that when they suddenly turn to face Him, they may find themselves looking face-to-face with the Lord. Seen this way, death is a pleasant surprise, and Fr. Nick, who was sometimes known for pleasantly surprising us with his humor and his antics, has received the most pleasant surprise of his life when, one day, he suddenly turned about and saw himself face-to-face with the Lord whom he had loved and served so much on this life. In death, around his mortal remains, before the altar of God, we gather in grief, in sadness; and yet, more importantly, we gather together in faith, a faith that makes our gaze pierce through the darkness and allows us a glimpse of the enduring day the Resurrection.
|Waiting for the cortege to arrive|
|Fr. Kelvin, Vice-Rector and Main Celebrant before the remains of Fr. Nick|
|blessing the body|
One thing that strikes us about the death of a Christian—and especially a Christian is a priest—is that there is an interplay of darkness and light, wherein we see more clearly the fact that the idea of death leads us to think more about life itself. We may think of death as the end of life, but our faith and the symbols with which we express it teach us that there is more to death than just a simple end. There is more to death than just darkness. There is more to the death of a Christian, a disciple of Christ, than just DEATH.
With our eyes fixed upon the face of the Risen Christ, we see that in him who rose from the dead, our hope of resurrection dawned (cf. Preface for the Dead), and that the sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality. Death is not so dark, because it has been illumined with light of Christ, whose symbol stands among us in the Paschal Candle that has its rightful place by the mortal remains of the baptized at every Christian funeral, shedding its light upon the believer in death as it has done in life. Thus we could be able to say truly that even though we may walk in the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil (cf. Ps. 23), for we have Christ as our light. In death we say that we close our eyes to this world, but what also happens is that in death, we also open our eyes to the light that never goes out; we are born into a life that knows no end, because for those who believe, death is merely the beginning of life.
|me delivering the homily|
We may be oftentimes tempted to think of death as a mere separation: the internal separation of the organism that leads to death and decay; death which causes families and loved ones to get separated; death which stops life from continuing. Yet our faith makes us see that it is more of a reunion than just mere separation. It is a reunion with those who have gone before us in the faith, be they our friends, our family members who have already preceded us. it is a reunion with the saints who have interceded for us all throughout our struggle here on earth. Finally, it is the much-awaited reunion between us and the Lord, from whose love neither death, nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation, could we be ever separated(cf. Rom 8: 37-39). It is a reunion towards which we all hope to be when our time comes. It is the definitive embrace of the Lord which we all hope to enjoy after our sojourn in this valley of tears.
It is into this embrace which Fr. Nick is being held. In our hearts we pray to God that he may forgive all of the sins and failings that he may have committed due to human weakness, and that they may be washed away in the flood of God’s love.
|the father of Fr. Nick receiving communion|
Our condolences goes out to the father of Fr. Nick, Nicolas Jr., to his siblings, nieces and nephews and other family members; our sympathies go to the faithful of the Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Parish, bereaved by the loss of a zealous pastor and father. In the end all of us are bereaved and saddened and a bit orphaned by the passing of this father who, precisely because of his celibate vocation as a priest of Jesus Christ, has given birth to countless sons and daughters.
Finally, despite of our bereavement, in our hearts we rejoice, for after a life lived in the service of God’s people, he has finally heart the voice of the Master calling out to him: 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!' (Mt.25:23). Amen.
|me blessing the body with holy water|
|seminarians and mourners viewing the body|