Christ in a Sillimanian
CHRIST IN A SILLIMANIAN
By Dr. Enrique G. Oracion, Dean, Graduate Programs
Who is Jesus Christ to you? And who is a Sillimanian to you? These are the two fundamental questions I have to put into one in this talk.
In this Midweek Service, I am tasked to give a message anchored on the theme of the University Christian Life Emphasis Month (UCLEM) which is “affirming Christ in the life of a Sillimanian,” inspired by Matthew 16: 13-16 and 2 Corinthians 5:17. It kept me thinking what message I should share with you that is meaningful, real, and closer to your imagination.
As you had heard the verses earlier, they state that Jesus is the Messiah—which means the savior or deliverer, and the Son of the living God, whom we have to follow so we become closer to God. But how will this be linked to our being Sillimanians?
Where do we find Jesus in our daily struggle in coming safely to school and in going home fulfilled and satisfied after having learned essential ideas and relevant skills in our interactions with teachers and classmates? All the way, had you found Jesus in the motto of Silliman University of Via, Veritas, Vita or the way, the truth and the life? Perhaps you have varied answers, and there must be a reason to that.
It cannot be argued that coming from different cultural backgrounds, social classification, and religious orientations we look at Jesus in different ways corresponding to our needs and particular circumstances. We cannot agree because we look at Him with different lenses and from different angles.
Although we already established that He is a Messiah, as described in Luke 2:10, 11; Matthew 1: 1,18 and John 1:17, we still see His being a savior according to how we imagine He will relate to us or how we relate to Him.
Some see Him be that someone powerful, that He will help us whenever we ask Him for assistance. Meanwhile, others take the view that we will only be rewarded if we follow His way, or shall we say carry His cross—that means to sacrifice, which some consider a more difficult means of getting paid. This view resembles the saying in Cebuano: Ang dili mag-antos, dili masantos. Indeed, the many lenses we used to understand Jesus reveal how each one of us tries to make Him meaningful to us.
Such diversity of understanding and knowing Jesus can be gleaned in the narratives how some high school students in the United States had described Him when asked: “Who is Jesus to you?” They said that He is one person (http://thirdway.com/love-jesus/who-is-jesus-to-you-2/):
- who I cannot describe because there is nothing I know that I can compare Him to
- who has infinitely beautiful and perfect love
- who is willing to take me by the hand even when I turn away from Him
- who takes care of me when I am depressed, lonely or broken and never leaves my side
- who I turn to when I can no longer rely on myself to pull through in a desperate situation
- who is a model; someone whose teachings we have to follow
Meanwhile, concerning Jesus as a “model” a Filipino sociologist of religion, Dr. Jayeel Cornelio on Becoming Catholic in the Contemporary Philippines (2016) wrote something familiar but also interesting what a Filipino student said when asked about being a Catholic. His observation could also be true to Protestants or members of any Christian denominations.
The student answered: It is…“believing in Christ and doing good works” which means “to do what He did… (though) not to get crucified or anything … but to put others before you” which is reflective of the commandments Christ gave: “love our enemies, ourselves, and love God” (Cornelio 2016: 45).
Does anyone of you share any of those sentiments or views about Jesus? And which one are you? Are you one who only sees Jesus as a source of help in times of difficulties? Or are you one who follows the ways of Jesus in dealing with other people, either those closest to you or those strangers?
Perhaps seeing Jesus as a model and observing what He did appear painful to us, but there may be ways that we could demonstrate, as ordinary people or students, the kind of love and sacrifice He has for humanity.
Now let us examine ourselves as Sillimanians. What is expected of us to be worthy of the name? What qualities of graduates do Silliman University aim us to become being a Christian institution of higher learning? Perhaps you miss this, or you just take this for granted during class or college orientation, there is a statement being read or disseminated which describe what qualities are expected of a Silliman graduate.
As Sillimanians you are expected to be creative, critical thinkers; effective communicators and collaborators; independent, reflective life-long learners; and transformative Christian witnesses.
I think the first three qualities prepare you for the fourth. These are qualities that guide your teacher in nurturing your minds not only to be smart and skillful, i.e., to pass written examinations and submit quality projects, but also to be caring to others who are in need. Meaning, graduates who have the brains, brawns and hearts which comprised the whole-person-education Silliman University pursues her students.
Concerning the theme of my talk now, I am more struck by Silliman’s goal to produce graduates who are transformative Christian witnesses because this is where we can find Jesus in you and me as Sillimanians. Being able to demonstrate these qualities now as students and eventually as alumni (who work in the academe, public service, business enterprise and so on) is a measure that we affirm Jesus in our being Sillimanians. And this is what I said earlier, that in our special way and individual capacities we can follow Jesus as a model—and not just a source of help in time of distress.
As Sillimanians with Jesus in our heart and spirit we do or can do the following: influence society and create positive impacts on the environment; serve others with compassion not just for monetary gains; lead an exemplary life of good citizenship and as creation in the image of God; decide on what is right and wrong over what would disadvantaged others; contemplate on what is fair for everyone and not only for our selfish interests; see the divine in all that is in the world and respect their being as humans regardless of religion, political and economic backgrounds; and live out the Via, Veritas, Vita motto of Silliman to become images of God’s justice and love to others.