Archer’s Prayer by: Br. Armin Luistro FSC

Archers’ Prayers Shared Reflection by Br. Armin A. Luistro FSC Readings: Jer. 38:4-6, 8-10; Ps. 40:2-4, 18; Heb. 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53 La Salle Green Hills, 17 August 2019

Thank you Father Soc—always passionate for Christ but with nary a shade ofsedition in your soul—forallowing a co-accused topresent my SONA. Before I am charged with anothercriminal case, let me clarify that my SONA today willtouch only on the Sublime Offering to the Noble Archer. While every Lasallian naturally dreams of becoming thatmythical archer,1 I propound for our prayerful reflection,that indeed there is but only ONE true Archer who asksus not only to follow in His footsteps but, mostimportantly, calls us unto Himself. With reference to the Divine Archer, Nikos Kazantzakis2 gleans three kinds ofsouls with a corresponding prayer for each. Greenbloodedarchers may take their pick from among these: first, “I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me, lest Irot.”; second, “Do not overdraw me, Lord. I shall break.”; and third, “Overdraw me, Lord, and who caresif I break.”

Many of us begin our journey of discipleship with the first prayer:  “I am a bow in your hands, Lord. Draw me, lest I rot.”  It is a prayer of a soul enamored by Christ’s invitation to “taste and see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 34:8).  It is a plea oozing from a heart that has been seduced by love—a love the world cannot give. 

It is the incendiary idealism of 14 young men appropriating for themselves this weekend’s Gospel reading:  “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Luke 12:49).

“Bawal ang maligamgam,” ika nga ni Father Soc.  And so, Carlo and Miggy, as you pronounce your first vows, dare to sing with all your might even if you don’t hit the notes right.  Tandaan,

Maigi pa ang sintunadong / maka-Diyos at makabayan kaysa sa naniniguradong / tuta ng kinatatakutan. 

Why be immobilized by your own fears and self-doubts? 

Shed off your Mickey Mouse shirts and Bonjing looks, Miggy; unravel your hair and don’t worry if the strands are not in their rightful place, Carlo.  Surrender yourself—warts and all—to the Masterbuilder who tells His disciples:  “There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!”  (Luke 12:50).

For our 14 postulants, accept that the world has a career path laid out for you that spells SUCCESS.  Why take the road less travelled and be a Brother?  Your heart desires to reach great heights as arrows are meant to do. Imagine, if you will, a hundred what-ifs in Peter Pan’s Neverland.  Dream, if you must, of the thousand and one tasks for the Designated Survivor who alone can change the world.  But remember—amid the noise and haste—that as arrows dart forth into the skies, bows stay close to the archer’s heart.  Do not for a moment think that the Divine Archer loves the arrow more than the bow.  The Divine Archer shoots thousands of arrows but  chooses only a few bows to be so intimate to Him as to become an instrument of His peace, a worker in His vineyard, a mentor in His class.  Surrender yourself to the Divine Archer who knows the right time to draw you unto Himself.

At the noontime of our lives, the second prayer seems to make more sense: “Do not overdraw me, Lord. I shall break.” 

Twenty-five years of life-offering to the vocation of teaching forces the protective layer of our ego to peel off.  After all, the noble vocation of teaching requires great magnanimity and humility—meeting students wiser than oneself, engaging learners to become independent thinkers, investing wholeheartedly in the lives of my pupils only to say goodbye at the end of each school year (a thousand little deaths, if you ask me). Well, for 25 years, Brother JJ has stood tall as Exhibit A for us, proving that it is possible to thrive like a bush afire without being consumed.  As one Brother puts it:  “when he goes into any project—be it for strategic planning, or formation, or campus ministry—he really sets the world ablaze. He comes prepared and woe to you if you come otherwise. 

ISO level 1000, PAASCU level 10. With Brother JJ it’s about the mission—the best and most efficient way to accomplish the mission.”

But apart from mission, the fire within must also be nurtured by passion.  “Bawal ang duwag”, hamon ni Fr. Soc.  Well, if any Brother here has wobbly feet, take heart.   This was our former Auxiliary Visitor’s message on October 2017 for Heal our Land Sunday:  “I wish for us to be involved in actions that raise awareness on the issue of human rights; that build solidarity with other like-minded groups; that engage us in formative actions to safeguard our democracy; and that bring relief or support for those affected by acts of violence.  Let us nurture [in our young people] the capacity to love our country and lead her with compassion.   May our actions deepen our experience of God whose love offers life.” (Jimenez, 25 Oct 2017, Pastoral Letter for Heal our Land Sunday).

Friends, if I ever get incarcerated, I can always say I was just being obedient to my former religious superior.  For my former A-1 student, LASAL mentee, and novice, know that you are not alone—hindi ka nag-iisa—“surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,” is the visual reassurance of our second reading today.  JJ, “throw off everything that hinders…  run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus… [Y]ou will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb. 12:1-4). 

JJ, please take your break, watch your favorite Tagalog movies, bellow out your pa-cute jokes, play your violin, write your haikus, do your watercolors and when things get really rough, just say, ‘ginago na guid na ya pards

“You know—one loves the sunset, when one is so sad…” so said the Little Prince in that classic novel penned by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; undeniably, Brother Jun’s favorite and one whose lines he must’ve memorized. At the tail-end of a long, tiring day, and perhaps its fair share of sorrows and disappointments, let this be our sunset prayer:  “Overdraw me, Lord, and who cares if I break.” 

It is certainly an excellent prayer during times “of ambivalent recalling and remembering” which Brother Jun describes in his Introduction to his recent book, Road to Greatness:  “in order to bring out the joys, the pains, the failures, and the successes of the past to the present, so that one can take stock, breathe, and become a better version of oneself.” (Erguiza, 2018, p.xi).

Like Jeremiah (38:4-6, 8-10), thrown into the cistern, starved by his accusers and sinking in mud, Brother Jun’s fifty years is certainly not without incident but he just seems to flourish in the most challenging of environments—Ozamiz, Papua New Guinea, Bacolod, Salikneta, Manado, or the supervised schools. 

Given a choice, I think he would rather be raising ducks, planting okras, feeding azkals, harvesting eggs, milking cows and selling farm products.  But I can assure you, he will certainly have a lot of spare time to open seven academic programs at the same time, erect school buildings and facilities, open dormitories and birthing clinics, purchase more land outside of the campus, expand scholarships, upgrade programs for the deaf, work for quality assurance, keynote a CEAP convention and, very important, buy second-hand vehicles that run for 10-kms per hour.

He hails from Pangasinan but his purse strings stretch farther north all the way to Ilocos.  “Bawal ang kuripot!” huling habilin ni Father Soc.  

The kind archbishop wasn’t referring only to resources in our pockets but to that greatness of spirit which in Brother Jun’s words is nothing else but that “untrodden, challenging, and perilous path to greatness knowing very well that the God who walks, journeys, and leads… is a Great God” (Erguiza, 2018, p. 114).

Let me end with this excerpt from A. G. Roemmers’ (2016, p. 137-138) The Return of the Young Prince: 

‘If we’re judged…, I’m convinced that the question will be: “How much have you loved?”  They won’t ask us “How much have you earned?”, but “How much have you given to others?”…

After a short pause, and barely containing my feelings, I added, ‘Do you know something? Love is more powerful even than death.  I had a brother — he loved his wings, which were made up of many colours.  They say that he died, but he lives on in our hearts.  Ever since then I’ve thought that the ones who are really dead are those who have never loved, and those who have given up trying.’ Sisters and Brothers in Christ, may the true animo spirit of the Divine Archer live in your hearts, forever!