A Light on a Hill

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) mourns the passing away of Fr. Jose “Joe” Dizon, one of our country’s ecumenical heroes.  His ministry and witness bore the marks of an apostle and a prophet, the foundations upon which the community of faithful people is built.  It was a life dedicated to the service of the oppressed or the sinned against on one hand and of a vigilant and unwavering prophetic testimony against those who cause human suffering on the other.  His heart was with the “burden bearers of the earth” and his solidarity with them knew no bounds.  He was a priest whose communion table was especially for those who struggle to secure a national life free from the repression and violence of greed and power.  To the poor he proclaimed hope that is made real in their unquenchable thirst for “the new heaven and the new earth.”  To those who oppress he proclaimed repentance and issued warnings with unwavering clarity that what they “sow shall they reap”.

Such passion and compassion for those in pain and the vulnerable stemmed from his profound appreciation of Jesus the merciful. This in turn has gifted him with a sharp mind and a mouth that speaks eloquently of God’s sovereignty, justice and peace.

Through the years, the NCCP has been blessed by the fellowship with Fr. Joe.  We give thanks to God for his accompaniment and celebrate those times we witnessed together on various issues that mattered most to the people — from announcing and denouncing electoral fraud here in the country to trumpeting the ecumenical voice for peace and human rights against extrajudicial killings in the US Senate and Canadian Parliament, to the celebration of “paths that were made straight” as a result of the faith and perseverance of the people for genuine transformation of society and its  oppressive structures.  He was instrumental in crafting the Philippine statement on mission and evangelism that greatly informed the World Council of Churches statement on the same – doing mission from the margins.

“Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” chants the Book of Psalms.  Fr. Joe Dizon was a priest whose heart burned for just and lasting peace.  And nowhere can this just and lasting peace be found and felt than in the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise of “abundant life for all”.  On this he was uncompromising.  He was a “light on a hill”.   That light is now extinguished. But only for a moment for as he leaves this uncompromising stand for human dignity to the people whom he loved and who were touched by his service and example, so does that light, now shared, turn the flicker in us into a glow of fire.

Even as we reach out to condole with his beloved family, we mourn with the others, yet unceasing in our deep thanks to God for having called, sent and now called back, Father Jose “Joe” Dizon.  He has “fought the good fight, (he) has finished the race, (he has) kept the faith.  Henceforth, there is laid for (him) the crown of righteousness which the Lord the righteous judge, will award to (him) on that Day, and not only to (him) but also to those who have loved his appearing” (2Timothy 4:7-8).  In confidence and hope, may the High Priest of our souls and our bodies welcome Fr. Joe in His words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant . . . enter the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21).

Obispo Maximo XII, Iglesia Filipina Independiente           General Secretary
and Chairperson, NCCP

November  6, 2013