[COLUMN] ‘Be illuminators!’

During the recent 8th Grade Graduation Mass at our school, I shared in my homily with the graduates, parents, and teachers David Brooks’ insights from his new book, “How to Know a Person.” He explains:

“In every crowd, there are Diminishers and Illuminators. Diminishers make people feel small and unseen. They see other people  as things being used, not as persons to be befriended. They stereotype and ignore, so involved with themselves that other people are just not on their radar screens.

Illuminators, on the other hand, possess a persistent curiosity about other people. They have been trained or have trained themselves in the art of understanding others. They know what to look for and how to ask the right questions at the right time. They shine the brightness of their care on people and make them feel bigger, deeper, respected, lit up.”

Relying on David Brooks’ words, I shared with the graduating students, “I hope that during your time in primary education here at Incarnation, we have been Illuminators for you, not diminishers! I trust that we have empowered you to feel bigger, valued, and enlightened—that your talents and personalities have shone; that collectively, we have impacted your lives to help you become the finest version of yourselves; recognizing and nurturing all your potential and strengths, and preparing you adequately for secondary education.”

Continuing with a challenge, I addressed them as such:

“If we have been Illuminators for you, it is now your task to follow this same path and mission. In today’s world, filled with negativity and bullying, where individuals diminish the worth of others and fail to respect their human dignity, we need you to inspire others and appreciate the unique beauty in each person. As you mature, we encourage you to master the skill of truly seeing others—ensuring they feel seen, heard, and understood. Seeking a profound understanding of others isn’t merely about mastering techniques; it is a way of life.”

Reflecting on this commencement address, I perceive this Sunday’s (June 23) Gospel as a direct challenge to us. Jesus beckons us to be Illuminators by motivating and uplifting one another through life’s “storms,” upheavals, and challenges. Just as Jesus advised his disciples to have faith rather than fear, we too must remind each other to remain courageous and faithful during times of sickness, death, or crisis. As Illuminators, we must perceive the potential and resilience in everyone within God’s guidance, enabling us to combat self-doubt, conquer anxiety, and overcome trials and tribulations. Moreover, we must remind each other that we carry the Spirit of Jesus within us, acknowledging His active presence in our lives through the Holy Spirit. As St. Paul affirms in this Sunday’s Second Reading (2 Cor 5:14-17): “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”

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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.

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Fr. Rodel “Odey” Balagtas is the pastor of Incarnation Church in Glendale, California.


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