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pins of light

scattered hints to provoke thought and talk about God


This homily was delivered at the Mass of the Holy Spirit at the Church of the

You may have heard this riddle before…

Suppose you decided to have an intimate little birthday party. You invite exactly
four guests: (a) your best friend, (b) a humble Atenean, (c) a poor La Sallite, and
(d) a UP student who graduated on time. 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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Suddenly the lights go out and when it goes on again, your cake is missing. The
million-dollar question is: “Who took your cake?”

The answer, of course, is (a) your best friend–because all the other guests are
just figments of your imagination!

While there’s no doubt that the jokes about La Salle and UP are exaggerated
stereotypes, I’m not so sure about the humble Atenean. Too many people have
made too many similar observations too many times for us to think it’s all just a
joke. Granted most of them are kidding, but a few have sounded dead serious.
So I wonder: Is the humble Atenean just an imaginary friend?

Ateneans of an older generation were notorious for their so-called “Arrhneo ac-
cent”–a brand of English with a distinct twang acquired from their New York Je-
suit mentors. It separated our “old boys” from the rest of the world—but not al-
ways in a good way. Nowadays we talk about “The Ateneo Way” to express our
commitment to excellence in the things we do–as well as our pride in the way 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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we do things. That’s all right when everyone else in the room is a true blue Ate-
nean. But try saying it to a more diverse audience, and you’d better watch out
for all the furtive collective eyeball-rolling and eyebrow-raising that’s sure to go

On the occasion of this Mass of the Holy Spirit, as we begin a brand new school
year here at the Ateneo de Manila, here’s a good question to ask, a question that
I think both the new and veteran Ateneans among us will gain much from ask-
ing: “Do you have an Ateneo blue ego?”

You heard me right. Not Ateneo blue eagle, but Ateneo blue ego. Not the giant
university mascot billboarded on the facade of Loyola Center, not our men’s
varsity basketball team—those are certainly good to have. But I’m referring in-
stead to what Ateneans end up growing if they’re not careful just hanging out
here on campus: an Ateneo blue ego.

There’s nothing wrong with school pride; it’s a wonderful virtue to celebrate at
graduations and sports competitions. But if it’s taken way too seriously–as it
sometimes is, one could get carried away and end up carrying it beyond the oc-
casions where it properly belongs. A healthy dose of school pride could morph
into a subtle and dangerous sense of self-entitlement based on nothing but
one’s diploma.

Maybe it’s the occupational hazard of the magis–that constant striving for excel-
lence that the Jesuits encourage us to engage in ad majorem Dei gloriam (or in
English, “for the greater glory of God”). The trouble is that typical of human na-
ture, we sometimes end up replacing God’s glory with our own true blue ego
somewhere along the way.

And it’s certainly no help that in this day and age, ego is such a blatantly fash-
ionable and celebrated thing. All you need to do is watch reality TV–or its close
relative, politics—to see how it’s the people with the biggest egos who seem to
get the loudest laughs and the most rousing applause. It’s the clips and tweets of
fast-talking self-glorifying narcissists that go viral. 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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Today’s Mass of the Holy Spirit is a great time for us to pause and to examine
ourselves about our respective Ateneo blue egos because whether we like it or
not, it’s absolutely the last thing that’s going to summon the descent of the Holy

You see, it was something else that pried the heavens open that day when our
Lord emerged out of the Jordan after his baptism. It was that something else—a
special endearing quality about Jesus—that managed to coax the Holy Spirit to
flutter out of hiding and made the Father break his silence to utter one word:

That day, standing there between the river and the desert, Jesus basked in the
loving gaze of his Father and received an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the
same Spirit that would soon lead him to the desert, there to be schooled in
preparation for his public ministry.

What was it? What was that special quality that made the heavens buckle at the
knees and fall for Jesus?

One thing for sure, it wasn’t any form of ego. On the contrary, it was Jesus’ hu-
mility, the humility of a Son of God! Recognized immediately by John the Bap-
tist, Jesus was clearly told that he–of all people–did not require baptism or the
forgiveness of sins that the crowds needed. He didn’t have to, but just the same
he waded into the river anyway, to make himself low, to become one of us.

When you think about it, in fact, our Lord Jesus didn’t need to be human in the
first place too. He could have stayed divine and distant from sinful humanity.
He didn’t have to, but just the same he waded into time anyway, to make him-
self low and to become one of us.

And it doesn’t stop there, as we know. Our Lord didn’t have to die the humbling
and humiliating death on the cross, the type of execution reserved by the Ro-
mans for their worst criminals. Again, he didn’t have to, but just the same our
Lord waded into his enemies’ hands and allowed himself to be taken to his 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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death, to make himself low so that the worst among us would never be able to
claim that he wasn’t one of us.

Which brings us to a big idea about humility: Humility is the great bridge that
connects us to all of humanity. It is what has connected God to us sinners, and it
is what will connect us Ateneans to the people that we are invited to serve with
our Ateneo education. What distinguishes a true Atenean, after all, is precisely
this connection to neighbor. Without humility, one can’t become the “person for
others” that every true Atenean is called to be.

It is Jesus’ exemplary humility that moved the heart of the Father and poured
out the Spirit over Jesus. It is the same humility that we need if we want our
hearts–and the heavens–torn open for the outpouring of the gifts of the Holy
Spirit this new school year year.

So how do we become humble? Humility begins with gratitude and the realiza-
tion that everything is gift. All that we have, all that we are, our every breath,
our every bread—every single one of these is a gift from God. Being here at the
Ateneo, the opportunity to learn, the chance to grow in such an environment
and to develop our gifts to serve others—these are valuable gifts not deserved
and certainly not given to all. And like all gifts, we are invited to make the most
of the gift of an Ateneo education so that we can share it with others. We need
to nurse it in order to disburse it. The best antidote to our Ateneo blue egos,
therefore, is gratitude. Only with this sense that all is gift can we begin to be

St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, has an unforgettable
phrase to describe humility. “Humility,” he writes in the Jesuit Constitutions, “a
virtue never sufficiently praised.”

Humility is not only a virtue never sufficiently praised, but also one never suffi-
ciently practiced–not just on our campus, but everywhere in the world. As we
begin this brand new school year, with all its hopes and promise of learning
new things and meeting new people, let us learn from the humility of our Lord 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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and begin to practice it a little bit more of it today. Let us be grateful for the gift
of our Ateneo education and commit ourselves to sharing its fruits with those
who most need our help.

And if for whatever reason, if this early, you can already detect it lurking some-
where inside you, no matter how embryonic still, wrench out that Ateneo blue
ego and toss it out on to the streets of Gate 3. Don’t be a big ugly Atenean! Be
more than an imaginary friend: Be a humble Atenean.


August 16, 2016 HOMILIES

28 thoughts on “DO YOU HAVE AN ATENEO BLUE EGO?”

Vanessa Bicomong
August 22, 2017 at 11:55 am

This beautifully sums up what I’ve always thought. I have refrained from buy-
ing, much less wearing, anything with the Ateneo logo so as not to inflate my
Blue Ego. That doesn’t mean I don’t love the school. I do project and volunteer
work for Ateneo because I believe in what it stands for, and I love the commu-
nity. I just have to keep in mind why I’m doing it: it’s for Ateneo, it’s not about

August 19, 2016 at 12:53 am

Just points to ponder:

Reality: 4 out of 5 companies prefer hiring applicants from the top 3 schools in-
cluding Ateneo, DLSU and UP even if the course is not related to the job 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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Reality: padrino system is still rampant in philippine society,therefore, by virtue
of alumni from same school betters the chances of getting the upper hand in
Reality: 9 out of 10 HS/College girls will still prefer an Atenista or LaSallista for
a suitor if given a chance to choose among many guys from other schools
Reality: 10 out of 10 public school students adamantly chooses Ateneo, LaSalle
or UP as their choice of school if for some miracle they will be granted free edu-
cation anywhere they choose to.

Ana Perez
August 17, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Thank you for such an inspiring homily, Fr Johnny Go. You speak so direct and
clear, and so much like our Holy Father when he speaks to the youth. How true
it is that we should look at Christ’s life when we want to know how to be truly
humble. It is a grace, a gift, we need to ask and pray for, which is probably the
first step to being humble. It’s not something that we become just through edu-
cation and upbringing. We become humble by praying to become “another
Christ, Christ himself” to others. Anything short of that and our being a man for
others is mere vainglory or philanthropy, to paraphrase Pope Benedict XVI. God
bless you and thank you for providing me with something so necessary and apt
to ponder in my prayer.

Chris T
August 17, 2016 at 1:20 pm

Very inspiring homily Father Johnny. Thank you for sharing!!

Lorna Ballesteros
August 17, 2016 at 9:12 am 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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Was one of ADMU’s cross-enrolees and felt at home. Even proceeded to Cani-
sius, Buffalo NY and Loyola Chicago for grad studies and more of the same. Now
realize could be coz of my ego too LOL There is one everywhere; don’t beat
yourselves too much. It’s just time to get over our intellectual conceit and yes,
translate it to serve others. Right now, our Mediators’ Forum has other Jesuit
products, Nap Rama, Jr., Atty. Kris Ablan and my HS classmate Ma. Aurora Dee,
graduate of CEFAM. Amin o Ateneo! haha

Stephen Tan
August 17, 2016 at 9:07 am

Hi fr johnny! This is a very inspiring and uplifting homily; very good reminder
of the virtue of humility and gratefulness. Glad to be an atenean and will al-
ways be thankful to my parents for sending me to the jesuits schools and to my
Jesuit mentors for their formation and values. May the Good Lord continue to
bless you and your works. Stephen

August 17, 2016 at 8:26 am

fr. johnny, always so true and practical!

Ramon hector maxey misa

August 17, 2016 at 8:15 am

I am a 2nd generation Atenean. More than my Ateneo education, it was my Fa-

ther’s Ateneo spirit that has inspired me to try to live a Christian life.

August 16, 2016 at 10:37 pm 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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This homily lacks the HOW. The real meaning of humility is hidden in beautiful
words and not translated into the real world. No wonder there is no such thing
as a humble Atenean.
August 17, 2016 at 6:27 am

Thanks! But I think the HOW is best figured out by each individual.

Maricel Laraya
August 17, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Agree with your comment ( This homily is


peewee morato
August 16, 2016 at 9:49 pm

An example of this misplaced pride is the audacity of whoever it was that disre-
spectfully replaced the Mabuhay announcement anthem of the President’s
grand entrance & replaced it with the Ateneo Fly High theme.
As citizens beyond Ateneo, now is this funny or what?

August 16, 2016 at 9:10 pm

Well said Fr. Johnny, grateful to readnyour homily. Very inspiring.

Anonymous 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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August 16, 2016 at 7:55 pm

So should I stop calling it “The” Ateneo?

August 16, 2016 at 7:49 pm

So should I stop calling it ‘The’ Ateneo?

August 16, 2016 at 7:32 pm

There is a paradox in this homily–i.e. seeing “the” Ateneo education as a special

gift that not everyone is entitled to. I have studied in this institution for 16 years
and I realized that this messianic perception that we “stand on a hill” and that
we have to be “men and women for others” to those outside the hill is One Big
Farce! More than any group of persons in the Philippines, these spoiled and
sheltered Ateneans need to be schooled by the folks of the outside world!

So, how do we become humble? We should inculcate in students that they are
NOT special because of their Ateneo education. Students should be taught earli-
er on that disgraceful citizens of the Philippines graduated from this institution,
for instance, Mike Arroyo, Renato Corona, Juan Ponce Enrile, Gloria-Macapagal
Arroyo, Abigail Binay, and the countless Atenean “hambogs” and “matapobres”.
It is only by teaching students that they are not special that they will learn how
to be humble. In my fifty plus years of living, I became more comfortable with
myself when I hid or denied the fact that I am an Atenean. Being an Atenean is
more of a handicap rather than an asset.

One suggestion to correct the system: the admission committee should lessen
their acceptance rates of students of Chinese descent and those coming from
wealthy, affluent, and political families. These students only use their education
to further oppress the marginalized in our society. If we want to tilt the scales in 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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favor of the oppressed, the Ateneo should have a 50:50 ratio for scholars and
paying students.

Further, the school should not allow luxury or expensive vehicles to enter its
premises. Expensive clothes/fashionable clothing should also not be allowed. I
have seen how kids today spend more time in choosing which clothes to wear
before going to school rather than prepare for class. Having a uniform–just like
for majority of all colleges in the Philippines–should also be set in the Ateneo.
August 17, 2016 at 6:30 am

You have a point, but there is also something to be said about the “special” gift
of the Ateneo education. It’s special not because only a few are entitled to it.
The opposite is true: everyone is! But the fact that only a few can avail of it–
the way only a minority can benefit from a La Salle or UP education–under-
lines the special responsibility that goes without.
August 17, 2016 at 6:31 am

Also please refrain from making generalized statements about ethnic groups.

Dave Oblena
August 17, 2016 at 8:55 am

In my 12 year stay in Ateneo and only on the first step of my 20s, we “standing
on a hill” just means we are capable. As simple as that – NOT more capable
than others. It’s just that Ateneo /knows/ it’s students can do more because
they believe in the education they give to their students. We humble ourselves
by being a person for others, because when we simply bask in our education, 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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we begin feeling entitled of it. These “spoiled and sheltered” Ateneas /are/
such people – when we fail to give after what was given to us.

I would disagree that Ateneans should not feel special because of our educa-
tion. Heck, each school really has it’s own perks to their respective education-
al system, but do we glorify ourselves by saying we come from a specific
school? No. Rather, we say thanks to the schools we come from by doing the
good we can as the school’s alumni because we, literally, grew up in these in-
stitutions and that our parents believed in the institution they put us in. Those
people you mentioned? Other schools have their own set of people who have
gained big names for themselves, but have questionable credibility. Ateneo is
no different. And why highlight people like them in your education? There are
better people to talk about especially those that aren’t politically related to the
young aspiring students. If you’re so ashamed of our school, didn’t you ever
think that maybe it’s because you’re using the school’s name the wrong way?
Does it bother you that people use stereotypes against us? Have you put your-
self low enough to be bothered by mere stereotypes? Be proud of where you
come from, whatever school it is, whatever job you tried, because no one but
you has seen every moment of your life fighting through all these hurdles and
emerging victorious in one way or another, one after the other.

It’s 2016 and you’re hand picking races and judging social classes still. It’s no
one’s fault that they were born of that descent, that they’re in this working
class and not that, that they can afford something and buy it, that they speak
in one way and not the other, that they wear a set of clothes you wouldn’t,
that they love others differently. Why oppress a certain class – deprive them
of an education of a specific school they want and think is best for their chil-
dren? It’s not their fault for doing such things and if you’re going to tell me
they should be doing school work first, then yes, I would agree, but then
maybe the problem there then is in the children’s upbringing and not in being
humble per se. It’s our job as older people to guide them AS MUCH AS letting
them enjoy themselves, because having rules that limit your self expression is
definitely NOT being humble. 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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After reading your comment, it’s sad to see that you have lost your Atenean
Way and that you’re even ashamed of it. I didn’t choose Ateneo for college
and I do hear about our stereotypes being used in jest or simply against me,
but that doesn’t stop me from showing the world that my school, my literal
childhood, did not help in molding who I am now. You may say that I may be
young and foolish, but isn’t it great to be foolish and still be able to dream big.
I do hope you find yourself again – the one that loved being in our school.

And everything I said about Ateneo can be said about any other school. In
fact, replace all of my mentioning of Ateneo with your own school and this
would sound just as great. Love your school. Love your origins. Just remem-
ber that we make the name for our school, not the other way around, so do
this well.

Adelee P. Moreno
August 17, 2016 at 6:09 pm

Very well said Dave Oblena.

Perry Dominguez
August 20, 2016 at 9:58 am

Well said.

Sincerely yours
August 17, 2016 at 12:41 pm

I like the idea of a 50:50 ratio for paying students and scholars now the ques-
tion is who will pay for the scholars? I hope as an alumni you also contribute
to make it happen. 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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vilma escarrilla
August 17, 2016 at 1:25 pm

Very well said.

August 16, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Jolo said : “Well, an Atenean by heart is to find God in all things. and to be com-
passionate at all times”… And yeah! I agree of his line

Bong C
August 16, 2016 at 5:59 pm

What a timely homily, Fr. J. Considering what our present society values and
emphasizes, it is good to be reminded about a virtue that we often forget (or
should it be “I often forget”)…humility.

August 16, 2016 at 3:33 pm

Thank you, Fr Johnny

This is a very enlightening and inspiring homily.
Definitely something to reflect on and live by
One Big Fight.

Eric Gregorio
August 16, 2016 at 8:23 pm 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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It is not only an eye opener for me but a great realization how I grew to be
selfish than selfless. I just realized that I never did practice what Ateneo has
taught me to be ” Men for others!”because I was engulf with the ways of the
world and blinded by pride.

Thank you, Fr. Johnny because I believe it is not too late to be the humble Ate-
nean that I should have been.

Jun alvendia
August 16, 2016 at 3:02 pm


by Merry Cardinal del Val, secretary of state to Pope Saint Pius X

from the prayer book for Jesuits, 1963

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, O Jesus.

From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, O Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, O Jesus. 07/10/2017, 10>30 AM

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From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, O Jesus.

That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I go unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to de-
sire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to
desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I
should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
“Charity is patient, is kind; charity does not envy, is not pretentious, is not
puffed up, is not ambitious, is not self-seeking, is not provoked; thinks no evil,
does not rejoice over wickedness, but rejoices with the truth, bears with all
things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:4-7).
To have Charity is to love God above all things for Himself and be ready to re-
nounce all created things rather than offend Him by serious sin.
( Matt. 22:36-40)

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