BY REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“The thief comes only in order to steal, kill, and destroy. I have comein order that you might have life—life in all its fullness” – John 10:10
Many of his children in the faith would fondly call him “Papa Bishop”, but I would like to remember him as a good pastor and a true prophet of God. The entire ecumenical world is deeply mourning the passing on of Bishop Emeritus Juan A. Marigza last September 6, 2018 at the age of 89. He had been in the Christian ministry for the past 61 years! But it is not just the long years he had been in the ministry that matters, but the kind of life that he lived to the full as a faithful servant of God.
I was already a young pastor when I met him personally for the first time, although I’ve already been hearing about him as a long-time pastor of UCCP Baguio. He was known to me as a dynamic preacher whom people would love to listen to. He was dubbed as “the Prince of Ilocano Preachers.” I’m one of those younger pastors who really admire him as a dynamic preacher. That’s why when we put up the Ecumenical Theological Seminary (ETS) in 1996, we asked him to teach our students Homiletics, the science of preaching.
Bishop Juan A. Marigza is a good pastor. The idea of a good pastor is taken from the concept of a good shepherd in the Gospel of John. A good pastor is willing to give his life so that others may live. This is concretely shown in the life and mission of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “I have come in order that you might have life—life in all its fullness” (John 10:10).
Jesus uses the image of a good shepherd to illustrate what it means to be God’s servant. In ancient Israel, shepherds are hired to look after sheep not their own. Shepherds are among the poorest of the poor in society. Many of them are only after the money they would get in looking after the sheep. That’s why they would run away if wild animals would come. They would not protect the sheep. They would not dare to look for those that are lost. They would not guide the sheep in greener pastures beside still waters, so to speak. These kinds of shepherds are only hired men. They are described as thieves who would come only to steal, kill, and destroy the flock.
However, there are also those who would go beyond being merely hired men. They would come to know the sheep and would consider them their own. They would protect the sheep from danger. They would feed the sheep and would care for them when they are sick. They would guide them and look for them when they are lost. They are even willing to give their lives for the sake of the sheep. They are simply good shepherds. Bishop Juan A. Marigza is a good shepherd of the flock. He is a good pastor.
Certainly, Bishop Juan A. Marigza will never be forgotten by those whose lives have been touched by his life and ministry. But what I would personally consider his greatest contribution to Filipino Christianity is the translation of the Bible to the popular Iluko language. He is one of the translators of the Naimbag a Damag Biblia, a popular Iluko version of the Scriptures. He has spent almost a decade of his life making the Scriptures more understandable to many. Although he has gone ahead of us, he continues to feed the flock with God’s written Word.
True Prophet of God
Moreover, Bishop Juan A. Marigza is a true prophet of God. There are true as well as false prophets of God then and now. According to Jeremiah, false prophets are those who say that there is peace when there is no peace (cf. Jer. 8:10-18). In other words, their messages are irrelevant. A true prophet, on the other hand, courageously speaks for the truth and lives by the truth. He champions the rights of the poor and oppressed deeply believing that God is on their side.
Militant groups and people’s organizations would consider Bishop Juan A. Marigza as a staunched critic of the Martial Law regime and a courageous defender and promoter of human rights. His involvement in various social issues has become more prominent, especially when one of his daughters was arrested and tortured by the military during the dark years of the Marcos Regime.
Bishop Juan A. Marigza is also very much concerned about the environment. When we came up to Baguio and put up ETS in 1996, people in Itogon were then struggling against the destructive open-pit mining conducted by Benguet Mining Corporation. Many of our students joined the mass actions organized together with the good Bishop. He was maligned in many ways, but that did not deter him from being in solidarity with the people, speaking and standing for the truth.
Note of Gratitude
I must personally thank Bishop Juan A. Marigza for his guidance, support, and encouragement when we put up ETS in 1996. He served as one of our volunteer faculty members, together with his two sons, Bishop Reuel and Rev. Jan Fleming, and his wife, Mommy Lou, as we fondly call her, serving as our librarian. One of the reasons why we were able to start our Seminary with our 35 students not paying anything at all was because we had people like the Marigzas who graciously helped us. Mommy Lou would donate from time to time sacks of rice to feed our Seminary students. Together with the good Bishop, they have been supporting Seminary students financially up to now.
And so, like Apostle Paul we could also say that Bishop Juan A. Marigza, a good pastor and a true prophet of God, had really fought a good fight; he had finished the race; he had kept the faith (cf. 2 Tim. 4:7). #nordis.net