I attended the worship service early this morning expecting a lesson about the Messenger, since it is his birthday, after all. The introduction mentioned his name, but after that it went right back to the standard lesson of “obey, submit, worship, offer”. But then what could we expect? It was a young STF boy teaching who barely even remember brother Eraño, let alone never hearing the Messenger. So let’s take a moment to really remember him. I don’t want to watch a bunch of non-members get paid with our offerings to act out his life either.
Brother Felix Ysagun Manalo was born May 10, 1886 in Tipas Taguig Rizal. Born in Catholicism and sought for the true religion in his adult life. He was not rich but with God’s guidance he was able to achieve truly amazing things. But he did not do it for show or world records.
Despite not being highly educated he effectively preached the pure gospel and defended it successfully from detractors. He debated successfully against Catholic priests and Protestant pastors. Even with many obstacles and persecutions the Iglesia Ni Cristo was registered with the Philippine government on July 27, 1914.
What drew many to listen to Bro. Felix was his preaching. He often said, “Don’t listen to Manalo, listen to the Bible”. He never drew attention to himself but he honoured the gospel. Thus, is fulfilled the scripture:
“The Lord is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will exalt the law and make it honourable.” Isaiah 42:21
That was the humility of the Messenger. It was all about the teachings, not about himself. He often degraded himself – he would often say, “don’t listen to me, my head is empty – listen to God!” or “I know nothing. I am a man. Listen to God!”
Brother Felix Manalo never showed self-importance, even though he was The Messenger, he was always humble. This is because he understood this verse very well:
“Is Apollos so important? Is Paul so important? We are only servants of God who helped you believe. Each one of us did the work God gave us to do. I planted the seed and Apollos watered it. But God is the one who made the seed grow.
So the one who plants is not important, and the one who waters is not important. Only God is important, because he is the one who makes things grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:5-7
During brother Felix’s time, no one would have dared even say, he is “the most important man in the world” because he teaches us. He would have slapped us for having false faith.
What young people may not realise is how extremely careful was Bro. Felix when it came to the offerings of the Church. He did not squander a single centavo. That is why a system was placed in the Church, which his son, bro. Eraño carried out throughout his lifetime. Every single cent was accounted for.
Brother Felix told the Ministers, “if I hadn’t saved up every penny we would not have chapels to worship in”. Even when there was not much in the beginning, he never borrowed from banks nor did he pressure brethren to give; everyone gave out of joy from their hearts, whether it was a penny or a single peso. And he questioned none of them on the amount of their offering.
There was one deaconess who once told Bro. Felix that a sister does not give offerings. His reply was, “that is her faith for now.” He understood that Church members still have different levels of faith. There are those who are still like newborn infants that have to be bottle-fed and there are those who are already mature. But regardless of the level of faith, you take care of them and nurture them – not expel them immediately. That is the mind of a true Shepherd.
In the early days , brother Felix just walked everywhere because he wanted to save the offerings. He did not use it for his own luxury or comfort. During the 2nd World War, he walked many miles, even from Manila to the provinces just to hold classes with the Ministers. When the sun went down, he slept wherever he was walking when it was totally dark and continued walking when a beam of sunlight came up the next day. He had a khaki shirt that had sweat stains that became permanent because he walked so much in the searing sun. But he never threw it back in brethren’s faces of how hard it was to travel or how hot the weather was – he just performed his duty.
Japanese soldiers threatened to behead him and persecutors of other religions mocked him but he never told a single brother or sister to fight for him or defend him, he just relied on prayer and the power of God. Amidst persecutions, he told brethren, “these will never go away, it is part of being an Iglesia Ni Cristo”. He quoted Christ: “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
And this is how we grew up. We knew there would always be persecutions. But we were taught not to be sad nor angry nor frustrated, because it’s part of being a member of the Church. We were not told to fight back and insult those who insult us, because the Messenger taught us Christ’s words:
“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” Matthew 5:44
Perhaps some of you readers heard or even saw Brother Felix Manalo in person, but mostly likely you did not. Most of us have only heard stories passed on by elder Ministers. The younger generations no longer hear stories much. They just know to be “One” with the present leaders. But try your hardest to pass it on to our children about the sacrifices of Brother Felix. It was never for selfish gain. Tell others of his labour of love for the Church. Show our children how we were taught. Show them what a true member of the Church is like. Stand up for what is right. Never give up, because we are the fruits of the Messenger’s labour.
“You are our letter [of recommendation], written in our hearts, recognized and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” 2 Corinthians 3:2-3
Till his dying breath, Brother Felix Manalo showed his love for us. He reminded his son, Brother Eraño to take care of the Church until he passed away.
Let me close by quoting one of Brother Felix Manalo’s favourite verses:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21