Sunday, October 21, 2012

Proclaim your Faith!

(A homily delivered at the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore; on the last day of the Triduum held on October 20, 2012 for the Canonization of Pedro Calungsod.)

·       10:00 A.M. Mass of the Holy Name of Mary
o   Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales – Presider
o   Abp. Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I. - Homilist
·       Readings: Sir. 24:17-21; Resp. Ps. - Lk. 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54;  Gospel Lk. 1:26-38

Your Eminences, my Brother Bishops; Distinguished Officials of the Philippine Govt, led by our Vice President (Binay) and the Phil. Ambassador the Holy See (Mercy Tuason); Rev. Fathers, Brothers and Sisters; my Brothers and Sisters in the Lord:

Mary – the Star of Evangelization

First, a question. On this final day of our Triduum, why do we celebrate the Mass in honor of the Holy Name of Mary?

Because this Mass brings us back to the Mariana islands of the 17th century, It brings us back to the time when Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores, S.J, and his young missionary partner, the Visayan lay catechist, Pedro Calungsod proclaimed the Christian faith to the Chamorros of Guam.

Our Mass this morning reminds us that Padre Diego had a very strong devotion to the Blessed Mother. He dedicated the first church in the new mission to the Sweet Name of Mary. By the sweet name of Mary he hoped that the mission to proclaim the Good News of Jesus to the Chamorros would be blessed by God with abundant fruit.

That hope has been realized. On the original site of the first Church, there now magnificently stands the Cathedral - Basilica of the Sweet Name of Mary, a symbol of the Christian and Catholic faith of the people of Guam. Through the veins of their beloved leader, Archbishop Anthony Apuron who is with us today, flows the blood of his Chamorro ancestors as well as the blood of his Filipino grandfather from Vigan, Ilocos Sur. In the history of the local Church of Agana, Guam we see once again the truth of that ancient aphorism: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christianity.”

Padre Diego passed on his deep devotion to Mary to the young Pedro Calungsod. These two valiant missionaries, priest and lay teenager, under the inspiration and guidance of the Blessed Mother proclaimed their faith with zeal and courage among the Chamorros.

The Mass this morning also brings us back to the 1st century, to that room in Jerusalem where Mary and the Apostles were gathered in prayer. Suddenly in that room there was the sound of a mighty wind. The Holy Spirit descended upon them in the form of tongues of fire. The Holy Spirit filled them and transformed them.

Driven by the Holy Spirit, inspired and strengthened by the presence of Mary the Blessed Mother the Apostles would later go forth to the different parts of the civilized world, even to distant unknown lands, literally to the ends of the earth. Everywhere they proclaimed Jesus as the Lord and Savior of all. 

As Mary saw the Apostles off to tell the story of Jesus, her own Son, she prayed for them and was their Mother from afar. For the Apostles, Mary was the living memory of Jesus, their beloved Teacher and Lord.

Mary then was present at the beginning of the Church’s mission to evangelize. She was also present when Padre Diego and Pedro Calungsod began their missionary work. Mary, indeed, is the Star of Evangelization, as Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have said. She is the Star, the brilliant beacon that reflects to others the face of her own Son. She is the Star that points unmistakably to her Son.

Jesus the Center of Proclamation

But what did Padre Diego and Pedro Calungsod really proclaim? What do we proclaim when we evangelize?  Do we proclaim an inspired book called the Sacred Scriptures? Do we proclaim a set of beliefs and rites that we call Christianity or Catholicism?  Do we proclaim an ideology or a humanitarian program that we call human development?

No, my brothers and sisters, we proclaim a Person, a Person who has a face and a name. We proclaim Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s Son, God’s own Son, Jesus the Crucified One. We proclaim the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection, that same divine mystery by which Jesus saved us and all humankind from sin. It is the story of Jesus that we tell. Jesus is the beginning, the center and the summit of our proclamation.

The Duty to Proclaim

But do we have a duty to proclaim Jesus? Yes we do. We hear today the poignant words of St. Paul, who cried out: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor. 9-16). This cry follows from his words: Faith comes by hearing. But if no one speaks how can we hear? And how can one speak unless one is sent? (see Rom. 10:14-18).

When you and I were baptized and became members of the family of faith, the Lord sent us to speak his name, to tell his story to others. It is through the Sacrament of Baptism that we become a people of faith – in – mission.

How to Proclaim Jesus – Tell the Story of Jesus

But how do we proclaim Jesus? Our model of proclamation is Pedro Calungsod. Let us look at his statue. Pedro is carrying a book entitled, Doctrina Cristiana, It was the Spanish catechism written in the Philippines from which he learned the fundamental articles of our faith. From it he developed a strong and lively devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Blessed Mother. His mentor was Padre Diego. They were not only teacher and pupil to each other. They were partners and friends. It is from their friendship and especially from their intimate friendship with the Lord that they could teach others about the love of Jesus.

And so by carrying the catechism book, Pedro Calungsod teaches us that we have first to know our faith, to know Jesus, to believe in Jesus, and be united with Jesus.

The Doctrina Cristiana of the 17th century has evolved into a new synthesis of the Christian faith in the 20th century, the Catechism of the Catholic Church. To know your faith, the sure guide is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. When you take up the catechism believe what you read, live what you believe, and share what you believe.

But knowing Jesus is not enough. We must have, most of all, a passion for Jesus, a love for Jesus so intimate and so strong that we just have to share him with others. He is the divine gift that we cannot keep for ourselves. We must want to share him with others.

But how to share and proclaim the Lord and Savior? My brothers and sisters, simply tell the story of Jesus to others. Tell the stories that Jesus told -- about the providence of His Father, tell others that God is concerned most about the human person even as he cares for the beautiful lilies of the field and the blithe birds of the sky. Tell people about the Lord’s mercy and kindness, his love of the poor. Tell others about how he drove away those who desecrated the house of prayer, why he called some people hypocrites, how he abhorred those who were greedy and selfish, how he had compassion on the little ones of society, widows, orphans, strangers and little children. Tell the stories that Jesus told about love of neighbor, about forgiveness, and prayer.

Parents  and Children

If you are parents, tell the story of Jesus to your children. Children love stories, tell them of Jesus’ birth, how Jesus was lost and found in the temple, tell them story after story, miracle after miracle, parable after parable, tell them his message in simple ways, how Jesus loved children, how he loved the poor. Tell them about how Jesus sacrificed his very life on the Cross for them. Share with them your devotion to Jesus, your love for Jesus. Teach them about the Mass and how to pray, be their leader of prayer at home. Pray the Rosary with them. You must love Jesus passionately in order to do these.

Husbands and Wives

Husbands and wives, remind one another about what it means to be Christian, to be a follower of Jesus. Remind one another that your marital love is a sharing of the love of Jesus for you. Tell one another that the love of Jesus for you and for us is ever faithful, that even when we are unfaithful, He forgives. The love of Jesus for you must flow to your children. Such love within the family makes responsibilities less burdensome and is carried over to the fulfillment of responsibilities at work, at the office. It is a love that works for justice in society, the kind of love that struggles against social evils, against the lack of integrity and the bane of corruption so deeply entrenched in our beloved Philippines. It is a love for others without pretense.

Mass Media

Today we have to use the means of social communications to proclaim Jesus, his life and message. You do not have to be a radio broadcaster or a TV personality.

So often the internet is used for evil, for pornography, for scams and crimes. Instead use the internet to share what is good. Send biblical messages by SMS, by texting. Use twitters and blogs to share your faith, Chat with others about how your faith has always been an anchor of hope in the midst of difficulties. Send inspirational pictures and images by email, youtube, or facebook.

Today the power of communications, of the internet, email, facebook, is beyond calculation. 

Young People

May I appeal particularly to young people – and for young people. San Pedro Calungsod was only 14 years old when he went with Padre Diego to proclaim the Lord Jesus in Guam. He was not too young to be an evangelizer. He is the model for young people to live and proclaim their faith.

Already in our country, the youth are at the vanguard of renewing the Church and society. They are active in the catechetical, liturgical, and social action ministries. They serve in various transformative small communities of faith. With energetic and enthusiastic youth, parishes become a communion of communities.   

Yet today various forces compete for the attention of the young. At their most impressionable age, young people are constantly bombarded by mass media with images and messages of secularism and materialism that are contrary to the Gospel. The loss of faith is evident and widespread in the world.

We hope that the ongoing Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization can provide answers to the question: How can we proclaim the faith to young people with “new ardor, new methods and expressions?” The young are the present and future of the Church. We all need to be with them.

Overseas Filipino Workers

At this point may I give tribute to the millions of our overseas Filipino workers in every continent of the world.

We only think of OFWs as our country’s economic saviors. But they are more than economic agents. They are faith-givers. We have heard hundreds of stories about how OFWs are not embarrassed to show the external signs of their Catholic faith, how they bring to Mass the children of families that they work for and teach them how to pray. By doing so they attract the parents of the children to renew their faith and begin to pray again.

You, our dear OFWs, are truly the new missionaries and evangelizers of today. We salute and thank you most deeply. Hold on to your faith. We pray with you and for you as you work, often in a hostile environment.

Martyrdom and the Daily Witness of Life

My brothers and Sisters, in all probability you and I might never be asked by God to give up our life for the sake of our faith. God indeed asked Pedro Calungsod. And he responded generously and courageously with his life. With his teacher, missionary partner, and friend, Padre Diego, he went to his death for the sake of Jesus. Now both Padre Diego and the lay catechist Pedro hold the palm of martyrdom. Look at his statue -- Pedro is holding that palm. Martyrdom is the ultimate witnessing to Jesus, the ultimate form of proclaiming the faith.

But as Blessed John Paul II has said – a faithful Christian life, though silent and unsung, is a most eloquent proclamation of our faith in Jesus (see Ecclesia in Asia). You are credible in telling the story of Jesus to others only when your life is lived as a faithful disciple of Jesus, a disciple who lives the Divine Teacher’s way of valuing, his way of relating with people, especially with the most needy, his way of doing good.

For in the final analysis, to proclaim Jesus is really to share you own experience of Jesus, your own friendship with Jesus, your own following of Christ.  This is what the Apostle John said: What we have seen, what we have heard, what we have touched, this is what we proclaim to you so that you may have fellowship with us, and our fellowship is with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ! (see 1 Jn.1: 1-4).

When we truly proclaim Jesus by our daily Christian life, we can also exalt with Mary, the Star of Evangelization, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!” My very life, my very being proclaims the greatness of the Lord!

My brothers and sisters, God bless you!

+Orlando B. Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato

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