Homily delivered by Fr. Wilmer S. Tria, parish priest of St. Jude Thaddeus Parish in Naga City,
on the occasion of the feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help on June 27, 2018.
“Woman, behold your son; … son, behold your mother.”(Jn 19:26)
This divine endorsement does not only refer to the Son’s concern about the welfare of His Mother. Indeed, it was His solemn duty to take care of His Mother when she became a widow. However, Jesus was thinking more about the welfare of the sons and daughters His Church than He was concerned about His Mother. We need her more than she needs us.
Even if our Church has had a long history, our faith remains to be juvenile. That is why we always need the Mother. Our bones may be strong, our faces may look mature, but our souls remain to be infants before the eyes of God.
When we pray to her, we say: “Hail Mary, full of grace… “ She is like a reservoir, overflowing with water. When a water tank is full, we can bathe, wash the dishes and do the laundry. But the water that overflows from the tank also flows to our gardens caring for the plants even when we have no time to take care of them. Many times, our parish could only visit a number of informal settlers, the marginalized, but the grace of God flowing from the Blessed Mother also flows supernaturally to these people.
How relevant is our devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help today? The Church today, as it was from the beginning, is persecuted. The Founder Himself was nailed to the Cross. The apostles were martyred. The first Christians were fed to the lions. We need our Mother.
In our hymn to her, we say: Immaculate Mother, to you do we plead. To ask God, Our Father, for help in our need. Ave… We pray for our country, the land of our birth; we pray for all nations, that peace be on earth.”
This song is far different from the songs of prosperity religions. We never say: we pray for our passport and visa to America! Our novena to her has a rich social dimension. We pray for our growth ‘in the love of Christ and our neighbour by frequent communion.’ We pray ‘that we may strive to be true Christians by our loving concern for others.’ We pray ‘that we may work for the just distribution of this world’s goods.’
What is the real problem in our country today? It is not drug addiction. It is the killing addiction. The pervading culture now is to kill the poor. To justify the extermination of the poor, these addicts brand them as “salot ng lipunan.” Yes, they kill the poor and destroy their good memories. The first trademark they used was “Wag tularan, drug pusher ako.” Not satisfied with their addiction, they introduced another trademark, “Wag tularan, tambay ako.” Because of our silence, we are not only becoming desensitized. We are becoming addicted to killings. We are becoming a nation of sadists and masochists. These addicts love to hurt their countrymen, and our countrymen love it when pain is inflicted on them.
Who will speak for the poor? Who will defend them? The only institution that can speak about such atrocities and killing addiction is the Church. But addicts are not happy about this. They are not happy when their vices are criticised.
This is the why these addicts turn against the Church and begin to persecute its members. They curse God, they curse the Pope, they curse the bishops and they kill the priests. Now, they introduce another trademark to justify the killing of priests: “Wag tularan, babaero ako.” “Sambay ko ang asawa ng mayor, pulis at militar.”
Like the infant Jesus you see in the icon, we are all scared. Bishop Pablo David shared that seminarians are disheartened that priests are now easy targets of killers. They asked him for inspiration. He said if seminarians are scared, they better leave the seminary because priesthood is never for the fainthearted.
Faith, indeed, is never for the faint of heart. After all, we have the Blessed Mother. We run to her for consolation, strength and assurance. The deplorable events in our country today should make us turn to the Blessed Mother, particularly, Our Mother of Perpetual Help. There are four reasons why we need her HELP.
Hope. Mary is our model of hope. At the foot of the cross, she hears the enemies of Jesus call Him “stupid” and “idiot.” But the Blessed Mother remained unperturbed. She was filled with hope that her Son will be able to finish His mission of redemption.
We sing to her: “Mary Immaculate, star of the morning, chosen before the creation began; destined to bring, through the light of your dawning, conquest of Satan and rescue to man.”
Enlightenment. Hope and enlightenment are related. Unless enlightened, you cannot see the future. Mary is an enlightened woman. She is not concerned about herself but of the welfare of the world. She prefers salvation than self-preservation. She knows the big picture. Like a giraffe, we should not be bothered by tirades against God. Bishop Soc Villegas says: when we spit on God, that spit will go back to our faces. The more we spit on Him, the more we get spits on our faces.
Love. Jesus was hated, but Mary never hated the enemies of her Son. Her heart remained engulfed by the love of God. So we should never hate those who curse God. There is no need for bishops to be preoccupied in writing statements for priests not to buy guns. We will not buy guns. We will not allow the laity to buy us guns.
Prayer. Mary is a woman of prayer, of contemplation. She pondered everything in her heart. There are many voices today. Some are voices of John the Baptist shaking our consciences. Other voices are of Herod mocking the Church. But these are invitations to repentance, knowing that we are sinners. Unless we are humiliated, we will never be able to test our humility, says Pope Francis. These are opportunities to redirect ourselves to God.
The mother who cuddled the baby Jesus is the same mother who cuddled the lifeless body of Jesus.
Protected by a tunic as an infant, His body was tender and delicate, full of fear of life outside the womb. Naked and nailed to the cross, His body bore marks and traces of fortitude, of compassion and total surrender to the will of the Father.
To Jesus through Mary. Yes, the purpose of our devotion to the Blessed Mother is for us to find Jesus, the Jesus of fortitude, of compassion and of total surrender to the will of the Father. To end, let us sing together: Mother of Christ, Mother of Christ, this do I ask of thee. When the voyage is o’er, O stand on the shore, and show him at last to me.