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2020 Feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia: A Time for Introspection, Part 2

San Diego, California. The Almighty Father is clearly pissed at mankind. The body count from this pandemic keeps rising and is poised to breach the 215,000 mark by the end of the week. The pandemic body count and the number of cases remain fluid as they go through ebbs and flows, thus prolonging the hiatus in our lives. At the rate it is going, we will probably be in this predicament well into 2021. Meaning, more frustrations, more unanswered prayers for an end to this pandemic.

Why so? Is it because more and more people are pushing to bring an early end or to ease pandemic restrictions despite the serious nature of this pandemic, so they could resume a “normal life?” “We’ve got to get our lives back,” has become a common refrain among advocates who are now challenging the legality of such draconian measures.

In the meantime, the freeways are beginning to fill up again, slowing traffic during peak hours. Recreational activities picked up during the Labor Day weekend with many people not wearing masks or practicing social distancing. An uptick in the coronavirus numbers followed. More suffering, more deaths as this ongoing crisis continues to crisscross state borders. World leaders who dismissed, mocked or challenged the seriousness of the virus have not been spared including the most powerful person in the world, American president Donald Trump.

We clearly are not getting it as the gathering pandemic storm continues to expose our vanities as we continue our contemptible conduct towards the laws of nature and disregard for human lives. The feeling of hopelessness begins to descend on people to the point of despair. We were given a window to enjoy the fresh air and the water of a rested environment.

We were also exposed to the inequities of life as the pandemic took more of the lives of the poor with various health disparities, or forced to work as frontliners so we, the public could pursue our needs, our freedom, and our happiness. We were reminded of how much we have neglected our families, the aged parents in nursing homes as we continue to pursue and live the American dream. The young and the restless were not spared either, who felt indestructible amidst such dangerous environment.

So, how do we discern what God wants? The Holy Spirit clearly has left us and we are left to fend for ourselves because of our continued defiance. It is not too late because we have plenty of time in our hands. We cannot hear what God is saying so as mortals, we have to rely on our faith by looking back to find out for clues.

There are four notable points of infliction during biblical times Before Christ (BC) that comes to mind as they relate to this subject. The burning bush involving Moses, the parting of the Red Sea, and Noah’s building of the ark and subsequent journey during the great flood. All three instances showed obedience and deliverance from God. The fourth instance is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah from God’s wrath for their immorality and disobedience.

In present times, the burning bush has spread to multiple western states of the United States after the conflagration in Australia and continues to burn. The parting of the Red Sea was momentary and the waters came rushing back and has flooded countries and melted glaciers. We should not wait for another Noah’s ark to be built before we do anything to stop this impending grand deluge. We have to act now! But where do we start?

Our Lady of Peñafrancia reminded us in September but it came and gone. Was it a missed opportunity? The fiesta came without the glitz and pageantry on the streets of Naga City or the parks in the United States. Despite the online presence of the religious to help us observe the solemnity of the occasion and the drive-by processions, our minds were wayward; still trying to reconnect to the festive moments of yesteryears.

It is even a question of whether this year’s general theme for the Peñafrancia celebration made sense to her devotees who clearly missed the merrymaking as shown by Facebook postings of previous Peñafrancia celebrations. Did Ina turn a deaf ear to our novenas and supplications? But remember, we can only ask her to intercede for us.

I believe that our prayers were heard but because the human action was lacking, thus the continued impasse. Humans have shown that in the midst of suffering, we fold. Only a few stood at the foot of the cross when Jesus was dying. So, we are constantly reminded by the Blessed Mother to be obedient to the Commandments of the Almighty Father just as she did to be Jesus’ mother here on earth.

We should not wait to die to find out. We have an opportunity now to follow what she wants us to do to please God by following her example. As Catholics, we must mirror one of Mary’s virtues, that of being obedient to God. But, in a more specific way, the Virgen de Peñafrancia left us clues through the works of other people.

To know what those clues were, devotees need to reflect deeper on the theme of "Fostering Dialogue and Harmony in the spirit of Mary's Gentleness and Humility." How do we do that? What kind of dialogue would foster such harmony? The church encourages us to hold interfaith dialogues but how exactly do you that? Or, are the features of the 2020 Peñafrancia logo for symbolism only? The only way to know is to understand how we can mirror them in our lives.

The Archdiocese of Caceres puts it this way. “The logo contains five symbols: the cross, the people, the Image of Ina, Mt. Isarog, and the logo for the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue, and Indigenous Peoples. All five components remind us of a historical and contemporary expression of unity among people of different religions, and of indigenous peoples, under the mantle and intercession of our Ina, Our Lady of Peñafrancia.

The cross signifies the light of Christ that transcends religions and denominations. Christ himself, who is present within us, is the source of unity, and is the focal point of attaining Ecumenism through constant dialogue and cooperation.

The people, represented by an Indian Sikh, a plain-clothed Christian, a Roman Catholic Priest, an Indigenous Person, and a Muslim woman, expresses the mission of the Year of Ecumenism, Inter-religious Dialogue, and Indigenous Peoples: to attain harmony. The Priest is seen standing in the middle, as a symbol that we, as Catholics, must be the initiators of dialogue with others in the pursuit of harmony. (To be continued…)

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