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A Witness to A Miracle

Homily of His Excellency Most Rev. Dennis C. Villarojo, Bishop of Malolos

February 25, 2024 | Second Sunday of Lent

National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, Diocese of Malolos

Your Eminence, Your Excellencies, dear Archbishops and Bishops, my brother priests ... dear sisters and brothers in Christ:

At the outset, I would like to welcome all the archbishops and bishops here present, to share our joy and to honor Our Lady. I welcome in a particular way His Eminence Jose Cardinal Advincula, who sets foot for the first time in our National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima as Cardinal-Archbishop of Manila. I welcome in a special way, our Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, the Most Rev. Charles John Brown. I thank him for gracing this event, the canonical coronation of the image of Our Lady of Fatima. Through his presence, this canonical coronation is truly conferred by the Holy Father himself, our dear Pope Francis; because a canonical coronation means that the Holy Father has recognized the importance and significance of the image to the life and faith of the people who venerate it.

A Witness to a Miracle

What is the importance and significance of this image of Our Lady? There are many replicas of the image of Our Lady of Fatima. Some older, some more beautiful, some more venerated than the image that we are to crown today. Some images are venerated because miracles are attributed to them; but we do not attribute a miracle to this image. Instead, this national pilgrim image of Our Lady of Fatima is a witness to a miracle.

What miracle are we talking about? We need to be reminded, lest we forget, that from February 22 to 25, 1986, that people rose to reclaim their freedom and dignity without use of violence or shedding of blood. During those days, Our Lady was present through this image, not as a standard of battle but the symbol of peace. Not as a talisman for good fortune, but the plea for justice.

In recalling the miracle at EDSA, we are, however, confronted by a reproach. You speak of EDSA as a miracle. How has its promise been fulfilled? Do we have peace now much more than we had before? Did it attain justice for all, or only for one part of a divided nation?

Promise of Peace

First, let us examine the notion that EDSA was a promise. It was not. EDSA did not promise anything. It was instead, the fulfillment of a promise: If my people will humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then, I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sins, and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14). That was the promise at EDSA. It was fulfilled.

At Fatima, Our Lady told the children: Lucia, Francisco, and Jacinta, [that] God would grant peace to the entire world if her requests for prayer, reparation, and consecration were heard and obeyed. That was the promise. EDSA was a fulfillment.

Three years after EDSA, in 1989, a series of non-violent revolutions swept across Europe. From Poland to Hungary, to Germany, from Czechoslovakia to Romania, and eventually to Russia. The wall that divided Eastern and Western Europe fell without a bullet being fired. EDSA may not be the only spark that started it all, but it was certainly the model that revolutionized all revolutions. From there on, revolutions are no longer fought with arms, but with rosaries and flowers. In Lithuania, a former Soviet Republic, they did not put-up barricades made of twisted steel and quarried stones; but mounds of wooden crosses and rosary beads. At Fatima, Our Lady gave us the Rosary as a weapon for this. At EDSA, Our Lady fulfilled her promise. She gave us peace because nuns, priests and the faithful knelt on the hot pavement and prayed the rosary like they have never prayed before. At EDSA, soldiers could not fire at the crowd because the old women praying the rosary in the front lines reminded them of their own mothers and grandmothers praying the rosary at home.

Formula for Peace

If EDSA was a fulfillment of a promise, why did we not fully benefit from it? Perhaps because when the freedom bell rang, and shouts of joy and gladness echoed throughout the land, we celebrated as if we were the ones victorious and looked on the other half of our nation as losers; but EDSA was not a victory for one party and the defeat of another. It was not a triumph of one family vanquishing another. It was as the fulfillment of a promise — a particular instance of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The heart of a mother beats for all her children. Siblings at war with each other are a cost of much grief for a mother.

Our Lady at Fatima gave us the formula for peace: prayer, penance, consecration, and reparation. Prayer, because it is God who guides our feet into the way of peace. Penance, because sin is the hindrance to peace. Consecration, because our hearts need to be renewed. Reparation, because justice is attained by repairing, not by dismantling or demolishing.

Listen, Ponder, and Act

EDSA was our Mountain of Transfiguration. Like Peter in the Gospel, we missed the important part of its message. Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured, flanked by the figures of Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets. In the Transfiguration, Jesus is revealed as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, but all Peter could think of was to build a tent for each of them. When we are confronted with divinity, when we receive divine revelations, our first impulse is to commemorate, institutionalize, raise a monument, build a temple. Yet, revelation seeks to ensoul rather than to be enshrined. It seeks to animate, rather than to be entombed.

“This is my beloved son. Listen to him.” The Transfiguration was not a moment of seeing, but of listening. When we see, we focus only on the spectacular; but when we listen, we hear the truth. The spectacular can awe us into paralysis. Truth on the other hand, compels us to action.

In the Transfiguration, as at EDSA, we must listen and ponder as Mary did (cf. Lk. 2:19). The difference between Mary and the apostles is that when confronted with a revelation, the apostles were self-referential. Take for example Peter, who saw the miracle of a great catch of fish. What was his response? “Get away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (cf. Lk. 5:8). Then at the Transfiguration, he said, “Master, it is good for us”, “for us”, “to be here” (cf. Mk. 9:5). Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee made a shameless demand, “When your Kingdom is established, command that my sons sit at your side, one on your right, the other on your left” (cf. Mt. 20:21). Finally, the quarrel among the apostles. “Who is the greatest among us?” (cf. Mk. 9:34).

Mary, on the other hand, always referred herself back to God. At the Annunciation, seeing the vision of an Angel, she said. “I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to your word” (Lk. 1:38). At Cana, when the wine jars went dry, she tells the servants “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn. 2:5).

We were witnesses to God's almighty hand at EDSA. We cannot look back to it by merely placing ourselves on either side of the line that divides our country. That would be self-referential. We cannot say “it was bad for me” or “it was good for me”; and then shift from one side to the other, depending on who has the upper hand.

Like Our Lady, we must listen, ponder, then do whatever the Lord tells us.

EDSA was the fulfillment of a promise. It was the triumph of Mary’s Immaculate Heart. Yet it is also a work in progress. May we find the courage to accept the truth about ourselves as a nation, to look beyond our self-interest. Then set out to do whatever the Lord tells us.

Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo

photos from National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima (Valenzuela City)

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