My dear brothers and sisters in Christ. For me, as your Apostolic Nuncio, it gives me so much joy, so much happiness, to share your joy at this celebration, the 5th anniversary, the re-enactment of the canonical coronation of your beautiful image of Our Lady, Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu. Here in the beautiful town of San Mateo in the province of Rizal. It was very grateful to be greeted by the Vice Mayor, Jose Rafael Diaz when I arrived, the acting mayor and had a beautiful civic reception. And now here we are in your wonderful church to commemorate, to celebrate, to rejoice in five years and since the canonical coronation. Our Lady. I’m deeply grateful to the shrine rector and the parish priest of your church, Rev. Fr. Rodrigo "Ric" Eguia, who arrived here, I see, in August of last year, and is now, about to complete his first year with you. And our thoughts today go back five years to that day when Cardinal Quevedo, the Archbishop of Cotabato, crowned the image, this beautiful image of Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu on May 31st, 2017. This is the third canonically crowned image of the Blessed Mother here in your Diocese of Antipolo, after the image of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, crowned, I believe in 1926; and then the patroness of Marikina, Our Lady of the Abandoned, which was crowned in 2005.
May 31, 2022 - the 5th Canonical Coronation Anniversary of Our Lady of Aranzazu
Photo from Shrine and Parish of Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu Facebook Page
So here we are, Pueblo Amante De Maria, People Who Love Mary, devotees of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to honor her once again this evening, to rejoice in her beauty, to rejoice in her protection, to rejoice in Her holiness.
Your image of Our Lady, Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu has this interesting element in which Our Lady in her hand is holding an apple. Of course, for us as Christians, when we see the apple, especially in the hands of a woman, our minds go back way before the New Testament, our minds go back to the Old Testament, to the Book of Genesis, where, because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve, a woman reached out, took the fruit of the tree: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and gave it to her husband as a symbol of their turning away from God in disobedience ─ turning away from God. And then because of that turning away from God all evils that we as human beings face entered into the world, because of that tragedy of sin, that tragedy, which is kind of symbolized usually by the apple.
Yet here the apple is in the hands not of our first mother. Our first mother, of course, is Eve, and you know, even geneticist biologists will tell us that all the people alive on the face of the earth today, I'm not talking about a religious truth, I'm talking about scientific truth: all of us alive in the face of the Earth today are descended from one woman. Our most recent common ancestor, she’s called, who probably lived several thousand years ago. We as Christians call her “Eve,” the mother of the living. We are all descended from that woman in our flesh, in our bodies, in our DNA. Yet, because of that woman and her husband, Adam, also sin and sadness and distortion entered the world. But because of the new Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary, that symbol, that symbolism of the entrance of sin, has been completely reversed, completely changed. The obedience of Mary reverses the disobedience of Adam and Eve. The obedience of Mary “Let it be done to me according to thy word,” she said to the Angel Gabriel. At that moment her obedience reversed, healed, we can say the disobedience of our mother according to the flesh. And we rejoice in Mary's wonderful response, obedience to God.
That apple, I believe, in her hand shows us that she has reversed the effects of sin by her obedience. She has made it possible for us to be born again in the waters of baptism. Because Mary said “yes” to God, everything changed for us. We were given the possibility of new birth, new life, which comes into us through baptism, which is nourished in us by the Holy Eucharist, a life that's in us, even physically in our bodies. When we receive the Eucharist, the life of Christ, the life of God made man. That supernatural life, which we also call “grace”, which is in us because of the sacraments. But all of these are because of one girl, one teenage girl in Nazareth, said “yes” to God. God chose her and the world changed. Because of Mary’s “yes”.
That’s why we rejoice in Our Lady and her beautiful, complete openness to God’s plan. That's why she is for us a mother, and an example, and a model, and a protector. That’s why people come, I’m sure, on pilgrimage here, your beautiful shrine of Our Lady of Aranzazu, to offer their prayers and petitions to Our Lady. To ask her for help.
Yes, she reversed the effects of sin by her “yes” to the Angel Gabriel. She untied the knot of sin. She untied that knot. We know how sometimes knots can be very tight and difficult to disentangle. But Mary, because of her purity, because of her openness to God’s plan, she unties that knot. She reverses the effects of sin, and she shows us the apple now made beautiful and whole. Beautiful and resplendent and shiny, the effects of her “yes”. How beautiful Mary is and what an image she is for us.
Tonight, we celebrate the visitation. That moment when after saying “yes” to the Angel, Mary went in haste. The gospel says she rushed to her kinswoman Elizabeth, who was also pregnant and expecting a baby. She wanted to help her. She went to help her cousin, and as she comes into the presence of Elizabeth the baby in the womb of Elizabeth jumps for joy and Elizabeth hears the voice of Mary. What an amazing moment, brothers and sisters. When that baby in the womb of Saint Elizabeth jumps for joy. Who is that baby? John the Baptist, who will be the forerunner, the precursor of Jesus, who will be pointing people to Jesus. His first recorded act in the gospel is to jump for joy in the presence of Jesus. One unborn child rejoicing in the presence of another unborn child, and in parentheses, doesn't that show us for us as Catholics how we must protect and defend the life of children and their mother's wombs? How beautiful that is.
Mother Teresa Calcutta used to tell us that they used to reflect on the fact that the first person in the gospel after Mary to recognize the presence of Jesus in the world was an unborn baby. The first one, after Mary: little John the Baptist, jumping for joy.
Isn’t it interesting the way God in the New Testament changes His style, we can say, acting that he showed us in the Old Testament? In the Old Testament, God chose kings and rulers, in the New Testament, the testament of Christianity, God chooses the small people. He chooses the weak people. He magnifies the small people, “He casts the mighty from their thrones,” as Mary says, “and lifts up the lowly.” So, in the Old Testament, remember when the Ark of the Covenant was brought towards Jerusalem? That was the container that the Jews had, in which there were pieces of the 10 Commandments, this holy container containing very incredibly sacred fragments. When that was brought to Jerusalem, the Great King, the warrior, the leader: David danced in front of the Ark of the Covenant, and slaughtered animals as the covenant the Ark was brought to Jerusalem. In the New Testament, we see a different scene: not a great king, a warrior dancing in front of a physical container that contains pieces of stone considered holy. We see a little unborn baby dancing in his mother's womb, in front of the new Ark of the Covenant, Mary, who contains in her body: God made man.
The Old Testament is this story of the king, the warrior, the leader. The New Testament is the story of meekness, of smallness, of God’s choice of the small, to shame the proud. We see that in John the Baptist. We see it indeed in Our Lady Herself. Our Lady wasn't from the capital of Israel. She wasn't from Jerusalem. She wasn't from a prominent family of Jerusalem. She was from the provinces. She was from Nazareth, but God chose her. God chose her and made her the mother of all the living. How beautiful that is.
We rejoice in Mary tonight, and we try to imitate Mary in her obedience to God and in her faith. Because as Elizabeth said about Mary this evening, “Blessed are you who believed that the word of God would be fulfilled” (Lk. 1:45). Blessed are we here in San Mateo, Rizal who believe how great is the gift of faith. Faith makes all things possible. Faith makes everything possible. We see that in Mary. We see that again and again in the Catholic Church. We see how God chooses the small and makes them great.
So, dear brothers and sisters, as you can see, for me, someone who loves Mary, Our Lady very much. It gives me so much joy to be part of this re-enactment of the Pontifical Canonical Coronation of Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu, which took place in this very church five years ago, in 2017. Let us rejoice in Mary. Let us love Mary. Let us be worthy of the title of the Filipino people, Pueblo Amante De Maria. Let us love her because she is the one who has brought God into the world by her obedience; and she is the one who constantly intercedes for us, before Jesus, her son in heaven. May God bless you.
Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo