Let me begin by repeating the words that we heard Jesus speak to us this morning, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).
May 22, 2022 Parish Fiesta of the Mary Help of Christians Parish, Diocese of Kalookan
Photo from Mary Help of Christians Parish - Diocese of Kalookan Facebook page
What a beautiful message, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. For me, as your Apostolic Nuncio, that means, the representative, the ambassador of Pope Francis here in the Philippines, it gives me so much joy to be with you here in South Caloocan City this morning, in your beautiful parish: Mary Help of Christians, to celebrate the 65th Parish Fiesta. This moment of joy in which we rejoice in the beautiful reality of your parish. I’m very grateful to Fr. Boyet Pedroso, your parish priest who invited me to come to you this morning to celebrate Mass with you.
What is the Apostolic Nuncio? The Apostolic Nuncio is the diplomatic representative of the Pope in any country, so every country has an Apostolic Nuncio, and I happen to be your Apostolic Nuncio here in the Philippines.
Your parish is named for Mary Help of Christians. This beautiful devotion to Mary, which, if I’m not mistaken, was introduced here in the Philippines in 1922, which is exactly one hundred years ago, by one of the papal representatives of the Pope at the time, Archbishop Piani (Archbishop Guglielmo Piani, S.D.B.), who was an Italian and a Salesian, and he brought a statue of Mary Help of Christians to Manila in 1922, and the statue was put in the Cathedral in Manila, and from there the beautiful devotion of Mary Help of Christians began to spread throughout these beautiful islands of the Philippines, arriving here in South Caloocan City with the establishment of your parish, some sixty-five years ago. So, I feel a special attachment, a special closeness to each and everyone of you, because it was my predecessor, Archbishop Piani, the Apostolic delegate, who brought the image of Mary Help of Christians here to the Philippines.
Let’s return for a moment now to the Gospel, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.”
Peace, the Work of Justice
Brothers and sisters, all of us want peace. We want tranquillity, we want serenity. We don’t want discord, dissension, fighting, and controversy. We want to live in an atmosphere of peace. What does the Catholic Church teach about creating peace in the world? The creation of peace in the world was one of the major themes of the famous Second Vatican Council, which was a meeting of bishops in Rome in the 1960s, in which they thought about how the Holy Spirit was leading the Church in the world at that time, and they meditated on peace. What did they say about peace in the Second Vatican Council? They said, “peace is not only the absence of war”. So, peace is not just when there’s no war, and it can’t be reduced only to a maintenance of a balancing of power between enemies. “Peace,” the bishops said in the Second Vatican Council, “is not brought about by dictatorship”. And then they said this: “Peace is appropriately called the work of justice.” Peace is the work of justice. What does that mean? It means, when there is justice, justice creates peace; and when there’s no justice, peace is destroyed. So, if we want peace as St. Pope Paul VI said, “If you want peace work for justice”.
Justice: A Fairness in Society
What is justice? Fairness. Fairness in society? We want to live in a society where people are treated fairly justly, where their rights are respected. Justice and fairness doesn’t mean that everyone is the same. People are different. A student is different from a teacher. A mother is different from a father. A policeman is different from someone who drives a tricycle. We have different roles in society. We’re not all the same, but what we want is fairness.
You know, even little children have a sense of fairness, don’t they? New parents, especially mothers, will see that children will say, even when they’re very young, “that's not fair”. And how do they know that? Somehow, they have a natural instinct for things that are just and fair, and they know when there is no fairness, and they’re offended by that. Little children, they want fairness, justice, and that’s what we want.
So, we need to work for justice in society, a just society when people's rights are respected. When corruption doesn’t become a big pandemic. This corruption works against justice and works against freedom and peace. We want a society in which there is fairness, but we shouldn’t simply look to the government and say, “Oh, the government needs to be just. Our elected officials, they need to be just. They need to be fair.” We too need to be fair, in our own business dealings. We need to be honest and fair with one another. We need to be transparent and truthful if we want to create justice and peace in this world. If we want to increase the amount of justice and peace. So, we can’t only point our fingers at others and say, “Oh, they need to be just.” We need to be just also in what we do in the way in which we conduct our affairs and our businesses. We need to be honest; we need to be fair; we need to respect people; we need to keep our word, and be truthful. When we do that, then justice spreads and peace spreads in society. And when there is no justice, then discord, controversy, fighting, and all kinds of problems come after that. So first of all, peace in society.
It's interesting. What did Jesus tell us in the gospel this morning? “Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” Then he says, “Not as the world gives do I give peace to you.” So, the peace of Jesus is not simply the peace that we want in the world. There’s another dimension to the peace that Jesus wants to give us. Jesus wants to give us also an interior peace, a peace of heart. I was talking about peace in society, wasn’t I? About government, about business, about fairness, honesty, treating people with respect. That’s, we can say “peace in society”, but we also want peace in our hearts. We also want to enjoy the peace in our hearts, so we’re not troubled. “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid,” Jesus tells us in the Gospel this morning.
So, if we are Christians, how do we get that peace of Christ? Not necessarily peace in society, which is very important, but peace inside of us. We get peace inside of us by following Jesus, by believing in Jesus. Peace, interior peace, we can say, is the work of faith. Faith gives us peace. Just like peace in society is the work of justice, justice gives us peace in society, so in our hearts, we can say peace is the work of faith. When we believe we receive faith, and we receive peace. We need to ask Jesus, “Increase my faith, help me to believe in you.” Because when we believe in Jesus, everything that happens around us, even if we face injustice and unfairness, it doesn’t destroy our interior peace because we know that we are loved by Jesus. We are chosen by Jesus. We are given a heavenly destination.
We are made for the City of God which we heard in the Second Reading this morning. We are children of another city. Not only South Caloocan, not only Manila, but the city above: the Heavenly Jerusalem. We are citizens of that city. Whatever problems we face here on this earth, nothing can destroy that faith that we have in God’s love for us, and His call to us to be part of that Heavenly City, whose beginnings is the Catholic Church on Earth.
So, faith, “Jesus, give me more faith.” You know, brothers and sisters, when we pray, Jesus always listens to our prayers. When we ask Him for things, He’s listening. He doesn’t always give us what we ask for. We know that; but he gives us what is best for us. But if we ask for faith, He will give us faith. If you ask Jesus, “increase my faith”, He will give you exactly what you are asking for. He will increase your faith and that will give you more peace in your heart, because you will realize that whatever difficulties you are facing, everything in the end will be for your good. Jesus will turn everything, inside out and make it for your good, whatever difficulties you face. If you have faith in Him. If you follow him.
The Cross of Jesus, which in some ways was the most terrible thing that ever happened, is the source of the greatest blessing, the resurrection. So, if Jesus and God can change the greatest tragedy, the crucifixion, into the greatest joy of the resurrection, surely, He can do the same for the small crosses that we bear in our own lives. So interior peace, interior peace is the work of faith. So let us ask God, “Give me more faith.”
Perpetua and Felicity’s Kiss of Peace
There’s a beautiful story in the early church, 1,800 years ago, the martyrdom of two women, two early Christians in North Africa. They were called Perpetua and Felicity, two women believers who were put to death in a stadium in North Africa, in the Roman times, because of her faith in Christ with other martyrs. They were all massacred by Gladiators who put them to death with swords. When they were in this stadium, all people were watching because in those days to see prisoners killed in the stadium was a kind of entertainment. People would go to watch these gladiatorial combats, and these two Christian women were among the Christians who were put to death that day in North Africa, Felicity and Perpetua. At the end of their torment, when they’re about to be killed by the gladiator, these Christians, all walked to the middle of the stadium, even though they were wounded and hurt. They walked to the middle of the stadium, where everyone could see them. What did they do? They exchanged the kiss of peace among themselves, which we do at Mass. After the consecration, I will say “peace be with you”, and we will exchange the sign of peace. These martyrs did exactly that before they died in front of the entire crowd. They showed peace to each other, Felicity and Perpetua and the other Christian martyrs. What were they saying to the crowd? They were saying, “Look! It looks like we’re in the worst situation possible. We’ve been brutalized by animals in front of you in the stadium. Now we’re going to put to death by the sword. We’re going to be killed by soldiers, but we have peace in our heart, so much peace in our heart. So much interior tranquillity that we are going to give the sign of peace to each other before we die.”
Isn't that a beautiful sign of Christian peace? Interior peace. There was no peace outside around them in that stadium, but Felicity and Perpetua had peace in their hearts, and they showed that peace to everyone who watched them die that day in the 3rd Century. That means in the year 200, a long, long time ago. And those two women, their names were put into the Mass in the what we now call the First Eucharistic Prayer, the Roman Canon, and in every single Catholic Mass from that time in the 3rd Century, until very recently, their names were mentioned, Perpetua and Felicity, these two women. One was a mother, one was pregnant, two Christian women who died for Christ, but also who showed the interior peace that Jesus gives us as Christians.
So dear brothers and sisters, that you can see from me, it makes me so happy to be with you here at Mary Help of Christians Parish here in the Diocese of Kalookan. I’m again very grateful to Father Pedroso for having invited me. I wish you a very blessed day, and a most beautiful celebration of your 65th Parish Fiesta. May God bless you!
Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo