"Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us." - Romans 5:3-5
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, these are the words that we heard in the second reading from St. Paul's letter to the Romans, and it gives me so much joy, so much happiness to be with you and your beautifully decorated church this evening, to celebrate the vigil of the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity here in the Parish of the Most Holy Trinity, in Balic-balic here in Manila, in the Archdiocese of Manila. I am deeply grateful to Father Eric Martin Adoviso, your parish priest, who invited me to come and celebrate this mass with you this evening as part of your parish fiesta. The church is beautifully prepared for the fiesta, and I was so impressed by the amazingly wonderful dancing that welcomed me when I arrived here in your parish in Balic-balic. Thank you. You should be very proud of your parish because it's really wonderful.
We celebrate the vigil of your parish feast, the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. This is a feast that kind of, in a certain sense, is part of the afterglow. We can say the glow of Easter, which finished really with the Feast of Pentecost, has a few afterglows, little after celebrations, and one of them is today when we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity - the fact that God is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; that God is this communion of love; that love which is St. Paul says, is poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit. So we rejoice in the Holy Trinity. We look forward to next Sunday, which will be Corpus Christi, Corpus Domini, the feast, another feast of the afterglow of Easter, the Feast of the Holy Eucharist next Sunday.
Brothers and sisters, St. Paul tells us that we boast even in our afflictions. What are afflictions? Afflictions are problems, difficulties, sufferings, tribulations. And St. Paul says we boast of these because we know that suffering or affliction produces endurance and hope. And the love of God has been poured into our hearts, and our hope will never disappoint us. You know, in every celebration of the mass, and in a few moments, you will hear the priest pray these words tonight. After we pray together the “Our Father”, the priest has a prayer in which he says, "Deliver us Oh Lord, we pray, deliver us, we pray from every evil, graciously grant peace in our days, that by the help of your mercy, we may be..." And then there are two things we ask for, the priest asks for - "...we may always be free from sin, and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ." So we pray to be free from sin. We pray for the gift of peace, and to arrive at peace, we pray to be free from sin.
Sin is the cause of the lack of peace in our hearts and in the world. That's where we petition the Lord to give us freedom from sin, freedom from sin in my heart, make my heart pure and loving. And then I will have peace. But we also pray to be safe from all distress, safe from all affliction, safe from tribulation, safe from suffering. Because none of us seek suffering or affliction or tribulation, we don't seek it, and we ask the Lord to spare us from suffering, tribulation and affliction as Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane said to his Father, "Father if it is your will let this cup the cup of my suffering, pass me by, but not my will but your will be done." We should pray and we do to be free from suffering and affliction.
But brothers and sisters, as all of us know, suffering and affliction are part of our lives. And we pray, of course, to be free from them. But suffering, tribulation, and affliction will arrive in our lives. And St. Paul is warning us and preparing us for that. He says, don't be discouraged when suffering and affliction arrive. Don't think that God has forgotten you, that somehow you are not on God's radar screen because you are facing difficulty or suffering. That is the mystery of the Cross, which we see in the beautiful crucifix and shrine here in your parish have the Most Holy Trinity above the altar in the tabernacle. Jesus suffered for us. Jesus knows our sufferings. Jesus does not promise us that we will have a life free from all distress. We ask for that, and we hope that our distress, our tribulations will be minimal. But tribulation and distress will come. But if we have the grace of God in our hearts, we will overcome any tribulation, any suffering, any difficulty, any distress, because God's love is stronger than suffering as we see in the Cross and the resurrection of Jesus. God's love overcomes every tribulation and every distress.
So when distress and affliction come, let us not think that God has forgotten us, that God has abandoned us. No, Jesus is with us, holding our hand, walking with us, helping us through whatever suffering or distress that we have to face. He is with us. He hasn't abandoned us. And we know that if we see the presence of Jesus even in our sufferings, we will have peace. We will have peace. We will have that interior peace that knows that my suffering, whatever it is, as St. Paul says, is my way of making up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His church. My suffering, my distress, is part of the offering that Jesus makes to the Father.
So our suffering, our affliction, has value. Please don't misunderstand me. We ask God (and will in this mass) to keep us safe from all distress. But distress will come. And we shouldn't feel abandoned when it comes. We should actually realize, as St. Paul says, that we can boast of our sufferings.
You know, it's amazing. If you look at the artistic images of the saints of the Catholic Church, whether we're talking about statues, or paintings of the martyrs, the ones who died for their faith, the ones who were put to death for their faith. The martyrs are almost always portrayed in artwork, showing the instrument by which they were put to death. So the martyr, the saint, is holding the instrument by which they were put to death. The martyr is literally doing what St. Paul is asking us to do in the second reading. The martyr in these artistic images is boasting of his or her sufferings, is showing his or her sufferings as a sign of triumph. We should be the same way as Christians. St. Paul is oftentimes portrayed with a sword. Why a sword? Because with a sword, he was decapitated. His head was chopped off, and he's there with the sword saying, this is how I was victorious. He's boasting of his affliction.
St. Catherine of Alexandria is oftentimes portrayed with a big wheel, a wheel that she was crushed underneath as part of her martyrdom. She's holding the wheel - St. Catherine's wheel - saying "This is how I triumph."
St. Andrew, the brother of St. Peter, is portrayed with the X-shaped Cross - the Cross on which he was crucified. He shows it, boasting of his triumph.
So let us pray this evening that we will be safe from affliction, safe from distress, safe from suffering. But when those sufferings and distresses and afflictions and difficulties arrive as they will arrive in all of our lives, let's see in that moment, an opportunity for us to unite ourselves with Jesus and to have a deep peace in our hearts even if we are suffering, knowing that he is with us, that He is speaking to us. He is drawing us to his Cross. He is loving us and allowing us to share in his sufferings. That is what we do as Christians.
Imagine Mary at the foot of the Cross, seeing her son, her only son, suffering and dying. At a certain level, what anguish was in her heart. But she was offering herself to God in that moment, and indeed, offering her son to God as well. She in a certain sense, we can say, in a certain sense, had that hope in Jesus which never disappoints us. Because through the Holy Spirit, his love is poured into our hearts, and his love conquers everything, as his love conquers sin and conquers death in the resurrection.
So dear brothers and sisters, as you get ready to celebrate your fiesta tomorrow, I wish you all the best for this wonderful parish celebration. Let me say a second time how beautiful your church is decorated, filled with joy to celebrate this wonderful feast. Let us ask God to keep us free from all distress. But let us also realize that when suffering comes, it's our moment to draw close to Jesus and to experience that hope that has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. May God bless you.
Transcribed by Gel Katalbas