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Mary, an Example of Total Openness to God

Homily of H.E. Most Rev. Charles John Brown D.D.

Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines

Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish and Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Turumba, Pakil, Laguna

on the Occasion of the Canonical Coronation of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba

September 15, 2023

Jesus said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’

And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:27).

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ;

my dear concelebrating Bishops;

Bishop Leo Drona, S.D.B., Bishop-Emeritus of San Pablo;

Bishop Antonio Tobias, Bishop-Emeritus of Novaliches;

Bishop Reynaldo Evangelista, Bishop of Imus;

Bishop Nolly Buco, Auxiliary Bishop of Antipolo;

concelebrating priests from the Diocese of San Pablo;

civic officials from the town of Pakil;

all of you devotees of Our Lady of Sorrows:

For me as your Apostolic Nuncio, on this day of Our Lady of Sorrows, it gives me so much joy in my heart to share this incredibly historic moment, this Pontifical, Canonical Coronation of Our Lady, the venerable image of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Turumba, here in Pakil, in the province of Laguna.

We heard at the beginning of Mass a beautiful rendition of the story of this miraculous image. For me, when I heard that story, the fact that the image was found floating, then brought here into the church, it made me think about those final words from the Gospel this morning: “‘Behold, your Mother,’ and from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”

Isn't that what you have done here in Pakil with this beautiful image of Our Lady? This beautiful icon of the Mother of God, Our Lady of Sorrows. You have taken her into your home, your church, into your hearts, which is the home of each and everyone of us. I am very grateful to Father Jerry R. Oblepias, the rector of your shrine, for having invited me to come on this day to administer and to preside at this canonical coronation.

Today we think about Our Lady under two aspects, don't we? We think about her as Our Lady of Sorrows, but we also think about her as Our Lady Crowned in Heaven. Because that's what we're doing today: we're crowning her, we're participating in her glory.

We are like small children who bring a little flower to their mother. That, as every mother knows, is something that provokes a smile on the face of a mother, when a little child brings a gift to his or her mother. We are like that today, bringing this gift of coronation to Our Lady. Our praise and glory of Our Lady really adds nothing to her glory, because she is glorious and crowned already in heaven; but it makes her smile on us, her devoted followers here in Pakil, here in Laguna. Because she sees in us the love of her children for her, our Mother.

So, we're thinking about Our Lady under two aspects: Our Lady of Sorrows at the Foot of the Cross and Our Lady Crowned in Glory.

Our Lady of Sorrows at the Foot of the Cross

Let's think about Our Lady of Sorrows for a moment. Our Lady standing at the foot of the Cross. Seeing, watching her beloved Son suffer and die. Seeing her Son virtually abandoned by the great majority of His followers. Only one apostle there at the foot of the cross, St. John. All the others had fled in fear and were hiding. A few women, as we heard from the account: Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene, who will become the first apostle (and) in a certain sense the 'Apostle to the apostles' because it will be Mary Magdalene, after the resurrection, who will bring the news to the apostles that Jesus has risen.

Faithful Mary Magdalene, faithful John the beloved disciple, and of course, faithful Mary the Mother of Sorrows at the foot of the Cross. We honor her at the foot of the cross today.

Why is Mary so special for us as Catholics? (I also greet the people outside. I can see those people out in the piazza in front of the church, at the plaza, I greet them as well.)

What makes us special as children of Mary? What makes you the Pueblo Amante De Maria, as Filipinos? Because we see in Mary both our example of Christian life and our intercessor.

She's an example, first of all. An example of so much in Christian life: Mary is chosen by God. Mary is chosen to be the one through whom God would enter the world in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. It’s very interesting, isn't it? That God chose Mary in Nazareth. Nazareth brothers and sisters, was not the capital, was not the big city of Israel at that time of Judea. Nazareth was a provincial town. Maybe a little bit like Pakil, a provincial town. That's where God found Mary, where God chose Mary. Not in the center, but on the periphery. Which is an important thing for us, following the synodal path that Pope Francis has asked us to engage in: to look to the peripheries, to find there on the peripheries, the beautiful examples of the Gospel in which we see Mary -- there in Nazareth. What an example of the periphery! What an example of total fidelity, total availability, total acceptance of God’s will.

The angel comes to her and she says, “Let it be done to me according to thy word.”

Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum. (Lk. 1:38)

At that moment, “the Word became flesh” in her womb, “and dwelt among us” (cf. Jn. 1:14). The world -- not just the world but the cosmos, the universe -- changed at that moment, when a teenage girl said “yes” to God in a provincial town in what is now Israel.

God works His miracles in the most unexpected places. Not in the center many times, but on the peripheries.

So Mary is an example of total openness to God. She gives herself to God in the Annunciation -- not knowing what will happen, not knowing the future, but in complete surrender to God's will. Then, of course, as we know, meditating on Mary as our example, not only is she open to God's will in her life, she then immediately goes into service, doesn't she?

Where does she go right after the Annunciation? The next Mystery of the Holy Rosary, the Visitation.

She goes to her cousin Elizabeth, an elderly woman who also is kind of miraculously pregnant. Someone who is too old to have a child is pregnant through a divine action. Of course, Mary goes immediately to help her. We see this dynamic of God's choice, which is true for each and every one of us.

Anyone of us who was baptized, and has the gift of faith, has been chosen by God for a mission in this world analogous or similar to Mary.

Mary is chosen. She makes herself available. And then goes on a mission. Right? To her cousin, to Elizabeth. That is what the Christian life is all about: being chosen, being gifted to give. As the beautiful motto of your 500th Year Celebration here in the Philippines for the arrival of Christianity reminds us.

Mary is that example for us. Total fidelity to Jesus, total fidelity to the Lord.

When everyone else has run away, Mary is still there at the foot of the cross. That’s a message also for us. Because in our lives as Christians, there will be moments of difficulty, moments of sorrow, and moments of suffering. That's unavoidable for us as Christians.

But we need to be like Mary: accepting that, seeing Jesus in our suffering, allowing our suffering to purify us, to be united to the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Because that is what Mary does: Our Lady of Sorrows at the foot of the Cross. She was in anguish because of what they were doing to her Son. She unites herself to Jesus’ offering. She's uniting herself with Jesus' offering to the Father. How beautiful that is. So Mary is our example of Christian life. That's why all of us are devotees of Mary.

That's why for me, as a representative of Pope Francis, it gives me so much joy to be with you this morning, to honor her in this beautiful, historic, and wonderfully decorated church.

Our Lady, Crowned in Glory

As I said earlier, Mary is an example but she's also our intercessor now. Mary is our example but she's also glorious in heaven. She's watching us. She has a mother's love for us. She hears our prayers. If we pray to Mary, if we're devoted to Mary, we will see her influence and her action in our lives. We will see it in quiet ways, in little ways, little signs of her presence.

If we're faithful followers, faithful children of Mary, we will feel the power of her intercession. If we are devoted to the Rosary, we will experience her intercession.

It won't be in spectacular ways, usually. Sometimes it might be, but usually it'll be the small things. Mary, like a mother organizing our lives, arranging things for us, a beautiful maternal presence, our intercessor close to us, helping us as we live our lives as disciples of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

So Mary is Our Lady of Sorrows. She's Our Lady crowned in glory.

Our Lady is our example of Christian life. Our Lady is our mother and powerful intercessor in heaven. That's why we love her. That's why it brings us so much joy to be together this morning to honor her in, as I said, this beautiful historic church.

When I entered this morning, I was really overwhelmed by the beauty -- the beauty of the ceiling, the beauty of the flowers. All of these are signs of our love for our mother. All of these things are signs, I'm sure, that make Our Lady look on us this morning and smile. Isn’t that that beautiful?

Exhortation to Pray

Brothers and sisters in Christ, for me as the Apostolic Nuncio, it gives me lots of joy, as I've said now more than once, to be with you this morning. I'm going to Rome next week, actually. I will see Pope Francis next week. I will bring him your greetings when I see him next week, God willing, on Thursday. I know that the Filipino people are very close to the heart of Francis, but he relies on your prayers. So please pray for the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Don't forget to pray for him. When I see him, I want to tell him that even also the people here in Pakil are praying for him. He's our Holy Father. He's leading us on this synodal path, helping us to recognize the importance of the peripheries.

So as we now proceed with the coronation, the Pontifical Canonical Coronation of this beautiful image, let's thank God for our Catholic faith. Let's follow the example of Our Lady and our Christian lives, and let's rejoice that we are children of Mary.

Transcribed by Joel Vasquez Ocampo

Photo credit: Facebook page of Diocese of San Pablo

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