Homily of H.E. Most Rev. Charles John Brown D.D., Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines
Pontifical Coronation of Our Lady of the Abandoned Muntinlupa
and Declaration of the Bond of Spiritual Affinity with the Papal Basilica of Sta Maria Maggiore
May 12, 2023 | Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish Muntinlupa City
Your Excellency, the Most Reverend Jesse E. Mercado, Bishop of Paranaque
Fr. Jonathan T. Cadiz, rector and parish priest here at this beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned here in Muntinlupa
I'm so delighted to be with all of you this morning, especially with the concelebrating priests who have taken time out of their busy schedules to be with us this morning, religious sisters, religious brothers, but especially all of you, the parishioners here in this parish dedicated to Our Lady of the Abandoned here in Muntinlupa—this Shrine, diocesan Shrine, dedicated to her.
Today is a day of double celebration, a day in which our joy is multiplied because we celebrate and we rejoice in two special honors that have been bestowed on your parish and diocesan Shrine by the Holy See. And all of you know very well what I am speaking about. Of course, the canonical coronation of this beautiful image of Our Lady of the Abandoned, which will happen in just a few moments, and also the reading of the Special Bond of Spiritual Affinity, which has been granted between your Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned and the Papal Basilica in Rome, called in Italian Santa Maria Maggiore -- Mary Major in English -- a beautiful church, one of the basilicas of Rome, dedicated to Our Lady, the Mother of God.
What we are celebrating today began back in 2022, about a year ago or more, when Fr. Jonathan Cadiz initiated the preparation of these two wonderful honors, which are bestowed on your parish and Shrine today by the authority of Pope Francis himself. And that is why, for me as your Apostolic Nuncio as the papal nuncio, it gives me so much happiness to share your joy this morning to experience this beautiful moment in which we will crown Our Lady, Our Lady of the Abandoned.
Christ's Gift to Us from the Cross
Our Gospel today takes us to the cross. In fact, the first words of the Gospel that we heard read were the following:
"Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene."
So we come to the cross. But there is an interesting connection, isn't there, between Our Lady of the Abandoned and the cross.
If you look closely at the image of Our Lady, you see that the little baby Jesus in her arms decorated so beautifully is holding in his hands -- in his baby hands -- the cross, as a kind of a prediction, a preview of what you see in front of Our Lady of the Abandoned: Jesus on the cross.
So we imagine for a moment that scene, which is previewed in your image of Our Lady of the Abandoned, the little baby Jesus holding the cross, bringing us to the foot of the cross, in which we look at Jesus crucified, and we contemplate those who are standing there with him: his mother; his mother's sister, Mary, the wife of Clopas; Mary Magdalene; and of course, the beloved disciple, St. John ... St. John, who was faithful to Jesus when the other apostles ran away in fear.
And what happens from the cross? From that moment of extreme suffering of Jesus -- extreme self-giving of Jesus -- into the will of the Father?
Jesus gives us, through St. John, a gift when he says -- looking down from the cross, seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loves, St. John -- he says to Mary, "Woman, behold your son (St. John)." And then he said, to St. John, "Behold your mother."
And those words are spoken not only to St. John but to each and every one of us, who are Catholic Christians, who receive Mary from the cross as the gift of Jesus to be our mother, our spiritual mother.
What is a Mother
What is a mother? All of us -- everyone in the parish this morning -- each of us has a mother and all of us know the characteristics of a mother: a mother is one who loves; a mother is one who protects; a mother is one who gives life.
Mothers naturally love their children. It's instinctual for them. They have a tremendous love for their children. And we experienced that love from our own mothers on a human level. Mothers also protect their children against any kind of danger, any kind of threat. A mother will always stand in the way of danger to protect her children. And a mother, of course, is one who shows us and gives us life.
And in a spiritual way, Mary does the same thing. Our Lady, our mother in heaven, loves us, knows us. She protects us from everything that is evil and she gives us life in her son Jesus.
She gives us Jesus, who is life itself.
So Mary is that spiritual mother loving, protecting and giving life. But today, we stand at the foot of the cross with the gift of Mary, and we celebrate the moment in which Mary becomes our mother.
Mother of the Abandoned
The title of your diocesan Shrine is so important for us and also connects us to the cross. I've already mentioned how the baby Jesus has the cross in his hands.
Our Lady is called here "Our Lady of the Abandoned".
We can think of her, maybe, as the Mother of the Abandoned - the one who, when all or everyone else has abandoned us, Mary, our spiritual mother is there to protect us.
But think about Jesus on the cross again. He was abandoned. He was abandoned by his disciples. None of the apostles except for one was there. The rest abandoned him. All the people in Jerusalem who were shouting Hosanna to the King of David, the King of Jerusalem, Hosanna to David when he entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, none of them are to be seen at the foot of the cross. Jesus is abandoned by the crowds. He's even abandoned by his own apostles, save one.
But he's not abandoned by Our Lady.
The abandonment of Jesus on the cross even reaches an extreme at the end of his suffering on the cross, as we read in the gospels of Matthew and St. Mark. When Jesus says, "Eli eli lama sabachtani" which means, "My God, My God, why have you abandoned me?"
Since experience of abandonment on the cross is what Jesus has suffered for us out of love for us, being abandoned by virtually everything, even in a certain way being abandoned by God, in His human nature -- of course, Jesus is divine and human -- in his human nature, Jesus felt abandoned by God. His divine nature was always in union with God because He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. But in his human nature, he was feeling abandoned on the cross.
But who doesn't abandon him? Our Lady. There. Faithful always to the end.
So Mary at the cross is literally the Mother of the Abandoned One.
And that means that from that moment until this moment in 2023, more than 2000 years, almost 2000 years later, Mary has a love for the abandoned.
When everyone else has abandoned you, Mary will be there to protect you. Mary will be there close to you. Mary will be a mother to you, in whom we can always have trust and confidence.
Because she was with Jesus, her son, in his abandonment, she will be with us when we feel abandoned.
And that is why this Shrine in the Diocese of Paranaque is so important. Obviously, you're in a town that has a large prison in the town and -- think about it -- I'm sure many prisoners there feel abandoned. Not all. But many do. And this is a place where people can come and pray in front of this beautiful image, Our Lady of the Abandoned, and know that their abandonment is changed by Our Lady into consolation.
Our Lady is the Mother of the Abandoned: the tender mother, the loving mother, who receives us, who embraces us, who dries our tears, who takes care of us as our spiritual mother.
So that is why the elevation of your Shrine to the status of a spiritual affinity with Santa Maria Maggiore and the crowning of Our Lady today is so important. I pray that this Shrine will be a place where people, when they feel abandoned, will come and pray to Our Lady and receive consolation, receive her closeness, receive her love.
Because even our Lord on the cross, as I said, in his human nature, felt abandoned at that moment at the end, yet his abandonment was transformed into exultation by His resurrection. By His resurrection from the dead, the abandonment is finished, and joy, exultation and happiness returns.
So let us pray this morning, brothers and sisters, for all the people who will come in pilgrimage to this diocesan Shrine, who will place their tears at the feet of Our Lady, allowing Our Lady to dry their tears, to comfort them, to be close to them. That is the beautiful function of your Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned here in Muntinlupa.
With Our Lady
Finally, we, like the apostles in the first reading this morning, are with Our Lady in this moment, awaiting the Holy Spirit. This moment between Easter and Pentecost, we pray together, "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, enkindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit, and we will be recreated in your love." That is our prayer.
For me as your Papal Nuncio, it gives me so much joy to be with you this morning; having come from Manila with my assistant Fr. Vital Ohochi, who's a young diplomat studying with us at the Nunciature. It's a joy for us to share this amazing moment of coronation and spiritual affinity. And I ask you always to pray for Pope Francis. He asked me to ask you, don't forget to pray for him. He asked for our prayers.
God bless you, and congratulations on this wonderful, incredible day of solemnity.
Transcriber: Gel Katalbas
Editor: Clyde Ericson Nolasco
Photos: Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish Facebook page