Homily of H.E. Most Rev. Charles John Brown D.D., Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines
May 14, 2023 | Saint Augustine Parish Baliwag, Bulacan
Sixth Sunday of Easter | Parish Fiesta
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows Him. But you know Him, because He remains with you, and will be in you” (John 14:15-16).
My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ: for me as your Apostolic Nuncio, as the representative of Pope Francis here in the Philippines, it gives me so much joy to be with you this afternoon here in this beautiful Church of Saint Augustine here in Baliwag for your Town Fiesta. We have a number of reasons for rejoicing this evening.
I want to thank in a very special way His Excellency the Most Reverend Most Rev. Dennis C. Villarojo, D.D., Bishop of Malolos. I want to thank your City Mayor Ferdinand V. Estrella who is the Hermano Mayor, and of course his lovely wife Johnna Australia, Hermana Mayor. I also want to thank Rev. Father Narciso S. Sampana, team moderator of the team of pastors here at Saint Augustine Parish.
As I said, we have multiple reasons for joy. One of course is that your town, now a city, has been elevated under the leadership of your mayor, to the status of a city: Baliwag has been a city since December of 2022. So, this is the First City Fiesta that is being celebrated in the history of Baliwag, until now a town and at this moment a city. Of course, every Fiesta brings us joy, but another reason for joy is today's fiesta falls on Mother's Day, the day in which the worldwide community recognizes the value of mothers in our lives. So, in a special way, I want to thank mothers today. Especially mothers here in Baliwag, mothers all through the Diocese of Malolos, the province of Bulacan in the Philippines, and the entire world.
Vocation of Motherhood
What a beautiful vocation it is to be a mother. How important is it? There are many vocations in the Catholic Church: we have bishops, and priests, and religious sisters, we have religious brothers, we have fathers, and we have mothers. To be a mother is a vocation. As a calling from God, a special and beautiful, irreplaceable vocation. In some ways, we can say that to be a mother is the most important vocation there can be. Because all of us here in this church this afternoon, all of us are sons and daughters of a mother, and most of us almost certainly received our Catholic faith from our mother. Our mother's example, our mother's prayers, our father also, but in a very special way, it's mothers who transmit the faith. It's mothers who love us, mothers who protect us, mothers who defend us. Mothers like Santa Monica, the mother San Agustin who pray for us, even when we go astray, even when we lose our way. We can be abandoned by most of our friends, and even sometimes by some of our family members, but our mothers will never abandon us. They're always our mothers. So, we thank God for the gift of mothers today. We rejoice in your vocation dear mothers. We thank you for everything you have done in our lives, as your children.
Of course, we do that by looking into heaven, especially during this month of May, during this month in which we celebrate the Flores the Mayo. This month dedicated to Our Lady, the Mother of God, the mother of the baby Jesus. The girl from Nazareth, by whose “yes”, the history of the world, indeed, the history of the universe was changed by one woman, by one mother. [She] changed everything. In some ways, as Catholics, we are all children of Mary: children of the mother of Jesus, children of the blessed Virgin Mary. So, we honor Mary in a special way also on Mother's Day, as we honor our dear and beautiful mothers.
So, these reasons for joy: Baliwag now as a city, the city fiesta, and Mothers’ Day.
The Spirit Who Empowers
Our gospel (Jn 14:15-21) as I mentioned at the beginning of my reflections is very strong. Jesus tells us “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth...”
Who is this spirit of truth? It is the Holy Spirit. For whom we are waiting. The Holy Spirit who will arrive on the Feast of Pentecost. We remember on the Feast of Pentecost, in two short weeks from now, the arrival of the Holy Spirit on the apostles. The Holy Spirit which transformed the apostles from being weak, fearful, men who were too afraid, with the exception of one of them to be at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified. Fearful men: hiding in a room, praying, close to Our Lady, the mother of God; but when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, they are transformed. From fearful men into courageous witnesses, and off they went from Jerusalem all over the world. To bring the Catholic faith to every corner of the world. Of course, here in the Philippines, that arrived 502 years ago in 1521. That Holy Spirit. We pray during these days, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and we will be recreated, so that we can spread your goodness throughout the world.”
The Reason for Our Hope
Then, in our Second Reading (1 Pt 3:15-18) which we heard before the Gospel, the Letter of Saint Peter. Saint Peter of course the first Bishop of Rome. Saint Peter of course, who is, we can say, the origin of the papacy of the Vatican. Saint Peter says this to us, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence…”
So, this idea of the Holy Spirit coming upon us, transforming us, so that we can do what Saint Peter tells us to do in that first letter: “being ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks us of the reason for our hope”. What is the reason for our hope? The reason for our hope is that Jesus, the son of Mary has risen from the dead. Jesus is no longer in the tomb. In this Easter season we celebrate with joy His resurrection.
He is the reason for our hope. We know that in Jesus, God has made right, in a certain sense, the worst thing that ever happened in the world: the crucifixion of His Son. He transformed that into the resurrection of His Son, the greatest blessing. That is the reason for our hope.
The difficulties that we face, the problems that we face, even the defeats that sometimes we suffer, if we believe in Jesus, they can be changed into a powerful resurrected experience.
Nothing is beyond the power of God. We need to be ready to give that reason for our hope. To tell people that “with God all things are possible.” God never abandons us. As we heard in the Gospel, He does not leave us orphans. He is always with us as our heavenly Father. He gives us Jesus to be our strength, and to transform our weakness into power. That is the reason for our hope. We need to be ready to explain that to people when we are asked.
Of course, we show a reason for our hope. We show people that we believe in Jesus, principally by the way in which we live, by our actions more than our words. Words are important. I'm speaking words to you this afternoon; but more importantly our actions. How we live? What we do?
Our actions should be communicating Christ, and should be radiating Christ. Our actions should be giving people a reason to understand the hope that we have in Jesus.
Also, we need to speak at times. As Saint Peter says when we speak we need to “do it with gentleness and reverence.” Every person is created by God. Every person is made in the image and likeness of God. So, when a person who has no faith comes to us, we need to treat them with reverence and gentleness; but we also need to show the reason for our hope: Jesus crucified and risen. Because that, and only that will bring fulfillment and meaning to a life, to a human life in search of God. Jesus is the answer to our search for God. Jesus is the answer for our search for questions about our existence. Jesus is the answer to everything. Jesus comes to us in and through His Catholic Church.
Spread the Faith
That is why for me, as your Apostolic Nuncio, it gives me so much happiness to be with you this afternoon, here in Baliwag for your City Fiesta. As we celebrate this wonderful feast, as we thank God for the gift of faith in this place, in the Diocese of Malolos, in the Province of Bulacan.
My brothers and sisters: we oftentimes say “keep the faith,” but I tell you, “Yeah. Keep the faith; but also spread the faith.” As Saint Peter tells us, in the readings today, “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you about the reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness, with reverence…” to the other person. Because with gentleness and reverence, you will convince them of the truth of our faith.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, on this Mother's Day, let me conclude by repeating what I began with, a great expression of gratitude, recognition, and appreciation for all the mothers who are with us this afternoon.
Dear mothers: thank you for giving us life, thank you for your witness to faith.
May God bless you!
May each and every one of you have a wonderful fiesta.
May God continue to bless all the work of this wonderful Parish of Saint Augustine.
Thank you and God bless you!
Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo
Photos by Angelo Mangahas