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The Greatest Blessing

Homily of H.E. Most Rev. Charles John Brown D.D., Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines

St. Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish, Barangay Magallanes, Makati City


My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:


Today is Easter Sunday. I wish you a joyful and wonderful celebration of the resurrection of the Lord. For me as your apostolic nuncio, it is a great joy and happiness for me to celebrate this most magnificent day, the culmination of the liturgical year of the Church, with all of you here in Saint Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish Church in Magallanes Village, with your beloved parish priest, Msgr. Bobby Canlas. He invited me to join you for this Mass this morning, to share together the Easter Joy―the joy that comes into our hearts because of Christ, risen from the dead.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches us that the resurrection was a true historical event. In fact, number 639 of the Catechism says the following, “The mystery of Christ's resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness.”


That's from the Catechism of the Catholic Church; and we heard those witnesses this morning, in the Gospel of Saint John. John who wrote the gospel that we heard this morning (Jn 20:1-9). John who is a witness, an eyewitness of the resurrection of the Lord. John, who describes how “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark” (Jn. 20:1). She saw the stone removed from the tomb. Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter, the first Pope, and to St. John (but he has the modesty not to name himself) the “other disciple whom Jesus loved”. That's how Saint John, who writes this gospel, refers to himself. Mary Magdalene told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him” (Jn. 20:2). So, this is the first appearance, the first news, the first manifestation of the resurrection of our Lord, given by Mary Magdalene.


Mary Magdalene – Apostolorum Apostola

Isn't it appropriate that it's Mary Magdalene who was faithful to Jesus at the foot of the Cross―that small band of disciples who were there on Golgotha on Good Friday: Saint John, the Beloved Disciple who writes this gospel, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary.


It's Mary Magdalene who was chosen by God to be the first witness of the resurrection, and she runs to the first Pope, the first Holy Father: Saint Peter, and gives the news. That's why the Church considers Mary Magdalene the “Apostle of the Apostles” because an apostle is someone who brings the news. Mary Magdalene, a woman out of whom the Lord had cast seven demons (Mk. 16:9). Mary Magdalene, this woman who has been converted by the love of Jesus, becomes the first announcer, the first evangelist, the first apostle in a certain sense―bringing the news to the other apostles, who had been too frightened, to scared, to be at the foot of the cross on Good Friday, who are hiding out of fear, except for Saint John.


Mary Magdalene, she is, in some ways, an image, an example of all the holy women in the history of the Catholic Church, who have kept the faith, who have passed the faith on to others, to their children, their grandchildren. Mary Magdalene is a symbol of that function in the Church―of women who keep the faith, women who were faithful to the cross of Christ, women who, in their own way, preach the gospel.


Expressed in the Words of The Creed

The Gospel tells us that they came into the tomb, they saw and they believed. Peter and John saw and believed. We have been given that faith. We believe in what happened that day more than 2,000 years ago. Our faith is expressed in the words of The Creed. (Which we omit today, because today we will renew our baptismal promises. We will not actually say the words of The Creed. We will renew our promises and I will sprinkle you with holy water after we've done that.)


The words of the Apostle’s Creed summarize what we celebrate in these days. “He was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.”


Those phrases in The Creed contain our faith: He was born of the Virgin Mary at Christmas; He suffered under Pontius Pilate, the night of Holy Thursday, after the Last Supper. The suffering of our Lord under Pontius Pilate, that we commemorate here in the Philippines in our beautiful tradition of the Visita Iglesia. He was crucified, died and was buried―Good Friday. He descended into hell―that's the mystery of Holy Saturday. The mystery that we, in a silent way, celebrated yesterday: the descent of the Lord into Hell. On Holy Saturday, the Lord descends into the underworld, the netherworld, the abode of the dead; and He rescues those who have been born before the coming of Christ: Adam and Eve, and the Old Testament prophets who were waiting in this kind of limbo, this kind of quasi-hell, waiting for the coming of the Messiah. They have those amazing Eastern Orthodox icons of the Lord going into hell and rescuing Adam and Eve, pulling them up by their hands―Adam and Eve with joy in their faces, seeing the Lord on Holy Saturday, coming into the netherworld to bring them into heavenly glory. What the old English term, the “Harrowing of Hell”, the moment in which Christ descends into hell. Then on the third day, today, He rose from the dead.


Descent and Ascent

So, we see this trajectory in these days of “descent” and “ascent”. Descending into hell, into the netherworld to rescue Adam and Eve and the Old Testament prophets, and then rising on the third day today, Easter Sunday. This trajectory, this dynamic of descent and ascent, of going down and coming up, falling and rising.


This is central to our Christian faith, this descent and ascent. Because we all have our own descents, and our own falls, our own failures. Whether they're financial defeats, health defeats, or relationship failures, family defeats, business failures. We all experience that descent, that going down into the netherworld, into a kind of abode of the dead. Even Jesus fell three times on the way of the cross on Good Friday; but each of those three times, He got up and kept walking towards the cross.


We as Catholics participate in Jesus's death, and rising; in His descent and ascent, and the innumerable, the countless descents and ascents of our lives, the innumerable defeats and victories of our lives, the failures and the successes of our lives, the falling and the getting up again our lives. That's what our lives are in this world, and it's all gathered into the action of Christ in these days. All of our failures, all of our falling, all of our descending, so that we can rise with Him always, again and again.


In every Holy Mass in a few minutes, I will say to you, “Lift up your hearts”. In Latin, “Sursum corda”, “Lift up your hearts”. In the Second Reading from Saint Paul's Letter to the Colossians (3:1-4) this morning, we hear this idea of “lifting up”, “look up”, “go up”.


“Brothers and sisters”, he says “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, for Christ is at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.”


What is God telling us on this Easter Sunday? He's telling us that He has turned, transformed the greatest evil into the greatest good. The Cross of Christ that you have in your church, here on the back wall. The cross is the most horrible thing that ever happened in the history of the world. Yet, He has transformed it into the greatest blessing in the history of the world. God has turned the greatest evil into the greatest good, and the Saints of the Church recognized that; and they saw that in our lives, in all the small failures that we experience: disappointments, the difficult times, we participate in that going down, that descent, only so that we can rise again through and in the power of Jesus. 


To Rise Stronger, To Rise with Power

There was a 14th Century English Mystic, a woman named Julian of Norwich. If you go to the city of Norwich, you can see where in the 14th Century, this woman was a holy woman, was a kind of a hermit, and enclosed woman, an anchoress as they would say. She had in the 14th Century, amazing visions of Jesus on the Cross, and the passion of the Lord, and His resurrection. She talked about this idea of falling, of defeat, of failure, and then rising, which is part of our lives. She said that God is like a mother who allows us to fall. At times, a mother will allow a child to stumble. Why? So that the child can rise up stronger. God allows all of those defeats, failures in our lives, only so that we can rise stronger, so that we can rise with power.


Julian of Norwich has the most famous line, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” The famous lines quoted actually by T.S. Eliot, the American poet, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” because “through Him, with him, and in Him”, all our defeats, all our falls, all our failures can turn into victories.


When we look at our lives, when we look back, we see how God has worked even in our failures, as sometimes our failures have been turned out to be the sources of our greatest victories, of our greatest joys.


So, what does all this mean? Trust in the Lord. Have confidence in the Lord in your life. He is with you at every moment: in your falling, in your rising, in your descending, in your getting up again. He is with you because He has done it in the most amazing and cosmic way possible: in His Passion, Death, and Resurrection.


Conclusion

So, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for me as the Apostolic Nuncio, in the Name of Pope Francis, I greet all of you and I wish you a most happy, wonderful Easter season. The joy of the season overflows for an entire week: the Octave of Easter. For the Church isn't even content with a week. We do a week of weeks. What do I mean? We have seven weeks now until the Feast of Pentecost. The Easter Season, the priest wears white vestments now. A week of weeks: 7x7, eternity, joy multiplied. Perfection multiplied by perfection, 7x7, a week of weeks. So, our joy knows no bounds.


Happy Easter! God bless you. 


Don't forget to pray for Pope Francis.


My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:


Today is Easter Sunday. I wish you a joyful and wonderful celebration of the resurrection of the Lord. For me as your apostolic nuncio, it is a great joy and happiness for me to celebrate this most magnificent day, the culmination of the liturgical year of the Church, with all of you here in Saint Alphonsus Mary de Liguori Parish Church in Magallanes Village, with your beloved parish priest, Msgr. Bobby Canlas. He invited me to join you for this Mass this morning, to share together the Easter Joy―the joy that comes into our hearts because of Christ, risen from the dead.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches us that the resurrection was a true historical event. In fact, number 639 of the Catechism says the following, “The mystery of Christ's resurrection is a real event, with manifestations that were historically verified, as the New Testament bears witness.”


That's from the Catechism of the Catholic Church; and we heard those witnesses this morning, in the Gospel of Saint John. John who wrote the gospel that we heard this morning (Jn 20:1-9). John who is a witness, an eyewitness of the resurrection of the Lord. John, who describes how “Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark” (Jn. 20:1). She saw the stone removed from the tomb. Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter, the first Pope, and to St. John (but he has the modesty not to name himself) the “other disciple whom Jesus loved”. That's how Saint John, who writes this gospel, refers to himself. Mary Magdalene told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him” (Jn. 20:2). So, this is the first appearance, the first news, the first manifestation of the resurrection of our Lord, given by Mary Magdalene.


Mary Magdalene – Apostolorum Apostola

Isn't it appropriate that it's Mary Magdalene who was faithful to Jesus at the foot of the Cross―that small band of disciples who were there on Golgotha on Good Friday: Saint John, the Beloved Disciple who writes this gospel, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and the other Mary.


It's Mary Magdalene who was chosen by God to be the first witness of the resurrection, and she runs to the first Pope, the first Holy Father: Saint Peter, and gives the news. That's why the Church considers Mary Magdalene the “Apostle of the Apostles” because an apostle is someone who brings the news. Mary Magdalene, a woman out of whom the Lord had cast seven demons (Mk. 16:9). Mary Magdalene, this woman who has been converted by the love of Jesus, becomes the first announcer, the first evangelist, the first apostle in a certain sense―bringing the news to the other apostles, who had been too frightened, to scared, to be at the foot of the cross on Good Friday, who are hiding out of fear, except for Saint John.


Mary Magdalene, she is, in some ways, an image, an example of all the holy women in the history of the Catholic Church, who have kept the faith, who have passed the faith on to others, to their children, their grandchildren. Mary Magdalene is a symbol of that function in the Church―of women who keep the faith, women who were faithful to the cross of Christ, women who, in their own way, preach the gospel.


Expressed in the Words of The Creed

The Gospel tells us that they came into the tomb, they saw and they believed. Peter and John saw and believed. We have been given that faith. We believe in what happened that day more than 2,000 years ago. Our faith is expressed in the words of The Creed. (Which we omit today, because today we will renew our baptismal promises. We will not actually say the words of The Creed. We will renew our promises and I will sprinkle you with holy water after we've done that.)


The words of the Apostle’s Creed summarize what we celebrate in these days. “He was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; He descended into hell; on the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.”


Those phrases in The Creed contain our faith: He was born of the Virgin Mary at Christmas; He suffered under Pontius Pilate, the night of Holy Thursday, after the Last Supper. The suffering of our Lord under Pontius Pilate, that we commemorate here in the Philippines in our beautiful tradition of the Visita Iglesia. He was crucified, died and was buried―Good Friday. He descended into hell―that's the mystery of Holy Saturday. The mystery that we, in a silent way, celebrated yesterday: the descent of the Lord into Hell. On Holy Saturday, the Lord descends into the underworld, the netherworld, the abode of the dead; and He rescues those who have been born before the coming of Christ: Adam and Eve, and the Old Testament prophets who were waiting in this kind of limbo, this kind of quasi-hell, waiting for the coming of the Messiah. They have those amazing Eastern Orthodox icons of the Lord going into hell and rescuing Adam and Eve, pulling them up by their hands―Adam and Eve with joy in their faces, seeing the Lord on Holy Saturday, coming into the netherworld to bring them into heavenly glory. What the old English term, the “Harrowing of Hell”, the moment in which Christ descends into hell. Then on the third day, today, He rose from the dead.


Descent and Ascent

So, we see this trajectory in these days of “descent” and “ascent”. Descending into hell, into the netherworld to rescue Adam and Eve and the Old Testament prophets, and then rising on the third day today, Easter Sunday. This trajectory, this dynamic of descent and ascent, of going down and coming up, falling and rising.


This is central to our Christian faith, this descent and ascent. Because we all have our own descents, and our own falls, our own failures. Whether they're financial defeats, health defeats, or relationship failures, family defeats, business failures. We all experience that descent, that going down into the netherworld, into a kind of abode of the dead. Even Jesus fell three times on the way of the cross on Good Friday; but each of those three times, He got up and kept walking towards the cross.


We as Catholics participate in Jesus's death, and rising; in His descent and ascent, and the innumerable, the countless descents and ascents of our lives, the innumerable defeats and victories of our lives, the failures and the successes of our lives, the falling and the getting up again our lives. That's what our lives are in this world, and it's all gathered into the action of Christ in these days. All of our failures, all of our falling, all of our descending, so that we can rise with Him always, again and again.


In every Holy Mass in a few minutes, I will say to you, “Lift up your hearts”. In Latin, “Sursum corda”, “Lift up your hearts”. In the Second Reading from Saint Paul's Letter to the Colossians (3:1-4) this morning, we hear this idea of “lifting up”, “look up”, “go up”.


“Brothers and sisters”, he says “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, for Christ is at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.”


What is God telling us on this Easter Sunday? He's telling us that He has turned, transformed the greatest evil into the greatest good. The Cross of Christ that you have in your church, here on the back wall. The cross is the most horrible thing that ever happened in the history of the world. Yet, He has transformed it into the greatest blessing in the history of the world. God has turned the greatest evil into the greatest good, and the Saints of the Church recognized that; and they saw that in our lives, in all the small failures that we experience: disappointments, the difficult times, we participate in that going down, that descent, only so that we can rise again through and in the power of Jesus. 


To Rise Stronger, To Rise with Power

There was a 14th Century English Mystic, a woman named Julian of Norwich. If you go to the city of Norwich, you can see where in the 14th Century, this woman was a holy woman, was a kind of a hermit, and enclosed woman, an anchoress as they would say. She had in the 14th Century, amazing visions of Jesus on the Cross, and the passion of the Lord, and His resurrection. She talked about this idea of falling, of defeat, of failure, and then rising, which is part of our lives. She said that God is like a mother who allows us to fall. At times, a mother will allow a child to stumble. Why? So that the child can rise up stronger. God allows all of those defeats, failures in our lives, only so that we can rise stronger, so that we can rise with power.


Julian of Norwich has the most famous line, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” The famous lines quoted actually by T.S. Eliot, the American poet, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well,” because “through Him, with him, and in Him”, all our defeats, all our falls, all our failures can turn into victories.


When we look at our lives, when we look back, we see how God has worked even in our failures, as sometimes our failures have been turned out to be the sources of our greatest victories, of our greatest joys.


So, what does all this mean? Trust in the Lord. Have confidence in the Lord in your life. He is with you at every moment: in your falling, in your rising, in your descending, in your getting up again. He is with you because He has done it in the most amazing and cosmic way possible: in His Passion, Death, and Resurrection.


Conclusion

So, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for me as the Apostolic Nuncio, in the Name of Pope Francis, I greet all of you and I wish you a most happy, wonderful Easter season. The joy of the season overflows for an entire week: the Octave of Easter. For the Church isn't even content with a week. We do a week of weeks. What do I mean? We have seven weeks now until the Feast of Pentecost. The Easter Season, the priest wears white vestments now. A week of weeks: 7x7, eternity, joy multiplied. Perfection multiplied by perfection, 7x7, a week of weeks. So, our joy knows no bounds.


Happy Easter! God bless you. 

Don't forget to pray for Pope Francis.




Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo

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