Homily of H.E. Archbishop Charles John Brown, D.D., Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines on the Canonical Coronation of the Our Lady of the Assumption, The Patroness of Maasin on August 13, 2022
Your Excellency Bishop Precioso Cantillas, Bishop of Maasin, Msgr. Bernardo Pantin, Secretary General of the CBCP, brother priests gathered here in the cathedral, religious men and women, lay faithful of the Diocese of Maasin, for me as your papal nuncio, it gives me lots of joy and happiness to be here once again in your wonderful diocese to celebrate today, this Coronacion Canonica de Nuestra Senora dela Asuncion, this pontifical coronation of Our Lady of the Assumption.
As all of you know, this beautiful image of Our Lady, which is here in the sanctuary of the cathedral, received the honor of an episcopal coronation on August 15th of 2018 when Cardinal Tagle came and did the episcopal coronation of Our Lady, the patrona of your diocese.
And today, myself, your papal nuncio, the representative of Pope Francis, is here for my second visit, as I said, in Maasin to do the pontifical coronation, which is the most solemn, most official, highest form of coronation that the church bestows on an image of Our Lady.
My first visit here was to the island of Limasawa to celebrate the anniversary of the first mass here in the Philippines - a beautiful celebration of the Eucharist, the ordination of new priests for your diocese. Today I return to show in my own life my love for our Lady, which I share with all of you. So the Eucharist and Our Lady, my two visits to the Diocese of Maasin, the Eucharist, which is Jesus. Jesus our Way, our Truth and our Life, and Mary, the one through whose "Yes" Jesus came into the world, as we heard in the Gospel today.
Photos by Phian Anton Paloma, Ton Cristian Saure | DM Social Communications
So now, this day, as you come close to your diocesan fiesta, which will be on Monday, on the Feast of the Assumption, our hearts are filled with joy and exultation and happiness, as all of us bestow this honor on Our Lady. This beautiful honor, which is represented so wonderfully in the super beautifully decorated cathedral, the marching band, all of you with flags and flowers, everyone dressed in your best clothing, to celebrate our love for Mary.
We are children of Our Lady, each and every one of us as Catholics. We love Our Lady, we want to honor Our Lady, and all of the things that we do to show her honor, show the love that we have for her, because by her yes, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus. By her "yes", our difficult lives on this earth were given the joy of God's grace. That joy which comes into us. That joy which is contagious. That joy which is characteristic of Catholics in general, but it's especially characteristic of Filipino Catholics, the pueblo amante de Maria, people who love Mary.
So today, brothers and sisters here in the Diocese of Maasin, we are like, in a certain sense, from the perspective of heaven. When God looks down on us, the saints and the angels, as we celebrate Mary in this way for this pontifical and canonical coronation, we in a certain sense are like a child, bringing a flower to our mother with all the love that that expresses. And every mother knows, every mother who's in the cathedral this morning knows that when her son or daughter brings her a flower, even a simple flower, it's a sign of love that really touches her heart. And I'm sure that Mary's heart is touched this morning by the devotion of all of you here in Maasin.
To Our Lady, her coronation is the fifth glorious mystery. For our Gospel this morning, we read the beginning of the story of Mary's encounter with God with the angel Gabriel, but we celebrate, and we commemorate her coronation, which is beautifully depicted in this wonderful stained glass window. Here to your left in the transept of your cathedral, this beautiful image of Mary being crowned in heaven by Jesus and the Holy Father and the Holy Spirit. And we, in our childlike way, in our simple way, with everything and all the efforts that we can possibly muster, we tried to imitate God in showing our love for Our Lady like a child bringing a flower to his mother. We honor her because she is the one who said "yes" to God.
Between the Annunciation that we heard in the Gospel and the coronation of Our Lady, which is represented in this beautiful window, we have the mystery that we will celebrate on Monday, on the 15th of August, her assumption. The fact that at the end of Mary's life, she did not experience death the way you and I will experience death. But in a remarkable way, at the end of her life, she was taken up into heavenly glory.
We heard in our second reading this morning the words just as with Adam, all die, which is true for all of us. So in Christ, all will be brought to life. And then there's these fairly interesting words, "But each one in proper order. Christ, the first fruits, then that is coming, all those people who belong to Christ." So each one in proper order, the first to ascend into heaven, is Jesus 40 days after the resurrection and the Feast of the Ascension. That proper order, though, honors the second one who is assumed into heaven, whose assumption we celebrate on the 15th of August, Our Lady, Mama Mary, who at the end of her life, as I said, did not experience death, the way we experienced death, but was assumed body and soul into heaven. Her body went into heaven. Just think about it. There's no place on earth where we go on pilgrimage to visit the tomb of Mary, right? We visit the tombs of different saints on pilgrimage, but there's no tomb of Mary because Mary, at the end of her life, was assumed into heaven, into heavenly glory. Each one in proper order, Jesus, Mary, and then each and every one of us. Each and every one of us. We too will experience what we pray every time we pray the Apostles Creed.
At the end of the Apostles Creed, what do we pray? "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen".
Brothers and sisters, that means that as Mary's body has been assumed in a miraculous way into heaven, our bodies also will rise. We believe that as Catholics. What will the resurrected body be like? We don't really know. St. Paul talks about it in his letters. He says that we will be filled with light, it will be a different form of a body, but it will be our body resurrected from the dead. And the fact that we receive the Eucharist, the Body of Christ, Jesus' resurrected body, His life, His resurrected life, is being infused into us even in our bodies so that we will rise at the end in our bodies. And heaven will be a place where in some way, we will have our bodies.
So the Feast of the Assumption is a feast when we remember that our destiny is heavenly glory with Mary, our mother, and our heavenly glory is a heavenly glory that will include our bodies.
So what we do with our bodies on this earth is important. Some people think/know what I am; I'm a spirit. I'm only using my body. My body is not important. That's not a Catholic response. That's not a Catholic attitude. We are a spirit and a body together. And that is what the doctrine of the assumption teaches us, and that's why our sanctification comes through receiving the Eucharist, the Body of Jesus.
In a way that's similar but not the same as Mary who received the body of Jesus in her womb as a mother. In a similar but not exactly the same way, we receive the Holy Eucharist, and we are prepared for heavenly glory. How important is that? The most important thing for us really,
So that is why we love our Lady. That is why we asked her to intercede for us so that we will be good Catholics. So we will receive the Bread of Life. So we will spread devotion to Mary around us. Mary wants us to be apostles. She wants us to be people who bring the faith to others. Principally, that means bringing the faith to those in our own families, especially if we are a father or a mother. There is no person who is more important for the faith and the transmission of faith. No one was more important to transmitting the faith than parents, than Catholic parents. Popes and nuncios and bishops and priests - we have our role. But the most important person in bringing the faith to a young person is his or her mother and father.
Mary is our heavenly mother. Let's ask Mary to intercede for our mothers, here in Maasin in the Philippines, throughout the world so they will transmit the faith to their children - give their children the gift of faith. Mothers have given children the gift of physical life, biological life by giving birth to them, by taking care of them, by loving them. Mary gives us spiritual life, supernatural life by giving us Jesus and making us apostles of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.
There's an old saying in Latin about Mary which is attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux, which may or may not actually be something he wrote, but it's attributed to him, and in Latin, it goes like this: De Maria numquam satis. What does it mean? "Of Mary, you can never say enough." Of Mary, you can never say enough. So there's always more to say about Our Lady. And all of us, all of you, all of us who are devotees of Mary, we know her presence in our lives. We know that by praying the rosary, she intercedes for us. We know that Mary is like a mother who is kind of in the background but organizing things in our lives, preparing things for us, taking care of us in her beautiful maternal way.
How gifted we are to have Mary as our mother, and how joyful we are today to honor her to give this pontifical canonical coronation of Our Lady, La Patrona of your diocese, saying to Mary, "Mary, we love you. Mary, we thank you. Mary, protect us. Mary, intercede for us".
So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as you can see, for me as your papal nuncio, it gives me so much happiness to be here from my second visit to your diocese to participate in this pontifical coronation, this Coronacion Canonica de Nuestra Senora dela Asuncion.
May Mary be your mother, may she intercede for you, may she show you the path that leads to joy into heavenly life. God bless you!