Priest Stuff

Priest Stuff
Lord, I never wanted to be separated from you.

Queen of Heaven, Rejoice, Alleluia!


QUEEN OF HEAVEN REJOICE, ALLELUIA!
Mary in the Year of the Poor
Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia!
For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia!

We celebrate the Resurrection with a host of joys: the brilliant light of the Paschal candle piercing through the veil of darkness; the heart-thumping Alleluia that breaks the grief of Good Friday and the gloom of Black Saturday; the refreshment of water after a long draught in the desert of sin and penance. For us Filipinos all these joys peak at the “salubong”, the “encuentro” where the Blessed Mother, Mary, meets her risen Son, Jesus Christ, and her veil of human grief is lifted by an angel, and henceforth there will be no longer sadness but joy!

The salubong is nowhere in the Bible. It is a Filipino Church tradition that interprets life as a series of departures and “salubongs”, birth, death and re-birth. We cry at every leave-taking, most especially at departures from this life. But our hearts burst with joy when we welcome loved ones, when our eyes catch their coming, when our arms enfold them in salutation. A departure is “death” and the salubong signals life.

At the salubong Mary raises her hands to Jesus and bids Him, “Welcome, my Son.”

In this Year of the Poor Mary raises her hands to the poor, the dukha, “Welcome, my children!” and she enfolds each one in her loving embrace, and whispers to each one, “Rejoice, the Lord is Risen! My Son is here. There is nothing to fear!”

That is the context of our Easter salubong with the poor especially this year. Mary welcomes the poor, us, and she brings Jesus to the poor, to us, every time.

Easter in the Year of the Poor

This Easter in the Year of the Poor we turn to Mary, harking to the words that the Holy Father Pope Francis uttered in Tacloban on January 17 to the hundreds of thousands who were wounded and bereaved by the cruelty of a violent storm, a merciless earthquake, and a brutal conflict, and to the millions elsewhere in the country, tuned in to him on that day.

“Let us look to our Mother and, like a little child, let us hold onto her mantle and with a true heart say, ‘Mother.’ In silence tell your Mother what you feel in your heart. Let us know that we have a Mother, Mary, and a great Brother, Jesus.” There were words on the prepared homily that he carried, but he spoke from his heart, in his beloved native language. “Turn to Mary” he gestured with his hands pointing at her image in the altar he fixed his eyes tenderly fixed on her.

The Church of Mary is a Church of the poor

The Mother of God shows the Church a Marian style of evangelizing.

Every time we look at Mary we return to believe in the revolutionary strength of tenderness and affection. In her, we see the humility and the tenderness that are not virtues of the weak but of the strong and who don’t need to mistreat others in order to feel self-important. (Cardinal Pietro Parolin, November 20, 2014)

Mary knew from the beginning that to make her heart perfect she must be poor; she must know their yearnings; suffer their sufferings; feel the pain of their destitution; experience the helplessness of their powerlessness; and be so empty that only God can fill the emptiness. There is no poverty that our Blessed Mother does not know. St. Alphonsus Liguori said that the Blessed Virgin Mary also told St. Bridget, “All that I could get I gave to the poor, and only reserved a little food and clothing for myself.”

The Church of the poor that does not take Mary as mother is an orphan, said Pope Francis. Mary’s poverty is generous; it gives and gives and leaves only what is sufficient. Mary’s poverty allows her to journey and accompany the poor. Mary’s poverty makes her present in the poor, with the poor. That is why her poverty is her strength.

Our Church of the Poor should be like Mary: poor but generous; suffering but compassionate; reserving only what is sufficient for a simple life. In our poverty we are rich.

Pope Francis explains this in Evangelii Gaudium…


“For the Church, the option for the poor is primarily a theological category rather than a cultural, sociological, political or philosophical one. God shows the poor ‘his first mercy’. This divine preference has consequences for the faith life of all Christians, since we are called to have ‘this mind… which was in Jesus Christ’ (Phil 2:5). Inspired by this, the Church has made an option for the poor which is understood as a ‘special form of primacy in the exercise of Christian charity, to which the whole tradition of the Church bears witness’. This option—as Benedict XVI has taught—‘is implicit in our Christian faith in a God who became poor for us, so as to enrich us with his poverty’. This is why I want a Church which is poor and for the poor.”

The Church of the poor is a joyful Church


The Church of the Poor is a joyful Church because of the “salubong”, the encounter with Jesus Christ, who does not shower His people with popularity, earthly power, money, pleasure, but with peace, hope, faith and love. He promises salvation, life everlasting.

This is not to romanticize the poverty of the world today: hunger, homelessness, nakedness, ignorance and aimlessness. These are not the poverty of God but are the fruits of man’s inhumanity to man; of selfishness, greed, sloth, lust, gluttony…the capital sins. We assume the poverty of God if, like Mary, we are always ready for our “salubong” with Jesus Christ. This is the source of our joy, our happiness: our deep encounter with Jesus, our Savior.

We all know this but we often refuse to accept it. Lent was the season to examine our lives and the poverty we cause others. But we rationalize that development and progress will end poverty; that a robust economy will lift people out of poverty; that globalization will enable us to keep in step with the modern world. Yes, they can, but only if they bring us to Easter, to our “salubong”. Mary shows us the way to encountering Jesus Christ: it is to be poor like her and to be joyful in our poverty.

The Church of the Poor stands by the feet of Jesus forsaken

The Church of the Poor stands bravely with Jesus Crucified. She is Mary, the Mother of Him who hangs on the Cross. She is at the foot of the Cross, suffering with Him. The Church works with the people made poor by society’s unjust structures, discrimination and prejudices. The Church makes her voice heard on moral principles that must govern the conduct of business and government because immoral business practices and government policies make people poor.

On that wood of the Cross her Son hangs in agony as one condemned. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows…he was despised, and we esteemed him not”: as one destroyed (cf. Is. 53:3- 5). How great, how heroic then is the obedience of faith shown by Mary in the face of God’s “unsearchable judgments”! How completely she “abandons herself to God” without reserve, offering the full assent of the intellect and the will”39 to him whose “ways are inscrutable” (cf. Rom. 11:33)!

Through this faith Mary is perfectly united with Christ in his self- emptying. For “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men”: precisely on Golgotha “humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (cf. Phil. 2:5-8).

At the foot of the Cross Mary shares through faith in the shocking mystery of this self- emptying. This is perhaps the deepest “kenosis” of faith in human history. Through faith the Mother shares in the death of her Son, in his redeeming death; but in contrast with the faith of the disciples who fled, hers was far more enlightened. On Golgotha, Jesus through the Cross definitively confirmed that he was the “sign of contradiction” foretold by Simeon. At the same time, there were also fulfilled on Golgotha the words which Simeon had addressed to Mary: “and a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”( Redemptoris Mater, 18)

The Church of the Poor is a Church at prayer

She is Mary at the Upper Room praying with the disciples, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit. They are filled with fear and anxiety. In their helplessness they pray. Our poverty can lead us to helplessness and only through prayer can we bring up our need; can we find help. Pope Francis shows us this whenever he asks for prayers, whenever he offers his prayers for those in need and in pain, for those who suffer. In his encounter with families on January 16, he asked families to pray together, to pray with and for the poor. He asked for prayers, acknowledging his own need them.

At the conclusion of his address, he said, “Dear friends in Christ, know that I pray for you always! I pray that the Lord may continue to deepen your love for him, and that this love may manifest itself in your love for one another and for the Church. Pray often and take the fruits of your prayer into the world, that all may know Jesus Christ and his merciful love. Please pray also for me, for I truly need your prayers and will depend on them always!”

In our helplessness we pray for Jesus to come. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended upon the helpless and praying disciples and filled them with God’s love and peace. In the words of Pope Francis “Mary, whose ‘yes’ opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy.”

Mary in the Year of the Poor

We enter this Easter season with Mary encountering Jesus. Saying yes to God, Mary carried Jesus in her womb and secured the fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation. As the mystery of Jesus unfolded she silently pondered things in her heart, keeping faith that she would understand them in the fullness of time. Mary joined the trek to Calvary, meeting her Son at the fourth station of the Cross, her heart full of sorrow. And at the foot of the cross she kept vigil and cried at the supreme mystery of her Son’s death.

Pope Francis in his encounter with the youth in the University of Santo Tomas admitted he did not have a ready answer to the young girl who lamented the evil things that happen to children. He said he understood her tears, “Only when we are able to weep about the things that you lived can we understand something and answer something. If you do not learn how to cry you cannot be good Christians.” Mary weeps with the poor. She is the Mother of mercy; to her do the poor cry.

Mary rejoices with the poor. She is their “salubong”, showing them the fruit of her womb—Jesus. Mary is the cause of our joy. She brings Jesus to the poor.

Pope Francis assured us this in Tacloban:

“Please know that Jesus never lets you down. Know that the tenderness of Mary never lets you down. And holding onto her mantle and with the power that comes from Jesus’ love on the cross, let us move forward and walk together as brothers and sisters in the Lord.”

The poor will always have Mary, the Mother of God. They will always have her Son, Jesus.

Queen of heaven rejoice for the Lord has truly risen alleluia!

From the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, April 5, 2015

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
CBCP President

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