Sunday 28 September 2014
Homily of His Eminence Pietro Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Francis
On the feast day of San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Sunday, 28 September 2014
Homily of His Eminence Pietro Cardinal Parolin, Secretary of State of His Holiness Pope Francis On the feast day of San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila at St. Patrick's Cathedral, Sunday, 28 September 2014Dear Filipino friends and devotees of San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila, My dear brothers and sisters: At the very outset, I convey to all of you the best wishes and prayers of our Holy Father Pope Francis. While we celebrate a joyous occasion today, before you I cannot but recall the tremendous sufferings that millions of your fellow citizens back home underwent almost a year ago, when a strong earthquake and an extremely violent typhoon struck vast areas in the central region of your country. Allow me to reiterate what the Holy Father said to a group of Filipinos who visited him in the Vatican on November 22 last year, on the occasion of the blessing of a mosaic of Saint Pedro Calungsod. Pope Francis said: “In these moments of great suffering, do not tire of asking: “why?” as children do.... And thus you draw our Father’s eyes to your people; you draw the affection of our Father in Heaven upon you. Like a child asks: “Why? Why?”. In moments of pain, let this strength be prayer: the prayer of the “why?", without asking for explanation, asking only that our Father watch over us. I am with you in this prayer of the “why?”. We know that the population affected by the earthquake and the super typhoon, as well as by the other violent typhoons that struck your country recently, are still suffering and have difficulties picking up their lives. Let us remember them in our prayers. Dear Filipino brothers and sisters in the New York area, Celebrating this Holy Eucharist with you today was not part of the program of my visit in New York. Thus, it is one of those infinite ways and inscrutable designs of God that I have this privilege to join you in your celebration of the feast day of the first officially declared Filipino Saint, San Lorenzo Ruiz de Manila: Layman, Husband and Father, Missionary and Martyr. Just as Lorenzo Ruiz “stumbled” upon the unexpected grace of martyrdom in Japan, I sort of stumble upon this unexpected grace of breaking the Eucharistic bread with you in this splendid Cathedral of New York. Thank you for the invitation! Indeed, as Saint Paul teaches us, “Everything conspires unto good” (Rom. 8:28). All is grace! (John 1:16). In various ways, each one of us is called upon to carry on the Gospel message of compassion and courage, which is the theme of your gathering this year. San Lorenzo Ruiz, who, out of compassion for his family because of some capital accusation on him, as well as to save his own life, left his home in Binondo, Manila, only to offer courageously “even a thousand lives for the Faith,” in a foreign land. Like him, we cannot back away, in life or death, from this Gospel injunction. I deeply appreciate your devotion to San Lorenzo Ruiz. Through your prayers, novenas and cultural activities, you are doing a great service in promoting the devotion to him. Lorenzo was an altar boy, then a sacristan and parish clerk, a family man with three children, a catechist, a missionary and, above all, a martyr for the love of the Lord. What an example of unconditional love for God San Lorenzo’s martyrdom is to us! Lorenzo lived to the very end our Lord’s exhortation to seek first and above all else the Kingdom of God. When asked by his persecutors to denounce God, Lorenzo told them that he was ready to die for God and give himself for many thousands of lives if he had them. We are called to constantly live the mission of compassion and courage in our daily life. We may not be called to Martyrdom just as Lorenzo Ruiz and Pedro Calungsod were. Indeed, a slogan at the canonization of the Lorenzo Ruiz said: To die for the Faith is a gift to some; to live the Faith is a call to all. Thus, whether called to martyrdom or not, our faith always calls us to make sacrifices to observe our faith, honor our commitments and lovingly fulfil our obligations in life and work. We may say that life is a daily martyrdom: some find themselves victims of situations of exclusion and inequality, or in situations of loneliness far away from family and friends, especially migrant and itinerant people; some find themselves deprived of their fundamental human freedoms, like the right to life and the right to religious freedom; indeed, some find themselves without any reason to go on living. These are crosses we have to have bear and that our brothers and sisters bear. However, we do not embrace the cross as something that is imposed or forced upon us by difficult circumstances in life beyond our control. Rather, the cross is part of our identity as disciples of Christ. Does not our Lord ask us to pick up our cross and follow him? As the Holy Father Pope Francis said three days ago, a Christian cannot understand Christ the Redeemer without the Cross, and without being ready to bear the Cross with Jesus. Christ prepares us to be Simon of Cyrene to help him carry the Cross in our suffering brothers and sisters. Indeed, we are disciples of our Lord, not only because we carry our own personal cross, but because, like Simon of Cyrene who helpedhe Lord carried his cross, we must also carry the cross of our brothers and sisters who need our solidarity and assistance. And Jesus identifies himself with these least of our brothers and sisters. Without the Cross, therefore, we cannot pretend to be authentic Christians. Without the cross, we cannot understand Jesus. Without the cross, we cannot appreciate enough how much he loves us. Without the cross, we cannot understand why he lay down his life for us. The cross expresses the compassion and mercy of the Lord upon us. And if the Church has to reflect the compassion of God, it needs to express this compassion and mercy. The Pope reminds us that “the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity.” As a Church, the Holy Father wants us to be like “a field hospital after battle”, where all of us are called to be ministers and witnesses of God’s mercy and compassion, like the good Samaritan who washes, cleans and raises up his wounded and suffering neighbor. We are asked to be compassionate, to be the hands and feet of Jesus to heal the wounded in life, to be his heart to bring love to situations of hatred, to be channels and instruments of his peace to a violent world. It is in the essence of compassion and solidarity that the Holy Father will visit the Philippines in January 2015. He will visit the worst affected areas of the super typhoon “Yolanda”. He will meet some of the survivors and families of those who have lost their lives. He will embrace your whole country to express God’s love and compassion to his beloved children in the Philippines. Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, compassion and courage should characterize the belief and behavior of every Christian. No one can claim either virtue as owing it to an individual or personal effort, but by the powerful grace of God. Dear Filipino brothers and sisters, you are great devotees of our Blessed Mother, who you fondly called “Mama Mary”. Yes, we all need a confidant and help in hard times. In spite of our weaknesses and shortcomings, with total trust and confidence we turn to “Mama Mary” to ask her to help us in times of doubts and temptations, in hours of loneliness and weariness, in the failure of our plans, in disappointments and sorrows, when we are ill or lonely, when we feel we are at the end of the rope, when we lost our job, when we cannot anymore pay our bills, when we feel we are losing our faith... Before “Mama Mary”, let us exercise the childlike qualities of total trust and confidence, certain of her help, as certain as a baby who flies to the arms of the mother, sure that she will catch him or her. And, of course, we turn to “Mama Mary” also to thank her for being such a provident Mother, to say “thank you” for the success of our plans, for good health, for a united family, for the gift of life, for the gift of faith, for the gift of compassion and mercy, even for the gift of the cross, because with the cross is the promise of eternal life. God bless you! God bless the Philippines! Amen.