Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gosple Reflection

December 15, 2012
Saturday – Advent – Year of Faith
by Rev. Fr. Catalino Arevalo (Society of St. Paul)
12:15PM Mass at Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace (Our Lady of EDSA)

Reading 1 Sir 48:1-4, 9-11

In those days, like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. Their staff of bread he shattered, in his zeal he reduced them to straits; By the Lord's word he shut up the heavens and three times brought down fire. How awesome are you, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Whose glory is equal to yours? You were taken aloft in a whirlwind of fire, in a chariot with fiery horses. You were destined, it is written, in time to come to put an end to wrath before the day of the LORD, To turn back the hearts of fathers toward their sons, and to re-establish the tribes of Jacob. Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 80:2ac and 3b, 15-16, 18-19

R. (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
From your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
Take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Gospel Mt 17:9a, 10-13

As they were coming down from the mountain, the disciples asked Jesus, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" He said in reply, "Elijah will indeed come and restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.


Father Nilo asked me to celebrate this mass with him and the fathers here present. I guess it is because I am the only one among them who is present here for the dedication of this chapel and also for the small blessing ceremony because the chapel was not yet fully ready on December 8 prior to this particular feast. 

This area was all full of grass during the EDSA Revolution. All these buildings did not exist. It was, I think, a Sunday afternoon when thousands and thousands of people were pouring in from all over. They were gathered here and the tanks arrived. And the fear was the tanks will open fire on the crowd. The crowd was present here by the thousands, with no weapons but rosaries in their hands. If I am not mistaken, the picture that was taken of two nuns from St. Paul kneeling in front of one of the tanks, took place that particular Sunday.

The people were saying the rosary over and over again, for a peaceful solution to this revolt against the dictatorship. And it was a miracle that none of the tanks opened fire, not a single soldier shot a gun, and they withdrew after a few hours of peaceful confrontation. 

After the revolution was over, Bishop Gabriel Reyes was appointed by Cardinal Sin to start making negotiations and setting up the plans for this oratory, for this church. But just a week before this church was to be opened, there was the last coup d' etat which the military set up in Makati. We were having a meeting at the Villa San Miguel with Cardinal Sin and I remember sitting beside Bishop Cornelio de Wit of Antique. He turned to me and said, "Look, there is shooting in Makati. And we are supposed to open the church within in a few days." And on the television, we could see soldiers shooting across the street, soldiers on the other side.

Cardinal Sin overheard Bishop de Wit saying that, and he said, "It will be over by December 8." Bishop de Wit turned to me and said, "Either the Cardinal is just bluffing or the Lord is telling him something that He is not telling us." And sure enough, before December 8, the fight stopped. Cardinal Sin decided to have a very simple blessing of the almost finished church on December 8, then the solemnification was done on this day. Bishop Soc was then his secretary.  
Cardinal Sin said, "This place will be a place of prayer. It will never be empty. This is the place where the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary overturned a dictatorship in peace. People will flock here, and this will be the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace."

I don't know exactly by memory the quotation from, I think, the Book of Second Chronicles, which you can see on the side of this church facing Ortigas. It runs something like, 'If My people, upon whom My name is called, shall humble themselves and pray, seek My face, repent from their sins and turn to Me, I will hear their prayer from heaven. I will forgive them their sins, and I will bring the land back to them." That quotation from the Old Testament was repeated over and over again in the weeks that preceded the EDSA Revolution. And it was a kind of theme song for the EDSA Revolution.

Months later, I met Bishop Cornelio de Wit again and he said, "The Cardinal was certain that everything will be over before December 8. He must have been giving something to the Lord that the rest of God could not give. Now I am convinced that the Cardinal is hearing something from the Lord, which the rest of us could not hear."

All of us took part, by God's grace, in that peaceful revolution, and we felt sincerely that at that moment, God really stepped into our history. Two or three months later, I remember that in Novaliches, there was a workshop of about 300 people. And there was a Lutheran missionary there, with his wife and children, taking part in the workshop. After I have spoken, the missionary asked me and said, "Father, do you think there was really a miracle in EDSA?" And I said, "Pastor, you were there. What do you think?" And he started to cry and said, "If there was no miracle there at the EDSA Revolution, when God stepped into our history, I don't think there will be any miracles at all."

Today, we thank God that, through the efforts, especially of Cardinal Sin, this oratory, this church was built, as a remembrance of God's stepping into our history, who gave us peace, who gave us freedom. Let us remember the words of Cardinal Sin, "This church will never be empty." In this place, people will remember that God stepped into our history to save us. And people will know that when we come to this church and pray, and approach God with great humility, God will forgive our sins, He will hear our prayers, and restore our land to us. He will give us what we ask for, if it will help us in our pilgrimage toward the Kingdom. He will give us what we pray for, in this church, where Mary interceded for us, where thousands of people were here in this area, praying to Our Lady Queen of Peace.

For all of us who are here, the same is true. If we turn to God, if we turn humbly with our hearts, if we repent from our sins, and pray to God with humility and confidence to be with us, God will hear us. God will step into our history, whether it be our history as a people, or as individuals. God will give us the grace and blessings that we need.

It is good that you are here this afternoon, to remember that great grace, and to renew in our hearts, in this Year of Faith, the faith that God is with us and listens to our prayers, as long as our hearts are humble, and we have confidence in Him. Amen.