HOMILY TRANSCRIPT | Manila Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, Mass for Launch of Synodality, Shangrila Chapel, January 23, 2022, 12 p.m.

Our dear Fr. Anton Pascual, brother priests and deacons, lay collaborators and all beloved in Christ, these past few days, many of our establishments including our Church institutions were calling for a “health break” for their employees to recover from physical, mental and emotional turmoil. This crisis caused by the pandemic is not just affecting the economy but also our mental and emotional equilibrium.

We, as a Church, believe that our spiritual and sacramental activities are essential in addressing what we are going through deep within us.  That is why, I have been encouraging all the parish priests, shrine rectors and chaplains to strengthen their online Masses and other online religious activities.

In the First Reading, we have heard from Nehemiah an uplifting exhortation, saying, “Today is holy to the Lord our God, do not be sad and do not weep.” Towards the end of the first reading, the same Prophet echoes a significant spiritual truth, which asserts, “Rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.”

Nehemiah is telling us that the Holy Spirit can grant us consolation, the joy that the world cannot give, when we come close to the Lord in prayer, in the sacraments and especially in the Eucharist, the summit and fountain of Christian life. His Book describes how the Israelites listened attentively to the word of the Lord from daybreak till midday. Their attentiveness and the length of time they spent listening to the word of God demonstrated their deep love for the word of God, making them understand God’s ways which could not be separated from their understanding of the events of their lives. These days, how much time do we spend reading the Holy Scriptures or Holy Bible which contain the word of God. On the other hand, how much time, do we spend on social media?

The time we spend on social media determines our sadness and disappointments. Why? Common sense dictates that when we post something on Facebook and other social media platforms, we would always select the best shots. In other words, nobody would post on any social media platform anything that would harm one’s image or reputation. All the pictures on Facebook are well-chosen to project beautiful life. The backdrops of the pictures of our friends are always expensive hotels, resorts and restaurants. They are always with smiling and visibly happy family and friends.

But what If we do not have a family near us, for they are working abroad, or we are coming from a broken family? What if we do not have friends who could spend time with us? What if we do not have a job, and we cannot afford to go to any of those expensive places?  In watching the lives of our friends on social media, we can be magnifying our own deprivation and sadness, making us more miserable.

In spending time reading the Scriptures and asking the Holy Spirit to understand our own personal history, we begin to understand why God allows painful things to happen to us, that we may share in our Lord’s suffering, and that we may also share his glory. As followers of Christ, it is inappropriate to flaunt on Facebook and other social media platforms our lavish and luxurious lifestyle at the same time when so many people have nothing to eat. We need to be sensitive to others. We are connected to each other. We are journeying together. That’s what synodality is all about.

St. Paul, endowed with high spiritual intelligence, used the image of the body to demonstrate how closely connected we are to each other, how one part can affect the whole. We cannot be indifferent to the pains and troubles and worries of those around us, for we are connected to them. Our Lord, in identifying Himself with the little ones, encourages us to see deeper the spiritual reality, when we do something for the least of our brothers and sisters.

During this time, we have plenty of opportunities to help those in most need.  In helping them, let us not forget to do it with the strength and joy of the Lord.

Towards the end of the Gospel reading, Jesus said to the crowd, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he had anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord…” Then he went on to say, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” This is a demonstration that the word of God has the power to fulfill itself in the life of those who believe in Him, to those who listen to and meditate on God’s word with faith in their hearts.

In the creation account in the book of Genesis, God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”  When the angel Gabriel announced unto Mary that she would conceive son and call Him Emmanuel which means God-is-with-us, Mary, who believed according to the word of the Angel, became pregnant. The word was made flesh. The promise of the Angel was fulfilled.

My dear brothers and sisters, if today we have the faith the size of a mustard seed, we can re-echo, in the midst of this pandemic, the words of the Prophet Nehemiah: “Rejoicing in the Lord is our strength.” And it will be fulfilled upon our hearing. Amen. (RCAM-AOC | Photo by Maricar Santos/RCAM-AOC)


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