Rev. Fr. Rico Garcia, Rector, seminary fathers, brother priests, dear jubilarians for this year 2021, alumni and seminarians, teachers and staff of the Our Lady of Guadalupe Minor Seminary, both present here and online, happy fiesta po sa inyong lahat.
Today, we celebrate the third Sunday of Advent also known as Gaudete Sunday. “Gaudium,” as you may recall from your Latin classes means “joy.” It is the imperative form, its imperative form “Gaudete” means “rejoice.” We are thus, invited by our liturgy today to exalt, sing joyfully and shout for joy because the birth of Jesus in Christmas is fast approaching. Our readings implore us to be glad and jubilant because our loving God is among us. Our mighty savior is in our midst. Despite the challenges and uncertainties we have been facing especially in this pasty two year of the pandemic, there are still many reasons to rejoice.
Today, you rejoice because of the opportunity to come home to the Minor Seminary even just virtually to see and catch up with your formators, teachers, classmates and friends and to recall the significant years you spent in this institution that led to your growth and maturity.
But more importantly, we are filled with joy because we also celebrate today, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of this seminar. Narinig niya ang inyong mga tawa at hikbi, ang inyong mga Ave Maria at Salve Regina. Nasubayabayan niya ang inyong paglaki at paglago, ang inyong mga tagumpay at pagkabigo. Nangungulila din siya sa inyong pinagsamahan, sa inyong malambing na pagtawag at pagsusumamo sa kanya. She, who is the surest way to her son, is the true reason of your home coming.
Today, on her special day, we offer her our filial love, gratitude and devotion. Mary, like John the Baptist is very much an Advent character. We revisit her apparition and message in Guadalupe to help us better and joyfully prepare for the coming of her son.
In December 1531, our Lady appeared multiple times on the hill of the Piat to an Indian convert and peasant named Juan Diego. After asking Juan Diego to pick some roses on top of the hill, and after arranging them in his pontio, she left an image of herself on the Tilma. And almost five hundred years old miraculous Tilma, still enshrined in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico and has continued to attract pilgrims and devotees from all over the world. During the said apparition, Our Lady of Guadalupe conveyed her pledge of maternal love, support and protection for all humanity.
Speaking to Juan Diego who was worried about his dying uncle, she said with loving concern, “Am I not here who am your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the fold of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”
Perhaps, as we continue to suffer this world wide pandemic, together with its adverse consequences on our work, study, personal and family lives, this is a message that Mary, our Mother would like to reiterate to all of us. She would like to remind us today, that under the mantle of her embrace, there is nothing to fear and worry about. Releashing and owning these words can reassure and encourage us and lift our drooping spirits this Advent. Kung paanong naroroon siya para sa inyo noon, naririyan pa risn siya para sa inyo hanggang ngayon. Isa itong dahilan para magalak at magsaya.
While this may be a personal, a very personal and consoling message, the context and form of our Lady’s apparition in Guadalupe, issue a socio-cultural challenge and mission as well. Like us, five hundred years ago, the people of Mexico were also newly evangelized by the Spaniards. In 1531, on the one hand, there were still remnants of the Aztec’s pagan practices, like human offerings to their Gods in the tens of thousands. On the other hand, they also experience abuses from the conquistadores who oppress their people and dismantled their native culture.
Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared as a mestiza, a mix of the Spaniards and Aztec races. Mexicans call her La Morenita, as she looked, dressed and spoke like a native Aztec. The sun’s rays behind her, the stars on her cloth and the moon and the serpent at her feet spoke to the Aztecs of her stature in relation to the symbols of her Gods. She also had a black cincture around her waist and the four kettal flower in her crown that signified that she was with child and was carrying the one true God in her womb.
These details conveyed that she was mother to both Aztecs and Spaniards, that she identified herself with oppressed Aztecs hinting at their dignity and intrinsic value that Jesus in her womb is the one true who supplants all other gods. And that life, in all its forms should be protected and defended against the culture of death.
Within the next decade, the Tilma led to the evangelization and conversion of millions in Mexico. The Spaniards also changed their ways in their treatment of the native people, now seen as brothers and sisters in their faith. The two cultures were thus, unified in the one Lord through the one Mother’s maternal embrace.
If such is our Mother, we also heed her call and invitation to be true children of hers by being agents of unity, siding with the oppressed and protecting life in all its forms. In the different ambiance of your life, may you carry out the socio-cultural mission especially during this time of great suffering and difficulty for our country and the whole world.
Imitating our Lady of Guadalupe, we also tell our brothers and sisters, “Am I not here who am your brother?” Kung paano ninyo natutunan ang pakikisama at pakikipagkapwa dito sa seminary, palawakin ninyo ang abot ng inyong akbay at yakap lalo na si higit na nangangailangan upang sa pamamagitan ninyo ay madama rin nila ang pag-ibig ng Diyos at ang maka-inang pagkakandili ni Maria.
Finally, during her first apparition, our Lady of Guadalupe asked that a church be erected on her apparition site so that the people can gather to worship her son and invoke her maternal protection. To this day, the Basilica in Mexico remains the most visited Catholic pilgrim site in the world and has truly become a center of devotion and piety.
This seminary also symbolizes for you a house of prayer. A sacred space where you easily commune with the Lord through the intercession of Mama Mary. The sacred time when you learned how to pray from the heart and met Jesus, Mary and the saints in a very personal manner. You would reminisce and your home coming inadequate, if you do not hear our Mother, our Mother’s most important bilin – pray and make a return to the Lord. After all, without a consistent prayer life, we would not be able to hear her maternal assurances and we would not be strengthened to be there for others.
Go back to your seminary prayer habits and make God the center of your lives. That is how we can make our Mother happy on her feast day. Knowing that we pray, and thus, can be guided by the spirit and enlighten in life assures her that we are on the right track and that we will always be safe.
We ask for the grace for a renewed and ever deeper trust in Mary, our Mother, to imitate her motherly love for all our brothers and sisters and to regain a life defining prayer life that of hers, so, that we may like that of hers, so, that we may be bore meaningfully and joyfully prepared for the coming of her son.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. (RCAM-AOC | Screenshot TV Maria)