HOMILY TRANSCRIPT | Manila Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, Mass of the Lord’s Passion at the Manila Cathedral, April 15, 2022, 5 p.m.

On this blessed day, in stillness and silence, we commemorate the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. We recall his whole life of self-giving love that culminated in the cross of those who cannot accept such life and love. In a few moments, we shall spend some time to contemplate and gaze upon the cross that sums up the breadth and length, the height and depth, of Christ’s love for us that surpasses all understanding.

What do we actually adore when we venerate the cross? The beauty of a sculpture? The scent of the wood? The grotesque image of brutal cruelty and painful suffering? Not these. Rather, we adore the example of one who was courageous enough to bear all things out of love – for the Father, in radical obedience; and for those in the peripheries of existence, by recognizing, serving, and lifting them up. We venerate him who faithfully carried out his mission of establishing the reign of God’s love, justice, and compassion among men and women, come what may. Hindi ba’t yan naman ang tunay nating hinahangaan at itinatanghal sa ating mga puso — ang mga taong lubos na nagmamahal sa Diyos at buhos na nag-aalay ng sarili sa kapwa, kahit pa hinahampas at ipinapako ng kalupitan ng bayan at ng buhay?

Pinned to the cross, surrounded by hatred, drenched in blood, gasping for dear life, when it was easier to turn away from God, give up on others, and despair, he perseveres in faith, love, and hope. To the silence and seeming abandonment of the Father, his response was surrender: “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”. To the rejection and vile treatment of men, his return was mercy and forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. To the reality of being broken, his choice was still to be shared, grounded in the hope that somewhere, sometime, somehow, in the wisdom, fidelity, and justice of God, all his sacrifices would be found pleasing to God and imbued with meaning and value: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise”.

This is how Christ saves us. He demonstrates to us how to be truly and fully human, how to live as authentic sons and daughters of God, during both easy and difficult times, to the very end, even unto death. He reorients and reconfigures the loose and lost wires of our wounded and sinful humanity, that has become too worldly and self-preoccupied, in order for the true imago dei to again rise to clarity and actuality — the imago dei that was very good in the eyes of God and who lived in harmony with fellow human beings and all of creation. Buried in the grave with the wicked and evildoers, he buries with him our sinful ways in order for a renewed, transfigured, and healed humanity to arise.

All these Jesus did in-carne, in the flesh, so that the solution to the problem of our evil does not come from the outside, but from within our very humanity. In him, Jeremiah’s prophecy is fulfilled: “I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts”.  Jesus truly reveals to us “the way, the truth, and the life”. Bagamat hindi madali para sa atin ang tumulad sa mga gawi at ugali ni Hesus, itinuturo niya sa atin na hindi ito imposible. Ginawa niya itong posible. Basta’t bukas sa pagbibiyaya ng Ama, at nagpapagabay sa puwersa ng Espiritu Santo, maaaring mabuhay at umiral si Kristo sa ating mismong sariling katawan.

As we ponder the cross, Jesus does not only instruct us about this new mode of being human. He also directs our attention to the great number of those who suffer and go through the sorrowful mysteries of life due to the reign of sin. His cross represents the many victims of the evil in man’s heart — of jealousy, pride, betrayal, denial, abandonment, injustice, violence, and death. His open wounds make us aware and feel the deep and scathing physical, psycho-emotional, and spiritual wounds we all bear. As the crucified Jesus identifies with all those who are spurned, mangled, crushed, and afflicted, it would be a mistake not to turn our gaze as well to the scourged, pierced, and crucified among us — ang mga biktima ng pandemya, giyera, kalamidad, korupsyon, krimen, kahirapan, at iba pa — na lubhang nangangailangan ng ating tulong, atensyon, at kalinga.

To these cross-like realities, we can respond in two manners. On the one hand, we can wash our hands like Pilate, who had a glimpse of the truth about Jesus, but could not stand up for the truth due to socio-political pressures and the propensity for self-preservation. On the other hand, we can imitate Mary, who, being a woman in a patriarchal society, stood by the cross of Jesus, not prostrated or defeated, but bravely taking a stand with and for other unjustly condemned and oppressed in the world. As we are consoled by Jesus’ use of the divine name “I AM” in the gospel, that actually means “I AM WHO AM HERE FOR YOU” — the cross being an eternal offer of embrace for us — may we also convey to our suffering brothers and sisters: “I am who am here for you, ready to bear your cross with you”. As the letter of Peter reminds us: “Christ suffered for you… and left you an example, to have you follow in his footsteps”.

Seriously pursuing these two invitations would lead us to our own calvaries. When the going gets tough, in the words of our second reading, “confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. Since, having been similarly tested in every way, we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness”.

Panginoon, habang buhat namin ang aming mga krus, turuan mo kaming manampalataya at kumapit, magmahal at maglingkod, umasa at magtiwala. Tulungan mo kaming tumayo at maninindigan para sa kapwa tao naming nagdarahop at nagdurusa. Sa pagkamatay naming ito sa aming mga sarili, isama mo kami sa bagong buhay na laan mo.

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you. Because by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world.

 

 

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