Monday, 11 January 2021 16:35

Homily | Archbishop Charles John Brown | Thanksgiving Mass for the Feast of the Black Nazarene

Homily delivered by Archbishop Charles John Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines during the Thanksgiving Mass for the Feast of the Black Nazarene held at Quiapo Church on January 10, 2021, at 12:15 noon.

Archbishop Charles John Brown, newly appointed Papal Nuncio to the Philippines delivers his homily during the Thanksgiving Mass for the Feast of the Black Nazarene at Quiapo Church on January 10. | Photo by Fatima Llanza/RCAM-AOC | Photogallery

Our Father Jesus, the Nazarene we adore you we venerate you, your teachings are our life and our salvation, our life and our salvation. The teachings of Jesus the Black Nazarene.

My dear brothers and sisters, as I said in the beginning of mass, for me as your apostolic nuncio, I am so happy to be with you this morning, now this afternoon to celebrate this Mass of thanksgiving after the Traslacion yesterday of the Black Nazarene. I have come here from the Nunciature with my two colleagues, Msgr. Cabarey from Africa, who is here with me and Msgr. Viola from South America, from Argentina who is also here with me. The three of us are very happy to be celebrating the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord with you as we heard in the gospel this morning, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John and we saw the Holy Spirit coming down onto Jesus in the form of a dove and the words of the Father, this is my beloved Son and whom I am well pleased Jesus is the beloved son of the Father so what we should see this morning? This afternoon? We heard the voice of the Father, we saw the Holy Spirit and we see Jesus, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The trinity. Three persons in one God our belief that God is Father, God is Holy Spirit and God is the Son made flesh in the womb of Mary that present with us as our Nazarene, as our guide to heaven.

If you look at the beautiful image of the Black Nazarene and I reflect on the fact that this image has been here in the Philippines for more than 400 years, remember we are celebrating this year, 500 years of Christianity here in the Philippines but for 400 years, seem something like 1604, the Black Nazarene this image of Jesus has been here with us in Manila. And the crown or the halo on Jesus’ head has this very famous three rays if you look at the image of Jesus you see the three rays on his head. These three potensias, these three powers what does it represent? It represents what we heard in the gospel today, the trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We received God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit in through Jesus the Nazarene.

And in a few moments my dear brothers and sisters, I want to reflect on the idea of the Holy Spirit for a moment with you, in a moment we will all sing I believe the creed of mass, the profession of faith, we will speak of the Holy Spirit in a moment when I finished preaching which won’t be too long. And when we speak of the Holy Spirit as the Lord the giver of life. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to said in Filipino but I’m sure you all do. Lord giver of life in latin dominum which is Lord, et vivi gantem is the same word as viva in Spanish or vita in Italian, it means the life-giver. The holy spirit is the one who gives us life and we received the holy spirit in and through Jesus, in and through the Nazarene, we received this supernatural life of God and this is the very important idea something that I like to reflect on a little bit on Christmas day when I was preaching in our beautiful cathedral in Intramuros, that the gift of life, God’s life that comes into us which is given to us in Jesus by the Holy Spirit what is this supernatural life?

Divine life which we also called God’s grace. It’s a little bit like natural life. What is natural life? All of us seen natural life all around us many things are living on this planet we see trees, birds, fish, blades of grass, mosquitos which we don’t like very much, other insects some are which are also problematic. All of these things bacteria, all of these things are alive, they have life in them and as I mentioned on Christmas day, we have natural life in us all of us here in this beautiful minor basilica this morning because we are eating our breakfast and everything you ate this morning and you will have for lunch today. All those calories that come into you will something that is alive, something that was alive. Maybe you are eating a nice fish, maybe you’re having some nice bread or pancit. All of those things were alive and it gives you natural life.

God’s life is similar, divine life is similar to natural life but it’s different and God’s life comes into us through the sacraments we heard in the beautiful second reading today which was read in English, remember these words that we heard speaking about Jesus. This is the one who came through water and blood. Jesus not by water alone but by water and blood, the spirit is the one who testifies and the spirit is truth, there are three that testified we heard in the reading: the spirit, the water, the blood. Three things, three ideas; spirit, water and blood. We see Jesus crucified on the cross at the end of his life a roman soldier came and push the sphere into his side and from his side came out blood and water and then Jesus had already died, he already given up his spirit, he gave up his spirit as we read in the gospel we say in English, he expired so when Jesus died he gave up his spirit and water and blood came from his side but these three notions, these three ideas: spirit, water and blood - all have to do with life.

What is spirit brothers and sisters? Spirit is breath, breathing. If you don’t breathe you will not live anymore, you will live maybe 2 or 3 or 4 minutes if you don’t breathe you need to breathe which is spirit. You also need to have water, that water you can’t live and the third thing blood is understood especially in the Old Testament as the carrier of life which transmits life in fact in the Old Testament. Remember the Jewish people were not allowed to eat the blood of animals, they can eat the flesh but not the blood. Why? Because the Jewish believed if you ate the blood of the animals, then, animal life will come into you. You have animal life in you when you ate the blood of animals, so blood is the carrier of life. Spirit is necessary to live, water is essential for life. So, these things even on the natural level are talking to us about life. Now brothers and sisters, the sacraments of the Church we celebrate today the first sacrament, baptism, our birth, or I should say our rebirth in water. New life that comes to us in baptism. A new life which is different from the natural life that is in us because a natural life that is in us will come to an end but the supernatural life, God’s divine life that comes into us through the water of Baptism will make us live forever and this is the heart of our Catholic Faith, eternal life from the water of baptism that comes into us.

Christ-life changes us, Christ life by the sacraments transforms us sometimes we have friends who have become protestant and they say to us are you born again?  I’m born again. Are you born again? We can say as Catholics yes, of course, I am born again I have been born again in baptism I have received God’s life in the water of Baptism, the life that Jesus gives me supernatural life. Every catholic that was baptized has been born again in God’s life through the water o Baptism in fact the Church sometimes speaks of the Baptismal pond, the baptismal container as the womb of the Church, the womb of Mother Church just as a mother gives birth to babies. So,  on a supernatural level, on the level of God’s grace, Baptism is our rebirth, our new birth, our being born again with this divine life and how is that life nourished in us?

It’s nourished by the sacraments. It’s nourished by the Eucharist. The body of Jesus which comes into us which changes us, which preserves us to eternal life, giving us new life every time we received him in the Eucharist and when we commit a sin, we must go to Confession because sin especially if it’s serious kills the divine life in us. And we need to confess our sins so that life comes back into us. So, our life as Christians is very similar to our natural life. It has many similarities but all of it is operating on a higher level on a level of God’s grace.  

Finally, my brothers and sisters, think about the three sacraments of the Church’s initiation. Baptism, which we think about today. Confirmation and the Eucharist. Baptism is the sacrament of water from the side of Jesus. Confirmation is the sacrament of the spirit of the breath of Jesus and the Eucharist is the sacrament of the blood of Jesus. So, those three things, the three witnesses that we hear about today, the spirit, the blood and the water all of those are signs of God’s life that come to us in and through Jesus, the Black Nazarene.

So, as we received him in the Eucharist today, let’s ask him for the grace to allow his life to change us because of his new life in which we have been born again makes us life in a new way. And that’s why St. John says in the second reading, we live according to his commandments. Even cats are alive actually what has now entered into the sanctuary walking by so we have an example of a natural life God has sent to us but cats only have natural life they do not have supernatural life where you and I do.

So, as we receive the Eucharist, today we thanked God for the gift of our catholic faith. We thanked God for the gift of the very successful Traslacion of the black Nazarene yesterday. I, on the behalf of Pope Francis, thanked all of you volunteers who worked so hard yesterday to make sure that in this time of COVID, the Traslacion was done in a safe manner as possible yesterday. So, may God bless you. I thanked you on behalf of Pope Francis let us live our catholic life to the full, receive the sacraments, live according to the teachings of Christ as we pray in those beautiful words to the Black Nazarene “Our Father Jesus the Nazarene, we adore you, we venerate you, your teachings our life and our salvation.” May God bless you. (Archdiocese of Manila – Office of Communications/RCAM-AOC) 


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