Holy Mass on the Sixth Day of the Novena
in Honor of Our Lady of Manaoag
Homily by Rev. Fr. Bejay P. Namuag, OP
Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Manaoag,
25 April 2020
Back when I was still very young, I joined the Knights of the Altar of our Parish, so what I did was to attend a 3-day seminar for the aspiring Altar servers. Unfortunately, though I was not able to finish the seminar because of one thing; I missed my mother. During the second night of the event, I was crying the whole-time tears in my food and in my people because I missed my Mother so much until eventually, they sent me home. That was the time I realised it maybe u have decided that I am a mama’s boy. Now I don’t mind saying that because I think many of us are mama’s child.
The presence of mothers are very much important to many of us and we are hurt or afraid, we usually ran and call our mothers. This I think is the effect of the bond that we have with them; from being carried by them for 9 months in their womb, being nursed by them for years, fed by them, cleaned and bathed by them, shared fears and tears with them, all of this were bonding moments with our mothers. They have always been there throughout our lives thus their presence is very essential to us.
I think this is one of the reasons why the presence of the Lady of Manaoag is very striking for many, the motherly presence of Mary somehow gives us comfort in times of hardships, keeps us hope in times of despair and gives us courage when we are full of fear. The presence of Mama Mary is indeed essential and knowing that she is with us, it gives us a sense of calm even in moments of trials. Now, more than these reasons, Mary’s presence is important because of the one she is carrying; Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
In the road to Emmaus, the disciples of Jesus were covered in grief, despair and fear. They were leaving Jerusalem to find a new beginning because all they hoped for crumbled in the Crucifixion of their Master, they felt so alone until the presence of the familiar stranger, a presence that give fire in their hearts that were enveloped with darkness, a presence that turned out to be what they needed most. When they were with Jesus, they were able to find courage, they were able to find hope and they were able to find direction. In the way to Emmaus, Jesus’ message to his disciples and to all of us is very clear; that he will be with us along the way. This event shows us that Jesus is present when 2 or 3 are gathered, when a stranger is in a journey in the Word, in the Eucharist in our journey in life.
In the life of Jesus, his Mother is always present from the moment of Conception, in the years of growing in wisdom, to the Passion and crucifixion, in the Resurrection, Mary was always there. Thus, our Holy Rosary is an intertwined events of the life of Jesus and Mary, the Rosary will not be the same if one of them is not present, this is so because the Heart of Mary is burning with the zeal of faithfulness to her Fiat and Magnificat to God, a Fiat and Magnificat that united her Heart with the Heart of Jesus. This is why the presence of Mary is very important in our life of Faith because it also means the presence of Jesus in our lives. Where our Mother is, the Son is also there.
Here in the Basilica of Our Lady of Maanaog, the Pilgrim of “Apo Baket” is visiting different places of Pangasinan, recognizing that many of her children were not able to visit her during the festivities because of the prevailing circumstances, it was providential that we have thought of bring the image through different places so that if her children could not visit her, Mama Mary will be the one who will visit them.
The presence of Our Lady gathered a very positive response from her devotees and many appreciated the visit of the Pilgrim Image. Many felt they are special because they are visited by Apo Baket and they are right because they are truly are special to Our Lady. This visit though of Our Lady would hopefully make us also realise that in the struggle that we are experiencing now, not only is Mary with us but most of all, her Son Jesus Christ is with us. We, like the disciple on the road to Emmaus is a ‘Talos’ we were caught unaware of these prevailing situations, some are already agitated, some are losing hope, some do not know what to do. Like the disciples we could have course look for some way out of this but hopefully in looking for some direction, we let the familiar stranger walk with us and let our hearts burn with Jesus’ presence, a presence that can give courage, hope and guidance, a presence that can be felt through the presence of Mama Mary.
Now what about the places that the image was not able to visit? These shows us that the presence of Mary should not and is not limited only to the places that she visited with her image because it poses to all of us who are sons and daughters of Our Lady, the call “Tawag ni Manaoag” to become her presence in our different respective places, in our different respective situations. Our Lady is calling all her children to be a part of her mission of calling people, calling people to follow her Son. To Jesus through Mary.
The image of Our Lady of Manaoag will not be complete without the Nino that she carries near her heart. Yes, being the presence of Mary is becoming a beacon that draws people towards Jesus, it is about bringing Jesus’ presence to people. Our celebration of the Feast of Our Lady of Manaoag is even more significant in this time of crisis with all the hardships and difficulties that people are facing, they need all the more to feel the presence of Mary and Jesus in their lives and you could be that presence for them. With your life as a devotee, a follower of Mary, you can bring her into your homes, into your work, into the virtual community, into places where you can be. And everytime you are able to bring Mary to people; you are also bringing with you Jesus the one who accompanies us in our journey called life.
So hopefully when people encounter us along the way, they too would feel their hears burning because they felt Mary and Jesus in our presence.