Divine Mercy, Santo Niño’s heart: Easter presents for our young

By: Jason A. Baguia April 28,2019 - 07:27 AM
 

The writer of the fourth gospel, Saint John, was, according to many biblical scholars, the youngest of the Christ’s twelve apostles.

This, they said, was the reason he was not a threatening presence to the mob that had clamored for the Christ’s crucifixion; the reason he managed to join the Blessed Virgin Mary at the foot of the Cross without being barred by soldiers or other antagonists.

There they were, at the foot of the Cross, two people the Christ loved the most. His word to Saint John: Behold your Mother. The Crucified’s word to her: Behold your son.

Saint John was not on account of his youth deprived by the Christ of the responsibility of taking care of his mother, already a widow, and on Golgotha standing at the point of losing and having to bury her only Son.

The Blessed Virgin, too, had not been exempt from so great a mission. She had been no more than an adolescent when the archangel, Saint Gabriel invited her to Mother the Word Incarnate.

Naturally, she was entrusted with the great task of being mother to someone who was not biologically related to the Christ, John. By accepting him as gift from her Son, she inaugurated a new stage in a maternity that would embrace every Christian and the entire human race.

The icon of the Christ nailed on the Cross, with Saint John and the Blessed Virgin Mary standing by is beloved throughout the Church. This is the high point of salvation history, the reversal of the Fall. Where the serpent slithered up the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the middle of Eden, whispering death-dealing lies (usurpation of divinity, absolute power), to Adam and Eve, the Christ hangs upon the Cross, the tree of life, speaking life-giving truths (divine adoption, spiritual motherhood), to Saint John and the Blessed Virgin.

***

The Catholic in Church in the Philippines has just concluded the five-day celebration of Nation Youth Day in the Archdiocese of Cebu. At least 12,000 young people from across the country came over by air, land, and sea as pilgrims in a grand preparation for the 500th anniversary of the country’s Christianization in 2021.

The event ended on April 27, the seventh day within the Octave of Easter, Eve of the Solemnity of Divine Mercy, and Eve of the feast of the finding of the image of the Holy Child Jesus or Señor Santo Niño Jesus de Cebu.

To attentive youths, the timing of National Youth Day’s culmination is not mere coincidence. It is providential.

The great festival of Divine Mercy reminds young people that the Church possesses the fountain of youth in the Sacrament of Confession, where the Christ offers everyone the gift of new life apart from sin and its accompanying weight, decay, and death.

The icon of the Divine Mercy, of the Christ past a door, based on a vision of the Polish Saint Faustina of Kowalska takes the believer back to the room where He, the Risen One, appeared to the apostles though doors were locked, to break the darkness of their fear of persecution and unbelief in the Resurrection, to gift them with authority to forgive sins.

As Saint John narrated:

Jesus entered, stood among them, and said, “Peace to you.” Then he showed them his hands and side. The disciples, seeing the Master with their own eyes, were exuberant. Jesus repeated his greeting:”Peace to you. Just as the Father sent me, I send you.”  Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?” (John 20:19-23, The Message).

The Holy Spirit, given to the apostles to empower them to forgive sins, is also given to their successors, the bishops, and to priest-confessors who share in the bishops’ ministry of the fullness of the Christ’s priesthood.

Reflecting on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the English philosopher G.K. Chesterton wrote:

“When a Catholic comes from Confession… God has really remade him in His own image… He stands… in the white light at the worthy beginning of the life of a man. The accumulations of time can no longer terrify. He may be grey and gouty; but he is only five minutes old.”

In so many ways, Confession is where God almighty fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah:

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:30-31).

I hope that the youths who attended National Youth Day will go home relying on Divine Mercy and proclaiming it in their circles. Much of the weariness, tiredness, stumbling and falling in our land is born of citizens who have grown old — old in corruption, old in decadence, old and intransigent and calcified in blood-lust and wickedness. Their stone-heartedness has led to the slaughter of and injustice against many people, old and young.

Our University of the Philippines (UP) Cebu alumna, Myles Albasin (Class of 2017), remains in jail. More than a year has passed since her arrest. The military claimed she was captured after a long gunfight in Mabinay, Negros Oriental. But according to the province’s crime laboratory, she and five others tested negative for gunpowder burns.

Carl Angelo Arnaiz, our former student at UP Diliman was slain in 2017. Two policemen, eventually removed from the service, stood accused of killing the 19-year-old. On April 10, 2019, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that the lead investigator in the killing admitted failing to follow standard police procedure in handling the case. One of the accused died in hospital April 22.

On Good Friday, the Via Matris Dolorosa or Way of the Sorrowful Mother procession of Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church in El Pardo, Cebu City passed by the funeral home where the remains of our UP Cebu psychology alumna, Kis Tryvl Ramos awaited burial. Kis was an activist and writer. She was 21 when gunned down while working in an uptown coffee shop on April 10 along with one of the shop’s owners, John Michael Hermoso, 29.

May Myles and her colleagues be set free soon, and may Kis, Carl, John, and others who were killed in the flower of their youth rest in peace.

May justice catch up with those who did them wrong.

***

The heart hardens in proportion to its refusal to be guided by heaven’s light, in the measure of its stubbornness against admitting its faults, its abhorrence toward acknowledging its need to beat differently.

Only when we open ourselves to the Christ’s Divine Mercy can we renew our world, so that with hearts like that of the Santo Niño (whose image was found unscathed in Cebu after fire gutted the then-village in 1565), we will always be about our heavenly Father’s business, guarding life as young Saint John did, nurturing hope like the Virgin Mary did.

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