Thank you, Father Jerome, for the invitation to join you in this novena preparation for Our Lady of Peace. It feels good to be here. And I was asked- Did you miss the EDSA shrine? I said no. Because I had carried the EDSA shrine wherever I went. Wherever I went, whether the church sent me to Balanga or to Lingayen Dagupan, I carried the spirit at EDSA with me, and that is why there is no sense missing the EDSA shrine because of this point in my life, EDSA is not a place. EDSA is a spirit.
This shrine was built in order to remember the four memorable, dangerous days in our history. Feb 22 to 25, 1986, it was built to remember our four (4) dangerous days.
And next week, there’s going to be a movie, “Oras de Peligro”, which is “Hour of Danger.” It’s the retelling the real story of the EDSA people power revolution. It was built on danger. It was built to remember dangerous lives that we faced not with cowardice but with heroic courage. But what has happened to the EDSA shrine? What has happened to the EDSA spirit since 1986? There has been a swinging from one end of the pendulum to another. And looking back from far away Pangasinan, I can see the EDSA shrine has problems.
You know what the problem is here? The pious are not activists enough, and the activists are not praying enough. That is our problem.
When we envisioned the EDSA Shrine in 1989, it was supposed to be a combination of Piety and activism. And Piety and activism are not contradictory. They complement each other. The problem begins when our Piety refuses to get engaged socially.
That Piety is reduced to a private conversation with God…
That Piety is reduced to a mystical experience of prayer…
That Piety is reduced to a nice feeling after attending mass or listening to a homily.
Yes, that is prayer, but you must engage when you leave the mass.
When you leave the mass, you must translate your prayer into social engagement, into social transformation.
Because if it is not done, Marx will be proven correct that “religion is the opium of the people.” It just desensitizes us. It just makes us temporarily forget the problems of our society. It is a problem when pious people and devoted people refuse activism. And they say activism is dirty.
Activism is not for the church.
It is for the church.
It is for God.
It is coming from the Lord.
But at the other end of it, my dear brothers and sisters, is that sometimes, we Catholics can swing to the other end. And become socially engaged, become activists, as if the whole liberation of society depended on us.
When we start to engage for social transformation and yet our conviction– If I will not engage, the cause will be lost. –then something is also inherently deficient in our approach. Because, we activists must remember that there are problems in life, there are problems in society that only prayer can solve.
We activists must learn to accept that not everything can be changed by rallies, by demonstrations. On the other hand, we pious people should also accept that we cannot go to heaven by prayer alone.
When Piety has no activism, it is nothing. When activism has no piety, it will not be able to liberate.
So, this is what the EDSA stands for. And, this is what we started in 1989 when the Archbishop of Manila assigned me here. There were mistakes. Those were not perfect years. I can tell you, with sincerity in my heart, and God knows this, that we threaded the difficult balancing act between Piety and activism. And there should really be that balance. We cannot play blind to the problems of society just for the sake of making peace with the government.
On the other hand, we cannot seek peace and compromise more Christian principles. And, I am very happy that the Cardinal of Manila has elected Father Jerome as Director of the EDSA Shrine. I can tell you with pride that every time I remember that I ordained Father Jerome to the priesthood, I feel blessed. So, the EDSA shrine has come to a full circle.
I am gone, and the priest I ordained is here. So, what more can I ask of the Lord? So, you’re in very good hands. But the important thing to remember is even if you’re in the good hands of your rector, spiritual guide, and leader at the EDSA Shrine. The rector of EDSA Shrine also needs good hands. And you must be those hands. You must be those hands.
Tulungan ninyo si Father Jerome. And I mean it. You better help him because you don’t get a good priest every day. If God has given you this good priest and you waste it and you take it for granted…wala nang sisihan. Tayo-tayo nang may kasalanan noon.
Please help Father Jerome. And I remember when Cardinal Sin installed me as rector of this shrine, he told the people also to take care of me. The same words of Cardinal Sin about me in 1990, I say about Father Jerome — Take care of him.
Pero alam ninyo, in 1990 when I was installed here, may dinagdag si Cardinal Sin– Take care of Father Soc because he is my secretary. If you do not take care of your priest here at the EDSA shrine, I will remove him and send you a priest who is a toothless 99 years old.
I don’t think that will happen because I’m very sure you will take care of your new rector. So, thank you Father Jerome for accepting the challenge.
And to the EDSA Shrine community—
Be pious activists.
Be engaged and prayerful activists.
Activism must come from prayer.
And prayer must lead to social engagement.
It is a very tricky path but you can make it happen with the grace of God.
Let us bow down our heads. Let us recognize God’s holy presence here. Let us recognize the call of the Lord for Piety, for solitude and contemplation in this church holy ground. But let us listen to the voice of the poor, those who suffer, those who are imprisoned unjustly, those who are abused.
Let our prayer urge to liberate them in the name of the Lord, our peace with Mary Queen of Peace.
Thank you. Thank you for filling out the seats.
In addition to helping Father Jerome with the work of restoration not only of the building but also of the spirit.
My dear EDSA Shrine community, the second word that you need to remember is “updating’. You must make EDSA Shrine relevant. You must not allow this memorial of heroism and courage to just fade away, be distorted, be turned upside down. Please help restore the building. Please help and restore the spirit. But please also help him and help the church get the EDSA shrine updated, relevant, meaningful, attuned the challenges of the times.
That is why the walls of the EDSA Shrine are all glass so that as you celebrate mass, you also see society outside. This was well thought. When we were planning this building, the glass walls were exactly meant for that. It is not meant to help you forget society. It is meant to statement to help you forget it is meant to radiate the light of the EDSA shrine beyond the walls. The walls will not be obstacles because the walls are made of glass. And they are transparent. So, you must make this church updated, relevant, meaningful to social change. Because that is what it was meant to be.
To restore the building… to restore the spirit, please hurry up? But to update the spirit and make this church relevant to the signs of the times, that is your mission.
And it is not enough to just fill up the seats. Tomorrow, fill up the seats again. At ang hindi babalik bukas para magsimba, mangangati ng isang linggo.
But beyond filling up the church and restoring the art and meaning of this church, there is a very important, urgent mission– to have yourself updated.
The computers need updating. Gadgets need updating. The EDSA Shrine needs updating. And you must be relevant to society, relevant because the Lord sends us. It is a period in Philippine church history. May dahilan ang Diyos kung bakit kayo naririto. So please help Father Jerome and please help Father Jerome not only in the restoration but in the constant updating of the spirit.
You don’t have to bring back how it was when I was here because those were different days. You have to examine the times, look at the times and then translate the Gospel using our times.
So, I invoke God blessings upon you and I also invoke God’s blessings upon those who have passed on. Our old friends in EDSA Shrine who have passed on to life everlasting. President Cory. President Noynoy. Cardinal Sin. All of these are icons for us also. Ako na lang yata natira, Father Jerome.
But I hope there will come a time, when you will be able to look at one another and see icons in one another…icons of what the EDSA Shrine is … Icons of what the EDSA spirit should be.
Friday of the Sixth Week in Ordinary Time
Third-Day of Novena Mass
6:0O PM | February 17, 2023