Aaron James R. Veloso
This weekend, two important feasts of the Catholic Church are celebrated. Yesterday (September 14), we celebrated the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and today, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows.
In one of the books of the Jesuit theologian Fr. Catalino Arevalo SJ, he mentions that he once had an encounter with a Japanese Buddhist who remarked that one certain aspect of Christianity disturbs him- how fixated Christians are with the Passion and Death of Our Lord. And so we ask, why are we fixated with the gory and bloody death that Jesus endured?
The answer is very simple- it is because the Passion of Our Lord is central to our Faith. By the death of Our Lord, we obtained eternal life. We are also challenged to follow the footsteps of Christ and share in His Passion- that is to carry our own crosses like He did.
After Jesus died, raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven, he did not promise that life would be easy. What he promised was that he will be with us until the end of times. That promise is something that we hold on to- that no matter how strong the winds of trials try to buffet us, we should not fear, for the Lord is with us- not in the strong winds, nor in the great fires, not even in the mighty thunder- but in the soft breeze that penetrates the soul.
From the narratives of the death and character of Pedro Calungsod, we see how he lived his life with such a strong faith and trust in God. His missionary zeal can only be attributed to one thing- pure and undisturbed faith. It is faith when we pray not that everything will go as planned, but rather that in the end, everything will make sense. And part and parcel of that genuine faith is accepting the mysterious designs of God’s will.
And like Jesus on the cross, we can find comfort and consolation in the Blessed Mother. We are proud of the fact that we are a Marian nation – Un pueblo amante de Maria, some would say- a nation loved by and who loves Mary. Did Jesus not entrust St. John (and through Saint John, all of us) to the Blessed Mother as he died on the cross? Then it is but natural that in times of distress, we ask for the intercession of Virgin Mary, comforted knowing that she would never fail to whisper our petitions to God whom she carried for nine months, cared for, nurtured, and saw dying.
Like Blessed Pedro, let us not be afraid to pick up our crosses and follow the footsteps of Christ. Why? Because we should be comforted to know that He is joining us in our every travail, and that He has designated Mary, His own mother, as our special custodian.
Again, posing the question I asked you earlier in this essay, why are we fixated with the gory and bloody death that Jesus endured? We are fixated with His death because His story is our story. The cross of Christ is the same cross that we pick up everyday and belabour with. It is the story of infinite trust in God, the story of a son’s extreme love for His mother, and the story of a faithful friendship.
Have we been faithful to Christ by becoming more and more like Him? Are we ready to put our faith in Him, trusting that even in the deepest abyss of despair He will never abandon us?
May the Passion of Christ be ever in our hearts.
(Aaron Veloso has been helping with Blessed Pedro’s canonization since 2008. Counting Church history as one of his interests, his undergraduate thesis tackled the evolution of the Catholic Church in the Philippines vis-à-vis the evolving forms of government in the country. He is also the Prefect of the Sodality of the Immaculate Conception in the University in the Philippines. )