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Bikol celebrates Peñafrancia fiesta 2011

Today, the whole Kabikolan celebrates the feast of its mother, their ina, Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Today, we celebrate our 301st anniversary of our devotion to her. Today, we celebrate our personal love stories with her. She is the mother of God, the mother of Bikolanons, the mother of us all.

If you have been attending the novena masses, you must have heard several homilies explaining the theme for this year’s celebration: Monstra te esse filium. Show yourself a child of Ina. Indeed, no love story is possible if there is only the one without the other. No love story is possible if only Ina loves her children, but her children do not love their Ina. Thus, the theme is more of a gentle reminder. While we come to her shrine begging her to prove her motherhood by saying “Monstra te esse matrem”, the same sentiment echoes back to us with a different challenge: Monstra te esse filium.

The gospel this Sunday sounds off a similar invitation: “Go into my vineyard”. The vineyard is the Church. The Church is the producer of the best of grapes. When crushed, such grapes produce the best of wines. Monstra te esse filium. To work for the church is the best way to prove that we are true children of Mary.

How do we work for the Church? First, we must think the way the Church thinks. God is the CEO of the vineyard. Everyone who works in the vineyard must be in synch with God. He is like the conductor of an orchestra. Only he provides the cue to produce the right harmony.

All of us are required to think the way the Church thinks. This does not exclude or exempt the bishops and the clergy. In order to do so, we must be familiar with the teachings of the Church. We must have mastery of the Sacred Scriptures, we must be familiar with the Church documents, we must always seek renewal through seminars, curcillos, and other opportunities to know the mind of the Church, especially on certain issues that affect our daily lives.

Second, we have the compassion of the Church. Twenty years ago, we declared the Philippine Church as the church of the poor. What have we achieved so far? Between the rich and the poor, whom do we spend more time with? Whom do we lend our listening ears to? When the rich oligarchs cheat in the elections, can we condemn the act of cheating without fear and favour? When the generous donors oppress the poor and commit unfair labour practices, can we reprimand them? Have we given any preference at all with the oppressed and marginalized sectors in our society? Have we shown compassion to the victims of injustices, to the victims of crimes?

Third, we must behave the way the Church behaves. The Church has its own transcendental culture. It is a culture that does not change in time nor is it fashioned by regional cultures or pop cultures. Such ecclesiastical culture stands on the pillars of unity, good, truth and beauty. Such culture is sustained and nourished by the gospel.

There are moral imperatives. Cheating is morally wrong whether it is done in America or in the Philippines, whether it is committed by a student in a public school or in a private school. Indecency, poor taste, and poor judgement – they apply to all, regardless of their social status. We ought to behave as demanded by the Church. We ought to sacrifice as Jesus did on the cross if we are to serve the church. After all, we are meant to be crushed, and generously share our juices to be turned into wine.

Salus animarum est suprema lex. The gospel seems to be a troublesome puzzle. There are labour laws so that labourers are protected, and their sweat, skills and talents are properly compensated. But the gospel seems to defy all these human wisdom and achievements. St. Augustine, however, was quick to solve the puzzle. He says that there is but one reward for working in the vineyard, and that is salvation. And ultimately, there is only one reason for working in the vineyard, and one motive for becoming a child of Mary: it is the salvation of our souls.

Viva la Virgen! Viva el Divino Rostro!