Monday, February 16, 2015

Homily of Bishop Roberto Mallari at the Enthronement of the Holy Face in Immaculate Conception Parish, Nampicuan, Nueva Ecija, Philippines

Brothers in the episcopate, Excellency Monsignor Florentino Lavarias, Archbishop of San Fernando, Excellency Msgr. Florentino Cinense, Bishop of Tarlac, dear priests led by Fr Christian Magtalas, pastor of the parish of Immaculate Conception, the organizing group for the visit of the Holy Face of Manoppello, led by the Rector of the Basilica of the Holy Face in Manoppello, Father Carmine Cucinelli, dear benefactors led by the Alzate and Gallego families, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good afternoon to you all. We are gathered here to enthrone the Sudarium of the Holy Face of Manoppello revered as the funeral veil of Christ on which is imprinted the Holy Face of the Risen Lord.

Why is this taking place in a small parish in the country town of Nampicuan when there are basilicas, shrines and cathedrals in the dioceses and in the archdioceses of the Philippines?  A simple parish, unknown, unpopular and humble; nevertheless has been chosen to host the Sudarium of the Holy Face of Jesus, the relic most studied by many scientists. Do you know that the motto of Pope Francis 'Miserable atque eligendo',  means,'Humble and chosen'. In short, this is the summary of the Magnificat (Luke 1,46-55), where Mary praises God for having lifted up the lowly. these words embody the wisdom of God, who chooses "what is weak in the world to shame the strong '' (1 Corinthians 1:27). These words capture the experience of each of us, called by God to a mission; the experience of a community called by God for a mission such as the parish of the Immaculate Conception.

This experience manifests the continuous love of God as the Good Shepherd and his preference for the poor. In short, these words are a summary of the whole divine economy. As our Blessed Mother Mary, the community of the parish of the Immaculate Conception, despite its littleness, is privileged, called and chosen to take care of this relic of the Holy Face. Each of you are invited, through the intercession of Blessed Mother Mary, the Immaculate Conception, to look and to know God by fixing your eyes on the face of his son Jesus. Father Raniero Cantalamessa reminded us during the retreat of the national clergy, "You become what it is you gaze upon!” We become Jesus if we look constantly upon him with love.

Fr. Christian Magtalas told me about the extraordinary spiritual renewal that took place during the preparation for this important event: he said it is the experience of being risen from sin, from the darkness, from human frailty.  This gift, that is, to have the Holy Face of Jesus, brings us light, conversion from a sinful life, unity and healing from our weakness. He said that many people began to attend Holy Mass. It is like a spark that brings enlightenment to those who had not bothered to attend Mass and to enrich their relationship with God.

Many stories have been heard about conversion, that that is “pagbabalik sa Diyos” (return to the way of God).  A very concrete example, he said, was a group of young people- altar boys when they were younger- and others who have helped in the preparation of our celebration today. They worked to beautify the surroundings of the parish church. These young men were starting to work from 5pm right out of school and continued until midnight.

They thus found joy and a new meaning for having put themselves at the service of the Church. Many of them approached for sacramental confession with a common reason: “‘we want to purify ourselves before welcoming the Holy Face of Jesus.”  Father Christian after listening to their confessions, said that “they were the most significant of his ministry”

According to the pastor, there have already occurred many healings, especially in interpersonal relationships. Many people were attracted by the unity and let themselves be drawn by this force to work together as a single body. Each extends a hand to help, and so it began. . Even more, some people who though belonging to other religions have contributed to the preparation of this great event.

Also, there are those who have turned their back on the Church and now are returning. Even before its arrival we already have felt the presence of the Holy Face of Jesus.

The people of Nampicuan and the entire Diocese of San Jose welcome the sudarium of the Holy Face of Jesus as a blessing. And for this great gift, we sincerely thank the Lord. The gifts received during the preparation for this event can affirm this reality. Indeed, many have become so generous and open in welcoming the presence of the Lord in the persons of our brothers and sisters. Everyone really gave something according to his ability.  We really have experienced the true ministry. To God be the glory!

Dear faithful of Nampicuan, I pray sincerely to the Lord that the experiences of light, healing and conversion that you experienced in recent weeks and months can become a permanent experience especially now that the veil of the Holy Face of Jesus is enthroned in your parish.

Pope Benedict XVI reminded the faithful in his homily during his visit to the Shrine of Manoppello that if we have the desire to know God, we can know him through the face of Christ. He said that this is the reason why we venerate the images that tradition considers as exceptional ways to glimpse this face, both in Manoppello as in Turin. "The Shroud of Turin," he said, "is an icon written in blood.  Every trace of blood speaks of love and of life. ""While the veil of Manoppello is the sudarium of Christ. This is the mysterious second cloth from the grave of the Crucified Christ that John the Evangelist discovered about 40 hours after the death of Jesus- along with another, linen sheet." 

In Manoppello, we glimpse on his face an initial ray of the light that the apostle saw on Tabor during the Transfiguration, as is narrated by St. Matthew 5:3-14. Both cloths contain images of light, on one weak and shadowy, while on the other truly clear. The cloth of the tomb is gigantic; the other is the size of a napkin. His portrait is exactly the size of a human face, on which we perceive him alive, that is, after his death and not before- with the wounds of his passion, but liberated, peaceful, benevolent.

The Shroud of Turin contains, in addition to the discreet image, many stains of blood from a totured man; while the napkin illustrates the "Lamb of God" killed, but intact and fully pure and cleansed, with a face that closely unites pain and sorrow and light as only love can do. As Archbishop Bruno Forte said. "This reminds us that Christ died and rose, never to die again. Here the history of humanity has decisively changed"

In today's first reading, we are reminded that we are one body in Christ and drink of the same spirit, the source of different gifts in the mystical body of Christ. Our celebration today, invites us to glimpse that this Mystical Body of Christ has a head, Jesus Christ.

As we look to the Holy Face of Jesus, let our first principle be that the Lord Jesus remain always as our head, so that the gifts we possess are always offered to the service of the mystical body. This will be a concrete way to avoid competition and jealousy; to really work together always for the building of the body of Christ, the Church. I was talking to Archbishop Lavarias this morning and I asked him why even in Church we cannot avoid jealousy and rivalry among members.  He replied, 'perhaps because many times we lose sight of the head of the Church, Jesus'.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus, known as St. Teresa of the Holy Face of Jesus, when she realized she was part of this mystical body of Christ,   cried ecstatically:  "I want to be love in the heart of Church!” Today, as we look upon the Holy Face of Jesus of Manoppello, as we gaze upon our Head, we pray that we can find our place in the mystical body of Christ and shouting ecstatically as did St. Teresa, "I too want to be love in the head or hands or feet of Jesus." Let us pray that we find our place in the Church, and to give ourselves wholeheartedly to the glory of God and the Church.

When I was chosen as bishop, Pope Benedict XVI, commissioned me: "Teach, dear son, the faithful to know how to recognize the presence of Christ in every person, so they can find and see his face in the midst of the other, but especially in the poor."

I realized that to do this, one of the first things that I needed to do is also to challenge you and ask you to always look upon the face of Jesus so that it is imprinted forever in your hearts. This surely will remind us of our Head and become a challenge to offer ourselves as a gift for the whole mystical body of Christ, especially the sick, the poor and the marginalized.

 May the Lord Jesus through every member of this parish of the Immaculate Conception give notice to the sick, to the poor and to those who are and lifeless: 'I tell you, little girl or boy, arise! “May the arrival of the veil of the Holy Face of Jesus bring us spiritual renewal, healing and salvation, so that we may be able to exult: "God has truly visited his people!”Amen.

S. E. Rev. Msgr. Roberto Calara Mallari

Bishop of the Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija, Philippines

translated from the Italian version of the homily which appeared in the December 2014 edition of Il Volto Santo di Manoppello, the journal of the Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello

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