There is no public event that the Pope has to go to late this afternoon so I guess it is time to update this blog 🙂 I was glued to the TV since day one and that was when Pope Francis arrived here. It is now day three and I’ve played couch potato to the hilt, drinking endless cups of tea and coffee in between, finding something to munch on and… reflect.
Kidding aside, I’ve never been busy updating my timeline on FB than the last three days. I let my tears just flow and experience that wonderful feeling of being inspired, blessed and uplifted. Lots of thoughts are playing in my head but for now, they just remain beautiful moments that would make some beautiful memories to recall when the Pope has gone back to Rome. They are mixed emotions actually. It’s not everyday that the Pontiff visits a third world country like ours because he empathize with the Filipino people and sympathizes with the survivors of typhoon Yolanda. The latter is actually the main reason why he decided to visit the country – the highlight of his five-day visit.
Yesterday was the official start of the events that millions of Filipinos watched and enjoyed. Pope Francis made a courtesy call to Malacanang early in the morning and then later presided over a mass for the religious, priests and seminarians at the Manila Cathedral. Everywhere the Pope goes, there are thousands and thousands of people lining up the roads, hoping to take a glimpse of him in an open pope mobile. It was a very solemn mass except that the priests can’t stop themselves to take pictures of the Pope via their tablets, cameras and cellphones. It was so touching to see the sea of humanity outside the Cathedral.
Filipino culture has, in fact, been shaped by the imagination of faith. Filipinos everywhere are known for their love of God, their fervent piety and their warm devotion to Our Lady and her rosary. This great heritage contains a powerful missionary potential. It is the way in which your people has inculturated the Gospel and continues to embrace its message (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 122). In your efforts to prepare for the fifth centenary, build on this solid foundation.
Christ died for all so that, having died in him, we might live no longer for ourselves but for him (cf. 2 Cor 5:15). Dear brother bishops, priests and religious: I ask Mary, Mother of the Church, to obtain for all of you an outpouring of zeal, so that you may spend yourselves in selfless service to our brothers and sisters. In this way, may the reconciling love of Christ penetrate ever more fully into the fabric of Filipino society and, through you, to the farthest reaches of the world.
This was part of his homily during the mass at the Cathedral. The beauty of our faith is shining through. He said, “do you love me?” as an intro to his homily quoting the gospel and everybody shouted, “we love you” then he answered “thank you very much”. I had a good laugh at that, he has a sense of humor. Actually there are those moments that made me laugh and I clapped my hands seeing his lighter side. At the MOA arena, as he was blessing the deaf-mute family who were privileged to share their journey, Pope Francis kept gesturing with his hands how to say I love you in sign language. Yesterday, while spending just a few minutes with the religious at the Palo Cathedral, he asked them to: first pray for him and second, to keep quiet as he smiled at them. That elicited a roar from the crowd. He blessed each religious and priests who came in wheelchairs. Unknown to the social media, he made an unscheduled visit to Manila street children. During his trip to another event at the Mall of Asia arena, he stopped the pope mobile and kissed a child. He blessed each one of those in wheelchairs at the arena including a teenager with a cerebral palsy who gifted him with a cross-stitch artwork with the image of Mama Mary.
It was signal number 2 in Tacloban when the plane bearing Pope Francis and his entourage touched down this morning and they had to cut his trip short to Palo, Leyte and go back to Manila at 1pm due to the inclement weather.
This is my second chance to attend mass (on tv) presided by Pope Francis. It was the best homily ever. Maybe it is even first in history for a Pope to celebrate mass wearing a yellow raincoat and braving the winds and rains to give hope to the people of Tacloban and all the people of the Visayas region who are survivors of typhoon Yolanda. (I learned later that yes, it was his first experience to celebrate mass in a typhoon-stricken place).
This is my simple realization while my tears gently flows as I watch the mass in Tacloban: I felt the presence of Jesus Christ in the person of Pope Francis. Even my son unabashedly wiped his eyes when the mass ended saying “what a lovely homily”.
“I have come to tell you that Jesus is Lord. And he never lets us down. Father – you might say to me – I was let down because I have lost so many things, my house, my livelihood. It’s true if you say that and I respect those sentiments. But Jesus is there, nailed to the cross, and from there he does not let us down. He was consecrated as Lord on that throne and there he experienced all the calamities that we experience. Jesus is Lord. And the Lord from the cross is there for you. In everything the same as us. That is why we have a Lord who cries with us and walks with us in the most difficult moments of life.” – Pope Francis (part of his homily in Tacloban)
He stopped briefly on his way to Palo Cathedral to talk to a family along the road, blessed them and gave them encouragement. What is more touching as told by Cardinal Tagle was when he met 30 survivors for lunch, some lost as much as seven members of their family, some lost their limbs, some lost everything. Pope Francis was speechless and told Cardinal Tagle later that he is learning a lot. The resilience of Filipinos are truly admirable.
When you walk through life with pain and suffering, God is there walking with you, holding your hand lest you stumble and fall.
When you reach your destination, He is there rejoicing with you. The beauty of it all – the beauty of faith working in your life, the priceless moments alone with God in prayer. They make life meaningful.
(photo credits: rappler.com, Official Gazette of the Republic of the Phils.)