Thank You Cardinal Sin, Thank You Edsa Shrine...
(Homily delivered by His Excellency Most Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Balanga at the Mass for the 79th birth anniversary of +His Eminence Jaime L. Cardinal Sin, Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, on August 31, 2007 at 5:30 p.m. at the EDSA Shrine)
Your Excellency, Bishop Raul Martirez, The Reverend Brother Priests and Friends:
I have been avoiding celebrating this Mass for three years but because Fr. Vic invited me to celebrate this Eucharist to ask the Lord to welcome our beloved Cardinal Sin to paradise, I could not say no, because the Voice of EDSA is Cardinal Sin. People, who forget Cardinal Sin, will most likely forget what the EDSA Shrine stands for or what the Spirit of EDSA is all about. People who say they belong to the EDSA Shrine but ignore the memory of Cardinal Sin actually betray the spirit of what this church stands for. The EDSA Shrine owes so much to him whose birthday we celebrate today. It was he who started the construction of this building. It was he who sent me here on my first assignment. It was he who inspired us throughout all the years that we were together here at the EDSA Shrine.
What did we learn from Cardinal Sin? First and foremost, the EDSA Shrine community and I learned Solidarity; what it meant to be united. August 31st was always a holiday for the EDSA Shrine because it was the birthday of him who we considered our Father, our Model, our Hero, our Prophet. He united us, but did not call attention to himself. He united us and stayed with us, looking in the same direction towards God. Even before the Polish promoted “Solidarnosc”, Cardinal Sin was already asking us to be in solidarity with the poor; to be in solidarity with those who suffer; to be always united. Do you remember how he addressed us here at the EDSA Shrine? He would say that those who destroy the unity of the community were enemies of God; those who destroy the unity of the community are actually diabolical.
Secondly, Cardinal Sin taught us Sacrifice, more so in the latter years of his ministry when we saw how much he suffered, even in just walking up the altar, or in celebrating the Eucharist, preaching, or reading the prayers. But because he loved us so much, he always said yes every time I invited him. This was the same spirit of sacrifice that we saw in the life of Pope John Paul II, who never complained, and gave his last breath for us, for the church. And last of all, the legacy of Cardinal Sin to the EDSA Shrine is Social Change; that the spirit of the Gospel must be brought outside the church. The Spirit of the Gospel must be proclaimed in society and the Spirit of the Gospel must change society. It must change men and women. If the Gospel does not change men and women; if the Gospel does not change society, then we have rendered useless and impotent the powerful Word of God. That is our foolishness, not God's powerlessness. Social Transformation. It was the power of prayer; the Power of the Gospel; the power of trusting in the Lord that led us to change society.
Brothers and Sisters, this afternoon, even if some people have forgotten, we choose to remember. We choose to remember that voice in 1986; that voice that we trusted and never suspected. It is the voice of him who we knew loved us and will lead us out from the valley of darkness. When we heard his voice, we went out to the streets, without any hesitation. And today, because we knew his voice, we say, thank you Cardinal Sin. And we will not be able to thank you enough that is why we are asking the Lord Jesus to complete whatever is lacking in our gratitude to you. This morning, in Aklan, a monument, 13 feet tall, was unveiled in memory of Cardinal Sin. But the best monument to Cardinal Sin would not be a bronze statue, but you, my
dear EDSA Shrine Community. Statues are lifeless. You have life. You have blood. You can breathe. You can love. Let us stop whining and wishing that Cardinal Sin were alive today. Let us just allow him to rest and take on the job ourselves.
But I am here not only to lead you in thanking the Lord for Cardinal Sin. I am also here, after three years, to say to the EDSA Shrine Community, thank you. I am now six years a Bishop and three years of those were spent here at the EDSA Shrine and three in Balanga. Next year, I would have spent more years as Bishop in Bataan. And I'm eager to spend the rest of my life there carrying with me the lessons that you, the EDSA Shrine community taught me.
What did I learn from you? First, believe it or not, you taught me how to pray. I saw your devotion each time you pray. I saw the penance, the perseverance that accompanied your prayers and every time I saw you praying, alone, sometimes crying in the adoration chapel, or as a community like this, praying together, I am always humbled. Maybe the word is embarrassed because the priest is not praying enough and you are praying so much. You embarrass me. You humble me. You have taught me how to pray. I learned in the seminary what prayer was but at the EDSA Shrine I saw what prayer really is. You taught me prayer by experience.
Second, you taught me how to love the poor. Again, believe it or not, your way of serving the poor in the 15 years that I stayed with you, has been a source of inspiration for me every time I remember you. I gave you the Word of God from this pulpit but you have given me an example of true charity, tireless charity, to the poor. I will always remember that.
And please, my dear Brothers and Sisters of the EDSA Shrine Community, never grow tired in praying because, for all you know, the priests here are edified and inspired every time they see you pray. Never get tired serving the poor, not only those who are shabbily dressed but even those who are nicely dressed like most of you, but who are lonely, confused or afraid to face the future. That is another kind of poverty in the city, and that poverty we must attend to. You have taught me how to love the poor. I carry that love for the poor in Balanga and I will carry that for the rest of my life.
Last of all, my dear EDSA Shrine Community, you taught me how to love priests. I did not ask you to love me but you loved me in overflowing measure, and not only me, but all my brother priests. Praying for priests has always been a part of the EDSA Shrine Community Spirit. You love your priests. You respect your priests and have reverence for priests, with all our faults, our weaknesses; with all our wrinkles and mistakes. I know you love priests. And please, I beg you, do not get tired loving us. Do not give up loving us. Because when we priests find ourselves in the valley of darkness, it will be those moments that you loved us that bring us back to the mountaintop, and say, Glory to God because of you.
Brothers and Sisters, thank you. Thank you for teaching me many lessons. The lessons that the EDSA Shrine taught me, I will carry for the rest of my life. My Brothers and Sisters, we remember Cardinal Sin. We remember his prayer. We remember his love for the poor. We remember his love for the nation. It is not enough to remember. Let us follow his example.
And tonight, when I go home, I will carry all of you in my heart as I trust that you will still keep me in your heart.
Cardinal Sin, Your Eminence, I know from heaven you look down on the Philippines, with love, with tender affection. But I know, too, that even as you look all over the Philippines, it is the EDSA Shrine that occupies a special place in your heart. Your Eminence, from heaven, pray for this community, who has always been grateful and proud, that at one point in our lives, we had a Pastor like you.
EDSA Shrine, thank you. EDSA Shrine, God be with you. And EDSA Shrine, keep on.
I cannot promise you when I will come back. It is not good to come back to the EDSA Shrine too often. It is not good for me. It is not good for you. It is not good for my brother priests. It is good to let go because it is only when we let go, it is only when we allow Jesus to ascend to heaven that we can receive a new Pentecost. Let me go. I let you go. And wherever we go, let us keep Jesus in our hearts.