Wednesday, December 7, 2011
This coming Thursday will be the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception and with present socio-political situation we are currently facing, may we as a Church be challenged by this Marian feast to exhaust all our energy to wake up from deep slumber, to revitalize her concerted pastoral action, take her prophetic role and stand against the social ills in our midst like gambling, the power crisis, good governance and the likes. Just like before. We have to be once again socio-political deterrents and detergents that would keep her mantle clinging to her social principles immaculately spotless and not to allow gossipers and mudslingers stain it. Let us be visible as prophets and make our pastoral programs – both charity and advocacy - felt by the people. Are we allowing the Church to be ridiculed forever and its leaders are subjects and objects of intrigues? As before, let our intentions be holy and immaculate like Mary, the patroness of our diocese. In case you are interested to know, the dogma of the Immaculate Conception was officially promulgated in the papal bull “Ineffabilis Deus” by Pope Pius IX on December 8, 1854. It declares that Mary was born free from original sin because she was destined to become Mother of God.
In the global scenario, Mary is in perfect solidarity with the needs of women in all ages, and especially those that suffer under severe systems of oppressions. Author Megan McKenna describes this solidarity in her book “Mary: The Shadow of Grace”: “Mary is all the women, one third of the world’s population always on the move, fleeing starvation, war and disasters of flood, earthquake and drought. She is the woman who mourns the slaughter of the children, the execution of the state, the torture and disappearances of men and women.” Back here at home we are currently, as a faith community, facing uncertainties brought about by broken relations, pastoral stagnancy, gossips, cowardly crafted poison and hate letters, mudslinging, etc. Mary is with us as Simeon foretold the headaches and sorrows that she would have. But despite of her headaches and sorrows, with Our Mother’s help, we could crush the cheating and lying serpent under our feet!
In affirming Mary’s Immaculate Conception, we can trace back to a simple peasant girl in Nazareth who knew that love of her God demanded action for justice. With prophetic passion in her “Magnificat”, she prayed that the mighty are put down, the lowly exalted, and the hungry filled with good things (Lk 1: 52-53).
While the symbol of original sin points to unfaithfulness, the symbol of Immaculate Conception shows that even the accumulated sinfulness of the world cannot overcome God’s desire to serve. To put it in our present context, what’s hindering us from voicing our protests, say against social ills that the people are experiencing, in singing Mary’s “Magnificat”? Indeed, while the “Magnificat” is profoundly religious, it is also political. According to a well-known theologian named Dietrich Bonheoffer, as cited by Elizabeth Johnson’s book “Truly Our Sister” (p. 267): “It is at once the most passionate, the wildest, one might say the most revolutionary Advent song ever sung. This is not the gentle, tender, dreamy Mary whom we sometimes see in paintings …. This song has none of the sweet, nostalgic, or even playful tones of some of the Christmas carols. It is instead a hard, strong, inexorable song about collapsing thrones and humbled lords of this world, even the power of God and the powerlessness of human kind. These are the tones of the women prophets of the Old Testament that now come to life in Mary’s mouth.”
In celebrating the Feast Day of Immaculate Conception we profess that in a woman we realized the true meaning of purity and obedience and in her we see what it means to be redeemed. We can only be socially redeemed if we put down the mighty and exalt the lowly if we make our social advocacy works back to life again. This would be once again our unifying factor. Just like how the Church initiated (and was participated mainly by multi-sectoral groups specially the Mangyans from all over the province) that historic march against the bogus Mindoro Nickel Project community consultation in Mamburao some years back (Please click here.). Are we not missing that kind of unified, sensible, sanctifying mass mobilization and campaigns? I am missing it, very much.
The Immaculate Conception is a symbol that summons us all to political and ecological actions and reminds us that we may not take a neutral position. In Mary, we see the future and destiny of our local Church. Our hope as community of believers in Occidental Mindoro is strengthen and may we in not so distant tomorrow, see a Church that is, “without wrinkle, or any such thing, that she might be holy and immaculate” (Eph. 5:27). And finally “all are one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28). Did I hear somebody say, “In your dreams”?
And to borrow from a line from a famous song of John Lennon, who was assassinated on the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception in 1980, I maybe a dreamer, “but I am not the only one”…..