Update No. 02/2012
February 28, 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters in the MMP,
“Follow me along the way which I have traced out for you, my children, so dearly loved and so protected and defended by me. It is the way of conversion and of penance.” (Message 347 a)
Let us ponder on these words of Our Lady, so thought-provoking as we enter the liturgical season of Lent. Given on Ash Wednesday, the message, On This Luminous Pathway, situates us in the Lenten journey, indicating clearly the path to take: conversion and penance.
“The conversion which I ask of you is that which Jesus requested of you in his Gospel.” (Message 347 b) Right at the beginning of his preaching, the Lord called on the people to conversion. “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) This is what Our Lady was alluding to. The formula for the rite of the imposition of ashes was, in fact, taken from this text: “Repent and believe in the gospel.”
To repent is to change direction along the way of life. It is a call to conversion – not for a slight adjustment, but a true and total change of direction. “Separate yourselves from the wicked way of evil, of pride, of egoism and of sin.” (Message 347 b) This is the intensity of her call. “You bring about in yourselves a true pledge of conversion if you oppose, with courage and with strength, the world in which you live.” (Message 347 d).
To repent means to go against the current of the world: a superficial lifestyle, so inconsistent and deceptive, enticing us, controlling us and making us slaves of evil, or in any case prisoners of moral mediocrity. “In the world in which you live,” Our Lady explains, “where rebellion against God and his Law of love is welcomed, propagated, exalted and set up as a new model of life, how many of my poor children there are who daily become victims of sin and of hatred, of violence and of corruption, of egoism and of impurity.” (Message 347 c)
Unmasking and denouncing this modern lifestyle of superficiality, she warns us of its devastating consequences and points out the extent of their gravity: “Grave sin separates you from God, takes the precious gift of his life and his grace from your souls, makes you slaves of passions and of vices, weakens you in your resistance to temptations, opens up great spaces for the action of Satan, who thus takes greater and greater possession of your life and makes of it an instrument for the spread of unbridled egoism and of pride, of hatred and of division, of licentiousness and of impiety.” (Message 347 c)
Thus, the need for conversion: “It is necessary today that all my children be converted and come back to a belief in the Gospel, to live according to the Gospel and to allow themselves to be guided solely by the wisdom of the Gospel.” (Message 347 d) Conversion is not a simple moral decision to rectify our conduct of life. It is rather a decision of faith. We submit ourselves to the living and personal Gospel which is Jesus Christ. He is our ultimate goal and the profound meaning of conversion. He is the way, which we are called to follow, illumined by his light and sustained by his strength. Thus, conversion finds its most splendid and fascinating face.
The second element of the luminous pathway is penance. Our Lady introduces it in a very interesting manner: “These are the days of preparation for what is now in store for you, for the great events which have been foretold to you. And so I am asking you again for daily works of mortification and of penance. Penance is to be offered by you to my Heart in three different ways.” (Message 347 e-f)
Before explaining my observations on this, let me first summarize the three ways of penance that she traced out.
1. Interior penance is about self-control in order to become truly docile, humble, little and available for her designs, which is indispensable in carrying out of her plan of salvation and of mercy (Message 347 g).
2. Silent and daily penance is about doing the Will of the Lord in the ordinary daily duty in every circumstance of life. (Message 347 h)
3. Exterior penance is about the mortification of senses:
- The eyes in order to conserve the light in the soul and to have greater space for recollection, meditation and prayer;
- The tongue in order to speak only for the spread of good, avoiding criticism and grumbling, gossip and malicious speech, and not giving in to the easy temptation of judgment and condemnation;
- The ears in order to hear only the promptings of the Spirit, avoiding the deafening voices of clamor, confusion and aridity
- The appetite (taste) in order to sacrifice pleasure for the sake of others through the practice of bodily fasting as requested by Jesus in the gospel.
From what Our Lady traced out, the ultimate goal of penance and mortification is to make a complete gift of self to God. Through these Lenten practices, we are moved to free our hearts from the burden of material things, from our self-centered dealings with the world that impoverishes us and prevents us from being available and open to God and to others. They are not human deprivation but acquisition of greater freedom and spiritual growth.
Beyond the Lenten Journey
Our Lady made a point of showing us the luminous pathway in our Lenten itinerary. But, in her words, I sense something more and beyond. She mentions about “the days of grace and of mercy, of hope and of expectation” (Message 347 d), about “the great events which have been foretold” (Message 347 e) and about her “designs” and “plan of salvation and of mercy” (Message 347 g).
What does Our Lady mean by these words and phrases? Her answer is in the last part of her message: “If you walk along this road which I am tracing out for you, the days of your life will then be blessed by the Lord and will bring you to peace of heart and purity of soul. You yourselves will become my lived word, and you will bring everywhere the light of my presence in the great darkness which has become heavier upon the world. On this luminous pathway of conversion and of penance, I am ever leading you, especially during these days, preparatory to the great miracle of divine mercy, which as of now is about to be accomplished." (374 n-o)
More than seasonal practices, conversion and penance are – for her – fundamental. They are part of her maternal design and plan. They are, in fact, her constant call in view of the great events that have been foretold. They are preparatory means for the great miracle of divine mercy, prefiguring her triumph and the glorious reign of her Son, our Lord.
My last but still significant observation concerns her statement: “Penance is to be offered by you to my Heart.” (Message 347 f) I got struck and I asked: Why to her Heart? What does her Heart have to do with penance?
Penance helps us to acquire the precious fruit of the Spirit, which is self-control. Where else can we best obtain this fruit except in her Heart, where – according to her – “the Holy Spirit is the only Gardener” (Message 131 g) and “where this divine prodigy takes place” (Message 131 h). Our Lady explains: My garden (her heart) is his exclusive property: it is the Holy Spirit who waters it and gives it light; it is He who causes the most beautiful flowers to spring up; it is He who gives them their color and fragrance; it is He who brings therein whom He wills” (Message 131 h-i). She further elaborates: “The Spirit in whom I am clothed is like a fire which consumes everything within you, so that there remain not even a shadow which might bedim that beauty to which your heavenly Mother wishes to bring you. I want to make you a most pure transparency of God . . . When you have become like this, then all the Church will become my garden, in which the Divine Trinity will take delight in being reflected . . . This will be the triumph of my Immaculate Heart" (Message 133 g, l, n).
What a profound thought! Conversion and penance are, indeed, beyond the Lenten journey.
We are blessed with two successful gatherings this month: the Day with Mary in Nagcarlan, Laguna and the Cenacle Orientation in Alitagtag, Batangas. It was no mere coincidence that both were held on the same day, February 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. She must be delighted by this immense demonstration of love.
More than 500 people attended the gathering in Nagcarlan. I send my greetings and congratulations to Bro. Boy and Sis. Nini and all the cenacle groups in Laguna-Batangas area. I miss you all.
The Cenacle Orientation in Alitagtag was a big surprise, too. The original plan was only for the parish. But, it turned out to be for a bigger audience, particularly the Vicariate of St. John Ma. Vianney of the Archdiocese of Lipa. From the expected 35 parish leaders, 82 parish representatives came. We ran out of handouts and books. The parishes of SJMV Vicariate are: Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Agoncillo), San Isidro Labrador (Cuenca), San Isidro Labrador (San Luis), San Martin de Tours (Taal), San Nicolas de Tolentino (San Nicolas), St. Roch (Lemery), St. Therese of the Child Jesus (Sta. Teresita), Invencion de la Sta. Cruz, (Alitagtag), Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, (Subic, Agoncillo), and Our Lady of Caysasay (Labac, Taal).
I thank the parish delegates, not to mention their parish priests, for their interest in the cenacle. Their daring plan to introduce it in their BEC program puts them on track. BEC is basically going back to the cenacle, the nucleus of the Church, the Church in its beginnings: gathered in prayer, with Mary, in the expectation of the Holy Spirit. The cenacle is “that” paradigm that the Church needs, an old but lasting gift of the ‘Mother’ to her ‘Daughter.’
God bless you all.
Yours in the Immaculate Heart,