From the Homily at the Mass in Most Blessed Sacrament Chapel
by Br. Armin A. Luistro FSC
July 7, 2009
De La Salle University, Taft Ave., Manila
Shared Reflection on Genesis 32:23-33 & Matthew 9:32-38
It is difficult to add anything new to the thousands of lines written in honor of someone deeply beloved by a grateful nation. But our liturgical reading from Genesis does not just seem appropriate on this occasion; it provides us with an important perspective on the providential role that President Corazon Aquino continues to play in the dynamic history of our nation.
In the course of the night, Jacob arose... and crossed the ford. It was also in the course of the night of the dictatorship, that the lowly housewife took on, albeit reluctantly, the spirit of the man who was convinced that the Filipino is worth dying for. Like our own Joan of Arc, she rallied us to cross the ford to freedom from our own fears, from our apathy, from our hopelessness and yes, from an oppressive dictator and a sinful social structure then falsely dubbed as the New Society or Ang Bagong Lipunan. I lived my youthful life under the shadow of that bogus dream which only brought our country's status from the rank of the most promising economy in the region to becoming a basket case in Asia. And when we all thought that the night would never end, she surprised us with the resolve to serve and to fight not with arms or power or cunning but with sincerity and integrity and prayer. If we fall down on our knees today to pray for President Corazon Aquino, it is because we have not yet fully crossed the ford that would bring us to the dawn of our promised land. Lord, bring us joy to balance our affliction and send us shepherds who will tend your flock! If it will please your Divine Majesty, grant us the grace to keep her here with us for just a little more time as we muster the courage and resolve to serve and to fight with the same sincerity and integrity and prayer that she has shown in her heart.
Jacob was left there alone. Then some man wrestled with him until the break of dawn. It is lonely at the top not only because authentic leadership requires painful decisions or because win-win solutions are merely illusions. The loneliness of leadership comes from that profound recognition that the battle is neither just with one's political foes nor with one's self. Real leaders discover that the leader's deep solitude is marked by a real wrestling with God. This time not with the God of the Temple or with God in Heaven but with our Everyday God, the God of History, God-with-us. If President Corazon Aquino is also Tita Cory to many, it is because she is not just our leader seated on a throne or standing on a pedestal but also because she is one of us. We share her victories and her struggles, her dreams and her anxieties, her hopes and her pains. She has prayed the rosary many times over for us and for the nation. She continues to offer her afflictions and physical pain for us. And so this grateful nation bows our head to beg the Divine Majesty to take care of her as God only knows best. If we pray for Tita Cory, it is because we know in faith that like her we have our own moments of loneliness and pain as well as of hopelessness and fear. In solidarity with her we accept with joy the cross we carry in our hearts and in our bodies with the assurance that the God who struggles with us will not simply overpower us but will in fact bless us in our weakness at the break of day.
Those who had their fair share of the experience of the struggles of our nation can very well understand the pain of Jesus in our Gospel reading today when, seeing the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. This is our pain even today. I have always thought that the best description yet of Tita Cory may well come from what an anonymous writer described in reference to people of courage:
“There are those who are overcome by the darkness of their fears that they cannot even sing. There are those who sing to quiet the trembling of their heart. Still others sing of the hope within their soul that light will soon come to conquer the dark. And then there are those, exceptional ones, who sing because they care so much that darkness will never quench the light of their love. They are their own light.”
If Filipinos can dare sing today, I am convinced that it is because we have before us the person of President Corazon Aquino who continues to be a veritable icon of democracy for the nation as much as she is for the world. At a time in our history when many of us have been overcome by the darkness of our fears, she emerged as the yellow lady who quieted the trembling in our hearts and allowed us to gather as everyday heroes capable of standing with courage before army tanks. During her term as public servant, her leadership marked by integrity and virtue left us the legacy of a renewed democracy giving us hope that Filipinos can come together to be the change we want to see. When she finished her term and became private citizen, she did not allow age or sickness to prevent her from reminding us that the Filipino is worth dying for as she urged us to speak truth to power. Even in the pain and silence of her sickness the light of her love is never diminished. The yellow lady still sings!
Beloved Lasallians, President Corazon Aquino has blessed us during these past years with her presence on campus and in the many common struggles that we share to defend and protect God's gift of freedom and justice, integrity and truth, honor and virtue. Her life's story is intimately interwoven with that of the nation and thus also with that of our own lives. May the God of Corazon Aquino and the God of Jaime Cardinal Sin and the God of every Freedom-Loving Filipino hearken to our prayer, show us His wondrous mercies and let his face shine on us.