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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Woman in Yellow: A Homily by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ

The Woman in Yellow

Homily by Fr. Joaquin Bernas, SJ
Ateneo-Rockwell Chapel
March 27, 2008

There is a phrase which in the last three decades has gained currency as part of our contemporary vocabulary. It is a phrase that has the capacity to inflame love of country and love of fellow men. I refer to the phrase, Women and Men for others.

It is a noble phrase. But noble phrases, when repeated often like a mantra, can sometimes lose their capacity to inspire. The fire has to be rekindled often.

In the providence of God something often happens to rekindle the flame. Twenty-five years ago Ninoy Aquino’s death on the tarmac set the nation on fire: Ninoy was totally for others.

Three years later EDSA unexpectedly happened. EDSA was when the Filipino emptied self to become men and women for others. And at the center of that electrifying moment was a gentle woman in yellow.

Today, while politics and greed join hands to choke the self-emptying spirit of Ninoy and of EDSA, we need to be awakened. But God often writes straight with crooked lines. Often God uses human weakness to confound the strong or to embolden faltering spirits.

We are gathered here this evening in spontaneous response to the mysterious way God chooses to deal with us. The physical weakness of that EDSA woman in yellow has gathered us here as if to listen to her repeating the recurrent message of Easter – “Do not be afraid.”

The first to receive that message from Christ was a woman, Mary of Magdala. Christ commissioned that woman to deliver the message to the apostles. Today another woman in the tradition of the women in Scripture is repeating to us Christ’s Easter message – “However dark the sky grows, however high the sea rises, however strong the winds blow, do not be afraid, do not be afraid.”

The woman in yellow speaks to us even in her sickness. But the message I hear from her is more than just “Do not be afraid.” The message she has been saying to us by the way she has lived her life and the message she is saying to us even now in her weakness is: “Do everything you can within the limits of your human capability; but trust even more in the God who can make all things possible.”

This is the reason why we are gathered here tonight around the altar of God who is the master of our destiny. We continue to draw inspiration from the woman in yellow.

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