Recently, Anabelle and I went with some friends to Iloilo for fun and leisure. It turned out to be a pilgrimage of sorts. We went to more religious sites than natural wonders or tourist resorts. We went to the Holy Family Park and the Garin Farm Pilgrimage Resort. We visited the heritage church in Miagao and the Trappist Monastery in Guimaras. We attended Sunday mass as the Santa Maria Church, where Our Lady of China is enshrined. Even the power windmills in Guimaras reminded me of the Holy Trinity with their three-bladed rotors.
Ever since we came back to the country, I have noticed an increased religious fervor among many people. Aside from the usual Marian shrines (Manaoag, Antipolo, Peñafrancia, Lipa, Baclaran) where people have always come; there have been more recent popular pilgrimage sites where people go like Kamay ni Jesus in Lucban, Montemaria in Batangas, Regina Rica in Tanay, Monasterio de Tarlac.
Could this increased fervor be due to the difficult times that the country is currently going through? Things have gone from difficult to understand to downright absurd and ridiculous. Evil deeds have been explained away as needed and necessary. Goodness is dismissed as unrealistic and ineffective. Lies are proclaimed as the truth and truth has gone into hiding. Everyday, people are fed with alternate facts and an alternate reality which is totally different from the reality they are living in and going through.
Is it any wonder that people would turn to their faith and religion? For people feeling helpless and hopeless in the face of the seeming triumph of evil over goodness, or of lies over the truth, these words from today’s Gospel are indeed music to the ears of the people:
“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
And to the oppressed and dispossessed, to the abused and downtrodden, these words sound the words of justice and redemption:
But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
Woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false
prophets in this way.”
The believer, through Faith, is able to transform
the ordinary into something extraordinary,
the mundane into something magical
and the petty into something pretty.
With Faith, every new day becomes a wonderful present
and every adversity becomes an opportunity to become better and stronger.
In Faith, Christ took on the cross,
the worst penalty for criminals then in the Roman Empire,
and transformed it into an enduring and eternal symbol
of unconditional love and great sacrifice.
Faith transforms something shallow and superficial
into something deep and eternal.