Homily, Solemn Eucharistic Celebration
Basilica of the Holy Face, Manoppello
21 May 2017
Sixth Sunday of Easter [Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; I Peter 3:15-18, John 14:15-21]
+ Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
We thank our God, who, always filled with love and benevolence towards us, has gathered us as one family of faith for the solemn celebration of the Holy Face of Manoppello. I bring you warm greetings and wishes of peace from the Philippines, where the devotion to the Holy Face is alive, vibrant and widespread. Celebrating the Eucharist with you on this sixth Sunday of Easter gives me great joy.
In the Gospel that we just listened to, Jesus told His disciples, “In a little while the world will no longer see Me, but you will see Me, because I live and you will live.” These words are fulfilled now in our assembly, in our hearing. We see Jesus’ Face now. We can see Him because He is alive, He is in our midst now. And seeing His Face, we do not die, contrary to the fear of the people of old that seeing the Face of God would mean death for them. On the contrary, seeing Jesus’ Holy Face we draw the life and energy which comes from Him. This is a profound blessing granted to us, now. This gives us a foretaste of eternal life, where we hope to behold the Face of God in eternal contemplation and adoration. Seeing Jesus, we live!
How could it be possible for us to see Jesus? As sinners, we do not have the merit nor the right to see His Face. But we see Him and we live! How could this happen? The answer comes from Jesus in the Gospel of today, “Whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him.” Strictly speaking, we do not see the Face of Jesus. It is more accurate to say that He reveals His Face to us. He shows His Face, and so we see. This is pure grace. This is pure and total love on the part of Jesus. He manifests His Face, His true self, for no other reason than for the love He has for us. Allow me to share with you three points useful for reflection.
First, when Jesus shows His Face to us, He does not look at His own Face. He looks at us. Even our daily experience, when we show our face to other people, we look at them, not at ourselves. This is love: in showing my face I become someone who sees others, who hears others, who understands others, who feels for others. Showing one’s face means that I spend less time looking at my own face, my activities, my needs, my comfort or wellbeing, my interests, and instead that I devote more time to looking at the face of others, of those who suffer. This is the love that the Holy Face of Jesus shows us. He is interested in us, He is for us, He looks at us more than He looks at Himself. The devotees of the Holy Face must be like Him. Is our gaze directed only at ourselves, our immediate group, those closest us us or are we learning from Jesus who penetrates the hearts of others with His loving gaze?
Second, the Face of Jesus, a loving and other-centered face is also a face that speaks. Even when our lips do not utter “audible” words, our face can speak “visible” words. He said in the Gospel, “If you love Me, you will keep My Commandments.” His Face is not only seen but heard. Jesus’ Face is the human face of the Word of God, now heard and seen especially in His Commandments. In our time, people look at rules as something negative. But the Commandments of the Lord are not burdens to make our life more difficult, not tools to destroy our freedom, not mechanisms of condemnation of our weak and fragile persona. His Commandments are paths to peace, liberty and forgiveness. In Jesus’ Face we see the person who fulfilled the commandment to love God above all and one’s neighbor as oneself. His Commandments are visible in Him who told us, “Come to Me…Take My yoke upon your shoulders and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. My yoke, in Face, is easy and My burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30). The devotees of the Holy Face are called to listen attentively to Jesus who is the visible Word of peace, of freedom, of forgiveness and of love.
Finally, what we have seen and heard, we must share with others. In the first reading, Philip proclaimed in Samaria the Jesus that he had seen and heard. His preaching was accompanied by visible signs of healing and liberation. The Face of Jesus was seen and heard in Philip’s testimony. In the second reading, Peter tells those who are undergoing trials and persecution to be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks for a reason for the hope that is in them. The answer is simple: Jesus! He is our sure hope. His love for us and triumph over death is the reason why we have hope. But Peter reminds us to proclaim our hope with gentleness and respect, with a clear conscience and integrity of life, with readiness to suffer for doing good rather than for doing evil. In other words, we best proclaim Jesus if others see and hear Jesus in us.
We see the Face of Jesus because He reveals His Face to us, the Face of the loving God. His is the Face of God turned towards us and not centered on Himself. His is the Face of the One who fulfilled the commandment of love. As we see and hear His Face may our faces be transformed into His Holy Face. Through the testimony of our faces, may the suffering people of the world know that Jesus sees them, listens to them, cares for them and loves them. Amen.
My grateful thanks to Paul Badde/EWTN for sharing his beautiful photos and to Raymond Frost for the English translation of Cardinal Tagle’s inspiring homily.
“what we have seen and heard we must share with others”–Cardinal Tagle
More on Cardinal Tagle’s visit to Manoppello “The Face of Truth” by Antonio Bini may be read (here).