The Ateneo de Manila community joyfully observed the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a commemorative Holy Mass, last September 8, Tuesday morning at the Church of the Gesu.
Streamed live via the Radyo Katipunan 87.9 FM Facebook page, newly appointed university president Fr. Roberto Yap SJ presided over the grand Eucharistic Celebration honoring the patroness of the Ateneo and the Philippine nation.
Following Fr. Kit Bautista SJ’s Gospel reading of Mt. 1: 18-23 for the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Fr. Yap began his homily by ‘counting the ways’ in which “we love her and why she has been so persistent through the centuries we’ve been around as a people of God.”
Inspired by poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous Sonnet 43, Fr. Yap then turned to St. Luke’s account of Mother Mary as the ‘first disciple’ and ‘first recipient of the Good News’ – a title worthy of noting on her birthday.
“When the angel asks Mary to become the mother of the Messiah, she says ‘yes’ then remains loyal to that ‘yes’. Mary was the first believer in Jesus, the first follower. What an honor from God!”
Recalling the incident when Jesus, in the full bloom of his public ministry, was confronted with his relatives, Fr. Yap highlighted how it was Mary’s shining example of faithfulness that set her apart.
“She kept God’s word with all her heart, and that most of all endeared her to her son … Mary’s claim to greatness was not that she was Jesus’ biological mother, but rather she, above all, was faithful, even when it cost her.”
As the world continues to witness social injustices and face harsh realities in this time of pandemic, Fr. Yap cited Mary’s relatable image for all those yearning for consolation.
“She was permitted nothing but a broken heart and endless tears. Those who are hurting, who have lost loved ones to COVID 19, those who are oppressed and suffer in silence, must look to Mary and see themselves.”
Confronting life’s dilemmas was also something we too, share with Mary, as fellow ‘pilgrims in the dark’, Fr. Yap explained.
“When the angel said ‘you are to be the mother of God’, Mary asked ‘How can this be?’. How can I begin again? How can I survive? How can I carry on? – We are all asking the same questions Mary once asked.”
Though there may be attacks on truth and the values we cherish, Fr. Yap underscored the role of Mary as the ‘keeper of memories’, guiding us to a hopeful future.
“St. Luke says that although she did not understand, Mary treasured all these things in her heart. We need the wise to keep alive memories of God’s presence and deliverance. We need our Mary’s who tell these old stories of faith, stories that give us hope again.”
Mary’s identity as the “God bearer” is one that inspires us all to share His light to others, Fr. Yap also noted.
“She gave birth to the world, the living Christ. Committed people throughout the ages embrace it as their role too- to be a Christ bearer, to give Him to other people by word and by example.”
Before concluding his reflection with the Ateneo’s famed tribute to the Blessed Virgin, ‘Song for Mary’, Fr. Yap reminded all that we are under the loving watch of our heavenly mother.
“Mary persists because she is ours. At calvary, Jesus entrusts to us his last and most precious possession. Jesus’ mother is our mother. We are never alone. We have an advocate. We have a mother.”