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May 11, 2020
May 13, 2020

Homily for Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Easter 12 May 2020, Jn 14:27-31a

Pope Francis popularized the image of the Sleeping Saint Joseph when he came and visited us in the Philippines. He said he gets a lot of inspiration from St. Joseph who is mentioned three times in the Gospel of Matthew, and in all three times he receives God’s message in his sleep through an angel who communicates to him in a dream.
He mentioned too that when he has loads of problems in his mind, he writes them down on a piece of paper and, before he goes to bed, he puts them under his icon of the Sleeping Saint Joseph so that, like Saint Joseph, he would be able to sleep soundly and wake up refreshed, better disposed to bring these issues to a resolution. Believe it or not, the sleeping Saint Joseph images began to sell like hotcakes in religious stores in the Philippines after that.
Last March 27, when Pope Francis gave that moving URBI ET ORBI homily in the middle of an empty St. Peter’s Square, a reflection which made a lot of people weep, he based his reflection on the Gospel narrative in Mark chapter 4 about Jesus asleep in Peter’s boat. That reflection gave me the idea of proposing an icon of Jesus that is not yet very popular to Filipinos: THE SLEEPING JESUS. We have Santo Niños, Nazarenos, Sacred Heart, Divine Mercy etc., but no Sleeping Jesus images yet. What is beautiful about this scene is the setting; he is sleeping soundly on a cushion in Peter’s boat in the middle of the lake. Yes, he is sleeping in the midst of a raging storm—which is what precisely annoys the disciples who are in a state of panic.
What makes this a powerful image of peace is that it spells out the difference with the kind of peace that the world offers. No wonder Jesus says, “Not as the world gives peace do I give peace to you.” It is not the kind that promises security for a price, like insurance companies do. Not the peace that depends on a lot of external variables and conditions, like premiums and packages that feed on your insecurity in times of disaster. It is rather the kind that can give you a sense of calm and equaniminty even in the midst of crisis situations, like this pandemic that we are presently experiencing.
Incidentally, since this global crisis began, I have been receiving messages through Messenger and Viber from people from all over the world, some of whom I do not even know personally. Many of them just want to express their anxieties over the Covid crisis and their desperate requests for prayers and spiritual support. I have received texts like, “Bishop, please pray for my dad, he is covid positive and had to be rushed to the hospital last night for shortness of breath. None of us could even accompany him because of strict quarantine regulations and we could not communicate to him by phone anymore because the doctors said he had to be intubated. My mother has been inconsolable, bishop, please pray for her too.” Or texts like, “Bishop, please pray for me. I cannot sleep at night, I always find myself thinking what will happen to my family ater this lockdown. The restaurant where I am working has declared bankruptcy so I will be jobless after this. I have used up all my savings.” Or texts from frontliner health workers like, “Bishop I have not seen my children for two months now. My neighbors have been kind enough to look after them. I was hoping I could ask for a little break from my covid patients. But lately I have been feeling symptoms and I don’t know where I will quarantine myself in case I test positive. Please pray for me.” I usually just assure them that I hear them, and I am there for them, and that I would include them in my prayers and that I have asked other people to join me in praying for them too. Some of them ask me not to mention their names, of course, because of the stigma that goes with this terrible disease.
Jesus speaks of peace as his Father’s gift to those who love him and keep his word. Remember how he said it in yesterday’s Gospel: “If anyone loves me, he willkeep my word and my father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Jesus’ assurance is basically this: GOD IS WITH US. And this is the source of peace of every disciple. It is also the source of strength and courage.
I think this is what gave Paul in our first reading the boldness to face his detractors. Just a few verses before this— remember what we read yesterday—Luke tells us they were worshipped and mistaken for Greek gods. This time it’s the opposite. Not only do they reject him; they stone him, drag him out of town and leave him for dead! In the verse that follows, Luke tells us Paul not only stands up and regains his strength after that violent incident. He goes out of his way to “strengthen his disciples, encouraging them to remain firm in the faith.”
You have heard me quote Teresa de Avila many times. This is one of her favorite topics—the peace that goes with faith, with the realization that God is with us! “Nada te turbe, nada te espante. Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta. Solo Dios basta” Let nothing worry you, let nothing disturb you. Whoever has God will lack for nothing. Only God suffices.”
I wish to end by breaking some good news to you. Remember the male nurse who I told you about a few days ago and who had been in our prayer intentions ever since? He texted to give me early this afternoon to share some good news: “Bishop. Good pm po. I just want to tell you that I have already received my 3rd negative Covid test result. I am now just waiting for my certification that i am already fully recovered from covid19. Thank you so much for your prayers. Please tell the people who have supported me spiritually that I am very grateful for their prayers. I hope to see you soon bishop. I am excited to go back to my frontliner work in our hospital already.”
I texted back and said, “Wow! Praise the Lord! Now I will offer thanksgiving prayer intentions on your behalf in my 6PM Mass this evening.”
Thank you dear followers of this Online Mass for being part of the invisible web of prayer warriors. When it feels like Christ is asleep, do not forget that he is in the boat with us. May the peace of the Sleeping Jesus be with all of you!


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