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Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David – Vice President of CBCP Fourth Day of the Fifth Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE5)

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Kalookan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David – Vice President of CBCP
Fourth Day of the Fifth Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE5)
Quadricentennial Pavilion, University of Santo Tomas, España, Manila
July 21, 2018.

I know that you all know the passage that we read today from John Chapter 2 as a “Miracle story” about the “Water turned into wine”. But did you know that there is also a story about the wine that turned into water? No kidding.

The story is set in a poor village somewhere in France during the Medieval times. Here’s how the story goes: Once there was a man and a woman who fell in love with each and decided to get Married. Because they both came from poor peasant families the village elders proposed, at a village meeting, to take care of the wedding banquet for them.

The couple however politely declined the offer, insisting that they had saved enough to be able to serve a simple meal for the guests. But in order not to offend the villagers who had made the generous offer, the couple said that the villagers were welcome to contribute the wine for the banquet.

And so, the village folks agreed to bring one jar of home-made wine per family. Several huge empty wine barrels were put in the middle of the village hall where the wedding was going to be held and the villagers were instructed to just deliver their jar of wine to the hall and pour it into the barrels themselves, whenever ready.

On their way home after the village meeting, one of the villagers whispered to his neighbor, “Just between us: you know, honestly, I wouldn’t waste my good wine on these poor peasants. They don’t even know what it worth. If I bring along a jar of water instead of wine and pour it into the barrel, I am sure nobody would even notice that the wine is a little diluted.

But the Neighbor whispered it to the other neighbor, and the other neighbor to the several other neighbors. On the day of the wedding banquet, the Mayor stood up to propose a toast to the newly wedded couple. He said, “Long live the bride and the groom!” And as they drank from their cups, their faces blushed with shame because the wine had turned into water! The moral: one little toxic whisper of deceit is all it takes to spoil the joy of a wedding banquet.

Our first reading from Genesis chapter 3 about the sin of Adam and Eve is the passage that was made popular recently by you know who. He gave his own commentary on a text that he found stupid, and which made him declare that God is stupid. Let me proceed now to tell you about the wisdom of this text, which is meant to be literary, not literal.

We all know serpents do not talk in real life. Oh but Figurative serpents do! They are fond of juicy gossips and intrigues that are best said in whispers. I call the serpent’s dialogue line in Genesis 3 the “Mother of all gossips”.

One little toxic whisper from the serpent was enough to cause the downfall of humankind. If I may paraphrase his “Tsismis”, the serpent is supposed to have said something to this effect, “Just between us, don’t believe what God told you that would die if you eat of that delicious fruit. On the contrary, you will be perfect! You will be like God!” You see, if looks can kill, whispers can kill too.

Nowadays, it takes just a whisper to put a name in a drug watch list. Sometimes it can even go with a kiss, like it did at Gethsemane. It takes just an asset’s whisper to lead the death squads to their targets. They also collect their 30 pieces of silver afterwards. It takes just one neighbor’s whisper to get the whole barangay conditioned into accepting the killings as justified as in the case of Jennifer, “Kumabit daw kasi sa pusher para may maipakain sa dalawang anak”.

It takes just a whisper to condition people into believing that the priests who were murdered just got what they deserved—like “who would not die if you’re having an affair with several women?”

It takes just a whisper to get Sr. Patricia Fox’s deportation sound like a matter of policy: “She joined anti-government rallies.” It takes just a whisper to justify martial law: “Terrorists are plotting to overthrow the government.” But today I have good news for you. If whispers can kill, some of them can also give life.

Such as in the story we heard today about the wedding at Cana. Some Bible Scholars suggest that the Blessed Mother must have been helping out in the kitchen, like most Filipino mothers would do in barrio weddings (before catering became popular). How could Mary have noticed the crisis situation if she had not been involved in the reception? If the serpent’s whisper of deception was poisonous and death-dealing, Mary’s whisper of compassion was life-giving.

No wonder we refer to her as the “New Eve”. From her lips came a whisper that was at the same time a prayer “They have run out of wine.” It is followed by yet another whisper, this time to the servants: “Do what he asks of you.” Are we not all familiar with this “Running out of wine experience” in our work in the Church? Do we not find our lives and Ministries sometimes turning bland and tasteless? Even if there is nothing but water to fill up the empty jars with, as long as we have the Bridegroom in our midst, one little whisper can change our humble water into sweet wine so that the guests would declare that you have kept the good wine until now! For the past few days now, we have been Meditating on the Feeding of the multitude.

Take note of the battle of whispers in that passage: first, the whisper of practicality from the Disciples who say, dismiss the crowd. Jesus counters it with a whisper of compassion: “No, give them something to eat. Next the Disciples whisper again, “We have nothing but five loaves and two fish here—unless you’re willing to spend up all our funds!” Jesus counters it again with a whisper of Gratitude for the five loaves and two fish. I imagine him mumbling, “They’re quite enough. Just have them sit down on the grass in groups.” Have you ever wondered why some priests say the words of consecration i whispers?

Take and eat, this is my body. Take and drink, this is my blood.” Dear brothers and sisters, the next time you engage in whispering, stop for a while and ask which template you’re following: The serpent’s toxic whisper? or Mama Mary’s and Jesus’ life-giving whisper? It’s ok to whisper; just make sure you follow the right template.

Believe me, the quickest way to spread the Good news is to preface it with, “Atin-atin lang ito, ha?” Like Jesus did. And look, the Good news continues to spread throughout the world!

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