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If it is an event, the summer fiesta of our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag is guided by several guideposts. This is the fiesta of 2021, the 500th anniversary of the first mass and the first baptism on our islands. This is the fiesta of our Lady, on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the Dies Natalis (or birth into the eternal life of Saint Dominic), of the death anniversary of St. Dominic. This is the 50th anniversary of the Dominican Province of the Philippines (DPP). The 30th anniversary of the 2nd Plenary Council of the Philippines. And 2021 is the 95th anniversary of the Canonical Coronation of the Image of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag, even before the Diocese of Lingayen was established by Pope Pious XI.
These guideposts help us reflect on what 2021 offers us, celebrating the Feast of our Lady of Manaoag. And the Gospel is the central guiding posting.
The Gospel is necessary, although some scripture scholars might have other opinions about the historical value of the Gospel of The Finding in the Temple. Let us look at it as a prayer occasion and meditate on it in the light of Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag.
This Gospel is important because this is the first time words are attributed to the Lord Jesus. And what were the first words of Jesus to humanity and the Dominican family? The Lord asked Mary and Joseph: “Why were you looking for me?” Why were you looking for me? Why? Are you afraid you lost me? Is that enough reason to look for me? Why are you looking for me? You see my power. You have experienced my power and want to receive favors from your son. Why are you looking for me?
The implication, my dear brothers and sisters, is there is only one reason for looking for the Lord. And it is not fear. It is not in favor. There is only one reason for looking for the Lord, love. That is why on the 800th anniversary of St. Dominic, we are invited to reflect together on the theme – A Table with St. Dominic.
At the desk, we study. A table we eat. And we do not only eat like a fast-food arrangement. A table – there is fellowship. A table – there is love. You don’t like to eat your meal with an enemy. You don’t want to eat dinner with somebody who does not like you or you don’t like it. Eating at a table and breaking bread together presumes fellowship, presumes love. And on the 800th anniversary of St. Dominics entry to heaven, the question is asked of us – Why? Why are you looking for me? And the only reason, my dear brothers and sisters, is because we have partaken of the same table. We sat at the same table.
We have eaten from the same table, so love exists among us. The table for the meal cannot tolerate arrogance. The table for dinner cannot accept self-serving motives and ambitions. That’s why Judas had to leave because he could not share in the fellowship of love. Why are we here? It is only because we love and we choose to love. And at the same table with St. Dominic, we know that it is not only the table of Dominic that we partake of. We know that the table of St. Dominic is also the table of the Lord. That is why we can be united because the table of St. Dominic, which gathers us together, is not original. After all, it is the table of the Lord Jesus.
Why are you looking for me? Because we have fallen in love. And the best way to show our passion is to serve. And at the table of St. Dominic, as we are invited to reflect on his 800th anniversary, we are not only invited to sit. We are also invited to kneel at the table and wash one another’s feet among those seated. As the Lord did in the upper room, eating is not enough. It is essential that we also wash one another’s feet. Because washing and serving are the proof of love, and when we are so busy doing and washing one another’s feet, we will no longer have time for gossip. If you are so busy cleaning one another’s feet, we will not have time to bloat our stomachs or fill our pockets even more. We will not have time for gluttony. We will not have time for avarice. We will not have time for unforgiveness because, at the table with St. Dominic, we are one in fellowship and one in washing one another’s feet. Why are you here? For only one reason. Love. Company at the table with Dominic.
And then the Lord proceeded with the second question, why were you looking for me? Did you not know I must be at my Father’s house?
Father’s house. Where is the Father’s house? The Father’s house is not a building. The father’s house is where His will is done. Because we may be inside the church building, but if we are disobedient, hard-headed, cannot recognize authority, and do not know how to say yes even if we cannot understand, then it cannot be the house of the Lord. That is why the Dominican family puts a lot of importance and value on obedience. Because if you obey the commandments of God, how can you be idolatrous? If you obey the commandments, how can you disrespect them? If you obey the commandments, how can you kill? If you’re obedient, how can you steal? If you’re obedient, how can you be adulterous and impure? If you are obedient, how can you lie? If you are obedient, how can you covet?
Obedience is the source of all of these. And Dominic was right. Obey. Just obey, and the rest will follow because we will not even be able to love if we do not know how to obey.
Where were you looking for me? The Father’s house is where the Father is obeyed. And where there is obedience, God is there. God is not only where love is. God is also where His will is obeyed.
And the third question was left unexpressed. Mary and Joseph did not understand. Mary treasured this in her heart. The question that Mary and Joseph wanted to ask is – How? How we can find you the answer of the Lord is a mystery. It is only by the unknown, not by analogy. It is only anonymous, not by argument. It is only by mystery, not by scientific research. It is only by mystery. Only through faith in a secret can we find the Lord. That is why Dominic said to the brethren at his deathbed: Do not be anxious. Do not be afraid because where I am going, I will be able to do more for you than what I have done here on earth. These are mysterious, prophetic words, but they are true. Because after 800 years from his last breath, he continues to do The question, my dear brothers and sisters, that our Lady perhaps asks you is the same question that Jesus asked at the finding in the temple.
Why are you looking for me? Why are you here? Where are you looking for me? In the pilgrimage church? In a sanctuary? Look for me in an obedient heart, and let that obedient heart be your heart.
How will you find me? You can only see me through embracing a deep sense of mystery to understand that nothing can separate us from God. I will be able to do more in heaven than what I have done here on Earth. I will be with you until the end of the ages, and the mother’s last words to all of us were – Do whatever he tells you.
Why are you here? Because I love you. Where are you looking for me? In my obedient heart. How will you find me? By embracing and believing in the mystery of Your presence.
St. Dominic, help us to obey. Our Lady of Manaoag, allow us to love. Please help us to trust. Help us to keep our hearts pure so we may always find Jesus, your Son.
WHY? WHERE? HOW?