HomeCommentaryYou have found favor with God

You have found favor with God

After receiving something beautiful or in the midst of a happy event, someone says “I feel so blessed today.” At the end of a conversation, after bidding goodbye, one says “God bless”. At the end of the Mass, the priest blesses the congregation and says: “May the Almighty God bless you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…”

The message is the same in all. It means “I ask God to bless you. I ask God to grant you favor, to send you God’s blessings in your life.”

This is the meaning of “blessing” in the Bible and Christian life.

Dati para akong naiilang kung magmamano ang isang matanda sa akin. There were times that I refused until one old man expressed his disappointment: “Kung hindi ka magpamano sa akin, para mo na rin ipinagkait sa akin ang blessing ni Lord. Kasi habang binabasban mo ako, hinihingi mo dapat na i-bless ako.” From here on, I gave in.

God’s blessings. God’s favor. God’s mercy. Be upon you. This is the message of the reading today on the feast of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

When the angel appeared to Mary, he said: “Do not be afraid Mary. You have found favor with God.”

God had blessed her.

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God had mercy on her.

God had showered her with blessings.

God had saved her.

Kinaawaan siya ng Diyos.

Mary was the least of the candidates to be the mother of the Lord. Her personal circumstances were not promising. If she went for a job interview, she would surely fail. But God had mercy on her. She was chosen. God had shown favor.

Three reflections on the feast of the Miraculous Medal.

First, Mary is not a goddess. Hindi siya diyos-diyosan tulad ng mga sinasabi ng ibang relihiyon sa atin. She is human like all of us. She is not a “co-redemptrix”, as some Catholics would like to call her. She could not save us. Only God can save us.

Even Mary was saved by God. This is the meaning of the Immaculate Conception. She was so favored that God saved her from the first moment of her existence. She was radically saved by God; she has been possessed by God from the start.

Tulad natin niligtas din siya ng Diyos. She is the first believer, the first among the disciples in the community of Jesus. She was the first to follow Jesus up to the end. Kaya kung kaya ni Maria, kaya din natin. Lahat naman ay nakasalalay sa awa ng Diyos. Kahit kay Maria.

Second, even as she is blessed, she is not exempt from suffering. Her life was a life of pain from the start. Barely was Jesus born in the manger, did the forces of the Roman Empire threaten her son’s life. They had to flee to Egypt. Then she became a single mom. The single moms here know that this is not an easy feat.

Up to the end of her life, she had to walk to Calvary painfully suffer in her heart, and feel in her own body the unjust death of her son who was a victim of trumped-up charges by the political and religious leaders of his times. To stand at the foot of the cross of a “criminal” who happens to be your son is the most painful experience a mother can go through and survive. While the men (except one) scuttle in fear, Mary is there, bravely standing for her son.

This only means that even as we are blessed with God’s goodness in our lives, we will never be exempt from suffering. It is the assurance of God’s blessing that can make us stand up to the cross of pain, sickness, and injustice.

When my mother died of cancer many years ago, I asked God “Why my mother? And why now”. She is the most loving of all humans that I know. After having suffered to raise us all, why? She went through all the pains and sickness — stroke, cancer, etc. In front of her coffin, I wrestled with God. And there was only silence.

After some time, I was reading a book. I remember a phrase there which struck me: “Only those who love can suffer.” Only those who are blessed with God’s love in their lives have the strength to suffer.

Third, even those who suffer still continue to share kindness and compassion in the midst of their suffering.

This is the meaning of the Miraculous Medal image for me. The image of Mary’s hands overflowing with rays is not the grace of Mary. It signifies the grace of God for our lives. Mary told Catherine Laboure: “Come to this altar and ask for these graces from God.”

What strikes me as meaningful is this: Here is a woman who has suffered the whole of her life yet still stands there to keep sharing God’s blessings and love with others. In the midst of her own pain, she did not give up, she still has the strength to be compassionate, and to help others stand up to pain, by sharing with them the rays of God’s blessing.

I remember the widows of the victims of extrajudicial killings in Payatas. As they strive to stand up after the tragedy imposed by Duterte and his men, they still have the strength to take care of children after their breadwinners are slaughtered by a madman.

But in the irony of ironies, while the whole world lost jobs during the pandemic, God has shown them his favor. Their little sewing shop was tasked to sew personal protective equipment (PPE) and face masks badly needed by everyone then. They were even working overtime. They had jobs to feed their children.

One mother shared her reflection to me: “Our husbands were killed by armed men wearing face masks. Now, we are sewing face masks not to kill people but to help them live.”

Only those whose lives are blessed by God can keep standing up to life’s pains and be a source of life for others.

Father Daniel Franklin Pilario, C.M., is a theologian, professor, and pastor of an urban poor community on the outskirts of the Philippine capital. He is also Vincentian Chair for Social Justice at St. John’s University in New York. The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of LiCAS News or its publishers.

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