After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased."
– The Gospel of Saint Luke, 3:21-22
AS the Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) microbe exploded across the globe, spawning most of the record 10 million cases diagnosed from December 27 to January 2, nearly double the previous high last April, billions of people from paupers to potentates were surely asking when and how this pandemic would end.
And among those who may have read our column last Sunday, some might ask the headline question: Can the Omicron surge in our country be stopped by consecrating the nation to Our Lady of Guadalupe, the 16th-century apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Mexico, who is patron of the Philippines?
As recounted last Sunday, film and TV artist Baby Nebrida, who had told of warnings, messages and visions from Mary over two decades, had tried to relay to President Rodrigo Duterte through several top-level channels our Lady's warnings about contagion as well as calamity woes and her call for consecration of the country.
The message, however, did not get through or did not convince, so the five-minute consecration prayer Nebrida sent through emissaries was never read on national TV, as she said Mary requested for the protection of the country. Thus, asserts Nebrida, the calamity she saw in a vision last year was not mitigated.
Heeding and not heeding God
It was a similar story under then President Benigno Aquino 3rd, to whom Nebrida wrote a letter in 2012 asking that the Reproductive Health or RH bill opposed by the Catholic Church not be enacted, or pain of disaster for the country. Less than a year after the RH Law was passed in December 2012, three calamities struck: the Zamboanga siege in September 2013, then the Bohol earthquake in October, and "Yolanda" in November.
Sadly, those calamities did not convince President Aquino about the anger of God. When Pope Francis visited Malacañang on Jan. 16, 2015, Aquino falsely accused Philippine bishops of keeping silent under his predecessor Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but speaking against his rule. Just over a week afterwards, the Mamasapano massacre of 44 police commandos plunged Aquino into his worst security crisis. Along with the 2013 disasters, Mamasapano contributed to the erosion of public support which eventually led to the defeat of Aquino's chosen successor in the 2016 elections.
By contrast, then President Arroyo made sure to heed the messages conveyed by Nebrida, whether on political and security issues or natural calamity. One such prayer request, televised Masses over eight days in August 2004 to consecrate the nation to God the Father, was done, even when the President was traveling on provincial sorties.
The Octave Masses, Nebrida recounted, spared the Philippines from the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed a quarter of million victims in minutes. In her vision warning of the catastrophe, Nebrida saw devastation in Mindanao.
With her consecration message falling on skeptical, if not scoffing ears the past year, Nebrida made her own effort to follow Mary's request even in a limited way. In October and November, she organized a caravan to bring the Blessed Sacrament and images of Mary around Metro Manila, to bless hospitals the Holy Eucharist and the Marian portraits passed.
There was also a Mass and procession on November 6 at the Mary Mediatrix Church in Bauan, Batangas, and a conference on Mary on November 27, Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. With these devotions, the country's Covid infections dwindled from their September peak, despite most Filipinos yet to be vaccinated and health protocols being eased during that period.
Just do it
Many non-believers and even devout Catholics would counter that the Covid decline between September and December had nothing to do with Mary and all to do with vaccines and protocols, even though more widely vaccinated countries like America and Britain had new cases soaring into the tens or hundreds of thousands a day while ours fell well below a thousand.
Indeed, many would ask, how can reading a prayer on TV stop a virus infecting countless people not even watching, let alone caring about the consecration?
Well, the same could be asked about several instances when papal consecration to Mary stopped global war, as recounted in several articles of this writer, including "How consecration to Mary stopped World War 3" (https://www.manilatimes.net/2018/05/13/opinion/columnists/topanalysis/how-consecration-to-mary-stopped-world-war-iii/398502).
Prayer in all its forms has little or no logical or material connection with what is prayed for. In the Second Book of Kings, the Syrian commanding general Naaman became angry when the prophet Elisha told him to bathe in the Jordan to be cleansed of leprosy, fuming that there were countless rivers he could have washed in. But Naaman was persuaded to just do what the prophet instructed, and he was cleansed.
Similarly, when our Lord was baptized by John the Baptist, partly recounted in the January 9 Sunday Mass Gospel reading, John was reluctant, knowing that Jesus was the Messiah. But Jesus told him to perform the act, even if it may seem inappropriate to human reason.
After the sacrament, God made His presence seen and heard, as quoted above.
If we, too, just do what our Lord asks even if we don't fully understand or agree, the gloomy clouds will also part and our Father in heaven will break through and save us.
Let's pray that our President find it in his heart to heed Mary's call to bless and consecrate our land. Amen.