Cardinal Tagle celebrates mass in Chicago
By Fr. Tirso Villaverde
St. Thomas of Canterbury, Chicago
On June 13, many Filipinos including myself had the opportunity to attend Mass at Holy Name Cathedral where His Eminence Antonio Luis “Chito” Cardinal Tagle presided. The church was overflowing with parishioners, out of town guests, and a sea of Filipino Catholics from all over Illinois who came to be with the famous Cardinal Archbishop of Manila. At the Mass, Cardinal Tagle was his usual joy-filled humble self. His personality definitely captured the hearts and attention of everyone in the church both Filipino and non-Filipino. It was truly a privilege to be with a man whose holiness is clearly evident in his humility and his commitment to being faithful to the call of Christ to serve the ones who have been forgotten or abandoned by society.
For those who did not have the benefit of being at the Mass or even for those who were there, I share some thoughts as I remember them from Cardinal Tagle’s homily. The Mass was celebrated on the evening of June 13th which, in the Catholic Church’s liturgical calendar, coincided with the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time. The gospel reading for that evening was from Mark 4:26—34. In that gospel, Jesus gave two comparisons of the Kingdom of God. First, Jesus mentioned that the Kingdom of God was like seed that a farmer would sow in the field that would grow in the ground unnoticed until the seed became the mature plant ready for harvesting. Second, Jesus described the Kingdom of God like a mustard seed which is the smallest of all seeds but, once fully grown, becomes a large shrub in which birds of the air find rest. Remembering this gospel passage, I share these thoughts on Cardinal Tagle’s homily.
First, Cardinal Tagle made it clear that we must never equate the idea of God’s Kingdom with an earthly kingdom. We can never put the two on the same level because they are totally different realities. The Cardinal began by emphasizing the teaching that God’s Kingdom does not work in the same way as a human or earthly kingdom. When the gospels present to us parables regarding the Kingdom of God, His Eminence reminded the congregation that we are given a glimpse to see how our lives and our world would be like if God ruled the minds and hearts of all people.
Then, using the two parables of Jesus in the gospel passage assigned for that day, Cardinal Tagle pointed out that God works oftentimes in ways and people that may seem so insignificant. But, we must never ignore those seemingly small ways in which God is at work nor should we turn away from those people whom society considers as unimportant. The Cardinal reminded us that although we may consider them to be of no consequence it does not mean that God looks at them in the same way. God’s Kingdom comes from very humble beginnings but turns into a powerful force of change in the world.
Cardinal Tagle also emphasized that understanding the Kingdom of God requires a change of perception on our part. If we are to be part of God’s Kingdom, we must look at ourselves, our world, and one another in a totally different perspective using the eyes of faith rather than our human perception. The Cardinal shared two personal stories to illustrate this.
The first story was when His Eminence was a newly ordained priest standing on a crowded bus on his way to a remote town to celebrate the town’s patron saint. Young and newly ordained, Cardinal Tagle recalled the two hour bus ride. While standing on the bus as a young priest, the Cardinal did not realize that the bag he was carrying that contained his priestly paraphernalia was constantly hitting an older woman sitting behind him.
After reaching a point of frustration, the woman slapped the young priest in his rear end and complained that his bag had been hitting her repeatedly. Cardinal Tagle remembered apologizing profusely. But, then, when the Mass began, the Cardinal had noticed that the woman was in the front pew. The woman looked at the young priest in embarrassment and could not continue with the ritual gestures of the Mass. Afterward, she apologized to the young priest who may never have known became a Cardinal of the Church.
The second story Cardinal Tagle shared was when he was a seminarian singing at a wedding with a group of other seminarians. When the bride walked in, he and his companions were enamored by the beauty of the bride. Then, they glanced at the groom. They found themselves looking back and forth to and from the bride and groom in utter confusion. The bride was so beautiful but the groom was “not so handsome,” to put it in a kind way. As young boys were prone to do, they began to wonder what the reason was to the match. Perhaps, it was because the man was rich and promised the bride a lifetime of wealth. One of the Cardinal’s companions even made the comment that perhaps the man was dying and had a huge life insurance policy. After many less than charitable comments made by the group of seminarians, the Cardinal remembered that one of them finally made the point that they ought to stop with the uncharitable comments because they were unable to see in the man what the woman saw in her husband to be. They were looking at the man in human standards but the woman looked at her husband to be in the eyes of faith.
The Cardinal used these two stories to emphasize the truth that the way we humans look at the world and one another is not necessarily the same as the way God sees us and all of His Creation. We may look at the world and others with judgmental eyes but God looks on His Creation with love. The Cardinal made the point as well that we ought never to dismiss the events or people in our lives that we may consider to be not worth mentioning because oftentimes those are the events and people that are truly important in the Kingdom of God.