Homily - FEAST OF SAINT CÁNDIDA MA. DE JESUS 9 August 2021

Fr. Edwin

As was said at the beginning of Mass, it is indeed a privilege for us to gather together this morning to celebrate the feast of your holy foundress, Saint Cándida Maria de Jesús.

Up until the recent past, the devotion to Mother Cándida was sort of private among the Sisters of the Hijas de Jesús and your mission partners. The road to the Altars of the Church was a long one for her, spanning almost seven decades when Pope Benedict XVI canonized Mo. Cándida on 17 October 2010. But here we are today, a decade and almost a year, rejoicing at the space we have made for her at the Altar. Mo. Cándida is now invoked by the universal Church, who implores her intercession for many a need: Saint Cándida Ma. De Jesús, pray for us.

“Why did it take so long for us to proclaim her a saint? Only God knows. In our Gospel today, Jesus is noted as exclaiming, "I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children." Perhaps we are too learned and too clever, and so we had been too slow on the take while mere children, students of the Hijas de Jesús – honest, sincere, innocent, without guile and agenda – had been singing the praises of Saint Cándida’s holiness decades ago. What has God hidden from the wise but revealed to little ones? Here Jesus wasn't just speaking about young boys and girls, but all the poor, the under-privileged, the marginalized and the destitute. And what has God done for them? Now that is the real question, isn’t it?

Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ time claimed that to enter God's Kingdom people needed a very detailed knowledge not only of the 613 Laws given to Moses, but also the multitude of additional minute precisions made to them. What’s more, they were expected to observe every one of them. Only religious legal experts could possibly do that! The majority of people would be dismissed as ignorant sinners and excluded. But Jesus tells us that the so-called experts have got it wrong. He has come to remove the crushing, impossible burden of so many petty rules and regulations.

 To each of us he says, 'Come to me all you who labor and are over-burdened, and I will give you rest." Jesus offers those who would be dismissed as ignorant and unimportant freedom from trying to carry such an impossible burden. Now they – we – can rest in the Lord, in a happiness which had seemed impossibly. Mo. Cándida established her religious community principally in order to help educate children. Children are uncomplicated, and remain so until adults come along and complicate their lives. Nonetheless, if we genuinely care for their well-being, we would do well to reach out to them with the sincere hope that they grow up to be the best versions of themselves, and not copies of ourselves, no matter how much we believe ourselves to be great! Mo. Cándida is a saint because she used the rule not to measure the worth of children placed in her care, but to measure the learnings she aspired for them in accordance to a child’s pace and capacity. Now that is not mere intelligence, that is the wisdom of a true teacher!

You see, education is not the proposition of molds that our students, our children, must fit in. Rather, it is calibrating the capacity, the talents, and the character of our children so that we can adjust the mold to fit them. Of course, that is hard work, but I think this explains the yoke Christ mentions in this Gospel. As you probably already know, a yoke is a piece of wood, shaped to rest comfortably on the shoulders. Loads are attached to each end and are easy to carry because their weight is spread out to both ends. But it is the job of the yoke-maker to make sure the yoke fits whoever bears it.

On the other hand, the spiritual point of the Gospel is that we must carry our crosses and follow Christ on the difficult journey of love if we are to find the eternal fulfillment of His divine promises. And Jesus here tells us that with His help we can carry the weight of our crosses. He can transform the carrying of our burdens into a labor of love. We couldn't begin to do that without Him. But, with His assistance we can do what would be humanly impossible. So it is with your mission that began with Saint Cándida.

The point of education is not so much excellence as appropriating the capacity and willingness to love. For what does it matter if our students become the best executives, the best lawyers or doctors, architects and artisans, if they have no character, if they know not God and give Him due honor . . . if they do not, indeed, know how to love? You know, I suspect the reason why your schools are successful is because you have calibrated the mold you use to educate your students so that they fit them. That mold is called, above many things, love.

It is no surprise then that your students, henceforth the alumnae of your schools, continue to return to you, visit you, and sit with you to bring their gifts, to share stories, laughter, and tears with you. They return again and again to the shared memories, and they share meals with you amid smiles, laughter, and familiar, loving gazes. I have personally witnessed this on a few occasions. And these last two – memories and meals – are images of the Eucharist. You could not have achieved that if you were only after results as fleeting as excellence in your schools, but did not give love. That I believe is exactly the theology behind Christ’s words: 'My yoke is easy, my burden light. That removes any complacency we may feel.

We cannot sit back and relax. We are drawn to active engagement of the field work. Because the yoke you have placed on your students fits them, they have blossomed, and they have grown up feeling attached to you like branches to the tree, desiring to partake in your mission as well. Some have even gone so far as to embrace the call to unite themselves more closely to Mo. Cándida by joining the Hijas de Jesús. On the other hand, you might wonder why there are not so many, and the Congregation is not growing any bigger.

Well, following Christ is demanding and at times difficult. But Mother Cándida would exhort us: “No se preocupen, Diós dispone.” The demands in the field are not the meticulous observance of petty man-made regulations, rather, it is something far more serious. And that is the command to love God above all else, and our neighbour as ourselves. In your case, to love your students: the children entrusted to you not by their parents, but by God Himself. In the same token you are called to build loving communities, otherwise, how can you give what you do not possess? The command to love covers everything that really matters. It touches every corner of our lives.

Laws are only good in so far as they protect and foster real love. There's a beautiful little story that shows that this can transform drudgery into a labor of love. Someone, seeing a boy carrying a smaller boy on his back, sympathetically remarked, "That's a heavy load you're carrying." To which the boy replied, "That's not a load, sir; that's my little brother!" That answer came from the heart and was, indeed, a labor of love!

 So, while the so-called learned and the clever thought they could reach heaven through their detailed knowledge of rules and their own efforts in observing them, Christ has a completely different approach. The law of love is the only way to heaven. And trust is the other side of that coin. Because Christ loves us completely, we trust him utterly. If you love those whom God has brought to you, then they will trust you. On the other hand, Saint Cándida warns us that if you do not trust in the love given to you, you will die.

I realized the magnitude of this stunning statement upon reading one of the letters in Perlas Escondidas. It is one of the longer ones in which the saint recounts a story about a mountain climber who, obsessed with conquering a high mountain, ignored everything but the quest to get to its peak. The night saw him still at it, refusing to rest. And when, in the black of darkness, with no moon to light, the sky and the stars were veiled by the clouds, he was negotiating a sheer cliff off the side of the mountain, just a hundred meters from the peak, he slipped and began falling endlessly. When what seemed like an eternity of falling suddenly broke, he realized that he had forgotten about his harness that is standard for mountain climbers. One end of the rope was spiked securely onto a side of the mountain, and the other end tied well around his waist. And there he hung, clutching at the rope that dangled him like a pendulum. Then he had a religious experience: he cried out to God for help, and God answered him! “Help me, Lord,” he said. “What do you want me to do, my son?” Asked the Lord. “Save me, my God!” (Sálvame, Diós mio!). “You really believe that I can save you?” (Realmente crées que te puedo salvár?) “Of course, Lord.” “Alright, then cut the rope that’s holding you,” said the Lord. Silence. The mountain rescue team that went to look for him was surprised to find the man hanging on the rope, frozen, and dead, his hands holding on tightly to the rope … at only two meters from the ground!

Trust is the response to love. It is an utterly serious thing to trust. Those of us who know we are loved by God must embrace it with conviction and not just talk about it. You cannot talk about it and not mean it. If we do talk about it, it must be an expression of that very trust. That is our way to life as Christians. That is the way of life you have elected as hijas of Mother Cándida, as Hijas de Jesús. Perhaps there are indeed many out there who are considering religious life in the Hijas de Jesús. Pray for them, they may be struggling to find that trust they need to respond to the Lord’s love.

As Christians there is nothing more fundamental than to trust in God’s love. In the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius begins with God’s love and ends with God’s love. Everything else in between is all about trust! In this time of the pandemic, we live with much uncertainty and fear. We may even doubt when this will end or whether we will survive this crisis. The wonderful thing is that with God's love that is possible for all of us. All that God asks of us is to trust Him. Simple truths there. Uncomplicated. Something children understand. Saint Cándida reminds us from deep within her conviction rooted in her trust in God’s love: Diós siempre está. That is what has been revealed to the little ones!