The ‘great continent’ of faith–the rock of Gibraltar–that was Meldy Cojuangco
On May 10, we celebrated Mass to mark the first death anniversary of Imelda Ongsiako-Cojuangco. The Gospel reading was from Luke 24: 13-35, The Two Disciples on the Road to Emmaus.
(Below is the author’s homily.
A month ago, Jayjay and I were exchanging notes on life without Tata, and one of the common experiences we shared was how weird it was to be going home to Bauhinia Street and not finding Tata there.
I think, for most of us who saw her daily or weekly for Mass, going home to Bauhinia was not just an end-of-the-day ritual. It was the highlight of our day or week, the celebration of the Eucharist.
I remembered what C.S. Lewis wrote, reflecting on the experience of his mother’s death when he was 9 years old:
“With my mother’s death, all settled happiness, all that was tranquil and reliable, disappeared from my life. There was to be much fun, many pleasures, many stabs of joy; but no more of the old security. It was sea and islands now; the great continent had sunk like Atlantis.” (Surprised by Joy, 7).
Loss and pain
I believe, for many of us gathered today, these words resonate with the deep sense of loss and pain that still lie within us.
One of the points we discussed in our recent Holy Week recollection was how we must appreciate that, in the saving act of Christ, he suffered through his passion and Cross as one who was fully human, with his divinity “hidden.”
It was the humanity of Christ that endured the pain and suffering of his passion and Cross, that allowed the transformation of Christ’s faith and hope in his Father’s promise that he will raise him up into love.
It is through Christ’s human faith and hope in God, transformed into love on the Cross, that our own human faith, hope and love can make the Resurrection possible in our own life.
We begin to understand that this same human faith, hope and love in Tata is what brings us together today. Tata, seemingly feeble and fragile, was actually, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “the great continent” who was a source of strength, our rock of Gibraltar.
But it was a strength that came from her love that was honed by her faith and hope through the years, especially the last decade of her life, when her illness radically transformed her life and the lives of many of those around her.
Our Gospel today for Tata’s first anniversary Mass, the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, is one of the most poignant Resurrection narratives. It places the mystery of human death, the pain and the loss it brings, within the horizon of the deepest mystery and grace of our Christian faith—the Resurrection, and how it reframes our own journey, all our experiences, and transforms the journey into a story of renewed hope and inspiration in the midst of death.
It is a testament to the truth of one of Tata’s favorite sayings: “What we have done will not be lost to all eternity. Everything ripens and bears fruit in its own hour.” (Roseanne Sanders)
Devotion to Mass
The past year, we have all journeyed without Tata. Yes, very much the same as the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, downcast and sad, but not on the road back to Emmaus, because if there was one thing Tata had taught us when she kept us company in our journey, it was to be our best—
to get out of our comfort zone and to seek and follow God’s will and mission for us.
And this she gave us in a most special way, by inspiring in us, or re-inspiring, our love for and devotion to the Mass. This is why we came home to Bauhinia, that we may emerge from it renewed.
So we thought we were going there to be with her and keep her company at Mass and in meals. Yes, we did, but she gave us so much more.
Those times we celebrated Mass brought us closer to God, and in the grace of the Eucharist, those moments gave us the grace to constantly take our lives, bring it together in prayer and at Mass, to recognize Christ’s presence in the day to day and be moved to a deep sense of gratitude for God’s love and grace.
Tata also taught us always to be grateful. Few will equal her natural grace to always thank people, regardless of their stature in life, for acts of kindness and service, big or small, that they extended to her.
Giving out of love
This gratitude made her one of the most thoughtful persons I have met. No doubt she was generous, but there was far greater grace to find in her thoughtfulness. It was not just giving—it was giving out of love, whether it be in her generous benefactions or meticulously planned meals or simply sharing a gift she had received. Everything was always done with thoughtfulness.
Paraphrasing Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Tata did big and little things with edifying thoughtfulness and great love.
In the book “The Holy Longing,” Fr. Ronald Rolheiser writes that we remain connected with a departed loved one when we enter the situations or moments in life where her soul once flourished.
Going home to Bauhinia may not feel the same because Tata will not be there in the way we had been with her through the years. But, when we do go home and celebrate the Mass and break bread together, we know, we feel her loving presence.
Not her physical presence, but we know she is there, in our hearts and soul. For at every Mass we celebrate, at every meal we share in Bauhinia, much more than we perhaps feel, our hearts burn inside because, in these moments, we remember Tata and connect with her—in these moments where her soul flourished. —CONTRIBUTED
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