Following is a homily given on February 6, 2006, at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Angels, Bocaue, Philippines, by our beloved brother, Fr. Manuel Merton, OP.
Fr. Manuel is the Promoter for the Nuns for all the monasteries of the Order. Because of his solicitude for the nuns he is rarely home at S. Sabina, Rome, but instead visiting the monasteries all over the world. He probably knows the name of every Dominican Nun in the world! Somehow, he always manages to answer all the emails and letters any nun sends him.
When we sat together and told each other the story of our vocation, I asked you to reveal your personal motto from the Holy Scriptures, and your favorite Saint. When I finished my long vocational story, I didn’t tell you my favorites. Therefore, I make up for it now. Whom do you expect to be my favorite Saint? Since Manuel is my religious name and my baptismal name is Peter, St. Peter then is my Patron; and today as an elderly man, I like him because he is so human. It is different when I was still a kid. At that time, I wasn’t that happy with my Patron Saint because I hardly could consider him to be an example that I could learn from. After all, he had betrayed Jesus; and he was also very hasty and ill-considered. If you only think on his dialogue with the Lord on the occasion of the washing of the feet: “‘Lord, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered, ‘At the moment you do not know what I am doing, but later you will understand.’ ‘Never!’ said Peter. ‘You shall never wash my feet.’ Jesus replied, ‘If I do not wash you, you can have no share with me.’ Simon Peter said, ‘Well then, Lord, not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!’” Yes, as a kid I would have liked my Patron Saint a more balanced man, a man who thinks first and then talk.
Aside from Peter, who would be my Patron? Later in my life I fell in love with Mary Magdalene because of her “love-story” with Jesus. Her life-story always serve as an example to me. No matter what had happened, no matter how your past had been, as long as you continue to love, there is a bright future for you. Mary Magdalene was named by St. Augustine: apostola apostolorum - the female apostle to the male apostles. So she became also one of the Patrons of the Order of Preachers: We could call her Patron Preacheress of love to the preachers of grace! My biblical motto is very much related to her and the ascendancy of Love over everything; which her life testifies so beautifully. The words are taken from the book of the Prophet Isaiah: “Can a woman forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even she should forget, I will never forget you, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Is 49, 15 ff.)
I would like to share with you some considerations concerning my biblical motto: When I was still a boy I liked to go to fairs. Not that I was very much interested in carrousels, buying sweets and toys or spending money otherwise - this was not at all the reason for going there. Primarily, I was interested in watching people, in listening to storytellers, in observing fortune-tellers. On the other hand, I was deeply impressed by their performance when they started looking intensely onto the palms of the hands of their clients, into their eyes, then onto their hands again. Finally they began to talk, very softly and slowly first, but then becoming faster and with an increasing voice pretending a higher likely of the following predictions. I doubted that there could be any truth in what they pretended to read from the lines and furrows on the palm of the client’s hands.
One day I approached my father: “What do you think about the fortune-tellers, it seems they only pretend to read something from these lines and furrows, don’t they? Or are there anything to read in fact?” My father answered: “Well, I do not believe in fortune-telling at all, but with hands there is a mystery. Nobody all over the world has the same lines and furrows as anyone else. These engravings are absolutely unique. No one is identical. Lines and furrows of anyone’s hand are unchangeable, they last for ever.” I was deeply impressed.
Whenever you visit the US nowadays, you have to fulfill some requirements. Aside from a valid Visa you need a machine-readable passport. But this is not yet enough. When you alighted from the plane, the so-called “homeland security forces” will ask a digital fingerprint of your left and of your right index finger and in addition to that they take also a picture of you, on which you are neither permitted to smile nor to look to the right or to the left. You have to look straight into the camera. When later on you are about to leave the country, again you have to undergo the same procedure. Thus the security forces try to avoid any cheating with regard to residence permits. They are also convinced that the more fingerprints they collect the surer their security will become.
“Can a woman forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even she should forget, I will never forget you. Look, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” What an image for God’s love for us! We, you and me, and every human being, will form the engraving of God’s hands. God had made himself unmistakable by engraving us in his hands. Thus, he has improved our “security standards” much more than any fingerprint of our index finger when entering the United States of America could ever do. The “homeland security” which God provides for us does neither depend on our own fingerprints nor on the seeming beauty of any picture we make of ourselves. Our “homeland security” depends only on God’s love for us. It was him who engraved us on the palm of his hands.
“Homeland Security”, that is what it has promised to us! Therefore listen to another biblical motto of mine. It is taken from the Gospel of John and explains beautifully, what is meant: “In all truth I tell you, whoever listens to my words, and believes in the one who sent me, has eternal life; without being brought to judgment such a person has passed from death to life.” Isn’t it great to be a Christian? Isn’t it great to be engraved on the palm of Gods hands? Isn’t it great to have “Homeland Security”?
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, let us congratulate one another for our “security standards” - better than any other things invented by which some nations put into practice with whatever worldly power!