by: Ronnie Caballero
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:24)
It is August 5, 2009 2:30 p.m..We are standing in the pouring rain in the middle of South Luzon Expressway at the intersection of Pablo Ocampo Sr. in Manila. We are hemmed in by a crowd with hardly space to move into. I crane my neck towards Quirino Avenue for probably the 500th time in the past 2 hours. I see nothing but heads and umbrellas drenched by the rain. People on roofs, or on top of container trucks stalled by the crowds, all with the purpose of gaining the best vantage point. But all with smiling faces and without complaints and with no intention to leave. For what? To bid goodbye to greatness we all had once witnessed. For a person who stood for all of us when hopes were dimmed, for a person who brought back democracy so that all will live freely without fear. Cory Aquino.
Like many, the previous night, I had stayed up tuned in to the many eulogies on television. As a participant in the EDSA revolution in 1986, I found that so many things had come alive within me like nationalism, unity and nationhood, a cherished freedom. But the broadcast from Manila Cathedral of the proceedings brought with it so much more, a great sense of accomplishment and achievement.
Once more in my life, someone such as Cory Aquino made me proud to be a Filipino and a Catholic. It was her post-presidential life that impressed me most. Without the trappings of power, she proceeded on her next mission. She showed without much fanfare how it was to live as a woman of faith. She touched so many lives with her humility, faith in the Holy Rosary and Our Lady of Fatima.
I did not know about her story with Sister Lucia, the remaining visionary of our Lady of Fatima until now. She had been entrusted by the kind Sister Lucia with a rosary during a private audience. Since then that rosary had been the focal point of Mrs. Aquino’s visits to many sick people who were healed simply by prayer and the physical presence of that rosary. Of all the memorable things said about her, I remember the most what Fr. Jerry Orbos SVD said, “She had an exit plan!”
What Fr. Jerry was saying was in the perspective of people living in the corridors of power. It is commonly said that you need to be kind to people on your way up because you may meet them on your way down. Many people take the reins of power with impunity and pride and live without any intention of letting go. They live as super humans unreacheable, untouchable and changed for the worse. But not Cory. She knew when to relinquish it.
Like the grain of wheat that dies, Cory knew how to die, Fr. Jerry continued. She died when Ninoy died. She died when she accepted being a presidential candidate against the dictator. She died when she got elected as our president. She died also when she completed her term as president and left the corridors of power. She died again when she served quietly, humbly as an ambassadress of the Holy Rosary. She died when she accepted her cancer. And the euphoria of her final death just testifies exactly that, a life lived well, an exit plan well-executed. She lived with eyes with an eternal perspective, to finally please God with the way she lived her waning life as she embraced eternity.
This week’s prayer guide in Sacred Space puts a wonderful perspective to all this. It says: “Jesus’ image of the wheat grain symbolizes not just our mortal life, but the many times we die a little before our death: with every parting, moving of house or job, loss of a friend or dear one, with any loss of property. To cling to what we have lost is to bury our life in the past. Even the most painful loss can be a new beginning.
Lord, you sometimes ask us to face the death to our own desires and ego in the daily contradictions and rebuffs of our long lifetimes. There too the sacrifice of the ego enables us to bear much fruit.”
Ronnie Caballero joins our Portal Columnists from a background of editorship of the BCBP’s national magazine, KAPATIRAN, where he continues to serve as a columnist. A past chapter head of the BCBP Makati Chapter and senior member, Ronnie continues to serve the Lord in the BCBP in addition to being a successful business executive.