In the book of the Prophet Ezekiel we behold a very striking and painful moment. According to the sacred text, the prophet is summoned by God and then sent to visit the people of Israel that dwells in most difficult circumstances, exiled from their homeland and mistreated in every possible way. When the prophet sees by himself all that suffering he feels simply unable to utter a single word and remains in the midst of the exiled ones for full seven days–in silence. Clearly the Bible is teaching us something with this passage: presence, empathy and silence should be our very first response when we attempt to offer some consolation to those who are struggling with pain and grief.
But then It comes to the mind the image of Our Lady of Sorrows, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who beheld Christ giving up his life on the Cross. It is impossible not to associate Mary on the Calvary and Felipe’s mother, our beloved Myriam. It is also impossible not to remember that on the Calvary it was Jesus who broke the silence with words of deepest love and care. “Here is your son… here is your mother…” Why did not the Lord remain silent? We don’t have a definite answer but it seems to me that Jesus did not want to concede the last word to death itself. By itself, death cannot provide us with any meaning. Jesus’ words were a final gift to enhance Mary’s motherhood beyond every frontier. For once he uttered those words, each and every one of us, his “beloved disciples,” is entitled to recurring to the Blessed Virgin with absolute confidence.
Therefore, it is in the footsteps of the Lord that I dare to speak tonight. I believe silence is not an option. Felipe’s life was a gift for each one of us. The beauty of this gift that came from God could not remain wrapped forever. I admit, gifts are not always easy to understand, but as time passes by, you come to realize that sometimes there are gifts within gifts, and also, there are gifts that unfold and grow before your eyes, so to speak, if and when your eyes are ready to grasp just another bit of meaning and truth. No doubt for me, Felipe was one of this very special gifts.
He made a deep and lasting impact in so many lives! He led his own life in humbleness and respect for everybody. Innocent and joyful, full of affection and transparent to what is true, Felipe was able to teach us profound lessons that question and change not a few of commonly held conceptions. The value of “now,” the unashamed acknowledgement that we all depend upon others who also depend upon others and maybe upon ourselves, the joy of renewing yourself and other people with the rich simplicity of a smile or a hug, the foremost meaning of freedom that is born and re-born by feeling and touching nature, the true significance of trust and closeness… Aren’t we all at risk of forgetting not only the true answers but also the deep questions? It looks like from time to time God sends our way a Felipe to reminds us all that life is at the same time simpler and more mysterious than one previously thought.
I repeat myself: silence is not an option at this time. If that miracle we called Felipe was possible the reason is well visible among us, in the generous family he was sent to. I simply cannot describe the myriad of everyday details of affection and care that surrounded Felipe’s life. It was Myriam instructing him to stay silent in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament. It was Carlos, teaching him and learning avidly from him during long and joyful strolls. It was Kiona and Carlos Julio, concerned about his body and soul, with utmost generosity and selfless devotion. Yet Felipe was a gift from God, and we are sure it was God’s plan that was fulfilled and complete in Felipe’s short but so fruitful life–when and how the Lord considered it best.
Felipe made and is making a deep impact in many lives. Just as we pray here, hundreds of people, in different lands and even languages, are also praying to thank God and to accompany Carlos, Myriam, Carlos Julio and Kiona. From this sacred place I say, on behalf of us all: thank you.
I’d like to finish with something auto-biographical. I hugged and kissed Felipe many, many times. May I explain myself. I am a missionary. In recent years I have travelled across many countries and even continents. In my experience there are Felipes all over the world. Each one of them is absolutely unique in his or her own way but every time I came across a very special child, I respectfully ask to kiss him or her, in remembrance of my dearest nephew. On behalf of you, Felipe, I promise to continue doing so up to the end of my life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.