Saturday, September 14, 2013

Why was the Black Nazarene frequently brought to Janet Napoles' house?

Black Nazarene
CBCP, please explain: Why was the Black Nazarene frequently brought to Janet Napoles' house?
Question from "Noy, Gising" Facebook Page:

CBCP, please explain: Thousands and thousands of devotees struggle (and even die) just to touch or get a glimpse of the Black Nazarene.  So why was it frequently brought to Janet Napoles' house?  Did God give her a special pass to view and pray before the Black Nazarene?  Do you still wonder why a lot of people are disillusioned with you guys.

My Reply:

I am not from CBCP (Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines) and my short answer is "I don't know".  But you may like to read these articles that attempt to clarify things:


Whatever the truth regarding these things, the question posed in the "Noy, Gising"'s poster remains important in another way: it leads us to ask about the true nature of icons and about the true love of Christ, as exemplified by the Gospel stories of the woman with hemorrhage and that of Zacchaeus the tax-collector.

Jesus as the Black Nazarene with red robes and carrying a cross
Black Nazarene in Quiapo Church
1. Thousands and thousands of devotees struggle (and even die) just to touch or get a glimpse of the Black Nazarene.

The image of the Black Nazarene surrounded by a great crowd wishing to touch the edge of his cloak or at least see him reminds us of the story of Jesus on his way to Jairus's house to heal his daughter:
When Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him....As he went, the crowds almost crushed him.43 And a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years,* who [had spent her whole livelihood on doctors and] was unable to be cured by anyone, 44 came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped.45 Jesus then asked, “Who touched me?” While all were denying it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds are pushing and pressing in upon you.”46 But Jesus said, “Someone has touched me; for I know that power has gone out from me.”s47 When the woman realized that she had not escaped notice, she came forward trembling. Falling down before him, she explained in the presence of all the people why she had touched him and how she had been healed immediately.48 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Lk 8:40-48)
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition
Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition
The Black Nazarene is not idol but an icon of Christ.  What are icons?  Icons today are image that represent a thing.  For example, the Facebook icon is an "f" in a blue box, while that of Twitter is an "bird" or a letter "t".  Icons are important because they lead us to the source: if you click on the "f" icon, it would lead you to a Facebook page.  But if you click on the "t" icon, it would lead you to a Twitter page.  In the same way, looking at the Black Nazarene as an icon leads us to the knowledge of who Christ is, and knowing leads to loving, and loving leads to following, in the same way as an "apple" would lead us to the knowledge of Apple the company, which would make us love and rave about Apple products, and then become Apple's fervent advocate.  Regarding religious icons, this is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
1159 The sacred image, the liturgical icon, principally represents Christ. It cannot represent the invisible and incomprehensible God, but the incarnation of the Son of God has ushered in a new "economy" of images:
Previously God, who has neither a body nor a face, absolutely could not be represented by an image. But now that he has made himself visible in the flesh and has lived with men, I can make an image of what I have seen of God . . . and contemplate the glory of the Lord, his face unveiled.27 
 1160 Christian iconography expresses in images the same Gospel message that Scripture communicates by words. Image and word illuminate each other:
We declare that we preserve intact all the written and unwritten traditions of the Church which have been entrusted to us. One of these traditions consists in the production of representational artwork, which accords with the history of the preaching of the Gospel. For it confirms that the incarnation of the Word of God was real and not imaginary, and to our benefit as well, for realities that illustrate each other undoubtedly reflect each other's meaning.28
Quiapo Church
Quiapo Church - 24"W x 16"H - Peel and Stick Wall Decal by Wallmonkeys
2. So why was [the Black Nazarene] frequently brought to Janet Napoles' house?  Did God give her a special pass to view and pray before the Black Nazarene?

This question reminds us of the story of Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who like Napoles defrauded many by funneling people's taxes to his own pockets.  The Jews hate tax collectors like Zacchaeus because they serve the oppressive Roman Empire who deprived them of their sovereignty as a nation.  Many Filipinos also expressed outrage over Napoles and the PDAF web of corruption that involved the Legislative and Executive branches of government.  But there is hope for Zacchaeus because he willed to see Jesus passing by and exerted extra effort by climbing a Sycamore tree.  And Jesus noticed his little efforts and rewarded it with the totally unmerited grace to visit his house:
When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 And he came down quickly and received him with joy.7 When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.”a8 But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.”b9* And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation c has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.10* d For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” (Lk 19:5-10)
The presence of the Black Nazarene in the house of Napoles is an invitation for conversion.  Let us pray that like Zacchaeus, Janet Napoles may be touched by the presence of Christ through the Black Nazarene and also exclaim: "Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over."  But it is not only Napoles's conversion that we pray for, but also of our conversion as well, who like the crowds grumble before Jesus, "He has gone to the stay at the house of a sinner."  But Christ proclaims the good news: “Today salvation c has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.10* d For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”  And that includes us as well.

3. Do you still wonder why a lot of people are disillusioned with you guys (in CBCP)?

I don't know about the number of guys who were disillusioned with CBCP because there was no rally to demonstrate their disillusionment, unless you would consider Carlos Celdran's one-man Damaso stunt as an anti-CBCP rally or perhaps the handful of pro-RH people wearing purple umbrellas standing in front of Supreme Court during the deliberations on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law. But surely, I know the number of guys who were disillusioned with the present government because of PDAF scam and they number about 100,000 to 200,000 (check out my crowd estimate of the August 26, 2013 Luneta rally against Pork Barrel).  And I also know about the number of guys who were disillusioned by their present life in this world, that they turn not to the brilliant men of this age--the doctors, the lawyers, the politicians--but to an icon, the Icon of the Black Nazarene, and these guys come on foot year after year with so much devotion and love, waiting like Zacchaeus for a glimpse Christ as the Black Nazarene, waiting to touch the cloak like that of a woman who suffered from hemorrhage. According to estimates for the procession last January 2013, the crowd around the Black Nazarene number 9 million--that's nine times more than the organizers of Million March to Luneta hoped to gather, and a hundred times more than what they actually got.