Thursday, January 3, 2013

Homily of Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, D.D.

Homily of Bishop Mylo Hubert Vergara, D.D. on the occasion of the priestly ordinations of Rev. Michael Israel Ortega and Rev. Edmond Reynaldo, held last Dec. 3, 2012 at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral

Most Rev. Francisco de Leon, Auxilliary Bishop of Antipolo, Fr. Orly Cantillon, our Vicar General of Pasig, Fr. Mar Baranda, our Chancellor, Fr. Silvino Borres, Rector of San Jose Seminary in ADMU, Fr. Midyphil Billones, Vice Rector of St. Joseph Major Seminary in Jaro, the Reverend Fathers present, our Reverend Deacons, the Sisters of different Religious Congregations present, our guests, especially the families and friends of Rev. Michael and Rev. Edmond, brothers and sisters in the Lord:

Magandang Umaga Po Sa Inyong Lahat!

This is not my first ordination as a bishop since I became Ordinary of San Jose Neuva Ecija in 2005. I have had ordinations not only in my diocese but in also other Religious Congregations.  But for me this is a first as Ordinary as bishop of Pasig, my first ordination for those who will become priests in my time as the shepherd of this diocese. To tell you honestly, I have this mixed feelings, excitedness and nervousness. I am one with all of you; we are in this together. What am I excited about?  What am I nervous about?  Of course I’m excited because again the Diocese of Pasig will have two priests who will serve the Church.  Bishops will truly be excited when they experience this fruitfulness in their Ecclesiastical territory. Knowing also that the Diocese of Pasig has scarce vocation.  Hindi ko po alam kung kilan yung susunod after Rev. Edmond and Rev. Michael. We pray and we hope that there will be additions in a proximate period, but that we do not know, OGK! Only-God-Knows, as they say.
            But I’m also nervous because having been a bishop for a number of years I do not know what will be the personal stories and priestly histories of Rev. Michael and Rev. Edmond. You see before you Bishop Francis and priests, they have their own stories to tell. I am nervous because I do not know whether they will be blessings to the Church or otherwise. That’s why I’m nervous. But we only pray, we hope; and with deep faith that they will be used by God and they will be vigilant in their own priestly identity and their own lives; that whatever gift they will receive today especially the gift of the priesthood, they will care for it, they will love it, and they will make sure that it is not theirs. It is from God and they owe it to the people they serve – the flock they will shepherd, to become responsible and accountable stewards of the gift of the priesthood.
            We have a long rite of ordination. However, I still like to share three points for Rev. Michael and Rev. Edmond drawing insights from our readings. And as always wherever I share insights I’d like to put it in three catch words. The first word is consecration, the second word is proclamation and the third word is mission. And also for all of us gathered here three challenges when we talk of the priesthood, whether it be the ordained priesthood or the priesthood of the faithful – the common priesthood we all shared.
            The first the consecration.  In our first reading, we heard from the book of the prophet Isaiah how he look at his own call as the anointing of the spirit – the anointing of God. He was chosen by God, given this vocation as a prophet.  Anyway, when talk of anointing of the chosen by God we can also use a synonymous term and the term is consecration - being consecrated to God and by God. Rev. Michael and Rev. Edmond, I hope you realize the depth of the meaning of the word 'consecration'.  As when you were ordained a deacon and now in another level, ordained a priest, you are consecrated to God. Pope Benedict XVI in his 2009 Chrism Mass shared the meaning of consecration and if I may paraphrase his word, Pope Benedict XVI said, reflecting on the priesthood, that consecrating one to God means he has to be set apart but to offer one to God so that the one consecrated no longer belongs to the world but belongs to God. The one consecrated is now the property of God – no longer the property of the world.  Those sentences which I paraphrased have a lot of things to say for both of you. You now belong to God; but belonging to God means you have to live by what God wants and what God wills.  But Pope Benedict XVI also said, "When one is consecrated to God as offered by those in the world, it also means sacrifice. To be consecrated to God means to be offered to God in sacrifice." Michael and Edmond, when you entered the seminary, your parents and your whole family already made a sacrifice.  They offered you to the Lord.  And today they are here, your love ones, they are making this supreme sacrifice knowing that you can still be with them and serve them. But now you will have a bigger family – the Church, and you are called this time, knowing the sacrifice they made, to offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God and to the people you will serve. That’s why to be consecrated to God really means that your life as a priest will be sacrifice.  Today as I shared with you in our conferences, you will experience the joy and the glory of ordination. But you know priestly life and ministry is not a bed of roses. Your consecration means you will have to let go of many things so that you can serve well – your convenience and your comfort - for the good of the church.
            The second thought is proclamation. In our second reading from Paul’s letter to Timothy, you will observe as Paul gives advice to an apprentice shepherd, one point reverberated - preaching, teaching.  That is what the people of God expect from priest, to be effective proclaimers of the word – teachers of the faith.  And they want to know deeply the faith through us and through you.  It is a big coincidence that you are ordained within the Year of Faith, and you have read I’m sure, that the reason why Pope Benedict XVI declared this as a “Year of Faith” was because he saw in the West and perhaps in other churches all over world, people suffering from an interior desert and he call this a "desertification" – a void within, where it seems there is a forgetfulness of God. That’s why in his letter and in his homilies, he would over emphasize that we have to lead people out of the desert. And Rev. Michael and Rev. Edmond, that will be your task, but that task cannot be possible if you do not lead yourselves out of your own interior deserts first. We all suffer from this desertification; given secularism, given our own sinfulness, given at times we are indifferent, or perhaps insensitive to the ways of God.  Our prayer is that you will become effective proclaimers of the Gospel. But believe me, you may be proficient, you may be excellent in proclaiming, preaching and even teaching the faith with your words. But to become an effective proclaimer is you have to live the Word yourself. You have to become testimonies of the faith. You have to become living examples of Jesus Christ.
            Finally, mission. I’m so happy that you chose the Gospel of John 21 – also the Gospel of my ordination, my thanksgiving, my Episcopal ordination and my installation as bishop. Cardinal Rosales shared a reflection of this text of John 21, the profundity of why, and the meaning why the Lord asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Of course we would always see it’s about perhaps one way to make Peter sort of renew himself after denying Christ three times. But Cardinal Rosales shared, if you observe from the words in John 21, the question was this, “Simon son of John, do you me more than these?” And then when Simon Peter said "yes" and the third time he was hurt because parang nagdududa, diba?  Parang hindi naniniwala sa kanya.  "Feed my sheep, tend my lambs, tend my flock."  So the focus is not on the sheep – the focus is on Jesus, the Good Shepherd. That’s why he did not say or ask, “Simon, son of John, do you love my sheep?" but "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" The point of the question is the point about being sent by the one who sends. It’s about mission. It is always a struggle for priests to obey their bishop, believe me. To be sent where the bishop wants them to go or to follow whatever the bishop says in the pastoral administration of the diocese, you will always be tested in mission.  But remember it is not asking you, Rev. Michael and Rev. Edmond, “Do you love me, Bishop Mylo more than these?" No.  Do you love Jesus, the Good Shepherd? Then and only then can you realize the task, send you to your sheep and go to where God wants you to go.
            We draw inspiration from St. Francis Xavier today who ministered in India and Japan, one of the first companions of St. Ignatius of Loyola who took it upon himself to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and to go where priests would rather not go. Rev. Michael and Rev. Edmond, you will be sent on mission not by Bishop Mylo but by the Good Shepherd.  Follow Him and go where you will be sent by the Lord.  Consecration, proclamation and mission – three words, that you are called to live by in your life as shepherds of God’s flock – as priest of Christ. /dpoc20130104

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