“I HAVE SEEN THE LORD!”
Homily during the Presbyteral Ordination of Rev. Wilowyn Noe P. Andaya, OCD
Of Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, DD, MA, SThD,
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish Shrine, New Manila, April 2, 2013
You may be wondering why I am here today as the ordaining prelate of Rev. Willow. Why not a Carmelite bishop or Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao? Well, let me briefly explain why. Last February 21, I received a surprising email from our ordinandus. He wrote: “I’m Rev. Wilowyn Noe P. Andaya, OCD. My request that you be my ordaining prelate was through Fr. Dan Lim, OCD and through Ms. Tina de Guzman. We met in 2005 when you gave a talk on St. Teresa of Avila at the OCDS (Tertiary) House of Prayer beside the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Shrine Parish. In that talk, I was the one who introduced you as speaker. I introduced you in a unique way because I related your role in my vocation story, i.e. when you were the outgoing chaplain of Greenbelt Chapel and you gave a talk on contemplative prayer using the Interior Castle as your framework. That led me to read her, then to John of the Cross, then to Therese of the Child Jesus, and the rest is history.”
Believe me, Rev. Willow, since I turned fifty (50) years old last year, I have had a lot of memory lapses or what they call “senior moments” even though I am not yet a senior citizen. And considering the fact that I have been twenty-three (23) years in priestly ministry, I have forgotten a great number of the many faces of people I have served or ministered to. It took time for me to recall the instance as well as the time and place I encountered you. God truly works in mysterious ways. And I thank God that you reminded me of one significant thing to keep me going in my priesthood, that is, God has and still uses me to bring people close to him. And particularly for you, God used me to lead you to consider religious life and to consecrate your life in total service to him.
Your priestly ordination falls on Tuesday within the Octave of Easter. Strikingly, our gospel passage for our liturgy today recounts the resurrection appearance of the Risen Lord before Mary Magdalene. If there is one line I want us to reflect on in this gospel text, it is what Mary Magdalene announced to the disciples after her encounter with Jesus. She told them: “I have seen the Lord!” (Jn 20:18)
Rev. Willow, these words reveal significant challenges in your vocation to the priesthood, then, now and as long as you live. Let us contemplate on what Mary Magdalene saw, what she saw in Jesus, and what you, Rev. Willow, have and will always see in Jesus as you serve him.
First, Mary Magdalene saw the empty tomb and wept. Yes, she wept because she wanted to see the corpse of Jesus. She told the two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been: “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” (Jn 20:13) These words speak of the profound loss Mary felt because Jesus was no longer with her. Of course, she knew that Jesus died. She was still coping with what took place at Calvary and the deep pain of losing someone she loved. Perhaps, she felt that even the sight of the dead body of her Lord would appease her emotional state of grief and mourning. Finding it difficult to see the dead body of Jesus meant she could not let go of him. Whether Jesus was alive or dead, what mattered was she would not lose sight of him. She always wanted to see Jesus. She wanted to always be with Jesus.
Rev. Willow, like the experience of Mary Magdalene, the priesthood means never losing sight of Jesus, never letting go of him. I’m sure you have experienced and learned this yourself during your years of formation. The moment we become preoccupied with things that may distract us from Jesus like lingering idleness or too much work in ministry, or even the drive for attention and popularity in service, we become focused on ourselves and lose sight of Jesus.
Rev. Willow, you are blessed because your Carmelite formation has taught you how not to lose sight and not to let go of Jesus. It is prayer. Take to heart what the Carmelite Doctors of the Church taught you about prayer whether it be in your daily celebration of the Eucharist, your daily adoration before the Blessed Sacrament or your daily recitation of the rosary with the accompaniment of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Second, Mary Magdalene saw the Risen Jesus and called him “Rabbouni” which means Teacher (Jn 20:16). She recognized Jesus who taught her to let go of the demons that possessed her. Remember that she was possessed by seven demons and Jesus healed her. She also recognized Jesus who taught her to have faith that after three days he would rise again.
Rev. Willow, like Mary Magdalene who recognized Jesus as Teacher, the priesthood means recognizing and being anchored in Jesus our Teacher of the Faith, par excellence. He is the source of our prophetic vocation. He is the core of our faith whom you are called to propagate. You are to do this when you preach prepared and substantial homilies to the faithful every time you celebrate mass. You are to do this when you give catechism to children and adults. You are to do this when you give recollections and retreats to people who thirst for Jesus. You are to do this when you practice what you preach. Yes, your mission is to teach and proclaim Jesus in word and witness, nothing more, nothing less. It is coincidental that you are ordained within this “Year of Faith”. In the words of Benedict XVI, one of your crucial tasks is to help the faithful, “…rediscover the content of the faith that is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed, and to reflect on the act of faith…” (Porta Fidei # 9)
Finally, Mary Magdalene saw the dry wounds of Jesus and held on to it. One characteristic of the resurrection appearances of the Lord is that he showed his wounds to his disciples that made them recognize him. Just when Mary Magdalene wanted to hold on to Jesus and his wounds, Jesus told her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (Jn 20:17)
I would like to think that Mary Magdalene was not only able to touch the wounds of the Risen Christ but in so doing was in touch with her own woundedness. Moreover, she was challenged by Jesus to stop holding on to his wounds and even hers, and be in touch with the wounds of others so that she could truly say: “I have seen the Lord!”
Rev. Willow, like Mary Magdalene’s experience, to be a priest challenges us to always contemplate on the wounds of Christ so that we will be in touch with our own wounds, the wounds of those we minister to, and be like Jesus Christ, the Wounded healer. I am reminded of a so-called legend in the life of St. Teresa of Avila. It is said that one time the devil wanted to fool and tempt the holy saint by disguising himself as Jesus. St. Teresa was never fooled and immediately knew he was the devil. Before leaving her, the devil curiously asked how she knew all along. St. Teresa simply responded: “It was easy. You have no wound marks on your hands and feet. Jesus has wounds.” Perhaps, this is why St. Teresa has taught us: “Fix your gaze on the Crucified One…” (Interior Castle)
Always remember that you are and will always be a wounded servant of Christ. Only then, can you be in touch with the wounds of the oppressed, the neglected, the sick, and those who have been deeply hurt in life, especially the poor. Let us follow the example of the Carmelite martyr St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross who gave her life for another during World War II, of St. Pedro Calungsod who suffered wounds from a spear and laid down his life for the Jesuit, Fr. Diego de San Vittores and for the faith, of Blessed John Paul II who was in touch with the wounds of the sick and aged when he himself was aging and dying, and of course, our dear Pope Francis who touched the wounds of some young people when he washed their feet in Casal del Marmo Detention Center last Holy Thursday. Be strengthened by the hope that by the wounds of Christ, we are healed.
Rev. Willow, in a few moments as I lay hands on you, together with the priests present here, and I solemnly utter the prayer of ordination, the Lord will make his presence felt in your life. Our prayer is that you never lose sight or let go of him; that you see him as your Master and Teacher of the faith you are to proclaim in your life and ministry; and that you always fix your gaze on his wounds of love and touch his wounds in the lives of those you will serve. And may you always proclaim with deep faith: “I have seen the Lord!” AMEN.
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