Homily for the Sacred Ordination to the Diaconate and to the Priesthood
St. Andrew Cathedral
3 December 2011
Four days from today – on 7 December – we shall celebrate the ninth anniversary of our young Diocese. Though carved out from the Archdiocese of Manila, the pastoral field of the great cities of Parañaque, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa seemed formidable even then. We could exclaim with Jesus: “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest” (Mt 9:38)!
The Lord has not been parsimonious: from an initial 39 incardinated priests – including myself – the Lord has added 17 priests and one deacon – including seven priests through incardination. Today, that one deacon will be ordained to the priesthood. Today, the Lord will provide the Diocese with two more deacons.
Through baptism, all of us – laity, clergy and religious – “are consecrated as a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, in order that through all those works which are those of the Christian man [we] may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of Him who has called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light… (cf. 1Pt 2:4-10) Everywhere on earth [we] must bear witness to Christ and give an answer to those who seek an account of that hope of eternal life which is in [us] (cf. 1Pt 3:15)” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium, 10).
“For the nurturing and constant growth of the People of God, Christ the Lord instituted in His Church a variety of ministries, which work for the good of the whole body” (ibid., 18). First: “Bishops by divine institution have succeeded to the place of the apostles, as shepherds of the Church” (ibid., 20).
Second: Priests: “…united with the bishops in sacerdotal dignity… they are consecrated to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful and to celebrate divine worship, so that they are true priests of the New Testament… For the sick and the sinners among the faithful, they exercise the ministry of alleviation and reconciliation and they present the needs and the prayers of the faithful to God the Father… In virtue of their common sacred ordination and mission, all priests are bound together in intimate brotherhood, which naturally and freely manifests itself in mutual aid, spiritual as well as material, pastoral as well as personal, in their meetings and in communion of life, of labor and charity” (ibid., 28).
Third: Deacons: Although they may be entrusted with the administration of baptism, the blessing of marriages and preaching, deacons are not half-baked priests. They are “dedicated to duties of charity and of administration” (ibid., 29). It is out of this service of charity and administration – in communion with the Bishop and Priests – that they preach the Gospel. For this reason they ought to “mindful of the admonition of Blessed Polycarp: ‘Be merciful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all’” (ibid.).
In the twelfth chapter of the Gospel according to John, the Lord explained what being a “servant of all” really means. Some Greeks approached St. Philip and told him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus”. St. Philip told St. Andrew and both told Jesus. Jesus took it as a cue for his coming salvific death and resurrection: “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit”. Bishops, priests and deacons are called to the same total self-gift. And this is possible only if we wish to serve the Lord and to abide in the Lord: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be”.
Pope Benedict XVI exhorted the priests he ordained last year: “the priesthood can never be a means of achieving security in life or of acquiring a position in society. Anyone who aspires to the priesthood [or to the diaconate] to enhance his own prestige and power has misunderstood the meaning of this ministry at its root. Anyone who wishes above all to achieve an ambition of his own, to attain success for himself will always be a slave to himself and to public opinion. In order to be esteemed, he must flatter, he must say what people want to hear; he will have to adapt to changing fashions and opinions and will thus deprive himself of the vital relationship with truth, reducing himself to condemning tomorrow what he had praised today. A man who plans his life in this manner, a priest [a deacon] who sees his ministry in these terms does not truly love God and others but only himself and, paradoxically, ends by losing himself. The priesthood [and the diaconate] let us always remember is based on having the courage to say ‘yes’ to another will, in the awareness that we are growing every day, that precisely by conforming to God’s will, by ‘immersing ourselves’ in this will, not only will our own originality not be obliterated, but on the contrary, we will penetrate ever more deeply into the truth of our being and our ministry” (Homily for the Priestly Ordination of the Deacons of the Diocese of Rome (20 June 2010).
Take courage, Rev. John Paul, Bro. Cito, Bro. Mariel. The People of God welcome you. The priests of the Diocese of Parañaque embrace you. As we end the Year of the Youth, recall what the Holy Father told the youth after he was elected Pope: “I say to you, dear young people: Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life. Amen” (Homily for the Mass, Imposition of the Pallium and Conferral of the Fisherman’s Ring for the Beginning of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome (24 April 2005).