CHRISM MASS
St. Andrew Cathedral
5 April 2012

Reverend Monsignori and Fathers,
Consecrated Men and Women,
Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,

1. Tempus fugit[1]. How time flies! Only a year ago, we welcomed three priests into the diocesan clergy and announced our priests’ new assignments. Since then, much has happened. Let us count our blessings.

2. First, the general reshuffle of assignments brought out the best in most, if not all, of you, my dear priests. I talked with practically all of you during the Lenten Season and I am encouraged by your sharing. Accepting your new assignments in the spirit of faith and obedience, you let go of the parishioners whom you have come to love and took on the challenges of your new parishes or ministries with remarkable courage and edifying zeal. For this, I thank the good Lord!
     The general reshuffle of assignments brought out the best in our lay leaders, too. You, my dear lay faithful, men and women, young and old, you have shown your maturity as the real stakeholders in the pastoral enterprise that we call the parish. By gratefully recording and continuing the good programs of your former pastors, by graciously welcoming and orienting your new parish priests, by creatively reshaping your parish programs with your new parish priests, you have proven to me that a participative Church is possible. To those who served in the Transition Teams, and to all lay leaders, especially the youth: Congratulations!

3. Second, the appointment of new School Directors was a wonderful opportunity to recall the identity of the Catholic School and the mission of a School Director. As the Bishop of Parañaque, I must see to it that “Catholic students receive a solid religious and moral education which helps them to mature as authentic disciples of Christ and as a leaven of Christian living within society”[2]. In this area, I wish to thank our religious men and women who run schools.
     School Directors are appointed, therefore, to ensure three things: that the instruction and education in Catholic schools be “grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine”, that the teachers be “outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life”[3] as well as in “teaching skill”[4], and that parents and teachers collaborate closely with each other in providing the children with true education[5].
     I am pleased, therefore, to announce that we are organizing not only the Diocese of Parañaque Parochial Schools Association (DOPPSA) but also the Diocese of Parañaque Catholic Schools Association (DOPCASA) so that the “Catholic identity of the school” would lead to the “promotion of the whole human person, for it is in Christ, the perfect man, that all human values find their fullest realization and therefore their unity”[6].

4. Third, the Second Assembly of the Diocesan Pastoral Council held on 10 December 2011 realized that we must intensify our efforts to live out our Diocesan Vision and Mission. To mark, therefore, the tenth year of our young Diocese and the ten years before the fifth centenary of the first Eucharist and the first Baptism in the Philippines, we declared the years 2012-2021 as a Decade of New Evangelization in the Diocese of Parañaque. We are seeking to enhance “the basic ecclesial community as a way of life by walking together in the light of God’s Word (Bible), uniting around Christ’s redeeming Cross (Eucharist) and transforming communion in the faith into communities at the service of the poor (Community-in-service)”[7].
     For this first year of “walking together in the light of God’s Word”, I enjoined “all the faithful in the Diocese of Parañaque… to let the Word of God inspire, sustain and perfect all pastoral programs by beginning every endeavor and meeting with a prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture. I ask my priests to feed the flock entrusted to us with the food that does not perish (cf. John 6:27) – Jesus, the Word Incarnate – through homilies, sermons and recollections but especially through an exemplary way of life”[8].

5. Finally, a word to my brother priests: “I turn finally to you, dear brothers in the priestly ministry. Holy Thursday is in a special way our day. At the hour of the last Supper, the Lord instituted the New Testament priesthood. “Sanctify them in the truth” (John 17:17), he prayed to the Father, for the Apostles and for priests of all times [and in a singular way, for us priests of the Diocese of Parañaque]. With great gratitude for the vocation and with humility for all our shortcomings, we renew at this hour our “yes” to the Lord’s call: yes, [let us] be intimately united to the Lord Jesus, in self-denial, driven on by the love of Christ”[9].
     As I look at you, dear brother priests, I pray for that day when priests will no longer be seen as professional prophets but as good shepherds. Professional prophets preach the Word of God for a fee, destroy ecclesial communion for the sake of their career, and mislead the faithful with half-truths masquerading as Gospel-truth. May you be different. May you be good shepherds. In these recent times, we have been taking to heart the Holy Father’s exhortation “to be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works”[10]. We appreciate each other’s gifts and we understand each other’s weaknesses. We recognize each other’s challenges and help to carry each other’s crosses. We learn to forgive the wounds we inflict on one another.
     Let us seek to build communion through trust and openness. It is no accident that one of the effects of the reshuffle was that the Board of Clergy Concerns has given way to the quarterly meetings of the Presbyteral Council most of whose members you elected in November 2010, the regular meetings of the Vicars Forane every other week and the meetings of the College of Consultors. I consider you, my priests, not only as collaborators, but as brothers and friends. Despite the differences that may have come in between us and among us, I will always hold on to this conviction.
     Why? Because we are men seeking above all to imitate Jesus Christ our High Priest: of him, we are “faithful witnesses”[11]; like him, we become “suffering servants”[12]; and in him, we aspire to be “holy and obedient priests”[13]. We were all anointed by the sacred Chrism. We have received the Spirit by which we are “to bring glad tidings to the poor… to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord”[14].
     So, in the words of St. Peter, “I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, (overseeing) not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory”[15].
     It is in this spirit that I invite you, my brother priests, to renew the promises we made at our ordination.

+ JESSE E. MERCADO, D.D.
Bishop of Parañaque

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[1] Cf. Virgil, Georgics, 3, 284: “…fugit irreparabile tempus…”
[2] Congregation for Bishops, Directory Apostolorum successores (henceforth AS) for the pastoral ministry of Bishops, 132; cf. canon 795 CIC.
[3] canon 803 §2 CIC.
[4] canon 804 §2 CIC.
[5] canon 796 §2 CIC.
[6] AS 133.
[7] Decree Volumus Iesum videre, 1 January 2012, in Diocese of Parañaque Circular (henceforth DOPC) 2012-001.
[8] Pastoral Letter Walking Together in the Light of God’s Word on the First Year of the Decade of New Evangelization, in DOPC 2012-007.
[9] Pope Benedict XVI, Homily for Chrism Mass, 21 April 2011.
[10] Hebrews 10:24, in Pope Benedict XVI, Message for Lent 2012.
[11] Cf. Revelation to John 1:5.
[12] Cf. Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
[13] Cf. Hebrews 7:26.
[14] Luke 4:18f.
[15] 1 Peter 5:1-4.