Thursday, 02 August 2018 06:10

PCNE 5 Opening Mass

Homily delivered by Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of the Diocese of Cubao during the Eucharistic Celebration of the 1st day of the 5th Philippine Conference on New Evangelization held at the Quadricentennial Pavilion University of Santo Tomas on July 18, 2018.

His Eminence “Cardinal” Chito, my brother bishops, my brother priests, reverend sisters, our dear consecrated persons, brothers and sisters in Christ.

We gathered on this sacred days of prayer not only because we are participating in the PCNE but because of the days of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving initiated by the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines (CBCP); while the organizers of the PCNE may not have foreseen this wonderful coincidence. I truly believed that the Lord had willed it so. What better opportunity for us to reflect on the priesthood than on a day of prayer and fasting. The Lord Jesus gave thanks to the Father for revealing to the childlike what he has kept hidden to the wise and the learned in us much as fasting is a spiritual discipline that empties us of ourselves, we become less of ourselves and so become smaller and therefore more capable of understanding the secrets of the Lord. 

Photo by Eric Paul Guanlao

Often times we think that having degrees in Philosophy and Theology make for knowing the Lord. But the Lord Jesus said that “no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him.” To whom does the Son wish to reveal the Father? Is it not to those to whom the Father prefers to reveal the secrets of the kingdom? These are not the wise nor the learned but those who are like little children. It is with the humble disposition that we should approach the mystery of the priesthood Jesus. After all, the priest of the Lord cannot be understood apart from the kenosis or the self-emptying of Christ.  

When Jesus showed his love for his own, he took-off the outer garments and tied a towel around His waist in order to wash His disciples’ feet. St. Paul sings of this mystery, “though He was in the form of God, Jesus did not deem equality with God but rather He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.” He took off His outer garments, He emptied Himself, He tied a towel around His waist, He took the form of a slave, He began to wash His disciples’ feet. He purified us by shedding His blood on the cross. He obediently accepted death, death on a cross. 

Is this not what Christ’s priesthood is all about?  Is it not about His obedience unto death? Christ the high-priest entered heavenly holy of holies not with the blood of animals but with His own blood. His sacrifice was His obedience unto death, His absolute and unconditional obedience to the Father.  His obedience unto death was the most perfect sacrifice that glorified the Father. This Jesus is the son of the Father, the obedient child of the Father through whom the Father was pleased to reveal everything. In Jesus, the Father was well pleased. And to me, this is the real essence of the priesthood. A priest is the one who offers the sacrifice. In our time a priest is the jack of all trades, expert in multi-tasking, he is expected to be an expert in almost everything. However, we must never forget why the priest is called a “priest”. The priest is essentially the one who offers the sacrifice which in any religion is the most perfect act of worship. Jesus is the high priest of all priests because it is He who rendered to the Father the most perfect homage of all time, His obedience unto death; death on the cross. His self-emptying did not end with the incarnation, His humility even when further down. Downed to the humiliation of the cross and even when further downed to the abyss of death, He simply did not stop descending until He reached rock bottom of the abyss, He showed His love unto the end. And we who wished to share in His priesthood must imitate Jesus in His childlikeness. We must go down on that road of kenosis with absolute trust in the Father’s love, we must not hesitate to go down the path of childlike obedience. 

On the day we were ordained, the bishop handed to us the gifts for sacrifice he said, “Receive the oblation of the holy people to be offered to God.” Understand what you do, imitate what you celebrate and conform your life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross. To share in the priesthood of Christ is to receive the oblation of the holy people to be offered to God. To understand what we do, we must keep in mind the kenosis of Christ. To celebrate in spirit and in truth, we must imitate this self-emptying of the Lord by constantly descending along the path of humility and renunciation, by constantly seeking the last place, by constantly seeking the company of the least and of lost, and by refusing to regard the priesthood as a career. Most of all to share in the priesthood of Jesus is to conform our lives to the mystery of the cross of the Lord. There is no other way except the cross. The priests who had gone before us must have taken up their crosses. Our very own fathers Marcelito Paez, Mark Anthony Ventura, and Richmond Nilo have imitated Christ to the point of shedding their blood. 

The cross is the altar where Christ offered his sacrifice, the altar where we offer ours should be no different after all the sacrifice we offer is Christ. Sacred ordination does not simply confer power on us; it should configure us to Christ, to Christ who emptied himself, to Christ who made himself poor, to Christ who served, to Christ who gave up his life. 

Let St. Paul’s words be ours, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live but Christ lives in me.” The life I now live in the body, I live by the faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave himself for me… Amen.


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