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Concern, Comforting and Reconciling Love for Others


(Homily delivered by His Eminence Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila during the Ordination Mass on January 31, 2015 at the Manila Cathedral.)

My dear brothers and sisters it is just fitting that we give thanks and praise to God. God who never leaves His people alone. We are blessed today by God with three new priests. But before we start this we ask you to pray also for two of our priests who just passed away: Msgr. Marcelino Reyes, who will be buried today, and Msgr. Augusto Pedrosa, the former rector of the Manila Cathedral who will be buried tomorrow. So please pray for them and pray also for the priests who are sick; we pray for the health of our priests and also of these three new candidates. We thank the parents, the families of our three great men. Thank you for making this great gift to the Church and to humanity.

While our attention in this celebration certainly focuses on the calling and the mission of the ordained, we would like to remind all of us there is the spirit of communion among all of us that ties Christians. We share in the same baptism; we profess the same faith; and we share in different capacities, in different states of life, in the common calling to follow Jesus and to be missionaries in our time, in our world. So it is not just our three candidates to the priesthood who are expected to embrace a life of service of God and the Christian community. All of us must work together. Hindi natin pupuwedeng ipasa lamang sa kanilang tatlo ang paglilingkod sa Diyos at sa sambayanan. So whatever lessons we get from the readings, from the Word of God, and from the whole ceremony, they are meant for all of us but in a special to the ordained and to our three brothers. 

So Lemuel, Marvin and Alberto as we thank you for this gift of self we also ask you to internalize this moment and the grace that God is giving you through the Church. The three readings obviously focus on Jesus, the Good Shepherd. In him is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah in the First Reading and in Jesus, from Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we find the inspiration of people like Saint Paul who writes to the Corinthians in the Second Reading: “The prophets of old were all moving towards Jesus, and all the apostles and servants afterwards will have to start from Jesus. The centrality of Jesus, the fulfillment of the prophecies of the past, and also the foundation of everything that will follow in the future. The three readings are tied by this image which is precious not only to Scriptures but to the Christian tradition. The role of the Shepherd which is used for kings, for prophets, for priests. And it is used also for other people who have a mission, a service of responsibility. Parents in some ways you are also shepherds. Teachers, you are also shepherds. Businesspeople you are also shepherds. So everyone can learn from Jesus. 

Let us look at the readings and pick up three simple lessons about becoming true shepherds, true shepherds not only as ordained, shepherds in our respective worlds. We start with the Gospel. 

Jesus depicts himself as the Good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep. And this is a manifestation of his concern for the sheep. And this is the first point: a shepherd is a person who has deep concern for the others. Malalim na pagmamalasakit para sa iba. That is the mark of a shepherd. Before a shepherd becomes distinguished by his achievements, by the many buildings that he was able to construct; by the many projects that he has successfully completed, in the end, as far as Jesus is concerned, the heart of the shepherd is the heart that is full of concern for the others. And that concern will be tested. Can you lay down your life for others? A concern that might ask of us a total gift of self, even to the point of death. That was fulfilled in Jesus. His concern was not manifested in sending this or that; in sending a donation; in sending a gift. In the end his concern was manifested in his willingness to die for the sheep. 

But according to Jesus there are shepherds who have no concern for the sheep. Why? Because they worked for pay. Hindi pala nagmamalasakit sa bayan. Ang hinahanap lang ay, magkano ba ang makukuha ko riyan? Ang inuuna ay ang sarili. Self-concern. Bago ko gawin yan, eh, teka muna, magkano ba? Magkalinawan muna tayo. Kung hindi uubra sa akin ang iyong pay, eh, sorry. My concern is measured by the pay I get. Society even the Church had experienced so much destruction and pain because of shepherds who lacked concern for the others, and were concerned only with pay. 

Hoy kayong tatlo, ha! Naluluha-luha pa kayo ngayon, ha. Baka pagnagtatagal-tagal naluluha na kayo, bakit ganito lang ang ibinigay? Hoy, when that happens remember this day. You are not called to be paid. You are called to be concerned for the others. With or without any remuneration, be happy that you have been called to serve others. That is the path to following Jesus. Concern cannot be monetized. Love cannot be quantified. That should be the least of your concerns. The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want. You will lack for nothing if Jesus is your shepherd.  

We now turn to the second point which comes from Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah painted to us a picture of a servant God who is filled with the Spirit and because he is filled with the divine Spirit, the spirit that comes from God, the spirit which is the life, the love of God, the servant anointed by the spirit is sent by God to those whom God loves: the lowly, the brokenhearted, the captives, the prisoners, those who mourn. These are the people who need God, who cry out to God. These are the people who are in the heart of God in a special way and God sends his servant, anointed by the Spirit to those who need the comforting love of God. This is another aspect of shepherding. A concern for the people that does not measure my gains, in the first reading, a concern especially to those who need God’s comfort the most: the poor, the lonely, the neglected. They are in the heart of God and they should be right there in the heart also of the shepherd. How comforting for us to mingle all the time with people who offer us so many fringe benefits. We do not hide it. 

Ang sarap sarap talaga po kapag ang lagi mong kahalubilo ay mababango! Naglalaban laban ang mga pabango nila. Amoy rosewood, amoy sandalwood, amoy Armani.. Wow, napakasarap kapag ang kahalubilo mo nagse-serve ng mga pagkain na ngayon mo lang nakita at may mga fancy sounding names. Yun pala naman ay sinaing lang. Parang ang sarap na kahalubilo mo ay yung mga wala kang masyadong poproblemahin kasi wala namang hihingin sa iyo. While a shpeherd’s love embraces everyone, the shepherd must have a special spot in one’s heart if the shepherd listens to the spirit poured into his heart, that spirit will push him to the prisoners, those who mourn, the blind, the lowly, bringing comfort, consolation from God. 

My dear candidates we hope you will be comforting presence to all especially to the poor. Sana pagnakita palang kayo ng mga tao, mararamdaman nila kaagad, Wow, parang hinahagod ng Diyos ang puso nilang sugatan at pagod. Sana hindi mangyari na makita palang kayo nagtatakbuhan na ang mga tao, papalayo! At sasabihin, parang lalong bumigat ang aking damdamin. 

You are not ordained to bring more discomfort, to bring more mourning, to bring more heaviness to lives that are already burdened. With the spirit of the Lord in you, bring his comforting and consoling love. This is one privilege of the ordained. People will open their hearts to you, in confession, in counselling. And you will touch the mystery of their pain indescribable pain. Many times we saw during the visit of Pope Francis, he was reduced to being speechless before the pain and suffering of the people. And even in your silence with the spirit that has anointed you, bring comfort, consolation. Come to me those who are heavily burdened, I will give you rest. 

Concern for the sheep not concern for the pay. Secondly, comfort, consolation to the poor and the suffering. And finally according to Saint Paul, he has received a ministry of reconciliation. He considers himself and the other apostles as ambassadors of Christ, appealing to the world, be reconciled to God. Be reconciled to God. The work of reconciliation is God’s work accomplished in Jesus Christ according to Saint Paul. We are not the reconcilers; we are servants of reconciliation. We are ambassadors of Christ. He is the one calling people to be reconciled to God. He uses our mouth; he uses our voice; he uses even our tears, our appeal for people not to be afraid to come to God. How many people are afraid to return to God? How many people are ashamed to return to God? How many people have been discouraged to return to God? There are many. Let us not add to them. Jesus did not die on the cross to alienate people, to drive them away from the reconciling love of God. No! Jesus invites everyone, have no fear. If the world does not understand you; if the world condemns you, you still have someone to turn to: God. Do not be afraid to come to God.

My dear brothers to be ordained, please, through you, through your persons, through your words and ministry, may people be drawn to God. And may they experience through you that God is a Father, the Father that Jesus depicted in the Gospel of Saint Luke, awaiting the return of the son , waiting for the return of a sinner, and rejoicing whenever a repentant sinner comes back. 

Huwag niyo nang itutulak papalayo sa Diyos ang mga tao. Ilapit ninyo sa Panginoon. 

Concern, comfort and consolation, reconciliation with God. What a life! It’s a beautiful life and we are happy for you but you have to do your share. You chose these readings. Keep them in your heart, in your mind. Keep reflecting on them. Keep on praying over this Word of God. And when your heart becomes dry and when you are tempted by the pay, and when you don’t feel like comforting people; when you feel like dividing people instead of reconciling them, turn to the Word of God and you will find new energy. 

And you dear friends please pray for our three new candidates. Please pray for all the ordained. Please pray for our public officials. Please pray for everyone especially parents, teachers, those with positions of responsibility, may they have the concern, the consoling love and the reconciling love that Jesus has entrusted to all of us. 

Let us now pause and allow the Spirit to speak to us in our hearts before we proceed to the Rite of Ordination.

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