HOMILY TRANSCRIPT | Manila Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, Mass for the Deceased Clergy and Religious Men and Women of the Archdiocese of Manila, Lay formation Center, Makati City, November 9, 2022, 9 a.m.

My dear brother priests, dear brothers and sisters in consecrated life, dearly beloved in Christ,

As we hold our annual Mass for the Deceased Priests and Religious who exercised priestly ministry and apostolate in the Archdiocese of Manila, it is good to remind ourselves of an old Latin saying, “Memento mori” or “remember death”. Those that we pray for shall become us – sooner or later. This sounds morbid or dark, but it is the most sensible piece of advice that we must carry in our hearts and minds every day. There is a long tradition among the saints to remember death, “memento mori”. This practice did not lead them to fear or despair. It made them more hopeful and grounded on the “necessary things” of life rather than on its trivialities and triteness. “Memento mori” should also lead us to a deeper appreciation of the gift of life and ministry that the Lord has generously bestowed upon us.

Our readings today on the Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome direct us to the meaning and essence of our religious vocation. The prophet Ezekiel describes a river that flows from the sanctuary of the temple and wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply, lives. This is a beautiful image of our life as priests and religious. Our life is a river that flows from the sanctuary of God’s love. Wherever we are sent or assigned, we are supposed to cultivate and nourish life. We are rivers that continue to run and cannot afford to stagnate. We are flowing rivers, not dead seas.

For Saint Paul in our second reading, we are not just a flowing river from the temple. We are the temple of God that is holy. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”, St. Paul asserts. And in the Gospel of St. John, Jesus prophesies, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up… He was speaking about the temple of his Body.”

From these scriptural images, we can gather a compelling picture of our identity and mission as priests and religious. We are temples of God’s presence in the world today. Our life of continence and evangelical counsels point to our conviction of eternal life. We are rivers that continuously flow from the temple to give life. Rivers that are always on a journey back to our true home in God. We are the Body of Christ that witnesses to the hope of the resurrection. We remember death. But we are not afraid of death. We celebrate life. But we hope to die. Not in a disturbing way. We hope to die because it will lead us to life. And in death, there is hope of eternal life.

This reflection on death may appear to be too detached from our reality. But if we are to be honest, that is not the case. Death, especially if you are in your senior years, stares us in the face every day, if not closer by the day. It is said that when we were younger, we would talk about our travels and dreams. In our middle years, we would talk about our projects and budgets. In our senior years, we would talk about our maintenance medicine and our last will and testament.

I was told that in Cardinal Santos Hospital, diabetes is the most common disease among priests. It afflicts 90% of our priests and bishops if the data is correct. This is quite alarming to say the least. According to Fr. Dave Concepcion, who is just recovering from his recent stroke, the doctors are suspecting that the mass wine (or mompo) could be a contributing factor to this high incidence of diabetes among the clergy. This theory deserves an investigation so that the Commission on Liturgy can do something about it. I just don’t know about the women religious. How about you sisters, what’s the most common disease among the sisters?

Today more than ever, we see an increasing demand for physical as well as mental health and well-being. We must take this seriously. “Mens sana in corpore sano”, we used to say in Latin. A healthy mind in a healthy body. If we are to be temples of God, let’s try to do our best to give God a worthy and healthy place in us. If we are to be rivers that give life, let’s nourish our body, mind and spirit with the right food and nutrients. Let us have our own sabbath days. And keep them holy. Let us respect our body when it is asking for attention and rest. Let us seek help right away especially when we are emotionally distressed and not wait until it’s too late.

“Memento mori” is not just remembering our faithful departed. “Memento mori” is also about honoring the sanctity of life, the limitation of time, the fragility of our existence. I think our predecessors who have gone ahead of us, enjoying the company of the saints in heaven, or still going through their period of purification, would like us to take care of the great gift of life, as well as the time that has been given us to serve. As St. Irenaeus would say, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” The best tribute we can give to our departed clergy and religious is to continue the work they have begun with passion and enthusiasm, with perseverance and hope. Let us not waste their efforts and hard work by being careless and complacent. As we honor their memory and renew our faith in the Communion of Saints, let us commit ourselves to a life that glorifies God and a ministry that gives hope to the pilgrim people on the march towards eternity. Amen. (Photo by Rian Salamat/RCAM-AOC | Photogallery)

 

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