HOMILY TRANSCRIPT | Manila Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, Ordination to the Priesthood of Rev. Florencio A. Unida, Sagrada Familia Parish, Sta. Ana, Manila, May 18, 2023, 10:00 am  

Reverend Monsignori and Fathers; reverend deacons; men and women in consecrated life; seminarians; Rev. Benmon; my dear brothers and sisters in Christ:

We thank the Lord for gathering us this morning as a community of faith for the ordination of our brother, Rev. Benmon, to the priesthood.  We thank the Lord because, through this ordination, we are assured that God never abandons his people.  He never stops choosing and sending shepherds to lead, nourish, feed, protect, and care for his flock.

On behalf of the Archdiocese of Manila, I thank the parents and family of Rev. Benmon.  Salamat po sainyongpag-aalay ng inyonganaksaDiyos at saSimbahan.  Thank you to the parishes and communities where he had his exposure and apostolates.  We also thank the priest-formators, seminarians, and personnel of the Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary,  the communities of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, and all who have been part of his formation.  Thank you for everything you have done to prepare Rev. Benmon to receive the grace of ordination.

Rev. Benmon, our Gospel today invites you to focus on Jesus, our Good Shepherd.  As a priest, you should always look to Jesus and follow his example of shepherding.  There are many qualities that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, possesses that you should imitate.  But today, allow me to focus only on one vital element of shepherding – the voice of the shepherd.

The voice of the shepherd is essential to shepherding.  The sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd.  Several shepherds may bring their flock to the same grass or brook, but once the shepherd calls his sheep, they know which shepherd to follow.  The shepherd, therefore, must speak.  His voice must be heard.  If the shepherd does not speak, the sheep will be lost.  The voice of the shepherd is the life of the sheep.

Rev. Benmon, after this homily, I will ask you several questions about your willingness to take on the responsibility of the priesthood.  One of the questions I will ask you is this: “Do you resolve to exercise the ministry of the word worthily and wisely, preaching the Gospel and teaching the Catholic faith?” This question highlights our prophetic ministry as priests.  As a priest, it is one of your primary duties to speak the Word of God, to proclaim the Good News of Jesus, and to teach the Catholic faith.  Like St. Peter in our second reading today, you are to faithfully and courageously speak the truth about Jesus.

Rev. Benmon, let the flock hear your voice as their shepherd.  In a world with so many competing voices, let your voice that speaks truth, justice, peace, mercy, compassion, and love stand out.  Do not be afraid to speak, especially in the face of oppression, injustice, violence, and evil.  There is always a temptation to shut our mouths so as not to be involved.  There will be times when you feel safer to keep quiet.  But do not forget that when the shepherd is silent, the flock will be in danger of getting lost.  When the sheep do not hear the voice of their shepherd, they may easily follow false shepherds who will only do them harm.  A silent shepherd when he is expected to speak is a form of negligence.  When moments come that you hesitate to speak, remember the assurance of God to Jeremiah, as we heard in our first reading today.  “To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Have no fear of them, because I am with you to deliver you . . . See, I place my words in your mouth!”

Here we realize the reason why we should not be afraid.  We are not speaking our own words but God’s.  And we should only and always speak God’s word.  The flock will recognize our voices as their shepherds only if we speak the words of Godto them.

It is also good to remember that our prophetic ministry goes beyond the voice that comes from our mouths.  The more powerful and credible proclamation of Jesus is made through speaking without using our mouths but through the voice that comes from the witness of our lives.  We recall the famous words of St. Francis of Assisi to his followers, “Preach the Word of God; use words only when necessary.”  Let your life be a living proclamation of God’s word.  May people see you, and by simply looking at you, may they already hear God speaking to them.

Rev. Benmon,to be an effective prophet, so that your voice may be powerful and credible, you first need to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd.  As a priest, you can only speak God’s word to our people if you, first and foremost, know how to listen.  A good prophet, therefore, is a good listener.  Without listening, your words will be empty and cold.  Without listening, yourvoice will never touch people’s hearts.  And so before you speak to God’s people, listen to God first. Ask him what he wants you to tell his people.  And ask him also what he wants to say to you.

My dear brothers and sisters, let us pray for Rev. Benmon and for all priests that they may truly be God’s voiceto the world.  Let us also pray that we may learn how to listen to our shepherds.  Jesus is our Good Shepherd.  He speaks.  Let us listen to him.

We entrust Rev. Benmon to the maternal intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary who carried in her womb and her heart Jesus, the Word made flesh.  Amen.   (Photo by Maricar Santos/RCAM-AOC | Photogallery)


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