HOMILY TRANSCRIPT |Manila Archbishop Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, San Carlos Seminary Graduation, March 23, 2024

The Reverend Father Joselito Martin, our esteemed Father Rector, dear priest formators, professors, non-teaching staff, dear graduates, seminarians, parents, benefactors, our dear brothers and sisters in the Lord:

To the Class of Saint Michael, the Archangel – Discipleship Stage, and the Class of Saint Francis of Assisi – Configuration Stage, I would like to convey my warmest greetings and congratulations to all of you for this significant milestone that you have reached in your young lives. Every graduation is a moment of grace and thanksgiving.

At the end of each chapter of life, there is an invitation to look back with gratitude and there discover the history of God’s goodness manifested in your journey.  Pope Francis reminds us of the importance of memory in our journey of faith.  In Evangelii Gaudium, he said, “The joy of evangelizing always arises from grateful remembrance: it is a grace which we constantly need to implore. The apostles never forgot the moment when Jesus touched their hearts: ‘It was about four o’clock in the afternoon’ (Jn 1:39)…The believer is essentially ‘one who remembers’” (EG, 13).

You would not be here without the sacrifices and contributions of your parents and families, your professors and formators, your friends and benefactors. Graduations are not just about academic achievements or fulfillment of requirements. They are markers that point you to the journey ahead, indicators that you still have so much to learn and discover about life and God’s plan for you.

In our first reading, Ezekiel is prophesying about the dream of God for His people, the children of Israel. He wants to gather them from exile to bring them back to their land. He wants the quarrels and divisions to end. He intended to establish an everlasting covenant with His people despite their sinfulness and infidelities. He promised to set up His dwelling and sanctuary among them. Dear seminarians, the Lord has big dreams for you as well. Do not limit yourself to your personal goals and ambitions. Do not be afraid to ask the Lord again and again, “Lord, what do you want me to do for you?” In the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Keep a clear eye toward life’s end. Do not forget your purpose and destiny as God’s creature. What you are in His sight is what you are and nothing more. Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received, but only what you have given.” Whether you will proceed with your priestly formation or not, it is important that you continue to affirm your “fiat” and your “yes” to God’s will in your life.

Jesus in the Eleventh Chapter of the Gospel of John that we have proclaimed today is almost at the end of His public ministry. He is about to enter his paschal mystery. With the raising up of Lazarus, the religious leaders could not afford to give Jesus a chance to gain more admirers and followers. He had to be stopped. They planned to kill him. Jesus decided to withdraw from the tense situation inside the city to a town called Ephraim, a region near the desert. Jesus is back to where it all began, the desert, the place where he was baptized and where he prepared for His ministry.

Dear seminarians, your journey in seminary formation is modeled after the journey of Jesus. This is the reason why theRatio Fundamentalis of 2016 has emphasized the single journey of a disciple from the seminary and beyond. Whether you are in the seminary or outside of it, you are called to be disciples of Jesus, configured to His image and likeness. Your stay in the seminary will not be measured by the awards or academic accolades that you will receive. The essence of your life in the seminary is how close you have become in your imitation of Christ. A seminarian who has not developed intimacy with Christ after all these years in seminary training is like a fisherman who has never dived into the sea or a farmer who has not touched the ground. The definitive question for your graduation is not whether you have submitted all your requirements for the degree of Theology or Philosophy. The defining question for you, dear seminarians is, “How close are you to embracing the paschal mystery of our Lord Jesus Christ? Are you ready to become the grain that will fall to the ground? Are you prepared to take the cup of sacrifice? How dedicated are you to the mission that the Lord is entrusting to you?

Graduation, more than anything else, is the moment when you will say to Jesus, “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will. I am ready for more. I would like to surrender all. Like St. Michael the Archangel, you will declare your allegiance to the Lord and you will defend and live by your faith until the end. Like St. Francis of Assisi, you will renounce everything to follow Jesus in simplicity, humility, and poverty.

Dear seminarians, dear graduates, let this moment be a time for you to graduate from lukewarmness in your faith to fervor and boldness in proclaiming and living your faith. May this graduation be an occasion for you to commit yourself to becoming spirit-filled evangelizers and missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. Amen. (Photo by Maricar Santos/ RCAM-AOC | Photogallery)

 

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