Thursday, 05 November 2020 06:33

Homily delivered by Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas during Mass for the feast of St. Charles Borromeo, at San Carlos Seminary on Nov. 4, 2020.

My dear brothers, my dear friends in San Carlos Borromeo and the Lord Jesus Christ, we have come together to celebrate the feast of St. Charles under the shadow of a pandemic worldwide, you can look at it that way. But we are also under the light of a beautiful theme, “Save Others, Imitate the Lord, Imitate Christ.” Let us look at the light – save others and imitate the Lord.

The two phrases are not co-equal because the imitation of Christ takes priority. Because if we do not imitate Christ and attempt to save others, we are only false messiahs.

The salvation of others can only come about after we, the shepherds have imitated Christ. So, the question to ask in the midst of this pandemic, my dear brothers is, but then, how do we imitate Christ? How do we imitate Christ so that we can save others?

In the life of another reformer of the church, Santa Teresa de Jesus, maybe it was a legendary account but the account says that Teresa was tempted by the devil and the devil attempted to destruct her by looking like Jesus. But after a while, Teresa understood that this was not Jesus, this is the devil. And the devil shook his head and said, “But how did you recognized me, I look like the Lord?” And Teresa only said, “Christ has wounds, you do not have wounds.” Christ has wounds. You have none. You are not Christ. Christ has wounds.

So, the first step to the imitation of Christ is an inclination towards those wounds. I do not say choose the wounds all time, you must be discerning. But when the pleasure and the wounds are on equal footing, you must choose the more difficult one. You must choose the distressing one. You must choose the less easy one. That is inclination to the wounds.

My dear brothers, I say it again, Christ has wounds and where are your wounds? Christ has wounds and where are the wounds of the priests to prove that they are priests of the Lord?

Do not be afraid of wounds. Do not be ashamed of your wounds. Do not even ask the Lord to change your wounds into scars. Because if the Lord wants you to bleed for the rest of your life, say yes. As Padre Pio bled practically his whole life, those wounds can only save. They will not make you worst, they can only make you better and deeper in holiness.

A smile is good. St. Theresa of Calcutta says, “Evangelization begins with a smile.” But tears are also good. Jokes are good. But the sharing of our heart brokenness is also good. Fun is good. But to cry with your brothers is liberating. We can start the good news by smiling but remember, only tears can be liberating. And a priest who does not know the value, the beauty of woundedness will not be able to save others. Incline towards the wounds. Do not be afraid of the wounds. Do not be ashamed of the wounds. Do not even ask the Lord to change your wounds into scars. I say it again, our destiny is to bleed for life because the Lord sheds His blood everyday on the altar. And the priest of Jesus Christ cannot be a priest less than that. Our wounds are our proof that we belong to Him. Christ has wounds. Where are yours?

How can we imitate Christ? The imitation of Christ is not mimicry. You do not imitate Christ by growing your hair long because Christ has long hair. You do not imitate Christ by constantly wearing sandals with dusty feet because Christ has sandals and dusty feet. You do not imitate Christ by constantly wearing a long tunic because Christ is wearing always wore a tunic. That is mimicry. That is not imitation.

Imitation comes from intimacy. Intimacy. If you have a chance and the Lord provides, I invite you to come to Rome in the Basilica of San Ambrose and San Carlos, there, the heart of San Carlos is venerated by pilgrims. The heart. Because that heart was the rendezvous for his intimacy with the Lord. The heart.

Imitation of Christ does not always mean to do what He did. Imitation of Christ means, the reason of Christ must be our reason. The dream of Christ must be our dream. The motivation of Christ must be our motivation. And where does that happen? Not here in the brain but in the heart. That is why that heart has been preserved from decomposition from bacteria. Why? Because that heart was the rendezvous, was the meeting place of intimacy.

My dear brother seminarians, my dear brother priests, there is no imitation of Christ without intimacy. And that intimacy does not come about with common work. It does not come about with common writing. It comes about by opening your heart to Him and allowing your heart to be the dwelling place of the Lord and resting in the heart of the Lord because that is the only place where we can truly rest.

Intimacy. Intimacy by prayer. We have a lot of time in the recent months during the quarantine to be intimate with the Lord. But did we choose the time for intimacy? Or more time for plantitos? More time for baking, more time for cooking. As Fr. Ben Carlos would ask us, “Anong apostolic value niyan?”

We had plenty of time. The time was practically ours. To kneel before the Lord, to open our hearts to the Lord in intimacy. Let us not waste it. The pandemic is still with us and we are not still able to do the normal things but we have plenty of time.

Let the agriculturists take care of the plants. Let the bakers take care of the bread. Let the chefs take care of the food. But the priest, the priest must take care of his intimacy with the Lord because without intimacy with the Lord there is no imitation of the Lord, and without imitation of the Lord, there is no salvation for others. Intimacy which comes from giving the Lord time. Inclination towards His wounds, intimacy in your heart.

And the last I is, there is no imitation if you don’t know the power of being invisible.

St. Charles for known for Humilitas.  If you have a difficulty living Humilitas, just choose to be invisible. Invisible not in the sense of being secretive. But invisible in the sense of, he must increase and I must decrease. Invisible in the sense that, he must shine and I must only be a spotlight focusing on Him. The invisibility of humility.

Humility is imitation of Christ. And invisibility, not that we shine but that Christ shines through us. Not our face but the face of Christ in us. Be invisible.

For all the apostolic works that St. Charles did in his ministry in Milan, it was not St. Charles in the streets taking care of the victims of the plagues that sanctified him. It was not his involvement in the Council of Trend that made him a saint. The bottom line of it my dear brothers is this, St. Charles, our patron, at the end of the day was not just an apostle in the pandemic, he was not just a brilliant star in the council, he was a mystic. He knew the power of hidden goodness. He knew the power of hidden intimacy with the Lord. At the end of the day, it is mystics not activist who will be the salvation of San Carlos Seminary.

And you, my dear seminarians are here to grow in that mysticism. We need parish priests who are mystics in the midst of the noise of the world. We need priests who know the value, the power of hidden goodness who will teach the world that Christ’s work is hidden. And in that hiddenness, we are set free.

Imitate the Lord and then be able to save souls. Imitate the Lord by not being afraid of wounds. Incline towards those wounds like the wounds of the magnet. Incline towards those wounds because those wounds have gravitas. They are attractive because wounds are beautiful. Do not be afraid, do not be ashamed, let them bleed for the Lord, it can only be for your good.

Choose the Lord. Renew your heart for the Lord. Recognize, my dear brothers that in your woundedness, you would be able to save souls. In your invisibility, you will live Humilitas. In your intimacy in prayer, you are going to grow in holiness.

Ecclesia Semper Reformanda – the world is always reforming. The church is always reforming. And you, my dear brothers, are called to be the agents, the apostles of that renewal. But that renewal cannot come about, that reform cannot come about, the rebooting of the world cannot come about unless we open our hearts to the Lord in imitation of Him. At the end of the day, it is the imitators of Christ who will bring about the reform and renewal. (Archdiocese of Manila – Office of Communications/RCAM-AOC)










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