My dear brother priests and deacons; men and women in consecrated life; seminarians; our esteemed lay faithful from the different parishes and communities in the Archdiocese of Manila; brothers and sisters in Christ:
As a Church in the Archdiocese of Manila, we are gathered this evening to thank the Lord for the 444th anniversary of the establishment of Manila as the first diocese of the Philippines. We celebrate this Mass in the presence of the relics of Saint Francis of Assisi, Saint Rose of Lima, and Saint Dominic de Guzman who, in the course of time, were declared secondary patrons of Manila. We thank Pope Francis and his Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Angelo de Donatis, for sending us these precious relics – from the walking stick of Saint Francis, the habit of Saint Rose, and a piece of St. Dominic’s bone. Tonight, we also close our Archdiocesan celebration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity to our lands through the symbolic closing of our cathedral’s jubilee door.
Imagine, my dear brothers and sisters, Manila has been a diocese for 444 years of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. Compared to other local Churches in the West, we are quite a young Church. But compared to other dioceses in southeast Asia, we are one of the oldest, if not the oldest.
While we are not a young Church in terms of years, we are definitely a young Church in terms of spirit. In the course of our 444 years of history, we can see how God has been constantly renewing and reforming, creating and recreating Manila. God has gifted us with archbishops, bishops, clergy, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful who have responded to the signs of the times and the needs of society with the Gospel values and Christian principles. This makes our Church young.
It is providential that our first reading today brings us back to the first four days of creation. It is a story of a God who creates good and beautiful things. But even God’s creation, especially human beings, need renewal and reform. This is the reason why Jesus became man. And in our Gospel, we see how healing has been part of the ministry and mission of Jesus. To heal is to recreate. Illness disfigures us. But the God who created us is also the one who, in Jesus, recreates us, renews us, and creates us anew.
My dear brothers and sisters, there are many areas in our lives that need the recreating. The love of husband and wife, the relationships within the family, and the connections at work, in society, or in school might need to be created anew. Our faith also needs to be renewed. And even the Church, and especially the Church, needs recreating. Ang Simbahannatakotsapagbabago, ang Simbahannaayawnangmagbago, ang Simbahangkung paano noon, ganoonpa rinhanggangngayon, ang Simbahangganito ay mabilistatanda. Magandang suriin natin ang atingmgaparokya, pamayanan at institusyon. Baka naman tayo’ysimbahang ang mgagawain at programa ay paulit-ulitnalang, pinamumunuan ng mga pare-parehongtao, ,sila-sila pa rin, at sila-silana lang, takotsamgabagongpamamaraan, mgabagongideya, mga bagong mamumunonamaaaringmagdala ng mgabagongideya at pamamaraan,. Kapagganito ang simbahan, ang simbahangito ay matandana. Hindi ganito ang SimbahanniHesus. A Church that is not open to renewal easily grows old, insignificant, and obsolete. But a Church that is docile, responsive, and open to renewal remains ever young and vibrant.
In my almost two years as Archbishop of this great Archdiocese, I have seen how we, as a Church, respond to the new challenges and mission before us. And I thank the Lord for all of you, my dear priests, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful, for your openness to these calls to renewal and re-creation.
One area of renewal and re-creation in our Archdiocese is the establishment of mission stations which are meant to realize the vision of Pope Francis of a Church that is close to the people. Our mission stations are meant to make our faithful feel that they belong to the Church. We have in our midst the relic of St. Francis of Assisi taken from the walking staff he used in his journeys. This is significant for us because one gift that St. Francis gave to the Church is to bring the Church closer to the people, especially to the poor. In his poverty, St. Francis showed the poor that the Church is poor like them. To St. Francis of Assisi, we entrust our newly established mission stations.
Another area of renewal and re-creation in our Archdiocese is in the area of charity. We have Caritas Manila, Pondo ng Pinoy, and other foundations, groups, and movements that, over the years, have extended help in a systematic and organized way. But probably we could also look into how we have been helping each other within the Archdiocese. How do parishes with more resources assist parishes who cannot make both ends meet? How do our priests help each other? And as an Archdiocese, how do we show our concern for the other local Churches in the country which, in many ways, are connected to us? May the charity and concern that St. Rose of Lima showed to those in need be our inspiration. May St. Rose set our hearts aflame with love, concern, and solidarity with others.
One final area of renewal and re-creation in our Archdiocese is the review and reform our structures and systems so that we may truly be a synodal Church, a Church that listens to each other and journeys with one another. In my homily during my installation, I told you that I am a shepherd who is willing to listen, Audiam, for only a shepherd who listens can serve the flock well. I still hold on to this commitment. And I invite you to make our Archdiocese a listening Church. Audiamsa RCAM. And in this way, a Church that journeys together. Let us look into our structures and systems in the Curia, in our parishes and communities, and in our ministries and groups. Pinakikingganba natin ang isa’t isa? Sino ang mgapinakikinggan? Sino ang mgahindipinakikinggan? Sino ang ayawpakinggan? Sino ang mgalagingnagsasalita? At sino ang hindinabibigyan ng pagkakataongmagsalita? Kaninongboses ang palagingnaririnig? Sa atingpaglalakbay, sabay-sabayba tayo bilangkomunidad? O nag-uunahan? Sino ang nauuna? Sino ang nahuhuli? Sino ang naiiwan? Let us ask the intercession of St. Dominic who, in his life, has seen the value of contemplating, listening, and preaching so that the Church may be renewed.
My dear brothers and sisters, we will close this evening the jubilee door of the Manila Cathedral, the first cathedral of the Philippines. But let us keep our hearts open to God’s recreating hand. And through the intercession of Mary, our Immaculate Mother, may we become the Church of Manila that God wants and envisions us to be. Amen. (Photo by Maricar Santos/RCAM-AOC)