Fray Dante Bendoy, Provincial of the Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus of the Philippines; my dear brothers of the Order of St. Augustine; other priests concelebrating in this Mass; reverend deacons, religious sisters and brothers, and seminarians; the family and guests of our ordinandi; Reverend Mar-lou and Reverend William; brothers and sisters in Christ:
We are grateful to the Lord for gathering us this morning for the ordination to the priesthood of our brothers, Reverend Mar-lou and Reverend William. We thank the Lord because every ordination is a clear and tangible sign that God never abandons his people. He never ceases to choose people to serve him and his people and become instruments of his love, compassion, and mercy to all.
We also thank the parents and family of our ordinandi. Thank you for offering your sons to God and his Church. We also thank their seminary communities, the priest-formators, seminarians, professors, and personnel, and all who have been part of their formation, whether inside the seminary or outside. Every vocation comes from God, but it grows through the help of the community. And to all of you who come from the different parishes, communities, and groups where our ordinandi had their exposures and apostolates, and to all their guests, thanks to all of you for coming today. You are here, not just to witness their ordination, but to pray for them. They are being ordained today to serve you. They are committing their lives totally to your service. Your part is to pray for them so that, sustained by the prayer of the Church, they may be faithful in their ministry.
Reverend Mar-lou and Reverend William, in a few moments, by the grace of God and the prayer of the Church, you will become priests of Jesus and his Church. And it is fitting that in our Gospel today, Jesus tells you what you should be in relation to the community, the Church, and the world you are called to exercise the priestly ministry.
“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” While these two metaphors refer to all who follow Jesus, priests and lay alike, it mainly applies to us who consecrate our lives to Jesus through ordained ministry. Reverend Mar-lou and Reverend William, Jesus tells you today, “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.”
Take note that this is not an exhortation nor a command. Jesus does not say: “You should be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” Nor does he say: “May you be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.” No, he says: “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” What we find here is an incredible esteem, trust, and confidence that God has in us, that God has in you. Jesus recognizes that you possess gifts, abilities, and talents that the Church and society need. Jesus looks highly on you, so please do not look down on yourself. Do not say, like Jeremiah in our first reading today, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” Do not hesitate. Do not hold back. As God assures Jeremiah, he also assures you, “Have no fear before them, because I am with you to deliver you.” This is also the same assurance that St. Paul gives to the young Timothy in our second reading today. “Let no one have contempt for your youth . . . Do not neglect the gift you have.” Reverend Mar-lou and Reverend William, Jesus places an incredible trust and hope in you. He encourages you to be conscious that in the deepest recesses of your hearts, you will find a handful of salt, a lighted lamp, gifts you possess that are needed to build up God’s kingdom.
As salt and light, Jesus expects you to be visible in the world. Salt has to be mixed with food to give flavor. Light must be near the place or object that needs to be lighted. The same is true for you as priests. You have to be present in the world, and present in the world through your priestly life, witnessing, and service. In whatever mission you are engaged in and to whatever assignment you are sent, be a priest who gives them the flavor of Jesus and the light of Christ. This you cannot do if you are distant, aloof, and withdrawn from the community you are called to serve. Be a priest who is always present. Be a priest who is always available. Be a priest who is close to the people.
But you must learn to strike a balance. Salt and light are helpful when they are just the right amount. Too little salt and too little light will be useless. While too much salt and too much light will be bad. If there is too much salt, the food will not be good. And too much light could also cause people not to see clearly. Reverend Mar-lou and Reverend William, be salt of the earth and be light of the world in the right amount and proper measure. You must neither be too much nor too little. Your priestly ministry should be hidden. You should not call attention to yourself but your flavor and light must highlight the goodness around us and the God who loves us. Shine, but do not outshine God. That is why Jesus concludes by saying, “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Finally, remember that both salt and light achieve their purpose by being consumed and by disappearing, like salt in food and oil in a lamp. Both are also at the service of others – salt gives flavor to food so that someone else can enjoy eating it, while the lamp provides light so that someone else can walk safely. And so, salt and light are images of a love that is not directed to oneself, but places oneself generously at the service of others, even if this means being consumed, sacrificing, and offering one’s life. And this precisely is what it means to be a priest – to be one with Jesus in saying, “This is my body broken for you . . . This is my blood shed for you.”
My dear brothers and sisters, as we witness today the ordination of our brothers, let us pray for them that they may truly be God’s priests who are and will remain to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Let us pray that, like St. Augustine, they may have passionate hearts and missionary spirits. And let us entrust them to Mary, the Mother of priests, so that through their priestly life and ministry, the world will always taste the flavor of Jesus and see the light of Christ. Amen. (Photo by Rian Salamat/RCAM-AOC | Photogallery)