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Published by witheloggia

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Published by: witheloggia on Dec 14, 2011
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05/19/2014

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My dear friends, sisters and brothers in the LordWe are in the holy season of Advent, a time to prepare for the coming of the Messiah throughprayer, penance and good works. A few days ago a friend told me that my coming into theArchdiocese of Manila as its 32nd Archbishop is truly Advent. “You are the one who is tocome,” he declared. The remark made me laugh. It also made me think. Is this occasion reallyabout me? I know many people are asking, “Who is the new archbishop of Manila? What is helike? What are his vision and plans?” But like John the Baptist I am inviting you to focus on theOne mightier than all of us, Jesus Christ, the Risen One and the True Shepherd of the Church.My Episcopal Motto says it plainly, “Dominus Est! It is the Lord!”This exclamation is drawn from the Risen Christ’s appearance to some of his disciples at the Seaof Tiberias as recounted in John 21. In a retreat that I facilitated as a priest, this episodeimpressed me deeply. Although it tells of a Resurrection appearance, it is indeed an Adventexperience. The Risen Lord comes to his disciples. He reveals who truly is.Seven disciples went out fishing. Five of them are named: Simon Peter the recognized head of the band of Twelve who denied Jesus, Thomas who doubted the testimony of his companionsabout Jesus’ appearance to them, Nathanael who questioned if anything good could come fromNazareth, the sons of Zebedee known for their ambition to get the seats of honour in Jesus’Kingdom, and two who remain unnamed. Doubters and unknowns, they represent the Churchat its infancy. Simon Peter planned to go out fishing and the rest joined him. Together they werethe fragile Church embarking on its mission. Into the vast waters of mission they travelledtogether.But that whole night they caught nothing. Tired and distraught they returned to shore. Theyprobably did not notice the early morning light. It was still night for them. Standing on theshore was a man they did not know. He asked if they had caught anything to eat. That questioncould sound provocative to a group that had laboured all night without success. If I were one of the disciples, I would have retorted, “Hey, don’t you see that our boats are empty? Don’t yousee? Are you blind or are you insulting us?” But the disciples were probably so tired to arguewith him. Then the stranger issued a surprising command to cast the net over the right side of the boat. He also promised they would find something. They followed him and had a catch to so bountiful they could not pull it in. This stranger was not blind after all. He saw where the fisheswere. What the disciples of doubters and unknowns did not see, he saw clearly.At this moment the disciple whom Jesus loved exclaimed, “It is the Lord.” The eyes of the beloved disciple were opened. His stare moved from the catch to the loving presence in theirmidst. This man is not a stranger. He is the loving Lord. The long dark night is over. Morninghas come. It is the Lord!This simple story teaches me valuable lessons about the mission of the Church and my ministryas a bishop. First of all, the mission of the Church should be wholly directed by the Lord who isalways present as Shepherd and guide. Human efforts should continue but unless the Lord
 
directs the catch, we labour in vain. We know that the Lord guards His Church. He keeps watchwith us on those long nights of confusion and helplessness in mission. When in spite of ourgood intentions and efforts there are still the multitude of hungry people we cannot feed,homeless people we cannot shelter, battered women and children we cannot protect, cases of corruption and injustice that we cannot remedy, the long night of the disciples in the middle of the sea continues in us. Then we grow in compassion towards our neighbors whose lives seemto be a never ending dark night. But in our weariness, the Lord comes.
Dumarating Siya.
Adventnever ends. He is the shepherd promised in the first reading from Ezekiel. He will come to hissheep where they are scattered when it is cloudy and dark. He is near. He is Emmanuel. But weneed to hear his voice and to follow his direction. We need to see realities with His eyes. Weneed faith. Without faith fuelled by love, we cannot truly be a missionary Church of JesusChrist. It is only by the vision provided by faith that the Church could meaningfully cast its netsin the vast seas of the world and history. They may be murky to human eyes, but the Lord seeswhere the fishes are. The new evangelization requires putting on the mind and the eyes of theLord again, a transformation coming from prayer. Then when we pray, we are transformed, wesee differently. A child, especially the unborn, is not longer seen as a burden but a gift, the youthare not a problem but a promise, women are not objects but persons, laborers are not machines but partners, the poor, the differently abled are not a nuisance but our jewels, and creation is notan object of manipulation but a sigh of God’s sustaining love. These and many more comprisethe Church’s miraculous harvest from the seas of mission if only we see with the eyes of Christ.Whenever we see as the Lord does, there is hope!Secondly, we need to follow the Lord in our mission not individually, but together as thedisciples did. Mission is an event of the Church. We will be together in failure, but we will also be together in listening to the Spirit, in beholding God’s miracles, and in hauling the nets toshore. As it was then, so it is today. The ordained, the religious and the lay faithful, includingnon-Catholic Christian are called to one mission, though in various states of life and with adiversity of gifts. When we take different boats and even compete against each other to get the better portion of the catch for our own teams, we are not engaging in mission. Divisiveness anddestructive competition will only help sink the boat. Let us look to the one Shepherd whogathers his sheep instead of scattering them. It is the Lord!Finally, let us turn to the beloved disciple, the disciple whom Jesus loved. He was the one whorecognized the Lord who had loved them by laying down his life on the cross and now as theRisen One who could turn nights of despair into dawns of hope by the power of His Word. Werealize that the beloved disciple does not occupy any known rank among the disciples. Peterwas clearly the leader and spokesperson of the group. My dear brothers and sisters, this episodeteaches me that merely assuming the position of Archbishop of Manila does not guarantee that Iwill recognize the Lord. If I am not careful this position might even blind me to the Lord and tomy people. It is rather by being a humble disciple content with the love of Jesus that I would seethe advent of him whose love propels us to mission. Notice that at this moment the beloveddisciple taught Peter. Later Jesus would ask Peter three times if he loved him more than theothers. Love makes one a true shepherd, not position. I pray that my Episcopal ministry and allministries in the Church may be rooted in humble and loving discipleship. I tell myself as
 
though it were the Lord telling me, “Chito, do not think you have become great because of yournew position. Be great rather in being a beloved and loving disciple of the Lord.”The narrative we have been reflecting on serves as a good description of the mission of theChurch: Discerning the Lord’s presence, following his word, celebrating his love andproclaiming “It is the Lord.” The Church cannot stop proclaiming the Word of God as thesecond reading says. In season and out of season, we direct people to the person of the Lord.Even if it is an inconvenient truth that we are proclaiming, it is always the Lord. “Love yourenemies” is inconvenient. “Share what you have with the poor” is inconvenient. “Bless yourpersecutors” is inconvenient. But through these inconvenient words, the Lord comes. He speaks.He brings true light.As I embark on my new ministry as Archbishop of Manila, I feel deeply united with the many beloved disciples who have taught me to recognize the Lord:: my loving parents Manuel andMilagros and brother Manuel Jr. They have always provided a haven of love and commitmentfor me; my aunts, uncles, cousins and clan who never fail to nurture me; my self-less and caringteachers and mentors in St. Andrew’s School, the Ateneo de Manila University, the LoyolaSchool of Theology, the Catholic University of America and San Jose Seminary; the dedicatedpeople of the commissions that I have been part of in the CBCP, the FABC, and the Vatican; myformer students, seminarians, the religious and the poor, the beloved poor, who have taught meto be more sensitive to the presence of Jesus who calls me to mission. Your love has enabled meto see the Lord. Thank you very much. I remember in a special way Bishop Artemio Casas,Bishop Felix Perez, Bishop Manuel Sobrevi
ñ
as, the clergy, the religious, the seminarians and thelay faithful of the Diocese of Imus. You have loved me. You have directed me to the Lord. Pleaseremember me as loving you.Now I face my new mission in this great Archdiocese of Manila that is rich in tradition, culture,history and religiosity. I tremble before the love that calls me to lead the people to the Lord. Butmy poor sinful person finds rest in Him who is the Church’s true Shepherd. I am also consoledto know that we would be building on the legacy of loving service of 31 archbishops, notablythose of the recent past: Archbishop Gabriel Reyes, Cardinal Rufino Santos, Cardinal Jaime Sinand my immediate predecessor, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales. As I look at the clergy, thereligious and faithful of the Archdiocese, I feel humbled. There is much that I will learn fromyou. Teach me. Be patient with me. Let us love one another at all times. Extend your love to all,especially the poor and to the Churches in Asia. As one Church we will journey together even if the night is long and wearisome. We will welcome the ever new dawn who is the Lord, the lightand the shepherd of the Church. Everyday will be an advent of the Lord.We are strengthened by the maternal love of Mary who 480 years ago appeared to the lowly Juan Diego in Guadalupe. She is the Advent woman who comes to the poor; she walks withthem in dark paths; she brings hope. We rejoice to hear again her words to Juan Diego, asthough addressed to us, “Do not let anything afflict you and do not be afraid of any illness oraccident or pain. Am I not your mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Do youneed anything else? Do I not hold you in the folds of my mantle, there where my arms meet

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