Homily: “Our anniversary mass invites us to look backward, to look inward, and to look forward.”
“Fr. Provincial Bernard Amparado, your predecessor in the post Fr. Dionisio Selma, fellow Recollects and members of the Recollect family (Augustinian Recollect Sisters, Secular Augustinian Recollects, Former Seminarians of the OAR, and Recollect Augustinian Youth), family, friends, and the Christian faithful gathered here …
Thank you for being with us as we celebrate this ruby milestone of our ordination day. The best way to give thanks is through the act of thanksgiving par excellence, the Eucharist. Which is essential food for the journey, without which we would not have reached this milestone.
Ever since my classmate here, Fr .Leo, newly reappointed prior of Recoletos de Talisay in Negros and taking advantage of his superiority, among others, in age, informed me several days ago about today’s division of labor that he will be the main celebrant, Fr. Joefel will give the thanks at the end and I will deliver the homily, I had been thinking about what to say that would be at par with this important occasion.
Then, some days ago, I received an FB message from someone who was a classmate during our theological studies in Spain, that he had completed walking the Camino de Santiago in pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, to the sanctuary in northwestern Spain where tradition says the Apostle St. James or Santiago’s tomb is kept. This pilgrimage site has attracted millions of pilgrims through the centuries.
Our classmate had earlier asked for prayers for good health to be able to do the pilgrimage. Being a mid-sexagenarian like us, with not too good eyesight, and walking alone – though of course, along the way, he met new friends and fellow travelers – it was not going to be a walk in the park. So, starting at Roncesvalles, he walked the 755 kilometers to Compostela, from May 24 to June 24. That is an average of 25 kilometers a day for 30 days. The pilgrimage completed and having received the official certificate, he is now back to his everyday life, but with a renewed vision, and greater appreciation for life, and a grateful heart to God for having conferred on him such a gift.
I thought it is a good symbol for our celebration today.
At bottom our celebration is: we thank God for allowing us to reach this milestone, we thank him for the fellow pilgrims we have met along the way, and we invite you, fellow pilgrims, to pray to God for us and with us that after this celebration, we may take the road again, wherever it leads us, in fulfillment of what God has in store for us further down the road. Only in him will this journey end, only in him will our restless hearts find rest.
God has called us all to one common destination, himself. He has given each one his or her own particular path of reaching him. Most are called to life as lay people, getting married, or living blessed singleness, practicing their professions. A few are called to radical discipleship through religious life – we acknowledge present here our religious sisters and brothers: Augustinian Recollects, and Siervas de Maria. Fewer still are called to the ordained ministerial priesthood.
To reach this divine Fatherland, each and every one has to keep God’s commandments and statutes. As Moses tells us through today’s first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy (30:10-14), this command is not mysterious nor remote, but already in our mouths and in our hearts, and we only have to carry it out.
Our anniversary mass invites us to look backward, to look inward, and to look forward.
We look backward with gratitude for having met fellow pilgrims, shared time and the journey with them: fellow friars, family, friends, parishioners, school constituents, people in the missions. Frs. Leo, Joefel and myself look back with gratitude for our enriching experiences in the assignments we have had so far: formation houses in San Carlos, Puerto Princesa, Baguio, Antipolo, Mira-nila; in parishes in Narra, Tondo, Talisay, Laray, here in San Nicolas; in mission ad gentes (Sierra Leone), in school settings in Cebu and Bacolod, in religious governance in the curias of Quezon City, Madrid and Rome. We are grateful for the opportunity to have served you and perhaps touched your lives, but equally we are thankful for your edifying examples and encouraging words that have spurred us on, or even re-directed our steps when in danger of straying. We are sorry for the times that, like the priest and Levite in today’s Gospel (Lk 10:25-37), we paid more attention to our personal comfort and security than to exercising compassion and charity on the needy.
We look inward and we see the obvious: our diminishing physical faculties. Instead of engaging in our favorite sports, we now talk about our doctor-prescribed medicines. (Although Fr. Joefel still battles with college seminarians more than half his age in the basketball and football courts). Getting to the morning prayers on time is no longer an effort as it was when we were younger, because waking up early for senior citizens is not a virtue but a function of the body clock. Hopefully, in exchange we have a greater intellectual synthesis and a more comprehensive vision of life and the Church’s mission. With our contemporaries in the world already retired from their jobs, we are also tempted to seek rest, be comfortable in our conventual nests, purchase more items from the “home improvement” section of the department store.
But Christ continues to call us, through our superiors, in places and assignments that personally might not be appealing to us. In spite of ourselves, we have to obey, in the assurance that the Christ we serve through the Recollect Order, is, as St. Paul tells us through today’s second reading from Colossians (1:15-20), the Head of the Body, the Church; in Christ were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible.
Christ, in Saint Augustine’s commentary of today’s Gospel, is the Good Samaritan who carries the victim, almost dead through Satan’s attacks, on his (Christ’s) human body (represented by the animal) after anointing him with oil, which are the sacraments, brings him to the inn, which is the Church, and leaves him in the care of the innkeeper (who are the apostles). We are members of that Church, and so our job continues, we go where the Church needs us.
So, we look forward to continuing in the journey, and that resumes tomorrow, Monday. We ask you to pray that our strength and our vision may not fail. That we may have the creative courage of Saint Joseph so that our fidelity may also be creative, like Mary’s and the saints’. That at the end, Fr. Leo and Fr. Joefel and Fr. Rene may hear the words of the Good Shepherd: Well done, good and faithful servant, now enter into your Master’s rest.
Well, if by his grace, we are still alive for our Golden Anniversary ten years from now, we certainly would like to invite you to be there too!”
Homily delivered during their 40th Anniversary of Priestly Ordination (July 10, 2022)
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