HOMILY FOR 13TH EPISCOPAL ANNIVERSARY, July 10, 2019
Thank you dear friends, brothers and sisters, for joining me in this Eucharist today as I celebrate the 13th anniversary of my epsicopal ministry.
Today’s Gospel is the beginning of the Mission Discourse in the Gospel of Matthew—how Jesus chose twelve apostles from among his many disciples. Even if we need to distinguish between discipleship and apostleship, it is important to note that apostleship is really the whole point about discipleship. The “following” finds its fullest meaning in the “sending”.
I know that we bishops are regarded by Christian tradition to be the successors of the apostles. What is that supposed to mean? I don’t think it means that we have a monopoly of apostleship. I think rather, that it means that we bishops have the duty to make sure that the Church, the community of Christ’s disciples, remains as ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC. The whole point in discipleship is apostleship. The whole point in the “following” is the “sending”. My role, as bishop, is to make sure that the whole diocese of Kalookan participates in the mission of Christ, as members of the Body of Christ.
Let me now emphasize briefly three words related to apostleship: REPRESENTATION, AUTHORITY, AND SHEPHERDING.
First, REPRESENTATION. Here lies the genius of Jesus in assuring us of the sustainability of the Church. It is the reason why we are still here after two thousand years. Leadership in the Church is never to be allowed to turn into a personality cult. Movements that are founded only on personality cult will never last. They are good only for as long as the charismatic leader is around. When he goes, that is the end of it all. Everything else goes with him. It is never like that with leadership in the Church of Christ. It is representative leadership. Ours is merely the task of representing, or making present the one and true leader of the Church, the only head of the body. We are never called to substitute Christ; we are merely called to represent him. And so we have to be constantly reminded that we are not indispensable. A true apostle always thinks of succession. We have no right to go without preparing for our successors, to make sure that Christ’s work of redemption is sustained until kingdom come. Ang butiki, pag naputulan ng buntot, tutubuan ng bagong buntot. Ang simbahan, pag napugutan ng ulo, tutubuan ng bagong ulo. Kaya hindi mamatay-matay. Representational leadership requires kenosis, self-emptying. It is never about us; it should always be about Christ. Otherwise, it has no chances of being sustainable.
The Gospel says Jesus gave them authority. Let us also be clear about AUTHORITY. It is not about lording it over. Authority in this world is always bound to be abused when it boils down to an assertion of power. Remember how Jesus told his disciples when they were aspiring for positions of power and authority? He said, IT SHALL NOT BE SO AMONG YOU. Authority in the Church has only one purpose: service, or better yet, servanthood (diakonia). Pagiging lingkod, hindi amo o panginoon o hari-harian.
It is something entrusted to us. That is why we always need to relate it to STEWARDSHIP. Pagiging mabuting katiwala. Ang pundasyon nito ay ang tiwala niyaong pumili at nagsugo sa atin.
And please take note, the primary expression of this authority is SPIRITUAL. Jesus gave his disciples “authority to drive away evil spirits.” We are all called to be EXORCISTS. Our real authority is primarily SPIRITUAL in nature, because the battle that we fight is mainly a spiritual battle. It is never to be reduced to economics or politics. It is always beyond physical, worldly or secular realities.
Above all, the authority that has been entrusted to us is about the HEALING of every disease and illness. In a very broken world, we are to be agents of healing and reconciliation, of wellness and wholeness.
3. Finally, APOSTLESHIP is about SHEPHERDING.
Jesus said GO TO THELOST SHEEP OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL. You do not have to go very far to participate in mission. You just have to be disposed all the time to leave your comfort zone, to go out to the margins, the peripheries. To never allow ourselves to become parochialistic in the negative sense. To be always Catholic in the sense of open-minded, inclusive, participatory, always with a conscious effort to reach out to those who are left out in society, those who are excluded or treated as non-humans. Remember, we represent the Master whose business is not just generic salvation but about REDEMPTION. Meaning, he intends the salvation, the well-being, not just of a few but of all. We are never to create exclusive ghettoes open only to the good and the righteous. We have to have the heart of a Shepherd that will never give up on any of the sheep, however weak, stupid, flawed, sick, or vicious they might be. Ang kaligtasan na ipinahahayag natin ay hindi lang para sa mga mababait at mabubuti. Wala naman yatang ka-challenge-challenge ang magligtas ng mabubuti. The real challenge is REDEMPTION, to work for the salvation of those who stray, those who are regarded as undeserving, those who are judged or condemned as hopeless. To be truly redemptive, one has to be ready to pay the price, ready to suffer and die with our one and only redeemer.
There they are, dear brothers and sisters in the apostolic Church. I did not mean to address only the priests. I meant it for all of us. We cannot call ourselves members of the Church if we do not participate in the redemptive mission of Christ. Remember, MISSION is about REPRESENTATION, AUTHORITY is about SERVICE, AND SHEPHERDING IS ABOUT SEEKING OUT THE LOST SHEEP.
Let me emphasize