Metropolitan Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist – 25 July 2011. Masantos ya ngarem ed sikayo. At this very hour, probably the President is addressing the Filipino people to present the State of the Nation. This is not to preempt that address, but allow me to reflect with you the state of the priesthood today. SOPA. State of the Priesthood Address. The priesthood that Fr. Dexter has embraced and accepted in a solemn ordination rites this morning.
If you go by the news headlines, radio commentaries and opinions, it seems that Fr. Dexter may have made a bad decision in becoming a priest today. I need not enumerate the all the adjectives and adverbs that the tripartite media uses in trying to portray the Catholic priesthood and its ministry, but you would not miss these words, “predators”, “luxurious”, “irrelevant”, “without credibility, “materialistic”, ”out moded”, “traditional”, “out of contact”.
But this is the world we are in today; this is the world you are going to live your priesthood and die as a priest, Fr. Dexter. Even then, I still say, “Carry on. Agka natatakot”.
Because whatever words the world is describing the priesthood today, there are truthful words that we know, that the Catholic Church teaches and that words of our Lord that tell us what the true Catholic priesthood is. This is who you are, and you ought to be and you will be, Fr. Dexter.
Father Soc has shared so many reflections about the priest as an alter Christus, as a Eucharistic and a Marian person as well as the need for a praying priest in our midst. Nevertheless, allow me to share with you some of my reflections, and risk the danger of repeating what Father Soc has so many times reflected with us. After all, repetition can be a virtue, according to me.
Priest: An Ecclesial Person
Fr. Dexter, you are an Ecclesial Person. A Man of the Church. You are one who walks with the Church. Not running away from, not outside of, but with the Church. So that anyone who would like to meet Christ, would meet him through you, as you walk with the Church. Belonging to the Church, listen to the Church, walk with the church, talk with the Church is the full-time commitment for a priest. Ecclesial Person is your self-identity.
Anto so ligliwam tan liket mo? Your joy and happiness as a priest flows from knowing that your ministry has vivified, nourished the faith and the life of the people. Your sadness comes from knowing that the Church whom you are called to serve as a pastor has been hurt and could be wounded by you, the shepherd of your flock. That is why, there is pain and sadness expressed by our bishops in their pastoral statement lately to us, the Church: “As shepherds struggling to love you like Jesus the Good Shepherd, we are sorry for the pain and sadness that these events have brought upon you.” They are speaking as shepherds whose love for the Church has made them feel the pain because of the sadness that is emanating from the people of God. Their main concern is for the good of the Church; in their hearts is the heart of the Church. This is how we are as priests: not for ourselves, but for the Church that we become priests of God. Fr. Dexter: Work for the good of the Church; enrich the Church with your prayers and faithful service and ministry. For we may have forgotten: brcause so many times, we have enriched ourselves at the expense of the Church.
Priest: A Man for Others
As an ecclesial person, do not forget that you too are a Man for others. A priest is ordained as a man for others. As a man of Mercy and compassion, you are truly a man for others in the broken world of ours.
Competition is the principle of the word today. Profit is its slogan. It is here that the Priest a man for others, man with a message of God, man with a mission of Jesus Christ becomes important in the world of the Poor. Gospel of Sharing, Gospel of Solidarity, Gospel of Mercy and compassion is still meaningful gospel to our people, the majority are poor, living in the far flung mountain barangays of Inmalog and Gomot, San Fabian, in unreachable Villanueva, Bautista, beyond the high the seas of Calmay. Priestly service as a man for others is still very valid, it is not outdated, and it will never be outdated even till the end of the world. Your continued availability for them is your slogan.
Priest: A Wounded Healer
In your desire to carry out your priestly ministry, a newly ordained priest would think he is Superman, an X-man, a Transformer, like Optimus Prime: Man you are, but not a superman. For you can be tempted; you can fall and sin; you can be wounded. Do not lose hope for the pains and wounds you may envounter in your ministry. They will become the wounds needed in your ministry. They will help you understand the Church. They will provide you the strenght to carry your cross. They will open your heart to the cries of the people, to listen to them, cry and laugh with them. As you allow them to cry and laugh with you because Fr. Dexter, you are a Wounded Healer.
Lacordaire describes the priest the wounded healer thus: "To live in the midst of the world, without wishing its pleasures; to be a member of every family, yet belonging to none; to share all sufferings, to penetrate all secrets, to heal all wounds, to go from man to God, and to offer him their prayers, to return from God to man, to bring pardon and Joy, My God, what a life! And it is yours, O priest of Jesus Christ!"
You'll really never know the strength and reality of your faith and your priesthood until you experience difficulty in your priestly life and ministry, when you have been wounded as you heal the people you are with. But the grace of God will uplift you, and strengthen you as you heal, even as you are wounded. The world needs priest with a compassionate look of the Good Shepherd. Another name for God is Mercy and compassion. Priest as a wounded healer can be the authentic face the wounded humanity of today is eager to gaze at.
Trust in God. He allows circumstances to develop around your life to give your faith opportunity to be proven. Temptations are part of our humanity, and our spiritual life. It is only when we are tested in battle that we become skilled warriors. You can be confident God will allow trials to come your way. These battles are sent our way to test what we know in the mind in order that they might become part of our heart.
Temptations are hard to overcome but do not give up. The runner sometimes stumbles. Learn from falls and grow through the experience. There are more than 60 priests, three bishops in the Archdiocese who are your brothers. They too have been wounded, but they continue to heal and to minister. Walk with them as you journey with the people.
I would like to end from a quote by Blessed John Paul II: "The world looks to the priest, because it looks to Jesus! No one can see Christ; but everyone sees the priest, and through him they wish to catch a glimpse of the Lord! Immense is the grandeur of the Lord! Immense is the grandeur and dignity of the priest!" (Rome, Italy, October 13, 1979) Fr. Dexter, be that priest!