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We are Blessed. We are the Best. Let us Bear Good Fruits.

 

(Homily delivered by His Excellency Bishop Ruperto C. Santos,

during his installation as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Balanga

on July 8, 2010, at 9 am at the St, Joseph Cathedral, Balanga City.)

 

One of the worst things that can happen to a person is to suffer memory loss, by accident or on purpose. We recall, again on purpose or involuntarily, the significant events in our lives: the sad, happy, beautiful, tragic, pleasant, hurting, inspiring, embarrassing, and proud times. When we were children, our parents would remind us, “Don’t forget what your father and I have told you.” Our teachers constantly admonish us after each lesson, “Put everything in your heart, not only in your head.” Sweethearts about to part momentarily, leave each other with unforgettable words, “Don’t forget that I love you; remember that I am always here for you.” In the face of mistakes and stumbles, accusing words, such as “I have told you so; if you have just listened to me,” point to the need not to forget life’s lessons. ’

In happy remembrance of anniversaries, we celebrate. To celebrate is to remember. Today on this joyful celebration, let us remember with gratitude and with respect the people who came before us, and the people who are with us now. A wise man once said, “memory is the gratitude of the heart.” Herein lies the meaning of my remembering today.

A. They have been with us through the years

God is the reason for everything; the only source of all things. Everything is according to His divine plan. All things move according to His ways and His will. It is the will of God, in His goodness, that this day should. Unworthy as I am He called me from afar. He sent me to this beautiful province. God in His grace chose me for you. Yes, God chose me for you so that I must live for you, love you and work for you. And my unconditional response to you, my priests, religious and people of Bataan echoes the words of the Psalmist, “My life is in your hands” (Psalm 15:5).

Starting today I will not forget that I am not the owner, but only God’s follower. I am not the landlord, but only a lowly labourer. And I am not a superior, but just a faithful steward and servant of all.

Where we are now is because of those who prepared the path for us. What we have now is because of what they have shared with and sacrificed for us. To remember Bataan is to recall never ending stories of sacrificial love and self-offering for the noble cause of human freedom and dignity. The whole world will never forget the courage and devotion of those who made their gallant stand at Bataan. Engraved in our country’s history are the courage, patriotism and dedication of the people of Bataan. We always remember with appreciative heart those who helped and are helping Bataan to be truly, Ang Bayan ng mga Bayani at mga Banal, (the province of heroes and of holy men and women).

I remember with grateful heart my predecessors:

1. Bishop Celso Guevarra:

I first started to come to Bataan when I was still the academic dean of the San Carlos Graduate School of Theology and professor of Church History and Patrology. Together with the San Carlos community we would come here to attend the priestly ordination of our seminarians—now your priests and pastors. At each time then Bishop Celso Guevarra would graciously tell me, “Thank you for taking good care of my seminarians. Thank you so much for the formation of my newly ordained priests.” His words now guide me as I take care of the sowers of the Seed—from their formation until they rest from their toil in the field of the Lord.

2. Bishop Honesto Ongtioco

I met Bishop Ness in the summer of September 1997. We were both resident-students at Pontificio Collegio Filippino in Rome. Our rooms were both on the first floor; with my room just across his. We also shared the same dining table. How can I ever forget his trust and confidence in me? One winter night in March 1998 he told me that he would be joining a Lenten pilgrimage to Ars, France, organized by the Rector because of this he humbly requested me to faithfully take care of his cherished possessions and to be transparent executor of his will. I gave him my word, “Whatever happens, I will use everything(that you’ve left) for the good of the Church and I will utilize them for the well being of your loved ones as you intended they should be.’

Today I have been given your once cherished possessions. You –my priests, religious and people of Bataan, are now my precious treasures, my fruitful vineyard and my gentle sheep. Our province is paradise. Our young people are very promising. Our family is praiseworthy. Our civil officials are productive. You are all truly--Bayan ng mga Bayani at Banal.

For you, I will put into practice my words to my predecessor, your former Bishop Ness, “I will do all, give all for the spiritual welfare of the Church of Bataan.” All that I receive come because I am with the Church, thus all these that I receive I give them back to the Church. I will use them for the Church. I will do everything for the good of the Church. I will do all I can as pastor to safeguard the faith and morals of my flock, and to protect our land and people. What HERO stands for will be fully implemented.

3. Archbishop Socrates Villegas

I have known Archbishop Soc for a greater part of my life. I was two years ahead of him at the San Carlos Seminary where we often worked together as seminary liturgists, librarians and student council officers. Our esteem and respect for each other continue to grow—from the time of our rural apostolate in the mountains of San Antonio, Laguna and through our immersion, both figuratively and literally in waters of Talim Island in Rizal. We were also classmates—and seatmates—in the Theology Department. After our classes with our Jesuit professors, I would always go to him with an appeal, “Soc, may I borrow your class notes?” And selflessly and kindly he always lent me his notes. Unfortunately, he didn’t give me his brain to go with them.

Today, Archbishop Soc, I will borrow from you, not only your pastoral notes and plans but even more your consoling words, your consistent wisdom and your caring works. But I will not only borrow them, I must learn from them. I should apply them to my life, and put them into practice. And from these I can effectively and efficiently lead our priests, religious and people of Bataan to be truly Bayan ng mga Bayani at Banal.

Recalling our treks through the rugged terrains of Laguna and Rizal and our ministerial collaboration in the at Edsa Shrine and in the Archdiocese of Manila, it has become clearer to me that all our priestly service should always be done in the spirit of charity, and not of career advancement; that a working relationship thrives amid the healthy atmosphere of cooperation, and not of competition. And priestly human interaction must always be sincerely motivated by communion, and not contradiction.

Yes, I will sow. I will sow with the same seeds that you have scattered. I will sow with the same seeds that you have scattered in the same soil that you have toiled.

B. Those who are with us today:

We are here not merely to be observers, but to be active participants in our pilgrimage of faith. I have come here not as a guest but as a co-traveler, a companion, and as witness of and for Jesus for Bataan. We are here to share with one another our prayers, our hope and our dreams for our beloved Diocese.

I have come here to sow. Ad seminandum. This is engraved in my coat-of-arms, my official seal, my motto, my promise, my task. I have come here to sow love. I am here to love you. I have come here to sow service, the fruit of my love for you. A service born of love is willing to undergo hardship and sacrifices. This love is not merely a sweet promise. This Love provides. This Love is action. This love serves. I have come here to sow love and to serve.

You, my people of Bataan, will remind me to love you. To love you is to respond to your pastoral needs. To love you is to be responsible. Please remind me of this love in case I forget, my dear people that my love for you should be responsible, self-sacrificing and fruitful for your spiritual growth and development

Even if I desire it, I will not ask you to love me now, not yet, because I know that I must earn your love. I must work for your love. But I ask you firmly and publicly to let me sow, let me serve, let me love you. And it is love according to what our Lord says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friend”’ (John 15,13).

My dear priests and religious of Bataan, allow me to love you, and to love you is to be faithful to what I promised during my Episcopal ordination on June 24. Love is to be faithful. Fidelity out of love is to live to the letter what all of us have promised during our Ordination days. Love cannot exist without fidelity. Our fidelity out of love for Jesus demands the sacrifice of human comfort and consolation. And when our love to Jesus is faithful, we can find that our cross is not a burden, but a grace and even our crucifixion, a redemption, not a humiliation.

How can we say that we love the Lord if we are unfaithful to our vows of celibacy, obedience and poverty? How can we say that we love our people if we are not willing to serve and to sacrifice ourselves for them? How can we say that we love our families if we hurt and break them apart with our infidelities?

If I have asked our people of Bataan to remind me if I have failed to love them by self-sacrifices and services, then, I have to remind you, my priests and religious of Bataan that I will love you in these ways. I will personally visit you, to talk to you, and to fraternally call your attention to your failures to love our Lord through these people entrusted to our pastoral care; or to your negligence of your pastoral and sacramental responsibilities; and or when you are not showing the right and moral witnessing by how you live the call of the Gospel values.

I. Conclusion:

Our memory of Bataan will always be long and loving. We always remember Bataan as Bayan ng mga Bayani at Banal. To this allow me to add two letter B’s—Blessing and Best. We are blessed by God to have Bataan, to know Bataan, and to be in Bataan. I am blessed to be assigned here. It is my constant prayer to God that I must also be a blessing for Bataan; that I may be a source of blessings to the Diocese.

Second is to be the best. Bataan has given herself to the Church. Our predecessors—in the Church and government—have given their best in the fulfilment of their priestly, religious and civil duties. This is my pledge and prayer that I also may do and give my best to this noble Diocese.

Indeed, we are Bayan ng mga Bayani at Banal. But let us remember that we have to blessings to one another and give our best God for the sake of Bataan.

My beloved people of Bataan, be heroes, be holy, be the best and be a blessing to one another and to others. Together let us sow God’s love and we pray that we may bear good fruits for the glory of His Kingdom.

My sower’s prayer:

My dearest, ever gracious Lord Jesus,

my benevolent and divine Sower.

As i go out into Your vineyard, I humbly pray.

 

Lead me to wow even on rough and rugged terrain,

even on barren soil.

Let me sow in spite of unbearable and stormy climes;

even when bereft of tools;

even the harvest seems uncertain or long in coming.

 

Teach me to sow with patience with a nary of complaint;

to persevere in my work and not to walk away from hardships;

not to question Your way, but to ever trust in Your providence.

 

When the work is done and the harvest is at hand,

help me recognize the sacrifices of my co-workers

and share the fruits of our labours with everyone.

In all that we accomplish may we always give to You

all praise, glory and thanksgiving.

 

Watch over me, dearest Lord Jesus, so that I may not fear of getting tires;

that I may be preoccupied with getting less,

or be anxious about ending up with nothing.

Give me the grace so I can always do my best

and give all that I have.

 

Always remind me, my Lord Jesus, that I am not the owner, but Your only follower.

I am not the landlord, but the lowly labourer in Your filed.

I am not the superior, but the servant of all.

 

My beloved and benevolent divine Sower, Lord Jesus Christ

I am ready for You.

I commit myself to Your call, this day and every day, to sow.

Amen.

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Diocese of Balanga
(Bataan, Philippines)