My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ. It is obviously a very beautiful day.
Fifty years ago, Monsignor Pmat, Monsignor Bobby, Monsignor Dading received ordination from the hands of St. Paul VI. Coincidentally 25 years ago, Monsignor Lan was invested with a sash of a monsignor right in this same Cathedral. You cannot have that everyday. We cannot have that again next month. This is perhaps a once in a lifetime event for all of us.
When they were ordained 50 years ago.They received power. The power to stand on behalf of God. What power? The power to speak on behalf of God. The power to extend their hands on behalf of God and bless on behalf of God. It is a mystery too much to comprehend. That is why St. Maximilian Kolbe said, “if there would be any reason for an angel to envy a human being, it would be the powers given to priests.” Because the powers given to priests are not given to angels. Angels should not be jealous. It is a sin. But if they should ever be jealous, it can only be because priests are given powers not given to angels.
But St. John Paul II of happy memory opened our eyes to the truth that there is something more beautiful than the day of ordination when we are given the power to stand on behalf of God, in place of God. And what could be more important than that? The day of our baptism.The day of our baptism is even more special than an ordination day. Because on the day of our baptism we were called children of God. To be baptized is a great blessing. To be a priest is a great responsibility. By baptism, the doors of heaven are open to us, unfortunately because of the immensity of the duties of the priesthood and if the priest fails, the doors of heaven can close on him. Baptism is a great privilege. Ordination to the priesthood is a great responsibility.
That is why St. Francis of Assisi declined ordination to the priesthood because he considered himself never worthy. But pushing it back beyond baptism it is that on the day they were conceived, they received a mark , the stamp imago dei the image of God. They are signs of God’s kingdom. Every human person is an image of God and the imprint of God’s face is in each and every human person not even sin and remove it. Not even the sin of humanity can remove the image of God implanted, imprinted by God on each and every man and woman.
Image of God is such a blessed condition. It is a condition that is given to unworthy mortals.
But where did this imago dei lead our three brothers? This image of God is not just a condition. It is a command. It is a command to live the vita dei the life of God. It is not enough to bask in the radiance of being created in the image of God. For every blessing, there is a corresponding responsibility and the corresponding responsibility is a big command, live like me. Imago dei leads to vita dei. The image of God imprinted leads us to live the life of God. That is the command we received in the upper room. Do this in memory of me.
If we can give thanks to the Lord for three men, young 50 years ago no longer young now to be given the power to stand on behalf of God, we are giving thanks to the Lord that after 50 long years of ministry in the church. They have lived the vita dei. They have lived the life of God.
When a young man is ordained to the priesthood, everybody’s happy. But there is also a bit of uncertainty. Will this young man be faithful? Will this young man be pure? Will this young man live the life of God? And, these three young men of 50 years ago lived that vita dei and that is why we have gathered this afternoon to give thanks.
But where does the life of God lead us? The life of God that vita dei leads to the missio dei, the mission of God. The imago dei is a condition, a blessed condition which leads to the command to the vita dei to the life of God. And if you truly live the vita dei the life of God, you have no other way. You must go out of yourself. You must allow your feet to lead you where your heart does not like to go. You must embrace the missio dei the mission of God. To die so that the world may receive life.
These are our three reasons for giving thanks this afternoon.The imago dei that can never be blurred by sin. The imago dei that stays beautiful beyond time. The imago dei that invites to share in the vita dei in the life of God and the life of God that sends them forth even with weak knees, even with fumbling voice, even with sick bodies, even with fear in our hearts to live out the missio dei. The command of the Lord to go forth and make disciples of all the nations.
My dear brothers and sisters, that is the mystery we celebrate, whether it is the imago dei or vita dei or missio dei. The truth is every priest is sacerdos dei. A priest of God who stands on behalf of God, who pleads on behalf of humankind.
Thank you my dear brother jubilarians for keeping the image of God ever shining in your life. For showing us how to live like God. Not in a sense of domination. Not in the sense of lording it over others, but in the sense of service and love.
Thank you our dear brothers, golden jubilarians for embracing the mission of the Lord, the mission of God. The knees are weaker. The health is less stable. The mind may be forgetful but we know in your life that you have lived the mission of the Lord every day of this 50 years. And because of you, when we look at you, we just say deo gratias.