Chrism Mass 2022
Beloved brothers in the priesthood:
We come again together to celebrate the beauty and mystery of our priesthood. Our priesthood is a grace beyond measure; a grace that surpasses worthiness; a grace that can only be understood in heaven. Nothing and nobody on earth can explain in adequate terms what the priesthood is. It is a gift in mystery.
Today our Chrism Mass and the renewal of our priestly promises happen only a few weeks from the national elections. To vote is a patriotic duty as much as a holy duty. We are citizens of the republic and citizens of heaven. We were not born priests. We were born baby boys. Our birth led us to another rebirth in baptism. That rebirth in baptism led us to the Table of the Lord. That Communion in the Eucharist reached its full bloom when we were sealed with the Holy Spirit at confirmation. Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you! See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you (Is.49:15-16)
We did not shed our citizenship of the republic when we were ordained. Our being Filipino was also ordained with us; the whole of us—earthly life now and heavenly life to come; the whole of us—virtues and vices, dark secrets and public persona together; the whole of us! At our ordination, every bone and drop of blood, every muscle, and tissue in us were ordained too. Our DNA was ordained too.
We are priests and we are Filipino priests. Our priesthood, like our Filipino citizenship, will last beyond our death. Beyond death, we are priests forever. We are also Filipinos forever.
Because we are priests we are called men of God. A good man of God must also be a good man of the motherland. We are all pro Deo et patria. Love of country is one of the forms of showing love for God. Our country, our citizenship is God’s gift to us. We must be good stewards of this motherland and stewards of mother Church. Pro Deo et patria. Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God (Mark 12:17). But Caesar and God are not co-equal because Caesar is from God and will account before God in due time.
Our critics and those who do not understand what being a priest means want us to stay confined with cult and worship. They like the smell of incense but not the odor of inhuman poverty. They want the sight of candles lit in churches but they want us to ignore the gunfire against the innocent. They want us to say that Jesus is the Truth but they want us to keep quiet about the lies in cyberspace. They want us to feed the poor but they get angry when we ask “Why are they poor?” They want us to decorate the churches but they want us to keep quiet when the imprint of God is defaced among His children.
We cannot. We must not. We will not. Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” (Lk 19:39-40)
We claim as our own the declaration of Saint Oscar Romero “We do not want to be an anti, against anybody. We simply want to be the builder of a great affirmation: the affirmation of God, who loves us and who wants to save us.” This is who are. We are priests yes; but we are Filipinos too; willing to live and die for God and country.
Those who hear us speak against the misuse of power in society; those who hear us challenge the unbridled use of public money; those who get angry when we condemn vote buying; those who find nothing wrong with killing the poor– have sighed in exasperation about us “Will nobody rid me of this troublesome priest?”
That is what King Henry said of Thomas a Becket. That is what the knights of the king heard. That is what drove the knights to hack the head of the archbishop. His brain became red with blood and his blood became white mixed with his splattered brain. For God and for country, I will lay down my life. Pro Deo et patria.
In every step we take, in every project we begin, in every dream we pursue, in every statement we make, our starting point is Christ. The economists begin with money in mind; the politicians begin with political power as goal; builders begin from the architect’s design. Priests? Our starting point is Christ. If politics is without Christ, we must bring Christ there. Do not worry. God cannot be damaged and blasphemed when we bring Him to politics; politics will be dirty and sinful if we do not lay politics before the feet of Christ.
Our goal is not victory in the elections; that is too shortsighted myopic. Our goal is to bring godliness to governance believing that godly governance will bring us closer to the plan of God. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly (Jn10:10)
Matalo o manalo sa bilangan, panalo tayo kung nanindigan tayo para kay Kristo.
Our basic reason for social engagement is Christ. We are not in politics for its power and influence, but for its evangelization. Politics needs salvation through Christ. We are not kingmakers. We are servants of Cristo Rey.
Our only gift for social engagement is Christ. We are not strategists; we are not tacticians. We cannot command our flock to vote like us. Our vote counts only as one but when that one vote is cast for Christ, we are on the winning side.
Our goal and target for social engagement is Christ. We will rebuke as we support. We will commend as we reject. We will heal as ministers as we denounce as prophets. That is what Christ in politics means. That is what a pro Deo et patria priesthood means.
When we renew our promises made at our ordination a few moments from now, let us also whisper in silence our panatang makabayan.
Iniibig ko ang Pilipinas, ang aking lupang sinilangan, tahanan ng aking lahi. Tutuparin ko ang mga tungkulin ng isang mamamayang makabayan nang buong katapatan. Iaalay ko ang aking buhay, pangarap at pagsisikap sa bansang Pilipinas.
We have in our veins the heroism of Father Mariano Gomez, Father Jose Burgos and Father Jacinto Zamora. In faith, we carry the priestly spirit of Saint Thomas a Becket and Saint Oscar Romero.
How can I betray the lessons dear Cardinal Jaime Sin taught me. I owe him my priesthood. May these holy pastors keep the fire of love aglow—love of God and love of Inang Bayan. Pro Deo et patria!
Mabuhay ang paring Pilipino! Viva Cristo Rey!