Homily of His Excellency Antonio G. Filipazzi
At the Mass for Episcopal Ordination of The Bishop of Manado
Manado, July 8, 2017
1. Today is a bright day in the history and life of the Diocese of Manado, as it accepts its new shepherd. This is not just an extraordinary festival or an important moment for an organization in ecclesiastical life. We gather here to celebrate the Holy Mass, during which the Sacrament of the Priesthood at the episcopal level will be given to our beloved brother. Each sacrament is fulfilled in the earthly Church by man, but when the sacraments are celebrated, first and foremost, it is God who acts. Therefore, we must live our faith in this moment to acknowledge God’s presence and his work in relation to the new bishop, all of us, and his Church.
And God has spoken to us through the readings that have just been preached. The readings primarily present the mystery of light. In fact, in the first reading, the Apostle John affirms: “God is light, and in him there is no darkness.” We have come to know and accept this light which is God Himself through His Son, which in the Gospels says of himself: “I am the light of the world: whoever follows after me, will not walk in darkness, but will obtain the light of life.” As we proclaim in faith, He is “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.” Light is the symbol of what God is in Himselg and what He does for men through His Only Begotten Son, our Savior.
In fact, God, who is light, through Christ the Light of the true world, attains and enlightens our life beginning with the sacrament of baptism, formerly called “enlightenment.” And this divine light is continually given to us, especially through the other sacraments, through which we can restore that light when we lose it because of sin, we can increase it and we can give it to others. All the Christian life can be contemplated as the progressive granting of God and the acceptance of this divine light from man until we enter into the fullness of the light of immortality.
2. The life and ministry of the bishop can also be understood in the mystery of this divine light. Thus, the motto of the new shepherd, which is selected for Diocese of Manado as an inspiration for his life, his future and his actions, becomes important: “In your light we see the light.”
This saying, which comes from Psalm 35, should be the first calling for every new bishop – and every bishop – to a fundamental relationship with God, through which he is enlightened in thought, heart, speech, and deed, by the light coming from above, which he lived as a ceaseless commitment to grow in holiness. As it is pointed out by St. John Paul II: “Objective sanctification, which by Christ’s work is present in the sacrament through the communication of the Holy Spirit, needs to coincide with subjective sanctification, in which the Bishop, by the help of grace, must continuously progress through the exercise of his ministry” (Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Gregis, no. 11). This is not about merely exercising a commanding function, but rather of living a personal relationship of love with Christ the Good Shepherd better, the love that Jesus raised to Peter, and also to all the shepherds to shepherd God’s flock.
We will soon hear the words that accompany the giving of mitre: “Receive the mitre and let the fullness of holiness shine upon you.” These words make us understand that the bishop should allow himself to be enlightened from above in order to illuminate the flock entrusted to him. He must be holy, perfect in love with God and neighbor, to lead his brothers and sons to holiness, to the perfection of love, through teaching, the celebration of the sacraments, and pastoral leadership. All actions taken by the bishop should be directed towards this goal and cannot be reduced by him or others to mere human ends. The grace given by the Sacrament of Priesthood to the bishop makes him capable, and, at the same time, endlessly encourages him to guide the spiritual growth of all members of the people of God.
This is the root of the great dignity that Christians see and be respected in their shepherds, and at the same time, the greatness of the bishops’ service responsibilities: to be illuminated in order to illuminate others. Related to this, I am reminded of the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas concerning the ministry of the Apostles and their successors when he says that “”Nothing is more dignified among men’s occupations than to be made a cooperator with God.”… But those so enlightened as to enlighten others draw more closely to that dignity.” (Super Evangelium S. Matthei, chapter 4, lectio 2). In fact, for the Angelic Doctor, “it is better to enlighten than merely to shine” (S. Th., II-II, 188, 6).
3. If the whole ministry of the bishop aims to direct the faithful to perfection, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, he achieved the mission first and foremost through his teachings. Thus, the Angelic Doctor affirms that the teaching office of the bishop “is great” in relation to other functions (see S. Th, III, 67, 2, to I) (Second Vatican Council states that “Among the main tasks of the Bishops, the most important is evangelical preaching “(LG 25)). Specifically, St. Thomas declares that bishops are responsible “to educate about the depth of the mysteries of the faith and the perfection of Christian life” (S. Th., III, 71, 4, and III).
If this is the issue at all times, then this seems urgent in our time. Indeed, on the other hand, Christian knowledge and the practice of Christian faith in all its aspects seem very weak. On the other hand, the words of St. Paul to his disciple Timothy was correct: “For the time will come when men will no longer accept sound doctrine, but they will gather teachers according to their will to satisfy the desires of their ears. They will turn their ears away from the truth and open it to a fairy tale “(2 Tim 4: 3-4). All this requires a great commitment and courage from a bishop to teach the truth.
But to carry out the mission of enlightening the mind and life of the faithful through the truth, the bishop must be the first to reflect on the truth. Thus, in order to fulfill his ministry, it is necessary for him to devote himself to the study of the Word of God and the Church’s faith without interruption. Only then can he give his brothers what he first knows and ponder deeply. Without the continuity with this source of truth, the bishop’s mind and heart are threatened to dry up, and he risks delivering empty words, which do not touch the heart and do not build life, in some cases his words is not from God but from the mentality of the world.
On the other hand, when the bishop accompanies his brothers to perfection primarily through instruction, the faithful must take him seriously. The word of a bishop united with Christ and the Church is not just a word, but a word that comes from God and signifies the direction of a certain Christian life, and this word cannot be ignored, because as the Lord Jesus says, “Whoever hears you, he hears me, whoever reject you, he rejects me” (Luke 10:16).
During this sacred ordination we pray specifically for the new bishop and all the bishops to be true teachers of the truth of faith for their brethren, that they may illuminate with righteousness from above, and we pray that they may never fail to hear the people of God, the people entrusted to them.
4. When contemplating the life and ministry of the bishop, especially those who accept this office and dignity in the Church, we cannot help but be afraid when we perceive our weaknesses and inadequacies in the face of such a demanding and noble mission. But what seems impossible for man to do, God grants the power of grace through the sacrament to those who are chosen as shepherds for the flock of God.
As soon as the new bishop assumes this obligatory ministry, we will pray to the Virgin Mary and all the saints in Heaven, interceding with them for their holiness and service, as well as for the holiness of all Christians. This prayer does not have to end today, but it must continue. The bishop must feel that he has always been supported by the prayers of his people, just as God’s people must know that his bishop is praying endlessly for the faithful entrusted to him, indeed, as Pope Francis put it: looking back on Abraham’s incident pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah – he “negotiate” with God for his people (Speech, May 19, 2014).
May God give this light to our beloved brother, who continually illuminates himself with God, so that he may spread this light to illuminate all people!