To Serve, To Suffer and to be Sent Out
Homily during the diaconal ordination of Rev. Jess Navoa
This moment is a time of thanksgiving. On behalf of the Diocese of Balanga, I express our profound gratitude to the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary for its dedicated and devoted performance of its works of formation, one of whom is our very own Jesus Navoa. Thank you, Father Gerard Francisco Timoner, Seminary Rector and professors for your selfless service and valuable contribution to the Philippine Church and in particular to this Diocese.
Thank you, too, to the family of our Seminarian Jesus. Without your vital consent to offer your son to God and cooperate in his answer to God’s call to serve in His vineyard here in our province of Bataan, we will not be here to witness this joyous event. Thank you so much Romeo and Amelia, the caring parents of seminarian Jesus, for trusting me to be now his ‘father’ and our priests, his ‘brothers.’
Welcome seminarian Jesus Navoa to the presbyterium of Balanga. You have joined our club of servants and disciples. From today, be ready: to serve, to suffer and to be sent out.
Deacon means service. Literally a deacon is a servant as the gospel of Saint Luke tells us, as “the one who serves” (22,27). This service that is not based on our personal preference or desire; on how we feel or what our body is accustomed. We are called to service no to be acclaimed, praised or appreciated. We are to serve not to of our own liking and choice but because we have been called by the Lord of the vineyard. Thus we render service not to be compensated but to be true and committed followers of Jesus Christ, who has given us His Word to preach and spread to all. We work not to attain lofty positions or acquire possessions but to be Jesus to others especially the poor and the dispossessed, the weak and the powerless. We bring to them the message and meaning of Jesus’ Passion and Resurrection, and His promise of Salvation.
As deacon you are servant; helper. Like Jesus you will serve, not to be served. You will be commandeered, and not to give commands.
As priests, and you as a deacon, we are just workers and servants of Jesus. Our thoughts, senses, and entire being are for God alone. We offer to God all our talents and treasure; our heart, whole and undivided. In our service to God we do not scrimp, or parcel out, or choose the task or the persons we minister to. There is nothing that we can keep from God. “Totus tuus,” the papal motto of our beloved Blessed Pope John Paul II best expresses this. This is “totus tuus ego sum” meaning “I am all yours.” And to complete it “et omnia mea tua sunt” that is “and all that I have is yours.”
That is our standing, to be priests, and deacons, only for God. All that we will have, all that we can be are for Him, to be used and utilized only for His glory, for His purpose and according to His will. We must return everything to God. Thus it is but fitting that our response should always be, “here we are Lord, we come to do your will.”
As you receive the Sacrament of Ordination you are assured of two things, which you must accept, comply with and live out.
One. Be ready to suffer.
Two. Be available to be sent out.
Be ready to suffer. As a deacon you will receive the Cross of Jesus Christ and your life will be of sacrifice. You will tread the path of the Cross. Your ordination day is a time of joy and gladness, filled with the fond and cheerful well wishes of loved ones. You will bask in the applause and congratulations of friends and guests. You will be showered with gifts, both wrapped and in enticing envelopes. But while you will cherish this moment this will not last forever. Your life will not be for applause and the cheers and the warm smiles and the hearty banquet. Your fifteen minutes of fame will fade and your pogi points will dissipate even before you can keep them in a bottle to save for future use. Tomorrow you will be confronted with your life of mission and service, your peculiar trip to Jerusalem. And here you will have to accept the Cross, to carry it in your journey, and to undergo your own crucifixion. You will find yourself in Golgotha.
This life will challenge your humility. When your bishop and superiors call your attention to some things you will have to eat humble pie and not sulk in the corner. Do not harbor resentment when you are fraternally corrected. Do not turn away when you do not get your way; when your wishes are not followed. All these seemingly humiliating situations will be part of our lives as servants of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has shown us the way of humiliation with His own Passion, who suffered and emptied Himself. We are mere servants. Jesus Himself tells us, “let the greatest among you be the servant of all” (Matthew 23,11). Jesus, our Lord and Master, endured torture and suffering for us, unworthy that we are. Saint Mark in his Gospel affirms this when Jesus told His disciples “you see we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be given over to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. They will condemn him to death and hand him over to the foreigners who will make fun of him, spit on him, scourge him and finally kill; but three days later he will rise” (10,33-34).
But you see it is when we sacrifice and selflessly serve that we become closer to our Lord, that we become one with Him. We become united with Him, in communion with Him. And when we are imitating Him, all the hardships and sacrifice that we undergo bring us closer to holiness. Psalm 51,7 attests to this as it is written “touch me with suffering and I shall be pure.” Blessed John Paul II confirms “we still don’t know each other, because we have not suffered together.” Isn’t it that when we are compassionate we are ready and willing to sacrifice? Isn’t it that when we serve it is always because we wish to make a worthy offering? Saint Paul in his letter to the Galatians says, “are we to please humans or obey God? Do you think that I try to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ?
Be available to be sent. Be ready to go where you are called to be. The last words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew are, “go, therefore,” (28,19). In the Gospel of Saint Mark we read, “go out to the whole world” (16,16). Jesus does not tell us ‘stay put. Remain where you are.’ He constantly called us, and sends us. He directs us to look after the sheep, to look for the stray sheep, and to bring them all to a clear waters and green pastures.
As a deacon, as a priest, our Lord always bids us to go where we are needed, to do good deeds and to tend to His flock.
And when we have found ourselves at home and comfortable, we again hear the call of our Lord to depart this place of comfort and seek the afflicted and the needy. When that time comes we should be ready to leave, with our bags packed and with our spirits high. In the new place we may be met by strangers or uncooperative people, or by discomfort and harsh conditions, but let us not be disheartened by this new posting by our bishop or superior. Instead let us be carried off by a lightness of being because we know that we are just servants and it is the Lord who calls us to follow Him.
We respond to God’s call by our readiness to follow. Here we can show that while we are genuine in our relationship with our flock, our hearts and minds are not with just one group or one person. Our entire being is with our Lord. It means it is only Jesus whom we have in our life. It is only Jesus whom we hold in our hearts. We always go with Jesus and for Jesus. He who was always available and for all is constantly imploring us “let us go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came” (Mark 1,37).
Allow me to share with you this true and inspiring anecdote. In the ancient Russian empire rich landlords who owned vast tracts of lands usually hired people as guardians. But all that these guardians do is to just walk around and patrol the lands of their masters. When they meet their fellow guardian along their rounds, they ask, “for whom do you walk?” This is for them to know the length and breadth and the owner of the property that they thread upon.
One day a priest happened to pass by. He was bringing sacred host for communion of a sick person. He encountered a guardian, who, not knowing he was a priests, asked “sir, for whom do you walk?” The priest was surprised with the question, and replied unhesitatingly, “I walk for Jesus. I walk with Jesus.”
My dear deacon be ready to serve and to suffer for God and for His people. Be available to be sent out and always walk for Jesus. Walk with Jesus. He will take you to Golgotha, but more than that, He will bring you new life in His Kingdom.
+Ruperto Cruz Santos
Bishop of Balanga