Archbishop to Caceres Priests: Be spiritual, cultivate kindness, yearn for the Living God
Message of Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona, O.C.D., D.D.
To Caceres Priests on Chrism Mass
April 1, 2021
Naga Metropolitan Cathedral, City of Naga
I am delighted to see all of you, my dear brother priests, my dear laity and my dear sisters and brothers.
Today, we are truly gathered as one people of God, one body of Christ. Liturgy is the exercise of the priesthood of Christ in the midst of his people.
Our celebration today is more than and ordinary celebration. We will now enter Holy Triduum. Today, we will have two blessed actions: the blessing of the sacred oils - oil of chrism and the oleo infermorum.
This reminds us that God uses things of nature: the plants, the earth, to consecrate us and to give us strength when we are down and sick.It is the gift of nature that God employs to consecrate us and to give us healing and strength.
In the oil of chrism, we identity ourselves with Jesus who is also a prophet, a priest and a servant-king. And in the oleo infermorum, we are reminded that life comes from God. He nourishes and he strengthens this life. He gives the best gift to this life when it comes to its end: the eternal life.
We also focus in this celebration, in the gift that God has given to his people: the gift of the priesthood. Thus, we are happy to see the grace that God has given the Archdiocese of Caceres: the many priests that we have now gathered in this cathedral.
For what reasons? First is to thank God. Second, to renew our priestly promises.Third, to ask prayers for one another. These are the three things we are offering to God. Acts of thanksgiving for the gift of priesthood. Renewal of our pledges and promises as priests. And, our our humble request for prayer that we may be faithful as priests of God.
My Brother priests, I would like to invite you to reflect on three important basic and common elements of our priesthood. I know every year, we renew our gift of priesthood. I know also that many of us day by day, renew and reflect on this tremendous gift. But, allow me to lead you to three realities which you have heard before. My appeal is: give it another chance. Let this roam in your minds, welcome it in your heart and encourage your generosity. I will share this to you this morning.
First, it is inspired by the Bible, the Word of God. You have heard it: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, to bring liberty to the captives, to give sight to the blind, joy to the downtrodden. ...” (Luke 4: 18)
All is made possible because of the Spirit of the Lord given to me. My Brother priests, more than anything else, let us hold on to this basic reality of the priesthood. We are called to be spiritual; we are called to be men of the spirit. We are called to be spiritual persons.
St. Paul mentions of a movement from man to the spirit. Holding on to a human nature but we open being as persons. We open our hearts to the spirit which was given to us in baptism, fullness in confirmation, blessing and gift in our priestly or ministerial ordination.
We cannot set aside this tremendous treasure given to us by God. We can lose everything else: power, titles but we should never lose this spirit given to us by the Lord.
This spirit is not the spirit of commonness. It is the spirit of courage, of generosity, of sacrifice, of service. It is the spirit of love.
I pray that in this situation of pandemic, when we think of so many concerns, let us always keep our heads high up. Let us keep our hearts burning. Let us continue to serve with generosity, and optimism and enthusiasm because we have the spirit of the Lord. The Spirit who will enable us to bring good news to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind and strength to the broken hearted. Let us strive, day by day, to become spiritual persons, spiritual priests.
The second inspiration is taken from the encyclical of our Holy Father Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti. In #222-224, in the chapter that speaks about social friendship and social dialogue. And this pertains to us, specially in our ministry. The Holy Father appeals to us priests to cultivate kindness.Spiritual priests, yes. But we must always, as spiritual priests, cultivate kindness.
In this consumeristic individualistic society wherein people think only of themselves, people who see the other as annoyances or in Tagalog “istorbo” or “pabigat”. In this present tension, we easily become rude, rash and arrogant. The Holy Father tells us: cultivate kindness among and towards the people.
St. Paul in his letter to the Galicians, speaks of kindness, that reflects gentleness, of being pleasant and welcoming. I always think of holiness as someone who makes others feels at home with you. And that is what Jesus radiates in his heart. His heart is hospitable and welcomes and makes at home all those who come to him even the so-called sinners. Jesus was replete with kindness. And the other name for Jesus’ kindness is mercy and compassion.
In our ministry, kindness is not a secondary virtue or value. It is non-negotiable. It is part and parcel and at the very core of our being priests. We must be kind to people especially to the poor. We must be kind to the penitent. We must be kind to those who are nameless, to those who are in the periphery of society, to those who have nothing to give us, priests. To them we must show the kindness of Jesus- that heart that welcomes them. Because that it how the Lord expresses his priesthood.
We know very well that lack of kindness causes pain and hardship to our people. The sheep runs away from shepherds because they don’t feel any sympathy, any encouragement, any kindness, any forgiveness. When the Lord gave us the gift of priesthood, he tells us: be kind to my people as I am kind with them.
And the third, is inspired by the Apostolic Letter of our dear Pope, Patris Corde.
In my first inspiration, I talked about spirit; in the second, I talked about kindness. And now I will talk about yearnings.
Spirit, kindness, yearnings. Yearnings of your heart.
Archbishop Rolando J. Tria Tirona, O.C.D., D.D., together with Caceres priests gather for the Chrism Mass at the Naga Metropolitan Cathedral on Holy Thursday, April 1, 2021. At the Chrism mass, the bishop consecrates the sacred oil: the oil of chrism (to annoint to be baptized, confirmed and ordained) and the oleo infermorum (the oil to comfort the sick). The mass celebrates the institution of the sacred order of priesthood and is a manifestation of the fullness of the Bishop’s priesthood and a sign of the close bond of priests with him. Priests renew their promises as ministers of the Lord in the presence of their bishop. New parish assignments for some of the Caceres clergy which will take effect on August 1 were announced. (MB/ Archdiocese of Caceres FB page)
What is the yearning of your heart? The Holy Father gives us a model of someone whose heart yearns in following the will of God. He is Saint Joseph.
We know many things about St. Joseph through reflections. Although they say that he never said anything in the gospel. But I think he did. He said it very quietly. He said the most important word in his life: Jesus.
He was told by the angel: “ you shall name him Jesus.” (Mt. 1:21) To care for that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is Joseph’s yearning. To be the legal father, the guardian of Jesus and a follower of the will of God, that was the yearning of Joseph.
As priests, we have to constantly check what we yearn in our life as priests. And let us face the reality and sadness that many of us have become mediocre. Lumabnaw ang pagiging pari because our yearning is now different. It was no longer the yearning whom we have heard when we were called by Jesus to be his priest. We were called by Jesus: be my witnesses, be my missionaries. Give all to
Our yearnings now are only for ourselves: how do I elevate myself? How do I get titles, degrees for myself? How do I get superlative praises for myself? How do I get bonum in my assignment? All towards myself which is contrary to being priests: a priest with a heart that yearns to embrace and to imitate Jesus who was poor, who was chaste, obedient, who offered his life on the cross for our sake, for our salvation.
Our yearnings should carry our courage and hope to carry our crosses unto Calvary as Jesus did, so that we may proclaim the joy of the resurrection.
Let us constantly check and re-check, the yearnings our priestly heart. Let us become persons of spirituality. Let us be kind to our people. Let us be kind to our brother priests. And together, let us yearn for the living God. Let us remember what St. John Vianney said: the priesthood is the love of the sacred heart of Jesus. There is nothing more or less that we need to yearn for, but the heart of Jesus, the priest. Amen.