15th Episcopal Anniversary Homily (John 6:44-51)
Most Rev. Mylo Hubert C. Vergara, D.D., Bishop of Pasig
Online Eucharistic Celebration,
Tahanan ng Mabuting Pastol
As we celebrate the Mass on this last day of April, tomorrow we begin another month and how we never expected that we would go through this week in this quarantine period and its extension. I never also realized that I would be celebrating two momentous anniversaries during this covid pandemic crisis. I celebrated my 30th priestly anniversary last March 24 and now my 15th anniversary as Bishop. I’d like to in my prayer share with you three (3) things that has sustained me in my shepherding and I would also like to use our readings for today given also this memorial of St. Pius V, the exact day when I was ordained Bishop.
The first sustenance I have realized is the HOLY SPIRIT, the power of the Spirit. In our first reading in the Acts of the Apostle, you could just imagine how Philip, one of the disciple of the Lord was led to evangelize and also baptize this Ethiopian Eunuch, “Di siguro maubos maisip ni Philip na doon sya ipadadala, pero sumunod sya at nagpaliwanag tungkol sa Salita ng Diyos, tungkol sa sinasaad sa Banal na Kasulatan, nagkaroon ng pagmumulat at mismo ‘yong isang naghahanap din na di naniniwala eh naniwala at nagpabinyag!” But observe also after this scene, baptism was immediately administered and the reding described what happened, that Philip was snatched by the Spirit, “Biglang nawala!” That so dramatic! And he was led to Azo’tus and continue to proclaim the Good News to the towns until he reached Caesare’a.
I would like to look at life in that way, any calling, any vocation is actually coming from God and it’s the Spirit that leads. I remember I was the Parish Priest in the Holy Sacrifice Parish in UP when I was snatched by the Spirit and then I was appointed Bishop and was ordained last April 30, 2005 and installed in the Diocese of San Jose in May 14, 2005. I stayed there for six (6) years. And after six years now in Pasig, going to my 9th year, I now have a total of 15 years as a Bishop. And basically, trusting in the Spirit, I am let to wherever he wants me to go and to serve.
The second thing that sustained me is the devotion to the Blessed Mother. I was wondering why I decided to be ordained as Bishop on April 30 in the feast of St. Pius V, but if we go back to the history, Pius V was a Dominican who became Pope as we know in Church history. The victory in the Battle of Lepanto was actually borne out of the intercession of the Blessed Mother, that’s why it is our Lady of Victory. It was also the promulgation of the feast of the Holy Rosary on the first week of October that happened afterwards. “Alam nyo ‘yung buhay ko bilang Kristiyano at pari, pati ngayong Obispo, ay mahalaga ang pamamagitan ng Mahal na Ina. I’m sure my Mo’m is watching right now. Alam nyo, noong bata kami, palagi kaming nagrorosaryo. Inis na inis kami sa Rosaryo kasi paulit-ulit eh! Sigurado ‘yung pamangkin at apo ko, nabiktima ng Nanay ko yan sa kaka-rosaryo, lahat ng Misteryo ng Rosaryo.” But then I realized that the rosary has been part and parcel of my life. I became a junior Legionary. Praying the rosary did not become mechanical anymore when I became a seminarian and a priest. It became truly a sincere devotion. I have realized that reciting all the mysteries of the Rosary everyday has been my strength as a Bishop, something that tells me that the accompaniment and the companionship of the Blessed Mother has always been there. Noong na ordain po ako na maging Obispo dun po sa Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao, Diocese of Cubao, mahalaga po yun sa akin. I was ordained by Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, Archbishop Emeritus of Manila, and now I’m here in Pasig with the cathedral also under the Immaculate Conception. I feel that the Blessed Mother has been very much instrumental in my shepherding. Swerte nga po ako kasi noong canonization ni St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II ay nandoon po ako and I celebrated by Episcopal Anniversary and that time I was able to go in the Saint Mary Major Basilica. Mapalad po ako kasi nandun din po ‘yong crypt of St. Pius V. I asked for his intercession and the continued accompaniment of the Blessed Mother in own life and shepherding.
Finally, if there is one thing that sustained me as a shepherd, it is always being drawn in prayer to the Eucharist. In the gospel, Jesus told the crowd, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me through him.” I find that line incredibly significant because I always drawn to Jesus and I think the Father is leading me also to him. It is the Father who also keeps me the attraction to pray before the Blessed Sacrament our gospels for the past days have been all about, “this bread of life discourse”. Ngayon di ba, pagtayo po ay nagdadasal at alam natin na ang Panginoon sa Eukaristiya ang dinadasalan natin. Parang nagkakaroon po tayo ng kapayapaan sa puso sa gitna ng mga pagsubok na dinadaanan po natin sa buhay and I think that given the test of faith, even the challenges in the priesthood and in the Episcopal Ministry, I’m able to hurdle them because of this daily adoration to the Blessed Sacrament, to the Eucharist, to Jesus, the Bread of Life. I was just thinking during this covid-19 crisis, all these three things were very operative for all of us. Buhay na buhay, ano po?
Pa’no nga ba tayo magsu-survive ngayon? Kundi una, sa Espiritu Santo di ba? Magtiwala lang tayo sa Espiritu ng Diyos na di tayo pababayaan! Sinasabi nya na sa gitna ng dinadaanan natin, kumapit lang tayo sa kanya. Pa’no nga ba talaga tayo makakalampas dito? Pangalawa, patuloy na pananalangin ng rosaryo na alam natin ang Mahal na Ina’y kasama natin at nananalangin para sa atin, namamagitan para sa atin, at pinoprotekahan po tayo. Ikatlo, itong pagdiriwang po natin ng Eukaristiya, even though we’re not able to receive the Sacred Host physically, our spiritual communion is enough to realize how much in the highest form of prayer and communing with the Lord, we are strengthened and we are also healed. Ganda nga po niyan di ba? Every mass, pagtinaas, this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, only say the word, and I shall be healed. Ito po ‘yung kailangan natin, ang paghihilom mula kay Hesus, ang tinapay ng buhay. At alam natin na mahihilom tayo sa ating mga takot, mga pangamba, at iyong mga nagkasakit na dulot ng covid-19 na pinapanalangin natin at dinadasal din na mahihilom sila at maliligtas.
Brothers and Sisters in Christ as we continue this Eucharistic Celebration in gratitude also to God for the gift of fifteen years and all our blessings, I also invite you to pray for two (2) other Bishops, Bishops Bart Santos of the Diocese of Iba and Bishop Joe Cabantan of the Diocese of Malaybalay. They were also ordained on April 30 in different years, but they are also gifts to us shepherds of their particular Churches, drawing strength from the Spirit, the Blessed Mother, and the Eucharist.