[FULL TEXT] 26th Episcopal Ordination Anniversary homily of Bishop Nes’

Our dear Chancellor, Father Jojo, our dear Rector and Parish Priest of the Cathedral Parish, Father Dennis, my dear brother priests, dear seminarians, reverent sisters, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

We come together as one family tonight in gratitude. We are here to give thanks to Him, especially for the goodness He has shown me, in choosing me to be a father to His family. And we come as a community of disciples to give praise to the Lord for His faithful love that endures forever. We often say, “Everything is grace!” We live by the mercy and love of God. I thank God for His love, mercy and grace for giving each one of you to me.

I thank the Lord for choosing me though poor in many ways to be a humble worker in His vineyard. I thank Him for using me to accomplish good things despite my weaknesses and limitations – both those known to you and me, as well as those known only to Him and His infinite mercy. And I thank Him for His love and fidelity that throughout these many years, have never failed to sustain me. I still have to give more of myself in serving Him and His people. There are still many things to be accomplished. Praise Him who guides us each day!

The Grace of Prayer

As we look forward to celebrate Jubilee Year 2025, we prepare for this important event in the Church. This year has been declared a “Year of Prayer.” If I have survived all these years in my priestly life and ministry in spite of many challenges, crises and trials, it is because of prayer. Prayer is our lifeline. In my 26 years of ministry as a bishop and almost 52 years as a priest, it was prayer that kept me in the service of the Lord. It was through prayer that I was able to get some light when I was groping in the dark, and have courage to move on. Everything comes to life when we pray.

Nevertheless, this Jubilee reminds us that we are all pilgrims. We journey with hope, focus on Jesus who is our only hope and joy. We must keep ourselves open because the Lord’s ways cannot be understood completely with our minds. Thus, prayer must always be our direct line of communication with the Lord.

The grace of the Santatlo

I thank the Lord. I thank him for the grace of the Santatlo. Today, I would also like to thank all my dear brother priests for your unwavering support to the mission we’ve all been given— to serve the people entrusted to our care. I thank the Lord for each of you who have been my dedicated priests and fellow laborers in the vineyard— my joy, consolation and source of strength and energy – both spiritual and physical – in carrying out my pastoral duties.

With new assignments for most of you, I am sure that there is renewed commitment, enthusiasm, and zeal in ministering to the people entrusted to your care. With our synodal way of doing ministry, I hope that you will be more effective and relevant in this changing times of the Church.

I also thank the religious men and women— the consecrated people who tirelessly work with me in carrying out the Church’s mission. So far, I have visited 104 communities since 2018 out of the 135 congregations of religious men and women. I thank you for enriching my pastoral perspective and experience on how we could work together in a more collaborative and synergized manner. Jesus’ light shines in and through each one of you.

And to you, my dear lay people, you who so generously share your time, talent and treasure, so that the work entrusted to all of us by the Lord can continue to happen: my heart bursts with gratitude each time I think of your love for the Lord, for the Church, for His ministers and especially for my humble self. Because of you, we are able to grow in the realization of what being a “Church” should be. In our two national synodal reports, we were the first to submit reports at the CBCP Secretariat. We are Christ’s Body! You are Christ’s Body! And I will forever treasure the generosity, love and support you have shown me.

I thank God for the “Santatlo”: the priests, the religious and the laity – the tripod on which our diocese, the Diocese of Cubao stands.

A Word about the Readings

In the first reading, the Prophet Ezekiel reminds us that the Lord cares for His sheep. He will gather those who are scattered and pasture them. The lost, He will seek out and the strayed, He will bring back.

In the second reading, St. Paul teaches the excellent way to love. In order for love to be real, it has to be shown in deeds. It has to be concrete like being patient, kind, not jealous or pompous. Love is not rude nor self-seeking or quick tempered. Love bears all things and endures all things. Above all, it does not fail. Faith, hope and love are important but the greatest is love.

In the Gospel, we heard the second part of John chapter 15 which is the parable of vine and branches. In the first ten verses, the word remain is used eleven times. We are asked to remain in Jesus, to be connected, to be in communion with Him so that His joy will be ours and our joy be complete. He asks us to imitate His love, a love that is ready to offer oneself for others. This is what it means to love Him, to be His friend so as to attain true freedom. In choosing us, He wants us to bear fruit that will remain and then whatever we ask the Father in Jesus’ name, He will give it to us. We are to love one another in the way He loves us, a love that is self-sacrificing and unconditional, a love that will enable us to attain eternal life.

To love is to become instruments of joy, hope and optimism, everywhere we go. It means consoling those in sorrow, forgiving those who have hurt us, giving strength and courage to those in despair, supporting and affirming the weak, giving companionship to the lonely, making time to listen to young people especially those who might be suffering from despair and depression.

Final Words

Finally my dear friends in my ministry of 26 years as a bishop, I have realized that evangelization really isn’t simply about the proclamation of the Good News It is, above all, as “being with” people and “remaining” with them. It is more of an immersion in their life, a sincere listening to them as they journey with us, and a selfless opening of our hearts through them – so that they might, in turn, open their hearts to the hope and joy we ourselves have found in Jesus Christ. That is the most powerful kind of invitation for all of us who love and serve in this journey of faith. That is evangelization.

And so, join me in asking our Blessed Mother to keep me and the diocese in her maternal love and care so that I may imitate her humility, openness, obedience to God’s will all the more and the fidelity in participating in His plan of salvation.

I end with the last part of a pilgrim prayer written by one of our priests, Fr. Raymond Arre.

“Every step of the way, Lord, let your Spirit inspire us, guide us, protect us, and inflame our heart with joyful hope. Like Mary, who treasured all things of you in her heart, send us to take that long journey within into our heart for there you await us with your loving mercy dearest Jesus we are pilgrims of hope you are our hope our journey begins in you continues only by your grace and reaches its destination and completion for you are our glorious way to the Father. Amen.”

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