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Episkopós: Seeking with Love and Looking Above

Homily of His Eminence Jose F. Cardinal Advincula, D.D., Archbishop of Manila

Episcopal Ordination of Most Rev. Napoleon B. Sipalay, O.P., D.D.,

Bishop-elect of the Diocese of Alaminos

March 18, 2024 | Minor Basilica of Our Lady of Manaoag


Your Excellency, the Most Rev. Charles John Brown, Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines;

Your Excellency, the Most Rev. Socrates B. Villegas, Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan;

Venerable brothers in the Episcopate;

Your Excellency, the Most Rev. Napoleon B. Sipalay, Jr. O.P., our beloved ōrdinandus today, and Bishop-elect of Alaminos;

Very Rev. Fr. Filemon I. dela Cruz, Jr., O.P., Prior of the Philippine Province of the Order of Preachers;

my dear brother priests;

my esteemed brothers in the Dominican family;

deacons,

persons in consecrated life;

beloved brothers and sisters in Christ:


With joy and enthusiasm, we thank the Lord who gathered us today, to celebrate the gift of faith and ministry in the Church. We particularly thank the Lord for the gift of a new bishop to minister to His people.


Bishop Jun, maraming salamat na nandito ka ngayon para maging obispo. Salamat sa pagtanggap mo ng biyaya at misyon ng paglilingkod bilang obispo.


The original Greek word for bishop is ἐπίσκοπος (episkopós). It comes from two Greek words: “epi” and “skopos”. From this etymology, we can derive two spiritual virtues of a bishop: “seeking with love”, and “looking above”.


Seeking with Love

The first is seeking with love. The Greek word σκοπος (skopós) is sometimes translated as “onlooker” or “the one who sees or looks”. However, it means much more than this. It is a form of the Greek verb σκεπτομαι (skeptomai) which does not only mean “to look'' or “to see”, but to “look carefully and see intently”. Ang isang skopós ay hindi lang tumitingin, hindi lang nagmamasid. He is not contented with mere glances or quick peaks, but desires to look more clearly, and see more closely. Tumitingin nang maigi, maingat, at mainam.  He does not jump to hasty conclusions, or make rush decisions based on shallow data, petty knowledge, or selfish biases. Rather, he exerts effort and spends time on resources, to search more, find more, learn more, reveal more, and love more.


The bishop therefore, is one who seeks with love. Bishop Jun chose the episcopal motto, “Misericordiam Dei Et Vestram” which means, “God’s Mercy and Yours.” This line was actually Bishop Jun’s response on the day that he professed his religious vows as a Dominican. It was his response to the question, “Quid quæritis?” (What do you see?). By choosing this motto, Bishop Jun is telling us that as a bishop he will be a seeker, he will be a skopós. He will intently and eagerly seek God's mercy for him, and for His people. He will contemplate the merciful face of God in his own heart. He will see and gaze at God's presence within him, firmly guiding him, and gently encouraging him. He will constantly seek people to come to God's mercy.


Like the Good Shepherd in the Gospel today (John 10:11-16), he will use his voice and offer his life in order to watch vigilantly over the flock, seek those who lost their way, look out for those who got left behind, and find those who left out of frustration and despair. Like the anointed one in today's First Reading (Isaiah 61:1-3), he will seek out the poor, the captive, and those who mourn, in order to bring them glad tidings of hope, freedom, and consolation. Bishop Jun will be a bishop who seeks with love.


photo from University of Sto. Thomas


Looking Above 

The second is “looking above”. The Greek word ἐπί (epi) means “upon” or “above”. Combined with σκοπος (skopós) it is often translated as “overseer” or “supervisor”, giving the impression that the bishop is a disengaged boss or bad cop, who frantically look out for people's mistakes, and threatens them with penalties, and controls their behavior. However, episkopós may also mean “the one looking above” or “the one with a lofty vision”. Ang isang episkopós ay hindi lamang tumitingin; kung‘di tumitingala. He looks above.


In the Second Reading (2 Tim. 1:6-14) that we heard today, the Apostle Paul reminds the Bishop Timothy, not to look down but to look up. Not to cower in fear, or hide in shame, because the Gospel he bears is not something to be ashamed of, or something to make us afraid. Rather, a bishop must always look up and above. Because he is witnessing to the gospel which gives confidence and courage.


By constantly contemplating and seeking God's mercy, Bishop Jun will always look up to God, whose fidelity and compassion never fails. That way, he can see above the ever-fleeting matters of this world. Because he looks through the great mysteries of God's eternal vision of love, he can see God's love, which is always greater than sin, failure, or hardship. Looking up to God, he will also see God looking up to him.


Ang Diyos na Tumitingala

Ang Diyos ay parang butiki kung tumingin sa atin. Ang butiki sa kisame, habang tumitingin sa lupa, ay nakatingala. Mula sa ibabaw, mula sa langit, nakatingala ang Diyos sa atin. Bishop Jun, tinitingala ka ng Diyos. Bilib Siya sa iyo. Mabuti ang pagtingin Niya sa iyo. Hindi dahil magaling ka, kung ‘di dahil mahal ka ng Diyos. Kaya tumingala ka lang lagi sa Diyos, at tingalain mo ang bayan ng Diyos na ipinagkatiwala Niya sa iyo.


The Episkopós

As an episkopós, as the one who looks above, Bishop Jun will look up to his clergy, and to his whole flock, with a lofty vision of them; seeing and appreciating the greatness of their faith; valuing their gifts, and cherishing their unique stories. Bishop Jun will journey with his people, with high esteem for the presence of God in them. Bishop Jun will be a bishop who looks above.


My dear Bishop Jun, seeking with love, and seeing above―these are two virtues that God's beloved people ask of their bishops today. Amid the wait, multitude, and complexity of the various responsibilities of a bishop, we pray that you may always be episkopós. That you will always seek with love, and look above. 


You dear brothers and sisters: please pray for Bishop Jun, and for all of us, your pastors, that we may truly be “ἐπίσκοποι” (episcopoi) ― servants of God who seek with love, and look above.


May the lovely Virgin of Manaoag, who calls us to draw near her son, guide us and pray for us. Amen.


Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo


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