Homily of Archbishop Charles John Brown
Apostlic Nuncio to the Philippines
Good Shepherd Parish, Las Piñas
May 8, 2022
"For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water."
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for me as your Apostolic Nuncio, as I said at the beginning of mass this morning, it gives me so much joy, so much happiness in my heart to be with you here in Doña Manuela Subdivision in Las Piñas to celebrate this mass for the 36th Annual Parish Fiesta of Good Shepherd Parish. And I'm deeply grateful to your parish priest, Fr. Wilmer Cacao of the Society of African Missions, for having asked me to come and celebrate with you and just share your joy this morning.
We are in the season of joy, the season of celebration. Next to me is the Easter candle, the Paschal candle celebrating the Resurrection of Christ from the dead. We enter into this period of Easter with hearts renewed, with hearts filled with joy. And we taste and we breathe the atmosphere of heaven during this Easter season. This Easter season, which goes for seven weeks from Easter Sunday to Pentecost.
Seven weeks! Really a week of weeks, right? A week of weeks. Seven times seven. Seven is the perfect number. We have seven sacraments in the church. Seven is a holy number. And then this period of time, we multiply seven times seven - seven weeks. Seven times seven. This period of total joy, total perfection, in which our hearts and minds, as I said, go into heaven.
And you know, usually when we read the Holy Scriptures, dear brothers and sisters, we read about something that happened in the past that has an amazing effect on our present. We read the Gospels. The Gospels tell us of the life of Jesus, his teaching, his death, and resurrection - all of which took place some 2000 years ago. But during the Easter season, we read another book of the Bible, which is not about the past. It is about the future. And our minds go into the future during this Easter season. What am I talking about? I'm talking about the second reading, which all of you heard from the Book of Revelation, which is also called the Book of the Apocalypse.
The Book of the Apocalypse
The Book of the Apocalypse: this last book of the Bible, the final book of the Bible, written by the Apostle St. John.
St. John, who was the only apostle who had the courage to stand at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified; St. John, who took Mary, the Blessed Virgin, into his home after the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus; St. John who hears the words of Jesus from the cross spoken to St. John, "Behold your Mother ."
The Good Shepherd from the cross gave St. John the gift of Mary, and John took care of Mary to the end of Mary's earthly existence when Mary was assumed into heaven.
And then St. John went to an island in the Aegean Sea, a Greek island named Patmos. And there he had this amazing vision of heaven. This vision of the future, which he wrote down in the Book of Revelation, is what we read today: the Book of Revelation, the Book of the Apocalypse.
And what does he see? What was shown to him about the future? He said,
"I saw a multitude of people from every race, every nation, every language, standing before the throne of God on which was the Lamb, praising God."
He shows us heaven, an image of heaven, a symbol of heaven, a symbol of the place that all of us are destined - this heavenly joy. And heaven is composed of people, as St. John tells us, from every race, every different nation, every different language, every condition of life.
That heavenly reality in a certain sense, is reflected in the reality of the Catholic Church.
Which is a reality which encompasses the entire world and is not made up of one specific people with one specific language from one specific country. The Catholic Church is universal. In fact, that's what the word Catholic means. It means "universal".
So today in the universal church, everywhere in the world, from New Zealand to Alaska, from Manila to Madrid, everyone is celebrating Good Shepherd Sunday. This universal church - all different peoples, all different languages, all different colors, all different cultures - isn't it beautiful?
There really is no human institution that has that universality that the Catholic Church has. And you, brothers and sisters, have the gift that you have been gifted to give as being Filipino Catholics, being a part of this worldwide family of believers destined for heavenly joy, destined to see the Lamb upon the Throne, the Lamb who shepherds us.
So we learned about the Good Shepherd on this Good Shepherd Sunday. We reflect on the Good Shepherd on his love for us, his tender and deep love for each and every one of us reflected so beautifully in the statue here in your parish. That shepherd who is leading us towards heavenly joy and who gives us, as I've now said, a foretaste, a preview of Easter joy during this Easter season at every mass when we pray, rejoice, sing, and are filled with the atmosphere of holiness and of heaven.
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday, and Pope Francis, whose representative I am here in the Philippines, has written a special message for Good Shepherd Sunday, which is traditionally the day in which we pray for vocations. And the Pope, this Good Shepherd Sunday, makes the point that when we hear the word vocation, we think oftentimes about the beautiful vocation of priests, and it's wonderful to see concelebrating priests here that Fr. Wilmer has invited to be with us. We think about religious sisters, their beautiful vocation in the church. But Pope Francis says, wait a second. Vocation is everyone!
Each and every one of us has been called to live the Christian life, and the word "call" in Latin is vocare, which means "to be called". Each of us is called.
So, as the Pope says in his letter and message for Good Shepherd Sunday for the prayer for vocations, he talks about the vocation of the ordained priesthood and he prays that the priests will be instruments in the world of Christ's grace and mercy.
And isn't that true, dear priests? Let's renew our commitment to our vocation, to our call on this vocation day, on this World Day of Prayer for vocations, that we will be instruments of Christ's grace and mercy; that we will give the grace of the Good Shepherd to our people; that we will transmit the mercy of the Lamb of God for His people.
And then, the Pope mentions the vocation to consecrated life. Consecrated life means religious sisters and brothers. And he says that their vocation is for the praise of God and the prophecy of a new humanity. We see our beloved sisters and brothers living in a certain sense we can say, with no spouse, except Jesus, the spouse. They give up everything to follow Jesus, the spouse. Their life is not married life. It's not a single life either, but a life of dedication to the spouse, who is Jesus, to give everything to him. And so by doing that, to praise God, and to be a prophecy, a sign of the new humanity.
And the Pope also talks about the vocation to marriage. How beautiful that vocation is! And here in Good Shepherd Parish here in Dona Manjula subdivision, the vast majority of you will go into heavenly glory through the vocation of marriage, through this beautiful vocation of holiness. This beautiful occasion in which the Pope tells us in his message you are called to be mutual gift and givers and teachers of life. Givers and teachers of life. That is what the vocation of marriage is. Because through you, new souls, eternal souls are brought into the world. We say that you are procreators. God is the Creator of life. He creates through you. You are the procreator. You create for God when you bring new life into the world. And then you, married people, are giving that life and then teaching your children about Christ, His Church and the importance of being a Catholic in this world.
Please do not misunderstand me. There is no one more important for the mission of the church than parents. In this sense, it's parents who transmit the faith of their children. God can work in different ways. And we know many people who are not raised Catholic who become Catholic because of a beautiful experience of God's grace. But 99.9% of us learn the faith at the knee of our mother and our father. And that leads me, of course, to rejoice in the fact that today is Mother's Day.
So in this beautiful vocation of marriage today, we thank and appreciate and recognize in a very special way the gift of motherhood. This gift, which is so unique, so special, so amazing. All of us have received physical life from our parents. All of us were carried for nine months in the womb of our mothers. Most of us received the Catholic faith because our mothers taught us the faith and showed us the faith by the way she has lived.
So today, we have many reasons for rejoicing. We rejoice in your 36th parish fiesta today; we rejoice in the fact that today is Good Shepherd Sunday, the World Day of Prayer for vocations; and we rejoice in the most special way because today is mother's day in which we thank God for the gift of our mothers. We thank God for the gift of the Mother of God - Mary most holy, who was given to us through St. John to be our mother also.
So dear brothers and sisters here in Good Shepherd parish. Let's pray in a very special way for our mothers today. Let's ask Mary, our mother in heaven, to watch over our physical mother, our natural mother so that our mothers will be blessed and protected by Our Lady's special care.
May God bless you, and I wish you a very happy and wonderful parish fiesta.
Transcribed by Gel Katalbas
Photos by Lorenzo Atienza