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Movements of Synodality with Sts. Peter and Paul

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

June 29, 2023 | Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Makati City

Rev. Fr. Genaro “Gene” Diwa, our parish priest, brother priests, and assisting deacon, men and women religious, government officials, dear lay leaders and parishioners, dearly beloved brothers and sisters in Christ:

I am delighted to be here with you, as you celebrate the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul. Happy Fiesta po sa ating lahat!

From Capernaum to Caesarea Philippi, to the Appian Way, to the Vatican Hills: let us take a walk together and trace the life of Peter, the fisherman from Galilee; and retrace our movements of synodality with Pope Francis.

From Tarsus to Damascus, to Jerusalem, to Rome: let us walk together and trace the life of Paul, the tentmaker from Tarsus; and retrace our movements of synodality with Pope Francis.

There are three movements in the lives of these great apostles:

  1. the movement of vocation,

  2. the movement of journey and pilgrimage, and

  3. the movement of discernment and commitment.

The Movement of Vocation

First, the movement of vocation. The word is well-known by all of us. It speaks of the caller and the one being called. It speaks of grace and response. It speaks of a covenant relationship. Peter was called through the effort of Andrew his brother (Jn. 1:40-42). A bit hesitant at first, but in the end, said his “yes” to Jesus. He left everything behind. Yes. Everyone behind. Paul was called in the most unusual way. We call it “The Road to Damascus”. It was sudden and life changing.

The vocation of Peter was slow and gradual. At times, slipping and falling. At times, being disciplined by Jesus. At other times, being shaken up by the experience. Yes. Peter was impetuous and strong willed. He was boisterous and proud; but he was a weak man, by account of his pride. He was showy and outspoken; but in the end, he showed his weakness. Yes. His affliction. From disconnections to connections. He placed his trust in Jesus, only in Jesus.

The vocation of Paul was a light, blinding him. He was schooled in the ways of Judaism. Being a Pharisee, he studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Steep in the ways of Judaism, he became a staunch defender of the faith of Abraham, Israel, and the Torah. He was a witness to the stoning of Stephen, the Deacon, martyr of the young Christian Church (Acts 7:58). For Paul, the encounter with the Risen Jesus was both agony and ecstasy. The question, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4), the question was soul searching and convicting. To persecute Christians, is persecuting Jesus Himself. The head cannot be separated from the body.

So, there, you have it. Two faces of the conversion experience. One was slow and gradual. The other one: swift and life changing. The experience of Peter and Paul was an encounter with Jesus. The fleshed God, the Risen One.

Our experience of synodality. Our Traslación in Manila has these two faces. It can be slow and gradual. It can be swift and life changing. Each one of us is invited to take on the way of synodality with Pope Francis. Synodality as an instrument of the new evangelization, proposes conversion as the key to Church life. Yes.

The heart of synodality is Jesus, who calls us to a change of heart, a change of worldview, a change of lifestyle.

For us in the Presbyterium and in consecrated life, it means going to the peripheries: ang mga nasa laylayan ng lipunan. It is taking seriously the call of the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II), to become, and to be “a Church of the poor, and for the poor”.

For our lay people, traslación is walking together with the Church, and helps transform the world of family life, the world of politics, the world of economy, business, and finance, the world of culture, and social communications. Your vineyard, my dear lay people, is greater and bigger than our world. I still consider you a “sleeping giant”. You still have so much to give and to share in your lay vocation, engaging in the apostolate.

The Movement of Journey and Pilgrimage

Second, the movement of journey and pilgrimage. Vocation is ever dynamic and forward-looking. While not disowning the past, it lives the present. With hope towards the future. For hope is the virtue of pilgrims. Peter and Paul lived the ways of synodality. Walking with Jesus was an exciting and exhilarating journey. For Peter, so significant is his confession of faith in Caesarea Philippi. For Paul, so powerful were his letters to Corinth, Galatia, Philippi, Colossae, Thessalonica, and Rome. In the pages of his letters are his passionate love for Jesus, the Risen Christ. In shepherding these churches: advising, correcting, affirming, directing the life of the young communities of faith, for Paul, his three missionary journeys are most significant. His last journey to the Eternal City was a pilgrimage of faith.

Pope Francis directs the Church in the ways of Jesus, through a synodal way. Phrases that caught my attention are: “go to the peripheries”, “listen to our people, especially those in the peripheries”, “no one is left behind”. They speak of attitudes and virtues needed by the Church today: openness and docility, humility and prudence.

Traslación is our response to the call of synodality. I thank the clergy, the consecrated persons, and the laity in the parishes and communities, for the full support and cooperation.

Let us remember that our journey of synodality can only be effective with the help of the primacy of grace in our pastoral life.

It speaks of acknowledging the presence of Jesus in our pilgrimage of traslación. He calls us to intense prayer. Yes. Encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. Yes. Prayer. Prayer. Prayer.

The Movement of Discernment and Commitment

Third, the movement of discernment and commitment. Let me share a Latin phrase to you this morning. I am sure you have heard of it. The phrase is, “Quo vadis?” It is a Latin phrase meaning, “Where are you going?” The modern usage of the phrase refers to a Christian tradition regarding Saint Peter. According to the Apocryphal Acts of Peter, Peter is fleeing Rome. Most likely, from crucifixion at the hands of the government. Along the road outside the city, he meets a Risen Jesus. Peter asks Jesus, “Quo vadis?” (Where are you going?), to which Jesus replies, “Romam vado iterum crucifigi.” (I am going to Rome to be crucified again.) Peter thereby gains the courage to continue his ministry, and returns to the city of Rome. To eventually be martyred, by being crucified upside down.

It is important to always know where we are going in life. What is the end goal? What are we trying to accomplish? What are we doing? “Quo vadis?”

Our synodal journey has its share of the Via Crucis. The cross is part of our journey. Our traslación has the Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno as its symbol. The suffering Christ is part of our being Filipino, our identity and mission. I propose that we gaze on the image of the Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno, and allow the image to guide us in our lives’ journey; and in our prayer with Pope Francis, leading the way, we ask, “Quo vadis, Domine?” “Where are you going, Lord Jesus?”

Through the rough and tumble of Church life, where do You want us to go?

Through eventful episodes in our life, help us carry our crosses with patience and dignity.

Through a tiring and boring days, help us reach out to those in pain and suffering, to help soothe their pains, and heal their wounds.

May our lives be patterned after the likeness of Jesus of Nazareth, as we traverse our synodal journey of traslación, with our eyes fixed on Him who died and rose again for our sake.

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us. Amen!

Transcribed by Joel V. Ocampo

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