Homily of His Excellency Archbishop Charles John Brown
Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines
Delivered on the occasion of the Feast of St Andrew the Apostle
November 30, 2021
Live from the Diocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora del Buen Suceso -
Saint Andrew Cathedral-Parish
(Parañaque Cathedral/ Saint Andrew Cathedral)
My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, for me as your Apostolic Nuncio, it gives me so much joy to be here in Paranaque this evening to celebrate the Fiesta mass in your beautiful cathedral, the Diocesan Shrine of Nuestra Senora del Buen Suceso -- Nana Siso, as she's affectionately called here.
Nana Siso, Our Lady, watching over us with a double reason for celebration -- really, a triple reason this evening: St. Andrew, Our Lady of Buen Suceso, and the fact that tonight is your parish fiesta.
I was very grateful to Fr. August Pulido for his invitation to be with you this evening and to celebrate your parish Fiesta in this way.
We are celebrating, as I said at the beginning of this mass, under the specter of the COVID pandemic, which means that we have to respect the rules and regulations that are provided for us in order to stem the tide of the pandemic. But God willing, we will come soon to the end of this pandemic, and it's something that we should be praying for in Holy Mass this evening.
The theme of your parish fiesta is the idea of a synodal church. Now this is a big word: synodal church - a church that lives communion, participation and mission. So we have three words to think about.
Synodal. What does that mean? What does ‘communion’ mean? What does ‘participation’ mean? What does ‘mission’ mean?
The church under the impetus of Pope Francis is on a path, on a way, a journey together. And that is what the word ‘Synod’ means in its essence: to journey together. That is what Synod means.
Synod is a Greek word which also means a “caravan”. Maybe you have all seen movies. You see a caravan with many people traveling together. That is what a synod is: traveling together, walking together.
Now, how do we walk together? Pope Francis wants us to reflect on that during this time of preparation for the Synod in Rome, which will be the bishops meeting in October of 2023, to chart a new course for the church in the world. And the Pope wants us to reflect on these three ideas of communion, participation and mission.
Peter and Andrew
Now today's Gospel is about Peter and Andrew. We heard how Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers, Peter and Andrew, and he called them. They were fishermen. They were mending their nets. In fact, you can see on my beautiful vestment, an image of the net of St. Andrew. He was a fisherman and Jesus calls him and his brother in the Gospel this evening and says, “Come after me and I will make you fishers of men”.
First they were fishers of fish. Now they will be fishers of men that will cast the net to bring people into the Catholic Church. But dear brothers and sisters, this is not the only story in the Gospel about the first encounters between Jesus and Andrew. There's another story about Jesus and Andrew and that comes from the Gospel of St. John. And it's a story about how Jesus met Andrew for the first time. And it's a little bit different from the Gospel we heard this evening and it probably relates to a different episode in the relationship between your St. Andrew and Jesus.
Follower of St. John the Baptist
But in the Gospel of St. John, it talks about how Andrew, who was a brother of Peter, was one of the followers of John the Baptist. And here, John the Baptist points out Jesus and says that Jesus is the Lamb of God.
And so what did Andrew do? He went home and he told his brother Peter, “We have found the Messiah. We have found the Christ.”
And Andrew brought Peter to Jesus. … And that's when Jesus said to Peter, “You are Simon, son of John. But now you will be called Cephas which means “rock”.
So we have these two stories. Both relate to Jesus's love for Andrew and for Peter. And in a certain sense these two stories illustrate for us or show us what communion, participation and mission mean. How?
First, communion with Christ: that means being close to Christ, being united with Christ.
Communion means unity. (It) comes from the Latin word for one, unos, being one with Christ, communion with Christ.
How does that happen?
It happens because Andrew brings his brother Peter to meet Jesus. Then the three of them are together in an experience of unity of communion. So that first word ‘communion’ is what Peter and Andrew experienced with Jesus, being close to Jesus, listening to Jesus, loving Jesus, following Jesus, and that, brothers and sisters, is what we need to do today.
We need to be close to the Lord. We need to follow Jesus. We need to allow Jesus to change us, to transform us. That is what Jesus wants to do to us. He wants us to be close to him in communion, so that he can give us His grace, His power, His love.
He allows us to conquer and overcome all of the difficulties in our lives. When we have communion in Christ, everything else becomes easy, in a certain sense. Or everything else becomes understandable and bearable when we have communion, unity with Christ.
So the first thing we need to do during this path of synodal preparation is to have unity with Jesus. Unity with Jesus in the sacraments, receiving Holy Communion, participating in the Sacrament of Confession, allowing God's grace to change us, to transform us, to empower us, because that is what communion with Christ does.
And the second word is participation. How does that relate to Peter and Andrew? It relates to Peter and Andrew in the following way: In the Gospel of John, as I told you, when Andrew brings Peter to Jesus, Jesus looks at Peter and says, “You will be called Cephas”. He gives him a new name, a new role.
Cephas is the Aramaic word meaning rock. So participation means that Jesus gives us a role in his communion of life. Jesus gives us a role to play in his church, in his community. Jesus wants us to participate actively as Catholics following him in communion, but expressing that communion in participation and whatever vocation we have in the church.
The different ways in which we participate in the church are not the same. I am an Apostolic Nuncio. Your dear Bishop, Jesse Mercado is a bishop of a diocese. Father August Pulido is a pastor of the church. Our vocation, in a beautiful way, is participating in God’s love.
We need to not to be jealous of someone else's way of participating but rejoice in the participation that God has asked you to follow.
So first, communion with Jesus: being close to him. Second, the way of your participation, your vocation: whether you're a religious sister, whether you're the mother of a family, whether you're a priest, in a certain sense, it doesn't matter. Do whatever you do for the glory of God.
Little things done with great love are the most important.
The third point is mission. And that also relates to Peter and Jesus and Andrew. Because remember, in our Gospel, Jesus says to Peter and Andrew, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men”.
Remember, Peter and Andrew are fishermen. They went out into the sea to fish but Jesus says, “You’re not gonna be catching fish anymore. Throw out your nets. You'll catch human beings into the net of the church to bring them in to the communion and participation of the church.”
That means that each and every one of us has an important role to spread the Gospel. Whether we are, as I said earlier, a parent, a priest, a religious sister, a bishop. Each of us is called to spread the gospel of Christ, to throw a net out around the people that are close to us.
What kind of net do we throw? We throw the net of love.
When we show people that we love them, that is the net that draws them closer to Jesus.
So each of us has that mission, to have a net like St. Andrew. A net of love to throw out to the people that we meet. The people that we meet at the sari-sari store; the people that we meet in our jeepney… Just show them that we love them. That is the net that draws souls into the church. And that is what we need. The church has to grow through the net of love. And that is her mission.
So those three ideas are in our minds tonight, as we celebrate your wonderful parish fiesta. Admit the idea of communion, being one with Jesus; participation, your vocation in the church; thirdly, mission, throwing your little net, your little net of love around those people close to you, showing them through the way you love them how much God loves them and Jesus loves them.
Isn't it wonderful to be Catholic? To have the gift of our Catholic faith? What would we do without our faith? We are Gifted to Give, aren’t we, in this 500th year of the arrival (or) since the arrival of Christianity here in the Philippines. We have been Gifted to Give.
So dear brothers and sisters, on this night we celebrate St. Andrew who was crucified at the end of his life after going on mission, probably into Asia. His brother Peter went west to Rome. Andrew seems to have gone east and die for his faith, crucified on an X Cross. Because as Peter felt that he was not worthy to be crucified like Jesus and Peter was crucified upside down, so Andrew, his brother felt that he was not worthy either and was crucified on an X cross, a different type of cross than the one of Jesus because he didn't feel worthy of dying the way his Savior died.
So this evening, we entrust ourselves to St. Andrew; we entrust ourselves to Our Lady, to Nana Siso, Our Lady of Buensuceso on this wonderful evening in which we celebrate your parish feast day. And I conclude by asking you, I always do: please pray for Pope Francis. He asks you to pray for him. He has a special love for the Philippines. And he wants us to pray for him. So let's not forget to pray for Pope Francis and also pray for your Apostolic Nuncio - that's me.
May God bless you.
Transcribed by Gel Katalbas
Photos by Patrick Romero