Homily of Archbishop Charles John Brown
Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines
on the occasion of the Centennial Celebration
of SVD Presence in Lubang Island
“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” These are the words of Jesus in the Gospel you’ve heard this morning as we celebrate the 100 years of your Father’s presence here in Lubang Island in Occidental Mindoro.
Being your Apostolic Nuncio, as the representative of Pope Francis here in the Philippines, it gives me so much joy and happiness and elation to be with you here in this beautiful church, Our Lady of the Assumption Parish, together with Bishop David William Antonio, the Bishop of Ilagan, who is the Apostolic Administrator of San Jose in Mindoro.
photo from Faceboon of Roman Catholic Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose - Mindoro
Dear brothers and sisters, my dear beloved Lubangeños, it’s wonderful to be with you this morning on the Feast of St. Joseph. We incensed his image here in the sanctuary as mass began. St. Joseph, Protector of Mary; St. Joseph the Patron of the Universal Church; St. Joseph, who gives his name, doesn't he, to San Jose which is so important here on this island and in this area because you are in the apostolic administration, in the Vicariate of San Jose in (Occidental) Mindoro. So St. Joseph is in our thoughts and in our hearts this morning as we celebrate 100 years of the presence of the Divine Word Missionaries here on Lubang Island.
1922 - 2022
As we heard before mass began, it was 1922 when the Philippines was still part and under the dominion of the United States of America that the Divine Word Fathers arrived here on your island and began to work the evangelization and mission of your island. Work had begun centuries before by Spanish missionaries but then in 1922 it was passed to the Society of the Divine Word, who have labored here for 100 years.
So today is a day when we all say to the Divine Word fathers, “Thank you.”
What a dept of gratitude we have, to all of you, the Divine Word fathers who worked and labored here for one hundred years since 1922 on this Island of Lubang, and we see the fruits of the Divine Word Missionaries in this beautiful church filled with people thanking God for the gift of 100 years presence of SVD here on Lubang Island.
Today we celebrate the Feast of St Joseph, the protector of Mary.
Patriarch. What does patriarch mean? It means a special kind of father, a father who is father to many people.
The original patriarch in the Old Testament is Abraham. Abraham to whom God promised in the Old Testament he would become the father of many nations. Abraham had this promise from God: that his descendants would be numerous and would stretch from Egypt all the way to Euphrates River. ...
That promise was fulfilled in the Jewish people. We, brothers and sisters, are Catholic Christians. We are members of the new people of God.
Abraham is our father, but not our physical father. We are not physical descendants of Abraham. We are spiritual descendants of Abraham. So the promise to Abraham, “You will be a father of many nations” (Cf. Gen. 17:5), Abraham thought he would have many physical descendants. But God fulfills that promise in way that is beyond Abraham’s imagination. God answers and fulfills the promise to Abraham in a way that he could not even imagine, in a way much greater than Abraham was expecting.
As Christians, we pray to Jesus, we pray to Mary.
God always answers our prayers. He doesn't always answer them in the way we want, in the way we intend, in the way we ask. He answers them many times in a way that is God's: in a way that is super abundant.
Abraham is a father not of a physical people only but of all of us, brothers and sisters. We are the promise made to Abraham: spiritual descendants in the new people of God, the Catholic Church throughout the entire world. You are all children of Abraham in a new way. He is our spiritual father.
Joseph, Spiritual Father of Jesus
This idea of spiritual fatherhood is very close to our hearts today because we celebrate the spiritual father, you can say, in a certain sense, of Jesus; the foster father of Jesus.
St. Joseph as we know, is not the physical father of Jesus. Jesus has only one physical parent, and her name is Our Lady, the Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, Mary ever virgin, Mary our Mother.
St. Joseph is a foster father; the father who took care of Jesus, who protected Jesus; who, with Mary, when Jesus was lost in the Temple - they don't know where Jesus is - Joseph brings Mary back to Jerusalem, in the Gospel, searching for Jesus then finds Jesus teaching in the Temple.
Jesus' response to St. Joseph and Mary reminds both Mary and Joseph that Jesus' true Father is God the Father. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk. 1:49) Jesus said to Joseph, his foster father.
So we see Joseph, in a certain sense, taking a step back.
We can see Joseph allowing Jesus to reveal himself even at the age of twelve years old as the Son of God, the Son of the Father, not the son of the physical father, not a physical son of the Father, but Jesus the Son of God.
Isn’t this beautiful? The spiritual fathership of Joseph, who takes care of the Son of God, the Son of the Father.
This spiritual fathership makes us unite in a great world, the extraordinary generous world of 100 years of Divine Word Missionaries here in Lubang. Because each priest who has served you, served as ministers for 100 years, are spiritual fathers like St. Joseph to so many of you here in Lubang .
Every child who is baptized by a priest in certain sense is a spiritual child of that priest because that priest who baptized the child makes the child a son or daughter of God, gives the child God’s grace.
The priest who does baptism is a bit like St. Joseph: he is stepping back and allowing God to be the Father of that child.
Those who baptized us as spiritual fathers, they are a kind of godfather to us. And that is what the Divine Word Missionaries have done so generously, so consistently, so heroically, here in Lubang Island for 100 years: spiritual fatherhood that fills us with gratitude and joy today.
A spiritual fatherhood imitates the fatherhood of St. Joseph our patron, our patriarch. A fatherhood that protects, a fatherhood that steps back and allows God to take control, allows God to lead.
There is another little detail in today’s Gospel that's really important for us in the present time. What is it? It’s one word that we heard in the Gospel which was sung so beautifully this morning which, speaking of how Mary lost Jesus in the temple, says that at one point how Mary and Joseph left Jerusalem and traveled ... before they realized that Jesus wasn't with them. ... that he wasn't in the caravan, that Jesus was left behind in Jerusalem.
That word caravan. In Greek that word is συνοδίᾳ - caravan - which comes out in English as “synod”.
What is a synod? It’s a group of people traveling together. Like the people, Mary and Joseph going back to Nazareth where they came from. A “traveling companion”, “a group of people traveling together” - that’s the original word for synod, the idea of synod.
Why is that word important for us? Because this year is the first phase of the synodal process of the entire Catholic Church, in which we try to reflect on how we can go forward together. How we can ensure that we don't leave someone behind.
Mary and Joseph in the synodia realized that Jesus wasn't there so they went back to Jerusalem to find him.
We live by the Synodia of the Catholic Church. All of us - priest, bishops, nuncios, sisters, mother butler guild members, fathers and mothers of families, all of us in a way are walking together towards the kingdom of God.
In this synodal process, what Pope Francis is asking us to reflect on is the idea of how we can stay together in this caravan and not to lose people along the way.
Synodia, the caravan, the synod, travels together. So the church around the world is reflecting on her nature as a spiritual caravan heading towards the kingdom of God. I hope and I’m sure that here in San Jose in Mindoro you, in your own way, are engaged in the synodal process to think about the way forward forward as a Catholic Church.
Today is the Feast of the Glorious St. Joseph, this honorable patron in heaven. You know, the great Spanish saint, St. Teresa of Avila, known as St. Teresa of Jesus, in her autobiography, talks about her great love for St. Joseph. She said in her experience whenever she prayed to St. Joseph, he always interceded for her, and she always received what she asks for, especially when she prays to St. Joseph on his feast day.
To all of you today, on this feast day of St. Joseph, bring your petitions to St. Joseph. St Joseph who took care of Jesus, St Joseph who is now in heaven. St Joseph who Pope Francis has asked that you pray for in every single mass because St Joseph's name has been introduced into the mass in every Eucharistic prayer by Pope Francis.
St Joseph is close to us. He is our spiritual patriarch. He is the image of the spiritual fatherhood that I mentioned which is exercised also by a priest in the sacrament of baptism and has been exercised for a hundred years by the Divine Word Missionaries here in this beautiful island of Lubang.
So today we say thank you, the Divine Word Missionaries. We also rejoice in these hundred years of Catholic life here on this island here in your parish where you are entertained and edified by the beautiful production of the young people showing the cultural richness of the island and that richness is now part of your Catholic heritage.
Let us thank God for these 100 years.
Let us dedicate ourselves to not only keeping the faith but spreading the faith.
Parents, makes sure your children are baptized, make sure that your children are instructed in the Catholic faith. No child should be left behind. Keep your child in the synodia, the Church, because the Church is this caravan of God, in which we help each other, in which we love one another, in which we carry each other towards the kingdom of God.
Finally, as Pope Francis’ representative here in the Philippines, let me ask you to pray for Pope Francis. I asked him to pray for you, so please pray for Pope Francis, pray for your Apostolic Nuncio. Congratulations on the 100th year of presence of the Divine Word Missionaries in Lubang Island!
May God bless us all!
Transcribed by Joel Vasquez Ocampo