Blessed to be a blessing

Blessed to be a blessing

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan, CBCP President, during Mass at the Antipolo Cathedral on the Feast of the Feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, May 31. CBCP NEWS

By Bishop Pablo Virgilio David

May 31, 2023

ANTIPOLO City— On May 31, Bishop Pablo Virgilio David, CBCP President, presided over the Mass at the International Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage or the Antipolo Cathedral to mark the feast of the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, and which Pope Francis had designated as a special day of prayer for the upcoming Synod on Synodality in Rome. Here’s the full text of his homily:

I wish to thank Bishop Francis De Leon, now Apostolic administrator of Antipolo, and Fr Reynante Tolentino, Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage of Antipolo for hosting us today. A few days ago, we received the news that the Holy Father has appointed a new bishop for Antipolo in the person of Bishop Ruperto Santos. I therefore wish to take this opportunity to commend Bishop Francis for his past 16 years of ministry in Antipolo— 9 years as auxiliary bishop and 7 years as bishop. Bishop Francis, the elevation of this most famous Marian Shrine of the Philippines into an international shrine will remain as one of your enduring legacies in the Diocese of Antipolo, as you pass on the pastoral leadership to Bishop Ruperto Santos.

We are gathered together on this feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Mother, upon the request of the Holy Father Pope Francis, to offer a day of prayer for the coming Synod on Synodality in Rome. Part 1 of this Synod will take place in October 2023, and part 2 will take place in October 2024. Take note, we need to pray seriously so that this synod will become a new Pentecost event for the Universal Church.

It is obvious why October has been chosen as the month or synodal gatherings in the universal Church. It is a Marian month, the month in which we celebrate the feast of our Lady of the Holy Rosary. But why did Pope Francis choose this day in May for the Day of Prayer for the Synod? I think it is because he is pairing the Marian month of October with the other Marian month—May.

Why May 31? Well, I also think it’s not just because it is the Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Mother, but also because it’s two days after the Feast of Mary, Mother of the Church, and three days after Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the community of disciples in the company of Mary, our Blessed Mother, and turned them into a “community of apostles.”

I know that that will sound a little bit strange to you, because we are familiar only with the term “community of disciples.” (See PCP2) In general we tend to restrict the word “apostle” to the twelve, and we think only of the bishops as successors of the apostles. That is only partly correct. We are indeed entrusted with the office of the apostles but only so that we can allow the whole Church to become, not just a community of disciples but a community of apostles. Remember, we say that in the Nicene creed: we believe in ONE, HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH. Apostleship is about mission, and mission is not just the work of the Bishops, it’s the work of the whole Church—clergy, religious and laity together.

Discipleship is about becoming followers of Christ. Apostleship is about being sent to represent Christ in the world. We are not yet really an “apostolic church” until we have become a community of DISCIPLES IN MISSION. And this is the objective of the coming Synod on Synodality. For Pope Francis, becoming Church is practically the same as becoming “Synodal”— which he summarizes in the three principles of: COMMUNION, PARTICIPATION, AND MISSION.

COMMUNION has to do with our spiritual bond, meaning, the oneness of mind and heart with Christ our Lord and Savior. But communion with Christ in the Spirit in turn empowers us to work for oneness in mind and heart, not just with our fellow disciples with whom we share the common gift of the Holy Spirit, but also with all our other fellow human beings in the spirit of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue, and all with all other fellow creatures in this one planet earth which we call our common home.

PARTICIPATION is the grace that naturally flows from communion. The one gift of the Spirit which we share empowers us to take part in the life of the Church, as members or parts of the one body of Christ. Our Communion builds us into a community of disciples who discover in Jesus Christ our true vine, with ourselves as the branches. Connected to him, we become more truly connected to one another in such a way that “each one’s joy becomes our joy, each one’s grief becomes our own.”

MISSION is the grace that naturally flows from participation. Because we take part in the life of Christ, we also take part in the creating, redeeming and sustaining work of God in the world through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Through the charisms bestowed on each of us by the same Holy Spirit, we are able to live a life of service—not just to the Church, but to society, to the world, as part of a servant Church. That is why in one of our traditional prayers to the Holy Spirit we say, “Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.”

If we summarize this into a slogan, I’d put it this way: like Mary our mother, WE ARE BLESSED TO BE A BLESSING.

Our Gospel tells us because the child in her womb leaped for joy, Elizabeth cried out and uttered the familiar words that have been immortalized into a line in our Catholic prayer, HAIL MARY. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Elizabeth is welcoming the visitation, not just of Mary but of the Messiah in Mary’s womb. And the first to recognize the Messiah’s presence is the child in Elizabeth’s womb— who would become the prophet John the Baptist, whose sole mission in his life is to lead people to the Messiah, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

But Mary replies by singing the Magnificat, in response to Elizabeth who exclaims HOW BLESSED SHE IS. Through the Magnificat, Mary proclaims that the reason she is being blessed is so that through her, God can bless the whole world, not just Israel, but the rest of humanity. In a nutshell, this is also what the mission of the Church is about: to be blessed in order to be a blessing to the world.

Dear brothers and sisters, we have no other blessing to share to the world except the blessing that we ourselves have received—Jesus Christ, in whose life and mission we have been called to participate. We cannot bring Christ to the world unless we are united with him, unless we remain in him like branches to a vine. And as we proceed with this Eucharistic celebration, we remind ourselves of the words of St. Paul in his 1st letter to the Cor 10, 16-17:

“The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?”

We pray therefore that the coming Synod may become an opportunity for genuine renewal among our laity, religious and ordained ministers, so that we can grow together in greater synodality into a more participatory Church.

Today we also commend our Synodal journey to the Blessed Mother of Antipolo, who goes by the title Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. May she intercede for us, as we pray,

Blessed Mother, you were with the Church right at her moment of birth at Pentecost. Accompany the universal Church as she prepares to embark on a synodal journey. May it become for her a new Pentecost experience. AMEN.


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