In the interview by a senior from Benilde-St. Margaret Catholic High School last week, I was asked what priorities I had for the archdiocese. The question is fair enough, but the answer, however, is not so easily formulated.
As a priest and a bishop, my first priority, of course, is the proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Matthew: 3:2), the preaching of Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Corinthians. 2:2), and the reason for the hope that is in me (1 Peter 3:15).
Drawing us to God
In his excellent book, "Jesus of Nazareth," Pope Benedict XVI asks, "What did Jesus bring us?"
He states, "The answer is very simple: 'God. He has brought God'" (p. 44). Thus, the first and foremost priority I have as one who acts in the person of Jesus Christ is to proclaim this reality: that Jesus brings us God, Jesus reveals the human face of God, Jesus draws us into closer contact with God.
But in becoming man, Jesus reveals God's presence not in isolation, but through community. God exists in community as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus in bringing us closer to God calls us to live in the community of the church in a unity of prayer and creed.
From my earliest years, the church was for me always something more than a mere institution. She was and is, in fact, the Bride of Christ who reflects the beauty and goodness of her Divine Spouse.
Yes, it is true that her members are all sinners struggling to be saints. But as a whole, the church is our mother, our teacher, our guide, leading us to the fullness of truth which gives meaning to our very existence.
Hence, I have always been willing to give the church the benefit of any doubt. Why? Well, because I cannot imagine that my limited insights or experience could measure up to hers.
Thus, another priority that I have is to help Catholics to be more Catholic and to share the richness of our Catholic faith with those who have not as yet embraced that faith.
Thirdly, my priority as a priest and bishop must be promoting the message of Christ to the poor, the sick, the stranger and the marginalized.
Sometimes I think that we can get so caught up with the internal concerns of the church, that we are prevented from doing the actual work of the church.
And so I fervently believe that I cannot be a successful bishop by sitting in my office, even though the office work is a necessary task. I must be a pastor who is out and about with his people, ministering to them by preaching, celebrating the sacraments, answering their questions and sharing in the joys and sorrows of their lives. This is what it means to be a priest, one who serves as a bridge between God and his people.
And, last but not least, I cannot hope to realize any of the above practices if I do not spend a substantial part of my day in prayer.
"Nemo dat non quod habet" is a favorite expression: "You cannot give what you do not have." Pope Benedict has reminded us that we cannot bring God to people unless we ourselves live in a deep relationship of friendship with God in Jesus Christ.
Hence, the daily Eucharist, my daily Holy Hour, the Liturgy of the Hours, the rosary and other devotions are key to my effectiveness as a priest and bishop.
But how is all of this translated into the practice of one's daily calendar? Well, that is the real question, isn't it? This is where the priorities are tested and, in the testing, where salvation is won or lost.
God bless you! Catholic Spirit