Homily delivered by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas during the installation of Bishop Renato P. Mayugba as Bishop of Laoag on December 11, 2012
We from the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan have mixed feelings today. We are happy yet sad. We are happy because one of our brothers will now take on higher and bigger responsibilities in the Church. We are happy and proud because one of our pious and zealous pastors in Pangasinan is now being sent as a blessing to the people of God in the Diocese of Laoag. People of God, we are bringing to you one of our precious treasures. In 1968 Laoag gave us a gift in the person of Bishop Francisco Raval Cruces, native of Laoag, appointed to be auxiliary bishop of Lingayen Dagupan. Today, we are asked to repay the Church in Ilocos Norte for that gift. It is a costly price to repay Laoag for the gift of Bishop Cruces. We are sad to let Bishop Rene go but if you assure us that you will take care of him, we will return to Pangasinan secure in the thought that our brother will be loved even more in Ilocandia. He is so easy to love. It is so easy to be his friend!
Bishop Rene comes to the Diocese of Laoag inspired by the words of the prophet Isaiah Linum fumigans non extinguet. The flickering flame I will not extinguish! A bruised reed he will not break…a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.”
MISSION OF MERCY
He comes to set Ilocos Norte aflame, aflame with love for God. He comes among you knowing that not all flames are the same; some are brighter and stronger than the others. The flickering flame he will not extinguish. He comes to search out the weak and save the lost. He comes to nurture the crippled and make them walk again along the path of holiness. He comes to touch blind hearts and make them love God again. He comes to heal hardened souls and make them compassionate and forgiving again. He comes as Jesus among you. In the words of Saint Catherine, he is the sweet odour of Christ among you, the sweet odour of Christ the merciful.
Indeed the first duty of the bishop is to be Christ in your midst. How must a bishop show the face of Christ to the flock of God? There is no better image of Christ that every bishop must look up to than the image of the Good Shepherd. The bishop must show the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd. As a shepherd of the flock, the bishop recognizes the cynicism and indifference among his people. He knows that there are sheep which have fallen out of the fold hurting and confused, misled and misunderstood, judged and suspected, ignored and left behind. There were members of the flock now members of other sects and groups. They look at the Church with disdain and disgust, with anger and with pain. There are so many of them whose flames are flickering, tossed by strong winds and unable to give light from their flames. The bishop must be a bringer of hope to such members of the flock. Society might have considered them black sheep. Others may call them unruly sheep. The Good Shepherd must protect their flickering flames and bring them the Gospel of hope. Linum fumigans non extinguet. The bishop brings the hope that does not disappoint as Saint Paul wrote to the Romans. Our hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
To the youth and the children in search for the wine of joy and meaning, the bishop comes like Mary begging Jesus to change our tasteless water into sweet wine. It is not the will of God that we go through life tasteless, colourless and without zest. He came that we may have life and have it to the full. As he promises to bring strength to those whose flames are flickering, he also must be a bringer of hope to those who find life bland and tasteless.
The message of hope that the bishop brings forth has a twin message—the message of penance. The bishop must proclaim with courage and faith that sin is destructive for society and for every person. As he saves the flickering flame from the tempest wind, he also asks prophetically why are these flames flickering? He must confront society with the prophetic question “Who are the tempests that snuff out the flames of the little ones?” Who is causing the little ones to be lost? The compassion for the weak must be accompanied by a prophetic denunciation of those wolves among God’s flock. The bishop must be a man of evangelical courage.
Blessed John Paul II speaking about the prophetic role of bishops said “A drastic moral change is needed… Some endemic evils, when they are too long ignored, can produce despair in entire populations. How can we keep silent when confronted by the enduring drama of hunger and extreme poverty, in an age where humanity, more than ever, has the capacity for a just sharing of resources? …the hopelessness of so many children and youth abandoned to life on the streets, the exploitation of women, pornography, intolerance and the unacceptable exploitation of religion for violent purposes, drug trafficking, illegal gambling and the resultant criminality!
The good bishop recognizes that it is not in the plan of God that flames flicker and die. The bishop must protect the flickering flame not just by keeping it secure but by fighting those who snuff it out. The hands that shelter the flames must be accompanied by hands that combat the tempest that threaten the flame. Courage! Bawal ang obispong duwag! Linum fumigans non extinguet.
HUMILITY IN WEAKNESS
Why must the bishop take care of the weak? Why must he be considerate with the smouldering wick? For one basic reason—he has known weakness in his life and he is what he is purely because of the mercy of God. No bishop ever approaches the ministry on his own merits and virtues. If it were so, his house of ministry would be built on sandy foundations. Episcopal ordination does not infuse the perfection of virtues on the bishop. He is a sinner among sinners. He is flickering flame among fellow flickering flames. He needs the grace of the sacraments; he needs the power of prayer; he needs the help of others. He can say with the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians: ”Our sole credit is from God who has made us qualified ministers of a new covenant” (2 Cor 3:5-6). Because he knows his weakness, the bishop must always be the first to seek the mercy of God. The bishop can only be a good confessor if he was first a good penitent.
Every bishop comes to his people not from the pedestal of self righteousness but from his knees, ready as it were like Jesus, to wash the feet of his friends. He comes not from an elevated episcopal cathedra, but from the ranks of servants and slaves with a towel around his waist, water and basin on his hands ready to wash the feet of the friends of Christ.
My dear people of God in the Diocese of Laoag, please give your new bishop a chance to love you. If you feel that your flame is flickering, do not hesitate to receive new light from Bishop Rene. If you are bored with the tasteless life that you are going through, let your new bishop bring you to the feast of Mary and Jesus in Cana and restore to you the sweet wine of joy. Invite him every now and then to eat dinner with you at home because it is lonely to eat dinner alone in the Bishop’s House. Pray for him and the priests of the Church so that all of them may always have a heart for the little ones, that all of them may be on fire with love for their vocation. Only with fire can we create more fire.
Clergy of Ilocos Norte, love your bishop. Love him as you love the Church. Love him as you love the Lord.
Bishop Rene, Godspeed! Fly high! We will miss you in Pangasinan! I know Ilocandia will be blessed through you!