Homily delivered by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas during the Episcopal Ordination of Bishop Ruperto Santos on June 24, 2010 at the Manila Cathedral, Intramuros, Manila.
The farmer went out to sow. Every time he laid his hands on the soil, the soil yielded rich harvests. From the sweat and toil of working in the vast fields of San Rafael Bulacan, he earned his daily living and took care of his wife and children. The farmer loved to go out. The farmer loved to sow and cultivate. Sowing was his life. The farm was his altar. The farmer’s name was Norberto.
The farmer went out to sow and he brought with him his son. He wanted his son to love the soil. He wanted his son to make every seed bear plenty. He wanted his son to love his love. He wanted his son to be like him—to sow and to make every seed grow. The farmer’s son was Ruperto.
The farmer continued to go out and sow unrelentingly and without rest. The soil and the seed were his life. He will never leave this soil that feeds his family. He owed his life to the soil and to the seed. But his son had set his eyes on a different seed. The son had set his eyes on a different field. The son had set his heart on a different kind of life.
The farmer went out to know the seed. The farmer’s name is Stude. The seed is the Word. The seed is the Lord. Indeed that is the first duty of every farmer in the field of the Lord—to know the seed, to love the seed.
The bishop is a shepherd, a fisherman, a father, a brother, a friend, a comforter, a servant, a teacher, a leader, a sacramentum bonitatis (cfr. Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 2). How can the bishop be all of these unless he has first intimately known the Lord and constantly and persistently allows the Lord to dwell in his life and empower his ministry? Indeed the first duty of the bishop is to love the Lord and never tire in loving. The first duty of the bishop is to be a friend of Jesus.
By episcopal ordination, the Bishop Stude receives a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit which configures him in a singular way to Christ the Head and Shepherd (Directory, 33). Jesus leaves indelibly an imprint of himself –his human and divine face, his likeness, his power and his strength in Bishop Stude. And Bishop Stude is called to live intimately with the Lord, to cherish that divine imprint, to nourish that indelible mark with a life of prayer and piety. The farmer must know the seed. That is his first duty.
The farmer went out know the soil. The seed is the Word and the soil is the heart of everyone who hears the Word and practices it. While his primary duty is to know the seed and love the Lord, the life of a bishop cannot remain only in that level of intimacy. The seed of the farmer cannot remain in his hands. Seeds do not grow on human hands. Seeds must be sown. They must die in the soil in order to give life. In the same way, the divine imprint that the good Lord leaves on Bishop Stude cannot remain in the intimacy of his soul. The good farmer must know his soil.
As Bishop Stude receives episcopal ordination today, it is good to remember that the spirituality of a bishop is essentially a spirituality of communio. It is a spirituality of constantly seeking unity with the people of God. Bishop Stude must be a unifying strength among his brother priests. Bishop Stude must learn to promote holiness through communio among the faithful. He must know his priests and love them. He must know his brothers and sisters in the faith and serve them. He must know the soil in which the Word of God will be sown. He knows the Seed. He must know the soil.
The farmer went out to know the Seed. The farmer went out to know the soil.
The farmer went out to sow. Ad seminandum! Before Bishop Stude goes to Balanga to become its fourth bishop since its creation in 1975, he is first a bishop successor of the Apostles whose duty is to serve the universal Church. He must be a kind and solicitous Bishop in the Diocese of Balanga but he cannot ignore his membership in the College of Bishops mandating him to be solicitous for all the Churches. He goes out not only to Bataan but to the whole world to proclaim the Gospel. Bishop Stude: Ite et seminate! Go and sow!
The Church instructs her bishops to make every effort to open their dioceses to the needs of others, awakening in the faithful a missionary spirit, finding men and women to work in the missions and enkindling a fervent apostolic and missionary spirit among the people of God (cfr. Directory, 17)
The farmer must go out and sow and his field is the whole world. The farmer must go out and proclaim the Good News. Knowing the seed impels him to go out! His heart is restless until it rests in the Word. And when he has found his rest in the Seed which is the Word, his heart continues to be restless until it can sow what it has found. Knowing the thirst of the soil for the seed to grow in it makes the farmer surge forth and sow and plant and cultivate and harvest.
Dear Bishop Stude,
How I wish your father were here so that he could see that you are still the farmer he wanted you to be. I am sure your father, looking down from heaven, is very proud of you Stude. Like him, you have learned to love the seed, to love the soil and now ready to go out and sow. Look at the people of Bataan--more than half a million hearts and minds athirst for the seed that they wait for you to sow in their hearts.
When the Holy Father asked me to leave Bataan and move on to Dagupan last year, I took a step of faith and obeyed even if in my heart of hearts I only wanted to live and die in Bataan. Bataan certainly is not the Promised Land flowing with milk and honey. Bataan is poor in the things of the world but Bataan is richest in the things of heaven. I went to Bataan six years ago wanting to bring Jesus but when I got there, I found Jesus ahead of me in the great and loving people of God in that peninsula of holiness and valor.
Now Stude, I can now serve Lingayen Dagupan without any anxieties and worries for the priests and people of Bataan whom I left behind last year. I know Bataan will have a very good bishop in you. And I know Bataan will take care of you my very dear brother.
Bishop Stude: Arise! Go and sow. Ite et seminate!