Friday, 5 December 2008

Homily Preached at Our 25th Anniversary Mass

Homily delivered by His Grace Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, Apostolic Nuncio on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of

St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary, Singapore

- 1st December 2008 -

Your Grace Archbishop Nicholas Chia, Archbishop of Singapore,

Your Excellencies,

Reverend Father William Goh, Rector of St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary,

Reverend Fathers, Religious Brothers and Sisters and Seminarians,

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I rejoice at being with you as we come together to celebrate with love and thanksgiving the 25th Anniversary of St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary. I thank His Grace Archbishop Nicholas Chia and Rev. Fr. William Goh, the Rector for inviting me to grace this occasion. And, I wish all of you, “A Happy Anniversary!”

We are celebrating today the 25th Anniversary of the Catholic Major Seminary in Singapore and the feast of its Patron Saint, St Francis Xavier, with the theme “Proclaiming the Glory of the Lord as Teacher, Ministers and Leaders”. This chosen theme is a very fitting one for this great Jubilee Year dedicated to St. Paul, a teacher of the Gentiles, an Apostle and herald of Jesus Christ. As the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI said, “the task of proclamation and the call to suffering in communion with Christ are inseparable in the life of St. Paul. Yet, what most deeply motivated him was being loved by Jesus Christ and the desire to communicate this love to others” (c.f. First Vespers Homily: Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, 28 June 2008).

We also commemorate today the solemnity of St. Francis Xavier, the apostle of the Far East, missionary and patron saint of the missions - the patron saint of the Catholic Major Seminary in Singapore. St. Francis Xavier is being recognized as a most remarkable person, fired with enthusiasm and love for Jesus Christ. While teaching at the world famous University of Paris, the question: “What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his soul?” profoundly touched him and brought him to such a compelling missionary enthusiasm and love of Jesus. Because of his unwavering zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel and heroic labors for the greater glory of God in Goa, South East Asia (we might include Singapore as well), Japan and the islands near China, the Church made him the patron saint of all the missionaries and missionary work.

St. Francis Xavier was indeed inspired by the love of God and wanted to share with other people that peace which comes from knowing that we are loved and guided by God's truth. This missionary spirit empowered him to set out for a continent whose diversity of languages and cultures was not familiar to him. He rejoiced in afflictions and sufferings and said that one who had once experienced the sweetness of suffering for Christ, will ever after find it worse than death to live without a cross. Thus, he kept in him the horror of sins committed by the world and took upon himself acts of penance for the forgiveness of the sins of others. The spirituality behind the missionary activities of St. Francis Xavier consisted of “the glory of God, the paschal love of the crucified Christ and the salvation of souls which also guided his apostolic personality” (Card Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State of His Holiness on the occasion of the conclusion of the 500th anniversary of St. Francis Xavier at Pontifical Urban University, Rome, on 5 December 2006).

In today’s Gospel, taken from the liturgy of the feast of St. Francis Xavier, Jesus, before being taken up into heaven, commanded his apostles: "Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:15-16).

Jesus' departure and ascension into heaven was both an end and a beginning for his disciples. While it was the end of Jesus' physical presence with his beloved disciples, it marked the beginning of Jesus' presence among them in a new way. Jesus promised that he would be with them always to the end of time. As the glorified and risen Lord and Savior, ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus promised to send them the Holy Spirit who would anoint them with power on the Feast of Pentecost, just as Jesus was anointed for his ministry at the River Jordan. When the Lord Jesus departed physically from the apostles, they were not left in sorrow or grief. Instead, they were filled with joy and with great anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus' last words to his apostles point to his salvific mission and to their own mission: to be witnesses of his saving death and his glorious resurrection and to proclaim the good news of salvation to all the world. Their task is to proclaim the good news of salvation, not only to the people of Israel, but to all the nations because “the Lord” as today’s first reading from the prophet Zephaniah said, “will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call on the name of the Lord and serve him with one accord” (cf. Zephaniah 3:9). Thus, God's love and gift of salvation is not just for a few or for a nation, but it is for the whole world – for all who will accept it. The gospel is the power of God, the power to forgive sins, to heal, to deliver from evil and oppression and to restore life.

Dear brothers and sisters, what drives these individuals whom we call "Saints" - like St. Paul and St. Francis Xavier - to give up everything in the pursuit of their mission of proclaiming the Gospel? They believe in the message and call of Christ because their faith tells them that it is the only hope given to us for our salvation. St. Paul, in today’s second reading, wrote to the Romans: “By believing that Jesus is Lord from the heart, you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are saved” (cf. Romans 10: 9-10).Yet, primarily it is their love for God and for humanity that keeps them going and doing the things that they are committed to pursue for the greater glory of God and for his Kingdom.

This is the great commission which the risen Christ gives to the whole church as well - to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation (cf. Mk. 16:15). All believers have been given a share in this task - to be heralds of the good news and ambassadors for Jesus Christ, the only savior of the world. Let us heed and be encouraged by the words of St. Paul, the great Apostle and herald of Jesus Christ: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:16). We are not left alone in this task, for the risen Lord works in and through us by the power of his Holy Spirit. Even today we witness a new Pentecost as the Lord pours out his Holy Spirit upon his people to renew and strengthen the body of Christ and to equip it for effective ministry and mission world-wide.

Finally, as the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI in his message for this 45th World Day of Prayer for Vocations said: “the Church is missionary as a whole and in each one of its members; because of the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, every Christian is called to witness and to announce the Gospel – the gospel of love”, I wish to encourage all of you - particularly seminarians and young people involved in a vocational journey - not to be afraid but to be open to Christ, who is inviting each and everyone of you to be, like the apostles, St. Paul and St. Francis Xavier, living witnesses of Jesus. The Holy Father prays for you, dear seminarians and young people that “you may indeed feel the attraction of definitive choices, of a serious and demanding formative process as the high standard of discipleship alone fascinates and gives joy” (Piazza della Vittoria, Genoa, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday, 18 May 2008).

I sincerely pray, together with you, dear brothers and sisters that St. Francis Xavier, the ‘Patron of Missions’ and a great apostle of Evangelization may help and inspire us to continue in his footsteps of preaching the good news to the whole world that the Word of God be able to reach the utmost limits of the earth! May it be, indeed, able to find its way to every human heart!

While wishing all of you a joyful and meaningful Silver Jubilee Celebration, invoking the maternal protection of Mary, Queen of the apostles, and the intercession of St. Francis Xavier, I convey the Apostolic Blessing of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on each and every one of you.

1 comment:

*fral* said...

congratulations to you all in the SFX Major Seminary on the occasion of your 25th Anniversary! :-D

also congrats and best wishes to martin upon his installation as lector and to andrew, alan, lionel and moses upon their installation as acolyte! :-)

keep up your good work!