Monday, September 23, 2013

Bishop del Riego to seminarians: grow intellectually and spiritually

By Bishop Rutilio del Riego
Diocese of San Bernardino

The following are comments taken from the Commitment Mass for seminarians at Serra House with Aux. Bishop Rutilio del Riego held on Sept. 21 at Christ the Redeemer, Grand Terrace.

The readings of today are very appropriate for this occasion. The first one deals with the different ministries of the Church. Ministry does not only apply to the priesthood, but to all other ministries. One of the ministries is the ministry of shepherds, of pastors. So today we celebrate the commitment of these young men who, with the help of God’s grace, will one day serve as pastors in the Church.

The Gospel is also very appropriate because it talks about the calling of Jesus and the answer from Matthew, a very generous answer. Even though there is generosity on the part of Matthew, it’s nothing in comparison with the generosity of Jesus. That is what surprises and even scandalizes the people. So Jesus explains that he has not come to condemn sinners, but to save them. A doctor does not come to heal someone who is healthy, but to heal one who is sick. Those who think of God in a different way, is not a follower of Jesus. Jesus, son of the living God, is the God of mercy and God of forgiveness. This we need to keep in mind, both us priests and those who are preparing for the priesthood.

I could end here, but that would not be me.

View photos from Commitment Day Mass
The readings of today I think fit well with commitment day. Commitment day is a day in which seminarians make a commitment to a time of discernment and formation to the priesthood, if the lord calls them. It is a commitment before God and it should be a personal commitment, not just a requirement.

It has to be a personal commitment, a decision to take advantage of this time, to prepare well. If the lord calls you to the priesthood, then welcome it. If the lord is calling you to another ministry, then you will be prepared. It is a personal decision, but also a public commitment to live a life in the seminary.

You make a commitment in front of your mentors, in front of your brother seminarians, and members of your family. It is a commitment in front of this parish, Christ the Redeemer. You make this commitment to do what is necessary to grow in your physical, intellectual, psychological and spiritual life.

Many people will accompany you with their advice, prayers and their work. For them we pray in a special way today. We owe a debt of gratitude for your friends and family, your pastors and parishes and for the whole diocese for making this possible. The best way of expressing your gratitude for all these people is to work hard in your formation during your stay here at Serra House.

When I say work hard, I don’t mean only in terms of your school. I mean to work hard also in your spiritual growth. We know that this is the spirit is at work, but he expects us to do our share. During the priest convocation we heard how important it is for the priests not only to offer their ministry but offer an example of Christian life to the community. And so you are to prepare to be good Christians and good ministers. That requires the gift of the spirit and work.

One day you will be members of the presbyterate. You should be ready to live not as isolated individuals, but as member s of a community. Maybe to learn that is not to spend so many hours on the computer. That often isolates you instead of putting you in community. We used to think of asceticism as depriving ourselves of food or drink. Maybe part of asceticism today is depriving ourselves of time on the computer.

In the Gospel today, we see Matthew get up and follow Jesus. He is a good example for each of us to imitate, for you seminarians, for our lay brothers and sisters, for our men and women religious and for our brother priests and bishops.

You have probably heard about the recent interview with Pope Francis. Pope Francis states that his vocation is like that of Matthew. They asked him about his identity and he responded, “after looking at my life, I think the best word that describes me is that I am a sinner.” This is an identity for the pope. He knows of his complete dependence on God for his personal life and in his ministry. If it is good for the pope, then it should be good for each of us.

I wish to extend my gratitude in the name of Bishop Barnes to the rector, vice rector, spiritual director, Oblate Sisters of Santa Martha, the directors of Vocations, the Pastoral Coordinator of this parish, parish staff and all the parishioners of Christ the Redeemer who welcome the seminarians so generously.

This is a good sign for all the faithful. The responsibility for the calling and formation of priests comes through people like you. So you not only pray for priests but also take every opportunity to show your support for those who are preparing for the priesthood and for those ministering in the Church.

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