Domingo, 11 de noviembre de 2012

En la capilla del Seminario de Owerri dedicada a María "Sedes Sapientiae" (Seat of Wisdom el Prefecto de la Congregación Misionera, el Cardenal Fernando Filoni, ha presidido la misa en la Fiesta de la Dedicación de la Basílica de San Juan de Letrán.

HOMILY AT THE SEAT OF WISDOM SEMINARY

Friday, 9th November 2012

Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of St. John in the Lateran 

Dear Brothers in Christ and Members of the Seminary community, this morning we are gathered here to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass at the Seat of Wisdom Seminary. This Seminary is the heart of all those Dioceses and Congregations that send their seminarians here to be prepared for the priesthood. 

Before sharing my reflections with you, I thank His Excellency Msgr. Anthony Obinna, the Bishops, Major Superiors and especially the Rectors with their team of Formators and Professors of both seminaries, Seat of Wisdom - Owerri and Seat of Wisdom - Umuahia Campus, for giving me this special privilege of celebrating this Eucharist with you. 

In the Motu Proprio, Porta Fidei declaring the Year of Faith which began last month, Pope Benedict XVI writes that it is the gift of the Holy Spirit that makes us fit for mission and strengthens our witness. Here, at a Seminary which forms young men as priests for the future, to be able to work in the diverse cultural and social realities of Nigeria and other countries that have a lack of vocations, especially in the African continent, all of you Formators, professors and seminarians, must seek to be as open as possible to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in order to "discover the tendencies of contemporary society, recognize the deepest spiritual needs, determine the most important concrete tasks and the pastoral methods to adopt, and thus respond adequately to human expectations." (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 10).

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Dedication of the Basilica of Saint John in the Lateran in Rome. Why celebrate the dedication of a church in faraway Rome, you might ask. It is to remind us of the importance of the church building as a sacred set apart for personal and collective encounter with God. 

Historically, the Basilica of Saint John in the Lateran is the oldest church of Rome. As such it is the mother of all churches. The original structure was built on the order of Emperor Constantine and consecrated by Pope Sylvester I in 324. The present structure was commissioned by Pope Innocent X in 1646.  

When we celebrate its dedication to God, we celebrate the mystery of God’s special presence living in buildings set apart for divine worship. We know that God is everywhere. Yet when the people of God erect a building and dedicate it totally to God’s service, God’s glory comes to dwell in that building in such a way that the building can now be called the house of God. Solomon recalls this mystery in his prayer of dedication of the temple in Jerusalem: "Can it indeed be that God dwells among men on earth? If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27). 

In the Gospel that has been proclaimed, Jesus referred to Jerusalem’s temple as his Father’s house which was being made into a “house of trade” or “den of robbers” (Mark 11:17). He used physical force and, “drove them all, with the sheep and oxen, out of the temple; and he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, "Take these things away; you shall not make my Father's house a house of trade". Jesus' disciples recalled the words of Psalm 69: “Zeal for your house will consume me”. The disciples saw more clearly Jesus as the Messiah who burned with zeal for God's house. The Jewish authorities, however, wanted proof that Jesus had the authority to act as he did. They demanded a sign from God to prove Jesus right, otherwise, they would treat him as an imposter and one who opposed their authority. Jesus replied that the sign God would give would be His death on the cross and His resurrection from the tomb: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews did not understand that the temple Jesus referred to was his own body. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus not only reconciles us with God, but he fills us with his Holy Spirit and makes us temples of the living God (1Cor 6:19-20). 

Choosing to stand with the Lord is the vocation of all the baptized, but above all, it is the vocation of all those who are called to be his witnesses in the priesthood and religious life. The vocation to become or be a priest is not a choice that anyone of us has made but it is a call from the Lord himself which we accepted and responded to with our “yes”.  The Seminarian musk ask himself: Is Christ calling me? Does he wish me to be his priest? If you answer "yes", then the work of the Seminary is to help you experience the action of the Holy Spirit and to understand the things of the Spirit of God. You must enter into an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, in order that the Lord's intentions for you may become clear. 

The Seminary must be a school of wisdom and holiness where all the members of the community must strive together to “have the mind of Christ” (1Cor 2:16). The years of seminary formation are about preparing you to be heralds of this New Evangelization. There are people to whom you will be sent as priests, who although they might have heard about Jesus they still do not know him, and there are others who have refused him and who might confront you in your belief. With new methods and new enthusiasm, you have to present to them the Gospel message not about a story or about an idea or an ideology but about an event, a person, namely Jesus Christ who died and on the third day rose again. 

Your formation is built on four pillars; the human, the academic, the spiritual and the pastoral. Each is important, but now I want to underline the importance of the human formation. You will and must be challenged to grow in maturity so that your personalities are moulded in such ways that they become a bridge for others in meeting Christ. One of the main features in human formation, and which is a significant and decisive factor in your formation as candidates for the priesthood, is growing in your affective maturity, being educated to grow in true and responsible love. Such maturity will allow each of you to relate correctly to both men and women, developing in you, as seminarians, a true sense of spiritual fatherhood towards the Church community that will be entrusted to you as future priests.         

In the Apostolic Exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis, speaking on this subject, Blessed Pope John Paul II writes, and I quote: “Education for responsible love and affective maturity of the person are totally necessary for those who, like the priest, are called to celibacy, that is, to offer with the grace of the Spirit and the free response of one’s own will the whole of one’s love and care to Jesus Christ and to his Church. In view of the commitment of celibacy, affective maturity should bring to human relationships of serene friendship and deep brotherliness a strong, lively and personal love for Jesus Christ… . Since the charism of celibacy, even when it is genuine and has proved itself, leaves one's affections and instinctive impulses intact, candidates to the priesthood need an affective maturity which is prudent, able to renounce anything that is a threat to it, vigilant over both body and spirit, and capable of esteem and respect in interpersonal relationships between men and women. A precious help can be given by a suitable education to true friendship, following the image of the bonds of fraternal affection which Christ himself lived on earth (cf. Jn. 11:5).

Human maturity, and in particular affective maturity, requires a clear and strong training in freedom, which expresses itself in convinced and heartfelt obedience to the "truth of one's own being, to the "meaning" of one's own existence, that is to the "sincere gift of self" as the way and fundamental content of the authentic realization of self. (Pastores Dabo Vobis, 44). 

The Servant of God, Pope Paul VI, reminded us in Evangelii Nuntiandi, that today people do not listen to “authorities” anymore but to “witnesses” and Benedict XVI insisted various times in his speeches that today’s people need “witnesses that talk to God to be able to talk about God”.[1] If people listen to us, it won’t be because we wear a collar or because we think that we are important people but they will listen to us only because we are witnesses of the one whom we profess as our Lord and Master, namely Jesus Christ. 

To this end, the seminary community must be a place where the faith in its fullness and authenticity is professed, celebrated, lived and prayed. Let all understand that faith grows when it is lived. 

And so, at this Mass, we ask for you the gift of the Holy Spirit who alone makes us fit for mission and strengthens our witness. To be a Christian is a gift. To be called to follow Him, to be His herald is a privilege in serving Him by sharing His love with and for others. To know Him is our joy and the greatest thing that has ever happened to us. May this Year of Faith arouse in each one of you and in every other believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and with full hope. 

I encourage you Seminarians, to be totally unselfish in answering the call of Jesus, to follow him without making reservations, to let Him be your guiding Light opening yourselves totally to the Spirit and to not be afraid in offering your lives to his Church. May His holy Mother Mary, Seat of Wisdom - Sedes Sapientiæ -  be with you always and keep you under her filial care. 


[1] Benedict XVI, Address of the Holy Father to the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, 15 October 2011, #8.


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