SALT OF THE EARTH
Homily delivered by His Excellency, Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas on the occasion of his installation as Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, held last November 4, 2009 at the Cathedral of Saint John the Apostle, Dagupan City at 10:00 am.
The ways of the Lord are mysterious and hard to comprehend. Eighteen years ago, before Archbishop Cruz was installed Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Dagupan was hit by a severe earthquake that rendered the city in shambles and the old cathedral church in ruins. This year, apparently in preparation for this momentous occasion, the Archdiocese was hit with massive flooding that rendered great havoc upon our flock. Our gathering of joy is mixed with sentiments of uncertainty about what lies ahead of Pangasinan. I know the faith of the Pangasinenses is strong and firm. I want to assure though: it is not Archbishops who cause disasters to happen!
The ways of the Lord are awesome and marvelous. He called me to be a priest and gave me a revolutionary Cardinal as my mentor and guide. My priesthood was born from the dawn of EDSA people power in 1986. My vocation was nurtured by the street revolutionaries of the EDSA Shrine. Then the Church sent me on a mission to Bataan, famous for the Death March of the last world war. The long street from Mariveles and Bagac to San Fernando was sanctified by the glorious blood of the martyrs of the Second World War.
Today I begin my mission in Lingayen-Dagupan, the shadow of war still hovering over my priesthood because it was in Lingayen Gulf that the story of our liberation in 1945 began. The legendary General Douglas Mc Arthur landed in Lingayen Gulf, waded through our waters to usher in a new day of freedom for our country. This province also carries in its history the revolutionary struggle of Andres Malong and the tyrannical reign of Limahong, a Chinese ruler. Lingayen Gulf is red with the blood of heroes.
With a deep sense of unworthiness and obedience to the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, I accept the mission to be pastor of the Church in Lingayen-Dagupan. I am treading on the footsteps of a great man of the Church, an epic man who is himself larger than life, Archbishop Oscar V. Cruz. Archbishop Cruz is unique and irreplaceable. He was my first rector at San Carlos Seminary. I will only try to continue, using my very limited talents, the great work that he has left behind in the Archdiocese of Lingayen Dagupan.
Mga inararok ya anak ya Diyos: Agku anta kunpanuntoy / mansalita’y salita yudya. Ibangat yuak kumon / nu bilbilang aliwa so panagsalitako panangibagak ed salita yu. Labay kon aralen so salita yudya.
My dear people of God, I do not know how to speak the dialect. Please teach me. I am willing to learn. If I make a mistake in pronouncing, please correct me.
I come to live in your midst not as a liberator like McArthur or a revolutionary like Andres Malong or a tyrant like Limahong. I come to you as Jesus came, the servant who called us to be “salt of the earth and the light of the world”. You can call me Father Soc. Please give me a chance to love you, to serve you.
We are the salt of the earth, the Lord said to us in the Gospel. Pangasinan was named after asin--panag asinan. We who form the Catholic faithful in Lingayen Dagupan, living in the province that is named after salt, must truly be salt for society and salt for the rest of the world. Like ASIN, let us embark together on mission for social transformation and Church renewal.
A is for apostolic action nurtured by prayer. Our first and only power is he Lord and our first and only way to the Lord is love. We must pray but it is not enough to pray. Our prayer must make us think and talk and listen and act and be like Jesus—that is the apostolic action that we need in the Church. Any pastoral action or assembly that does not come from prayer will fail. Any prayer that does not lead us to apostolic charity will wither. Love without service is mere sentimentalism. Service without prayer is social activism.
S is for sanctified and sanctifying community of disciples. United by baptism, united in prayer, united through charity, we will become saints together in Pangasinan. To be holy is our one and only vision. Everything and anything that leads us astray from this path must be cast aside. We are called to sanctify, to lead and to teach. We are here not by worthiness but by favor. None of us is worthy, we were just chosen in spite of. We do not sanctify ourselves; God does. We do not sanctify others; God does. We are a community not an organization. None of us is master; all of us are disciples.
I is for integration of faith and life. The Church is hurt not just by heresies against the truth. The Church is also damaged when the faith of her children are not matched by witnessing. We do not only share a common doctrine. We also share one common morality. What does it matter if we understand the mystery of the Trinity but do not live the love that binds the Trinity? The Church and her priests would be more credible prophets in society if the stomach of the preacher would be as empty as his parishioners. Brother priests, I bid you : Go preach the gospel. Talk if necessary. Pangasinan does not need teachers. Pangasinan needs witnesses. Fathers: Give us Jesus, only Jesus, always Jesus.
N is for new and intensive evangelization. Evangelization by its nature is confrontational. We cannot proclaim Jesus and waltz with corruption in public or in private. We cannot be rightly called Christians and play games with evil. Evangelization is a call to die. Evangelization demands conversion. Evangelization may not be always pleasant. It can hurt both preacher and hearer. It can make the hearer take revenge on the preacher. But evangelization is the only way for the Church. We would betray the Lord if we won’t. Only the brave and the loyal can truly evangelize.
My brother priests—be the salt of the Church and society. By your ministry, may the people taste the goodness of the Lord. Be happy givers! Be holy priests by your courageous and generous self sacrifice! Bawal ang paring duwag! Bawal ang paring kuripot! Show them the face of Jesus, the joy of the world! We need to pray together and we must be saints together! When the time comes for me to return to the Father and my name would be dropped from the Eucharistic prayer, I only want to be remembered as the bishop who loved you, my priests.
My dear Catholic laity—be the salt of Pangasinan. By your life in the family and your work in society, preserve—like salt—our heritage of hard work and diligence in northern Philippines. Preserve—like salt the Catholic faith. Keep the faith alive and young, vibrant and loyal.
My dear children and youth, be the salt of earth. May your lives be clear like crystal salt, pure and fresh and always new. By your young and restive hearts, may we your elders find new inspiration. Your mission as Church youth is to inspire and to ignite.
My poor brothers and sisters from the far barangays, be the salt of society. Even if sometimes, salt and rice is all we can eat, do not forget your dignity as children of God.
Na angganu nu arum / asin tan bilas labat so kakanen tayu / agtayu kumon lilingwanan so dignidad tayu bilang anak ya Diyos.
As an expression of solidarity with the flood victims of Pangasinan now in need of help to start again, we will not have any lunch reception after our liturgy. The money that will be saved from your act of sacrifice will be used to help the poor of Pangasinan. This is not being kuripot. This is pakikipag kapwa tao. This is charity. This is what God told us to do. I believe this is what Jesus would have done if he were in Dagupan.
My dear government officials, give us the salt of livelihood and honest public service. Spare the people from salty words of anger and malicious conduct that kill and destroy. Serve the people with honesty. Serve the people well. We can work together for the people.
Pangasinan, bayang mayumi, asin ng pamayanan
Bagong lasa ang handog at sariwang kasiglahan,
Asin ka ng kabuhayan, nag-aalaga sa kabataan,
Pangasinan, aming Ina, aming mahal, aming hirang!
Dagupan ang taguri, dating tawag “nandaragupan”
Dahil dito’y nagtitipon sari saring katauhan,
Lingayen naman ang tawag namin sa pusod na pinagmulan
Lagi naming nililingon, tinatanaw na kagandahan.
Ang Diyos ay papurihan ng bayan ng Pangasinan,
Ipangaral ang Ebanghelyo sa Lingayen-Dagupan,
Bawat bayan ay lumuhod at sa Diyos ay magpugay,
Ipagbunyi ang Pangasinan, ipagdangal ang Maykapal!
People of God in the Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan, I am all yours. Take me as your own. I embrace you now as my very own. God has given us each other. Let us give ourselves to the Lord. Amen.
The Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of Lingayen-Dagupan
(Central Pangasinan, Philippines)