THE rooms of the dormitories are now clean and empty, and the seminary is quiet, for the academic year has ended, and the seminarians have left for summer vacation.
Some of them finished their long years of seminary formation—seven years for most of them. They are now newly ordained priests, excited in their first assignment.
From time to time I would remind them, especially those who are starting their priestly ministry or even those who will have internships, to focus on preaching Jesus and all his actions in their lives and the world.
“We preach Jesus Christ, not ourselves,” I would tell them. “If you do this, then you won’t fail, no matter how you think and feel that you’re not competent enough,” I would add.
Indeed, the priestly ministry is about proclaiming the actions of Jesus Christ in our lives and the world. It’s because although he now “sits at the right hand of the Father,” his Spirit resides in the Church through Word and Sacrament and is alive in the works and love of His present-day community of disciples and followers.
This belief in the continual presence of Christ through the Holy Spirit in the Church is deeply rooted in the words of Jesus to his disciples before he ascended to heaven:
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments, and I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, and the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows him. But you will know him, because he remains in you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.” (John 14:15-21)
Indeed, it’s the Spirit of Christ that moves the hearts of men and women to dedicate their lives as missionary disciples in a world that often does not know or accept Jesus Christ. It’s the Spirit of Christ that makes people respond to this heroic call of service, often forgetting or abandoning the comforts of this world.
Furthermore, it’s the love of Christ that compels a person to believe in him, to follow him, to live by his truth, and to proclaim his love to the whole world. It’s this love that motivates Christians to spend their energies and time in studies and work to form communities of faith and disciples, to preach his words of forgiveness and mercy, to help the poor, and to advocate for justice, respect, and dignity of every human being.
The Church (1 Peter 3:15-18) asks us then to sanctify Christ as Lord in our hearts and to be always ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope.
Absolutely, we have no other reason for our hope in Jesus Christ other than that he loves us to the end of times. For that, we preach Christ—his eternal love and actions in our lives and the world. Amen!
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.