CONGREGATION FOR THE EVANGELIZATION OF PEOPLES
HOMILY OF CARD. CRESCENZIO SEPE
Friday, 29 August 2003
The heart of each one of us participating in this Celebration, as well as that of the entire Church, is full of joy and gratitude to the Lord especially for what is being accomplished here among us: the Episcopal Ordination of Mons. Wens Padilla, Prefect Apostolic, and first Bishop of the Church in Mongolia!
United with us in spirit is the Holy Father, John Paul II, who since he is not able to preside at this celebration, has given me the responsibility of bringing his greetings, his prayers and his special Apostolic Blessing to you all, and especially, to Bishop Wens. The Holy Father loves Mongolia and hopes to make a visit here whenever this is possible. Therefore, for this occasion he has sent an autographed letter, which I will now read to you... (see the Message of Holy Father).
The Gospel we have listened to, also helps us to understand the meaning of the ceremony that we are celebrating: Saint John the Baptist witnessed to the Truth that is Jesus Christ, for whom he gave his life. This is also the deep meaning of the life and ministry of a Bishop: to give his life for Christ, for the Church and for the flock, of whom he is constituted Pastor. Does this mean that the ministry of a Bishop is a ministry of "having your head cut off"? Mons. Wens, I hope and pray that this won't be the case!, even though it cannot be ruled out that, in order to remain faithful to Christ, as sometimes happens, we must be ready to give our lives, also to the shedding of our blood. This is the story of the Church in her 2,000 years of existence, that continues even today when, in many parts of the world, the disciples of Christ testify to their faith and love of the Lord, even to the shedding of blood.
This helps us to understand the meaning and importance of the Episcopal Ordination which will shortly be conferred on Mons. Wens. In fact, by virtue of Episcopal Ordination and in hierarchical communion with the head of the college and its members, one is constituted a member of the body of Bishops.
Moreover, the Order of Bishops succeeds the College of the Apostles in teaching authority and pastoral rule; indeed, in the Order of Bishops the apostolic body continues to perdure. Therefore, Bishops, as successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord, who was given all power in heaven and on earth, the mission to teach all nations and to preach the Gospel to every creature, so that by faith, baptism and obedience to the commandments (cf. Mt 28: 18) all people may attain salvation. The Episcopal College, gathered under the one head, the Roman Pontiff, the Successor of Peter, expresses the unity, diversity and universality of the flock of Christ.
However, the individual Bishops, who are placed in charge of the particular Churches, exercise their pastoral government over the portion of the People of God entrusted to their care; they are the visible principle and foundation of unity in these particular Churches. These Churches are formed according to the image of the universal Church, and in them and from them the Catholic Church has her existence.
Among the principal offices of Bishops the preaching of the Gospel is pre-eminent; the Bishops are heralds of the faith, who lead new disciples to Christ, and are authentic teachers, who proclaim to the people entrusted to them the faith that is to be believed and that is to direct their conduct. Just as through the ministry of the Word they communicate God's power to those who believe in salvation (cf. Rom 1: 16), so too through the sacraments they sanctify the faithful: they regulate the conferral of Baptism, they are the originating ministers of confirmation, they are the dispensers of sacred Orders and the moderators of penitential discipline. Signed with the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders, Bishops are "stewards of the grace of the supreme priesthood", especially in the Eucharist, which they offer or cause to be offered. Moreover, every lawful celebration of the Eucharist is regulated by the Bishop, because any community of the altar, under the sacred ministry of the Bishop, stands out as a symbol of the charity and unity of the Mystical Body.
My dear brothers and sisters, how blessed is this land and your small yet vibrant community of believers to receive a great gift from God today. And that gift is no other than our Brother Mons. Wens, who has been chosen to be the first Bishop of your Church: it is a historical event in the life of the Mongolian Catholic Church. You will receive him not as a "head on the platter" as was John's; not as a vain promise as was King Herod's in the Gospel. No! Rather, you will receive him as the person chosen by God among you to be your elder in the community. You will receive him as the visible sign of God's promise to be always with you, as a father to his beloved children; as the good shepherd to his flock. Do receive and afford him respect and dignity as the servant-leader among you who are also called to be servants to all the people around, as Our Lord Jesus exemplified in his life of service, especially to the poor.
As a community of faith, remember that you have become a chosen people, even a voice in the wilderness like John the Baptist's. And that wilderness is the world where you are now. It can be your society, your neighbourhood, or even your family. This world is very much alive often according to the standards of the ungodly: those who think and believe that they own the world; that they are the gods of the earth. They are the King Herods of today. You will find yourself challenging the values promoted by these people. And rightly so, for their values promote empty happiness and vainglory.
My dear Mons. Wens, I am happy that you have generously accepted the call of God for you to become His embodiment of love and service among the people of Mongolia to whom you have been sent. Yes, indeed, the task is not easy and the burden may never be light. You may sometimes feel that, like John the Baptist, your head is being cut off! Yet, as the first reading suggests, you must have the humility, courage and faith of the prophet Jeremiah. I know that deep in your heart there is unflinching trust in the God who knew you, even before you were formed in the womb, and consecrated you even before you were born.
It may seem curious or awesome that God can transform lives and call people to be his mouthpiece or his representative among people. I know that you were a dedicated missionary in Taiwan for 15 years, six of which you were the leader of your congregation in the province. And finally that, for the last 11 years, like John the Baptist you have been the "forerunner" here in Mongolia. And indeed, how gracious the Lord is in you. And, with your experience and dedication you are a real gift of God to the people of Mongolia.
Your dedication and love for the people of this beloved land is very evident, as can be seen in the choice of your coat of arms. First and foremost, you have the ger, symbolising your home in the heart of the Mongolian people. Judging from the ease with which you relate to the government officials, the local community of believers and the ordinary people with whom you work, and even with those who may have found themselves unacceptable to others - the ragged, the poor and the needy - you have found your home among them. You have dedicated the Mongolian mission to the Holy Family: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I have also been told that the very way of holding the Child Jesus is also an important symbol for the Mongolians. They may not refer to it as the heart or zurkh as we do, but they refer to it as the bundang or buimang which means a holy or sacred vessel or container. The three-tongued flame is also a very important Mongolian symbol that may signify the Spirit for us, but with a Mongolian import, it signifies the eternal strength of God: the three tongues being yesterday, today and tomorrow. This is reminiscent of the Jubilee! The tassel has two edges with the Mongolian symbol: the ulzii that spells eternity - the unending cycle of birth, death and new life. Indeed, your dedication to the Mongolian people and nation is unquestionable. The Church is proud of having you here to lead this young and vibrant Church.
And, of course, you are and you will remain a C.I.C.M.. I admire your love for your congregation, shown by the C.I.C.M. logo in your coat of arms. And I thank the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (C.I.C.M.) for being so generous in sharing you with the mission of the universal Church. What dedication you have for the C.I.C.M.! Who you are now is the product of the 36 years of work which your late father did with the C.I.C.M. as a faithful catechist and, of course, of your formation in the C.I.C.M. since you were in the seventh grade.
Completing your coat of arms is the rising sun from the east, radiating from the snowcapped mountains to the verdant pastures of the hills and steppes: the symbol of hope. As you explained, this spells the Chinese character of your name, (Huang Hsyu Tong, means nine yellow suns rising in the east = the dawn). Thus, your motto, "A light to reveal to the nations" gives a very significant synthesis of your identity as a C.I.C.M. and of your dedication to be the main instrument of God's love to the people here in Mongolia, now that you are about to be raised to the dignity of Bishop.
By the grace of the Spirit and the motherly protection of Mary, our Blessed Mother, I entreat you, Mons. Wens, together with your missionaries around you, to be a continual source of strength to the people God has entrusted to you, as proven by your many years of missionary experience. Let them experience the presence of our Eternal High Priest, Jesus our Lord, who, as in the second reading, sympathises with our human weaknesses though without sin, but tested just the same. Be a real shepherd to your flock, a real father to the children of God, a real brother to those who are poor, sick, strangers or homeless. And, like John the Baptist, as you have emphasised in your motto, lead those who may not know and live the Gospel with the same dedication you give to your own flock. And, as you are incorporated into the College of Bishops, be mindful of your responsibility to be an instrument of the bond of unity that we share in faith. May the concerns of the Universal Church always be part of your own personal concern.
Mons. Wens, together with your missionaries, living the spirit of John the Baptist, always be like a vigilant midwife who assists at the birthing of the community of God here in Mongolia. Always stand on the side of justice, peace and love, because for that our High Priest, Jesus Christ, offered his life as a ransom for all. In short, like the Master, be the servant of the community of servants.
May the blessing of the Father, whose image you are in the Church; the Son, whose role of Teacher, Priest and Shepherd you live; and the Spirit, who gives life to the Church and supports our weakness with strength, be upon you as you receive the grace of your election as the Bishop of God's people here in Mongolia.
The Virgin Mary, Queen of Mongolia, protect all of you!