Message of The Most Reverend Ryan P. Jimenez to the People of Chalan Kanoa on his Episcopal Ordination, 14 August, 2016

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Bishop-elect Ryan Jimenez kneels before Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, SDB during his Episcopal ordination Aug. 14, 2016 at Our Lady of Carmel Cathedral, Saipan. (Photo courtesy of Diocese of Chalan Kanoa Newspaper, The North Star.)
Bishop-elect Ryan Jimenez kneels before Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai, SDB during his Episcopal ordination Aug. 14, 2016 at Our Lady of Carmel Cathedral, Saipan. (Photo courtesy of Diocese of Chalan Kanoa Newspaper, The North Star.)

The episcopal motto I have chosen is taken from the episode in John’s gospel, where some Greeks approach Philip and ask him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”  (volumus Iesum videre) … I wish to reflect on this passage in John’s gospel, and to tie it to our ordination today [the Solemnity of Our Lady’s Assumption] as well as to our life as Church [our life as a believing community]. Using this particular episode in John, I wish to reflect on what it means “to see,” what it means “to see Jesus.”

1. First of all, I think “seeing” demands that we go down-deep.  Unless we do so, we simply remain on the surface. We will not fully understand. And so, in the end, we do not see at all. In the gospel of John, not everyone who sees believes: there are those who see the wonders wrought by Jesus, and yet, they do not take them as signs, they still refuse to believe. At one point, Jesus tells the people, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.” (Jn 6, 26) To see is to go down-deep, and when we go down-deep, we are led to understand, we are led to believe.

Take, for instance, today’s Solemnity of Our Lady’s Assumption.  At first glance, we may see this feast primarily as an exaltation of Mary, the mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, the Lady assumed into Heaven, “body and soul.” And so, it may happen that we only see the privileges of Mary – thereby making Mary a distant figure from us. But if we look deeper, we may see that today’s feast really points to God’s faithfulness to his promise to us, the truthfulness of his word to us – that the forces of evil have been overcome (Rev 11, 19; 12, 1-6.10); that death is not the last word (1 Cor 15, 20-27); and that the way of the humble actually leads to victory (Lk 1, 39-56).

I see today’s ordination in an analogous way. On the surface, it may seem that this is about me. But if we look deeper, if we go down-deep, this is really more about God – his goodness, his kindness, his faithfulness to his people.

Since Bishop Emeritus Tomas Camacho’s resignation was accepted by our Holy Father in 2010, our Church here of Chalan Kanoa has been bereft of a shepherd. For nearly six years, we have been waiting for our pastor. And so, a bishop being appointed to our diocese – let us forget in the meantime that it is me, since I’ll get back to that shortly – [a bishop being appointed to our diocese] can very well be seen as a sign of God’s providence – God caring for his people; God being faithful to his promise “to give shepherds after his own heart” (cf. Jer 3, 15).

When I received the appointment, that was the first thing that I actually thought – that God heard our prayers: he has given us a shepherd. But immediately after that – if not simultaneous with that – I uttered in prayer, “Dear Lord, surely, you could have done much, much better!” … because when I look at myself, what do I see? – A weak, sinful creature, struggling to follow the Lord. [You all know me. You have seen my faults and frailties. There’s nothing that I can hide from you and the Lord.]…

And then, the words of a preface at Mass (cf. Preface I of Holy Martyrs), echoing St. Paul, came to my mind: “You choose the weak and make them strong, in bearing witness to you” (cf. 1 Cor 1, 26-28). And so, in truth, it is about God. In his goodness, kindness, and mercy, God takes a poor and lowly creature like me to serve him and his Church. If anything is to be accomplished, it is through the grace and power of God.

“Dear Lord, surely, you could have done much, much better!” … because when I look at myself, what do I see? – A weak, sinful creature, struggling to follow the Lord. [You all know me. You have seen my faults and frailties. There’s nothing that I can hide from you and the Lord.]…

And that is why I hope I always see the episcopacy in this light: that I always see it much more deeply … so that I will always remember that this is not about me, that the episcopacy is not about power – but about humble service to God and his Church.  [If ever I forget that, adaiii ha….please remind me.]

The challenge for our Church here in Chalan Kanoa, I think, is the same. We must go down-deep, if we are to truly see.  Only then will it be possible for us to see Jesus and to recognize him here in our diocese. Only then will it be possible to see the Lord in the ordinary events of our lives, both individual and ecclesial, and to recognize him in others, particularly those who are in need (cf. Mt 25, 31-46).

2. Second, in the gospel of John, seeing is not the simple act of looking. In John’s gospel, to see means to know … and it is “to know” intimately… And so, in this statement from the Greeks who come to Philip (“we wish to see Jesus”, volumus Iesum videre), we come across the very objective (the very goal) of Christian living – namely, to see Jesus; that is, to know Jesus more intimately, to have a deep relationship with Him.

Being ordained a bishop, I sense this deep desire to be closer to the Lord, to know him more intimately. I pray that I will be configured to the Lord, more and more, and be one with him, in mind and heart (cf. John Paul II, Pastores Gregis 11), because only then will I be able to tend to the flock entrusted to my care in the manner of the Good Shepherd.

“We wish to see Jesus”, volumus Iesum videre – These words express the desire of so many people who have heard of Christ, but have not yet encountered him. They express the desire of so many people who want to know the Lord and to be closer to him… In the gospel, the Greeks do not have direct access to Jesus, and that is why, they approach Philip and ask him to intervene… The words volumus Iesum videre, therefore, invite us to reflect on our capacity to be like Philip, to be an instrument by which the Lord is encountered and known. It is certainly good to reflect on this: Do I – now, as bishop – … do we as Church … have the openness, readiness and capacity to reach out to those who wish to see, to encounter and to know Jesus?

3. Finally, “seeing Jesus” necessarily involves the cross; “to see Jesus” has to do with embracing the Paschal mystery… Responding indirectly to the Greeks’ request to see him, Jesus says, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat, but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12, 23-24). He then declares that he “will be lifted up from the earth” and “draw everyone” to himself (Jn 12, 32). What Jesus is saying, therefore, is that we can only see him, and truly see him, when we look at him, lifted up on the cross, when we recognize his total gift of self.

When I chose my episcopal motto, I did not realize, until sometime afterwards, that this parable of “the grain of wheat that dies in order to bear fruit” is connected to this episode of the Greeks approaching Philip. When I did notice it, I asked the Lord, “What are you saying? Is this a sign? Does this mean then that it’s going to be difficult, that it will be a cross?” [Can I still change my episcopal motto?]

Being ordained a bishop, I sense this deep desire to be closer to the Lord, to know him more intimately. I pray that I will be configured to the Lord, more and more, and be one with him, in mind and heart (cf. John Paul II, Pastores Gregis 11), because only then will I be able to tend to the flock entrusted to my care in the manner of the Good Shepherd.

 Jesus says, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am – and that is lifted high on the cross – there also will my servant be.” (Jn 12, 26)… Clearly, if we wish to follow Jesus, we have to make sacrifices, we have to learn to die to ourselves. We have to imitate Christ himself, in living a life of total self-emptying.

The call to give ourselves is rather clear. It is only by giving ourselves, emptying ourselves, and embracing our cross will we be capable of attracting the gaze of men and women today, who wish to see Jesus.

4. In the middle quadrant of my episcopal coat of arms, there are two representations of islands in green, to symbolize where I come from, the island of Siquijor in the Philippines, and my ministry, the islands of northern Marianas. The wavy lines in blue depict the vast Pacific Ocean that separate these islands.

I am reminded of what a Jesuit priest once said about islands. He says, “When you look at islands, you will see – quite clearly, some might even say – that they’re separated by water.” The islands, for instance, comprising our diocese are separated by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. But then, this Jesuit priest goes on to say, “But if you go down-deep, if you look underwater, you will see – and this is rather clear – that the islands are not at all separated, but in fact, are all connected.”

Dear friends, we begin a new phase in our life as Church. And as we begin this new phase, I appeal to you to go down-deep, to go deeper, so that we can truly see – see that we are all connected, and not separated; see that we are made one by our faith in Christ. I urge you, too, to strive to know the Lord more intimately, through his Word and the Sacraments, and by Acts of Charity. Finally, we should also pray for a renewed capacity for self-giving, both as individuals and as a community.

And may I also add one last request: that you pray for me as your bishop – that I become a true pastor, a true shepherd, with the heart of our Lord. One who through humble service leads people to see and to encounter Jesus.