Roman Catholic Diocese of Chingleput

Bishop's Speaks

The Homily of our Bishop Most Rev Dr A Neethinathan during the thanksgiving Holy Eucharist at the completion of the 15th year of his Episcopal Consecration and the independent existence of our Diocese of Chingleput on 30.09.2017 at St Joseph’s Cathedral, Chingleput

Dear brother priests collaborating with me in serving our diocese,dear religious working for the development of the diocese through various ministries, andmy dear faithful people,

I express my affectionate greetings, appreciations and thanks to you in the name of the Lord on this happy day.
Fifteen years have passed so quickly as if we turn through the pages of a book and the diocese of Chingleput steps into the sixteenth year. When we turn to every page of this 15 years history of the diocese, only the face of the Merciful God appears big and prominent. Yes, dear friends, it is this mercy of God that has held us and led us through these 15 years. It is this boundless compassion of God that has empowered us to carry out various ministries. It is the everlasting love and mercy of God that has stood by us in moments of trials and pains. It was the unchanging love of God that has sustained us to continue our journey amidst our being hurt and faltering. Hence we are gathered here to recollect and thank the Lord for his love, compassion and concern that we have experienced during these 15 years.

Let us join the chorus of the Psalmist: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His mercy endures forever” and praise and glorify the Lord.  We are gathered here today as a family to pray: “O Lord, if your merciful hands had not led us ahead, we would not have been able to walk happily; we would not have been able to serve with contentment. Your gracious hands have touched us and guided us at every stage of our developmental journey. Thank you, Lord. May you always abide with us and continue to lead us.”

Dear brethren, I said that in every page of our history only the merciful face of the Lord is predominantly visible. When we look there intently and when we focus our gaze on the face of the Lord, very many faces appear there behind the face of the Lord: we could see behind the merciful face of the Lord the faces of the priests who have given themselves for the sake of the diocese; we see the faces of the religious who have dedicated themselves for the wellbeing of the diocese with their sentiments of consecration; we can see the faces of the faithful who sincerely love the diocese as their own and wish and work day in and day out that this our diocese should develop on all counts and bear witness to the love of the Lord; we can find the faces of people who have helped us in one way or the other in our journey and have contributed towards our growth – be it through financial assistance or otherwise, and by their prayer support.

Let us take note of these faces appearing behind the merciful face of the Lord and thank the Lord for all of them: for the priests of our diocese who serve us dedicatedly, for the religious who have come to take up ministry in our diocese willingly acknowledging the vision priorities of the dioceseand accepting the thrust and direction uniquely adopted by the diocese. We thank in the name of the Lord the priests and the religious who have decided to spend themselves for the diocese by dedicating themselves for the people of the diocese and resolving to make their lives part and parcel of the lives of the people. On their account we thank and praise the Lord today!

We cannot think of the diocese without the faithful. But for their full cooperation and committed services, our diocese could not have realized its development. We therefore thank the faithful who have dedicated themselves totally for the good of the diocese. We thank the Lord on account them as well.

Dear brothers and sisters, today therefore is a day of thanksgiving! I don’t wish to speak about anything else. What fill our hearts today are the sentiments of gratitude! Our eyes are brimming with tears of gladness! Let us therefore praise our Lord! Glorify him! Thank him! Because he is good and His mercy is forever!

Why have we come together here today? St Paul in the second reading beautifully sums up in a single phrase the purpose of our gathering: that we may encourage one another. As we thank the Lord, I am here to encourage all of you. You in turn have assembled here to encourage me. By the assistance of God’s grace we have accomplished 15 years of Christ’s Kingdom journey. But we need to realize that all our ministry would have borne no fruit, if we had not progressed in this journey supporting one another, loving one another and joined our hands together. That is why the single phrase of St Paul should be ingrained in the depth of our hearts. Many may carry out varied ministries: the pastors ministering in the parishes, those serving in the hospitals, others working in educational fields, and some others involved in social fields. Even though we are engaged in a variety of ministries, we need to stand in support of one another, encourage one another, and hold one another up. It is true that we are called to live as the disciples of the Lord, as priests of the Lord; but not as independent disciples, and not as individual priests; instead, we are called to live as one community of disciples, one family of disciples and one group of priests. We are invited here to realize that our ministries will not bear fruit, if we do not hold one another up, if we do not help one another and if we do not encourage one another when we come together as a community of disciples and a family of priests. Therefore, dear friends, there is no doubt that God, who during these 15 years has held our hands and led us, guarded us as the apple of His eye, and showered all blessings and graces on us, will continue to guide us. Let us accept one another and carry the burdens of one another with the conviction that God’s graceful hands will continue to lead us and that His mercy will ever accompany us. Thus let this day be a celebration of thanksgiving and also a celebration of encouraging one another.

Brothers and sisters, soon after our becoming an independent diocese, we chose to sit together at Dhyana Ashram in Chennai to evolve together whatwould constitute the vision thrustfor our diocese. After a few days of combined deliberation the biblical verse that was placed before our eyes was Jn 10:10. We read that again as the Gospel today: My people should find life and life in abundance. This became the guiding lines for us and it served foundational in formatting our vision statement for our new diocese: all the people in our diocese should find life and that life should be full. We are invited today to remind ourselves in a special way that we have a specific vision carved out for our diocese, making our own the mission-dream of Jesus.

Let Jn 10:10 stir our reflections again: Have we worked through these 15 years in order that all our people might have life? Have we made efforts on all fronts in order that they may find life in all possible aspects? Have we marginalized some? Have we chucked some out as unwanted? These are the questions we need to reflect and respond today.

Two years ago, when we convoked the Diocesan Synod and came together to give a new force and direction to our diocese, the way of Jesus was presented  before our eyes with the focus: the Kingdom Journey in the footsteps of Jesus. Our quest today is: have we walked in the footsteps of Jesus or have we sought different paths to walk? The path of Jesus is a narrow one, an uncomfortable one, and at times a challenging one. Have we therefore during these 15 years avoided the narrow and discomforting ways and have opted for wide and broad paths desiring to make a comfortable and easy walk? This is the time for us to reflect if we have remained sober doing nothing worthwhile but making our lives free of all risk taking andmaking it light-going, because we said to ourselves that we need no challenges and are not interested in accomplishing anything? What are the efforts we have made to make all people find life in all aspects of living? I wish to invite you all to ponder at depth these things: Are we continuing our journey in the very footsteps of Jesus or are we disillusioning ourselves of continuing in the footsteps while we in fact are marching in other contrary paths?

Finally, dear friends, whether it is the biblical thrust in Jn 10:10 or the vision thrust: the Kingdom Journey in the Footsteps of Jesus, we should understand the call given to us by both: the footsteps of Jesus are those that go in search of the poor, those that are heading towards the fringes of the society. The Lord never distanced himself from them saying that you are on the margins and therefore I have nothing to do with you. On the contrary, the Lord said to those marginalized by the society: “I keep running to you because you are in the fringes. Have they marginalized you because they saw you useless?  But I will never discard you but will be after you.” Thus he went in search of those pushed to the fringes of the society and made them live and live with human dignity. Let us once more become convinced at the completion of the 15th year that this is our ministry. When the Lord says that he has come so that the sheep may have life and have it in full, we should never forget that he is the one who went after weak and wounded, famished and sick sheep. The revived invitation to us today from the Lord at the completion of the 15th year is very clear: “Renew your commitment, deepenyour dedication, fanyour desire up to serve, foster your love for the people and increase your concern for others. Let our people live. May this diocese be a local church that bears witness to my Gospel, always choosing to live the Gospel values, thus making this diocese of Chingleput a lighted lamp on the hilltop.”

Dear brothers and sisters, I am very much delighted in joining you all in offering this Holy Eucharist. I thank the Lord. I unite myself with you praying that the Lord may continue to guide us. Let us continue this Kingdom Journey with His mercy and His blessings! Let us make our diocese flourish forth further!Let us make our people live and let us walk in the path of fullness!
God bless you all

+ Most Rev Dr A Neethinthan
    Bishop of Chingleput

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