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Homily of Bishop Paul Kim
on his golden anniversary

 

Speech During the Mass for My Golden Anniversary
on
August 16, 2003

1.       Reflections

Consider the person who gets engaged to marry at age thirteen and who then marries at twenty-six.  Should such person remain married for fifty years would not glorious memories abound in his spirit?  My priestly life and vocation is quite similar to such a person.  I felt the call to the priesthood at age thirteen and was ordained a priest at age twenty-six, after thirteen years of study and formation in the seminary.  Fifty years have passed since then, and my spirit, too, is full of rich memories and reflections!  The feelings aroused by the relationship between persons are richly emotional.  How much more the feelings between a person and his God? 

With the approach of my golden anniversary, I have been in a reflective mode and thinking of my past life with some intensity.   The Suh Moon Parish published a book that I authored, titled “Love Discovered at Every Bend”, and of late, those words are constantly in my thoughts and on my lips.

At age thirty I was four years ordained a priest, when suddenly I was diagnosed with a terminal disease and told I did not have long to live!  I was full of fear and anxiety about my impending death, resentment that I had not had enough time left to become virtuous and do my priestly work, and finally I held envy towards my priest colleagues who would continue unaffected after my death.  I spent many sleepless nights.  Then one day, I had a spiritual conversation with one of my teacher priests who came to see me at the hospital.  He asked me how I felt, and I shared my feelings with him.  He asked me, “How long would you like to live so you would not feel cheated?”  I replied, “It would be nice if I could live to fifty years of age, so I can see my silver anniversary.”  My teacher said in response, “Your sense of disappointment would remain, even if you lived until your golden anniversary.”  He concluded emphatically, “The best day to die is when the Lord calls you.” After this conversation that lasted for two hours, I gained stability and peace of mind.  I was able to accept my death.  Surprisingly! , I later learned that the diagnosis was inaccurate.  The good Lord, who helped me to overcome that crisis, allowed me to live long enough to now celebrate my fiftieth anniversary!  Today, I confirm the truth and wisdom in the words of my teacher.  In my many years of priesthood, I have never once felt (omit the) satisfaction about my achievement or virtue!  In fact, I must admit that my accomplishments and virtue tend to decrease as I move on.  

 

2.       Gratitude

God has continuously been revealing Himself to me.  Through His revelations He has enabled me to personally experience the mysteries of both His human and Godly nature.  I wonder if that is why he let me live.  We cannot look at the visible surface of a ball on a flat plane and see the entire ball.  God is similar.  When I was thirty years old, He showed me one or two aspects of His mystery.  In my priestly life He revealed himself to me in many different ways.  Mostly, He clearly and closely revealed His love and grace towards me.  He showed me His gracious providence, which I had been unable to see or feel, thus leaving me indifferent and disinterested.  He placed in my view, and in my heart, all the people that He connected me to and who were placed in my path.  Particularly, He revealed my special destiny with Jeju Island and the Jeju Diocese.  He showed me the people, customs, and natural beauty of this magical island.

In my diary of January 1, 1903, I recorded the Lord’s words as He spoke to me:

“I created the world and began the mission for salvation for all mankind, but I would have done the same just for you!  On this first day of the New Year, I ask you again not to become calloused and unfeeling.  Moreover, you should not be ungrateful.  Look around the world I have created for you.  Do you think you can live without the sun, air, water or soil?  Do you think you can survive without nature?  Remember that you will not survive without my creation   in nature.  There is one more thing you must understand:  that is-- there is another gift I gave you other than nature.  That gift is the people --- My sons and daughters to whom I have connected you. In order for you to exist, survive, and belong, I gave you your parents, siblings, relatives, colleagues, classmates, teachers, countrymen, and friends.  I surrounded you with many people, most of whom you never knew, and some of these invented things that benefited society and made your life easier.  It is thus that you can enjoy the many benefits of electricity and can travel great distances in airplanes.  These inventors did not create these products specifically with you in mind, but I was thinking of you when I let them do their work.

You could not survive even for a split second as a creature, a human being or a priest, without my gifts of nature and your fellow man.  Without my gifts, you could not eat or drink nor be clothed and sheltered.  As you are eating the food you did not grow or cook, wearing the clothes you did not make, live in a house you did not build, you would not survive if no one helps you with those tasks.  My limitless love for you must never be forgotten by you and must always be remembered.  However, you do not comprehend this! You think of My all-encompassing love as something to be taken for granted and as your entitlement.  If you understood my graces properly, you would be ecstatic and full of joy!  And you would treat my gift of nature properly.  You would also value your fellowmen an! d appreciate and love them.  In this you will see that your love for Me and mankind spring from the same source.  Is there any further explanation required of my gift of supernatural grace?  You would collapse in fear and awe if you properly understood the depth of all My graces, which made you My son and m y eternal successor!  Here I refer to the grace where I allowed My own Son to share his priesthood.”

Thus spoke the Lord to me, and the only thing I should do from this day forward to the day I die is to be thankful!  Thank God and the Virgin Mary!  Thank all the angels and saints!  I thank all those of you whom I was privileged to know: my parents, teachers, classmates and all the clergy, religious and the laity.  I thank Bishop Kang, in particular, with whom I share my life during this most important phase of my life’s journey, as well as all the priests, religious and laity in Jeju   Diocese, who made my role as shepherd so fruitful.  I thank all the people of this island!

 

3.       A Time for suffering and Enduring

In chapter 3 verse 1 through 8 of Ecclesiastes it is said, “There is a time to be born and a time to die; a time for war and a time for peace.” These are two opposing concepts used to explain that all things should be done in their proper time.

While it is not written in Ecclesiastes, it could be further extrapolated that: ‘if there is a time to go forward, then there is a time to step back; a time to appear, then time to hide.’  In other words, if there is a time to be active then there is a time to be passive.  

Now, I find myself in the final phase of my life – a time to step back, a time to move to the background, a time to be passive.  Isn’t it true that retirement literally means to step back and hide?  I intend to be a hermit in order to live the true sense of retired life.  Thus far it has consumed great effort on my part.  You may find it hard to see me as a hermit, but let me illustrate: I reside in a community with Fr. Patrick McGlinchey.  However it is only today, August 16, 2003, that I see him for the first time in ten months since last we met on November 23, 2002, the feast of St. Columban!  Had I been more assertive, visibly active and meddlesome, I fear the Lord and the people would have perceived me to be someone who didn’t know his place.

Jesus Christ, Our Great Priest, had a public ministry of three years and he suffered for eighteen hours before dying.  We call this eighteen hours His passion.  That passion was an excruciating and intense suffering!  He was arrested, tied up, taken to courts, interrogated, made to wear a scarlet cloak and crowned with thorns.  He had to carry a reed stick and was ridiculed by the soldiers, who treated Him badly.  He was slapped, spat upon, and sentenced to death.  He carried a cross and His clothes were torn off.  He was nailed down and died on the cross!  This i s why we call it the passion.  His three-year public life was an essential part in the fulfillment of His mission to redeem mankind and provide for our salvation.   There had to be another part, and that was His suffering.  While the period of suffering was relatively short, it was an absolute necessity for completing His ! mission of salvation.

This period of my retirement is more important than any other period of my life, because this is the complement to my fifty years of public life in priestly ministry.  I firmly believe this period to be essential for both my own salvation as well as yours.

Today all of my priest colleagues who concelebrate at this altar with me have had an active priestly life in a variety of fields.  They have worked actively in very responsible positions in both general pastoral endeavors and special apostolic works.  There is not one among them who has not held the highest office in their respective sphere of competence. While their active work is now completed they have now entered the phase of suffering. Their active life is now completed and now they are in the passive phase, with an abundance of suffering.  As I look around I can see their physical, psychological and emotional struggle and pain.   Some appear to suffer from loneliness and isolation.  Due to their physical condition none walk without a cane.  There were some who wanted to be here with us today but were constrained due to their physical limitations.  All this suffering they endure is both necessary and beneficial for their salvation and that of others. This is truth.  I assert and witness to this truth, and by my life I have claimed it to be so!

 

4.       My Imploration to You.

As earlier stated, I plan to live this final phase of my life, which God has so generously granted, just as honestly as I can. Bishop Ignatius of Antioch on his way to be martyred, wrote in his letter to the Romans begging that they not interfere with his martyrdom.  By this he meant that they should not try to save his life nor do him any unnecessary favors. His own words are: “Put no obstacles in the way.  Do not wish me to be stillborn.  Do not delude me with the things of earth.  Leave me to imitate the passion of my God!”

I ask of you the same as Ignatius asked of the Romans.  Please do not interfere with my suffering.  Do not do me unnecessary favors.  Do not tempt me with ma! terial things. While your comfort and love are manifestations that are holy and beautiful, you must control your inclinations.  In making this comparison with the great Ignatius, I can never compare my self to ! his holy person.  While Ignatius could cast off all material temptations I know that I will need some leeway.  Therefore I would find some fruits and inexpensive fish acceptable.

 

5.       Conclusion

In Ecclesiastes it is said: “There is a time to speak and a time to remain quiet.”

I make this reference because I believe it was time for me to speak up.  What an opportunity!  It took ten months of hermit-like isolation waiting for this opportunity to address you.  It is a golden opportunity that may not come again.  A good speech should never be too long and it is now time for me to stop.  Before I do so, I want to conclude with my expression of gratitude.  To all the bishops, priests, religious men and women and all my brothers and sisters, I thank you for your kind words o! f congratulations and for all your spiritual and material gifts.  To all of the guests who came today with love, in spite of no announcement for this celebration, I pray for you always.  I will pray until the day I die!  It is my character to pray quietly, not in public, but behind the scenes.  Please trust that all of you are included in and benefiting from my prayer.

 

+ Paul Tchang Ryeol Kim
Bishop of Jeju Diocese
South Korea

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