My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Today, we are sad for Bishop Cirilo Flores’ passing. We are going to miss him a lot. His smile, his peaceful way.
But we are happy for him, too. Because he has reached his goal! The goal that we are all striving for. The goal of Heaven, eternal life.
The first Christians said life was like a “race” that we are all running. And the “prize” for the race is Heaven. The love that never ends.2 A life for all eternity in our Father’s house.
He ran the race set before him with perseverance. He kept the faith.3 Now he is receiving his prize. Now he knows the truth of those beautiful words that we just heard from the Prophet Isaiah.
For him, the veil has been lifted, the tears have all been wiped away, and death has been destroyed!
So thanks be to God for his mercy! For the love he has shown us in Jesus Christ and his rising from the dead.
We thank God today for the life of our brother and friend, Bishop Cirilo. What a beautiful example he was for all of us.
He showed us how to be a priest, how to be a bishop — and how to be a Christian.
He was a man of the Beatitudes, which we just heard in our Gospel passage. He tried to live with humility, simplicity and purity of heart. He tried to be a merciful man with a heart for the poor and vulnerable.
I had the blessing to spend the last month of his life with him.
And I can say that his main concern was always the people of San Diego and his family. In those final days, that’s what we talked about — and even his final hours.
In my last conversation with him, that was his first question: “How is everyone doing in San Diego?” Then, I told him that his brother, sister and family were coming to be with him and he was very happy.
He had deep affection for you, my brothers and sisters. He loved you like a father and like a brother.
That’s why before his illness, he accepted every invitation to be with you — to celebrate the Eucharist and Confirmations, to pray and spend time in your parishes and with your children and families. As your bishop, he wanted to walk with you, to share your joys and struggles, and to bring you the hope of Christ.
He understood that in God’s plan, the Bishop is ordained to make present the image of Jesus Christ. He wanted Jesus Christ to always be present to his people. So he went out to be with you, as often as he could.
My brother priests, deacons and seminarians — Bishop Cirilo had a special care for you. We talked about you too in his last days.
You were like sons and brothers to him. He wanted you to know that he would stay close to you in your ministry and he was so grateful for your friendship and support. Know that he is praying for you now.
In the second reading that we heard today, St. Paul says that because Jesus has risen from the dead, we can all walk in the newness of life.
That’s a beautiful expression: the newness of life. And I think that’s what Bishop Cirilo was trying to show us in these days of his illness and death.
He was teaching us — even to the end. Even in his suffering, even in his dying — he was showing us how to live in newness of life.
I think he was surprised by his illness but he took it well. His first trial came when he had the stroke during Holy Week and then, just recently when he learned that he had cancer.
He was at peace when he learned that the cancer was terminal and could not be treated. He put himself in the hands of God.
What a beautiful way to live and to die!
My brothers and sisters, I wanted to share with you that for me — and I hope for all of us — Bishop Cirilo’s life is a call to a deeper conversion.
For me, spending this last month with him taught me to want to center my life more on loving God and loving others. Giving importance to our prayer life and finding ways to make life better for others.
The question for us, always, is how are we going to do it?
And the answer is not about having power or even about what our legacy is going to be. It’s about running the race with faith. It’s about loving with all our heart — especially, those entrusted to our care and those we meet along this journey of life.
It’s about bringing the joy of Jesus to others. Getting to heaven and helping people to be with God — now and forever.
So today we say to our brother, those words that we heard Jesus say in the Gospel:
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven!
We entrust Bishop Cirilo to the welcoming arms of our Blessed Mother Mary. And we ask her to pray for all of us, that we might have the grace to follow his example and to always walk in the newness of life!
1. Readings: Isa. 25:6a, 7-9; Rom. 6:3-9; Matt. 5:1-12a.
2. 1 Cor. 13:8; Catechism, 25.
3. Heb. 12:1; 2 Tim. 4:7.