Sunday, November 4, 2012

Gospel Reflection

November 04, 2012
Anticipated Sunday Mass - Year of Faith
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
by  Rev. Fr. Jun Sescon (Chaplain, Sto. Niño de Paz Greenbelt Chapel)
Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt, Makati

Reading 1 Dt 6:2-6

Moses spoke to the people, saying: "Fear the LORD, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life. Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.

"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today."

Responsorial Psalm Ps 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

R. (2) I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD lives! And blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.

Reading 2 Heb 7:23-28

Brothers and sisters: The levitical priests were many because they were prevented by death from remaining in office, but Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them. It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.

Gospel Mk 12:28b-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.' And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself' is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions.


Magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat. Mukhang napagod kayo sa Undas ano. Sana po ay nadalaw ninyo ang inyong mga yumaong mahal sa buhay. Until tomorrow, we are given 4 days for this observance. If you don't want to visit them, they will visit you, ano? (laughs) So make sure we take the initiative.

When we ask for a location or for directions, we Filipinos are not fond of measurements. We are not a scientific people. We are not so good in measurements - North, South, East, West, miles, kilometers, meters. Sorry, but we are not like that. We are a descriptive people. We want just to describe. That's why when you ask directions, they will not tell you so much about the kilometers, but they will tell you landmarks or posts that will help you identify. Sasabihin, "Nakikita mo ba 'yong tindahan sa kanto?"

I remember when I was not a chaplain yet, and I do not know most of the establishments here at Greenbelt, whenever I have to meet someone, my friend will always tell me, "Do you know Greenbelt Chapel?" Then I will say yes. And my friend will say, "Alright, you start from there. Or we meet there." We are descriptive in order to know locations.

I also remember as a child, one of my assignments would be to bring and light candles to the tombs of our relatives whom no one would visit. Of course, we will visit my grandparents, but there are other relatives, who perhaps, their families are so busy, nobody would mind them. And as the youngest, it is my task to go to all those unvisited tombs, and there were many, in the province. And my clue would always be a tree or a post. The last time I went there now as a priest, I brought candles again, I said I will resume my chores, my task. But I got lost in the cemetery because the trees were gone, because the posts have been removed. And now I could not recall where the tombs are because those were my marks. We need that, we need that.

In today's Gospel, I invite you to observe the last statement of Jesus when He talked to the Scribe. He told the Scribe, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." I believe that is one of the nicest things we can ever achieve while we are here on earth. That we are not far from the Kingdom of God. Because that means we are at heaven's breath. That means we are 'on the reach' to the Kingdom of God. Mahirap masabihang malayo ka pa sa Kaharian ng Diyos. Nakakatakot yata 'yon dahil hindi natin alam kung gaano pa tayo tatakbo sa paglalakbay. Pero kung sabihin sa atin ng Panginoon, "Malapit ka na." We will be happy, we will not be restless anymore, because we know we are close to our direction, to our destination. And that is what our Lord said to the Scribe, "Malapit ka na sa Kaharian ng Diyos."

And how can we imitate the Scribe? How can we also get near, closer to the Kingdom of God? This afternoon, I offer you three landmarks or three posts which will help us get near, closer to the Kingdom of God. And we imitate the Scribe.

The first thing that enabled the Scribe to get nearer, closer to the Kingdom of God is - he asked the right question. Mahalaga raw sa buhay you ask the right question. You will never have the right answer, if you have the wrong question, obviously. But sometimes, we do that. We are surprised, "How come I don't get the right answer"? Perhaps you are asking the wrong question. The Scribe, when he approached Jesus, said, "Which is the greatest of all the commandments?" As if the Scribe was saying, "What must I do to really obey you Lord? What must I prioritize, dear Lord?" And that was a right question.

My dear brothers and sisters, if we want to get closer to the Kingdom of God, we must be pre-occupied with the right questions of life. And today we ask ourselves. What are the questions that always haunt our minds? Pagkagising natin sa umaga, ano ba 'yong mga tanong na nasa isip natin? Ano 'yong pinakamaraming beses mong tinatanong sa buhay mo? May mga tao ang laging tanong, "Magkano ba 'yan?", "Mahal ba 'yan?" "Mura ba 'yan?" Lagi na lang sigurong pera ang nasa isip. O kundi naman ay, "How will I get that?" "What is the latest?" 'Yong ibang tao ang tanong nila, "Ano ba ang bago?" "Ano'ng bagong chismis?" Ano'ng bagong gadget?" Ano'ng bagong appliance? Ano'ng uso ngayon?" 

What are the questions we pose? Are we even asking the Lord, "How are you Lord?" "How can I obey You?" "How can I please You?" "How can I get closer to You?" The Scribe was near the Kingdom because he asked the right question.

Magandang, simpleng tanong lang pag umaga, ano ang ating unang hinaharap? 'Yong iba paggising na paggising, hindi ka pa nagtu-toothbrush, hindi ka pag naghihilamos, ang tanong mo, "Sino kaya ang mga nagsend ng message sa akin?" "Ano kaya ang mga message ko ngayon?" Kung minsan, bubuksan pa ang computer "Ano bang status kong ilalagay ngayon?" Sometimes, we are pre-occupied with so many questions, but are we asking the right question?

The second thing that was going right for the Scribe is that, he did not only ask the right question, but he also had the right motive. When he asked the Lord, "Lord, what is the greatest?" Notice that unlike the Pharisees, unlike the Saduccees, he was asking the Lord, not to trap the Lord, not to embarrass the Lord, but he wanted real answers. He was asking the Lord with the right motive. He wanted to learn. He wanted to know. He wanted the best. He had the right motive. And that is why he is closer to the Kingdom of God.

My dear brothers and sisters, the Scribe was sincere. The other enemies of the Lord were fond of questions, but only to test Him, to trap Him. Notice the Scribe said later on, "You are right." The Scribe was open to the Lord. He was asking, not because he knew the answer, but he wanted the answers from the Lord. Brothers and sisters, sometimes we have the right question, but the wrong motive. That's why we never get close to the Kingdom.

Let us also examine ourselves today. When we ask questions, what is our motive? Minsan lalapit ka tatawagan mo 'yong kaibigan mo doon, "Kumare, 'yang si Kumpare mo ang hirap pakisamahan. Paano ko ba siya maiintindihan? Gusto ko nang iwanan siya." Sasabihin naman ng Kumare mo, "Mare, hindi naman siguro. Mainit lang siguro ang ulo." And then you will say, "Isa ka pa, kinakampihan mo 'yang Kumpare mo." So all along, you were not really asking for an answer. You were looking for someone to side with you. It was not the right motive.

Honestly, sometimes when we ask questions, we already have the answers. Kaya nagagalit tayo sa iba, ano. Minsan pag nagtatanong tayo sa iba, hindi naman talaga tayo nagtatanong. Naghahanap lang tayo ng kakampi. Minsan pag sinabing, "Huwag mo nang awayin, magbati na kayo." Sasabihin mo, "Ayoko." Magagalit ka pa doon sa tao, kasi ang gusto mong marinig na sabihin niya sa iyo, "Oo nga, mahirap 'yang taong 'yan. Awayin mo pa." We want reinforcement, we don't want enlightenment, sometimes. And with that wrong motive, we can never get closer to the Kingdom of God.

The Scribe was sincere. And we ask ourselves. When we ask the right question, is it also with the right heart? When I do good things, is it really with the purest of motivation or intention? Kaya nakakatuwa, there is a movement now, even in the social networks, 'yong mga anti-EPAL ano. Kapag tumutulong ba tayo, dahil talaga bang gusto nating tumulong o para sa sarili lang natin? We may be doing the right thing, but with the wrong motive. That is still far from being perfect. And so the second grace we ask the Lord is, Lord, may I have the right motive, as I ask the right question.

And lastly, the good thing with the Scribe is, he could have asked so many people during that time. He could have approached the high priest. He could have approached the most powerful person in the empire. He could have approached the King. He could have approached the General. But he approached Jesus. The Scribe asked the right question, he had the right motive, and lastly, he approached the right person - Jesus. THAT was his saving grace. THAT enabled him to be closer to the Kingdom. Maraming pwedeng lapitan, pero ang nilapitan niya ay si Jesus. He has directed his message to the right person.

I remember there was this joke since hindi pa naman tapos ang Halloween, 'no, 'yong pananakot 'no. There was this guy who went to Australia and it so happened that when he arrived in Australia, it was warm. And so he sent a text message to his wife. And his wife, of course, was here in Manila, waiting for her turn to go to Australia as well. However, in sending the message, the husband, mali siya ng napindot na number. Kaya naipadala niya 'yong isang text, hindi sa asawa niya, kundi aksidente sa isang taong kamamatay lang ng asawa. Kaya't noong nabasa no'ng ale 'yong text, nagulat siya. Galing sa asawa niya, na patay na.

Nakaranas na ho ba kayo nang ganoon? Noong isang araw ho ay naka-receive ako ng text. Hindi ho kasi ako nagde-delete sa directory ko. Laking takot ko noong nakita ko ang pangalan ng paring patay na. 'Yon pala 'yong Nanay niya ang nagte-text sa akin. Ninerbiyos ako.

So ganoon din ang nangyari doon sa ale, ninerbiyos siya noong nakita niya na parang number ng asawa niya, ninerbiyos siya noong nakita niya ang message. Nakalagay doon, "I am now here down under. It's very warm here." (laughs) And then another text was sent. "Expecting you here next week." (more laughs) Lalo siyang natakot. When you send the message to the wrong person, things can be very fearful. Things can get tragic.

The Scribe approached the right person, Jesus Christ. How about us? Are we approaching the right person as we search for life?

I remember one time, my brother who is a doctor, called me up and said, "You know Jun?" Youngest po ako, bunso, kaya hindi po Father ang tawag sa akin, ano? "You know Jun, you should be careful as a priest, with what you are saying." And I asked him, "Why?" And my brother, who is involved with so many advocacies, one of them is against AIDS, said, "We had a survey, and people listen more to priests than to doctors. So be careful with your advices. They are not going to the right person. They should go to the doctors, not to the priests." 

Sometimes, we also tend to go to the wrong persons. Minsan, saan tayo pumupunta, sa manghuhula. Ano ba ang horoscope ko ngayon, ano ba ang prediction ngayon? Sometimes, we get it all wrong because we approach the wrong person. We must learn to approach the right person. Are we approaching the Lord, or are we just approaching money? Approaching power? Approaching the world? The Scribe got it all right, because he did search, and he went to Jesus. And that is why in the end, he was told, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God. 

As we continue this mass, dear brothers and sisters, we pray. Lord, in our journey here on earth, we want to reach our destination. We want to get closer to Your Kingdom. And so Lord, teach us the right questions. Grant us the right motives. And bring us to the right person - to You, O Lord. So that our journey may not be in vain. Our journey may never be empty. Our journey may lead us to Your plan, to Your grace, and to Your blessings. These three graces, Lord, we pray. The right questions, the right motives, the right person. Amen. 

We also celebrate the Memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo today.

Saint Charles Borromeo – Pray for us

You may also want to see: A Holy Life - St. Charles Borromeo

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