Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gospel Reflection

December 08, 2012
Saturday – Advent – Year of Faith
Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by  Rev. Fr. Rufino Jun Sescon (Chaplain, Sto. Niño de Paz Greenbelt Chapel)
10:00 AM Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt, Makati

Reading 1 Gn 3:9-15, 20

After the man, Adam, had eaten of the tree, the LORD God called to the man and asked him, "Where are you?" He answered, "I heard you in the garden; but I was afraid, because I was naked, so I hid myself." Then he asked, "Who told you that you were naked? You have eaten, then, from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat!" The man replied, "The woman whom you put here with me-- she gave me fruit from the tree, and so I ate it." The LORD God then asked the woman, "Why did you do such a thing?" The woman answered, "The serpent tricked me into it, so I ate it."

Then the LORD God said to the serpent: "Because you have done this, you shall be banned from all the animals and from all the wild creatures; on your belly shall you crawl, and dirt shall you eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike at your head, while you strike at his heel."

The man called his wife Eve,because she became the mother of all the living.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

R. (1) Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.

Reading 2 Eph 1:3-6, 11-12

Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.

In him we were also chosen, destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory, we who first hoped in Christ.

Gospel Lk 1:26-38

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her.


Once again, good morning po sa inyong lahat.

We have different reactions when it comes to the coming of a baby. In Rome, there is a joke. The place of the Holy Father is called San Damaso, the apostolic palace, and if you will be given a chance to have a private audience with the Father, they say that you go by the San Damaso gate. There is a joke that one day, they found a baby at the doorsteps of San Damaso and that was big news. So there was a serious meeting by the Pope, cardinals and bishops to determine where did the baby come from. And the cardinals and bishops said that it is impossible that the baby must have come from the Papal apartments, because there are no couples in the apartments. But then, as I said it is a joke.

Yes, we have different reactions. Just a few days ago, the whole world was in a frenzy over the news that William and Kate will now have a child. There were even interviews with the Prime Ministers of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other big shots, wishing the royal couple well for their new child. And they say that the bookies started betting first if Kate was pregnant or not. And now that it is confirmed, they are betting whether it will be a boy or a girl. And once it is determined, the next bet would be, what would be the name of the baby.

But I was just wondering. Yes, the whole world is excited. But then, what an irony. If, in the news, the Duchess is pregnant and everybody is excited and happy, in our country, the mood is different. If in that part of the world, they are waiting for the coming of a baby, here, our legislators hope that there will be not too much babies around. They believe that we will be a happier nation if there are less babies, less pregnancies. Talk about discrimination or selective preference. When it comes to royalty or celebrities, we welcome the news of pregnancy. We anticipate birth. But when it comes to the poor, the little ones of society, we hope their tribe will not increase anymore. How ironic. Sa bansa natin, pag mahirap ka, sorry ka na lang. Kung pwede lang na huwag ka nang mag-anak, mas maganda. It is sad because it shows also where our values are going.

Population control pre-occupies the minds of our public servants, who, at this point, should instead be minding the suffering of our brethren in Mindanao. Yesterday, I was listening to the news. One radio commentator said that as an act of solidarity, our distinguished members of the House of Representatives decided to donate Php5,000 each to the victims of typhoon Pablo. And the commentator said, baka nakakahiya naman o mabigat sa kanilang bulsa na magbigay ng Php5,000 para sa ating mga nasalantang kababayan. Baka ipusta pa nila 'yon kay Pacquiao. By the way, beginning today, Greenbelt Chapel will accept donations for Pablo victims also.

And so it is fitting that today, the Church remembers the gift of life. The Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Yes, the Immaculate Conception - when Mary was conceived in the womb of St. Anne, sinless, free from the stain of original sin.

If you ask me, "Father, when did the Immaculate Conception take place? At the moment of fertilization or implantation?" Please do not ask me that. That question is only asked in Congress.

It is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. At that moment, Mary was there in the womb. At that moment, that being, human being was formed inside the body of a person. Life begins.

Kaya nakakalungkot na hanggang ngayon kasama 'yan sa debate. Implantation or fertilization? Siguro sasabihin sa atin ni Mama Mary, you are making life too complicated.

Today, my brothers and sisters, I invite you to reflect on the word the 'Immaculate Conception'. Mary is the Immaculate Conception. I believe that this is the favorite name of Mary. For us, the Immaculate Conception is like a description of Mary. She was conceived without original sin. But I believe Mary used that as her name. You see in Lourdes, when the Lady appeared to St. Bernadette, she went to the parish priest. The parish priest was skeptical. (We priests are trained to be cynics and skeptics.) And so the priest said, "I don't believe. But just in case that Lady appears to you again, ask her, 'What is your name?'." After a few days, the Lady appeared again to Bernadette at the grotto and Bernadette asked her, "What is your name?" And the Lady in white said, "I am the Immaculate Conception". If you will be given the grace to go to Lourdes, you will see there inscribed in the grotto: "I am the Immaculate Conception." That is the only time Mary gave her name - the Immaculate Conception.

And I was asking myself, why did Mary say that? That is not her proper name. Up to last night, I was reflecting in prayer, why did our Blessed Mother not say, "I am Mary"? In Hebrew, Mary is Miriam. Why did our Lady not say, "I am Miriam"? I have a guess, why she did not say "I am Miriam". Perhaps she would know later on what Miriam would point to, ano? (laughs)

But seriously, why again the Immaculate Conception? Perhaps (I would say this is dogmatic), if ever she says "I am Mary", it simply says, "I am the fruit of Joachim and Anne. I am the daughter of my parents". But when she said, "I am the Immaculate Conception", our Lady says, "I am the fruit of God. I am a child, a daughter of the Father". Why? Because she can only be immaculately conceived by the power of God. She did not work for it, she did not earn it, she did not deserve it. It was sheer grace. Yes, the Immaculate Conception took place because of the power of God.

Some of us Catholics say that as the Lady of the Immaculate Conception, she is even like God. No. When we say she is the Immaculate Conception, we are saying, she is as such, because of God. We still magnify the power of God. The Immaculate Conception is simply not magnifying Mary. The Immaculate Conception still points to God, because it is a grace of God. No wonder, later on, when Mary grew up, in the Gospel we heard, when the Angel greeted her, what was the greeting of the Angel? And we pray that every time we call on Mary. We say, 'Hail Mary', ano po ang kasunod? Full of grace. Yes, Mary is the Immaculate Conception because she is full of grace. Full of God, like a cup overflowing with wine. No wonder she is the Immaculate Conception. She is full of God, that there is no room for sin in her life, even at the moment of her conception, until death.

Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, when Mary says, "I am the Immaculate Conception", she is also, as we say, "I am full of grace. I am full of God's love and favor. I belong to God." Yes, when she says that, she is not boasting of herself. She is not making a personal acclamation. But rather, she is exalting the power and goodness of God. She is proclaiming the greatness of the Lord. Today, brothers and sisters, I also invite you to reflect on those words - 'full of grace'.

Perhaps the Immaculate Conception is difficult to fathom. That is why when Bernadette went back to the priest and told him, "That Lady, she said she is the Immaculate Conception", the priest trembled. The priest grew pale. Why? Because that phrase was still very new. Just four years before that, the Pope defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. And please remember that there was still no Internet at that time. It was impossible for Bernadette to know those words, Immaculate Conception. And Bernadette was even illiterate. And the priest himself was still trying to understand what the Immaculate Conception is, because it was a very new term in the Church. That is why when the priest heard 'Immaculate Conception', he believed it was the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because it is pointing to the fullness of God's grace.

Today, as we look at the Blessed Mother, remember the words 'full of grace'. And let us ask ourselves. Right now, as you are here in this chapel, what are you full of? Now as we speak, what is your mind full of right now? Ano ang pumupuno sa isip ninyo ngayon? Ano ang pumupuno sa puso ninyo ngayon? Ano'ng pumupuno sa tahanan natin ngayon? What is your life full of, right now?

Baka naman 'yong bahay n'yo, punung-puno nga ng appliances, pero walang wala namang pag-ibig. Baka naman punung-puno na ng katahimikan kasi hindi na nag-uusap 'yong mga tao sa bahay. Baka 'yong isip ninyo ngayon, punung-puno ng pagkaka-abalahan. 'Ay Pasko na naman, ano kaya ang mga bibilhin ko, ano kaya ang mga ireregalo ko? Ano kaya ang matatanggap ko?" O ang puso natin, baka punong-puno ng galit, magpa-Pasko na. Baka punong-puno ng inggit. Punong-puno ng kawalan ng pagpapatawad.

Today, as we look at Mary, we pray, "Lord, kung mapupuno man ang puso ko, kung mapupuno man ang isip ko, kung mapupuno man ang tahanan ko, kung mapupuno man ang pamilya ko, mapuno nawa ito ng biyaya ng Diyos." We may not be able to imitate the Immaculate Conception, but me may still be filled with grace.

And so as we continue with this mass, we ask the intercession of our Blessed Mother. Blessed Mary, the Immaculate Conception, full of grace, we come at your feet. We are your children. Open our hearts so that we may be ready for your grace. Allow us to own your prayer. Your favorite prayer. "Let it be done to me according to Your will." Yes, Blessed Mother, that is your secret. By being open to the will of God, you are filled with grace. Today, Blessed Mother, open our hearts so that we, too, may be full of grace. Amen.

Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception – Pray for us

You may also want to see: A Holy Life - The Immaculate Conception

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