Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gospel Reflection

August 22, 2012
The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Memorial)
by Msgr. Bong Lo

Reading 1, Ezekiel 34:1-11

1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows,2 'Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them, "Shepherds, the Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Are not shepherds meant to feed a flock? 3 Yet you have fed on milk, you have dressed yourselves in wool, you have sacrificed the fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock. 4 You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the injured ones. You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost. On the contrary, you have ruled them cruelly and harshly. 5 For lack of a shepherd they have been scattered, to become the prey of all the wild animals; they have been scattered. 6 My flock is astray on every mountain and on every high hill; my flock has been scattered all over the world; no one bothers about them and no one looks for them. 7 "Very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: 8 As I live, I swear it -- declares the Lord Yahweh -- since my flock has been pillaged and for lack of a shepherd is now the prey of every wild animal, since my shepherds have ceased to bother about my flock, since my shepherds feed themselves rather than my flock, 9 very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: 10 The Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I am against the shepherds. I shall take my flock out of their charge and henceforth not allow them to feed my flock. And the shepherds will stop feeding themselves, because I shall rescue my sheep from their mouths to stop them from being food for them. 11 "For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.

Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6

1 Yahweh my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2 In grassy meadows he lets me lie. By tranquil streams he leads me 3 to restore my spirit. He guides me in paths of saving justice befits his name.4 Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death I should fear no danger, for you are at my side. Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me. 5 You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup brims over. 6 Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life. I make my home in the house of Yahweh all time come.

Gospel, Matthew 20:1-16

1 'Now the kingdom of Heaven is like a landowner going out at daybreak to hire workers for his vineyard. 2 He made an agreement with the workers for one denarius a day and sent them to his vineyard. 3 Going out at about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the market place 4 and said to them, "You go to my vineyard too and I will give you a fair wage." 5 So they went. At about the sixth hour and again at about the ninth hour, he went out and did the same. 6 Then at about the eleventh hour he went out and found more men standing around, and he said to them, "Why have you been standing here idle all day?" 7 "Because no one has hired us," they answered. He said to them, "You go into my vineyard too." 8 In the evening, the owner of the vineyard said to his bailiff, "Call the workers and pay them their wages, starting with the last arrivals and ending with the first." 9 So those who were hired at about the eleventh hour came forward and received one denarius each. 10 When the first came, they expected to get more, but they too received one denarius each. 11 They took it, but grumbled at the landowner saying, 12 "The men who came last have done only one hour, and you have treated them the same as us, though we have done a heavy day's work in all the heat." 13 He answered one of them and said, "My friend, I am not being unjust to you; did we not agree on one denarius? 14 Take your earnings and go. I choose to pay the last comer as much as I pay you. 15 Have I no right to do what I like with my own? Why should you be envious because I am generous?" 16 Thus the last will be first, and the first, last.'


Is God good in mathematics? In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus spoke about the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep so He can look for the 1 lost sheep. Imagine leaving the 99 in search of 1? When Jesus spoke about forgiveness, He said we should forgive, not only 7 times, but 70 times 7 times (when Jesus was actually saying we should forgive, always and forever). And at the Gospel today, he spoke about the owner of the vineyard who gave the same, exact wage to his workers, whether they worked in the morning, or worked in the late afternoon. By these examples, God seems to be not good in mathematics.

But then again, God does not think the way we think. Our God is more than a God of math. Our God is a God of love, of charity, of compassion. In today's Gospel, God knows that the workers needed the same wage for their family, whether they worked in the morning or late in the afternoon. He wanted to help the workers, and paid them according to the wage that was agreed upon. God is full of mercy and is a very generous God. Of course, we may feel uneasy or uncomfortable after reading the Gospel, but our thinking is not the thinking of God. We may think that God was unfair, but He was actually not. He was being very generous. That is why the "last will be first, and the first will be last".

We should not ask God to be fair and just, the way we understand the concept of "fairness and justice". If we asked Him to be just, in the manner that we understand it, then no one can be saved. No one can attain fullness of life. No one can enter the Kingdom of heaven. Like God, let us go beyond justice, and be merciful. We may be good in mathematics, yes, but let us not be calculating. God, as a good Shepherd, has better mathematics. 

Monsignor Bong Lo then related the Gospel to the Memorial of the Queenship of Mama Mary, which we also celebrated today. He said that we should understand God's Kingdom, not according to how we understand it. Kasi ang concept natin ng kingdom ay may hari na namumuno sa lahat at nasusunod sa lahat, at mayroon siyang reyna. God's Kingdom is totally different. To be in God's Kingdom, we should not be a slave of sin, not a slave of selfishness, not a slave of bad habits, but be free citizens in the reign of God, which is a reign of truth, of charity, of compassion, of forgiveness. 
As we honor the Memorial of the Queenship of Mary, let us remember that our Blessed Mother was faithful to God. She trusted God and allowed God to reign over her. That is why she is also a Queen of goodness and of compassion. Let us allow God's Kingdom to reign over us, and be instruments of love, of truth, of peace, of generosity, that we may share with God's glory, and one day become princes and princesses in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Gospel Reading for The Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Memorial)

First Reading:               Isaiah 9:1-6
Psalm:                         Psalm 113:1-8
Gospel:                        Luke 1:26-38    

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!" 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end." 34 And Mary said to the angel, "How shall this be, since I have no husband?" 35 And the angel said to her, "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. 36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible." 38 And Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.