Sunday, September 30, 2012

Gospel Reflection

September 30, 2012
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
by  Rev. Fr. Jun Sescon (Chaplain, Sto. Niño de Paz Greenbelt Chapel)
Mass at Sto. Niño de Paz Greenbelt Chapel

Reading 1 Nm 11:25-29

The LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to Moses. Taking some of the spirit that was on Moses, the LORD bestowed it on the seventy elders; and as the spirit came to rest on them, they prophesied.

Now two men, one named Eldad and the other Medad, were not in the gathering but had been left in the camp. They too had been on the list, but had not gone out to the tent; yet the spirit came to rest on them also, and they prophesied in the camp. So, when a young man quickly told Moses, "Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp, " Joshua, son of Nun, who from his youth had been Moses?aide, said, "Moses, my lord, stop them." But Moses answered him, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the LORD were prophets! Would that the LORD might bestow his spirit on them all!"

Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:8, 10, 12-13, 14

R. (9a) The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
the decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
the ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
Though your servant is careful of them,
very diligent in keeping them,
Yet who can detect failings?
Cleanse me from my unknown faults!
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.
From wanton sin especially, restrain your servant;
let it not rule over me.
Then shall I be blameless and innocent
of serious sin.
R. The precepts of the Lord give joy to the heart.

Reading 2 Jas 5:1-6

Come now, you rich, weep and wail over your impending miseries. Your wealth has rotted away, your clothes have become moth-eaten, your gold and silver have corroded, and that corrosion will be a testimony against you; it will devour your flesh like a fire. You have stored up treasure for the last days. Behold, the wages you withheld from the workers who harvested your fields are crying aloud; and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure;
you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter. You have condemned; you have murdered the righteous one; he offers you no resistance.

Gospel Mk 9:38-43, 45, 47-48

At that time, John said to Jesus, "Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us." Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us. Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ,  amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.

"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut if off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where 'their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.'"


If you happen to go to Rome, you can visit the catacombs, that is the place where the early Christian martyrs assembled or gathered when they were under persecution. And during the time of persecution, they used symbols and codes, so they won't be identified as Christians. That is why you will see in Churches, in stained glasses and paintings, for example, the symbol of the fish. The fish was the symbol of Christ. The Greek word for fish is "ichthus", which is an abbreviation of Jesus Christ, Savior of the World. You will also see the symbol of an anchor, which is a symbol of hope. In times of storms and challenges, hope is our anchor in life. Hope prevents us from drifting away, when we experience so many problems.
The Cross only came much later. The first symbol of Christ was the Good Shepherd; that was the most ancient symbol of Christ - a boy carrying his sheep. And you will also see in the catacombs a drawing of a boat. The boat symbolizes the Church, because even in the Gospels, if you remember, several times, Jesus rode on the boat with the Apostles. The boat symbolizes the journey of the Church; we journey together in the midst of storms and challenges, in one boat.

A spiritual writer asked, "What kind of boat is the Church now for us? Through the ages, this notion of boat has changed, that according to the spiritual writer, "the boat has become a cruise ship". How do you select a cruise ship? What are your criteria? Does the cruise ship have the best music and the best performers? Sometimes, we like the choir to be at their "performance level", when they sing at the Church. In a cruise ship, sometimes, people ask - is the captain nice? I will take the cruise if I like the captain and the crew. In the Church, sometimes we ask - is the priest nice? Is he always smiling? Baka matanda na, ayoko diyan. Gusto ko 'yong Church na walang Homily - mabilis lang ang misa. That is my favorite church. Is the service good? Are my needs met promptly? Am I comfortable? Minsan sa simbahan, ang gusto natin, 'yong komportable tayo. Gusto ko may aircon. Kaya maraming nagtatanong sa akin, "Father, kailan ba magkaka-aircon ang Greenbelt Chapel? Buti pa ang Don Bosco, ang Forbes Park, ang Sacred Heart may aircon na". Are we going to church so that we can be comfortable? Has the Church become a cruise ship?

Brothers and sisters, the Lord would like to remind us today about the humble origins of the Church. But apart from being a cruise ship, another analogy I can think of is that the Church can be described as a "club house". What is the characteristic of a club house? There is exclusive membership - bawal ang tagalabas - tayo tayo lang, pare-pareho ang status. Bawal ang hindi kayang magbayad ng membership fee. And you know, that has become a temptation in the Church - that we have exclusivity - that we cater only to one another, that we make ourselves very comfortable and we resist people who are different from us.

That is the essence of the First Reading and the Gospel today. We were told that Moses was calling the seventy elders, but there were two who were seemingly different and Joshua was complaining, "Why do we have to include those two? They are not one of us". In the Gospel, John told Jesus - Lord, may mga tao doon, nagpapagaling sa pangalan Mo, pero hindi naman sumasama sa prayer meeting natin 'yon. Itiwalag natin, pagbawalan nyo sila, stop them. Jesus said, "No. They may be different in some aspects, but we are still together. We are still the same in doing good".

Today, brothers and sisters, the first grace to pray is tolerance. The world today needs to be tolerant, because we are becoming more and more exclusive. And when there is too much exclusivity, it restricts our world. The Lord tells us now to learn to be tolerant, especially when others are doing good, too - they are not really against us, they are also one with us.

However, towards the end of the Gospel, Jesus changes gears. In the second part of the Gospel, we have a Jesus who is serious and strict. "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. If your eyes cause you to sin, pluck it out. If your feet causes you to sin, cut it off." What do we learn from that? Jesus is telling us, when it comes to good things, we should be understanding. Be tolerant; learn to negotiate. But when it comes to sin, when it comes to evil - this is non-negotiable. We must not be tolerant; we must be firm.

Brothers and sisters, if the first grace is - in good things, we should be tolerant, the second grace to ask is - in bad things, may we be firm. Pero minsan, baligtad po ang nangyayari mga kapatid. Nagiging palaban tayo doon sa mabubuti. Minsan kung sino pa ang gumagawa nang tama, sila pa 'yong pinag-iinitan natin, sila pa 'yong inaaway, iniintriga, inaapi. Siya ang pinatatahimik. This world sometimes cannot tolerate those who are good. And the sad thing is - we tolerate those who are wrong. Kung sino naman 'yong mali, 'yon ang tahimik lang tayo - sige na lang, ok lang, pwede na siguro. Siguro sinasabi ni Jesus, teka teka....baligtad yata.

Next week, Pope Benedict the XVI will open the Year of Faith. Let us examine our faith. Let the next year be a moment to review and renew our commitment. As Jesus said, in good things, we can be together - in justice, peace, in helping the country. Di kailangang mag-away away. Ang dapat nating awayin ay ang tunay na masama. But you know, sometimes, we are engaged in the wrong battle. Kasi minsan 'yong kinaiinisan nyo, hindi naman 'yon ang dapat awayin eh. Minsan, naiingit lang tayo, we feel inferior. Even in the Church, there is division among priests, among congregations. That is why at the end of the day, we feel so empty. So much time is wasted because we engage in the wrong battles of life. That is not the real battle that we are called to engage in. The true battle that Jesus wants us to engage in, is the battle against evil - the battle against sin.

As we continue this mass, brothers and sisters, as we cherish the gift of faith, as we move on in our journey of life, right here in this boat, with Jesus as our Captain, we pray. Lord, thank you for the gift of faith. Thank you for making us Catholics, making us Christians, making us brothers and sisters in the Lord. Remind us Lord that this gift of faith is not an exclusive right. Spare us from being judgmental. Spare us from being narrow-minded, spare us from discrimination. Allow us to discern the good that we are called to do. That we are all united when it comes to goodness, when it comes to truth, when it comes to righteousness. And Lord, when the time comes that we have to face evil, Lord, may we be firm. May we be filled with conviction. May our faith be seen in our decisions. Lord, in good things, teach us to be tolerant. Lord; in sin, teach us to be firm and courageous, Amen.