Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gospel Reflection

November 15, 2012
Thursday – Weekday – Year of Faith
by Rev. Fr. Agapito "Aga" Tarog (Immaculate Conception Parish, Las Pinas)
Lunch Mass at Megamall, Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord

Reading 1 Phln 7-20

Beloved: I have experienced much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the holy ones have been refreshed by you, brother. Therefore, although I have the full right in Christ to order you to do what is proper, I rather urge you out of love, being as I am, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus. I urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment, who was once useless to you but is now useful to both you and me. I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I should have liked to retain him for myself, so that he might serve me on your behalf in my imprisonment for the Gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary. Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me. And if he has done you any injustice or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, write this in my own hand: I will pay. May I not tell you that you owe me your very self. Yes, brother, may I profit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 146:7, 8-9a, 9bc-10

R. (5a) Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
R. Alleluia.
The LORD secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
R. Alleluia.
The LORD gives sight to the blind.
The LORD raises up those who were bowed down;
the LORD loves the just.
The LORD protects strangers.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
R. Alleluia.
The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations. Alleluia.
R. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob.
R. Alleluia.

Gospel Lk 17:20-25

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, "The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, 'Look, here it is,' or, 'There it is.' For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you."

Then he said to his disciples, "The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. There will be those who will say to you, 'Look, there he is,' or 'Look, here he is.' Do not go off, do not run in pursuit. For just as lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation."


Let us zero in our reflection on the discourse on the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God, first and foremost, is not an external kingdom. 'Yon ang unang sinasabi ni Hesus. It is not defined by territory, it is not defined by institution, it is not something which is purely institutional. Kaya nga sabi ni Hesus, "It cannot be observed." No one will announce "look, here it is" or "there it is". It is not external.

But what is the Kingdom? Jesus said, "The Kingdom of God is among you." Zero in on that phrase "the Kingdom of God is among you". What does it mean if something or someone is among you? It simply says that if the Kingdom is among us, it is already present and active. Now, question. What is that, which is already present and active? Balikan natin 'yong text. Jesus does not define it directly, but the subsequent verses focus now on the discourse on the days of the Son of Man. Therefore, based on that textual criticism of God, what is the Kingdom of God being equated with? The answer to that is: The Kingdom of God is equated with no less than Jesus Christ himself. Why? Let us go back to the prologue of the Gospel of John. In his prologue, Chapter 1, John says, "In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God.....And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." See the connection? The Kingdom of God is among you, and the prologue of John will define that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Now it is easy to understand the phrase "dwelling among the people" during Jesus' time, because during His time, 2,000 or so years ago, during the earthly ministry of Jesus, malinaw na nandoon siya, physically present. Gumagalaw siya at nagmiministeryo among the Jewish people and even the Gentiles during that time. But if the Kingdom of God is among us, among the people, how will this passage be understood now? There must be a reality of this verse now. Ano 'yon? After all, Jesus has ascended to the heavens, and sits at the right hand of the Father. How can He still be among us, still present and active right now?

Balikan natin 'yong the great commissioning towards the end of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus told Matthew, paakyat na Siya noon, "Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." And in Chapter 28, He will say this, "And know that I am with you always until the end of the world." Let us pause for a moment. Aakyat na si Hesus pabalik sa Ama, and yet He makes a statement that "I am with you." Not "I will be" but "I am", in the first person. It is a statement of actuality. Pero aakyat Siya. Meaning, He will continue to be present here, and active even now, today, November 15, 2012, active Siya. But in what way? What will be the manner of his presence and activity?

To reflect on that, let me go back a few chapters before. You will see the teaching of Jesus Himself in Chapter 18, verse 20 of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus says, "For where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in their midst." What is the equivalent of "in their midst"? The equivalent of that phrase is "among them". Kung sino man ang dalawa o tatlo o higit pa na nagtitipon sa Kanyang Pangalan, nandoon Siya, in their midst, or among them. Let us pause for a moment again, kasi medyo challenging na ito. Challenging na ito. Since the Kingdom of God is not an external thing which cannot be observed, which is challenging, who can discern the presence of this Kingdom? 'Yon ang tanong. One thing is certain - the Kingdom is present and active. But it cannot be observed. So if it cannot be observed, it can be nevertheless discerned.

But the question is, there will be those who will be able to discern the Kingdom, but there will also be those who will not be able to discern the Kingdom. Let us go first to those who will not be able to discern the Kingdom. Sino ang hindi makadi-discern ng presence and activity of Jesus Christ? Ituloy lang natin itong Gospel of Luke Chapter 17, from verse 26 onwards which speaks about Jesus' teaching regarding the event of the deluge. Jesus says, " People were eating and drinking, marrying wives and husbands, up to the very day Noah entered the ark." Meaning that, naroon na ang indicators, binalaan na ang tao, hindi pa rin nila pinansin. Why? Because they were more pre-occupied with so many things, other than the Word of God. They were too pre-occupied with secular things that they have no room anymore for the Word of God. And therefore those will be the people who will not be able to discern the Kingdom of God.

Last but not the least, sino ang mga taong makadi-discern nito? Let us not forget that we are reading the Gospel of Luke. And the Gospel of Luke technically is the Gospel of the 'anawim'. And what is the 'anawim'? The 'anawim' are people who have nothing or no one else to turn to, except God. These are the 'anawim'. And one of the primary 'anawim' characters in the Bible, in the Gospel of Luke, is Simeon. Who is Simeon? In Chapter 2, verse 25 in the Gospel of Luke, Simeon is described as the "one who is waiting for the One who would comfort Israel." Therefore, Simeon, as an 'anawim', is someone whose attention is so focused on the coming of the Messiah, whose attitude and disposition is that of anticipation for the coming of the Messiah. His whole life was spent in waiting for the Messiah. Kung kaya't sinabihan siya, "You will not die, until you behold the Messiah." Kaya nga nang makita niya ang sanggol, that was His prophecy that follows. "Now, let Your servant go in peace. My eyes have beheld the salvation of Your people."

So mga kapatid sa pananampalataya, the Kingdom of God is here, present and active. Jesus is here, present and active, in the midst of His people gathered in His name. He continues to be here until the end of the world. But only those who are disposed in anticipation of the Kingdom, who are focused on that Kingdom, will, alone, be the ones to discern the presence and activity of the Kingdom. If we are too focused on secular things, and have no room for the Word of God, then the Kingdom might overtake us. Just as Jesus said in today's Gospel, "The coming of the Son of Man will be very swift like the lightning that flashes from one end to the other." Ganoon lang kabilis 'yon. If we are not discerning, hindi natin makikita, hindi natin mapapansin 'yong pagdating ng Kaharian ng Diyos.

No wonder, those who would want to take pictures of lightning, must open their cameras on prolonged exposure. Hindi ho ba? They must spend reels and reels of film to capture just one flash of lightning. Bakit? Sapagkat ganoong kabilis eh. Kung kaya't kinakailangang matagal na exposed 'yong kanilang camera to catch at least a small flash of lightning. The Christian disposition is to be compared to that camera, which always makes that openness, to capture the flash of the lightning.

Hilingin po natin mga kapatid sa Espiritu Santo na hindi tayo ma-overtake-an ng Kaharian ng Diyos. But rather, may we be caught up in this Kingdom instead.