Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gospel Reflection

November 18, 2012
Sunday – Year of Faith
Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time
by  Rev. Fr. Jun Sescon (Chaplain, Sto. Niño de Paz Greenbelt Chapel)
Sunday Anticipated Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt, Makati

Reading 1 Dn 12:1-3

In those days, I Daniel, heard this word of the Lord: "At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time. At that time your people shall escape, everyone who is found written in the book. "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some shall live forever, others shall be an everlasting horror and disgrace. "But the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever."

Responsorial Psalm Ps 16:5, 8, 9-10, 11

R. (1) You are my inheritance, O Lord!
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord!
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence;
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord!
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord!

Reading 2 Heb 10:11-14, 18

Brothers and sisters: Every priest stands daily at his ministry, offering frequently those same sacrifices that can never take away sins. But this one offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin.

GOSPEL Mk 13:24-32

Jesus said to his disciples: "In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. "And then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.

"Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

"But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."


As a young priest, I took it upon myself, especially during Christmas and Valentine's Day, to make an apostolate to all the retired, sick priests. I always say that my date during Valentine's Day are the retired and sick priests. Especially for us, Diocesan priests - unlike the Religious, they have their communities, their schools, their institutions - we Diocesan priests, when we retire, we are on our own. And because some of the priests do not have family, they are really just by themselves, and that is why I tell myself that since I am still strong, I will do my very best to just cheer them up. After all, they shared the best years of their life for the church.

In November, we remember the dead. And I remember my spiritual director who died at the age of 95. He is a Belgian priest. He lived here in the Philippines for almost 60 years, and did not return anymore to his homeland. And he was a very brilliant theologian, a very intelligent person. But towards the end of his life, he suffered from Alzheimer's disease. And every time I visit him, I notice that his memory deteriorated, and it came to a point that he did not know even his name anymore. If I ask him what is his name, he will just smile at me. Where are you from? Who is your father? He will just smile at me. And it pains, seeing a very brilliant person who can explain theological formulas before, but now he does not even remember his name. 

And before we end our visit, together with other young priests, I will always pray over this priest. It has been our practice to end the prayer with a song. We sang the Salve Regina, the Hail Holy Queen in Latin (I am sure the older ones would know the song Salve Regina), and the Pater Noster, the Our Father in Latin. And to our surprise, this old priest who cannot remember anything, suddenly joined us in singing. And he sang perfectly, with accuracy. So I asked, how come Father forgot almost everything in life, even his name and birthday, but when we sang the Salve Regina, he remembered everything? That song, that prayer. When he sang the Paster Noster, he sang with much gusto. And every time we visit, we will sing those songs. And that would enable him to re-connect with his life.

Sabi ko, ang galing ano. 'Yon ang mga huling salitang natatandaan pa niya. Wala na siyang ibang salitang masabi pa, wala na siyang maalala. That is why I was asking my fellow young priests. "Pag tumanda kaya tayo, ano kaya 'yong maaalala pa natin?" Ano kaya ang muli't muling matitira sa ala-ala natin?"

I remember two other persons that Cardinal Tagle was sharing in one of his reflections. He shared that there was one of this spinsters in Tagaytay who suffered a stroke and she was very old already. It came to a point na kahit ano ang sabihin sa kanya, isa lang ang sagot niya. At ano ho ang sagot niya? "Maganda." "Kamusta na po kayo?" "Maganda." After the stroke, that was the only word she could utter. And there was the great Jesuit priest, Father Hontiveros, who also suffered a stroke. And to the suprise of people, he could only utter one word. And what was that word? "Ok." Kaya pag tinanong ninyo siya, how are you? "Ok." Father, how is the weather? "Ok." That was his last word.

Tayo kaya? Ano kaya ang magiging last word natin? And I am sure that was not their choice that they remembered these words. Perhaps becuase that was their lifestyle. Siguro si sister, panay maganda ang nasa isip niya, panay maganda ang sinasabi niya, kaya sa huli, "maganda" ang huling salita niya. Si Father Hontiveros, siguro kahit maraming problema, ok. That is why hanggang sa huli, "ok".

Kayo kaya? Ano kaya ang huling salita ninyo? Palagay ko 'yong iba sa atin, ang huling salita, "like". "Like, like like". (laughs) Kasi araw-araw na lang like nang like. Nakakatawa siguro 'yon ano na pag tinanong kayo, ang sasabihin ninyo, "like, like". Buti na lang hindi "unfriend", ano? Baka naman ang iba sa atin pag nagsalita, "sale, sale". Kasi laging inaabangan ang sale. Baka naman ikaw eh "bingo" (laughs), kasi laging nasa binggohan.

Ano kaya? There are many words that would pass in our lives. We have heard so many, many words, and I am sure not everything would be retained. And this is another point that perhaps we could ask ourselves. Right now, what are the words you remember? I am sure right now that there are words that are very powerful in your memory. Perhaps there are words that were uttered so many years ago, but up to now, they are very fresh in your memory. Perhaps, naaalala mo ang sinasabi sa iyo ng Nanay mo bago ka matulog, "I love you.", na hanggang ngayon, dinig na dinig mo pa rin ang boses niya.

What are the words that are saved in your memory? Perhaps 'yong word na hindi mo makakalimutan ay "I do." Sapagkat simula ng araw na 'yon, wala na akong kalayaan, ano? (laughs) Parang nasumpa na ako noong araw na 'yon noong sinabi ko ang salitang "I do". Biro lang ho ano. 

What are the words that you remember right now? They can be consoling, they can be hurting, they can be disturbing, they can be inspiring. What are the words that remain fresh in your memory? And chances are they will be with you until your last dying day. Ano kaya 'yon? Either marami kang naalala, o baka naman kaya wala kang maalala. Nakakalungkot naman ho 'yon kung wala kang masyadong maalalang magagandang salita. It could be "congratulations" o noong natanggap ka sa trabaho "You are accepted". Or perhaps they can be hurting, when somebody said, "I hate you!" or when somebody said, "Get out of here. Never come back again." Or perhaps, when somebody told you, "I'm sorry, forgive me."

We can have many answers. It would be nice if we could ponder what are those words that are still very fresh in your memory. If you still find it difficult, if your memories fail you, another good exercise which you can do later on because we have a mass, is for you to check your inbox or your folders. What are the texts that you have saved there? I have a confession to make. I save very beautiful and inspiring personal texts given to me by friends. And when I am down, when I am troubled, when I need inspiration, I just get my cell phone and scroll down and read them. 'Yong mga message na, "Father, salamat po. Hindi nyo lang akalain 'yong Homily ninyo ay nakatulong sa akin." I read them and afterwards, I feel refreshed.

Kayo ho, ano ang naka-save nyo diyan? Baka ang naka-save nyo ay 'yong noong nag-away kayo, sine-save mo pa hanggang ngayon. Baka nagmurahan pa kayo, sinave mo pa 'yan hanggang ngayon ha. Nandoon pa sa iyong inbox, kaya pag binuksan mo, naha-highblood ka. Are your memories the good ones, or do you continue to nurse the wounds of the past? Kaya hanggang ngayon, galit na galit ka pa rin, hanggang ngayon, inis na inis ka pa rin. Nakakalungkot 'yon kung galit ang huling salitang lalabas sa ating bibig.

I would also like to share with you, Cardinal Sin, when he was at the point of dying, he was already unconscious. And we were so surprised - I was personally inspired - unconscious na ho siya noon ha, but he was reciting the Litany to the Blessed Virgin Mary - in order. Sabi ko, ang galing naman ni Cardinal. Ako ho aaminin ko sa inyo, di ko pa ma-memorize nang perfect 'yon. Pero siya, unconscious, 'yon ang lumalabas sa bibig. Pag unconscious kaya tayo, ano'ng lalabas sa bibig natin? "Utang mo bayaran mo na." (laughs) Puro galit ba ang lalabas?

Why am I sharing this, my brothers and sisters? We have said, there are many words, many memories, many thoughts in our lives, and we cannot remember them all.

Mayroon daw mag-asawa lagi na lang sila nag-aaway. Kasi si misis ay nagger. Kaya nag-research si mister and he found out, "Aha! Now I know why you are a nagger. I found out that men speak 10,000 words a day, while women speak 20,000 words a day. We, men, are a men of few words. Kayo, 20,000." Sabi ni misis, teka lang ano. Nag-research din siya, nag-Google siya. She came back and said, "Now I know why we, women, have to speak and use 20,000 words a day. We have to use twice as many words as men because we have to repeat everything we say, because they cannot simply understand." (laughs) And the husband, looking at her, said, "What did you say?" (more laughs) 

Yes, many words have passed to our lives. Some are forgotten, some have to be repeated, others remain. But in today's Gospel, Jesus reminds us: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." Everything will come to an end, even your memory, even your life, even your riches and power. But one thing will remain - the words of God. Jesus, Himself, tells us - His words will endure, His words are constant and faithful. Yes, the end of the world will take place, but the end of God's Word will never take place. 

Nai-share ko na yata sa inyo ano. Mayroong isang lector, ninenerbiyos, excited. Tapos noong nagbasa siya, noong matatapos na siya, bigla niyang nakalimutan kung ano ang sasabihin niya sa huli. Ano ang dapat sinasabi? "The Word of the Lord." Pero sobrang kaba niya, sabi niya, "Brothers and sisters, the end of the world." (laughs) Di alam ng mga tao ang sasagutin nila, "Thanks be to God." (laughs)

Yes, the world will end, but the Word of God will never end. And I was asking myself, what would be the word of the Lord for us, especially tonight, for us attending this mass? What would be the message of God for us that will never pass away? What could be a passage in Scriptures that is a recurring thing? And I found out, both in the Old and the New Testament, the recurring expression would be, "Be not afraid. Have no fear." Even in the Old Testament, God will always say, "Be not afraid." When the Blessed Mother received the Archangel Gabriel, the angel said, "Do not be afraid." When Jesus approached Peter, He said, "Do not be afraid." Now, we understand why Blessed John Paul II, on his first days, his very first words were, "Be not afraid." Because he knew that those were the words of the Lord.  

Tonight, my brothers and sisters, forget everything I say. But just remember the word of the Lord. "Be not afraid." Perhaps today, you need to hear that. You need to receive that. Have no fear, because the Word of the Lord will never pass away. The Lord knows we can get overwhelmed easily. Perhaps the world is keeping in on us. We are afraid; we cannot see a way out of our predicament. We are still finding the solution to our problems. We are still waiting for the answer to our prayers. And we feel that it is the end of the rope. All seems stuck and hopeless, and we are getting desperate and blinded by anxiety, totally unable to see into the future. And so the Lord assures us, "My words will not pass away. Be not afraid."

Yes, your sickness will pass away. Your many troubles, your many problems, will pass away. Your depression, your oppression, your poverty will pass away. But the words of the Lord will never pass away. Do not count on your riches, do not count on your beauty, do not count on your talent. Huwag kang masyadong magpakabilib. Because everything will pass away. Only the words of the Lord will never pass away.

And so in this mass, brothers and sisters, we pray for that great faith. Our readings today remind us that everything will come to an end. But there is no reason to be afraid of, if we are with God, if the words of the Lord are in our hearts.

I would like to share an anecdote. The actor Charlton Heston (the older ones here would know him), would portray biblical characters in his old movies. And one time, in his movie "Benhur", his director required him to study how to ride a chariot so that he won't have a double. And so Charlton Heston was forced to study how to ride a chariot driven by four horses. It was very difficult. And on the day of the shoot, Charlton approached his director and said, "I already know how to ride a chariot, but I am still unsure." And in the scene, Charlton should win the race. So Charlton said, "I already know how to ride a chariot, but I am not sure if I could win the race." And the director simply smiled and said, "It is alright, Charlton. Just stay in the race. And I will make sure you will win the race."

Brothers and sisters, yes, we are afraid. Sometimes, we want to give up. Sometimes, we cannot see the light of day. Sometimes, we want to quit. And today, the Lord, whose words will never pass away, is telling us: "Just stay in the race. Just stay faithful. Just trust in Me. And I will make sure you will win the race. Because in the end, victory is Mine", says the Lord.

And so as we continue with this mass, we pray. Lord, time is passing by too fast. Our memories sometimes fail us. So many words overwhelm us. And there are times, we are at a loss for words because of how we feel. Yes, Lord, sometimes we feel the temporary character of this world. Remind us always that only one thing will last - Your love, Your grace, Your words. In moments when we are afraid, in moments when we want to give up, may we always remember Your words, "Be not afraid. Have no fear." Yes, Lord, we will stay in the rims, because we know, with you, You will make sure we will win the race. Amen.