Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gospel Reflection

December 05, 2012
Wednesday – Advent – Year of Faith
by Bishop Milo Hubert Vergara (Roman Catholic Diocese of Pasig)
Concelebrated by Msgr. Bong Lo (Chaplain, Chapel of Eucharistic Lord)
and Rev. Fr. Michael Ortega
6;00 PM Mass at Megamall, Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord

Reading 1 Is 25:6-10a

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples A feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. On this mountain he will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, The web that is woven over all nations; he will destroy death forever. The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; The reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.

On that day it will be said: "Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us! This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!" For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R. (6cd) I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. I shall live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.

Gospel Mt 15:29-37

At that time: Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus summoned his disciples and said, "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way." The disciples said to him, "Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?" Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" "Seven," they replied, "and a few fish." He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over--seven baskets full.


Monsignor Bong Lo, our chaplain of the Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord here at SM Megamall, is my classmate. In fact, he was the most brilliant of my classmates when we were in the seminary. (laughs, as Monsignor Bong Lo shows his 'brilliant' bald head) I was in the last part of the class, and he is always in the first.

Brothers and sisters in the Lord, magandang gabi po sa inyo.

Every time a priest is ordained, during the week of his ordination, or even during the whole month, one of his tedious tasks is to go to what we call his thanksgiving masses. He goes to the communities he has served, communities which are part of his personal and vocational history, in order to thank God and the people of God for the gift of ordination.

Father Michael started his thanksgiving mass as early as the day he was ordained last Monday, 3 December, and he had his thanksgiving mass at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Pasig. And he has worked. His thanksgiving mass today is just one of them. But when he approached me and asked if I could preach in one of his thanksgiving masses, and he asked me where I want to do it, I personally chose the Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord. And perhaps you will ask why.

You know, nothing in this world is an accident. Nothing is accidental. I believe that the Lord, the Grand Architect, the Great Designer of all our lives, would weave through or sew things according to His divine plan and will. 

I share this with you because, as Monsignor Bong Lo said, I was a former chaplain, the third chaplain of this Chapel, that was in 1998, and I served here for two years, while I was Rector of the Holy Apostles Senior Seminary. It was really God's own plan that this Chapel be part of my own pastoral life as a priest.

But would you believe, at that time, Myrna and Rey (Father Michael's parents), were already serving here at the Chapel, and one of the scholars of our chapel was no one else but Father Michael. He was still in the seminary then. It was this chapel who supported him so that he could go to the seminary for those who are studying for the Congregation of La Sallette, before he transferred to the Diocesan seminary of San Jose in Ateneo de Manila.

When I became Bishop of Pasig on June 23, 2011, Michael greeted me, together with another priest who was with him. You know, even at this stage, I already have lapses in memory, I am sure Monsignor Bong Lo has very good memory even if he has bald head. (laughs) Kumikintab ho yan, shining (laughs) Sanay na ho sa 'kin 'yan dahil magkasama ho kami sa seminary. But really, when I was greeted by Michael, I did not realize that he was the seminarian whom we sponsored for seminary studies. Nothing in this world is an accident.

And lo and behold, last Monday, one of those who YOU supported, the Christian community supported, is now a priest before you. (applause) 

What is God telling us - for you and for Father Michael? I think it is written all over the famous lines in our Gospel today. As the Lord was moved with pity before the crowd, they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were hungry. They needed food. They were tired and restless. The Lord hears our prayers. The Lord hears the cry of those in need. He heard the cry of the people of God. 

It could have been possible that Father Michael did not continue his seminary studies. Everything is in the hands of God. But you see, because God loves us, God loves Father Michael, and God knows that this is the need to be addressed, Father Michael is now a priest of God. A priest, not only serving the Diocese of Pasig, but a priest serving the Church. 

In our Gospel today, as we heard the great miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, this is what God tells us. That just as we want or expect this much, He will give us more, and will still leave seven baskets of leftovers. God will provide for our needs, when we least expect Him to respond. He will provide for our needs with overflowing love and goodness. That is why we should be grateful to the Lord. 

From Father Michael's end, because we realize how good the Lord is, responding to the needs of the Church and your own vocation, the Lord invites you, Father Michael, to serve with love, to serve with utmost responsibility and accountability to the people. This means addressing also what God wants you to address. And that is to feed God's people, feeding them with no one else but Christ. Christ in His Word, that is why a priest is tasked to become an effective preacher and evangelizer. And also feeding the people with Christ as Bread in the Eucharist, the food for our souls. That is why Father Michael, as you realize the overflowing goodness of God, and the gift given to you and to us, then you should respond with love. And this means that God and the people expect the best. They want priests who are effective proclaimers of the Word, they want priests who are authentic livers of the Eucharist, they want priests who will re-live the testimonies of Jesus Christ Himself. 

That is why it is not easy to be a priest. In this way, as I give this point to Father Michael, I now address all of you. Pray for your priests. Alam nyo po ako ay Obispo na nang ilang taon, since 2005. Mag-tu-2013 na. Ayaw ko po sanang maging Obispo, napakahirap po maniwala kayo. (laughs) Natatakot nga ako na baka mamaya eh pagdating ko dito, may kakilala na naman ako, may lalapit sa akin at magrereklamo tungkol sa pari. Napakahirap po. Itong pari namin, hindi marunong mag-sermon, 'yong pari namin nakakahiya, nakakainis, 'yong pari namin masungit, diba? 

You see, it is not easy to become a priest, and so it is difficult also to meet the standards of the people, on how they want their priest to be. That is why I really motivate - I even compel you - pray for your priests. Pray for the holiness of Father Michael, my holiness, Monsigor Bong Lo's holiness. We need your prayers. We need your intercession. We could not do it alone. 

Love your priests. But not too much. (laughs) Nakita nyo naman si Father Michael, batang bata pa ho 'yan, kita n'yo sariwang sariwa pa ho 'yan. (more laughs) Do not love your priest so much. (laughs) Iilan na lang po ang nagpapari. So when I say love your priest, love them in such a way that you morally and spiritually support them, so that if they have decided to live this life, and it's not an easy life, this means that we become partners also, from the day we become celibate and live chaste lives, believe me. And loving your priest also entails that you strive or do your best, in your own little way, so that whatever the needs of your priest, you provide also for them. And you help them. 

I think loving a priest is also not being afraid to give feedback to us. To tell us what we need to correct. To tell us what we need to improve. To tell us how we can best serve you. That is love. Because if you do not tell that to us or share that to us, how will we know? Di ba ang mag-asawa gano'n? Sasabihin kung ano ang kailangang baguhin para mas maging mabuti. 

That is why as we continue this Eucharistic celebration we pray and thank the Lord for the gift of priesthood, the gift of Father Michael, the gift of the Chapel of the Eucharistic Lord for bearing fruit and having a priest. We can truly say that at this Advent Season, the Lord has come. The Lord has truly come. He hears our prayers, He never abandons the cry of those in need. Amen.