Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gospel Reflection

December 11, 2012
Tuesday – Advent – Year of Faith
Memorial of St. Damasus I, Pope
by Rev.  Fr. Joel Jason (Dean, Graduate School of Theology San Carlos Seminary)
12:15 PM Mass at Shrine of Mary, Queen of Peace (Our Lady of EDSA)

Reading 1 Is 40:1-11

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; Indeed, she has received from the hand of the LORD double for all her sins.

A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; The rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A voice says, "Cry out!" I answer, "What shall I cry out?" "All flesh is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it. So then, the people is the grass. Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever."

Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of glad tidings; Cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! Fear not to cry out and say to the cities of Judah: Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord GOD, who rules by his strong arm; Here is his reward with him, his recompense before him. Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, Carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12, 13

R. (see Isaiah 40:10ab) The Lord our God comes with power.
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all you lands.
Sing to the LORD; bless his name;
announce his salvation, day after day.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
Tell his glory among the nations;
among all peoples, his wondrous deeds.
Say among the nations: The LORD is king;
he governs the peoples with equity.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice;
let the sea and what fills it resound;
let the plains be joyful and all that is in them!
Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.
They shall exult before the LORD, for he comes;
for he comes to rule the earth.
He shall rule the world with justice
and the peoples with his constancy.
R. The Lord our God comes with power.

Gospel Mt 18:12-14

Jesus said to his disciples: "What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray? And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not stray. In just the same way, it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost."


We are now on the second week of the season of Advent, the time when we await for the coming of our Lord.

In our Gospel for today, we are given once more the prophesy of Isaiah, which reminds us of what will happen when the Lord comes. But the first line of the First Reading is interesting, when the prophet Isaiah says, "Give comfort to My people.", says your God. Why is Isaiah telling the people that their God wants to give them a consolation of comfort? We have to understand the context when this prophesy was written.

This part of the prophesy of Isaiah was written during the Babylonian exile or the Babylonian captivity, when the Babylonians swept down Israel and took away everything important. Ang lahat ng mga taong itinuturing nilang matataas ay dinala - 'yong mga tinatawag nilang 'intelligencia' - people of the law, religious leaders. They were all taken away from Israel, and therefore the Israelites felt empty, that everything they considered important was taken away from them. That is why God is telling them, "Give comfort to My people."

Siguro kung titignan ninyo itong mga pagbasang ito, parang hindi yata tugma sa panahong ating kinabibilangan ngayon, at the Advent season, when we are so pre-occupied with celebrating Christmas. 'Yong mga pagbasa natin, parang hindi Pasko, lalong lalo na ang unang pagbasa na pinapa-alala 'yong Babylonian captivity, when the Israelites felt that they have lost everything. Eh ang spirit pa naman natin ngayon ay Paskong Pasko na. Siguro marami po sa inyo ngayon ang nakapag-Christmas party na at nagdiwang na ng Pasko.

But our Readings tell us, 'no, not yet'. Let us not yet focus our attention on Christmas. Let us focus ourselves, our attention first, on what is the condition of our heart, that will prepare us for the coming feast of Christmas. 

Why are we being reminded by the prophet Isaiah that Israel lost what they consider to be important in their lives? That is the message of the first two Sundays of Advent. Before we get excited, or before we pay attention to the coming birth of our Lord, the first two Sundays of Advent is asking us to make an inventory of our heart. The first two Sundays of Advent is telling us to clean our hearts of all inordinate attachments, so that if our hearts are already free of these attachments, we can be ready to focus on Him who is to come. 

Pwede kasing mangyari na habang tayo ay padating nang padating sa season of Christmas, our hearts are not in tune to the One who we should welcome. That is why the first weeks of the season of Advent is a kind of purification. Pinapa-alala sa atin ang nangyari sa Israel, when they had to get a glimpse of what is going on in their hearts. Nawala 'yong kino-consider nilang mahalaga, pero 'yong mas tunay na mahalaga ay siya namang darating. And He is the One who will give the true comfort that their hearts are longing for.

At the end of the prophesy of Isaiah, if you keep reading through this section, Isaiah gives a very powerful image. Isaiah would say, "At the coming of the Son of Man, the veil that veils the people will be taken away." This is so, that we may see the coming birth of our Lord. 

And that is what Christmas is all about. When God was incarnated, the veil that separated God from man was taken away. Pero maganda pong tanungin natin ang ating sarili. God has already taken away the veil on His part, but have we, on our part, taken away the veil that prevents us from seeing Him?

Christmas began in the heart of God, but it will only be completed in the heart of man. Unless we purify our hearts, unless we cleanse our hearts of inordinate attachments, we will miss the one whom we are waiting for and anticipating this Christmas season. 

As we continue this Eucharist, let us pray that in the spirit of the prophet Isaiah, we may make an inventory of our hearts. What are the desires of our heart? What are we excited for? So that we may not miss the One whose birth we are truly anticipating. Amen.

Saint Pope Damasus I – Pray for us