Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Gospel Reflection

December 18, 2012
Tuesday – Advent – Year of Faith
Third Day – Misa de Gallo
by Rev. Fr. Ramon Jade L. Licuanan (Commissioner, Commission on Youth, Archdiocese of Manila)
8pm Anticipated Simbang Gabi Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt, Makati

Reading 1 Jer 23:5-8

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: "The LORD our justice."

Therefore, the days will come, says the LORD, when they shall no longer say, "As the LORD lives, who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt"; but rather, "As the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of the house of Israel up from the land of the north"-- and from all the lands to which I banished them; they shall again live on their own land.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19

R. (see 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king's son;
He shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous deeds.
And blessed forever be his glorious name;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Gospel Mt 1:18-25

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,

which means "God is with us." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.


Alam po ba ninyo ang history ng pangalan ninyo? Do you know why your name was given to you by your parents? How do parents usually find names for their babies? Iba-iba ano po? For example, my name is Ramon. Because I was born on August 31, I suppose it is connected to Ramon Magsaysay. And as my mother was in labor in the delivery room, my mother was asking that I be given another name other than Ramon. Napatingin daw si nanay sa kanyang singsing at nakita niya ang jade. Kaya ang sabi niya, "Jade, Jade." Kaya ako po ay naging Ramon Jade.

There are other ways of finding or creating names. For example, we get names from a significant someone. I was able to meet a very old dear friend to me, and I asked her, 'Uy, you already have a baby, what is the name of your baby?" And she said, "Ramon Jade." So ang sabi ko, "My God, please move on." (laughs)

Mayroon din tayong famous personalities, mayroon tayong mga artista at ipinapangalan din natin sa baby natin 'yan ano. Sino nga ang mga artista? Si Charice, di ba mga ganyan? Sino pa ba ang mga artista? Sino pa? (pauses; people laugh) Si Bentot. Kung kilala nyo pa si Bentot, pwede nyong ipangalan 'yan. Another one is 'yong parents' name ay pinagsasama. Sino ho dito 'yong pinagsama ang pangalan ng nanay at tatay niya? (some people raise their hands) O di ba? Mayroon ang pangalan ng tatay ay Dennis, at ang pangalan ng nanay ay Dory. So ano ang pangalan ng anak nila? Dedo. (laughs) Ganda di ba?

Why do I say this? If you remember, yesterday's Gospel is a series of names. Today's Gospel is a continuation of yesterday's Gospel. And if you notice, there is a particular name that is outstanding in the Gospel for today. And that name was given to the Messiah who was to be born in Mary. And what is that name? Emmanuel. Ano po ang ibig sabihin ng Emmanuel? God is with us.

Have we ever asked why? Among the many names that can be available for God, why Emmanuel? Why? Why God with us, to this baby who is to be born in the Blessed Virgin Mary? Why Emmanuel?
We go back to the Scriptures, particularly to the creation story. What is the one thing that Adam and Eve enjoyed the most in paradise? What? The Garden, the fruits? Yes, yes. But if you notice the one thing that Adam and Eve enjoyed the most, it was the presence of God. God was with them. They enjoyed it. They could not ask for more. The presence of God completed them. Now, what happened when God was away? It was the tragic moment, when they sinned, right? So you can imagine right now how essential, how vital God's presence is in our lives. 
If you look at the Gospel today, it talks about the presence of God that will complete us, that will fill our lives, more than the wealth, more than the power and possessions. That is why if you look at Scriptures from the Old Testament, it was all a search for the presence of God, a constant struggle for the presence of God.

Moses led the Israelites through the desert for a number of years, constantly in search for God's presence. And what did God do? He sent a lot of signs - the column of fire, the wind, the manna, the division of the Red Sea, instant food in the middle of the desert. These were all glimpses of God's presence. God sustained the Israelites with His truth, His presence that completes us and fills us more than anything else.

And then came the prophets, Moses and Joshua, and the others. The people were looking up to these prophets because for them, they are glimpses of God's presence. We can feel God in their words, in their directions, their instructions. St. John the Baptist, the last prophet, also had his disciples who followed him. Why? Because for them, John the Baptist represented God. He was a glimpse of God's presence. All along, my brothers and sisters, there was a search for God's presence.

No wonder, when God took the form of man, born by a virgin named Mary, the name given to this child who will be the Messiah is Emmanuel, which is 'God with us'. And if God is true yesterday, God is true even right now. Today. To us. You and me - we are in a constant struggle to find and feel God, to receive God's presence.

The thing is iba-iba nga lang ang nakikita nating presensiya ng Diyos. 'Yong iba, they are so much obsessed with their properties, 'yong hitsura, with relationships. Kasi these things also give us a glimpse of God's presence. But it is a misunderstanding, a misrepresentation, when in fact, God is with us already. More than our possessions, more than our relationships, God is already present. We don't have to look for him anywhere else. God is with us.

Kaya alam ninyo, dito sa mesang ito (puts his hand on the altar), the Eucharist is being offered here. No wonder this great sacrament given to us is known as a remembrance. This is the very presence of God in the form of bread and wine. So makikita natin ang connection. The Church gives so much value, so much reverence on the Holy Eucharist, because in here, we see Jesus and the fullness of His holiness. At hindi lang natin nakikita kundi natatanggap pa natin. That is why whenever we receive the Eucharist, it brings us so much joy that should give us a feeling of completeness, of fulfillment. It is to be able to see and even receive God, who, in history, ay napakailap, para doon sa mga nauna sa atin. Jesus's presence ended all the struggle in the history of salvation. 

We may, at times, misrepresent God through other possessions, but know that it is God who we are looking for and searching for. We may be so much attached with our position, with the power. We could not let go, when in fact, it is God whom we are looking for, and so much thirsting for. The presence of God. And this is the reason of the celebration of Christmas. We will celebrate, more than the gifts and the Christmas carols, the reunions. More than that. Christmas is celebrating God with us. God being with us, being present right here, right now. Napakahalaga niyan.

And that brings to us a challenge, to value and to put reverence to the Eucharist always, kahit saang simbahan tayo pumunta. Kahit hindi masyadong magaling ang choir. Kahit hindi masyadong pogi 'yong (pause) choir. (laughs) Ang mahalaga doon ay ang Eucharist - the presence of God, available for me for free. 

It also poses another challenge, and what is that? It is for us to be present also to others. I am sure we are already busy with our parties. But no - please do not forget, do not neglect the very important people to us. We must render our presence to them, to our families, to our loved ones. Ang daming nasalanta ngayon, may sunog, mayroon pang mga naghihikahos na biktima ng bagyong Pablo. In some form, we can let them feel that we are with them and that God is present in them. Huwag nating i-diet ang ating kapwa sa ating presensiya. Huwag nating sabihin "kailangan ma-miss nila ako". Meron tayong ganoong style eh. Let us be generous with our presence. 

I will share with you a story, when I was in college, I was in the College of Engineering in UST. We met an accident. We had a car accident. My face hit the wind shield of the car. I was rushed to the UST hospital. I learned during the travel to the hospital that I already had lots of lacerations on my face and blood flowed to my polo, to my pants. The emergency staff in the hospital did not want me to see myself in the mirror. I wanted to see, but nobody dared to give me a mirror, I don't know why. And I had my two classmates there. I could not open my eyes anymore. Ang sakit na ng mga mata ko because of the blood.

I realized during those moments, those crucial moments, my two classmates stayed with me. They were with me, sila ang nagtawid sa akin noong mga panahong 'yon. They were just holding my hands and from time to time, they would allow me to listen, to hear their voice. I was so afraid, but their presence was so enough for me. At talaga naman pong punit punit ang mukha ko, just imagine sa dami naman ng tatama sa wind shield, mukha ko pa. (laughs) And the doctors were so confused. How can we treat the face of this boy to its original form or appearance?

I remember they told me the story that the doctors had a magazine. And there in the middle, merong picture. Sino ba 'yong napangasawa ni Lucy? (loud laughs) Ah, Richard. I'm sorry medyo nalilimutan ko na. It was the picture of Richard Gomez. And you know what? That helped the doctors (laughs) bring back the pieces of my face. (laughs) Kaya ito na pala. See? (laughs) Ang layo di ba? (more laughs)

But you know my dear brothers and sisters, it is about the presence of God. In this mass, let us cherish this moment of being with Jesus in the Eucharist. This is the fulfillment, the completeness of who we are, of our existence. The presence of God - in its majesty and holiness - with us.