Saturday, December 22, 2012

Gospel Reflection

December 22, 2012
Saturday – Advent – Year of Faith
Seventh Day – Misa de Gallo
by Rev. Fr. Godwin Tatlonghari
(Assistant Commissioner for Office Administration, Commission on Liturgy, Archdiocese of Manila
8:00PM Anticipated Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt, Makati

Reading 1 1 Sm 1:24-28

In those days, Hannah brought Samuel with her, along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a skin of wine, and presented him at the temple of the LORD in Shiloh. After the boy's father had sacrificed the young bull, Hannah, his mother, approached Eli and said: "Pardon, my lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood near you here, praying to the LORD. I prayed for this child, and the LORD granted my request. Now I, in turn, give him to the LORD; as long as he lives, he shall be dedicated to the LORD." She left Samuel there.

Responsorial Psalm 1 Sm 2:1, 4-5, 6-7, 8abcd

R. (see 1a) My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.
"My heart exults in the LORD,
my horn is exalted in my God.
I have swallowed up my enemies;
I rejoice in my victory."
R. My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.
"The bows of the mighty are broken,
while the tottering gird on strength.
The well-fed hire themselves out for bread,
while the hungry batten on spoil.
The barren wife bears seven sons,
while the mother of many languishes."
R. My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.
"The LORD puts to death and gives life;
he casts down to the nether world;
he raises up again.
The LORD makes poor and makes rich,
he humbles, he also exalts."
R. My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.
"He raises the needy from the dust;
from the dung heap he lifts up the poor,
To seat them with nobles
and make a glorious throne their heritage."
R. My heart exults in the Lord, my Savior.

Gospel Lk 1:46-56

Mary said:

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. for he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name. He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel for he remembered his promise of mercy, the promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children for ever."

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months and then returned to her home.


For the past days, laman ng mga balita at mga newspapers 'yong ating idea na ang December 21, 2012 ay end of the world na. Some people brought with them that idea, that is why they are scared of this day.

This morning, sa tabi ng aming seminary sa Makati, mayroon akong ikinasal. Before the wedding, I was talking to one of the wedding coordinators in that parish, and she told me, "Father, kahapon po, maraming tumawag at nag-cancel ng kasal ngayong araw na ito, because they are afraid na ngayong araw na ito ay talagang magugunaw na ang mundo."

Pero mga kapatid, itong ating Ebanghelyo ay kakaiba. Bakit po? When you look around, nandoon ang takot, ang anxiety na ngayon ay end of the world na. But when you look at our Gospel, you can see the story of two women, Mary and Elizabeth, who both experience joy in their hearts. It is because both of them received blessings from God. Hindi takot ang naramdaman nila, kundi kaligayahan.

For this 7th night of our novena masses in honor of Mary, maganda nating tignan - paano ba tayo lalago sa mga biyaya ng Panginoon? If we look at our Gospel today, there are four things about blessings.

First, we are told that all things are a blessing on humankind, coming from God. When Elizabeth saw Mary, she said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb." It is very clear. "Pinagpala ka, hindi lamang sa babaeng lahat, kundi maging ang laman ng iyong sinapupunan." When we look at the old Testament, we see the story of Eve. Because of the sin of Eve, everyone falls, everyone sins. It was the start of the original sin. During that time, people thought that we have already been forgotten by God, and that God has cursed humankind. But if we look at our Gospel today, one thing is clear. And that is - God has never forgotten us. God is not angry at us. In fact, God is blessing us. God is reminding us that at this season of Advent, as we prepare ourselves for Christmas, we should see our life as a blessing coming from God. It is not a curse.  

There is this story of a traveler. He was riding his donkey and was holding his lighted lamp and his rooster. He went to a village, but nobody wanted to accept him, as there was already full occupancy in that area. And so he went to the middle of the forest to spend the whole evening there. Before he slept, he prayed and read the Bible using his lighted lamp. But after a few minutes, humangin nang malakas at namatay ang sindi ng kanyang lamp, pati ang lamp ay natumba at nabasag. There was total darkness everywhere, and yet the traveler said, "God is good." When the traveler was asleep, some people came and took away his rooster. When he saw that his rooster is gone, he said, 'God is good." When he awoke the following day, he noticed that his donkey is also gone. So he has to walk as he continues his journey. When he noticed that the donkey was gone, he said, "God is good."

The traveler went back to the village which did not want to accept him. To his suprise, the whole town was burned down, because during that evening, may mga dumating na mga magnanakaw. Ang naisip niya, kung siya ay nasa loob noong town na iyon kagabi, siguradong patay din siya. Ang sabi sa balita, ang mga magnanakaw ay nagpunta rin sa gitna ng forest. Kaya't nasabi niya, "Siguro, kundi namatay ang aking sindi ng ilaw, siguradong malalaman nila na may taong nakatira doon. Kung hindi nawala ang aking rooster, tiyak na iyon ay mag-iingay. At kung hindi rin nawala ang aking donkey, mapapansin nilang mayroong tao sa gubat, at siguradong sinaktan na nila ako, o di kaya ay pinatay." After knowing all these things, the traveler said, "God is good."

My dear brothers and sisters, the Gospel is reminding us that as we continue with our novena masses, in this story of the Visitation, Mary is telling us that everything is a blessing coming from God. Kung mula 'yan sa Panginoon, hindi iyan sumpa, kundi iyan ay tunay na biyaya.

Second, in the Gospel today, we can see that there is a blessing on humble servants. After Elizabeth said, "Blessed are you among women....", there was a shift when she said, "But who am I that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" Elizabeth was humble. This is another reminder for us that in this season of Advent, we should realize how much we are loved by God, that we are forgiven by God. And that because of that love, he gave His only Begotten Son for all of us. Kaya naman ang ating kababaang loob, at hindi ang pride, ang dapat na lumalago sa atin. The poet Ravindranath Tagore said, "We come nearest to the great, when we are great in humility."

Two years ago, I was invited to do the blessing of the National Bookstore branch in Glorietta. Noong ako ay dumating, medyo maaga-aga pa, dumating din si Nanay Coring. At kinakausap niya lagi ang mga pari. Lumapit siya sa akin and told me, "Alam ninyo Father, 75 years na po itong bookstore na ito. At marami na po kaming pinagdaanang problema sa aming buhay. We started small, maliit po lamang ang negosyong ito." At sinabi ni Nanay Coring na sa simula pa lamang ay hindi na sila pinabayaan ng Panginoon. Kaya ang sabi niya, every time na may bubuksang branch ng bookstore, dapat na mayroong misa or mayroon man lang blessing, to remind them na ang lahat ay biyayang galing sa Diyos, at kung wala ang Diyos, wala ang kanilang magandang buhay. It is not through our own efforts that we succeed in life. Ah kasi magaling ako eh. Kasi masipag ako eh. Ma-abilidad kasi ako eh. When we look at our Gospel, there was Elizabeth, growing in humility, when she saw the mother of the Savior visiting her. We should grow, not in pride, but in humility.

Third, blessings defined the whole family of Elizabeth. Elizabeth was blessed that Mary visited her. But we also know that Elizabeth was already old and barren. Her husband, Zechariah, was also old. And people during that time thought that they were forsaken by God. Pero sa pagdalaw ni Maria, ang mabuting balita ng Panginoon ay hindi lamang kay Maria, kundi sa buong pamilya ni Elizabeth. Kaya ramdam na ramdan niya ang kagalakan. Sabi nga ni Elizabeth, "The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby stirred in my womb for joy." The blessing was not only for Elizabeth, not only for Zechariah, but even for John the Baptist, when he was still in Elizabeth's womb - the whole family.

Ano po ba ang nagiging sanhi ng kaligayan sa ating buhay? What gives us joy? Our Gospel for today shows that the presence of God gives joy to the family. 'Yong naroon ang Panginoon, masaya na sila. 'Yong nararamdaman nila ang Diyos, naroroon ang kanilang kapayapaan.

I once gave a retreat to students. And I won't forget this student, who came from a wealthy family. During the sharing session, she said that they had an exposure activity at a squatter family. She said she was touched by the families living in that area. Why? She said that their house is very big, their table is very long, but every time dinner comes, only a few of family members are there. After eating, we go to our individual rooms without talking to each other. 'Yong pinuntahan niyang bahay sa squatter community ay napakaliit, kakaunti lamang ang pagkain. Ang daming kanin pero kakaunti ang ulam. Pero sabi niya, nakaka-inggit, kasi noong sila ay kumain, sila ay kumpleto, sila ay sama-sama, sila ay napakasaya. And then the student cried and said, "Where I am living right now is not a home. I only live as if in a dormitory."

Ito po ay isang paala-ala sa atin. How is our family? Sana po, in this season of Christmas, hindi mawala ang communication. Because that is what God did to us. By giving to us His only Son, God communicated to us. Siya ay nakipag-usap sa atin. Siya ay naging kasama at kapiling natin. I read a quote from a book that says, "It is God's joy that remains in us, that makes our joy full." Kahit marami tayong gamit, kahit marami tayong pagkain, kahit marami tayong damit, kung wala ang Panginoon sa ating buhay, wala pa rin ang tunay na kaligayahan.

The fourth and last thing in our Gospel is this. Blessings begin with faith. At the end of the Gospel, Elizabeth said, "Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord's words to her will be fulfilled." When we go back to the Annunciation scene, I doubt if Mary understood everything. Ang daming sinabi sa kanya ng anghel ng Panginoon, that she will be the mother of the Savior, that he will be great. But at the end of the Annunciation, Mary said, "I am the servant of the Lord, may it be done to me as you've said." 'Yon ang pananampalataya ni Maria. Hindi nga malinaw lahat, pero alam niya kung sino 'yong nangako, kung sino 'yong nagbitaw ng pangako. At 'yong kanyang pananampalataya ay nasa Diyos. Ang sinabi ng anghel kay Maria, "The Lord is with you.", two times. Mary will always remember that, anuman ang kanyang kaharapin sa buhay.

Noong isang araw, mayroon akong isang kaibigang babaeng lumapit sa akin, after the mass. She is undergoing chemotherapy. She was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer. Ang sabi niya sa akin, "Father, hindi po natuloy ang chemotherapy sa akin this week, kasi po sabi ng doctor, kailangang ipahinga ko raw ang aking liver, at medyo mahina po ang aking katawan. Father, bakit ganoon? Kasi lahat planado na, eh. Dapat by February, tapos na ako sa aking chemo. But because of this thing, na hindi ako makapag-chemo this week, made-delay pa ang aking treatment. Planado na, Father, pero bakit biglang naiba?"

When my friend was telling me these things, I told her to give God a free hand. May mga pagkakataong mayroon tayong mga plano sa ating buhay. Pero paano kapag sinabi sa atin ng Panginoon, na "hindi pa, hindi pa iyan, siguro mahaba-haba pa"? Katulad po ni Maria, can we say, "Lord, may Your will be done.", because we know that at the end of the day, God knows what is best for us. In one quote that I read, ang sabi doon, "Faith makes things possible, not easy." May mga pagkakataong mahirap ang ating karanasan, mahirap dalhin, mahirap unawain. But in our Gospel, ano ang pinakita doon? Mary and Elizabeth were very much convinced that they received blessings from God.

Sana mga kapatid, ngayong Advent season, makita natin - ano bang biyaya mayroon tayo mula sa Diyos?