Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gospel Reflection

December 23, 2012
Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year of Faith
Eighth Day – Misa de Gallo
by  Rev. Fr. Rufino Jun Sescon (Chaplain, Sto. Niño de Paz Greenbelt Chapel)
8:00PM Anticipated Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt, Makati

Reading 1 Mi 5:1-4a

Thus says the LORD: You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times. Therefore the Lord will give them up, until the time when she who is to give birth has borne, and the rest of his kindred shall return to the children of Israel. He shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD, in the majestic name of the LORD, his God; and they shall remain, for now his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19.

R. (4) Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
O shepherd of Israel, hearken,
from your throne upon the cherubim, shine forth.
Rouse your power,
and come to save us.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
Once again, O LORD of hosts,
look down from heaven, and see;
take care of this vine,
and protect what your right hand has planted
the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.
May your help be with the man of your right hand,
with the son of man whom you yourself made strong.
Then we will no more withdraw from you;
give us new life, and we will call upon your name.
R. Lord, make us turn to you; let us see your face and we shall be saved.

Reading 2 Heb 10:5-10

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, 'As is written of me in the scroll, behold, I come to do your will, O God.'"

First he says, "Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in." These are offered according to the law. Then he says, "Behold, I come to do your will." He takes away the first to establish the second. By this "will," we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Gospel Lk 1:39-45

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled."


Welcome sa ating - pang-ilan na nga ba ito? Pang 8th Misa de Gallo na. Pasensiya na ho kayo at kaming mga pari ay mga lutang na sa dami ng mga simbang gabi, Christmas party mass, mga kasal. Ngayong taong ito ay napakaraming nagpapakasal ano? Sino ho ba ang perfect pa rin sa Simbang Gabi? (a lot of people raise their hands) Ayan - ocho-ocho. Isa na lang, kaya huwag ho kayong magmimintis. Sino naman ho 'yong ngayon pa lang magsi-Simbang Gabi? (laughs) Welcome. May dalawang araw ka pa, ano? 

Before I proceed, I would like to thank the Greenbelt community for your help for our brothers and sisters who were victims of typhoon Pablo. Last week, we had a second collection and I will post the report later on, and more or less, we were able to collect around 600 thousand (claps) and were able to give to our brothers and sisters. But the hardest part would be the rehabilitation phase. Kasi wala nang balita pagdating sa rehabilitation, but the help is still needed. Perhaps in the near future, we can ask your help once again. Again, I am thankful to all of you. All the carolers are also thankful to you. Wala nang magka-caroling ngayon. Ako na lang kaya ang mag-caroling? Hindi, huwag na, at baka malugi pa kayo. (Clapping is heard from behind and the rest of the churchgoers follow.) Binayaran ko ho 'yong pumalakpak. (laughs) Scripted ho 'yon. (laughs) Baka umulan pa.

My dear sisters and brothers, we know that Christmas is the time for parties, gatherings and for gift-giving. And there are two kinds of gifts - those that we give away, and those that we receive. This time of the year is also the time of visitors, di ho ba? Either we are the visitors, or we receive visitors. Ito ang panahon na maraming mga bisita at bumibisita, at marami rin tayong binibisita. 

I remember one time, I had an apostolate doon po sa amin sa Mandaluyong, just outside the walls, pero malapit na sa loob. I told my community there, instead of going there during Christmas, I told them, "Let us go there during Easter, or any other time of the year". So we went there one day, bringing food, clothes, gifts. It was April, it was my birthday. And when we were there and we were giving gifts, the patients were there - mental patients - and one of them greeted me and said, "Father, Merry Christmas." I told the patient it was not Christmas and he said, "Ay hindi ho ba Pasko? Kasi dinadalaw lang kami dito pag Pasko." Indeed, this is the time of the year that people are fond of visiting.

Kaya siguro may mga nare-receive na tayong mga texts. Ako, sa akin mayroon nang nag-text, "Father, may misa ka ba sa Greenbelt? Bibisitahin ka namin." "Father, nasa Mandaluyong ka na ba? We will visit you." Tapos kasabay na may nakalagay, "Your inaanak misses you already." (laughs) Alam n'yo na ang ibig sabihin ng bisitang 'yon ano? O kaya baka ang iba sa inyo nagpa-plano nang magtago. Baka 'yong mga nagte-text sa inyo, sasabihan ninyo, "Ay hindi ko na-receive, baka may problema sa network." Pero sa totoo lang, gusto mong umiwas sa mga dumadalaw.

This is really the time of the year when we are either visitors or we receive visitors. Tonight, we heard the Gospel on the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She visited her cousin Elizabeth. But what kind of visit was that? What kind of encounter was that?

Tonight, we ask ourselves two important questions. As we talk about visitors, who are they visiting? Sinu-sino ba ang mga dadalawin natin at dinalaw na natin ngayong Kapaskuhan? And the second question is - what kind of visitors are we?

First question - who are we visiting? After the Annunciation, when Mary was told by the angel, "You will be the mother of the Messiah, the mother of the Savior, the mother of the King of Kings," towards the end - remember the story - the angel told Mary, "Your cousin, Elizabeth, who was taught to be barren, is now on her sixth month". So Mary heard the news that Elizabeth was pregnant. And so, she hurriedly went to Elizabeth. It was a long journey. And remember, Mama Mary was already pregnant during that time. Pero hindi niya pinansin ang kondisyon niya, dahil gusto niyang dalawin si Elizabeth. If you read the succeeding passages in the Bible, we are told that Mary stayed with Elizabeth for three more months, which means she was bent on helping Elizabeth until the delivery. So Mary visited someone in need. Mary went there, not to receive, but to give.

Who are we visiting? Are we only visiting people who can reciprocate our goodness? "Doon tayo pumunta sa kaibigan natin, masarap ang pagkain doon, tsaka malaking magbigay 'yon." Minsan 'yong exchange gift natin, parang return of investment ang dating eh. Dapat may kapalit. "Ay wag tayong pumunta doon. Last year, wala namang binigay sa atin 'yan eh. Sayang lang ang pamasahe natin." Ayaw natin ang mga taong wala tayo sigurong matatanggap. Who are we visiting? Are we visiting only those who can also give us? Are we visiting to give, or simply to receive?

Let us examine our conscience. I remember when I was a child. From sunrise to sunset, I was with my cousin in the province, binabahay-bahay talaga namin. Pero sa mga bata, siguro ok lang ho 'yon. But now we ask ourselves. This season, can we visit, simply to give? Can we visit to share? Can we visit, simply to make others feel the goodness of the Lord? Who are we visiting? What kind of visitors are we?

We are told in the Gospel, when Mary visited Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth's womb leapt for joy. The presence of Mary gave joy. And she did not only bring herself. She brought Jesus with her. Sabi nga ni Pope Benedict, who is very rich in imagination, when Mary visited Elizabeth, it was the first Eucharistic procession, because Mary was already carrying Jesus Christ in her womb. And so she brought Jesus to Elizabeth. Kaya naman naglulundag si John the Baptist. Nakakita na po ba kayo ng Eucharistic procession, when the priest carries the Blessed Sacrament, dala-dala si Jesus? 'Yong si Mama Mary, noong dumalaw siya kay Elizabeth, she was carrying Jesus, she was bringing joy. What kind of visitor was Mary? Someone who brings joy and peace.

We ask ourselves - what kind of visitors are we? Are we visitors who bring joy? I am sure right now, you have some people in mind na kung pwede lang ay pagtaguan mo ngayon. Kasi mayroong mga bisitang iba ang dating, di ho ba? Pag dumating, lahat na lang pipintasan. "Pangit naman ng decoration ninyo, parang madumi naman. Ang tabang ng timpla ng handa ninyo." Kaya sinasabi natin na sana hindi na lang 'yan dumating kasi wala namang magandang sinasabi. Panay negative na lang. Minsan may mga taong allergic tayo, pero sa totoo lang, baka kayo rin, allergic din sila sa inyo.

What kind of visitors are we? Do we come to share the joys of Christ? When we enter the room, is everybody leaping with joy, or everyone is scampering and cowering with fear? Sila ba ay naglulundagan na ikaw ay dumating na, o ang sinasabi nila ay, "Naku ayan na, dumating na siya. Magtago na tayo." What kind of visitors are we?

Sabi nga ni Boy Pick-up - kilala n'yo ba si Boy Pick-up? "Bagyo ka ba?" Bakit? "Kasi, when you entered my area of responsibility, when you left, I was in a state of calamity." (laughs) What kind of visitors are we? Pagdating mo at pag-alis mo, state of calamity na ang iyong pamilya? Nagka-away-away kayo dahil dumating ka lang. Nagulo pa ang buhay ng mga tao. 

Brothers and sisters, in this mass, we pray for the grace, that like Mary, this Christmas, when we visit people, let's bring joy, let's bring love, let's share peace. So that like Mary and Elizabeth, we may rejoice in the greatness of the Lord.

Lastly, as I end this reflection, let us also remember in prayer, people who, at this time of the year, are waiting for visitors. One time I visited prisoners. One of them told me, "Father, you know, in my first Christmas year, my relatives came. On my second Christmas, no family member showed up. On my third, and now is my fifth Christmas, nobody has come back. I am waiting for them."

My brothers and sisters, there are people who are waiting for visitors. Sick people, the elderly, the orphans. Nakita natin sa TV ang mga biktima ni Pablo, nag-a-announce, "Nandito kami, buhay pa kami, puntahan n'yo kami." Maraming taong naghihintay ng bisita. And perhaps, could it be also that in your life right now, there are people waiting for your visit? In your life, there are people still longing to see you. Perhaps, you have been very busy. Perhaps you have complete forgotten about them. Or perhaps, we refuse because of some hurts. Until now, ayaw pa rin natin silang dalawin, kausapin o bisitahin. Perhaps the Lord is using this mass to remind you that there are people right now who, perhaps, you need to visit. Not just the people whom you will exchange gifts, not just the people who you will party with, but people who are thirsty for your love, for your presence, for your peace. We ask Mary, that we may imitate her willingness, her humility, her love in sharing the joy of Jesus to others.   

We pray that in this mass, like Mary, there may be humility. There may be love. We lit the fourth candle of Advent earlier, the candle of love. Especially homes in need of reconciliation and healing. 'Yong kailangan lang umuwi. 'Yong kailangan lang tanggapin sa pag-uwi. Hindi lang sila bisita; kailangan na silang umuwi at pauwiin.

We ask the Lord that our Christmas this year may be meaningful, just as God visited us. God gaves us His gifts. When God visited us, He did not simply receive gifts; He was the first to give His. Unworthy as we are, God visited us. God dwelt in us. And so as we continue with this mass, we pray: Lord, thank you for visiting us. Lord, thank you for staying with us. Thank you for giving us your Son. Lord, make us your visitors this Christmas. Visitors carrying your love, your peace, your truth and your goodness. Lord, when we receive visitors, may we see Your face in them. May we receive them with sincerity and love. To those who wait for visitors this year, dear Lord, please be with them. Send your people to touch them, so that they, too, may feel the love of this season. So that this Christmas, truly we will say, you have come in our midst. Come, Lord Jesus, do not just visit us. Stay with us. Amen.