Sunday, February 24, 2013

Gospel Reflection

February 24, 2013
Sunday – Year of Faith – Lenten Season
by  Rev. Fr. Rufino Jun Sescon (Chaplain, Sto. Niño de Paz Greenbelt Chapel)
6:00PM Anticipated Sunday Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt, Makati
Reading 1 Gn 15:5-12, 17-18

The Lord God took Abram outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars, if you can. Just so,” he added, “shall your descendants be.” Abram put his faith in the LORD, who credited it to him as an act of righteousness.

He then said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you from Ur of the Chaldeans  to give you this land as a possession.” “O Lord GOD,” he asked, “how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He answered him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” Abram brought him all these, split them in two, and placed each half opposite the other; but the birds he did not cut up. Birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram stayed with them. As the sun was about to set, a trance fell upon Abram, and a deep, terrifying darkness enveloped him.

When the sun had set and it was dark, there appeared a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch, which passed between those pieces. It was on that occasion that the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River, the Euphrates.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 27:1, 7-8, 8-9, 13-14

R. (1a) The Lord is my light and my salvation.
The LORD is my light and my salvation;
whom should I fear?
The LORD is my life’s refuge;
of whom should I be afraid?
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call;
have pity on me, and answer me.
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. The Lord is my light and my salvation.

Reading 2 Phil 3:17—4:1

Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and observe those who thus conduct themselves  according to the model you have in us. For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself.

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord.

Gospel Lk 9:28b-36

Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and his companions had been overcome by sleep,  but becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As they were about to part from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here; let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But he did not know what he was saying. While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.


Today is the second Sunday of Lent. While the first Sunday of Lent is normally called 'Temptation Sunday' because the Gospel is about the temptation of Jesus, the second Sunday of Lent is called the 'Transfiguration Sunday', because every second Sunday of Lent has the Transfiguration account as the Gospel. And what does the Transfiguration tell us? What is its relevance as we journey through Lent? 

There is an Ancient tale about a monk who was renowned in holiness and wisdom. He was living on top of the mountain. He attracted so many young people, students and novices, to learn from him. And there was this guy who stayed with the monk for a long time. He was considered a novice. After so much time, the monk told the novice that he has to go down, and that he will finish already his discipleship course. That night, on the eve of his departure, the monk said, "I will accompany you in going down the mountain." And so the novice was quite excited because his teacher, his master, will join him in going down the mountain. 

Early that morning, the master approached the novice and asked him, "Look there before you, at the vastness surrounding the mountain peak." And he asked his student, "Tell me, what do you see?" The student looked at the vastness surrounding the mountain peak and says, "Master, I see the sun beginning to wake, just below the horizon. I also see the hills and mountains that stretch out for miles. And far below this mountain, a lake and an old town." The teacher just smiled and said, "Very well, let us go down." And so they descended the mountain. 

When they arrived at the foot of the mountain, again, the teacher spoke. "Tell me, what do you see?" And the student answered, "Teacher, I see roosters running around the barn, cows in the meadow, children playing by the stream, and farmers going to the field." The master remained silent, and they went together to the gate of the town. And then the teacher asked the young ward, "What did you learn today, as we descended the mountain? Perhaps this is the last lesson - the last wisdom - I will impart to you." 

The student was perplexed. He did not know what to answer. Trying to recall those two questions - same question, there on top what did he see, and when they reached the bottom, what did he see. And so the student said, "I cannot understand what you mean, dear teacher." After a long while, the mentor replied, "The road to enlightenment is not a journey down the mountain. It comes only to those who realize that what one sees at the mountaintop, is not what one sees at the bottom. What you see there on top, is different from what you see here at the bottom. Without this wisdom, we close our minds to all that we cannot view from our position, and limit our capacity to grow and to improve. With this wisdom comes an awakening. We recognize that alone, one only sees so much, which, in truth, is not much at all."

The student was struck by that wisdom. What we see is not really that much. In fact, what we see is nothing at all. This is the wisdom that will go with our minds to improvement that will knock down prejudices and teach us to respect, what at first we cannot view. 

And then, the master continued. "This is my lesson. What you cannot see, can be seen from a different part of the mountain." 

It sounds so simple. But there is wisdom in that lesson, as it pertains to life. What you cannot see, can be seen from a different part of the mountain. 

From a Christian point of view, it is Jesus who is that part of the mountain. It is Jesus, who is the mountain. It is Jesus, who will let us see what we cannot see from other parts of the mountain called 'life'.

No wonder in today's Gospel, the Transfiguration account, Jesus invites His disciples - Peter, James, and John - to go on top of the mountain. You will notice, brothers and sisters, so many things happened to people in the Bible, when they're on top of the mountain. If you have time, try to recall characters in the Bible who spent so much time there on the mountaintop. Because when they were there, they saw a glimpse of God. A glimpse of grace. A glimpse of the divine. 

And that is why when go look down, some people could not understand them. Some people would not accept them. Some people even rejected them. Because they saw something that we did not see. They finally understood something, that we are still struggling and grumbling about in life. 

Brothers and sisters, no wonder the Transfiguration is very important in our Lenten journey. It is because when Jesus brought His disciples up there in the mountain, He was telling them to be open. Open your eyes, open your heart, open your ears, for with Me, you will see something important, something very crucial in your life. No wonder even the voice of the heavens, God the Father, simply said, "This is my chosen Son, listen to Him." 

Brothers and sisters, we have to admit that in life, there are things we find difficult to understand. Perhaps some of us right now, sa mga nagsisimba po ngayon, mayroong mga nakakangiti, akala n'yo ok lang, pero sa puso nila, pakiramdam nila ay nasa dilim sila sapagkat nangangapa sila. Nangangapa sila dahil meron silang hindi maintindihang nangyayari ngayon sa buhay nila. Siguro, hanggang ngayon tinatanong mo, "Bakit ako maysakit? Bakit may sakit ang mahal ko sa buhay? Bakit nawalan ako ng trabaho? Bakit ako dumadaan ngayon sa matinding pagsubok? Bakit nangyayari itong mga bagay-bagay na ito sa akin? Hindi naman ako ganoong kasamang tao. Pero bakit nasa akin ang krus na ito?" Some of us will reach that point in life, when we ask the Lord, "I cannot see the point. I cannot see what you want me to understand." 

When you are in those moments, remember the Transfiguration. There are things we cannot see, but we need to go to a different part of the mountain, in order to see that. We need to be with Jesus. 

And that is why in the First Reading, Abraham was being tested by the Lord. And the Lord simply told him, "Look up there in the sky. Look at the stars. They will be the number of your descendants." As if the Lord was telling Abraham to look at a different point of view. Look with the eyes of faith. Look with the eyes of love. And you will see where I am leading you in life. 

Yes, brothers and sisters, with all honesty, we admit and confess that some of the teachings of the Lord are hard and difficult to follow. Even I - aamin ko sa inyo - hindi ho dahil pari ako, eh ang lahat po ng turo ni Kristo ay madali para sa akin. May pagkakataon pong nagtatanong ako - Kailangan pa ba itong sundin, Lord? Pag minsan nga, nasa confessario ako, naririnig ko, minsan tinatanong ko, "Lord, patatawarin ko ba ito? Mamahalin ko ba ito, Lord?" Sometimes, there are moments when we cannot really understand. It is beyond reason. 

There are people who I have encountered, in some instances, who say they have left the faith, because Christianity is so impractical, illogical, unreasonable. Imagine - love your enemies? Do good to those who persecute you? Forgive one another? Isn't that out of this world? Isn't that illogical? Isn't that unreasonable and impractical? Yes, some people cannot see. Perhaps, they need to go to a different part of the mountain to see that. 

And that is why in this mass, brothers and sisters, we ask the Lord. "Lord, invite us, just as you invited Peter, James and John. Invite us there in the mountaintop. Invite us to be with Moses and Elijah. Moses is the symbol of the law. Invite us to follow Your law, oh Lord. Even if at times, Your law is hard. Your law is hard to accept. Your law is difficult to obey. Elijah is the symbol of the prophets, the teachings of the Lord. Enable us to accept and appreciate Your teachings, oh Lord. Even if at times, they run into conflict with the ways of the world. Lord, invite us there at the mountaintop, so that we can finally see what others cannot see. What we are trying hard to see in our lives."

Yes, the Transfiguration took place on the road to Jerusalem. On the road to Easter, at the heart of Lent. Because the disciples need the Transfiguration. They need to see that glimpse, so that finally, when they see the Cross, in the world of disease, punishment and death on the cross, those who have been on the mountaintop, when they see the Cross, they will see life. They will see love, not cruelty. They will see salvation, not condemnation. 

Yes, may mga bagay-bagay tayong hindi naintindihan, lalo na sa ibang mga tao. Hanggang ngayon ang mundo, hindi pa rin maintindihan - bakit ba nag-resign si Pope Benedict? Bakit siya bumitaw? Alam n'yo ho simple lang ang sagot ko doon. Siguro mayroon siyang nakikita, na hindi natin nakikita. At nakita niya 'yon - natitiyak ko - sapagkat sinisikap niyang laging makasama ang Panginoon, sa pananalangin, sa pagsunod, sa pagtupad ng kalooban ng Diyos.

Sana po, maranasan rin natin ang biyayang 'yon. Siguro nga, pagtatawanan tayo ng mundo, kukutyain tayo ng iba't ibang tao, sasabihan tayo nang kung anu-ano. Pero tayo, dahil nakita natin 'yon, kasama ng Panginoon, katulad ng Panginoon, katulad ng mga disipulo, makapagpapatuloy tayo sa ating paglakbay sa buhay. As we continue with this mass, we ask the Lord, that our journey here in this world may also lead us to mountaintops, to experiences with the Lord. So that our hearts may see the wonderful and beautiful plan the Lord has prepared for us. Amen. 

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