Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Gospel Reflection

June 05, 2013
Wednesday – Year of Faith – Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Boniface, Bishop and Martyr
by Rev. Fr. Rufino "Jun" C. Sescon, Jr. - Chaplain, Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel (Greenbelt Chapel), Makati
7:00PM Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, (Greenbelt Chapel) Makati

Reading 1 Tb 3:1-11a, 16-17a

Grief-stricken in spirit, I, Tobit, groaned and wept aloud.Then with sobs I began to pray:

“You are righteous, O Lord, and all your deeds are just; All your ways are mercy and truth; you are the judge of the world. And now, O Lord, may you be mindful of me, and look with favor upon me. Punish me not for my sins, nor for my inadvertent offenses, nor for those of my ancestors.

“We sinned against you, and disobeyed your commandments. So you handed us over to plundering, exile, and death, till you made us the talk and reproach of all the nations among whom you had dispersed us.

“Yes, your judgments are many and true in dealing with me as my sins and those of my ancestors deserve. For we have not kept your commandments, nor have we trodden the paths of truth before you.

“So now, deal with me as you please, and command my life breathe to be taken from me, that I may go from the face of the earth into dust. It is better for me to die than to live, because I have heard insulting calumnies, and I am overwhelmed with grief.

“Lord, command me to be delivered from such anguish; let me go to the everlasting abode; Lord, refuse me not. For it is better for me to die than to endure so much misery in life, and to hear these insults!”

On the same day, at Ecbatana in Media, it so happened that Raguel’s daughter Sarah also had to listen to abuse, from one of her father’s maids. For she had been married to seven husbands, but the wicked demon Asmodeus killed them off before they could have intercourse with her, as it is prescribed for wives. So the maid said to her: “You are the one who strangles your husbands! Look at you! You have already been married seven times, but you have had no joy with any one of your husbands. Why do you beat us? Is it on account of your seven husbands, Because they are dead? May we never see a son or daughter of yours!”

The girl was deeply saddened that day, and she went into an upper chamber of her house, where she planned to hang herself.

But she reconsidered, saying to herself: “No! People would level this insult against my father: ‘You had only one beloved daughter, but she hanged herself because of ill fortune!’ And thus would I cause my father in his old age to go down to the nether world laden with sorrow. It is far better for me not to hang myself, but to beg the Lord to have me die, so that I need no longer live to hear such insults.”

At that time, then, she spread out her hands, and facing the window, poured out her prayer:

“Blessed are you, O Lord, merciful God, and blessed is your holy and honorable name. Blessed are you in all your works for ever!”

At that very time,  the prayer of these two suppliants was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God. So Raphael was sent to heal them both: to remove the cataracts from Tobit’s eyes, so that he might again see God’s sunlight; and to marry Raguel’s daughter Sarah to Tobit’s son Tobiah, and then drive the wicked demon Asmodeus from her.

R. (1) To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
In you I trust; let me not be put to shame,
let not my enemies exult over me.
No one who waits for you shall be put to shame;
those shall be put to shame who heedlessly break faith.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your kindness are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
he teaches the humble his way.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Gospel Mk 12:18-27

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus and put this question to him, saying, “Teacher, Moses wrote for us, If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother. Now there were seven brothers. The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants. So the second brother married her and died, leaving no descendants, and the third likewise. And the seven left no descendants. Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her.” Jesus said to them, “Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven. As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled.”


Good evening po sa inyong lahat.

It is, once again, our servants' mass. We hold this every month, when we focus on some ministries of people serving at the chapel. And tonight, our ministry in focus are our brothers from the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. So I request our brothers to stand up and be recognized by the community. (loud applause for the ministers)

Given the chance, I still pray that we will have more servants. I was talking to the Cardinal the other day...I would really want to expand my ministry here at Greenbelt. Not only providing the mass, confession, but especially the office ministry, which is still an emerging ministry in the local church. Meaning to say, for offices. And one thing I realized - I was telling the Cardinal - is that if I will be given the time - it is my appeal now to the servants of Greenbelt Chapel...If things are well in the Chapel, that makes the grace more free to think of other ministries, to be more creative. Kaya kung minsan 'yong ibang mga pari ay hindi na makaisip ng ibang ministry kasi napapagod na po sa servant level pa lang. Kaya siguro 'yon ang request ko sa ating mga servants. If we could really do things well here, we could create more opportunities to serve. And one of the things I pray - I dream, given the chance, if I will be given more time and more help, is the ministry of hope. What do I mean about the 'ministry of hope'?

We all know that nowadays, the rate of suicide is increasing. And I think that is part of modernity, that is part of progress. Especially here in Makati, which is the center of progress, of modernity, where the consequence would be secularism and individualism, suicide is a reality. And that is an aspect that slowly we have to face in Philippine society. In America, that is no longer startling, but now we have to be conscious that it is becoming a cause for alarm. Dati-rati siguro, ang Pilipino sabi nila, dahil masayahin daw tayong tao, eh huling huli na itong iisipin natin. But in recent statistics, it is surprising that we are fighting that phenomenon already, because of depression, of so many concerns, especially hidden stress. The office, we all know, is the center of stress. Kaya pag nakikita ko kayong pumapasok dito, sinasabihan ko 'yong mga greeters and collectors, ngitian n'yo naman sila, kasi baka buong araw sa opisina eh ang mga kaharap nila ay puro nakasimangot na, ang mga kaharap nila ay maaasim na. Tapos pagdating dito sa simbahan eh maaasim pa rin ang kaharap nila, baka talagang tumalon na 'yan sa lagoon, 'no? (laughs) Pero hindi po 'yan lagpas tao, kaya huwag ho kayong magtatangka.

But that phenomenon.....And our First Reading today is a good point for departure. We have been hearing the story of Tobit. Tobit is a very good man and was doing good, but he got blinded for four years. And so he could not reconcile the fact that he was doing good, he was trying hard to be close to God, but that he is suffering from so many misfortunes. Nagkaroon siya ng away sa asawa niya, nabulag pa siya. Naapektuhan na 'yong kanyang negosyo. And so Tobit was, in a way, depressed, and to some extent, he felt suicidal. And in the Bible, there are people who are like that. Moses, Jeremiah....these are good people who also entertained that thought. And I'm sure some of us here, if not most of us, entertain that thought. I am not saying you really wanted to do it, but you were entertaining that thought. 'Tapusin ko na kaya ito. Tapusin ko na kaya ang buhay ko para wala na akong problema. Wala na akong konsumisyon.' I'm sure most of us entertain that thought.

And apart from Tobit, Sarah, in the First Reading, also entertained that thought. If you listen carefully to her story, she has seven husbands. And all of them died before approaching her. Kundi ka pa naman maging suicidal noon, ano. (laughs) Talagang depressed na depressed siya. And that is why she told the Lord, 'please take my life'.

I remember I have a friend who has had four miscarriages. And she was telling the Lord, "Lord, why like this?" She really suffered so much, she couldn't reconcile it. "Lord, You would give me, and You would take it away." The longest that she had, the last one, was a few hours only after delivery. She could not understand.

The point is - what is the big difference there? Tobit and Sarah did not, in the end, commit suicide, because they turned to God. They did not turn just to friends. They did not turn to alcohol. They did not turn to money or to drugs. They turned to the Lord. And because of that, they found that hope, that extension of life. And notice in the Reading, the author mentioned that at that day, at that time, the prayers of both Tobit and Sarah were heard by the Lord. Masyadong dramatic 'yong kwento ano. Hindi po sila magkakilala, but at that time, they were saying prayers together. And at that time, their prayers were both answered.

I don't want to pre-empt because some of you may not attend the masses in the days to come. But to pre-empt things, to make it more romantic and colorful for you, Tobit and Sarah will still meet. Not only were their prayers answered. You know why? The archangel Raphael was sent by God to them, to heal them and to give them more graces. And what will happen in the end? Raphael will bring Sarah to Tobit. Tobit has a son, Tobiah, who has been praying also for a partner in life. And in the end, Tobiah and Sarah will end up as husband and wife. What a story.

Kaya si St. Raphael ay patron daw ho ng matchmakers. Pag may nagtatanong po sa akin, "Father, sino po ba ang dadasalan ko kung sino po ang mapapangasawa ko, lagi kong sinasabi, pray to St. Raphael. It was St. Raphael who brought Sarah and Tobiah together. Those were desperate measures already, ano. (laughs) But you know, as I was telling you this story....alam ko namang interesado kayo sa mga kwentong ganyan....(laughs), I remember a favorite story of Cardinal Sin. You know, I have memorized the story already because he has told the story time and time again. And since I was his adopted child, I will imitate him and never get tired of the story.

There is the story of Alice of Montbard who entered a convent. She wanted to be a nun, but the problem with Alice was she was always sleeping. She was like Maria of the 'Sound of Music'. And so in the end, Mother Superior told Alice, "Alice, convent is not for you. You cannot be a nun." And so they sent Alice out of the convent.

At about the same time in a seminary, there was a guy who wanted to be a priest. His name was Tescelin. But every time Tescelin sees a beautiful woman, his eyes would whirl, and he would follow that woman, because he is always in love. And that is why the Rector told Tescelin, "Tescelin, you cannot be a priest. You are fond of looking at beautiful women. I think you should go out."

Alice was sent out of the nunnery; Tescelin was sent out of the seminary. And they were so frustrated, so disappointed, so heartbroken, they turned to God. They went to Notre Dame of Paris, and prayed to our Lady. And when they entered into the cathedral - you know Cardinal Sin is very graphic in his story - at the right side of the cathedral was Alice, crying and crying. 'Lord, I want to be a nun. But why did you not answer my prayer?' On the other end of the cathedral is Tescelin, beating his breast and saying, 'Why did you give me this weakness, Lord, when I want to serve you? I want to be a priest.' They were so heartbroken, crying and crying, until they got tired. And then Tescelin noticed that there was a lady at the other end of the church. And so he looked at the lady. And Alice noticed that someone was looking at her. And so she turned her face on the left, and saw Tescelin. And it was love at first sight. (soft laughter and whispers) And it was the beginning of a very beautiful love story.

Alice and Tescelin eventually got married, and bore seven children. And of the seven children, four became priests, two became sisters, one got married. And for the seven of them, one became a saint, four became blessed, and two are venerables. And Alice was beatified by the Catholic Church, while the cause for Tescelin is ongoing. A beautiful novel was written about them. The title of the novel was "The Family that Overtook Christ" (laughs)

Yes, from seeming hopeless moments, they turned to God. Kaya, turn to God. Malay n'yo, sa kakaiyak n'yo diyan, may magbigay sa inyo ng panyo (loud laughs), 'yon pala ang Tescelin ng buhay n'yo. At si Alice, abangan n'yo. Baka maraming Alice diyan sa paligid. Kaya magandang nagsisimba kayo, ano? (laughs) Nag-no-novena kayo...malay n'yo dito ho sagutin ng Diyos ang inyong dasal.

But kidding aside, as we continue with this mass, dear brothers and sisters, I just want to say this. Never give up. Always hope in the Lord. You have heard this. We always say, "Habang may buhay, may pag-asa." Pero habang may pag-asa, may buhay. Tobit, Sarah, Alice, Tescelin....they always had hope, because they always had God. God never tires, because He is the God of the living and the dead.

And so as we continue with this mass, we pray for that grace. Lord, every time I'm in doubt, every time I'm weak, every time I'm anxious, every time I'm depressed, I hear so many voices, so many forces pulling me apart. But Lord, in moments when I am so low, remind me always to turn to You. When I serve, Lord, remind me, I am turning to You. When I am working, Lord, remind me, I am turning to You. When I am at home with my family, remind me, I am turning to You. Because every time I turn to you, Lord, there is hope, there is grace, there is life. Amen.

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