Sunday, June 30, 2013

Gospel Reflection

June 30, 2013
Sunday – Year of Faith – Ordinary Time
by His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio "Chito" Gokim Tagle
Archbishop of Manila & Cardinal-Priest of the Ttitular Church of San Felice da Cantalice a Centocelle in Rome
2:30PM Mass on the blessing of the newly built Mary Mother of Hope Chapel (Landmark Chapel), Makati

Reading 1 1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21

The LORD said to Elijah: “You shall anoint Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah, as prophet to succeed you.”

Elijah set out and came upon Elisha, son of Shaphat, as he was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen; he was following the twelfth. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak over him. Elisha left the oxen, ran after Elijah, and said, “Please, let me kiss my father and mother goodbye, and I will follow you.” Elijah answered, “Go back! Have I done anything to you?” Elisha left him, and taking the yoke of oxen, slaughtered them; he used the plowing equipment for fuel to boil their flesh, and gave it to his people to eat. Then Elisha left and followed Elijah as his attendant.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 16:1-2, 5, 7-8, 9-10, 11

R. (cf. 5a) You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Keep me, O God, for in you I take refuge;
I say to the LORD, “My Lord are you.
O LORD, my allotted portion and my cup,
you it is who hold fast my lot.”
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
I bless the LORD who counsels me;
even in the night my heart exhorts me.
I set the LORD ever before me;
with him at my right hand I shall not be disturbed.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
Therefore my heart is glad and my soul rejoices,
my body, too, abides in confidence
because you will not abandon my soul to the netherworld,
nor will you suffer your faithful one to undergo corruption.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.
You will show me the path to life,
fullness of joys in your presence,
the delights at your right hand forever.
R. You are my inheritance, O Lord.

Reading 2 Gal 5:1, 13-18

Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.

I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh. For the flesh has desires against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you may not do what you want. But if you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Gospel Lk 9:51-62

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him.  On the way they entered a Samaritan village  to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.  When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?”  Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

And to another he said, “Follow me.”  But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”  But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.  But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”  To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”


Today is a day of rejoicing. First of all, it is a Sunday. And every Sunday, the Christian community gathers in order to give thanks to God for the gift of the risen Lord who took us to new life - a life of freedom, freedom from sin, freedom from death. Every Sunday, we redeem ourselves as the fruit of Christ's resurrection. 

And this day is made more significant, made more special by the blessing of this new chapel dedicated for the glory of God, and also through our Lady under the title of Our Mother of Hope. We would like to thank Bishop Bernardino Cortez, our Auxiliary Bishop here in Manila, for gracing this occasion. We thank our brother priests; we do not know if their parishes will have masses this afternoon (laughs) because they're all here to share with our joy. 

The blessing of this chapel is an indication to us - what is the chapel all about? What is this house of God all about? Is this just a space that is reserved for some purpose? In one sense, yes. This place has been reserved for a religious purpose. This place will now be reserved for the work of God, especially through the proclamation of the Word, especially through the very moments of prayer, adoration and devotion, and most especially through the celebration of the Eucharist. This Chapel will be devoted to the work of God under the Archdiocese of Manila. 

And this chapel - the Mary Mother of Hope Chapel - will be in tandem with the Mother Chapel, the Greenbelt Chapel. We do not want Sto. Nino and the fight. (laughs) Mother and Son should not fight. Mother and Son are always together, working for God's glory. And to ensure that Mother and Son will work harmoniously, we assigned a supervisor for the Mother and the Son. (laughs) One supervisor - si Father Jun Sescon. (loud applause) He will take charge in coordinating the schedule of the masses and other sacraments. In other words, we are the one body of Christ, who is the King of Kings. And we are all children of the one Mother, who we call Our Lady of Hope. We hope that in this area, amid the continuing commercial business, in the midst of all the buzz, there will be the never ending grace of God, who is the source of all life. (applause)....What does that mean? (referring to the clapping) Uupo na po ba ako? Pinatitigil na po yata ako. (laughs)

This brings us to a consideration of the Readings for today. if this Chapel is the house of God, if this Chapel is devoted to the Word of God, if this Chapel nurtures the community as the body of Christ, if this Chapel helps in the strengthening of the bonds of Christians being temples of the Holy Spirit, then the Readings for today give us a wonderful description of one of the missions of this Chapel, which is to form and to continuously form disciples of Christ. True, genuine, sincere disciples of Christ. 

There are many characteristics of a disciple of Christ. And in the Readings for today, one important element is described, and it is freedom - freedom in the spirit. St. Paul, in the Second Reading, in his letter to the Galatians, said that Christ has freed us. Christ has set us free. But St. Paul quickly describes it as freedom based on the power of the Holy Spirit. It is spiritual freedom, which is quite different from freedom according to the flesh. 

And what is freedom according to the flesh? Freedom according to flesh is this - I will do what I want to do. I am free, so I can do what I want to do. I do not care. Nobody can stop me. I am free, I can do what I want to do. That's the freedom that is more palatable to our very worldly place. And that is the freedom that many people want to exercise. 

I see some of our children (in the kids' room). Naririnig din tayo ng mga bata, at nakikita nila tayo sa TV screen. Mga bata....sorry ha...baka tulog na kayo diyan. (laughs) But you are part this community, huh....hindi kayo hiwalay. Mga bata - o halimbawa, pag sinabi ng inyong mga magulang, "O, mag-aral ka na, may pasok bukas. Puro ka TV at computer games." O huwag mong sasabihin, "Mommy, I am free. I can do what I want to do. Kung gusto kong mag-aral, mag-aaral ako. Kung gusto kong mag-TV magti-TV ako. This is a free country." (laughs) Is that freedom? 

Kayong mga nandito, paggising n'yo sa umaga, check kaagad kayo kung may message kayo sa cellphone. Habang nag-aalmusal, nagse-cellphone pa rin. Habang nagsa-shower, nandoon pa rin (laughs) kasama ang case. Habang nagtuturo ang teacher ninyo, 'yon pa rin, chine-check n'yo pa rin. And then people will ask you, "Ano ka ba, bakit puro ka cellphone?" And then sasabihin n'yo, "Well, am I not free?"....Are you free? Are you really free, or are you already a slave of such a gadget? Ang liit-liit niyan, ang laki-laki mo. (laughs) Napapasunod ka niyan. Nag-ring lang, nagtatatakbo ka na. (laughs) Who is the slave? Who is free? Who is unfree? 

Kinuwento ko nga kanina, na minsan may lumapit sa akin na dalaga, ang sabi niya, "You know Bishop, I am physically attracted to one of your priests." (loud laughs) Ano kaya 'yon? Humihingi kaya siya ng permiso? (laughs) Was she expecting a blessing from me? (loud laughs) O ok, ok....oh..mamili ka....(loud laughs) Biniro ko na lang. Sabi ko, "Huh? Sa akin?" (laughs) But of course, the conversation did not progress, but then again, if that woman, for example, will tell me, "Well, what can I do? Gusto ko siya, eh." Is that freedom?

'Yong mga may asawa na dito. May nakita napakagandang dalaga. Will you say, "Ay hayaan mo na 'yang misis ko.....maganda siya dati, eh. (loud laughs) I am free, I can choose anyone I want. Is that freedom? 

St. Paul is telling us - if you are a true disciple of Christ, you will know what true freedom is. It is freedom coming from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. And the law that is supposed to help us maintain true freedom is love which comes from the Spirit. If you love God, if you are totally available for God, if you love your neighbor, you will not allow anything - especially evil things - to block your freedom to be kind, to be good, to be compassionate. 

That's why St. Paul says, if you keep on fighting each other, you are not free. Because you are not loving; you are devouring one another. Sabi niya, sa kaa-away n'yo, baka maubos kayo. Oo nga, kakagatin mo 'yong isa. Ubos. Ubusan ng lahi. (laughs) Is that freedom? No. According to St. Paul, that's not freedom. That is slavery to the world. 

And we hope in this Chapel, through the Word of God, through the Eucharist, may we all become children of God, disciples of Christ, a true temple of the Holy Spirit known for their freedom coming from God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. 

But let us expect Jesus to challenge us, to form us. Just like in the Gospel. Someone said, "I will follow You." And Jesus says, will follow Me. I am going to Jerusalem to face My death. Will you follow Me? Ang daling sabihin, "I will follow You." Parang kanta 'yon. Ano na nga'ng kanta 'yon? (laughs) 'Yong sa 'Sister Act'. Do we have some sisters here\/ (Cardinal saw a nun.) Sister, can you sing it for us? (loud laughs) 

I will follow You....pero baka kung papunta kayo ng Jerusalem, I will not follow You. And so Jesus told them that birds have nests, and foxes have dens, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head. If you will follow Me, it is not a life of comfort. And then Jesus invites another person to follow Him and the man said, 'Let me bury my father first'. And the other one said, 'May I say goodbye to my parents?' And Jesus said, if you are really focused on the Kingdom of God, you don't look back. Move forward. 

Now, Jesus is not being inhuman here. What Jesus is trying to point out is - even if there are other good and important things, nothing should compete with your following of Christ. Nothing should hinder you from pursuing the Kingdom of God. Not because the others are not good, huh? They may be good. But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and you shall be totally free for God. Totally free. 

Pag nagko-confirmation ako, tinatanong ko 'yong mga bata to test their freedom. I ask them after their confirmation. What will be your priority - TV or studies? Studies po. Natutuwa ako. Focused na sila. Ano ang mas mahalaga - pagbubulakbol o pagdarasal? Pagdarasal po. (laughs) Wow ayan ha, talagang totally free for Christ. Ano ang mas importante - misa o 30 million dollars? 30 million dollars po. (loud laughs) Unfree na naman. Kunsabagay, sayang din 'yon. (laughs) Pero ganyan ang isip natin eh. We say we want to follow Jesus, but the moment something is dangled before us, will we be free to say, 'No, I don't want to be distracted. I follow Jesus.'...'Yong iba sa inyo ngayon, nakikita ko, tumatango-tango pa. (laughs) Tingnan ko lang. (loud laughs) Ha...mahirap 'yan. 

So we ask for this grace. And St. Paul says we should be vigilant. We do not know. We think we're still free but then, we realize that upon closer investigation, we are no longer free. We are not. Mga bata, are you free, or are you a slave of your games? Kayong mga teenagers, are you free, or maybe you are already slaves of how you should look? Kaya kung anu-ano ang nilalagay ninyo sa mukha ninyo. Di na kayo nakuntento. Binigay ng Diyos 'yan. 'Yang mukhang 'yan. (laughs) And it is good. If it comes from God, it is good. Bakit mo ire-retoke? (laughs) That is unfreedom. You are pretending to be the Creator....And look at what happened. (loud laughs) Sa kagagalaw mo sa mukha mo, ano'ng nangyari? Abstract painting. (loud laughs) Mabuti pa 'yong gawa ng Diyos. You are a slave of all these things - the cult of ageless beauty, the cult of kailangang maging maputi. Bakit kailangang maputi? Ha? Bakit? Slavery. Ang dami niyan. 

So we hope that this Chapel through our service of the Word, through sacraments, through silent prayer, through communion and adoration, we may all hear Jesus say, 'Come follow Me. Are you totally free before Me? Or do you have other gods dictating on you? You may hear them more than you hear Me.' The freedom to follow Jesus. 

So this Chapel, and the Greenbelt Chapel, in a busy commercial district, are a testament to that freedom. It is good to work. It is good to shop. It is good to recreate. But we should remain free to follow the Lord. This Chapel is a reminder to all of us to be vigilant, to instill worship and recognize the true Lord - or have we replaced Him with other lords who dictate on us and make us helpless? 

Kapag mayroon pong isang bagong gadget na lumabas, parang nag-iinvite, buy me (laughs)....come to me...Eto tayo, 'Lord I come to do Your will.' (laughs) Pero si Hesus, tawag nang tawag. Forgive one another. Ano? Love your enemies. Ano? So, who is our real Lord? Are we truly free? 

Let this Chapel, through the guidance of Our Lady of Hope, lead us to freedom. For there will be hope in the world - hope in families, hope in our personal lives, if there is true and lasting freedom. Despair, frustration - these are all fruits of the lack of freedom. When we are unfree, we become desperate. So we hope Our Lady will lead us to true discipleship, freedom and hope. 

Let us pause and be part of the significance of today's celebration and let us heed the invitation to be true disciples of Christ, in freedom and love. 

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