Sunday, November 3, 2013

Gospel Reflection

November 03, 2013
Sunday – Year of Faith – Ordinary Time
by Fr. Alex Clemente, RCJ (Vice Rector and Prefect, Rogationist Order, Rogationist Seminary-Manila)
7:15AM Mass, Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel (Greenbelt Chapel), Makati

Reading 1 Wis 11:22-12:2

Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth. But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook people's sins that they may repent. For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned. And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you? But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls, for your imperishable spirit is in all things! Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!

Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13, 14

R. (cf. 1) I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
The LORD is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The LORD is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
The LORD is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The LORD lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.

Reading 2 2 Thes 1:11-2:2

Brothers and sisters: We always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and powerfully bring to fulfillment every good purpose and every effort of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

We ask you, brothers and sisters, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling with him, not to be shaken out of your minds suddenly, or to be alarmed either by a "spirit," or by an oral statement, or by a letter allegedly from us to the effect that the day of the Lord is at hand.

Gospel Lk 19:1-10

At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town.  Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature.  So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house."  And he came down quickly and received him with joy.  When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner."  But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham.  For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost."


Today's Liturgy is focused on the characteristics of God. All the readings that we have heard reveal to us who God is. In the First Reading from the Book of Wisdom, it is revealed that our God is a God of mercy. He is a God of compassion. He is a God of forgiveness. The Responsorial Psalm describes furthermore God's mercy, compassion and forgiveness. He is a God who is rich and great in mercy and kindness. He is a God of opportunity. He gives us a chance to repent, to be good and improve. And in today's Gospel, we have seen the personification of that God in the person of Jesus. He is a God who seeks those who are going astray. He is full of mercy and runs after sinners. 

This is totally opposite from our tendency. Whenever we are offended or hurt, yes, we can forgive, but we expect the other person to make the first move. That is our kind of reasoning, so we wait. But our God is a God who initiates. He is ready to bow down, just to meet the sinners. 

Yes, God is powerful, but His power is manifested in His mercy, in His compassion, in His gentleness. This is totally opposite with the power that we know in this world. In our society, people of power are stiff and feared. We tremble in front of them. We should not disobey them, or we face the consequences. But our God who is powerful is full of gentleness and love.

When Jesus met Zacchaeus, Jesus ran after him, inspired him, and brought him to repentance and conversion. Zacchaeus was a public sinner and I am sure that he was aware of his stature. He was considered a powerful man during that time, but he was aware of his sins. Perhaps he already heard criticisms and have experienced rejections from the people around him. But when Jesus met Zacchaeus, he did not say anything bad about him. Jesus just told Zacchaeus that He needed to stay in his house today. Hindi Niya sinumbatan si Zacchaeus. And Zacchaeus was deeply touched by that power. It was like a magnet that he could not refuse. 

My dear friends, that's the power of God, manifested in His mercy, in His compassion, in His forgiveness. May we be inspired by that mercy, by that power of God. As has been said in one of our readings, may we be consumed also 'like the morning dew in front of the sun'. That was Zacchaeus. He was absorbed by the compassion of Jesus. He was ready to abandon everything, when he told the Lord that he shall give half of his belongings to the poor and pay those who he took advantage of. 

My dear friends, when we truly experience God's compassion and mercy, we cannot but share the same mercy, the same compassion, the same forgiveness to others. And so, if we find it hard to forgive, to understand and to feel sympathy toward our brothers and sisters, let us remember the mercy and compassion that God has freely and generously given to us. Let us pray that we may be like our Lord God and become instruments of God's mercy. Just like Zacchaeus, may we join the company of Jesus, proclaiming the same mercy, the same compassion to other people. May we truly be God's compassion, and may we manifest it to others. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Gospel Reflection

November 02, 2013
Saturday – Year of Faith – Ordinary Time
The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls)
by Rev. Fr. Leo Nilo C. Mangussad, - Rector, Shrine of Mary Queen of Peace (Our Lady of Peace Quasi Parish/EDSA Shrine)
6:30AM Mass at the EDSA Shrine

Reading 1 Wis 3:1-9

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the LORD shall be their King forever. Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect.

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
R. Though I walk in the valley of darkness, I fear no evil, for you are with me.

Reading 2 Rom 5:5-11

Brothers and sisters: Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For Christ, while we were still helpless, died at the appointed time for the ungodly. Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person, though perhaps for a good person one might even find courage to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his Blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath. Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Not only that, but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Brothers and sisters: Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection. We know that our old self was crucified with him,  so that our sinful body might be done away with, that we might no longer be in slavery to sin. For a dead person has been absolved from sin. If, then, we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.

Gospel Jn 6:37-40

Jesus said to the crowds: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.”


Good morning my brothers and sisters.

Today, we commemorate the souls of our beloved departed. Today is the time when we visit them in the cemetery. Today, we try to remember once more how much we are accustomed to be with our beloved departed. Two things are important - our connection with them, and the importance of our connection with them through prayer.

A lot of people always ask why we have to pray for the dead, when they are already dead, and there is nothing we can do?

Let me tell you a story. There were two friends fighting over the issue of purgatory. One does not believe, while the other firmly believes. The one who does not believe kept on talking and talking, as they were walking. At the end of the day, they went back to their homes. When supper was ready, the one who believed in purgatory said, 'It is time to eat. Come'. But the one who disbelieved said, 'Wait a second. With all the grime and dirt that we got while walking home, I have to wash, at least, my hands, before eating.' To which the one who believed in purgatory remarked, 'Exactly my point. You think you are ready to face God when you die, that there is no scar left. With all the tribulations in our life here on earth, we need to prepare, thus sometimes, we need purgatory'.

My dear brothers and sisters, when we pray for our beloved departed, we are helping them prepare themselves to face God in the afterlife. It is good to be reminded of how well we should be preparing for ourselves. Whatever we do on earth has a bearing in the afterlife. Whatever we do here on earth, nothing is lost. Everything is a preparation for our immortal life. Thus, immortally, we are connected with our beloved departed. The flesh is gone, but the immortal side is still there.

We are celebrating the beautiful souls of our beloved departed today. Let us be one with them again, in this beautiful prayer.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Gospel Reflection

November 01, 2013
Friday – Year of Faith – Ordinary Time
Solemnity of All Saints
by Rev. Fr. Rufino "Jun" C. Sescon, Jr. - Chaplain, Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel (Greenbelt Chapel), Makati
5:45PM Mass at Greenbelt Chapel, Makati

Reading 1 Rv 7:2-4, 9-14

I, John, saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the children of Israel.

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Reading 2 1 Jn 3:1-3

Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.

Gospel Mt 5:1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.  He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”


At the time when I was teaching catechism to children, I asked them of their dreams and pursuits in the future. I asked them who wanted to be a lawyer or who wanted to be a doctor, and I could see the enthusiasm of the children. And then I asked them who wanted to be a millionaire, and almost everybody raised their hand. They all want to be rich. 

You know, when I see boys, I always tease them and tell them, 'You want to be a priest?' Dati-rati po ay mahiyain pa ang mga bata, reluctant silang tumanggi sa akin. Pero ngayon po, napapansin ko, tahasan na. They will say 'No, Father'. (laughs) Why? They say they want to have a girlfriend. (laughs)

There was this boy who said 'Father, I want to be a politician, so that I will have many bodyguards.' (laughs) Perhaps, also many cars. I remember, during the barangay elections, someone was interviewed, and when he was asked why he was running for the position of a kagawad, his answer was, 'Wala po akong trabaho, eh, kaya tatakbo na lang po ako.' For him, it is a new business. 

But that is not our topic. Today, we are celebrating the Solemnity of All Saints, so we will not talk about politics. 

And then I asked the children, 'Who wants to be a saint?' And you will see the uneasiness among the children. Just half of them raised their hands, but you will realize that they were raising it reluctantly and sheepishly. But I believe they were doing that, not because they don't want to become saints. I could sense that they were reluctant to raise their hands because they know that saints are 'up there'. We have put saints on pedestals, girded them with gold and surrounded them with flowers, that we think saints are untouchable, unreachable. That's why if you ask people if they want to become saints, they will say 'no', not because they don't want, but they're afraid they might not make it. They are afraid they may not pass the standards. 

But today, my dear brothers and sisters, we're all being reminded, we are supposed to be saints. I re-phrased the question and asked the children who among them wants to go to heaven. Everybody raised their hands. If you want to go to heaven, you have to be a saint. It is not negotiable. Sainthood is not optional. Sainthood is our identity as Christians. Perhaps not the saints that we know, not the likes of Padre Pio, Mother Teresa or John Paul II, not the likes of St. Benedict, St. Scholastica and St. Therese, but people who are silent and faithful. They are also saints. That is why today, we have this celebration. We remember not only our canonized saints. I am sure we have relatives who are also saints. That is why today, we pray for them. Kaya po tayo walang pasok ngayon, ay hindi para magbakasyon o makapagpahinga lang, kundi upang maalala ang mga banal at ang mga yumao. Kung kaya pa po, dalawin n'yo. Huwag n'yo na pong hintayin na sila ang dumalaw sa inyo. (laughs)

The silent and faithful ones are the saints, although most of them may be nameless. And we pray, because once they enter heaven, they become our intercessors. But you don't have to be so pious, you don't have to be so perfect. We can be saints, and that is what we are celebrating today. 

The Cardinal Prefect who approved the canonization of San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, was a good friend of Cardinal Sin. And before that Cardinal was appointed to Rome in the congregation for Causes of Saints, he was a psychiatrist. He was a psychologist. One time, when he was with Cardinal Sin, he was saying, 'You know, Eminence, for 20 years of my life, I have been reading the cases of psychiatric patients. For 20 years, that was my job - reading their stories. Now that I am a cardinal for the congregation of saints for the past 5 years, I have been reading the lives of candidates for sainthood. And you know what I realized? There is a very, very thin line of difference. Magkahawig na magkahawig lang daw ang mga tao at sira-ulo. (laughs) Di may pag-asa talaga tayo. (more laughs) 

The Cardinal Prefect said that both kinds of people do outrageous things. But the very main difference, the very thin-line difference is that, the saints could not live without God. In mental institutions, in moments of trials, they break down. In moments of depression, they have nothing or no one to hold on. But the saints, in moments of weakness, they have come to hold on. That's the only difference. Saints have the Lord God to hold on. 

And God is holding on for us. Some of us may have mistakes. Some of us may have faults. But we can still be saints, if we allow God to make a big difference in our life. 

I have met people. Ibang-iba ang pakiramdam nila kapag nakalimutan nila 'yong cellphone nila. Nakatagpo na ba kayo ng nawalan ng cellphone? Naku restless, tuliro o di mapakali, parang sirang-sira na agad ang diskarte o disposisyon. Ang mga saints, pag wala ang Diyos sa buhay niya, wala siyang magagawa, wala siyang mapipili, wala siyang mapupuntahan. 

Let us ask ourselves - if God is removed from the picture, can we still survive? Can we still hold on? Can we still be happy? If we will say 'yes', you still have to work double time to become a saint. That is simply sainthood - allowing God to make a big difference in your life. You don't have to be perfect all the time. But you always have to have God in your heart. 

One time, I saw a movie about a modern-day saint, and towards the end, a caption was flashed. 'Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.' Today, let us relish these words. Every saint has a past. Di naman po lahat ng santo ay perfect. Meron din po silang mga masasaklap na nakaraan, pero naging santo pa rin sila. And us who are sinners, we still have a future. We can still become saints. 

As we continue with this mass, let us ask the Lord for that grace. Lord, You have called us to be holy. Not simply the pious type, not the immaculate type, but a holy person who struggles. A holy person who tries his very best. A holy person who holds on to God at all costs. Lord, pardon us when we forget our calling. Pardon us when we forget You in our lives. Remind us always Lord, that our final destination, our real goal is to be with You. 

We are saints. Whether we like it or not, that is our vocation, so help us Lord. Amen.