Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gospel Reflection

January 27, 2013
Sunday – Year of Faith
Third Sunday of Ordinary Time
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


Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly, which consisted of men, women, and those children old enough to understand. Standing at one end of the open place that was before the Water Gate, he read out of the book from daybreak till midday, in the presence of the men, the women, and those children old enough to understand; and all the people listened attentively to the book of the law. Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that had been made for the occasion. He opened the scroll so that all the people might see it — for he was standing higher up than any of the people —; and, as he opened it, all the people rose. Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people, their hands raised high, answered, “Amen, amen!” Then they bowed down and prostrated themselves before the LORD, their faces to the ground. Ezra read plainly from the book of the law of God, interpreting it so that all could understand what was read. Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people: “Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep”— for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 19:8, 9, 10, 15

R. (cf John 6:63c) Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
refreshing the soul;
The decree of the LORD is trustworthy,
giving wisdom to the simple.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
The command of the LORD is clear,
enlightening the eye.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever;
The ordinances of the LORD are true,
all of them just.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.
Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart
find favor before you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
R. Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.

Reading 2 1 Cor 12:12-30

Brothers and sisters: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, is one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.

Now the body is not a single part, but many. If a foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body, “it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. Or if an ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body, “it does not for this reason belong any less to the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God placed the parts, each one of them, in the body as he intended. If they were all one part, where would the body be? But as it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you, “nor again the head to the feet, “I do not need you.” Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this. But God has so constructed the body as to give greater honor to a part that is without it, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the parts may have the same concern for one another. If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; if one part is honored; all the parts share its joy.

Now you are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. Some people God has designated in the church to be, first, apostles; second, prophets; third, teachers; then, mighty deeds; then gifts of healing, assistance, administration, and varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work mighty deeds? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

Brothers and sisters: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body,
so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it.

Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. He taught in their synagogues and was praised by all.

He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”


Once again, good evening po sa inyong lahat. (People greet him but with seemingly low energy.) Mukhang mabigat ang problema ninyo yata. (laughs) Seryoso kayo. Matamlay. Good evening po ulit. Good evening po sa inyong lahat ! (People now greet enthusiastically). Ayan. It's very nice na, hindi lamang last Sunday tayo masaya dahil fiesta ni Sto. Nino. Dapat eh palagi tayong masigla, buhay at bata, katulad ni Sto. Nino. 

Perhaps we would ask, bakit kaya si Jesus, palaging bata? Bakit kaya si Jesus, palaging masigla? Siguro meron tayong magandang dapat matutunan sa Kanya. What is the secret of Jesus? Yes, perhaps in the Gospel, Jesus may have changed. He may have become a mature person. But that vibrant, that youthful spirit will always be there. What is the secret of Jesus?

I am reminded of a story of a guy - call him John, perhaps. He was a nominal Catholic. Yes, he was a Catholic, but he would just attend the rites and he would not understand anything that is happening. One day, he was sitting there at church. He noticed that the priest will be approached by people, and the priest would get something from the sacristy - a container - and he will sprinkle. He would hear the priest say, "These things are, before, secular objects, but now they become sacred objects." And then there was a man who approached the priest, and the priest said, "Before you are a sinner, now you are a saint." And then, he noticed that there was baptism, a baby was brought to the priest, and the priest said, "Before, you are a child of this world, now you are a child of God."

The man was puzzled. He said, "What's with that water?" So he approached the priest and asked him, "Why are you doing those things?" And the priest said, "You see, this is Holy Water. It changes things, and people. Before, those objects were secular objects, worldly objects. Now, they've become sacred objects. That man who asked to be blessed? Perhaps, he was a sinner. But now, he is a saint. That child was, before, a pagan, a non-believer. But now, by baptism, by water, the child is a child of God. This water brings change." So the man said, "Wow, the power of that water."

And so the man went back home and continued with his regular routine. - And you heard in the announcement, nanghihingi na po kami ng mga palaspas. Because next month, February 13, will be Ash Wednesday. - And so at home, his wife reminded him, "Darling, it's Ash Wednesday already. And I'd like to remind you, it's a day of fasting and abstinence." And the man said, "What does that mean?" And his wife said, "You cannot eat your favorite food. It's abstinence." The favorite food of the guy was steak. And he was thinking, "I cannot eat that?" 

So the man went to church, he looked for the priest, and he asked, "Father, can I have that water you were using a couple of days ago?" And so the priest gave him holy water. The man went back home. It was Tuesday evening, just before Ash Wednesday. The man went to the kitchen, opened the fridge, and got the frozen meat. He laid it on the table and the man said some prayers. And after a few seconds, the man sprinkled the meat with holy water, and he said, "Now you are meat. With this water, you will become fish. (laughs) Tomorrow I can eat you still."

Change...Meet Jesus...When we say 'change for the better'...what change did Jesus have, from being simply a child to a devoted Son of God? In today's readings, we heard the power of the Word of God. Not just holy water. The real power to effect change can also come from the Word of God. 

That's why today, we celebrate National Bible Sunday. Baka nga ang iba sa atin - may mga gano'n sa mga Katoliko - ang akala natin ang Bible hindi pang-Katoliko. That is why we are reminded, let us re-claim the Bible. The Bible is ours. In fact, we Catholics are the first custodians of the Bible. We were the ones who really determined what compose the Bible. We did not receive the Bible in one form; they were all scattered. There were so many books of the Bible. It was the Catholic Church which compiled the Bible. 

Sa totoo lang, hindi ho ba, pag nakakita kayo ng taong may hawak na Bible, ano'ng sasabihin n'yo, "Ay, Born-Again siguro 'to. Ano kayang sekta 'to?" Nakakalungkot, kasi at the end of the day, the Bible is more associated with others, rather than with us. In fact, the Bible started with us. 

Choosing and Using a Bible - Read more click here

In today's Gospel, we heard Jesus Himself reading the Bible, a scroll from the prophet Isaiah. Jesus Himself read the Bible. So today, we ask the Lord for that grace, that we may learn to really read the Bible. Ngayon ho sa mga kasal, usong uso, may Bible na rin. Kasi gusto natin eh may mga dagdag na mga rituals. And I tell the couples I officiate, "Every now and then, I will check on that Bible." A Bible that always looks new, is a bad sign. Because it means that Bible is never used. I prefer a Bible that is worn out, and its pages almost torn out, because it means that Bible is read and consulted. 

One time, I read the news. There was this hotel which complained. They said, "We placed Bibles in all our hotel rooms. 70 hotel rooms. Not a single Bible was lost." And then they proceeded, "The following day, we placed a dictionary in all the rooms. 60 dictionaries were lost, and brought home by the guests." Sometimes, we bring home more, the word of man, than the Word of God. Sometimes, we consult more the words of this world, rather than the Word of God. That's very ironic. Ang Bible, walang nagtiyagang nag-uwi. Pero siguro maglagay ka ng pocketbook do'n, may mag-uuwi. 

It is also good to examine ourselves. How are we really in love with the Word of God? And what is the power of the Word of God? If you will sum up the words of Jesus today, we could sum it up in one word - the message of the Lord today in this mass. And that is the word 'TODAY'.

When Jesus read the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, He said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberate captives, and recover sight to the blind." And then He closed the scroll, and Jesus delivered His homily. And He said, "Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled, in your healing." The secret of Jesus is 'TODAY'.

What does that mean, brothers and sisters? Before we could likewise discover and relish the fulfillment that Jesus discovered, we must understand two things about 'today'.

Number one, today is not yesterday. Please remember that. Today is not yesterday. You might say, "Obvious ba, Father. Alam na namin 'yan. Today is not yesterday." But if you will really look at it, many people are living today, as if it is yesterday. Maraming tao ang nabubuhay sa kahapon. Kasi, 'yong sugat ng kahapon, sariwang sariwa pa rin hanggang ngayon. 'Yong atraso ng kahapon, buhay na buhay pa rin hanggang ngayon. 

I was struck during the New Year, I have a friend on Facebook, and on his status update, sabi niya, "If you still look at me as an immature and reckless kid, don't talk to me. Because that kid was a kid of last year. I am different today."

That's something because sometimes also, when we deal with people, we deal with them, as if they were still there yesterday. Siguro nga, siya 'yong taong maraming atraso noon. Pero 'yon 'yong noon, hindi ngayon. Even ourselves. That is sometimes how we treat ourselves. Perhaps, we committed so many mistakes in the past, and today, we have no hope whatsoever, because we consider ourselves a failure.

Today, the Lord is telling us, "Today is not yesterday. Today is different from yesterday." Yes, that kept Jesus going, because He always lived the present moment. If right now, you're still living like 2012, matatapos na po ang January, pero para pa ring 2012...Baka ang iba sa inyo, 1970 pa ang asal. Kasi, you're still living yesterday. Perhaps, the Lord has a special message for you. 

The other week, I visited an old priest. He met an accident as he was riding a bike. So when we visited him, we told him, "Monsee, ingat ingat na po." And then another priest teased him and said, "Monsee, tandaan n'yo, hindi na kayo bata katulad nang dati. May senior citizen na ho kayo, kaya huwag na ho kayong gumagawa ng mga stunts." 

When I heard that, and I was reflecting on today's Gospel, it is also very similar. Today is not yesterday. 'Yong iba sa atin, nabubuhay pa rin na akala mo parang ikaw pa rin 'yong kabataan noong unang panahon. Tapos magtataka ka, bakit hindi mo na nagagawa 'yong nagagawa mo noon? It is simply because today is different from yesterday. Live the present moment, and you'll be more mature, more understanding, more open. 

The second point I want to share is this. Tomorrow begins today. Yes, there are people who are slaves of yesterday, but there are also people imprisoned by the future. People who are fond of looking at the future, but forgetting what is today. Brothers and sisters, tomorrow, yes, is important. But tomorrow begins today. 

There are people whose only focus is tomorrow, and as a consequence, they forget today. They're so worried about what is to come, and they ignore what is before them. Just think of those who are obsessed with savings, with earnings, and they neglect the very treasures they already have. Their time, their family, their friends, their health. These people are very good in postponing and delaying. They have the disillusion that tomorrow will never end. "Yes, I will spend more time with the children, when I have enough money. I will share and help when I get rich. When I invite people to come to the church more often, I will do that once I retire. Once I get my position. Once I am already successful, I will serve." These are the people of tomorrow. They think tomorrow will never end. But please remember, tomorrow also may never come. Today begins the tomorrow that we envision. 

Dear brothers and sisters, these two graces, may we always remember. Today is not yesterday. Let us release the chains of the past. Tomorrow begins today. We need to start the future now. Let us not allow the past and the future to prevent us from what we need to do today. 

in the First Reading, Ezra proclaims, "Today is holy to the Lord. Today is precious to God." What you do today can very well make a very big difference in your life. What you do not do today, can change the course of your life. If you need to do something good, do it today. And so with Jesus, let us say, "Today, I am building the Kingdom of God. Today, I am starting the work of God. Today, I will hear the Word of God."

And so, as we continue with this mass, we pray. Dear Lord, heal us when we look at the past. Calm us when we look at the future. Strengthen and enlighten us, so that every day becomes a moment of salvation, a moment of grace, a moment of Your love, a moment of Your presence. Amen.