Sunday, March 17, 2013

Gospel Reflection

March 17, 2013
Sunday – Year of Faith – Lenten Seasons
Fifth Sunday of Lent
by Rev. Fr. Rufino "Jun" C. Sescon, Jr. - Chaplain, Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel (Greenbelt Chapel), Makati 6:00PM Anticipated Sunday Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt Makati
Reading 1 Is 43:16-21

Thus says the LORD, who opens a way in the sea and a path in the mighty waters, who leads out chariots and horsemen,
a powerful army, till they lie prostrate together, never to rise, snuffed out and quenched like a wick. Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? In the desert I make a way, in the wasteland, rivers. Wild beasts honor me, jackals and ostriches, for I put water in the desert and rivers in the wasteland for my chosen people to drink, the people whom I formed for myself, that they might announce my praise.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 126:1-2, 2-3, 4-5, 6

R. (3) The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
R. The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

Reading 2 Phil 3:8-14

Brothers and sisters: I consider everything as a loss  because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things  and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having any righteousness of my own based on the law but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God, depending on faith to know him and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

It is not that I have already taken hold of it or have already attained perfect maturity, but I continue my pursuit in hope that I may possess it, since I have indeed been taken possession of by Christ Jesus. Brothers and sisters, I for my part  do not consider myself to have taken possession. Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.

Gospel Jn 8:1-11

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he arrived again in the temple area, and all the people started coming to him, and he sat down and taught them.Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle.They said to him,“Teacher, this woman was caught  in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”


There was a newly elected President of a country who was having his orientation at the Presidential palace. It was his first day in the job. He was looking around, and finally, he reached the Presidential office. Then he saw that on the table were three envelopes. The Adviser told him, "Sir, it is a custom that those three envelopes are there, in case of an emergency. When the people are complaining, when the country is restless, when the Government is threatened, open the envelopes, because the envelopes, one by one, contain the solution. Do not forget it, Your Excellency", he was told. And so the President remembered that those three envelopes at the table will contain the solution when there are problems in the country.
After the honeymoon period, as expected, people began complaining. There were riots, rallies. And so the President said, "I think I need to open the first envelope already." And when he opened the envelope, it contained a note, and it is written there: When things are not getting right, blame the previous government. And so the President called for a press conference and said, "It's the fault of my predecessor. All the problems we have now, we inherited from them. They did not do good, that's why we are going like this in our country."
But then after some time, it wouldn't work. There was still restlessness among the citizenry. There was the threat of a revolution, and the opposition is getting stronger. And so the President said, "I think I need to open the second envelope." And when he opened the second envelope, it is written there: This time, blame the people. And so he called for a press conference and said, "Kaya tayo hindi umaasenso, wala kayong disiplina. Hindi kayo masipag. Hindi kayo tapat. Hindi kayo tumutulong sa gobyerno." He was blaming everyone, blaming the entire populace. And as expected, by blaming the people, all the more the people got mad at him. The revolution was getting stronger. The President now, with his Cabinet, was so worried that he might be booted out of office because of the problems and the crisis of the country. So he said, "Perhaps, this is the solution." And when he opened the third envelope, it is written: When the first two envelopes won't work, time to give up. P.S. Prepare three envelopes for the next President. (laughs)
We are fond of the blaming. I think, since time immemorial, that is our greatest temptation - to find a scapegoat. To look for others, and blame them for what is wrong. Do you remember our first parents, even in the Bible, the blaming was there from the very beginning. When God finally realized that Adam and Eve violated His command, He called Adam and said, "Why did you eat of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?" And what did Adam say? "Not me, Lord. It was Eve." And when Eve was called, "Eve, why did you disobey me?" Eve said, "Not me, Lord, it is the serpent." The blame game has been there since time immemorial.
Yes, brothers and sisters, it is very tempting to blame others. It is also what we call 'scapegoating'. Hitler blamed the Jews. How many ethnic groups were exterminated, simply because they were the scapegoat? The Christians - we were persecuted during the time of Nero. When Rome was burned and the people were getting mad at Nero, what did Nero say? "It was the Christians."
Scapegoat. Blame game. Finding fault at others. That continues. And you know the modern version of that, which could be found even in our own environment, would be the bullying at schools. Bullying at schools is also a form of scapegoat, when these people who pretend to be tough, channel all their energies on the helpless ones, the little ones. Those who bully think that they are strong, courageous. Of course not. Bullies are cowards. Why? Because they could not face the real issue. They could not face the real contenders, kaya pinag-iinitan nila 'yong mga walang kalaban-laban. Hindi niya siguro kayang harapin ang Kuya niya, kaya 'yong mga kaklase niyang lampa ang pinagdidiskitahan niya. Hindi siya siguro makapag-express sa bahay niya, kaya pagdating sa eskwela, lahat ng mga maliliit ang pinagdidiskitahan niya. Scapegoat. Channeling to others the blame, the anger, the hatred.
Why am I saying this, my brothers and sisters? Because in the Gospel, that is also very true. That is what happened. The enemies of the Lord wanted to eliminate Him. But Jesus was so wise, so clever. That is why they found a scapegoat. Poor lady. She was caught committing adultery. She was not really the issue of the Pharisees. It was Jesus. They brought that lady - the woman who committed adultery - to the Lord, to trap the Lord. Why? Because if Jesus says, "Stone this lady according to the Mosaic law", they will say, "Akala ko ba sabi Mo, compassion? You are contradicting Yourself." On the other hand, if Jesus says, "Absolve her", they will say, "Aha! You are disobeying the law of Moses." Wala hong panalo. Akala nila, na-trap nila si Jesus. Akala nila, kahit na ano'ng sagot ni Jesus, mali pa rin. They found the perfect scapegoat.
Yes, the lady was just a poor victim. Perhaps, she committed a fault. But she was just a scapegoat. Bakit siya ang scapegoat? Obvious na obvious po sa Gospel. She was caught in the act. Obvious naman pong hindi ka mag-isa, pag nahuli ka sa akto. Kailangan may isa pa. Pero 'yong isa, hindi hinuli. Pinatakas. Swerte talaga ng mga lalaki, nakakatakas. Nakakalusot. (laughs) Kawawang babae. Siya lang ang naparusahan. Siya lang ang napahiya. That is why there is the insincerity of the people. They were not really after the adulterous woman; they were after Jesus. And she was just a scapegoat.
I've been mentioning the word 'scapegoat'. Sometimes, we use that word. Like what I said, the blame game, bullying, is also a form of 'scapegoat'. But have you ever wondered what is the origin of 'scapegoat'? How were we able to conceive the word 'scapegoat'? It is said that in the early history of the Jews, when things are not getting well, when there is jealousy, division, conflict, pag minamalas daw ang isang bayan, pupunta sila sa templo at sabi nila, "Tanggalin natin itong malas na ito." And they bring two goats. One goat, they slaughter. The other goat they dress in purple, they crown with thorns (sounds familiar), and then they tie on that goat all the sins of the community. Then they banish that goat in the desert, to die in the wilderness, hoping that when the goat is removed from the community, everything bad will be removed. That was the beginning of 'scapegoat' - hoping that this goat - this animal - will bring out all the bad things. And that is found in the book of Leviticus.
But that was not only uniquely Jewish. Even other cultures had that practice. Kahit tayong mga Pilipino, para mawala 'yong malas, meron din tayong mga pamahiin, ano. Ginagawa din natin 'yong 'scapegoat' - sinasalo lahat nang malas, at ilalabas niya ang lahat nang malas. Kaya pag Bagong Taon, sinasabi natin, "Buksan ang lahat ng bintana, para lumabas lahat ng malas." Naalala ko noon ang Lola ko, lahat ng bintana sa bahay, buksan. Buksan, para umalis, lumabas ang malas. Pumasok naman ang magnanakaw. (laughs) Mga paputok - why do we have those firecrackers, di ba? Para palayasin, umalis ang mga masasamang espiritu. Kaya nga nagpapaputok ka. Eh mahirap naman kasi 'yong nagpapaputok, 'yon naman talaga ang masamang espiritu, kasi sila 'yong mga lumalabag. But those are practices.
I remember even sweeping, di ba? 'Yong mga bata, alam n'yo pa ba ang pamahiin, na pag gabi, huwag kang magwawalis. Baka lumabas ang swerte, baka sumama siya palabas. At pag nagbe-blessing, sinasabi kay Father, dapat papasok sa bahay ang blessing. Kaya pag nagpapasabog din ng coins, kailangan papasok, para pumasok ang swerte. Eh pagbato mong ganoon, nandoon ang mga bisita mo. Nabukulan na 'yong iba. (laughs) Kasi, we have that notion na papasok, to absorb. We always find a scapegoat. That is even the logic of the Feng Shui. Minsan dumalaw ako sa isang bahay, tinanong ko, "Bakit may tubig diyan?" "Father, para sipsipin niya ang lahat ng malas sa bahay na ito."
Just like the scapegoat of the Jewish people of old, the rivalries will still be there. Why? Because it was not enough to channel everything bad to a scapegoat. That is not effective. And that is why when Jesus faced the scapegoat, He did another thing. Yes, Jesus absorbed all the negativities - the anger of the Pharisees, the accusations of the people, the bitterness of the crowd. But notice what Jesus did. He bent down on the ground and wrote something - in silence. Then, when He faced the people, Jesus offered something different. Yes, He took in hatred, but He gave back love. He took in anger, but gave out graciousness. He took in envy, but offered blessing. He took in bitterness, but gave out warmth. He took in pettiness, but gave back compassion. Notice that the Lord transformed what was being given to Him. Binabato Siya ng galit, pero ang binabalik Niya ay pag-ibig. That is why now Jesus is saying, 'I am putting an end to this scapegoat-ism. I am putting an end to this bullying. I am putting an end to this blame game. No more scapegoats. And that is why when Jesus absorbed everything and presented something different, He was not anymore the scapegoat. He became a different symbol.
Bago tayo mag-communion po, pag nagpi-'peace be with you' tayo, ano ang kinakanta natin? Lamb of God. Jesus is saying, no more scapegoats. I am the Lamb of God. Ako ang Kordero ng Diyos. 'Yon po ang ibig sabihin ng Kordero ng Diyos. It is the antidote, the anti-thesis of the scapegoat. This time, Jesus is saying that He embraces the negativities, but I am offering something positive.
Yes, brothers and sisters, that is the Good News for us. There is so much negativity around us. But Jesus, the Lamb of God, is willing to transform it. That is why in the First Reading, we are told by the prophet Isaiah, the Lord says, "Behold, I am making something new." 'Yong galit mo, pwede Kong gawing kapayapaan. 'Yong away ninyo, pwede Kong gawing pag-ibig. 'Yong paghihiganti mo, pwede Kong gawing awa. Yes, the Lord is saying, no more scapegoats. You don't have to look for scapegoats. You just have to look for the Lamb of God. Hindi kambing, kundi Kordero ng Diyos ang kailangan pala natin para magbago. At inaalok sa atin ito - tuwing misa - ang Kordero ng Diyos, para baguhin ang puso natin.
That is why today in this mass, we ask ourselves: "Lord, ano po ba 'yong dapat mabago sa 'kin? Ano ba 'yong dapat mabago na sa pamilya namin, sa opisina namin? Lord, touch our hearts. Stop the cycle of scapegoats and blaming. Allow us to face the Lamb of God. And in the case of the adulterous woman, when Jesus offered the Lamb of God, notice what His enemies did. Slowly, one by one, they turned their backs from the Lord. Iniwan nila ang Kordero ng Diyos. Tumalikod sila sa Kordero ng Diyos. Inalisan nila ang Kordero ng Diyos. Isa lang ang natira - 'yong babaeng tinuring nilang makasalanan. And I contemplate on that image. I am sure the lady was bowing her head out of shame. Imagine - you are exposed to the whole community that you committed adultery. She was in grief, bowing her head. But that was her saving grace. Because the Lord also bowed again and met her. And I'm sure she experienced that transformation, that newness that Isaiah was saying. And even if it was not mentioned in the Gospel, I am sure of that - the lady repented. The lady told the Lord, "I am sorry. I have committed a sin." She did not deny. That was her saving grace.
Brothers and sisters, the newness of God can only be encountered, if there is also honesty, humility, repentance in us. And that is the second grace we pray. In our hearts, as we seek the newness of God, the Lord asks us to be contrite, to be honest. Ang tao ngayon, harap-harapan, iiyak pa sa 'yo, hindi aamin, at magpapalagay pang siya'y walang sala. Mabuti na lang sana 'yong humingi ka na lang ng tawad, pero 'yong ipamukha mo pa na wala kang ginagawang mali, nakukuha mo pang humarap sa buong mundo at iiyak ka, that means it has entered deep into our system, which is very dangerous. And I pray....I pray that all of us may imitate the humility and honesty of the adulterous woman.
Every day, we get exposed to this. Pardon us Lord. Even our leaders. We have two versions of the truth, every now and then. Ibig sabihin, mayroong isang nagsisinungaling. May isang pinapakitang siya ay api, pero sa totoo lang, alam naman natin, hindi naman siya api. Pero ang mas nakakabahala, nakikita po ito ng kabataan natin, nakikita po ng bawat isa sa atin. Huwag na tayong lumayo sa iba. Tingnan din natin minsan ang sarili natin, kapag itinatakwil natin ang ating responsibilidad.
Brothers and sisters, lahat naman po tayo rito ay may kasalanan. Lahat naman ho dito, kasama ako, may bahid din, may kahinaan din. Hindi naman po inaasahan ng Panginoon na tayo'y laging malinis. Ang inaasahan lang ng Panginoon ay matuto tayong magsisi, matuto tayong umamin, matuto tayong maging tapat.
No wonder this is the Gospel before Holy Week. We can only face the Lord if there is sincerity, humility, contrition in our hearts. Yes, brothers and sisters, when we face the Lord, we can only say, "Lord, have mercy." And when that happens, we will experience the newness of the Lamb of God.
As we continue with this mass, we pray. Lord, pardon us when we always play the blame game. Pardon us when we always look for scapegoats, in order to avoid our responsibility, our guilt. And Lord, most of all, pardon us when we deny. When we deny You. When we even deny ourselves. When we begin to believe our very own lies. Lord, pardon us. In all humility, in all honesty, Lord, make us new. You are the Lamb of God. Amen.