Sunday, March 24, 2013

Gospel Reflection

March 24, 2013
Sunday – Year of Faith – Lenten Seasons
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord
by Rev. Fr. Rufino "Jun" C. Sescon, Jr. - Chaplain, Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel (Greenbelt Chapel), Makati
6:00PM Anticipated Palm Sunday Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt Makati
at the procession with palms
Gospel Lk 19:28-40

Jesus proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem. As he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples. He said, “Go into the village opposite you, and as you enter it you will find a colt tethered on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it here. And if anyone should ask you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you will answer,
‘The Master has need of it.’” So those who had been sent went off and found everything just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying this colt?” They answered, “The Master has need of it.” So they brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt, and helped Jesus to mount. As he rode along, the people were spreading their cloaks on the road; and now as he was approaching the slope of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of his disciples began to praise God aloud with joy for all the mighty deeds they had seen. They proclaimed: “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest.” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” He said in reply, “I tell you, if they keep silent, the stones will cry out!”

at the mass
Reading 1 Is 50:4-7

The Lord GOD has given me a well-trained tongue, that I might know how to speak to the weary a word that will rouse them. Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear; and I have not rebelled, have not turned back. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.

The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 22:8-9, 17-18, 19-20, 23-24

R. (2a) My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
All who see me scoff at me;
they mock me with parted lips, they wag their heads:
“He relied on the LORD; let him deliver him,
let him rescue him, if he loves him.”
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Indeed, many dogs surround me,
a pack of evildoers closes in upon me;
They have pierced my hands and my feet;
I can count all my bones.
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
They divide my garments among them,
and for my vesture they cast lots.
But you, O LORD, be not far from me;
O my help, hasten to aid me.
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
I will proclaim your name to my brethren;
in the midst of the assembly I will praise you:
“You who fear the LORD, praise him;
all you descendants of Jacob, give glory to him;
revere him, all you descendants of Israel!”
R. My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Reading 2 Phil 2:6-11

Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table with the apostles.

He said to them,  “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again  until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”

Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves;  for I tell you that from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine  until the kingdom of God comes.”

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you.“And yet behold, the hand of the one who is to betray me is with me on the table;  for the Son of Man indeed goes as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom he is betrayed.” And they began to debate among themselves  who among them would do such a deed.

Then an argument broke out among them about which of them should be regarded as the greatest.

He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them and those in authority over them are addressed as ‘Benefactors’;  but among you it shall not be so. Rather, let the greatest among you be as the youngest,  and the leader as the servant. For who is greater:  the one seated at table or the one who serves? Is it not the one seated at table? I am among you as the one who serves. It is you who have stood by me in my trials; and I confer a kingdom on you, just as my Father has conferred one on me, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

“Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.”

He said to him, “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you.”

But he replied, “I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me.”

He said to them, “When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything?” “

No, nothing, “ they replied.

He said to them, “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me,

namely, He was counted among the wicked; and indeed what is written about me is coming to fulfillment.”

Then they said, “Lord, look, there are two swords here.” But he replied, “It is enough!”

Then going out, he went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he arrived at the place he said to them, “Pray that you may not undergo the test.” After withdrawing about a stone’s throw from them and kneeling, he prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing,  take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done.” And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently  that his sweat became like drops of blood
falling on the ground. When he rose from prayer and returned to his disciples,  he found them sleeping from grief.

He said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not undergo the test.”

While he was still speaking, a crowd approached  and in front was one of the Twelve, a man named Judas. He went up to Jesus to kiss him.

Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” His disciples realized what was about to happen, and they asked, “Lord, shall we strike with a sword?” And one of them struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said in reply, “Stop, no more of this!” Then he touched the servant’s ear and healed him. And Jesus said to the chief priests and temple guards  and elders who had come for him,  “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? Day after day I was with you in the temple area, and you did not seize me; but this is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.”

After arresting him they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest; Peter was following at a distance. They lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter sat down with them. When a maid saw him seated in the light, she looked intently at him and said, “This man too was with him.” But he denied it saying, “Woman, I do not know him.” A short while later someone else saw him and said, “You too are one of them”; but Peter answered, “My friend, I am not.”About an hour later, still another insisted, “Assuredly, this man too was with him, for he also is a Galilean.” But Peter said, “My friend, I do not know what you are talking about.” Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, “Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.” He went out and began to weep bitterly. The men who held Jesus in custody were ridiculing and beating him. They blindfolded him and questioned him, saying,  “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they reviled him in saying many other things against him.

When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin. They said, “If you are the Christ, tell us, “ but he replied to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his own mouth.”

Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought him before Pilate. They brought charges against him, saying, “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar  and maintains that he is the Christ, a king.” Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, “I find this man not guilty.” But they were adamant and said,  “He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here.”

On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time. Herod was very glad to see Jesus; he had been wanting to see him for a long time, for he had heard about him and had been hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at length, but he gave him no answer. The chief priests and scribes, meanwhile, stood by accusing him harshly. Herod and his soldiers treated him contemptuously and mocked him, and after clothing him in resplendent garb, he sent him back to Pilate. Herod and Pilate became friends that very day,  even though they had been enemies formerly. Pilate then summoned the chief priests, the rulers, and the people and said to them, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence  and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.”

But all together they shouted out, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us.”— Now Barabbas had been imprisoned for a rebellion  that had taken place in the city and for murder. — Again Pilate addressed them, still wishing to release Jesus, but they continued their shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Pilate addressed them a third time, “What evil has this man done? I found him guilty of no capital crime. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him.” With loud shouts, however, they persisted in calling for his crucifixion, and their voices prevailed. The verdict of Pilate was that their demand should be granted. So he released the man who had been imprisoned for rebellion and murder, for whom they asked, and he handed Jesus over to them to deal with as they wished.

As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country;  and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd of people followed Jesus,  including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me;  weep instead for yourselves and for your children  for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green  what will happen when it is dry?” Now two others, both criminals, were led away with him to be executed.

When they came to the place called the Skull,  they crucified him and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left.
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” They divided his garments by casting lots. The people stood by and watched; the rulers, meanwhile, sneered at him and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God.” Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”

Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”;  and when he had said this he breathed his last.

Here all kneel and pause for a short time.

The centurion who witnessed what had happened glorified God and said, “This man was innocent beyond doubt.” When all the people who had gathered for this spectacle saw what had happened, they returned home beating their breasts; but all his acquaintances stood at a distance, including the women who had followed him from Galilee and saw these events. Now there was a virtuous and righteous man named Joseph who, though he was a member of the council, had not consented to their plan of action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea and was awaiting the kingdom of God. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. After he had taken the body down, he wrapped it in a linen cloth and laid him in a rock-hewn tomb in which no one had yet been buried. It was the day of preparation, and the sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind,  and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.


Mukhang napagod kayo nang husto sa Gospel ano po. (laughs)

People here at Greenbelt are thankful because every time they attend Palm Sunday mass here, ay nakapag-umpisa na po sila ng penitensiya. It is because the Greenbelt Chapel is one of those churches which read the whole Passion account. We do not just read the abbreviated one, but the whole Passion account. And the most that we could do in sharing the suffering of Christ is to stand with Him, as we recall His last moments. At least, nakapag-umpisa na talaga kayo ng Holy Week at sa pakikisama sa ating Panginoon, sa pamamagitan ng pagtayo sa Ebanghelyo. 

I remember...every time my mom or my auntie would reach home (because they came from another place), they will arrive quite late at night, and they will ask our helper what happened to their favorite teleserye. The question that they will always ask is - what happened to the hero? And if the helper will say that something went wrong, nasaktan 'yong bida, nahuli 'yong bida, pinarusahan 'yong bida, my mom and aunt will continue asking, "Why? What went wrong? How could things happen like that?"

Perhaps we have been so familiar with the Passion account. Perhaps some of you already know everything. Kaya siguro noong binabasa ang Ebanghelyo kanina, nai-imagine n'yo na kung kailan siya matatapos. Matagal pa. Tumilaok pa lang 'yong manok. Hindi pa nadadala si Hesus kay Pilato. We have been so familiar with the story that its original power has been lost. But if you could just look at this as a teleserye or listen to the radio or watch it from YouTube, perhaps for first-timers who will encounter the story and learn the story of Jesus, as the plot continues, I'm sure they will also ask, "What happened? What went wrong? How could things change so drastically between a Sunday and a Friday?"

Today, Palm Sunday, we recall the people acclaiming Jesus, "Hosanna to the King of Israel, the Son of David! Hail to the King of the Jews!" Five days later, the crowd, this time, has no more acclamation. There are no more Hosanna's. A crowd will yell, "Away with Him! Crucify Him!" What happened? What went wrong? How could things change in a matter of five days? 

Sin happened. Hatred happened. Lies happened. Vengeance happened. When these things happen, changes happen. Yes, things happen because sin, hatred, lies, vengeance entered the story. And you know what? The same things happen also, not just in the Passion account of Jesus, but also in our lives. Di lamang 'yong kwento ni Hesus ang may mga nagbabagong mga characters, ay may mga nagbabagong sigaw, mga nagbabagong damdamin. Tayo rin po sa buhay natin. Aminin natin sa Panginoon, pabago-bago rin po tayo. 

Perhaps one hour ago, you were arguing with someone over something. And now you are in this Chapel, praising God, looking like an angel. But later after this mass, reverse mode na naman. Kung dito sa Chapel siguro nakapikit pa ang mga mata ninyo, nakatiklop pa ang mga kamay natin, 'yong kumakanta kanina ng 'Panginoon, maawa ka', paglabas doon sasabihin, "Gagantihan ko 'yang kaaway ko, anuman ang mangyari." 

Perhaps in this Chapel we are saying 'Our Father', at mamaya, naka-smile pa kayo. "Peace be with you." Pero pagpasok n'yo sa mall, nakita n'yo 'yong helper n'yo, sasabihin n'yo, "Kanina pa kita hinahantay! P___ mo." Hindi 'peace' 'yong P na sinasabi mo. Nagbabago na tayo ng salita, nagbabago tayo ng damdamin. Yes, brothers and sisters, it is not only in the Passion account that things change, but even in our lives. 

Today, we examine ourselves. What happened? What went wrong? Why the change? Yes, we have Palm Sunday moments, when by God's grace, virtue, love, prayer, fidelity, goodness, selflessness triumph. But I'm afraid that we also have Good Friday moments. When we tragically choose sin. When we allow hate, vengeance, division, conflict, lies, to prevail in our lives. When we ignore God. Yes, when we have Palm Sunday moments, we also have Good Friday moments. We are full of such hopeful faith, yet we falter in doubts. Yes, we are so excited to show our commitment, yet we are so quick to break our promises. We are so convinced of the truth, yet choose to remain silent, if not conspire, with lies and deceit. Our lives are full of irony and contradictions. We are so in need of love and grace, yet so hesitant to forgive and understand. 

My brothers and sisters, if you will notice, even though characters change their decisions, even though characters change their feelings, even though the plot of the story changes in the Gospel, one person remains. Isa lang po ang hindi nagbago, mula ng Linggo ng Palaspas hanggang Biyernes Santo. Kung ang mga tao, pabago-bago, isa lang ang hindi nagbago. It is Jesus, the Faithful One. Be it in the glorious entry or in the via dolorosa, be it in acclamation or in accusation, be it in affection or in betrayal, be it in the palms or on the Cross, be it before the crowd of Herod or the repentant thief, Jesus remains the same. Full of love, obedience, mercy and peace. Jesus is the Faithful One, in the midst of so many contradictions and changes and ironies in life. Jesus is the Faithful Savior. 

Brothers and sisters, as we begin this week that we call holy, we journey with Jesus, the Faithful One. But we do not only watch from a distance. We implore that we may imitate Him. That we may have more Palm Sunday moments in our lives, when fidelity, love, and virtue triumph. Let us pray for the grace of fidelity. Perhaps more than anything else, that gift is what is needed today. In our families, in our churches, in our government, in our world, the greatest gift is the promise of fidelity. The simple promise to stick around. Not to leave when things get difficult, not to walk away because we feel disappointed, but to stay even if it hurts. 

As we continue with this mass, as we enter the holiest of all weeks, we pray for fidelity. Jesus, the Faithful One, You remained with us till the end. Jesus, the Faithful One, teach us to be like You. Amen.