Sunday, April 28, 2013

Gospel Reflection

April 28, 2013
Sunday – Year of Faith – Easter Season
by Rev. Fr. Rufino "Jun" C. Sescon, Jr. - Chaplain, Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel (Greenbelt Chapel), Makati
6:00PM Sunday Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, Greenbelt Makati
Reading 1 Acts 14:21-27

After Paul and Barnabas had proclaimed the good news to that city and made a considerable number of disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying, “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” They appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith. Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia. After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work they had now accomplished. And when they arrived, they called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 145:8-9, 10-11, 12-13

R. (cf. 1) I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.
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.
R. Alleluia.
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.
R. Alleluia.
Let them make known your might to the children of Adam,
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is a kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 Rev 21:1-5a

Then I, John, saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.”

The One who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him,God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once. My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


There was once a renowned French artist - I just forgot his name right now - who forgot his passport as he was crossing the border. And when he was there, thinking that he was famous enough, he said, "Well, anyway, the guards will know me, because I am a famous artist." But unfortunately for him, the guards did not know him. Di ba minsan gano'n ho? Ako minsan, sasabihin ko, "Ah...pag may pulis, hindi bale, pari naman ako. Papatawarin siguro ako niyan." Eh noong isang beses sabi ko, "Pari ho ako." Sabi niya, "Iglesia ho ako." (laughs) Kaya wala ho akong magawa, ano. 

So this French artist said, "Anyway, they will know me." But the guard said, "I do not know you. And many people will claim that they are this kind of person, so I do not believe." And so the French artist insisted, "No, I am that famous French artist." And the guard said, "Well, I heard that name, but I have not seen his face, so I do not know if you are really who you are claiming to be." And so the guard got a paper and a pencil and asked, "If you are really that great artist, I heard that this artist would sketch people so easily and swiftly. Alright, can you sketch the people around you now?" And this artist immediately drew the people around him, skilfully and swiftly. So much so that the guard said, "I'm convinced. You are that artist."

We undergo that kind of test once in a while, to prove who we are. I remember a priest classmate who approached me and said, "I just came from the US Embassy, and I'm so disappointed." I asked why, and he said, "I felt so humiliated." He was applying for a visa. So I asked what happened. "Well, you see, the Consul asked if I was really a priest. And when I said yes, I am a priest, he said, 'Alright, recite the Our Father." (laughs) But then the Consul continued, "In Latin." But of course, my classmate knew that. And he said, "Why are we subjected to such kind of tests?" So I said, "Well, some people also are pretending to be priests, and they also have those false documents, so that's life." 

There are times when you have to undergo that kind of test. If you claim to be a singer, you have to prove it. Di ba 'yong mga bata, pag may party, kapag sinabi ng Nanay, "O, 'yong anak ko, magaling kumanta 'yan", sasabihin n'yo, "Sige nga, pakantahin mo nga." Noong mga bata tayo, di ba, napakadali nating pakantahin, pasayawin. Pero pag tumatanda na, ayaw na, nahihiya na. Kaya take advantage habang bata pa. If you are a good dancer, prove it. Dance well. 

But today, we are also being reminded by the Lord. If you want to know who a Christian is, what is the mark of a Christian? A Christian is not only someone who makes the sign of the Cross. A Christian is not only someone who puts the Cross for a necklace or for an earring. A Christian is not only someone who has a rosary in his or her pocket. A Christian is not only someone who attends mass. Jesus says...a Christian is someone who loves. Love is the Christian identity. Love is the Christian uniform. Love is the Christian brand. That is why Jesus says the whole world will know who you are, by your love for one another. 

And that is why Jesus commanded His followers, on the night before He died, "Love one another." Ang totoong Kristiyano, pagdating daw sa huli may test tayo, "Patunayan mo nga sa akin na Kristiyano ka." Minsan, may nakakapagsabi, "Ah Kristiyano ka pala. Hindi halata." Minsan, marami sa atin ang galit, marami sa atin ang nagmumura. "Ah Kristiyano ka ba? Kasi pag may humihingi ng tulong sa iyo, tinataguan mo." "Kristiyano ka ba? Kasi hindi ako naniniwala, kasi hindi ka nagbabayad ng utang." Pero ngayon, ang paalala ng Panginoon, kung Kristiyano ka - totoo kang Kristiyano - marunong kang magmahal.

I know some people, and critics and cynics would say, why did Jesus say it is a command? "Love one another, I command you." 'Yong ibang mga pilosopo, sasabihin naman, di ba ang pag-ibig hindi inuutos? Di ba ang pag-ibig, hindi natututunan? Sabi ng iba, ang tunay na pag-ibig ay spontaneous, natural. It should come freely. Hindi inuutos, di ba, kasi kasabihan nga na 'hindi mauutusan ang pag-ibig'. Kaya nga ayaw natin ang mga arranged or fixed marriages, kasi sa mundo natin, sa lipunan natin ngayon, that's how we think, because true love should be a fruit of one's feelings, one's emotion.

Hindi nauutusan ang pag-ibig. Pero bakit ngayon, ang Panginoon, inuutusan tayong magmahal? If that is your belief, that love cannot be commanded, then perhaps you have not yet fully grasped the love that Jesus is talking about. If, for you, love should always be spontaneous, love should always be natural, then the love you know, perhaps, is just a love that must take place when a man needs a woman. That love takes a man and a woman. Perhaps that is the kind of love you have in your mind. No wonder you are saying that true love cannot be commanded. True love should be spontaneous, electrical, love at first sight. 

But sad to say, brothers and sisters, that is not the love that Jesus is talking about. It is not the cheesy, emotional and romantic love that this world is offering. That kind of love is synonymous to liking. Brothers and sisters, for Jesus, loving and liking are different. Minsan kasi akala natin, when we say I have to love you, I have to like you. Lalo na sa atin, usong uso ang like. Pero ang pag-ibig ng Panginoon ay di lang pag gusto. It's not about liking. The love of Jesus is an act of the will. It is not a spontaneous combustion of emotions. The love of Jesus, yes, can be commanded, can be an obligation, can be a duty, can be a responsibility, because it is not about liking. The love of Jesus is an act of the will. Whether you like it or not, it can be commanded. You can love, whether your feeling is high or low. That is the love of Jesus. 

And it is new. Why is it new? Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment." Kung tutuusin po lahat naman ng religion, inuutos ay love. Kahit ang mga hindi naniniwala sa Diyos, marunong magmahal, marunong umibig. Kahit na hindi Kristiyano, nagmamahal. Kahit Muslim, kahit Buddhist, kahit Hindu, nagmamahal. But how come Jesus said, "I give you a new commandment." Because it is not just about love, eh. Jesus said, "Love one another, as I have loved you." That is the big difference. As I have loved you. Jesus is the measure of our love. Jesus is the model of our love. And that is why, like what I said earlier, that kind of love is not about liking. It is not just about feelings or emotions. The love of Jesus is an act of the will. 

Brothers and sisters, Jesus is the measure of our love, not any other. The measure of our love is Jesus Christ our Lord. Love is about respect, justice, peace making, service, whether we like it or not. Love is about equality, charity, generosity, mercy. And the whole world will know we are Christians by our love. 

There are times, I must confess, my brothers and sisters, when I meet people and when I go abroad, I am not anymore comfortable when I say, "I come from the Philippines, a Christian nation of Asia." Because, I must admit, it is so hard to prove that we are Christians. Yes, perhaps, statistically, it is so easy to prove that we are Christians. More than 80% of us are Christians. But if most foreigners will read accounts and news about our country, they might think twice and say, "Are you really Christians there?" The corruption, the violence, the injustice. Are we really Christians? Can we really say, when we face the Lord, and the Lord will ask you, "Anak, Kristiyano ka ba?" Hindi natin pwedeng sabihing, "Lord, nagsisimba po ako lagi sa Greenbelt. Lord, may dala po akong rosary ngayon." Kasi, ang tatanungin ni Lord, "Nagmahal ka ba, katulad Ko?" 

Hindi po nagtatapos sa pagmamahal. Maraming taong nagmamahal. 'Yong mga corrupt nagmamahal, kaya nga sa sobrang pagmamahal sa sarili, ninanakawan nila ang bayan. 'Yong mga pumapatay, nagmamahal din. Kaya sa pagmamahal nila sa tribo nila, pumapatay sila ng ibang tribo. 'Yong mga nagsisinungaling, nagmamahal, kasi pinagtatakpan nila 'yong mga mahal nila sa buhay. Kaya ang pagmamahal na sinasabi ng Panginoon, ay 'yong pagmamahal katulad nang nasa Krus. 

Before the Lord, let us honestly examine ourselves. Are we really Christians? Are we really ready to love as Jesus did? 

I must my 14 years as a priest, whenever I reach this part of the homily, I always give foreign examples. Siguro hindi naha-highlight minsan 'yong iba pero nalulungkot ako kasi...bihirang bihira akong makakita ng example na 'made in the Philippines', pagdating sa topic na ito. Nakakahanap ako ng mga inspiring stories elsewhere, but scarcely I find heroic love like this. But you know, as I was preparing this week, I seldom watch the TV lately because I have so much work. But I saw in the news, and it dawned on is a consolation for me, at last, I found one in the Philippines. I found one which really tells the world we are Christians, by our love. 

Perhaps, some of you saw in the news last April 24 about a young lady who was ran over by a cement mixer, and who was killed instantly. And what was striking in the news is her mother. Her aunt is a nun, but her mother....I want to focus on the mother. As I end my reflection, I am sure some of you would rationalize, "Eh ganito, kaya ganyan." But please let us not rationalize, let us not offer an excuse. Let us just let what the mother said, speak to us. Let's see that moment and reflect....can we have that kind of love when the time comes? Because if we can sincerely say 'yes', then we can say, I am a Christian, and the whole world will know I am a Christian, because I have loved like Jesus. 

So I will show you the interview of the very short account of Mrs. Sally Inzon, the mother of 20-year old Marie Cherry Inzon, who died in that vehicular accident. And let the sharing of the mother inspire us and touch us, and challenge us, to love like Jesus. 


(Father Jun shows a video of the interview made by Filipino news anchor, Ms. Korina Sanchez, with Mrs. Inzon) 
(Apologies if some portions of the interview may not have been captured accurately.) 

Korina Sanchez (KS): Nang una po ninyong malaman ang nangyari kay Cherry, ano po ang inyong reaksiyon, natatandaan pa po ba ninyo?

Mrs. Sally Inzon (SI): She called me at first, and when I answered, wala. So I called back. Sabi ko, wala na. No nothing. Ano ba naman itong si Che, tumatawag pagkatapos wala. After about five minutes, my sister called me. Ahh.....Cherry met an accident....Gano'n pala yon....(crying) My initial reaction was...there was hope. The second reaction was...there's no hope. Morgue....I don't want her na maulanan, mainitan, then now, all of a sudden, lumabas lang siya ng dormitory, 'yon na....Gano'n pala 'yon. Sa labas nakakatakot. And I have protected her for many years. Many years. I protected my child. It was so sudden. 

(KS): Ano po ang mga pangarap n'yo ni Cherry?

(SI): Sabi niya, "Mama, alam mo, next year, ga-graduate na ako, fourth year na ko...And I promise Dean's list pa rin ako....Sabi ko, "Nak, go ka." We are the best of friends. I knew everything about her, she knew everything about me.  

(KS): Nag-iisang anak, mawawala sa inyo. Ano po ang...hindi namin ma-imagine ang nararamdaman ninyo. 

(SI): Napakasakit. Sabi ko, sana nga hindi na ako nagka-anak. But no. On second thought, no. I have had 20 beautiful years. Accepted....accepted ko nang wala na si Cherry....Kaya lang ang pinaka-kontra ko ngayon, memories....'Yon....beautiful memories. 

(KS): Ano po ang pinakahuli ninyong naging...conversation...'yong inyo pong pag-uusap?

(SI): Ahh...'yon....That was Friday. Sa mga Facebook, puro "Mami-miss mo rin ako. Mami-miss mo ako." Anak, bakit? Saan ka pupunta? "Wala lang...basta mami-miss n'yo ako, hindi na muna ako uuwi."

(KS): Meron po ba kayong masasabi tungkol sa pangyayari mismo? Ah...siya ba'y nasa isang peligrosong lugar?

(SI): Malayo naman siya doon sa road. So she was in a safe place. Pasakay na siya, eh. Sabi no'ng driver...bakit, it had to turn at...bumagsak pa. (crying) At siya lang ang binagsakan. Siya lang. 'Yong iba....may nabagsakan din, but....pero siya , pipi. Pipi 'yong anak ko. And I telebisyon. Paa niya, at kanyang sapatos 'yan. That was so traumatic. It was so traumatic. I couldn't imagine....caring for this girl for so many years....lying down...lying down....

(KS): Napatawad na po ba ninyo ang tsuper? Galit po ba kayo sa kanya?

(SI): I have not seen him....Many people ask me....Yes, I forgive him....It was an accident. It was not intentionally done. Who am I not to forgive?

(KS): If you are given like...a minute, bago siya nawala sa mundong ibabaw...ano po ang sasabihin n'yo sa kanya?

(SI): Mahal na mahal ko siya.....


"I give you a new commandment. Love one another, as I have loved you." This is how the whole world will know that you are Christians. Amen.