Sunday, May 19, 2013

Gospel Reflection

May 19, 2013
Sunday – Year of Faith – Easter Season
Pentecost Sunday
by Rev. Fr. Rufino "Jun" C. Sescon, Jr. - Chaplain, Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel (Greenbelt Chapel), Makati
12:00 noon Sunday Mass at Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel, (Greenbelt Chapel) Makati


Reading 1 Acts 2:1-11

When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem. At this sound, they gathered in a large crowd, but they were confused because each one heard them speaking in his own language. They were astounded, and in amazement they asked, “Are not all these people who are speaking Galileans? Then how does each of us hear them in his native language? We are Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, inhabitants of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the districts of Libya near Cyrene, as well as travelers from Rome, both Jews and converts to Judaism, Cretans and Arabs, yet we hear them speaking in our own tongues of the mighty acts of God.”

Responsorial Psalm Ps 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34

R. (cf. 30) Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
R. Alleluia.
Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD, my God, you are great indeed!
How manifold are your works, O LORD!
the earth is full of your creatures;
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
R. Alleluia.
May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD be glad in his works!
Pleasing to him be my theme;
I will be glad in the LORD.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
R. Alleluia.
If you take away their breath, they perish
and return to their dust.
When you send forth your spirit, they are created,
and you renew the face of the earth.
R. Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.
R. Alleluia.

Brothers and sisters: No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit;  there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.

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.

Brothers and sisters: Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; on the contrary, you are in the spirit, if only the Spirit of God dwells in you. Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the spirit is alive because of righteousness. If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit that dwells in you. Consequently, brothers and sisters, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Gospel Jn 20:19-23

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always.

“Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Those who do not love me do not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.

“I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”


Today we celebrate Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost means the 50th day since the Resurrection, when the promised Holy Spirit came about the first Church. That is why you would hear some people mention that today is the birthday of the Church. Because when the Spirit came down, the faith of the first community was recharged.

And the Holy Spirit, admittedly, is the most unpopular, the most unknown among the Blessed Trinity. We have symbols of the Holy Spirit. We have, of course, the dove. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit came down in the form of a dove. In the Bible, the other symbols for the Holy Spirit would be the wind, water, and fire.

This Sunday, I would like to dwell on the symbol of fire, since naiinitan na kayo, naiinitan na tayong lahat. Sana naaawa rin kayo sa akin (laughs), dahil nakita n'yo ang hitsura ko ano...dahil lagi akong nakatalukbong, kahit mainit.

In a certain village, there was an atheist who wasn't really a bad man. You know that an atheist does not believe in God. The atheist was not interested in church. Though he would be invited every now and then to go to church, he would politely beg off the invitation. One day the church building was caught on fire. And the whole town ran toward it to help extinguish the flames. And to their surprise, the village atheist was there, to help put off the flames. Someone simply said, "Hey, this is something new for you. For the first time, we have seen you running towards the church." And the atheist replied, "Well, I am now here because this is the first time I have seen the church on fire."

Brothers and sisters, this afternoon, I would like you to remember that phrase: church on fire. Yes, perhaps the atheist was curious to see a church on fire. But we have to admit that some of our brethren have been longing for that. They want to see a church on fire. Hindi po 'yong susunugin natin ang Greenbelt Chapel. Nais nilang makakita ng simbahang nag-aapoy, naglalagablab, nag-iinit. Hindi rin mainit dahil pinagpapawisan tayo, pero nag-iinit, marubdob, at punong-puno ng sigla.

Today is Pentecost - the moment the Holy Spirit descended on the first Christian community. If you will look at the picture of the first Pentecost, you will see tongues of fire descending around the Blessed Mother and all the Apostles gathered. The Church, at Pentecost, was sent on fire. It was the Spirit that set the Church on fire.

Brothers and sisters, some people are not going to us, to this church, or to the Catholic Church, for that matter, anymore. I am sure meron kayong kilala na nag-born again na. O hindi na nagsisimba, o ayaw nang magsimba. You know when I have some time, I try to go around, even on a Sunday, not only to other Catholic churches. A number of  times I try going...of course, unknown to them...I go to some centers of Christian worship - 'yong mga Victory, 'yong mga fellowship. And I try to observe. Sometimes, I get so curious. A couple of times, I sat there and....I try to see why are they here. I am sure most of them are Catholics, or former Catholics, at least. Why are they here? What are they looking for that perhaps they could not find in the Church? And I remember the anecdote on the village atheist. "I want to see a Church on fire."

Yes, perhaps like the atheist, they want to see the Church on fire once again. And that is what we pray today. Come Holy Spirit, set us on fire. Ang tanong ko, ano bang meron do'n? Bakit kahit matagal 'yong service nila, nando'n sila. Kahit na mainit, kahit siksikan, nando'n sila. Kaya tinatanong ko ang sarili ko. Ano bang meron sila?

Alam n'yo pag lumalapit ako sa inyo minsan, aaminin ko po, alam ko na po kung ano'ng meron sila na wala tayo. Kasi pag kaharap ko ho kayo minsan, kanina lang binati ko kayo ng 'good afternoon', ang sagot no'ng iba, malungkot na 'good afternoon'. Wala lang. Parang wala lang akong kausap. Pag sinabi ko namang batiin ninyo ang isa't isa, hindi ko ho alam kung 'yong sahig ba ang binati ninyo (laughs) o 'yong kisame, o...nakita n'yo ba talaga ang mukha ng katabi ninyo. Ang nakita ko sa kanila, they are on fire. Sa kanila, beso-beso, yakap yakap. They feel they belong.

We have to admit in church, sometimes, we do not feel that. Ganadong-ganado minsan ang pari, "The Lord be with you!". Pero wala. Pag sumagot, parang walang ka-spirit spirit. Ang lamig lamig. Init na init tayo pero para tayong binuhusan ng malamig na tubig. Minsan ang hitsura natin, nanlalamig. Walang kabuhay-buhay.

Of course kaming mga pari po, mea culpa, minsan aminin natin, kaya boring ang misa kasi ang haba-haba ng sermon ng pari, ang daming sinasabi, ang tanda-tanda na ng pari, paulit-ulit lang. But one thing I was so curious about when I attended some of those services is....inorasan ko 'yong homily ng pastor. Wow, 45 minutes. At tumitingin ako sa paligid, lahat sila nando'n. Ok do'n ah. Minsan po, pag lumampas ako ng 10 minutes, 'yong iba taas nang taas ng relo (laughs). Parang pinaparamdam sa akin, 'tumigil ka na Father'. Inip na inip na.

Brothers and sisters, yes, we also have our own shortcomings. But remember Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came down to everyone. We are the Church. We examine ourselves. Yes, I try to go there so I can examine myself. What am I doing to fire up the Church? Let us ask ourselves - what am I also doing to fire up the Church? In our responses, in our songs, in our participation in the mass, are we also trying to fire up the Church, or are we also trying to douse the Church with cold water?

It is not only limited to liturgies and masses. We are the Church. The Spirit also has to set us on fire. And today we ask ourselves. Are we on fire? Or are we cold to the truth? As Christians, are we on fire for righteousness, or are we indifferent to calls for compassion and solidarity? Pope Francis, a very vibrant image now of the Church, an example of a man on fire, once said, "We cannot be 'back seat' Christians. We cannot be lukewarm Christians. We have to set the Church on fire."

Nakaraan na po ang eleksiyon. Ilan po sa atin ang nagsasabing wala na tayong magagawa. Ganyan talaga ang buhay. Nakikita na natin ang mali, pero wala rin tayong ginagawa. Nakikita na natin sa opisina, sa bahay, kung ano ang dapat gawin, pero wala tayong pakialam. Yes, brothers and sisters, we have to set the Church on fire, not only in our masses, but especially in our lives.

Of course, at Greenbelt, I am very happy to say, lagi tayong puno, pero sa ibang simbahan, nag-uunahan lahat sa likod, ayaw sa harapan. Ewan ko kung ano ba ang meron sa harapang upuan ng simbahan. Karamihan sa ibang simbahan, ang huling-huling napupuno ay 'yong harapan. Tapos - bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan, huwag magagalit. Ipinakita sa news noong Friday, ang aga-aga pa lang, ang haba-haba na ng pila para sa concert ni Vice Ganda (laughs). Sabi ko, "Ang aga nila." Pero pag nagsisimba, hindi tayo minsan maaga. Hindi naman po si Father kundi si Jesus po ang ipinunta natin dito. Are we also on fire? Ang mahal mahal ng ticket sa mga concerts, but we can shell out. Pero pag humihingi ng tulong ang mga mahihirap sa atin, beinte pesos lang, gusto mo pang suklian. Para pang nagta-tug-of-war pag tutulong tayo.

Brothers and sisters, are we also on fire? We ask the Lord for that grace. The saints, the apostles, were people on fire - full of the Holy Spirit. They were passionate to proclaim the Good News, even out of season. They were consciously committed, courageously caring, consistently contributing. No wonder the faith spread like wildfire, because the Church was burning with the Holy Spirit.

Last week, our annual census of the Catholic Church was issued. We are now 1.25 billion Catholics. Can you imagine that? 1.25 billion started with just a couple of Disciples. 12, nabawasan pa ng isa. Eleven na lang sila. With Mama Mary, naging 12, together with a small community. But how come they grew to what we are now - 1.25 billion? Because the Church was on fire. If we also want to spread the Good News, if we also want more people to know Christ, we pray that the Church may be on fire. And let it begin with us. When we inspire others, when we become examples to others. Sana pagkatapos ng misang ito, paglabas mo, masabi nila, "Wow, tingnan mo 'yong galing sa Chapel, 'yong kasisimba lang, ang saya-saya ng hitsura." Sana gano'n ang masabi nila, ano. Hindi 'yong may nabangga ka diyan, minura pa. "Biro mo 'yon o, kalalabas lang ng simbahan, nagmumura na." Nabubuhusan sila ng malamig na tubig. Sana ikalat natin ang apoy ni Kristo. And let the Holy Spirit be the instrument.

And how will we know that we are on fire? How will we know that the Holy Spirit is really with us? Of course, some of our brothers and sisters say, pag may gift of tongues ka, pag may gift of healing ka, may preaching ka, 'yon daw ang gift. Yes, those are gifts of the Holy Spirit, but not all can have those gifts. But there is one effect of the Spirit, If you want to know if you are on fire. Would you want to know - how can I be on fire? How do I know that I am passionate? How do I know that I am inflamed by the Holy Spirit?

Paano natin malalaman? Simple lang po. May simple lang akong tanong sa inyo. Kapag nasa bahay ninyo kayo at nakarinig kayo ng sigaw, "Sunog! Sunog!" Ang tanong ko po sa inyo - ano po ang una ninyong ilalabas sa bahay ninyo? Try to answer that question. When you hear someone shouting "Fire! Fire!", what could be the first thing that you will bring out of your house? Sana po, masagot n'yo mentally 'yan ngayon. 'Yong iba kasi, ano nga kaya? Ang dami, ang hirap, ano. 'Yong iba natataranta, sa dinami-daming pagpipilian.

Siguro naman hindi n'yo ilalabas 'yong pabango n'yo lang. (laughs) Di naman siguro ilalabas lang 'yong ref ninyo. It was a pity one time, I went to a depressed area that was on fire. Makita mo, dala-dala 'yong TV. Sabi ng Nanay, "Nasa'n 'yong ref?" Sabi ng isa, 'Yong anak, mo nasa'n?" "Ay naiwan!" (laughs) And it could be tragic. But we ask ourselves - what will you bring out?

Of course, you will say, "Of course, Father, I will bring out the most important, the most essential, the most necessary." And I go back to that question. How do you know that you are on fire in your life? When you know what's most important, what is most essential, what is most necessary. That is the sign the Holy Spirit is setting you on fire.

And so as we continue with this mass, brothers and sisters, we pray for that grace. Minsan, ang dami-dami nating choices, pero nabubulagan tayo. Mas pinipili natin 'yong di mahalaga. Pag may sunog, uunahin mo 'yong anak mo. Pero bakit pag ordinaryong araw, hindi siya ang inuuna mo? Pag may sunog, uunahin mo ang buhay mo, ang kalusugan mo. Pero bakit pag ordinaryong araw, hindi mo iniintindi ang kalusugan mo't buhay mo? If you know what is essential, you will not spend time in useless chatter. 'Yong mga simpleng tampuhan, hindi 'yan pinapalaki, dahil alam mong hindi 'yan mahalaga. Kaya nga sa sunog diba, kahit magkaaway nagtutulungan. Kasi alam nila kung ano ang mas importante. Gano'n din daw po ang taong napuspos ng Espiritu Santo. Napipili mo kung ano ang dapat mong gawin.

And so as we continue with this mass, we ask the Holy Spirit. Come, Holy Spirit. And you know, it will be very dangerous when you invite the Holy Spirit. Up to now, the Divisoria Mall fire is not yet extinguished. Fire can be very destructive. Fire can eliminate so many things. And that is also very true with the Holy Spirit. Sometimes, may tinutupok sa buhay natin, may sinisira sa buhay natin, may tinatanggal sa atin. If only for us to realize what really matters most in life. That is why when we say 'Come, Holy Spirit', be prepared for that fire. That fire can be very, very dangerous, because that fire can bring us to the essentials. But in the end, that fire of the Holy Spirit can bring us closer to God. Are you ready for that? Are you ready to welcome the Holy Spirit?

Next Sunday, brothers and sisters, you will not see the Paschal candle anymore. This is the last Sunday of the Paschal candle, the fire that we lit last Easter Vigil. You know why? It is not just because the Easter Season has ended. We now bring out the fire, because we hope and pray that the fire of God's love, the fire of the Holy Spirit, is now in our hearts. So that when we go out to the whole world, just like the power of the Holy Spirit, we will set the world on fire, and renew the face of the earth. Come, Holy Spirit, fill the Church with your fire. Set our hearts on fire with love for you. Amen.