Sunday, July 28, 2013

Gospel Reflection

July 28, 2013
Sunday – Year of Faith – Ordinary Time
by Rev. Fr. Rufino "Jun" C. Sescon, Jr. - Chaplain, Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel (Greenbelt Chapel), Makati
6:00PM Anticipated Sunday Mass at Greenbelt Chapel, Makati

Reading 1 Gn 18:20-32

In those days, the LORD said: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave, that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me.  I mean to find out.”

While Abraham’s visitors walked on farther toward Sodom, the LORD remained standing before Abraham.  Then Abraham drew nearer and said: “Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?  Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it?  Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike!  Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?”  The LORD replied, “If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”  Abraham spoke up again: “See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!  What if there are five less than fifty innocent people?  Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?”  He answered, “I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there.” But Abraham persisted, saying “What if only forty are found there?”  He replied, “I will forbear doing it for the sake of the forty.”  Then Abraham said, “Let not my Lord grow impatient if I go on.  What if only thirty are found there?”  He replied, “I will forbear doing it if I can find but thirty there.”  Still Abraham went on, “Since I have thus dared to speak to my Lord, what if there are no more than twenty?”  The LORD answered, “I will not destroy it, for the sake of the twenty.” But he still persisted: “Please, let not my Lord grow angry if I speak up this last time.  What if there are at least ten there?”  He replied, “For the sake of those ten, I will not destroy it.”


Responsorial Psalm Ps 138:1-2, 2-3, 6-7, 7-8

R. (3a) Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with all my heart,
for you have heard the words of my mouth;
in the presence of the angels I will sing your praise;
I will worship at your holy temple
and give thanks to your name.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Because of your kindness and your truth;
for you have made great above all things
your name and your promise.
When I called you answered me;
you built up strength within me.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
The LORD is exalted, yet the lowly he sees,
and the proud he knows from afar.
Though I walk amid distress, you preserve me;
against the anger of my enemies you raise your hand.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.
Your right hand saves me.
The LORD will complete what he has done for me;
your kindness, O LORD, endures forever;
forsake not the work of your hands.
R. Lord, on the day I called for help, you answered me.


Reading 2 Col 2:12-14

Brothers and sisters: You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.  And even when you were dead in transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he brought you to life along with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions; obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims, which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst, nailing it to the cross.


Gospel Lk 11:1-13

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”  He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend to whom he goes at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, for a friend of mine has arrived at my house from a journey and I have nothing to offer him,’ and he says in reply from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked and my children and I are already in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’
I tell you, if he does not get up to give the visitor the loaves because of their friendship, he will get up to give him whatever he needs because of his persistence.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.  What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish?  Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg?  If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”


Once again, good evening sa inyong lahat.

A few years back, a Christian author named Leonard Griffith wrote a book entitled "Barriers to Christian Belief". By the very title, you would get that the book is about obstacles to faith - what makes people unbelieving. He indicated specific problems that hinder people, that burden people, that disturb people, and keep them away from the Christian faith. Bakit daw may mga taong hindi na naniniwala sa Diyos? Bakit daw may mga taong hirap nang magsimba o magdasal?

And in one of the chapters, he discussed about 'unanswered prayer'. For Griffith, it does seem a fact that many people do get discouraged, and they do give up and drop out of the faith, because they feel a sense of failure in their prayer life. Siguro meron kayong kaibigan o kamag-anak na hindi na nagsisimba, kasi ang katuwiran nila, bakit ako magsisimba, bakit pa ako magdarasal, hindi naman dinidinig ng Diyos ang dasal ko? Pinagdasal kong gumaling ang asawa ko, namatay ang asawa ko. Pinagdasal kong umasenso kami, lalo lang kaming naghirap. It's written in the book that some people don't go to church anymore, because they feel so hurt. They feel that their prayers were in vain, their prayers were unanswered.

This leads us to ask then. How do we pray? Why pray at all? Is there a special formula or sacred language that should be used? Is prayer like magic that we need a formula, the right formula, the right potion, the right words? Is that really what prayer is all about? Mabuti nga po ngayon wala na tayo noong dati rati ay usong-usong mga chain letters. Dito sa Greenbelt, maraming nag-iiwan nang mga ganoong letters - ikalat mo 'yan, idasal mo ito nang ilang araw, ibigay mo sa ganitong karaming tao at masasagot ang dasal mo. Pag hindi mo binigay, may masamang mangyayari sa 'yo. Is that really prayer? Is prayer a matter of formula, a matter of the right number, the right words?

I don't think so. Notice that when the disciples approached Jesus, it wasn't because Jesus got everything He wanted. Notice in the Gospel that after Jesus prayed in a certain place, the disciples approached Him and said, "Lord, teach us to pray." Bakit kaya nasabi 'yon ng mga disciples? They must have seen something in Jesus. When Jesus prayed, Jesus did not even extend prayer. Nakita lang nila si Jesus nagdasal, naging interesado na silang magdasal.

There is a sister here. Sometimes when I need to pray, I try to go to the monasteries - to the Pink Sisters, the Carmelites. I remember Cardinal Sin would always remind me, "Go to them. You don't have to listen to their advises on prayer. Just look at them praying, and you will see the beauty, the power of prayer." And that is what happened to the disciples. When they saw Jesus, they were convinced of the power of prayer.

Kaya di ba, pag nakita mo 'yong kaibigan mo, maganda ang hitsura niya, maganda 'yong buhok niya, tatanungin mo, "O, saan ka nagpa-parlor? Saan ka nagpa-salon? Ano'ng shampoo mo? Saan ka nagpapatahi ng damit?" In the same way, when the disciples saw Jesus at peace, Jesus exhuming power, exhuming confidence, they must have realized, it is the power of the prayer of Jesus. And that is why they said, "Lord, teach us to pray."

Prayer is not a matter of magic. It is not a matter of the right formula or the right words. It's not even the very words of the Our Father, when Jesus said that when we pray, we say 'Our Father'. If the real intent of Jesus is to memorize the 'Our Father', it will lead us to the Gospel of Matthew, at iba po 'yong 'Our Father' na tinuro ni Jesus. If the disciples knew that it is a matter of memorizing prayers, then both accounts, Matthew and Luke, should be the same. But no, they are different. Because prayer is not about words alone. It is about the heart. That is the essence of prayer. Prayer opens us to the heart of God, the Father.

One time, I saw a large printed sign which says, "God answers prayers." Pero alam n'yo naman, may mga nagva-vandalize. May nagsulat sa ilalim ng sign na 'yon. And what was written under the sign? "Sometimes, the answer is 'no'." And that is what we have to deal with, if there is any discussion on prayer. One time, a person may say, 'I pray for something to happen.' And it did not happen. That person will say, 'My prayer failed.' How many times have we felt that way? 'I pray that something happens, but it did not happen, therefore, my prayer failed.' Be careful. Because if that is your conclusion, you have not understood yet the purpose of prayer. Prayer is not simply telling God what to do, or commanding God to do what you want. No. The essence of prayer is opening to God, communion with God, conversing with God, and ultimately, understanding the will of God.

Kung ganoon daw po ang intindi natin sa dasal, na ang dasal ay hindi para utusan ang Diyos o ipagawa sa Diyos ang gusto nating mangyari, then we will understand that, when sometimes God says 'no', we will not say 'my prayer failed', or 'my prayer is in vain'. Because sometimes, that 'no' will open us to the heart of God. That 'no' sometimes will lead us to the will of God. Yes, God answers prayers, and sometimes, the answer is 'no'. And even if the answer is 'no', prayer still works.

Yes, brothers and sisters, prayer is an inner openness to God, which allows us to receive His Divine power. Ultimately, the power of prayer is not that we succeed in changing God, but that God succeeds in changing us. That is the ultimate goal of prayer, that God may succeed in changing us.

Meron daw isang bata, narinig siya ng Nanay niya isang gabi bago matulog, dasal nang dasal. "Lord, let it be Tokyo. Lord, please...let it be Tokyo." Lumapit ang Nanay niya, sabi, "Ano ang dasal mo, anak, na 'let it be Tokyo'?" At ang sabi ng bata, "Nagka-test po kasi kami kanina. Tinanong po ng teacher kung ano ang capital ng China. (laughs) Ang sagot ko po ay 'Tokyo'. Kaya, 'Lord, let it be Tokyo.' (laughs) Prayer is not changing God. Prayer is more of changing us.

And that is why Jesus tells us to be persistent in prayer. Persist in prayer. Bakit sinasabi ng Panginoon na kulitin natin ang Diyos? Hindi dahil bingi ang Diyos. Hindi dahil insensitive ang Diyos. Sinasabi ng Panginoon, paulit-ulit kang magdasal, linggo-linggo magsimba ka. Hindi para guluhin ang Diyos, hindi para ipa-alala sa Diyos. Alam na ng Diyos ang kailangan natin. Alam na ng Diyos kung ano ang pinaka-mainam sa atin. But we will be persistent for our sake, so that we will not forget, so that we will always be mindful of God, so that we will always be open to the will of God. Whenever we pray - we pray for peace, justice, love, mercy - so that those values may be our values. Whenever we pray for forgiveness, may that forgiveness also be our value. That forgiveness will not change God; we don't need to change God, but we have to change. Kaya po tayo nagdadasal tuwina. Kaya natin kinakalampag ang langit, hindi para mabago ang Diyos, kung hindi para unti-unting mabago tayo. Kaya ang isang tunay na nagdadasal na tao, nababago. Kaya may ibang taong ayaw nang magdasal, kasi 'yong nakikita po nilang madalas na magsimba at magdasal, walang pagbabago. Masungit pa rin. Kuripot pa rin. Matigas pa rin ang puso, kahit na nagdarasal. Prayer is about us changing, opening up to the will of God. Prayer is not just about asking the Lord for something.

Naalala ko tuloy, may bata rito na nagdarasal. Nalaman niyang may party 'yong classmates niya. It was a garden party. 'Yong best friend pa man din niya ang may party. And then he discovered that he was not invited to the garden birthday party of his best friend. Kaya nagpunta siya sa chapel. Nagdasal siya. Afterwards, sabi sa kanya ng Mommy niya, "You pray so hard. Halika, tumawag pala 'yong best friend mo. Nagso-sorry siya, nakalimutan niyang imbitahin ka. Ini-invite ka niya ngayon. Punta na tayo sa party niya." Sabi ng bata, "Hindi na po ako pupunta." The mom asked bakit hindi na siya pupunta. "Hindi na ho matutuloy 'yong party." The mom said, "Bakit hindi na matutuloy ang party?" Sabi ng bata, "Pinagdasal ko pong umulan at mabasa silang lahat, kaya hindi na ako pupunta sa party na 'yon." (laughs) Prayer converts us. Prayer changes us. Prayer brings us closer to God.

As I end, I want to share with you something that struck me. I am not a linguist, I am not a grammarian. But haven't you noticed something in the Christian tradition about prayer? Pag ang isang tao ay nagda-drive, ano'ng tawag n'yo sa kanya? (People say 'driver'.) Driver. Pag ang isang tao ay sumasayaw, ano'ng tawag sa kanya? (People say 'dancer.) Dancer. Pag minsan tayo ay kumakanta, ang tawag n'yo sa kanya ay....? (People say 'singer'.) Pag ang isang tao'y nagdarasal, when a person prays, ano'ng tawag n'yo sa kanya? (People say 'prayer' with hesitation and soft laughs.) Prayer? (laughs) Parang hindi yata natin nagagamit 'yon. Bakit kaya? I was fascinated, bakit nga kaya bihira 'yon gamitin? Although Father Thomas Greene, a very famous Jesuit spiritual director, proposed that a person who prays should be called 'prayer'.

And upon reflection, perhaps we can say that because in prayer, it is not the person who matters. Eventually, the individual gets dissolved - his whims, his selfishness, his petty concerns, his personal interests, his plans. The one who prays is supposed to dissolve, to disappear, to change. The one who really prays becomes a prayer himself. The one who prays becomes a living prayer, because he has been changed by God.

As we continue with this mass, let us borrow the request of the disciples. Lord, teach us to pray. Open our hearts. Sometimes, You say 'no'. But allow us, still, to be peaceful. Lord, teach us to pray. Change our hearts. Amen.