Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gospel Reflection

September 15, 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 Sunday Mass at Greenbelt Chapel, Makati

The LORD said to Moses, “Go down at once to your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, for they have become depraved.  They have soon turned aside from the way I pointed out to them, making for themselves a molten calf and worshiping it, sacrificing to it and crying out, ‘This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ “I see how stiff-necked this people is, ” continued the LORD to Moses. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.”

But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your wrath blaze up against your own people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with such great power and with so strong a hand?  Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’”  So the LORD relented in the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 12-13, 17, 19

R. (Lk 15:18) I will rise and go to my father.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. I will rise and go to my father.
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. I will rise and go to my father.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit;
a heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will not spurn.
R. I will rise and go to my father.

Reading 2 1 Tm 1:12-17

Beloved: I am grateful to him who has strengthened me, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he considered me trustworthy in appointing me to the ministry.  I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.  Indeed, the grace of our Lord has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  Of these I am the foremost.  But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience as an example for those who would come to believe in him for everlasting life.  To the king of ages, incorruptible, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Gospel Lk 15:1-32

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”  So to them he addressed this parable. “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.

“Or what woman having ten coins and losing one would not light a lamp and sweep the house, searching carefully until she finds it? And when she does find it, she calls together her friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found the coin that I lost.’ In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Then he said,  “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them.  After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.  When he had freely spent everything,
a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need.  So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.  And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger.  I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’ So he got up and went back to his father.  While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.  He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’ But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Take the fattened calf and slaughter it.  Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.  Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing.  He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.  The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him.  He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns, who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.  But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”


Once again, magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat.

It is the second day of our novena to our secondary patron here at Greenbelt Chapel -Padre Pio, or St. Pio de Pietrelcina. As we all know, he is known as a wonder worker. His place in San Giovanni in Italy is next to Guadalupe as the most visited Shrine among us Catholics. Of course, it is not quite proper, but there was even a survey in Italy, and Padre Pio was found to be even more popular. Like I said, it is not actually that good or right, but it is just a pulse of the people. St. Pio is even number one, and Jesus is number two, in the survey in Italy, if only to show how popular Padre Pio is.

Indeed, when Padre Pio was alive, he was thought of as a holy man. He had the gift of reading souls. And he had many spiritual children. If you go to San Giovanni, you will see there letters of his spiritual children. Some would just write to him. Even up to now, there is a spiritual adoption to Padre Pio. Why? Because he said, 'Those who are my spiritual children, wherever I am, and especially when I am in heaven, I will do my very best to bring them to God's Kingdom'. It is similar to St. Therese, another powerful intercessor. St. Therese of Lisieux said, 'I will spend my heaven doing good on earth, hearing the prayers of those who ask of my help'. So, this is the second day of our novena and our theme is, 'Padre Pio and faith'.

And what kind of faith did Padre Pio show us? It is faith in a merciful God. That is why only here at Greenbelt Chapel, Father Prex, during his time, started the confession, that is, 13 hours of confession every day, from Monday to Sunday. There is no day off. Even if a priest has a day off, confession here at Greenbelt has no day off, so that we could always return to the Lord....that we could always be reminded that we have a God who is always looking for us, a merciful God. That is why we adopted Padre Pio as our secondary patron. That is why we invoke his powerful intercession, that he may lead us, especially when we are lost, when we are finding our way to God.

One day, a young person approached me. Before, I used to be in charge of the youth ministry in the Archdiocese of Manila. And some young people know that I am trying very hard to be 'techy', para naman hindi ako outdated sa mga kabataan. So they know I am grappling with all those apps - applications, games, social network sites like Instagram, Facebook. Pope Francis said that we should reach the youth.

So this young person approached me and said, "Father, you might be interested in this game." When I saw the game, it was the application of 'sungka'. The young person told me that maybe during my time, I played 'sungka'. And I am not ashamed to admit that I was part of that generation. Sino ba ang marunong magsungka dito? I would collect stones and shells to play 'sungka'. But now, pindot na lang. Sabi ko nga, high-tech na ang sungkang ito, push button na lang, tap-tap na lang ang paglaro ng 'sungka'. Now, when you say 'interactive', they mean the computer, Ipad, or the mobile phone. But I am part of the generation which is physically interactive, where you socialize, and you have real playmates.

And aside from 'sungka', I am happy and proud to say that I played 'patintero', 'luksong tinik', 'luksong baka'....But one of my favorite games is 'hide-and-seek'. I don't know if our young people now still play, or know how to play 'hide-and-seek' or 'taguang-pong'. And I had this best friend who is very prolific, who is very good in hiding. When the moon is so bright, or there is a full moon, my playmates would call me in the village and we will play 'hide-and-seek'. And there is my best friend who is very good in hiding. I remember one time, we were hiding, and he was not caught. However, our parents started calling us, and told us to go home. But the one who was 'it' or 'taya' forgot to notify my best friend, because he could not find him. So, nag-uwian na kaming lahat. The following day, galit na galit sa amin ang kaibigan namin. Sabi niya, "Nag-alisan kayong lahat. Hindi ko alam na wala na palang naghahanap sa akin. Hatinggabi na, nagtatago pa rin ako." And it is very frustrating, halos mangiyak-ngiyak siya. He said it's painful to realize that nobody is looking for you anymore.

And I believe that's very true in life. It's so painful if no one is looking for you. I remember, I have a classmate. It was 20 years ago, pero hanggang ngayon, damang-dama pa rin niya, kimkim-kimkim pa rin niya. Kasi nag-field trip po kami. Half day na, matatapos na 'yong araw, pero doon lang namin na-realize, na parang may nawawala, parang kulang kami ng isa. Kaya noong nakita namin, binalikan namin siya, nagmamaktol siya. Sabi niya, "Ang saya saya n'yo. Hindi n'yo man lang naramdaman na hindi ako kasama." Alam n'yo, 12 lang kami sa klase noon sa seminaryo. (laughs) Kaya sabi niya, "Ibig sabihin pala, hindi n'yo ako mahal. Hindi n'yo man lang ako na-miss." Because when you're looking for someone, that means you love that person.

And that is the very essence of our readings, of our Gospel today - seeking the lost. Our God is always looking for us. Why? Because God is love. Searching for someone is a sign of love. Kaya mga kabataan, huwag na kayong maiinis pag hinahanap kayo lagi ng parents n'yo. Because that is a sign that they love you. Mas matakot ka pag hindi ka na hinanap. Kasi ang ibig sabihin no'n, wala silang pakialam sa iyo, bahala ka sa buhay mo. Because when you are looking for someone, it is a sign of love.

Today, we heard two parables - the parable of the lost sheep, and the lost coin. There was a shepherd who had a hundred sheep, but lost one sheep. And the shepherd did everything, even leaving the 99, to find the black sheep. And there was this woman who had 10 coins, but lost one, and searched her whole house. Halos baligtarin 'yong buong bahay, mahanap lang 'yong isang coin. What does it mean for us? God takes each and everyone of us as special. He is looking for each and everyone of us. God values us all; God is looking for us.

And we have to admit that in one way or another, we are lost. Lahat naman tayo dumadaan sa pagkawala sa buhay. Perhaps right now, some of you are confused. Perhaps you are not sure of a decision. Di ba nakikita n'yo ang mga road signs? Sa buhay natin, parang ganyan tayo. Hindi natin alam kung saan tayo dadaan - kakaliwa ba, kakanan, didiretso, aatras. Perhaps right now, a relationship is unclear. A decision is disorienting you, leaving you perplexed and disturbed. Right now, if you feel that way, if you feel lost, this mass is for you. And God is telling you, kahit na gaano ka pa naligaw, 'I want you back. You're special to Me. I'm looking for You. Kahit takbuhan mo Ako, kahit taguan mo Ako, kahit iwasan mo Ako, gumagawa Ako ng paraan para bumalik ka sa Akin'. Yes, brothers and sisters, we have a merciful God who wants us back.

Pero may kasabihan tayo na 'nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa'. How can God easily find us? When we are lost, how can we be easily found?

An important matter in order to be found is that you should know where you are. In the airport or in a mall or park, I always look for a map. And in the map, it says 'You are here'. Mahalagang malaman mo kung nasaan ka, kahit hindi mo alam kung saan ka papunta, kahit hindi mo alam kung saan ka galing. It's enough for you to know where you are. You can help someone, for as long as that person knows where he is. And that is very true with God. 

That is why today, it may be good to ask ourselves. Where am I? Saan ba talaga ako papunta? Ano ba talaga ang gusto ko sa buhay ko? Saan ba ako dadalhin ng trabaho ko? Saan ba ako dadalhin ng mga pangarap ko? Where am I heading at? Where am I? Because even if you're lost, if you know where you are, you can be found.

In the First Reading, we heard the Israelites. They went on a journey, from Egypt to the Promised Land. And how long did it take for them to journey? 40 years. But do you know how long actually does it take to travel from Egypt to the Promised Land? In the Book of Deuteronomy, we were told that you only need....Guess....11 days. They only needed 11 days, but because they kept on denying, they were stubborn, they kept on refusing the Lord, it took them 40 years going around in circles, before they reached the Promised Land.

Minsan, tumatagal sa buhay natin ang biyaya, ang liwanag. Paikot-ikot tayo, naliligaw tayo, kasi hindi natin alam kung nasaan ba talaga tayo sa Diyos. We don't know who we are, or where we are in relation to God. That is why in the Second Reading, St. Paul was telling Timothy, 'I am a sinner, I am a blasphemer, I am a murderer, I am a persecutor, I am a bad person, but by the mercy of God, I am now with Him'. St. Paul knew who he was. St. Paul knew where he was. And because of that, God found him. We don't have to pretend. We don't have to make cover-up's. We don't have to deny. We simply admit to the Lord who we are, where we are, and that is enough.

Padre Pio knew that. May mga taong lumalapit sa kanya, pero alam niya kung sinusubok lang siya. Mayroong pupunta sa kanya sa kumpisal, pero alam niyang hindi naman nagsisisi, gusto lang makita lang siya, o makausap siya. Pag may nangumpisal sa kanya, sasabihin niya, 'Hindi 'yan ang kasalanan mo. Hindi mo pa sinasabi ang lahat. Meron ka pang tinatago'. Siguro nakakatakot mangumpisal sa kanya. Kaya 'yong iba, tumatakbo palabas ng kumpisalan ni Padre Pio.

And there was this American soldier who wanted to see the stigmata, the wounds of jesus in Padre Pio. So he went to Padre Pio and this soldier was a bully. Proudly, he said, 'Hey Padre, show me your wounds'. And you know what Padre Pio said? ' me your wounds'. The soldier was surprised. 'What? You are the one with the stigmata. You have the wounds'. But Padre Pio said, 'You have wounds in your heart. You have wounds in your soul'. When the soldier heard that, he cried so much, and he went into confession and received pardon from the Lord. He was finally found, when he admitted who he was.

Brothers and sisters, in this mass, let us join in the joy of being lost but found in the Lord, like that shepherd who found the lost sheep, that lady who found the lost coin. When the sheep was not on the shoulders of the shepherd, the sheep was lost. But when the sheep was finally was on the shoulders of the shepherd, the sheep was found. How about us? We will know that we are found, that we will not be lost anymore, when we are in the hands of God. Every time we celebrate the mass, we are actually praying. 'Lord, I entrust myself to Your hands'.

Mga kapatid, sino ba talaga ang tumatangan ng buhay natin ngayon? Sino ba talaga ang may hawak ng pamilya ninyo ngayon? Talaga bang ang Diyos? Baka naman pera. Baka galit. Baka 'yong trabaho mo lang. Baka 'yong paghihiganti mo, baka 'yong sama ng loob....If we are in the hands of God, we will not get lost. If we are in the hands of God, we will be found. Amen.