Friday, November 1, 2013

Gospel Reflection

November 01, 2013
Friday – Year of Faith – Ordinary Time
Solemnity of All Saints
by Rev. Fr. Rufino "Jun" C. Sescon, Jr. - Chaplain, Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel (Greenbelt Chapel), Makati
5:45PM Mass at Greenbelt Chapel, Makati

Reading 1 Rv 7:2-4, 9-14

I, John, saw another angel come up from the East, holding the seal of the living God. He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels who were given power to damage the land and the sea, “Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, one hundred and forty-four thousand marked from every tribe of the children of Israel.

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Reading 2 1 Jn 3:1-3

Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.

Gospel Mt 5:1-12a

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.  He began to teach them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you
and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.
Rejoice and be glad,
for your reward will be great in heaven.”


At the time when I was teaching catechism to children, I asked them of their dreams and pursuits in the future. I asked them who wanted to be a lawyer or who wanted to be a doctor, and I could see the enthusiasm of the children. And then I asked them who wanted to be a millionaire, and almost everybody raised their hand. They all want to be rich. 

You know, when I see boys, I always tease them and tell them, 'You want to be a priest?' Dati-rati po ay mahiyain pa ang mga bata, reluctant silang tumanggi sa akin. Pero ngayon po, napapansin ko, tahasan na. They will say 'No, Father'. (laughs) Why? They say they want to have a girlfriend. (laughs)

There was this boy who said 'Father, I want to be a politician, so that I will have many bodyguards.' (laughs) Perhaps, also many cars. I remember, during the barangay elections, someone was interviewed, and when he was asked why he was running for the position of a kagawad, his answer was, 'Wala po akong trabaho, eh, kaya tatakbo na lang po ako.' For him, it is a new business. 

But that is not our topic. Today, we are celebrating the Solemnity of All Saints, so we will not talk about politics. 

And then I asked the children, 'Who wants to be a saint?' And you will see the uneasiness among the children. Just half of them raised their hands, but you will realize that they were raising it reluctantly and sheepishly. But I believe they were doing that, not because they don't want to become saints. I could sense that they were reluctant to raise their hands because they know that saints are 'up there'. We have put saints on pedestals, girded them with gold and surrounded them with flowers, that we think saints are untouchable, unreachable. That's why if you ask people if they want to become saints, they will say 'no', not because they don't want, but they're afraid they might not make it. They are afraid they may not pass the standards. 

But today, my dear brothers and sisters, we're all being reminded, we are supposed to be saints. I re-phrased the question and asked the children who among them wants to go to heaven. Everybody raised their hands. If you want to go to heaven, you have to be a saint. It is not negotiable. Sainthood is not optional. Sainthood is our identity as Christians. Perhaps not the saints that we know, not the likes of Padre Pio, Mother Teresa or John Paul II, not the likes of St. Benedict, St. Scholastica and St. Therese, but people who are silent and faithful. They are also saints. That is why today, we have this celebration. We remember not only our canonized saints. I am sure we have relatives who are also saints. That is why today, we pray for them. Kaya po tayo walang pasok ngayon, ay hindi para magbakasyon o makapagpahinga lang, kundi upang maalala ang mga banal at ang mga yumao. Kung kaya pa po, dalawin n'yo. Huwag n'yo na pong hintayin na sila ang dumalaw sa inyo. (laughs)

The silent and faithful ones are the saints, although most of them may be nameless. And we pray, because once they enter heaven, they become our intercessors. But you don't have to be so pious, you don't have to be so perfect. We can be saints, and that is what we are celebrating today. 

The Cardinal Prefect who approved the canonization of San Lorenzo Ruiz, the first Filipino saint, was a good friend of Cardinal Sin. And before that Cardinal was appointed to Rome in the congregation for Causes of Saints, he was a psychiatrist. He was a psychologist. One time, when he was with Cardinal Sin, he was saying, 'You know, Eminence, for 20 years of my life, I have been reading the cases of psychiatric patients. For 20 years, that was my job - reading their stories. Now that I am a cardinal for the congregation of saints for the past 5 years, I have been reading the lives of candidates for sainthood. And you know what I realized? There is a very, very thin line of difference. Magkahawig na magkahawig lang daw ang mga tao at sira-ulo. (laughs) Di may pag-asa talaga tayo. (more laughs) 

The Cardinal Prefect said that both kinds of people do outrageous things. But the very main difference, the very thin-line difference is that, the saints could not live without God. In mental institutions, in moments of trials, they break down. In moments of depression, they have nothing or no one to hold on. But the saints, in moments of weakness, they have come to hold on. That's the only difference. Saints have the Lord God to hold on. 

And God is holding on for us. Some of us may have mistakes. Some of us may have faults. But we can still be saints, if we allow God to make a big difference in our life. 

I have met people. Ibang-iba ang pakiramdam nila kapag nakalimutan nila 'yong cellphone nila. Nakatagpo na ba kayo ng nawalan ng cellphone? Naku restless, tuliro o di mapakali, parang sirang-sira na agad ang diskarte o disposisyon. Ang mga saints, pag wala ang Diyos sa buhay niya, wala siyang magagawa, wala siyang mapipili, wala siyang mapupuntahan. 

Let us ask ourselves - if God is removed from the picture, can we still survive? Can we still hold on? Can we still be happy? If we will say 'yes', you still have to work double time to become a saint. That is simply sainthood - allowing God to make a big difference in your life. You don't have to be perfect all the time. But you always have to have God in your heart. 

One time, I saw a movie about a modern-day saint, and towards the end, a caption was flashed. 'Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.' Today, let us relish these words. Every saint has a past. Di naman po lahat ng santo ay perfect. Meron din po silang mga masasaklap na nakaraan, pero naging santo pa rin sila. And us who are sinners, we still have a future. We can still become saints. 

As we continue with this mass, let us ask the Lord for that grace. Lord, You have called us to be holy. Not simply the pious type, not the immaculate type, but a holy person who struggles. A holy person who tries his very best. A holy person who holds on to God at all costs. Lord, pardon us when we forget our calling. Pardon us when we forget You in our lives. Remind us always Lord, that our final destination, our real goal is to be with You. 

We are saints. Whether we like it or not, that is our vocation, so help us Lord. Amen.