Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gospel Reflection

January 19, 2014
Sunday – Ordinary Time
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
by Most Rev. Bishop Honesto F. Ongtioco, D.D., S.Th.L (Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cubao)
6:00PM, Tagalog Sunday Anticipated Mass (Sto. Nino Fiesta High Mass)
Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel (Greenbelt Chapel), Makati

Reading 1 is 49:3, 5-6

The LORD said to me: You are my servant, Israel, through whom I show my glory. Now the LORD has spoken who formed me as his servant from the womb, that Jacob may be brought back to him and Israel gathered to him; and I am made glorious in the sight of the LORD, and my God is now my strength! It is too little, the LORD says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.


Responsorial Psalm ps 40:2, 4, 7-8, 8-9, 10

R/ (8a and 9a) Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I have waited, waited for the LORD,
and he stooped toward me and heard my cry.
And he put a new song into my mouth,
a hymn to our God.
R/ Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or offering you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Holocausts or sin-offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R/ Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
to do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R/ Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R/ Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.


Reading 2 1 cor 1:1-3

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy, with all those everywhere who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,  their Lord and ours. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.


Gospel jn 1:29-34

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.’ I did not know him, but the reason why I came baptizing with water was that he might be made known to Israel.” John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”


We are reminded, my dear friends, that Christmas does not end on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Christmas takes place in the heart. Whenever we proclaim or manifest God's love, it is Christmas. Pakiusap lamang po, to those who still have Christmas decorations in their homes, you can keep the trimmings in the boxes, but please don't keep Jesus in the box. Carry Jesus in your heart, for that is what the world needs now. Jesus as our light, Jesus as our only hope, Jesus as our only teacher.

The Feast today reminds us that we should continue the work of Jesus. There is a beautiful song that goes like this, "When the songs of the angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the princes and kings are back home, when the shepherds are back to their flocks, then the work of Christmas find the lost, to heal the broken, to give peace to those who are in trouble, and to make music in the heart." Do you know that song? No? Then I will sing it for you. (loud laughs, even Bishop laughs) So, sana po, we will continue the work of Christmas.

Kasi po, I notice, after the Christmas holidays, everything is gone. Sayang naman. I am sure we received so many graces. And like Mary, we should ponder the blessings that we have received during Christmas, and continue to nurture these graces so that they may grow.

In the Feast that we are celebrating today, the Feast of the Child Jesus, I am reminded of one image that Jesus uses to describe the Kingdom of God, and that it is like a mustard seed. It is one of the smallest seeds, and yet, when it is planted, it grows into a big tree, so much so that the birds of the air can take shelter under its leaves. That's the image of the Kingdom of God, and that is what I think about our devotion to the Child Jesus. Our faith in God may start with something small but we hope that through the years, it will continue to grow as we nurture it through prayer, through the sacraments, through the Word of God. Devotions are meant to nurture our faith; however, sometimes, we get so comfortable with some of our devotions. Hanggang doon lang tayo. And we are challenged to grow each year. 

In our culture, we have a strong love for children, isn't it? That is why one of the favorite devotions in the Philippines is the devotion to the Child Jesus. And yet, we are reminded that this Child will continue to grow, advance in grace, wisdom and age. It is now 2014, and it is another year in our age. Have we grown in grace with God and men? Have we grown in wisdom, o ayaw pa rin? God wants us to grow in our personal relationship with him. And so our devotion to Sto. Nino is an important vehicle, an important means of precisely maturing in our Christian faith. Our faith should not just be me, myself and my God - tapos. No. We are asked to share this faith. The joy of encountering Jesus is meant to be shared to the world. 

I am sure many of you remember the Gospel yesterday, if you went to mass or go to church every day. And what was the Gospel yesterday? It is about the paralytic. There was a paralytic who was carried by four of his friends. And they could not just enter the house where Jesus was, because there was a thick crowd. So they tried to pass through the roof. And what did we hear in the Gospel? Jesus was touched by their faith. It was the faith of the friends, and perhaps even the paralytic's little faith, that moved Jesus to heal him and to forgive his sins. What's my point? Again, our faith is an important factor in helping people grow in their faith. That is the beauty of growing in our devotion - becoming more and more devoted to Jesus. 

Let us not forget that Jesus grew up and matured, until He offered Himself on the Cross. We are challenged to follow the footsteps of Jesus, and what is one way? We need to imitate children. Jesus, Himself, tells us that unless we become like little children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Perhaps we can reflect on some of the qualities that we may have given up, and perhaps must reclaim for ourselves. What are those qualities? 

Number one - simplicity. Today, we have made life very complicated. Children are very simple; they don't look for fame, power, authority, wealth, riches. Tayo pag malaki na, minsan ang sinasabi natin, "Kilala mo ba kung sino ako?" Ayan. Does it ring a bell? (laughs) But who are we? We are all sinners before God. We cannot brag about anything. We live in the mercy and love of God. Who are we before God? We must be simple. Let us remember who we are - sinners who are dependent on God's love, compassion and mercy. Simple. Not after fame, walang paligsahan. Sometimes, in the corporate or business world, minsan tapakan sila. And when we step on each other, we destroy each other. Remember - when you put someone down, you are putting down your very self. Because all of us are members of the one great family of God. So live a simple life; let not riches block our personal relationship with Jesus. What do you consider your treasure? What is valuable to you - faith, your relationship with Jesus, people? When children look at us, they will not tell you that you are a doctor, or a bishop or a priest. No. Pare-pareho ang tingin ng bata sa atin. Simple lang - tao kang dapat mahalin, tao kang dapat igalang. 'Yon ang tingin ng bata sa atin. They are very spontaneous, sincere, simple. 

Another quality of children that we should reclaim is trust. Trust in the Lord, trust in friends. Minsan wala na tayong tiwala o paniniwala kung minsan. I remember this story - one time, there was a problem with rain in a particular place. The priest asked the community to pray for rain because there is drought. They were afraid that if the drought continues, they will not be able to harvest, and there will be famine in their community. So ngayon, the parish priest spoke and said, 'Let's invite the people to the plaza and pray for rain.' So they all went to the plaza. But something struck the priest which he did not see in himself. There was one person who came. It was a small, young boy. They were praying for rain, but the boy is already carrying an umbrella. (laughs) So nakita n'yo, simple lang ang panalangin ng bata, na siya ay pakikinggan ng Panginoon. Trust. 

How much trust in the Lord have we? Sometimes, we want to control or change the mind of God. Let us stop manipulating God. God will always be there for us, no matter what happens. This is what the Second Reading tells us. Let us not cease giving thanks to the Lord for He will always be there to support us, to give us life. If God does not support us, we will turn into nothing at this moment. If we are able to breathe, we are able to pray, we are able to participate in this Eucharist, it is because God continues to sustain us with His love. God continues to give us life. Kailanman ay hindi tayo iiwanan ng Diyos. Lagi tayong binubuhay ng Diyos. Let us have a trusting heart like children. 

How is your faith? How is your trust in God? How is your personal relationship with the Father? Let's pray that through the Child Jesus, we may grow in grace and reclaim the important traits of a child of God - simplicity, spontaneity, and having deep faith and trust in God. God always desires what is best for us. Believe, trust, and you will always be happy and free. Amen.