Monday, September 23, 2013

Gospel Reflection

September 23, 2013
Monday – Year of Faith – Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Pius of Pietrelcina, Priest
by His Excellency Socrates Buenaventura Villegas, D.D., Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan, Pangasinan
5:45PM Fiesta Mass at the Sto. Nino de Paz Chapel (Greenbelt Chapel), Makati

Reading 1 Ezr 1:1-6

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: ‘All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Therefore, whoever among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him! Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place he may have dwelt, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, together with free-will offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.’”

Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin and the priests and Levites–everyone, that is, whom God had inspired to do so–  prepared to go up to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem. All their neighbors gave them help in every way,with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, and with many precious gifts besides all their free-will offerings.

Responsorial Psalm PS 126:1b-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

R. (3) The Lord has done marvels for us.
When the LORD brought back the captives of Zion,
we were like men dreaming.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done marvels for us.
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
we are glad indeed.
R. The Lord has done marvels for us.
Restore our fortunes, O LORD,
like the torrents in the southern desert.
Those that sow in tears
shall reap rejoicing.
R. The Lord has done marvels for us.
Although they go forth weeping,
carrying the seed to be sown,
They shall come back rejoicing,
carrying their sheaves.
R. The Lord has done marvels for us.

Gospel Lk 8:16-18

Jesus said to the crowd: “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not become visible, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care, then, how you hear. To anyone who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”


My brother priests, and my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am here because of Padre Pio. Whenever the late Padre Pio is mentioned, the wounds that he carried in his body, which are the wounds of Christ, always come to our minds. That is why it has become part of the devotion of Padre Pio to venerate the relics containing his blood - the blood-stained handkerchief, the blood-stained clothes, the blood-stained vestments. All of these are now relics, and there are so many of them all over the world. Greenbelt Chapel has one such relic.

But on the Feast of St. Pio or St. Padre Pio, I am just curious. What do you pray? What do you ask from him, when you talk to Padre Pio? Let me warn you. If you are dreaming that some day, you, too, will have the five wounds of Jesus (laughs), stop praying, because it will not be given to you (laughs), because it is not the essence of devotion to the saints.

The essence of devotion to the saints is imitation. In other words, we can have a fiesta of Padre Pio, without his relics. We can have a fiesta of Padre Pio, without a procession. We can have a fiesta of Padre Pio, without a video presentation. But you must never have a fiesta of Padre Pio, without remembering his virtues, and imitate him. Because the core of devotion to the saints is imitation of the saints.

So what is it in Padre Pio that we must imitate, especially for us, Catholics, in the Philippines? Three points. Number one, passion. Passion for Christ. Enthusiasm, excitement, 100%. That is what Padre Pio gave to God. He was always an excited disciple.

You know the disease of our time, my dear brothers and sisters, is we take so many things for granted. But the words of the God of our Scriptures should be our warning. If you are neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out. And I will not have anything to do with you, and you will not have anything to do with Me. Passion - 100%. 100% does not only mean inside the Greenbelt Chapel, but 100%, 24/7.

Am I telling you to resign from your job? No. I'm only telling you to work for God, not for man. Am I telling you to abandon your families, and stay at Greenbelt Chapel, 24/7? No. I'm only asking you to make sure that God is in your family. Believe me, my dear brothers and sisters, if you will stay at Greenbelt Chapel 24/7, you will go to hell (laughs), because that is not the will of God for you. The will of God for you is passion, 100%, bringing the Lord all the time - on fire with God. God does not deserve 99% from us. And you don't deserve 1% from Him. Because 100% belongs to God, because 100% came from Him, and we cannot keep anything for ourselves.

That is Padre Pio - passion. That is why, because of the intensity of that passion, the passion of Christ was given to his body. The passion, the signs of the passion of Christ, would not have been given to him, if he was not 100% always passionate for Jesus. But with passion, there must be prayer. Because passion without prayer can make you a fanatic. Passion without prayer can make you blinded. Passion without prayer can make you lose charity. And Padre Pio challenges us to pray.

I'm quite sure, if I will ask you, 'Do you pray?', most likely you will say, like a chorus, 'Yes, Father'. But if I will ask some more, 'How do you pray?', then you will say, 'I read the prayers, I read the novenas, I read the Bible, I talk to God directly'. Today, on the Feast of Padre Pio, pwede po ba, when you pray, please stop talking. Just please stop talking, and learn the power and the beauty of silence again. Sometimes, we talk too much, that is why, our lives have no direction, because we are so full of ourselves. God speaks to us, and the language of God is not Latin or English. The language of God is silence. If you know silence, you will understand Him. If you know silence, He will understand you. Padre Pio teaches us silence in the midst of the world - to stay quiet and open our hearts, and let our passion and our prayer blend together.

But prayer is not enough. Let me ask you - Yes or No. Do you want all your prayers to be answered? (People say 'yes'.) Mahina sagot n'yo, sasabihin ko sa Panginoon, huwag kayong sagutin. (laughs) Yes! Sinabi nang 100%, eh. Yes, we want all our prayers to be answered. But you know how to get your prayers answered? You must make sure that all your prayers are accompanied by love for the poor. Because if your prayer is not accompanied by charity for others, your prayer is only an ego massage. It is an opium that will help you forget momentarily your troubles. But you will not reach heaven, because you're only talking to yourself. The poor....That is why the devotion to Padre Pio in Giovanni Rotondo has brought about a huge hospital for the poor. Do not forget the poor, because forgetting the poor is forgetting Christ.

But let me qualify. When we say we must love the poor, please include yourselves among the poor. Because if we exclude ourselves from the poor, then giving could actually be a sign of pride, lording it over those lower than us. Truth to tell, my dear brothers and sisters, who among us is not poor? Would you like me to prove to you that you are really poor? My dear ladies, tandaan n'yo 'to. Kahit gaano kaganda ang make-up ninyo, ang kahuli-hulihang magme-make-up sa inyo, funeraria. (laughs) You'd be so poor, you cannot even make yourself beautiful. You'd be so poor, you cannot even dress yourself. You'd be so poor, you would not be able to do anything for yourself. You are completely dependent on others. And isn't that what being poor means? You may be at the 48th floor, at a building in Ayala, but at the end of your life, you will only go six feet below the ground. Because we are all, only poor. Brothers and sisters in Christ, when you pray, please don't forget 'I am poor'. And in the presence of God, I have nothing to boast.

Passion, prayer, and poverty in spirit. If we can embrace these, even if you cannot get closer to the relics of Padre Pio, you will actually get closer to heaven. Because the important thing on the feast of Padre Pio is not to get close to his relics, but to get close to the memory of his example. So now, I request you to bow your heads. Seek silence. Without using your lips, without using your voice, use the language of God, which is silence, and whisper to the heart of Jesus and say, 'Lord, change me, even if I am not ready....Change my cold heart into a heart of fire. Change my laziness to pray, into total generosity. Change my pride into simplicity. Change me, Lord, even if I am not ready....Change me, Lord, even if I am not ready'.....