23 Aug, 2019

St. Ignatius de Loyola Cathedral, Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City

Reading 1 EZ 17:22-24

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.
And all the trees of the field shall know
that I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
and make the withered tree bloom.
As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.

Responsorial Psalm PS 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16

R. (cf. 2a) Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praise to your name, Most High,
To proclaim your kindness at dawn
and your faithfulness throughout the night.

R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.
The just one shall flourish like the palm tree,
like a cedar of Lebanon shall he grow.
They that are planted in the house of the LORD
shall flourish in the courts of our God.

R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

They shall bear fruit even in old age;
vigorous and sturdy shall they be,
Declaring how just is the LORD,
my rock, in whom there is no wrong.

R. Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.

Reading 2 2 COR 5:6-10

Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him,
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.


R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower.
All who come to him will live forever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MK 4:26-34

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

The Catholic Church in the Philippines is once again in profound grief after one of her priests was mercilessly murdered. Fr. Richmond Nilo, from the diocese of Cabanatuan was shot several times just before he celebrated the mass at a chapel in Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija. His body was laying on the floor at the foot of the image of Blessed Virgin, soaked with blood. Another disturbing and painful image. He becomes the third priest losing his life in a bloody attack in the past six months. On December 4, 2017, Fr. Marcelito Paez was ambushed in Jean, Nueva Ecija. Just a few weeks ago on April 29, Fr. Mark Ventura was also gunned down moment after celebrating the mass. We may also include Fr. Rey Urmeneta who was attacked by a hit man in Calamba, Laguna. He sustained a bullet in his body, yet he survived death.

Several weeks ago I wrote an emotional reflection on the death of Fr. Ventura (see “A Death of Priest) and I would never hope that I would write another one. Yet, just sometime after the priest was buried without justice being served, Fr. Nilo lost his life in the line of duty. Surely, this is not the first time a priest is killed in the Philippines. The history has witnessed the killing of both Filipino and foreign priests in this land, but to lose three lives in just six months is truly alarming. I was asking myself, “Are we now living in the perilous time for priests? Is to become a priest a dangerous vocation? What’s the point of becoming a priest if it brings nothing but persecution and death?” We have left everything for Christ, our family, our future. Should we give up our lives in this heinous manner as well?

These questions are valid, yet these questions also, I realize, spring from fear. Many priests and even seminarians, myself included, have lived in the comfort of our seminaries, parishes or convents. Provided with readily available basic necessities, with individual rooms, with good-quality education, with other facilities and even amenities, we are actually living as middle-class bachelors. These privileges are meant to make us better and well-formed priests for the service of the people, but getting used to these facilities, we often lose sight of their primary purpose. Our priesthood is called as the ministerial priesthood because the ordained priests are to serve the people of God, but sometimes, the priests end up being served by the people of God. At times, the virus of clericalism and careerism infect our minds. Ordinations and positions in the Church are seen as promotions, career, or prestige. A better position means better perks! If the priesthood is just another way to make us rich, we have lost the priesthood even before we die! The death of a priest is terrible sorrow, but the death of priesthood in our hearts is tragedy!

Bishop Pablo David, DD of Caloocan, Metro Manila, reminds seminarians who are aspiring to become priests, that if the deaths of the priests gave them discouragement, rather than inspiration, it is better for them to forget the priesthood and leave the seminary as soon as they can. Bishop David notes that they are not helpless victims, but rather martyrs that bravely choose to face the dangerous consequence of preaching the Gospel and working for justice.

Since the beginning of Christianity, to become Christians and especially priests are dangerous vocations because we follow Christ in His way of the Cross. Yet, the martyrdom of the three priests turns out to be a shock therapy that wakes us up from our comfortable slumber. It is a call for many of us, seminarians, religious, and priests to ask what the purpose of our priesthood is. Have we died every day to ourselves? Are we ready to give up our lives to God and His people? Are we ready to follow Christ till the end?

Br. Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Sunday Gospel Reflections
Fr. Toto Cerada, SDB
Mary Help of Christians Parish, Calamba City