January 26, 2020 – 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time: National Bible Sunday
Click here for the readings http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/012620.cfm
I am sure that each of us here has our own experience of God, an experience that made us confident and changed us to be more grateful to God and to respond with grateful heart to the Lord.
In this mass, a member of the Redemptorist Youth Ministry shall give a witness of God’s generosity in his life. Let us welcome Paul Mark Divino.
I’ve been with the ministry for more than a decade now, and looking back 10 years ago, I was chosen to be one of the participants for the 1st Redemptorist Youth Encounter held in Cebu City. And I had my first air flight (sounds exciting right?). As I arrived in Cebu, my heart was filled with excitement and joy, and eager to experience the youth encounter and meet other young people from different Redemptorist Parishes in Visayas and Mindanao. But During the 2nd day of the encounter I felt that something was really missing in me. I realized that since I arrived in Cebu, I did not receive any text message nor phone call from my parents, unlike my other companions. Most of them, as soon as they arrived in Cebu they received phone calls from their parents. From this, I felt jealous. So I ask GOD, why? Have my parents forgotten me already?
I was so hurt that I felt so down. Yet, on that same day, I found a peaceful place for me to reflect better. As I sat in an open area that overviewed the city of Cebu, all of a sudden my phone rang, “may nag text.” Yes! It was my father asking “Nak, kumusta man ka dira sa Cebu? And tears were falling from my eyes. I felt ashamed of myself for even questioning God. That moment, I realized that GOD is truly there, always listening and assuring me that I am never alone.
I felt the presence of Jesus. That simple experience reminded me a great lesson in life that God is always present even when we start to doubt and question him. God reveals his presence in us in most surprising and perfect time, Ika’ nga”
Speaking of Gods Perfect time, there was this time too that I was so inspired and amazed at the sharing of my co-youth who attended the World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia in 2008. Through those personal sharing of experiences, I became more inspired to serve in the Youth Ministry, to meet new people and to dream that one day I would also be part of the World Youth Day Gathering, “beke nemen”.
That has been one of my inspirations and motivations that time. Yet as time went by, I already forgot about that dream. I continued to enjoy my service in the ministry. Instead of being sent for the World Youth Day, I was sent for the National Youth Day 2011 in Manila, and to the Youth Mission in Tacloban.
However, last October 2018, “may tumawag, hindi na text.” I received a phone call from our Youth Provincial director that time, Fr. Julius Martin informing me that I was chosen to be one of the delegates, (guest what?) of the World Youth Day in Panama. This sounded exciting again but I was reluctant. Why me? Again I questioned GOD. I went to a series of interviews and at the end? Boom!! I got the crown . Again, that was another 1st experience taking a plane this time outside the country. Big thanks to RYM.
My WYD experience was again another God’s perfect timing. Before this grace was given to me, I was molded by the ministry to be ready for this graceful gathering and to experience and encounter such a big crowd of young people from different countries with different cultures and languages but one in faith.
These experiences I shared to you are just few things that I encountered while being in the ministry. These experiences made me realize that God is indeed with me, that God is the Light who shines upon me and has blessed me with so many things.
Because of these experiences I have become ever grateful to God. I continue and renew my service in the ministry as my grateful response to the Lord. It motivates me to be a better and a good youth leader and to inspire others. I am sharing my experiences with you not to brag myself, but to tell you how good God is to me despite everything, and how God has let me experience that I am truly loved and blessed in so many ways.
What we have just heard from Paul is a personal experience of God’s presence. That God-experience inspired Paul to also respond with a grateful heart.
This kind of experience reminds me of the wonderful image in the first reading from the Book of Isaiah. The people who walked in darkness because of sin, of misery, of depression, or sickness and of oppression have seen a great light. What Isaiah proclaimed to us was God’s presence being experienced by the people.
As the Lord has come to visit his people, God’s presence also brought the grace of freedom and peace, of reconciliation and joy. This is beautifully sang to us in the Psalm, “The Lord is my light and my salvation.”
This reflects in the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus has appeared publicly and began to preach, calling the people to “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
Those who have met him and heard him, have indeed seen and experienced the light of the Lord. The first disciples who were Peter, Andrew, James and John were actually disciples of John the Baptist. This tells us that these men were also in search of God and hungered to experience God’s presence in their life. They have been in search of God.
With that disposition, they made themselves open to Jesus. They allowed Jesus to come to them. In fact, as they have encountered Jesus, they too experienced God’s generosity in them. They realized how good God is to them despite everything. They too realized that it was only Jesus who satisfied their hunger and thirst. With that experience, they have become grateful to the Lord.
Moreover, that gratefulness in them molded their hearts to also respond in gratitude to the call of Jesus. They left their old self because they have found that God offered something new to them and it is through service by bringing more people closer to Jesus.
Thus, as we also celebrate the National Bible Sunday, the Bible tells us of this invitation – and that is, that we recognize our God-experiences, those moments of light where God has expressed his generosity and goodness in us. By being able recognize them, we also allow our heart to be ever more grateful to the Lord.
And hopefully, by being grateful to God, then, we can also respond to the Lord, to his invitation to us, not just because we are indebted to God or out of duty as Christians, but we respond out of our gratitude to Him just like the disciples. We respond to Jesus’ call to follow him in our own context and capacities and in our own status and situations in life, as young persons, as parents, as workers, as professionals or as respected senior citizens. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR