25 January 2013

'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' Sunday Reflections, Third Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

An extract from Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth.[Today's gospel ends at 2:28.]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21 (Revised Standard Version – Catholic Edition)

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed. 

Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord." And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."

Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee St Luke tells us. Thirty years ago in the Diocese of Bacolod on the island of Negros where I now live in the Philippines the Spirit led nine men to jail, three priests and six laymen, all falsely charged with multiple murder. Fourteen months were to pass before the nine were released.

Two of the priests were Columbans, Fr Brian Gore from Australia and the late Fr Niall O'Brien from Ireland. The third was a diocesan priest, Fr Vicente Dangan, now deceased.

The six laymen, all working for the Church during the very difficult Martial Law years in the Philippines, were Jesus S. Arzaga, Peter Cuales, Lydio J. Mangao, Conrado Muhal (RIP), Geronimo T. Perez (RIP) and Ernesto Tajones. They became known as The Negros Nine and you can find their photos here

While the Negros Nine were in jail in Bacolod City the late Bishop Antonio Y. Fortich appointed the three priests as chaplains there. The vast majority of prisoners were from poor backgrounds and their cases were being constantly put back. The three priests, as well as ministering to the spiritual needs of the prisoners were able to get lawyer-friends to follow up on the cases of many of those languishing, wondering if they would ever get out.

As a result of this, many of them did. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives . . . to set at liberty those who are oppressed . . .


I'm writing this on 25 January. Later today the 40th annual March for Life will take place in Washington DC. 40 = 55M says the March for Life website, indicating the 55 million babies who have been legally aborted in the USA since the Roe v Wade decision by the Supreme Court 40 years ago.

Last Saturday 25,000 turned out at a peaceful rally outside the Irish parliament in Dublin to let politicians know that they don't want abortion to be legalised in the Republic of Ireland.

One of the charges often made is that those who are pro-life when it comes to the unborn and abortion are really only 'pro-birth' and not interested in the lives of children once they are born.

My friend Lala and her friend Jordan, whom I also know, might dispute this if they had the ability to express themselves in such a way. Lala was left in a garbage bin after birth and raised by the Daughters of Charity in Cebu City. Lala was born with Trisomy 21 (Down's Syndrome) and Jordan with intellectual and physical disabilities. They now live in the L'Arche community near Manila. Over the years those who have chosen to live with Lala, Jordan and others for long periods, enabling them to live normal lives, have come from as far away as Germany and Japan.

Lala helping Jordan

The late King Baudouin of the Belgians, about whom I've written in the two previous Sunday Reflections wrote in a letter to a young mother about a children's party that he and Queen Fabiola had hosted: 

In one corner there was a group of handicapped children, several of them with Down's Syndrome. I brought a plateful of toffees to a little girl who had scarcely any manual control. With great difficulty, she succeeded in taking a toffee but, to my astonishment, she gave it to another child. then for a long time, without ever keeping one for herself, she distributed these sweets to all the healthy children who could not believe their eyes. What a depth of love there is in these physically handicapped bodies . . .

Lala and the little girl who astonished King Baudouin are truly sisters in Christ. He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. King Baudouin and the able-bodied children with whom the little girl with the disabilities shared her toffees were poor in spirit in the sense that St Matthew means in the first of the Beatitudes, ie, they knew their need of God. They recognised God's presence at the party, just as those who know Lala, especially those who live in L'Arche with her, recognise that the scripture has been fulfilled in their presence and is being fulfilled each day.

The Negros Nine were involved in organising Christian Communities where people would work together for the peace and justice that the Gospel demands in an area of awful poverty for many, poverty caused by greed. They suffered with the people because of the demands of the Gospel. Those of the Negros Nine who remain continue to work for justice and peace through the Negros Nine Human Development Foundation. Among other things the foundation is involved in trying to prevent the trafficking of women and minors. To set at liberty those who are oppressed . . .

While looking for a musical setting of the Entrance Antiphon I discovered Cantate Domino in B-flat, a setting of part of Psalm 96 (95) in Latin from which the Antiphon is taken, by Japanese composer Ko Matsushita. This came out of the Sing for Japan Choir Project, an international response to the earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011. I had not heard of Ko Matsushita nor had I heard of the Sing for Japan Choir Project. I discovered quite a few videos of Cantate Domino and finally settled on one featuring the Kaohsiung Chamber Choir from southern Taiwan.

The Entrance Antiphon is taken from Psalm 95 (96) 1, 6. The above is Cantate Domino in B-flat, a setting of verses 1, 2, 4, 5 ,6, 11 by Japanese composer Ko Matsushita. Verses 1 and 6 are highlighted.

Cantate Domino canticum novum,
cantate Domino omnis terra.
Cantate Domino benedicite nomini eius,
adnuntiate diem de die salutare eius;
quoniam magnus Dominus et laudabilis valde
terribilis est super omnes deos;
quoniam omnes dii gentium daemonia
at vero Dominus caelos fecit.
Confessio et pulchritudo in conspectu eius, 
sanctimonia et magnificentia in sanctificatione eius.
Laetentur caeli et exultet terra
commoveatur mare et plenitudo eius.

Entrance Antiphon

O sing a new song to the Lord, 
sing to the Lord, all the earth. 
In his presence are majesty and splendour, 
strength and honour in his holy place.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor . . .

And in so many ways, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, we can say with Jesus, Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.

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