21 January 2016

'Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.' Sunday Reflections, 3rd 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 (New Revised Standard Version, Catholic Edition, Canada) 

Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.

Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone.

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
Scroll of the Book of Isaiah [Wikipedia]

Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to GalileeSt Luke tells us. Thirty-three 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 let the oppressed go free . . .

The Negros Nine in prison, 1983-84
L to R: Lydio Mangao,  Peter Cuales, Jesus Arzaga, Fr Vicente Dangan(+), Geronimo Perez(+), Fr Brian Gore, Conrado Muhal(+), Fr Niall O'Brien(+), Ernesto Tajones

I'm writing this on 21 January. Tomorrow the 43rd annual March for Life will take place in Washington DC.  According to the pro-abortion Guttmacher Institute in  a July 2014 reportFrom 1973 through 2011, nearly 53 million legal abortions occurred. This is the consequence of the infamous Roe v Wade decision in 1973 by the US Supreme Court. 

A charge that is 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 in Cainta, Rizal, part of the Manila urban sprawl. 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 feeding 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 bring 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 Cf Psalm 95[96]:1,6

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.

Colossians 1:27
51st International Eucharistic Congress, Cebu, Philippines
24-31 January 2016

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