The Gospel Today
Saturday in the Octave of Easter
When Jesus had risen, early on the first day of the week,
he appeared first to Mary Magdalene,
out of whom he had driven seven demons.
She went and told his companions who were mourning and weeping.
When they heard that he was alive
and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
After this he appeared in another form
to two of them walking along on their way to the country.
They returned and told the others;
but they did not believe them either.
But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them
and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart
because they had not believed those
who saw him after he had been raised.
He said to them, “Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
Reflection (Sem. Gerald Moscardon)
It was the year 2000 when I first felt that I was called to the vocation of priesthood. I was a high school senior back then at Don Bosco Technical College in Mandaluyong. I was so drawn and inspired by the Salesians who, through their lives as joyful men of God, made me consider a life of priesthood. I decided that I wanted to become a priest but my parents had a different plan for me. When I told them that I wanted to enter the seminary at the age of 16, they said no and they were adamant that I finish college first and then decide if I still want to consider priesthood. I was very disappointed at that time. I thought that God was really calling me and, if He really wanted me in this path, He would make a way. I thought back then that I had made a mistake; that God was calling me to something else. I took the decision of my parents hard. For years, I never had an inkling of the call to priesthood again.
It was only eleven years after when I felt something inside of me, a small voice disturbing me amidst my so-called success in the UK. I felt empty amidst all the success and I was drawn to go back home. I did not want to go back home because it was against my plan but there was this certain longing that I could not put my finger on at that time. Against my good judgment, I came back to the Philippines. I wandered for a few months not knowing what exactly it is that I needed to do. I worked as an ER/OPD nurse in a secondary hospital and studied Italian while waiting for an inspiration. For some reason, I was drawn to serve in our parish at St. Paul the Apostle in Quezon City. For twenty nine years of my residency in the Scout Area, that was the first time I became actively involved in the parish. That decision reawakened the call to priesthood. It was the same feeling that I felt in the UK, which I had a hard time identifying at that time. I hesitated because I thought that God already decided that I was not for priesthood years ago. I did not listen to it but the nagging call just became stronger and stronger. I fought it. With all the worldly things I encountered since my first feeling of the call, I felt that God could never call a sinner like me. For three years, I fought hard. I fought so hard that on January 2014, I was diagnosed with a rare disease called Achalasia. It is the tightening of the esophageal sphincter and dilatation of the esophagus, making it difficult to swallow food and liquid. The cause is unknown but stress is a major risk factor. Even my body was manifesting signs of my resistance. It was only when my body was failing and my will could not bear it any longer that I decided to surrender. It was right after my life-changing surgery in October 2014 that I gave up my control and surrendered to God’s will.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus appeared three times in three different situations and circumstances to prove that He was alive and the news of the Resurrection was indeed true. In the first two appearances, the disciples did not believe. Their hardness of heart made it impossible to see the undeniable truth. It was only during the third appearance in the upper room that the disciples believed. The disciples did not believe Mary Magdalene and the two disciples who journeyed with Jesus at the Road to Emmaus because they were mourning and weeping. They were in darkness and at a loss because their Master was dead. I did not listen to the call because I was mourning the things I would leave behind if I did answer the call – all the worldly things that measured my success. Jesus was with me all along but, because of my doubts, attachments, and resistances, I failed to feel His presence. I failed to see the Resurrected Christ.
The Resurrection brings about newfound joy and rejoicing; a new life. Just like the disciples, we need a renewed faith amidst the grief; in spite of the loss; despite the doubts and suffering in order to see the glory of the Resurrected Jesus. Plenty of times, I fail to see the glory of the new life promised at the Resurrection because of the hardness of my heart. Uncertainties are still aplenty in my “new life” as a priest-in-process but with my renewed faith in Jesus, it gives me the courage to believe in His Divine Providence.