God our first love

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in Week XIV of Ordinary Time, 04 July 2022
Hosea 2:16, 17-18, 21-22   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Matthew 9:18-26
Photo by author, oasis at the Dead Sea area, May 2017.
Indeed, O God our Father,
you are "gracious and merciful"
as the psalmist declares today
for you have never stopped from
loving us and restoring us to 
health and to life despite our
repeated sins against you.
As you have told your prophet Hosea
today in the first reading, "allure" us
and "lead us into the desert and speak 
to our hearts" (Hosea 2:16) like a lover;
let us realize and rediscover anew you
are our first love of all for you were the
one who first loved us and still love us.
Lead us back into the desert
to realize you are our only hope,
the only one we can rely on and
trust wholly for you are life yourself;
like that sick woman in the crowd,
turn to us anew in Jesus for we do not
have the courage to face you;
heal us of our afflictions that separate
us from you and from everyone;
raise us up in Jesus like that dead
daughter of the synagogue official
to rise to new level of relationships
and new level of existence and relating
with you, O God, and with everyone.
Amen.

	

“Ashes to Ashes” by Dennis Lambert (1972)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II
Photo by author, Mt. Nebo, Jordan overlooking Israel, 2019.

Blessed Sunday, everyone! It was a very tiring but fulfilling week that after our Saturday evening Mass, I just thought of listening to Mr. Dennis Lambert’s music “Ashes to Ashes” released in 1972.

I have always loved the voice and music of Mr. Lambert, especially his love song “Of All the Things”; but, as I listened to “Ashes to Ashes” last night, I realized the song is perfect match with our gospel this Sunday where Jesus reminded his disciples and us to “do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Lk.10:20).

Discipleship – and life in general is about relationships. It is never about the things we can do or have achieved because everything and everyone is passing. Nothing is permanent in this world except love who is God himself (https://lordmychef.com/2022/07/02/maintain-safe-braking-distance/).

When we speak of heaven, we speak of intimacy with God; its opposite, hell, is separation from God. That is why Jesus tells us to rejoice our names are written in heaven, that we are one with the Father in him now. It does not really matter to him whatever we can do or whatever we have achieved but what matters most is what we have become: have we been more loving and faithful? Kind and understanding?

That is what Mr. Lambert is telling us in his “Ashes to Ashes” which is of biblical origin: “We’re only living to leave the way we came”.

They’re tearing down the street
Where I grew up
Like pouring brandy
In a Dixie cup
They’re paving concrete
On a part of me
No crime for killing off
A memory
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Can you find the Milky Way
Long Tall Sally and Tin Pan Alley
Have seen their dying day
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
It’ll never be the same
But we’re all forgiven
We’re only living
To leave the way we came

But of course, it is not the end of everything.

Our Christian faith tells us we have direction in this life wherein death is not the end but the beginning of eternal life which is still, about perfect relationships with God and one another.

Have a blessed Sunday everyone – eat, pray and unwind with your loved ones.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

“Maintain safe braking distance”

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 03 July 2022
Isaiah 66:10-14 ><}}}*> Galatians 6:14-18 ><}}}*> Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
Photo by d0n mil0 on Pexels.com

One of the most repeated messages you see upon entering North Luzon Expressway in its electronic billboards is the call to “maintain safe braking distance” that, unfortunately, many do not observe, causing accidents daily that result into monstrous jams at the super highway.

That warning to “maintain safe braking distance” is what Jesus Christ is also telling us today in the gospel after the 72 disciples he had sent returned to him, rejoicing at their successes that even demons were subject to them because of the Lord’s name.

Jesus said, “I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to ‘tread upon serpents and scorpions and upon the full force of the nemey and nothing will harm you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”

Luke 10:18-20
From Facebook, April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord!”

Resolutely determined in the name of Jesus

We have seen last Sunday how Jesus was “resolutely determined” to go to Jerusalem, asking us with the same resolve in following him, imitating him, and doing his work for the people; but, being resolutely determined like him is not about powers but union with the Father.

The “harvest is always abundant” – there are so many things to be done but the most important thing of all is our oneness with God in Jesus Christ. What matters most in discipleship is not the accomplishments we have but relationships we keep with God and one another. St. Mother Teresa said it so well, “We are called to be faithful, not successful.”

That is why Jesus asked us to pray for more laborers, not budget nor gadgets nor things but persons to work in the abundant harvest that refers to the kingdom of God; hence, the Lord’s reminder to “do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” To have our names written in heaven is to be one with God because heaven is about relationship with God, an intimacy with God. Hell is separation from God.

Hence, a disciple can only share and give peace to others when the disciple himself/herself is in good relationships with one’s self, with others and with God.


Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz in San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Peace happens when there is the gift of presence with self, others, and God, implying a loving relationship. This is the very essence of the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians wherein the apostle explained the meaning of being justified in Christ through his Cross: we are saved, our names are written in heaven not by our own doing but by the Lord’s self-giving. Our task is to nurture and deepen these relationships effected by Jesus in his coming to us, in making us one again in the Father. It is very interesting how Paul ended his letter to the Galatians by using his standard greeting in letters:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your sprit, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Galatians 6:18

Experts say that Paul could have employed a secretary in writing this letter who altered his style by placing his usual salutations to the ending. On the other hand, other experts believe there is a hidden meaning in the construction of the conclusion, that if we let the grace of Jesus in our relationships, the more we regard each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

When Jesus decided to resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem, his focus was not the place but the people, always stopping to interact with everyone by teaching them, healing the sick and blessing the children.

Photo by author, 19 April 2022, Pangasinan.

As we mature in life, we realize and imitate Jesus in this journey by seeing it more as a direction than a destination. We have experienced how our journey and trips have become more fulfilling and enriching from the more fun and adventure we discover in our many stops and detours than going straight to our destinations. Life is more of seeking directions than fixation on a destination to be reached that becomes very rigid and bereft of meaning and sense that can be found only among fellow human beings, not things.

In the first reading, we find a hint of this direction than destination with the prophecy by Isaiah of the coming home of the exiles to Jerusalem. There is always the joy of coming home but, we cannot all go at the same time, the tension of already here but not yet of heaven. There is always the need of keeping and nurturing our relationships and presence, peace and oneness with one another in Jesus Christ amid the abundant harvest of heaven for us all.


Going back to our analogy of the NLEX reminder of maintaining a safe braking distance, entering the super highway assures us of many directions to take in our journey to Jesus, journey with Jesus. But we have to be alert and careful in our driving, be mindful of others using the roads. We need to be alert and careful in driving to avoid causing accidents and mishaps that could misdirect us to the hospital or, worst, six feet below ground!

In the same manner, we are already in the harvest time, in this time of Christ’s presence and oneness with the Father and with everyone of us. This Sunday, Jesus reminds us to maintain safe braking distance in our many pursuits and attention in our abundant harvests that in the process we have forgotten those dearest to us, those we love and who love us truly. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, September 2019.

Finding our directions in life

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday in Week XIII of Ordinary Time, 01 July 2022
Amos 8:4-6, 9-12   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, 14 May 2022 in Los Baños, Laguna.
Glory and praise to you,
God our loving Father for this
brand new month of July 2022:
new beginning, new batch of 31
days filled with your wonderful 
surprises, filled with life and joy!
Grant us, dear Father,
with sense of directions in you
through Jesus Christ your Son;
like Matthew, may we have the grace
to respond to his call to follow him;
help us realize like Matthew
that life is not about having 
wealth and every thing money can buy
but finding meaning and 
directions in life in you.
Forgive us, O Lord, 
when affluence and comforts
overtake us that we forget you
and the people around us
like the people of Israel at the time
of Amos who "trampled upon the needy
and destroyed the poor of the land"
(Amos 8:4); all the sad conditions
happening then still happen today when
nobody cares at all about Sunday worship
nor with honesty in trading and work.

Yes, days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from north to the east in search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.

Amos 8:11-12
Continue to speak to us, Lord,
for without your words,
we are lost like many of those
among us today, "wandering from sea
to sea, roving from north to the east"
searching for your words,
searching for meaning and
directions in life.
Amen.

When harbor is not a harbor…

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of First Martyrs of Holy Roman Church, 30 June 2022
Amos 7:10-17   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 9:1-8
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Nazare, Portugal, March 2022.

Harbor (noun) – a place on the coast where vessels may find shelter, especially one protected from rough water by piers, jetties, and other artificial structures.

Harbor (verb) – keep (a thought or feeling, typically a negative one) in one’s mind, especially secretly; also, shelter or hide (a criminal or wanted person). In Pilipino, “magkimkim”.

On this final day of June 2022
as we honor all the martyrs in the
persecution under Nero in 64 AD Rome,
you gave me O Lord the word "harbor"
as a focus of prayer and reflection after
finding the playful twist in the gospel
of Jesus crossing the lake into his own town 
where he healed a paralytic by telling him 
"Courage, child, your sins are forgiven" 
(Mt.9:2).

At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?”

Matthew 9:3-4
What a sad turn of events that continue
to this day when prophets come into our midst, 
especially those of our own like Jesus to his folks, 
who are denounced for speaking your words, 
O God our Father; instead of finding shelter among
us like a "harbor" for telling the truth, prophets
have always become targets of negative thoughts
we "harbor" within like when Brazilian Archbishop
Helder Camara said, "When I give food to the poor,
they call me a saint; when I ask why they are poor,
they call me a communist."
Bless us, dear Father, to be like a "harbor"
to your prophets; let us not imitate Amaziah
in the first reading who drove away your prophet
Amos back to Judah to earn his keeps as
shepherd and dresser of sycamores;
forgive us when we "harbor" negative thoughts
on those who tell and speak to us your truth;
and most especially, let us "stir into flame 
the gift of God that we have" (cf. 2 Tim.1:6)
at Baptism, the sharing in Christ's prophetic
ministry of witnessing your truth and mercy,
justice and love among the people at all time.
Let us not fear, O Lord, 
to cross the seas of this life
to spread your gospel of salvation,
finding only in you our safe harbor
from all storms that come our way
in carrying your Cross.  Amen.

“Sleeping” in Christ, trusting in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2022
Acts 12:1-11 ><}}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 ><}}}}*> Matthew 16:13-19
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, August 2021.

Our readings today are a parable of the Church, of what we should and would be as the Body of Christ celebrating the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, the pillars of the Church.

Despite their personalities being poles apart while their social, cultural and religious backgrounds were greatly different, both men were won over by Jesus Christ to proclaim his good news of salvation, eventually dying as martyrs like the Lord. Both apostles displayed deep trust in Jesus Christ whom they have come to know on a personal basis.

Let us reflect first on St. Peter, the “prince of the Apostles” and servant of all. Notice how Peter could sleep soundly inside prison, even between two soldiers as narrated to us by Luke.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.

Acts 12:6-9

It is very amusing, even funny, but facts can truly be stranger than fiction!

How could Peter sleep soundly after being arrested and thrown into prison with two soldiers sandwiching him inside his cell while a host of other guards secured the area outside?

We think again of St. Joseph sleeping soundly in a similar critical situation when he decided to silently leave Mary who was found pregnant with a child before they were married. Too often, we find it difficult to sleep when we have problems because we cannot decide decisively as we lack trust and faith in God. Both Joseph and Peter slept soundly under critical situations because of their complete trust and faith in God.

But, Peter shows us another dimension of his trust in God – his total trust also in the Church, believing that they were all praying for him.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2022.

It is a beautiful imagery of the Church then and now, always in darkness like during night time when Peter was imprisoned. And that is the parable of this scene: it is always a time of Exodus for us in the Church, of passing over from every trials and difficulties, always trusting our leaders, trusting our faithful and most of all, entrusting everything to God!

If there is one thing most needed these days in our Church especially in the Philippines is this attitude of being in an Exodus, of exiting from our excesses from the past, of submitting ourselves more to God than to our own thoughts and plans especially in politics that we have forgotten the more crucial proclamation of the gospel by reaching out to the grassroots level, of witnessing our faith in God instead of lording it over among people, exerting our influences. The recent elections is a dark period of our imprisonment with secular thoughts and dispositions, forgetting our sphere of influence in spiritual matters.

May we, both clergy and laypeople, imitate Peter by abandoning everything to God in deep prayers, following God not our plans as symbolized by his putting on his belt and sandals as commanded by the angel.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

Meanwhile, we find the same kind of total abandonment by Paul of himself to God while in prison where he wrote some of his finest letters like this Second Letter to Timothy, the last of his captivity letters which we heard in the second reading today.

Imagine the stress of being in prison but without any hint of duress on Paul while awaiting death amid all humiliations with his incomparable eloquence:

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:6-7, 17, 18

Very evident in all his letters, Paul had always expressed his total abandonment of self to Christ, of his faith in God. Here in this portion of his second letter to Timothy, we find two important lessons so apt in our celebration of this solemnity.


First is the nature of Christian life lived as a worship: am already being poured out like a libation. That is what I like most with Paul, his mastery of language, always using the most perfect words to express his experiences and ideas. For some, especially first-time readers of Paul, they may find it so “mayabang” as we say in Filipino. But no. For me, Paul is the most sincere and most humble writer in the world of letters then and now.

A libation is a drink offered to gods in ancient Greece and Rome. Here, Paul as he approached death, summarized his entire life as an offering to God that we also see in his other writings.

And that is the challenge of this solemnity to us, that we live our lives as a form of worship to God.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, 15 June 2022.

Our very lives in itself are a prayer, always centered on God, something so foolish when we go by the standards of the world today that is all show – palabas – with nothing substantial inside because only money and fame matter. Paul was very much like Peter who lived their lives as prayers that like Christ in the end, both offered the highest offering of all, martyrdom.

Second thing we find in this short but rich excerpt from Paul’s letter to Timothy is the deeper meaning of death as a passage to heaven, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom”. Like the gospel last Sunday when we heard Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” wherein Jesus freely chose to face his death to fulfill his mission and express his deep love for the Father and for us. To the Philippians Paul declared that “for me life is Christ, death is gain”. Here in his letter to Timothy, Paul freely accepts his death, making it a blessing for others, something we must emulate. Instead of having those bucket lists of things to do before dying, Paul is teaching us death comes in every present moment that we must always prepare for its happening so that the next generation may continue the good things we have started. And that is exactly how until now the Church’s missionary zeal is kept aflame by Paul’s letters and works.


Photo by author, 2019.

In the gospel proclaimed today about the investiture of Peter as the head of the church of Christ, we heard Jesus entrusting to him “the keys to the kingdom of heaven that whatever he binds on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever he loosens on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (cf. Mt.16:19).

As I end this reflection for this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, I wish to use the word “key” in a different sense – the key to unlocking how Peter and Paul achieved so much for God and for the Church lies in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Both apostles who have become the pillars of the Church today truly experienced Jesus in their lives in the most personal and in timate manner that in the process they have mirrored the true Christ himself.

The problems we have in the Church today, notably the declining number of the faithful following an all-time low in credibility is largely due to the many wrong answers we give Jesus to his question “who do people say I am?” Many Christians are losing their faith and interest in the Church because of the mixed signals we give them on what do we say who Jesus is.

The Church grew so wide during the time of Peter and Paul because both apostles shared the true Jesus Christ not only in their words but also in their deeds. May we have the courage to open ourselves to Jesus Christ again so we may know him more clearly, love him dearly, follow him closely and preach him daily. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Won over by Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2022
Acts 12:1-11 ><}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 ><}}}*> Matthew 16:13-19
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.
God our loving Father,
as we celebrate today the
Solemnity of the two pillars
of the Church, St. Peter and St. Paul
who are poles apart in their 
temperament and in their social,
cultural, and religious backgrounds,
help us imitate them in being open
to your grace always, in being open
to your plans so we may set aside
our own agendas in order to be won
over by your Son Jesus Christ. 
Nothing is impossible with you,
dear Father:  
Peter denied Jesus
during the passion while 
Paul persecuted Jesus in
the persons of his disciples;
Peter was impetuous and 
presumptuous but sometimes
hesitant yet solidly loyal to
Christ while Paul was proud 
of his Roman citizenship and of
his being a Pharisee, demanding
his title as Apostle but likewise,
admits his fragility as a "pot of
clay", most unworthy vessel of Christ; 
Peter was attached to his Jewish
roots and convictions but did not resist 
the Holy Spirit in leading him where 
he did not want to go while Paul was 
resolute in being led by the Spirit in
proclaiming Jesus to the gentiles
while deep inside was torn within 
by the resistance and
rejection of his fellow Jews.
Merciful Father,
let your Son Jesus Christ
win over us like what he did
to St. Peter and St. Paul
who both gave their lives as 
a living worship to you,
witnessing your love and mercy,
kindness and majesty;
give us the grace to know Jesus
and love Jesus first so we may
follow him to his Cross 
for your greater glory.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

Meeting God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop & Martyr, 28 June 2022
Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 8:23-27
Photo by Ms. Danna Hazel de Castro, Kiltepan Peak, Sagada, Mountain Province, 2017.
Disturbing words by Amos in the
first reading and a violent storm in
the gospel while the apostles where
crossing the lake with Jesus asleep
remind us dear God our loving Father
of the inevitable "meeting with you".
Who would not be shaken with the 
words of Amos threatening:

Does a lion roar in the f0rest when it has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from its den unless it has seized something? Is a bird brought to earth by a snare when there is no lure for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground without catching anything? If the trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened ? If evil befalls a city, has not the Lord caused it? So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! And since I will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.

Amos 3;4-6, 4:12
Forgive us, Lord, for being complacent
in knowing you, feeling one with you
even if our lives are far from your
teachings that we neither see your
nor are you seen in us or in our live; 
help us realize that because 
you have given us so much, much are
expected from us.
At the other extreme, many times
we are like the apostles in the boat
caught in a violent storm while at the
middle of the sea and even if Jesus were
with us, we act as if he were away.
Many times we do not meet you
because we do not live our faith in you
faithfully, so afraid of what others would
say to us; but, there are also many times
we do not meet you when our fears overtake
us that we do not see you being with us.

The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life… Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God.

St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies
Help us imitate St. Irenaeus who lived
his faith faithfully that he saw you daily
in his life.  Amen.

Praying to be radical

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church, 27 June 2022
Amos 2:6-10, 13-16   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 8:18-22
Photo by author, Subic, 2019.
God our just and merciful Father,
today I pray for the grace of being
radical - of going back to my roots or
"radix" in Latin; how sad that more
than 3000 years ago, the words of
your prophet Amos still sound so true
today.

Thus says the Lord: for three crimes of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke my word; because they sell the just man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth, and force the lowly out of the way. Son and father go to the same prostitute, profaning my holy name.

Amos 2:6-7
The situation then in Judah is
very much the same in our own time,
so distressing at how we have turned
away from you, O Lord, and from one
another, living so low without any 
respect and regard especially for
the weak and poor; may we heed 
the call of Jesus Christ to come and
follow him truthfully, radically by keeping
in mind and heart that there can be
no true love of God nor true religion
without a genuine practice of justice
and love among the weak.
Grant us the wisdom and courage of
St. Cyril of Alexandria to fight heresies
that now come as fads in many aspects,
from clothings to lifestyles that are so far
from the beauty of Christ's person as
exemplified by his own Mother, the 
Blessed Virgin Mary; make us firm in
holding on to your teachings on the values 
of life and of every person rooted in you
dear God our Lord and Creator.
Amen.

Free and faithful in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 26 June 2022
1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 ><]]]]'> Galatians 5:1, 13-18 ><]]]]'> Luke 9:51-54
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

“Free and Faithful in Christ” by the late Redemptorist Fr. Bernard Haring is one of my favorite textbooks in the seminary that I have kept all these years not because I love moral theology but due to its title I have found so true especially in life and ministry.

The more we love Jesus and others, the more we become free, the more we become faithful and committed to God and others, the more we become trusting too.

For many people, commitment and freedom do not seem to jibe well because they think freedom is being able to do whatever you want, that freedom is absolute. Of course not! St. John Paul II clarified in Veritatis Splendor that since the beginning, God had limited freedom to choosing only what is good when he told Adam and Eve they were free to eat all fruits in the garden except the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

True freedom is not defying our parents and authorities to insist on what we want, regardless of the well-being of others like driving recklessly that harm those on the streets or posting pictures and statements in social media without respecting other people’s beliefs and sensibilities.

We can only be truly free as a person if we care for other people by seeing them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.

Galatians 5:1, 13
Photo by author, wailing wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Jesus, the one truly free

After two Sundays of celebrating the Solemnities of the Trinity and of the Body and Blood of Jesus, we finally feel the Ordinary Time with our green motif this Sunday that shall continue until November before we end the liturgical calendar with Christ the King to usher in Advent Season and Christmas, which is just six months away from today.

But before thinking of the merry December, we are reminded this Sunday of our journey in life with Jesus guided by Luke who expertly expressed the tempo of Ordinary Time which implies the importance of being free and faithful in Christ:

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

Luke 9:51-56

Here we find the complete freedom of Jesus Christ, his fidelity and commitment to his mission from the Father to be fulfilled in Jerusalem where he would face death to rise again and usher in new life in him, new relationships with God and with others.

Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

I love the way Luke wrote our opening lines of the gospel this Sunday which shows the total freedom of Jesus in fulfilling his mission, his fidelity and love to the Father, “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem”. There was no turning back for Jesus, no second thoughts about going to Jerusalem where he knew so well he would be arrested and killed. Jesus was totally free and faithful in his love for us and to the Father.

It is the same route, the same journey we take daily with Jesus to Jerusalem where we suffer and die with him in our fidelity to our vows and promises, to our loved ones, to our Motherland, and to God our Father. Like Jesus Christ, we must be focused on the mission of love, finding ways to accomplish it instead of entertaining fancy thoughts of display of powers as proposed by the brothers James and John at a Samaritan village they were rejected. To think of getting even with a revenge against bad people is not only a waste of time and energy but most of all means we are not free at all, that we are enslaved by evil and sin, by our emotions. A true disciple of the Lord leaves everything to God, especially the punishment of those who harm and do us wrong. Being resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem like Jesus is having complete faith in him that he would take care of us, that we need not worry at all of petty things like power and wealth, fame and glory.

Being free and faithful, resolutely determined like Christ

Of course, there would always be occasional “stops” for rests in the Lord along the way with some “perks” of serving him though not always in the way the world offers it. Luke would always narrate in his gospel how Jesus would ask his disciples to have some time for themselves in deserted places to rest and pray.

Being free and faithful in Christ, resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem means to go opposite the way of the world which is a folly in the eyes of human wisdom characterized by those ads shouting out to everyone to “Just do it” or “Obey your thirst”, putting premiums on wealth and power, popularity and comfort.

Photo by author, “homeless Christ” at the entrance to Capernaum, the Holy Land, 02 May 2019.

To follow Jesus to Jerusalem is to die daily to our comforts for we are not tourists but pilgrims on earth without fixed or permanent dwelling because our true home is in heaven. This is the first thing Jesus clarifies with anyone wishing to join him in his journey, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Lk.9:58).

That is the reason we priests do not get married, trying to lead simple lives without the trappings of the material world to show everyone what is life in heaven. But, how free and faithful are we in keeping our vows of the priesthood is another topic….


Being free and faithful in Christ is to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ” as St. Benedict would insist to his followers in Rules which is the gist of the shocking reply of Jesus to the second man who asked him permission to bury first his dead father so he could follow him.

When Jesus told the man “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Lk.19:60), he was speaking about the perennial sickness of many religious people who are tied up with their religious laws without realizing its intentions like justice and love. Many times, we practice our faith without really believing in God but believing more in our laws and rituals that we forget the persons we must love. Paul expressed it so well in his letter to the Romans when he wrote, “Owe nothing to anyone except love for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (13:8).


Being and free and faithful in Christ means having Jesus and only Jesus as our priority in life. Notice how the third man came to Jesus wising to follow him but “first let me say farewell to my family at home” (Lk.9:61). It is very clear that for him his priority was his family which is exactly the opposite of what Christ tells us that anyone who loves his father and mother, brother or sister more than him is not worthy to be his disciple.

Jesus is not telling us to disregard our family, especially the fourth Commandment of God; Jesus here is emphasizing the primacy of the gospel, of himself. It is not an issue about morality but keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord we must follow completely like Paul who declared how he had come to consider “everything as a loss” in knowing Christ (Phil.3:8).

It is totally different from the context of Elisha who asked Elijah’s permission to bid goodbye to his family before joining him; see how he slaughtered the oxen he used in farming with his implements as firewood in cooking a meal for Elijah. Elisha literally did what Jesus told the third man trying to join him by burning his plow, indicating his resolute determination to fulfill God’s mission as his prophet by not looking back to his past life.

Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives with a Jewish cemetery at the foreground facing its eastern wall where the Messiah is believed would pass through when he comes. It is the very route Jesus had taken more than 2000 years ago on Palm Sunday before his Passion, Death and Resurrection. Photo by author, 04 May 2019.

When Ordinary Time started in January and was briefly paused until three weeks ago by Lent and Easter Seasons, we have already embarked in the journey of Jesus beginning around the shores of Galilee.

As we resume the Ordinary Time with Jerusalem as destination, Jesus continues to invite us to come and follow him. His call is very simple. Follow me. And, it is sometimes funny that the first time we accepted his invitation, we just followed him without even saying yes. Oh, how free and faithful we were!

But, after many detours and changes of directions along with the many trials and sufferings, we begin to ask questions, seeking clarifications, wondering if we should still continue or just leave and go back to our old ways.

What, who is holding us from being totally free and faithful to Christ?

May the love of Jesus guide us and increase our faith in him so we may also be resolutely determined, free and faithful to continue with him in this journey to fullness of life in him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz in San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.