It is the Lord!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week III-C, 05 May 2019

Of all the great things one can truly experience in a Holy Land pilgrimage, it is the gift of “internal recognition” of the Risen Jesus Christ that must be most touching, most wonderful because it always brings peace and joy within.

Like the beloved disciple in our gospel this Sunday, it is when we recognize Jesus internally that we “softly exclaim” deep within “It is the Lord!” (Jn.21:7).

It is the ordinary moment that happens so sudden during prayer, in the Mass, or simply being at a holy site or seeing a beautiful sight when tears suddenly roll in our eyes, something cold or warm envelops you, or your hair rising because you remember and feel the Lord coming to you. According to our guide here, the 153 large fish caught by the apostles in that third appearance of the Risen Lord at Tiberias is significant: 153 in the Hebrew alphabet means “I Am GOD.”

And that’s what we feel not only in a pilgrimage but in ordinary life when we remember God filling you like a net with large fish like in Tiberias. In an instant even very fleeting, we realize we have been so blessed even if we have sinned and failed to recognize Jesus by the shore.

Here at the Holy Land, whether it is your first or second or third pilgrimage, there is always something new to discover, to realize, to experience, and to see. It is like that experience at the shore of Tiberias when Jesus appeared for the third time to his apostles after Easter where he awaits you for breakfast, with “a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread” (Jn.21:9). Here it is beyond doubt our God is a God of surprises.

Yesterday we had our Mass at the Chapel of Flagellation at 130pm at the Via Dolorosa. Immediately after that, we had via crucis or station of the cross. By 330pm we were already inside the Holy Sepulchre Church climbing towards Golgotha, the Crucifixion site. Exactly while lining up, the church was closed and we were told there would be no veneration because the Patriarch was coming for incensing the whole church.

Everything stopped and I felt a bit sad for my group. But lo and behold! What a beautiful experience not only to witness an Orthodox ceremony! While resting outside the only Roman Catholic chapel, I asked the Franciscan if we can pray inside. He asked me to wait and after 20 minutes, he let us in. I celebrated Mass there in 2005 with 14 other priests and two bishops from the Philippines. I could not recall the name of the chapel so I asked the Franciscan. He told me it is the chapel of the Easter meeting of Jesus and his Mother – the Salubong or Encounter we celebrate early morning of Easter Sunday. It was a new discovery for me!

In the gospels, Jesus first met Mary Magdalene but according to St. Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises, it was Mary his mother whom the Risen Lord first met because she was the first to try believe Jesus is the Christ! Most of all, Mary is the first to truly love Jesus most. And that is why we have the Salubong.

Today in the gospel Jesus asked Simon thrice, “do you love me more than this?”

It is the same question Jesus is asking us this Sunday. We have to first love him in order to follow him. We have to first love him in order to meet and see him, even with our imperfect love like Simon Peter.

You are loved and you are prayed for always. Have a blessed Sunday and week ahead! Amen.

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