The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 18 December 2019
Jeremiah 23:5-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 1:18-24
First, we were told for a very long time the importance of IQ or “Intelligence Quotient” for anyone’s success in life.
Then came the EQ or “Emotional Quotient” this past decade that experts claim has more impact in determining one’s success in life than the IQ.
Now, scientists are claiming that more important than the IQ and the EQ is “AQ” or “Adversarial Quotient”, our ability to respond to various adversarial situations in life.
According to the proponents of AQ, the better we are able to deal with life’s troublesome situations like handling crises involving our many forms of relationships, the better we are equipped in having a more fuller life.
Today we hear the story of St. Joseph facing an extremely adversarial situation when Mary who was betrothed to him was found pregnant with a baby not his!
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”Matthew 1:18-20
IQ + EQ + AQ = HQ
St. Matthew describes St. Joseph a “righteous man” or, in Jewish thought, a holy man, a saint who lives his life according to the word of God. Also known as a zaddik in Hebrew, a righteous man delights in the Torah (Law), entrusting everything to God.
According to the Book of Psalms’ first chapter, a righteous man or a zaddik is like a tree planted near a river bank that symbolizes God’s words, growing into maturity with good fruits because he is filled with God, putting into practice the Sacred Scriptures and the Laws.
That is precisely what holiness is all about: being filled with God, not being sinless!
Though holiness means being perfect and whole as its Greek origin tells us, holiness as preached by Jesus Christ is an ongoing process when he commanded us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48).
Holiness does not happen overnight; it takes time and a lot of cultivation on our part.
(One rule of thumb, though, that we must keep in mind: if you think or feel you are holy, definitely you are not. Saints do not know they are saints.)
IQ, EQ, and now AQ are in a sense, scientific expressions of holiness, of being filled with God to become better persons.
During the Solemnity of St. Joseph last year, Pope Francis issued “Gaudete et Exsultate” to reiterate Vatican II’s universal call to holiness by proposing practical ways in our modern time on how to be holy based on the beatitudes of Jesus Christ.
The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1).Gaudete et Exsultate, 1
Very interesting in our Simbang Gabi is how the Pope mentions Abraham, the very beginning of Jesus Christ’s genealogy, as a model of holiness now being expressed in our gospel by the last person in that genealogy, St. Joseph!
St. Joseph bridged faith and practice
St. Joseph is exactly that kind of Jewish zaddik who lived in constant dialogue with God in praying the Scriptures, concretely living it minus the legalisms of the Pharisees and scribes of his time.
For him, the Torah was a good news meant to make life better, not bitter by applying it to daily living which is to love by preserving life.
In dealing with his extremely adversarial situation, St. Joseph did the most important step we have totally disregarded these days: silently pray to God for guidance and grace.
As a man, one can just imagine the many thoughts running through St. Joseph’s mind and heart when the woman he loves so much is found with a baby not his.
His decision to silently leave Mary was due to his great love for her, not in disregarding the letters of the Law that declares that any woman betrothed to a man who bears a child not his must be stoned to death.
Read again St. Matthew’s account we have quoted above and you will feel the solemnity of the scene, of “how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” according to St. Matthew.
There was no sense of agitation or any other negative vibes, purely positive.
Very clear, St. Joseph’s holiness was not merely due to his bloodline or genealogy but his decision to bridge his faith and religion with his life and daily practice.
St. Joseph must be so purely absorbed in prayer that even at his sleep, there was his continuing communing with God that when he woke up, “he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus” (Mt.1:24-25).
Finding holiness in adversarial situations
Almost every month we find in social media so many videos and reports of road rage and people freaking out everywhere.
Sometimes I think that with the presence of too many CCTV’s and prevalence of smart phones around, people should be more well behaved, more kind. But the exact opposite is happening!
Life has become one big, giant TV show with everybody grandstanding, artificially creating their own limelight of fame that usually turns into five minutes of shame and notoriety.
Everybody wants to be on TV or Youtube but unknown to many, television screens tend to bring out the worst in us.
Whenever I would see people with their smartphones taking pictures, “talking alone” and doing all those crazy scenes, I fear how most of us have drifted away from our real gounding in life, God.
The story of St. Joseph reminds us of the need to resolve every issues in our lives by going back to our roots and grounding, God. And this happens by being deeply in touch with life and its realities! He was truly grounded and knew what could happen to Mary.
The more we experience life in each other, the more we experience God.
And the more we look at God, the more we see others.
Such was the holiness of St. Joseph that in bridging his faith with his daily life, the deeper his love for God and Mary grew! In looking up to God, the more he saw Mary and so Jesus Christ came too!
This is the problem of our time: we keep on looking outside, somewhere else to find meaning and life, answers to our many questions.
We just have to look inside our hearts where God truly dwells like St. Joseph.
His being “whole” as a righteous man is the reason why he could sleep soundly in the midst of many crises in life as he completely trusted God. Indeed, St. Joseph’s silence is his most remarkable sign of holiness that even in his sleep, he is filled with God.
There are four instances in the gospel of St. Matthew when the angel spoke to St. Joseph to deliver messages from God. He can sleep soundly because he never dilly-dallied with important decisions in life like secretly divorcing Mary.
We cannot sleep not because we have big problems but because we refuse to make decisions about them.
The word crisis is from the Greek krisis that means “requiring decision”; hence, critical situations require decisions.
St. Joseph was decisive because he was always grounded in God, discerning always his holy will.
In the first reading we heard the prophecy of the coming Christ who shall be called “the Lord our justice” (Jer.22:6). Again, in Jewish thought, justice is not merely giving what is due but also means holiness.
The coming Christ is the Holy One of God, one who would completely entrust himself to the Father on the Cross. Very much like his foster father, St. Joseph who trusted God completely.
Sleeping and dying are essentially the same in the closing of our eyes when we entrust ourselves to God completely without knowing what will happen next, if we would still wake up or, in the case of death, really rise again.
Christmas happens, Jesus comes to us when like St. Joseph we abandon everything to God, especially our “adversarial situations” and go to sleep to be ready and prepared for new, unexpected, and even incredible things in this life. Sleep tight, and be surprised by the Lord! Amen.