The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 21 June 2020
Jeremiah 20:10-13 ><)))*> Romans 5:12-15 ><)))*> Matthew 10:26-33
Finally, today we can truly feel the Ordinary Time as we celebrate Sunday in shades of green with a new sequence of readings from the gospel of St. Matthew who will guide us in our journey with Jesus this year until the Solemnity of Christ the King in November.
Set after the naming of the Twelve Apostles who were sent to search for the “lost sheep of Israel”, the Lord now warns them of persecutions and dangers; hence, today until the next two Sundays, Christ will encourage his disciples including us to take on the challenges of his mission, assuring us of his loving presence and protection.
Notice how the Lord tells us three times to be not afraid of the mission:
Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one… And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna… So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”Matthew 10:26, 28, 31
The problem with our fears
Christ’s words today suit us so perfectly in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic made worst by the growing social unrests not only in our country but also elsewhere in the world that proves how the Lord’s mission remains unfulfilled in us.
Almost everywhere we hear reports of continued oppression of peoples in various forms of discrimination, disrespect and injustices.
But we do not need to look far to do our mission. We start with ourselves first — for we are the “lost sheep of Israel” in so many ways. All oppression and injustices going on around us are the reflections of what is within us that often result from our fears.
So often, the many fears within us push us to be selfish, forgetting others in the process. And that is when we start hating each other, creating this vicious circle of sufferings as the Jedi Master Yoda warned Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace.”
We all have fears. It is normal to feel afraid especially when threatened by a grave danger or threat to life.
Being brave, having courage does not mean having no fears; on the contrary, courage is facing one’s fears in life. Cowardice, on the other hand, is refusal to face our fears.
Jesus is asking us today to face our fears with him and in him so we can be free to follow him in his mission.
Facing our fears in Jesus Christ
What are our fears that lead us to anger and hate, that immobilize us to reach out to God and others? Let us examine them in the light of Christ’s reassuring words this Sunday.
“Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”Matthew 10:26-27
Fear of not being loved and appreciated
One of the things I fear most is not being loved and appreciated, of being neglected and taken for granted.
It is a fear akin with low self-esteem or self-worth that make me afraid of others I deem as better and superior than me.
There are many contributing factors to this fear, mostly not of our own making like growing up in a very strict environment where we are not able to measure up to the expectations of those around us. Sometimes it is due to traumatic experiences that have truly hurt us inside and outside.
As I grew up meeting so many people from various walks of life, including those I looked up and admire including some personalities, I have realized that indeed nobody is perfect. No one has the monopoly of every good thing — looks and intelligence, wealth and health. We all need one another, and we are also needed. And loved as well as appreciated too!
We are all broken and lost, wounded and hurt; no need to fear anyone. What is most important is to always remember God loves us very much — no matter what.
At night before we sleep, do not just count your sins and failures; think also of the good things you have done, people you have helped and made happy. Listen to God thanking you for being so nice with someone. That is what Jesus is telling us to “speak in light” what he said to you in darkness!
Every morning when you wake up, be silent and still, pray and little, listen to God whispering to you the words “I love you… I believe in you” to inspire your for the brand new day. These are the words Jesus is asking you to “proclaim on the housetops”.
Forget those pains inflicted on us by others, in words or in deeds — they must be hurting too, feeling more unloved and unappreciated than us, more fearful than us!
Afraid of getting hurt, physically and emotionally
Another fear I always have is being hurt because I might not be able to take or absorb the pains. Worst, adjust to changes and disturbances that may result.
I was a very sickly child when growing up that I dreaded injections and other medical procedures. Aside from getting hurt, I feared that things could never be the same again, altering or disturbing what I have been used to.
But, as I aged fighting many battles in life, enduring so many pains and hurts with some help from family and friends, I have learned that pain is part of growing up. In fact, growing up becomes nicer with more pains and hurts that make us stronger and wiser with the many lessons we can learn. Most of all, pains and hurts have opened up many doorways to new beginnings that made me grow and mature as a person and as a priest.
Indeed, as the Lord had told us, do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but not the soul. It is what is inside that makes us who we really are. Replace those fears with Jesus and dare to get hurt and bruised that may destroy you outside but stronger inside.
Fear of getting lost, of being alone.
This fear has recurred in me lately during this quarantine period when I am all by myself in my parish with no one to talk to or share whatever may be inside me.
Sometimes it is so tempting to just vanish and die than be lost and alone!
Recently I celebrated a funeral Mass for a young man who committed suicide: he came from the Visayas last February to try his luck here in our barrio to work as a helper in a small candy shop. With the imposition of lockdown in mid-March, he lost his job and had to stay with his cousins who were also laid off from work. The teenager grew homesick, getting depressed later that no amount of alcohol of their nightly drinking sessions could give him a sense of mission that he decided to hang himself on a tree while his drinking companions were all drunk.
Sad that nobody had reminded him of his mission in life that he decided to just end it all. He had forgotten not only his dreams and mission but also his parents and six other siblings in the province looking up to him.
Even if we are in our worst situations in life, for as long as we are alive, still breathing, may we never lose that sense of mission from God because that means we are important, that God believes in us in entrusting us with a mission. Truly, we are worth more than a thousand sparrows that God takes care of.
Experiencing God in the midst of trials
Life is like a rollercoaster: it is something we all fear but we still keep on riding because it is so fulfilling, very liberating, so exciting. It knocks out all the fears in us, making us so aware of life, of being alive.
That was the experience of the Prophet Jeremiah in the first reading: he would always complain to God of his own inadequacies, especially his many fears for the mission and yet, he could not let go of God’s call because he is so in love with him! He could not resist God like a rollercoaster.
I really hoped the lectionary had included the first three verses to the start of our first reading today:
You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.Jeremiah 20:7-9
Jeremiah was a timid man who was also hypersensitive; yet, God called him to an impossible mission. And despite a long process of purifications marked by arrests, imprisonment and public humiliations, Jeremiah remained faithful to his mission to God that later cost his life. Eventually, the more he became great after his death that he is regarded a major prophet in all three major religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
That is the joy of staying in love with God who is like a rollercoaster: he “seduces” us to come to him and then “scares” us, sometimes “hurts” only in the end to surprise us with greater things beyond our imaginations.
We come to experience God most and closest in darkness and trials where he is so real as another person to us. The key is to let go of our fears in Jesus Christ who was no stranger too to fearful situations.
It is nice to know that the greatest and holiest men and women of God were all like us — people so fearful yet brave enough to face their fears in Christ who never fails to provide us with the courage and strength needed in fulfilling our mission.
A blessed Sunday to all!