Our secret worries in life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXVIII-B in Ordinary Time, 10 October 2021
Wisdom 7:7-11 ><]]]]*> Hebrews 4:12-13 ><]]]]*> Mark 10:17-30
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

Recently we have seen Jesus answered very well the questions thrown to him by his enemies with evil intentions of entrapping him. But, in his answers we find Jesus so focused to his mission of revealing the will of God our Father which sin had destroyed.

Last Sunday Jesus showed us that more than the unity of husband and wife, God had always willed our entering into communion in our human relationships after a Pharisee asked him about the issue of divorce. Today, two men with good intentions and disposition came forward to ask Jesus important questions we also ask, something we may consider as “secret worries” that disturb us while following him.

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments…” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Mark 10:17-19, 20-21

Our first secret worry: entering heaven.

How many times have we asked the same question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life”? It is in fact one of the most FAQ’s to us priests, always begging for so many clarifications from every inquirer because it is indeed so important especially during this time of the pandemic.

Photo by author, 2020.

To inquire about eternal life means we are not that far from heaven because to think about it reveals our inner desires to be one with God our Father who is both our origin and destination.

The question in itself is a sign of grace, something we must always ask with the proper disposition coming from deep inside us who know very well that it is not enough to merely follow the commandments, to do what we were taught by our parents and teachers, catechists and religious instructors, and priests.

As we mature in faith or simply go on with life, we realize something is still lacking in all these religious practices we have like prayers and being good with others. There seems to be a “Someone” pulling us closer to do more to gain eternal life.

To be at this stage like that man in the gospel means we are a fertile soil where the word of God has taken root and starting to grow, but surrounded by brambles and other shrubs that need to be cleared with some weeds too that must be removed.

And there lies the painful truth: we have to let go of things like possessions and inclinations that give us false securities and thus prevent us from growing deeper in faith, in being more faithful to God and being more like Jesus Christ in forgetting one’s self.

See how Mark described Jesus looking with love on the man in elaborating the path to heaven, contrasting it with how “his face fell” upon hearing the Lord’s statement.

Today, Jesus reminds us that eternal life is a gift from God, freely given to everyone but we have to make a clear stand and decision to have it. We have to do something and cannot be like Juan Tamad by simply waiting for the fruit to fall from the tree.

While it is very clear in the Lord’s explanation that on our own we cannot do anything about it because “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God” (Mk.10:27); however, after Jesus had accomplished our salvation by dying on the cross when he declared “It is finished” (Jn.19:30), he also signaled the start of doing our part in his saving mission.

How?

By going back to his central teaching he had reiterated twice these two Sundays – be like a child to welcome God’s gift and grace of entering into the kingdom of heaven!

We cannot let go of our possessions to join Jesus on his way of the cross to enter heaven unless we become like children welcoming and trusting God. But, this is something we cannot do on our own; we need the grace of wisdom which we have heard at the first reading.

As the author of the Book of Wisdom tells us, nothing is comparable to wisdom which we must all prefer above all in this world, enabling us to discern and judge things wisely. In his reflection, wisdom is beyond human grasp, a grace from God we must pray for like King Solomon who asked a heart that can distinguish what is good and what is bad.

When we have wisdom, that is when we are able to “sell everything” and empty ourselves of our pride and other impurities to welcome the Holy Spirit to guide and enlighten us in our lives. That is when we begin to allow God to work in us to gain our salvation, our eternal life.

Hence, the need for us to pray daily for wisdom, most especially when Jesus tells us of the many persecutions that come in following him!

Photo by author, 2019.

Our second secret worry: what about us following Jesus?

Let’s admit it: of the Twelve Apostles, we can easily identify with Peter the most often because of his big mouth, of his “damned honesty” in blurting out what is inside us especially when these pertain to things about our faith and relationship with Jesus.

Like Peter, there is always that “secret worry” if what we have done is good enough to be rewarded by God like entry into heaven. We do it so often in prayers and in those unguarded moments when we complain to Jesus about difficulties and trials we encounter that we worry about all our efforts going nowhere.

There is that “secret worry” within some of us who strive to become good persons, feeling “entitled” to something better considering we are less sinful and evil than others.

Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in the present age; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”

Mark 10:28-30

Here we find the goodness of Jesus who looked with love on the disciples and people without putting Peter to shame with his daring question.

What I like most here is the sense of humor of Jesus after he had assured Peter with all the rewards including eternal life for those who have left everything behind to follow him by adding “persecutions” as perks!

So funny but true! Like with the Pharisee last Sunday, Jesus must have read the mind of Peter in asking that question, assuring him it will not be as easy as a walk in the park to heaven.

There will always be persecutions. There will be a lot of difficulties and trials, pains and sufferings. And it begins when we truly give up our possessions, our false securities in life, our very selves.

When we reflect deeply into our lives and examine everything we have done and given for God, we realize that we have not really given up that much or anything at all. Whatever we give up and share with others, both material and spiritual, are all from God. We do not really give up anything at all because there is nothing here in this life that is purely ours! If we give love and mercy, if we share knowledge and wisdom, time or treasure or talent – they are all from God given to us meant to be shared with others!

Photo by author, 2019.

It is difficult to follow Jesus. The only thing very clear and definitive with us at the moment is the word of God that the Letter to the Hebrews described as “living and effective, sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb.4:12).

The more we immerse ourselves in the word of God, the more we gain wisdom and learn to discern his Divine Will so that in turn we are able to follow Jesus on the Cross that leads to eternal life.

In these two Sundays while Jesus journeyed with his disciples towards Jerusalem for his pasch, Jesus had tried to reorient ourselves into the true demands of following him that is so radical in bringing us back to God himself.

Yes, it is not easy but we are in good company with Jesus our Brother, our Lord and Savior.

Are we ready to leave everything to follow him?

Have a blessed week ahead!

Beyond “when” and “what”

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVIII-B in Ordinary Time, 01 August 2021
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15 ><}}}}'> Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 ><}}}}'> John 6:24-35
Photo by author, Church of Dominus Flevit overlooking Jerusalem, 2017.

Last Sunday we reflected the “where” of Jesus in asking Philip, “Where can we buy enough food” for the crowd who have followed them to a deserted place. We said that “where” of Jesus referred not to any place or location but to himself as the only one who can give “enough food” for everyone.

Today I invite you, my dear readers to join me reflecting on the “when” and “what” of the people who have followed Jesus to the other side of the lake, looking for him to have more food after that miraculous feeding last week. This time, the people are the ones asking Jesus with when and what that reveal their pride before God.

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

John 6:24-35
Photo by author, Capernaum’s shore at Lake Tiberias, 2017.

From a deserted place to Capernaum

To fully appreciate today’s gospel account by John, let us get its whole picture with a little help from Mark who started the story of Jesus and the Twelve crossing the lake to a deserted place to rest the other week. With his usual dash of humor, Mark told us how the people arrived to the place ahead of Jesus who was moved with pity at seeing the crowd “for they were like sheep without a shepherd that he taught them with many things.”

John continued the story last Sunday telling us how Jesus fed the people to their satisfaction with so many leftovers out of just five loaves of bread and two fish. The people were astonished that they tried to get Jesus to make him a king but he “withdrew again to the mountain alone.”

This Sunday, John continued his story telling us how the crowd finally found Jesus at Capernaum with his disciples.

How did he get there?

Photo by author, Lake of Tiberias (aka, Galilee), 2020.

According to Mark 6:45ff., after feeding the people, Jesus told the Twelve to proceed ahead of him to the other side of the lake that evening while he dismissed the crowd. Later that evening while Jesus was praying on the mountain, he saw his disciples’ boat being tossed by big waves due to strong winds. He followed them at the “fourth watch of the night” (about 3AM) by walking on water that terrified the Twelve who thought they have seen a ghost.

Upon identifying himself as the Lord, Peter asked to let him come to him by walking on water too; Peter sank when he doubted due to the strong winds until Jesus saved him and joined them on the boat going to Capernaum.

Mark’s story of Jesus walking on water after the miraculous feeding provides us the context for the people’s question to him today in John’s continuation of the story last week, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (Jn.6:25): it was very difficult, almost impossible for anyone to have crossed the lake at night due to giant waves caused by strong winds. (Any pilgrim to the Holy Land can attest to this fact even today.)

And that was the main issue here: the people refused to see the deeper meanings behind the two events when Jesus fed them and the almost impossible crossing of the lake that night.

That is why Jesus did not answer their question by bluntly addressing their suspicious motive, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

Ironically, while their asking of “when did you get here” implicitly acknowledged the Lord’s miraculous crossing of the lake, they still refused to accept it by downplaying everything like addressing Jesus as “Rabbi” when in fact, they were not interested with him but merely with the food he had given them!


Their question of "when" 
was not really about his time of arrival there 
but more of an inquiry on the person of Jesus....

Their question of when was not really about his time of arrival there but more of an inquiry on the person of Jesus as they wondered how could he made it across the lake that night. They have failed to recognize the deeper meaning of the sign Jesus did in feeding them with enough food which Jesus explained anew.

And the stage is now set for Jesus to reveal himself, of who he really is which his disciples were also asking and contending among themselves all these weeks and months of being with the Lord.

Photo by author(2017), ruins at Capernaum with a church built over the house where Jesus was believed to have stayed.

The need for us to be open to Jesus, our bread of life

Many times in life, our words and attitudes betray us of our inner motives, of our selfish interests to get near some people, to meet and know them not for who they are but for what we can have from them – even with God!

Remember Andrew last Sunday who did not bother to ask the boy’s name who gave the five loaves of bread and two fish from which Jesus performed his miracle? “There is a boy here with five barley loaves and two fish” – no name, just a “there” because the did not matter at all to Andrew except his food.

But there is something deeper being revealed in this attitude of forgetting the other person and being focused on material things: that is our pride, of believing only in ourselves, of playing God!

So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

John 6:28-31

See how the crowd ignored Christ’s promise of giving food that endures for eternal life by following up their question with What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” – another veiled question like their when, insisting on their own achievements and abilities, on what they can.

Worst is how in a twist highlighting pride in themselves as they dared to question Jesus again with What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?“!!! Helloooooo….!

Photo by author at the ruins of the synagogue of Capernaum where Jesus preached his bread of life discourse, 2017.

They have gone so blinded with their pride that suddenly the miraculous feeding they have personally witnessed plus the unimaginable crossing of the lake at night remained lacking, not enough for them to believe in the powers of Jesus that they still asked for another sign.

Their “what” had become a demand from them, an insistence on Jesus the Son of God to give them signs from heaven even if they ironically preferred without them knowing how they were stuck at the lowest level of looking at things.

They have closed their eyes to seeing beyond the ordinary things happening to them since Jesus came teaching and healing. And now after feeding them, they demanded Jesus to follow them instead of them following the Lord.

Is it not the same thing happens with us when we keep on demanding God for proofs of his love and mercy, demanding so many other things from him above while we refuse to rise above ourselves, to “level up” in our lives?

This is the call by St. Paul in the second reading, that we must “be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:23-24).


Once again, we are placed on highest level of quarantine due to a surge in COVID-19 cases with threats from the new Delta variant. Unless we learn to see this pandemic on a higher plane or level that calls for spiritual renewal among us, it will persist to disrupt and destroy lives among us.

It is more than a virus infecting us but an attitude deep within us when we have lost respect for one another and with nature. Pope Francis had long ago sounded this alarm in 2015 with his encyclical Laudato Si calling for each of us to change our lifestyle, each of us contributing for the betterment of the world because it is easiest to join advocacies but difficult to change our ways of life by having less.

With all these pandemic and climate changes going on around us, the signs are getting clearer for us to shift our perspectives, to see things on a higher plane like what Jesus had began at Capernaum declaring himself, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger; and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn.6:35).

Our misunderstandings with others and in life will persist unless we remove the veils and masks that cover so many insincerities of our questions in search of the many answers to the problems we face.

Like the people who have followed Jesus to Capernaum that day who were stuck in the desert experiences of Moses (first reading) that they could not see Jesus himself as the new bread from heaven; in fact, Jesus had to correct them that it was not Moses who gave the manna but God the Father in heaven who now gives Jesus to nourish us in our journey to eternal life.

Let us empty our selves of our pride to let Jesus fill us today with his words and his Body and Blood so we may realize next week the meaning and sweetness of himself as the Bread of life. A blessed week to you. Stay safe and keep praying. Amen.

Photo by author, April 2020.

Prayer to deal with life’s many questions

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Feast of St. Philip and St. James the Less, Apostles, 03 May 2021
1 Corinthians 15:1-8   ><)))*> + <*(((><   John 14:6-14 
Photo by author, Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, January 2021.

Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught me in my many experiences in life that a man is known by the questions he asks, not by the answers he gives. So often, the answers we have are always wrong or simply not true at all.

But, if we ask the right questions, even if there are no immediate answers or if we do not fully grasp and understand especially your answer, it is always more than enough than everything we need to know and realize in life.

So many times, we are afraid to ask you because we think more of our selves than of the truth that would set us free. Help us imitate your apostle St. Philip who dared to ask you again something you have been teaching them – and us! – yet have not fully understood yet. It is even doubtful if he really got what you meant when you answered him during the last supper which is exactly the same thing with us until now who forget and could not master the things you have been teaching us.

Philip said to Jesus, 
"Master, show us the Father, 
and that will be enough for us."
Jesus said to him,
"Have I been with you for so long a time 
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, 'show us the Father'?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father
and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works."
(John 14:8-10) 

Give us, Lord, that same courage and humility of St. Philip to keep on asking things we cannot understand, things we cannot dismiss, things that keep on bugging us because that in itself is a grace from you so that we may know you more, so we can love you more, and most of all, follow you more closely.

If St. Philip had not asked you that question – even if you seem to have sighed in exasperation, did you, Lord? – even us until know would have not realized that you are indeed the em-bodi-ment and the in-carna-tion of the Father in human form.

On the other hand, there is another question that we most of the time avoid confronting: the need to address difficult situations in our lives that affect our interpersonal relationships and the way we live out your gospel, Lord Jesus Christ.

In writing to us a “pastoral letter”, St. James the Lesser tried answering the many questions about our practice of faith that boils down to the most essential which is to “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves” (James 1:22).

Likewise, it was St. James with St. Peter (Acts 12:17) who tried to face and resolve the questions about the difficult relations between the Christians of Jewish origin and those of pagan origin regarding the integration of Jewish practices and beliefs into Christianity during the Council of Jerusalem:

After they had fallen silent, 
James responded,
"It is my judgment, therefore,
that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles
who turn to God, but tell them by letter
to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage,
the meat of strangled animals, and blood.
For Moses, for generations now,
has had those who proclaim him in every town, 
as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath."
(Acts 15:13, 19-21) 

As we celebrate their feasts today, we ask for their intercessions, Saints Philip and James the Lesser that like them, we may also dare to ask and address questions especially when they blur our relationships and proper understanding of you and the Father so that your light, dear Jesus, may shine more than ever in our lives. Amen.

Photo by author, ICMAS-Theologate Chapel, 2020.