Becoming a Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 10 July 2022
Deuteronomy 30:10-14 ><}}}*> Colossians 1:15-20 ><}}}*> Luke 10:25-37
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, May 2022.

After telling us last week to “do not rejoice because spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Lk.10:20), Jesus today answers a scholar of the law asking him what he must do to gain eternal life.

It is the very same question we often ask others because inside us we are convinced there is something else deeper than the laws and commandments of God written in the Bible. Like the scholar of the law, we have experienced that God’s commandments and statutes – his very voice, his very words – are written in our hearts.

Moses said to the people: “If only you would heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and keep his commandments and statutes that are written in this book of the law, when you return to the Lord, your God, with all your heart and all your soul. No, it is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out.”

Deuteronomy 30:10, 14

God’s commandments and laws are not just mere codes of conduct like in other religions. The Law of God is no dead letter but his living Word right in the depths of our hearts no matter how hard we deny his existence. More than a code, the Law of God evokes a relationship that is a fruit of one’s conversion of heart and soul in union with God and with others.

It is here that we find the novel approach by Jesus in narrating the parable of the good Samaritan in answering the scholar of the law who wanted to test him by asking, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Lk.10:25) that was followed up with a second one, “And who is my neighbor?” (Lk.10:29) to justify himself. In narrating this parable, Jesus showed us how we must live as neighbors, as brothers and sisters in him who is our head.

Photo from americamagazine.org.

We are all neighbors.

We have heard so many times this beautiful parable by Jesus which only Luke had narrated while the Lord was “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51). Too often, we see this parable as a reminder of something we are all aware of, that everyone is our neighbor.

Like the scholar of the law, we are not surprised at all with Christ’s question, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” because we have always thought of the question in our own point of view! We are the ones looking at the victim of the robbers that it is always easy to assume we would be good Samaritan to him which is so presumptuous on our part. Fact is, so often we have failed being a good Samaritan to so many in need who came to us for help because we were like the priest and Levite with many excuses, with more important matters to attend to that they both passed by the robbers’ victim.

Like the scholar of the law, we have failed to see the whole point of Jesus who was asking us to be in the victim’s point of view, to be in his shoes: would anyone be a good Samaritan to help me if I were the victim?

Jesus had reversed the point of view – instead of looking through the window from the outside, we are asked to look at the window from the inside! Would somebody stop to be kind with us?

From inquirer.net.

Many times we have felt so disappointed at some people we were expecting to be our friends, who would be on our side but when trials came, they turned their backs from us and left us alone when suddenly, somebody we least expected or even hardly knew came to help us!

How many times have you found yourself saying, “I thought they considered me as their friend but it turned out, somebody I hardly knew was the one who helped me out of my plight!” Worst, there were times we have said strangers are even better than our family and friends, saying, “Mabuti pa yung ibang tao kesa kamag-anak o kaibigan”.

Hence, to our most Frequently Asked Question (FAQ), “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus is asking us to act and live in such a way that everybody sees us as their neighbor, not the other way around. When it is others who see us as their neighbor, it means we are living the gospel, we are like Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan who came to save us all. It is different when it is us who claim to see everyone as our neighbor – it holds nothing at all but an idea in the mind, a plan or mere intention no matter how noble it may be.

Most of all, to see others as one’s neighbors is a sign of a malady of our faith and religion: that we are not yet evangelized though sacramentalized wherein Jesus is just in our minds but not yet in our hearts, not yet flowing through our very being.

Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images, Laoag City, 08 May 2022.

The preeminence of Jesus Christ

This oneness in Christ is the gist of Paul’s beautiful exposition about Jesus in our second reading this Sunday. Paul wrote the Colossians while in prison to prevent them from joining some preachers encouraging them to adopt ascetic practices in order to have angelic powers as well as appease higher powers. Paul insisted Jesus Christ is God and what he had accomplished on the cross is sufficient for our salvation.

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or principalities or powers; all things were created through and for him. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Colossians 1:15-16, 19

In presenting the preeminence of Jesus Christ, Paul is also telling us that Jesus is the foundation of our moral life. Our lives, our actions must flow from our communion and oneness in Christ. That is when others see us as a neighbor, when they see us as one of them too!

This is the fulfillment of Moses’ teaching in the first reading, that the “voice of the Lord”, the word of God is not far from you for it is in your hearts – that is Jesus Christ who is not only the fulfillment of the laws but the Law himself. After all, as John had expressed in the fourth gospel, Jesus is “the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us”, the Emmanuel, the God-with-us.

From Facebook of Marivic Tribiana, 2021.

Today, Jesus is inviting us that in order to gain eternal life, we must do what he does, that is, to love and be kind with everyone, to be seen as a neighbor and a friend others can count on. In becoming human, God became one of us in Jesus Christ, the one who crossed the street to reach out to us victims of robbers on the way to Jerusalem. He not only healed our wounds but even lifted us to regain our dignity as beloved brothers and sisters. And neighbors.

There is a very beautiful word in English that captures this reality of our being neighbors or brothers and sisters in Christ: “kind” or “kindness” which came from the root kin or kindred. When we say “she or he is kind to me”, it means he or she treats me as a kin or a kindred, not as different like a stranger.

Artwork by Fr. Marc Ocariza based on Marivic Tribiana’s photo, 2021.

We are all kins or kindred in Christ. And every time we choose to be unkind and indifferent with others especially those in need, we are bothered by our conscience because it is an affront to our very personhood. It is unnatural like what the American writer George Saunders had realized:

“So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it: What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.”

George Saunders from “Congratulations, By the Way” (page 22)

Avoid having such regrets later in life. Whatever good deed you may do at the moment, do it for it could be Jesus Christ who is passing by, who is the one in need. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead.

The “Little Way” to God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin & Doctor of the Church, 01 October 2021
Baruch 1:15-22   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 10:13-16
Photo by author, 2019.
Glory and praise to you,
God our loving Father in heaven
who opens so many ways for us 
to be with you, to experience heaven
while here on earth; Tuesday you showed us
the path of martyrdom of St. Lorenzo Ruiz 
and companions; today, we celebrate
your Little Flower, St. Therese of the Child Jesus
who taught us her "Little Way" to you 
with her writings, prayers and short life.
But we all know that whether 
it is the "big" way of martyrs or the "little way" 
of St. Therese, it is always one and the same path 
of Jesus Christ our Lord who is "the way and 
the truth and the life" (Jn.14:6) that we implore
you dear Father through him your Son
that we may be gifted with docility and trust
in you like that of a child.
Most of all, may our obedience and trust 
in you dear God be rooted in that love for you
which you have sowed ever since in our heart
and soul if we could only be humble enough like
St. Therese to admit:

“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”

St. Therese of the Child Jesus
O merciful God our Father,
in this age of social media where
everyone is vying for exposures
and shots to prominence,
make us realize that life is not a show
to perform but a gift to cultivate and
nurture in our relationships with you
through others; give us the sense of
sinfulness to be ashamed of our arrogance
and pride before like Baruch and St. Therese:

During the Babylonian captivity, the exiles prayed, “Justice is with the Lord, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem… We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God, nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us… but each one of us went off after the devices of our own wicked hearts, served other gods, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.”

Baruch 1:15, 18, 22
May this pandemic period
be a purifying process for us, O God,
that in the midst of sufferings and
hardships like St. Therese we rediscover
and realize your loving presence
in Christ Jesus.  Amen.
Photo by author, 01 October 2019.

Love is “being” than “doing”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 09 September 2021
Colossians 3:12-17  ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Luke 6:27-38
Photo by author, 07 September 2021.
Never has it been, merciful Father
have we realized in our lives except
lately that waking up every day,
that being alive is indeed a great gift
from you; with all the deaths now 
happening, with those closest to us
getting infected with COVID-19,
what an honor and joy to keep in
our minds and hearts that we are
your chosen ones (Col.3:12).
If we can appreciate this gift you
bestowed on us through Jesus Christ,
then we learn that your call for us
to lead moral lives is not just a list of
"do's" and "dont's" but an outflow
from inner motivation of our being
renewed in Christ.

Brothers and sisters: put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience… And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were called in one Body. And be thankful.

Colossians 3:12, 14-15
Let us praise you, O God, with our very lives
with our "being" and not with our "doing"
that is an outpouring,
a fruit of our status as your chosen ones.
It is always easier to just do things,
obey laws and precepts,
observe your teachings
for as long as they do not
affect our being;
we can just do what is good
even without any meaning at all
like towing the line.
Everything changes, dear God
when it is our person that is hurt,
that is violated and transgressed,
 when every good deed is reduced
to a mere act and social contract
because there is no love
that made peace elusive:
we have forgotten who we are,
that we are your children,
your chosen people in Christ won
over by his blood. 

Jesus said to his disciples, “To you who hear I say, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them… Be merciful, just as also your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:27-28, 32, 35, 36
Remind us, dear Father
that we are brothers and sisters
in Jesus Christ who have all come
from you as your beloved children,
forgiven and blessed.
Amen.

When good is not good enough

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Rock (San Roque), 16 August 2021
Judges 2:11-19   ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'>   Matthew 19:16-22
Photo by author, October 2020.
Your words today, O God
our Father are just what we 
needed most in this time when
we feel we are good, when we
are so complacent that all is fine.
Thank you for reminding us today
that we are not that "good" at all!
And worst, so many times our 
being good are not even good enough! 

A young man approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Matthew 19:16-17, 20-22
So many times, dear Father,
 good is not good where better
is expected, when being good
is not enough because in life,
what matters is not only what
we do but also what we have;
like that young man, there is 
something or someone standing 
between us and you, or anything
we cannot let go to be totally yours!
Forgive us, merciful God,
when we think more of ourselves
and forget you and others.
Forgive us when our possessions
posses us; give us the strength
to give up and surrender to you
our many attachments and false
securities that prevent us from becoming
truly free and truly your followers
like St. Rock, the patron of pandemics.
Amen.

What the Holy Spirit does vs. what we can do

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Third Week of Easter, 20 April 2021
Acts 7:51-8:1   <*(((><  +  ><)))*>   John 6:30-35
Posted by Jean Palma on Facebook, 18 April 2021 with the caption: “All these community pantries in four days, and counting. What a powerful movement.” #CommunityPantry

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father in heaven! Thank you in sending us your Son Jesus Christ our Bread of life who taught and showed us how to be a food ourselves to one another by giving and sharing our very selves in loving service especially in times of crisis like this pandemic.

Thank you very much for the grace and inspiration by the Holy Spirit for the people behind this movement fast spreading called “Community Pantry” teaching us to see one another as a brother and a sister who needs to be helped, that each can be of help to anyone in need.

So many times, in our search for food that perishes like wealth and power, we get more focused on “doing” than “being” and “becoming” like those people who have followed Jesus in Capernaum after being fed with bread and fish at the wilderness last week.

The crowd said to Jesus:
"What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?"
(John 6:30)

Forgive us, Father, when until now we still ask the very same question to you and one another, “What can you do?” like the devil’s first temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” (Lk.4:3).

Make us aware of this ploy of the devil to keep us doing everything, to claim everything as our work in order to forget you or even discredit you.

How sad that we are so concerned with doing than with being and becoming, forgetting the value of every person, asking more of “what you can do” than “who are you?” which is more essential because we are all from you, O God our Father, our image and likeness.

No wonder, we have become like the members of the Sanhedrin addressed by Christ’s first martyr, St. Stephen during his trial:

"You stiff-necked people, 
uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors."
(Acts 7:51)

We have never grown and matured in our relationships because we have refused to see each one’s worth as a person, measuring our value in what we can do than in who we really are as your beloved children. As a result, we continue to refuse surrendering ourselves to the Holy Spirit for you to do your work in us. Unfortunately, as we keep on doing everything, the results are always miserable. And the more we get into bigger mess in life.

Teach us, especially our leaders in government, to open their minds and their hearts to what your prophets are saying from the various sectors of the society, especially the masses involved in the Community Pantry movement.

May our government officials led by the President realize that ever since this pandemic started, what we have been saying has always been for the good of one another as brothers and sisters, valuing life above all, and not for any achievement nor fame at all that they are so intent on having.

How sad that the more government officials dare and insult people with what they can do, the more it becomes truer that they cannot do anything good at all. Amen.

Photo by Toots Vergara, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 April 2021.