Advent is seeing our bright future

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church, 14 December 2020
Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17 >><)))*> +++ <*(((><< Matthew 21:23-27
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday. 13 December 2020.

Time flies so fast, O God our Father. We are now at the penultimate week before Your Son’s birth and sadly, we seem to have been catapulted here without us realizing even earlier because we have been insensitive to your presence.

We have been impatient in awaiting Your daily revelations in little things and not so good experiences happening to us.

How sad that we your people have kept our eyes closed from seeing you coming, doing wondrous things for us like what the pagan diviner Balaam had seen for Israel. He was supposed to curse them but was compelled to bless them upon seeing You and Your great plans for them in the future that included the coming of the Christ.

I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.

Numbers 24:17

In the gospel, the learned people of your time also refused to see and accept Jesus Christ’s coming, preoccupied with what they knew and only wanted to see just like us today.

Bless us, O Lord, to imitate St. John of the Cross in finding you and your bright future in the midst of the Cross. May these last two weeks of Advent be moments of reflections and prayers for us to find You, to experience You, and see Your bright future in store for us as we follow you to the Cross.

The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.

St. John of the Cross, Office of Readings, 14 December 2020

Amen.

We are blessed, meant to be saints

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of All Saints, 01 November 2020
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14   |+|   1 John 3:1-3   |+|   Matthew 5:1-12
“Mary and the Saints” painting by Duccio di Buonoinsegna (1308-1311) from en.wikipedia.org.

Let me begin our reflection on this All Saints’ Day with a joke from the “Language Nerds” on how the past, the present and the future came and appeared in a bar. Everybody was tense.


Our celebrations today and tomorrow deal with “verb tenses” – the past, the present, and the future that somehow converge in the here and now of Jesus Christ our Lord. We call it the tension of the already here but not yet, like God and heaven – both already here but not yet.

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are two Catholic celebrations so unique and distinctive of our faith that bring to the fore the beautiful tensions of the “here and not yet”, of that convergence of the temporal and eternal in our present lives.

It is something like our Filipino delicacies of tuyo (dried fish) and balut (fermented duck egg): when you smell the aroma of the frying tuyo by your neighbor, you could taste it but if you want to really experience its delight, you have to go to your neighbor and join their meal. Or the balut: is it an egg or a duckling?

In a similar manner, we find in our Gospel today that proverbial question of which came first, the egg or the chicken? Are we blessed because we followed the Beatitudes first or, are we blessed first that we can practice the Beatitudes of Christ?

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be sown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are….

Matthew 5:1-8
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We are all blessed

When Jesus preached his sermon on the mount to launch his ministry, he first presented himself — that he is the Christ, the Anointed or Blessed One because he is in fact the Beatitudes: he is the poor in spirit, the merciful and meek, the one with a clean heart.

Inasmuch as the Beatitudes tell us who is Jesus Christ, the Beatitudes also challenge us followers of Jesus to imitate and follow him in being poor in spirit, merciful, and clean of heart.

At first glance, we notice that blessedness seems like a reward given by Jesus after we have imitated him like being blessed after being insulted and persecuted in his name, working for peace and hungering and thirsting for righteousness.

However, the very fact we are able to bear all these sufferings to live the Beatitudes means that we are already blessed.

And that is the truth: in Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, we have all been blessed by God that we are able to live as his beloved children, now living in his “kingdom of heaven” right here on earth.

Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are… we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.

1 John 3:1, 2-3

Blessedness is who we are as children of God unless we choose to live otherwise.

Blessedness is God’s gift to us that enables us to live according to his will and plans, projecting us further into the future to finally be with him in all eternity in heaven. When we try to live the Beatitudes of Jesus, of going against the tide and flow of the world where power and wealth, popularity and fame are the means life is measured, then that becomes our gift to God.

And that is when we enter into heaven and become saints like what we celebrate today.

According to St. John Paul II, the good news of life is that we all share in the life of God — and that is why we are all blessed.

Our sharing in the life of God makes us blessed.

The difference that we have with the saints is just the tenses: they are now celebrating at present the fullness of their blessedness, of being present before God in all eternity in heaven because they have so well accomplished while living here on earth the works of the Beatitudes of Christ in the past. They have overcome all tests and trials in the past and now having the rewards of full blessedness.

We, on the other hand, though already sharing in the blessed life of God here on earth in the present, still have to face and endure many other trials in the future to perfect ourselves in Christ until we get a final glimpse of him in the afterlife.

Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, MD, at Spain, 2018.

Blessedness is a relationship with God.

It is now clear with us that saints are like us who are blessed because we share in the life of God. However, saints enjoy the fullness of this blessedness of being in the very presence of God as a “reward” or a result of their striving with God’s grace to live out the Beatitudes.

Saints now enjoy the eternal presence of God, the fullness of blessedness and fullness of their relationship in God and with God, from earth into heaven.

This is the reason we have a feast for all the saints or those who have gone ahead of us and tried to lead holy lives, living out their blessedness that they now enjoy the eternal presence of God in heaven. They need not be declared by the Church as saints whoever gets into heaven in the presence of God is a saint.

We who are still living here on earth, though blessed as we share in the life of God, cannot be considered as saints yet because we still have to go through a lot of purifications, of tasks in loving.

Again, we see that tension of the here and not yet in this aspect of being saints, of blessedness: heaven is eternal union with God (hell is eternal separation from God); blessedness and heaven are both our relationships with God.

Therefore, the challenge of our blessedness here on earth as seen in the Beatitudes of Jesus is how we maintain and keep that intimate relationship with God that every choice we make is always a choice for life, of choosing to love than hate, to forgive than revenge, to understand and let go.

In the first reading, John tells us of his vision of heaven with great multitude of “saints” or holy men and women “wearing white robes holding palm branches in their hands”. The Lord told him,

“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:14

Although we are extolling in this solemnity all the unnamed saints now in heaven, this is still a feast celebrating the goodness of God, of his immense love for us in blessing us in Jesus Christ who enables us to do good in the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we remember all the Saints, we celebrate also this sharing of God’s life in us for us to be blessed, assuring us of being saints someday!

We are challenged today to live out this blessedness freely given to us by God by being more loving with others specially in this time of COVID-19 as well as when two super typhoons are threatening to slam into some parts of our country this week.


A short note about cemeteries

Sometimes, non-Catholics laugh at us every November first when we troop to the cemeteries to be with our departed loved ones instead of November 2. Despite the closure of cemeteries this week due to COVID-19, many have earlier visited their loved ones in cemeteries while the rest among us would surely do the same once the ban is lifted.

Is there something wrong? NONE. Except for those who just go to cemeteries to drink and have fun without praying and celebrating Mass in their parishes. But there is nothing wrong with our tradition of visiting cemeteries on November first.

In fact, it is a vibrant display of our faith in God because every time we visit the dead on All Saints’ Day, we also presume they are already saints, already in heaven.

Most of all, our coming to the cemeteries on All Saints’ Day is an expression of our hope in heaven while still here on earth.

The cemetery reminds us of hope in the future. In the past when we buried our dead, the cemetery has become the place of our mourning; but, every November first, the cemetery reminds us it is the place of hope where sadness is not really removed but where we find strength and faith that like our departed loved ones, we shall overcome all trials and sufferings here on earth to be one with them in the presence of God in heaven.

That is the good news of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day: we are so blessed by God in Jesus Christ who had opened our access into heaven not only in the future when we die but even now as we mourn – and celebrate the memory of our dead, we already have a taste of eternal life.

May we live out this blessedness God has given us. Amen.

We are God’s handiwork

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXIX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 October 2020
Ephesians 2:1-10     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 12:13-21
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

As we begin our work this Monday, guide us O God our Father to discover anew this great gift of life in you. May we see ourselves the way you see us – beloved and forgiven children made in your own image and likeness — your handiwork as St. Paul beautifully expressed!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Let us value this unique blessing from you, dear Lord; in your power and supremacy, you could have just let us vanished and be forgotten. Yet, you chose to redeem us in your Son Jesus Christ, giving us countless opportunities to rise again, to bloom, and to be healed.

Make our hearts whole in you, undivided in pride, complacency and selfishness unlike that man in the parable whom we imitate most often, busy storing treasures for ourselves that we forget real wealth is found in what matters to you our God (Lk. 12:21).

Wake us up from this insanity of amassing too much of everything, not realizing that in the process, the more we have, the more we are actually empty and lost because all these things perish.

Only you, O God, suffices. Make us aspire and desire more of you so your glory and majesty may be seen in us. Amen.

Sealed with the Holy Spirit

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXVIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 16 October 2020
Ephesians 1:11-14     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Luke 12:1-7
Photo by the author, September 2020.

What a great apostle you have, O Lord God, in St. Paul indeed! Today he tells us something so unique, so understandable and relatable with us regarding our being blessed in Jesus Christ: being sealed in the Holy Spirit.

In him (Christ) you also, who have heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14

I love those two catchphrases by St. Paul: “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” and “first installment of your inheritance”. It is both a stroke of his genius and mastery of language while at the same time, his openness to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In him we find that blessedness in Christ through the Holy Spirit like having peace, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, understanding and things that bind us together in working together for the Lord’s mission.

But at the same time in speaking of the Holy Spirit as the first installment of our redemption, St. Paul had a foretaste of what we shall all experience in its fullness in eternity, an assurance of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of salvation.

Like St. Teresa of Avila whose memorial we celebrated yesterday, St. Paul restored all things in you, Jesus Christ. And so, we pray for the grace of enthusiasm and perseverance of working for the coming of God’s Kingdom like him.

Give us the wisdom to proclaim loud and clear not only in words but also in deeds the Gospel so the world may know Jesus is here to restore everything and everyone back to you, God our Father.

We are not going to say anything new, Lord; we merely have to echo in this modern time your Good News of salvation, of love and mercy and forgiveness for everyone specially in this difficult time of the pandemic.

Likewise, give us the courage to witness the power of the Holy Spirit in this world living in front of all kinds of cameras without solid grounding on the realities of life, living in a make-believe world filled with hypocrisy. Seal us with your Holy Spirit, Lord! Amen.

Photo by author, September 2020.

Restore all things in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, 15 October 2020
Ephesians 1:1-10     <*(((><<  || + + + ||   >><)))*>     Luke 11:47-54
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña at a Carmelite Monastery in Israel, 2016.

You know so well, O God, how we must pray to you that you have taught St. Paul one of the most beautiful prayer – and greetings – we can all recite individually or communally when gathered in your name.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before him.

Ephesians 1:3-4

So beautiful are these words showing to us our blessedness in Jesus Christ! If we could all be aware of our blessedness in you that springs from your infinite love for us poured by Jesus Christ at the Cross, maybe there would be less chaos in the world today.

Forgive us in wasting your blessings, exchanging them for fleeting pleasures of fame and wealth that set us apart from one another. Worst, in misleading others away from you with our sinful ways of life like the enemies of Jesus in today’s gospel.

Help us restore all things in your Son, dear Father, like St. Teresa of Avila who taught us to be mindful always of Jesus Christ’s love for us.

Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favors, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love call for love in return.

St. Teresa of Avila, Office of Readings, October xv

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!

From Pinterest.com.

Blessedness springs from brokenness

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXVI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 03 October 2020
Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17   |||+|||  >><)))*> <*(((><<   |||+|||   Luke 10:17-24
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2017.

God our loving Father, another week is closing and another is coming. Thank you for the many blessings you have given us, most especially for those blessings that have come our way through many trials and sufferings.

Like Job, if not for my many brokenness, pains and disappointments, I would have never been this strong and so blessed. Looking back to those days of trials, I am so grateful to you like Job, O God, in opening my eyes to so many wonderful things I cannot know nor even understand!

I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you.

Job 42:3, 5

I pray in a very special way today for people going through very rough times of crises, those diagnosed with cancer, those who have lost a loved one, and those whose business have hit rock bottom due to the pandemic.

Keep us all faithful to your call, God, for true blessedness is not found in doing but in being in you through your Son Jesus who told us “Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Lk.10:20). Amen.

Generosity comes from the heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXV-A, Ordinary Time, 20 September 2020
Isaiah 55:6-9   >><)))*>   Philippians 1:20-24, 27   >><)))*>   Matthew 20:1-16
Photo by the author on the way to Petra in Jordan, May 2019.

There was something amusing I realized while praying this Sunday’s gospel of how in our time we no longer hear or use the word “generous” anymore — except when the topic is about food like in the expression “generous servings”!

We all love and enjoy “generous servings” of food and drinks whether in restaurants or at home or at parties because it means something more than what we pay for or come for. And that is the essence of generosity: the giving of more than what is required and just. It is love in the real sense like the prayer for generosity by St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Dearest Lord:
Teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not heed the wounds,
To toil and not seek for rest,
To labor and ask not for reward, except
To know that I am doing your will.  Amen. 
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Generosity bonds every community in Christ

Sorry if I have to start our reflection through the stomach because today is our “Pistang Pasasalamat” (Thanksgiving) in the Parish…

Going back to our reflection, my dear reader, recall how in the past two weeks we have heard Jesus teaching us important lessons how our relationships must be based on mutual love through fraternal correction and forgiving of those who have sinned against us.

This Sunday through another parable, Jesus teaches us the importance of generosity as a wonderful expression of love we forget most in our relationships and dealing with others.

Generosity is the glue that keeps our ties stronger and keeps us filled with joy because it is thinking more of the other person than of self. It is love at its finest – charming and elegant as in suave – but so disarming and revealing when overlooked as we shall see in this parable.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for is vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them… You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them i reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?'”

Matthew 20:1-15

Notice how Jesus again elicited our feelings to drive home his lesson today about love as basis of our relationships. Last week we totally agreed with the king in punishing the merciless servant whose debt he had forgiven but was unmerciful to a fellow servant and debtor.

This Sunday, with whom did we take sides with? Be honest. Did you side with the workers hired in the morning and worked all day only to receive a pay exactly the same with those who worked only for an hour? Did we also feel treated unfairly like them?

But, why are we reacting the same way as those workers who toiled under the sun? What is our complaint? Are we envious because the owner is generous?

Recall our reflections last month about the parable as a simple story conveying deeper truths about life and our selves. From the French parabolein -along the way – Jesus is inviting us to read anew this parable we have heard so many times in the past so we may enter into a dialogue with him to purify and cleanse us to get its whole picture. And hopefully, become generous too.

Nuns bringing goods to the poor during the height of the Luzon-wide lockdown last summer.

Human justice, Divine kindness

The parable is not about social justice and just wages: it is about the immense love of God for us all. Jesus said it at the start, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…” – it is a parable about God and his kingdom.

See the great love of the landowner who went out five times during the day, even at late afternoon so people may have a job to earn some money for the day. We have to keep in mind that the workers were hired because the owner is kind. Period.

The owner is like the good shepherd Jesus described as who would leave the rest of his flock to search for one missing sheep.

How many times have we acted like those early workers, complaining to God when we feel “shortchanged” for our work and efforts, or being better and more good perhaps than others?

It happens so many times when we question him even in the Church and specially in the society and government when we cannot understand how God who is supposed to be just and fair is allowing all injustices and evil to happen like during this time of COVID-19.

The first reading reminds us that to think that way as if we know everything is dangerous because we could be very wrong and mistaken after all. God sees and knows everything that in the end amid all the twists and turns in history and in our personal lives, it is always his will that prevails which proves best for us and mankind. In times like these, we need to have faith in God and trust him more through prayers and reflections.

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near… As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:6, 9
Photo by author, Jaffa in Israel, May 2017.

We keep on saying that one immediate fruit of having a prayer life is the heightening of our sensitivities when we see more of God in others than more of ourselves. The problem with those workers hired earlier in the day that instead of thanking God for his kindness in hiring them, they even wanted more in their pay than what they have agreed upon — so selfish and feeling so entitled like some among us!!!

God as the landowner is teaching us not only to be thankful for the blessings we have received from him but also to rejoice when others aside from us are also blessed. As everyone would say these days, “sana all” are blessed, not only a selected few.

Again we find here a similar situation in the parable of the prodigal son where the father told the elder one that “everything I have is yours” (Lk.15:31) when he refused to come home to celebrate the return of his younger brother, citing how he had obeyed the father all his life without being given a young goat to feast with his friends.

Like that loving father of the prodigal son, God is reminding us this Sunday in this parable to rejoice that others have been blessed, instead of grumbling and complaining, demanding for more than what we have, forgetting everything is out of God’s goodness, never because of our merits.

Looking inside our hearts

My dear friends, this time of the pandemic invites us to be generous by looking deep into our hearts, of seeing God more and others than just our self. At this time when life is so difficult and death is so closest to home with everyone, the best thing we can do is to thank God for his gift of life to us each day and to deepen our faith in him.

Lately I have been praying to God to grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart as we find ourselves in his similar situation of being imprisoned: him for the gospel, us due to COVID-19.

See the faith of St. Paul in God that even in prison with his death approaching each day, he continues to rejoice and experience peace within because he had realized that the success of the gospel is not on human efforts but in Jesus whom we cannot box in our little worlds and beliefs, rites and rituals. In fact, he was so confident that even with his death, the more the gospel would spread.

Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, March 2020.

Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death… conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Philippians 1:20, 27

Last Sunday, Jesus taught us to forgive from the heart, that is, to see one another as a brother and sister in God our Father who forgives us without limits for our many sins.

Today, Jesus is asking us to give from the heart – to be generous – not for anything else but because we are brothers and sisters in God our Father who blesses us without limits despite our sinfulness.

Generosity comes from the heart when in that heart is Jesus whom we find dwelling, giving us peace and joy no matter how much suffering we go through because him alone suffices that we are willing to let go of everything.

Share a generous serving of God’s blessings today to someone in need. Amen.

A blessed Sunday and week to you!

Every birthday is a small Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 08 September 2020
Romans 8:28-30   >><)))*> + <*(((><<   Matthew 1:18-23
Photo by author, Christmas 2018.

Praise and glory to you our great and loving God the Father! In sending us your beloved Son Jesus Christ, you have truly blessed us all in his coming. First among us is his Blessed Mother, Virgin Mary who has become our Mother too through Jesus Christ!

You never fail to surprise us, O God our Father, with your plans not only with the Virgin Mary and the Saints but most especially with each one of us in the coming of your Son Jesus Christ.

St. Andrew of Crete beautifully explained in his discourse the meaning of this Feast of Mary’s Birth:

The present festival, the birth of the Mother of God is the prelude, while the final act is the foreordained union of the Word with flesh. Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed, and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages.

Office of Readings, 08 September, Volume IV

How lovely that on this Feast of Mary’s nativity, the story we were told “is how the birth of Jesus came about” through her and St. Joseph her spouse with of a lot of working by the Holy Spirit.

Give us, O God, the faith and the strength to heed St. Paul’s teaching so that your plans are fulfilled in us like with Mother Mary:

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Help us realize this great honor you have given us in sharing with the Motherhood of Mary by reflecting on St. John Paul the Second’s teaching that “Every birthday is a small Christmas because with the birth of every person comes Jesus Christ.” (Evangelium Vitae)

Like Mary, make us share Jesus Christ with everyone and in this world that has turned its back from you.

Like Mary, may we remain standing at the foot of Jesus Christ’s Cross when everything is dark and uncertain for that is when his light shines brightest leading to Easter.

And still like Mary, may we be faithful in our prayer life, always waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit to fill us with fire and strength to proclaim the gospel not only in words but most of all in deeds like her.

O most blessed Virgin Mary our Mother, pray for us to grow closer with your Son Jesus Christ! Amen.

Photo by author, National Shrine of Mt. Carmel, QC, 2019.

When good news/bad news do not matter at all

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 30 August 2020
Jeremiah 20:7-9 >><}}}*>| + | >><}}}*> Romans 12:1-2 >><}}}*>| + | >><}}}*> Matthew 16:21-27
Photo by author, Caesarea Philippi, May 2019

Maybe you have been asked so many times with the question, which do you prefer to hear first, the good news or the bad news? Usually we say it all depends to our mood and temperament or to the gravity of the situation. Sometimes, we ask for the bad news first so we can suffer earlier and enjoy the good news later. Or, we ask for the good news first to soften the impact of the bad news.

Our gospel this Sunday is still set in the pagan city of Caesarea Philippi and we heard Jesus giving his disciples – including us – with a strong dosage of “bad news” after hearing last week the good news that he is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 16:21-25

Our gospel today seems to be a very big, bad news for everyone, with things getting worst before getting any better which the Lord had promised to be only in the end that nobody knows when!

See how Jesus started by saying he would “suffer greatly at the hands of elders, the chief priests, and the scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised again.” Not only that: he now calls Peter as “Satan” from being the Rock last Sunday after giving the right answer as to who he is.

Like Peter, we would probably say the same thing to Jesus why make suffering and death central to life that is meant to enjoy?

Like Peter, the Lord is inviting us today to focus more on the good news than on the bad news of suffering and death which for him – the Paschal mystery we call – is actually the best of good news!

Photo by author, altar flowers in our parish, January 2020.

Jesus Christ’s pasch is the best of good news!

What we have heard as “bad news” from the Lord is his first prediction of his coming pasch or Passion, Death and Resurrection. He would be announcing this prediction of his pasch two more times as they near Jerusalem.

From the He brew word pesach that means to pass over, it connotes suffering and death into new life. It came from the Exodus experience of the Chosen People from Egypt into the Promised Land during the time of Moses, taking its fullest meaning in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became human like us in everything except sin, “passing over” from eternity to temporal, from Passion and Death to Resurrection.

Authentic discipleship does not require us to seek suffering; no, God is not sadistic as some people with twisted minds would say. However, being faithful to Jesus, witnessing his gospel values bring enough of these sufferings and deaths but on a different level and meaning. We realize that life is a daily exodus, a passing over from darkness into light, from ignorance into wisdom, from sickness into health, from death into new life.

Like the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading, we discover that the more we follow God, the more sufferings we encounter in life but at the same time, we cannot let go of him because his attraction is so powerful! There is something so deep within, so profound and fulfilling in us we realize that living in the ways of God, in the gospel values of Christ can we truly find lasting joy and peace – even if we have to die in our very selves in the process.

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… 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
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday in our parish, December 2019.

Thinking in God’s ways

Today Jesus is assuring us that there is no such thing as “good news, bad news” with him. The good news/bad news question is really a non-question to disciples of Christ because whatever suffering and death we embrace in him is a sharing in his very life.

Hence, Jesus Christ’s good news is in fact the bestest news we can ever have. Always.

The key is to think as God does, not as human beings do as Jesus pointed out to Peter.

Three things I wish to share with you about thinking in God’s ways:

First is to accept and embrace pains and sufferings not for their own sake but as a way to cleanse our selves to greater glory. As we have said, God is not a sadist; we need to be cleansed like every thing in order to bring out the best in us like diamonds or any precious stone or any material.

Polishing and honing always mean “subtractions” with so many shaving and cutting of the rough edges to bring out the beauty and sharpness of a thing.

Man’s ways has always been to avoid every pain and suffering. No wonder, the most prescribed medicine worldwide is said to be the pain killer. But, experience has taught us this is not true and cannot be the norm of life. Like every gym enthusiast would tell you, “no pain, no gain”. Pain and suffering is part of life and the good news is, Christ has made it holy for us.

Second is to be silent in order to be able to listen to every sound and thus, heighten our sensitivities not only with our true selves but also with God and with others. In this age of social media and instant communications, silent has become a rare commodity. It is always easier to speak even without thinking much than be silent. That is the way of the world: speak out loud, make noises, and let everyone hear you — until they get tired of you.

Photo by author, our parish ceiling at sunset, 25 August 2020.

Third is the most precious in God’s ways of thinking — the way of hiddenness. This is God’s most evident way of making himself felt, experienced, and yes, seen by being hidden and invisible.

Last Thursday we celebrated the memorial of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine who narrated the story of how she got sick at Ostia in Italy with his brother hurrying to get back home to Tagaste in Africa so that when she dies, she would be buried there. St. Monica “reproached him with a glance because he had entertained such earthly thoughts”; then, she looked at St. Augustine and told him to bury her anywhere, asking one thing only from him: that he remembers her always in his celebration of the Holy Mass.

So many times, we are so concerned with our popularity that whatever we do has to be made known to everyone to see specially by those so-called “followers” with their “likes” that even up to death, some would spend a fortune for lavish funerals and even mauseleoum.

That’s the way of the world of everybody making a statement, of being known as present, always seen. In the movie “The Devil’s Advocate”, Al Pacino played the role of satan who said it so well at the end after tempting Keanu Reeves, “vanity…vanity is my most favorite sin.”

See the life of Jesus Christ: more than half was spend in hiddenness and silence. He worked only for three years characterized by so many instances of silence and hiddenness too and yet, his impact continues to this day and hereafter.

Beginning with last Sunday after asking us who do we say he is, Jesus is inviting us to follow him in his Passion and Death to be one in his Resurrection. This is also the call by St. Paul in the second reading:

I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:1-2

Jesus is not asking too much from us, no need for any fanfares on our part; simply come to him with our true self, no matter how sinful and incomplete we are. Remember, all is good news with him and you never lose in him. Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author, parish ceiling at sunset, 25 August 2020.

Of wages and gifts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorials of St. John Eudes & St. Ezechiel Moreno, Priests, 19 August 2020
Ezekiel 34:1-11 >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> Matthew 20:1-16
Photo by author, Pulilan, Bulacan, February 2020.

As we go through more difficulties and sufferings during this time of pandemic, your words today dear God speak so well of what we need most – a true shepherd who will care for the lost and injured sheep.

Yes, you have fulfilled, O God, your promise a long time ago to Ezekiel that you yourself will come by sending us your Son Jesus Christ to look after and tend your sheep after the shepherds of Israel have miserably failed in their duties and responsibilities.

Unfortunately, there are still so many shepherds today in government even in Church who continue to pasture themselves!

Woe to the shepherds of Israel who has been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally. As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; I swear I am coming against these shepherds.

Ezekiel 34:2-4, 8, 10

Teach us, O Lord, through the examples of two great shepherds of souls whose feast we celebrate today: St. John Eudes who was one of the early pioneers in propagating devotion to your most Sacred Heart and St. Ezechiel Moreno who served for 15 years in the Philippines and later in South America where innumerable cancer cures were attributed to him.

St. John Eudes and St. Ezechiel Moreno showed in their lives of faithful and loving apostolate for the poor that shepherding is always a gift, never to be counted or equated nor even be seen in terms of wages and pay like in the gospel.

Remind us sweet Jesus in the midst of this pandemic when we are called to be good shepherds like you, may we always see your call and mission to us as gifts freely given not as tasks or work to be compensated by material things because you believe in us.

May we always go the extra mile in answering your call, O Lord, which is in itself a tremendous gift we must cherish for we are not even worthy at all to receive. Amen.

From Google.