Corpus Christi: Everybody a somebody

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, 19 June 2022
Genesis 14:18-20 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ><}}}}*> Luke 9:11-17
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera in Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, November 2020.

A week after celebrating the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, we celebrate today the reality of this mystery of our personal God who relates with us with the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

This Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ reminds us of the great honor of every person, of everybody as a part of the Body of Christ who became human like us to share his very self so that we too may become food for everyone. It is a very timely and appropriate feast when we are deluged with news here and abroad of how people are treated as nobody.

The recent viral video of an SUV driver bumping a security guard in a busy intersection in Mandaluyong remains a hot trending topic precisely because it is a story of how poor people are disregarded in this nation. Although the suspect had surrendered to authorities after a week of “no-show” to summons, statements especially by his mother ignited only more fire into the blazing topic. Adding insult to injuries to the nation is the press conference called by the police in presenting and speaking for the suspect which is absurd and directly opposite to how they deal with poor people involved in similar offenses.

Over in the United States where one loses count of victims of shootings happening almost every week, lawmakers grandstand for more gun controls for the protection of children when in fact, the same lawmakers refuse to consider the child in the mother’s womb as a person with a right to life that they have legalized abortion. Almost everywhere in the world, see how people take some people as somebody and others as nobody. So contrary to what Jesus is telling us in the gospel today, that everybody is a somebody. Observe how the disciples of Jesus acted in the gospel:

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.

Luke 9:11-14, 17
Photo from istock-studios.com by Getty Images.

We have heard this story so many times and yet, we continue to miss its whole meaning that it continues to happen in our lives minus the miracle of Jesus. See how Luke tells us first that Jesus spoke to the people about the kingdom of God.

We will never experience Jesus in his person, in his Body and Blood unless we listen first to his words, to his teachings of the kingdom of God. That is why in the Mass, the first part is the liturgy of the word to prepare us for the liturgy of the eucharist. So many times in life, we dismiss right away anything that is spiritual in nature like prayers and the sacred scriptures, of faith in God.

Luke does not tell us how Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish; we have to leave it to him how he did it. After all, he is the Son of God. Recall how during his temptation by the devil to turn stones into bread and he answered that “one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt.4:4). Here in this scene, his words were precisely fulfilled when he fed the people after they have opened themselves to God’s words, to God himself.

Miracles happen in our lives when we first open ourselves to God himself. And opening to God means opening to others too by seeing everyone as a brother and sister in Christ whom we must care for.

Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, August 2021.

Too often, we tend to isolate ourselves from others, thinking only of ourselves and own good and comfort like the Twelve who asked Jesus to dismiss the crowds so they would find food and lodging for themselves in the wilderness.

What a sad reality still happening today, of how even parents and couples would proudly say how difficult it is to have another child because it is expensive. We have become so utilitarian in our perspectives in life that we compute everything as a cost, forgetting God except when praying which is precisely for asking for more blessings without even seeing the overflowing abundance of gifts from God.

Notice that despite the affluence of many these days, both as individuals and as nations, many are afflicted with the scarcity mentality, of not having enough, fearful of losing money and other resources like oil that we now have this exorbitant fuel prices.

When Jesus told the Twelve to “give the crowds some food yourselves”, he is telling us to look at God first for he is a God of abundance. Abraham in the first reading gives us the best example of always trusting God, of finding God behind every blessings we have. Abraham had just won a war with several kings in the region by the power of God who sent his priest named Melchizedek to bless him with bread and wine after. But unlike other victors in war, Abraham never had intentions of taking all the wealth and treasures of the kings he had beaten and instead gave Melchizedek the priest of God “a tenth of everything” (Gen.14:20).

Our response to God’s many blessings to us is to “tithe” ourselves like Abraham but not just ten percent as the Old Testament had taught but like Jesus in the New Testament by giving all of our very selves. This is the meaning of Paul’s words in the second reading of “proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes” as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup (1 Cor.11:26).

We have learned and realized (hopefully) during the past Lenten and Easter seasons that death leads to new life in Jesus Christ when we share our very selves like him. God blesses us abundantly daily with his life and other blessings. There is enough for everyone. That is the meaning of the leftovers of twelve wicker baskets, one each for every apostle of the Lord who represented us.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus we receive in the Eucharist reminds us not only of the sublime gifts of God to each of us but also of our ultimate response of dying to ourselves so we may share Christ’s life to the world so dead with ego and selfishness, a world of “I” and “me” and “my” and “mine” totally disregarding everybody as nobody.

As we celebrate today the Body and Blood of Christ honoring him with Masses, vigils and processions, remember how not everybody in the world is considered a somebody unless one has wealth and power. It is the new meaning given by modern man to the golden rule – he who has gold rules, implying that the poor are always taken as a nobody, bearing all the abuses of those in power and authority.

Let us examine ourselves how we have contributed to these abuses still going on, even in our thoughts at the way we perceive others, especially those not like us in status and beliefs and colors.

After receiving Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, silently pray:

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
empty myself of pride and 
fill me with your humility, justice and love;
reign in my heart now and always.
Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author, 2019.

We are God’s temple

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 November 2021
1 Maccabees 4:3-37, 52-59   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 19:45-48
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, November 2020.
Today you remind us, dear God
our Father, of the need to keep our
house of worship always in order, 
clean and sacred; like Judas and
his brothers who rededicated and purified
your Temple in Jerusalem after driving
away the pagans, may we also keep
in mind that your house of worship is
always indicative of the kind of relationship 
and faith we have in you.
While it is very true you dwell in us
your people, O God, for we are indeed
your temple, we cannot discount the fact
that the way our church buildings and facilities 
look like show the kind of people we are, 
of how much care and respect we have for you 
and for one another; buildings and material
structures of any church and house of worship
always reflect the spirituality or lack of it 
of the pastors who minister and the
people who celebrate and worship there.
It is in this manner we become truly
your very temple! 
Cleanse our hearts in Jesus Christ,
may he dwell in our hearts and reign
over us so that we the people, the 
body of believers become your true
temple dear God, no matter what others
may say for or against us like the chief
priests, scribes and leaders of the 
people during the time of Jesus.
Amen.

Jesus, our glorious temple

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 24 September 2021
Haggai 1:15-2:1-9   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 9:18-22
Good Friday 2020 in my former parish.
I could feel and hear you, Lord
speaking to me, asking me like Haggai:
"Who is left among you that saw
this house in its former glory?
And how do you see it now?
Does it not seem nothing 
in your eyes?" (Haggai 2:3)
When I remember the images 
of the first few months of pandemic
last year that fell on the Holy Week
and Easter Season, I felt like Haggai
and the returning exiles to Jerusalem
seeing their temple in ruins, still under
construction;  how I long, O Lord, to those
glory days when we celebrate and adore
you in our beautiful church!
But now, with the pandemic's second 
year, our churches remain half empty.
How long shall we wait, Lord,
for COVID-19 to end so we can
go back to our church to celebrate
your presence, your love, your
salvation in Jesus Christ?
Strengthen us, dear God;
deepen our faith in you,
awaken our hope in you;
let us take courage like your
priests and returning exiles
to Jerusalem to await your promise
to "shake the heavens and the earth,
the sea and the dry land...
to shake all nations" (Haggai 2:6-7)
when you bring back the glory days
of worshipping you again in your
temple.
Most of all, open our minds
and our hearts to be shaken
inside for us to realize and 
wholly embrace the Passion,
Death, and Resurrection of 
Jesus your Christ (Luke 9:22), dear Father:
he is our glorious temple,
more magnificent than any church
or edifice when found in the hearts
of your people who abide in you,
who rely only on you.  Amen.
Easter 2020 in our former Parish.

When “where” and “there” are persons, not locations

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVII-B in Ordinary Time, 25 July 2021
2 Kings 4:42-44 ><]]]]*> Ephesians 4:1-6 ><]]]]*> John 6:1-15
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, Batanes after a storm, 2018.

Beginning today until August 22, 2021, our Sunday gospel will be from the sixth chapter of John who continues last week’s scene of the great crowd following Jesus and his disciples to a deserted place in order to rest after returning from their first mission.

We were told by Mark how Jesus was “moved with pity” upon seeing the people who were “like sheep without a shepherd” that he taught them with so many things (Mk.6:34); after teaching them, Jesus fed them – about 5000 men excluding children and women – from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish with a lot of leftovers gathered that filled 12 wicker baskets!

It is a very beautiful story found in all four gospel accounts but it is only in John’s gospel where we are presented with a more complete and detailed story of the event followed by Jesus Christ’s “bread of life discourse” at Capernaum. Let us focus at the conversations among Jesus, Philip, and Andrew before the miracle where they used the demonstrative pronouns “where” and “there” that indicate deeper meanings.

The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

John 6:4-9
Photo from iStock/Studio-Annika.

When all directions point to Jesus – but we miss!

While praying over today’s gospel, one song kept playing in my mind, the Beatles’ 1966 classic love song by Paul McCartney, Here, There and Everywhere. It is a very lovely music, so unique in many aspects that it is also McCartney’s most favorite as a member of the Fab Four.

What struck me with this Beatles hit are the demonstrative pronouns here, there and everywhere used not to point at directions but to a person, the girlfriend of McCartney at that time he so loved who would also be his Here, There and Everywhere!

To lead a better life, I need my love to be here
Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there

There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking
But she doesn't know he's there

The same is so true with Jesus today asking Philip Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”

Jesus was not asking for a store in that deserted place to buy and get food for the people. John tells us that Jesus said this to test Philip because “he himself knew what he was going to do”. He wanted Philip to look deeper, to see beyond places and things even if his answer was correct, that “two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.”

When odds are against us, when things are beyond us and humanly impossible, where do we go to?

Of course, we go to God!

Where else do we go when we are in deep or great troubles?

We go to prayers, we go to church, we go to the prayer room or Adoration Chapel, or wherever there is peace and silence where we can be with God.

When this pandemic started, where did we go during lockdown? To God with our online Masses at home, daily praying of the Rosary with the whole family. But when the quarantines were eased, we suddenly forgot God, regarding every where as merely a place, a location.

Every where is where God is, where Jesus is!

From Facebook, May 2020.

We now come to that second demonstrative pronoun in the same scene before the miraculous feeding of five thousand said by Simon Peter’s brother Andrew who told Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

How unfair that the boy who actually had Jesus working on his miraculous feeding of the crowd with those five barley loaves and two fish he had given was merely referred by Andrew as there or here!

See how Andrew did not bother to ask the boy’s name because during that time, any male kid had no any significance at all except by the time they reached 13 years of age for the bar mitzvah, when boys begin to read the Torah. In fact, John noted in this narrative how the children and women were not even counted to show their grave error at that time of giving importance only to men.

How sad the same thing continues to our own time when we are taken for granted as a person, reduced to mere statistics, to mere numbers, to there and here!

Despite our insistence on the use of inclusive terms for all, it seems that the more we have actually degraded the human person into objects as we personified objects. Listen to commercials and newscasts to realize what I mean: food is described as “masarap siya” while typhoon is referred to as “siya ay lalabas ng Philippine Area of Responsibility” while persons are made into objects like handsome men called “yummy” or “delicious”. No wonder, people have become like food, good only when young and fresh but when old, discarded like trash! Sometimes, people are labelled like ice cream as “flavor of the month” or “all-time favorite” when rich and famous while ordinary folks are called “dirty ice cream”.

There is always a person to be respected and recognized in every here and there!

Let us heed St. Paul in the second reading telling us “to live in a manner worthy of the call” we have received as beloved children of God “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (cf. Eph. 4:1-3).

How sad that we cannot even look at one another as a brother and a sister, even in our own family circles because we are so focused on the bread, that is, the money and wealth we could get for ourselves. And that is the great irony in this scene: the boy was willing to let go of his five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish yet Andrew did not notice at all the face, the personhood of the boy so kind to share what he had, thinking more of others than himself!

What a tragedy in our time, in our own family and circle of friends, at work and in school, even in our parish community when some people would give more value to things than persons, who would rather maintain or keep their honor and dignity at the expense of others.

Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

When the “where” and “there” of Jesus meet on the Cross

This story of the multiplication of bread occupies an exceptional place in all four gospels. However, it was only John who added a long discourse preached by Jesus at Capernaum after this event to reveal its full meaning.

For John, the multiplication of bread is more than a miracle but a sign, a revelation of supernatural power above the ordinary pointing to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God who is the bread from heaven who had come down to nourish us in this journey of life to eternity like during the time of Moses in the wilderness. Or like Elisha in the first reading, Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread to satisfy the hunger of not just 100 people but over 5000 with leftovers of 12 wicker baskets.

Photo by author, March 2020.

We are reminded of other instances in the Old Testament like the Jewish feast of Passover as backgrounds of this sign by Jesus in the deserted place as a prelude to the sign of the Holy Eucharist he instituted on Holy Thursday that we celebrate daily especially on Sundays as one body, one family. This in turn will reach its highest point on Good Friday as the ultimate sign Jesus Christ’s loving presence when his being the “where” and “there” of God would be revealed in the final sign of the Crucifixion that many would still miss to recognize.

That is why in the next four weeks, we shall hear John narrating to us the discourse by Jesus to explain the full meaning of this multiplication of bread in that deserted place.

When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him 0ff to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

John 6:14-15

Let us “capture” Jesus in the Holy Communion of the Mass later when the priest holds high the Body of Christ saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

Here in the Mass, it is very clear this is where Jesus is, where we get the real food to eat. Tell it to everyone, point unto Jesus, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world like John the Baptist. Most of all, it is in the the Holy Mass where Jesus is present here, there, and everywhere – in his words proclaimed, Body and Blood shared, and with everyone celebrating!

Have a blessed week! Keep safe and stay dry. Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

God. Simply present, always here.

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, 06 June 2021
Exodus 24:3-8  ><}}}'>  Hebrews 9:11-15  ><}}}'>  Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 
Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

The one most important thing this pandemic has cost us for over a year now is the simple joy of presence of our loved ones. For more than a year, we have stopped or limited our visits and celebrations with relatives and friends for fears of spreading the virus especially to our older folks.

It has become so insane for many of us, most especially with those health protocols when even couples were prevented from riding together in bikes!

But at least, the pandemic had taught us the value and importance of presence of everyone, of being present to those we love who, unfortunately, many have also died this year due to the virus and other sickness without us even seeing them at all.

This is the gist of our celebration today, of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ: the simplicity of God and his simple presence among us.

For the second Sunday in a row after the Pentecost, we celebrate another major feast of the Lord in Ordinary Time to show us that our God is a reality, not just a mystery of the Trinity that we cannot fully understand nor explain.


When Jesus Christ said 
"this is my body" and "this is my blood of the covenant", 
he brought to new significance 
the insignificant gestures of hosting a meal 
and the insignificant food of bread and wine 
so common among peoples in every nation and culture. 

Photo by author, 2018.

The simplicity of God.

Last Sunday we celebrated and reflected on the central mystery of our one God in three Persons called the Holy Trinity. Today we celebrate his meaning and reality as a person, a God who relates with us in the most personal manner with his presence.

Recall our basic catechism of God being perfect – all knowing, all powerful, and always present because of his main attribute: his simplicity.

In our world that has become so complicated like our Facebook relationships or with all those gadgets and apps we have including our “intelligent” cars and homes, God remains so true, so real, so present with us because he is simple. No fuss, no nothing. Just pure presence among those who are willing to be still and simple. And present in the moment.

The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

Mark 14:16, 22-24

See the simplicity of the story, the simplicity of Jesus Christ who took the initiative to prepare everything for their Passover meal that his disciples “found it just as he had told them”.

When Jesus Christ said “this is my body” and “this is my blood of the covenant”, he brought to new significance the insignificant gestures of hosting a meal and the insignificant food of bread and wine so common among peoples in every nation and culture.

During their supper, Jesus gave a new meaning not only to their Passover meal but even to our most basic and common act of having a meal, of eating together to become a celebration of life, not just to feed one’s body but also one’s soul!

In becoming human like us, sharing in all of our experiences except sin, Jesus leveled up our very being and lives at his Last Supper when he established the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to be the everlasting sign of his loving presence among us and thus, revealed to us the deeper meaning of the common meal we used to take with everybody as a giving and sharing of our very selves with others.

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands… he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his won blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Hebrews 9:11, 12, 14

Like Jesus Christ, it is not really the food and drinks that we share whenever we eat together and dine with others but our very selves. No wonder, in every celebration and milestone of our lives, from a simple date of a young man and woman trying to get to know each other to weddings, birthdays, and other significant occasions, there is always a meal we host to share our joys, our triumphs, our lives with others.

And the most beautiful part of these meals we share with everyone is the deeper meaning we convey that it is essentially a thanksgiving to God for all of his abounding love and grace poured upon us which is the meaning of the Greek word “eucharistia”.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Our presence in the Lord with others

The word present, of being here now, is the other word we use to refer to “gift” like when we say birthday present or Christmas present. And that is the meaning of this Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood: God as the gift and the giver in Jesus Christ.

In the Holy Eucharist, we receive Jesus Christ wholly, nourishing us, blessing us, and most of all, enabling us to offer also ourselves to him through others.

But, are we present to him?

Are we willing to give ourselves to him?

From the very start since God entered into a covenant with his chosen people, he had shown his simple presence demanding nothing except our simple presence too to him and with others. This is the meaning of the offering of blood which symbolizes life, our sharing in the life of God.

But unlike the pagans, we offer our selves to God not to lose but to transformed our lives in him. With Christ’s self-sacrifice on the Cross on Good Friday foreshadowed by his Last Supper on Holy Thursday, we discover how life given to God is not lost but saved which is the meaning of the ratification by Moses of the covenant in the wilderness with the Israelites:

Taking the book of the covenant, Moses read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.” Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of life.”

Exodus 24:7-8

Every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, we ratify the new covenant of Christ with us, when we give our great “Amen” to him like the Israelites at the desert, vowing to “heed and do” whatever he told us. That is also the meaning of attending a party or a dinner hosted by a relative or a friend: we renew our ties with them, promising to be there to give ourselves to them especially in times of need and danger.

But, how willing are we to remain true and faithful, always present to God, our family and friends especially in this time of the pandemic?

What a tragedy that while celebrating the Sunday Eucharist, we turn away from God in our sins in the same manner we turn against those people we share meal with and attended parties they hosted.


Let us be still 
in the calming presence of God 
in Jesus Christ's Body and Blood.  
He is more than enough 
to suffice all our needs and longing in this life.  
Like the bread and wine, 
we can all be transformed 
into his Body and Blood 
to be a present to others.

In celebrating this Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood on this second Sunday of Ordinary Time, we are challenged in our faith and conviction of truly being present like Jesus before him and with others in our daily life especially in this time of the pandemic with so many in great need of basic necessities.

Like the Lord Jesus Christ, do we take the time and effort to prepare for every Sunday Mass celebration as he prepared their Passover meal?

Jesus is not asking us to be particular with the details. All we need is the essential: our very presence with the Lord. Simply be our selves: no need to fake anything, to be somebody else because Jesus loves us as we are.

It is good to remember on this Solemnity too how take simplicity for granted as being bare, without much fanfare and even spectacle as we always want something to feast our eyes on like what we have done to many of our rites and rituals. We are never contented that less is always more that many times, our religious celebrations have become banal in nature with all the pomp and pageantry we have added like to our processions. Instead of turning to God, our attentions had turned into our very selves, clearly a case of “triumphalism” when we “exaggerate” even spiritual activities.

Let us be still in the calming presence of God in Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood. He is more than enough to suffice all our needs and longing in this life. Like the bread and wine, we can all be transformed into his Body and Blood to be a present to others. Amen.

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz at Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

In praise of the Community Pantry

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 19 April 2021
The beauty of this movement 
sweeping our country
called "Community Pantry"
is its essential Christianity:
"The community of believers
was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any
of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common."
(Acts 4:32)
Earlier in our Church history
the esteemed theologian Tertullian
was so delighted to see
how the early Christians 
loved one another
and how they were ready
to die for each other
exactly the same scenery
we are having in our country this 21st century.
It all started simply
when in the street translated loosely
as living comfortably (Maginhawa)
somebody suddenly see
"any body" as a "some body"
can help alleviate our poverty
when we start to see "every body"
as a brother and a sister living simply
with one community pantry so "no body" goes hungry.
And the rest was history
as the story of good deeds inspired many
putting up their community pantry
and the best part of the mystery
there is no talk of money and popularity
plain and simple spirit of humanity
in the spirit of fraternity and equality
fulfilling the minimum requirement of charity
that is justice and mutuality.
There is a saying that
"Necessity is the mother of invention"
but this community pantry that I see 
is more than an invention or an innovation
but an extension of the fellowship of the table
where Jesus Christ is the invisible guest
appearing, speaking, and sharing a meal 
that fills our stomach and delights our soul
animating our hopes for a better future.
This community pantry
is a bright ray of hope,
a silver lining in the storm
that hit our nation last year
when this administration 
not only belittled but was also 
unprepared for the pandemic.
Is it a new kind of people power revolution?
Then, by all means, let it bloom!
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

*All photos used are from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 April 2021.

Breaking into New Realities

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Easter Sunday of the Lord's Resurrection, 04 April 2021
Acts 10:34, 37-43  +  1Corinthians 5:6-8  +  John 20:1-9
Photo by author, Paschal Candles outside the Lord’s tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 2017.
Clear out the old yeast,
so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, 
inasmuch as you are an unleavened.  
For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed.  
Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with old yeast, 
the yeast of malice and wickedness, 
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  
(1 Corinthians 5:7-8) 

A blessed, happy Easter to everyone in this most unholy time of the COVID-19 pandemic! I know, many of us are at a loss at how can we truly celebrate and experience Easter of the Lord’s Resurrection from the dead when those among us are dying or have actually died in this recent deadly surge of corona virus infections.

Unlike Christmas which we could easily identify with the signs and symbols of birth and babies plus the cool climate of December, Easter has always been a problematique especially among us Filipinos now in the heat of the dry season. Making matter worse this year is the pandemic and its ECQ.

Christmas is always delightful. We are always drawn and attracted to the idea and reality that God became a child, making so many things great for us humans.

But, unlike Easter which is so different in the sense that here, God did not enter a familiar stage and state in our human life and existence. On the contrary – which is also its biggest plus factor and enigma – God broke through all human limitations to enter a new realm, a vast expanse of unknown realities that are beyond the most dreaded thing of all which is death!

That is why Easter to much extent is difficult to celebrate because it is hard to comprehend and explain or grasp with our limited reasons and yet, at the same time, it is so real, so true as something we have experienced deep within us!

More than those egg hunts and bunnies now gone – hopefully forever – due to the pandemic, Easter 2021 calls us for a deep, inner renewal of our selves. As we have been saying since Palm Sunday, this may be the holiest Holy Week of our lives in the most unholy time in history as it gives us many opportunities to pray and reflect this great mystery of Jesus risen from the dead.

If we truly wish to find the Risen Lord in our lives in this unholiest time of the pandemic with deaths and sufferings surrounding us, we need to go inside our selves as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, to commit ourselves anew to Christ in the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist where we share his Body under the sign of bread.

Recall how last Thursday we were reminded how Jesus perfected and fulfilled the Jewish Passover with his very Body given to us on Good Friday. This Easter after having risen from the dead, Jesus our Bread of Life calls us to discard the old bread that is corrupted and spoiled; Christ has given us himself as our new yeast, new leaven penetrating the dough to make rise in us a fresh and wonderful bread even in the midst of this pandemic!

We have to discard the old leaven – our old selves and way of life in sin – to break new realities in Jesus and through Jesus. Easter is a passing over, a pasch when like Jesus Christ, we dare to cross and pass over life’s challenges and risks to achieve not only we are wishing for but sometimes, we have never even imagined – like the Lord’s rising from the dead!

“The Three Marys” by Henry Ossawa Tanner, from womeninthebible.net.
On the first day of the week, 
Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, 
while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  
So she ran and went to Simon Peter 
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, 
and told them, "They have taken the Lord from the tomb, 
and we don't know where they put him." 
(John 20:1-2)

A few days before Ash Wednesday in February, we moved into our new assignments just in time for the start of the Lenten Season or 40-day preparation for this great feast of Easter. I have been assigned as chaplain to Our Lady of Fatima University and the Fatima University and Medical Center in Valenzuela plus its five other branches at Quezon City, Antipolo City, San Fernando City, Cabanatuan City and Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

I have been conducting my ministry basically “on-line” like Masses and talks and recollections.

And lately, praying over our sick and dying patients especially this past week with the surge of COVID-19 cases.

Due to the situation at the hospital and in compliance with the health protocols, we have devised a plan where the nurse on duty would text me for those requesting prayers for the sick with details of the patient and telephone number of the guardian. I would then call the guardian to ask him/her to bring the phone near the patient’s ear so I can pray aloud, and most of all, give the much needed absolution and commendation of the dying. Each nurse station is provided with a bottle of Holy Water for the guardian to sprinkle the patient at my signal.

After that, I pray over the guardian and bless him/her.

So far, for the past month since we have been doing this, nobody had called me what have happened to their patients, if they survived or not. I have stopped following up on them because usually, when I asked the guardian how was their patient, they would always tell me “buhay pa po siya” (he/she still alive), as if I were waiting for their death.

However, there were times some of the guardians have called me back to express their gratitude, telling me how they were relieved knowing their loved ones have been prayed for by a priest.

Last Holy Thursday at the height of so many COVID cases, I prayed over two patients successively.

That was very amazing and inspiring for me. They were “little moments of Easter” as people experienced deaths so close to home these days, even in the most surreal way, still believing, still hoping. We too have felt it one way or the other with requests for help and prayers by relatives and friends with patients sick with COVID and with other ailments lately when we felt so helpless, with nothing else to do and contribute except pray and worry.

That is the grace of Easter so abounding in this pandemic. Let us hope that with ongoing inner renewal among us of hoping against hope that love after all conquers death. Always and certainly as we have seen lately.

Like Mary, there are times we see nothing at all and say things we hardly think or process.

We feel at a loss, almost about to give up yet a tiny sparkle of faith and hope keeps us running to others for help whom we think could do something, maybe used by God to change or remedy our “lost” cause or situation.

That is where the grace of Easter is found every day: something very true and real within us keeps us believing in life and meaning, in God through Jesus Christ when all is gone and even lost.

Why still go to the tomb at all like Mary? If Jesus were already dead, what is the use of going to anoint him with oil and perfumes? Was Mary feeling something even so little, so tiny like hope against hope that Jesus could still be alive?

It was beyond her that she was terrified and ran to Peter upon seeing the empty tomb! She had felt that what was deep inside her was true after all, that there is a greater life beyond this that exists – exactly like what we believed – that there is Resurrection of the dead in Jesus Christ because he himself we can feel deep inside us!

Like Peter on that Pentecost Sunday, we may not go on a discourse explaining what had happened because we have not witnessed the Resurrection like him but we speak out, we believe because we experienced life bursting forth amidst deaths and losses. Like Peter, we have witnessed so many other things, little moments of Easter that showed us signs of God’s abiding presence and love.

Like the light of the new day piercing through the darkness, there is the Risen Jesus touching us, assuring us, loving us and telling us that Easter is not an ending in itself for it continues now and shall continue until the end when Christ comes again to definitively put an end to death when we live eternally with him in the Father in heaven. Amen.

Blessed happy easter!

Photo by author, Mirador Center of Spirituality, Baguio City, January 2019.

Companionship in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Easter Triduum Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Maundy Thursday, 01 April 2021
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14 ><)))*> 1Corinthians 11:23-26 ><)))*> John 13:1-25
Photo by d0n mil0 on Pexels.com
"A journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step."
- Lao Tzu

We often hear and use this wise saying that is also most applicable to our celebration of the Holy Triduum of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection also known as the “Sacred Paschal Triduum”.

From the Hebrew word pesach, a pasch is a passing over. It is a journey which is a long trip taken over long period of time to different places. A journey does not necessarily involve physical distance as it can be something within one’s self like an inner journey to God dwelling within us. Hence, a journey is also a process that leads us to growth and maturity from the many difficulties and trials we experience as we travel, entailing a lot of sacrifices from us.

And whatever journey we take outside or within our selves, we always need a companion to travel with. From the Latin words cum panis that literally mean “someone you break bread with”, a companion is someone who helps us in our journey, a friend who shares life with us, guiding us, protecting us. Like the bread we break and share, a companion sustains and nourishes us in our journey.

Let us keep these three words of journey, companion, and bread in reflecting our celebration tonight of the Lord’s Supper that begins the Sacred Triduum.

We are all pilgrims on a journey to heaven

More than 40 days ago on Ash Wednesday, we said Lent is a daily journey to Easter where we find our very selves, others, and God who is our ultimate origin and end. It is a journey that reaches its summit in the Holy Eucharist where we make present the pasch or passover of Jesus Christ

Every Mass is a journey into heaven, a dress rehearsal of our entrance into heaven when we have a foretaste of eternal life we all hope for until Christ comes again. It is the Passover of the New Testament, a perfection of the Jewish Passover when God’s chosen people led by Moses went into exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land.

This “heavenly” journey had its ancient roots among nomadic Semites who used to celebrate a feast on the first full moon of spring as they prepared to lead their flocks to summer pastures. They ate a roasted lamb from the flock with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It was an important event of migration filled with many dangers for those nomads who marked their tent-pegs with the blood of the lamb to keep their journey safe.

Eventually this found place in the Jewish Passover which we heard in our first reading when God told his chosen people to begin their journey of exodus from Egypt “on the tenth of their first month” that happens on the second full moon of the spring equinox.

Notice that it happens at night that is coincidentally the usual start of every journey we usually make!

Before their Exodus, each family was told to roast an unblemished lamb to be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs “with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the passover of the Lord” (Ex.12:11). It has to be done in a hurry, as in a flight, a journey.

And to keep them safe in their journey, God instructed them to paint their door posts with the blood of the slaughtered lamb so that when his angel comes at night to strike death of every first born male child and animal, their homes would be “passed over” and be saved from death that night.


We are all travelers and journeyers on earth;
our true home is in heaven with God our Father.  
We are merely "passing over" this planet temporarily.

Photo by author, Egypt, 2019.

Jesus our companion and family in the journey

The Jewish Passover or Exodus became the actual event of God’s covenant with Israel as his people on a journey to their Promised Land. Unfortunately, they would break this covenant with God so many times that it would take them 40 years of wandering in the desert before finally got into the Promised Land.

And their stubbornness continued when they would always turn away from God with sins that led to the division of their nation until its conquest by foreign powers that led them anew into another exile. God would restore them as a nation but, again, they would turn away from him until the Romans ruled over them when Jesus came to perfect God’s covenant.

In perfecting and fulfilling the Jewish Passover, Jesus became the new and everlasting Lamb, perfect without any blemish, offering himself to God for the forgiveness of our sins and our liberation from all forms of evil especially sickness and death. It is no longer the blood of the lamb that we now offer but Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood which he established in the Sacrament of the Eucharist “on the night before he was betrayed” on Holy Thursday.

By celebrating the Lord’s Supper that Thursday evening with his disciples who represented all peoples of all time, Jesus established for us the everlasting memorial of his loving presence as our companion and our very Bread and Wine in the journey back to the Father always filled with darkness and sufferings.

What he did that Thursday evening foreshadowed what he would do on Good Friday when he did his greatest act of love for us by dying on the Cross at about 3PM, the same time when the lambs were being slaughtered in the temple for the coming passover feast.

Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. ?Do this in remembrance of me.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-25

Here we find again the darkness of the night as the beginning of our journey back to God perfected by Jesus Christ as our companion and very bread of life to sustain and nourish us.

What is most beautiful meaning we can find here is the importance of communion, of oneness as a community, as a family.

In the Old Testament, God instructed his people to take the passover meal together as a family; at the Lord’s supper, Jesus celebrated it with his “friends”, the Twelve Apostles. Even Judas Iscariot was present at the start but had to leave in the “darkness of the night” when he broke off from the unity of Jesus.

Perhaps, one reason why we are again together this Holy Thursday not in churches but in our homes, with our family so we may be one again in Jesus Christ in prayers and celebrating Mass on-line.

Therefore, do not be a Judas Iscariot! Go back to your family, to your loved ones – your most faithful and truest companions in this journey of life. You’ll never get to heaven, as Dionne Warwick sang, if you break somebody’s heart, when you refuse to love by turning your back from those who love you.


Holy Thursday reminds us in the Eucharist  
that no one is saved alone. 
Every journey becomes wonderful
when done in the context of a community, 
with true companions beginning in our very family.

Photo from wikipediacommons.org of Christ’s washing of feet of Apostles at Montreale Cathedral in Palermo, Italy

The commandment of love

Completing the picture of our celebration tonight with the key concepts of journey, companion and bread is LOVE, the very essence of everything in this life, the reason why we are in a journey in the first place since the Exodus up to this time.

At the very core of every companionship, of every community is LOVE.

To become bread for someone in a journey is to become LOVE.

Jesus Christ as the bread broken, as the cup of wine shared is essentially LOVE.

Love can never be defined but merely described.

And on the night before he was betrayed, Jesus described to us in his actions a very beautiful expression of his love we all must imitate:

So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

John 13:3-5

When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he showed us one beautiful aspect of LOVE which is tenderness.

Yes, I have been speaking about tenderness lately as something we badly need these days of the pandemic. Tenderness is an expression of love when we realize amid our own suffering the sufferings of others too. To be tender and loving amidst many sufferings is to offer rest to fellow journeyers like what Jesus did on that Holy Thursday evening.

Again, we find here something prevalent during that time which is the concept of “restaurants” where travelers used to stop during their journey not only to eat but to rest that meant soaking their feet on a basin of water. It was therapeutic that gave travelers enough strength to travel far again.

Remember there were no other modes of transportation at that time and not everybody could afford an animal to ride on. Any hiker and mountaineer can attest that after so much trekking, one thing you would always hope for is a stream or tiny brook with cool, crisp, running water to dip your feet and rest!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, April 2020.

Everybody is tired of this journey in the pandemic, almost exhausted.

What a shame especially when local officials like that one who refused food delivery because she considered the lowly lugaw as non essential. Lest we forget, Jesus chose one of the most lowly food, the unleavened bread, as the sign of his loving presence among us until the end of time when he comes again.

Indeed, this could be the holiest Holy Week of our lives in this most unholy time of history as it gives us great opportunities to love.

Just be tender with those around you!

Never get tired of loving, of understanding, of caring as everyone is already tired with this journey of ours in the pandemic that seems to be still far from over.

“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master’, and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

John 13:12-15

One of the most moving images of the pandemic for me lately is the one taken by our parishioner on the first day of the ECQ last March 22 when our Parochial Vicar, Fr. Howard John celebrated Mass without a congregation. He said, “the table of the Lord is full, but the pews are empty.”

And that is what we will continue to do in this pandemic. Even without the people, we shall continue to journey in Christ by still celebrating the Mass to give us all nourishment and sustenance and rest in this prolonged journey in the pandemic.

May we never get tired walking in love as a companion and bread to one another in Christ and like Christ by giving rest to others already tired and about to give up. Let us all be together in welcoming Easter! Amen.


El anda que en amor ni cansa ni se cansa.
(The soul that walks in love neither tires others nor grows tired.)
Saint John of the Cross 

Photo by Ms. Kysia Cruz, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Refreshing our faith in Lent

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Lent in Cycle B, 07 March 2021
Exodus 20:1-17  ><}}}*>  1Corinthians 1:22-25  ><}}}*>  John 2:13-25
Parish Church of St. Joseph in Baras, Rizal.

One thing we notice in Lent is the “noble simplicity” of celebrations: no flowers at the altar, simple music without percussions, without Gloria no Alleluia meant to refocus our attention back to God in a more personal level.

That is why during Lent, our faith is refreshed or rebooted in order to “reset” it back to God himself than with rites and rituals and other formalisms that have made our relationships with him and with one another stagnant.

When faith and religion get fixated on formal codes of worship and belief, detached not only from God but even with people like those in the margins, then it had become an idolatry.

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money-changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

John 2:13-17
Photo from turbosquid.com.

Our personal, relating God

On this Third Sunday of Lent until its final Fifth week, we turn to the fourth Gospel of John to deepen our personal relationship with the Father in Christ when each gospel is compacted with signs and language rich in meanings to reignite our faith with “zeal” that “consume” us like Jesus.

Observe John’s formal introduction of this episode of cleansing of the temple by presenting to us its chronemics, the non-verbal communication of time and space to indicate the presence of God in Passover (time), Jerusalem, and temple (space/place). Keep in mind that the fourth gospel is called “the book of signs” because John would always use events, buildings and places, and people as signs pointing to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God.

In this episode that immediately happens at the start of the Lord’s ministry as seen by John, something very wrong have happened with the very signs of God’s presence so revered by the people during their important feast of Passover right in their temple in Jerusalem: God had been eased out from the lives of the people and from their worship itself!

The gospels teem with many references at how the people at that time led by the temple officials and religious leaders have turned into worshipping rites and rituals than God himself, forgetting to serve the people by sticking to the letters than to the spirit of the Laws that Jesus always attacked.

It is similar to our own time where our faith and church worship have become empty of God and spirituality filled with human inanities led by some priests who tinker with liturgy, forgetting its noble simplicity, that less is always more. In our efforts to make God “present” with so many “shows” and gimmicks in the liturgy and church buildings, the more we have removed the Divine, unconsciously creating a cult around ourselves.

Notice some churches devoid of the holy with all the flat screens and tarpaulins all over. Worst is how priests have promoted this culture of shouting and clapping of hands during and after Mass as if God were deaf!

So many other things are sadly going in our celebrations where emotions are heightened without really stirring the hearts nor souls with God’s presence. Good liturgy flows from our personal and faithful relationship with God anchored in prayer life, not with shows and activities.

In the first reading, God reminds us in his Commandments that more than laws, these are meant to bring us into a relationship with him our God. See God speaking in the first person, addressing everyone with conversational personal pronouns, “I am the Lord your God” or “I am the Lord thy God”.

More than a mere body of commandments, the Decalogue are a covenant by God with people he had freed from slavery, pledging his unfailing fidelity to them who are expected to be wholeheartedly attached with him as their Lord and God. The Decalogue is first of all a call to intimacy with God expressed with our respect for one another.

This Lent, God invites us to renew our personal relationship with him in Jesus who had come to bring equilibrium in our lives through his Cross where our vertical relationship with the Father is intersected by our relationships with one another in Christ, through Christ, and with Christ. Without this, our faith or any religion will drift to extremes, either to joyless conformism as seen in fundamentalism and traditionalism or exaggerated expressionisms happening nowadays, disregarding the norms of liturgy and of sanity as well. In both instances, there is human manipulation strongly present that pretend to serve God but actually massage somebody’s ego, totally forgetting the people who suffer most.

Photo by author, 2019.

Jesus himself as the new temple

When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was newly elected in office, he wrote a bishop in Europe suffering with cancer. According to reports, the former Pope tried to uplift the spirits of the sick bishop by telling him that “Jesus saved the world not with activities but by suffering and dying on the cross.”

Beautiful words from one of the most spiritual and theological man of our time! Here lies too the fullness of our relationship with God expressed in our worship when our “zeal” for him is consumed in our oneness in Jesus Christ, our new temple.

At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

John 2:18-22

John now presents to us Jesus more than a prophet cleansing the temple with full authority, being the perfection of every worship that is “in Spirit and truth” (Jn.4:23) because as the Messiah of God offered on Good Friday which is also the feast of the Jewish Passover, his Body becomes the new temple.

Of course, sacred buildings are still important as well as rites and rituals but they are signs pointing to the realities of Jesus Christ, the Emmanuel or God-is-with-us truly felt in ourselves, in our lives when we have that oneness, that intimacy in him in our personal and communal prayers that flow down to our interpersonal relationships with others especially the poor and the suffering.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Last October, I had the most severe test in life when my only brother was diagnosed with an ailment affecting his spine, becoming immobilized for three months. I took him to my parish so I can look after him. What was most difficult for me was seeing him suffer, writhing in pain even in the middle of the night, sometimes begging me to ask God to take him so his sufferings may finally end.

I thought already knew how to pray, that I was tough and strong especially in my faith but, like a child, I would always hide and cry to God for my only brother who in his entire life has always been sickly and afflicted with many illnesses.

One morning in our daily Mass, tears swelled in my eyes during consecration as I held the Body of Christ in my hands with my voice breaking as I said, THIS IS MY BODY WHICH WILL BE GIVEN UP FOR YOU.

How I wanted to stop the Mass at that moment to cry in joy as I felt Jesus so true, in his flesh and blood, truly alive and personal!

Until now I could not explain what or how I felt that I cried at that time except that the night before, I assisted my brother in bed and cleaned him up. It was very difficult and even messy but a great moment of God’s grace and mercy for me expressing my love for him through my brother. That is when I realized that to truly touch Jesus is first of all to touch him among our sick brothers and sisters; that there is an intimate connection between the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and everyone especially the sick and suffering. And, for us to truly receive the Body of Christ, to experience the Holy Communion in him, we must first have his eyes and heart and hands among those deprived around us (https://lordmychef.com/2020/10/28/the-body-of-christ/).

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Good Friday 2020.

Brothers and sisters: Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

Faith in God is not meant to be explained nor analyzed. Though we do not stop studying and learning our faith doctrines and teachings, we are reminded this third Sunday of Lent to keep our zeal for God burning. Let us pray to Jesus that like him, may our zeal for the Father consume us by seeing him in persons not on things that are often self-serving. Amen.

Have a blessed and refreshing Sunday in the Lord with your family and loved ones!

Photo by author, 2019.

Sight and Vision

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
27 December 2020, Feast of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, Patron of our Parish
1 John 1:1-14 >><)))*> John 20:2-8
Our Parish Patron, the beloved disciple of the Lord, St. John the Apostle and Evangelist (Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Sept. 2018).

Today we celebrate in our Parish the feast of our Patron Saint, John the Apostle and Evangelist also known as “the beloved disciple of the Lord”. Although it is a Sunday in the Christmas octave when the Feast of the Holy Family is celebrated by the universal Church, parishes and dioceses with the beloved disciple as patron as exempted. Perhaps, it is St. John’s gift to me before I move to my new assignment in February next year that I celebrate his feast for the last time this Sunday.

I tell my parishioners to love St. John; that is their first task as parishioners, to love and support their Patron Saint. Moreover, I have always stressed to them how St. John the Apostle is so special, and not an ordinary saint or Apostle. Next to his being the beloved disciple of Jesus, he is the only Apostle to have not died a martyr but grew old to witness the growth of the Church; he was the one who took care of the Blessed Virgin Mary as per instruction by the Lord Himself before He died on the Cross on Good Friday; and though there are only a few parishes dedicated to him, mostly are Cathedrals like the one at Dagupan-Lingayen in Pangasinan, at Naga City in Camarines Sur, and of course, the Cathedral of Rome, the St. John Lateran, the Mother of all churches in the world.

He is often symbolized by the eagle for his sharp and incisive way of looking at things and events in the life of teachings of Jesus that he is the only one able to tell us about the wedding feast at Cana, the man born blind, the raising of Lazarus as well as the more detailed account of the teachings after the feeding of five thousand people.

The great American writer Helen Keller, a blind woman, said it so well, “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

I wish to reflect on that vision of St. John, on what had he seen in our Lord Jesus that hopefully we may always try to look into in our own lives.

Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2020.

Seeing Jesus, a real man among us

I used to say in my wedding homilies that women should always look for men who not only has sights but also vision. We all have sights but not everyone has a vision, the ability to see and look beyond what is on the surface, on what can only be seen but also perceived further.

St. John the Evangelist had a great vision of who Jesus Christ is. No wonder towards the end of his life while a prisoner at the island of Patmos off Greece, the Lord offered him a vision of heaven which he had recorded to us in the most difficult book of the Bible, the Revelation; his other four writings, the Gospel and three letters are also difficult to understand due to the different layers of meaning that only the beloved disciple was able to perceive.

Such is the kind of the vision of St. John said to be like the eagle, believed to be the only creature that can stare directly into light without getting blinded — very sharp and keen, as we say in Filipino, “matang-lawin” or eagle sight.

Being the only Apostle of the Lord to have grown old and spared from dying a martyr like the rest, St. John witnessed the first errors or heresies of early Christians concerning the humanity of Jesus Christ. They could not accept the Son of God took on a genuinely human body so that in a mistaken zeal for spirituality, they condemned everything material as evil, claiming the humanity of Jesus was just an appearance. As a result, these heretics like the gnostics taught that to be fully united with God meant to withdraw as much as possible from everything material.

St. John wrote his letters primarily to address this wrongful and erroneous views (which would persist for 400 years, still echoing in our present time), insisting that Jesus Christ is true God, and true man. We have heard him declare that on Christmas day when his prologue was proclaimed when he claimed “the Word became flesh and dwelled among us” – that Jesus Christ fully entered into our humanity and material condition by blessing and making it holy!

Today St. John insists on this contact with the real, bodily Jesus, repeating the words “seen” and “visible” about five times in four verses, emphasizing contact with a real, bodily Christ.

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life — for the life was made visible…

1 John 1:1-2

Here we find what St. John tells us also after the Resurrection in his gospel account how Jesus invited the doubting Thomas to touch and feel him, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your your hand and put it into my side, and do be unbelieving, but believe” (Jn.20:27).

It is this physical, truly human, touchable Jesus that the Church proclaims every Christmas. Yet, how tragic that through the ages, we in the Church had always had that tendency to withdraw from the material that perhaps had led to so many problems with the human body and sexuality so that we have all these sex scams happening even long before.

Part of the mystery of the Incarnation is for us to be at home with our humanity like Jesus our Lord because everything God had made is good. Mention SEX, even in seminaries or Catholic schools, you hear for sure that rising crescendo of whispers and impish laughters.

Everything that God made is good. That is why Jesus became human to show us it is good to be a human being, it is the path back to God, into heaven. If we cannot accept Jesus as truly human, how can we truly love God whom we do not see? Hence, we find this beautiful flow of reason and reflection of St. John in his first letter:

No one has ever seen God. Yet if we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought o perfection in us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

1 John 4:12, 16, 19-20
Photo by Mr. Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, Christmas 2020.

In short, to love God and to love others, we must first love our very selves, accept our “human-ness” like Jesus, a real man in everything except sin. The more we accept each other, the more we “see” God among us as a community, as a Church, the Body of Christ.

The Church, the Body of Christ

This vision of the Church as the body of Christ by St. John came from the empty tomb of Jesus at Easter, when the Lord was paradoxically not in sight!

When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed.

John 20:6-8

What did our Patron Saint “see” that he believed, not like Simon Peter who was the leader of the Apostles?

Photo by author, August 2020.

This is the best example of St. John’s vision, of seeing beyond the physical, of seeing the significance of the folded cloth that covered the Lord’s face that has its basis in the story of Moses who had to put on a veil whenever he would converse with God face to face (cf. Exodus 34) due to the immense brightness of God, of His overwhelming presence. This the Israelites have seen every time after Moses had spoken with God, his face shone so brightly.

With the cloth that covered the head of Jesus folded and separated from the burial cloths, it meant that Jesus had met the Father, the veil to cover His face was no longer needed.

At that instance, everything became clearer for St. John – from the cleansing of the temple to His conversations with that Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well – convincing him that Jesus had risen to new life, to new level of existence. Years later, we find Jesus appearing to Saul on his way to Damascus, asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?(Acts 9:1-5)” to indicate that whatsoever you do anyone, you do unto Jesus (Matt. 25:40).

In His glorified body, we are now able to look at God also in the new body of Jesus, the Church. It is in this aspect that we have to learn so much from the beloved disciple, St. John. Our lack of any sense of community like the collective effort in stopping the spread of COVID-19 shows of the great need for us to have wider and sharper vision of Jesus among us especially in the Church. May we strive to love more Jesus to find Him in our humanity. Amen.

Photo by author, Malolos Cathedral, September 2020.