Every birthday a small Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily), 08 September 2022
Romans 8: 28-30   ><}}}*> + <*{{{>< + ><}}}*> + <*{{{>< + ><}}}*>   Matthew 1:18-23
Photo by author, Christmas 2021 at Our Lady of Fatima University Chapel at the Basic Education Dept., Valenzuela City.
"Every birthday is a small Christmas 
because with the birth of every person 
comes Jesus Christ."  

These words by the great St. John Paul II from his 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (The Gospel of Life) is most truest today as we celebrate the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ.

It is right and proper that we celebrate her birthday today because of her coming to life and later her becoming a woman of deep faith in God, Christmas became a reality when she bore in her womb Jesus Christ our Savior.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:18

Matthew beautifully tells us in his genealogy of Jesus Christ followed by this brief explanation of the Lord’s birth through the annunciation to Joseph how every birth, every coming of us is part of God’s plan.

Like Jesus Christ, we all came from God ultimately.

No one is an accident, nor a “chamba” as we say in Pilipino for we are not just lucky to have been born and alive but most of all, blessed. This is the gist of that beautiful alternative first reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28, 30
“The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, a 1305 painting by Renaissance artist Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. The two babies are Mary: below is Mary upon birth wrapped in swaddling cloth and washed by attendants and then above being handed to St. Anne her mother. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

It is part of God’s purpose and plan that we were born, from our “election” or calling, to our “justification” or redemption and “glorification” in Jesus Christ — these did not happen by chance but are parts of God’s grand design for each of us.

Every person, every life is a gift of God, so valuable and precious. That is “the good news of life” expressed by St. John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical we have cited earlier. We are all sharing in the very life of God with each one of us a sign of Jesus Christ, the Emmanuel which means “God is with us” (Mt.1:23).

But, are we with God in Jesus Christ – in our trials and sufferings, in our joys and pains, in our victories and defeats, ultimately, in our life and death?

This is something very important we must always examine in our lives, at least during our birthday if we can truly say that it is a small Christmas because Jesus comes through us!

Like Mary, we have to conform ourselves to the image and likeness of her Son Jesus Christ especially in this time when we have reduced life into mere lifestyles and every person into a commodity who can be possessed and used, then discarded just like things.

In this time of Tiktok with everyone vying to be instantly popular, would we trade our dignity as persons just to be trending and viral, doing all those inanities on camera, wearing almost nothing with all kinds of filth and obscenities spewing from our mouths?

How sad that despite the affluence we now enjoy with everything almost within reach of everyone, we have become more lost and more empty these days than before. Everything has become so decadent that the worth of life and every person is being measured in external factors so that everybody wants to be somebody else except their true selves!


Most of all, the best birthday gift we can give Mama Mary
 is to bring out the giftedness of everyone 
so that each one may find in themselves Jesus 
who was born into this world more than 2000 years ago 
by the Blessed Mother herself! 

In celebrating the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are reminded that we are all good and pleasing in our very selves. We are so good that when Jesus chose to become human like us in everything except sin, he entrusted himself to us as his carriers or bearers so that we may rediscover our giftedness as God’s beloved children.

Photo by author, La Niña Maria at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 07 September 2021.

Now that we are slowly going back to our “normal” ways of life with more “face-to-face” activities, may we keep in mind this great honor from God, of how he trusted us so much to bear his Son into this world like Mary by being his very sign of presence and love especially to those feeling alone and left out. Like Mary, may we bring the joy of Christ and his good news of life and salvation to those in despair, those sick, and dying inside because of bitterness and being so unforgiving not only to others but to their very selves.

It is said that whenever we greet someone with a “happy birthday”, what we really tell them is “I love you and thank you for making me who I am today”. Do we truly feel that way when we greet Mama Mary with happy birthday today?

The best birthday greeting we can give the Blessed Mother Mary today is to be like her, of being conformed in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ so that people may truly feel God is with us, that through our kindness and simplicity minus all those stunts and excitements that exist only on Facebook, people may have a glimpse of the beauty and majesty of God in us.

Most of all, the best birthday gift we can give Mama Mary is to bring out the giftedness of everyone so that each one may find in themselves Jesus who was born into this world more than 2000 years ago by the Blessed Mother herself! Amen.

Photo by author, the patio of the Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem (2017) that was dedicated on September 8 sometime in the sixth century from which originated the celebration of Mary’s birth on this date since then until it spread to Rome and the whole world; the date stuck to become the basis in setting December 8 as the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary which is exactly nine months preceding her birth.

Becoming an adult Jesus Nazareno at Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 09 January 2022
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 ><}}}*> Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7 ><}}}*> Luke 3:15-16,21-22
Photo from flickr.com by Mark S. Abeln, Resurrection Cemetery in Affton, Missouri, USA, 16 November 2010.

Today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord closes the Christmas Season in the most unique way as we are again in another surge of COVID-19 while for the first time, not even during these past two years of pandemic, people are totally barred from celebrating the Mass outside the Quiapo church for the feast of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno or the Black Nazarene.

It is the second consecutive year due to pandemic that there is no Traslacion of the Poon Nazareno but whereas before despite COVID-19 all roads led to Quiapo every January 09, all devotees today are directed to the website of the Minor Basilica of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno to celebrate the hourly online Masses from dawn until late night tonight.

Police and Church officials have appealed to the public to stay home with the Archbishop of Manila assuring devotees of the grace and blessings still being granted to them by the Señor Nazareno through the “modern means of communications”.

Here we find a most wonderful grace of God for us to mature into an “adult Jesus” in this time still in the Christmas Season when we are invited to put some spirituality to our devotions that are both amazing but baffling even to us. How can we so devoutly Catholic as a nation be blind to all the corruption and disrespect for life going on in our country that we cannot progress like other Asian nations made worst by our choices of leaders in government?

As we close the Christmas Season before going into Ordinary Time tomorrow, let us not remain children but become adults like Jesus Christ when baptized at Jordan by John.

After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:21-22
Photo by author, Ubihan River, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

Jesus as “one of us”, present among us

All four evangelists have their particular emphasis in narrating the baptism of Jesus at Jordan by John. For this year, we look into Luke’s version that celebrates the anointing and royal investiture of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

Though there is no need for him to be baptized, Christ’s baptism at Jordan signified his solidarity with us sinners making us share in the gift of the Spirit he had received on that day, making each of us a “beloved child” of God with whom he is well pleased!

First thing we notice with Luke’s baptism account is the Lord being incognito during the baptism by John. There were no conversations or “debate” with John as Jesus was readily presented as among the crowd. It is a beautiful imagery by Luke of the Christ always present but unknown among us.

Jesus being with the people in Jordan River reminds us that Christmas does not mean only of him remaining a child lying in a manger because part of this season’s story is how he grew up and matured in wisdom and spirit in Nazareth, Galilee before embarking on his ministry and mission.

Imagine the Lord joining the sinners like tax collectors, soldiers, and perhaps with some prostitutes going to John for baptism without any special treatment whatsoever. From the very start, Jesus had been eating and conversing, interacting and living with sinners that include us today.

Photo by author of sisters posing along the Israeli border near Al-Maghtas in Jordan, the site where Jesus was baptized, May 2019.

His being immersed in Jordan River (that has always been dirty according to our pilgrimage guide) with the sinful people was a testament of his love and kindness for us without any hints of being judgmental to anyone. Whether we are in dire situations or in the midst of sins and evil or darkness and sufferings, we can always find Jesus standing with us, one with us, even reaching out to us. All we need is to be matured enough to open our eyes and our hearts like the people around him to admit we need conversion, we need God.

Second thing we immediately notice with Luke’s baptism account is Jesus at prayer when the heaven opened and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him with a voice declaring, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”.

One distinct characteristic of Luke’s gospel is presenting Jesus always at prayer. In fact, all major events in his life in Luke’s gospel are always preceded by prayer, part of his artistry in teaching us about the importance of prayer.

Here in the baptism of Jesus at Jordan, we are reminded that prayer always precedes every divine revelation. Recall also during the Feast of the Holy Family a day after Christmas last year when we heard Luke’s account of the finding of Jesus at the temple when he told Mary how he must be at his “Father’s house” – of being one and united with the Father especially through prayer! The Christmas story is an everyday reality that happens with those who mature in their faith in Christ in prayers.

Prayer is more than the recitation of prayers and novenas nor of keeping a devotion; prayer is oneness with God. See that after narrating to us the baptism of Jesus at Jordan, Luke tells us the Lord’s genealogy traced back to “Adam the son of God”(Lk.3:38). Unlike Matthew who began his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Luke puts his version of the Lord’s genealogy in the context of baptism at Jordan to show us Christ’s eternal birth in God. And this we all share in our Baptism, in our faith we nurture and celebrate daily in our prayer life.

The sad thing with our Christmas celebrations, along with that of the Holy Week, is how we immediately lose sight of the meanings of our feasts and devotions meant to make our lives centered on God. It is good to be led and carried by the signs of our liturgy but these were meant to inculcate in us, to deepen in us our relationship with God expressed through our relations with others which is what spirituality is all about.

This invites us today on this Feast of the Lord’s Baptism along with that of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo to examine our level of maturity in Jesus Christ whom we religiously and devoutly remember and celebrate during Christmas and Good Friday, the two most prominent dates of the Lord’s feasts tied up in this month of January.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, 09 January 2020.

Like Jesus Nazareno, we are consecrated to God

As we have mentioned at the start of our reflection, this is a most unique Sunday when we celebrate together two Christ feasts – the Lord’s Baptism and the Traslacion in Quiapo – with the former signaling the closing of Christmas and the latter as the most popular Christ devotion in the country.

Both feasts show us an adult Jesus in Christmas, especially the Black Nazarene of Quiapo.

When Matthew spoke of the Holy Family residing in Nazareth so that what the prophets spoke might be fulfilled that “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Mt.2:23), the evangelist was not referring to the Lord’s place of origin.

Nazareth is the only town in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament to be of significance unlike Bethlehem. The word “Nazoraios” or Nazarene mentioned by Matthew refers to the overall designation of Jesus by the prophets as the hope and fulfillment of God’s promise that there shall come forth a “shoot from the stump of Jesse” (Is. 11:1). Shoot in Hebrew is from the word nezer which is also the context used by Isaiah in chapters 7 and 9 found in Isaiah 11:1 cited by Matthew.

If we add that in the inscription above the Cross, Jesus is called ho Nazoraios (cf. Jn.19:19), then the title acquires its full resonance: what at first sight refers simply to his origin, actually points to his essence: he is the “shoot,” he is the one completely consecrated to God, from his mother’s womb to the day of his death.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pp. 117-118.

Now we get a complete picture of an adult Jesus Christ at the closing of Christmas Season.

Truly an Emmanuel, God-with-us, whom we so often fail to recognize journeying with us in life specially at its most difficult moments because we continue to refuse to grow and deepen in our spiritual maturity in him in prayers.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the first reading telling us “Here is your God! Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care” (Is.40:9, 11).

Let us heed the calls by St. Paul in the second reading that we “reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and our savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13).

Have a blessed and safe week ahead, everyone! Amen.

Photo from Google.com.

Loved and touched by God

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 07 January 2022
1 John 5:5-13   ><}}}'> + ><}}}'> + ><}}}'>   Luke 5:12-16
Photo by Mr. Howie Severino of GMA-7 News, 2018, Taal, Batangas.

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately.

Luke 5:12-13
Dearest Lord Jesus,
today I pray for the many other
people living "full of leprosy" 
among us - people separated from 
the rest of us because of so many 
reasons like the poor and homeless 
and others living in the margins 
of the society, people we have 
ostracized because of afflictions we
are ignorant of like those with AIDS/HIV,
the drug dependents, the ex-convicts who 
could not reintegrate in the society and 
others we simply do not want to deal with
because they are different from us in color 
and beliefs.  Worst, even in our own circles
of family and friends, there are some people
we treat like lepers - persons supposed to
be dear to us yet we always hurt, betrayed
and unkind to.  
So many people these days
are living like those people "full of leprosy"
during your time who are not welcomed at all
in the society and in their family.
Use us, Jesus, use our hands,
our arms, our limbs, our total selves
to "touch" them, to make them experience
your love not just an a concept or an
idea up in the air but a reality one could
really feel like touching.
Let us be more loving, Lord Jesus, like you
who would love sincerely so that the lepers
among us may feel your touch and embrace;
so many people are totally unaware of what
is to be touched by God because so many
of us you have blessed have become so
selfish and self-centered, many among us
are turning away from you, refusing 
to believe in you, denying your reality 
as truly divine and truly human, 
a God detached from 
humanity.
Touch us again, Jesus,
awaken our senses to
overcome all the indifferences
and cynicisms afflicting us 
so we begin touching others
too with your love and kindness.
Amen.

Love and be free

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday After the Epiphany of the Lord, 06 January 2022
1 John 4:19-5:4   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 4:14-22
Photo by Ms. Nikki A. Vergara at Victoria, Laguna, 2020.
Dearest God our Father, 
let us love, love, and love
so that we may be free;
the deeper we love, 
more we become free for 
you and others too!

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

1 John 5:3-4
How funny it is, Father,
when we keep on turning 
away from you, rejecting your
commandments Jesus had 
summarized to loving you and
loving others, thinking we could
be free if we separate from you
and your precepts; but, the opposite
happens every time we turn away
from you and your laws!
The more we become empty
and lost; most of all, burdened
with sin and guilt.
Deepen our love for you
and in you, loving Father
through Jesus Christ; let us
immerse ourselves into your words,
let us masticate your words
to extract its power that liberates
us in every here and now 
to experience true freedom
to love you, O God, and love
others as brothers and sisters
in Christ.  Amen.

Love and you shall see

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 05 January 2022
1 John 4:11-18   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Mark 6:45-52
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
Dearest God our Father,
let us love, love, and love
one another so that we may
see you more in each other;
the more we love, the more we
see everyone and everything in
life.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

1 John 4:11-12
Take away our stony hearts
and give us natural hearts
that beat firm faith, vibrant
hope and unceasing charity
and love; perfect our love
to drive away our many fears
especially the fear of getting
hurt because of love.
Soften our hearts, Jesus,
to find you in every good thing
happening in us and around us; 
let our love be genuine and pure 
to find you coming to us amid 
every storm in life; send us your 
Holy Spirit to perfect our love
so we may have the confidence 
and vision of you on judgment day.
Amen.

An epiphany of love

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday after the Epiphany, 04 January 2022
1 John 4:7-10   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 6:34-44
Photo by author at Liputan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.”

Mark 6:35-37
What a very moving moment,
Lord Jesus of how your heart 
was moved with pity for the people,
of how it is to truly love one
another as taught by your beloved
disciple John in the first reading.
To love is to remain with someone 
when it is already late and dark;
to love is to stay with someone
in a deserted place, accompanying
others despite the many dangers;
to love, most of all, is to give others 
with food to eat even while in darkness
and in a deserted place!
O dear Lord, the numbers of COVID
infections are rising again; dark clouds
are looming above us again; people
are back into panic buying while 
many are back to worrying where to
find their means of livelihood amid
another series of restrictions to control
the spread of the pandemic.
In this another surge of COVID infections,
may we be an epiphany of your love to
others by practicing health protocols,
being mindful of the well being of others
so that the love of God may be revealed
in us.  Amen.

We belong to God

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 03 January 2022
1 John 3:22-4:6   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
Glory and praise to you,
dearest God our Father!
Thank you for your epiphany in
Jesus Christ; thank you for 
appearing to us in many ways
we so often fail to recognize 
because we have not been wise enough
like those Magi from the east by truly
searching you first before the things
of the world.
Teach us to keep your commandments,
Lord, by "believing in the name of your
Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another
just as he commanded us" (1 Jn.3:23).
Teach us also to "do not trust every spirit
but test the spirits to see whether they
belong to you, O God" (1 Jn.4:1); 
let your Spirit lead us closer to Jesus 
your Son for we belong to you, loving God!

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the Sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled.

Matthew 4:12-14
Whoever belongs to you, dear God
recognizes and obeys your Son Jesus; 
give us the humility to repent our sins
and be cleansed by your mercy and
forgiveness in Christ so we may begin 
this new year fully in him.  Amen. 

New year, new directions

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday After January 1, Epiphany of the Lord, 02 January 2022
Isaiah 60:1-6 ><]]]'> Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 ><]]]'> Matthew 2:1-12
From Google.com.

Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare is called EDSA for Epifanio delos Santos Avenue.  Its namesake is a famous scholar from the province of Rizal whose name means “manifestation” or “appearance” from the Greek epiphanes

EDSA today may be considered as the epiphany of everything wrong in the country, from government inefficiency to people lacking in discipline and patriotism.  Mention the word EDSA and you feel sad and gloomy all of a sudden.

But, the Epiphany we celebrate today brings joy and jubilation because it is the manifestation of the universal kingdom of Jesus Christ to the pagans symbolized by the magi from the East.

After the octave of Christmas on January 1, Epiphany reminds us on this joyous season of Christmas that while deep within each one of us is a natural search or inclination for God, it is actually God who looks for us and eventually finds us.

It is always a grace from God that we desire him and his grace is doubled even tripled when we are like the magi who search and follow God in his “epiphanies”!

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Matthew 2:1-3
The Magi with baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Source: Henry Siddons Mowbray / Public domain

Nobody really knows for sure where and who were those magi who looked and came for the Child Jesus at Bethlehem. They are called kings as attested from our first reading, “Rise up in splendor!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you… Nations shall walk by your light; kings by your shining radiance.  Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord” (Is.60:1, 4, 6). 

From this part of Isaiah’s prophecy we also got that picture of the three wise men traveling as kings from the farthest parts of the world of that time riding on camels to show how everyone, from the most most powerful to the simplest of men and women of the world recognize Jesus as the King of Kings. 

At the start of this new year 2022, our third year in this COVID-19 pandemic, we are invited to be wise like the magi to search for that Bethlehem where we could find rest and comfort, solace and consolation in the newborn king Jesus Christ. It takes a wise person to search for Jesus – and a wiser person to lead others to Him! 

The Epiphany of the Lord reminds us that Christ came to the world to be the fulfillment of everyone and He had become human like us in everything except sin so we can find Him easily right within us, there in our hearts where he is born everyday, where he dwells.

Every new year, every day is a new beginning in Jesus, a day of his epiphany leading us to him. The wise men coming from the East where the sun rises show us Epiphany as a new beginning in our lives, representing our inner journey in life to find and follow Jesus Christ. 

From Google.com.

It is said life is a journey; but, as a journey, life is more of a direction than a destination. So often in life, it is really the trip that matters most, the people we journey with as companions that make our life so meanignful.

What matters most in life is we keep on following Jesus Christ our light, our star.  That is direction, where He is leading us.  It never stops.  We just keep on following Him until we reach our final destination in heaven for we are all “coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). 

This direction we have to follow in life never stops for the discovery of God is not the end but the beginning of a journey.  And in this journey in Jesus Christ, we do not simply go as followers but are expected to eventually become believers too.  Matthew noted at the end of the gospel today how the magi “departed for their country by another way” (Mt. 2: 12) to show how they have become believers eventually of Christ.  Their lives have changed and must have never been the same as before after finding Jesus because they have believed, so unlike Herod and the experts at Jerusalem who knew everything about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem but refused to believed him. 

This is the danger with us today:  many Christians today are mere followers but not wise enough to be believers of Christ.

We all dream to be fulfilled in life.  And every lofty dream is always from above, from God as Matthew told us this Christmas the dreams of Joseph and now the dream of the magi.  It is said that those who dream with their eyes wide open are the real dreamers, the trailblazers who change the world.  That is because they did not only believe in their dreams and with themselves but most of all, they believed in God. 

On this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, He is inviting us to dream and believe so that we may live fully in Him.  Every day is a new beginning to search and follow and believe Jesus Christ our light.  Today we are given with over 350 days to begin anew in Jesus.  Be wise.  Search Him.  Follow Him.  Believe Him.  Happy Epiphany of the Lord! Amen. 

Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauyan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

Welcoming the New Year with Mary

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 01 January 2022
Numbers 6:22-27 ><]]]'> Galatians 4:4-7 ><]]]'> Luke 2:16-21
Photo by author, sunset at Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

If there is any Christian and Catholic way of welcoming every new year, the liturgy teaches us today a very valuable lesson often overlooked by many through the years especially in our country where it is so difficult to eradicate totally the use of fireworks and firecrackers that are not only fatal and dangerous but also dirty and so pagan.

Recall that the Masses on the evening of the 31st of December and the first day of January are not for the new year – so, please stop those parish announcements “Mass for the New Year”! What we celebrate every evening of December 31 and January 1 is the “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God” which is the Eighth Day of the Christmas octave. The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is part of the Christmas season that is why I insist we keep on greeting each other with “Merry Christmas” until its closing day on the Baptism of the Lord (January 09, 2021).

Why do we spend so much time counting the days until Christmas when right away we stop greeting Merry Christmas on December 26 and replace it with Happy New Year? Is it not crazy and insane? We had our new year on the first Sunday of Advent; let us continue the “romance” of this most wonderful day of the year with our “Merry Christmas” greetings. In fact, in the old calendar, there are 12 days of Christmas (yeah, the song!) until the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord that used to be fixed every January 6.

But that is another topic we shall discuss in another piece… for now, let us meditate on how Mary welcomed the new year, the new phase in her life as Mother of God, Jesus Christ.

“The Adoration of the Shepherds”, a painting of the Nativity scene by Italian artist Giorgione before his death in 1510. Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.

Luke 2:16-17

Mary went in haste for the Lord

We are familiar with the popular proverb that “haste makes waste” because doing things too quickly leads to mistakes that result in greater losses in time, effort, and materials. Even the saints have always cautioned us that haste is the biggest enemy of growth in spirituality.

However, during Christmas season, we find something so good with making haste – when it pertains to the things of God like when Mary went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judah and when shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem after being told by the angels of the birth of Christ as we have heard in the gospel today.

Haste is not totally that bad at all.

If there is one thing that merits haste in us, it must be the things of God. Why, when we pray and say, “O God come to my assistance”, we respond with “O Lord make haste to help me”? Because God always hasten to come to us even before we have called him! But, who among us these days make haste where the things of God are concerned?

How sad that we rush to everything and everyone except to Jesus our Lord and God! In less than a week, we have gone back to over 1000 infections of COVID as people rushed to the malls and places of interests, forgetting all about the pandemic! More sad is the fact so many people have been in making haste to these days for the more mundane things without even spending some quality time in the church to pray.

This 2022, let us be quick to God and prayers, be cautious with things of the world. That is the lesson of COVid-19: all these years we have been in haste to get rich and famous, to produce so much but we have neglected going to God, to feeding our souls, to spending time with our loved ones. For so long we have kept many people waiting until COVID-19 came and quickly took them without warning at all.

Before the shepherds went in haste to see the newborn Jesus, there was Mary in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Let us go in haste always in the Lord for he has so many things in store for us as the shepherds and Elizabeth realized.

From forwarded cartoon at Facebook, December 2019.

All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Luke 2:18-19

Mary meditating in silence

It is very interesting that Luke had told us how people were amazed at what the shepherds spoke about that night on the birth of the Christ, the Infant Jesus they have found on a manger with his Mother Mary and her husband Joseph. Keep in mind that the shepherds were among the least trusted people of that time but their story went “viral” and “trending” so to speak.

And amid all these talks was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, silently meditating everything in her heart!

That is the most Christian and Catholic way of welcoming the new year – silent prayer like adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the evening Mass on December 31. We look back for the blessing of the past year as we silently listen to God’s instructions and divine plans for us this new year. We are his children, not slaves as St. Paul reminded us in the second reading.

This first day of 2022, let us have some silent moments with the Lord Jesus. Simply listen and wait for his words. He always have something to tell us but we always go in haste somewhere else or to somebody else. Jesus is right there in our hearts, the faintest voice you always dismiss and take for granted.

This 2022, let us cultivate to have a prayer life like Mary who always kept in her heart the words and experiences she had with Jesus. Let us not be like the shepherds who were there only at Christmas, never came back to Jesus specially when he was preaching in Galilee and when crucified on Good Friday wherein his constant companion in silence was Mary his Mother.

Photo by author, 24 December 2019.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:21

The faith of Mary

Like us when Mary gave birth to Jesus on that first Christmas, she was totally unaware of what was in store for her, of what would happen to her Son. She was totally unaware of what would happen in the future. The only thing she was certain was the name to be given to her child, Jesus which means “God is my Savior”.

As I have told, ushering the new year with all those loud firecrackers and fireworks are pagan practices.

All blessings come only from God, not from any other spirits.

We drive all the malas and bad spirits and negative vibes of the past year not with noises and blasts of trumpets or fireworks but with silence that is rooted in deep faith in Christ Jesus.

Such was the attitude of Mary on that first Christmas until her glorious Assumption into heaven: she never knew Jesus would be betrayed by one of his trusted friends and apostles. She was never told by the angel how after Jesus would feed and heal so many people that he would later be arrested and crucified like a criminal but believed in him until the end, remaining with Christ at the foot of the Cross.

All Mary had was a deep faith in Jesus as told her by the angel as the name to be given to her child is also the child of the Most High.

There is no need for us to consult fortune tellers nor feng-shui masters to look into the future and tell us how it is going to be this 2022. No matter how easy or difficult this new year may be, only one thing is certain – Jesus Christ is with us and will remain with us even if we abandon him or turn away from him for he is the only Lord and Savior of mankind. Let us keep our faith in him alone – and not to round fruits nor stones nor other stuffs peddled to us to bring luck this new year.

Let us imitate Mary, the Mother of God, so human like us except in sin who was always in haste with things of God, silently meditating his words and workings, and most of all, trusting wholly in her Son Jesus. Amen.

Photo by author, sunset at Liputan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

A prayer for 2022

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Sixth Day within the Octave of Christmas, 30 December 2021
1 John 2:12-17  ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 2:36-40
Photo by author, 18 November 2021 at San Fernando, Pampanga.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2:39-40
God our loving Father, 
we are now about to complete 
another blessed year to meet 
another one more blessed;
thank you for the year 2021, 
for its bountiful grace and lessons
learned; for the gift of life, for the gift
of family and friends still with us.
Thank you also for all the pains and
hurts specially brought by COVID-19
to many of us; at least, we have 
realized our weaknesses and most of
all, the we love and needed to be loved.
And so, dear God, we pray like your
Son Jesus Christ after being presented
to the Temple, we may not only grow strong
physically and materially in 2022 
but most of all, that we may grow spiritually
to be filled with your wisdom so we may grow 
deeper in your favor; teach us to be like 
your prophetess Anna to cultivate a deep 
prayer life, seeking and patiently waiting 
for your voice and directions
to take in life this coming new year.
Let us heed St. John the Beloved's
warning that "the world and its enticement
are passing away.  But whoever does the
will of God remains forever" (1Jn.2:17).
Amen.