The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs, 02 June 2021
Tobit 13:1-11, 16-17 ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*> Mark 12:18-27
Jesus said to them,
"He is not God of the dead
but of the living.
You are greatly misled."
Forgive us, O God our Father, for always crying out to you when life is so tough and difficult, so unbearable that we beg you for death to end our sufferings. Despite our deep faith as we strive to be holy in our prayer life and charity, sometimes like Tobit and Sarah in the first reading we get the wrong impression death is the only way out of our miseries, forgetting that you are the God of the living.
We forget to widen our horizons, to see beyond what is tangible that we get stuck with everything that is wrong, with our failures and mistakes, and with our sins.
We forget the people who love us, our family and friends who love us so much, trying their very best to console us, to help us, and to care for us like in this time of pandemic.
We forget that when life is full of tests, it is always silent and even dark but it does not mean you have left us – on the contrary, that is when you are most closest to us, even carrying us in your loving arms, dying for us like Jesus Christ your Son.
Instead of asking for death when in misery, teach to pray to find a way out of it alive with you! Teach us, O Lord, to pray to celebrate life because it is always good to be alive. Knock us off to our senses like Sarah to rediscover the value and beauty of life even when things are not going according to our plans.
"Blessed are you, O Lord,
merciful God and blessed
is your holy and honorable name.
Blessed are you in all your works forever!"
Life is so difficult these days, Lord, taking its toll even to our emotional and psychological well-being that so many among us are already losing hope and meaning in life.
Give us the grace like that of your martyrs St. Marcellinus and St. Peter who looked for opportunities to give witness to you with their faith and courage during their time of persecution in Rome that they were able to convert their jailer and his entire family.
We pray for those those wishing death these days like those who are sick, those who have lost loved ones during this pandemic, those without money and work, and those so stressed out. Let us bring your light and smiles to others feeling desperate these days, Lord. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Second Week of Easter, 12 April 2021
Acts 4:23-31 ><)))*> + <*(((>< John 3:1-8
Jesus answered Nicodemus,
"Do not be amazed that I told you,
'You must be born from above.'
The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know
where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Lord Jesus Christ, like Nicodemus in the gospel today, we continue to be amazed amid the darkness surrounding us at this time of the pandemic. Enlighten us as we grapple in the darkness of this experience so surreal and unreal.
Many among us feel at a loss, many are losing hope, many are angry, and more are suffering, grieving in pain after losing a loved one.
Clear our minds and our hearts, dear Jesus. Break all barriers that prevent us from finding you, from embracing you, and following you. Let us see your wounds left by the nail marks on your hands and the side pierced by a lance so we may experience your presence in us with the wounds we now bear.
Rekindle the fire and intensity of the Baptism we have received and renewed this Easter Season.
Reawaken our zeal and stimulate us like Peter and John after being released from prison in the first reading to set our sights to the directions and ideal toward which we must strive at the moment with open hearts and confidence in the possibilities granted by the Holy Spirit.
Give us the courage to trust God wherever he is leading us in the Holy Spirit so we may properly respond to the challenges of this pandemic.
Oh, yes..! We are ready, Lord Jesus Christ, to answer God’s call through the Holy Spirit to lead us to new directions in life beginning today. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday within the Octave of Easter, 07 April 2021
Acts of the Apostles 3:1-10 <*(((>< + ><)))*> Luke 24:13-35
When the crippled man saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, "Look at us." He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk." Then Peter took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles grew strong. (Acts 3:3-7)
Praise and glory to you, our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, in sharing with us your victory and glory over sin and death, sickness and powerlessness. In joining us in our humanity in all of its aspects except sin, you have made us share in your divinity at Easter.
Like Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate that afternoon, fill us with your presence and power, love and mercy to uplift and empower our brothers and sisters afflicted with sickness and other burdens that drag them down, unable to rise again to experience life anew.
Give us the courage to tell people to look at us and find you like that crippled man you have healed through Peter and John.
Moreover, let us look at your face, look for what will unite us than divide us, look at your light than at the world’s darkness and shadows so we may look for Easter especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Remove the pessimism and cynicism growing among us in this worsening pandemic.
Ignite the flames of faith, hope and love within us so our eyes may be opened to see you again walking with us in this journey.
Cleanse us of our biases and prejudices, as well as of our expectations and other personal beliefs so we may see you most especially when we are treading the wrong path to our Emmaus of sunset and defeat.
That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him. (Luke 24:13-16)
O dear Jesus, may welook at Easter on the face of everyone you send us and at every situation we find ourselves into so we may lead and guide others to you.
May we see and recognize you most of all in the darkness enveloping us this time of crisis so that eventually, we may come together in the breaking of bread and sharing of our very selves to others blinded by the calamities that have fallen upon us. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 14 March 2021
We are now halfway through to celebrating another Easter amid the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic worsening anew with a recent surge in infections. But today’s Sunday readings especially the gospel give us so many reasons to celebrate and rejoice for the gift of life and love, light and hope in Jesus Christ who had come not to condemn us but to save us (Jn.3:16-17).
By his dying on the Cross, Jesus had opened a path for us back to the Father by uplifting us from our sins and miseries, becoming our light that dispelled the many darkness that enveloped us if we follow him with our sacrifices and efforts to be good like him (https://lordmychef.com/2021/03/13/the-joy-of-lent-4/).
This we find in our gospel story of Jesus conversing with Nicodemus under the cover of darkness of the night, reminding us of the 1982 hit Up Where We Belong by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes from the equally smash hit movie of that year, “An Officer and A Gentleman” starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger.
The movie is also interesting for us because of some references to the Philippines with the opening scenes of Zack played by Gere growing up with his father who was a Navy officer assigned at the Subic Naval Base.
Like Nicodemus in the gospel, Zack had so many darkness within him following his mother’s suicide and his living with his father who initially refused to take him, afraid he would not be a good father after separating from his mother earlier in childhood. After graduation in college, Zack went to train to become a Naval aviator where he encountered more darkness in life especially from their tough and hard-driving Marine training officer played by Louis Gosset Jr. that earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film (the first African-American male to do so).
More instances of darkness in Zack were also shown in the film like the suicide of a fellow trainee and friend whose marriage proposal was rejected when his girlfriend learned he had left Naval training. Zack almost quit his training because of that but was prevailed upon by Gosset after an unsanctioned fight bout.
After graduation, Zack went to see his girlfriend at work (Debra Winger), declaring his love for her. And when she said yes to his love, they kissed, after which he carried her in his arms as he walked out of the factory while her co-workers clapped their hands in a round of applause.
The scene is so touching, so lovely. And that is when Jennifer and Joe began their duet.
Who knows what tomorrow brings In a world few hearts survive All I know is the way I feel When it’s real, I keep it alive
The road is long There are mountains in our way But we climb a step every day
Love lift us up where we belong Where the eagles cry On a mountain high Love lift us up where we belong Far from the world below Up where the clear winds blow
Some hang on to used to be Live their lives looking behind All we have is here and now All our lives, out there to find
The road is long There are mountains in our way But we climb a step every day
Love lift us up where we belong Where the eagles cry On a mountain high Love lift us up where we belong Far from the world we know Where the clear winds blow
The song is very Lent, in fact very spiritual that some Christian stations in the States have reportedly adapted it into some religious variations as it speaks so well of overcoming every obstacle in life with determination and perseverance. And of course, with a lot of help and light from above, Jesus Christ. Have a joyful and blessed week ahead, everyone!
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, Memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin, 08 February 2021
Genesis 1:1-19 >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*> Mark 6:53-56
I know dearest, Lord, my prayer sounds like a song but on this first day of work, I wish to pray for all those living in darkness, for those whose lives are in disarray due to so many reasons like being misled by others or left out on their own weaknesses.
So many people today are living in the darkness of sin, darkness of addiction, darkness of failures, darkness of diseases and sickness, and darkness of social evils that continue to denigrate every person’s dignity and honor.
Despite all of these darkness and evil in the world, you never stop, O God, to bring light and grace through Jesus your Son like in the story of creation.
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” Thus evening came, and morning followed — the first day.
This you have proven so many times in everyone’s life, most especially in St. Josephine Bakhita of Sudan whose memorial we celebrate today.
Kidnapped and sold to slavery when she was only seven years old in Darfur, Sudan around 1876, St. Josephine went through so much physical and emotional sufferings that she had forgotten her true name after being resold to many different masters until finally to the Italian consul in Khartoum, Callino Legasti.
Legasti brought her to Venice and gave her to his friend as her new master, Augusto Michielli who made her a babysitter to his daughter Mimmina who was then receiving catechetical instructions for baptism. While babysitting the young Michielli, she felt drawn to the Catholic faith, eventually getting baptized and confirmed in 1880, adopting the name Josephine. Her ordeals did not end with her becoming a Catholic until all conflicts in her were resolved by the Italian court in 1885, declaring her free from slavery. In 1893 she entered the Canossian Sisters excelling in service and charity not only among the poor and suffering they served but even among her fellow religious. She was canonized by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in 2000.
Sometimes in life, we have to cross as in today’s gospel great seas of challenges and sufferings, go through many darkness so we may arrive at the light of brand new days in Jesus Christ.
Help us to trust in you always, Lord Jesus, so we may get out of the many darkness of our lives. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 06 January 2021
1 John 4:11-18 <*(((><< + >><)))*> Mark 6:45-52
He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.
So many times, Lord, our hearts are hardened like your Apostles’: hardened by so many fears and anxieties due to our lack or weak faith in you; hardened by anger and disappointments and failures in the past we cannot let go, festering our hearts and everything we have inside our very selves.
Our hearts are hardened too by our disbelief and doubts, even mistrust in you, dear Lord Jesus. Most of the time, our hearts are hardened when like the Apostles we see only the surface of things that happened, failing to see their deeper meaning, of your immense love and care for us.
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. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit.
1 John 4:11-13
Our hearts are hardened, dear Jesus, because we have refused to love, love truly from within without the need to always hug and kiss one another or give gifts that eventually add up to the clatter inside our house, office or school.
Sometimes all we need is just a break from the daily grind so we may see and appreciate our loved ones too by opening our hearts to them, caring for those lost, for those having difficulties in life these days.
How wonderful was the beloved disciple to have constructed his sentence in such a holy arrangement, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.”
Instead of loving You, O God who so loved us, he beautifully declared, we also must love one another. To love You, dear God, is to love the person next to me. And the more we love, the more we see Your coming to us, dispelling all our fears in the darkness and storm.
Let our hearts be softened today with your love, Lord, a love that is free and not afraid to reach out to others. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Fifth Day in the Octave of Christmas, 29 December 2020
1 John 2:3-11 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Luke 2:22-35
As we leave 2020 and approach the new year, we pray dear Jesus to let us walk and live in your light of love. Your beloved disciple is right in saying that it is not enough that we know you in our minds, in our intellect; that we must keep most of all your commandments.
Whoever says he is in the light, yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother remains in the light, and there is nothing in him to cause a fall. Whoever hates his brother is in darkness; he walks in darkness and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1 John 2:9-11
How sad, O Lord, that these days everybody is claiming to be speaking of the truth, of having the light, of knowing you and yet all they do is spread lies and animosities among people, instead of bringing together they draw us apart from each other.
And worst, is how many of those in authorities disregard the laws of the land, selecting only to follow whatever suits their personal needs and agenda.
We pray, O Lord, to please end this darkness looming above us. Enlighten the perpetrators and supporters of all these lies and inanities being spread by those in powers.
Purify us with your light and law of love, of loving like you even if we have to suffer and die for what is true, just, and good.
Give us the courage to abide always in you, sweet Jesus, to remain faithful to what is true and just. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Christmas 2020 Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
A blessed Merry Christmas to you, my dear Reader! As I have been telling you these past weeks, this Christmas may be the bleakest and saddest we have in our lifetime due to the pandemic but at the same time it may be our most meaningful of all. Consider the following:
We may have less material things this Christmas, but we have more spiritual values
like faith, hope, and love along with kindness, compassion, and tenderness;
We may have less of ourselves but finally, we have more of others,
Most of all, we may have less of all the trimmings of the season
to have more of the Reason, Jesus Christ our everything!
Last Holy Week and Easter, I have told you that while we were so sad in the midst of a strict lockdown when COVID-19 hit us so bad, Jesus must be more sad than us with what we were going through at that time.
However, while many of us may still be sad this Christmas, Jesus must be happy not for our misery but because finally, He can have us completely as we continue to learn the many lessons of the pandemic, of finding the more important and essential and valuable in life.
But, can He finally have us completely this Christmas 2020 and hereafter?
How sad and alarming that after nine months in the pandemic, many of us have gone back to our old ways of not praying, not celebrating Sunday Mass, and worst, still emotionally distant from God and others.
Christmas is Jesus reminding
us life is precious because it is fragile;
He came to us an infant born in precarious
situations like us.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
If Luke were to write the gospel today, he would have surely mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic that has greatly altered our lives in less than a year. And that is the good news of Christmas: Jesus comes to us in the most trying time of our lives like 2000 years ago when He was born in Bethlehem.
See the beautiful contrast presented by Luke: the powerful Caesar Augustus of the Roman empire and the true King of kings being born like any infant in a manger for there was no room for them in the inn.
Yes, in our time there are so many women delivering their babies in difficult situations even worst like those fleeing their own countries due to wars and persecution. Here we find the Son of God from the moment of his birth had experienced the uncertainty and insecurity we ourselves are into. I have always told in my funeral Masses how easy it is these days to just die and pass away: recall the people we knew who simply died from COVID-19 and other sickness this year alone. Everybody says the difficulty of seeking medical attention due to the corona virus.
But that is how life is truly is: it is most precious because it is fragile, precarious, so delicate like an infant and a child.
That is what Jesus is showing us in coming to us born as an infant, in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloth: the all-powerful and mighty God and King asking us to be tender and kind with Him born among everyone of us.
I love Zechariah’s description of God’s mercy in his Benedictus or canticle to God after he regained his speech when he confirmed the name of his son John:
“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
And that is perhaps one of the things we sorely miss so much these days from everyone, tender compassion. The tender compassion, tender mercy of Jesus. Recall how during His ministry all four evangelists would narrate how Jesus was moved with pity and compassion to the people who were lost, tired and sick “like sheep without a shepherd” that no matter how tired He may be, He would always find time to teach them, heal their sick, and even feed them.
Like courage, tenderness or mercy is a movement in the heart called misericordia in Spanish from the Latin mittere, meaning to be moved, to be stirred that is why it is soft. It is something dynamic, not static. It is a deep feeling that moves toward someone in pain and suffering — an identification of Jesus right at the moment of His birth with every person going through so much hardships and sufferings in life.
Let God stir your hearts this Christmas, especially for the poor and the weak, for those closest to us we have taken for granted. Share the joy of the newborn Jesus by considering always the fragility of this life we have, of being kind, not hurting others physically or verbally. Enough with all the violence and brutality around us.
Christmas is Jesus coming to us
to affirm our very first love: God.
At the time of Jesus, rabbis used to teach that God had intervened in the history of the world during “four great nights”: the first night is the beginning of creation (Gen. 1); the second was when God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15); the third night was the liberation of Israel from Egypt or Exodus.
The fourth is the future one, the night when God will break all chains to put an end to all kinds of misery, to create a new world and begin His kingdom here on earth. For us Christians, Christmas is that fourth night when Jesus was born in Bethlehem as well as when He rose from the dead.
December 24 is always believed to be the darkest night of the year, the perfect setting of the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ so vividly presented to us by Luke in his Christmas story when he juxtaposed the misery of humanity (darkness) and the glory from high of angels announcing His birth.
What a mysterious exchange, an eternal presence of the Son of God entering into our history as a human like us in everything except sin.
See the paradox of his birth: poverty and glory when Jesus was born into destittion under the decree of the pagan emperor, childbirth far from home without any help to His Mother, and then honored by the lowest kind of people of his time , the shepherds yet glorified by the angels of heaven!
All of these to affirm to us humans that we are God’s first love!
We may be living in the darkness of the night with no clear sight yet of the end of this pandemic despite the discovery of a vaccine. Both the government and big businesses do not give a damn on the people, not even provide the basic services like good internet or efficient toll system. Violence and vile becoming a daily staple among those in power.
It is so dark indeed but the love of Christ Jesus can brighten and illumine even the darkest corners of our lives if we come to Him in firm and consistent faith like Mary His Mother. Christmas reminds us that the night has been overcome and conquered by the love of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Take note that Luke is the only evangelist who calls Jesus so often as “Savior”: 14 times in his gospel and at least 40 times in the Acts of the Apostles. Likewise, Luke insists in his Christmas story using the word “today” to show that God’s salvation continues to happen at this very moment because He loves us so much!
Let me end these reflections with a prayer as I tried to silence myself these past nine days of Simbang Gabi:
Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
Thank you for still coming, not only today but every day, in good times and in bad times.
Thank you for loving us in spite and despite our sinfulness, especially when we have no time for you, when we are so busy with so many other things we claim for our loved ones and sometimes, for you.
Despite the clouds of darkness above us, you continue to come to us, bringing light to dispel the many darkness especially in our hearts, in our relationships. So many times, we have lacked tenderness and mercy with one another despite our profession of faith and love for you.
In this time of COVID-19, help us go back to the basic truths and realities your birth and coming teach us: the value of our family, of simplicity, of humility, of smallness or littleness, of love and mercy, kindness and sincerity.
O dear sweet child Jesus, move our hearts to be kind and loving to others; to always be careful not to hurt you in every person we meet so they may realize despite the miseries of this world, there is always your glory, your salvation to anyone who trusts in you.
Bless us with your grace and truth, Jesus, so that through us, through our lives of witnessing, God may dwell upon us and be made known to everyone not only this Christmas but all year through.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 29 November 2020
I have been thinking of a song that speaks of darkness and light that best describes the Season of Advent. As I surfed YoutTube song with words like “night” and “darkness”, I stumbled upon this old classic and everyone’s favorite (those in our generation) with its unmistakable opening:
Hello, darkness my old friend...
Advent is from the Latin adventus that means coming or arrival. It is the start of the new year in our Church calendar made up of four Sundays meant to prepare us spiritually for Christmas.
This year, it is hoped that we take the Advent Season seriously by praying more, reflecting our lives and examining our conscience so we can have a meaningful Christmas this 2020 that will surely be bleak and dark due the pandemic.
And that is why I immediately felt Paul Simon’s The Sound of Silence as the perfect music this first Sunday of Advent when darkness is all around us with the pandemic and other calamities while also deep within each of us is another darkness like an illness or somebody with a serious ailment in the family, a lost job, or even death of a beloved.
In the bible, darkness is the realm of evil like when Jesus was betrayed by Judas on that Thursday evening at Gethsemane; however, with the coming of Jesus, darkness has become also the best time to believe in light! See how Jesus was born on the darkest night of the year, Christmas eve, to bring light to the world; likewise, it was during the darkness of the first day of the week when Jesus also rose from the dead on Easter.
It is in silence where we learn to be patient and vigilant, two virtues becoming so rare in our world that has come to live 24/7 in artificial lights many think to be the real thing.
Patience and vigilance are both fruits of prayer and expressions of our faith when we bear all pains and sufferings wide awake because we believe God is leading us to something good, something better and brighter.
In this song written by Paul Simon and first recorded with Art Garfunkel in 1965, we find silence that represents prayer and reflections helping us find the realities of life amid the many darkness surrounding us or even encroaching within us.
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
I have always loved these two stanzas, citing them in my teachings and sharing with students and young people to explain to them the value of silence and to befriend the many darkness we have in life. It is a paradox, a part of life’s mystery when we actually find its light and understanding in darkness which is also our starting point in clearing and dealing with all these darkness around and within us.
After the Lord’s supper on Holy Thursday, we find in the gospel how he brought his three apostles with him to Gethsemane to accompany him pray in agony while awaiting his betrayer. Jesus asked the three apostles to watch with him, to pray with him.
This Advent, Jesus is asking us to watch and pray with him so we remain focused in God, not to the neon gods we have made to overcome the many darkness of life.
If darkness is the realm of evil in the bible, silence is the realm of trust: even if life may be dark when we cannot see clearly, we go on in silence because we believe somebody sees better than us, leading us to light and better days.
Enjoy this classic again with family and friends. Have a blessed Sunday!
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B, 29 November 2020
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7 + 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 + Mark 13:33-37
A blessed happy new year to everyone as we begin today the new liturgical year of our Church calendar with the first Sunday of Advent. From the Latin word adventus for “coming”, Advent is a time meant to prepare us spiritually for Christmas.
And with all the problems and sufferings we have been going through this 2020 with the pandemic still around us in this joyous season of Christ’s coming, we hope that we make this Advent Season more serious so we may have a more meaningful Christmas, prepared for 2021 (see our recent blog, https://lordmychef.com/2020/11/23/surely-there-will-be-christmas-2020/)!
Like Lent, though in a less penitential mode, Advent is a time to pray and reflect on our lives and if possible, go to confessions to cleanse our hearts so Jesus may come and rest there like when he was born on a manger in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.
Our first reading today beautifully sets the mood for Advent 2020 in the midst of COVID-19 with a prayer so true with each one of us:
You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you…
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19
Advent is for new beginnings, for coming again.
Year 2020 is without doubt very difficult for everyone but it teaches us in the most unique way the essentials in life like God, family, friends, true self, and things like kindness, respect, thoughtfulness, simplicity, presence, and other niceties we have taken for granted for so long. It is about time that we recover these specially in Advent which is the season of new beginnings when we start anew in life.
And where do we start?
Right where we are, here in our darkness in the pandemic and within our hearts, far from God by beginning to pray anew to him so he may finally come and return to us!
The words by Prophet Isaiah in the first reading are so perfect at this time as if these were written only recently, expressing our true sentiments within: that we are sorry for having drifted far from Jesus and from others all these years, so focused with things and gadgets than with God and persons.
Our hearts have been too hard, distant from God and each other, so cold and so dark that we have become so insensitive, callous and numb or even without any conscience at all that in the midst of a pandemic, there are some who can still utter lies and malice with their hands also tainted with blood and corruption.
It is so sickening but, the more we pray and listen to our inner selves, we also find how this darkness has slowly encroached on us too, happening at different levels right in our own family circles, in our community, and even in our church maybe!
On bended knees, we humbly admit our need for God to intervene now – to rend the heavens – and bring us back to our senses and unto him, so we may finally find rays of hope, even a glimmer of light in this darkness we are into.
As we pray for the Lord’s advent or coming, we need to strive to be vigilant on our part as we patiently await him right in our hearts in this night of the pandemic and chaos going on.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”
Mark 13:33, 35-37
Though we live in darkness, we belong to Christ who is light himself!
Everywhere in the world, except Down Under perhaps, the Season of Advent always falls in that time of the year when the nights are longer and most of all, darkest as in winter experienced in the western hemisphere, including Europe.
In fact, Christmas Eve is the darkest night of the year, the date Christ was born to bring light and be the light of the world.
See how Jesus used the night as the time of the return of the “lord of the house” (who is himself, too) when everything is dark and difficult.
For the young generation today, it may mean nothing at all as they have grown accustomed to our 24/7 world where work continues into the night like during the day with offices and stores opened and public transportation readily available.
During the time of Jesus and even 30 years ago, we rarely travelled nor even went out past six in the evening because of the many dangers at night like criminal elements lurking for their preys and simply the difficult situation of seeing clearly the roads ahead. In the bible, darkness is the realm of evil and sin like Jesus being betrayed by Judas after their last supper while in Genesis, we find how in darkness was nothing but chaos until God created everything.
And there lies the good news of the night, of darkness, and of Advent: Jesus Christ as the light himself of the world comes to save us at night! It was before dawn when Jesus walked the waters of the Sea of Galilee to save his apostles while being tossed by giant waves in their small boat. It was also in the darkness of the night when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Yes, we all live in the night when darkness envelops us, even our hearts and very lives with so many problems and crises happening but we never lose hope, we never lose sight of that glimmer of light for we do not belong to the night but to Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
Advent is patient waiting for the Lord’s coming.
Night is the time when it is best to believe in the light. As one poet had said, “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” But, another unknown poet had also said that “Only the brave who dare to walk the darkest of nights shall see the brightness of the stars above.”
Our lives may be in darkness or even dark itself these days but we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist today even if the the Lord’s coming may be delayed because we know deep in our hearts that “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor.1:9).
One thing we need to pray for this season are patience and vigilance in awaiting his return during this darkness.
Patience is a virtue becoming so rare these days when everything is rushed as we live in a world of “instants” like instant gratification and, yes! — even instant vaccine against COVID-19 without us realizing its deep implications of calls for changes in the way of living and doing things in the world as individuals and as nations. From the Latin “patior” which is to bear all pains, patience is also believing that something better will happen in every sufferings we patiently endure.
Likewise, vigilance is more than being awake and prepared for any eventuality but an active waiting for someone or something by taking risks due also to a firm belief something better will come out of trying situations.
Patience and vigilance go together for both are fruits of real and hard prayer, expressions of deep faith in God.
On this first Sunday of Advent with clouds still turning dark with rains that have never stopped drenching us these past weeks, we continue to celebrate the Eucharist thanking God for our long-term faith in Christ’s Second Coming.
When we look back to those past nine months of darkness in this pandemic worsened by recent calamities and a clueless government since January, we actually gone far than we have expected.
Why? Because we have never lost hope from the little glimmers of lights God has sent us since the lockdown in March! We have survived and slowly, many of us are finding life’s deeper meanings and realities in God our Father.
Notice how in every patient waiting for Christ’s Second Coming in the midst of the many darkness in life, the Lord actually comes nearer to us, albeit slowly and unnoticeably?
That’s the beauty of Advent, new beginnings always happening for those patiently waiting in the Lord.
Let us be on guard during these long nights of darkness when temptations are strongest and so appealing. Like at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wants us to “watch” with him by praying to the Father so we may remain faithful and focused on him alone to soon find life in the dead of the night. Amen.