Each of us an “Emmanuel” too!

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Day 3, 18 December 2021
Jeremiah 23:5-8   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 1:18-25
Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, January 2018.

We have just concluded the “Year of St. Joseph” last December 8 but it seems due to the pandemic, we have not celebrated truly enough to realize the virtues and person of the most silent character in the New Testament, St. Joseph.

We find no story in the gospels with St. Joseph either speaking or conversing with anyone at all. At least the Blessed Virgin Mary conversed with the angel during the Annunciation and spoke to Jesus her Son upon finding him at the Temple and at the wedding feast at Cana. St. Joseph was totally silent and most of all, could sleep soundly despite the tremendous stress he must have gone through! Truly a man of great faith and trust in God!

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. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”

Matthew 1:18-20
Photo from vaticannews.va, December 2020.

Notice how Matthew presented the climax of his genealogy not only with the coming of Jesus Christ at the end but also in his lineage to St. Joseph he described as “a righteous man” and addressed by the angel in a dream as “son of David”.

In him we find that expression “silent water runs deep” so very true. Imagine the maturity and deep spirituality of St. Joseph being called as a righteous man or a holy man which for the Jews is one who obeys the Laws of Israel.

But in this scene of the Annunciation of Christ’s birth to him in a dream, Matthew goes deeper into what is to be holy as more than obeying the the Laws but most of all, abiding by the will of God always as described in many instances in the Old Testament like the Book of Psalms. If holiness were simply an adherence to the Laws, St. Joseph would have not decided to silently leave Mary found pregnant with a child not his; in their laws, she would have been shamed in public which St. Joseph avoided in trying to leave her silently. For him, higher than the letters of the law was the welfare and well-being of Mary and her Child that until then he did not know was the Christ.

At the same time, here we find the deep spirituality of St. Joseph: compared with Mary to whom the angel appeared and spoke in person while with St. Joseph, the angel appeared only in a dream. He had a more difficult situation discerning whether his dream was real or not, which we all experience upon waking up from a dream so real!

Only a man with deep spirituality, so attuned with God like St. Joseph could perceive the divine in fact while at the same time discern it as very true the will of God that “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus” (Mt.1:24-25).

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, mosaic of the Annunciation to Joseph at the Shrine of St. Padre Pio in San Giovanni di Rotondo, Italy, 2017.

In a very concise manner – like our very silent saint and foster father of Jesus – Matthew presents to us in this short story of the Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus to St. Joseph all the critical and essential elements about the mystery of the Incarnation.

As we have reflected yesterday at the genealogy, Matthew now goes deeper into the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of God. This he beautifully presented also through the person of St. Joseph, a reminder of the need for us to be vessels of God’s graces and instruments of God’s works.

St. Joseph showed in this brief scene the true meaning of holiness, of being whole by seeking to find ways to bring into unity their laws and love and persons, something which Jesus Christ would keep on elaborating in his entire ministry, like his favorite expression “Sabbath was created for man, not man for sabbath.”

See how he tried to give more importance to Mary whom he loved so much that he was intent in not putting her to shame and harm. And upon listening and discerning the angel’s message to him in a dream, he obeyed everything, showing us the unity of the laws in love long before Jesus came to show it on the Cross himself. In accepting God and Jesus, St. Joseph had to take Mary; and in taking Mary, Jesus came into the world.

Here we are challenged by the example of St. Joseph that we too become an Emmanuel in the sense that in our lives, we become the sign that God-is-with-us specially in this time of the pandemic and with coming elections next year. We need to pray more deeply and be attuned with God for his divine will that always takes unexpected turns, so different from our own ways and methods.

Photo by author, 15 December 2021.

To be an Emmanuel like Jesus and St. Joseph, one has to be definitely pro-life, one who values life and every person, regardless of his/her status in life.

Like St. Joseph, let us learn to be silent for God and be louder with our actions, always choosing and standing for life and for every person’s dignity.

Like St. Joseph, he chose from the very start the value of Mary as a person which is the hallmark of Jesus as Emmanuel, the God who became human to be with us because it is good to be human. Amen.

Buhayin mga Pangarap sa Panahon ng Kuwaresma

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-08 ng Marso 2021
Larawan kuha ni Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD sa Candaba, Pampanga, Pebrero 2021.
Ang buhay natin ay 
paulit-ulit na Kuwaresma
na sa atin ay nag-aanyaya
buhaying muli ating mga pangarap
upang bigyang katuparan
at tayo ay maging ganap;
mga mata ay ating idilat
muling tumanaw sa malayo
sikaping abutin ating mithiin,
magagandang adhikain huwag limutin;
huwag hayaang maging sagwil
pagkakasala at pagkakamali,
kabiguan at sakit ng nakaraan
kalimutan at lampasan 
matutuhan at tandaan
kanilang iniwang mga aral. 
Liparin ang himpapawirin
mga pangarap sa Panginoon ay hilingin
dahil tanging ibig Niya
kabutihan at kaganapan natin
kaya paanyaya Niya sa atin
 linisin kalooban at budhi natin
upang pagkatao dalisayin
palawakin yaring pananaw
hindi lamang paningin
na kung minsa'y makitid,
madalas ay madilim
kaya sa Panginoon idulog natin
mga gumugulo sa atin
upang Kanyang liwanagin
at hawiin mga tumatabing
upang sigla at sigasig panumbalikin.
Larawan kuha ni Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, sa Rhode Island, 07 Marso 2021.

Lent for dreamers

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 05 March 2021
*Homily as Chaplain of Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) and Fatima University Medical Center (FUMC) in Valenzuela.
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Contrary to a common belief by many, Lent is a season of joy because it is a preparation for Easter, the “mother of all feasts” in our Church.  Although this season calls for intense prayers, contrition of sin, fasting and abstinence, and alms-giving, Lent does not have to be sober nor somber. 

Jesus said to his disciples, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.  They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face…”

Matthew 6:16, 17

At the start of this season during Ash Wednesday, I have told you that life is a daily lent, a daily exodus from darkness into light, from sickness into health, from sin into grace and new life. 

During Lent, we are filled with joy as we await our little Easter celebrations in life when we finish all our papers or pass our exams, or achieve whatever goals we have set even in the midst of this pandemic. Lent is a joyful season because it is a celebration of our rising to new life in Jesus Christ.  It is therefore a time for us to dream again, to aspire for the best, to “Rise to the Top” as our motto says at Our Lady of Fatima University and Medical Center.

In our readings today are two great dreamers, Joseph the son of Jacob (aka, Israel) called “the Dreamer” and our Lord Jesus Christ, the one referred to as son of the vineyard owner in our gospel’s parable of the wicked tenants. 

How sad that in our time of social media that have saturated us with too much showbiz and entertainment, many people no longer dream big except to be rich and famous with a lot of money and many “followers”.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.
Importance of dreaming to become better persons

Lent invites us to dream big again, dream things that really matter in life like being good and holy, being a better person or “Improving Man as Man” minus all the arte and kikay things and porma we are so used to these days.

Yesterday I went to the mall to get my pair of glasses.  I was so surprised to see great crowds seated in about six rows of chairs at the hall with a another row snaking through Watson’s while a guard directed the flow of human traffic with his megaphone.  When I inquired at my optical shop about the crowd, I was shocked to learn that it was all due to a sale of cosmmetics!

I am not judging nor demeaning those people lining up for a sale of cosmetics but, should we not examine our priorities again in this time of pandemic?

When I was still assigned in our diocesan school in Malolos, I used to require my students at elementary to start dreaming what they would want to be when they grow up even while still in grade one.  I tell them to start dreaming while young.  No wonder there are so many young people about to enter college still not certain what course to take or even what to do with his/her life.  

Do not be afraid to dream like Joseph and Jesus or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr with his famous “I have a dream” speech. 

Photo by author, 2020.

Dream big, it is free!  Do not be affected by those without dreams and plans in life.  Watch out for them who may be even those closest to you like family and friends like the brothers of Joseph who “hated him so much that they would not even greet him” (Gen.37:4) he spoke to them of his many dreams in life.

Danger of not having a dream

People without dreams are people without vision, people who cannot see beyond the present moment and the physical realities. 

Helen Keller said “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” like the brothers of Joseph as well as the wicked tenants in the Lord’s parable who have no vision of things beyond this life. That is why they did not mind killing their own brother Joseph who was eventually sold or murdering the only son sent by the vineyard owner to collect his share of harvest. 

Here lies the evil of people without dreams in life:  they lack any concern at all to the value of person and of human life. 

People without vision, without plans in life, without dreams have no regard at all with others.  A dreamer is always one who thinks not only of the betterment of his life but also of others.  Dreamers are those who perfect themselves, who seek fulfillment in life, not just material things.  They think of how they can help others in need for they always seek the higher and deeper truths in life.  No wonder, dreamers are also merciful as we shall see how Joseph forgave his brothers for their grave sin against him.

Recently we have started our limited face-to-face classes in our College of Medicine because we are not contented waiting for things to happen, because we dream of something better even in the midst of a pandemic.  Dreamers make things happen, even against all odds like Joseph who never stopped dreaming in God after being sold to Egypt by his brothers.  The Dreamer eventually became the interpreter of the dream of the Pharaoh that led Egypt to adequately prepare itself for the great famine Joseph had predicted. It led to his rise to power and fame in Egypt that later became the fulfillment of his dream as a teenager when his brothers and father came to him to apologize and buy grains.

On Sunday, our graduates are taking the Physician Licensure Exam.  Let us pray for them to have the chance to fulfill their dreams of serving the people as doctors especially in this pandemic.  May they all pass the medical board exam with flying colors. 

It is not enough that we dream big for ourselves but we also share in others’ dreams because ultimately in the end, all our dreams lead us to God our fulfillment in life.  Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Lent is for dreaming again

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday of March, Second Week in Lent, 05 March 2021
Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28   ><}}}*> <*{{{><   Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Lately O Lord you have been consoling me with the shades and hues of Lent, providing much needed inspiration and enthusiasm to forge on amid the many trials I have been going through along with some loved ones hurdling great obstacles in life these days.

As we close another week, you have never stopped showering us with your immense love, dear Father, by inviting us to come to you to be forgiven and enlightened to set all things right again in our lives. No matter how dark or light are the various contrasts of daily life, there is always your Son Jesus Christ journeying with us.

On this first Friday of March, you invite us to dream again of great, good things in life: to dream again of being close to you, of being good, of being loving and loved, of being saved from our sins as we heard the story of Joseph in the first reading and the parable of the wicked tenants in the gospel referring to Jesus. Both were dreamers that someday, we shall be with you in your glory, O God.

But unlike other dreamers, Joseph and Jesus dreamt of salvation in you with “eyes wide open” by working hard on their dreams by remaining faithful and true to you even if others despised them, plotting their deaths.

And so, loving Father, I pray that we dream anew beginning today — of being with you, of doing your work, of making you present in this world where nobody dreams big anymore except of being rich and famous. For those who refuse to dream or cannot dream again for any reason, give them the grace to dream with other dreamers instead of blocking or hindering our dreams like the brothers of Joseph and the wicked tenants of the parable.

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he made him a long tunic. when his brothers saw that their father loved him best of allo his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him… They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelite for twenty pieces of silver.

Genesis 37:3-4, 28

Lastly, Lord Jesus, I pray for the dreamers among us that like Joseph and you, may we hold on to our dreams, to keep dreaming until they come true, in you and through you. Amen.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make my heart like thine.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son praying in our previous Parish, March 2019.

“Make It With You” cover by Ben&Ben (January 2020)

Lord My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 21 June 2020

A blessed happy Father’s Day to all the great dads of the world, especially those who have gone ahead of us and still watching us, guiding us, inspiring us.

Like David Gates who composed our Sunday Music today “Make It With You” in 1970, how I wish I could “make it to the other side climbing rainbows” to be with my dad even for a while to share him my joys and accomplishments, thanking him for all the love he had showered me with.

Hey have you ever tried
Really reaching out for the other side?
I may be climbing on rainbows
But, baby here goes

According to an interview I have read last year which I can no longer remember where, Gates had admitted that he wrote this song primarily for his late father, of how he wished his dad were still around to see him successful as a composer and a musician.

It was only during its recording when they fine-tuned his composition to make it a love song that eventually became the theme song of so many couples and lovers during the 70’s up to this time that the popular group Ben&Ben made a cover early this year for a movie or a series.

See how the song is not just a flight of fantasy or a dream but something so real within, something those of us who are so close with our dads that even if they are now in eternal rest, we can still feel their presence among us.

Dreams they're for those who sleep
Life is for us to keep
And if you're wond'ring
What this song is leading to

I want to make it with you
I really think that we can make it, girl

In our Sunday Gospel today, we find Jesus telling us not to be afraid in fulfilling our missions in life for he is always with us, ensuring that “we make it through” with him and in him.

That is what makes a dad so special: he is full of courage, facing every fear in life to ensure his family can make it through in this life.

And just maybe, dads are always the first to go to heaven because even in eternal life, they still see to it “we make it through” here on earth and to eternity, but not so soon.

Life can be short or long
Love can be right or wrong
And if I choose the one
I'd like to help me through

I'd like to make it with you
I really think that we can make it, girl

Cheers to all the dads who face all fears, both here and hereafter! Amen.

*Photos of my dad Wilfredo Sr. who died June 17, 2000, the 61st birthday of my mom. He is most happy with my mom with whom he is so faithful.

IQ, EQ, and AQ

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 18 December 2019

Jeremiah 23:5-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 1:18-24

Mosaic at the Chapel of St. Jerome, underneath the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem where St. Jerome lived while studying and translating the Bible into Latin. It is believed to be the place where St. Joseph received in a dream the message of the angel for him to take Mary as his wife. Photo by the author, May 2017.

First, we were told for a very long time the importance of IQ or “Intelligence Quotient” for anyone’s success in life.

Then came the EQ or “Emotional Quotient” this past decade that experts claim has more impact in determining one’s success in life than the IQ.

Now, scientists are claiming that more important than the IQ and the EQ is “AQ” or “Adversarial Quotient”, our ability to respond to various adversarial situations in life.

According to the proponents of AQ, the better we are able to deal with life’s troublesome situations like handling crises involving our many forms of relationships, the better we are equipped in having a more fuller life.

Dream of St. Joseph (Oil on canvas) by Francisco Goya. From Google.

Today we hear the story of St. Joseph facing an extremely adversarial situation when Mary who was betrothed to him was found pregnant with a baby not his!

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. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”

Matthew 1:18-20

IQ + EQ + AQ = HQ

St. Matthew describes St. Joseph a “righteous man” or, in Jewish thought, a holy man, a saint who lives his life according to the word of God. Also known as a zaddik in Hebrew, a righteous man delights in the Torah (Law), entrusting everything to God.

According to the Book of Psalms’ first chapter, a righteous man or a zaddik is like a tree planted near a river bank that symbolizes God’s words, growing into maturity with good fruits because he is filled with God, putting into practice the Sacred Scriptures and the Laws.

That is precisely what holiness is all about: being filled with God, not being sinless!

Though holiness means being perfect and whole as its Greek origin tells us, holiness as preached by Jesus Christ is an ongoing process when he commanded us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48).

Holiness does not happen overnight; it takes time and a lot of cultivation on our part.

(One rule of thumb, though, that we must keep in mind: if you think or feel you are holy, definitely you are not. Saints do not know they are saints.)

IQ, EQ, and now AQ are in a sense, scientific expressions of holiness, of being filled with God to become better persons.

During the Solemnity of St. Joseph last year, Pope Francis issued “Gaudete et Exsultate” to reiterate Vatican II’s universal call to holiness by proposing practical ways in our modern time on how to be holy based on the beatitudes of Jesus Christ.

The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1).

Gaudete et Exsultate, 1

Very interesting in our Simbang Gabi is how the Pope mentions Abraham, the very beginning of Jesus Christ’s genealogy, as a model of holiness now being expressed in our gospel by the last person in that genealogy, St. Joseph!

St. Joseph bridged faith and practice

St. Joseph is exactly that kind of Jewish zaddik who lived in constant dialogue with God in praying the Scriptures, concretely living it minus the legalisms of the Pharisees and scribes of his time.

For him, the Torah was a good news meant to make life better, not bitter by applying it to daily living which is to love by preserving life.

In dealing with his extremely adversarial situation, St. Joseph did the most important step we have totally disregarded these days: silently pray to God for guidance and grace.

As a man, one can just imagine the many thoughts running through St. Joseph’s mind and heart when the woman he loves so much is found with a baby not his.

Sunrise at Atok, Benguet. Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, September 2019.

His decision to silently leave Mary was due to his great love for her, not in disregarding the letters of the Law that declares that any woman betrothed to a man who bears a child not his must be stoned to death.

Read again St. Matthew’s account we have quoted above and you will feel the solemnity of the scene, of “how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” according to St. Matthew.

There was no sense of agitation or any other negative vibes, purely positive.

Very clear, St. Joseph’s holiness was not merely due to his bloodline or genealogy but his decision to bridge his faith and religion with his life and daily practice.

St. Joseph must be so purely absorbed in prayer that even at his sleep, there was his continuing communing with God that when he woke up, “he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus” (Mt.1:24-25).

Finding holiness in adversarial situations

Almost every month we find in social media so many videos and reports of road rage and people freaking out everywhere.

Sometimes I think that with the presence of too many CCTV’s and prevalence of smart phones around, people should be more well behaved, more kind. But the exact opposite is happening!

Life has become one big, giant TV show with everybody grandstanding, artificially creating their own limelight of fame that usually turns into five minutes of shame and notoriety.

Everybody wants to be on TV or Youtube but unknown to many, television screens tend to bring out the worst in us.

Whenever I would see people with their smartphones taking pictures, “talking alone” and doing all those crazy scenes, I fear how most of us have drifted away from our real gounding in life, God.

The story of St. Joseph reminds us of the need to resolve every issues in our lives by going back to our roots and grounding, God. And this happens by being deeply in touch with life and its realities! He was truly grounded and knew what could happen to Mary.

The more we experience life in each other, the more we experience God.

And the more we look at God, the more we see others.

Such was the holiness of St. Joseph that in bridging his faith with his daily life, the deeper his love for God and Mary grew! In looking up to God, the more he saw Mary and so Jesus Christ came too!

Photo from Forbes.com via FB, June 2019.

This is the problem of our time: we keep on looking outside, somewhere else to find meaning and life, answers to our many questions.

We just have to look inside our hearts where God truly dwells like St. Joseph.

His being “whole” as a righteous man is the reason why he could sleep soundly in the midst of many crises in life as he completely trusted God. Indeed, St. Joseph’s silence is his most remarkable sign of holiness that even in his sleep, he is filled with God.

There are four instances in the gospel of St. Matthew when the angel spoke to St. Joseph to deliver messages from God. He can sleep soundly because he never dilly-dallied with important decisions in life like secretly divorcing Mary.

We cannot sleep not because we have big problems but because we refuse to make decisions about them.

The word crisis is from the Greek krisis that means “requiring decision”; hence, critical situations require decisions.

St. Joseph was decisive because he was always grounded in God, discerning always his holy will.

Photo by GMA News editor Ms. JJ Jimeno of a man losing his head in prayer at the UP Diliman Parish, June 2019.

In the first reading we heard the prophecy of the coming Christ who shall be called “the Lord our justice” (Jer.22:6). Again, in Jewish thought, justice is not merely giving what is due but also means holiness.

The coming Christ is the Holy One of God, one who would completely entrust himself to the Father on the Cross. Very much like his foster father, St. Joseph who trusted God completely.

Sleeping and dying are essentially the same in the closing of our eyes when we entrust ourselves to God completely without knowing what will happen next, if we would still wake up or, in the case of death, really rise again.

Christmas happens, Jesus comes to us when like St. Joseph we abandon everything to God, especially our “adversarial situations” and go to sleep to be ready and prepared for new, unexpected, and even incredible things in this life. Sleep tight, and be surprised by the Lord! Amen.

Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, paragraph 32.

“The Dream” by Michael Franks (1993)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 08 December 2019

Advent wreathe at the Malolos Cathedral, 04 December 2019.

Advent is the season of hope when we are encouraged to work on to fulfill God’s grand design for lasting peace here on earth. It is a time for us to dream with eyes wide open!

I had this dream
In which I swam with dolphins
In open sea a transparent blue
(Maybe you dreamt it too)
And on the earth
The trees grew heavy with blossoms
The rainforests had not died
And the Amazon shined like an emerald
Somewhere, somehow, some way
We must hold back the dawn
While there’s still time to try
Keep the faith, keep the dream alive

That is why we have chosen for this Second Sunday of Advent jazz master Michael Franks’ The Dream from his 1993 album “Dragonfly Summer”. It is a song very similar with Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading of a “peaceable kingdom” where

“the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.”

Isaiah 11:6

Considered as a leader of the “quiet storm” or “smooth jazz” movement, a genre of jazz music mixed with pop and rock tempo, Franks has collaborated with some of the great musicians of the world in the last 40 years with his compositions covered by many artists from the wide spectrum of the music world proving his genius and versatility.

For me, Franks is the Walter Becker/Donald Fagen of jazz, always precise and almost perfect in every piece of music that is intelligent and exquisite but never snobbish and definitely without pretensions. Like Steely Dan, his music is picturesquely evocative that one can feel and even see the timbre of every voice and instrument.

Gifted with a cool and sophisticated voice, Franks can sound playful like with “Eggplant” and “Popsicle Toes”, philosophical and dead serious with “Tiger in the Rain” and lovingly romantic with “Rainy Night in Tokyo” and “Lady Wants to Know”.

His music and lyrics are simple yet profound, always fresh and relaxing not only to ears but also to one’s soul that’s very inspiring.

Going back to our featured music on this second Sunday of Advent, Franks’ The Dream challenges us to test and keep our faith in order to work for a lasting peace here on earth.

I had this dream
That we were all one family
Which war and famine could not undo
(Maybe you dreamt it too)
Our family name
Was either Kindness or Compassion
We recognized each other
And we recognized the light inside us

Dream on in Christ, dream with Michael Franks!

Hound of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Thursday, Feast of St. Dominic de Guzman, 08 August 2019
Numbers 20:1-13 >< )))*> <*((( >< Matthew 16:13-23
From Google.

A blessed Thursday, O Lord, especially to the Dominicans spread across the globe proclaiming your good news of salvation in words and in deeds.

Thank you very much, Lord, for the gift of St. Dominic whose name – Domini canis – literally means “hound of the Lord” or “dog of the Lord” .

Teach us to be like St. Dominic who was faithful and true to you, Jesus.

May we be like him in that dog in his mother’s dream who brought the torch of truth to dispel the great darkness of sin and evil in the world.

Today, there is a great plague of darkness infecting the modern means of communications where trolls and cyberbullies spread lies and falsehoods like fake news and misinformation to manipulate and mislead the minds of some into taking violent and truncated views about life and persons.

Make us your modern St. Dominic – Domini canes – to bring that torch of reason and decency, charity and truth to dispel this darkness engulfing us and have actually led to many forms of violence and animosities among peoples here and abroad lately.

Help us contemplate your person, Lord Jesus Christ like St. Dominic so we would know you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more closely.

May we realise that whenever we fail to show who you really are, when we cannot personally confess like St. Peter that “you are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt.16: 16), troubles begin to happen not only in the Church but also in the world like racism, gender inequality, and many forms of injustice.

When we your followers do not truly know you as the Christ, then we cease to become Christians when we stop respecting others who are not like us in color, creed, and culture; when we disregard the value of life, and finally, when we stop seeing each other as brothers and sisters in you.

How sad that until now, many Christians say many different things about you, Jesus, because we have miserably failed in being your faithful witnesses.

Help us Lord to “think more as God does, not as human beings do” (Mt.16:23) by imitating St. Dominic who spent much time “at the foot of your Cross.” Amen.

According to tradition, when the mother of St. Dominic was pregnant with him, she dreamt of a dog running their dark streets at night with a torch in its mouth, foretelling his future mission of bringing the light of Christ through education by founding the Order of Preachers.

Lent and our dreams that link us with God and one another

40 Shades of Lent, Tuesday, 19 March 2019
Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of Mary
2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16//Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22//Matthew 1:16, 18-24
The original site of the workplace of St. Joseph found at the basement of the church in his honor in Nazareth. Photo by the author, April 2017.

How was your sleep last night? And what did you dream about?

Too often, our dreams make our sleep more wonderful and meaningful no matter what we have dreamt. Our dreams are the means in uncovering the impulses and feelings suppressed in our waking state that reveal our unconscious state. And the kind of dreams we experience depend on the kind of waking stage we have. Some say that disturbing, recurring dreams reveal some problems within while wholesome dreams generally indicate everything is most likely going fine with your life. This we find very true in our celebration of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary.

St. Joseph is the most silent person in the bible without any words uttered ascribed to him. In his silence, he was so filled with God and that is why he is considered holy or “just” and “righteous” according to Matthew. Most of all, St. Joseph has the most enviable distinction of always sleeping soundly while in the midst of serious problems with great dreams where angels delivered him with messages from God – not once or twice but thrice!

Contrary to common beliefs, St. Joseph was able to sleep soundly in the midst of great problem after learning Mary was pregnant with a child because right away, he faced and confronted it with a decision. Being a just or holy man, he had decided to silently divorce Mary so as not to subject her to public humiliation. It must have been a very difficult choice for St. Joseph to make because he loved Mary so much which was also an expression of his great love for God. The love of God was the sole basis of his decision that put him into peaceful sleep.

Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Matthew 1:20-21, 24

For St. Joseph to dream of receiving messages from God like in our gospel today shows his deep and profound disposition for God and His will. He made the right decision of silently leaving Mary behind to go on with her pregnancy because he loved her so much. When the angel revealed to him the reason behind Mary’s virginal conception through the Holy Spirit, his decision was perfected as he found himself an essential link, a connector, in the the plan of God! Being from the lineage of King David, he saw the important connection with him to marry the Blessed Virgin Mary so that her Son Jesus Christ would thus become the fulfillment of God’s promise through the Prophet Nathan.

“When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm… Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”

2 Samuel 7:12, 16

So often, the very reason why we cannot sleep when we are beset with a problem is our failure or refusal to make a decision. It is not the problem that keeps us awake but our inaction and indecision. St. Joseph shows us the healthy link and connection of one’s self with God and with reality, with the present and the future. Just like the other great patriarchs in the Old Testament that included Abraham (second reading) and Jacob, they all received messages from God in a dream along with Peter in the Acts of the Apostles where they saw the interconnection of everything and especially of one’s self in God. Break away from this connection, sin and disorder happen.

Likewise, we also see how in the development of devotions to St. Joseph through history where he has always been linked or connected with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Compared with Marian devotions and other saints, veneration of St. Joseph started very late in the Church. One is the obvious reason that Mary is the Mother of God. The earliest record celebrating this March 19 feast of St. Joseph as Husband of Mary dates back to the year 800 that also indicates how devotion to him has always been linked with the veneration of the the Blessed Virgin. Devotions to St. Joseph spread later in the 12th century when the crusaders built a church in his honor in Nazareth when the Christians soon realized the many links and connections in our lives that our Lord’s foster father pointed us to. In 1621, Pope Gregory XV made this feast an obligatory and 270 years later, Pope Pius IX named St. Joseph patron of the Universal Church. Devotion to St. Joseph gained a big push in 1962 when Pope St. John XXIII introduced his name into the Roman canon which Pope Francis emulated, making it to be officially followed in every Mass after he assumed the papacy in March 13, 2013.

This unique role of St. Joseph being the link with Christ’s Davidic ancestry as well as direct correlation and connection of his love for God and for Mary and eventually, for us all in naming her Son Jesus that means “God saves”, perfectly jibe with the motif of Lent we celebrate this month of March: our interconnectedness with God and with one another in Jesus Christ our Savior. St. Joseph teaches us the basic truth about holiness which literally means being “whole” where there is a direct link or connection with our waking stage and inner self expressed in our dreams during deep sleep.

Main altar of the Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth originally built by the Crusaders in the 12th century above the site believed to be the home of the Holy Family. Photo by the author, April 2017.

Lastly, St. Joseph teaches us today in his dreams and decisions, in his life of silence and holiness what most people say about two kinds of dreamers: those who dream with eyes shut and those who dream with eyes wide opened. Those who dream with closed eyes are those who merely daydream and live in fantasies; those who dream with eyes wide opened are the visionaries, those who work to fulfill their dreams to make it a reality. St. Joseph belonged to that kind of dreamer, a visionary of God who strove hard with patience, protecting Mary and the child Jesus so that God’s plan of salvation is fulfilled. Amen.

Friends always talk straight from their hearts

The Lord Is My Chef Quiet Storm, 01 March 2019

I have been dreaming of former classmates lately. Last Tuesday night I dreamt of a classmate in high school seminary now a priest but have not seen in months. Later that day I met another classmate, told him of my dream, and inquired about him. Unfortunately, he has not seen him too for so long though he presumed he must be doing well in the ministry.

Thursday morning upon waking up, I was thinking hard for the possible meaning of another dream I had the night before about my two seatmates in elementary school. Two dreams in a row about three good, old friends very much still alive but have not seen for so long. And how ironic that until now, I have not reached out to them personally or through the many social media platforms available except for a Facebook post that Thursday morning for a possible explanation about my two dreams!

That is the great irony – or, tragedy of our time when we have all modern means of communications that include extensive road networks and yet we could not even get in touch with those people dear to us. See the simplicity of Jesus Christ in calling us his friends: on the night he was betrayed during supper, he told his disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command you (i.e., love one another). I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (Jn.15:14,15).

Jesus does not need to dial numbers, text SMS, compose emails, or send invitations in Facebook to become friends with us. Jesus simply reveals to us in the most personal manner everything the Father wants to tell us and right away, we are already friends! Of course, it would be difficult to enumerate everything that the Father had told Jesus to relay to us but the greatest of these is the fact that God loves us very, very much. Period.

That is the greatest thing Jesus had achieved in his coming to us by bringing God closest to us by speaking straight to us by himself of his love, his mercy, his forgiveness, and his plans for us. That is one of the great joys of friendship when we talk straight, speak our hearts out freely to our friends without any fears of being rejected or misunderstood. There is always that sense of respect for the other person as a subject to be loved and cherished, not an object to be possessed and used like tools and gadgets.

In our mass-mediated culture, expressing our true feelings to our friends have become more complicated as we become less personal in our relationships. How I hate it when some people would always invite me for breakfast or lunch in some expensive restaurants or hotels only to ask some special favors after the meal that I feel like throwing out the food I have ingested! It is not social grace to treat people to fine dining or gift them with expensive or special things only to ask for some favors in the end. That is corruption or bribery. Simply put, it is lack of respect especially if done by people we regard as friends.

Going back to that Last Supper scene with Jesus Christ when he called us his friends, notice the word “friend”: there is only one letter that makes the difference to make it mean exactly the opposite, “fiend”. It is the letter “r” that stands for respect, from two Latin terms that literally mean “to look again”. To respect is to look again at another human as a person with equal dignity as yourself. Respect is the starting point of love that cannot exist in any situation where there is inequality or feelings of superiority over another person.

Our words coming from our hearts are some of the most wonderful things that create true and lasting friendships. The rest are the actions expressed when these words run out.

“Hapag ng Pag-Asa” by the late Joey Velasco.  From Google.