Free and faithful in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 26 June 2022
1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 ><]]]]'> Galatians 5:1, 13-18 ><]]]]'> Luke 9:51-54
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

“Free and Faithful in Christ” by the late Redemptorist Fr. Bernard Haring is one of my favorite textbooks in the seminary that I have kept all these years not because I love moral theology but due to its title I have found so true especially in life and ministry.

The more we love Jesus and others, the more we become free, the more we become faithful and committed to God and others, the more we become trusting too.

For many people, commitment and freedom do not seem to jibe well because they think freedom is being able to do whatever you want, that freedom is absolute. Of course not! St. John Paul II clarified in Veritatis Splendor that since the beginning, God had limited freedom to choosing only what is good when he told Adam and Eve they were free to eat all fruits in the garden except the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

True freedom is not defying our parents and authorities to insist on what we want, regardless of the well-being of others like driving recklessly that harm those on the streets or posting pictures and statements in social media without respecting other people’s beliefs and sensibilities.

We can only be truly free as a person if we care for other people by seeing them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.

Galatians 5:1, 13
Photo by author, wailing wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Jesus, the one truly free

After two Sundays of celebrating the Solemnities of the Trinity and of the Body and Blood of Jesus, we finally feel the Ordinary Time with our green motif this Sunday that shall continue until November before we end the liturgical calendar with Christ the King to usher in Advent Season and Christmas, which is just six months away from today.

But before thinking of the merry December, we are reminded this Sunday of our journey in life with Jesus guided by Luke who expertly expressed the tempo of Ordinary Time which implies the importance of being free and faithful in Christ:

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

Luke 9:51-56

Here we find the complete freedom of Jesus Christ, his fidelity and commitment to his mission from the Father to be fulfilled in Jerusalem where he would face death to rise again and usher in new life in him, new relationships with God and with others.

Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

I love the way Luke wrote our opening lines of the gospel this Sunday which shows the total freedom of Jesus in fulfilling his mission, his fidelity and love to the Father, “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem”. There was no turning back for Jesus, no second thoughts about going to Jerusalem where he knew so well he would be arrested and killed. Jesus was totally free and faithful in his love for us and to the Father.

It is the same route, the same journey we take daily with Jesus to Jerusalem where we suffer and die with him in our fidelity to our vows and promises, to our loved ones, to our Motherland, and to God our Father. Like Jesus Christ, we must be focused on the mission of love, finding ways to accomplish it instead of entertaining fancy thoughts of display of powers as proposed by the brothers James and John at a Samaritan village they were rejected. To think of getting even with a revenge against bad people is not only a waste of time and energy but most of all means we are not free at all, that we are enslaved by evil and sin, by our emotions. A true disciple of the Lord leaves everything to God, especially the punishment of those who harm and do us wrong. Being resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem like Jesus is having complete faith in him that he would take care of us, that we need not worry at all of petty things like power and wealth, fame and glory.

Being free and faithful, resolutely determined like Christ

Of course, there would always be occasional “stops” for rests in the Lord along the way with some “perks” of serving him though not always in the way the world offers it. Luke would always narrate in his gospel how Jesus would ask his disciples to have some time for themselves in deserted places to rest and pray.

Being free and faithful in Christ, resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem means to go opposite the way of the world which is a folly in the eyes of human wisdom characterized by those ads shouting out to everyone to “Just do it” or “Obey your thirst”, putting premiums on wealth and power, popularity and comfort.

Photo by author, “homeless Christ” at the entrance to Capernaum, the Holy Land, 02 May 2019.

To follow Jesus to Jerusalem is to die daily to our comforts for we are not tourists but pilgrims on earth without fixed or permanent dwelling because our true home is in heaven. This is the first thing Jesus clarifies with anyone wishing to join him in his journey, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Lk.9:58).

That is the reason we priests do not get married, trying to lead simple lives without the trappings of the material world to show everyone what is life in heaven. But, how free and faithful are we in keeping our vows of the priesthood is another topic….


Being free and faithful in Christ is to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ” as St. Benedict would insist to his followers in Rules which is the gist of the shocking reply of Jesus to the second man who asked him permission to bury first his dead father so he could follow him.

When Jesus told the man “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Lk.19:60), he was speaking about the perennial sickness of many religious people who are tied up with their religious laws without realizing its intentions like justice and love. Many times, we practice our faith without really believing in God but believing more in our laws and rituals that we forget the persons we must love. Paul expressed it so well in his letter to the Romans when he wrote, “Owe nothing to anyone except love for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (13:8).


Being and free and faithful in Christ means having Jesus and only Jesus as our priority in life. Notice how the third man came to Jesus wising to follow him but “first let me say farewell to my family at home” (Lk.9:61). It is very clear that for him his priority was his family which is exactly the opposite of what Christ tells us that anyone who loves his father and mother, brother or sister more than him is not worthy to be his disciple.

Jesus is not telling us to disregard our family, especially the fourth Commandment of God; Jesus here is emphasizing the primacy of the gospel, of himself. It is not an issue about morality but keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord we must follow completely like Paul who declared how he had come to consider “everything as a loss” in knowing Christ (Phil.3:8).

It is totally different from the context of Elisha who asked Elijah’s permission to bid goodbye to his family before joining him; see how he slaughtered the oxen he used in farming with his implements as firewood in cooking a meal for Elijah. Elisha literally did what Jesus told the third man trying to join him by burning his plow, indicating his resolute determination to fulfill God’s mission as his prophet by not looking back to his past life.

Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives with a Jewish cemetery at the foreground facing its eastern wall where the Messiah is believed would pass through when he comes. It is the very route Jesus had taken more than 2000 years ago on Palm Sunday before his Passion, Death and Resurrection. Photo by author, 04 May 2019.

When Ordinary Time started in January and was briefly paused until three weeks ago by Lent and Easter Seasons, we have already embarked in the journey of Jesus beginning around the shores of Galilee.

As we resume the Ordinary Time with Jerusalem as destination, Jesus continues to invite us to come and follow him. His call is very simple. Follow me. And, it is sometimes funny that the first time we accepted his invitation, we just followed him without even saying yes. Oh, how free and faithful we were!

But, after many detours and changes of directions along with the many trials and sufferings, we begin to ask questions, seeking clarifications, wondering if we should still continue or just leave and go back to our old ways.

What, who is holding us from being totally free and faithful to Christ?

May the love of Jesus guide us and increase our faith in him so we may also be resolutely determined, free and faithful to continue with him in this journey to fullness of life in him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz in San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Awakening the Elisha in us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time, 15 June 2022
2 Kings 2:1, 6-14   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Photo by author, Singapore 2018.
Today we heard, dear God,
the beautiful story of your two
great prophets, Elijah and his
successor Elisha; but what is 
most wondrous is the loyalty
of Elisha's discipleship which is
a beautiful imagery of our relationship
with your Son Jesus Christ.

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on their way to Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here; the Lord has sent me on to the Jordan.” “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you,” Elisha replied. And so the two went together.

2 Kings 1, 6
Our loyalty and fidelity are only
to you, heavenly Father but expressed
through prophets and leaders and mentors
you sent us to prepare us too for your 
mission; like Elisha, keep us faithful to you,
may we receive your call gladly through
them, and most of all, like Elisha,
may we submit to you, O God, to become
like Elijah your prophet to your people, 
speaking to them only your words,
and doing to them only your will.
Let us be more focused on you,
loving Father, not on us and our work;
may we heed the calls of your Son
Jesus Christ for us to lead prophetic lives
amid this age of too much self-promotion:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”

Matthew 6:1
Lord Jesus Christ,
let me decrease so that
you will increase in me
like all your prophets.
Amen.

Faith is standing up, not dancing

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time, 08 June 2022
1 Kings 18:20-39   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 5:17-19
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2017.
God our loving Father,
as we rejoice into coming to
the halfway month of the year,
we are also wary that it is during 
this month of June when the days
move slowly, exactly just how 
life has been moving on for many
of us; there is the usual grind with
daily living's many woes made worst
by rising prices of goods and
commodities.
For some, it is indeed a new phase in
our journey with you but for many,
an occasion to dilly-dally in our faith,
to dance with the many false gods
of our time offering quick fixes to our
problems.
We have become like the Israelites
of Elijah's time.

Elijah appealed to all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” The people, however, did not answer him.

1 Kings 18:21
Forgive us, dear Father,
for not making a stand 
for you, with you and in you;
forgive us for dancing,
for straddling as we play safe,
avoiding any commitment as
we wish to please ourselves than
you and others;
forgive us for still searching
as if there is still any other true God 
besides you who would give in to 
all our whims and caprices.
Push us, inspire us in Christ Jesus
to move forward in life, finding new ways
of living out our faith to fulfillment
amid the changing times and situations
not for the sake of change but to make
you present, dear Lord, in our present
time when people turn away from you and
religion, and from each other.  
Amen.

Holiness is being faithful

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Tuesday, 12 April 2022
Isaiah 49:1-6   +   John 13:21-33, 36-38
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King Procession, 2020.

Maybe so many times you have felt nothing seems to be happening with all your efforts in school or office, in your relationships, and even in your prayers and devotions. Everything seems to be going to nothing at all.

Have a heart. Just be faithful in your studies, in your work, with your family and friends, most especially with God.

Though I thoughts I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.

Isaiah 49:4

When I was still a seminarian, there was a moment after our class when I went straight into our chapel and slouched on a pew, complaining and whining to God for the many problems that never stopped coming my way despite my efforts to be good. With my head bowed down, I had a litany of complaints to God that I felt like packing my things, go home and forget all about the priesthood. But after getting tired with my monologue and as I raised my head, something struck me that I felt so good while looking at our huge image of the Crucifixion at the altar of the chapel. As I looked in silence, I felt myself praying,

"Lord Jesus Christ, 
before all these pains and sufferings came, 
before all these problems happened, 
you were there first on the Cross - 
suffering for me, dying for me first."
Photo by author, ICMAS Chapel (Theology Dept.), 2020.

My dear friends, holiness is being faithful to God in Jesus Christ. St. Mother Teresa perfectly said that, “We are called to be faithful, not successful.” In my 24 years in the priesthood, I have realized that many times, our success are actually failures with God while our failures are what he often considers as success!

Of course, we need to plan and set goals in life and in work but we need to focus more on Jesus Christ as center of our lives, trying to see everything in his light not in our own limited views and perceptions. There so many things in life that cannot be quantified like our spiritual and emotional well-being on which actually depend many of our other aims in our personal and professional life.

Notice how in our gospel today the Apostles were so focused on themselves instead with Jesus that they totally missed what he was telling them about his coming betrayal by “one of them”. Particularly interesting was Simon Peter who asked the beloved disciple, John, to clarify it with Jesus since he was seated closest to him.

He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I had the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.

John 13:25-28

Did you see the comedy, the humor?

Everybody was so focused on everyone and with each self except with Jesus! Were they so dumb not to understand the words of Jesus that to whomever he would give the morsel dipped in wine is the one who would betray him? Not really. Most likely, they were not listening, they were not focused on Jesus but with their very selves.

Being faithful is first of all being focused on God, in Jesus.

How can God fill us with his holiness when our thoughts and our being are always somewhere else or with somebody else? How can God fill us with his holiness when we cannot spend time with him every day in prayer?

Photo by author, Mass by the shore of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

How lovely is the context of Simon Peter’s question that it happened during their Last Supper because that is where our fidelity to God is first nurtured to grow and deepened – at the Holy Eucharist of the Mass.

Remember, the minimum requirement for anyone to be called a good, practicing Catholic is to go Mass every Sunday. That is the most minimum but, have we kept it? It has been more than two months since we returned to alert level 1 in this time of the pandemic with almost everybody going to the malls and many vacation spots but what a shame when many still refuse to go to churches for the Sunday Mass!

Being faithful to Jesus to become holy begins with the Sunday Eucharist where we are nourished by the words of God and by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ himself who enables us to overcome the many trials and difficulties of this life and make it into the Father’s house in eternity.

Have you gone back to your parish church for the Sunday Masses?

Forgive us, Lord Jesus Christ,
for being unfaithful to you, 
for betraying you like Judas Iscariot
right in the context of the Holy Eucharist
when we skip Sunday Masses;
when we come to Mass not for you 
but for our friends to whom we listen more; 
and most especially when we refuse or fail 
to practice the essence of the Eucharist
of sharing the love of Christ to everyone.
Amen.
Photo by author, Parish of St. John the Baptist in Calumpit, Bulacan, 31 March 2022.

Faith + works = discipleship

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week VI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 18 February 2022
James 2:14-24, 26   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 8:34-9:1
Photo from inquirer.net, 2021.
Awaken us, O Lord,
from our mistake and
error of insisting 
that our pious and religious 
exercises are the "good works"
that express our faith in you;
let us realize that it is not 
enough that we simply 
celebrate Mass, recite the
Rosary, join processions and
pilgrimages and keep other 
devotions that make us good
practicing Catholics; these are
not the good works that St. James
is asking from us in the first reading:
faith is the true living out 
of our faith in you, Jesus Christ!

For just as a body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 2:26
True faith in you,
O Lord, is forgetting 
one's self to reach out
to those in need, fighting
for justice and peace,
being more loving and kind,
forgiving and understanding
of others just like you, dear Jesus.
True faith in you,
dear Jesus, is being 
your disciple which is  
a call to deny one's self,
to take up one's cross in life,
and to follow YOU always
(Mark 8:34).
Give me the grace
this day, Jesus, 
to sincerely look into
myself and examine 
how true is my
faith in you, 
how my very life
and actions reveal
the faith I have
or simply do not have
at all.  Amen.

In praise of women

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious, 17 November 2021
2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 19:11-28
Photo by the author, 2019.
God our loving Father,
today I offer this prayer and 
praise to all the women of 
the world - to all mothers who
brought us to life and nurtured
us in your love and kindness, for
all women who make life go on
and prosper, even easier and 
comfortable for us all, for women
who toil and labor everywhere but
always abused or disadvantaged,
misunderstood and mistreated, 
worst, forgotten and neglected.
Like the mother of those seven sons
in our first reading today, I pray for all
women, praising and thanking them for
their "womanly heart with manly courage".

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day, yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord. Filled with noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage, she exhorted each of them in the language of their ancestors with these words: “I do not know how you came into existence in my womb; it was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which of you is composed. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”

2 Maccabees 7:1,20-23
What is a "womanly heart", Lord?
Like you when you presented yourself
like a mother in Isaiah 49:15 who cannot
ever forget her child, we thank you for the
gift of fidelity and faith of every woman 
specially your many noble causes, first of
which are love and life; I pray for all women,
single and married, for deeper faith amid the 
heavy burdens they have to carry on their 
shoulders both at home and at work; not
to forget too are the women who taught us
to pray, those who made us experience 
your reality as God with their patience, 
understanding, and forgiveness.
What is "manly courage", Lord?
Like your Son Jesus Christ who had
come to the world to save us and make
you known to us, it is most wonderful
how the Blessed Mother Mary's heart 
was pierced with sword when full of courage,
she stood by him at the Cross. 
I pray, dear God, for so many women today
into so many fights, sometimes left alone
by themselves with just faith and courage 
in their hearts that someday your truth
and justice would prevail.  In a most special
way, I pray for all women battling cancer and 
other sickness these days:  grant them healing
in body, mind, heart, and soul.
Most of all, dearest God, I pray for 
all women in their senior years:  grant
them grace and serenity in facing eternity,
fill their hearts with joy and gratitude for
lives well spent in you, specially those like
the servants in the gospel who have invested
and made their "talents" grow in loving service
to you.  
And lastly but not the least, I pray for 
all the women who have gone ahead of us, 
our beloved ones.  Grant them eternal rest in you,
O Lord, and may your perpetual light shine
upon them always.  Amen.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us!

Inclusive and jealous God, exclusive and selfish people

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest, 27 September 2021
Zechariah 8:1-8   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 9:46-50
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, July 2021.
It is so baffling, a great mystery
indeed dear God our Father that you
our source and direction in life is
inclusive and jealous while we your
children are exclusive and selfish.

The word of the Lord of hosts came: Thus says the Lord of hosts, I am intensely jealous for Zion, stirred to jealous wrath for her. Thus says the Lord: I will return to Zion, and I will dwell within Jerusalem; Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain.

Zechariah 8:1-3
When you brought back home
the exiles from Babylon,
you were so filled with joy
hoping they have learned 
their lessons very well:
that you are a jealous God who demands
total fidelity for there is no other God;
you bless everyone with good things
and yet they still look somewhere else
to worship and adore aside from you.
On this memorial of St. Vincent
de Paul your servant among the poor
and needy, teach us to rely on you
alone, God our Father; teach us to be 
humble and open before everyone, 
not selfish nor exclusive, sharing your
blessings to everyone, finding your Son
Jesus Christ among the least of the 
society.  Amen.

Our rootedness in God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 07 September 2021
Colossians 2:6-15   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Luke 6:12-19
Photo by author at Jaffa, Israel, May 2017.

Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.

Luke 6:12
Dear God our Father,
what did you two talk about that night
when Jesus prayed to you?
I have always wondered why Jesus
your Son, the Second Person of the
Holy Trinity is portrayed so often 
by St. Luke at prayer.
For a long time,
I have always wondered at
what did Jesus pray to you,
what did he ask you, Father, 
while here on earth?
For one, it is so lovely to think
how the Son of God was also praying
like us to drive home the importance
of prayer.  But, last night, God our Father,
I realized it is not really a question of what 
Jesus prayed for but why did he pray at all.

Brothers and sisters: As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one is captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ.

Colossians 2:6-8
So often, Father, we pray to you
like kids whenever we need something,
always asking for this and that,
begging for more,
pleading to have our ways
that are often whims and wishes.
Teach us to mature in our prayers,
teach us to pray like Jesus your Son
who prayed while here on earth
as an expression of his oneness
and communion in you;
teach us to pray that we may
be rooted in you,
firmly grounded in you
through Christ,
never to be swayed by
novel thoughts and ideas
or beliefs that make us leave
your side especially when crises come.
Amen.

Strengthen our hearts, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 26 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 3:7-13   ><]]]]'> ><)))*> ><]]]]'>   Matthew 24:42-51
From inquirer.net, 20 August 2021.
Strengthen us, O God
in this trying time of the pandemic;
keep our body healthy and strong
to fight the virus and most especially
to take care of the sick among us.
Strengthen our hearts, loving Father
by cleansing it of our sins, taking away
our pride and filling it with your Son
Jesus Christ's humility, justice and love
that always have a space for those 
with less in life, to those most in need
like the sick, the children and elderly.
Strengthen our hearts, O God,
so that as St. Paul had reminded the
Thessalonians, we may "be blameless 
in holiness before you our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"
(1Thess.3:13) by being "faithful and prudent"
like the wise servant in the parable today.
Strengthen our hearts in Christ Jesus
so we may consistently seek and serve him
among one another at every moment
of our lives.  Amen.

Mary, mirror of God’s greatness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2021
Revelation 11:19-12:1-6,10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, December 2020.

We take a break this Sunday from our readings in the bread of life discourse in John’s gospel to celebrate on this date the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary following Pope Pius XII’s dogma in 1950 that at the close of her earthly life, Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.

Without telling the manner or the circumstances of time and place of the Assumption, its dogma forms part of the deposit of our faith received from the Apostles as attested by its long line of traditions since the Pentecost. It is so important that its celebration supersedes the liturgy of any Sunday because it invites us all to see in Mary raised to heaven the image of the Church and of all the faithful on our way to eternal glory with God.

It is a very timely celebration while we are in the midst of another lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, giving us hope and inspiration to persevere in all these difficulties and trials to become better disciples of Jesus like his beloved Mother.

Photo by author at the Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, 2019.

Mary, a type of the Church

Our first reading today presents us with two images of a woman that seem to contradict each other with scenes that anti-climactic, flowing in the reverse mode. It could have been better as in most cases that the first scene depicting the woman in all glory should have been last instead of the woman in childbirth pains and dangers that comes in second. Is it not the sorrowful always comes first leading to glory?

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.

Revelation 12:1-3

It is easy to see the Blessed Virgin Mary in that woman depicted in John’s vision especially if we continue reading on to find the title and authority attributed to her child as our Savior Jesus Christ. But modern biblical studies go deeper than that simplistic view: the scenes speak more of the birth of Christ among us his disciples. It is “painful” because it takes place amid many evil and sins like persecutions and temptations symbolized by the red dragon; but, amid all these, Jesus remains among us, leading us, protecting us, and blessing us. Hence, the woman in this passage becomes a symbol of the Church in the glory of God following Christ’s Resurrection while at the same time in the midst of many earthly battles.

Of course, no other woman can best fit that image than Mary who gave birth to Jesus, who has always been in the most intimate relationship with her son as disciple among all humankind. And because of her role in relationship to her Son, to us his disciples also his Body as community, Mary is the image or type of the Church still giving painful birth to believers like in this time of the pandemic while we are already assured of glory in heaven as children of God. Vatican II perfectly expressed it in declaring:

“By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.”

Lumen Gentium #63

With that, Mary has also become the mirror of God’s greatness in all time, the very reason we venerate her as first among the saints and angels because it is also the same call of holiness to us all as children of the Father and disciples of Christ. It is in this framework that we celebrate her Assumption, especially when we profess every Sunday: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of body and life everlasting. Amen.”

Photo by author, Nazareth, 2019.

Greatness of God, lowliness of Mary

As we have mentioned at the start, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary does not go into details how it took place. What matters most is the fact of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul. Like with her Immaculate Conception, there are no direct nor explicit biblical references to her Assumption; however, from the collective meditations and contemplations in the Church, we find vast and rich sources in reflecting the beauty and wonder of the Blessed Mother’s unique place in our salvation history.

For the Mass of the day of the Solemnity, we contemplate on Mary’s canticle called Magnificat which she sang after being praised by her cousin Elizabeth during the Visitation.

And Mary said:
"My soul proclaims 
the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generation will call me
blessed:  the Almighty has done 
great things for me, and holy is his Name."
(Luke 1:46-49)

It was the first proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ whom Mary first received and shared first with her cousin Elizabeth in a town in Judah. See how in the Visitation Elizabeth praised and admired Mary, becoming the first to call her “blessed among women” because “she believed the word spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45). Instead of giving back her praise and admiration to Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist at that time despite her old age and being barren, Mary sang praises to God like the other great women in the Old Testament after experiencing God’s extraordinary acts in their personal lives and in Israel’s history.

Though we may never have the same personal experiences of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as members of the Church she represents, we can always look through her Magnificat the extent we have also become the mirror of the greatness of God especially at this time when everybody seems to doubt his loving presence in this time of the pandemic.


 It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat 
during our evening prayers in the Church because 
before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, 
we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

See how the Magnificat sings of the depths of Mary’s soul and her faith, of her perfect obedience to the word of God and the mission entrusted to her. Very clear in its lyrical expression, the focus and center is God, not Mary. It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat during our evening prayers in the Church because before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

Have we truly been God’s lowly servant like Mary, allowing God to work his great wonders through us?

Three things I wish to share with you on Mary’s lowliness that enabled God to work his wonders through her:

First is her openness to the word of God like in the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus. Mary had a prayer life, a discipline of making time with God, setting her self aside for the Lord. Prayer is always the start of every relationship with God. That is when we truly become humble to lose control of ourselves, to forget our selves and let God in the Holy Spirit dwell into us. Even in the darkest moments of our lives, there will always be that glimmer of hope because the Holy Spirit enlightens us in our paths.

Second is Mary’s saying “YES” to God. She does not merely listen to God; she says “be it done unto me according to your word.” From the very start, Mary never doubted God in his wisdom and plans that she always said yes. One most beautiful expression by the evangelists of Mary saying yes to God is whenever Mary would “treasure in her heart” words of Jesus and of others.

But Mary’s greatest yes happened at the Cross, in her sharing in the Paschal Mystery of her Son Jesus Christ, being the only other disciple who remained with the Lord until his death. No wonder, it was to her based on tradition that the Risen Lord first appeared on Easter.

Third is Mary’s fidelity to God, her yes was not just a one-shot deal but an everyday yes to Jesus even after he had ascended into heaven. The Acts of the Apostles tells us explicitly how Mary was among the disciples present inside the upper room at Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Throughout the ages in her numerous apparitions, Mary said yes to God delivering Jesus Christ’s call for us to penance and conversion, to prayers and the Holy Eucharist especially at Fatima in Portugal.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

Mary went through many hardships and difficulties in her life and in the history of Israel, coming from an obscure town that was a butt of jokes of their time like when Nathanael asked Philip who claimed to have found Jesus Christ, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (Jn.1:45)”.

In this time of the pandemic, the vision of John in the first reading becomes more real when people refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of COVID-19, of the need to be converted and to again nurture that relationship with God following decades of affluence and materialism. Like Mary, let us be humble to accept we are not the masters of this world nor of our own life but God almighty.

We are called to persevere with Mary, to be strong in our faith and charity that God will never forsake us so we can be present among the poor and marginalized including those spirits weakened by the prolonged quarantines.

With Mary, let us believe the words of St. Paul how all will come to life again – body and soul like Mary – in the final end of time that begins right now, right here in the midst of all these trials and sufferings. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!