Our splinter and beam, Christ’s Cross

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 10 September 2021
1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Luke 6:39-42
Photo by author, April 2019.

Jesus told his disciples: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooded beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.'”

Luke 6:42
O God our loving Father:
So many times we act so silly
as if we have never learned 
from your prophets and then your
Son Jesus Christ and down to 
his Apostles and saints, notably
Paul.
So true are the words of Jesus
your Son when he told us how 
we would always see the splinter
in our neighbor's eyes without 
ever seeing the wooden beam 
in our own eyes!
But you know, dear Father,
what makes me rejoice this Friday?
Indeed, splinter and wooden beam
we all have right in our eyes that
we cannot see or even refuse to see
and remove; yet, there you are
in your infinite mercy you sent us
Jesus Christ to remove these 
splinter and wooden beam in our eyes
through his wooden Cross!

I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lard has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:13-14
Larger and heavier
was the wooden Cross
willingly carried by Jesus Christ
for our own sake so we may
be cleansed of our sins and
cleared of our blindness
to walk your path of holiness;
loving Father,
teach us to be like St. Paul
to admit our sinfulness,
to voluntarily remove both
the splinter and wooden beam
in our eyes so we may see you
more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more closely
in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

We are the Lord’s indwelling

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 06 September 2021
Colossians 1:24-2:3   ><)))*> + ><)))'> + ><)))*>   Luke 6:6-11
Photo by author, December 2020.

But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for your glory.

Colossians 1:27
Praise and glory to you, God
our loving and merciful Father,
in choosing us, calling us despite our
sinfulness and weaknesses
to be the indwelling of your Son
Jesus Christ.
Thank you, dear Father,
in making us all a part of your grand
design since the beginning
that Jesus Christ may dwell in us
so we may participate in your glory.
As the "image of the invisible God"
and the "first-born from the dead",
Christ is our own destiny
who cannot be attained apart
from his Church, his Body.
Keep us united and one, Father,
as your children and brother of Christ
 in the Holy Eucharist that is the summit
 of our Christian life, bearing all pains and
sufferings with joy like St. Paul for the good
of everyone, especially the marginalized;
may in our Eucharistic celebrations
we learn to set things "straight" by doing
 what is good and pleasing to your sight
like what Jesus did in healing the man
with a withered hand at the synagogue
on a sabbath day.
Amen.

Love, love, love!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church, 20 August 2021
Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     Matthew 22:34-40
Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com
Loving Father, open
our eyes and our hearts
to the abounding love
you shower us daily;
take away our doubts
make us believe we are 
loved, that there is so much
love in this life, in this world
for us to experience, to take
and to share!
Vanish our fears 
of getting hurt, 
of being empty, 
of losing when we love
like Ruth to Naomi
her mother-in-law.

But Ruth said, “Do not ask me to abandon or forsake you! For wherever you go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge, your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” Thus it was that Naomi returned with the Moabite daughter-in-law, Ruth, who accompanied her back from the plateau of Moab. They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Ruth 1:16, 22
Teach us, dear Father,
to love like your Son Jesus Christ,
loving somebody more than one's self
by loving you with our whole selves
and loving others as we love
ourselves (Mt.22:37-40).
Open ourselves
and allow us to be taken over
by your love, Lord, like St. Bernard
whose memorial we celebrate today;
let us learn and heed 
the meaning of his teaching:
"Love is fully sufficient to itself;
when it enters the heart,
it absorbs all other feelings.
The soul who loves,
loves and knows nothing more."
Amen.

Keep us calm, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 17 August 2021
Judges 6:11-24   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 19:23-30
Photo from Facebook, April 2020.
You know so well the hardships
we are all into these past months,
God our Father.
And you must have heard all our 
complaints to you, even those we
have kept in our hearts for you also 
know how we feel like Gideon.

Gideon said to him, “My lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers told us when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ For now the Lord has abandoned us and has delivered us into the power of Midian.”

Judges 6:13
You are so kind, dear God
in allowing us to bring out to you
what we feel which after all, we cannot
hide from you; and here lies your blessing:
after allowing us to recognize before you 
the problems and misery we are into, 
you send us to work on its solution.

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian. It is I who send you… Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.” So Gideon built there an altar to the Lord and called it Yahweh-shalom.

Judges 6:14, 23-24
We all want peace,
we all desire a world with less
pains and sufferings like an end
to this pandemic but no one among us
would dare to follow your instructions,
your commands to do our part in finding
solutions to our many problems in life,
in doing our part in alleviating the pains
and sufferings of the sick and dying
for until now we have refused to give up
and surrender our selves to you, Lord.
We are afraid of detaching from whatever
or whomever attachments we have,
so we can be truly free for you and for others.
Most of all, we are afraid to get hurt,
to lose and to get lost in order to have you
and find life and fulfillment.
Give us the grace to realize
and keep in mind always
your Son's words today:
"For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible."
(Matthew 19:26)
Keep us calm, Lord, amid
the darkness and uncertainties
around us these days of the pandemic.
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!

What God is asking from us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 13 August 2021
Joshua 24:1-13   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*>   Matthew 19:3-12
Photo by author, modern chapel at the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem, the Holy Land, 2019.
I know, dear God our Father,
you have no need of our words 
nor works in exchange for your 
abounding love and grace given us 
in Christ Jesus; and there lies 
your goodness and holiness when 
all you ask of us is our fidelity
to your covenant, that we remain true 
to you by dealing with love and justice
to one another which is all for our own good too.

“I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities which you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”

Joshua 24:13
You have given us everything, O God:
the earth and everything on it that we have
wasted and destroyed; worst of all, you
have given us family and friends, every person
 and people to love and cherish, respect and
be kind with but whom we have always
hurt with our words and actions when we
see only our very selves, failing to see
others as brothers and sisters in you
as Father from the the very beginning.

“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

Matthew 19:4-6
Forgive us, merciful Father
for the "hardness of our hearts" (Mt.19:8),
in our building walls among us instead
of bridges to bring us close together
as your children reconciled in Jesus Christ;
help us to find the common grounds that
make us all the same, not different;
make us find and accept our vocation
in life so we may fulfill your calling
by serving you through one another
with love and respect, kindness and mercy
especially in this time of the pandemic.
Amen.

God doing everything for us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 12 August 2021
Joshua 3:7-10, 11, 13-17   ><]]]]'>   Matthew 18:21-19:1
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake of Tiberias (Galilee), the Holy Land, 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father!
How great indeed are your
works that you do everything for 
our own good even long before 
we are born, preparing us
for every great moment of 
trials long before we have seen
them coming or even happening!
You are always there, Father
ahead of us in every step of 
the way in this life like in the 
entrance of your chosen people
to your promised land preceded
by the ark of the covenant,
parting the Jordan River so that
your people may cross on dry land
reminiscent of the Exodus at Red Sea.

No sooner had these priestly bearers of the ark waded into the waters at the edge of the Jordan, which overflows all its banks during the entire season of the harvest, than the waters flowing from upstream halted, backing up in a solid mass for a very great distance indeed… While all Israel crossed over on dry ground, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan until the whole nation had completed the passage.

Joshua 3:15-16, 17
Dear God, whenever I review my life
especially those low moments of
failures and disasters, sins and evil,
sickness or wrong decisions when I thought
everything had collapsed and totally gone,
you were always there, bringing me to safer
grounds; you were always there five steps
or more ahead of me, fixing all the problems
and troubles I have fallen into, even trapped inside.
Like in the history of Israel from Abraham to Joshua,
you never stopped surprising me
with your mighty presence and love.
 
But the greatest of all
marvelous things you have done
to me and us all, loving Father,
is sending us your Son Jesus Christ
to save us from all our sins with your mercy
 and forgiveness that is without end.
Like in today's parable, teach us to be
merciful and forgiving to those who have 
sinned against us for we are all 
forgiven sinners you love so much.
You have done so much for us, Father,
but we have done so little for you through others.
Amen.

To fear the Lord especially in time of crisis

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, 09 August 2021
Deuteronomy 10:12-22   ><]]]]*>  +  <*[[[[><   Matthew 17:22-27
Photo by author, April 2018.
August has always been a difficult 
month for us ever since when farmers 
wait for their crops to bloom while 
parents have spent most of their savings
for enrollment and other expenses
in the family; now, the pandemic has 
made August more difficult with the 
imposed lockdown due to pandemic.
But you have blessed us, O God our Father
in this month of August with so many great 
saints in our midst to inspire us, to pray for us
in our difficulties like St. Teresa Benedicta
of the Cross who rallied her fellow prisoners
at Auschwitz to keep their faith in you, our God
even she had been a Catholic nun having
left Judaism after becoming an atheist for some time.
"Those who seek truth seek God,
whether they realize it or not."
-St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Teach us to be like St. Teresa Benedicta,
Lord, who always sought the truth,
and once finding you, remained in you
like what Moses had asked your people:
  "And now, Israel, what does the Lord
ask you but to fear the Lord, your God
and follow his ways exactly, to love and
serve the Lord your God with all your heart
and all your soul." (Deuteronomy 10:12)
How good it is to know from a survivor
at Auschwitz that “Every time I think of her
sitting in the barracks, the same picture 
comes to mind: a Pieta without the Christ.” 
Like Jesus her Master, she died with him
and like him for her people and for their 
persecutors, paying everything with her life
worth more than any amount of tax money 
(cf. Mt.17:27).
St. Teresa Benedicta lived
during the darkest and most troubled
time in modern history, almost eclipsed 
today by this COVID-19 pandemic; 
we pray, God our Father, for the victims
of violence and exploitation that 
their plight be addressed and finally 
be stopped, never to happen again 
in whatever form in the future.  Amen.

Knowing, believing, loving Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XIX-B in Ordinary Time, 08 August 2021
1 Kings 19:4-8 ><]]]]'> Ephesians 4:30-5:2 ><]]]]'> John 6:41-51
Photo by Mr. Vigie Ongleo, 04 August 2021, Singapore.
Elijah went a day's journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat 
beneath it.  He prayed for death, 
saying:  "This is enough, O Lord!
Take my life, for I am no better
than my fathers." (2 Kings 19:4)

Many of us can probably identify with the Prophet Elijah in the first reading today: so tired and fed up with all the sufferings and trials that seem unending with another round of lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 infections.

“This is enough, O Lord!”

Elijah was not the only one to cry out to God in that way: there were Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonas who cried in a similar way while bent under the heavy load of responsibilities on their shoulders from God who never failed in coming to their rescue with his comforting and reassuring words of encouragement.

And this time as we have heard from the first reading, God sent Elijah with bread from heaven to sustain his 40 day journey to Mt. Horeb to escape the soldiers of Queen Jezebel out to kill him after a showdown with the priests of baal at Mount Carmel. God nourishes us not only spiritually and emotionally but also physically and materially if we know him, believe him, and love him in Jesus Christ his Son!

This is the context of the continuation of Jesus Christ’s second bread of life discourse at Capernaum, very timely in these two weeks of our fourth Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) as we rely on God’s mercy and protection against COVID-19 and its new Delta variant.

Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos, March 2020.

Knowing Jesus.

When the people finally caught up with Jesus and his disciples last Sunday at Capernaum, the Lord immediately began his bread of life discourse by declaring “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn. 6:35).

That is the first time in the fourth gospel where Jesus introduced himself with the “I AM” declaration very crucial for John in presenting him as the Christ, the Son of God. This would be followed later by similar statements when Jesus said “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the vine”, and “I am the resurrection”.

Recall how God told Moses to say to his people in Egypt that he was sent by “I am who am”; hence, when Jesus says “I AM”, it was a cue of who he is – the One who had come down from heaven!

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?'” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.”

John 6:41-43

Reminiscent of the desert experience when the people murmured against God for lack of food and water, John also begins referring to the crowd as “Jews” to indicate their lack of belief in Jesus, like their forefathers who doubted God in the wilderness. Here we find something so common even to our own time of “knowing” God we so easily claim with everybody even if what we know does not square up with the reality.

Knowing is not purely cerebral. In the Jewish culture, to know is to enter into a relationship. Unlike us Filipinos who are so fond of name dropping when we usually tell everyone how we know somebody’s name and address like on Facebook – even if we are not friends or related at all!


To know anyone especially God by entering 
into a relationship requires an opening of the mind.  
That is why Jesus told the crowd to stop murmuring, 
telling them and us today to stop limiting 
ourselves to what we know who the Lord really is 
because so often, we hardly know him at all! 

To know anyone especially God by entering into a relationship requires an opening of one’s mind. That is why Jesus told the crowd to stop murmuring, telling them and us today to stop limiting ourselves to what we know who the Lord really is because we hardly know him at all!

We keep on receiving him in Holy Communion not as the Person but more as the Bread or Sacred Host; we go to Mass but hardly celebrate it with him; and lastly, we know Jesus more as provider and giver, rarely as companion and friend, most of all as Savior.

The Jews have refused to believe in Jesus at the very start because they have always been closed from knowing him, insisting they know better, that he is the “son of Joseph”. We have seen how last Sunday in their asking of “Rabbi, when did you get here?” in Capernaum was cloaked in suspicion at how was he able to cross the lake at night when winds were strong and waves were huge, unmindful of the signs he had shown in feeding them all at a deserted place.

Their knowing of Jesus as well as of God and the Scriptures have remained superficial, stuck in the material level manifested in their being too legalistic and ritualistic in religion without any regard for the people especially the sick and marginalized. Most of all, they did not seem to really believe in God as they saw more of themselves as God himself who knows everything!

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, March 2020.

Believing, loving Jesus.

All these words and actions by Jesus during his public ministry at Galilee and Jerusalem later would be used by his enemies against him, wrongly accusing him of blasphemy and disregard for the Laws or Torah. Their minds were all closed to God’s coming in Jesus or at least to his heavenly origin.

Jesus tried to clarify it with them by referring to God his Father, citing the prophet Isaiah:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written by the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listen to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

John 6:44-45, 47-48, 50-51

Now here we find Jesus taking off to higher level in his discourse, from knowing to believing that is perfected in loving. As we have said, knowing is relating. It is through our relationship with God that we are taught through Jesus Christ in knowing all about him. Yes, God in the Old Testament revealed himself to the Chosen People through the prophets and his Laws. But now, Jesus is telling the people that God is revealing himself through him, the Son who had come from heaven with the gift of faith.

As a gift, it is not like an ordinary present given to just one or several persons privileged to receive it like the Israelites in the Old Testament; faith as a gift from the Father is freely given to everyone for all time. Jesus is now inviting his audience in Capernaum including us today to open one’s mind, to level up in thinking and understanding because it is above the realm of material world but of spirituality that leads to relating, believing, and loving to be expressed later in the Eucharist, the sign of his self-sacrifice on the Cross.

Recall how last Sunday Jesus stressed that it is a work of God, not of men – that is faith! It is a gift from God freely given to everyone which every individual must “turn on” like a switch and make it operate. In that discourse also, Jesus added that the ultimate fulfillment of this faith in God as work of God is faith in himself, the Son sent by the Father.

In this scene alone, Jesus had mentioned the word “bread” five times, repeating it to the crowd like in a crescendo, rising from a sapiential or cerebral and material meaning into something so profound, higher level inviting us to put on our faith in him as he continues to reveal the Father’s plan for all mankind for all time leading to eternity.

And what is it that remains into eternity? LOVE!

"Love is fully sufficient to itself;
when it enters the heart,
it absorbs all other feelings.
The soul who loves,
loves and knows nothing more."
(St. Bernard of Clairvaux)
Photo from Dr. Yangas Colleges Inc., Bocaue, Bulacan in one of their community pantry called “Paraya”, May 2021.

Jesus is now hinting at his discourse the Eucharist as the meaning of the sign he did at the deserted place when he fed and satisfied the more than 5000 people from just five loaves of bread and two fish. Notice the words “eats” and “flesh” – indications of the elevation of knowing into believing, blossoming in love.

To eat his flesh is to accept Jesus, to be one in him and with him through one another. Knowing Jesus, relating with him means believing him, loving him through one another.

Faith is closely linked with love, they always go hand in hand because whoever believes truly always loves!

St. Paul sums up everything that Jesus had taught this Sunday with his call to us to “live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma” (Eph.5:1-2).

It is very difficult to dissect knowing, believing and loving, of finding the very cause of faith and love except in Jesus Christ who had come to us and continues to come in every Eucharistic celebration. There are times we can be aware of the reasons why we believe and love God and our beloved, even explain what we find so lovable in them but still difficult to locate with precision the starting point of everything. That is why at the end of this discourse two weeks from now, we find everybody leaving Jesus except the Twelve who chose to remain with him.

In this life, we may know so many things but we cannot know everything like God.

Let us stop murmuring, stop all talks and sink into silent prayer, opening our minds and our hearts to Jesus to receive him not only in words but in himself as Body and Blood in the Holy Mass so we can start loving him in one another to make life more bearable in these trying times. Amen.

Have a blessed and safe week ahead!

Photo by author, 2019.

Listening attentively, selectively

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 21 July 2021
Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15   ><]]]]'>  +  <'[[[[><   Matthew 13:1-9
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.
Every day God, 
we pray to you
"Our Father in heaven
hallowed be thy name...
Give us each day
our daily bread"
without realizing the daily bread 
you give us that truly nourishes us:
your words of truth and of life
that became flesh in Jesus Christ.
On that day, Jesus went out of the house
and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables.
(Matthew 13:1-3)
Thank you very much, dear God
for listening to our prayers,
in giving us the food we need
to nourish our bodies
and your words that sustain us
especially in these trying times.
May we hunger more
for this daily bread from heaven,
listening attentively,
fulfilling your words as you willed them so.
Then the Lord said to Moses,
"I will now rain down bread 
from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out
and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow
my instructions or not."
(Exodus 16:4)
But most of all, O God
teach us to be like you: to be more
selective in our listening,
to be more circumspect with what
to hear and process wherein 
we listen more on essential things 
that matter most than on trivial
and mundane words that are
divisive, preventing our growth
and maturity in our relationships.
If you would listen and act
on everything we say, especially 
our grumblings and complaints, 
no one among us would still be alive;
but you are kind and understanding,
unlike us who listen more on petty
than essential things said by others.
May we be like the good soil
that is open to listen and nurture
words that build and give life.  Amen.