Praying for our obstinate beloved

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 29 October 2021
Romans 9:1-5   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 14:1-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.
Today I feel dear God our Father
the pains and sadness of St. Paul
in the first reading for his fellow Jews'
refusal to accept and believe in your
Son Jesus Christ.
But it is something more than just
about faith, in accepting Jesus as
Savior that I am speaking of;
you know it very well of some loved
ones who are "blinded" by so many 
other things in life that they cannot see
or refuse to see not only Jesus passing 
by daily in our lives but even us family
and friends who truly care for them.

Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.

Romans 9:1-3
How can we open the eyes,
awaken our obstinate loved ones to 
the truth that they are loved 
when they are fixed with their past,
their hurts and pains despite
our apologies and amends made to them?
How can we make our obstinate beloved
realize we are present for them when 
they prefer their gadgets and things, 
their addictions and vices, even their
toxic friends and relationships?
How can we enable our obstinate
loved ones experience the beauty of life
when all they do is complain
 what is lacking than what we have?
We pray today Lord Jesus for
those people we love who act like
those Pharisees and scholars of law
who refused to respond to your question
when you asked them, "Is it lawful to cure
on the sabbath or not?" before healing a
man suffering from dropsy; worst,
they preferred to be coldly silent
after you have healed the man (Lk.14:2-6).
Teach us to be more patient
and kind, loving and open to still accept
those who for all kinds of blindness
refuse to accept us, most especially YOU.
Amen.

Seeing Jesus, walking with Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week XXX-B in Ordinary Time, 24 October 2021
Jeremiah 31:7-9 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 5:1-6 ><]]]]'> Mark 10:46-52
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

We are about to end our liturgical calendar in five Sundays from now and Jesus is fast approaching Jerusalem, his final destination in fulfilling his mission to redeem us from our sins. Along this path, we are reminded of the many blindness within us that prevent us from meeting Jesus who is passing by.

Recall how last week we reflected on the “blindness” of the brothers James and John to their ambitions, wishing to Jesus that once he becomes king, they would be seated at his right and at his left, forgetting the Lord’s teaching that he is a “suffering Messiah”, far from their expectations of a triumphant victor or liberator.

Today, we heard the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus who kept shouting, pleading to Jesus’ attention who was passing by the city of Jericho on his way to Jerusalem.

The story reminds us of the need for us to be aware of our many blindness in life, of things that keep us from seeing Jesus, others and our very selves. Here is a man very realistic, aware of his blindness, focused on his need and goal to be able to see, most specially Jesus.

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

Mark 10:46-49

So often, we get blinded by even the most obvious things in life like our present condition that needs to be improved or even saved. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles is a story of that crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the temple whom Peter and John healed one afternoon after the Pentecost. According to Acts 3:1-9, when the beggar who was crippled from birth saw Peter and John approaching him, he thought they would give him alms; but much to his surprise and of everybody, Peter made him walk in the name of “Jesus Christ the Nazorean”!

Imagine how the crippled beggar so used to his condition, so comfortable to some extent that he was preoccupied to just begging for alms, forgetting or abandoning all hopes to be able to walk like most people.

There are times we really do not know what we need and want in life that we are easily distracted and defocused from having the essential things in life like seeing our true selves, those around us and even our need for God who has been loving us, showering us with his many blessings and grace we hardly notice because we are busy complaining for so much wants not important.

Here, Bartimaeus was so sure of what he wanted: to recover his sight.

And the most wonderful thing is how he completely had faith in Jesus as the only one who can restore his sight, calling him “Son of David” which is the title of the coming Messiah or Christ. He must have heard a lot about his healings and preaching, realizing Isaiah’s prophecy of how the Messiah would restore sight to the blind. Jesus himself had confirmed this at the inauguration of his ministry at Nazareth when he proclaimed that part of the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue (Lk.4:18).

That is how realistic and grounded was Bartimaeus to the realities of himself that he shouted to beg Jesus to have pity on him. His faith in Jesus was so firm that when people tried to silence him, the more he persisted and shouted aloud so Jesus would hear him!

How well do we know the many blindness we have in ourselves that we would exert such effort like Bartimaeus in asking Jesus for light, to restore our sight so we would see and know him clearly, love him dearly and follow him closely?

He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

Mark 10:50-52

Moreover, it is not enough to be healed of our blindness in faith; 
the truest sign of having our sights back, 
of being healed from blindness is to leave 
the roadside to follow Jesus "on the way".

“Jesus healing the Blind Man” painted by Brian Jekel (born 1951) in 2008, oil on canvas. From http://www.Christian.Art.com.

What a wonderful story of healing and faith, of seeing and following Jesus! “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” Today the gospel reminds us to take a critical look at ourselves to root out whatever it is that keeps us from seeing who Jesus is like self-centeredness and pride, preoccupation with fame and wealth, or our toxic relationships and painful past we could not let go.

See how Bartimaeus “threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus” upon being called from the roadside. That is the key to any real prayer, of encountering and meeting Jesus when we are willing to let go of whatever we have, of letting ourselves be stripped naked before God without any ifs and buts, offering him our very selves.

Moreover, it is not enough to be healed of our blindness in faith; the truest sign of having our sights back, of being healed from blindness is to leave the roadside to follow Jesus “on the way”.

Again, we hear from St. Mark using that word “way”: last month Jesus asked his disciples what were they arguing along the way and no one could answer him because they were discussing who was the greatest among them. In the healing of Bartimaeus, there is that beautiful imagery of Jesus our way, truth and life; of Jesus passing by, calling everyone to come to him, to leave the roadside and walk with him on the way to Jerusalem like Bartimaeus.

In this critical period of our history when we are celebrating the 500 years of the coming of Christianity while we are in the midst of a crucial election campaign period on the second year of a crippling pandemic, we are all called by Jesus to leave the roadside like Bartimaeus to join him on the main road, to journey with him, and most of all, to carry our cross with him.

Joining Jesus on the main road with his Cross means becoming his very presence among other people too. Discipleship is more than seeing and following Jesus – it means setting aside our false securities and “springing up” from our comfort zones in order to give ourselves to others too.

Discipleship is walking with God, walking with his people, bringing them joy and hope while in the midst of sufferings like the prophecy of Jeremiah in the first reading: “Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng” (Jer.31:8).

Yes, this has been fulfilled by Jesus in his coming but the journey continues to this day with his faithful disciples who guard against all kinds of blindness within, leaving the roadside of comforts to meet and share Jesus on the dusty road of life.

Many times, Jesus is passing by the road invisible to many, unnoticed by many due to various kinds of blindness. Jesus wants us all to be with him, to join in his journey to light, to freedom, to peace and to joy. Everybody is invited to leave the roadside and hit the main road with Jesus.

Let us be open to listen to his coming, to his calls.

Most of all, let us beg him for mercy to open our eyes, to heal us from the many blindness we have so we may see and meet him, love and follow him always. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

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

Remembering, forgiving

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 22 September 2021
Ezra 9:5-9     ><)))*> + ><)))'> + ><)))*>     Luke 9:1-6
Photo by author, 2010.
In this month of September,
help us remember O God our Father
our collective history as a nation
like Ezra your servant:

I said, “My God, I am too ashamed and confounded to raise my face to you, O my God, for our wicked deeds are heaped up above our heads and our guilt reaches up to heaven. From the time of our fathers even to this day great has been our guilt, and for our wicked deeds we have been delivered up, we and our kings and our priests, to the will of the kings of foreign lands, to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to disgrace, as is the case today.”

Ezra 9:6-7
Help us remember our sins not to blame
and deepen the wounds of the past
but to learn from the lessons of the 
mistakes and abuses that have happened;
help us remember our sins 
to understand its roots so we may not 
repeat them again; most of all, 
help us remember our sins 
so we may realize your immense
love and mercy for us 
in never forsaking us.

“For slaves we are, but in our servitude our God has not abandoned us; rather, he has turned the goodwill of kings of Persia toward us. Thus, he has given us new life to raise again the house of our God and restore its ruins, and has granted us a fence in Judah and Jerusalem.”

Ezra 9:9
In your strange providence,
loving God our Father,
you have used the pagan kings
of Persia to set your people free
from the Babylonian captivity;
in the same manner,
you have never left nor abandoned us
through our painful experiences
as a result of our captivity in sin and evil
to see your love and compassion,
enabling us to turn them into
opportunities for personal growth
and maturity in our spirituality
by deepening our sensitivity to
the sufferings of others caused by
evil and sin.
We pray today, O God
that we may be agents of your mercy
like King Cyrus of ancient Persia,
most especially as disciples of your Son
Jesus Christ sent out to proclaim
the coming of good news of salvation.
Amen.

“Out of Touch” by Hall & Oates (1984)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 05 September 2021
Photo by author, 2020.

The “ber” months are finally with us and despite the daily five-digit number of COVID-19 infections, so many of us seem to be so “out-of-touch” with so many who do not seem to care at all for their loved ones nor for the country like our corrupt officials. Or to God at all.

That is why we have picked Daryl Hall and John Oates’ 1984 hit Out of Touch from their album Big Bam Boom. It was the heydays of Hall and Oates who were then called the “dynamic duo” of the music world with so many hits before and after this song.

We were in college when Out of Touch came with a lot of extended and remixed versions due to its great sound that everybody loved this song.

But, behind that danceable groove and beat, Out of Touch lyrics are so in-touch with realities in life that unlike their other compositions, Hall and Oates sounded a bit philosophical here that we find it perfectly attuned with our Sunday gospel where Jesus touched the ears and tongue of a deaf to heal him of his sickness (https://lordmychef.com/2021/09/04/opening-our-ears-and-heart/).

Shake it up is all that we know
Using the bodies up as we go
I’m waking up to fantasy
The shades all around aren’t the colors we used to see
Broken ice still melts in the sun
And times that are broken can often be one again
We’re soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Take a look around

You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around

You’re out of touch
I’m out of time (time)
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around

Oh oh oh oh oh oh

Reaching out for something to hold
Looking for a love where the climate is cold
Manic moves and drowsy dreams
Or living in the middle between the two extremes
Smoking guns hot to the touch
Would cool down if we didn’t use them so much, yeah
We’re soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Too much

Aside from their usual poetry, Hall and Oates say something so deep using many metaphors in narrating how a wonderful romantic relationship had suddenly turned bad because the lovers had been out of touch with each other like with these lines:

I’m waking up to fantasy
The shades all around aren’t the colors we used to see
Broken ice still melts in the sun
And times that are broken can often be one again
We’re soul alone

Notice how in both stanzas they both mentioned the importance of the soul, of the heart and inner self. Or of spirituality, if you may:

Manic moves and drowsy dreams
Or living in the middle between the two extremes
Smoking guns hot to the touch
Would cool down if we didn’t use them so much, yeah
We’re soul alone

We said in our homily today that opening to God involves our whole person, our whole being. Not just our eyes and ears, but most of all our heart. And the first step for us is to take a break from our ordinary life, from our daily routines that have numbed us that we have lost our consciousness of the present moment, even of our very selves. To a certain sense, this is the grace of the pandemic – an opportunity for us all to spend more time with Jesus in prayers at home or in the church and to bond and fix those broken ties in our family. Before the pandemic, couples and children rarely have the chance to be together even at meals due to each one’s busy schedule; but, with COVID-19’s new mode of work and learning “from home”, many were thrown off balance because some have long lost their sense of being with family members.

Beginning this Sunday, let us get in touch with our true selves, with others and with God to pull through this pandemic before it gets us and tell us how out of touch we have been.

*We have no intentions of infringing on the copyrights of this music except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.

Opening our ears and heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIII-B in Ordinary Time, 05 September 2021
Isaiah 35:4-7 ><}}}'> James 2:1-5 ><}}}'> Mark 7:31-37
Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, 08 August 2021.

Since the start of our Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) last month, I have always admired the faithful people who continue to celebrate Mass with us outside our church as well as those in other places like Quiapo.

I have nothing against ECQ but I have always questioned the government decision in prioritizing churches in every lockdown when we have always been very strict in our protocols unlike malls and groceries. Most of all, it is during this time of crisis when we must give people the chance to express their faith in going to houses of worship to pray in silence and celebrate with the community while observing protocols.

It is very touching and inspiring to see people – young and old alike, healthy and sickly going to churches every Sunday, catching up with our Lord Jesus Christ even outside, rain or shine.

And that is why our gospel this Sunday is again very timely at this time we have reached the two-million mark in less than a year in the number of those infected with COVID-19 while those in government corruption are also breaking the billion peso mark in anomalous transactions! That is how evil those people are that while many are suffering in the pandemic, there those in government with gall to steal big time.

Has God forsaken us his people, especially at this time we are celebrating our 500th year of Christianization? Of course not!

Jesus Christ continues to come to us everyday not only to cleanse by washing our hearts of evil and sin as we have seen last Sunday in the gospel; today, Mark tells us how Jesus comes also to open our ears in order to hear and listen to his words that eventually open our hearts to freedom and salvation.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!”

Mark 7:31-34

“Jesus went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into Decapolis

Of the four evangelists, Mark is the only one who portrays Jesus as always on the go without even telling us details of his itinerary nor of the places he visited and people he had met. As the first gospel account written, Mark wrote in straight news style as he felt the urgency of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.

However, when Mark gives even the slightest details of the places and people in the journeys of the Lord, it always means something else. Like in our gospel today.

Photo by author, Sea (Lake) of Galilee, 2017.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.

Mark 7:31

You will recall that in July when Jesus sent his disciples to their first missionary journey, they were told to seek the “lost sheep of Israel”, to not go to pagan and Samaritan lands.

Today, it is the Lord himself who left Tyre and Sidon in northern Israel to go into the pagan territories of Decapolis that literally means “ten cities”.

Here we find the universality of Christ’s mission, not just for his fellow Jews. His love is so encompassing covering all the peoples of all time, then and now.

Jesus seeks us out who are in totally alien territory in life like this pandemic because he loves us.

When we look back and reflect in our lives, we find so many instances in the past how it was in the most foreign and lost situations when we have actually found God, is it not?

Reflecting further in this scene in the Decapolis, Mark is reminding us how we could also be those people who have brought the deaf-mute to Jesus, begging him to heal the man.

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.

Mark 7:32

Those people who have begged Jesus to heal the deaf-mute are the same people who went out of their ways since the start of the pandemic helping others in their many needs and sufferings, those people who sacrificed time, talent and treasures for the less fortunate like the community pantry.

They were also those elder brothers and sisters who have helped their younger siblings to learn and thrive in the new mode of learning online that began last year.

Those people who begged Jesus to heal the deaf-mute were also the same medical health frontliners who have died or still continue to serve us despite our callous government officials led by the health secretary.

Though there were so many abusive people last year -mostly civil servants and police officials who have notoriously made headlines – there were still more generous and kind people who made Jesus present to someone in need during this pandemic.

How wonderful it is to realize – and relish this Sunday as we find ourselves in this unusual and surreal situation of the COVID-19 pandemic that Christ is also with us, staying with us, speaking to us.

But, are we listening to him? Are we not also the same deaf-mute who needs Christ’s healing?

Photo by author, Caeasaria in northern Israel, 2017.

“Ephphata” – Be opened!

Notice another significant detail that Mark has mentioned in this gospel scene. Aside from identifying the Lord’s coming to the pagan territory of Decapolis, Mark surprisingly tells us in details the unique and unusual manner of healing by Jesus there.

There must be something very important in this unique healing by Jesus whereas before, he would just lay his hands on the sick or most usually, he would merely speak. Remember that we could also be this deaf needing Christ’s healing.

He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.

Mark 7:33-35

Opening to God involves our whole person, our whole being. Not just our eyes and ears, but most of all our heart. And the first step for us is to take a break from our ordinary life, from our daily routines that have numbed us that we have lost our consciousness of the present moment, even of our very selves.

This is why Jesus “took him off by himself from the crowd.”

Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, 08 August 2021.

To a certain sense, this is the grace of the pandemic – an opportunity for us all to spend more time with Jesus in prayers at home or in the church and to bond and fix those broken ties in our family. Before the pandemic, couples and children rarely have the chance to be together even at meals due to each one’s busy schedule; but, with COVID-19’s new mode of work and learning “from home”, many were thrown off balance because some have long lost their sense of being with family members.

Prayer in fact is an awareness of our presence that leads us to God’s presence. Unless we learn to separate from others and the usual ordinariness of our lives characterized by madness and toxicity in everything, we can never experience the presence of God in Jesus Christ in us and among us as well as in the sacraments and prayers.

That putting of Jesus of his finger into the man’s ears and touching his tongue with a spit indicate the personal encounter of the Lord with each of us, of how he would reach out to us daily to feel and experience his presence but we are always “out-of-touch”.

It is said that our heart is the shape of two ears put together.

I believe so. Opening to God is opening our ears to Jesus speaking to us daily. He has been trying so hard to converse with us but we hardly notice him around us because of those ubiquitous ear pods and headphones always stuck into our ears. We shut ourselves from the world to be into our own world, separated from everyone including God. We would rather listen to influencers and personal playlists that confirm things we believe as true, no more room for others especially the poor and marginalized as James noted in his Letter we have heard proclaimed in the second reading.

Beginning this Sunday, let us set ourselves apart from the rest to open ourselves to Jesus to see his light and hear his words so we can walk his path of joy and peace because he is “the Way” (Jn.16:6).

Let our hearts be strong, not to fear this crisis because God has fulfilled his promise prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading on Christ’s coming with “vindication and divine recompense to save us” (Is.35:4).

Have a blessed first week of September!

Photo from news.abs-cbn.com, 2020.

Fulfillment in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 02 September 2021
Colossians 1:9-14   ><}}}*> ><}}}*> ><}}}*>   Luke 5:1-11
Photo by author of the statues of Simon Peter kneeling before Jesus after the miraculous catch of fish at the lake, 2017.
As the pandemic rages with its
more devastating surge affecting
whole families, we pray dear Father
not only for healing of those afflicted
with COVID-19 but also for the opening
of our minds and hearts to find the
deeper realities of life instead of still
being preoccupied with mundane and 
selfish desires we have taken as our
false securities.  Let us remove all these
blindness in us to see and embrace 
the truth of your Son Jesus Christ, the 
only one who can lead us out of this
darkness that is also of our own making.
Let the prayer of St. Paul for the Colossians
be our prayer today, Father:  "that we may walk
in a manner worthy of the Lord so as to be fully
pleasing in every good work, bearing fruit
and growing in the knowledge of God" so that
"we may be fit to share in the inheritance 
of the holy ones in light" (Colossians 1:10,12).
Dear Father, help us realize the need for us
to seek fulfillment only you in Christ Jesus
"in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness
of sins" (Colossians 1:14).
Open our eyes to see the deeper story behind 
the news happening around us today:  
of what sense is our pursuit for fame,
wealth and power when we can easily die with
COVID-19 or when our country is overrun 
by rebels like Afghanistan?
Fulfillment in life can only be found 
in Jesus Christ your Son who had come 
to enable us "catch abundant fish" when
all our toils and efforts yielded nothing;
teach us to trust in you more, to dare 
cast the net into the deep and most of all,
to leave our "boat" of comfort and ease
to walk with Jesus, following him as
"fishers of men" sharing his loving service
and presence, mercy and kindness with everyone.
Amen. 

True faith and good health build a community

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 01 September 2021
Colossians 1:9-14   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 4:38-44
Photo by author, November 2018.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father,
for the gift of life that we have
reached the first day of the "ber"
months leading to Christmas.
Since last year we have been
amusing ourselves with the 
awaited playing of Christmas
carols in September to feel good.
But today, we also feel blessed
for being alive, in keeping the faith
in you.

Brothers and sisters: from the day we heard about you, we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding; to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord so as to be fully pleasing in every good work, bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God.

Colossians 1:9-10
While we are all praying
 for more faith and good health
 in this time of another surge,
we continue to pray for the
healing of all those afflicted
with COVID-19, begging you like
Simon Peter for his mother-in-law;
We pray for the healing of the sick
not only in body but also in mind,
heart and soul.
Help us realize that like faith,
good health builds community;
that good health concerns all
because everyone's well-being
depends also with everyone's health.

After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them.

Luke 4:38-39
Teach us, O God,
to be like Simon Peter's mother-in-law 
to realize that most especially 
in our good health we can help build 
our community and family 
by serving in the name of Jesus
for other's good health
and wellness.
Amen.

Arise, be whole again in Christ!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 27 June 2021
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 <+> 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 <+> Mark 5:21-24, 35-43
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

Once again, we find Jesus crossing the Lake of Galilee this week with a crowd following him to listen to his teachings and experience his healing. What a beautiful image of life in Jesus, of constantly crossing the sea, sometimes in the darkness of the night amid storms.

It was something like what we had gone through last Thursday on the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist when as a nation we crossed history with the inauguration of the new Archbishop of Manila marked with the passing of former President Noynoy Aquino.

We hope and pray that like our gospel this Sunday, our recent crossing will lead us to new awakenings and realizations leading to national healing and yes, a resurrection, a rising from the dead like that young daughter of Jairus brought back to life by Jesus.

When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, Talitha koum, which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded.

Mark 5:38-42
Photo by author with friends at ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum, 2017.

Examining our faith in Jesus

Notice, my dear reader, how similar is our story of Jesus raising to life the dead daughter of Jairus with that of the calming of the storm while crossing the lake last Sunday. In both instances, we find Mark “exaggerating” some details as if Jesus were somewhat oblivious to what was going on around him.

But again, Mark is not entertaining us with his stories narrating the powers and miracles by Jesus for he is telling us something deeper and very important with those surprising details of his stories. Primary of which is the supremacy of Jesus as the Son of God over nature like the sea and death both symbolizing evil and sin.

Mark affirms this truth today in telling us how Jesus brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus, that Jesus is the Christ who had come launching a new world order where death and sin are overcome in him through his pasch.

Recall last Sunday how Mark ended his story with the disciples asking, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mk.4:41).

That question is finally answered by our story today that clearly shows Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who is life himself when he brought back to life the dead little girl.

Unfortunately, like during the time of Mark until now, many still doubt the powers of Jesus. Then and now, there is still that crisis of faith among us expressed by people from the synagogue official’s house who arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”(Mk.5:35).

If you were in that crowd following Jesus, would you still go with him to enter the house? Would you heed his words like Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk.5:36)?

And while inside the house, knowing the little girl was already dead, would you join the rest in ridiculing Jesus who said, “The child is not dead but asleep” (Mk.5:39)?

These are the questions Mark is asking us today like the Christians of his time going through persecution and crisis in the early Church.

It is easy to “believe”, proclaiming with arms raised that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is the Son of God but it is another thing to be truly convinced, to have faith in him when faced with the stark realities of life persistently attacked by sickness and death, of pains and sufferings that make us wonder why God could allow these to happen!

We have all felt our faith shaken when this pandemic struck us last year that took away those dearest to us so sudden, often without seeing them at all before they were cremated.

Like his story last Sunday, Mark’s narration of the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus is filled with many surprising details we find it so true with our own experiences of struggling to avoid or survive COVID-19, of having a sick child or spouse, of trying to make it to another day, of keeping our jobs to pay for food and rent and other needs of our family.

Do we really have that faith in Jesus, convinced that everything will be “okay” like Nightbirde who can brim with all smiles even if saddled with three kinds of cancer with a 2% chance of survival, claiming it is better than zero?

Today’s gospel is more than the revelation of who Jesus Christ is: the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus dares to invite us in examining our faith in God in the face of unrelenting attacks on life by sickness and death especially in this time of the pandemic.

Death and sickness are realities we face daily, that make us doubt God’s love and concern for us which the first reading clarifies with its declaration that

God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

Wisdom 1:13, 2:23-24
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2019.

Arising and being whole in Jesus

Jesus came not to remove sickness and death, pains and sufferings which did not come from God for God is love. He came to be one with us in sickness and death, in our pains and sufferings so that we may rise with him too in his resurrection and be whole again in him.

Notice the words Jesus used in every healing, “your faith has saved you” to show that healing is not just a cure of the disease but making the person whole again. The words health, healing, wholeness, and holiness are all interrelated if we examine their origins and implications. Hence, we see that whenever Jesus would heal, it is not only an eradication of an illness but restoring harmony and balance in the person – physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects.

It is the same in raising the dead young man in Nain and his friend Lazarus: Jesus or the evangelists used the word “arise” as a foreshadowing of Easter when Jesus himself rose from the dead, an indication of his power over death.

All these people in the gospels Jesus had healed and brought back to life eventually died but the good news is that death and sickness are no longer dark and an ending in itself.

Jesus came to bring salvation to the world, a wholeness in life which disease and physical death can no longer control and hold. That is why we need a firm faith to believe in him in spite of the many sickness and deaths now around us. It is faith that will enable us to grasp the full meaning of this pandemic and other sufferings we are going through in life. It is our deep faith in God that will also enable us to explain and show to others especially our loved ones the true meaning of healings and resurrections performed by Jesus who gives us a share in his victory over sickness and death.

May we dwell on the beautiful exposition of St. Paul today about being poor like Christ “that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2Cor. 8:9).

We can only be whole when we share whatever we have because that is when we allow Jesus to work in us, to be in us, to complete us. This happens when we wholeheartedly celebrate the Holy Eucharist where we become poor like Jesus, emptying ourselves of our sins, sharing with others our wealth through our contributions not only to the church collections but also to other charities where some of us share also time and talent aside from treasures.

The experience of the community pantry recently had taught us the value of St. Paul’s call for us to share and be poor like Christ when we were encouraged to take only what one needs and to give according to one’s ability – “kumuha ayon sa pangangailangan, magbigay ayon sa kakayahan”.

Yes, the realities of poverty and hunger remain with us but people are fed, sufferings are alleviated and most of all, the whole nation is united in believing again there is hope amidst the pandemic worsened by the systematic evil that has plagued us for so long.

Faith in God is deepened and strengthened when we become poor and weak like Jairus because that is only when we can arise and be whole again in Jesus Christ who is himself our Resurrection and Life. Amen.

A blessed new week to you and everyone!

Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2017.

Walking. And healing.

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 25 June 2021
Genesis 17:1, 9-10, 15-22   > + <   Matthew 8:1-4

Photo by author at Petra, Jordan, 2019.
When Abraham was ninety-nine years old,
The Lord appeared to him and said:
"I am God the Almighty.
Walk in my presence and be blameless."
(Genesis 17:1)
What a beautiful call from you,
O God our Father:
to walk in your presence 
and be blameless.
Our lives consist of so many walks
many in a hurry, some very slowly
and maybe the rest listlessly, aimlessly
refusing to move at all.
Teach us, O Lord, 
to walk blamelessly
by walking in your ways
following the path of the narrow gate
learning to prostrate before you
like Abraham when filled with joy
or like the leper who approached Jesus
when deeply in pain and suffering.
When Jesus came down 
from the mountain,
great crowds followed him.  
And then a leper approached, 
did him homage, and said,
"Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean."
He stretched out his hand,
touched him, and said,
"I will do it.  Be made clean."
His leprosy was cleansed immediately.
(Matthew 8:1-3) 
We pray for those who have stopped
walking to you
walking with you, Lord:
let them rise again to walk
blamelessly in your sight.
Heal them and likewise
send them again to walk in your presence
and be agents of your healing.  Amen.

Praying to control anger

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 08 March 2021
Monday, Third Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God
2 Kings 5:1-15     ><}}}*>  +  <*{{{><     Luke 4:24-30
Photo by author, NLEX in Pampanga, January 2021.

Yesterday in the gospel you were angry, Lord Jesus, when people turned the temple into a marketplace that made you drove them away along with their animals and doves being sold, scattering the coins of money changers who have set up shops in your Father’s house.

Today we find in our readings some people getting angry and we hope to learn some lessons from you regarding this misunderstood emotion in this season of Lent.

First to get angry was King Joram of Israel when he received a letter of recommendation from the Aramean king seeking a cure for Gen. Naaman’s leprosy.

When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man would send someone to me to be cured of leprosy? Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!”

2 Kings 5:7

So many times, we burst into anger not really of a present situation before us but of things that happened in the past or worst, things that are mere imaginations or suppositions we have in our minds like King Joram of Israel. Teach us to be open with the present situation before us; make us understand what is being asked of us. Disarm us of our mistrusts and suspicions of others as if people are always seeking a fight with us (when in fact we are the ones who are quarrelsome like the king of Israel).

Then, there was also the famous Syrian general Naaman who got angry when Prophet Elisha did not come out to meet him, feeling being “snubbed” despite his stature:

Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. The prophet sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean. But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the Lord his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy.”

2 Kings 5:9-11

Much ado about nothing! So often we are like Naaman getting angry more because of pride, of expecting so much from others on how we should be treated with importance.

Forgive us for our fits of anger just because we felt not treated with honor, forgetting the more essential things we need in life like healing than massaging our ego. There are times, Lord, we get angry when we do not get what we expect or demand from others. Teach us openness and humility too. Make us learn to be discerning on the more essential things in life like you, O Lord, the one who truly heals and blesses us!

And lastly, in the gospel we find the people getting angry with you, dear Jesus because you spoke the truth.

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.

Luke 4:28-29
Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

Anger is an emotion that must be released positively like with what you did at the cleansing of the temple, Jesus.

Most of the time, the devil rides on our anger to lead us into sin, even to grave sins like murder or slander because we are “hurt” by truth like those people listening to you at the synagogue. They could not handle the hard truth about their pride and bloated egos that they wanted to kill you after telling them of their lack of faith in God.

Help us get to the roots of our anger, to accept who we are so we may not be overcome by anger and thereby not sin that much anymore.

Let us control our anger and not let anger control us. Amen.