Remembering our call

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 11 October 2021
Romans 1:1-7   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Luke 11:29-32
Photo by author, 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father
who has called us through
Jesus Christ your Son 
to be your servants.
As we begin this brand new
week of work and school, 
let us be reminded
of this great honor from you
that we have taken for granted,
even forgotten and disregarded.
May we learn from St. Paul
to take pride in this calling
to be your servant.

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God… among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy. Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:1, 6-7
In Baptism, we have been called
to be your servant and apostle,
most of all called to be holy
like you, God our Father;
help us recapture the beauty
and honor of this call from you;
enable us to activate this call in us
set apart as a people for a very special
mission especially in this time of the
pandemic.
Most of all, let us remember today
your call for us to witness to Jesus Christ
and his Gospel of salvation through the
particular circumstances of our lives
lest that day of judgment catch us by
surprise immersed in sin and evil,
forgetting the sign of Jonah 
and Nineveh (Lk.11:29-32).
Amen.

And God said, “Sanaol”!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXVI-B in Ordinary Time, 26 September 2021
Numbers 11:25-29 ><]]]*> James 5:1-6 ><]]]*> Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
Photo by author, 2019.

One word I recently learned during my two week quarantine due to colds is the expression “sanaol” – short for “sana all” which is from “sana lahat”. Formed by combining the Filipino expression in making wishes “sana” and the English “all” for everyone, sanaol is said when you hear the blessings received by another person, wishing everyone is also blessed with same good things that range from ordinary things like food and money to girlfriend or boyfriend!

As I prayed over our readings this Sunday, I realized it must have been God who originally expressed “sanaol” on two occasions, first through Moses while in the desert and secondly through Jesus while with the Twelve at Capernaum.


From Twitter.com, 2019.

With God, sky’s the limit in doing good

It is so amazing this Sunday in our two readings how God sees us all as his children, his chosen people so blessed abundantly yet against this background is the human response of exclusivity and entitlement. Of pride and selfishness.

Consider how in the first reading when Joshua asked Moses to stop two men, named Eldad and Medad, from prophesying simply because they were not with him in the tent in meeting God while at the desert.

But Moses answered him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”

Number 11:29

“Sanaol prophets!” could have been the resounding reply by Moses to Joshua who misunderstood God’s freedom in bestowing his blessings to everyone. So many times not only with God but even with our own family, relatives or friends who have been generous with others that we stop and prevent them from sharing their goods, thinking we are doing a great service in jealously guarding their prerogatives.

Again, here we find like last Sunday our failure to find God in our way and journey in life that even his gifts we try to limit to ourselves.

At the least, it is a simplistic and myopic view on God’s and other’s generosities while at its worst, a selfish attitude within us to constrict God and others in giving away whatever good things they have.

Let us not forget the basic truth on the nature of God’s gifts and grace as ways and means for being of service and for the good of the community. Why limit those blessed to share gifts and blessings? Besides, God or whomever is totally free to give away whatever they have without denying or impoverishing anyone by giving away goods to others.

Photo from inquirer.net, May 2021.

This is the teaching of Jesus to the Twelve who reported to him how they have tried to stop someone from exorcising in his name because he did not belong to their group.

Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”

Mark 9:39-40

“Sanaol good and helpful!” could have been the Lord’s reply to his disciples, reminding them the most obvious truth that with God and everything that is good, there can be no labels and divisions or groupings. We are all one in God our Father who is the source of all good; hence, we must neither monopolize the right to do good nor belittle the good others do even if they are not one of us or do not belong to our fold.

The Lord knows very well his own, we need not worry about such petty things on who’s who or to whom belongs whatever. God knows everything. What matters most is we keep on doing what is truly good so that despite the limitations we have in this life, we continue to strive to create a just and humane society here on earth as envisioned by Vatican II in Lumen Gentium.

Sin: the only limitation

If sky is the limit in doing good with God, Jesus reminds us today that the only limitation and obstacle in our lives is sin. The Lord is very clear with this truth that he had to explain things in details to the the Twelve lest they fall into this big trap.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye that with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna.”

Mark 9:42-43, 45, 47

“Sanaol understand” that all good gifts can come only from God, that is why we have to respect the freedom and conscience of everyone in the good deeds they do. Whoever keeps the laws of God faithfully are always blessed abundantly. No religious barrier nor label can hold that in check.

When pride and selfishness move into one’s heart, then everything is destroyed and made dirty. Recall how Jesus declared last month that “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile” (Mk.7:15). We have to examine our selves closely so as not to destroy the beauty of goodness and ability to do what is good planted in each of us by God.

Photo by author, 22 September 2021.

Here we are challenged by Jesus to closely examine our being his disciples, of how close have we been in knowing him as our Lord and Master.

Is it Jesus whom we are following or our very selves, our own thoughts and ideas of who is Jesus Christ not as he is?

Notice how in our gospel this Sunday we are presented with contrasts, first, of doing good that is without limits and committing sins that delimit us doing what is good, not affiliations and labels.

But the most wonderful contrasts we can find that gives us a clearer picture of life are found in Jesus: his meekness especially the sinful contrite of their sins and his sternness with the self-righteous who highly regarded themselves like the Pharisees and scribes, assuring they would never enter the kingdom of heaven because of such attitude; his open-mind with those doing good outside his circle of disciples and his strict demands of being good that whatsoever you do to the least you have also done to him.

Here we discover there are no compromises with Jesus, no gray areas that he demands everyone to “say yes if you mean yes and no if you mean no” (Mt.5:37) because the more we get closer to him, the more we realize the coherence of his teachings and of his person as the Christ of God.

It is always the same Lord who speaks, who is truth and life himself. Unlike us humans who suddenly change our stand and views on everything when tempted with money and riches. This is the reason why we have this portion of the letter by St. James: we are dared to examine our attitude with regard to riches and material wealth because it clearly reveals our world view in life. A lot often, attachment to earthly goods show our lack of belief in eternal life toward which this temporal life is directed. Jesus himself we cannot follow him if we are slaves to money and riches for you cannot serve both God and mammon.


Photo by author, Caesarea in Israel, 2017.

Three Sundays ago at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked us like the Twelve, “who do you say that I am? (Mk.8:29)”. It is a very crucial question demanding from us a personal answer so we can truly enter into a deeper relationship with him and be able to forget ourselves, carry our cross and follow him.

The more we get to know Jesus, the more we can see him clearly, the more we will love him dearly, and the more we become like him eventually, willing to leave everything including wealth and riches of the world for the love of God through others. Amen.

“Sanaol follow Jesus!” Have a blessed week ahead.

Praying for holy hands

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. John Chrysostom, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 13 September 2021
1 Timothy 2:1-8   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 7:1-10
Photo from Google.
Your words today, O God our Father
through St. Paul are so difficult,
so hard to accept:

Beloved: First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.

1 Timothy 2:1-4
You know very well 
the kind of leaders and 
people in authority that we have;
however, you know so well too
how they came to power through 
our ignorance and/or arrogance.
Yes, Father, the fault is in us
and that is why we pray also
today that we may be gifted with 
"holy hands that pray without
anger or argument" as St. Paul
instructed Timothy.
Cleanse our hands through
your Son so we may imitate
the centurion in humility,
admitting before Jesus
 that he is not worthy
to have him enter under his roof
that is why he never bothered
to come near him too; but,
with clean and holy hands,
he asked Jesus to only say the word
and his servant shall be healed
and it was granted him! (Lk.7:6-7)
Through the intercession of
St. John Chrysostom whom you
have gifted with "golden mouth"
to speak what is true
following long hours of prayer,
cleanse us of our sins so
we may pray to you with holy hands
and holy lips, without anger or argument
for our leaders.
Amen.

The Holy month of August

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 August 2021
Photo by Fr. John Howard Tarrayo, National Shrine and Parish of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 06 August 2021.

Like the months of November and January, August now suffers the same fate of being more known with pagan rituals and beliefs despite its rich liturgical celebrations and feasts we celebrate – ironically – as the only Christian nation in this part of the world.

Spurred mainly by the social media, more and more Filipinos now believe that August is a “ghost month” with almost everybody even not a Chinoy are posting those “Do’s” and “Don’ts” on Facebook to cast away or avoid the evil spell by ghosts that August is supposed to bring.

What a sad reality in our Catholic Christian country.

Forty or 30 years ago, all we have was “pangangaluluwa” when some people would sing in front of our homes for some donations like in caroling during Christmas season. With the advent of social media and our penchant for anything American, we now have every November those grossly erroneous and pagan Halloween practices of costume party and “trick or treat”. Not far from that is our January tradition borrowed also from pagans of literally welcoming every New Year with a lot of “bang”, wasting precious money that also cost some lives and injuries to so many due to fireworks and firecrackers.

Here we find the kind of religiosity that binds most of us, more on rites and rituals but lacking in roots and spirituality, centered on ourselves to be assured of every kind of blessings, forgetting all about the very object of faith who is God expressed in our concern for one another.


August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year.  
Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one.  
No day nor date nor time is malas because 
when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, 
life has become holy, filled with God, 
debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year. Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one. No day nor date nor time is malas because when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, life has become holy, filled with God, debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

In this regard a text by Saint Gregory Nazianzen is enlightening. He says that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ[2]. This scene, in fact, overturns the world-view of that time, which in a different way has become fashionable once again today. It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. In ancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. Heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love[3].

#5 of Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 30 November 2007
From catholicapostolatecenter.org.

Consider the name of this month August which was borrowed from the Roman Caesar Augustus that signifies reverence or to hold someone in high regard. As an adjective, august means “respected and impressive” like when we say “in this august hall of men and women of science”.

Most of all, consider the great feasts that fall on this month of August: the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ on August 6 and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven on August 15. Both feasts remind us of the promise of glory in heaven as we strive and persevere to lead holy lives in this world filled with pain and sufferings.

(See our blogs on these feasts, https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/06/transfiguration-in-time-of-corona/ and https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/14/mary-mirror-of-gods-greatness/.)

There are also so many saints we celebrate on this month of August like our patron saint as priests, St. John Vianney (August 4); St. Dominic who died 800 years ago on August 8 after serving not only the Church but also the whole world in general when he founded the Order of Preachers (O.P.) also known as the “Dominicans”; St. Clare of Assisi (August 11), a contemporary and friend of St. Francis; St. Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20) who wrote so many beautiful homilies, hymns and prayers like the Memorare; St. Rose of Lima (August 23) who was the first saint from the New World; and of course not to forget the greatest mother and son tandem next maybe to Mary and Jesus, St. Monica (August 27) and St. Augustine (August 28).

August is also the month of two great followers of Jesus, St. Bartholomew the Apostle (August 24) and two former Pharisees who buried our Lord, St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. Nicodemus (August 31). Likewise, it is on August 29 when we celebrate the martyrdom of the Lord’s precursor, St. John the Baptist who was beheaded during the birthday party of Herod who was so afraid to take back his oath to give whatever Salome would ask him after delighting his guests with a dance number.

There are two special saints we celebrate this holy month that according to St. John Paul II are both saints of our modern time, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (August 09) and St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14). Both saints were martyred in the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

St. Teresa Benedicta is the same German philosopher Edith Stein, a former Jew who had become an atheist in her younger years in the university but upon further studies and prayer, converted into Catholicism, becoming a Carmelite nun where she adopted her new name. She wrote in one of her writings that “Those who seek truth seek God, whether they realize it or not“.

Though she had become Catholic, she did not abandon her Judaic roots, even writing the Pope at that time to ask him to speak strongly against the Nazi Germans’ extermination of Jews. Her death on August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz with her younger sister who had become a Catholic too was a fitting testimony to her faith, honoring her Jewish roots by dying among them as a martyr of Christ and one who had “learned to live in God’s hands” according to Sr. Josephine Koeppel, OCD, a translator of much of her works.

Dying ahead of her in Auschwitz on August 14, 1941 was St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who was arrested for his writings against the evil Nazis. It was actually his second time to be arrested.

When a prisoner had escaped from the camp, authorities rounded up ten men to die in exchange of the lone escapee. Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a married man with children. They were all tortured and starved in order to die slowly in pain. A devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Maximilian was injected with carbolic acid on the eve of the Assumption after guards found him along with three other prisoners still alive, without any signs of fear like screaming but silently praying.

Photo of Auschwitz from Google.

We no longer have gas chambers but atrocities against human life continue in our time, hiding in the pretext of science and laws. Until now, men and women, young and old alike including those not yet born in their mother’s womb are hunted and killed to correct what many perceived as excesses and wrongs in the society. Just like what Hitler and his men have thought of the Jews at that time.

The Nazi officers and soldiers of Auschwitz remind us the true “ghosts” or evil spirits of our time sowing hatred and deaths are people who may be well-dressed, even educated in the best schools, and come from devout or “normal” families. They sow evil every day without choosing any particular month, blindly following orders without much thinking and reflections or introspection.

By the lives of the many great saints of August, or of any other month for that matter, we are reminded especially in this time of the pandemic that holiness is not being sinless but simply being filled with God, allowing that holiness to spill over and flow onto others with our lives of authenticity to the truth of God among us in Christ expressed in charity and mercy, kindness and justice, humility and openness with one another.

It is very sad and depressing to watch in the news and social media feeds how some among us continue to display their lack of any concern at all with the suffering people with their lavish lifestyles and display of expensive clothes and food. And worst of all are those men and women, in power or hungry for power, in their excessive display of brute force against the weak and the poor.

Let us make every month holy and blessed with our good deeds to make everyone aware of Christ’s presence among us.

Photo from inquirer.net.

Praying with St. Monica

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Monica, Holy Woman, 27 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 4:1-8   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Matthew 25:1-13
Image from National Catholic Register (ncregister.com).
Today dear Father,
we pray for all mothers in a very
special way as we celebrate the
Memorial of St. Monica, mother
of your beloved servant St. Augustine.
We pray with St. Monica for all mothers
that they may truly be like the five wise
virgins in today's gospel who brought
extra oil for their lamps:  a lot of good works
and a lot, lot more of prayers when loved ones have
fallen away from faith in you.
We pray for mothers like St. Monica
for the grace of holiness expressed 
tremendously in the virtues of patience,
charity, and humility.
St. Monica with her son St. Augustine. From en.wikipedia.org
Like St. Monica, may mothers win
over their wayward husbands,
teaching them how to "disarm" and "tame"
their abusive and temperamental spouses,
remaining sweet and loving
yet firm even under pressures
 and sometimes duress,
in imitating Jesus Christ in humility
and patience.
Most of all, dear God, we pray
for mothers to be persevering and wise
in dealing with their problematic children
who have succumbed to the evils of the world;
You know very well, God, how so many
mothers cry and suffer in silence today
for their sons and daughters who have
fallen to atheism and modern paganism and
pseudo-spiritualities, consumerism and materialism,
promiscuity, early pregnancies, separation
and same-sex relationships;
substance abuse and alcoholism
and other Godless ways of living.
We pray for mothers who are sick,
those taking care of a sick loved one,
mothers forgotten by children left to
spend old age in foster homes;
and mothers suffering with
anxieties and depression
or themselves have lost faith in you.
God our Father,
so many mothers have already 
suffered so much; please ease
their pains and loneliness.
Through the intercession of
St. Monica, grant their prayers
and wishes before they meet you
in eternal life.  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.

Lead us, remind us, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 25 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>  Matthew 23:27-32
Photo by the author, Capernaum along the shore of Lake of Galilee (Tiberias), 2017.
Times are getting more tough,
more difficult, and most painful
for us these days, God our loving Father.
We ask you only for one thing -
lead us to your Son Jesus Christ our Lord
as we pray:
Lead us, O Lord closer to you
to be like you - loving and caring
merciful and forgiving;
Lead us, O Lord to your words
and actualize them in our lives;
Lead us, O Lord in your Holy Spirit 
to work in us and through us
to bring life and joy, hope and inspiration
to those overshadowed with gloom
due to the pandemic.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing for us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

1 Thessalonians 2:13
Remind us today, dearest Jesus
that the greatest impact we can have
in this life are not just the words we speak
but by the deeds of love and care,
compassion and dedication we show;
Remind us, Lord, that the real test
of our discipleship in you is not found
in what people say how good or holy we are
but that they themselves are led to the Father;
Remind us today, dearest Jesus
not to be hypocrites like the Pharisees
and scribes who only wanted to appear
beautiful outside but rotting inside (Mt.23:27).
Amen.
 

Pagsusumakit patungong langit

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-05 ng Agosto 2021
Larawan kuha ni G. Vigie Ongleo sa Singapore, 03 Agosto 2021.
Akin nang kinalakhan
kasabihan ng matatanda,
"Kapag may tiyaga,
may nilaga!'
Ngunit sa aking pagtanda
ako ay namangha sapagkat
mayroon pang higit sa pagtitiyaga,
isang dakilang biyaya:  ang pagsusumakit. 
Sa wikang Inggles,
"persistence" kung isasalin
ang salitang pagtitiyaga
na kung saan nagsisikap
ang sino man upang matamo
 kanyang inaasam na tagumpay
kaya buong lakas at panahon
 doon nakatuon upang maging kampeon.
Ngunit higit pa sa pagtitiyaga ang pagsusumakit:
sa wikang Inggles ay perseverance
na kung saan sino man ay laan masaktan
at mahirapan upang mapanatili
 at mapangalagaan sumpa 
at pangakong binitiwan (komitment),
di lamang sa mithiing inaasam
na ibig makamtan kaya pinagtitiyagaan.
Sa pagsusumakit, 
hindi nakakaakit tagumpay
na makakamit kungdi higit 
sa lahat ay hindi maipagkait ang
nararapat at naayong tugon sa 
bawat pagkakataon kung kayat
ano man kahantungan ng bawat punyagi
kabutihan at kaganapan ang mapanatili.
Hindi pansamantala
ang pagsusumakit di tulad
ng pagtitiyaga at pagsisikap
na kadalasan ang layunin 
ay bagay at gamit na makakamit;
bawat pagsusumakit saan man
at kanino man ay paglapit 
at pagkamit na rin ng langit!
Sinabi ni Jesus sa mga tao:
"Ngunit pagsumakitan ninyo ng higit
sa lahat ang pagharian kayo ng Diyos
at mamuhay nang ayon sa kanyang
kalooban, at ipagkakaloob niya
ang lahat ng kailangan ninyo."
(Mateo 6:33)

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.

Desiring God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XI in Ordinary Time, Year I, 15 June 2021
2 Corinthians 8:1-9   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   Matthew 5:43-48
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 01 June 2021 at Bgy. Lalakhan, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

Thank you very much again, O God our loving Father for the grace of prayer, most especially in the grace of desiring you which is what prayer is all about. Keep us steady in our desire for you, to be with you, to be like you – holy and loving.

Enrich us today with your holiness and love by being poor of our selves like Jesus Christ your Son as experienced by St. Paul.

For you know the gracious act
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that for our sake he became poor 
although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:9)

Being poor like Jesus and St. Paul is thinking less of myself, more of others. How ironic that in our world of today where there is a surplus of everything, the more we have become worried of having less because we remain unconvinced of your love and blessings as we live detached from you. Hence, our constant feeling of being impoverished, needing to be filled and satisfied.

Teach us to be poor by being intimate with you, O God our Father so that we worry less of ourselves because we already have you, disposed to being like you, able to love freely.

"So be perfect,
just as your heavenly Father
is perfect."
(Matthew 5:48)

Make us realize that in this life, it is only you whom we must desire first of all in order to be sufficient and enriched that we are able to love everyone, even our enemies because we are confident in ourselves of your love and intimacy. Amen.