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.

Praying to be true in prayers

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XI in Ordinary Time, Year I, 14 June 2021
2 Corinthians 6:1-10   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 5:38-42
Photo by author, May 2016.

Thank you very much, O God, for the daily gift of prayers, of being able to pray to you which is a pure grace from you. On our own we cannot pray because we do not have the courage and wisdom to speak to you, to listen to you. Most of all, we are afraid to enter into union with you especially with the example set to us by Jesus Christ your Son.

Give us the grace to be slowly true in our prayers, Lord, like letting go of revenge and vengeance.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well."
(Matthew 5:38-39)

What is most difficult in praying is imitating you, sweet Jesus, in devoting our lives to you and your gospel by forgetting ourselves, carrying our crosses and following you closely.

So many times, we receive the grace of God in vain, wasting these gifts because we are so afraid of giving ourselves totally to others like you Lord Jesus on the cross.

Teach us how to be a sign of contradiction, a paradox in ourselves like St. Paul who truly imitated you by first of all trying to reconcile with the Corinthians who have turned against him when he failed to keep his promise of visiting them. Like you Lord Jesus, St. Paul bore all the personal attacks against him by the Corinthians, choosing to be conciliatory and gentle in his attitude in addressing them.

We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
so dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
so sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many; 
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.
(2 Corinthians 6:8-10)

In the midst of pain and suffering, rejection and persecution, St. Paul found joy and peace in you, dear Jesus. He was so convinced of your love and presence even in the midst of his darkest moments in life. So unlike us who easily give up your cross, Lord, when we are criticized because the sad truth is we always seek recognition and praise for our works in you.

Help us to be like St. Paul in his unshakeable faith in you, so true in his prayers of becoming like you, a sign of contradiction to the world, a person of Christ-like paradoxes. Amen.

Photo by author, May 2016.

Praying for integrity

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 08 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:18-22   ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'>   Matthew 5:13-16
Photo by Ray Piedra on Pexels.com
Jesus said to his disciples:
"You are the salt of the earth.  
But if salt loses its taste,
with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
(Matthew 5:13)

Thank you very much for calling us “blessed”, Lord Jesus Christ; but, of what use is our being filled with the spirit of your Beatitudes if we cannot live it out, if we cannot show it and make it work in our lives? Then we are nothing but tasteless salt!

Give us, O Lord, the grace of integration, of wholeness or holiness of putting into practice the grace and virtues you have given us.

Enable us to activate your Spirit in us, not just filling us, not just a feeling of being with you but most of all, reaching out to others, touching lives, leaving your marks of loving service and mercy.

We do not have to be a stand out, we do not have to be known and even noticed by everyone.

It is enough for us to be like the salt, Lord: just a pinch or a dash enough to give taste, to blend with everyone and with everything we do, changing and transforming people and situations in your favor without being seen or known for that is true blessedness – making you known, not us.

Like St. Paul, let our “yes” to your call and mission remain firm and steadfast even if situations and circumstances would sometimes delay us in fulfilling our promise but never neglect our mission and fidelity to you.

When things do not happen according to our plans and schedules, keep us more faithful to you, dear Jesus; for although outside factors may change beyond our control, what matters most is the inside of us, within our very hearts, there you are reigning supreme, giving us security in your in fulfilling and completing your work.

We pray, dear God for our co-workers in you, our co-journeyers in this life of commitment who are feeling weak and saddened by the many criticisms from detractors when their mission is delayed or temporarily shelved for unforeseen circumstances. Do not let them lose sight of the goals and mission you have entrusted for our main challenge in life is being faithful to you than successful. Amen.

When nothing is lost and when all is lost

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time, 28 May 2021
Sirach 44:1,9-13     ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*>     Mark 11:11-25
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.
Now I will praise those godly men,
our ancestors, each in his own time.
And for all time their progeny will endure,
their glory will never be blotted out.
(Sirach 44:1,13)

So many times, O Lord, I have heard the same words by your sage Ben Sirach, of how so many people who have gone ahead of us are hardly known nor remembered at all not because they are irrelevant or have not left no impact to anyone and this world.

There have been so many people ahead of us and still more living among us that surely much more would still come in the future after we are gone.

But life and living is not about being remembered for whatever reason.

Life and living is always about being good and holy, of being fully alive, living in you, O God our Father through Jesus Christ your Son.

That is why Ben Sirach praised both the known and unknown men who have gone ahead of him, especially the unknown ones because though there is “no memory of them for they have ceased” (v.9) they continue to exist, they are still relevant and in a sense “remembered” by their progeny because of their goodness and holiness.

How wonderful it is to dwell on this ending words of Ben Sirach in his book that remind us that nothing is lost, everything is gained and kept when we live in goodness and kindness.

Help us, O God, to make good of all your gifts to us lest we become like that fig tree Jesus cursed at Bethany along with the priests and merchants he had scolded when they turned your temple in Jerusalem into a marketplace.

Early in the morning,
as they were walking along, 
they saw the fig tree withered to its roots.
Peter remembered and said to him,
"Rabbi, look!  The fig tree that you cursed
has withered."
(Mark 11:20-21)
Photo by author, 2019.

So many times in life, we keep on trying to make and achieve so many things for the wrong reason of being relevant, of being remembered without realizing that simply being good ensures us of never being lost and forgotten.

It is in our personal pursuits of fame, of immortality when – sadly – all is lost.

We pray today, Lord Jesus Christ, for those who are always worried of so many things that past and non-essential, of how they look like, of how they will be remembered.

Give us that true faith in you to always experience your presence especially in cultivating a prayer life that leads to real trust and communion in you. It is in prayer when we become fruitful for that is when we become sensitive of your loving presence, of our living realities enabling us to forgive and reconcile with those who hurt us.

It is this kind of faith that produces fruit that endures and lasts forever, even if we remain unknown as Ben Sirach extolled in his teachings and prayer. Amen.

Jesus our Eternal Priest, our “at-one-ment” with God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday after Pentecost, Memorial of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest
Hebrews 10:11-18     ><}}}'>  +  <'{{{><     Mark 14:22-25
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2016.

O God our loving and merciful Father, as we move on to the Ordinary time, we celebrate on this Thursday after Pentecost Sunday the new Feast of your Son called, “Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest”.

What a beautiful reminder to us of how lovely and beautiful are your plans for us since the beginning, of how you have willed to create everything so there may always be that covenant, that special relationship with us your people as the crown of all your creations through your Son Jesus Christ.

How wonderful how Jesus Christ had brought to perfection that old temple worship in Jerusalem at the celebration of the Day of Atonement called Yom ha-Kippurim led by the high priest who employed the bloody offering of animals to cleanse everyone of their sins so that your people may be holy and be united with you again.

Gone were those bloody sacrifices, gone were those rites and rituals that have always remained external and empty because of the very weaknesses and sins of the high priests and people when Jesus Christ fulfilled the temple worship in his self-offering on the Cross, both as the Priest and the Victim he had enunciated so well during the last supper.

While they were eating, he took bread, 
said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them,
and said, "Take it; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, 
and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many."
(Mark 14:22-24)

Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh, replaced those bloody sacrifices with his very words of the last supper that consecrated us all to you as your holy people when he died on the Cross the following day on Good Friday. This perfect offering is what we celebrate, what we remember and make present daily in the Holy Eucharist with Jesus both the gift and the giver, the priest and the victim, the offering and the altar.

Every priest stands daily at his ministry,
offering frequently those same sacrifices 
that can never take away sins.
But this one offered one sacrifice for sins,
and took his seat forever at the right hand of God.
For by one offering he has made perfect forever
those who are being consecrated.
(Hebrews 10:11-12,14)

Now we have been consecrated to you as your holy people, O God, by Jesus Christ our High Priest and Victim, teach us to faithfully keep this new covenant, we ordained priests and laity alike. Especially us priests you have called to act in persona Christi!

Forgive us, O God, when it seems we have become more like priests in the old temple so concerned with our pride and positions, popularity and other perks that have come because we have demanded them. Forgive us when we look and act and speak more like managers or financiers or matinee idols than pastors of souls. Forgive us, O God, when we pursue more the limelight on the pretext of using modern social media platforms without truly spending time with you in daily prayers and meditations.

Photo by author, Dominus Flevit, the Holy Land, 2017.

Teach us your priests to be more like you, O Lord Jesus by being compassionate and trustworthy, of being one with the people in their pains and sufferings: “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested” (Heb.2:18).

Teach us your priests to be like you, dear Jesus, ever-living to intercede by being a bridge not a wall or a stumbling block to lead people to the Father (Heb. 7:25), not away from him!

We pray also for our lay people to keep in mind that in sharing with the Priestly ministry of Christ we have all received during our Baptism, they may have the same dispositions of Jesus of being humble in mind and in heart, offering adoration, honor, praise, praise and thanksgiving to your supreme majesty, O God while at the same time, as humanly as possible, they try to live the Gospel values of victimhood and self denial, of being one with Christ on his Cross.

Through this new Feast, may we your ordained priests and the laity who share in Christ’s universal priesthood appreciate the inner joys of our Church he had rightly established on that night of his last supper to be the visible sign of your very presence in the world, “so that from the rising of the sun to its setting, from east to west, a perfect offering may be made for you” and thus truly become our “at-one-ment” in you, our loving God and Father in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Laugh and be holy

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, 26 May 2021
Philippians 4:4-9  ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Mark 10:32-45
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.
Rejoice in the Lord always,
I shall say it again:  rejoice!
Your kindness should be known to all.
(Philippians 4:4-5)

Thank you very much, dear God our loving Father for the gifts of joy and sense of humor. So many times we forget that we are most alive when we are laughing, when we are filled with joy in our hearts. Just like your amusing saint today, St. Philip Neri.

Give us the grace of wisdom and intelligence, simplicity and humor nurtured by a deep prayer life of St. Philip Neri who would always reserve the nights for his prayer periods especially at the catacombs of Rome where he experienced great joy that enlarged and expanded his heart that broke two of his ribs!

And always, give us some sprinklings of his sense of humor that he came to be the patron saint of joy and humor, saying that “A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.”

He was so filled with life in his ministry that he spent serving everyone – from the poorest of the poor including prostitutes to the men and women of power and influence in royal courts and palaces, government offices and most of all, in the Vatican as well as local churches.

Because of his great love for you, St. Philip Neri became a great patron of arts, inspiring and supporting so many artists during his time when the Reformation period was bent on attacking the many paintings that adorn our churches.

It is really amazing how St. Philip Neri without any plans of reforming the Church actually gave the human touch in the realizations of the Counter Reformation efforts by St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Charles Borromeo, and other saints.

His Congregation of Oratory proved to be so essential in the life of the Church with his priests who were more concerned with prayers, spiritual reading, and administering the sacraments than emphasizing discipline and obedience.

Teach us to imitate St. Philip Neri to take into our hearts the essence and meaning of your Son Jesus Christ’s words today:

"whoever wishes to be first among you
will be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man 
did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many."
(Mark 10:44-45)

We pray, O God, today for those feeling sad due to the many problems and difficulties this pandemic has caused to many of us. Give us a fresh and new perspective in life where we rely more on you than on our selves and the world, enabling us to see the light and beauty around us, especially among those the suffering we must lend our hands to.

Like St. Philip Neri, in sharing the joys and laughter of children we may become like children again. Amen.

From pinterest.com.

Always something, never nothing

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Eight Week of Ordinary Time, 25 May 2021
Sirach 35:1-12  ><)))’> + <β€˜(((><   Mark 10:28-31
Photo by author, St. Paul Center for Spirituality at Alfonso, Cavite 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O most loving and merciful God our Father, for you never leave us empty-handed even if we always claim to have nothing at all, to be “walang-wala” when we always have something with to offer and share, never without anything at all.

Forgive us in being so preoccupied with the “scarcity mentality” – of how little we have, of not having enough that we refuse to share and give to others, forgetting the reality that to be alive and to always do what is good and pleasing to you is all you want us to offer to you through others.

In works of charity one offers fine flour, 
and when he gives alms he presents 
his sacrifice of praise.  
To refrain from evil pleases the Lord, 
and to avoid injustice is an atonement.
Appear not before the Lord empty-handed,
for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts.

How wonderful, O Lord, are your words through Ben Sirach! Help us remember that true worship, true prayer is always being good and holy before you through our loving service to others.

We do not have to look beyond ourselves to find so many things to offer to you, primarily our good works that you ask from us. We may not have all the material wealth the world has to offer, but you always shower us with every spiritual gifts more needed especially in our world today plunged in the darkness of sin and selfishness.

Sometimes like Simon Peter, we become proud of the little things we give up for you, thinking they are so great without realizing the great rewards you have in store for our sacrifices.

Jesus said,
"Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house
or brothers or sisters or mother or father
or children or lands for my sake 
and for the sake of the Gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more 
now in the present age:  houses and brothers
and sisters and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life 
in the age to come.
(Mark 10:29-30)

Indeed, you have given us with so much, dear God and we have given so little. Teach us to give more of our kindness and mercy, love and understanding, time and presence and most of all, more of YOU to others. Amen.

“Levelling up” in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Cycle B, 16 May 2021
Acts 1:1-11  ><}}}'>  Ephesians 4:1-13  ><}}}'>  Mark 16:15-20  
Photo by author, Egypt 2019.
So then the Lord Jesus,
after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven and 
took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth
and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through
accompanying signs.
(Mark 16:19-20)

Thus we heard the closing of St. Mark’s gospel of Jesus Christ. We deliberately chose the word “closing” than “ending” because the Lord’s Ascension is more than an episode in his life but speaks to us of his mystery as the Christ continuing in our time.

The Lord’s Ascension is neither a location indicating heaven somewhere in outer space where Jesus “took his seat at the right hand of God” that we profess every Sunday in the Apostles’ Creed nor a direction of going up, leaving us all behind below here on earth.

If the Ascension were a location or a direction or both, it would mean separation. Then, how could St. Mark claim in his gospel account “the Lord worked with them” if Jesus had really gone to somewhere else?

There is something deeper with the Lord’s Ascension being a part of the mystery of Jesus as the Christ. It is our relationship with God expressed in our relationships with one another in Jesus, through Jesus, and with Jesus who is the head of the Church with us as his body.

In celebrating the Lord’s Ascension, Jesus is inviting us to “level up” our relationships with God and one another in him, with him, and through him while it continues to happen daily among us characterized by our loving service and kindness to everyone which St. Paul reminds us in the second reading.

Brothers and sisters, I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace; one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and one Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Ephesians 4:1-7
Photo from Dr. Yanga’s Colleges, Inc. community pantry in Bocaue, Bulacan called “Paraya”, April 2021.

Christ’s mystery in Ascension revealed among us

See the eloquence and mastery of words by St. Paul in writing his Letter to the Ephesians while imprisoned in Rome with a lot of time to pray and contemplate the mystery of Christ and his gift of salvation to us.

Here we find St. Paul so fatherly in reminding us all of the wealth and richness of our Christian vocation as the Lord’s disciples by living in “humility and gentleness, with patience through love” to preserve our “unity of the spirit through the bond of peace”. This is the application (praxis) of the Lord’s teachings at his last supper we have heard in the last two weeks of his being the true vine and we his branches who must remain in him in love.

As Jesus “entered” into a new level of intimacy in the Father in his Ascension, he invites us to “level up” and deepen our relationships with God through one another to become his presence in the world as a community or a church: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism“.

The mystery of the Ascension, of Jesus joining the Father to seat at his right, is expressed and revealed in our community living as his disciples united in his very virtues mentioned by St. Paul. This was made possible by Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection as St. Paul spoke about ascension so different from our typical concepts of location and direction but more of the mystery of Jesus Christ as “The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph.4:10).


The Ascension presents us 
a clear image of unity in Christ 
that after seven weeks of celebrating Easter, 
we  are confronted today with the question: 
"Is Jesus working with us or, 
are we the only ones working without him at all?"

The very person of Jesus Christ is the measure, the standard we follow, not just norms and code of conducts because he is the only one highly exalted (Phil.2:9-11) for having gone through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection expressed as his one whole mystery in the Ascension until his sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost we celebrate next week.

The Ascension presents us a clear image of unity in Christ that after seven weeks of celebrating Easter, we are confronted today with the question: “Is Jesus working with us or, are we the only ones working without him at all?”

To work with Jesus is to work with others, to work as one community. When there is a community, there is always a mission and vice-versa. This is the meaning of the words spoken by the angels to the disciples after the Lord’s ascension.

“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Acts 1:11

We cannot remain idle while waiting for the return of Jesus.

As a community of believers and followers of Christ, we actively await his “Second Coming” by striving to live in holiness so that we may eventually make this world a little better and more humane like what happened with the recent “community pantry movement” started by Ms. Ana Patricia Non in Maginhawa Street, Quezon City now all over the country helping the poor and hungry.

It is a direct response to Vatican II’s universal call to holiness: “all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society” (Lumen Gentium, #40).

Posted by Jean Palma on Facebook, 18 April 2021 with the caption: β€œAll these community pantries in four days, and counting. What a powerful movement.” #CommunityPantry

55th World Communications Sunday

And speaking of Vatican II, today we are also celebrating the 55th World Communications Sunday with the theme, “Come and see (Jn.1:46). Communicating by Encountering People Where and as They Are.”

The World Communications Sunday is the only feast instituted by Vatican II through the Decree on the Means of Social Communication (Inter Mirifica) issued in December 4, 1963 to remind the faithful of our responsibility to contribute in the social communication ministry of the Church.

In this year’s message, Pope Francis tells us that the Lord’s invitation to his disciples to “come and see” is also the method for all authentic human communication where we personally experience every person to know his true situation in life.

It is in our personal encounter with others that we are able to share with them the redeeming presence and truth of Jesus Christ through our witnessing in faith, hope and love. True communication is the giving of one’s self in love for others, when we try to be humble and gentle and patient as St. Paul reminds us today.

Communicating Jesus Christ cannot happen entirely in mediated forms and methods, through gadgets nor techniques but only through persons through whom Jesus works and confirms his words through accompanying signs of love and mercy, kindness and understanding.

However, as communicators of the Lord, we have to keep in mind that Jesus is the focus, not us. It is the work of the Lord, not ours.

May the Ascension remind us anew to simply do the work of Jesus by focusing on him and his words, not on ourselves. May we priests and other church communicators forget all those aspirations to “trend” or be “viral” with most “likes” and “followers” to become “influencers” or at least popular to whatever degree to be adored and idolized by fans (and paid by sponsors).

It is Jesus Christ who must rise, not us. So, let us be rooted in the Lord as we keep reaching for the stars while keeping our feet on the ground in our community. Amen. A blessed week ahead with everyone!

From Forbes.com via Facebook, 2019.

Maturing in Jesus our true vine

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 05 May 2021
Acts 15:1-6  ><)))'> + <'(((><   John 15:1-8
Photo by author, Mount St. Paul Center for Spirituality, La Trinidad, Benguet, January 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father 
is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch 
that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does
he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  
You are already pruned 
because of the word that I spoke to you."
(John 15:1-3)

Thank you very much, Lord Jesus Christ, for finding me, taking me, and making me a branch of you our true vine. Most of all, thank you that I have been “pruned” because of the word you spoke to me.

But, what does it really mean to be pruned?

Yes, it has been a very, very long and tedious journey with you, Lord Jesus. And just maybe, I have grown and been fruitful after all those years in having identified with you closely and with your values and ideals. However, it is not enough.

I know… the pruning never stops until it is only you who is seen in me as I fade from the scene.

I could feel my need for more pruning, Lord, especially at times when I still insist on myself, on what I believe, on what I see as most important for you and for others.

Like those early Jewish converts to Christianity, particularly those who belonged to the party of Pharisees insisting that Gentile converts must be circumcised and observe other prescriptions of the Mosaic law (Acts 15:5).

There are still many things to be pruned in me, a lot of trimmings here and there that need to be cut off and removed until the “me” in me is totally gone, and only you remain.

Preparing for a Mass by the shore of Lake Tiberias in Capernaum, 2017.

Pruning is painful, Lord, but as time goes by, as the Father prunes me unknowingly in daily prayers and striving to be patient and better person, perhaps it is slowly bearing fruit as I begin to see you more clearly in my life.

And all the more the pruning must continue until everything becomes new in me!

Keep me open to you, dear Jesus, like the Apostles and the presbyters who met together to see about the issues raised by the Jewish converts to Christianity in the first reading.

Let me be open to other possibilities of meeting you, of sharing you, of working in you and with you by denying some of my natural appetites and tendencies.

Give me the grace to gladly and willingly give up whatever I hold on and keep that is contrary to you so that in the end, You are are my only joy and consolation, O dear Jesus. Amen.