Christmas is family

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Octave of Christmas, Feast of the Holy Family, 30 December 2022
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 ><}}}}*> Colossians 3:12-21 ><}}}}*> Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Photo by Ms. Janine Lloren (2015), Duomo Cathedral in Florence, Italy depicting the harsh conditions the Holy Family faced in Egypt while escaping Herod.
God our loving Father,
thank you for sending us
your Son Jesus through the
husband and wife of 
Joseph and Mary;
as we celebrate today
the feast of the Holy Family
of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
you remind us too that
Christmas is a living story
that happens daily when you
come first in every family.
Help us imitate the Holy Family
in getting closer with you
and with one another in their
flight to Egypt when they faced
so much sufferings and hardships;
how sad that as families face
so many attacks these days from 
within and from the outside,
family members have failed to 
realize that our flights to Egypt 
when we have to go through trials
and difficulties are occasions 
to get closer to Jesus and one another; 
teach us to go back to you in prayer as
a family, to bring back our altars
of sacred images and icons now 
replaced by the giant flatscreen TV;
enable us to reach out more to one
another, to hug more, to converse more
than to spend the whole day before the
computer screen and cellphone
or with business partners and colleagues
or friends and classmates.
Most of all,
as Ben Sirach and St. Paul
reminded us in our first two readings
today, make us realize that our
relationships in the family 
mirror our relationship 
with you, O God, our Father;
let all our love and charity,
kindness and care begin at home
because that is where Christ
comes first to us!  Amen.

Prayer for adults to find the Child Jesus again this Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday, Feast of the Holy Family, 26 December 2021
1 Samuel 1:20-22. 24-28 ><]]]*> 1 John 3:1-2. 21-24 ><]]]*> Luke 2:41-52
“The Finding of the Savior at the Temple” painting by William Holman Hunt (1860) from
Dearest Lord Jesus:
It is still your birthday 
and how sad that people
insist that Christmas is just
for kids, forgetting there won't be
Christmas at all without adults
like Mary and Joseph,
Elizabeth and Zechariah.

but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at is understanding and his answers.

Luke 2:45-47
Teach us, dear Jesus, 
to go back to Jerusalem -
to go back to prayer and
simplicity and humility,
to go back to God as adults
to find you again this Christmas;
so many of us have been so
busy with so many other things
in life like career and earning a 
living, or this season when we were
so caught up with the rush and 
madness that we have forgotten 
about you found first in the family.
Yes, Lord Jesus, 
you willed in your becoming
human to dwell among us
that you be born in a family,
in the husband and wife of 
Joseph and Mary;  we pray for
couples going through crises
in their relationships or have 
separated already by choice or
circumstances; we pray for families
where everyone is forgetting one's
role, losing respect for one another
that they can no longer find you
in the love they must have for
each other; we pray for children
who refuse to honor their mother
and father in words and in deeds.
Let us find you again, dear Jesus
like a child in our sense of wonder 
and awe among our family members'
daily and simple acts of kindness
and love; let us find you again, dear
Jesus in our being our true selves
as children of the Father belonging
to one family; and most of all, let us
be grateful again for our families
for their gifts of life and presence
despite our many imperfections for
it is only with a grateful heart that we 
truly remain like children at heart,
always believing and trusting in God
who is our life and meaning.  Amen.

Celebrating family in COVID-19

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 December 2020
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Trying to relax a day after Christmas, I felt so good watching the limited BBC series at Netflix called “JAPAN with Sue Perkins”. It is so unique that it presents the Land of the Rising Sun in a different perspective by this spunky and bubbly British journalist not afraid to admit her prejudices then be rectified in this short documentary.

At the same time, Ms. Perkins presents us with the latest trends in Japan, others are good while others are not so good especially its aging population with falling birth rates and many Japanese men delaying or not getting married at all.

One solution the ingenious Japanese have found are “wives for hire” – a growing business that offers women who act as wives to unmarried men who present to their aged parents as their “wives”. One man explained to Ms. Perkins how his elderly mother enjoys more in spending time together with a “family member” like a “daughter-in-law” than just with a care-giver. They tend to converse more freely and joyfully about so many things as a “family” — at least for a day.

That is how important a family is! That is why it is called the basic unit of the society from which springs forth life itself – biologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

That is why Vatican II rightly inserted in the Christmas Season the Feast of the Holy Family to remind us of the deep character of the mystery of the Incarnation that the Son of God came into the world to save us through the family, through the husband and wife of Joseph and Mary.

It is a great reminder to us in this time when family is quickly disintegrating and maybe in a funny twist, we have in the COVID-19 pandemic a great opportunity for us to go back to our family.

Photo by author, entrance to the Flight to Egypt Cavern Church in Cairo, 2019.

Human family a creation by God, a call from God

Since the very beginning, men and women have always banded together not only as a family we know of today, a nuclear unit of father, mother, and children. It was really more of an extended family like a clan or a kin who lived together as siblings and cousins, uncles and aunts along with neighbors who all would have been in and out of the house.

Some peoples like the Hebrews do not really have the term cousins where everyone is a brother or a sister, a kin; hence, we find in the gospels Jesus being told of having brothers and sisters.

To understand this is to think of our own concepts and terms in our extended Filipino family. Like the word pinsan for cousin. When I was in kindergarten until elementary, every summer some cousins would come home to the province for vacation. We would all sleep together on the sahig (floor) with banig (local mat) like puppies or kittens together — that is, magkakapisan usually in the old house or bahay na matanda of our grandparents.

My nieces, 2017.

On the other hand, uncles and aunties refer to their nephews and nieces in Filipino as pamangkin, from the expression “para namang akin” that literally means “just like my own child”.

Both pinsan or cousin and pamangkin or nephew/niece express togetherness, of being one as a family.

But in the Bible, we find something deeper in this banding together of peoples as families sharing joys and sorrows, work and play but also coming together as a creation by God as well as a call from Him.

See how in the Ten Commandments that only the fourth commandment carries a promise from God to underscore the importance of family life and of our parents: “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you” (Ex.20:12).

In the assigned first reading for the Feast of the Holy Family from the Book of Sirach we find the author elaborating and reflecting further on this beautiful nature of the human family that is divine in origin and orientation. We find at its first part the emphasis on children honoring and obeying their parents, the father and mother. This instruction is then capped by a touching reflection on the solemn duty of taking care for an aging parent with all the respect and patience due him/her. Likewise, we find at its conclusion something that echoes God’s covenant, of the need to be kind and merciful to everyone especially those in need.

Kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins — a house raised in justice to you.

Sirach 3:14

In the second reading, we find several challenges to every family to be kind, merciful, forgiving and peaceful because we are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col.3:12). That is our identity as children of God our Father, making us members of His one, big family.

This is something many families have seemed to have forgotten due to so many concerns in life like the need to earn money, pursue one’s career that is interspersed with breaks that sometimes costly to family members like separation or migration, by choice or by circumstances.

This is one value that we hope to recover at this time of the pandemic when most parents and children are all working and studying from home. May families take this opportunities to renew their ties with one another, to pray anew together and renew or adjust their visions and dreams where they may all grow to maturity in Christ.

Photo of my mom with my two nieces, 2017.

Purifying our family in Christ

One beautiful thing that is so outstanding with the Holy Family is the fidelity of Joseph and Mary to God through temple worship, of how they sincerely and dutifully strive to fulfill all obligations stipulated by the Laws that we find reflective of Jesus in his adult life when He would come to attend synagogue worship.

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord… and to offer sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance wit the dictate of the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon… and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary is mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted — and you yourself a sword will pierce — so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:22-25, 34-35

Part of the good news of this feast is for us to realize too that the Holy Family was not spared of problems and trials just like us. In our gospel today, Simeon assured Mary of her heart being pierced with a sword, of facing trials and conflicts to happen like when Jesus was lost only to be found a day later in the temple when he was 12 years old. It must have caused too much stress and worries to Mary and Joseph.

Or when Jesus finally left home to begin His public ministry when people, including relatives thought he had lost his mind in His preaching!

And finally, when He was crucified. It must have been a terrible experience for the Blessed Virgin Mother.

No family is so perfect to escape trials and conflicts but the Holy Family teaches us something so perfectly valuable that can help us resolve our many imperfections in our family — of remaining in God, of being rooted in Him who is our identity as family, as a person.

The Presentation of Jesus by Mantegna from

It is in the family where we first encounter and experience God, both His presence and His “absence” if we may call that.

There are times when we feel so close, so near with God especially when everything is going so well with our lives when we have everything; but when the going gets rough and tough, sometimes that is when we feel too far from God or He is totally nowhere around us.

What a paradox that it is both in the family where we first experience love and care but at the same time where we also first taste our pains and hurts, and disappointments.

But between those two extreme realities of life, that is also when we find the conviction that God is real, Who is one with us in our joys and sufferings, never leaving us.

It is during those moments when the sword pierces our hearts when we discover who is inside us really, the ones most valuable to us, the ones we look up to, the treasures we have always kept and cared.

Sometimes, it is only when the heart is pierced by the sword do we find the treasures we keep inside.

This Christmas amid a pandemic, may we find anew the more important we need in our hearts — not things but persons we care most, who remind us of our identity as blessed and beloved. This pandemic period is the most opportune time for families to resolve conflicts, face trials in the light of Jesus Christ through prayers and openness to one another. Let us not take it for granted. See it as a blessing in disguise when we are finally able to heal all those festering wounds in us that have eaten us up as persons, families and Christians.

How sad that families often compete for material things that can always be easily superseded; but if we compete for kindness, for understanding, for love, for forgiveness, then nobody loses, everybody wins.

Sometimes, true peace in the family happens when we are willing to disarm ourselves of our natural defenses so we can carry or hold Jesus into our arms like Simeon, or like Mary when our heart is pierced with the Word to expose Jesus within who is love and mercy. Amen.

Photo from

Prayer for our own “flight to Egypt”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, Feast of the Holy Innocents, 28 December 2020
1 John 1:5-2:2   >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Matthew 2:13-18
Photo by Ms. Janine G. Lloren, metal engraving of the flight to Egypt by the Holy Family on one of the doors of a church in Florence, Italy taken in 2015.

In this time of COVID-19 pandemic with news of a new and more vicious strain possibly now spreading, I have come to realize this Christmas how you also went through worst scenarios during your birth and infancy.

From the moment of your birth, Lord, you have experienced so much dangers and uncertainties just like us today with many women giving birth in harsh and hostile situations like in the middle of an armed conflict or in a refugee camp, or maybe while being held hostage in human trafficking.

When I imagine how difficult it must have been during your time when you fled to Egypt because of Herod’s murderous ways, I feel so sad at how things have not really changed yet, of how such things continue to happen daily in so many parts of the world.

But with your coming, Lord Jesus, though there are still those dark clouds looming above us as Pope Francis had noted in his latest encyclical, hope and joy abound.

Beloved: This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:5

So consoling are the words of your beloved disciple, Lord! Let your light shine on us! May our love and kindness to one another dispel the many darkness around us specially this year. And yes, forgive us too, Lord Jesus, at how we have been “treating” and calling this year 2020 with so many taunts and ridicules.

If there is one thing we have always been good at, it is the blaming game – we keep on blaming others except ourselves. Like Herod. At such great costs.

As we near the closing of this year, help us to remember how with your coming you have sanctified and made us all holy like you. Each year is always a blessed and good year from you. It is us who make it so bad, so defiled. We caused this pandemic. Long before it came, we have been distant from one another, have always washed hands, refusing to take a stand for what is true and just. Most of all, we have stopped looking at each other’s face to see you again.

May this pandemic be an “Egypt” for us all —- a time to pray and reflect about your light and coming, Lord Jesus. Amen.

God among us in our family

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul

Feast of the Holy Family, 29 December 2019

Sirach 3:2-7, 12-14 ><}}}*> Colossians 3:12-21 ><}}}*> Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

One of the many bas reliefs at the Cavern Church complex in Cairo, Egypt where the Holy Family fled to escape Herod’s wrath when he ordered the murder of all male children below three years old after learning from the Magi the birth of the “new king of the Jews”.

Among the celebrations during this Christmas Season, the Feast of the Holy Family is something peculiar because it was not borne out of liturgical origins but more of the changing times in the past 126 years since it was first celebrated as a devotion.

In the beginning, it was designed to counteract the growing attacks against family life and morality of the rapidly changing times.

Since 1969 when Vatican II designated its feast to be celebrated within the Christmas octave, the feast of the Holy Family has proven to be a major contribution in helping us understand the mystery of the Lord’s nativity in our modern time.

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, so that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, out of Egypt I called my son.

Matthew 2:13-15
A diptych mosaic depicting the story of the flight to Egypt of the Holy Family on the walls of the Saint Virgin Mary’s Coptic Church in Cairo, Egypt beside the Cavern Church. It is one of the oldest churches in Egypt that dates back to the third century.

Christmas, a living story continuing in our family

The feast of the Holy Family reminds us that Christmas is a living story that continues to this day wherein God comes first in and through our family.

We go back to Matthew’s gospel to hear again the important role of Joseph not only in taking Mary as his wife in order to give name to Jesus but also to protect them from all harm.

We have seen during Christmas how Jesus had always been subjected to suffering right in his mother’s womb when Joseph and Mary have to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem to comply with Augustus Caesar’s directive to all subjects of the empire to register.

Now, they have to travel outside Israel to flee to another country to escape the murderous plot of Herod against Baby Jesus.

We have heard again the continuation of Joseph’s mission revealed again to him by an angel in a dream. But, Matthew added something very interesting that is the key to understanding our gospel today and our feast of the Holy Family.

He (Joseph) stayed there until the death of Herod, so that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, out of Egypt I called my son.

Matthew 2:15
Entrance to the Cavern Church where the Holy Family lived for about three years while in Egypt before going back to Israel.

Remember Matthew’s audience and followers were Christians of Jewish origins.

The Holy Family’s flight to Egypt is very similar to the story of Jacob’s migration into that country during the great famine when one of his sons, Joseph the dreamer, became a governor there.

Many years later, the Egyptians would make them suffer that God sent them Moses to bring them back to the Promised Land through Exodus that has become the single most important date in their entire history. Also known as the “passover”, it was at that time when Israel passed over from slavery in Egypt into freedom in the Promised Land.

But, the result was not favorable because after settling back into the Promised Land, the people would repeatedly break God’s covenant by worshipping foreign gods and idols that eventually led to their Babylonian exile, not to mention the division of the kingdom into two after David’s death.

By citing a prophecy by Hosea, Matthew is now telling us how Jesus, the Son of God, is the new beginning of fidelity to the covenant. Like Moses, God took out Jesus from Egypt; but greater than Moses and unlike him, Jesus would never be unfaithful to the covenant.

As the new beginning not only for Israel but also for the whole world, Jesus in fact passed us over from sin to grace with his own passover or pasch – his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

Welcoming Jesus in our family through our love and care for each member

The family is the basic unit of every society. Destroy the family, we destroy the society. Eventually, we destroy our nation.

The same is true with us in the Church: the family is a domestic church. Jesus comes first in our family.

But how can he now come when our family is disintegrating, when it is right in the family where women and children are first abused?

How can Jesus come in our family when we have lost all senses of the holy, of God that we no longer pray and gather together in the Sunday Mass and other sacraments?

See how the giant flatscreen has become every family’s altar and deity, replacing the Christ the King or any other Poon in our homes. Malls have replaced our places of worship. Worst of all, the great feasts and seasons of Christmas and Easter have become so commercialized, reduced to become our modern excuses for much needed breaks and supposed family bonding in beaches and abroad.

The Holy Family’s flight to Egypt brought them closer with one another and most especially with God. Unfortunately, our own “flight to Egypt” has become our excuse to leave God behind and focus more with our own lives.

A portion of a larger mix of bronze reliefs on one of the doors of the Duomo Cathedral in Florence, Italy depicting the harsh conditions the Holy Family have to face in Egypt while escaping Herod. Photo by Ms. Janine Lloren, 2015.

A friend had shared this photo with me which she had taken while on a trip in Italy, home to thousands of our OFW’s who, like the Holy Family, have to leave our country to find life, to escape “death”.

Like Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, God “sends” us out to our own, different “flight to Egypt”, pulling us out from the comforts of our family and home, career and other comfort zones in order to gather ourselves so we can start anew in Christ to be more free to love and be faithful to him and our loved ones.

Many times in our lives, separations and other adversarial situations make us better persons, enabling us to be more fruitful in life than just having everything for granted and so easily.

The adversarial conditions the child Jesus have experienced very early on – from his birth to early childhood in Egypt – strike many similarities with our situations today.

It is hoped that with this Feast of the Holy Family, we may be reawakened again with our sense of mission in bringing Jesus Christ more present especially when life is threatened, when persons are denied of justice and freedom.

May the first and second readings remind us that every relationship we have here on earth, starting in our families must always be based on our relationship with God our Father. Amen.

Meeting Christ, the Light of the Nations

14 Giotto Presentation of Christ in the Temple 1310s Fresco North transept, Lower Church, San Francesco, Assisi….Web Gallery Of Art

The Lord Is My Chef Special Recipe, 02 February 2019
Feast of the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple
Malachi 3:1-4//Hebrews 2:14-18//Luke 2:22-40

            Here’s good news to those who have not yet removed their Christmas decors:  today’s Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is the actual end of Christmas Season when the Child Jesus was presented at the Temple in Jerusalem 40 days after Epiphany.  According to this tradition, it is also on this day when the Vatican removes its giant Christmas tree at the St. Peter’s Square.   And so, after this day and you still have your Christmas tree and other decors hanging, then you must be a certified slob or simply one who refuses to move on to meet Jesus Christ.

            Today’s feast has many names because it has many facets.  This was first celebrated in Jerusalem in the early year 300 as “the Feast of Presentation at the Temple” based on the Gospel account of St. Luke we have heard earlier.  The Syrians adopted the feast 300 years later, reaching the seat of the Eastern Church in Constantinople where it came to be known as “the Encounter” or Ypapante in Greek, emphasizing the “meeting” of the Savior and the two elderly people, Simeon and Ana.  At about that same time in Rome, Pope Sergius I adapted the same feast from Jerusalem with a procession of lighted candles to show Jesus as the “light for revelation” to Simeon and everyone.  When it reached France in the year 800, the French adapted it further with a new designation as “Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary” or“Chandeleur” which came to be known as “Candlemass” in English-speaking countries and “Candelaria” in Spain and her colonies like the Philippines.  Over a thousand years later in 1969 during the Vatican II reform of the liturgy, the Church decreed it to be known in its original name, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

            That’s the beauty of our Catholic faith when certain feasts evolved depending on the various emphases of the many periods in history yet remaining true to its very essence who is Jesus Christ our Savior and Son of God.  Anyone who truly meets or encounters Jesus is always enlightened by Him to meet Him among other peoples.  Recall how we started the celebration with the paschal candle also at the entry to our church.  It is the same paschal candle we have lighted and blessed during the Easter Vigil last year to symbolize the risen Christ lighting our path of salvation.  Today in our procession, the light of Candlemass announces that paschal candle:  inasmuch as we celebrate today the presentation of Jesus at the Temple by His parents, 33 years later or a little more than two months from now, Jesus would be back in Jerusalem to offer – or present – Himself to the Father in fulfilling His pasch or Passion, Death, and Resurrection.  This is the meaning of Simeon’s beautiful canticle we all sing at bedtime:  “Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in sight of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Lk. 2:29-32).

            Jesus is the light of the nations – lumen gentium – or light of men or peoples because He enables us to see the face of every human being as a brother and a sister in Him.  How sad that this human face has so often been disfigured, trying to hide or even remove the face of Christ in whose image we have all been created.  Imagine how Simeon and Anna were able to recognize Christ among the many infants being offered that day at the Temple in Jerusalem because both have always been opened with God.  We can never meet God unless we also meet others as brothers and sisters.  Remember during our Simbang Gabi how we reflected about true holiness through St. Joseph who always found God in everything so that upon learning Mary’s pregnancy, he decided to divorce her silently so as not to put her into shame.  But upon learning from an angel in a dream the circumstances about her pregnancy, St. Joseph took her as wife and Christmas happened with him standing as the Lord’s legal father.  When Joseph saw God in Mary, Jesus came; when he saw Jesus coming, Joseph accepted Mary.  That is the light of Candlemass when we are able to see God in each one’s face – most especially among our senior citizens.

            In a society where old age is seen like a disease with ads telling everyone to “arrest ageing”, giving so much premium on being young and looking young so glorified in media, we all fail to see the significance of this stage in life.  Worst, we abhor it, refusing to talk about it as if it is a curse.  Wrong!  Actually, most of the people God called for His mission in the Old Testament were mostly old people starting with Noah and Abraham as well as Moses who all performed great wonders for Him in their advanced ages!  Today’s gospel is no exception as it invites us to see Christ among our elderly brethren in the church and community, especially in the family whom we often take for granted.  See how St. Joseph and Mary shared Jesus with Simeon and Anna.  In 1999, St. John Paul wrote a letter to his fellow elders, saying that “The line separating life and death runs through our communities and moves inexorably nearer to each of us.  If life is a pilgrimage to towards our heavenly home, then old age is the most natural time to look towards the threshold of eternity (14).”

             Today’s Feast of the Presentation of the Lord at the Temple reveals to us the mystery of every encounter with God is often preceded with an encounter with another person, even strangers.  Every encounter with God is often verified by our encounter with others because through them, we experience that “invisible line” that seems to bind all of us as one big family.  And this is most true when we encounter the elderly people, especially those who have “aged gracefully” who often confirm with us the presence of God in our lives which they have already started to experience.  Every encounter with an elderly is an encounter with Jesus Christ because it is a prelude to our final encounter with Him in eternity.  And all these encounters are made possible by the grace and light only of Jesus Christ.  Remember:  the moment we are able to recognize the face of the person next to us as the face of a brother and sister in Jesus Christ, then we are sure that darkness has ended and day has begun.  Amen.  Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

Photos from Google.


On Becoming Children of God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
Feast of the Holy Family, 30 December 2018
1 Samuel 1:20-22, 24-28///1 John 3:1-2, 21-24///Luke 2:41-52

         Christmas reminds us that Jesus Christ comes through our family in the same manner He came through the husband and wife of Joseph and Mary.  It is right and fitting that within the octave or eight days of Christmas we also celebrate this Sunday the Feast of the Holy Family.  In this world of broken families, by choice or by circumstances, the gospel reminds us that a family is always made up of a father, mother and child:  When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us?  Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety” (Lk.2:48).  But more than our human families, Christmas reminds us most of all of our being a family of God with Him as our Father:  And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  But they did not understand what he said to them.  He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.  And Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man (Lk.2:49-52).

         The good news is that we all remain God’s children no matter how old we may be like Nat King Cole singing “to kids from one to ninety-two” which the beloved disciple reminds us in the second reading,  “Beloved:  See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.  Yes so we are.  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him” (1Jn.3:1).  It is becoming disheartening when people claim that Christmas is for kids because of the superficial things about the season like happiness over gifts.  We seem to have forgotten that Christmas came because of adults like Joseph and Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth who remained children of God in being obedient to His holy will which is at the very core of experiencing Christ’s coming not only on Christmas Day when we remain like children. This Sunday we are invited to join Mary and Joseph in searching for the child Jesus whom we have often lost in our busy schedules, responsibilities and careers so we may also rediscover in the process our being children of the Father in heaven.

         See the beauty of the response of Jesus to His parents upon finding Him at the temple, “Why were you looking for me?  Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk.2: 49).  Though Jesus Christ is truly human like us in everything except sin, growing up and maturing in all aspects, His divine Sonship has always been clear with Him even as a 12 year-old child.  His intimacy with the Father was never lost in His becoming human.  His being the Son of the Father in heaven is the very core of His mission that we always hear Him telling us in His preaching about His being one with the Father and most of all, of the need for us to become children to be included in His kingdom.  This He reveals to us in three ways through this only episode about His childhood as recorded by St. Luke.  First is His complete freedom as a person.

         Jesus has always been free from so many conventions and rules even laws that limit humans from being totally free for God as Father.  Remember how Joseph His legal father also showed that true holiness is abiding in the Laws of Moses based on love that he decided to leave Mary in silence after learning of her pregnancy.  But after hearing the angel’s explanation in a dream, Joseph freely decided on himself based on his love for God, for Mary and for Jesus to take her as his wife.  How funny that when we were growing up we kept on demanding for freedom from our parents thinking that being free is being able to do whatever pleases us.  Then we realize that true freedom is choosing what is good, what is true.  That true freedom leads us to be more loving and faithful.  Too often it seems that as the world gives so much emphasis on freedom, the fact remains that the more we try to be free, the more we become unfree, finding ourselves imprisoned and caught up in too much binds and traps that most of us would always go somewhere to be alone, to have “me time” because we are not free deep within as we have forgotten our basic identity as beloved children of God the Father.  Jesus was so free that He stayed behind at the Temple because deep within Him he was at home at His Father’s house.  And deep within Him He spoke freely of His Father that amazed the experts with Him at the Temple because they were constricted with many concepts and thoughts about God when Jesus was so free to share the love He has inside.

          And here lies the beauty of true freedom that leads to amazement and wonder, to being surprised by something bigger, greater, and so beautiful.  Poets claim that children are the closest to God and the spiritual realms because they always have the sense of wonder and awe.  Even Mary and Joseph must have been amazed at the response of the child Jesus, reminding them of the announcements made to them by the angel before His coming.  In this age of Netflix and daily video streaming of everything, we are being robbed of the simple and deep joy of being surprised unlike when we were younger that we have to wait for the next series of the Knight Rider or Dallas or ChiPS.  With these modern technologies, the more we have become not free at all as we just follow the flow of networks, tech giants, advertisers and markets.  We have been imprisoned by economics and profits along with gimmicks that we miss life in the process.  The finding of Jesus at the Temple reminds us that our God is a God of surprises, that when we are truly free for the Father in heaven, there is always awe and amazement with life.  We live and do not rush, enjoying time and every present moment in life, unafraid of what would happen next.  Then, we become grateful or thankful for everything we have, material and spiritual.

         Every Sunday as children of God we gather in the Holy Mass we call Eucharist, the Greek word for thanksgiving.  In the first reading we have heard Hannah offering her son Samuel to the temple as her thanksgiving for the gift of a child after God answered her prayers.  The gospels teem with so many occasions when Jesus would pray often to praise and thank God His Father, even in public.  His life is a thanksgiving in itself that He gave it entirely to the Father for us.  Though I am not a beauty pageant expert, I feel that Ms. Catriona Gray’s winning the Miss Universe title was largely because of her childlike traits of being free, amazing, and thankful.  Only a child-like attitude like hers can see the silver linings amid the children growing at the slums of Tondo and still be grateful.  It is exactly what Jesus had said that“unless you become like children, you shall never inherit the kingdom of heaven”  that she was eventually crowned as Miss Universe!

          To be a child is to owe one’s existence from another, from God and from parents and elders.  When we teach our children to always sayplease and thank you including po and opo, we are actually reminding them of that deep reality within each of us that we are here on earth because we were given as a gift.  We are not really teaching them something new but more of awakening in them something inherent that our existence is not of our own, our “I” or self not of our own making that we have to be thankful always to God and with our parents and with others.  This is something we adults always forget or even discard and abandon especially when we fill to have achieved so much in life.  We all remain children in our whole lives because are always in need of one another especially when we get older and eventually lose our memories and abilities to do things that rightly so, we get into a second childhood.  On this Feast of the Holy Family, let us be thankful for the gift of one another, especially of our family.  How lovely were those Christmas greetings on Facebook – “from our family to yours” – if each one remains a child of God, freely loving and surprising everyone of the reality of the God among us Jesus Christ, the Emmanuel. AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

*Photo above by Jim Marpa.  Used with permission.  Below from Google.