Sealed with the Holy Spirit

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXVIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 16 October 2020
Ephesians 1:11-14     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Luke 12:1-7
Photo by the author, September 2020.

What a great apostle you have, O Lord God, in St. Paul indeed! Today he tells us something so unique, so understandable and relatable with us regarding our being blessed in Jesus Christ: being sealed in the Holy Spirit.

In him (Christ) you also, who have heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14

I love those two catchphrases by St. Paul: “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” and “first installment of your inheritance”. It is both a stroke of his genius and mastery of language while at the same time, his openness to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In him we find that blessedness in Christ through the Holy Spirit like having peace, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, understanding and things that bind us together in working together for the Lord’s mission.

But at the same time in speaking of the Holy Spirit as the first installment of our redemption, St. Paul had a foretaste of what we shall all experience in its fullness in eternity, an assurance of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of salvation.

Like St. Teresa of Avila whose memorial we celebrated yesterday, St. Paul restored all things in you, Jesus Christ. And so, we pray for the grace of enthusiasm and perseverance of working for the coming of God’s Kingdom like him.

Give us the wisdom to proclaim loud and clear not only in words but also in deeds the Gospel so the world may know Jesus is here to restore everything and everyone back to you, God our Father.

We are not going to say anything new, Lord; we merely have to echo in this modern time your Good News of salvation, of love and mercy and forgiveness for everyone specially in this difficult time of the pandemic.

Likewise, give us the courage to witness the power of the Holy Spirit in this world living in front of all kinds of cameras without solid grounding on the realities of life, living in a make-believe world filled with hypocrisy. Seal us with your Holy Spirit, Lord! Amen.

Photo by author, September 2020.

Faithful living

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXVIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 14 October 2020
Galatians 5:18-25     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Luke 11:42-46
Photo by author, Church of Holy Sepulcher, May 2017.

It was a very enriching week of lessons about faith as reflected by St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians, God our Father. We have learned so much to appreciate this gift from you we rarely recognize and give importance to.

As we end the readings from the Letter to the Galatians today, teach us through Jesus Christ how to live faithfully in your Holy Spirit to reap its fruits in our lives we badly need these days amid the pandemic and follies going on around us especially among our elected officials.

Brothers and sisters: If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissension, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Galatians 5:18-23

Forgive us Lord when we choose to be prisoners of so many rules that govern our lives forgetting the more important things of living faithfully in you like the Pharisees in today’s gospel. We are so concerned with little things that we make so big a fuss; worst, we refuse to “lift one finger to touch them” by passing them on to others, subjecting them to so many things that they miss the beauty of your gift of life.

Make us grow deeper in faith in you and may the Holy Spirit enlighten our minds and our hearts to always seek and follow your most Holy Will. Amen.

Love: the Spirit of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Pius X, Pope, 21 August 2020
Ezekiel 37:1-14 >><)))*> || >><)))*> ||+|| <*(((><< || <*(((><< Matthew 22:34-40
Photo by author, Jewish cemetery outside Old Jerusalem, May 2019.

Together with the psalmist today I sing to you, O God our Father: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love is everlasting.”

Yes, O Lord, your love is everlasting, your fidelity is so true and whatever that is good for us, there is no stopping you from doing it because of your love for us.

Thank you for fulfilling this promise you made to Ezekiel your prophet in the Old Testament:

Thus says the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the Lord.

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus your Son, you have indeed opened our graves and put your spirit upon us for we have been dead to sin but now raised to life in Christ.

Unfortunately, many of us have turned into spiritual “zombies” by being dead to sin again – lifeless and therefore loveless!

Revive your Spirit in us, O God, the spirit of love that Jesus poured on us.

Let us love you beyond words and letters of your laws but in flesh and blood by being loving to our brothers and sisters, in loving you by loving others.

May we continue the work of St. Pius X whose papal motto was “Renew all things in Christ” by returning to you in Jesus through the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Eucharist.

St. Pius X came at a crucial stage in Church history in the early 1900’s when the world was experiencing great changes and revolutions not only in many nations but most especially in the thinking and outlook of people of his time — exactly like today, Lord.

May we restore all things in you, Lord Jesus by awakening in us anew the basic spirit of love through kindness and generosity to one another specially in this time of the pandemic.

We also remember today the assassination of Benigno S. Aquino Jr. who had offered us his life because he believed we “Filipinos are worth dying for.”

As our nation slid back to darkness these past decade, help us, O Lord, to rise again, to be filled with life and love for one another, for our nation and our future generation by being selfless and honorable before one’s self, others, and you. Amen.

Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmelite Monastery, Israel, 2014.

The temple in our hearts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest, 31 July 2020
Jeremiah 26:1-9 >>><)))*> >><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 13:54-58
Photo by author, Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father for another week and month about to close before us. And still here we are, alive and safe, making through the many trials and difficulties as we all continue to bear the sufferings of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you for sending us your Son our Lord Jesus Christ who have made our hearts your indwelling.

Unfortunately, like his neighbors, so many times we fail or even refuse to recognize his coming to us.

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son?” And they took offense at him.

Matthew 13:54-55, 57

So many times, many things run in our minds and in our hearts that we always fail to see and recognize you, sweet Jesus.

Teach us through St. Ignatius your faithful servant who gave us your wonderful gift of discerning the spirits.

Teach us to lay bare ourselves before you, to be true to our thoughts and feelings so that we may sift through all of these to find your holy will, Lord.

Teach us to “omit nothing” as you commanded Jeremiah in the first reading from your words so that we may be able to discern properly what you want from us.

Make our hearts your temple, O Lord, dwell inside and reign over us so that we may understand fully the meaning of “positive indifference” taught us by St. Ignatius:

“We should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. . . . Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.”

Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius

Let our thoughts and actions always begin and happily end in your greater glory, Lord.

Amen.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

When evil becomes life

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 01 July 2020
Amos 5:14-15, 21-24 <*(((><< <*(((><< >><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 8:28-34
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7 News, Taal eruption, January 2020.

Praise and glory to you O God our loving Father for this brand new month of July! It is our hope this month will be kinder and more gentle with us than June. It is our hope that this July, we can all come closer to you doing what is good, what is right.

Seek good and not evil, that you may live. Then truly will the Lord, the God of hosts, be with you as you claim! I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the Lord, I take no pleasure in your solemnities… Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me burnt offerings, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream.

Amos 5:14, 21, 23-24

Most of all, through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, it is our hope O merciful Father that beginning today we start to reject and shake off evil from our lives, from our very selves.

We have not only sinned, O sweet Jesus; worst part of our sinfulness is how we have accepted sin and evil as a way of life, as a part of life itself with our usual excuses and arguments “wala nang magagawa, nariyan na yan, hayaan na lang” (there’s nothing that can be done, just accept it).

We have got so used to immoralities and lies that we simply accept them as facts of life.

Like those people at Gadarenes where two demoniacs have terrorized them for some time that “no one could travel by that road” (Mt.8:28).

But when you came, Lord Jesus and drove the demons into entering the herd of swine that jumped and drowned into the sea, the whole town came out to meet you and begged you to leave their district!

Instead of being thankful, they begged you to leave, Lord, because you have disturbed their lives so used to the demons. They have failed to see how two people were finally healed and exorcised. Most of all, they have refused to accept the new order in their place.

What a silly turn of events that continues to happen day when people have grown so used to evil and sin, refusing changes and conversion.

How sad that whenever we make a stand for what is right and good, what is true and just, we are the ones made to suffer, even persecuted for bringing order because we have disturbed the evil that people have been used to.

We pray for those who continue to fight injustice and immoralities in our communities, in our church that they may always be guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.

And we pray for those among us who have lost the sense of sinfulness, of living with sin and evil and yet continue to worship and praise you O God. Amen.

Photo by Gelo Nicolas Carpio, June 2020.

God our foundation

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 25 June 2020
2 Kings 24:8-17 <*(((>< ><)))*> <*(((>< ><)))*> Matthew 7:21-29
Photo by author, the Walls of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Your words today, O Lord, are so graphic and chilling about the nature of sin that unfortunately, we continue to take for granted.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

Matthew 7:21

Forgive us Jesus when we are so complacent with our prayers and words to you that remain only in our mouths and lips, but never coming from our hearts and most of all far from our actions.

Forgive us Lord for the great divide within us, between our words and our actions, of what we believe and what we live.

Give us the grace to be rooted in you always, to have you as our foundation.

Your words are so true, Lord, that so often our lives collapse like Jerusalem in the Old Testament, like the house built on sand in your parable because we live far from you.

Help us to take these lessons into our hearts, that whatever bad befalls us is never your punishment but the result of our sins, when everything collapses in us and starts to breakdown.

May we hold on fast to your words and examples in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Photo by author, Church of the Holy Family, Taipei, Taiwan, 2019.

Mission of healing

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Solemnity of the Pentecost-A, 31 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11 <*(((>< 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13 ><)))*> John 20:19-23

Pope Francis praying at an empty St. Peter’s Square 27 March 2020. Photo from cruxnow.com.

As I prayed over the readings this coming Pentecost Sunday, my thoughts kept going back to those powerful images when Pope Francis prayed at an empty St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican last March 27 when COVID-19 was ravaging the whole Italy with so many deaths.

Now more than ever, the Church badly needs the Pentecost – a new Pentecost that will heal and rebirth the world so wounded and altered by the corona pandemic this year 2020.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

John 20:19-20
Modern rendition of the Pentecost. From Google.

Holy Spirit, breath of life and cause of unity

The Pentecost is not just an event remembered in the past but a reality that happens daily when the Holy Spirit comes and is received by those attuned with its life and mission which is to bring peace through unity and healing.

Promised by Jesus Christ to his followers as their Advocate and Counsellor, the Holy Spirit descended on them during the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem when Jews from all parts of the world gathered to remember the 50 days after their Passover in Egypt at the time of Moses.

It was the perfect setting for the Christian Pentecost – this time 50 days after Easter – to celebrate the new unity of mankind in Jesus he established on Holy Thursday evening at his Last Supper. Inasmuch as the Jews went home at that time to be one with their fellow believers in Jerusalem, on that day from the holy city comes forth the new solidarity of peoples in Jesus led by his followers gathered that day in the Upper Room.

Hence, the tradition of considering Pentecost Sunday as the birthday of the Church, too.

Though we have heard two different versions of its coming, what matters most is the Person of the Holy Spirit as the breath of life and the cause of unity among the followers of Christ.

In the first reading, Luke gives us an artistic presentation of the coming of the Holy Spirit showing the unity of the peoples: first of the followers of Jesus and later with the Jews gathered in Jerusalem on that day for their feast of Pentecost. Whereas the apostles were at first presented as timid and lacking in understanding, the Holy Spirit emboldened them on that day to go out and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Led by Peter, they were filled with life and wisdom and courage, converting thousands of people on Pentecost day despite their speaking in different languages, exactly the opposite at the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament.

In the gospel, John gives us the theological grounding of Pentecost when we find Jesus appearing to his disciples hiding from the Jews on the evening of Easter at the Upper Room where he breathed on them the Holy Spirit that filled them with joy upon seeing him risen and alive.

The scene was reminiscent of the many stories in the Old Testament of the “breath of God” giving life to the first human beings in the story of creation, the “breathing on” by Elijah on the nostrils of the widow’s dead son back to life (1Kgs.17:21), and the promise of God to Ezekiel to restore to life the many dry bones in their graves in the time to come (Ezek. 37:1-14).

These stories now take on deeper meanings in Jesus Christ its fulfillment. And not only were the disciples breathed on with new life in Christ but also the whole creation was renewed in the coming of the Holy Spirit that we pray, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and you shall renew the face of the earth”.

Perennial Pentecost for peace and healing

Pentecost is an event that continues to happen daily especially when we are gathered as the body of believers of Jesus Christ tasked to realize its fulfillment. This coming of the Holy Spirit is not a one-shot deal that happened only in the past in Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago — it is something we as followers of the Risen Lord must always wait and make happen every day so as to continually bring life and renewal to this world especially at this time of the corona pandemic.

In giving us the Holy Spirit, Jesus not only renewed our lives as his disciples united in him but also conferred his own power without restrictions to accomplish our mission.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20:21-23
The Chair of St. Peter at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with the stained glass of the Holy Spirit above. Photo from dreamstime.com.

At the Vatican inside the great St. Peter’s Basilica is a beautiful stained glass of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove rising above as background to the Chair of St. Peter ( Feast is February 22) at the sanctuary area.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI described this beautiful work of art:

“It seems to me that a deep analysis of the essence of the Church lies hidden here, is contained here… It unites the Church with creation as a whole. It signifies through the dove of the Holy Spirit that God is the actual source of all light. But it tells us something else: the Church herself is in essence, so to speak, a window, a place of contact between the other-worldly mystery of God and our world, the place where the world is permeable to the radiance of his light… The Church is the place of encounter where God meets us and we find God. It is her task to open up the world closing in on itself, to give it the light without which it would be unlivable.”

Images of Hope, pp.29-31

Here we find part of our mission in collaboration with the Holy Spirit is the the healing of the world that can be achieved only through peace. See how Jesus had to repeat twice his gift of peace to his disciples because it is his greatest gift to us following his Resurrection.

Life thrives and blooms most where there is peace, where there are disciples of the Lord willing to work for it with love and patience.

But the peace from Jesus Christ always has a price that we must be willing to pay to achieve it.

See that after his first greeting of peace, Jesus showed his wounds — he was the first to pay the price for peace with his own life.

Bringing around our Parish the Blessed Sacrament during the lockdown, March-May 2020.

This is the meaning of the many sacrifices and sufferings we all have to go through in this quarantine period expected to continue until 2021: if we want to get out of this pandemic, aside from the need for a vaccine and medication, we all need to change our ways to make sure this will not happen again.

It is always easy to join so many advocacies and rallies calling for every kind of change in the society and the world but nothing had ever happened because whenever we come home, we do not change our own ways of living! Sayang (what a waste) were all the inspiration and energies of the Holy Spirit for our many causes that have not taken roots right in our hearts.

All the apostles of the Lord paid the price of peace with their own lives that led to the healing not only of individuals and families but even of nations and the world.

The second time Jesus offered his gift of peace, he breathed the Holy Spirit on his apostles and commissioned them to forgive all sins.

Peace is the fruit of love according to Vatican II.

As such, peace from the Holy Spirit leads to healing when there is dialogue, prayer and repentance, that lead to justice, love, and forgiveness. Peace and healing need hard work that is why they are fruits. They never come on a silver platter.

On Monday, most of the quarantine levels in the country are downgraded because it is hoped we have somehow controlled the spread of COVID-19.

As we eagerly await more freedom and mobility in this time of pandemic, what have we achieved during these three months of quarantine, said to be the longest in the world?

Have we resolved our family differences? Have we rediscovered our family members, getting more close than ever, more kind, more understanding?

How sad that all we can share as our quarantine stories are all about food and other pursuits we have undertaken forgetting the unity and life of our family and community.

How sad when we in the Church have all been preoccupied with the new communication media but failed at all to make any impact or dent in the lives of our faithful because we have not shared Jesus Christ at all, when all our “live streaming” and vlogs are powered by likes and followers, not by the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis blessing the people last March 27 in an empty St. Peter’s Square during the height of COVID-19 in Italy that became the new epicenter of pandemic next to China. Photo from Vatican Media Office.

Jesus never takes back his gift of peace, his gift of healing, his gift of the Holy Spirit. He promised to never leave us orphans. Let us not leave the Holy Spirit behind and stop believing in our selves.

That’s the way we have been in the world and even in the Church.

That is why – to a large extent – we have this corona pandemic.

A blessed week to everyone.

When people reject us…

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Thursday, Easter Week VI, 21 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 18:1-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 16:16-20

Photo from yourteenmag.com.

Thank you dear Jesus in speaking to us today in our readings about rejection we all detest due to its deep and painful hurts that affect us even for a lifetime.

In the first reading, St. Paul was successively rejected in his preaching about your Good News of salvation while in the gospel, you remind us of our coming rejection by the world that had first rejected you.

Indeed, you were the first to be rejected and that is why you can speak so well of its nature; but, at the same time, you encourage us to be strong because when we are rejected, that is when we are led into joy.

You know how sad and even tragic is the feeling of being rejected by others, of being turned down, of being driven out, and worst, of being crucified simply because others refuse to accept us for so many reasons, from our skin color to our hairstyle to our religious beliefs and everything.

That is the saddest part of rejection: when we are rejected for reasons we have no control of, for being who we are.

But, you also teach us today, Jesus, that the worst part of rejection is “self-rejection” — when we ourselves affirm our rejection by others!

That happens when we stop pursuing our dreams and fulfilling our mission, when we stop living and give in to the rejection of others, when we go into self-pity that we are worthless, that we are nothing, that we are useless.

Like yesterday when the Athenians scoffed and rejected St. Paul’s teachings of your resurrection, they could not accept that there is always a chance in life in you, that we are all your beloved, forgiven and saved.

Give us the drive and determination of St. Paul to never lose sight of our mission in life despite many rejections by others. Keep us strong and persevering despite the many rejections we go through in life.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

John 16:20

Most of all, let us always be filled with the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to keep in mind we are your Father’s beloved children, saved and forgiven in you Jesus Christ from our many sins and shameful past, ensured of a better tomorrow because you always believe in us, you always trust us, and you always give us each morning as a new chance to make up for our losses and mistakes yesterday. Amen.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com

Open our hearts, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Monday, Easter Week VI, 18 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 16:11-15 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 15:26, 16:4

Photo by author, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan, January 2020.

Open our hearts, Lord, to the truth that it is you who truly works in us and through us in changing the world. We are your instruments, your lips, your voice, your arms, your body… And you remain the Message we have to deliver.

But it seems, there is another more important reason why we have to pray to you to open our hearts in this time of the corona pandemic: after more than 60 days of staying home due to quarantine, many of us have grown callous and cold inside like zombies.

Many of us do not seem to care at all for our less needy brothers and sisters.

Many of us still go on our own selfish ways, thinking only of each one’s own good.

Nobody seemed to care at all, especially our government leaders who refuse to admit their negligence in handling this pandemic trying to win the peoples’ hearts with monetary assistance that have bred corruption. They are more concerned with material needs, giving into the temptation of the devil in the wilderness as a fast solution in making stones into bread.

Now, they have allowed to open businesses especially malls over the weekend in order to spur economic activities, forgetting the other essential need of people for spiritual nourishment in their houses of worship.

Many were left in total disbelief how this government arrogantly preferred to keep churches and other houses of worship to remain closed when so many hearts and souls are dried up, longing to experience you again in the celebration of the sacraments?

More than the opening of our minds, please open our hearts in this time of pandemic when minions of this government are more concerned in silencing their critics than mass testing the people for the virus, when all they have in their minds are money and food forgetting the spiritual nourishment that teaches contentment and charity among people.

Open our hearts, Lord, for us to be more loving and kind to one another like the women in Philippi who listened to the preaching of St. Paul in the first reading.

Most of all, Lord Jesus, open our hearts to welcome your Holy Spirit who would lead us to the truth and be one in the Father so we may find him in the face of every person we encounter.

It is only in opening our hearts that we can truly be kind and charitable with others because that is when you and the Father in the Holy Spirit truly dwell in us, abide in us in your great love. Amen.

Photo by author, Sleeping Santo Niño, January 2020.

Loving presence of Jesus in us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week VI-A, 17 May 2020

Acts of the Apostle 8:5-8, 14-17 ><)))*> 1 Peter 3:15-18 ><)))*> John 14:15-21

Nuns bringing relief goods to a remote village. Photo from Facebook.

We are about to end two great seasons in our liturgy and still, here we are in our enhanced community quarantine due to COVID-19. Prospects remain dim as experts say the corona virus may never be totally eradicated despite the discovery of vaccines and medicines later this year.

It is in this background we find our readings this Sunday so reassuring, reminding us of how so often in history that tragic or painful events in the lives of individuals and societies have led to happy endings.

In our first reading, we have seen how the persecution of the Church at Jerusalem so tragic but at the same time also helped spread Christianity so fast led by the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus Christ before he was betrayed and arrested on that Holy Thursday evening.

All this is possible if we believe in Jesus, if we love Jesus.

Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

John 14:15-18
Photo by author, flowers at Church of Gallicantu near Jerusalem, May 2019.

Intimacy with Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit

For the first time, Jesus promised during their Last Supper the sending of the Holy Spirit when he fulfills his mission.

In most translations, the Holy Spirit is referred to as Advocate although some prefer the transliteration Paraclete from its original Greek Parakletos to truly capture its full meaning or context.

Only St. John used the word Parakletos to denote the Holy Spirit. In its Hellenistic context, Parakletos had come to be known as Advocate like a lawyer or a friend who speaks on behalf of the “accused” like Jesus in a hostile world (Jn.16:7-11).

However, St. John also used parakletos in different contexts like in our gospel today.

See how before introducing to us the sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus speaks more of a grand instruction – in fact, a reality, a truth in the life of his every disciple: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn.14:15).

Without specifying any commandments to keep, Jesus further explained that “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me” (Jn.14:21). He would be speaking of this like a refrain four more times later to stress that loving Jesus is keeping his commandments.

It is a very difficult task to fulfill and most often, more difficult to understand or interpret especially when we are in real life-situations like loving an arrogant president or loving officials who break the rules of quarantine!

This is so because Jesus himself is the law, the commandments which is his very person; therefore, to love him is to be like him and that is always keeping his commandments of love.

And that is why Jesus made sure to inscribe this lesson and reality into his disciples’ memory and hearts during their last supper by promising the Holy Spirit he called as Parakletos who would be acting as his Advocate, Counsellor, and Comforter when he returns to the Father.

It is the Holy Spirit who leads us now into an intimacy with Christ that we are able to love Jesus, love like Jesus, and love in Jesus. This is the same Holy Spirit who binds the Three Persons of the Trinity in love who also makes us one with God and with others.

Photo from Facebook post by Ms. Marivic Tribiana, 17 April 2020 fire in Tondo area.

Making Jesus present in our love

We make Jesus most present when we love because when we love, everything changes for the best, even the most difficult and worst situations in life.

Albert Camus rightly said when he wrote in his 1947 novel The Plague now being reread due to the corona virus, that “A loveless world is a dead world.”

Without love, we would have gone extinct by now.

Because of love, every tragedy, every suffering and problem we go through leads to happy ending primarily because we discover something, someone beyond far more important than any situation or plight we may be into.

Artwork by Fr. Marc Ocariza upon seeing the FB post by Ms. Marivic Tribiana above on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday 2020.

Most of all, love has a distinctive characteristic that moves the lover to become like the beloved. This is the reason why we who love strive harder, persevere and forge into every obstacle and fight until we are one with our beloved!

And who is ultimately our very love?

God.

The God revealed to us by Jesus Christ his Son who became human like us to be one with us in everything including death except sin so that we become like him – divine – in his Resurrection.

Jesus Christ whom we “sanctify as Lord in our hearts” (1Pt.3:15) is the one we imitate and follow, the one we see and, most of all, the only one we (must) share when we love, when we serve especially in this time of the corona pandemic.

Sometimes, it is still difficult to believe how these pandemic and quarantine are happening to us when all of a sudden here comes typhoon Ambo that wreaked a path of destruction in the Visayas and Bicolandia the other day, making us wonder what is happening in the world right now?

Making things worst that have stressed us all so much is our government at all levels lacking preparations, with some officials into alleged corruptions while the enforcers of the laws are the ones breaking all the rules of quarantine!

We just keep on hoping things would get better by starting right at our own end.

Sometimes it can be funny although painful when some people forget us or take us for granted, thinking we are fine or doing great without any hint of the sufferings within.

But the grace is always there because Jesus is within each one of us who believes in him and tries hard to keep his commandments.

“In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”

John 14:19-20

We just have to do our part, to keep on believing in Jesus, loving Jesus, and most of all, keeping his commandments because Jesus is the “explanation to anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope” (1Pt.3:15).

This does not mean the world is lacking the Lord’s presence.

He has not left us indeed and sooner or later, we shall see how he, the God of history, will direct everything according to his greater plan for us.

Today’s gospel reminds us of his assurance to be with us always in the Holy Spirit.

It is now our turn to pick up the pieces and make him more felt, especially in comforting those affected severely by the many storms that hit us in this time of the corona virus.

Have a blessed Sunday and stay safe! Amen.

Photo from CBCPNews of the debris left by Typhoon Ambo in Arteche, Eastern Samar, 14 May 2020.