Thoughts on homesickness

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 24 January 2022
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.

I have always taken homesickness lightly, dismissing it as a simple feeling we all go through once in a while when we leave home for various reasons. Maybe that is due to my entering the seminary in high school, aged 13-16, when I left my family for three years.

Everything changed when I went on vacation to the US in 2003. For the first time in my life, I felt so homesick after extending my two-month vacation to almost five months! That was when I realized the painful truth of homesickness: it is not really that you wanted to come home but more of longing for your loved ones from home, wishing they are with you having a great time at Times Square or enjoying the views from Washington’s Monument or devouring those giant oysters at New Orleans.

Homesickness is not really missing home as a place but home as family, as persons. One writer had said it so well that “homesickness is not really about the places but the faces we miss”!

It is having that feeling while in the midst of all those sights and sounds and tastes, you wish your loved ones are with you too, doubling the fun and adventures you are having. It is wanting to go home and take everybody out to your vacation or location.

But, lately I found out there is something else deeper with the faces and company we miss when we feel homesick; it is also the time and moments lost and gone in the past you try to bring back into the present. Not just of other persons but your very self – including all your dreams and pursuits or desires that got sidelined for so many reasons, valid or not. It is not really about having regrets in life but somehow, homesickness is a feeling best described by our Filipino word panghihinayang. Or, sayang.

It is a case of wasted presence, of taking persons and things for granted.

Thanks to the COVID pandemic. Aside from the virus, we are all afflicted with homesickness, of missing our loved ones whom we cannot visit or stay with due to the corona virus. And, whether we had mild or severe symptoms, homesickness was strongest – and strangest – when we were in isolation or quarantine due to infection.

Basta, all we strongly felt was to see our family and friends because we love them.

Photo by author, Sonnen Berg, Davao City, 2019.

Homesickness depends – for better or for worst – on the kind of presence we have spent with our loved ones.

If we have always been intense – and truthful – in our relationships with family and friends, homesickness becomes a soothing balm that relaxes us after a very tiring day or week specially when in isolation or quarantine. You know that kind of feeling within of assured contentment that you love and you are loved by other persons you do not see often or not even communicate with frequently. That is because when you were together, the presence you have spent with each other was so intense and pure that it had created an invisible bond between or among you that you do not seem apart from each other at all.

There is that wonderful feeling of remembering, of suddenly experiencing the warmth and loving face of your beloved. It happens briefly like a blink of an eye that seemed eternal. That’s because of the love you have.

Problem happens when our occasions of being present with one another is superficial or shallow, when we were physically present with another but emotionally and spiritually detached. That is when the hairline difference between homesickness and regrets occurs. We become homesick, trying to go back not only in place but in time to meet the persons including our old self now all gone. Our former rector, Fr. Memeng Salonga used to tell us in high school seminary that it is not really time that is passing by but you who are passing by. One cannot bring back time that had passed, specially the chances and opportunities it had for you if you do not use it wisely.

That’s the painful truth with homesickness when you miss so much how you have missed and let go of the time and moments you have to be truly present with someone and with your very self. And we say sayang.

Photo by author, Israel, 2017.

Recently I was exchanging text messages with a former student. We last met five years ago and both promised to meet again to work on a project and just simply have another great time together over some bottles of beer.

It never happened because we were both busy. Last Friday, he told me how he had COVID last year, the Delta surge. None of his connections could even get him into the ER of any hospital in the city. It was an eye-opener for him, indeed a second life as he survived COVID with a lot of faith and prayers. And love of family.

As I told him of my plans of slowing down in life and retiring early, he texted, “The way I see it po, it can also be wanting to really live. And not function like a machine.” (See why I love talking to him?)

Exactly! Sad, but true.

That has always been the challenge of life, of authentic living – when we become truly free to live and love and be faithful to God expressed in our kindness and service to one another. Of living in the present, in the here and now, in the “today” of Jesus Christ.

Homesickness does not need to be a sickness if we are always “present”.

Then all we have are memories, persons and events we remember and make present again as part of the here and now.

We hope the experts are proven right that the Omicron could be the beginning of the end of the pandemic. And if ever they are wrong, still, may we all be present, be a gift to everyone, and be home in every today God gives us.

From Facebook by Fragments of My Mind, 22 January 2022.

Advent is being at home – with self, with others, and with God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, Priest, 03 December 2021
Isaiah 29:17-24   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 9:27-31
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2020.
Your words today, O God,
are so Fatherly - comforting
and reassuring of your great
promises of redemption and
liberation from sin and miseries; 
your words are so "homey" too - 
help us this Season of Advent to find 
our way back home to you, O loving
God our Father!
Inasmuch as your words today
also speak of seeing and hearing,
make us feel at home first with
our very selves, to be at home with
who we really are, especially with our
past that no matter how dark or
painful life may have been, we are loved
most specially by you - no ifs, no buts.
Bring us home to you, Father, free from
any shame at who we really are!

Thus says the Lord God: but a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard shall be regarded as a forest! On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and our of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of, nor shall his face grow pale.

Isaiah 29:17-19, 22
I wonder, Lord, how so often
I feel one of those two blind men
who have followed you into your 
house - of how you first lead me into you,
into your presence, into your love 
and mercy and forgiveness before 
you make me see and hear again.
Thank you dear Jesus for always
coming to us even if so many times
we do not see nor notice you passing by
especially through others; grant us the 
zeal of St. Francis Xavier in reaching out
to others specially this season amid the
pandemic; may we try to see you among
one another as we listen to each one's
cries of pains and joys.
Most specially, let us keep our eyes
and ears and hearts open like St. Francis
Xavier who always believed in your
presence and providence even in the most
difficult and alienating situations
in life because he has always been
at home with you.  Amen.

Lent is home in God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week V in Lent, 26 March 2021
Jeremiah 20:10-13   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   John 10:31-42
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.
I hear the whisperings of many:
"Terror on every side!  Denounce! 
Let us denounce him!"
All those who were my friends 
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
(Jeremiah 20:10)

God our loving Father, we are now in great danger, in critical level not only with the pandemic happening but with the continuing callousness and heartlessness of those in power in our land. Instead of fighting COVID-19, they are fighting those who speak the truth like your prophet Jeremiah.

They utter all lies and harsh words in public, even make faces to put down those who speak about the real situation and suggest solutions to the problem.

Even families and communities are breaking apart because of COVID-19 as many of us forget the enemy is the virus not the afflicted.

We only have you as our refuge,Lord. We count only on you. Indeed, you probe the mind and the heart of everyone as Jeremiah mentioned today.

Increase our faith in you and do not allow us to take vengeance into our hands against our oppressors who are our very own countrymen, even relatives and friends.

Let us focus on the evil that is pervading which is our closed minds, hard hearts, and angry fists.

May we all go back to you, dear God, in Christ Jesus.

Help us retreat to our own Jordan River (Jn.10:40) like Jesus where everything started – our baptism, our mission – to find rest and comfort in you.

Let us come home in you, God our Father, from whom everything started and finds meaning. Make us remember our journey in faith in you, our sense of mission from you.

In this time when many are rejecting Jesus and his message of salvation, open our minds and our hearts to believe the many signs by which you reveal in him your love and mercy to us. Amen.

Advent is being at home with God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Advent Week I, 02 December 2020
Isaiah 25:6-10     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Matthew 15:29-37
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Quezon, March 2020.

O God our loving Father, as we eagerly await the coming Christmas break to finally come home and be with our loved ones, may we also pray and reflect the greatest homecoming of all when your Son Jesus Christ returns to bring us back to you in heaven, our truest home.

How interesting that Jesus must come again to finally bring us home to you; yes, he had already come and always comes to us but unfortunately, we rarely come home to you. We insist on going somewhere or to someone else who just leave us empty and disappointed.

Home is where the heart is and that is you, Father, in heaven. May we constantly search you and dwell in you while still in this world; destroy the “veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations” (Is.25:7) that mislead and imprison us with false hopes in superficial relationships and materialistic briberies of the world.

Sometimes we have to go hungry and thirsty to realize the more essential things in life like you, dear God and the people who truly care for us and love us like our immediate family and friends.

Like the crowd who have followed Jesus in the wilderness for three days with nothing to eat: they experienced advent, the coming of God when Jesus fed them after they were first disposed to desire the longings of their soul than of their bodies. It was only then when Jesus fed them through the miraculous multiplication of the loaves of bread for the second time.

May the darkness and gloom that envelop us this season of Advent like the pandemic and other personal crises dispose us to desiring you alone, God our Father, so we may finally enter your heavenly banquet with “rich food and choice wines” (Is.25:6). Amen.

We are God’s indwelling

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Monday, Easter Week V, 11 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 14:5-18 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 14:21-26

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Blessed Sacrament Procession in our Parish during quarantine, May 2020.

As we brace ourselves, O Lord, for the announcement this week of another possible extension of our quarantine period, we pray for more of your grace of presence and indwelling in us during this time that our churches remain closed to public worship.

Give us the fire and zeal of Paul and Barnabas in proclaiming your Gospel in words and in deeds.

Most especially, give us the same humility and decency to direct all praise and glory to your Divine Majesty and not to us.

Let us abide in you, O God our Father so that we may be your indwelling in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Photo by author, our closed church in time of corona virus, March-May 2020.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words; yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.”

John 14:23

May we always have the courage, O dear Jesus, to accept your invitation to belong to you wholly, to be at home in you.

Most often, we are so anxious of so many things, peace and calmness become elusive because we cannot rest in you, we cannot persevere and wait in finding you here in our very selves, in our daily life, in our worries and concerns.

Let us come home to you, Jesus, and abide in your love so that we become your indwelling of the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Stay home, save lives in Christ like moms

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week V-A, 10 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7 ><)))*> 1 Peter 2:4-9 ><)))*> John 14:1-12

Photo by Ezra Acayan for gettyimages.com, 2020.

Our Sunday celebration today is a confluence of things that perfectly jibe with our situation during this pandemic – the quarantine call worldwide to “stay home, save lives”, Mother’s Day, and Jesus telling us in the gospel we are one family going “home” to the Father.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”

John 14:1-3
Photo from istock.com

Home is where the heart is

One good thing with this COVID-19 pandemic is how it has driven home so hard one lesson modern man has forgotten: the importance of home, of family life.

It is hoped that during this quarantine period, we do not merely stay home to prevent spread of corona virus but most of all to build anew our relationships in our family that we have neglected in our pursuits of so many things in life.

A home is more than a house; it is about relationships, of love and acceptance, kindness and forgiveness.

From Google.

Our Filipino word says it all – tahanan, from the root tahan which is to stop crying.

Tahanan or home is where you stop crying because that is where you are loved and accepted, safe and secured from any harm or danger.

Jesus assures us today in the gospel that we have a home in heaven where there is a room for everyone. This is the reason the same gospel text is the favorite in funeral Masses.

But there is something more about heaven than being a house with many rooms.

It is good that our lectionary used the modern translation of the Greek word “monai” or rooms into “dwelling places” because Jesus in this passage is not merely referring to a place or location but more specifically of a relationship with him in the Father.

In fact, the word “monai” is used only twice in the New Testament, both in the fourth Gospel: at this part and later when Jesus reprimands Philip in verse 23, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him”.

Home and room are a dwelling — a relationship and a privilege of abiding in God’s presence!

Lent 2019 in our parish.

When Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be”, he never meant it to be taken in the literal sense because if it were so, that would be the only thing he has been doing in heaven these past 2000 years!

What Jesus is telling us along with the Twelve at that time is that by his going to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection after their supper, we are able to dwell, to abide in the loving presence of the Father even here on earth in this very life.

Such was the immense love of Christ when he assured the Apostles, including us in this time of pandemic to “Do not let your hearts be troubled” because his pasch is for our own benefit as our passageway into being with the Father in Jesus when we join him at the Cross.

Remember our gospel last week of Jesus as the “gate of the sheep” because he is “the way and the truth and the life” that now comes into full circle in the Last Supper.

It is in our sharing in his sufferings and pains on the Cross we enter heaven, we dwell in his loving presence that he also becomes manifest in us in this life.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Mothers know best

Connecting now our quarantine slogan of “stay home, save lives” and Sunday gospel with Mother’s Day celebration today, we are reminded of the importance of ties and relationships that we keep especially in this period of pandemic.

In the Old Testament, God is revealed to us like a mother because she is the epitome of fidelity:

“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name.”

Isaiah 49:15-16

How unfortunate that again, the song based on this part of Isaiah “Hindi Kita Malilimutan” (I Will Never Forget You) has become a favorite song in funeral Masses when in fact it is best sung in weddings because it is a pledge of love and fidelity by God who is like a mother.

The mother is the premiere homemaker also referred as the “light of the home” who seem to always have that magic touch in everything, in turning out little things, even scraps, into something lovely and beautiful, and delicious!

Her love and dedication can never be measured and nothing can ever make her happy except the abiding love and presence of her husband and children.

Photo by author, painting of “Our Lady of the Grotto in Bethlehem”, May 2019.

And we all know of our mother’s presence that transcends time and space, not to mention their intuition that defies logic but always true!

No wonder, there is a Jewish saying that “God created mothers because he cannot be everywhere”.

When we are sick, when we feel low, mothers know them all. Nothing can be hidden or kept secret with our moms because they are a home, a dwelling place for each of us all.

In the first reading we have heard the “ordination” of the first seven deacons of the church whose primary task was to take care of the widows as the Apostles were busy proclaiming the Gospel.

Eventually, it paved the way for the many services and ministries in the church that have become the clearest signs of God’s presence in the world. There is no need to publicize the countless efforts of the Church in reaching out to all the marginalized sectors of the society in the whole world that is truly a sign of her being a mother to all.

Now more than ever, in this time of the corona pandemic, we in the Church are challenged to continue being the signs of the living and loving presence of Jesus Christ in the world that has become so materialistic, less humane, even loveless and so unkind.

Let us be a mother, a living and loving presence of God so that people may find a home in us in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Amen.

A blessed happy Mothers’ Day to all moms!

Photo by author of the entrance to the original chapel of Our Lady of Grotto in Bethlehem, May 2019.

Doing the work of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, 01 May 2020

Genesis 1:26-2:3 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 13:54-58

Photo by author of the site of St. Joseph’s shop in their home at Nazareth found beneath the Chapel of St. Joseph near the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel. May 2019.

As we start the third extension of our quarantine period, you have gifted us O God, our loving Father, with this Feast of St. Joseph the Worker to guide many of us working at home during this time of the corona pandemic.

St. Joseph must have been a very good father to Jesus at Nazareth and a very wonderful carpenter too to their neighbors that long after he had died, the people still remembered him being the father of the Lord.

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? Is he not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Are not his sisters all with us? Where did this man get all this?”

Matthew 13:54-56

Remind us always, O Lord, that like St. Joseph, our main task in life is to do your work in the way you would want it to be done because all our work is just a sharing in your creation completed in six days, setting aside the seventh day of sabbath as a day of rest in you.

In this time of the corona virus when many of us are working at home with almost all establishments including churches are closed, may we find again the true meaning and value of all work and material endeavors in the light of Jesus Christ who did and spoke only what you willed, our heavenly Father.

May we break free from our works and be not their slaves that have destroyed our personal and family lives as well as our environment as we pursued in recent years material wealth and fame now useless in the face of COVID-19.

May we always find you, Lord, in all our work and undertaking as our only fulfillment. Amen.

Photon by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, March 2020.