Practical blessedness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 05 February 2023
Isaiah 58:7-10 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ><}}}}*> Matthew 5:13-16
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 2022.

We are still at the sermon on the mount by Jesus Christ that opened last Sunday with his teachings on the beatitudes. We have reflected that the beatitudes are actually Jesus Christ himself that are supposed to be the very disposition of his disciples by being like him who is “poor in spirit”, “meek”, “afflicted”, “hungry and thirsty for righteousness”, “merciful”, “clean of heart”, “peacemaker”, and “persecuted”.

Every disciple is already blessed in Christ because blessedness is primarily a being like status in Facebook, not a mere doing. What a dignity we all have in Jesus in being called blessed! That is why this Sunday Jesus is teaching us the practical side of our blessedness, of being “the salt of the earth” and “light of the world” that call on the characteristics and demands of being like Christ, of conforming to his gospel of salvation.

See that being a salt and a light perfectly match the beatitudes when we say, “Blessed are you who are the salt of the earth and the light of the world”! For this Sunday, let us focus on the call of being the light of the world.


After praying over today’s gospel, I saw on a friend’s FB this post from Meralco inviting anyone interested in becoming a lineman. The tag-line was very catchy, “Handa na ba kayo maghatid ng liwanag?” (Are you ready to bring light?) with a hashtag, #BuildingABrilliantFuture.

From Meralco/fb

I felt the Meralco advertisement so brilliant, extolling the great honor of being a lineman who brings light to homes and schools, offices and factories, and everywhere. Requirements are actually minimal except for that most important thing of not having fear of heights. Of course!

But, Jesus Christ’s call to us all is more pressing, more important. More than the linemen building the facilities that will bring light to towns and cities, Jesus invites us to be the light ourselves.

Jesus alone is the light of the world. The light we carry is his. We are all Christ-light who reflect the very light of Jesus Christ in our good works and loving service to others, in our witnessing to our faith.

Words are not enough to bring his light to the world. The light of Christ shines brightly in us when we are witnessing truth and justice, kindness and mercy among our brothers and sisters, when we bear all pains and sufferings in continually working for peace and uplifting of the lowly despite so many accusations by those in power. Here we find that being the light of the world is to put into practice the beatitudes of having a clean heart, of being peacemakers, and being persecuted. It is when we work on them that our light shine before others that upon seeing our good deeds, it is God whom they glorify and not us:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Matthew 5;16

See the following verses when Jesus described in details his teachings of being good, of witnessing his gospel values, he also warned us his disciples to never do good deeds for the sake of being known and popular. It is very clear that in being the light of the world, it is God who must be seen in us not our selves. Living the beatitudes is not having the most “likes” and “reactions” in Facebook nor of being viral nor trending. Moreover, it is definitely not being an “influencer” whatever that word means.

At the same time, Jesus Christ’s call for us to be his light ourselves is also a call for us to work as a community, not just as individuals. It is perfectly good if every disciple will shine brightly as a light of Christ but it is better when all disciples as a community of believers shine in gospel values!

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.

Matthew 5:14-15
Photo by author, La Mesa Dam Eco Park seen from OLFU-Quezon City, 01 February 2023.

How sad that lately, the world has grown darker not only because of fewer men and women sharing the light of Christ with their witnessing of the gospel but because nations and regions have abandoned the faith. Many are getting de-Christianized on a wholesale basis these days.

Nobody seems to care at all anymore of not going to Mass face-to-face while everyone is so glued on their cellphone and computer screens without a whimper of opposition or rejection even disdain with all the trash coming out in social media like TikTok so saturated with sexual content ranging from same sex relationships to display of too much skin and use of indecent language.

Making matters worst are the many priests and religious lacking understanding in communication who do all the stupid things on camera that instead of evangelizing are demoralizing the faithful. And the tragedy is how most of these media practitioners in the Church are simply playing on novelties than creating innovations in employing the modern means of communications that result in just creating cults around themselves and miserably fail in evangelizing the people. This is the message of St. Paul in the second reading, reminding us that faith rests on the power of God than in the personality and eloquence of the priests and bishops.

Christ’s call for us to be the light of the world is a resounding call we must all respond to in this present age through deep prayer to be immersed in the person of Christ, the light of the world. It is only Jesus and always Jesus whom we must share and give to the people by realizing and affirming our prophetic functions in denouncing the ways of the world of injustice against the poor and the hungry like what Isaiah described in the first reading.

The world badly needs prophets these days, men and women like Christ who are “light rising in the darkness who would turn gloom into midday” (Is.58:10) for indeed as the psalmist declares, “The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.” Amen.

Have a blessed and illuminating week ahead in Jesus Christ!

Photo by author, 01 February 2023.

True blessedness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, Year A, 29 January 2023
Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ><}}}*> Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by author, 2020.

Blessedness is a very contentious term for us Filipinos. Very often, we equate blessedness with being rich and wealthy like having a lot of money, a beautiful house, and the latest car model as well as clothes and gadgets. Being blessed sometimes means being lucky or fortunate like winning the lotto or having a child graduating in college or getting promoted in one’s job.

In the Visitation, Elizabeth defined for us the true meaning of being blessed like Mary as someone who believed that what the Lord had promised her would be fulfilled (Lk.1:45). Blessedness is essentially a spiritual reality than a material one; however, it implies that being blessed results from doing something good like being faithful to God.

Today in our gospel from Matthew, Jesus shows us that blessedness is still a spiritual reality than a material one but, it is more of a being – like a status in Facebook – than of doing.

Most of all, being blessed is not being in a good situation or condition when all is well and everything proceeding smoothly in life; blessedness according to Jesus at his sermon on the mount is when we are on the distaff side of life like being poor, being hungry, being persecuted and insulted – being like him!

Photo by author, Church of the Beatitudes, Israel, 2019.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Matthew 5:3-12

After going around the shores of Galilee, preaching and healing the people, Jesus went up a mountain upon seeing crowds were following him. They were mostly poor people with deep faith in God, hoping and trusting only in him for their deliverance called the anawims.

They were in painful and difficult situations, maybe like many of us, fed up with the traffic and rising costs of everything, fed up with the corruption among public officials and most of all, disillusioned with our priests and bishops!

Then, Jesus called them blessed.

Now, please consider that it is more understandable and normal to say that after being persecuted or after losing a loved one, after all these sufferings that people would be blessed, that the kingdom of God would be theirs.

But, that is not the case with the beatitudes whereby Jesus called them already blessed now, right in their state of being poor, being persecuted, being maligned!

Keep in mind that Matthew’s audience were his fellow Jewish converts to Christianity. By situating Jesus on the mountain preaching his first major discourse, Matthew was reminding his fellow Jewish converts of their great lawgiver, Moses who stood on Mount Sinai to give them the Ten Commandments from God.

However, in the sermon on the mount, Matthew was presenting Jesus not just as the new Moses but in fact more than Moses because Jesus himself is the Law. His very person is what we follow that is why we are called Christians and our faith is properly called Christianity so unlike other religions that are like philosophies or any other -ism.

To understand the beatitudes, one has to turn and enter into Jesus Christ for he is the one truly poor in spirit, meek, hungry and thirsty, merciful, clean of heart, who was persecuted, died but rose again and now seated at the righthand of the Father in heaven. Essentially, the Beatitudes personify Jesus Christ himself. Those who share what he had gone through while here on earth, those who identify with him in his poverty and meekness, mercy and peace efforts, and suffering and death now share in his blessedness.

Therefore, the Beatitudes are paths to keeping our relationship with Jesus Christ who calls us to be like him – poor, hungry and thirsty, meek, clean of heart and persecuted. The Beatitudes are not on the moral plane like the Decalogue that tells us what to do and not to do. Have you ever used the Beatitudes as a guide in examining your conscience when going to Confessions? Never, because the Beatitudes are goals in life to be continuously pursued daily by Christ’s disciples.

Photo by author, Church of the Beatitudes, Israel, 2017.

The Beatitudes are more on the spiritual and mystical plane of our lives that when we try imitating Jesus in his being poor and merciful, meek and clean of heart, then we realize and experience blessedness as we learn the distinctions between joy and happiness, being fruitful and successful.

That is when we find fulfillment while still here on earth amid all the sufferings and trials we go through because in the beatitudes we have Jesus, a relationship we begin to keep and nurture who is also the Kingdom of God. Of course, we experience its fullness in the afterlife but nonetheless, we reap its rewards while here in this life.

As we have noted at the start, we must not take the beatitudes in their material aspect but always in the spiritual meaning. This we find in the first beatitude, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Actually, this first beatitude is the very essence of all eight other blessedness. Everything springs forth from being poor in spirit, of having that inner attitude and disposition of humility before God. We cannot be merciful and meek, nor pure of heart nor peacemakers unless we become first of all poor in spirit like Jesus, who, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and humbled himself” (Phil. 2:6-7, 8).

The prophet Zephaniah showed us in the first reading that poverty in the Old Testament does not only define a social status but more of one’s availability and openness to God with his gifts and calls to us to experience him and make him known. Experience had taught us so well that material poverty is one of life’s best teacher as it leads us to maturity and redemption best expressed in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In this sense, the beatitude is also the “be-attitude” of every disciple who carries his cross in following Christ. See that each beatitude does not refer to a different person; every disciple of Jesus goes through each beatitude if he/she immerses himself/herself in Christ. That is why last week Jesus preached repentance which leads to conversion. Notice that the beatitudes of Christ are clearly opposite and contrary to the ways of the world as St. Paul tells us in the second reading with God calling the weak and lowly to manifest his power and glory.

Many times in life, we fail to recognize our blessedness when we are so focused with what we are going through, with our work and duties and obligations. This Sunday, Jesus takes us up on the mountain, in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist for us to see ourselves blessed and loved right in the midst of our simplicity and bareness, sufferings and pains. Stop for a while. Find Christ in all your troubles or darkness in life. If you do not find Jesus in your labors and burdens, you are just punishing yourself. If you find Christ because you see more the face of other persons that you become merciful, you work for peace, you mourn and bear all insults and persecution… then, you must be loving a lot. Therefore, you are blessed! Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Church of the Beatitudes, Israel, 2017.

The human child, mystery of God’s love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 15 January 2023
Isaiah 9:1-6 ><]]]]'> Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18 ><]]]]'> Matthew 18:1-5, 10
Photo from reddit.com.

The photo above is a sculpture called “Love” by Ukrainian artist Alexander Milov he created in 2015. I have kept the photo as a bookmark in one of the books I have read and saw it recently. Milov rightly called it “Love” because it shows how that mystery of love expressed to us by God in Christ’s coming continues if we could only be like a child!

See how the sculpture depicts two adults after a disagreement sitting with their back to each other while their inner child in both of them wanting to connect. What a beautiful expression of our condition when despite our vast learning and knowledge, we seem to can’t live without ego and pride, hatred and grudges that prevent us from forgiving and moving on in life. The free spirit exhibited by children in this sculpture shows our true nature which is the very core of Jesus Christ’s teaching, of being a child always.

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven… See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Matthew 18:1-3, 10

On this Sunday of the second week in Ordinary Time, we extend our Christmas celebration for a day with the Feast of Sto. Niño or Child Jesus in honor of the crucial role of that image gifted by Magellan to Queen Juana of Cebu 500 years ago. It was the Sto. Niño who actually conquered our country to become the only Christian nation in this part of the world – proof enough of Christ’s teaching about being a child so powerful in God’s eyes!

This Feast is a very timely for us too as we go into the busyness of our lives to be reminded anew even for a day of the meaning of Christmas, of Jesus Christ’s coming in love. He came because of love, coming as love himself by being a child, an infant.

It was only recently as a chaplain in the hospital have I felt and realized why a baby is called a “bundle of joy” – my heart melts whenever I visit mothers with their newborn babies especially twins. It is said that even the most hardened criminals are softened upon seeing babies and children. And that is because of what Jesus told us today in the gospel,

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Matthew 16:10

What is there with children and the face of God?

I think that is God’s gift of love in each of us, so innately in us right during our moment of conception when life begins as the Church rightly insists based on Sacred Scriptures. It is nurtured and cared for first by the mother that even after we have matured, we call on our mother when surprised or shocked as in “Inang ko po!” or “Nanay ko po!”. See how those approaching death would always speak of seeing their departed mother, coming and visiting them.

This shows and proves to us the deep impact of a mother’s love to each of us because she is always the first to make us experience God’s love in her womb that even long after our umbilical cords have been cut off at birth, there remains an invisible line always between us and our mothers.

It is not only with our mother but also with everyone. This love innately gifted upon each of us by God who is our very first love remains in us through our family and friends and later the people we meet in life as living representatives of that invisible love of God in us. This is what Jesus meant when he warned his disciples in the gospel today,

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Matthew 18:10

How sad when this love that has always been in us and in the world suddenly becomes unrecognizable – even unrealistic – because of the darkness of sins and evil. When the child is born and begins to see, experience and realize the absence of love in the family, of a lack of that love between the child’s mother and father who quarrel or separate, or when the child himself/herself is threatened or hurt by anyone he/she looks up to, then trouble happens.

Children can only grasp the gift of life and of their existence when they experience the concreteness, the reality of love first right in their homes. One thing we adults always forget which I insist on every man and woman entering marriage that it is always the children who bear all the pains and sufferings when they separate. Experts claim that criminals mostly come from families where children witness domestic violence, especially when the husband beats the wife.

It is unfortunate that today’s gospel did not include Jesus Christ’s most terrible curse against those inflicting harm on children when he said in the same scene that “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and drowned in the depths of the sea” (Mt. 16:6).

As chaplain of a university, I have been hearing the confessions of our students, recently from junior and senior high school. After listening to their stories and woes, I tell them point blank about their parents and family, of the love among them and they start crying. I do not blame parents for their apparent lack of love for their children nor for their separation nor for their need to work abroad; I stress to young people human love is always imperfect. Only God can love us perfectly.

When the world and the people around us miserably fail in showing us the face of our loving God, that is when all the more we have to be like children anew as Jesus tells us today. It is is in going inside our inner child within, in becoming like a child trusting in the great love of God in us like when we were in our mother’s womb can we grasp again this invisible love poured upon us in Jesus Christ.

This is the challenge for us of the Sto. Niño: let us keep the face of God aglow in us, on our face and in our lives like the light Isaiah spoke of in the first reading when the Messiah comes. Anyone who lives in the gospel of Jesus Christ, even amid all pains and sufferings, would always be aglow with that radiant face of God filled with love and mercy, kindness and compassion despite our many imperfections. The beloved disciple said it so well, “No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us” (1 Jn. 4:12). Simply love, love, and love. No ifs nor buts. Just love.

Let us remain children of God most especially in our adulthood like Jesus Christ who upon his death on the Cross called God Abba – Father – because he has always been the Son, the Child of God. Remember how at the Last Supper when he gave the new commandment of loving one another as he loves us: it is “new” because unlike the love the world knows which is all feelings and self-centered, Christ’s love is rooted in God through him, in him, and with him.

Let us pray:

Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
every spiritual blessing in the heavens (Eph. 1:3),
as he chose us to be born
and be filled with his love as 
icons and representatives of his love;
enlighten the eyes of our hearts, Father,
so we may always answer your call
in your Son Jesus Christ for us to follow
him in being like a child
manifesting your face full of
warmth and love,
kindness and care
especially to those 
feeling unloved.
Amen.

Christmas is “manifesting” Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, 08 January 2023
Isaiah 60:1-6 ><}}}}*> Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 ><}}}}*> Matthew 2:1-12

Still, a blessed Christmas to everyone! As I have been telling you, let us continue greeting one another with a Merry Christmas for it is still the Christmas Season. Forget those happy new year greetings. Insist on Merry Christmas especially today when our celebration reminds us that Christmas is manifesting, showing Jesus Christ!

In fact, our celebration today is a high point of Christmas – even the Christmas in some parts of Europe, the US and even the Philippines. As a result, so much focus have been given on the magi that we forget the very essence of Epiphany is Jesus Christ – not the names of the magi nor their gifts nor their number.

From the Greek word epiphanes that means “manifestation”, the Epiphany of the Lord celebrates the discovery of Jesus by the foreigners known as magi from the East, learned men who were seeking the truth. In discovering Jesus, he was made known to all the world as the Savior and the King of Kings.

It is very interesting that what we have we heard proclaimed in the gospel today is the first conversation ever recorded by Matthew in his account that was uttered by the magi searching for Jesus:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

Matthew 2:1-2

That spoken question by the magi which stirred the whole of Jerusalem and bothered even King Herod – “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? – is a theme that resonates throughout Matthew’s gospel because in the Jewish thought, God is their only king. King for them is more than a political ruler but a manifestation or reflection of the face of God who alone is the king of the universe.

Matthew is teaching us something very important in recording the first conversation spoken in his gospel account was by the magi asking “where is the newborn king of the Jews” to remind us that every day, it is Jesus Christ whom we must seek first in our lives, in our prayers, especially in the scriptures.

Upon waking up in the morning, what is the very first thing you do – check on your cellphone for messages? turn on the radio or TV or laptop? What or who do you look for first thing in the morning? Do you at least light a candle on a little altar in your room to pray the Morning Offering or meditate on the scriptures of the day?

The person(s) or things that we immediately focus upon waking up indicate very much the persons or things that rule us daily. See how the magi from the east were seriously seeking Jesus Christ by daring to ask even King Herod about the newborn king of the Jews! Don’t you find that funny considering that the magi were regarded as men of wisdom but dared to inquire and trouble Herod with that question? Were they insulting Herod?

Definitely not. They were just sincerely searching for the true King of all!

That is the essential point in Matthew’s telling us of the magi searching for Jesus: the experts of Jerusalem knew where their newborn king was born based on the scriptures but they never bothered to look for him! Many times we are guilty like them when God is just in our head as an idea or a concept but not a reality in our life.

Next to assiduously seeking Christ, I love to reflect on that aspect of these wise men asking (with sarcasm?) King Herod where is the newborn king of the Jews: the magi must have noticed and felt King Herod was not a true king after all in the Jewish thought and tradition. They must have heard and personally proven upon meeting him that he was indeed ruthless and evil when he ordered the massacre of all boys two years old and below in Bethlehem and vicinity after they have left by going through a different route.

See how Matthew as well as the other gospel writers showed in their accounts the kindness and goodness of Jesus in healing the sick, forgiving the sinners, teaching and guiding the people who were so lost. When we pray the gospel accounts, what we find and experience is the immense love and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. He is rightly called the face of the unseen God – so gentle, so loving, so humble, so merciful. Because of Jesus, we were able to have a glimpse and experience of the great love of this God Jesus taught us to call as Father. That is why at his crucifixion we saw Jesus hailed as truly the “King of the Jews, truly the Son of God” (Mt. 27:37, 54) because he manifested God’s love and holiness, compassion and mercy, kindness and care.

This is the essence of the Epiphany. It was not just the discovery of Jesus by the magi nor his manifestation to all the nations but most of all, the making known of God’s goodness when like the magi who “departed for their country by another way” (Mt.2:12), we change our ways to become icons of Jesus Christ.

Don’t worry; it is a lifelong process. The magi saw Jesus as a child, not as an infant anymore because of their long journey. What matters is that like them, we never stop persevering in following and manifesting Jesus in our lives.

Perhaps this Sunday, we must examine ourselves in the way we deal with other people especially in our family and in our office or school, especially in our parish and community: do we reflect the Kingship of Jesus Christ or that of the world like Herod in our lives?

This Solemnity of the Epiphany is inviting us not just to seek Christ our King but most of all, to manifest Christ’s Kingship based on loving service to others. That is the best gift we can offer Jesus, our very gift of selves just like him. Let us pray:

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
let me search you always in my life,
in my prayers,
among the people I meet,
in the Sacraments;
most of all, 
let me manifest you Jesus
not only my words and thoughts
but most of all in my daily living,
in my actions
of loving service to others
especially the sick and lowly,
the marginalized and misunderstood;
let me be your light, O Lord,
to guide people in darkness of sin
and ignorance and indifference;
most of all, let me reveal like St. Paul
your mystery of love and salvation
to the many among us who have turned
away from you,
seeking to follow and imitate
King Herod in his ruthless ways
of control and too much pride.
Amen.

Imitating, praying with Mary in 2023

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Eighth Day in the Octave of Christmas, 01 January 2023
Numbers 6:22-27 ><}}}}*> Galatians 4:4-7 ><}}}}*> Luke 2:16-21

A blessed Merry Christmas everyone! Our Mass on this first day of 2023 is not for the new year but in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God because her Son Jesus Christ is true God and true Man. Of all human beings, she is therefore the best model for us to follow in welcoming every new year.

First thing we notice with Mary is her prayerful silence at the birth of Jesus Christ, the very new year in humanity when henceforth, time is reckoned in relation with his birth that is why we have those initials BC for “Before Christ” and AD for “Anno Domini” or “Year of the Lord”.

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Luke 2:16-19

I come from the town of Bocaue in Bulacan known as the “fireworks capital” of the Philippines and I have never liked our manner of ushering every new year with a bang. Even the Chinese are ashamed at how we overdo our fireworks and firecrackers during the new year. What I hate most are the human lives lost every year because of pyrotechnics.

Life always begins in silence. Destruction comes in loud noises just like what we do every new year with fireworks and firecrackers. It is Jesus Christ who drives out the evil spirits from our lives and the world since he came to the world more than 2000 years ago and here we are, calling all the evil spirits back!

In my former parish, we used to have a Holy Hour after our Mass of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God in the evening of December 31. Like Mary, we pray in silence to Jesus to thank him for all that have happened the past year, for everything, whether good or bad.

Let Jesus come and dwell in our hearts tonight and tomorrow. Pray with your family and loved ones. Pray by yourself.

Secondly, like Mary, let us treasure all our memories of the past year in our hearts, both the good and the bad ones especially the people who have touched us and hurt us too.

Silence is the door through which God enters our heart and soul, enabling us to have that meaningful awareness of Jesus in us and among us, helping us to see the larger picture of life with its many realities. One of my favorite writers, T.S. Eliot wrote in his very long Four Quartets that “tragedy occurs when we have the experience but miss the meaning”. Very true!

Most of all, it is in silence where we grow deeper in faith, hope and love of God because silence is the domain of trust. That is why saints and monks and every holy person of high level of spirituality are lovers of silence. Silent people are the most trusting ones to God and to others.

I have been dwelling this week on that scene when the shepherds came with all their noises and talks while Mary sat in silence along with St. Joseph, the patron saint of silence.

What was Mary thinking or praying? Was she asking for a better year in their lives after all the trials and difficulties she and Joseph have in having Jesus?

I don’t think she prayed for a better year ahead like many of us wishing in Facebook that 2023 would be better.

If we have Jesus Christ in us like Mary, every year, every day is always the best. If I may say so, every today becomes the least joyous days of our lives in Christ. Read and pray the gospel to see how the lives of Mary and all the other disciples went through the most wonderful and spectacular experiences in having Jesus.

Like Mary after giving birth to Jesus, she never prayed nor wished for a better year despite her being the Mother of God because nothing is better than living each day in Christ our Savior.

It is useless and futile to get all those lucky charms nor consult fortune tellers on what is in store for us this 2023. Mary knew nothing at all what was in store for her in giving birth to Jesus, much less in following him as his foremost disciple. All she was certain at that time time was the name to be given to her child, Jesus that means “God is my savior”.

Jesus is still and will always be our only certainty in life – day in, day out in every year. Let us not lose Jesus. Like Mary, let us treasure him in our hearts where he dwells. Let us pray with Mary:

Lord Jesus Christ,
on this passing of 2022
as 2023 comes, make me silent
in you, trusting you like your Mother
and our Mother too, 
the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Thank you for everything; 
despite the many disappointments
and failures, trials and sufferings, 
hurts and pains amidst the more 
joys and laughters I have had from
people you have given me this 2022,
teach me to trust you more that everything
in the past year indicates more better days are ahead!
I pray only for one thing this new year
as your disciple, Lord:
like Mary, let me love and trust you more,
never let me leave you,
keep me at your side even 
at your Cross.  Amen.

A Christmas prayer to be a Christmas to others too

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Christmas Eve, 24 December 2022
Isaiah 9:1-6 ><}}}}*> Titus 2:11-14 ><}}}}*> Luke 2:1-14

Christmas is the busiest season for us priests. How ironic that as we keep on reminding the people to prepare more on the spiritual aspect of this most loved season, we priests are also caught in all the rush and busyness of Christmas, beginning with the Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo and other parish concerns.

But, God gives us the grace to hurdle all difficulties of sleeping late, rising early and in between, praying as we prepare for our homilies. Thank you too for your appreciation and prayers for us priests. Forgive us when sometimes we get too touchy this week for lack of sleep.

As usual, I woke up early today to pray and prepare for Christmas but unfortunately, I felt like waking up on the wrong side of the bed, feeling grouchy. Most of all, so dried in prayer. Yet, God is so merciful after being silent before him before noon, I just felt writing this prayer interspersed with my reflections of the scriptures which I have been praying over since Wednesday.


Dearest sweet Jesus:
I feel agitated.
Or excited?
So many things are coming
and filling me at this moment;
I could not be still to find you,
to experience you.
Come, Lord Jesus,
So that I may share you
with others!

Let me be your Christmas too
by being Your presence to others, 
myself as a gift and present especially
to those grieving for the loss of a loved one
during this difficult years of the pandemic;
let me be your Christmas and presence,
myself as a gift and present to those nursing
fresh wounds or wounds that would not heal
because they are so deep and painful;
let me be your Christmas to those with nothing
this Christmas Day except their very selves
with that firm faith and fervent hope in you, 
Lord Jesus, by being small and fragile like you
on the manger in Bethlehem.

How lovely is Luke’s presentation of the first Christmas, of Jesus Christ coming in a time of history that is so troubled, so inhospitable especially for children.

Just like today with this ongoing pandemic made worst by the many wars going on that have triggered so many other difficulties and sufferings, from poverty to homelessness. Yet, it is the most beautiful setting of Christ’s coming set at the background of many leaders feeling they are the savior of the world or of their country just like the Roman emperor at the time of his birth. In all their “larger than life” portrayal of themselves, there is Jesus Christ in the most ordinary yet powerful truth of God among us – coming as an infant, coming and starting small!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of Bethlehem…with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-4, 5-7

We need not be famous nor have all the power and wealth to change this world. We all just have to be our true selves, little “earthlings” because in our being small when Jesus comes. We do not have to live in luxuries nor be in the cities or any country. Just be where we are, in our simplicity and humanity where Christ comes to fill us because he is God’s Firstborn in whom everything is created for him, with him and in him as St. Paul had noted.

Inasmuch as God believes in us by entrusting to us his Son Jesus Christ, let us believe also in God truly that he will work miracles in us, with us and through us! That is why Jesus came.


Let me be your Christmas to others, Jesus:
I may not be able to wrap any gift this Christmas,
let my arms and smiles wrap others in a hug
so they may experience your warmth and loving presence;
let me be your Christmas to others, Jesus,
by sharing food, and being the food myself to
those hungry and thirsty to give them strength 
not only in body but also in soul;
I do not know how to bake cookies 
and other goodies but, still make me your Christmas
to others by sharing your joy and kindness with them
so we could have memories of my love 
no matter how imperfect it may be;
most of all, dear Jesus, let me be your Christmas light
this Christmas for others especially those in the darkness
of sin and evil, depression and confusion,
helplessness and despair, isolation and alienation,
of festering anger and recurring painful memories.

We have been through a lot of so many things these past three years. It is God’s will that since the pandemic started in 2020 that this time, we celebrate Christmas face-to-face, which is what Christmas is essentially all about – the Son of God coming to us in flesh to experience Father personally.

Christmas is a story of encounters, of God meeting persons, real people like me and you.

Jesus came as a baby so that we could easily and lovingly receive him as he entrusts himself to our love and care and protection. So many things have happened to us since 2020 but hey, we are still alive, still here celebrating Christmas. Let us dwell in this joy of Jesus coming to us so we may also share him with others still sulking in all the negative vibes brought by COVID-19.

May we imitate his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary who “kept all these things, reflecting them in her heart” (Lk. 1:19) for it is in our hearts where Jesus comes daily.

How sad that with all the experiences we have had these years of pandemic that we lose sight of its meaning that amid all the darkness and hostilities of this world, Jesus surely comes to save us!


Dearest Jesus,
let me be your Christmas to others:
make me firm in my conviction and faith in you
"rejecting godless ways and worldly desires
by living temperately, justly and devoutly" (Titus 2:12);
let me be your Christmas,
be born in me every day as I strive
to follow you even to the Cross
so that "the people who walked in darkness
may see your great light to experience peace"
(Isaiah 9:1, 5) when I say your words
and do your works.  Amen.

A blessed Merry Christmas, everyone!

Be a Christmas to others too!

Christmas is saying “NO”

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Eighth Day of Christmas Novena, 23 December 2022
Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Luke 1:57-66

We are now in the penultimate day to Christmas and Luke is getting more dramatic in his narration of the events leading to the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. The scene is still in Judea, the house of Zechariah when Elizabeth finally gave birth to John the Baptist, the Lord’s precursor.

Everyone rejoiced and something so wonderful happened during the child’s circumcision when he was named.

When the time arrived for Elizabeth to have her child she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy toward her and they rejoiced with her. When they came on the eighth day to circumcise the child, they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”

Luke 1:57-60

I love that part when Elizabeth suddenly spoke to her relatives and neighbors on the name to be given to her son, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.”

Beautiful! Another example of Luke’s artistry.

Recall that when Elizabeth was put into the scene by Luke last Monday after the annunciation of John’s birth to his father Zechariah, she was portrayed as soft and somewhat passive. In fact, after conceiving John, Luke tells us Elizabeth went into seclusion for five months to reflect on God’s wondrous deed to her, not to mention the “embarrassment” of an 80-year old woman getting pregnant. That was when Mary visited her.

Elizabeth was all praises to her younger cousin Mary and of course, to God. At the Visitation, we got a picture of Elizabeth as a kind and genteel woman until today when she suddenly roared like a lioness, standing her ground to protect her child! From being passive, Elizabeth is now portrayed as a very active person, a woman in the fullest sense, standing her ground on what she firmly believes and thinks best for her and her child when she adamantly declared to everyone “No. He will be called John.”

One of the things my mother had told me is learning to say NO especially if it has something do with sin and evil, something very bad, including expensive things. Later in life I realized the great value she had instilled in me of knowing to say NO, even of standing by it.

Many times in our modern time, we just go on with the flow, approving without even thinking whatever the world tells us as seen in many commercials and logo like “Just do it!” and “Obey your thirst”. It is what Pope emeritus Benedict XVI called as “dictatorship of relativism” – no more absolutes like God, almost everything is allowed from morals to fashion that many have lost any sense of truth and good, of beauty and decency and propriety.

Elizabeth showed us in the naming of her son something very vital in Christ’s coming: she herself was the finest example and model for John the Baptist in his mission of preparing the way of the Lord, of cleansing the world of its sins and excesses that nobody seemed to fight anymore. In the first reading, Malachi prophesied how the precursor would be like a “refiner’s fire, or like the fuller’s lye” (Mal.3:2) cleansing the people, preparing their hearts to receive Jesus Christ.

Any cleansing or conversion or repentance begins first with a decisive NO to sin and evil, to useless traditions and beliefs that forget God and his people.

See how Luke brought out this strong character of Elizabeth perfectly in the timing of the circumcision and naming of her child – right at the moment of the “cutting” of the foreskin, Elizabeth intervened and insisted on God’s plan that was contrary to everyone’s thought and belief. It was Elizabeth who “cut off” or broke off John and her self from the traditions and old rituals of the people at that time. She was a trailblazer in fact, a trait John must have acquired from her from the very start of his life.

Most beautiful scene here is when Elizabeth stood her ground to the point that her relatives and neighbors protested to her naming her child John. She really meant her NO despite their protests that they asked Zechariah to write on a tablet the child’s name.

And everyone was amazed, even shocked, when Zechariah who was deaf-mute at that time, affirmed that “John is his name” (Lk.1:63), affirming Elizabeth’s choice of name.

Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God. Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to their heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:64-66

Imagine how those things happened simply because Elizabeth said “NO”.

John eventually would offer his life for saying NO to Herod’s taking of his brother’s wife, Herodias.

Lastly, our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and died on the Cross for saying NO too to the ways of the world, to sin and to evil. In a sense, he came to teach us to say NO to the world so that we may experience his love and mercy, freedom and peace and prosperity. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
as your birthday fast approaches,
give me the courage to say NO like
Elizabeth, the mother of your precursor,
John the Baptist;
teach me to say NO to traditions and rituals
without meaning, full of pomp and pageantry,
most especially of our very selves and ego,
empty of meaning, and worst, disregard you 
who are among the poor and suffering;
let us say NO to death and injustice;
NO to reducing life into mere lifestyle,
NO to divorce,
NO to abortion,
NO to same sex union,
NO to deviation from you,
our Lord and God.
Amen.

Christmas is being grateful

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Seventh Day of Christmas Novena, 22 December 2022
1 Samuel 1:24-28     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Luke 1:46-56

Christmas is a call for us to be grateful. Only a grateful heart can truly be emptied and be filled with Jesus Christ. A heart that truly praises God is first of all a grateful heart. Mary’s song, the Magnificat is a both a song of thanksgiving and gratitude to God for all his wondrous blessings to her and to mankind in general.

Yesterday we heard how Mary hastily went to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judea to share with her the Good News she had received, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. After being praised by Elizabeth, Mary responded today not by praising her cousin as we would always do; she instead praised and thanked God.

Again, we hear today wonderful stories of women – not just two like yesterday but three! – who were so blessed by God, thanking and praising God for blessing them with sons: Hannah in the first reading for her son Samuel who became one of Israel’s greatest prophet, Mary pregnant with Jesus Christ while visiting her cousin Elizabeth who was sixth month pregnant with John.

See how Hannah as a sign of her gratitude to God through the priest Eli who promised to pray for her to conceive a son gave Samuel at a very young age to serve in the Lord’s altar. The same is true with Mary in singing the Magnificat when she reaffirmed her fiat to God, of being his ever-faithful handmaid doing his will always.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”

Luke 1:46-49
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 20 December 2022, Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

Gratitude is a virtue that works great wonders for everyone because it makes us live in the present moment. A grateful person is one who lives in the here and now, not in the past nor in the future. Look at the structure of Mary’s Magnificat that is in the present tense.

When our heart is filled with gratitude, we have no time to complain and nurse old wounds and pains in the past but simply learn from them and move on with life. Living in the present moment means making things happen, working hard on our dreams and aspirations to become a reality, exactly what the Magnificat is telling us! How are we going to continue God’s wondrous works like Mary? By remaining faithful to Jesus Christ all the way to his Cross on Good Friday.

People who refuse to be grateful in life are busy wishful thinking of how things should be or would be, always looking at the future as a fantasy that would just pop out of nowhere instead of working for it in the present moment.

Unknown to many, gratitude is the fount of all good vibes in life, enabling us to be more positive than negative. It helps us accept the reality we are into – whether it is good or bad.

And that is when we start growing and maturing as persons when we learn to accept our present realities.

Most of all, gratitude disposes us to more blessings and grace from God because a thankful heart is always the one that seeks relationships, with God and with others. See that Mary did not sing her Magnificat while with the angel Gabriel after announcing the birth of Christ nor after he had left, right in the comforts of her home. Mary went in haste to Judea to celebrate and thank God’s gifts with her cousin Elizabeth.


People who go out of their way to say thank you, 
to express gratitude are person-oriented. 
They see more the persons 
not just the kind deeds done to them 
and beautiful gifts given them. 

Very often, people thank us priests especially for praying for them, enlightening and guiding them. That is why people lavish us with all kinds of gifts. Every time people thank me, I tell them, “kami po ang dapat magpasalamat sa inyo kasi lumalago kami kay Kristo!” In my 24 years as a priest, I have realized that the more faithful we are in serving God through his people, the more we are blessed and hence, the more we must be grateful!

People who go out of their way to say thank you, to express gratitude are person-oriented. They see more the persons not just the kind deeds done to them and beautiful gifts given them. When we say thank you, when we let others know of how grateful we are, we recognize their personhood that is why we reach out to them, trying to connect with them and befriend them. Or, to keep our ties alive and strong. As the old song says, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Remember the ten lepers healed by Jesus Christ on his way to Jerusalem?

Only one returned – a Samaritan – to thank Jesus. He was the only one who was “saved” when Jesus told him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you” (Lk.17:19).

Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 20 December 2022 in Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

Gratitude is a very practical virtue, “the parent of all virtues” according to the Roman scholar and statesman Cicero. It is the one virtue we need to recapture and reacquire in this time to make through the many challenges and trials this pandemic has brought us. Instead of complaining and being so sorry with the plight we are into due to COVID-19, let us start counting our many blessings in life to see the vast opportunities and lessons this crisis has given us. In fact, the more this pandemic has persisted, the more blessings we can find that we must be thankful too.

Because of the pandemic, we have learned to cherish more one another as we come to value persons and life again more than things. There are so many things we have to be grateful in life during this time of the pandemic, perhaps even more than the sufferings and trials we have gone through as it opened to us new views and perceptions about life itself.

Most of all, it had brought us back to the grounding of our being, to God who is life himself, the source of all good things we have long forgotten and now remember. And rightly praise and thank. That is why I keep on telling everyone, God willed Christmas 2022 falls on a Sunday so we may personally, face-to-face celebrate together. And thank him through the people he has given us! Let us pray:

My soul also proclaims 
your greatness, O Lord Jesus Christ
like Mary your Mother!
Thank you for the gift of life
with all of its pains and hurts
that have strengthened me,
for all the joys that have enriched me.
Most of all, for the call to serve you.
Who am I, O Lord, to be called
and visited by you?
Many times I have failed you
yet you keep on coming, still calling me,
still believing in me, still trusting me.
What else can I say except 
thank you from the bottom of my heart.
As your birthday approaches,
as my gift to you dearest Jesus,
enable me to remain faithful to you
like Mary your Mother and our Mother too
even up to your Cross.  
Here am I, Lord, send me.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 19 December 2022 in Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

Christmas, an overshadowing by God

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Fifth Day of Christmas Novena, 20 December 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 19 December 2022.

I have stopped listening to Christmas carols and music long before the COVID-19 pandemic came. During that time, especially with the sudden spread of Christmas countdowns and early playing of Christmas music, I felt it as the high point of commercialization and trivialization of this blessed celebration.

But when the pandemic came in 2020, I began appreciating Christmas carols again as I longed for something to cheer me up on those days of lockdown. Unfortunately, I never had the time to make a Christmas playlist that as I drive to my Simbang Gabi Masses since last week, I have never sang nor hummed Christmas carols. All I have in my car stereo are my secular music playlist that surprisingly conveyed the Christmas messages of love and faith, family and friends, life and death.

That is the power of music which transcends seasons and celebrations like this old favorite by Don McLean, the Birthday Song which is about his intense experience of love with a lost loved one.

You see I love the way you love me
I love the way you smile at me
I love the way we live this life we're in...
I don't believe in magic but I do believe in you
And when you say you believe in me
There's so much magic I can do

Okay. Call me cheesy. And old.

But what McLean sings is very true. It is like Christmas with its “magical” powers and beauty! What I mean here in the word “magical” to describe Christmas is the sense that it is indeed an event, a reality that happened and continues to happen among us only if we allow the Divine power of God to overshadow us.

If you try to listen to this song, it speaks of an intense love relationship that not even death could separate. McLean claims in his song that his experience was too deep for words. Difficult to express.

Like in the experience of Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother.

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Luke 1:34-35
Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

Luke’s choice of the word “overshadowing” evokes a strong sense of power from God, of his personal intervention into humanity. The eternal God entering the temporal. It is something so powerful to show that contrary to usual human thought that God remains in the spiritual realm, here Luke shows us that God is God indeed – omnipotent, all powerful!

The Protestant theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) said there are two moments in the life of Jesus that God intervenes directly in the material world: his virginal birth and his resurrection in which Jesus saw no corruption at all. These are totally unacceptable to modern minds because they believe God is concerned only with spiritual things, that God acts only in the spiritual world, not in the material world.

Such kind of thinking is so prevalent among many people these days, and, unfortunately, even among those who profess to believe in God!

When the angel told Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her, it meant God personally acting in her, coming to her which she totally welcomed with her fiat.

Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

To be overshadowed by God the Most High means a deep intense presence of the Holy One which is a favorite theme of Luke especially in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is the power of Jesus in the Holy Spirit acting and moving through the apostles that made Jesus so present even if he had ascended into heaven.

Moreover, to overshadowed by God is also deep and transforming divine presence in Mary wherein in her cooperation, the entire human history was radically altered which until now is felt worldwide with our celebration of Christmas itself which the world unfortunately tries to relegate to mere holiday by removing Christ himself.

Unlike in the case of the annunciation of John’s birth to Zechariah yesterday, Mary is here presented as totally absorbed with the event, with her conversation with the angel, God’s messenger. She was totally aware of everything, very present before God, sincere and true. Recall that Zechariah angered the angel yesterday because he challenged God – who else could convince him of the good news if he still refused to believe God had answered their prayers with the angel already in front of him?

Worst was King Ahaz in the first reading who entered into alliance with neighboring kingdoms of Israel while at the same time signing a secret pact with their common enemy, Assyria just to be sure they would not be invaded and conquered. That angered God and eventually led to Israel’s downfall.

But that did not stop God in involving himself with us and human history with Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah or Emmanuel, Jesus Christ who is the God-with-us.

When Isaiah prophesied to King Ahaz about “the child to be born by a virgin”, it was not just meant for the people of Israel at that time about 700 years before Christ’s coming but also for all of us in this time. Isaiah’s prophecy was for all of us to realize that indeed, God had already come, the Virgin had given birth to the Messiah that began the personal entry of God into us, his direct involvement in our lives so that it would finally lead us to fulfillment in him.

This prophecy that had been fulfilled in Jesus through Mary should convince us once and for all that God is true and truly among us.

Like Mary, are we personally engaging with God in Jesus, through Jesus?

If we can just create that sacred space within us to allow Jesus be born right in our hearts, to speak his words of love and belief in us, we could do so many great things like Mary in this world. Or, like Don McLean in his song. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
let me feel your presence in me
like Mary your Mother;
let me believe in your presence,
let me listen to your voice,
to your affirmations
so that I may start living in you,
in your presence,
in your love,
in your kindness.
May I be a sign of your
intense presence in this world
that have relegated you in the clouds
and world of ideas and spirits;
let me be a sign of your transforming presence
in this world that badly needs
healing and mercy,
forgiveness and kindness,
comfort and consolation
amid the many confusions
that keep us all apart from one another
and from you, our Lord and God,
our grounding and destiny.
Amen.
Photo by author, 07 December 2022.

Christmas is about accepting

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Advent, Third Simbang Gabi, 18 December 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14 ><]]]]'> Romans 1:1-7 ><]]]]'> Matthew 1:18-24
Photo from vaticannews.va, 14 December 2020.

We are now at the final stretch of our Advent Season, getting closer to Christmas Day with our gospel today directly telling us how it all happened. And it was not very easy – in fact so difficult – just like with most of us in our many experiences in life when everything did not go so well as planned.

It would not be surprising at all that so many times, many of us would have also thought of giving up, of letting go everything like St. Joseph!

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Matthew 1:18-19

Christmas is a story of accepting difficulties in life especially persons dearest to us suddenly thrown into challenging situations. Exactly what happened to St. Joseph and Mama Mary.

Many times in life, we advise people going through problems to just simply accept how things are –“tanggapin na lang” – with some sense of resignation as if there is nothing we can do.

Sometimes it is true but many times, not at all true like with St. Joseph’s predicament. He accepted first Mary and then Jesus on a totally different manner worthy of our emulation. It was not out of resignation to the situation but was first of all focused in accepting and valuing persons.

St. Joseph decided to silently leave Mary because of his great love for her. He did not want to expose her to shame and public humiliation that would surely result in being pregnant with a child not his. He did not merely accept the situation as if it were his lot to be “scooped” out by somebody else faster than him with Mary. Keep in mind how the evangelist described St. Joseph as a righteous man, a holy man that despite Mary’s pregnancy, he loved and valued her so much, totally as a person. His leaving her silently was a testimony to his great love and respect for her!


We demand "understanding" in order to "accept" 
without realizing that it is different 
with persons and with life in general 
when we must first "accept" in order to "understand"!

Unlike with us these days when everything has to be explained and spelled out in details before anything or anyone may be accepted. In this age of instants, we want instant explanations too on everything before making any decision, demanding many information to understand anything.

And everyone.

We demand “understanding” in order to “accept” without realizing that it is different with persons and with life in general when we must first “accept” in order to “understand”!

That was exactly the accepting attitude of St. Joseph. He might have not totally understood everything when explained to him by the angel in a dream. Imagine how very difficult it must have been to listen to instructions and explanations in a dream that are already difficult to grasp when done in normal circumstances while awake. But that shows the great maturity and deep spirituality of St. Joseph, of how he accepted everything told to him by the angel in a dream that upon waking up, he absolutely obeyed God’s instruction by taking Mary as his wife.

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Basilica of San Padre Pio, Italy, 2017.

One of my favorite singers is the late Marvin Gaye whose 1971 hit What’s Going On I have used extensively in lessons and recollections to young people. Its lyrics are so poetic yet so deep, with its first two stanzas calling for “loving” before it could lead to “understanding” at the third stanza after the chorus. It calls for acceptance first of everyone, of respect so we could love and understand more.

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
Oh, what’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)

People can never be understood really. There are some people who are truly difficult to understand or as we say, “mahirap ispellengin”. Many times in life I have learned that we simply just have to accept everyone as unique, that God comes through everyone in each one’s uniqueness and peculiarities.

Situations become more difficult to accept unless we accept first the persons involved.

That begins with our very selves when we have to set aside our pride, our own good, even our own plans and agendas like St. Joseph in order to let God lead us truly to fulfillment.

Very often this is the problem with us when we insist on ourselves, on our own ideas and own plans. We get blinded with what we know and even with what we believe in like King Ahaz in the first reading.

Photo from Aleteia.org, “Let Mum Rest”, 2019

St. Joseph as an accepting person was also a very welcoming man like St. Paul in the second reading who took pride in being called and sent by God to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. A truly accepting person is always a welcoming one, full of warmth and joy because he/she has Jesus!

See the beauty of St. Joseph’s acceptance of God’s plan: when he accepted Mary, that is when Jesus came.

Thus, we must first accept God.

If we truly accept God, we must accept others as his gifts to us. No matter what.

It is in accepting others with all their differences when Jesus Christ truly comes.

When we learn to accept and welcome people, that is when Christmas truly happens. Not only in December but all year through! Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
thank you for coming to us daily
not only in our very selves and the many
events that happen to us but most especially
among people you send us;
there are times they are good and so faithful
like St. Joseph who are easy to accept;
but there are also times, they are very
difficult to accept or even understand
especially when they happen to be those
closes to us whom we also love.
Teach us to appreciate the value of silence
like St. Joseph so we may be accepting like him
because it is in our accepting of people and difficult
situations in life when you often come.
Amen.