The complicity of hypocrisy

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, Virgin & Doctor of the Church, 15 October 2021
Romans 4:1-8   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 12:1-7
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

At that time, so many people were crowding together that they were trampling one another underfoot. Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples, “Beware of the leaven – that is, the hypocrisy – of the Pharisees. There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.

Luke 12:1-2
Dear God our Father,
as we remember St. Teresa of Avila
who bravely fought for what is true
and sublime, help us also to fight
hypocrisy that is so rampant
these days of mediated communications.
From the Greek word hypokritein
for "masks", we keep on putting 
fake fronts on ourselves thinking
we would look better to others and
the world when in fact we end up 
like actors and actresses,
or worst, as clowns making fun 
of our very selves.
Help us realize the evil that is
hypocrisy as your Son Jesus Christ
reminds us today in the gospel
of how it acts as an accomplice 
to every sin that leads us to the 
eternal fires of hell or Gehenna.
St. Paul explained it so well in 
continuing his exposition about your 
righteousness, O God, how you have
justified Abraham not with his works
but with his deep faith in you; that,
the more we believe, the more we 
obey you and your laws that Jesus
had summarized in the law of love.

Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favors, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.

St. Teresa of Avila, Office of Readings, 15 October
O most blessed
St. Teresa of Avila
who sought the truth of Jesus
Christ in deep prayers and works
of sacrifices, help us to be true;
teach us to take off our masks,
especially our religious hypocrisies
for nothing is concealed with God;
most of all, let us have a taste
of that sweet union in God
found in our being honest and true
to him always.
Amen.

“Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo” by Yano (1994)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 29 August 2021
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It is the last Sunday of August, the month we celebrate our National Language as we offer an Original Pilipino Music (OPM) that perfectly fits our gospel today about sincerity of our heart against all forms of hypocrisy, Yano’s “Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo” (Holy Dog, Saintly Horse).

Released in 1994, Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo is a cut from the band’s first album simply titled “Yano”. The band is composed of Dong Abay on vocals and Eric Gancio in guitar.

Many think Yano is from the word “Probinsiyano” or one coming from the province (probinsiya) or rural area; but, according to the band’s founder Abay in one account, yano means “simple” in their old Tagalog spoken in Quezon province.

Yano’s music is a fusion of western and ethnic Filipino but what set them apart from the other bands of the 90’s was their deep social and political themes. Unlike some bands who were just cute, Yano had depth and meaning in their songs that were poetic and even eclectic expressed in casual Filipino. One can notice right away the conviction when Abay sings even if the melody may sound light and easy like Kumusta Na, even playful (Esem)or sometimes mischievous (Tsinelas and Senti).

Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo is “spiritual” in a sense; it opens with a man laughing sarcastically with “Hihihihihi…” to introduce some vignettes of daily hypocrisies among us:

Kaharap ko sa jeep ang isang ale
Nagrorosaryo, mata n'ya'y nakapikit
Pumara sa may kumbento
"Sa babaan lang po", sabi ng tsuper, "kase may nanghuhuli"
Mura pa rin nang mura ang ale

Banal na aso, santong kabayo
Natatawa ako, hi-hi-hi-hi
Banal na aso, santong kabayo
Natatawa ako, hi-hi-hi-hi
Sa 'yo

Like today’s gospel, Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo is timely during this pandemic when even if we have all the soaps and alcohol to wash our hands and all the prayers to recite to stop COVID-19, the virus will persist for as long as we have no regard for the dignity of every person. Washing of hands means washing of one’s heart, of cleansing ourselves of our sins and self-centeredness and other impurities (https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/28/two-hands-and-a-heart-in-between/).

May the music of Yano help you in examining your heart today.

Have blessed week ahead!

*We have no intentions of infringing on the copyrights of this music except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.

Two hands and a heart in-between

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXII-B in Ordinary Time, 29 August 2021
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8 >+< James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27 >+< Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Photo by the author, the Holy Land, 2017.

After an interruption of five weeks, we go back to Mark’s Gospel this Sunday that shall guide us until the end of our liturgical calendar with the Solemnity of Christ the King in November. See the beauty of the Sacred Scriptures that those five weeks from John chapter six did not break the flow of narration that is so seamless!

Returning to Mark’s account today after the feeding of five thousand and the bread of life discourse at Capernaum from John, Jesus crossed the lake and proceeded with the Twelve to Gennesaret where he preached and healed until some of his enemies arrived and found an issue to raise against him.

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed hands. For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites… You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

Mark 7:1-3, 5-8

The Israelites have taken pride in their laws given by Moses from God at Mt. Sinai. Simply referred to as the Law or Torah, it had united them as God’s “chosen people”, making it the very center of their lives that they enlarged its meaning and scope that soon consisted of more than 600 other precepts and practices to observe and keep.

Obeying the laws and traditions became their standard for holiness so that instead of becoming a means to bring them closer to God and others, these became an end in itself that they have forgotten God and others in the process.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

Into our hearts and the heart of Jesus

Once again, our gospel is so timely and relevant to our situation right now we are in the midst of a pandemic when we are told to always wash our hands. And if Jesus were with us in person today, he would surely speak the same things about the hypocrisy we have in our washing of hands!

First of all, let us clarify that Jesus is not against the washing of hands before eating nor of any of their other traditions and laws; what he criticized was the greater importance given by his enemies with the outward signs of their laws and traditions, forgetting its inner dynamics and meaning. Thus, he never failed to clarify with the people that he had “not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them” (Mt.5:17).

Here we find the same problem with the people at Capernaum and in our own time when people fail and refuse to look beyond material things to find the meaning of what is going on around us, of what we believe in and what we practice.

Then and now – right in the midst of this pandemic – Jesus is inviting us to deeper perspectives about our concepts and ways of doing and seeing things, of what is clean and not clean, of what is tradition and modern, of what is good and evil.

Jesus wants us to constantly examine our lives for our need of conversion of our hearts to him. He is inviting us to probe our hearts and see who or what dwells inside us because from the heart, everything flows outside not only to our mouth (cf. Lk.6:45, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”) but also to our hands.

That is why I love that imagery of the heart between two arms and hands: the heart at the center of our being and consciousness that whatever comes out of the heart naturally flows to our arms and hands, even to our entire body. If there is something wrong in the heart, so with the messages it sends out.

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils from within and they defile.”

Mark 7:14-15, 21-23

Here we find the essential question we must ask ourselves always: Do I find Jesus Christ in my heart as the sole basis and foundation of what I believe which I also say and do?

If we cannot find Jesus at the center of the things we do and believe, most likely we do not find others in the picture too! In that case, most likely, it is all about me, mine, my, and I! Like the Pharisees and scribes of his time, washing of hands and other traditions were more of a show than something more essential which is to serve God through one another.


Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, 
of our interior and spiritual motivations, 
of why we are doing the things we are doing, 
of what we really believe in; 
because, too often, many of the things we do and believe 
are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God.  
There are so many times in our lives 
that we simply do things out of habit 
and conventions without really understanding why.  

Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, of our interior and spiritual motivations, of why we are doing the things we are doing, of what we really believe in; because, too often, many of the things we do and believe are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God. There are so many times in our lives that we simply do things out of habit and conventions without really understanding why.

Simon Sinek said it so well in his bestselling book “Start with Why” – people buy products, patronize services, or are moved when they see the why you do things; they are willing to pay more not because of fad or prestige but more of the conviction in a belief espoused by a brand or company or by an individual.

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images in Paranaque City, 09 February 2020.

Washing of hands and eating, our hidden hypocrisies

One of the most frequently asked question by people to me as a priest these days is why despite all our prayers, God has seemed become deaf to our pleas for him to end this pandemic? The answer is simple: unless we see and accept the spiritual realities of this COVID-19 pandemic, it would linger with us longer than projected, even not be solved at all as it gets worst with new variants that have thrown back even some of the most vaccinated nations lately.

We can have all the soaps and alcohol to wash our hands during this pandemic but COVID-19 will persist for as long as we have no regard for the dignity of every person. See all the abuses and corruption going on that is more sickening than the virus itself!

That washing of hands is an imagery full of meanings we have lost since the time of Jesus. Inwardly, the washing of hands means washing of one’s heart, of cleansing ourselves of our sins and self-centeredness and other impurities.

So many times we have become like Pontius Pilate who washed his hands to free himself from any guilt in sentencing Christ to death without realizing the more he had implicated himself to the injustice by refusing to make a stand for what is true and just. Like us today, we keep on washing our hands in the hope that our conscience would be at peace or be not bothered with our indifference for what is true and good.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, 2019.

Washing of hands has always been closely related with eating which is an act of “appropriating something we cannot fully have” like when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. They took something they cannot wholly take or “swallow” that is why all they could do was just take a “bite” that opened their eyes to something they could not fully realize and appreciate. There are so many realities in this life we just cannot fully grasp right away, requiring us to have more faith, more patience in trusting God and those above us.

But, like Adam and Eve, we keep on taking a bite, of eating whatever our limited minds and reason find as “good” to have. And we wash our hands in clear hypocrisies like the Pharisees and scribes in worship and prayer when we lead double lives, when we laugh and cheer at all kinds of lies and filth, when we silently approve attacks against human life like tokhang and abortion.

Every day we wash our hands and keep them clean to avoid contaminating our food and body in hypocrisy as we agree and support in the name of “modernism” these trends of same sex relationships, promiscuity, and divorce. Or of graft and corruption we have resigned to accept as a fact of daily life.

To wash our hands is to wash our hearts clean of all kinds of evil, of mediocrity and indifference, of taking a stand to “pass over” from sin into grace by witnessing God’s goodness in our lives as Moses reminded Israel in the first reading.

The hands and the heart always go together as expressed in the Jewish thought of “mercy of the heart” and “mercy of the hand” when God’s mercy is more than a feeling but an act of righteousness, of justice and love.

Let us heed the reminder of the Apostle in the second reading to be truly clean in our hands and in our hearts: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:22, 27).

Stay safe everyone. Have a blessed week ahead! Amen.

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.

Praying and greeting the peace of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 26 August 2020
2 Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18 >><)))*> || >><)))*> || >><)))*> Matthew 23:27-32
Photo by author, Mirador Hills, Baguio City, January 2018.

Dearest Lord Jesus:

Peace!

Peace was your promise to your Apostles on your last supper on Holy Thursday; thus, Peace was your greeting to them on that Easter evening when you visited them while locked and hiding in fear at the Upper Room.

You have warned us during your last supper that your peace is so different from the peace of the world because it is a peace borne out of love – even of dying for another – a peace that comes from sacrifice and suffering, a peace that comes only from our communion in you like your great Apostle Paul:

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you. This greetings is in my own hand, Paul’s. This is the sign in every letter; this is how I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.

2 Thessalonians 3:16-18

In all his letters of which the ones addressed to the Thessalonians were the very first, Paul right away made known his “identification” in all his letters with your peace, Lord.

It was not just a call sign or an I.D. of Paul; it was evidently his prayer and his life as seen in his preaching and experiences marked with many sufferings and sacrifices on his part for his love to you and your people.

How sad in our time, the expression and greetings as well as concept of peace have all degenerated to mere fad, almost like a joke that has become so mechanical among so many people wishing for peace without really praying and working hard for it.

Remind us, O Lord, that peace in the world happens first in our hearts; that the things going on outside us as are all reflections of what is within us. Give us the grace to sincerely pray and work for peace in you that we may always have your peace in our hearts and share it with others.

May we not fall into the same mistakes and sins of the Pharisees and scribes of your time – hypocrisy!

Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones ands every kind of filth. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees. You build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the memorials of the righteous, and you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood.’ Thus you bear witness against yourselves that you are the children of those who murdered the prophets; now fill up what your ancestors measured out!”

Matthew 23:27, 29-32

In this time of pandemic, O Lord, with so many other problems we are all facing in our selves and families, there are so many hyprocrites among us pretending to work for peace. Enlighten them, O Lord. Or better, banish them for they make a mockery of your greatest gift at Easter which is peace. Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com