More than words

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle, 24 August 2020
Revelation 21:9-14 >><}}}*> |+| >><}}}*> |+| >><}}}*> John 1:45-51
Photo by author, Subic, 2018.

Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus, the “Word who became flesh and dwelt among us” to reveal the Father’s immense love for us all. He was not contented in just telling the prophets of Old Testament how he loved us that He came and lived with us in you, Lord Jesus!

And that is why we also rejoice on this Feast of St. Bartholomew, a.k.a. Nathanael, who was introduced to you by another Apostle you have called earlier:

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How did you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

John 1:45-49

O dear Jesus, like St. Peter in the gospel yesterday and now St. Bartholomew, you are telling us anew to never be contented with mere words, with the “what” of who you really are, that we must always “come and see you” in order to experience your very person and truly know you.

I really wonder O Lord what your words meant that before Philip called Nathanael-Batholomew, you have seen him under the fig tree; however, I am so convinced that in your words, Nathanael-Bartholomew must have felt something deep inside him that he threw himself totally to you as your Apostle.

Most of all, teach me to remain simple and hidden in you, Jesus that like St. Bartholomew, despite the scarcity of stories and information about him except this little anecdote from the fourth Gospel, he remained faithful to you until his death by flaying reportedly in India.

May we imitate St. Bartholomew who had shown us that more than words, what matters is our oneness in you, Jesus, without any need for us doing sensational deeds, earning thousands of “likes” and “followers” in social media because only you, Lord, remains extraordinary above all. Amen.

“Really Wanna Know You” (1981) by Gary Wright

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 23 August 2020
Photo by author, Gospel book (Evangelare), January 2020.

Jesus is asking us today in the gospel like his disciples at Caesarea Philippi, “who do you say that I am?” (Mt.16:15). As we have mentioned in our Sunday reflection, things we say of another person can come from two perspectives, the “what” and the “how”.

“What” we say of a person usually comes from common knowledge, the basics like name and address that sometimes not so reliable as we have not actually and personally known. But, to say of a person based on “how” we have known him/her is deeper because it comes from our personal relationship with some degree of intimacy (https://lordmychef.com/2020/08/22/it-is-not-what-we-say-who-jesus-is-but-how-we-say-who-he-is/).

To know another person is always to enter into a relationship that leads to a deeper friendship.

That is why for this Sunday we offer you this almost surreal, dream-like 1981 music by Gary Wright, “Really Wanna Know You” that spent 17 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100, reaching highest spot of #16.

Really Wanna Know You speaks of that spiritual thing we experience when we meet someone who seems so special, creating some sparks in us that leads us to something deeper than mere acquaintance. Notice how the sounds of electronic keyboards with the blending voices create that strange, beautiful, and out-of-ordinary feelings like attraction or simply being drawn to the other person.

I don't mind being lonely
But I do mind if not being loved
Maybe you're feeling the same way too
You're ready to hold some one

I really want to know you
I really want to show you the way I feel
I really want to know you
I really want to show you the way I feel

Something about you is telling me
We're coming from the very same place
It's only just a notion I have
(But) I see it written over your face

I really want to know you
I really want to show you the way I feel
I really want to know you
I really want to show you the way I feel

And the good news is that Jesus feels the same way to us, always the first to reach out to us because he feels something so special with each one of us.

Take that chance and meet Jesus in prayers, in the Scriptures, and in others who love and care for us.

Posted by Fernando Amora on Youtube, 24 Feb. 2012 (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-YLsPP2-Wb7tp4QdBq48MQ)

Love without borders

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XX, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 16 August 2020
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7 >><}}}*> Romans 11:13-15, 29-32 >><}}}*> Matthew 15:21-28
Twilight at our parish by Ms. Ria De Vera, 12 August 2020.

For the third Sunday in a row, Jesus reveals a very wonderful side of him who goes out of his way to meet us and comfort us in the most difficult situations and places we are into. It is something we need so much in these days of Moderate Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) seen right away in the opening of today’s gospel.

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.

Matthew 15:21-23

Jesus goes out of his way to meet everyone

Israel is a very small country but always leaves a big impact on everyone who goes on a pilgrimage there. There is that sense of awe in every sacred site that until now continues to “speak” and evoke among pilgrims the presence and holiness of God and his saints.

Like what we have mentioned last Sunday, the proxemics or the non verbal communication of the places Jesus have visited convey to us deeper meanings than just mere sites. And that is more true during the time of Christ like the setting of this Sunday’s gospel, the region of Tyre and Sidon.

Now part of Lebanon found south of its capital city Beirut that was devastated by powerful explosions two weeks ago, Tyre and Sidon were gentile or pagan cities during the time of Jesus with a considerable Jewish population.

His going there shows us his fidelity to his mission of “searching for the lost sheep of the house of Israel” that partly explains to us why he never bothered to give the slightest hint of recognition to the Canaanite woman who had sought his help for her daughter “tormented by a demon”.

Photo by author, the Holy Land, May 2019.

And despite the lack of any explanation again by St. Matthew on the attitude by Jesus “snubbing” the pagan woman, we can safely assume that Christ surely knew that by going to Tyre and Sidon, gentiles would seek his healing as news of his fame had spread beyond Galilee at that time.

Here we find the great love and concern of Jesus for everyone, specially the rejected and marginalized in the society.

His “withdrawing to the region of Tyre and Sidon” was in itself a revelation of his universal love, a love without borders reaching out to those lost and feeling alone in life, those rejected, those discriminated for their color and beliefs, status and gender, sickness and diseases like AIDS and lately, COVID-19!

Inclusive Jesus, exclusive human

At the beginning of chapter 11 of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans from which our second reading is taken today, the great Apostle starts by asking “has God rejected his people?” St. Paul emphatically said “no”, explaining at length the plan of God in Jesus Christ to save all peoples not just the Jews, beautifully telling us,

For the gifts and the call of God are (permanent and) irrevocable.

Romans 11:29

St. Paul’s reflections on God being “inclusive” as against our being so “exclusive” in sending us Jesus Christ to bring us all together as one sheds us some light on that extraordinary incident in the region of Tyre and Sidon involving the Canaanite woman.

Again, I invite you my dear reader to reflect on the many layers of meaning found in this episode so special like the feeding of more than five thousand people the other Sunday and Jesus walking on water last week.

First, notice the silence of Jesus. Keep in mind when the Lord is silent, it does not mean he is out or does not care at all to our needs and pleas. When there is silence – specially a deafening one – the problem is never with God but with us people.

And, true enough! See how the disciples asked Jesus to “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us” (Mt.15:23) — exactly the way we deal sometimes with those begging our help and attention, seeing them as a nuisance to be sent away? What a shame!

From Google.

Now, we go to the climax of this episode with the woman coming to Jesus, “paying him homage” for the healing of her daughter tormented by a demon. It was a scene similar with St. John’s wedding at Cana where the Blessed Mother also approached Jesus with a request when wine ran out during the feast.

In both episodes we find Jesus being a snub – suplado, as we say.

Most of all, in both scenes we find the remarkable faith in Jesus by his Mother at Cana believing he can do something to spare the newly wed couple of embarrassment from running out of wine while this Canaanite woman felt so sure only Jesus can cure her daughter.

See how she addressed Jesus like his disciples with not just “Lord” but also with the title “Son of David” to indicate her faith in him as the Messiah.

And it did not stop there as she engaged Jesus into a dialogue — indicating intimacy and trust, depth and communion that we refer in Filipino as “matalik na ugnayan” or “matalik na usapan”.

Sometimes in life, Jesus seems to have that longing for some “lambing” from us that he tries to be “pakipot” or hard to get in order to be intimate with us. Please take these Filipino traits positively to get what I mean from this unique scene of Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Tyre and Sidon.

Jesus said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Matthew 15:26-28
Photo by author, Church of All Nations beside the Garden of Gethsemane in the Holy Land, May 2019.

Brothers and sisters all in one God as Father

St. Matthew recorded this episode not to scandalize and shock us with those words coming from the Lord, referring to the Canaanite woman as one of the “dogs” that was the term used to designate pagans at that time.

For St. Matthew who was writing for Christians of Jewish origins, the episode was a reminder that the people of Israel were indeed the “children” of God to whom the coming Messiah and salvation – like bread or food – were first promised. St. Paul spent a great deal of explaining of this in his letter specially to the Romans .

Rigthly then, theirs was the “food” not right to be thrown to the “dogs” but, that fact does not exclude the “dogs” from partaking later from the leftover food of the children, as if telling Jesus, today we satisfy ourselves with crumbs, tomorrow we shall have bread!

The Canaanite woman clearly knew where to place herself before the Lord, proving to him her deep faith and amazing knowledge of God’s goodness and plans for everyone. For that, she was highly praised by Jesus for her faith. The only other person also praised by Jesus in having a tremendous faith in him was the centurion – another pagan – who begged the Lord for the remote healing of his servant.

Last Sunday afternoon I read the story of how a nurse was driven out of her boarding house after she tested positive for COVID-19 virus. The poor lady had nowhere to go to spend the night after being denied of any assistance by barangay officials, even by her own family in Batangas! Good enough, somebody reported her to the Philippine National Red Cross that sent an ambulance to take care of the nurse who was found crying by herself at the gutter of a street in Pasay City.

What a very sad and tragic reality happening among us these days of the pandemic.

Where is our love and concern for everyone, especially the weak and the sick, those in our own versions of Tyre and Sidon where no one would dare to go except Jesus, perhaps like the dorms and residences of our medical frontliners who are so tired and sick physically, emotionally, and spiritually during this pandemic?

In these past three weeks we have reflected how Jesus lovingly joined us, staying with us in the wilderness, in the storms of the dark sea, even at the pagan territories where nobody would ever want to go.

This Sunday, Jesus is inviting us to break all barriers and borders between us that separate us from each other. Let us animate our community with Christ’s love and mercy for us all amid our many differences so that slowly we fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading that someday the house of the Lord shall be called “a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is.56:7). Amen.

A blessed and safe new week to you! And please do not forget to pray ten Hail Mary’s every 12-noon for national healing and end of the pandemic until September 15, 2020.

Contact

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 27 July 2020
Jeremiah 13:1-11 >><)))*> >>><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 13:31-35
Photo from Google.

What a great way to start our last week of work and studies in July with your sense of humor, O God! Your words are so witty and funny but with a strong punch. Hard-hitting, so biting. And so revealing.

For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so I had made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord; to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty. But they did not listen.

Jeremiah 13:11

You really got me, Lord.

What can I say?

Our underwear, that is, the loincloth of Jeremiah’s time, is our most intimate clothing, always in contact with our very selves, in that part of our body that we always guard and keep to ourselves.

But, what happens when we “dirty” ourselves with sins, when we put on all those filth in ourselves, we also feel the same way inside, no matter how clean and crisp our clothes are but when deep down our loincloth – underwear – is rotted and good for nothing?

We can always hide it from others and they will never know the kind of underwear we have but we cannot deceive ourselves of how dirty we are with sins and evil.

And so far from you, O God.

Forgive us when you are supposed to be the closest to us, the one we are always in contact with but we have totally disregarded because of our many sins, when we thought we can always have our own ways without you, denying the fact it simply cannot be for indeed, you have made us to be that closest to you.

Forgive us in your Son and our Lord Jesus Christ. Renew us inside, cleanse us and refresh us to be in close contact with you again, O God.

Help us to remain good and clean inside like the little mustard seed so we may grow to have leafy branches for birds to come and dwell in us.

In your mercy, cleanse us of our sins and be our yeast to mix with us again to leaven into a dough to make your kingdom come here on earth. Amen.

Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

To be known and still be loved

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, 22 July 2020
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 >><}}}*> >><}}}*> >><}}}*> John 20:1-2, 11-18
Painting by Giotto of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene from commons.wikimedia.org.

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

Today as I prayed on the feast of your beloved Saint Mary Magdalene, my sights were focused on your beautiful exchange of names on that Easter morning at your tomb.

It is so lovely and so deep, and very personal for all of us whom you love so much despite our many sins like St. Mary Magdalene.

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.

John 20:14-16

You called her by her name, “Mary” and she called you by your title “Rabbouni” – what a beautiful scene of two people loving each other so deeply, so truly! You – humbly and lovingly accepting the sinner, and she – submitting herself to you as disciple.

You have expelled seven demons from her, you have known her so well even her darkest secrets and sins, and despite all these knowledge, Lord Jesus, the more you have loved her that you called her by the sweetest word she could ever hear in her life, “Mary”.

The same with us, sweet Jesus: every day you call us by our names, each one of us as a person, an individual, a somebody not just a someone. You love us so much in spite and despite of everything. We are not just a number or a statistic to you but a person with whom you relate personally.

From Google.

Help us to realize this specially when darkness surrounds us, when self-doubts and mistrust abound in us without realizing your deep trust in us, in our ability to rise again in you and follow you.

Teach me to trust you more and love you more like St. Mary Magdalene, to give and offer my self to you totally as yours, calling you “Rabbouni” or Teacher and Master.

Let me give up whatever I still keep to myself, whatever I refuse to surrender so that I may enjoy the intimacy you offer me as a friend, a beloved, and a family in the Father.

What a joy indeed to be like St. Mary Magdalene, fully known and fully loved by you, dear Jesus.

May I learn to know and love others too like you so I may proclaim you to them. Amen.

The goodness of God our Father

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 09 July 2020
Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9 >><}}}*> >><}}}*> >><}}}*> Matthew 10:7-15
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019 in Carigara, Leyte.

This is the fourth straight day, O God when you have come to me in the most touching and personal manner through your prophet Hosea. It is so comforting to dwell on the tenderness of your love for me but at the same time so embarrassing too at what I have given back to you.

Thus says the Lord: When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they were from me, sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it was I who thought Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms. I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks. Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know I was their healer.

Hosea 11:1-7

These expressions are so true and so lovely, O God! I could feel your personal closeness to me as my Father, feeling all your love and concern for me, teaching me how to walk, taking me into your arms. And most especially that part of being fostered and raised like an infant to a father’s cheeks.

That’s how close you have been to me in many instances but sadly, it is true that the more you called me to stay closer to you, the more I drifted apart from you in sin and evil.

Forgive me, dearest God our Father, in taking you for granted in the same manner we I disregard the love and affection of those closest to me.

And that is where I feel most your personal love for me — when despite my sinfulness and turning away from you, you prefer not to give vent to your “blazing anger” to me because you are God, not human.

In fact, when your Son Jesus Christ came, his first order to his disciples was to cure the sick among us, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and exorcise those possessed by evil spirits. You only have our good always in your mind that we always fail to see or even refuse to accept and believe.

Today, Lord, we ask you for the grace to bask in your goodness and grace! Amen.

Photo by author, Church of the Our Father outside Jerusalem where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer.

The “heart is false”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 08 July 2020
Hosea 10:1-3, 7-8, 12 <*(((><< >><)))*> Matthew 10:1-7
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, statues of the Twelve Apostles on the facade of the Church of our Lady of Montserrat in Spain, 2019.

How beautiful are your words today, dearest God our Father. You never fail to surprise me with your deep personal involvement with us all that you can capture exactly what is inside us without any doubt at all.

After praising Israel’s great achievements that have brought them material prosperity, you remain impartial and fair in pronouncing your judgement:

Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth. The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built. The more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up. Their heart is false, and now they pay for their guilt. God shall break down their altars and destroy destroy their sacred pillars.

Hosea 10:1-2

Indeed, only you can read our hearts, our inmost beings.

How many times have we been deceived by outward appearances like material prosperity in life, thinking these are the crowing glory of one’s great efforts in balancing prayer and work only to be rejected by God for their hard headedness and pride?

A heart that is false is also a heart that has turned away from you, O God; sometimes, these are not evident right away because a heart can always fake outside what is inside.

A heart that takes pride in its grand designs and visions is a heart that is false. Most of all, a heart that refuses to look into the pains and hurts of others, their shortcomings and sins, is a heart that is false because it denies humanity, its being a human flesh tormented by love amidst pains and sufferings. A heart that is false is a heart that refuses to see other hearts with many hurts because it believes more with its self than with God’s love and mercy.

A heart that is false is a heart that has refused to grow and outgrow its previously held convictions and beliefs, more intent in looking at its own heart than into Christ’s meek and humble heart, eventually betraying Jesus and loved ones.

Incline our hearts into the Father’s loving heart, dear Jesus, and give us a heart that is both true and humble, accepting our many limitations, full of hope in becoming a better person in you like your Apostles who started out like us all with imperfect hearts. Amen.

Photo by author, Davao City, 2018.

“Someone Like You” by Van Morrison (1987)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 05 July 2020

At that time Jesus exclaimed: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

If there is anything we all wish this first Sunday of July 2020, it must be rest from all the worries and burdens in this time of the corona. We all want something that would be lighter in this second half of the heaviest year we have ever had in decades or even a generation.

Being light does not mean being worry-free, no problems nor sufferings. Dr. M. Scott Peck insists in his book Road Less Travelled that “life is difficult” – the sooner we realize and accept this, the better for us (see our homily, https://lordmychef.com/2020/07/04/we-are-disciples-of-a-meek-and-humble-lord/).

Being light is having a companion to share with our burdens and woes in life because having these all by ourselves is so difficult and impossible. Most of the time, our problems need not be solved at all but simply be accepted and shared with someone who loves us, cares for us, and believes in us.

Jesus Christ is that only companion par excellence we can have for he is meek and humble of heart.

Van Morrison’s lovely ballad Someone Like You released in 1987 captures this essential desire among us all to seek and forge many relationships.

I've been searching a long time
Someone exactly like you
I've been traveling all around the world
Waiting for you to come through

Someone like you makes it all worth while
Someone like you keeps me satisfied
Someone exactly like you

Though the song has become a staple in many weddings and in many romantic movies covered by various artists, Someone Like You sounds more like a spiritual song longing for God through our loved ones for he is always faithful and loving to us despite our many weaknesses and sins.

I've been doin' some soul searching
To find out where you're at
I've been up and down the highway
In all kinds of foreign lands

Someone like you makes it all worth while
Someone like you keeps me satisfied
Someone…

May Van Morrison’s song bring you closer to God through your loved ones as we continue to hurdle the many obstacles and trials ahead in this time of COVID-19.

Have a blessed Sunday and brand new week ahead!

Video uploaded at YouTube by Megan Smith.

When do we really call on God?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 23 June 2020
2 Kings 19:9-11, 14-21, 31-35, 36 ><)))*> <*(((>< Matthew 7:6, 12-14
Photo by author, Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel, the Grotto, Baguio City, 2019.

God our loving Father, I have been praying to you for so long, in fact almost in my entire life. But as I prayed over your words for today, it just dawned upon me that every “existential question”: when do I really call on you?

The attitude of your King in Jerusalem struck me while praying, wondering if I have the same attitude of having you first of all when things are not going good in my life.

Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; then he went up to the temple of the Lord, and spreading it out before him, he prayed in the Lord’s presence: “O Lord, God of Israel, enthroned upon the cherubim! You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth… Therefore, O Lord, our God, save us from the power of this man, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”

2 Kings 19:14-15, 19

What a deep faith and intimate relationship with you, Lord, by Hezekiah! He went straight up to you, even presenting to you the letter of the Assyrian king threatening to conquer Jerusalem at that time. He did not mind at all the warnings about the strength and power of the Assyrians because he only had you, Lord, in his mind and in his heart.

So often, Lord, I only come to you after I have exhausted my mind thinking about my problems and situations in life; I come to you when I can no longer find solutions; worst, I come to you after I have tried everything and had failed.

Forgive me, Father, when I only think of you as a last resort — instead of being my first always!

Maybe, that is because before ever coming to you, calling on you, Lord, I try doing things first on my own that is always be easy and quick. I have no patience of waiting and of going through sufferings and inconvenience especially through paths and doors.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gae is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. All those who find it are few.”

Matthew 7:13-14

Dearest Jesus Christ, you have come among us to bring us closest to the Father and yet we continue to remain far from him. Give us the grace today to be more intimate with God our Father so we may truly be centered on him in life, having him as our personal “default” in every situation, whether good or bad. Amen.

Photo by author, Tam-Awan, Baguio City, 2019.

Loving presence of Jesus in us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intimacy with Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Jesus present in our love

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

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

Without love, we would have gone extinct by now.

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

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

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

And who is ultimately our very love?

God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John 14:19-20

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

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

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

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

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

Have a blessed Sunday and stay safe! Amen.

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