God is faithful

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twenty-first Week of Ordinary Time, 25 August 2022
1 Corinthians 1:1-9   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 25:1-13
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Glory and praise to you,
God our loving Father!
How true are the words of
St. Paul today:  "God is
faithful" (1 Cor. 1:9);
you never fail us especially
in times of trials like
during this recent severe
tropical storm Florita;
we lift up to your grace
and mercy the people in
Northern Luzon severely
affected, those who have 
lost their livelihood, those
cut off from their loved ones,
and those who left homes
for safety due to floods;
we pray most specially no one 
died in this typhoon.
Grant them "grace and peace",
almighty Father.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way… so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you await for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 1:3-5, 7
Keep us faithful to you, Father,
by being faithful to your mission,
faithful to people entrusted to us,
faithful to all the grace you bestowed
upon us; teach us to share your grace
so as to share your joy with others too;
after all, joy and grace, chara and charis
in Greek respectively, are derived 
from the same root because joy and
grace belong together in you!
Amen.

True joy

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 27 May 2022
Acts 18:9-18     ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     John 16:20-23
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa at Carigara Market, Leyte, 2018.
Today, Lord Jesus Christ,
you describe true joy in you,
scary yet so wonderful:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.”

John 16:20-21
Joy is like a woman in labor,
in anguish because her hour has arrived
but after giving birth to a child, she 
remembers no more the pain because
of her joy of bringing forth a child into
the world!
I wonder, dear Lord, in this time
when childbearing has become a major
issue with some women insisting on
their rights, refusing to bear a child,
that less and less people are also 
experiencing true joy; we have come
to trust ourselves more than God that
many are so afraid of having children,
thinking it would lead to more joy when
ironically it had led to fewer joys in 
their lives!
Joy is completely trusting in you, God,
in your providence and protection like 
St. Paul who was so fruitful - and surely, 
joyful - at his stay in Corinth because of his
complete trust in Jesus; no harm really
ever happened to him!  How sad these days
when those in the pro-choice movement
focus more on the minority having problems in
childbearing than on the majority who make it
through all the pains and joys of giving birth.
Joy is more than happiness; it is a complete
trust and confidence in you, dear Jesus 
that even if things turn to worst, 
you will never abandon us until the end 
for you alone is our joy dwelling within us
in our hearts.  Amen.

Joy in the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest, 26 May 2022
Acts 18:1-8     ><))))*> + <*((((><     John 16:16-20
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, Carigara Market in Leyte, 2018.

So, brethren, rejoice in the Lord, not in the world. That is, rejoice in the truth, not in wickedness; rejoice in the hope of eternity, not in the fading flower of vanity. That is the way to rejoice. Wherever you are on earth, however long you remain on earth, the Lord is near, do not be anxious about anything.

From a sermon by Saint Augustine, Office of Readings, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, 26 May
Thank you, dear God our Father
in giving us a joyful saint whose
feast we celebrate today, St. Philip Neri.
Of course, every saint must be a
joyful one but St. Philip exuded with
so much joy in serving you among
the poor and the sick that according
to stories, two of his ribs were found
broken after his death because his
heart grew with so much joy and
love for Jesus Christ among the
people he served!
Whatever that means, we believe
in the great joy you must have given
St. Philip Neri and all the saints in
serving you; as St. Augustine
mentioned in his homily, to rejoice
in you is to rejoice in truth not in lies
and wickedness; and to rejoice in eternal
life not in temporal that is momentary.
Much of the world has remained
the same, meaning we still have a
lot of work to do in your name; like
St. Paul, give us the perseverance, 
and the sense of humor of St. Philip
Neri to keep preaching the gospel of
Jesus Christ most specially in places
and among people we least expect 
to accept it for you yourself, O God is 
filled with humor:  who would have 
thought except you, Lord, that the 
sinful city of Corinth would become
one of the leading cities in the spread 
of Christianity than the sophisticated
Athens?
Keep us faithful to you, dear Jesus,
never to lose your sense of humor
in doing your work for you always write
straight crooked lines!  This is part of
your riddle to your disciples about your
coming Pasch and departure as well as 
our coming situation, "you will weep 
and mourn while the world rejoices, 
you will grieve but your grief will
become joy" (Jn.16:20).
May we always rejoice in you,
Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Loving means a lot of bending

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 19 May 2022
Acts 15:7-21   ><))))*> + <*((((><   John 15:9-11
Photo by author, Bgy. Pulang Bato, San Juan, Batangas, 14 May 2022.
Lord Jesus Christ,
let me "remain in your love
by keeping your commandments
so that my joy might be
complete in you" (cf. Jn.15:9-11)!
To remain in your love, 
dear Jesus, takes a lot of
bending and bowing low
before you and others, 
of forgetting myself and 
all my other ideas of you
in order to truly see you 
in others especially with 
those different from me.

The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them.

Acts 15:12
I wonder, Lord, why the whole 
assembly fell silent after Peter had
spoken about your works among 
Cornelius and his household; whatever
it meant, it must have paved the way
for everyone to bend their ways
and beliefs especially with their
traditions in order to commit 
themselves anew to you,
Jesus Christ, our way and truth
and life!
In this highly competitive world 
we now live in, we have forgotten
to bend low in life, literally and
figuratively speaking; we are always
seeking the vantage position of 
being above others, always clapping
for others and for one's self but
rarely bending; maybe, that is why
it has become so difficult to truly love
others these days.  Teach us to learn
to bend, to kneel, to bow not out of 
fearful submission to anyone but 
out of respect and love for you
present among us despite and in spite
of our many differences.  Amen.

“Fearful yet overjoyed”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday within the Octave of Easter, 18 April 2022
Acts 2:14, 22-33   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 28:8-15
From Facebook, April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord!”
Twenty-four years ago today,
dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
you gave me, along with my six
other classmates the most wonderful
gift of ordination to the priesthood;
thank you very much from the bottom
of my heart!  I could not ask for anything
else and if ever, indeed, I shall live my
life again and you call me, most likely
I would still say yes to you - "fearful yet
overjoyed" like Mary Magdalene 
on that Easter morning.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and did him homage. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Matthew 28:8-10
How lovely it is to remember 
this date of our ordination
including the years leading to it
and the following ones after;
I was "fearful yet overjoyed" -
so afraid of mistakes and failures
yet so raring to explore and learn
so much in life and ministry;
most of all, I felt "fearful yet
overjoyed" so many times I might 
fall into sins and lose you yet
overjoyed because even in my 
lowest and darkest moments,
you were there, Lord, 
so faithful and loving, 
forgiving and merciful, 
never imposing nor insisting 
but always patient with me.
But there were also many occasions,
Lord Jesus, when I felt more fearful
without any joy at all; forgive me
for doubting you, for turning away
from you, choosing sin, believing
more to what others say, especially
the lies they spread against you and 
your truth.
Enkindle anew in me, dear Jesus,
the warmth and joy of your Resurrection
that I may continue to witness your 
presence and share this truth with 
those around me like Peter in the first
reading by being a living witness
of your Paschal Mystery.
I pray for my other classmates too,
Lord Jesus - Fathers Ed, Joshua,
Romy, Leonard, Arnel as well as 
Fathers Bien and Felix in Antipolo
and Bataan respectively, Fathers Jay
in Tarlac and Fr. Jay-El in the Military 
Ordinariate:  let us be focused more
on you, Jesus our Caller than with
your call, the priesthood; keep us open
to your presence and empty 
to be filled with your light  of truth 
and unity, gentleness and mercy,
 presence and perseverance.  Amen.
Our class together in our clergy retreat in Tagaytay, 2018.
Our class planning for our seminary homecoming in 2019.

Easter is openness and emptiness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Easter Sunday, 17 April 2022
Acts 10:34, 37-43  ><}}}*>  Colossians 3:1-4  ><}}}*>  John 20:1-9 
Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Villa and Retreat House, Baguio City, January 2019.

Easter is one big event composed of so many stories of openness and emptiness that all started and were prepared at Holy Thursday and Good Friday. In fact, our celebration today is the one we have prepared these past 40 days of Lent and what a tragedy – and a foolishness – when people skip Easter!

Easter is so big an event that beginning today until the Pentecost – all 50 days are counted as one big day for we cannot contain all the joy and mysteries of Christ’s Resurrection in just one day or even one week.

Most of all, the joy of Easter is a reality that continues to happen to us everyday as we join Jesus Christ in our daily passover or pasch by remaining open and empty in him, with him, and through him.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

John 20:1-3
Photo from GettyImages/iStockphoto.

One of the many rituals I began having since turning 50 years old was preparing my daily medicines which I put into those little boxes with labels of the day of the week and time like morning, mid-morning, noon, evening and bed-time. For those of my generation, I’m sure you can relate so well that it is like playing sungka when we were kids!

Last Monday as I prepared my meds and reflections for the Holy Week and Easter, I noticed how it has become more difficult to open bottles, boxes and packets of medicines that all come with a reminder, “Do not accept if seal is broken”. In an instance, I realized how we have been so conscious with our safety and privacy these days that everything now goes so tightly sealed with a lot of other safety features to prevent it from contamination and hacking that include food and drinks, gadgets like cellphones and computers, and smart devices. It is more difficult and frustrating for non-techies and forgetful like me when online bank accounts and various social media accounts require many verifications and updating of passwords due to threat of scams and other cybercrimes.

How ironic that the more we are supposed to be free and mobile, when life is meant to be easier and enjoyable but in reality, the more we are locked up to ourselves for fears of being hurt or disrespected, even killed!

And so, instead of opening, the more we close in, the more we hide, the more we become secretive, worst, the more we are imprisoned by our own devices as the Eagles claimed in their classic hit in the 70’s, Hotel California.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, sunrise at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

Easter is opposite: the grace of this event and season is experienced and received when we open ourselves to the many new possibilities in life Jesus himself had opened for us when he rose from the dead conquering evil and sin.

Like that stone in his empty tomb, Jesus had removed everything that have locked us inside our insecurities and fears, sins and failures, pains and hurts in the past so that we can go out freely each day to face the world with joy in order to grow and mature as persons.

Jesus had removed everything that blocks us and prevents us from seeing the many beauties and wonders life offers us found in the people God sends us to express his love and care, mercy and kindness for us.

But, are we also open to him and to life itself?

In the first reading, Peter spoke to the people of Jerusalem, asking them to open themselves to the truth about Jesus as the Christ sent by God to save us from our sins being his witnesses to “what had happened in Judea that started in Galilee” (Acts 10:34).

Recall last night how Luke in his version of the Resurrection recorded the two Angels telling the women who had come to the empty tomb to stop “seeking the living among the dead” (Lk.24:5).

Being open means breaking the news to others that Jesus is risen with our very lives full of joy and hope. Unlike Mary of Magdala and Simon Peter on that early morning of Easter, we need to be empty first of our suppositions and doubts about Jesus Christ. See how they at first doubted the empty tomb but later especially after Pentecost, they all proclaimed the good news of salvation of Jesus Christ.

Being open to Jesus and being empty of doubts of his Resurrection mean that we have to focus more of the things of above, of the more essential than the superficial and fleeting.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, sunrise at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

Please forgive me but I felt so sad with the people during the celebrations these Holy Thursday and Good Friday: so many of us are trapped in those little cellphone cameras spending more time recording the beautiful rites we have had after two years of lockdown. Experience the moments! Experience Jesus Christ, experience the person next to you! Keep those cellphones during celebration of the Sacraments which is the saving presence of Jesus! Remove the “media” and be actually present.

Maybe you have seen that cartoon of the Resurrection before pandemic when Jesus was surprised coming out of the tomb with people waiting for him with their cellphones; yes, it is funny but the joke is on us. We have been trapped and imprisoned by these gadgets that we have stopped living in reality and more in virtual reality so that many of us are no longer grounded, so out-of-touch, even alienated with self, others and sadly, with God.

Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above… Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

Open yourself to Jesus, empty yourself of all fears and doubts. Be kind and be gentle with yourself. Jesus had forgiven you, forgive yourself for your sins and mistakes in the past if you have confessed these or gone to confessions this Lenten season.

Move on with the present moment, dare to go out and challenge yourself to learn again, to work again, to love again, to dream again! COVID-19 may still be around but Jesus Christ is stronger, so let us rise again from our sickness and diseases! Let us not be afraid of the giant stone covering us for Jesus had removed it so that we can go out and celebrate life in him.


Lord Jesus Christ,
let me celebrate the joy of your
Resurrection not only today but everyday
by being open to your daily coming
 by emptying myself of my pride;
like the disciple whom you love,
let me believe in your rising again
by being contented with the little
signs of life and order you give me,
with the little bursts of joy and light
that assure me that it is you whom
I follow each day.  Amen.

From PPT-Backgrounds.net.

Lent is trusting God’s promises

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 28 March 2022
Isaiah 65:17-21   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   John 4:43-54
Photo by author, view of Israel from Mt. Nebo in Jordan, May 2019.
How sweet are to the ears
your words today, O God our
loving Father, when you promised
to create new heavens and
a new earth, when the things of
the past shall not be remembered
or come to mind, when there shall 
always be rejoicing and happiness.

No longer shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not round out his full lifetime; he dies a mere youth who reaches but a hundred years, and he who fails of a hundred shall be thought accursed. They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit of the vineyards they plant.

Isaiah 65:20-21
Sana now na, Lord!
Sanaol, God!
But I know you are speaking
not in literal sense though that
time would surely happen when
we experience no more pain and
sufferings nor crying and wailing
nor death of any infant nor of anyone
less before 100 years of age.
Yes, I know Father
this life will always be filled
with pains and sufferings,
trials and tribulations but these
are meant to make us stronger
and more trusting to your coming
to us in Jesus Christ; give us the
grace to be wholly committed
to you in Jesus, in your words
like that royal official from Capernaum
for it is only in our total trust in you
can we experience peace 
and healing that only you
can give in Christ while in these
troubled earth.  Amen.

The joy of coming home in the Father

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Lent-C a.k.a. "Laetare Sunday", 27 March 2022
Joshua 5:9, 10-12 ><}}}*> 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ><}}}*> Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Lourdes, France, 20 March 2022.

Life is a daily Lent, a coming home to the Father. As I have been telling you, the 40-days of Lent is a journey back home to God in Jesus Christ with each Sunday like a door leading us closer to Him. We rejoice this Fourth Sunday – Laetare Sunday – as we near God’s inner room, knowing Him more than ever as we experience His immense love and mercy for us like a Father welcoming his children to “enter” and celebrate home in Him.

But, are we really in the journey?

Or, are we just like the two selfish, self-centered brothers in the parable who took their father for granted by pursuing for their own very selves?

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them Jesus addressed this parable: “A man had two sons…”

Luke 15:1, 3, 11
Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019 in my former parish.

Acting like the sons…

Once again, we hear another story from Luke that is uniquely his. It is more known as the parable of the prodigal son when in fact the center of the story is the loving and merciful father giving everything including his very self to his two sons.

There are two preceding parables before this third one, that of the lost sheep and of the lost coin that are in chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel. See how Jesus developed into a rising crescendo his series of parables starting with a lost sheep, a lost coin, and finally, lost sons. The common thread running through the three parables was the great joy of the shepherd, woman and father upon having their lost ones again. Clearly, God is the shepherd, the woman, and the father looking for the lost sheep, lost coin and lost sons. And here lies the very essence of the parables, especially in this third one about the loving and merciful father: “the Pharisees and scribes who began to complain why Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

We are those Pharisees and scribes who doubt and refuse to believe, even run away from our loving God in the belief there must be somebody else there who could love us truly by giving us what we need.

Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019 in my former parish.

Exactly like the younger son in the parable who sees God merely as a provider, an ATM or a Western Union counter who gives the cash we need to buy things we believe would complete us without realizing God is our life, our identity and root of being. This we find at what prompted the younger son to return home (return home, not come home which happens only when home is a person, not a place nor thing).

When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”

Luke 15:14-19

Sometimes we are like the younger son who returns home just to preserve one’s self – to have a roof and to have food so as not to starve, never go hungry. It is the first temptation of the devil, teasing Jesus and us to turn stones into bread because man lives to eat! That is why we keep on asserting our own power so we can do everything because we have forgotten our being-ness in God. We hate having nothing, being empty and would rather fill our bellies with whatever we can stuff our mouth with that in the process even swallow our pride and dignity to have, to possess everything, even everybody except God.

Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019.

On the other hand, we are like the Pharisees and scribes “complaining why Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them” so personified by the elder son who refused to enter their house to join the celebrations at the return of his prodigal brother because his manipulative schemes have been unmasked. For him, serving his father was just a show because he was only an actor, everything was a movie or a teleserye playing one’s roles in exchange of a fee and fame.

He said to his father in reply, “Look all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.”

Luke 15:29-30

Again, we find here some semblance of the second and third temptations to Jesus and to us by the devil: worship him and you will be popular and powerful! We all want having the best for us to be the very best among our peers and neighbors. We are willing to buy time, even buy people just to be known and popular. We would not mind being patient over a long period of time believing in the end, we could end up having all.

When we think of our needs to be secured and safe, popular and powerful, the first that comes to our minds and consciousness are things that money can buy, food that fill stomach, and drinks that refresh the body. Like the two brothers, they were all concerned with material and physical, nothing spiritual nor emotional or even mental. A life without any depth like Alfie played by Michael Caine with music by Burt Bacharach asking, “What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?”

That’s the tragedy of our lives, of being like the Pharisees and scribes personified by the two brothers who were so lost in their own selves, refusing to see beyond to find others and God, now and eternity, earth and heaven.

Photo by author, view from the Old Jerusalem, May 2019.

…becoming like the Father

This is the grace of this fourth Sunday, its greatest joy and cause for celebration: our being home in God, being whole again in Him after realizing and accepting our broken and sinful selves.

Make no mistake that it was us who have found God; no, it is the other way around.

God is the Father always awaiting for us that He sent Jesus Christ to lead us home again in Him. In this parable, the late Fr. Henri Nouwen rightly said Jesus is the “prodigal son” who left heaven not out of rebellion but because of obedience and submission to lead us all back to the Father, the only One who loves us truly, our very “first love” for He is the one who loves us first and still loves us no matter what.

Stop seeking for the world’s basic staples of food and wealth, fame and power because the most basic truth in this life is we are loved by God who is love Himself because He is life. See Luke’s sense of humor: the prodigal son wanted only food and shelter but the father gave him back his status as son with the ring, fine clothes and slippers, and feast while the elder son was longing for a mere young goat without realizing it has long been his for everything the father has was his too! Like us in many occasions in life, we fail to see how much we already have in God that we turn away from Him to settle for lesser things.

See our foolishness in desiring the world when it has always been ours if we remain in God. That is why we need to celebrate because finally we have found what is truly basic and valuable, God who gave us his Son Jesus Christ so we can find our way back home to Him and learn what is most valuable in life.

In this parable, Jesus is asking us to “level up” our existence, to rise above our very selves and be who we really are as beloved children of the Father who is merciful and rich in kindness.

Like in the first reading, no more manna for we have entered the Promised Land where we can have real food and real drink – Jesus Christ who sustains us to eternal life. Let us keep in mind and heart Paul’s reminder and call in the second reading that “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation… so, let us be reconciled in God” (2 Cor. 5:17, 20). Only those who are reconciled in God in Jesus can experience true joy… so, stop complaining and whining of others getting close with God. Join us and celebrate! Amen.

Have a joyuful week ahead.

Praying for joy and wisdom

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Cyril, Bishop and St. Methodius, Monk, 14 February 2022
James 1:1-11   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Mark 8:11-13
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 2019.
So many people today, O Lord,
are so busy and excited, being  
Valentine's day, a day of the heart
when sweethearts speak sweet 
nothings, giving flowers to
express their love to their beloved.
I can't blame them, O Lord,
for being taken for a ride in this
highly commercialized world that
has become more stressful;
people have been suffering from
so many forms of difficulties and 
trials that for many, they try to 
escape momentarily.

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4
Teach, O Lord, to consider it true
joy and a blessing in disguise every
trial we go through in life; inasmuch as
we greatly dislike inconvenience and 
sufferings, failures and powerlessness,
poverty and sickness, may we recall 
yesterday's Beatitudes, that true
blessedness and joy come from going
through these difficulties that bring out
the best in us through time than the 
instant gratifications and feel-good 
offered by the world.
Grant us the wisdom to appreciate
the trials that come our way, producing
in us the depth and maturity that lead 
to fulfillment and perfection; may we
stop looking for outward signs like 
those Pharisees who kept on debating
with Jesus without any intentions of 
being open to find and accept him.
Amen.
Brothers Saints Cyril and
Methodius,
Pray for us!

Advent is rejoicing in God within us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Advent-C, 12 December 2021
Zephaniah 3:14-18 ><}}}*> Philippians 4:4-7 ><}}}*> Luke 3:10-18
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2019.

Our liturgy bursts in colorful hues of pink this Third Sunday of Advent known as “Gaudete Sunday” or “Rejoice Sunday” following the calls of our readings to rejoice in God’s coming and nearness among us.

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again – rejoice!

Philippians 4:4

We rejoice because of a person. Always. Gadgets and material things can never bring joy to us; joy is something deeper, touching one’s heart and soul.

Joy brings assurance of presence and of love; hence, joy comes only from another person for what he or she brings or for what happens to him or to her. And too often, it can happen that we share in another’s joy.

Now, imagine if the joy is coming from the Second Person, Jesus Christ the Son of God – it is “joy to the max!” as young people would say these days. Jesus, the Emmanuel or God-with-us who had come more than 2000 years ago, who always comes to us, and who will come again in the end of time.

To rejoice in the Lord as St. Paul puts it in our second reading today means to be one with Christ who is the source of “every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Eph.1:3) in whom “nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, not even death nor any creature” (Rom. 8:38-39).

And that is the essence of joy: the firm assurance that when worst comes to worst in life, there is always Jesus Christ remaining faithful to us when our chips are down, when we are alone and abandoned by family and friends, even in death.

Joy is a result of salvation, of being free in Jesus

Joy is when the heart and soul smile even when we are in the midst of suffering. It is unlike happiness expressed by laughter or smiles that depend on external factors that trigger happiness. Joy bursts from within us, something automatic because of a deeper feeling of right there in our heart, deep in our soul dwells Jesus Christ, assuring us we shall never be alone. That is why we can rejoice while in the midst of pains and sufferings, unlike happiness.

In the first reading we heard four imperative verbs that call us to rejoice, each evoking God’s coming to save his people which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ:

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.

Zephaniah 3:14-15

Here we find joy synonymous with salvation, with freedom.

The people of God at that time were in exile, feeling so low and so sad as they saw their plight as punishment for their sins.

Recall how when the angel announced to Mary the coming birth of Jesus, he told her to “Do not fear” (Lk.1:30) while Jesus himself told the same words – “Do not fear” – to the women at the tomb on Easter morning and later to his disciples (Mt. 28:10). Every time the disciples and the people were in danger and overcome with fear, Jesus always comes saying to everyone the same thing, “Do not be afraid…it is I”.

That is the most wondrous thing about joy – one experiences not only assurance of love and support, presence and security but one also becomes free specially from all sins and fears!

Such was the mood of the people when John the Baptist preached repentance and baptized people at Jordan. Even the most hopeless among them like sinners and marginalized people at that time felt joy within with John’s proclamation of the good news, of Jesus himself.

Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

Luke 3:15-18

Luke beautifully summarized the mission of John the Baptist by saying “he preached good news to the people” (Lk.3:18). This is the grace of the third Sunday of Advent: that the Lord is with us, that he had set us free from our sins and from all our fears. Let us go out of our toxic relationships and toxic mindset to claim this salvation in Christ!

Like John, let us experience Jesus in our selves, in our lives in order to bring hope and joy to others by proclaiming not only the coming but the very presence of Jesus Christ among us.

See how John told the crowds to live simply so that others may simply leave while at the same time, he never asked the tax collectors and soldiers to leave their jobs by them to be fair and just with everyone.

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

So many times in life, we desire so many material things in life because of our wrong belief we can only be joyful in life with whatever money can buy that in the process, we miserably forget to love and care for the other persons, especially those nearest to us.

We sadly realize later in life that what truly prevent us from experiencing joy are these things like wealth and fame we have tried accumulating in our entire lives!

As we have said earlier, joy can only come from persons, not things. Those people in the gospel felt joy upon listening to John’s preaching and experiencing his baptism of water.

In our time, we are called to be another John the Baptist but this time to baptize people “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” as commanded by Jesus on his Ascension. Moreover, this third Sunday of Advent calls us to emulate John in telling people to be vigilant for the final judgment when Jesus comes again at the end of time which is NOW for “His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” These we do with our lives of witnessing to the gospel values of Christ seen in the joy we have in our lives.

How sad that even Pope Francis had noticed early in his pontificate how many of us Christians lack joy in our lives, in our attitudes and in our faces specially when celebrating the Holy Eucharist.

Joy is the mark of every true Christian who rejoices always in the salvation and freedom Jesus had brought us. Let us share the joy of life in Christ not only today but everyday for Jesus comes to us in every person filled with joy, free from sin and worries! Amen.

Have a joyful week ahead!

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.