Advent is beginning with the end in sight

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent-C, 28 November 2021
Jeremiah 33:14-16 ><}}}*> 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2 ><}}}*> Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Photo by author, Malolos Cathedral, 2019.

Blessed happy New Year, everyone!

Today we are celebrating a new calendar year in the Church with this First Sunday of Advent. From the Latin word adventus meaning arrival or coming, it was adapted by the early Christians from the Roman practice of preparing for the visits or assumption to power of their emperors then considered as “gods”.

It is most fitting that we prepare not only outside but most especially inside our very selves for the coming of the true God and King of kings, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!

Hence, Advent not only opens but also defines our whole liturgical year that is centered on Christ who has come, who comes now and will come again in the end of time. This is the reason why our gospel this Sunday is looking towards the end of time at the beginning of our Church calendar.

The three comings of Jesus Christ

Advent has two aspects: beginning today the First Sunday of Advent until December 16, all readings and prayers are oriented towards the Second Coming of Christ; from December 17 to the evening of the 24th, our focus shifts to the first coming of Jesus at Christmas.

Between these two comings of Jesus that the Season of Advent reminds us is what St. Bernard of Clairvaux called as the Lord’s “third coming” – his coming everyday into our lives, especially in the celebration of the Sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist.

Photo by author, 2019.

Again we find that tension of his being here but not yet. It is in that between his first coming more than 2000 years ago and his Second Coming which no one knows exactly when where we are situated daily, making everyday Christ’s Advent.

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

Luke 21:27-28

It may sound frightening to hear Jesus spoke of the signs of his coming but at closer look and reflections, we find it filled with joy because our redemption is at hand!

Yes, every ending forebodes destruction and passing of the old but that is in order to give way to something new, something better which Jesus had promised his disciples then and us now.

The grace of this season of Advent is the reawakening of our hope in the salvation that has already come in Jesus, who still comes now, and will surely come again in the end of time which is happening in every here and now.

That is why, there is also the sense of urgency and vigilance this Advent.

We are already living in the end-time Jesus had predicted as we have seen in the wars and conflicts going on among nations, the natural calamities happening around the globe made worst by the climate change plus this pandemic we are now having. But, it does not mean the creation will end soon as portrayed in many Hollywood films because these signs are calls for us to be ready and prepared for the final end that will prelude the new beginnings of all.

The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah… In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: “The Lord our justice.”

Jeremiah 33:14, 16
Photo by author, 2018.

Meeting Jesus in Advent

Notice how Jeremiah’s prophecy so “pregnant” with meanings: more than the coming of the promised Messiah is the radical newness of the whole creation. Judah and Jerusalem, the main province and city of Israel at that time will be transformed, referring to John’s vision in the Book of Revelation of “new heaven and new earth”.

As we have said, Advent not only opens our liturgical calendar but also defines the whole year which is the daily coming of Jesus who had come over 2000 years ago and will come again at the end of time which nobody knows.

Meanwhile, in this “third coming” of Jesus everyday, we find God working in him silently and subtly in the human history and right in our individual lives.

It is in our faithful waiting when Jesus Christ comes. It is the beauty and joy expressed by Jeremiah’s words “the days are coming” that assure us no matter how dark and bleak are our days, despite all the destructions and even death around us, the days are coming when we see everything getting better because God never stops working in our midst in Jesus, the Emmanuel.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke 21:34-36

Last Sunday in our celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King we have reflected how Jesus spoke of the “truth” of his kingdom being among us, of how he had made us into his kingdom which is the reason why he was born and came into the world to testify to this truth (Jn.18:37).

See now the clearer picture of our life, of our time: we start our Church calendar preparing for the coming of Jesus our King and we end every year with the celebration of Christ the King. And we begin each new year with the end in sight of his Second Coming.

On this season of Advent, we are reminded how in our joyful waiting through prayers especially in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that Christ’s presence is little by little being unveiled, unfolding before us, and being revealed.

It is a call for us of deepening our prayer life to truly experience Christ’s coming in our daily life. This new year in the Church, St. Luke will be our guide in our Sunday readings during the Ordinary Time; one distinction of his gospel is his portrayal of Jesus in prayer always.

Jesus comes to us first of all when we pray, when we enter into communion with him, when we listen to his voice and follow his instructions. In prayer, we are filled with God, allowing him to work his wonders in us and through us and thus make Christ’s coming a daily reality.

That is how prayer truly leads to holiness: when we are filled with God, our prayers are translated into a life of kindness and acceptance, mercy and forgiveness and most of all, of loving service to one another especially those in need.

There will always be sins and shortcomings on our part but in prayers and vigilance, we slowly “increase and abound in love for one another… strengthening our hearts to be blameless before our God our Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen. (1 Thess. 3:12,13)

A blessed happy new year again and a more blessed first week of Advent to you!

Living in the End-Time

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 26 November 2021
Daniel 7:2-14     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     Luke 21:29-33
Photo by author, Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, 2019.
Thank you very much for this
last Friday of November, God our
loving Father; what a beautiful 
reminder to us all as we prepare
for Advent at the closing of the
liturgical calendar tomorrow that
we are in fact living in the end-time.
All the signs of the end of time Jesus
mentioned in the gospel these past two
days are already happening like wars, 
plagues, famines, and earthquakes;
grant us the spiritual knowledge to 
learn the parable of the fig tree:  that
we have to be rooted in you, O God,
through Christ so that even while in
the midst of a destructive world, we
may get to know you more and be 
aware of your coming.
Like the Prophet Daniel in the first
reading, we may not even know at all
how the Son of Man - Jesus - would look like
when he comes amid the clouds;
give us the grace to know Jesus 
personally so that we may live in
communion with him to have 
the eyes to see and the ears to hear 
his Second Coming in 
every here and now, following
him in the path he had shown us
as truly our King and Savior. 
Remove our blindness of pride
and many excuses in seeing the
signs of your coming expressed 
in the parable of the fig tree; let
us rest in that complete trust in you,
dearest God, that whatever happens
in this world, you are always in control
and would always have the last say in
Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Deus Semper Major

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Clement, Pope and Martyr, 23 November 2021
Daniel 2:31-45,   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Luke 21:5-11
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.
Glory and praise to you,
our loving and almighty
God and Father!
Your power and might,
majesty and grandeur are
all around us, even deep 
within each one of us and yet,
still many deny your presence, 
deny your existence.
Enter our consciousness, Lord,
enter our dreams like with 
King Nebuchadnezzar to remind us
nothing remains here on earth, 
that you are always greater, O God,
"semper major"!

In the lifetime of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end t0 them, and it shall stand forever.

Daniel 2:44
Even your Son Jesus Christ
reminded us through the apostles
how everything would crumble and 
fall, including your Temple at 
Jerusalem, putting an end to everything 
until he comes again to bring upon us
new heaven and new earth.
And so, grant us, Lord,
perseverance and fidelity
to remain humble before you
like St. Clement who bore all sufferings
during the persecution but remained
faithful to you, calling on the early Church
he led as Pope at that time to remain 
one in you, our only Rock foundation
in faith, hope and love.  Amen.

The best of the very best

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr, 22 November 2021
Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20  ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>  Luke 21:1-4
Photo from http://www.reddit.com.
Very often in life, we rarely
think of you dear God our Father
when we try to consider the best
we could ever have; if ever we
remember you, you always come
last because we always want 
the finest and most premium as
something tangible, something we
can hold and even possess.
On this final stretch of our 
liturgical calendar before we move
to our "new year" with the First Sunday
of Advent, your words remind us 
very well how we continue that practice
of searching and possessing the best -
food, clothes, vessels, gadgets, 
even minds and talents or persons
like King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon,
the conqueror of Judah who ransacked 
your Temple of its precious vessels and 
threw your people into exile.
When he asked for the brightest and 
best men of Judah be separated to serve
at his court, he gave them the best food
and wine to ensure that they function well
when summoned; how amazing were your
servants led by Daniel who refused to eat
the king's food and wine in your honor; 
despite their simple meals of vegetables 
and water, Daniel and his company emerged 
as the best young men in the king's court.

In any question of wisdom or prudence which the king put to them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom.

Daniel 1:20
Meanwhile at the donation box
of the temple, your Son Jesus
found the widow who gave two
small coins as the best donor
of all because she gave her very self
to God unlike the rich who gave only
a portion of what they no longer needed.
Teach us, dear God, that you are
the very best of the best we can ever
have and offer in this life;
may we aspire to have you more -
your love and kindness,
your mercy and justice,
your wisdom and understanding,
your very life and presence
so that we may also learn to give
our total self to you.
Like St. Cecilia, may we sing
your song, O God in our hearts,
giving our very selves to your
loving service for others.  Amen.

Jesus, truly our King

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus, King of the Universe, 21 November 2021
Daniel 7:13-14 ><]]]]'> Revelation 1:5-8 ><]]]]'> John 18:33-37
Photo by GMA-7’s Mr. Raffy Tima, 07 November 2021.

We now come to the final Sunday of our liturgical calendar, leading us to our “new year” next Sunday with the Season of Advent. See how we in the Church begin and end every liturgical year: in the four Sundays of Advent we prepare the coming of Jesus the “King of kings” and now we close the year with the Solemnity of Christ the King.

But despite this emphasis of our celebrations on the kingship of Jesus, many people still refuse to recognize him as King while more others are not clear yet of his kind of kingship. Until now, the same scene of Jesus being tried by Pilate continues to happen when we put Christ on trial, questioning him if he were truly a king.

Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world…”

John 18:33-36
“Ecce Homo” painting by Murillo from commons.wikimedia.org.

So many times in life, we keep asking God with many questions but we cannot take his answers. Instead of being contented with what he tells us, we even feel slighted when it is God who wishes to clarify our questions.

Jesus asked Pilate whether his question was really his own or due to others’ perception because to recognize Jesus as King is ultimately to recognize his very person as the Son of God, true God and true man who became like us so we may become like him.

Every Sunday this year, Mark (and John for six weeks) step by step presented to us like an unfolding the identity of Jesus who “spoke with authority” unlike the scribes and priests of his time, mighty in power and in deeds who could command the sea and the winds, heal the sick and bring back to life the dead. This Sunday, all questions by the disciples and the people “who is this man” are answered with finality by Jesus himself.

Photo by author, Chapel of St. John at Cana, Galilee, 2019.

Evidently in our readings and in our own lives, we have experienced Jesus always in control, truly a king in total command especially in hopeless situations like when there was a great crowd with just a handful of bread or when they were caught in a violent storm in the middle of the sea.

Like the Prophet Daniel and the beloved disciple John in the first two readings, we need to have their conviction in God’s very person first.

Daniel lived at the time of severe trials when King Antiochus of Greece invaded Israel, desecrated the Temple of Jerusalem, and killed so many Jews who refused to worship idols and eat pork. It was the topic last week’s daily first readings from the Book of Maccabees.

Despite those very difficult times, Daniel saw in his vision his very conviction of the coming of God’s Messiah called “Son of man” – the title Jesus adopted top himself – who would deliver Israel from their enemies with his “everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed” (Dn. 7:14).

In a similar way, John expressed his conviction and faith in God through Jesus Christ in his vision of the Lord’s “coming amid the clouds…even those who pierced him”, calling him “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who and who was and who is to come, the almighty” (Rev.1:7, 8).

In both visions by the prophets who not only saw and spoke the words of God but most of all, lived out his very words that they made God’s will happened, there is no doubt of the kingship of Jesus Christ as the God of history, its origin and final destination. Both Daniel and John were convinced of the very person of God, of the One who has the final say in this life through Jesus Christ and whose powers reign supreme from the past to the present and into the future.

And so, never lose hope in life and its various aspects, from the simplest to the most complex. There is nothing that God cannot prevail upon for he got us all in his hands. Most of all, Jesus had triumphed over death and sin. Let us have that faith and conviction in him.

But there is still something deeper in that trial of Jesus by Pilate we also repeat in our own time: it reveals not only the tensions about the spiritual and material realms, of the kingdom of God and of the kingdom of men but also of our own self-identity.

So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

John 18:37
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

At the crux of the trial of Jesus – then and now – is man’s usurpation of power as “king” of the world, as captain of his ship and master of his fate, of his obsession to break free from God, crowning himself as the king of the world. It is a question that boils down to issues with our own identity.

Notice the “irritation” of Pilate with the question of Jesus, trying to separate and distance himself from Jesus, as if he was different, not one of them but immediately in the course of their conversation, Pilate himself would conclude that “then, you are a king” – a self indictment to himself that also answered his question to Jesus!

Here is the irony, the twist in our pursuit to assert our very selves as the one in charge in life, in this world like Pilate when we fall into our own traps against God. The more we run away from him, the more we separate ourselves from him and refuse to do anything with him, eventually we swallow our own pride before God, confessing that indeed, he is the Boss, the one in charge.

And that is the truth, something inherent in us, something we cannot shrug off and deny.

Jesus is our King because he has made us into his kingdom, the very reason he was born and came into the world, to testify to this truth.

Truth in the bible means the path to follow. And that is who Jesus is, the way because he is the truth and the life (Jn.4:16). Without him, we are nothing. And the path he shows us is the path of the Cross which he had repeatedly explained to us these last two months.

“Losing one’s head/self in prayer”, photo by GMA7 News Ms. JJ Jimeno, 2019.

In this Solemnity of Christ the King, Jesus reminds us of this basic truth we always evade, of how he invites us to elevate or “level up” our lives and existence in him through the Cross. The sooner we accept and embrace his Cross, the sooner we experience his kingship and great power over our lives.

The main stumbling block why people cannot accept or are confused that Jesus Christ is our King is our refusal to accept or denial of the path of the Cross of Jesus. Power in the world is always equated with force and prestige, in the ability to dominate and subdue others.

How amazing, how wonderful to see our almighty and powerful King took the path of powerlessness to show us his immense power. Let it be a reminder to each one of us to imitate and follow that path. Most of all, to never lose hope especially at this time when so many fake kings and wannabe kings abound, making all promises without having proven anything at all and worst, lacking the moral integrity to lead.

It is now in our very hands, if we are truly the followers of Christ the King that “we make his kingdom come and his will be done here on earth like in heaven” by taking the decisive steps to witness his Cross and sufferings by standing and abiding by his very truth. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

From inquirer.net,20 August 2021.

We are God’s temple

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 November 2021
1 Maccabees 4:3-37, 52-59   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 19:45-48
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, November 2020.
Today you remind us, dear God
our Father, of the need to keep our
house of worship always in order, 
clean and sacred; like Judas and
his brothers who rededicated and purified
your Temple in Jerusalem after driving
away the pagans, may we also keep
in mind that your house of worship is
always indicative of the kind of relationship 
and faith we have in you.
While it is very true you dwell in us
your people, O God, for we are indeed
your temple, we cannot discount the fact
that the way our church buildings and facilities 
look like show the kind of people we are, 
of how much care and respect we have for you 
and for one another; buildings and material
structures of any church and house of worship
always reflect the spirituality or lack of it 
of the pastors who minister and the
people who celebrate and worship there.
It is in this manner we become truly
your very temple! 
Cleanse our hearts in Jesus Christ,
may he dwell in our hearts and reign
over us so that we the people, the 
body of believers become your true
temple dear God, no matter what others
may say for or against us like the chief
priests, scribes and leaders of the 
people during the time of Jesus.
Amen.

In praise of women

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Religious, 17 November 2021
2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 19:11-28
Photo by the author, 2019.
God our loving Father,
today I offer this prayer and 
praise to all the women of 
the world - to all mothers who
brought us to life and nurtured
us in your love and kindness, for
all women who make life go on
and prosper, even easier and 
comfortable for us all, for women
who toil and labor everywhere but
always abused or disadvantaged,
misunderstood and mistreated, 
worst, forgotten and neglected.
Like the mother of those seven sons
in our first reading today, I pray for all
women, praising and thanking them for
their "womanly heart with manly courage".

It happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king, to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother, who saw her seven sons perish in a single day, yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord. Filled with noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage, she exhorted each of them in the language of their ancestors with these words: “I do not know how you came into existence in my womb; it was not I who gave you the breath of life, nor was it I who set in order the elements of which of you is composed. Therefore, since it is the Creator of the universe who shapes each man’s beginning, as he brings about the origin of everything, he, in his mercy, will give you back both breath and life, because you now disregard yourselves for the sake of his law.”

2 Maccabees 7:1,20-23
What is a "womanly heart", Lord?
Like you when you presented yourself
like a mother in Isaiah 49:15 who cannot
ever forget her child, we thank you for the
gift of fidelity and faith of every woman 
specially your many noble causes, first of
which are love and life; I pray for all women,
single and married, for deeper faith amid the 
heavy burdens they have to carry on their 
shoulders both at home and at work; not
to forget too are the women who taught us
to pray, those who made us experience 
your reality as God with their patience, 
understanding, and forgiveness.
What is "manly courage", Lord?
Like your Son Jesus Christ who had
come to the world to save us and make
you known to us, it is most wonderful
how the Blessed Mother Mary's heart 
was pierced with sword when full of courage,
she stood by him at the Cross. 
I pray, dear God, for so many women today
into so many fights, sometimes left alone
by themselves with just faith and courage 
in their hearts that someday your truth
and justice would prevail.  In a most special
way, I pray for all women battling cancer and 
other sickness these days:  grant them healing
in body, mind, heart, and soul.
Most of all, dearest God, I pray for 
all women in their senior years:  grant
them grace and serenity in facing eternity,
fill their hearts with joy and gratitude for
lives well spent in you, specially those like
the servants in the gospel who have invested
and made their "talents" grow in loving service
to you.  
And lastly but not the least, I pray for 
all the women who have gone ahead of us, 
our beloved ones.  Grant them eternal rest in you,
O Lord, and may your perpetual light shine
upon them always.  Amen.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary, pray for us!

Living in the presence of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr, 12 November 2021
Wisdom 13:1-9   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Luke 17:26-37
Photo by author, Taiwan, 2019.
God our Father,
help us distinguish the
difference between finding
you in everything and making
anything as you, an object
of worship, an idolatry.
Fill us with your wisdom 
to see you among the beauty 
of nature, on each every person
we meet but at the same time
be wise to never stop at them
that we forget you totally.

For they search busily among his works, but are distracted by what they see, because the things seen are fair. But again, not even these are pardonable. For if they so far succeeded in knowledge that they could speculate about the world, how did they not more quickly find its Lord?

Wisdom 13:7-9
It happens often with us,
Lord, when we get so caught up
with nature or people or with
our very selves that we miss
You as the very source and
subject of our wonder! Open
our eyes and minds and hearts
to see you more.
Do not let it happen again
like what the people did with
St. Josaphat that they were so 
blinded by their culture and faith,
by their convictions and failed to see
you speaking and working through
him, leading to his murder just like
Jesus Christ your Son; while it is true
the we live in a world where everything
is touched by you, let us not miss YOU
like in those days of Noah when the flood
came and destroyed the people who 
have become so complacent with your
presence.  Amen.

Life is more than #POV

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXXII-B in Ordinary Time, 07 November 2021
1 Kings 17:10-16 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 9:24-28 ><]]]]'> Mark 12:38-44
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Perspectives and points of view play important roles in our lives, affecting our judgements and conduct; however, we also know by experience that perspectives and points of view are not enough, cannot be entirely reliable that lead us into stereotyping of people.

I just learned recently from the teenaged daughters of a friend that the #POV for “point of view” may be used in two ways: first, to express “this is my personal point of view” to which everyone is entitled that should not be contradicted because “it is how I see things”; the second is to present a “first person point of view”, that is, through the eyes of the one who uploads a video to show exactly how things are like the first steps of a baby.

This Sunday, Jesus is challenging our perspectives, our #POV on wealth and poverty, sharing and grandstanding, on our selves before God and other people.

Since last month we have seen how Jesus refused to get into debates with people on persistent issues humans have always been discussing like divorce (Oct.3), power and positions (Oct. 17), and the most important laws to follow (Oct. 31) because Jesus came to reveal to us the will of the Father so we may level up in our perceptions about self, others, and life itself.

Jesus was still in the temple area; he had silenced his enemies from asking him further with other questions to test him. After going on the offensive attacking the scribes’ hypocrisies, Jesus sat to observe the people dropped their donations into the temple treasury.

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Mark 12:41-44
Photo by author, Jerusalem, 2017.

A Tale of Two Widows

Before going into that story of the widow praised by Jesus, let us consider first the story of another widow mentioned earlier in our first reading, the widow of Zarephath, a region governed by Queen Jezebel’s father. Queen Jezebel was the pagan wife of Israel’s King Ahab who had ordered troops to kill Elijah after putting to shame the priests of her pagan god “baal”.

After 40 days of hiding in the mountain fed by birds with a stream providing him fresh water, God instructed Elijah to proceed to Zarephath to meet the widow who would take care of him during the drought that would come as a punishment to Israel.

More than the miracle of living through the year of drought that hit the region at that time, it is a marvelous story of the faith of both Elijah and the pagan widow. We can understand the deep faith and total obedience of Elijah to God who had told him everything that would happen while hiding in enemy territory.

Things were greatly different with the widow of Zarephath who was first of all a pagan, in fact, a worshipper of the false god baal Elijah had openly bashed in every occasion everywhere. Her faith is so admirable that she risked her own life including her son in welcoming into her home an enemy of their king. Most of all, she put her complete faith in the words of God spoken through Elijah whom she hardly knew.

She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

1 Kings 17:15-16

In a very similar manner, it was the very nature of faith of the simple and poor widow at the temple treasury that earned praises from Jesus. Keep in mind that money was meant for the upkeep of the Temple, not for the poor; therefore, the very act of donating money into the treasury was in fact an act of faith by the poor widow on God. She was convinced that her offering goes directly to God himself!

It is in this aspect that we must see the whole point of the story which is not about big money and small coins but our personal attitude and faith in giving that is ultimately linked with God. Every amount we offer to church and charities indicates the kind of relationship we have with God.

Jesus had nothing against giving “large sums” of money to the temple collection box; it was not the amount of donation he was raising issue with as he contrasted how the rich “have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

It is always easy to honor God – even self – with one’s huge donations while still relying on our false securities of money and wealth unlike the poor widow who offered her very self to God. In a sense, Jesus had seen in the poor widow’s offering his coming total gift of self on the Cross soon to happen at Jerusalem!

The beauty of both women, widow and poor having lived in totally different times – one in Zarephath, a pagan and another in Jerusalem, so pious and religious – is in their total entrusting of themselves to God, forgetting their very selves in the process, unmindful of the dangers and uncertainties ahead in life except that firm faith in a loving and merciful God.

From Facebook, 24 March 2020.

Our many concerns in life

I was recently interviewed for a special program that focuses on our lives as priests. At the end of the interview, I was asked by the hosts: “what legacy do I wish to leave after my term of office in my present assignment”? It was not really a difficult question at all but I was surprised because that such was the frame of mind of my interviewers. Their perspective and POV, so to speak.

After a few seconds, I politely told them that I no longer think such things as legacies to leave behind even in this life, explaining that priesthood is a journey wherein we come and leave to different assignments and tasks with just one purpose which is to make Jesus Christ known and experienced by the people we serve. After every assignment, I tell people to forget me and that is why I never come to visit my previous assignments. For me, it is only Jesus, always Jesus whom people must remember and keep. No one else, nothing else.

That I think is discipleship: a shift in our perspectives and points of view into God’s very own perspectives and POV wherein we present ourselves before God and not before humans.

Discipleship in Christ does not mean doing great things nor achieving heroic feats in life; God knows our limits, our weaknesses. We are all small and poor before him like those two widows in Zarephath and Jerusalem; but, if we can be like them completely trusting and faithful to God, giving our very selves to him, then, the little amount we offer can eventually accomplish the love and mercy God expects from us.

See the many concerns we have in life. The more we address them, the less we actually have in life like those abusive scribes Jesus mentioned: they have everything like status and fame, clothes and money but have lost God and the people while the poor may have nothing material but have everything in Jesus Christ.

That is what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews is telling us in the second reading: in the Priesthood of Christ, he had accomplished everything for us by offering himself on the Cross, forgiving us our sins to lead us to eternal life. Like Jesus, are we willing to give our very selves to him through others so we may gain him and everything?

What have you offered lately to God?

A blessed new week ahead! Amen.

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The only debt that is good – love!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious, 03 November 2021
Romans 13:8-10   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Luke 14:25-33
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Your words from St. Paul today
are so sweet, O God our Father:
"Brothers and sisters:  Owe nothing 
to anyone except to love one another; 
for the one who loves another has
fulfilled the law" (Romans 13:8).
That sounds so heavenly music to me,
Lord!  In the world where we spend
so much time and money paying off
our debts, here is something that is so
good that we would never be able to
write off - the debt of love - because
the more we love, the more we are
indebted, the more we love it!
But it is not the kind of love that
the world knows which is not love
at all, a love that is just a feeling,
a self-serving desire with so many
attachments to self, things and others
that create a false sense of sufficiency
that we think the world owes us without
realizing we owe nothing to anyone 
except to love one another.

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:25-27
Teach us to be simple and humble
like St Martin de Porres of Peru
whose feast we celebrate today;
enable us to imitate him in living
out the gospel of Jesus daily,
forgetting his very self to follow
his Lord and Master on the Cross
by sharing whatever he has 
not only to everyone but 
even to animals and pests
that he became known as 
"Martin the charitable"!
Amen.
St. Martin de Porres,
Pray for us!