Praying to fulfill Christ’s prayer for us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday After Pentecost, Feast of Jesus Christ, Our Eternal Priest, 09 June 2022
Hebrews 2:10-18   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   John 17:1-2, 9, 14-26
Photo by author, Garden of Gethsemane, Israel, May 2017.
O dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
our Eternal Priest and Savior,
thank you so much for praying 
for us your disciples, 
thank you for consecrating us
to the Father in truth, most of all,
thank you for praying for our
protection against the evil one
(John 17:14-19).
How lovely it is that you, 
O Lord, personally prayed for us!
It is so touching, so humbling.
But most blessed of all, 
dear Jesus, is how you have
fulfilled yourself your prayer
said at the Last Supper right
away the following day on the Cross.

Therefore, he had to become like his brothers in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people. Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested.

Hebrews 2:17-18
Forgive us, Jesus
when we especially your ordained
priests live so detached from you,
when we have forgotten your priesthood
is for others, not for us; when we think
more of our comfort and well-being,
enslaved by the lures of the world,
from flesh to the latest gadgets and 
even way of life.
Forgive us, Jesus
when we especially your ordained
priests forget the very essence of
your victimhood as Priest, 
offering your very self, flesh and blood,
to nourish the people when we escape
and deny all kinds of pains and sufferings,
or the Cross itself.
Continue to pray for us, 
Lord Jesus Christ, 
our Eternal Priest that like you,
we your disciples especially us
your ordained priests may 
imitate you, live like you,
suffer like you so that we may rise
to new life like you.
Pray that we may fulfill your prayers
for us in words and in deeds.
Amen.
Photo from gettyimages.com.

When the well runs dry

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, 07 June 2022
1 Kings 17:7-16   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 5:13-16
Photo by author at St. Catherine Monastery, Mt. Sinai, Egypt, May 2019.
As we resume the Ordinary Time
in our Church calendar, your words
today, O God, speak so much of our
similar situation in life:  another round of
increases in petroleum prices is not 
only making life insane for car owners
but so difficult most especially for
the poor!  Is there really a way, O Lord,
you can make their oil wells run dry 
suddenly to make them realize their 
insensitivities to other peoples?
Many of us could not complain at all
because life has always been hard and
difficult ever since; to complain and whine
of the economic crunch hurting us are useless
and a waste of energies; all we have is you,
God our Father!
We only have you as our hope and
salvation and consolation in hard times
like these like your prophet Elijah.

The brook near where Elijah was hiding ran dry, because no rain has fallen in the land. So the Lord said to Elijah: “Move on to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have designated a widow there to provide for you.”

1 Kings 17:7-9
When things get worst
and seem to turn against us,
make us realize always that you are
simply asking us to trust you more
because a new chapter in our faith journey
in you and with you is about to unfold.
Never let us entertain thoughts you
have forgotten us or worst, had withdrawn
support from us.  That never happens with you,
Father, because you love us so much!
Give us the grace through your Son
Jesus that we keep our taste as salt,
giving flavor and meaning in you
even in our most bland situation in life;
keep our light shining in Christ
amid the many darkness and gloom
of our time to give others even a glimmer
of hope and meaning in life.  Amen.

Pagpapala sa paglisan

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-01 ng Hunyo 2022
Larawan kuha ng may akda sa Bolinao, Pangasinan, ika-19 ng Abril 2022.

Mahigit isang linggo ko nang pinagbubulay-bulay ang pananatili at paglisan hanggang sa aking mapakinggan kahapon sa libing ng kaibigan itong magandang awit ni Bb. Cookie Chua dalawang dekada na siguro ang nakalipas.

"Kung ang buhay ay isang umagang nakangiti
At ikaw ay ang lupang sinusuyo ng bituin
Di mo man silip ang langit
Di mo man silip, ito'y nandirito pa rin

Kung ang lahat ay may katapusan
Itong paglalakbay ay makakarating din sa paroroonan
At sa iyong paglisan, ang tanging pabaon ko
Ay pag-ibig"

Noong nakaraan, ang tanong ko lang naman ay kailan tayo dapat manatili at kailan tayo dapat umalis o lumisan?

Dahil sa awit na aking napakinggan dala ng pagpanaw ng kaibigan, napalawig ang aking pagninilay ng panibagong katanungan: sa bawat paglisan, sino nga ba ang may higit na pag-ibig, ang umaalis o ang naiiwan?

Hayaan ninyo munang aking sagutin unang tanong, kailan ba tayo dapat umalis at kailan dapat manatili?

Larawan kuha ni G. Chester Ocampo sa Japan, 2017.

Napagnilayan ko ito noong nakaraang Martes nang ang mga pagbasa sa Misa ay tungkol sa pagkakulong nina San Pablo at Silas sa Filipos nang biglang mayanig ng malakas na lindol ang naturang lungsod (https://lordmychef.com/2022/05/24/prayer-to-know-when-to-stay-and-when-to-go/). Magpapakamatay na sana ang kanilang bantay sa pag-aakalang tumakas sina San Pablo at Silas nang pigilan siya mismo ni San Pablo na naroon pa rin sa kanilang selda (Gawa 16:22-34).

Hindi ba madalas kapag tayo ay nasa mahirap na sitwasyon, napakadaling pumasok sa isip natin ang basta mawala na lamang at makaalis, gaya ng pagbibitiw sa trabaho o panginibang bansa marahil?

Iyon nga nakapagtataka kina San Pablo at Silas! Bakit hindi pa sila tumakas na lamang pagkaraan ng lindol na sumira sa kanilang kulungan?

Sa kabilang dako naman, doon sa Mabuting Balita ng araw na iyon, si Hesus ay panay ang paalam ng kanyang paglisan sa kanyang mga alagad noong kanilang Huling Hapunan. Sinabi pa niya na ang pag-alis niya ay sa ikabubuti ng mga alagad niya dahil sa pagdating ng Espiritu Santo na susuguin niya (Jn.16:7).

Dalawang magkaibang sitwasyon, kailan nagiging mabuti at tama, ang manatili at umalis?

Mga sagot:

Una, sa manatili man o lumisan, pinakamainam palagi ay sundin banal na kalooban ng Diyos. Parehong mabuti ang manatili at lumisan ngunit nagkakaroon lamang ito ng kabuluhan o katuturan kung makikita batay sa kalooban at plano ng Diyos para sa atin.

Larawan kuha ni G. Chester Ocampo sa Japan, 2017.

Bakit nga ba hindi pa tumakas sina San Pablo at Silas nang mawasak ng lindol kanilang piitan habang nasa Filipos noon? Maliwanag nating makikita dito ang plano at misyon ng Diyos sa kanila upang masagip at mabinyagan bilang Kristiyano ang kanilang bantay sampu ng kanyang pamilya at angkan! Kung tumakas sina San Pablo at Silas, marahil ay nagpakamatay na nga kanilang bantay at hindi naging Kristiyano. Sayang!

Dito ipinakikita sa atin kahalagahan ng pananalangin upang maging maliwanag kung nasaan ang ating misyon sa buhay. Kung ika’y mananatili ngunit ibig ng Diyos ika’y lumayo tulad ni Abraham, kailanaman ay hindi ka mapapanatag sa buhay. Gayun din naman, kung ikaw naman ay magpipilit na umalis at lumipat dahil sa maraming magandang alok at pagkakataon ngunit hindi naman iyon ang layon sa iyo ng Panginoon, baka ikaw ay mabigo lamang sa iyong pupuntahan.

Minsan nais ko na liwanagin paborito nating salawikain na “Nasa Diyos ang awa, nasa tao ang gawa” kasi madalas, nauuna ang gawa ng tao at kapag nagkaproblema na, saka hihingi ng awa sa Diyos. Totoong nasa Diyos ang awa at nasa tao ang gawa kung bago tayo gumawa ay humingi muna tayo sa Diyos ng awa, liwanagin sa kanya ano ba ang dapat nating gawain? Hindi iyong kapag palpak na at marami nang sabit saka lalapit sa Panginoon.


Pangalawa, sa pagpapasya natin sa pananatili o paglisan batay sa pananalangin, isang bagay makikita natin palagi nangingibabaw sa Diyos ay kapakanan ng iba hindi ng sarili dahil tiyak palagi niya tayong pangangalagaan at hindi pababayaan.

Kaya, huwag matakot na manatili o lumisan, pangalawa sa Maykapal na ating batayan ng desisyon ay kapakanan ng iba, hindi ng sarili.

Batid ito ng maraming OFW at mga magulang na nangibang bansa. Mahirap at masakit ang lumisan ng bayan, iwanan mga mahal sa buhay at mahirap din naman ang maiwanan at mahiwalay sa kabiyak at magulang. Ngunit, kanilang tinitiis ang lahat para sa isa’t-isa, para sa minamahal at hindi para sa sarili.

Larawan kuha ni G. Chester Ocampo sa Japan, 2017.

Ganoon ang Diyos parati: hinihiram tayo para sa kapakanan ng iba. Ito yung katotohanan ng sinabi mismo ni Hesus na “Walang pag-ibig na hihigit pa sa pag-ibig ng isang taong nag-aalay ng kanyang buhay para sa kanyang mga kaibigan” (Jn.15:13).

Yung nanatili at lumilisan, kapwa nagmamahal at nagmamalasakit, nagiging mabunga ang buhay at pagkatao kung ang pasya ay batay sa kalooban ng Diyos.


Pangatlo, makikita natin na kapag tumpak ang proseso ng pagpapasya natin kung tayo ba ay mananatili o aalis, naroon din palagi paglago ng ating pagkatao at ng mga maiiwan natin. Sa pananatili at paglisan, higit na mahalaga ang pamumunga o “fruitfulness” at di lamang success.

May mga tao na matagumpay, successful wika nga dahil nanatili at nagtiyaga o kaya’y lumayo at nasapalaran sa ibang lugar ngunit hindi naman ganap sa buhay at tila baga mayroong kulang pa sa kanila. Kasi nga, wala namang naging lalim sa kanilang katauhan kanilang mga ginawa sa pananatili man o sa paglisan. Marahil ay sa kabila ng kayaman at katanyagan, wala silang natagpuan kahulugan sa buhay. Palaging mayroong kulang. Tulad ng Diyos na siya lamang ating kaganapan sa buhay.

Larawan kuha ng may akda sa Bolinao, Pangasinan, ika-20 ng Abril 2022.

Maituturing din ito bilang pagmamature o pagkakaroon ng gulang. May mga pagkakataon lalo na sa mga nakababata na kapag naiwanan at hinayaang mamahala sa kanilang sariling buhay, sila’y nagma-mature; gayun din naman kapag sila ay lumuwas ng lungsod upang mag-aral at manirahan ng sarili sa mga dorm, sila man ay nagma-mature.

Alalaong-baga, sa ating pananatili o paglisan, lagi ding dapat isaalang-alang paglago sa katauhan ng nanatili at lumilisan.

Kapwa puno ng biyaya at pagpapala ang pananatili at paglisan kung ito ay ating mapagpapasyahan ng mahusay at hindi ng padaskol-daskol lamang. Ito higit nating mapagtatanto kung ang usapin ng paglisan ay hindi lamang pansamantala at hindi ibang lunan na maaring marating.

Naiiba at lalong lumalalim ang kahulugan ng pananatili at paglisan kung ito ay sa larangan ng pangmagpakailanman, kapag ang paglisan ay kamatayan.

Iyan ang ating pagninilayang susunod upang sagutin ating pangalawang tanong, sa bawat paglisan, sino nga ba ang may higit na pag-ibig, ang umaalis o naiiwan?

Pansamantala, ay halina at pakinggan, sabayan kung mas mainam, itong awiting Paglisan at baka kayo man ay mayroong ibang mapagnilayan. Hanggang sa muli.

*Wala po kaming hangad na lumabag sa karapatang-pangsipi o copyrights ng may-ari ng awit at video na ito maliban sa namnamin kagandahan ng nitong musika.

Mula sa YouTube.com.

When God visits us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 31 May 2022
Zephaniah 3:14-18     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, 2021.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father,
in coming to visit us daily
in your Son Jesus Christ
our Lord!
Thank you for always believing
in us, for who are we worthy to be
visited by you and be given with 
importance?  And that is who we
are, beloved and blessed because
you chose to love us, to believe in
us, and trust us.
Keep us humble like Mary
in Jesus our Lord, that we are
your mere carriers, that whatever
greatness and attributes we have
are all a grace from you; keep us aware
of our nothingness before you.
Let us not be misled by the
ways of the world based on 
value systems of popularity,
personal excellence and superiority;
so many times it happens that
we are merely Christians in
a sleepwalking existence, 
thinking and believing we 
believe and follow you when actually,
we are just dreaming, 
we are just imagining
for we are so far from reality.
Wake us up, Jesus,
from our sleep,
wake us up to the 
realities of life that 
we need to work hard like
Mary walking from afar,
daring to sacrifice everything
so your coming and presence
in the world be felt especially
by those who badly need your 
care and healing, your love and mercy.
Forgive us, O Lord, 
for not believing in you
that you love us, that you
have a plan for us, something
beautiful if we would only believe
like Mary that your words will
be fulfilled.
May we always welcome your
coming, your daily visits to us
like Elizabeth, always open to
receive you and listen to your 
words, and to be blessed.
Amen.
Photo by author, 2021.

Tasting and seeing God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor, 29 April 2022
Acts 5:34-42   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 6:1-15
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.
On this feast of the first
woman doctor of the Church,
St. Catherine of Siena,
let me borrow her beautiful words
as my prayer to you, 
O God our loving Father:

Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you.

From the Office of Readings, “On Divine Providence” by St. Catherine of Siena
Very often you send us
men and women you use to change
the course of history with their 
practicality and spirituality like
Gamaliel the Pharisee - through him,
the Apostles were finally set free
to go with their mission after
convincing the Sanhedrin that 
"if this endeavor or this activity 
is of human origin, it will destroy
itself.  But if it comes from God,
you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting
against God" (Acts 5:38-39).
You are indeed a mystery as deep 
as the sea using even enemies to
work in our favor so that the more 
I search you, the more I find you, 
and the more I find you, the more 
I search you as you slowly reveal
yourself in every unfolding of your works;
if others would only allow your grace 
for them to desire you, dear God, 
then they would realize this wondrous
gift and joy of living in you in Christ.

I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you.

From the Office of Readings, “On Divine Providence” by St. Catherine of Siena
In your Son Jesus Christ's most
precious gift of his presence in the
Holy Eucharist, like the people at the
wilderness with him, we have felt 
how you work in our midst, most of 
all how we must cooperate with Jesus
to accomplish your work.
Despite her being illiterate and lack of
so much worldly credentials, 
St. Catherine eventually succeeded in 
bringing back the Papacy to Rome
even long after her death while her
writings and reflections have 
become a treasury of testament
to how you work among us despite
our many limitations.  May we have
the courage to allow you to do your
work in us, in Christ.  Amen.

Easter is making our lives whole again in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Easter, 28 April 2022
Acts 5:27-33   ><))))*> + <*((((><   John 3:31-36
Photo by author, 20 April 2022.
Lord Jesus Christ,
in this season of Easter,
help me make my fragmented
life whole again in you.
So many times, I feel like 
the many members of the
Sanhedrin in the first reading
today demanding so many things
from myself that I fail to obey God;
grant me the courage like of Peter
and the Apostles who boldly declared,
"We must obey God rather than men"
(Acts 5:29). 
Like Nicodemus in the gospel,
I am still afraid to come to you
in broad daylight, still hiding in the
night because I am afraid of what
people would say and tell about me
in being faithful to you, in being one
with you.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.

John 3:36
To believe in you, dear Jesus,
is to enter into a relationship with
you at the center; to believe in you
is to live and abide in you, Lord.
And that is why our lives are fragmented:
we are so divided and broken because
we follow the world, not you; we are
easily tempted and enticed to the 
many lures of pleasures the world
offers that only leave us more empty,
and more lost.
This season of Easter,
help me go back to you, Lord,
in prayers and silence;
let me focus on you again.
Amen.

“Are we there yet?”

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 05 April 2022
Numbers 21:4-9   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   John 8:21-30
Photo by author, Memorial of the Bronze Serpent on Mt. Nebo, Jordan, 2019.

From Mount Hor the children of Israel set out on the Red Sea road, to bypass the land of Edom. But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”

Numbers 21:4-5
O God our Father,
I must admit like the Israelites,
I feel impatient, I feel so tired
already in this five weeks of Lent;
like a child with all sarcasm and
insults, I feel like asking "are we
there yet?"
Help me O God in this long journey
of Lent, of life itself, especially during 
these two years of the pandemic;
many among us have been worn out
of staying home, of being told to quarantine,
of having those vaccines, of those sitting 
all day before the computer screen for
our on line classes and work from home.
Forgive us, O God, when we get impatient
in the journey of life, when we rationalize
everything like the Pharisees when Jesus 
told them, "I am going away and you will
look for me... where I am going you cannot 
come" (John 8:21); forgive us, dear God, 
when we can't wait for our own "hour", 
in rushing everything that we miss Christ
passing by in this journey of life as
our companion.
Open our minds and our hearts,
our eyes and our arms to believe in
Jesus your Son who had come to
lead us back to you, our true home,
our "Promised Land"; remind us that
you O Lord is not a concept to be
understood but a Person - the I AM
WHO AM - to be accepted and loved.
Amen.

The Annunciation: the reality of God, the reality of our humanity

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, 25 March 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10 ><}}}*> Hebrews 10:4-10 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by author, chapel beneath the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel, May 2019.

Beneath the huge and magnificent Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is a beautiful chapel where one may find a small cave converted into another little chapel with iron grills to keep off people from approaching the brightly lit altar believed to be the site where the Archangel Gabriel announced the good news of Christ’s birth to Mary.

At the base of the altar are the words, Verbum caro hic factum est, “The Word was made flesh here.”

Borrowed from John’s gospel who declared Verbum caro factum est – The Word was made flesh – the one who have thought of adding the demonstrative pronoun here to declare it as the site of the Annunciation – Verbum caro hic factum est – was definitely divinely inspired to remind us that the reality of God is something deeply ingrained in our own realities of here and now, in our very selves.

Photo by author, site of the Annunciation, May 2019.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”

Luke 1:26-28

Only Luke has this account of the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary. And true to his prologue to his gospel of “investigating everything accurately anew” about the life and teachings of Jesus, Luke tells us how the Annunciation happened with all the details like the five w’s in a news report, the who-what-where-when-why as we have heard proclaimed today.

This is very important because it tells us the factuality of the great spiritual reality that changed world history and the whole humanity when God became human, when eternity entered the temporal.

It is a beautiful presentation of this great event so profound and so touching that continues to happen within each one of us every day of our lives, of God coming to us, filling us with his grace because each of us is a beloved, a highly favored one chosen to be the indwelling of his Son, Jesus Christ like Mary.

This is the grace of this solemnity we celebrate nine months before Christmas, that God comes to us in our very humanity, always inviting us like Mary to receive Jesus, to be the vessel and instrument in fulfilling God’s great plans. We are like Mary in everything except in her being immaculately conceived – we are all poor and lowly, mostly a nobody in the society, but so loved by God!

Photo by author, flowers outside the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth 2019.

God comes to us precisely where we are, in our every here and now even when we are most lowly and down, when we are deep in sin and despair, in trials and sufferings, in pains and in hurts because like Mary, even before the angel came, God had already silently started working on many things to save us.

There is always God’s perfect timing when we would meet the right people who would guide and help us.

There is always an Elizabeth that God would point us to as a signpost and proof of his reality, of his wonderful plan starting to uncover right in our very lives if we would stop like Mary to listen further to his words.

Speaking of Elizabeth, recall in Luke’s account that the angel mentioned her to Mary to allay her of her fears upon receiving the good news of Christ’s coming.

So often when God comes to us, fear naturally follows. In the Bible, it is described as “reverential fear” which comes upon an experience of the Holy; it is a feeling of being so small before the almighty God (mysterium fascinans) yet deep in this fear is a joy within about to burst because of the great honor and privilege of being loved and recognized by God. There is that normal feeling of doubts of whether we can do God’s mission or not as well as the feeling of checking the reality if it is really happening at all! Once we have verified we are not dreaming, that indeed we are called by God despite our smallness, that is when we suddenly remember our fellow mortals doing the work of God.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God… And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:36-38
Photo by author, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, 2019.

By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:10

Last week I underwent a surgery. It was my first time to be hospitalized and to go under the knife. Though it was a very simple procedure, I was nervous. Very nervous in fact although I tried to keep my sense of humor especially with my doctors and nurses.

The experience had taught me so many valuable lessons that I am still “masticating” them, trying to find words on how to express those learnings and realizations.

One of those is the discovery of my humanity, of my mortality. I feel I have become more human with that experience when I finally accepted my body, when slowly I have learned to look closely at my body parts I took for granted even so ashamed to look at, with all the blood and abscess and wounds.

Hindi pala puwede na hindi tayo magkakasakit, na mahina tayo, at walang perpekto sa atin na hindi kakailanganin ang tulong ng iba.

As I learned to accept my mortal body, slowly it dawned upon me how it is the true path to letting go and let God with my spiritual and emotional woundedness for it is in our humanity when God’s reality is most felt, most true. It is only when we are faced with the real threat of “harm” or being hurt, of possibly being extinct and gone from this earth when we realize what is to be afraid and finally entrust our total self to God for whatever will happen next.

That is the gift of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ that formally began in the annunciation of his birth to Mary. It is in accepting our very humanity and mortality when God truly comes, when we become one in him through Jesus Christ on the Cross. Amen.

Repenting, remaining in God present in us, with us in Christ

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Lent-C, 20 March 2022
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 ><}}}*> Luke 13:1-9
Photo by author, July 2020 in Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

As I have told you at the start of this 40-day journey, Lent is like a coming home to God with Ash Wednesday until Saturday after as the porch and each Sunday a door leading us into the inner rooms closer to God.

At each door these past two Sundays, we were opened to God’s majesty and wonder, love and mercy in Jesus Christ who had come to help us triumph over many temptations in life, to be transformed and transfigured in him.

With Luke as our guide this year, he had opened to us each Sunday a very unique door to experience God’s majesty and mystery, his love and mercy offered in Jesus Christ.

This becomes most pronounced this Third and Fourth Sundays when we find his gospel stories as exclusively his alone: Christ’s call to repentance following the news of Pilate’s massacre of 18 Galileans during a temple worship and the parable of the Merciful Father more known as parable of the Prodigal Son.

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

Luke 13:1-5
Photo by author, parish Via Crucis, 11 March 2022.

Our “blaming game”

At first hearing, our gospel today sounds like a news broadcast of brutalities and mishaps, trials and sufferings happening almost daily around the world. So many times, they happen closest to us personally or within our own circles of family and friends.

Only Luke has this account of teaching by Jesus; nowhere would you find in the gospels any account of Pilate ordering this massacre of Galileans but the Jewish historian Josephus had recorded many instances of the Roman governor’s ruthless reign.

And here we find the artistry of Luke in inserting this scene in his gospel the Church has chosen as part of our Lenten itinerary. So often in life, we keep on blaming somebody else except our very selves for every negative things happening to us and around us, even considering it as “divine chastisements” or karma to those people we consider as evil.

It is true that evil begets evil, but the seeming dominion of sin and evil in the world is so wide for us to attribute blame only to certain persons as if others, including ourselves, had no part in it. It always takes two to tango!

Worst case of this “blaming game” of ours is to even link our sufferings and trials with God.

Nothing bad can ever come from God like disasters and catastrophes, sickness and turmoils because God is love. God offers only life, never death nor destruction for he does only what is good. It is very wrong to think at all that God has something to do with any of these problems happening in the world like the pandemic or in our personal lives.

Photo by author, Sinai Mountain Range in Egypt, May 2019.

This is the gist of the Lord’s response to the people bringing him the bad news of the 18 Galileans ordered massacred by Pilate, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means!”. God does not punish at all! Bad things happen because of sins and that is what we always have to look inside us, how have we contributed to the evil happening.

And to make it clearer that God has nothing to do whatsoever with all these bad things happening to us, Jesus added, “Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means!”.

However, Jesus is not telling us to be resigned to the absurdities of the world and of humankind. We can all do something to greatly prevent and reduce all these misfortunes and sufferings around us and that is the way of repentance, of conversion – the very calls of the prophets in the Old Testament and by John the Baptist.

Now, Jesus our Savior, the Son of God, is voicing out this call of repentance with urgency and new authority not only because it is the only way back to God but precisely due to his very nature of being loving and patient, merciful and forgiving.

The kind of God we have, the only one there is

The grace of this third Sunday of Lent is the revelation of the kind of God we have, the only one there is: a very loving and patient, merciful and forgiving God who is also perfectly present among us in Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, site of the burning bush in Sinai now inside St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.

In the first reading, we are told of that unforgettable scene of Moses at the burning bush where God revealed himself as “I AM WHO AM” – the One who is always present with us in the past, in the future, and most especially in every here and now, the present moment.

When we think of God, what comes to our mind, what do we say about him?

God told Moses “Thus you say to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you” (Ex. 3:15) to remind them that this God has always been present with his people.

With Abraham, God first made the promise of being the father of all nations (last Sunday’s first reading), to Isaac he revealed himself in the stairway to heaven, and to Jacob that he would bring them to Egypt and liberate them after. Now in Moses, everything is coming into fulfillment of this great nation to be set free by God, a prefiguration Christ and his saving mission.

Throughout history, God never left his people, working great marvels in the past to deliver them from slavery, a passing over and exodus, assuring us of his presence and salvation in the future by remaining at our side.

History is cyclic, everything seems to be happening again but with an upward trajectory towards God; in every repetition of history, the question is where are we standing with God, are we still the same the first time we encountered him, descending to vice and sins or have we grown in virtues and holiness?

Salvation history and secular history continue to unfold for both are one in God; hence, we must not waste every moment to return to God, to repent and be converted. Beware of Paul’s warning, “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor. 10:12)! Remember those Galileans massacred by Pilate or those 18 people at Siloam crushed to death by tower that had fallen – anything can happen with us, so be ready. Never leave God who is always with us, assuring us with salvation in Jesus.

Beginning this Sunday, continuing to next week with the parable of the prodigal son and finally on the fifth Sunday of Lent when we skip Luke’s gospel to borrow from John for the story of the woman caught in adultery, we are being immersed into the deeper mystery of this God we call Father made known to us by Jesus Christ through his own passion, death and resurrection.

The more we enter God’s mystery every Sunday of Lent, the more his “height, breath and depth” (Eph. 3:18) appear to us, making us realize he is real, very true like another person we can feel and hear, always with us, patiently waiting for us to bear fruit like the owner of the fig tree in the parable.

How have you experienced God’s presence this past week?

What else do we need to be convinced of his love and mercy that we still refuse to repent and be converted in Jesus Christ?

The time is now, not yesterday or tomorrow for God is I AM WHO AM, one who is in the present. Amen. Have a blessed week.

Thank you for the prayers; I am home trying to recuperate from my surgery.

Photo by author, inside St. Catherine Monastery with Mt. Sinai at the background in Egypt, May 2019.

What preoccupies you?

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent, 16 March 2022
Jeremiah 18:18-20   <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 20:17-28
Photo by author, Pater Noster Church outside Jerusalem, 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
O Lord our God, our loving
Father!  Thank you very much
for every blessing you send me
even in the midst of sickness,
trials and blessings.  Indeed,
everything is pure grace from you.
Cleanse my mind and my heart
of my sins and negative thoughts;
may you be alone the first and
the last in my mind and in my heart.
Like Jeremiah:

Heed me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them.

Jeremiah 18:19-20
How inspiring is your prophet Jeremiah,
Lord!  Amid grave dangers as he heard
the words of his enemies whom he had
pleaded before you, the only thing he had
in his mind and his heart was you - just
to remember him. 
In the same manner, 
give me such courage and 
lucidity to remain faithful to
you even in grave dangers!
Please, purify me in the same 
manner you cleansed the brothers
James and John along with their
mother who pleaded to your Son
for power and position when he
was nearing his passion, death
and resurrection.  Turn away our 
minds and hearts from things of
the world, of selfish interests
most especially in moments of 
trials and difficulties.  Amen.