Most powerful prayer is when we are weakest

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week III, Year II in Ordinary Time, 27 January 2022
2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   Mark 4:21-25
“Losing one’s head in prayer”, photo by Ms. JJ Jimeno, GMA-7 News, May 2019.
God our Father,
thank you for the gift 
of prayer, for the grace
and chance to feel and hear
you, experience you, be
blessed by you at prayer.
Let us always be still before you,
Lord, especially in prayer; free us
from so many thoughts of worrying
about you like building or having a 
"suitable" place to experience you
in prayer like King David who planned
a temple for you.
After listening from your words
through the prophet Nathan,
David realized the most powerful
prayer to you is when we are weakest:

After Nathan had spoken to King David, the king went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, Lord God, and who are the members of my house, that you have brought me to this point? Yet even this you see as too little, Lord God; you have also spoken of the house of your servant for a long time to come: this too you have shown to man, Lord God!”

2 Samuel 7:18-19
What a beautiful prayer
and disposition by David
your servant, Lord; this early
in his reign as King, he had
shown his most wonderful 
trait before you - humility,
always accepting his weakness
and limitations, always aware
that the fulfillment of your
promise depends entirely on
you, O God; and, that he is just
a fragile instrument in the process.
This would continue in moments of
his great sins later in life, of having
a humble and contrite heart always.
Help us to appreciate, dear Father,
our feebleness, our being like a 
flickering lamp that still gives light
in the darkness; may we realize
that it is during our weakest moments
when you can achieve the most
in us and through us for as St. Paul
had said, "when I am weak then I
am strong" (2 Cor.12:10)!  Amen.

The problem with our insistence

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week I, Year II in Ordinary Time, 14 January 2022
1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Mark 2:1-12
Photo by author, ruins at Capernaum where Jesus healed the paralytic, May 2017.
Today, O Lord, I remember
those days when I insisted on
what I wanted, without giving any
moment to dwell on your plans
and suggestions.
Today, dear God our Father,
your words clearly show us how 
so apart are our thoughts and 
your thoughts, of how wide and
encompassing at how you see
everything and everyone
compared to our very limited
and shallow perceptions that 
are too little, hence, easier to insist on.

The people however, refused to listen to Samuel’s warning and said, “Not so! There must be a king over us. We, too, must be like other nations, with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare and fight our battles.” When Samuel had listened to all the people had to say, he repeated it to the Lord, who then said to him, “Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them.”

1 Samuel 8:19-22
Widen our horizons to see
how you have made us in fact
different from others, so special and
beloved to be close to you and yet,
like those people to Samuel, we would
always insist to be just like others.
And the saddest part of belittling our
stature is how we also try to bring you
down to our own level:

Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth.” He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”

Mark 2:6-11
Raise up our thoughts
and understanding, Lord Jesus!
Let us "level up" and "shift" to
your thoughts and the way you see
persons and situations that lead us
to claim our freedom from sins and 
evil that have trapped us for so long
despite your victory since your rising
from the dead; open our eyes and our
hearts, Jesus, to see the new realities,
our restored dignity as beloved children
of the Father in you so that we stop 
insisting with our little and unworthy
causes and demands.  Amen.

When “ordinary” is “extraordinary”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in Week 1 of Ordinary Time, Year II, 10 January 2022
1 Samuel 1:1-8   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Mark 1:14-20
Photo by author, 2019.
Glory and praise
and thanksgiving to you,
God our loving Father for 
bringing us to this Monday,
the beginning of our Ordinary
Time in the Church calendar.
Send us your Holy Spirit 
to enlighten our minds and our
hearts not to look down upon 
what we consider as "ordinary" -
ordinary people, ordinary days,
ordinary food, ordinary tasks,
ordinary as same usual fare,
ordinary as less than grand and
special things.
Help us rediscover the true meaning
of "ordinary" which connotes orderliness
from the Latin roots ordo, ordinis for
order and ordinarius for orderly.
Let us live up to our faith in you
during this ordinary days when 
many of life's challenges happen 
like your servant Hannah, the mother 
of your prophet Samuel:

Her rival, to upset her, turned it into a constant reproach to her that the Lord had left her barren. This went on year after year; each time they made their pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Lord, Peninnah would approach her, and Hannah would weep and refuse to eat. Her husband Elkanah used to ask her: “Hannah, why do you weep, and why do you refuse to eat? Why do you grieve? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

1 Samuel 1:6-8
Keep our eyes and our hearts
open like the brothers Simon and 
Andrew, James and John for your
Son Jesus Christ who comes to us
in the most ordinary days, in the 
most ordinary circumstances like 
casting nets and mending nets.
Let us be on guard, dear God, during
ordinary days and time for these are 
extraordinary moments because you
have made everything and everyone
so special.  Amen.

Advent is “sacred moment” with God visiting us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday of Advent-C, Day 4 of Simbang Gabi, 19 December 2021
MIcah 5:1-4  ><}}}*>  Hebrews 10:5-10  ><}}}*>  Luke 1:39-45
Photo by author, bronze statues of Mary and Elizabeth at the patio of the Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem, Israel, 2017.

We are now in the fourth Sunday of Advent, the final stretch leading to Christmas. Part of that shift in focus of readings and prayers since December 17, we hear today the lovely story of Mary’s Visitation of Elizabeth.

It is very rare in the bible to find a story of two women meeting and conversing, especially women of faith sharing God’s joy and blessings like Mary’s visitation of her cousin Elizabeth six months pregnant with John the Baptist, the Precursor of Jesus Christ.

It is a very wonderful occasion in this Season of Advent when God visits his people before finally coming to dwell with us at the birth of Jesus Christ.

This early through Mary, Elizabeth felt strongly God’s coming and visitation – a sacred moment, a blessed period of encountering God in our selves and through others.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:41-45
Photo by author, facade of the Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem, Israel, 2017.

Christmas is a story of love, about the meeting of lovers with God as the Great Lover who gave us His only Son because of His immense love for us. That is why it is also a sacred moment, a blessed and holy moment!

Recall that time you fell for and truly loved someone so special: every moment is so sacred and divine, so special because you know something extraordinary had happened, is happening and would soon be unfolding when this love grows and matures!

You feel humbled by the occasion why would somebody so wonderful choose to love you, recognize you, and find you special among many others. It is very touching, bringing kilig moments.

How unfortunate these days this love of Christmas so sacred has been cheapened and degraded into superficial and romantic love about mere feelings and emotions that are physical and sexual in nature as we hear in “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, “Last Christmas” and “Pasko na Sinta Ko”.

The word “lovers” may be too serious as a term for us to relate this with today’s gospel but, the truth is, both Mary and Elizabeth were so in love with God who clearly loved them so much with children in their womb bound to change the course of human history forever. They in turn, were also filled with love for each other as expressions of their love for God. And when there is love, there is holiness or sacredness that is always manifested in God’s tenderness which is the most endearing description of God’s love and mercy.

At the Visitation, both Mary and Elizabeth felt God working in them, doing great things in them despite their being women at that time and unfortunately until now when women are always looked down upon by our patriarchal and chauvinistic culture and society.

Both women felt so loved by God, especially Elizabeth who was filled with the Holy Spirit to say, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Photo by author, ceiling of the Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem, Israel, 2017.

Elizabeth had perhaps been accustomed to seeing herself as the one who was barren and therefore also shamed. All her adult life as wife of Zechariah the priest, she had carried a burden or “excess baggage” in her mind and identity that she could never forget that is why Luke tells us how she went into seclusion after conceiving John:

After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time whe he has seen fit to take away the disgrace before others.”

Luke 1:24-25

Her life had a complete reversal and turn around when she conceived John and that is why at the Visitation, she was so amazed with God, recognizing the honor and privilege given to her to be in the story of the coming of Christ.

Elizabeth had no idea she could mean so much in the plan of God, asking “who am I?” that all these great things could happen to her, having a child at so late an age and now visited by the Mother of the Lord, wondering what is going on? Something so big, so great is happening and she just could not grasp it!

We all have such “sacred moments” with God when we felt so loved, so blessed that we feel so humbled, wondering deeply in all honesty why me, Lord? And yes, we always know so well why God should not choose us: because somebody is more smart, more patient with lesser wrong decisions in life, and simply better than us.

But that is the mystery of God explained by the angel to Mary at the Annunciation, nothing is impossible with God. He can make the barren and old like Elizabeth bear a child and so does a virgin like Mary.

God could always choose anyone like you and me because he wants us, he believes in us.

This fourth Sunday of Advent, God is visiting you with all the tenderness or “lambing” of a great lover, telling you, convincing you to value your self, value your life, value others because he has great plans for each one of us

Photo by author, 16 December 2021.

Tenderness is one God-like quality we all have but have buried deep into our innermost selves due to our refusal to love for fears of getting hurt and left behind or, even lost. When Mary heard about Elizabeth’s condition, she simply followed her human and motherly instincts that are in fact so Godly – she went in haste to visit her.  Elizabeth, in turn, welcomed her.

The question is, do we have a room to welcome God’s coming visit to us like Elizabeth?

Also on this Sunday as we listened to the beautiful story of Mary’s visitation of Elizabeth, let us remember or if we can, let us visit the important women in our lives God had chosen to share with us his Son Jesus Christ. Let us express to our mother or wife, sisters or aunties and grandmothers, female friends and colleagues our gratitude and joy for the sacred moments we have had with God in their gifts of love and presence, kindness and patience, mercy and forgiveness and a lot of inspiration to be better. Amen.

Have a blessed week preparing for Christmas!

Advent is for seeing God clearly

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr, 13 December 2021
Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Matthew 21:23-27
Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, June 2021, Binuangan, Obando, Bulacan.
Dearest God our Father:
with the days fast-approaching
to Christmas, we pray you open
our eyes to see you more clearly
so that we can love you dearly
and follow you more closely each day.
As celebrate the memorial of St. Lucy,
your Virgin Martyr who chose to see
the glory of heaven than sin, open our
eyes to see you more in others and in 
many occasions in our lives.
Clear our eyes and vision of pride
and evil like Balaam who first came
to curse the Israelites but in your 
divine power, he instead blessed 
your people upon seeing the coming of
Jesus Christ!

Then Balaam gave voice to his oracle: The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eye is true, the utterance of one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows, of one who sees what the Almighty sees, enraptured and with eyes unveiled. I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: a star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall arise from Israel.

Numbers 24:15-17
Forgive us, Lord, despite your coming
we remain and insist in being stubborn
like the chief priests in your time who 
refused to see the hand of God in your
mission nor in John's preaching; let us be
open and willing to find you coming, 
to hear your speaking through unexpected
channels and occasions.  Amen. 

Advent is looking forward

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Advent, 09 December 2021
Isaiah 41:13-20   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 11:11-15
Photo by author, 08 December 2021.
Thank you very much, O God
for all the beautiful memories 
we have in the past, especially 
those moments you have blessed
us with the good life - freedom 
and security, food and clothings,
family and friends, and everything
that is good in between them.
But the problem with our beautiful
and sweet memories of the past is
how often we are fixated to them, 
especially when hard times happen
to us, like with your people Israel who
were exiled to Babylon for so long:
they could not believe their days are
ending when you would set them free
and allow them to come home that they 
kept on harking back to the good old 
days of the past, unable to look forward
to the fulfillment of your wonderful promises
through the prophet Isaiah.
Give us the grace, O Lord,
on this season of Advent to look
forward to a better future, 
to a more blessed present moment
than the past; help us understand
the words of Jesus Christ your Son
about John the Baptist:

Jesus said to the crowds, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Matthew 11:11
Yes, in the past before
Jesus Christ's coming,
it was such a very great time
to have heard and witnessed
John's ministry; there is no doubt
about his great role in preparing
the way of the Lord; however, 
it was Jesus himself who claimed,
and rightly so, even the least
among us is greater than John 
who never witnessed and experienced
the fruits of Christ's sacrifice on the 
Cross!
It has been two years since
this pandemic altered our
lives and made life so difficult
to many of us; until now, we keep
on going back to the good old days
of the past before the pandemic;
help us to move on, Jesus, and look
forward to better Christmas,
better new year in 2022 if we can
be more open to you.  Amen.

The vessels of God’s grace to us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 08 December 2021
Genesis 3:9-15, 20 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Santuario di Greccio, Rieti, Italy in 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father
in giving us a Mother in Mary
who gave birth to your Son Jesus
in order to save us from our sins!
Indeed, nothing is impossible 
with you, dear God as you willed
Mary to be conceived immaculately
free from any sin to be pure and
clean to receive Jesus in her womb.
Because of that, she is rightly
called as our "advocate of grace"
and "model of holiness" for through
her, your life and blessings overflowed
upon us in Christ's coming.
And so, we pray to you, Father
in the name of Jesus our Lord
for all the people who have been
channels of your grace to us
like Mary:  our beloved mothers and
fathers who brought us forth into this
world and nurtured us in your love,
still patiently bearing all of life's
beatings and sufferings for our own
good and comfort; we pray for our
siblings, especially our elder brothers
and sisters who have faithfully acted as
our parents too after they were gone
who ensured our safety and well-being,
our sources of joy when life is rough;
we pray for our friends who have remained
faithful by our side through thick and 
thin, still believing in us despite our sins
and failures; we pray for our employers
and superiors and colleagues at work
who give us the chance to earn our
living with dignity and honor so we can 
keep ourselves and loved ones warm and
secured specially in this time of the pandemic.
Most of all, we pray for your Holy Spirit,
dear Father, to always enlighten our
minds and our hearts so that like Mary
we may always be open to Christ's
coming not only to share him with 
others but most of all like Mary his Mother,
we too may be conformed in him
our Savior as you have willed since
the beginning.  Amen.

Advent is being small and simple

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday of Advent-C, 05 December 2021
Baruch 5:1-9 ><}}}*> Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11 ><}}}*> Luke 3:1-6
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

From “beginning with the end” last Sunday at the start of Advent, we now move into its second week when we are reminded by the readings and gospel that “everything begins small and simple” in God and with God’s kingdom.

So often in life, God’s beauty and majesty are revealed in small, little beginnings that are hidden and obscured, things and persons we take for granted without knowing it is in them and through them that God silently continues his works of wonder among us.

Such is the reality of Christ’s coming – then and now and in the end of time – as presented by Luke who began his account this Second Sunday of Advent with the introduction of John the Baptist.

“St. John the Baptist Preaching In the Wilderness” by Anton Raphael Mengs from en.wikipedia.org.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

Luke 3:1-2

Feel the solemnity of Luke’s report, so formal, evoking a sense of power and might, an air of superiority with all the trappings of those in the corridors of power in government and religion.

Then abruptly, he wrote tersely, “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert”. Boom! So simple yet elegantly emphatic.

Notice Luke’s artistry presenting a list of who’s who living in palaces and Temple with all the comfort and luxury available at that time when in a sudden shift, without losing the building up of the drama that led to the climax that is John “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths'” (Lk.3:3-4).

In introducing to us the person of John the Baptist which started in the very first chapter of his gospel, Luke is actually telling us how John was already the presence of Christ, that aside from being his precursor, he had Jesus in himself already! For Luke, John foreshadowed Christ’s work of salvation reaching its summit at Easter even while orienting us to Christmas.

The nearness of God

Every year, the second and third Sundays of Advent narrate the preaching and baptism by John the Baptist at Jordan to remind us how Jesus comes to us whenever, wherever the word of God is heard, accepted, and proclaimed that result into repentance and forgiveness of sins.

See how Luke shows us the overlapping of salvation history with our secular history, a clear indication of the presence and nearness of God with us in Christ’s coming. Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, and Lysania with the high priests Caiaphas and Ananias were true persons who have lived in a particular time and specific places when John and Jesus lived too.

Here we find so true that God works silently and subtly in Jesus in our own personal lives and in the whole world for indeed, he is the God of history.

Photo by author, Chapel at the Basic Education Department, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 28 November 2021.

This Second Sunday of Advent we are assured of God’s nearness with us in Christ, especially when there are those darkness and obscurity, hiddenness and being unknown. These little and simple things in life are occasions where God reveals himself to us! Take them to heart.

Sometimes in life it is good to be down and even unknown, away from the limelight specially in this age of social media where everything even coffee breaks and new purchases or grades and medals of children are made known to everyone with much noise like blaring trumpets.

This boom in social media is so tiring and even disgusting with nothing hidden anymore, nothing is personal, and worst, nothing sacred any more! God and faith and sacraments have become commodities, persons are cheapened and used for personal advantages that even personal messages or PM’s have become “public happenings”. No more respect and dignity to others and most of all, unknown to those so immersed in the social media, they are the ones in the losing end, losing their very selves as they lose touch and grounding with reality.

Contrast it with John the Baptist in the desert with his balanced life between solitude and community and most of all, his rootedness in God and with realities of life that he can speak about the need for repentance to renew one’s self.

The gift of Advent

It can happen that when we are so filled with our selves, when we are so spread out feeling famous, “viral” and “trending” that we are also most empty and nothing like those powerful men mentioned by Luke, from the Roman emperor to the high priests; hence, the need to be hidden and unknown, little and small once in a while to allow enough room for changes and growth, and most especially to have a room within us for Jesus to work in us.

This is the gift of Advent Season: a time for us to be like John, to withdraw from the busy and toxic world so we may be alone and at home again with one’s true self, with loved ones, and with God in Jesus, through Jesus.

In the first reading we heard the end of a poem by Baruch where God consoles his people personified by Jerusalem, giving them hope of redemption someday from their Babylonian conquerors. It was the lowest point in the Jewish history when Jerusalem and their Temple were destroyed with the entire nation exiled to Babylon as slaves. No country, no Temple, so down and so small yet, God tells them:

Photo by author, Advent 2019.

Jerusalem take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor; you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.

Baruch 5:1-4

See the beautiful image of God taking possession of his people exiled and enslaved, changing their lot into something so wonderful filled with splendor!

The same thing happens with us when we are down and lost for that is when God doubles his efforts in finding us, redeeming us, uplifting us. It had happened before in the coming of his Son Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago which continues to happen now and would surely happen again in its fullness at his Parousia.

Nothing happens in life and in the world without God knowing even the minutest, single details we do not notice at all. Let us imitate the confidence of Paul this Season of Advent:

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6, 8
Photo by author, Advent 2020.

This Second Sunday of Advent we are told that even if we do not see Jesus like in the gospel of Luke when it is still concerned with the preaching of John the Baptist, he is already with us in those small and little sacrifices we do out of love for him.

Like John, Advent invites us to withdraw to the wilderness, to the desert to be hidden from the limelight to give God a space to come to us, to be present in us.

Like John, Advent invites us to empty ourselves of our pride and sins, to repent and be washed clean by God’s loving mercy and forgiveness to be filled with his humility, justice and love.

Like John, Advent wants us to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: to be the voice of reason and faith in this noisy world of lies and superficialities; to make straight the path so bended with many excuses and alibis that have moved the lines of morality and propriety; to fill the valleys with sense and meaning; and, to make low every mountain and hill of human pride and arrogance that have left us more empty and lost than before.

Let us all be a John the Baptist, not only a precursor but also a presence of Jesus.

A blessed second week of Advent to everyone!

Advent is being at home – with self, with others, and with God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, Priest, 03 December 2021
Isaiah 29:17-24   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 9:27-31
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2020.
Your words today, O God,
are so Fatherly - comforting
and reassuring of your great
promises of redemption and
liberation from sin and miseries; 
your words are so "homey" too - 
help us this Season of Advent to find 
our way back home to you, O loving
God our Father!
Inasmuch as your words today
also speak of seeing and hearing,
make us feel at home first with
our very selves, to be at home with
who we really are, especially with our
past that no matter how dark or
painful life may have been, we are loved
most specially by you - no ifs, no buts.
Bring us home to you, Father, free from
any shame at who we really are!

Thus says the Lord God: but a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard shall be regarded as a forest! On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and our of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of, nor shall his face grow pale.

Isaiah 29:17-19, 22
I wonder, Lord, how so often
I feel one of those two blind men
who have followed you into your 
house - of how you first lead me into you,
into your presence, into your love 
and mercy and forgiveness before 
you make me see and hear again.
Thank you dear Jesus for always
coming to us even if so many times
we do not see nor notice you passing by
especially through others; grant us the 
zeal of St. Francis Xavier in reaching out
to others specially this season amid the
pandemic; may we try to see you among
one another as we listen to each one's
cries of pains and joys.
Most specially, let us keep our eyes
and ears and hearts open like St. Francis
Xavier who always believed in your
presence and providence even in the most
difficult and alienating situations
in life because he has always been
at home with you.  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.

Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com