The lure of “Athens”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs, 12 May 2021
Acts 17:15, 22-18:1   ><)))'> + ><)))*> + ><)))'>   John 16:12-15
Photo by author, Dominican Hills, Baguio City, 2019.
After Paul's escorts had taken him to Athens,
they came away with instructions for Silas and Timothy
to join him as soon as possible.  Then Paul stood up at the
Areopagus..... When they heard about resurrection of
the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, 
"We should like to hear you on this some other time."
And so Paul left them.  
But some did join him, 
and became believers.
(Acts 17:15, 22, 32-34)

How amazing and different indeed are your ways, O Lord Jesus Christ! You have brought Paul to Athens that was the cultural capital of the world at that time and center of learning but, alas, it never became a hub for the proclamation of your Gospel.

Cities of lesser importance like the decadent Corinth would in fact be better off than Athens for Paul’s missionary endeavors that this is the only time he had gone to this famous city. Despite his best efforts at preaching, the people of Athens who were considered “bright and learned” did not accept your Gospel.

They could not accept your dying on the Cross and your Resurrection because for them God is never defeated, God is never put down, God is never humiliated.

They have great ideas of what is a God that speak so well of who they are – forgetting that in this this life, the most important is to know who you are, O Lord, so we may know what are we here in this life.

In this world described as highly competitive and so modern, we are easily lured into the glow of greatness and sophistications, of human intelligence and mastery of technology but so empty of our souls, of the inside not knowing you our Lord and God.

As you have promised during your last supper in our gospel today, send us the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and our hearts to believe in you, to believe in the folly of your Cross, to believe and accept your very person so we may enter into a relationship with you that is personal and intimate like Saints Nereus and Achilleus who were both Roman soldiers but after experiencing your love and mercy, they turned away from Rome and chose to fight for you in their lives of witnessing.

We pray today for those having a hard time believing in your loving presence, Lord Jesus Christ because of this pandemic. Those who have lost their jobs, those who could not make ends meet due to their very limited income, those who have take care of their sick family members.

Too often, O Lord, it is when your Cross is so heavy that many of us begin to doubt you, not realizing that it is on the Cross precisely where we meet and experience you truly, changing our person, changing our views as you make us realize the path to Easter is through the Cross. Amen.

What the Holy Spirit does vs. what we can do

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Third Week of Easter, 20 April 2021
Acts 7:51-8:1   <*(((><  +  ><)))*>   John 6:30-35
Posted by Jean Palma on Facebook, 18 April 2021 with the caption: “All these community pantries in four days, and counting. What a powerful movement.” #CommunityPantry

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father in heaven! Thank you in sending us your Son Jesus Christ our Bread of life who taught and showed us how to be a food ourselves to one another by giving and sharing our very selves in loving service especially in times of crisis like this pandemic.

Thank you very much for the grace and inspiration by the Holy Spirit for the people behind this movement fast spreading called “Community Pantry” teaching us to see one another as a brother and a sister who needs to be helped, that each can be of help to anyone in need.

So many times, in our search for food that perishes like wealth and power, we get more focused on “doing” than “being” and “becoming” like those people who have followed Jesus in Capernaum after being fed with bread and fish at the wilderness last week.

The crowd said to Jesus:
"What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?"
(John 6:30)

Forgive us, Father, when until now we still ask the very same question to you and one another, “What can you do?” like the devil’s first temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” (Lk.4:3).

Make us aware of this ploy of the devil to keep us doing everything, to claim everything as our work in order to forget you or even discredit you.

How sad that we are so concerned with doing than with being and becoming, forgetting the value of every person, asking more of “what you can do” than “who are you?” which is more essential because we are all from you, O God our Father, our image and likeness.

No wonder, we have become like the members of the Sanhedrin addressed by Christ’s first martyr, St. Stephen during his trial:

"You stiff-necked people, 
uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors."
(Acts 7:51)

We have never grown and matured in our relationships because we have refused to see each one’s worth as a person, measuring our value in what we can do than in who we really are as your beloved children. As a result, we continue to refuse surrendering ourselves to the Holy Spirit for you to do your work in us. Unfortunately, as we keep on doing everything, the results are always miserable. And the more we get into bigger mess in life.

Teach us, especially our leaders in government, to open their minds and their hearts to what your prophets are saying from the various sectors of the society, especially the masses involved in the Community Pantry movement.

May our government officials led by the President realize that ever since this pandemic started, what we have been saying has always been for the good of one another as brothers and sisters, valuing life above all, and not for any achievement nor fame at all that they are so intent on having.

How sad that the more government officials dare and insult people with what they can do, the more it becomes truer that they cannot do anything good at all. Amen.

Photo by Toots Vergara, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 April 2021.

In praise of the Community Pantry

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 19 April 2021
The beauty of this movement 
sweeping our country
called "Community Pantry"
is its essential Christianity:
"The community of believers
was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any
of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common."
(Acts 4:32)
Earlier in our Church history
the esteemed theologian Tertullian
was so delighted to see
how the early Christians 
loved one another
and how they were ready
to die for each other
exactly the same scenery
we are having in our country this 21st century.
It all started simply
when in the street translated loosely
as living comfortably (Maginhawa)
somebody suddenly see
"any body" as a "some body"
can help alleviate our poverty
when we start to see "every body"
as a brother and a sister living simply
with one community pantry so "no body" goes hungry.
And the rest was history
as the story of good deeds inspired many
putting up their community pantry
and the best part of the mystery
there is no talk of money and popularity
plain and simple spirit of humanity
in the spirit of fraternity and equality
fulfilling the minimum requirement of charity
that is justice and mutuality.
There is a saying that
"Necessity is the mother of invention"
but this community pantry that I see 
is more than an invention or an innovation
but an extension of the fellowship of the table
where Jesus Christ is the invisible guest
appearing, speaking, and sharing a meal 
that fills our stomach and delights our soul
animating our hopes for a better future.
This community pantry
is a bright ray of hope,
a silver lining in the storm
that hit our nation last year
when this administration 
not only belittled but was also 
unprepared for the pandemic.
Is it a new kind of people power revolution?
Then, by all means, let it bloom!
Posted by Jean Palma on Facebook, 18 April 2021 with the caption: “All these community pantries in four days, and counting. What a powerful movement.” #CommunityPantry

*All photos used are from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 April 2021.