When Advent is also a Sabbath

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent-A, 27 November 2022
Isaiah 2:1-5  ><}}}}*>  Romans 13:11-14  ><}}}}*>  Matthew 24:37-44
Photo by author, November 2022.

A blessed happy new year to everyone!

Yes, our new year in the Church begins this Saturday evening as we usher Advent Season, the four Sundays before Christmas which also falls on a Sunday this year. What a truly blessed Christmas we are having this year since COVID-19 came in 2020. For the first time in two years, we are celebrating Christmas face-to-face which is the essence of the event when the Son of God became human like us in everything except sin so we may experience God in person!

Like a light piercing through the darkness of the night – here and today – we experience Jesus Christ’s coming to us this Christmas 2022 most true that his call in the gospel is so appropriate especially at this time.

Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your day will come.

Matthew 24:37, 39-42
Photo by author, November 2022.

“Therefore, stay awake!”

Staying awake does not mean not going to sleep. In fact, for us to be awake, we have to sleep and be fully rested always to be awake and alert whether at night or at day.

That is why Advent is a sabbath, a day of the Lord when we pause to rest and allow God to fill us with his breath and spirit so we may be more attuned with Christ’s coming.

To rest in Filipino is “magpahinga” that literally means to be breathed on. Sabbath as a day of rest is to be breathed on by God, “magpahinga sa Diyos, mahingahan ng Diyos”. Unless we are filled with the breath of God, with his spirit, we will never experience Christ’s coming to us this Advent nor this Christmas nor at any time.

This is the whole point of Christ’s teaching today. Advent is an invitation for us to examine and review our attitudes to life, to God, and to others. Like in the gospel, Jesus reminds us how we conduct ourselves in this life, of being attuned to the Holy Spirit, lest “one is taken and the other one will be left”.

Life has been so difficult for everyone these past two years. Some of us have lost a loved one or relatives and friends to COVID. Many have lost their businesses or career and many other opportunities in life. And sadly, there are others who have lost or wounded and bruised relationships too.

But, have we also lost ourselves that in the process lost God too that we have lost all sense of decency and kindness with one another?

Photo by author, November 2022.

The other day, a former classmate suddenly texted me, saying hi and asking when she and her husband may visit me. Such messages coming out of the blue from anyone – especially her – make me wonder what’s wrong? What’s her problem this time?

She said she just wanted to keep in touch, reminding me how she has always been grateful for my help and prayers. However, she insisted that if we can’t meet, can I send her a prayer via text message because according to her, my prayers and blessings have “magic” as they always come true considering her prospering business and finally, her youngest child about to finish medicine.

I did not answer her until afternoon by sending her a prayer she had requested. And a reminder to her that my prayers have no magic powers nor lucky charms. I told her, “you are blessed abundantly by God because he loves you very much. Because he knows how well you pray hard and strive to be good and fair in your dealings with others. Most of all, because you are grateful. Keep serving the Lord.”

Many times even in our faith and spiritual life, we believe more in luck or swerte than in God as a person loving us, blessing us. That is why our faith has no communal dimension at all because we remain self-centered even in our worship and faith without even finding and experiencing God himself in Jesus Christ who had come to us more than 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.

On this first Sunday of Advent, we are reminded to rekindle in our hearts that ardent desire for God and his kingdom, for the return or Second Coming of Jesus Christ who had come and remains with us, and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to keep us awake in finding God always in us and in others.

This first Sunday of Advent is calling us to fine tune our attitudes to God anew, to recall the beautiful lessons of this COVID-19 pandemic we now seem to have forgotten totally like importance of God and prayers, of one another, and value of life.

Like the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading, we find ourselves today in the same situation of many wars going on not only in Ukraine or Mindanao but also in our families and communities yet, we continue to march forward to God’s final fulfillment of his promises. Imagine and feel the prophecy of Isaiah:

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may in his paths. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Isaiah 2:3, 4-5
Photo by author, November 2022.

What a lovely imagery of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks as we walk in the light of the Lord that is happening NOW!

That is one of the challenges of our Advent preparation which is to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts (and arms too!) to find and welcome Jesus Christ already present with us, right here and right now!

That can only happen if we can rest this Advent in the Lord through prayers and meditations of his words that are so rich these days; of having silent moments to find ourselves anew instead of going back to our old ways of crazy Christmas rush shopping and the many external preparations that have become more of a show or a palabas.

Advent is a sabbath calling us to come home to God, to find him in Jesus Christ who had come and comes daily inside us, in our family and friends, in everyone and in various occasions and event in our lives. When we find God, that is also when we find our true selves. And that is Christmas – the coming together of man and God.

Advent is a sabbath when we go back to paradise which last Sunday we find also on the Cross with Jesus Christ as he promised Dimas with “today you shall be with me in Paradise” when God takes charge of everything and we just follow him.

Advent is a sabbath when we recover that original attitudes of man and woman to obey God always, to find more of our goodness and of others and nature, and to live in God’s presence.

Let us heed the call of St. Paul to struggle not only to be morally upright in life but most of all to share the light of Christ when he asked us “to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom.13;14) so that we become his very presence in this world.

Let us rest in Jesus so we may be awake in his coming in every here and now. Amen. Have a blessed and restful week, everyone!

Photo by author, Advent 1, 2021.

God living among us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, 25 November 2022
Revelation 20:1-4, 11-22:2   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Luke 21:29-33 
God our loving Father,
your words today spoken both by
John and your Son Jesus Christ
are frightening at first hearing;
but, as we dwell more on your words,
we are comforted because your promised
end of the world is the beginning
of "new heaven and new earth"
(Revelation 21:1-2);
it has started coming already
in the birth of Jesus Christ 
as we join the psalmist
in proclaiming this wonderful truth,
"Here God lives among his people"
(responsorial psalm).
"My soul yearns and pines for 
the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my flesh 
cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest in which
she puts her young ---
your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my king and my God!
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
Blessed the men whose strength
you are!"
(Psalm 84:3, 4, 5, 6)
Despite the many trials
and sufferings we have been going 
through, you never ceased to
guide us to life and fulfillment
in you through Jesus Christ.
Make us aware and conscious
of your presence among our brothers
and sisters especially those in pain
and in the margins;
may our eyes,
our minds,
and our hearts
be open to your presence
in everyone we meet inasmuch
as we can read the signs of 
the fig tree and other trees
(Luke 21:29-30);
may we stop for a while
in our tasks and duties
to feel each one's humanity
and personhood to find you
and experience you.
Amen.

Hold on to God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac & Companion Martyrs, 24 November 2022
Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 21:20-28
As we get closer to the end
of this liturgical year,
we get more excited with 
Advent and Christmas;
please help us, Lord Jesus,
to see more at the moment 
the meaning of the end of this
calendar, the end of time,
the end of everything that would
be renewed in you.
Many of us are so blessed
with family and friends,
jobs and education
that after two years.
we are looking forward
to a face-to-face
Christmas;
but, keep us aware
and conscious of the many others,
definitely more than most of us
who have lost so much these
past years of the pandemic;
many have lost loved ones,
until now have not moved on yet
with their lives, grieving in pain
made worst with other losses like
jobs, careers, business and livelihood;
many are still facing so many forms
of sufferings and trials in life
as individuals and communities;
we pray for them, Lord Jesus.

But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.

Luke 21:28
Help us, Lord, 
in our lives to witness 
the strength and courage
in you to forge on in life's many trials
and difficulties so that those deep 
in trouble may be encouraged to believe
and trust more in you;
more than our words of encouragement,
help us to show in our actions
and commitment to others
that always in this life,
God and good have the final say.
Amen.

Inviting Jesus into our lives

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Thirty-Third Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 15 November 2022
Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 19:1-10
Forgive us, dear Jesus,
when many times in life
we appear to be so good and pious,
religious and devout in our religion
when in fact we lack faith in you
like the people of Sardis:

“I know your works, that you have the reputation of being alive but you are dead. Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Remember then how you accepted and heard; keep it, and repent.”

Revelation 3:1c-3a
Your words are so timely, Lord,
as we ourselves often hear the same words,
of how our Church is dying
because we are already dead in our faith;
we have been so complacent in our faith,
so focused with 
duties and obligations,
rites and rituals,
tasks and schedule
but so empty of YOU.

Come, Lord Jesus!
Maranatha!
Give us the holy longing
and desire of Zacchaeus to meet you,
to exert every effort to be with you
and to be filled with you!
But the most truest of your words today Lord
and most disturbing are your words to the
Church in Laodicea:

“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”

Revelation 3:15-16
Let us be clear with our stand in you, Jesus;
let us be firm in our faith and in our resolve
to follow you like Zacchaeus who gave
half of his wealth to the poor and repaid four times
those he had extorted money;
let us come to you with sincere hearts
and humility, empty us of our pretensions
and fill us with your presence and truth,
Lord Jesus!
Amen.

Praying to bring back love

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Thirty-third Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 14 November 2022
Revelation 1:1-4; 2:1-5   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 18:35-43
Your words today, O dear Jesus,
to your servant John 
in writing the Book of Revelation
speak also directly to me:

“I know your works, your labor, and your endurance, and that you cannot tolerate the wicked… Moreover, you have endurance and have suffered for my name, and you have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and the works you did at first.

Revelation 2:2, 3-5
Thank you, dear Jesus, for reminding me
of how I have lost that love for you
when I have stopped loving others too;
help me find my way back to you.
Like the blind Bartimaeus in today's gospel,
I have been blinded too by so many
other things like wealth and power and fame;
help me see again your face in the persons
closest to me, those I encounter each day;
let me see beyond the ordinary
and temporary things so I may be more 
loving, looking beyond outer appearances
but more into the worth and dignity of
everyone bearing your identity which is also
LOVE,
Why is it, O Lord, that as we grow old, 
when we mature,
when we are supposed to be
more knowledgeable and more intelligent
when we become less loving?

Why is it, O Lord, as we become
more blessed in you in so many things
when we turn away from you,
when we love less
and think more,
desire more,
count more?

Lord Jesus,
like Bartimaeus,
please let me see:
let me see again myself so loved
and forgiven by you;
let me see again one another as
my brother and sister in you,
a companion in this journey of life;
let me see the way back home
to you in the Father
and start loving again!
Amen.

Grateful for the gift of Church

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica in Rome, 09 November 2022
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17 ><}}}*> John 2:13-22
Photo of the Lateran Basilica by Fr. Gerry Pascual.
On this feast of the Dedication 
of the Lateran Basilica in Rome
which is "the mother and mistress
of all churches in Rome and the world"
being the Pope's church as Bishop of Rome,
we praise and thank you O God
for the gift of the Church. 
So often, we rarely think of the
Church as your gift, dear God;
sadly, many times we hurt the Church
not only with our attacks that defame
the Body of Christ here on earth
but most especially when we your
priests cause it to bleed with so many
wounds following our sins of
infidelities.
Help us realize this holy giftedness
of the Church as a means for us
to be closer to you, O God,
for us to be saved in Christ,
for us to be blessed and made holy
as your people finally gathered
as one in your Most Holy Name; 
most of all, in giving life
and sustaining life abundantly in Christ.

The angel brought me back to the entrance of the temple, and I saw water flowing out from beneath the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the facade of the temple was toward the east; the water flowed down from the southern side of the temple, south of the altar. He said to me, “Wherever the river flows, every sort of living creature that can multiply shall live, and there shall be abundant fish, for wherever this water comes the sea shall be made fresh. Along both baqnk of the river, fruit trees of every kind shall grow; their leaves shall ot fade, nor their fruit fail. Every month they shall bear fresh fruit, for they shall be watered by the flow from the sanctuary. Their fruit shall serve for food, and their leaves for medicine.”

Ezekiel 47:1, 9, 12
Since Jesus had ascended into heaven,
his Church has always been his sign of unity,
of communion that has continued to exist to this day
despite so many efforts by many men and women
to destroy it both from within and from outside;
all these years, the Church has remained like that
beautiful vision by Prophet Ezekiel from
which all life springs forth.
Cleanse us, dear Jesus,
whip us with your cords,
overturn our various tables of
comforts and new thoughts
especially our attachment with 
the ways of the world
so that we may truly be called
"the Father's house" (Jn.2:15-16).
Most dear Jesus,
let us stop hurting your Church,
let us stop lording over your Church,
let us stop desecrating your Church
as we keep in mind and heart
that it is you, O Lord,
who is the true foundation
of this Church
that begins right in our hearts.
Amen.
Photo of the Cathedra of the Lateran Basilica by Fr. Gerry Pascual.

The real big deal & call to be real

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 06 November 2022
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 ><]]]]'> 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5 ><]]]]'> Luke 20:27-38

We are now in the penultimate month of the year and the last two Sundays before the Solemnity of Christ the King when we close our current liturgical calendar to usher in Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas.

That is why every year on these two consecutive Sundays before Christ the King, the Church rightly orients us through the readings into our ultimate end in heaven – the real big deal in life calling us all to get real because it is the eternity.

But, do we really care at all? Or, are we just like the Sadducees in the time of Jesus Christ who are so concerned with the realities of this passing world than with that of eternal life?

We may not be exactly like the Sadducees who totally rejected the resurrection as well as the existence of angels and spirits but like them, we also fall into the trap of believing that the concerns of this world are ends in themselves that we spend so much time and energies pursuing wealth and fame that in the process we destroy our selves, our loved ones and relationships.

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward. Jesus said to them, “The children of this stage marry and remarry, but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. The dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Luke 20:27, 34-38

Jesus had entered Jerusalem and it is very interesting that this conversation about the resurrection of the dead and heaven happened there where he himself would suffer and die and rise again on the third day. Both Matthew and Mark recorded this conversation of Jesus with the Sadducees but for Luke, this is the only time Jesus met them face-to-face before his arrest.

According to Luke, the Sadducees were the most responsible for the death of Jesus because from their ranks came the high priests like Caiaphas. The Sadducees were the ones who also persecuted the Apostles after the Ascension of Jesus, ordering the arrests of Peter and John. Most of all, the Sadducees were also enemies with Pharisees whom they also opposed and persecuted. They were the fundamentalists of Judaism who only accepted the first five books or Pentateuch collectively known as the Torah (the Laws) as the only inspired books by God. For them, all revelations from God stopped with Moses; hence, their rejection of resurrection and of anything of spirits.

In this scene, we find Jesus just chillin’ with the Sadducees; he was not even debating with them because he was not bothered at all with their analogy about marriage and afterlife. See how Jesus was not even trying to prove anything but simply asking, inviting them including us today to focus on him as the one revealed by the Scriptures and the Laws whom Moses called as “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob” because “Amen, Amen I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM” (Jn.8:58).

Right there in the heart of Jerusalem at the temple area, Jesus was already revealing to everyone his being the Christ, that if all were not “alive for him, with him, through him and in him” – that is, if he were not resurrected – then he would not only be a God of the dead but a dead God! Then everything would be a mockery, a fake as St. Paul would always say in his letters. And if that were the case, then, we forget all about morality and virtues and we just keep on pursuing money and wealth, fame and glory, food and pleasures for nothing will come after this life.

But, deep inside us we know that is not true at all.

Deep inside us springs an eternal hope of something and someone more lasting than this life, God. It is what we experience so often in life especially when we are going through severe tests and trials like getting sick or losing a loved one. Many times, we feel this too when we are going through emptiness, when we feel after having everything, there is that great “something” that we are missing like Bono and U2 singing “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.

And that is God. Jesus Christ. Eternal life.

The only real deal in this world, in this life. It is a grace embedded in each of us by God that enables us to face and choose death eventually like the seven brothers in the first reading: When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him” (2 Mc.9:14).

This is what we confess and proclaim every Sunday and in every Mass we celebrate, the mystery of our faith. It is something so difficult to explain or express because it is too deep for words.

Last September my youngest sister Bing was diagnosed with cancer. It was only then when I realized the gravity and seriousness of the big “C”. It was like hearing the cocking of a gun which I have experienced covering the December coup of 1989: everything stops in eery silence, awaiting sure death.

When she told me about it one night while studying, I just felt nothing, could not even think well, doubting if I really knew how to pray. I just imagined myself like a “worm” curling before God in prayers, not saying much, just making him know what was deeply in my heart.

Bing underwent surgery last month to remove her cancer and three weeks ago came the results of her lab tests: it is cancer stage 2 that did not require chemotherapy nor radiation except close monitoring. Of course, we all rejoiced for the good news which we also knew could be temporary as we are still awaiting the results of another test to gauge her cancer’s severity.

Maybe because I was also scared that I did not talk to her much as I also wanted her to have more time and space for herself. And God. It was only two days after she had texted me her diagnosis of stage 2 cancer when I asked her how was she, really? That’s when I felt God so close to me when she replied, “Kuya, I am thankful to God; I did not ask him for anything except the grace to accept my sickness. So glad it was detected very early.” Hallelujah!

Faith in the resurrection is not just belief in the afterlife like reincarnation of which many Christians follow as real and true. Ancient peoples believed in the afterlife but not necessarily with resurrection that is why they always have to contend with the issues of the relationships among the living and those who have died. From there came their ideas of karma as well as those offerings being made to the dead to beg their favors or appease them to ward off their destructive powers.

Faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ, faith in his Resurrection is a revelation we experience deep inside us in the most personal manner that does not require us with so much thinking and reflections just to convince unbelievers. It comes from an encounter with the living God our Father in Jesus Christ “who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace” (2Thess.2:16). Like my sister Bing simply telling me her prayers, of how thankful she is for the results of her surgery.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI beautifully wrote in 2007 in Spe Salvi #27 that “anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph. 2;12). Man’s great, true hope which holds him firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God – God who has loved us and who continues to love us ‘to the end,’ until all ‘is accomplished’ (cf. Jn.13:1 and 19:30).”

People who truly believe in the resurrection in Christ are men and women who live for God here and now, people who witness Christ on the Cross in daily living of loving service and kindness to everyone, living in the presence of God striving to do his Holy Will even if it may be difficult and painful sometimes because our true home is in heaven with him. That is the grace of this Sunday assuring us of our own resurrection in the end, of our union with God in eternity that begins NOW, right HERE in this life. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo credits:
Topmost photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Portugal, October 2022;
Second (Ascension Chapel of Jesus) and third (wall of Jerusalem) by the author, May 2019;
Fourth by Ms. Meg Lalog-Bringas, 03 November 2022.

Bearing with one another

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 21 October 2022
Ephesians 4:1-6   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 12:54-59
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.
Another week is closing,
another week is beginning
and still, Lord Jesus,
as you have noticed,
we still can't interpret
the present time as
your very presence
in everyone of us.

Jesus said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west you say immediately that it is going to rain – and do it does; and when you notice that the wind is blowing from the south you say that it is going to be hot – and so it is. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky; why do you not know how to interpret the present time? Why do you not judge for yourselves what is right?

Luke 12:54-57
St. Paul's admonition
to the Ephesians is most
timely even to us these days
when our season is in transition
but not our sensitivities to one another;
teach us to live in a manner worthy of
our calling as "Christians" - brothers and
sisters in you, dear Jesus and most of all,
your followers.
Teach us, dear Jesus, 
to "bear one another through love,
striving to preserve" our unity
as one family in one loving Father above;
so many times, we can read the weather
but not people, becoming callous
and numb to one another's presence
and needs, pains and hurts;
heighten our sensitivities so
we may be more compassionate
with everyone, be more consoling
and caring, most of all, understanding
and kind by seeing God's image and 
likeness in each one's face.
Amen. 

Faith, like love, is a relationship

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 02 October 2022
Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4 ><}}}}'> 1 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14 ><}}}}'> Luke 17:5-10
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King Celebration in our former parish assignment, November 2020.

Our gospel this Sunday may be short and brief but so power-packed that can put us into a knock out. In fact, the scene is very disarming that can throw off all our previously held beliefs to give us fresher perspectives on discipleship and faith.

Recall how these past consecutive Sundays that Jesus taught us the importance of God and persons above material wealth like money and possessions. Notice how these lessons were directed by Jesus to the Pharisees and scribes who were known as so obsessed with money. Hardly did we hear any reactions from the Twelve – nor from most of us – until now when they asked Jesus to “increase our faith” (Lk.17:5).

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Luke 17:5-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

When we talk of faith, 
it does not really matter how long 
we have known each other, 
or how much we have given and received, 
or how much we have shared.  
Faith is being one, being together, 
of going the extra mile 
because we believe, we trust, we love. 

What elicited a reaction from the apostles? Or from us? Let’s admit the fact that many of us have felt the parables last two Sundays were not directly meant for us considering our professed “poverty” and “simplicity” in life. But, when Jesus spoke of the need to forgive those who sin against us every time they come saying sorry, the apostles realized that needed a lot of faith.

And rightly so.

When it comes to hurting our pride and ego, something deeper is at play, something so close to our person is involved than when we lose a material thing. Like the apostles, we have felt how much faith in God is demanded from us to forgive especially those who repeatedly offend us, that on our own we cannot do it.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 10 September 2022.

Hence, their request (that is also ours) to “increase our faith” because forgiving requires a lot of faith, a lot of love; however, faith is like love that cannot be quantified nor measured because like love, faith is also a relationship.

Our relationship with God and with one another is seen always in the kind of intensity we have for each other. My generation used to call it as “vibes” or vibrations, of how we are one with the other person, of how we are in communion or aligned and attuned with the other person. When we talk of faith, it does not really matter how long we have known each other, or how much we have given and received, or how much we have shared. Faith is being one, being together, of going the extra mile because we believe, we trust, we love.

This is the reason that Jesus followed up his answer to the Twelve’s request with a parable of the unworthy servants who came home after working from the field and still waited on their master at dinner; then, after fulfilling their tasks, they simply told their master “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do” (Lk. 17:10). There was no real relationship between the master and slaves except their job or task and responsibility. If it were a faith relationship, the servants would have done more than just waiting on their master because they would have believed in him!

When our faith is true, when our faith is burning like the reminder of St. Paul to Timothy in the second reading, it means we are focused with the object of our faith who are God and our loved ones. We need not be reminded of things to do, of our obligations; when there is faith in us, our focus is keeping the relationship alive and well that we go the extra mile in lovingly serving our loved ones which is discipleship is all about.


That is how faith as a relationship
 may be described these days:  
like an online class, an online meeting, 
even online Mass when sometimes 
you really wonder if there is somebody listening
 or paying attention at the other side of the screen
 but you just go on...

Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo, August 2022.

People who are deeply in love are first of all one with their loved ones that they are able to do great things because of their intense and vibrant faith that keep them united. With a burning faith inside us, we are able to love the unloveable, forgive the most despicable, achieve what others claim as impossible.

Just think of the saints like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta or the very young St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Or, the great martyrs of Auschwitz, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and St. Maximilian Kolbe. There is no way of measuring how much faith they have in Jesus Christ and humanity but we can learn from their lives the intensity of their faith and love for God and others that they did the impossible!

Very interesting was the faith too of the late Mother Angelica who founded and started EWTN that is now the largest Catholic media organization in the world. She knew nothing about broadcasting yet, all she had was faith in God and in people that she was able to overcome every obstacle to make what EWTN right now.

Think of the big corporations and enterprises around you; they all started so small in material resources but so intense in faith and conviction that they have all grown to become the leading institutions in whatever field they are into. Sometimes, believers are described as visionaries because people with deep faith see beyond what others can perceive. Remember how Jesus would remind his apostles on different occasions to “believe so that you will see” that runs opposite what the world tells us with “to see is to believe”. People who are faithful, those who believe are the ones who can truly see, not the other way around. Faithful people have vision.

Photo by author, Pangsinan, April 2022.

Prayer is the primary expression of our faith as a relationship that we just keep on doing because we believe it is good even if it is so difficult especially when nothing seems to be happening at all. We just keep on praying, believing and hoping that God is with us, very similar to our online experiences these past two years of the pandemic when many times, we wonder if there is somebody listening or paying attention at the other side of the screen! But, call it faith and relationship that we just went on with our classes and work including prayers and Masses online because we believe someone, especially God, is at the other side, even beside us!

We have not seen God but we have all experienced his love and kindness, his mercy and forgiveness that even if nothing happens like Habakkuk in the first reading, we just keep on praying (and loving) because our relationship remains intact with God who is faithfully by our side.

When our faith is alive and vibrant, we get closer to God and with others, we become more loving and caring and kind, understanding and patient and forgiving, finding ways and means to love and serve God in others.

God knows what is best for us. He has gifted us with enough faith. Let us ask him not just to increase our faith but most of all, to deepen, strengthen, and perfect our faith so that our ties and bonds as family and friends and community of disciples be stronger in Jesus Christ, both in good times and in bad. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2014.

The majesty of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 30 September 2022
Job 38:1, 12-21, 40:3-5   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 10:13-16
Photo by Greg on Pexels.com
God our loving Father,
open my eyes
open my mind
open my heart and soul
to your majesty
to experience your
immense mystery
so profoundly
unthinkable
unexplainable
yet so true
that it can be felt
and experienced
because we live
in you though we
are not aware.

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place for taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from its surface? The earth is changed as is clay by the seal, and dyed as though it were a garment. Have you entered the sources of the sea, or walked about in the depths of the abyss? Have the gates of death been shown to you, or have you seen the gates of darkness? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?

Job 38:1, 12-14, 16-18
Dearest Father,
many times I have asked you
so many questions 
and would still have more to
follow you up with but,
when I contemplate
your love and presence
in my life,
among the people you
have surrounded me with,
then I realize 
you are all questions 
that in itself more than enough
for me to see, even imagine you!

Like Job,
let me remain silent
and be wrapped by
your majesty
and glory!

Then job answered the Lord and said: Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth. Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again; though twice, I will do so no more.

Job 40:3-5
Open my eyes
in Jesus your Son
to appreciate more
your coming
your loving presence
your healing
O God our Father;
let me listen
and be more attentive
to Jesus,
your Word who became
flesh to dwell
among us;
like St. Jerome,
give me the grace
to read and study
especially to pray
your Sacred Scriptures
each day of my life
to be still
and remain
in you always.
Amen.
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 2019.