Being lost, Getting lost in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVI-B in Ordinary Time, 18 July 2021
Jeremiah 23:1-6 ><}}}'> Ephesians 2:13-18 ><}}}'> Mark 6:30-34
Photo by author, Sonnen Berg Mountain View, Davao del Sur, 2018.

Being lost or getting lost is sometimes not totally bad – or a loss – like in traveling when new routes and destinations are discovered along the way. Our readings this Sunday are about being lost, getting lost – both in the good sense and in the bad sense.

Let us reflect first on what we mean by getting lost in the good sense, that is, of getting lost in Jesus which is resting in the Lord.

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.

Mark 6:30-32
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias, the Holy Land, 2019.

Getting lost in Jesus, with Jesus

Our gospel today is the conclusion of last Sunday’s topic about the mission of the apostles that includes us in this time which is to proclaim the good news of salvation by preaching repentance and casting away evil spirits that destroy life’s beauty.

Mark now presents to us the other two essential elements of our being missionaries of Christ: of getting lost in Jesus, that is, resting in him and last but not least, seeking and comforting those who are lost in this life.

To rest in the Lord is to make time, spend time with him in disciplined prayer, of having a prayer life that is the most essential component of one’s life because without Jesus, we die.

As missionaries of Christ, we can never share and preach him to others unless we first have him in ourselves. Hence, right upon the return of the apostles amid their joys of reporting how they have accomplished their mission so well, Jesus asked them to cross the lake anew to a deserted place to be with him alone to show them that without him, they cannot do anything.

Here we find the great wonder of prayer life, of the discipline of making time for Jesus every day in prayerful meditations and contemplation: the more we spend time with Jesus, the more we can see and feel the people we serve, their needs and aspirations. As we enter into communion and intimacy with Jesus, the more we become one with others.

No apostolate, no ministry, no service will be fruitful without Christ at the center found only in prayer. The late Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote in one of his reflections that the more we become active in the ministry, the more we must be contemplative; while, the more we become contemplative, the more we become active.

Photo by Ms. JJJimeno of GMA7-News, June 2019.

It is in getting lost in Christ when we are absorbed to him in prayer where much of our mission and ministry truly happens because that is when we are most purified, when we lose ourselves to let Jesus take over us in directing our lives.

Getting lost in Jesus is entering the true sabbath, a return in Eden where we stop playing God and simply be his image and likeness again as the crowning glory of his creation.

It was after creating human when God saw everything he did as good and completed when he rested and blessed the sabbath day. He rested because he had accomplished his works; on the other hand, we rest in order to accomplish further our work in him through Jesus Christ.

To rest in the Lord is not to stop working and do nothing – resting in the Lord is getting lost and finding him in ever new circumstances and conditions that unfold before us, deepening our intimacy with him that we are eventually recreated and transformed in him.

That is the loss we must go through like St. Paul in order to gain Christ (Phil. 3:8-10) because that is when we truly find our very selves and one another as one in belonging in Jesus and the Father, that we are all indeed, one like him and the Father.

This will get clearer when we enter the third essential element of being missionaries of Christ:

Finding and comforting those lost

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark gives us a very brief account of the return of the apostles to Jesus with a dash of humor when the people saw them leaving to rest at a deserted place and arrived at the place even before them! There is really not much time at all to rest for the missionaries of the Lord!

Imagine how the apostles must have felt when they saw the crowd who have arrived ahead of them at the deserted place.

They must have been so disappointed, even disgusted.

But, Mark tells us a completely different picture of Jesus:

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Mark 6:34
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

The more time we rest in Jesus, the more we become like him – sensitive to the needs of the flock. To be moved with pity is not just a feeling mixed with some disdain or condescension for those in misery that we have heard and read a lot during this time of the pandemic wherein the poor are being blamed for being stubborn and everything that caused the spread of COVID.

Pity characterizes God like when we appeal to him when we are in deep trouble and suffering like the blind and lepers begging Jesus, “have pity on me”. Pity is a deep feeling that moves us to do something to relieve the pain and suffering of others.

It is oneness with those suffering, of “making sakay” as we say in Filipino or “riding on” or being on their same shoes. It is empathy and sympathy in action.

Notice the words of Mark: Jesus was moved with pity for they were like sheep without a shepherd. This is something deeply rooted among the people of Israel and elsewhere shepherding is largely a part of life and culture.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

A sheep getting lost without a shepherd is the worst thing that can happen to any member of the flock.

A lost sheep is surely a prey to wild animals without any defense nor defender at all.

Likewise, a sheep is a very communal animal that when lost, it bleats so miserably wandering in the desert or the open field, feeling so “kawawa” or miserable.

Did we not feel so the same the first time we went to the big city to study or work? Imagine our own feelings when we were lost, trying to find our ways into school or work or life in general when moved residence here or abroad? There was that feeling of being alone, with nobody to turn to in case of emergencies or dangers.

It is also the most common feeling we have since the start of the pandemic, of being locked down, of not knowing where to go as a result or who to trust.

No wonder, so many among us have suffered some forms of depression or emotional turmoil, from young children who could not process what they were going through to the elderly who are refused entry to almost every establishment. There is that feeling of being lost as to what have happened or why are things going like these!

This is then usual bad case of being lost, of being alone with nobody to rely on, to trust. That is the image of a sheep without a shepherd, almost facing certain death.

It is a very scary and traumatizing situation in life that Jesus felt so much with the crowd who followed them that despite his being tired, he gathered them and preached to them (next Sunday, he would feed them).

This is the context of the prophecy by Jeremiah in the first reading that God was so angry with the unfaithful shepherds of Israel who have misled and scattered his flock, promising to “raise up a righteous shoot to David” (Jer.23:5) fulfilled in Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Ephesians 2:13, 17-18

Jesus came to gather those who are lost as he specifically told the Twelve to “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt.10:6, Wednesday, Wk. 14).

This is the problem, ironically, in our age of instant mobility and accessibility when feelings of being lost is hardly noticed nor even recognized especially during this time of the pandemic. So many people, young and old alike, feel so lost. Many of them are shouting inside in desperation for their many other losses in life like losing a loved one, losing a business, losing so many chances in life.

Let us join Jesus in crossing the lakes of this life, getting lost in him in prayers, to find those who are lost and reach out to them. A smile, a simple gesture of kindness like a short text or a phone call could surely bring relief to them to find themselves again and discover new directions in life in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima, locally stranded people near NAIA, June 2020.

Magnum Silentium

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for Holy Saturday, 03 April 2021
Photo by author, sunrise at the Dead Sea, the Holy Land, 2019.

Help us to be silent today, O God our Father as we remember your Son Jesus Christ’s Great Silence – Magnum Silentium – when he was “crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead and on the third day he rose again.”

On this Holy Saturday, your whole creation comes to full circle. In the beginning, after completing your work of creation, you rested on the seventh day and made it holy (Gen.2:3). On the seventh day after completing his mission here on earth, Jesus Christ was laid to rest.

Silence and rest always go together.

To be silent is not merely being quiet but listening more to your voice coming from the depths of our being; hence, it is not emptiness but fullness with you, dear God. It is in silence where we truly discover our selves and others too.

On the other hand, to rest is not merely to stop work nor stop from being busy. We rest to reconnect with you to be filled with your Holy Spirit. You do not actually rest, O God, because you never get tired; it is us who need to rest so we may continue your work of creation and, now of redemption and renewal by Jesus Christ.

When we rest, we return to Eden, like the garden where Jesus was buried: “Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by” (Jn. 19:41-42).

How beautiful is that image, O dear Father, of your rest and silence in Eden and of Jesus laid to rest at a tomb in a garden: to rest in silence is therefore when we stop playing God as we return to you as your image and likeness again!

Maybe that is why many of us these days are afraid of silence because it is the realm of trust and of truth. We have always been afraid to trust you and be truthful to you and ourselves that have caused the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

Teach us to be like those women who rested on the sabbath when Jesus was laid to rest. That like them, we may trust you more by being true to ourselves even in the midst of a raging second wave of COVID-19 this Holy Saturday.

May your silence and rest reassure us that we shall rise with you again. Amen.

The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.

Luke 23:55-56

Prayer to enter God’s rest

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Week-I, Year -I in Ordinary Time, 15 January 2021
Hebrews 4:1-5, 11  >><)))*> >><)))*> + <*(((><< <*(((><<  Mark 2:1-12
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee in Israel, 2017.

Let us be on guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed… Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:1, 11

Thank you, dear God this Friday with Your words reminding us of “entering Your rest”, Your Sabbath!

But what is Your “rest”, God our Father?

More than a particular day of the week, it is first of all Your very presence like in paradise that our first parents have lost due to their pride and disobedience to You.

May we heed and learn from the reflections of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews of how Your chosen people, the Israelites, disobeyed you, dear God, while in the wilderness that prevented them from entering Your rest in the Promised Land of Israel, spending 40 years wandering in the desert.

Sadly, all these continue to happen in our own time when we are supposed to be disciples of Your Son Jesus Christ.

Help us O God to resist the temptations and strive hard to see you, feel you, and experience you.

Help us to be like those men carrying the paralytic who sought ways and means to see Jesus Christ, our only true hope and inspiration and consolation in times like these. It is in Jesus Christ’s coming that we are able to enter Your rest freely and truly, dear God, to experience Your love and mercy, kindness and compassion we have all taken for granted.

But, more than a place and a day, Your rest, O Lord, is heaven, Your very presence, that very moment when Jesus healed and forgave the sins of the paralytic, astounding everyone, glorifying You, saying, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mk.2:12).

Let us “rest” in You, dear God by returning to You, of being renewed in You with Your whole creation in Jesus. Amen.

Photo by author, sunset somewhere in Pampanga, 13 January 2021.

We are disciples of a meek and humble Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
XIVth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 05 July 2020
Zechariah 9:9-10 >><)))*> Romans 8:9, 11-13 >><)))*> Matthew 11:25-30
From Google.

We now come to the conclusion of our series of teachings of Jesus about discipleship that began two Sundays ago when he asked us not to be afraid and to be “possessed” or overtaken by him to fulfill our mission of proclaiming his good news of salvation.

And so, we now ask, “Why should we follow Jesus and be his disciples, forgetting our very selves and still carry our cross? Have we not suffered enough especially in this pandemic?”

His answer: because unlike other lord and master, Jesus is the only one who is meek and humble of heart, full of compassion to everyone!

He is the only one truly with us in our pains and cries because before all these trials have come to us, Jesus was there first to suffer and die for us on the Cross so we can share in the grace and peace of his Resurrection, calling us with these comforting words….

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Our desire for everything “lite” and easy

If there is anything that we all want at this time is a rest, a break from the heavy burdens 2020 has brought upon us all as individuals and as a nation, not only in the country but the whole world.

We all want things to be “light” and easy like before COVID-19.

The world has long been offering us everything that is “light” (also spelled as “lite”), claiming it to be the key to a healthy and fulfilling life that many products are labelled as lite — from cooking oil to mayonnaise, cheese and ice cream, soda and even brandy, beer, and cigarettes!

But they are all lies!

We still get fat and even sickly with those lite products because being light does not necessarily mean removing or taking away things that are heavy and “toxic” or difficult. Being light does not mean free from responsibilities and duties, or not having a cross and sufferings in life.

Life is difficult as M. Scott Peck insists in The Road Less Travelled, telling us that the sooner we accept this reality, the better we are in life.

It is the truth Jesus Christ has long been telling us, so timely to be reminded again this first Sunday of the second half of 2020 as we continue to hurdle more difficulties ahead in fighting COVID-19 as well as in dealing with a hosts of other problems it had created in the many aspects of our lives.

Today, the Lord is telling us that to be light in life, we have to come to him, be his disciple by taking his yoke and learning from him.

We all know from experience that anything becomes light, especially a burden and a problem, when shared with someone who loves us, someone who cares for us, someone who believes in us. Many times, our problems and burdens need not be solved at all; they simply have to be shared with any one willing to accompany us.

Being light in life is having a companion to share with our burdens and woes because having these all by ourselves is indeed so difficult and impossible. That is the literal meaning of the Latin origin of the word companion – cum panis – someone you break bread with in a journey.

Jesus Christ is that only companion par excellence we can have for he is meek and humble of heart

Photo by Ezra Acayan of Getty Images, Baclaran Church, February 2020.

The gentle mastery of Jesus Christ

In the past two Sundays, Jesus spoke about ourselves and our dispositions to become his disciples. This Sunday, he speaks about himself as our Lord and Master, describing himself as “meek and humble of heart”.

Earlier at the start of his preaching in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of true blessedness in the Beatitudes that actually gave us an image of himself as the Blessed One. Each beatitude speaks of Jesus Christ being poor in spirit, being meek, being merciful, being clean of heart, being a peacemaker, and being persecuted.

See that the third beatitude is how he also described himself today in the gospel, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land” (Mt. 5:5).

Very interesting is the fact that in his Sermon on the Mount when he preached the Beatitudes, Jesus was presenting himself to the people as the “new Moses” who gave them the Ten Commandments of God at Mount Sinai. As the most towering figure among the Jews, Moses is also described as “very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)!

Meekness of Jesus: focusing more on persons than letters of the law

In calling us to come to him to take his yoke and learn from him for he is meek and humble of heart, Jesus is telling us that indeed, he is the new Moses in whom pure goodness is found. And even more surpassing than Moses because Jesus himself is the Law and its fulfillment. Unlike in Moses wherein the people focused more on the letters of the laws, Jesus our Lord insists more on the person, always reminding us that “Sabbath was created for man, not man for sabbath.”

But the most beautiful key in understanding the meekness of Jesus is found in our first reading which we also hear proclaimed on Palm Sunday:

Thus says the Lord: Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem.

Zechariah 9:9-10a
Photo from Google of an ass considered as the dumbest creature on earth.

Unlike the proud masters and rulers of the world, Jesus our Lord and King entered Jerusalem riding on an ass in fulfillment of this part of the Old Testament.

Here we find Jesus as the exact opposite of the kings and rulers of the world whose kingship does not depend on political and military might, no exercise of brute force and power characterized by the chariots and horses of his time.

Meekness of Jesus: oneness with us his people

In this beautiful imagery of Jesus riding an ass considered as the dumbest creature on earth we find Christ’s inmost being of humility and meekness before God and men. No display of arrogance and shameless feelings of entitlements like our officials in the government and military. Most of all, Jesus riding on an ass illustrates his oneness with us all because the ass is the means of transportation of the poor, of the common tao.

Here is the meekness and humility of Jesus Christ — his being one with us in our brokenness and poverty, pains and hurts. You can really experience him especially in this time of the corona when everything seems to be getting worst than better, when everybody is trying to make ends meet amid the economic crisis with Jesus never abandoning us in our darkest moments of uncertainties, fears, hunger, and sadness.

At the rate things are going, we have nobody else to turn to at this time but Jesus our Lord. We have to muster all our faith in him, deepen ourselves in prayer because we cannot rely on our officials who cannot even get a clear data on COVID-19 infections nor even a sound plan in addressing this pandemic despite the longest days of lockdown in the world and loans from abroad.

And we all feel so hopeless, disgruntled and so disgusted especially with the public officials and those from congress and the police who are oblivious to our sufferings and hardships in this time of the corona as they shamelessly flaunt their privileges and exception to the rules.

How can we heal as one when in the first place they are not one with us?

Discipleship in Christ is life in the Holy Spirit

Despite all the irresponsibilities and inanities of the government, we choose to be like our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in bearing all pains and hardships in his holy name, always hoping that this experience can lead us to more meaningful lives as citizens of the republic.

We choose the path of non-violence despite the government’s militaristic response to the crisis aggravated by the legislative’s dangerous foray into more draconian measures to silence critics of the administration.

It is so tempting to fight back and forget all about meekness and humility but that is not the way of Jesus Christ.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us of the fundamental choice that lies before every disciple of the Lord: to live in solidarity with Christ empowered by his Spirit, or to live in solidarity with the old humanity enslaved to sin.

May we choose Jesus because he alone is meek and humble of heart, in him alone can we find rest because his yoke is easy and his burden light. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Angelo Nicolas Carpio, 2020.

Aral at turo ng bundok

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-09 ng Hunyo 2020
Ang banal na Bundok ng Sinai sa Ehipto kung saan nakipagtagpo at usap ang Diyos kay Moises. Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Mayo 2019.
Mula 
 kamusmusan 
hanggang kabataan 
maging sa katandaan, palagi 
kong pinag-iisipan ano kaya pakiramdam 
at karanasan maakyat ang kabundukan at mula
doon durungawin nasa ibabang mga lansangan at kapatagan o kaya naman
mula sa gayong kataasan kung mayroong kaibahan kung ako'y tumingala sa kalangitan.
Hindi 
nagtagal aking 
naranasang maakyat ilang 
kabundukan at doon ko natutunan 
pangunahing aral at katotohanan na ang bundok 
ay buhay, isang paglalakbay mga daana'y di tiyak, puno ng mga 
dawag at panganib, hindi lahat ay paahon minsa'y palusong kaya mahalaga 
sa bawat pagkakataon, tuon ay matunton nililingon na taluktok sa dako pa roon.
Iwaksi 
pagmamadali 
gaya ng ating buhay, damhin
paglalakbay sa bundok, tingnan kalikasan
pakinggan sari-saring tunog at huni sa kapaligiran
iyong mararanasan kaluguran at kabutihan, hindi kahirapan;
iwasan o lampasan at iwanan mga hindi kagandahan, panatilihan 
saan man ika'y puno ng kagalakan at kaganapan, sa buhay madalas nating malimutan.
Huwag
kalilimutan tanging
mahalaga lamang ang dalhin
ano mang hindi kailangan ay iwanan
upang huwag mabigatan, mapagaan at mapaluwag
di lamang katawan kungdi pati kalooban dahil ang malaking 
katotohanan, itong bundok ay larawan ng Diyos na sa ati'y umaakit 
sa kanya tayo ay lumapit upang kariktan niya at kabanalan atin ding makamit.
Ang
hiwaga ng
kabundukan katulad 
nitong atin buhay matatagpuan 
sa ating kakayanang iwanan ang lahat,
Diyos ay pagkatiwalaan na Siya ring nagbigay
sa atin ng bugtong Niyang Anak nag-alay ng buhay sa krus 
upang mabuksan pintuan ng kalangitan na ating tunay na tahanan 
madalas nating tinitingnan sa kaulapan halos kalapit ng mataas na kabundukan.

Ang mga bantog na Swiss Alps sa Switzerland. Kuha ni Rdo. P. Gerry Pascual, 2019.

“Ashes to Ashes” by Dennis Lambert (1972)

DSCF1487
Yehliu Geopark in Taiwan with “mushroom” rock formations at the background.  Photo by the author, 30 January 2019.

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 17 February 2019

Every year when Valentine’s comes, I only think of one song:  Dennis Lambert’s “Of All the Things”.  It is probably the ultimate love song of all time especially for us die-hard romantic Filipinos that even Sr. Bubbles Bandojo, rc covered it for a Jesuit CD of popular songs often sung in weddings in the country.  No wonder, Dennis Lambert gained a cult following in the country for that song he released in 1972 from the album “Bags and Things”.

Another cut from that great album is “Ashes to Ashes” which I find as a perfect match for our gospel this Sunday about the Beatitudes preached by Jesus Christ during His sermon on the plain based on St. Luke’s gospel.  In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us true blessedness and happiness in following Him is being poor, hungry, weeping, and hated by others.  They are paradoxical because they run directly against the values of the world and yet, we know deep in our hearts how they are very true!  Life is not about having and amassing but giving and sharing.  Dennis Lambert reminds us that in the end, we are all “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”  And there lies the great paradox in this life that Jesus has always reminded us, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it” (Lk.17:33).  The saints who have followed the Lord knew it so well and lived it through as well as poets, writers and musicians like Lambert wrote about it too.  A blessed Sunday to you!

Vacation and Vocation: A Reflection on the Caller, the Call, and the One Called

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Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 24 January 2019

            Vacation and vocation are two important realities for us priests.  In fact, the two are closely related because both are rooted in God.  Problems happen when we priests totally forget God both in our vacation and in our vocation.  And this has always been our problem because we have refused to go back, get closer and enter God Himself.

             Both vacation and vocation came from Latin:  the former is from the word “vacare” that means to be emptied or vacant while the latter has its roots in “vocare” which is to be called.  Every vacation is a sabbath, a resting in God who calls us to this priestly vocation.  This concept is beautifully expressed in our Filipino word “magpahinga” that literally means to be breathed on by God.  When we priests go on vacation, the more we are able to serve people better with joy because that is when we are filled with God.  Every vacation is a path leading us closer to God that is why priests are encouraged to go on sabbatical leaves, whether the usual weekly breaks or the yearly longer vacations.  This past week we have heard from the gospels in our daily Masses how the enemies of Jesus missed this important aspect of sabbath when they would always question His healings on days of rest, prompting Him to ask them, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than destroy it?” (Mk.3:4).  God is always bigger than Sabbath because “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.  That is why the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath” (Mk.2:27-28).  Even laypeople have fallen into this trap of emphasizing sabbath more than God Himself that we make many excuses of not going to Sunday Masses because bonding with family and friends is more important.  Every year, less and less people are going to Church celebrations of the Holy Week and Easter because they would rather take the opportunity to go on vacation as they try hard to convince themselves that God would perfectly understand them anyway.

             This problem with vacation takes on its most unfortunate turn when we priests deal with our vocation.  In my 20 years in the priesthood with the last seven years spent in direct interactions with seminarians as teacher and spiritual director, I have found something so wrong now becoming a trend that is probably one of the reasons why we are plagued with all kinds of problematic priests in the Church.  It is a new kind of idolatry when we have come to worship and adore more our vocation and priesthood than God Himself.  We have forgotten the great distinction between the call and the Caller.  When the one being called, whether a priest or a seminarian, gets so focused with the call forgetting the Caller, problems arise and not too far from the scene are evil and sin.

            “Brothers and sisters:  Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was.  In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him:  You are my son; this day I have begotten you” (Heb.5:1,4-5). 

            Priestly vocation is always a gift and a call from God to be closer and be one in Him and with Him in Christ.  Vocation is the call of God but not God.  The Caller is always above and distinct from the call.  The one being called is meant to end with the Caller and not with the call.  It is a terrible problem when a seminarian insists on being ordained as if it is a right simply because he is called even if the seminary fathers do not see him responding properly to his priestly calling.  It becomes a tragedy when priests insist with their own beliefs and perceptions of things as part of their responding to their vocation, forgetting or even totally disregarding Christ as well as the norms and teachings of the Church, His visible presence (sacrament) on earth.  The sex scandals that continue to rock and deeply hurt the Church stem from this erroneous perception by some priests who cling to their vocation, unmindful of the Caller we all need to imitate in holiness so we can also embrace children and uplift women like Him in love and respect.  See how some of our churches have become like birthday cakes, malls and even dance halls when pastors pretend to be bringing the people closer to God with all their pomp and pageantry when in fact are just massaging unconsciously their bloated egos.  When priests get busy more with church constructions, fund raising and other social events without any time for prayer to be with God and His flock, they worship the call, not the Caller.  The height of this idolatrous worship of the vocation by priests is when we make up so many alibis and excuses to justify our various preoccupations like luxurious living, vanities that include too much sports and body-building, vices in all forms like addiction with telenovelas, engaging in businesses, frequent travels that Pope Francis had branded as “scandal of the airports”and yes, even adopting children!

            I wrote this not to put down my brother priests and students in the seminary but to contribute in whatever way that we can grow closer with Jesus Christ who calls us to be one in Him.  I am also a sinner, “a worthless servant of the Lord who tries to do my duty” as His priest (Lk.17:10).  Lately in our daily Masses as well as this coming Sunday we shall hear in the gospel of how Jesus would enter their synagogue in Capernaum on a sabbath.  It is a very simple scene but filled with meanings, asking me whether I simply enter the church or do I enter God?  How sad that until now there are people like the Magi from the East asking “where is the newborn king of Israel?” while inside our churches that have merely become a building but never the Body of Christ because what we only have is the call, or maybe just the echo of that call without the Caller.

*Photo by the author, chapel of Holy Family, Sacred Heart Novitiate and Retreat House, Novaliches, Quezon City, June 2015.

“Magpa-hinga sa Diyos”

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ika-22 ng Enero 2019
IMG_2434

 

“Goodbye bakasyon, hello baon!”

Nakakatawang sinulat ng aking sacristan
Sa kanyang Facebook matapos ang Bagong Taon
Na tila baga pinaglulubag kanyang kalooban
Sa bakasyong papatapos na noon.
Maraming tao ngayon kapag bakasyon
Batid lamang ay puro selebrasyon
Na hindi nauunawaan diwa ng okasyon
Kaya di maglaon lumilipas lamang ito ng gayon.
lawiswistakip silim
Itong salita na bakasyon ay ating hiniram
Sa wikang Inggles na vacation na ang ugat ay Latin
Na ang ibig sabihi’y walang laman o kaya’y sairin
Upang ma-vacate o mabakante kalooban natin.
Kaya naman ang salin nito sa sariling wika natin
Ay mas malalim at nakahiling sa loobin ng Diyos natin
Noong matapos Niyang likhain lahat sa daigdig natin
Namahinga Siya at tinakda Niyang itong tawagin Sabbath.
Kaya nga kung tutuusin itong pamamahinga
Ay hindi lamang pagtigil sa maraming tungkulin at gawain
Kungdi upang sairin itong kalooban natin
At punuing muli ng hininga ng Diyos na Siyang buhay natin.
Mula nang ang tao ay palayasin sa Paraiso
Dahil sa pagkakasala ng mga ninuno natin
Sariling paningin ay pumangit din kaya’t sa Diyos
Ay nagtago matapos kagatin bawal na bunga sa hardin.
Kaya nga yaring araw ng pamamahinga ay biyaya para sa atin
Dahil kapag ito ay ating ipinangingilin nagbabalik tayo sa Eden
Diyos ay nakakapiling at muling nakakamukha natin
Dahil Espiritung pumupuspos sa atin ay Kanyang hininga rin.
Huwag sana nating limutin di lamang kahalagahan
Kungdi pati kahulugan nitong bakasyon na tayo ay hingahan ng Diyos
Upang mapuno ng Kanyang buhay na siyang gagabay
Sa ating paglalakbay hanggang sa Kanya ay humimlay habangbuhay.
raffysampaloc cove1
*Unang larawan ay kuha ng makata sa Assumption Sabbath sa Baguio; ang ikalawa ay kuha ni G. Raffy Tima ng GMA-7News sa Sampaloc Cove, Subic, Zambales.

Let God Come Close to You

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Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 18 January 2019

            People have been telling me to get a tablet or at least upgrade my iPhone so I can continue with my blogs when I go on vacation just like this past week; but, I am not yet that techie to be able to blog away from my study table.  Besides, I feel it is going against the very idea of a vacation when we are supposed to “vacate” or empty ourselves of the ordinary things and routines we always have.  Vacation is the first and most essential kind of “Marie Kondo-ing” or decluttering of self of so many things we have accumulated that have disfigured us.  A vacation is not merely taking a break from the usual stuff and routines in life but to rest and recreate so we find our true selves again.  In the bible we find a more beautiful term for vacation called “sabbatical” from the word “Sabbath” or day of rest.  Genesis 2:2 tells us that after creating everything, God rested on the seventh day that later God made it His third commandment, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day” (Ex. 20:8).

            Vacation is always a gift of God not only for the resources to rest and recreate but most of all, it is a grace to rediscover our true selves by discovering Him again.  God rested on the seventh day because He had completed His work; but we people and all creation have to rest so we can all continue to work in God.  Every vacation as a Sabbath is a celebration of life, of being children of God because the more we turn away from Him, the more we get lost in life.  The more we turn away from God, the more we lose our true identity and self as His beloved children.  See how when Adam and Eve sinned:  they hid from God because they found themselves naked whereas before, they felt no shame because they felt and found everything good.  They have been alienated from their very selves the very instant they turned away from God.  Hence, every vacation in the spirit of Sabbath is a return to Eden or paradise!

              An author whose name I could no longer recall said that “a sabbatical is when I stop playing God, when I go back to the original image of God.”   In our Filipino language, vacation and Sabbath have a more beautiful translation called pahinga.  It is from the root word “hinga” or“breathe” which is a verb and becomes “hininga” or breath when taken as a noun.  To rest which is “magpahinga” literally means “to be breathed on.”  Therefore, to rest as in vacation is to empty ourselves so that we can be filled again with the breath of God or to be breathed on by God!  In this sense, in every vacation, we are also re-created by God who fills us with His Spirit.  And there lies the true beauty of every vacation when we feel so alive, when all of a sudden everything and everyone looks so nice and lovely as we realize how blessed we are, how fortunate not only to have gone and visited wonderful places and destinations but most of all in having found our rootedness in God – that we are so loved by this personal God who relates with us truly as a Father.  When we experience a lovely sunrise or sunset, when we are captivated by nature’s wonders, when we suddenly realize we are alive and existing that no matter how little we may be in this vast universe, we are assured deep within that we are loved and cared for by Somebody bigger and powerful.  When we stand in total darkness of the night to see the stars above or be awed by the Aurora Borealis, we realize that even if we are just a speck of dust in this vast universe, we are so special because everything was created for us to see and experience and enjoy!  It is an awesome feeling that we exist, that we are alive and most of all, we are far better, more lovely and beautiful than anything because we are the only ones created by God in His own image and likeness.

            And there lies the joy of coming home from every vacation as we are eager to go back to share not only the wonderful sights and sounds we have experienced but deep within us – unconsciously – we want to show our newfound self, our refreshed self to others.  We yearn to go home after a vacation not because we have nowhere else to go but because we now have a clear direction in this journey of life.  Every year we look forward to our vacation, to venture out there somewhere for our Sabbath and let God come closer to us so that we can always come home to ourselves, to our family and friends, and eventually to Him in all eternity.  Amen.

Photos by the author:  above is sunset at the Assumption Sabbath Place in Baguio City, below is the lobby of the retreat house.

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