Blessed are we

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 07 February 2023
Genesis 1:20-2:4     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Mark 7:1-13
What a blessed Tuesday we have today,
God our loving Father as Genesis tells us
in the first reading how you blessed thrice 
the last three days of creation:
on the fifth day, you created and blessed
all water creatures and winged birds;
on the sixth day you created and blessed 
man and woman;
and finally on the seventh day,
you blessed the day of sabbath.
Lately we have been meditating 
what is to be blessed:  Elizabeth called
Mary "blessed" because she believed your words
spoken to her would be fulfilled;
the other Sunday in his sermon on the mount,
Jesus called the poor in spirit, the meek,
the merciful, the grieving, the hungry and thirsty
as "blessed"; and today, after creating the birds and fish,
man and woman, and day of sabbath,
you blessed them all.
In today's story of creation, you bestowed 
your blessing O God to fish and birds and people
after creating them, telling them to be fertile
and to multiply in number;
in blessing the seventh day as sabbath,
you also blessed it as a day of rest;
whether it is used as an adjective or a verb,
being blessed and to bless mean being 
filled with grace, abounding in grace,
and most of all, spreading and keeping
that grace from you as expressed by
your command to the fish and birds and people
to go and multiply; to fulfill that command, we
need to rest on sabbath so that we may keep our
ties and link with you, thereby, to have the
strength to care for all creation,
to keep your grace from flowing!
Forgive us, dear Father, in failing to keep your
command to care for your creation, 
most especially in neglecting one another as
a brother and sister in Christ when we
"nullify the word of God in favor of our many 
traditions we have handed on" like the
Pharisees (Mk.7:13);
help us cleanse our inner selves,
recover our blessedness in you
so we may share your blessings anew.
Amen.

God remembers… don’t quit!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 17 January 2023
Hebrews 6:10-20     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Mark 2:23-28
This prayer I offer 
for those losing hope,
wanting to quit and leave,
losing patience and sense
in all their efforts for the
betterment of others and the world,
for those disappointed or frustrated,
for those always on the distaff side,
always seen as odd and weird
because of their firm stand for
their beliefs and values:
remind them, Father, 
that you are aware of all their
noble efforts for the uplifting
of lives of many,
for their fight for justice
and truth.

Brothers and sisters: God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.

Hebrews 6:10
Dearest Jesus,
you know so well
how difficult and even
painful to remind people 
of their giftedness,
of their dignity,
of their honor;
many times, we feel tired
and sad at how others see us
and all our efforts for their good;
we are not asking for quick fixes
nor shortcuts for we know that indeed,
doing your work is never easy,
it is always a process;
all we are asking is rest,
a break perhaps
like your apostles one sabbath
who picked the heads of grain;
many times like the Pharisees
people give more emphasis and
importance to rites and rituals,
to rules and laws without any regard
for persons.
Lord Jesus,
remind us always that when
people fail to see our personhood,
our self-dedication to you and
your works,
remind us to never sag in spirits,
to never be sluggish
but instead be filled with more
fire and ardor in doing your work
until they realize that "The sabbath
was made for man, not man for 
sabbath.  That is why the Son of Man
is lord even of the sabbath"
(Mark 2:27-28).
Amen.

The gift of “rest”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the First Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 13 January 2023
Hebrews 4:1-5, 11     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Mark 2:1-12
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, April 2022.
O God our loving Father!
You are so wonderful and amazing,
so marvelous that you lavish us
daily with love and mercy.
What else can I ask you except 
that I "enter your rest" which 
the author of the Letter to the
Hebrews had enunciated so well
in the first reading today.
In fact, I have counted six times 
he had used in six verses that 
little yet powerful word "rest"  we 
often take for granted especially in
this restless world.

Let us be on our 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
How ironic, O God
that while we all desire 
to enter your eternal rest
in heaven, no one really cares
to value your day of rest
in this life as we busy ourselves
with everything except you
and our loved ones;
make us realize that rest is
primarily about you, 
being with you,
returning to you
just like when you
rested after creating everything.
Make us realize that to rest 
is to be one in you and with you
in Christ Jesus; to rest is to let
your will be done again like in
paradise before the fall;
to rest is enter you in Jesus.
That is why 
I love our Filipino word
for rest which is "pahinga" -
to be breathed on.  
By whom?
By you, O God!
Let us rest 
and be breathed on 
through your words
and sacraments,
through our private 
and communal prayers,
through our personal experiences
and through one another.
Dear Jesus,
help us imitate 
those courageous men who
opened up the roof above you
to lower their paralytic friend
because to rest is of God,
from above; enable us, Jesus,
to rest in you always
in every here and now
so we may finally rest 
in eternity.  Amen.

Christmas, a return to Paradise

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Third Week of Advent, Day 1 of Christmas Novena, 16 December 2022
Isaiah 56:1-3, 6-8     ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>     John 5:33-36
Photo by author, 08 December 2022.

All roads lead to the church early today for the start of our traditional Christmas novena known as Missa de Aguinaldo or simply, Simbang Gabi. And this year, we are having a truly blessed Christmas because after two years in COVID pandemic, we are celebrating Christ’s birth face-to-face while still keeping basic health protocols like the wearing of face masks inside churches.

Christmas is essentially face-to-face. The Son of God became human like us in everything except sin so we may experience and meet God personally, face-to-face in Jesus Christ.

Everything in Christmas is face-to-face, from the Annunciation to Mary of Christ’s birth to the Visitation, the Nativity itself when shepherds and magi visited Jesus face-to-face until the presentation at the temple of Jesus when Simeon and Anna saw and carried him while a child.

According to Pope emeritus Benedict VI, what Jesus really did in his coming was to bring God closest to us humans. In that sense, Christmas is then a return to Paradise, to Eden — of the Son of God fetching us back to the Father.

That is why on the first week of Advent, we claimed this season is a Sabbath when we go back to God to rest in him, to be breathed on by him and be filled with his life and spirit.

Photo by author, 2021.

Christmas is a return to paradise which we have lost after the Fall when Adam and Eve turned away from God. And that is why we find the word sabbath twice in our first reading on this first day of our Christmas novena.

Thus says the Lord: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, the son of man who holds to it; who keeps the sabbath free from profanation, and his hand from any evil doing… all who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offering and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Isaiah 56:1-2, 6-7

This Christmas 2022 when God willed that we celebrate his Son’s birth on a Sunday is very special because he wants us to go back to him, to stop playing God. On this Simbang Gabi, we are invited to return to Eden to be the image of God once again – loving and kind, beautiful and free as his children doing what is right.

Christmas as a sabbath is rediscovering the rhythm of time like the time of creation, the time of birth, the time of everything centered on God. On this Simbang Gabi as we go back to God, it is hoped that we discover anew our own rhythm of time too! How sad that the more we get so centered with ourselves, pursuing everything in life with so many excuses and alibis of not being able to celebrate Masses or even pray, the more we get lost. And the more we get sick physically and most of all, emotionally drained and practically empty, no matter how much money and gadgets we may have. There is always that feeling of emptiness within. A kind of discontentment, of someone of something so great missing in our lives.

That is God who comes to us through our family and friends.

God reminds us through Isaiah to go back to him, to be rooted in him again which means simply being good and holy. Being holy is not being sinless – being holy is being filled with God. Being aware we are his children, he is our Father to whom we must always go home to, touch base with. Just like in the family, we are never complete without one another. Though we are separated by great distances, we still try to get connected once in a while not only to express our love for them but because deep inside, we miss them, we long them. We know we are not complete without our mom and dad, brothers and sisters – no matter how much pains they may have done to us. They are a part of our very selves and we can never be complete without them.

No wonder, it is during this time of the year when we have all kinds of get together and reunions as families and friends, classmates and colleagues in work. Let us not forget the lessons of 2020 when COVID first came and forced us to separate from one another physically. Now we have realized that the meaning of life can only be found in another person, not in one’s self. Let us seek and follow Jesus this Christmas in one another, especially our family and church.

From Facebook 2019.
Our dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
as we prepare for your birthday,
let us seek you in our hearts,
in the sacraments especially
the Eucharist and Confession,
let us recognize you on the face
of every person we meet,
on those we miss so much,
and on those we have hurt
or have caused us pains;
help us go back to the Father
and may his face shine on us;
most of all, dear Jesus,
let us not be stuck with all those 
glitters and lights of this season:
let us rest in you,
feel you
and experience you
in those great and little things
you have been doing for us
especially when we are lost
and empty.  Amen.

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.

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.

Prayer under pressure

40 Shades of Lent, Friday, Week IV, 27 March 2020

Wisdom 2:1, 12-22 ><)))*> +++ <*(((>< John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 22 March 2020.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. Many are the troubles of the just man but out of them all, the Lord delivers him.”

Psalm 34:19-20

God our heavenly Father, we come to you today, begging you for more strength, more courage, more faith in you as the pressures and stress increase and worsen due this COVID-19 pandemic the whole world is suffering with.

Like your Son Jesus Christ in today’s gospel, we can feel so strongly the tremendous pressure he was going through from his enemies in the weeks leading to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection that he could not openly go to Jerusalem.

But, still he went there in secret to continue his mission of proclaiming the good news, trusting in you, our Father in heaven, who alone designates each one’s “hour”.

So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

John 7:30

Give us the grace, Lord, to withstand all the pressures and stress going on within us, in our family and community as we enter the second week of lockdown.

Most especially, we pray for our frontliners in health and medicine who are subjected to intense pressures by the pandemic. Some of them have lost their lives fulfilling their mission. Bless their souls, bless their loved ones left behind.

We pray, Lord, for those who have to work today so we can have food on our table, electricity and communication lines, water, and also security we have seem to take for granted these days.

May this lockdown provide us with the much needed rest to fight all the stresses and pressures we have been carrying on our shoulders for a long time.

May this lockdown be a Sabbath for us like you have envisioned in the beginning when you created everything. Amen.

Photos by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, 26 March 2020. See Mt. Samat and the 1,821 feet Memorial Cross in Bataan as seen from the GMA Network Bldg. in Quezon City across the expanse of Manila Bay. Used with permission.

Remember, always remember.

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Saturday, Week XIX, Year I, 17 August 2019

Joshua 24:14-29 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 19:13-15

Photo by Eric Smart on Pexels.com

Thank you very much, dear God, for this weekend rest.

And as we rest from work or studies, let us also pray for the gift of remembering.

Like in the first reading when Joshua asked the Israelites to always remember the many wondrous things you have done to them so they may remain faithful to you, make us remember too that there is no other God except you who personally relates with us, blessing us with everything that we need even without our asking.

You have created us to always remember but we are also “beings of forgetfulness” who always forget everything and everyone, especially you and those dearest to us. We are easily distracted with so many other things and people that we always forget those who are truly good to us.

When life becomes nice and easy for us, when we have everything we need, that is when we forget. And sadly, when we forget, when we do not remember, that is when we also break away, we go apart.

Because, to “remember” literally means to make a member or part again, “re” + “member”.

When we remember you, O God, we affirm your presence in us and among us.

When we remember our loved ones, whether away or gone forever, we make them a part again of our lives here and now, the present moment. The same thing is true with events in the past, whether good or bad.

Thank you so much O God for this gift of remembering!

Make us like the children in today’s gospel who came to you, wanting to be one with you, wanting to be your member and part too! Amen.

A blessed Saturday to everyone!

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

20160518_221911
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.

Entering God

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The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, 23 January 2019, Week II, Year I
Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17///Mark 3:1-6

            “Jesus entered the synagogue” (Mk.3:1).

            Lord Jesus Christ, your gospel today is so simple and so meaningful, making me wonder why would you even bother to enter the synagogue when you are the Lord of Sabbath, the Son of God, our Eternal High Priest in the line of Melchizedek?

            How wonderful is that imagery of you always entering the synagogue to remind us of something deeper than praying and obeying your laws and that is the need to enter more the person of God.  To enter the synagogue like you Jesus is to enter the Father and be one with Him in His love and mercy.

             So sad that too often, we enter only your thoughts and calling, your words and your laws that have all come to replace your very Person within us.  We have worshiped things about you but never yourself!  No wonder so many of us choose to remain silent than answer your question “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath than to evil, to save life rather than destroy it?” (Mk.3:4) when facing real life situations between what we believe and what we feel as a person.

              To enter the synagogue is to first of all enter you, God – and be one with you in your love and mercy.  When we fail to enter you God our Father, then we also fail to enter our very selves that we are detached from others and from life itself.  To enter God is to enter our hearts and to feel one with others, especially the sick and the suffering.  To enter God is to be like you, Jesus, our priest forever in the line of Melchizedek who is full of holiness and peace.  Amen.  Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

*Photo by the author, Jerusalem, April 2017.