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

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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.

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.

“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.

What a Loving God We Have

sunset-and-wheat-field-1440x900-960x350
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, 22 January 2019, Week II, Year I
Hebrews 6:10-20///Mark 2:23-28

            O God!  You are so loveable and so loving!

           You are the truest lover of all… so “nakaka-in-love” and so “kilig” as we say.  You are so undeniably real, so personal, always my loving Dad, the only one who truly knows me and would always do things just to let me rest and have a break from all my worries and burdens in life.

          As I prayed today’s readings, I could feel your strong presence that made me wonder what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews must have experienced when he wrote “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” (6:10).

          What he had written has always been true.  So many among us at this very moment or past days are feeling so low, crying in silence, grappling with anger within while bearing all the pains of the continuing lack of love and respect, kindness and concern, even civility by some of those around us who feel so entitled in this world.  Then out of nowhere, you are suddenly here beside me, coming like a lover, embracing me, hugging me, or simply touching me softly or just   tenderly glancing at me full of love and affirmations.

              Sometimes like the Twelve we get so tired and hungry following Jesus that we would pick the heads of the grain while passing through a field on the Sabbath when the holier-than-thou people around us would object like the Pharisees saying that is unlawful to do on a Sabbath (Mk.2:23-24).  But Jesus would readily defend us because you are “not unjust so as to overlook our work and the love we have demonstrated for your name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones” (6:10).

              Thank you, dear God.  Thank you.  Help us to persevere in doing what is good in your sight, in fulfilling your will no matter how difficult it may be.  Let us never doubt that you can never be outdone in kindness and generosity.  Amen. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

Photo from Google.  During my prayer period, I remembered the song “Like a Lover” that partly inspired me in writing this prayer.  Good morning vibes and hope you love it!

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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