Jesus our home, our tahanan

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Easter-A, 07 May 2023
Acts 6:1-7 ><}}}*> 1 Peter 2:4-9 ><}}}*> John 14:1-12
Photo by Ms. April Oliveros, March 2023, Mt. Pulag.

From being our “gate” as the Good Shepherd last week, Jesus today introduces himself as our “home”, our dwelling by being “the way and the truth and the life”. Our scene is still at the last supper with Jesus teaching his disciples including us today with some of his important lessons expressed in words so touching and full of mysteries.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”

John 14:1-3

Though the apostles were still at a loss at the meaning of the words spoken by Jesus that night, they knew and felt something so bad would happen, that life for them would no longer be the same as before that troubled them so deeply inside.

To be troubled here means more than the feeling but experience itself of confrontation with the power of evil and death, when we get that existential feeling of our mortality, when we feel so helpless in a situation, asking “paano na ito?” or “paano na kaya ako/kami?” Like the apostles that night, we too have been into similar situations of being troubled deep inside when we realize in no uncertain terms something so sweeping is happening, altering our lives “forever” like when we or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, gets a stroke, or has to undergo a major surgery of the heart or brain, and losing a loved one.

Jesus is telling us this Sunday like on that holy Thursday evening to stand firm because these evil and death will just have momentary control over us, a passing over that is why we have to summon all our strength and courage, confidence and perseverance in him as he himself had already triumphed with his own passion, death, and resurrection.

And that is the good news! Jesus had won over all our worst fears like death. It is the gift of Easter, of the Lord’s Resurrection right there inside our hearts, already in our very core we only need to recover by abiding in him always. But before going any further, let us first confront one important lesson this gospel scene offers us: When are we really most troubled in life?

Photo by Ms. April Oliveros, March 2023, Mt. Pulag.

When we examine the many troubles we have been through, we find that more than the difficult and harsh situations we have faced were the many troubles within our very selves. What really trouble us most are not those outside us but within us. These are those little guilt feelings we used to take for granted, little details in life we used to ignore and dismiss as nothing for so long that suddenly now under our very nose as so serious, so important after all.

The most troubling experience of all is when we realize how we have wasted so many opportunities to love and be kind, to be more forgiving and understanding, when we know we have done something wrong and have done nothing to rectify it. We are troubled when outside conditions throw us into situations that make us confront not only death and evil but our very selves that suddenly, we feel unprepared and inadequate especially sickness and death that both surely come. Always.

And here is the big difference: Jesus was not surprised, was never caught unaware of his pasch because all his life he has been one in the Father and one with us. See in all four gospel accounts how Jesus had total control over everything that is why he was so prepared for his passion, death and resurrection because he never turned away from the Father and anyone in need of healing, of forgiveness, of comfort, of his presence. Jesus never turned away from his very essence, his mission which is oneness in the Father and oneness with us his beloved.

Jesus was so at home, so to speak, with himself and with the Father that he never fell into sin despite the devil’s temptations nor the scheming traps and plots of his enemy. This is what Jesus is telling us of preparing a room for us in the Father’s house, that we be at home with our true selves in the Father in him.

We are most troubled when we are not home, literally and figuratively speaking. And sadly, many times as we have experienced in this pandemic that even in our own homes we could not be at home because we are detached and away from our families and loved ones.

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places… Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.”

John 14: 2, 10
Photo by author, Katmon Nature Sanctuary & Beach Resort, 04 March 2023.

The word “dwelling” is a favorite of John especially in this part of his gospel. For John, dwelling is more than a home but unity of Jesus and the Father as well as unity of Jesus and his disciples including us. In his prologue he spoke of Jesus as the Word who became flesh and “dwelled” among us. So beautiful an imagery of the Son of God living among us, being one with us and in us, not just physically present but through and through like going through our human experiences except sin.

To dwell is not just to reside but most of all to abide in Christ, to be united, to be one in him which he would say in the following chapter when he identified himself as the true vine and we are his branches.

Therefore, to dwell is to be one, to commune in the Lord. That is why heaven is not just a place but a condition, a being of eternal union with God where Jesus assures us of a dwelling. And because Jesus is our dwelling, our home, that is why he is also our way because he alone is the truth and the life.

Now, if anyone lives in Jesus, he/she lives in the Father too as he clarified with Philip who asked him to show them the Father and that would be enough.

How lovely that Jesus taught these lessons of unity and oneness in him and the Father and with one another in the context of the table, of a meal.

Here we find his last supper was not just a prelude to his coming Passion, Death and Resurrection but to his Ascension into heaven too when Jesus was already speaking of his entrance into a new and higher level of relating with the Father and with us his disciples, his Body as the Church.

This “dwelling” continues in our Eucharistic celebrations especially the Sunday Mass and even right in our own homes too during meal time. And there lies the challenge of our gospel this Sunday.

The first major problem in the early church came in the context of the table when “the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution” (Acts 6:1) of food. The Hellenists were the Jews who have lived outside Israel that when they returned home, they have become so alienated because of language barriers even of outlook in life. The Apostles resolved the issue by ordaining the first seven deacons.

It is interesting that the word “deacon” came from the Greek word diakonia which means “to serve at the table”. In Latin, diakonia is ministerium which is service in the table too. How lovely that to serve is actually rooted in the table found in homes!

We say home is where the heart is. In that case, God is our home. Jesus is our dwelling. We are troubled when we are not at home with God in Jesus and with our own families. Any problem at home takes priority in us too because family is important to us. How sad that some people could reject their own family without realizing that no matter what happens to us, it is still our family who would save us and stand by us in the end. This is what St. Peter’s was saying in the second reading of Jesus being the stone rejected to become the cornerstone when often we dismiss our family but in the end remain with us when our chips are down.

This Sunday, let us go home in Jesus our true home found in our own families. Home in Filipino is tahanan from the root word tahan which means to stop crying. To dwell in Filipino is manahan, from the same root too. We stop crying in our home because that is where we find security and comfort, love and acceptance, most of all, life and direction. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

Loving God is continuous service

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 05 May 2023
Acts 13:26-33   ><)))*> + <*(((><   John 14:1-6
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, Quezon City, 20 March 2023.
Thank you very much,
Lord Jesus Christ
for the assurance 
"Do not to let 
your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God;
have faith also in me.
In my Father's house 
there are many dwelling places.
If there were not, would I have
told you that I am going
to prepare a place for you?"
(John 14:1-2).
Thank you,
thank you,
thank you, Lord Jesus!
We pray for those whose hearts
are so troubled these days:
those who will undergo surgery
especially in the heart and 
in the brain; parents worried of
their sick children or children
who have gone wayward, lost
in life despite the love they 
have showered them;
spouses taking care of their
sick husband or wife;
those of us going through
anxiety or panic attacks
for so many reasons that
are often not valid at all:
Lord, we are so troubled 
with everything because 
so often we do not dwell
in you, our true home!

Many times, we are troubled
because we do not abide 
or dwell in you with each other 
when some of us have suddenly
turned cold and distant,
unfaithful or feeling betrayed
and taken for granted.

Let us be present, Lord,
in you in others; 
let us serve in love.
Loving God is a 
continuous service
of being present 
with others,
especially our family
and friends.
Help us renew our ties,
our dwelling in you,
Lord Jesus, God's 
"begotten Son" (Acts 13:33)
by continuing this journey
of loving service in you
for you are "the way 
and the truth
and the life" (Jn. 14:6).
Amen.

To serve is to be at home in Christ & with others

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 04 May 2023
Acts 13:13-25   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   John13:16-20
O Lord Jesus Christ,
how lovely that you taught
us how to lovingly serve you in
others by washing the feet 
of your disciples to show 
that service is in the context 
of a table gathering,
of a meal of family
and friends. 

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master not any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.”

John 13:16-17
Service which is
ministerium or ministry
in Latin and diakonia in
Greek both connote 
"table service",
serving in one's little
way at home (oikos),
an expression of your "dwelling" 
Lord Jesus in the Father
and of your "dwelling" in us,
of our "dwelling" in God in you
with others; 
how lovely, indeed, 
that serving is directly
related with the table found
in home or dwelling so that,
therefore, to serve means to be
at home, to dwell in God,
to dwell with others in Christ;
furthermore, service is 
to be rooted
in our home, 
in our family
who is God himself
ultimately as St. Paul
explained today in the
first reading!
Help us realize this,
Lord Jesus, that to serve
is not to do something so big
for others, something so
spectacular for everyone to see;
to serve is simply to be present
with our loved ones, with others
in facing life's so many challenges;
to serve, O Lord, is to continually
dwell in you, 
to find and recognize you
in each other as your
indwelling, your home
who must be respected
and honored as a person,
a brother and a sister
in you; being present
with another is service
in itself.

Of what use are all
our efforts in serving
those far if we cannot 
even look at those near us 
in their eyes 
to recognize them
as your indwelling too?

Let us be at home in you
and with you, Jesus, 
so we may be at home too
with others.
Amen.

Holiness in servanthood

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Monday, 03 April 2023
Isaiah 42:1-7   >>> + <<<   John 12:1-11
“Ecce Homo” painting by Vicente Juan Masip (1507-1579) from masterapollon.com
How glorious and yet so
gentle of You, dear Jesus Christ
to be our Lord and Servant at
the same time!
This You shall show at the 
Last Supper when You knelt
and washed the feet of the Twelve,
reaching its highest point when
You offered Yourself on the Cross.
Give us the grace to be like You, Jesus:
may we work for justice,
not crying out,
not shouting;
help us to be gentle like You,
not breaking a bruised reed
nor quench a smoldering wick;
may Your light shine upon us, Jesus,
enabling the blind to see,
prisoners free and those in darkness
see light with our life of
witnessing Your servanthood
through our loving service 
to others
(cf. Isaiah 42:1-3, 7).
Do not let us serve You
only in lip-service like
Judas Iscariot in the gospel
when he commented how Mary's 
oil used to anoint You could have been
sold with proceeds given to the poor
(John 12:4-5);
in everything I do,
in everything I say,
let it all be in the spirit of
love and charity
based on my hope and trust
in You, Lord Jesus,
my light and my salvation.
Amen.

To serve is to be present in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 12 May 2022
Acts 13:13-25   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 13:16-20
Photo from gettyimages.com.
Thank you, Lord Jesus Christ,
for this timely reminder in today's
gospel in being your true servant -
one who is always present in you,
and present for you.

When Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, he said to them: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no slave is greater than his master nor any messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it.”

John 13:16-17
Let us do your work of
loving service for one another,
dear Jesus by imitating you in
your humble presence with everyone,
especially enemies; let us be like you,
kind and magnanimous with everyone,
without any airs of superiority even if
you are our Master.
In this time of sadness and 
disappointment and failures,
let us look back to our own lives
like Paul in his preaching 
to see how God's providence
has always been at work in 
various key moments leading us
to something bigger and higher;
these experiences have always 
left us both with happy and painful
memories but you were always there
present with us.
Teach us to continue to be
present in you and for you 
in our loving service for others,
like John the Baptist heralding
your coming and your very
presence among us.  Amen.