Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 October 2020
Today we conclude our reflections – or “postscript” – to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians about faith we heard proclaimed in the weekday readings two weeks ago from October 05-14, 2020.
A truly faithful personis one who is also free.
We have said that faith is a relationship with God and with others like in marriage and friendship. When our faith with God and with persons is strong with conviction and realistic, then the more we become free because there is no room for doubts that we are not loved.
Brothers and sisters: Scripture confined all things under the power of sin, that through faith in Jesus Christ the promise might be given to those who believe. Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.
Recall those times we have felt imprisoned and chained by the past with all of our broken and toxic relationships, sickness and handicaps, failures and sins, and other painful memories: that was when we wavered in our faith, when we lacked conviction in our faith.
We have to be convinced that Jesus came to set us free from all forms of slavery that prevent us from growing and maturing in faith and freedom in him. When our faith is strong, then we are able to break the many barriers that imprison us like gender, color, language, social status and even religion.
Nourish our faith to be free to become our true selves!
Faith works through love.
It is God’s gift of faith that enables us to do good, to do our works of charity and love. And because we are faithful and free, then we also love!
Incidentally, being faithful and free are always tied up with being able to love because love is a choice, a decision we make, not just feelings or emotions.
Every choice is made out of freewill and here is the most interesting part of being faithful and free and loving: like love, man is able to believe and trust because it is God who first believed and trusted us!
A faithful person is always a loving person because he is free to choose what is good, what is right. And the more faithful we become to God, to your spouse, to your family and friends, the more loving you become like them!
For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
Without faith, it is difficult for us to love because of the pains that come always in loving.
Without faith, it is impossible to forgive and be merciful, to let go of others’ infidelity and lack of love and concern because these are virtues and values that come only from within, from a loving heart that is also faithful where Jesus Christ dwells and reigns.
A few years ago, GMA-7 launched its talent search called Starstruck inviting young people to… Dream. Believe. Survive.
For us Christians, it is… Dream. Believe. Live.
The moment we believe, then we are able to see, even God hidden among each one of us. Amen.
*All photos by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Quezon, 2020.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 19 October 2020
It is really funny these days at how things we grew up with have changed so differently like the postscript we used with initials “P.S.” at the end of letters as an afterthought we sent relatives and friends about 40 years ago.
Today, a postscript is more of a trademark and an application in computers but for my generation, it is from the Latin “post scriptum” that means “written after”.
Consider this piece, my dear Reader, as a postscript or PS to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians we heard proclaimed during weekdays from October 5-14, 2020 where he explained and reflected about faith in Jesus Christ whom he loved so much.
Faith is having a relationship with God, not to obtain things from him.
We always hear people say “have faith” in everything we pray for. Always believe that God will hear us, God will grant us what we need and ask for.
But what happens when we do not get what we are praying for like when a loved one is not healed or recovers from a sickness and eventually dies? Or, flunk an important exam or maybe fail to close a major deal in business? Does it mean we lack faith? Or, is that the main purpose of having faith in God, to obtain things and favors from him?
See how St. Paul called the Galatians “stupid” for being misled by false teachings on the gospel of Jesus Christ: some preachers had come to Galatia at that time telling them of the need to be circumcised like the Jews who converted to Christianity in order to be saved. He wrote the Galatians primarily to rectify those errors they have seemed to believed, where he introduced the doctrine of “justification (salvation) by faith in Christ”, not by rituals and other practices men do. It is not to dismiss our traditions but to stress the primary role of faith in Jesus Christ who died for our sins to save us.
O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. I want to learn only this from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of the law, or from faith in what you heard? Are you stupid? After beginning with the Spirit, are now ending with the flesh?
Sometimes like the Galatians, we end up with the flesh, believing more in things we do like rituals and other things than truly believing Jesus because we use faith to obtain things from God.
No! We believe because we relate: every relationship like marriage always presupposes faith in the other person. Even Jesus in teaching us how to pray, he taught us the “Our Father” which is an expression of a relationship.
Being faithful means being realistic.
Jesus himself assured us that faith can move mountains and do other great things for us if we truly believe. This is perhaps the reason we always equate faith in asking for so many things from God.
Not at all. We also have to be realistic with things we ask from God. He is not a magician who has to please and entertain us with his miracles and powers. When we were in high school seminary, the late Fr. Nick Cruz, SJ gave us a recollection and told us we cannot simply ask anything from God like a rose blooming from your toothpaste to prove he calls you to the priesthood!
Being realistic in our faith by praying first of all to have Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus!
When Jesus told us to seek and you shall find, to ask and it shall be given to you, and to know and the door shall be opened to you (Lk.11:9-10), he was not telling us to ask for money and gadgets. If we are going to be realistic in our faith, Jesus is telling us to seek God and you shall find him, to ask God and you shall have him, and most of all, God is the only door when we knock would surely open us to new beginnings.
In explaining the unique call we have received from God in Christ, St. Paul gives us the whole reality of our being Christians, of having a faith that is realistic.
For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.
Faith demands conviction and consistency.
God’s gift of faith in us is not everything; we have to cultivate and deepen our faith to experience its wondrous fruits and grace. See the kind of conviction of St. Paul in proclaiming and explaining his faith in Jesus Christ.
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Like the Galatians, many of us are easily swayed by so many other beliefs and teachings that are misleading, claiming to be a part of the faith we have received. Without firmness and conviction in our faith, some among us have gone to accommodating modern thoughts and lifestyles that run contrary to our faith in Christ like abortion, same sex marriage, and in-vitro fertilizations or test tube babies.
A believer without conviction and consistency in faith and actions is not faithful at all. What happens with our “faith is a relationship” when the chips are down, when we are confronted of either being for God or against God?
Sometimes we try “moving the lines”, convincing ourselves that we are not crossing the line of morals and morality like when we are bent on accommodating others and ourselves in some occasions to justify personal preferences.
Sad to say, it happens even among us clergymen like when we tinker with the liturgy and the sacraments in the name of modernism and of arts and worst, with some issues pertaining to acts intrinsically sinful and immoral.
Maybe if we would have the conviction and consistency of faith, we would all be like the good Samaritan in the Lord’s parable – a neighbor to everyone especially those in need, willing to cross the street to faithfully reach out to others in Jesus Christ (Lk. 10:25-37).
Try examining our faith today. Has it bloomed into a relationship we keep with God our Father in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit or has it remained as it is, a given, a safety net just in case we need?
Have faith, have God and we’ll journey far, together! Amen.
On Wednesday, we reflect on being faithful and free, and how faith works through love. Have blessed Monday and see you again!
You may also check our prayers from October 05-14, 2020 based on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians at the archives of http://lordmychef.com.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXVIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 14 October 2020
Galatians 5:18-25 >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*> Luke 11:42-46
It was a very enriching week of lessons about faith as reflected by St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians, God our Father. We have learned so much to appreciate this gift from you we rarely recognize and give importance to.
As we end the readings from the Letter to the Galatians today, teach us through Jesus Christ how to live faithfully in your Holy Spirit to reap its fruits in our lives we badly need these days amid the pandemic and follies going on around us especially among our elected officials.
Brothers and sisters: If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissension, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Forgive us Lord when we choose to be prisoners of so many rules that govern our lives forgetting the more important things of living faithfully in you like the Pharisees in today’s gospel. We are so concerned with little things that we make so big a fuss; worst, we refuse to “lift one finger to touch them” by passing them on to others, subjecting them to so many things that they miss the beauty of your gift of life.
Make us grow deeper in faith in you and may the Holy Spirit enlighten our minds and our hearts to always seek and follow your most Holy Will. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 25 September 2020
Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 >><)))*> >><)))*> >><)))*> Luke 9:18-22
There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. He (God) had made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without man’s discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done.
Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11
Thank you, dear God our Father in appointing time for everything, in creating the dimension of time and space so we can have a grasp of your vast reality in this universe. We are finite and you are not whom time and space cannot limit and hold.
Teach us to be open to your presence and grace in every moment of our lives, to make that constant effort to pray like your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.
Prayer is so difficult for us because in our limited time and space, we try to be one with you who is infinite and eternal. We find it boring and a waste of time not only because it is difficult, requiring discipline on our part but because it requires a lot on us to truly love you.
Only love can bridge the finite and infinite, the temporal and eternal. When we are with our beloved, time neither rushes nor slows but seems to stand still like eternity as if we are holding it – when time is not. It is the same experience we have when we are deeply absorbed in prayer, when we feel that intense love for you inside when time passed so easily that an hour seemed like an instant, exactly like what you have said in the Bible that a thousand years are just a day for you.
Because you love. And we also love.
How lovely it is to read in the gospel today that once when Jesus was praying in solitude and the disciples were with him, that is when he surveyed them about what people were saying who he is, later asking them the same question up and personal.
Help us to appreciate and value silence and stillness, to befriend time and eternity in prayer to express our love for you and for others. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 24 September 2020
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11 >><)))*> + + + <*(((><< Luke 9:7-9
Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!” has already existed in the ages that preceded us.
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 9-10
Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father for this brand new day that offers us with fresh opportunities to become better and the best. Most of all, a call to be more loving, more gentle, and more kind like you.
Yes, it is true that “Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!’ has already existed in the ages that preceded us.” Everything in life becomes a vanity if lived without you.
In the beginning at Genesis, you have made everything beautiful, entrusting it all to us with the sacred task of keeping that beauty making us your co-workers in the world. But, alas! We have turned away from you in sins that we have disfigured ourselves and destroyed nature in the process.
The temptation to be like you, O God, that tempted Adam and Eve continues to this day and the more we pretend to be all-knowing and all-powerful like you, the more everything becomes a vanity.
Like Herod in the gospel, the more we try to set the new order of things in life, the more we are disturbed of the past because it is only in you O God our Father through Jesus Christ your Son has everything been made new again. You were the one who have designed everything in this life and had ordered it all to one definite direction of ending in you because everything is yours after all.
Forgive us for playing gods, manipulating not only ourselves but even others and nature.
Teach us through Jesus to be humble, to welcome the good news of salvation into our lives for it is only in our hearts full of contrition for our sins where everything becomes new again in this world as we begin seeing everything and everyone in your light. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXV-A, Ordinary Time, 20 September 2020
Isaiah 55:6-9 >><)))*> Philippians 1:20-24, 27 >><)))*> Matthew 20:1-16
There was something amusing I realized while praying this Sunday’s gospel of how in our time we no longer hear or use the word “generous” anymore — except when the topic is about food like in the expression “generous servings”!
We all love and enjoy “generous servings” of food and drinks whether in restaurants or at home or at parties because it means something more than what we pay for or come for. And that is the essence of generosity: the giving of more than what is required and just. It is love in the real sense like the prayer for generosity by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not heed the wounds,
To toil and not seek for rest,
To labor and ask not for reward, except
To know that I am doing your will. Amen.
Generosity bonds every community in Christ
Sorry if I have to start our reflection through the stomach because today is our “Pistang Pasasalamat” (Thanksgiving) in the Parish…
Going back to our reflection, my dear reader, recall how in the past two weeks we have heard Jesus teaching us important lessons how our relationships must be based on mutual love through fraternal correction and forgiving of those who have sinned against us.
This Sunday through another parable, Jesus teaches us the importance of generosity as a wonderful expression of love we forget most in our relationships and dealing with others.
Generosity is the glue that keeps our ties stronger and keeps us filled with joy because it is thinking more of the other person than of self. It is love at its finest – charming and elegant as in suave – but so disarming and revealing when overlooked as we shall see in this parable.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for is vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them… You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them i reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?'”
Notice how Jesus again elicited our feelings to drive home his lesson today about love as basis of our relationships. Last week we totally agreed with the king in punishing the merciless servant whose debt he had forgiven but was unmerciful to a fellow servant and debtor.
This Sunday, with whom did we take sides with? Be honest. Did you side with the workers hired in the morning and worked all day only to receive a pay exactly the same with those who worked only for an hour? Did we also feel treated unfairly like them?
But, why are we reacting the same way as those workers who toiled under the sun? What is our complaint? Are we envious because the owner is generous?
Recall our reflections last month about the parable as a simple story conveying deeper truths about life and our selves. From the French parabolein -along the way – Jesus is inviting us to read anew this parable we have heard so many times in the past so we may enter into a dialogue with him to purify and cleanse us to get its whole picture. And hopefully, become generous too.
Human justice, Divine kindness
The parable is not about social justice and just wages: it is about the immense love of God for us all. Jesus said it at the start, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…” – it is a parable about God and his kingdom.
See the great love of the landowner who went out five times during the day, even at late afternoon so people may have a job to earn some money for the day. We have to keep in mind that the workers were hired because the owner is kind. Period.
The owner is like the good shepherd Jesus described as who would leave the rest of his flock to search for one missing sheep.
How many times have we acted like those early workers, complaining to God when we feel “shortchanged” for our work and efforts, or being better and more good perhaps than others?
It happens so many times when we question him even in the Church and specially in the society and government when we cannot understand how God who is supposed to be just and fair is allowing all injustices and evil to happen like during this time of COVID-19.
The first reading reminds us that to think that way as if we know everything is dangerous because we could be very wrong and mistaken after all. God sees and knows everything that in the end amid all the twists and turns in history and in our personal lives, it is always his will that prevails which proves best for us and mankind. In times like these, we need to have faith in God and trust him more through prayers and reflections.
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near… As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:6, 9
We keep on saying that one immediate fruit of having a prayer life is the heightening of our sensitivities when we see more of God in others than more of ourselves. The problem with those workers hired earlier in the day that instead of thanking God for his kindness in hiring them, they even wanted more in their pay than what they have agreed upon — so selfish and feeling so entitled like some among us!!!
God as the landowner is teaching us not only to be thankful for the blessings we have received from him but also to rejoice when others aside from us are also blessed. As everyone would say these days, “sana all” are blessed, not only a selected few.
Again we find here a similar situation in the parable of the prodigal son where the father told the elder one that “everything I have is yours” (Lk.15:31) when he refused to come home to celebrate the return of his younger brother, citing how he had obeyed the father all his life without being given a young goat to feast with his friends.
Like that loving father of the prodigal son, God is reminding us this Sunday in this parable to rejoice that others have been blessed, instead of grumbling and complaining, demanding for more than what we have, forgetting everything is out of God’s goodness, never because of our merits.
Looking inside our hearts
My dear friends, this time of the pandemic invites us to be generous by looking deep into our hearts, of seeing God more and others than just our self. At this time when life is so difficult and death is so closest to home with everyone, the best thing we can do is to thank God for his gift of life to us each day and to deepen our faith in him.
Lately I have been praying to God to grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart as we find ourselves in his similar situation of being imprisoned: him for the gospel, us due to COVID-19.
See the faith of St. Paul in God that even in prison with his death approaching each day, he continues to rejoice and experience peace within because he had realized that the success of the gospel is not on human efforts but in Jesus whom we cannot box in our little worlds and beliefs, rites and rituals. In fact, he was so confident that even with his death, the more the gospel would spread.
Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death… conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Philippians 1:20, 27
Last Sunday, Jesus taught us to forgive from the heart, that is, to see one another as a brother and sister in God our Father who forgives us without limits for our many sins.
Today, Jesus is asking us to give from the heart – to be generous – not for anything else but because we are brothers and sisters in God our Father who blesses us without limits despite our sinfulness.
Generosity comes from the heart when in that heart is Jesus whom we find dwelling, giving us peace and joy no matter how much suffering we go through because him alone suffices that we are willing to let go of everything.
Share a generous serving of God’s blessings today to someone in need. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 18 September 2020
1 Corinthians 15:12-20 /// Luke 8:1-3
Another week is about to close, loving Father. Praise and thanksgiving to you for the grace of making it through, of passing over doubts to certainty, darkness to light, sickness to health, and death to new life in Jesus Christ your Son.
What a pity indeed if there is no resurrection of the dead nor resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Brothers and sisters: If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.
1 Corinthians 15:12-14
In this time of so much divisions fueled by dictatorship of relativism without any absolute truth nor good, many among us have stopped believing not only in resurrection of the dead but even in you, O God. Many have created themselves as their own god or have turned to other gods and idols. Sadly, many even have the guts to blaspheme you and dare challenge you and your precepts.
We are sorry, Lord , at how many of us have gone astray from you, relying more on science and technology and modern thoughts, leading lives empty of meaning, without directions. Aimless and worst, homeless.
Show us, Lord, the path we have to take to lead people back to you.
Give us the clarity of mind, purity of heart and intentions of St. Paul in leading our lives in Christ Jesus.
Enable us to embrace the new life in Christ like those women who followed Jesus in his ministry, “providing for them out of their resources” (Lk.8:3).
May our lives glow with your loving presence Jesus to lead others back to you. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 2020
Number 21:4-9 >><)))*> Philippians 2:6-11 >><)))*> John 3:13-17
Thank you very much, God our loving Father, for this Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of your Son Jesus Christ. Please increase our patience lest we complain like your people at the desert to Moses.
With their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!
You know, dear God, how we feel right now after seven months of journey in the pandemic: we are tired and exhausted, wearied and anxious, most of all, afraid of how things can go worst specially with the incompetence of our government officials.
Please, grant us patience to continue with the journey but allow us too to complain from our hearts, to cry out our pains and fears to you because it is only you who can help us in our situation. Most of all, let us complain from our hearts as an expression of faith and hope in you, Lord.
We are convinced of your love and presence but sometimes we are overwhelmed by the sufferings and difficulties on this period of the pandemic that we think more of ourselves, of our well-being that we forget you are our companion in the journey.
We fail and even refuse to see you in this journey as we complain from our minds, when we are filled with pride, believing in our ourselves that we question you, when we dare you, when we think of ways of manipulating you in our favor.
Open our eyes to see again on this feast and celebrate how you have transformed the worst signs of death and torture in history to be the doorway to life and healing like snakes becoming medicines to snake bites and the cross becoming the sign of love.
Open our minds that instead of complaining of the death of Jesus Christ, we celebrate his resurrection and glory in heaven. Instead of dwelling on pain and suffering, we focus more on healing and salvation.
May we keep in our minds that taking the form of a slave, of carrying our crosses leads to your exaltation, our loving and merciful Father. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 September 2020
August has always been a “ghost month” for me since elementary school. Long before I have heard these stories and words of caution against many things in the month of August, I have always dreaded this month when days are grindingly slow.
Specially this year 2020 when the whole month of August felt like the season of Lent when everything was dry and empty, even literally speaking in our churches when the five Sundays of August were like five Good Fridays.
But, for the first time in many years during this pandemic, amid the dryness and emptiness of August 2020, I felt and “found” God anew in his most unique and wonderful characteristic — his hiddenness.
Hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”.
Hiddenness is something both simple and complicated but beautiful and wonderful when we find God in his hiddenness.
Hiddenness of God means more than not being seen per se; it is that feeling with certainty that he is present but, just hiding somewhere. In fact, if God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all!
And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him!
Remember when we were kids and could not find the things that our mother had asked us to get from somewhere in the sala or kitchen or her tocador? She would threaten us with the classic line my generation have all heard and memorized, “Pag hindi mo nakita yan, makikita mo sa akin!”
It is one of our funniest memories of childhood! I am sorry for my English-speaking readers but there is no appropriate translation for this because it is very cultural and even spiritual in nature. Literally translated, it says that if you do not find what you are looking for, you would find it with me. Crazy and insane, is it not?!
I told you, hiddenness of God is both simple and complex but whenever we remember those “sweet, maternal threats”, we laugh and shrug off the experience as we were dead serious then searching for whatever thing mom had asked us because deep in us we knew too well, it must be somewhere there. Sabi kasi ni Inay! (Mom said so!)
That is how it is with God too! We know for sure he is around, he is present. But in hiding because that is how loving God is, like moms and some lovers with surprises for us his beloved.
The Prophet Jeremiah experienced it so well when he wrote:
You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter, everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding itin, I cannot endure it.
No one can understand this without having experienced such intense kind of love of God or of another person that even if we are pained, we just cannot walk away or leave. More so with God, the most intense lover of all!
At the very center of Jeremiah’s torment is the invincible power of attraction of God. This is also the reason human love – whether for another a friend or a spouse, for the Church or any institution – must always be based on the love of Christ who told us to “love one another as I have loved you.” If our love remains in the human level, it can never go deeper or higher making it so sublime, so true, so pure.
That is how God is in his hiddenness who is like a lover who never stops looking for us, calling us, luring us, even seducing us to come to him, search him and once found, we may dwell in his great love; hence, even if we do not “see” him, we keep on following him as we also find him in his hiddenness!
Hiddenness of God, mystery and gift of Easter
This hiddenness of God is both the gift and mystery of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. It is a gift because in his hiddenness, God has become closest to us more than ever while at the same time, a mystery because it is in his very hiddenness that we truly find and discover God.
Remember the two disciples going home to Emmaus on Easter afternoon who was accompanied by Jesus while traveling? They did not recognize him but as they talked, their “hearts were burning” as he explained the Scriptures. Then joining them at their meal at sundown upon reaching Emmaus, Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it — and the disciples’ eyes were opened, recognizing him as the Lord who immediately disappeared! The two then rushed back to Jerusalem to announce to the other disciples that Jesus had indeed risen.
That is the beauty of hiddenness, its giftedness and mystery that we find God even our beloved who had died or not physically present with us but deep within, we are certain of their presence as being so true and so real.
Hiddenness is a deeper level of relationship coming from one’s heart and soul not dependent on physical presence. This is the reason why upon appearing to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, Jesus asked her not to touch him because from then on, knowing and relating with the Lord need not be physical and corporeal as he used to relate with them before his Death and Resurrection.
All these we must have experienced like when after a friend or a relative had died, that is when we felt growing closer with the person than when he/she was still alive and physically present with us. Or, when we were feeling low and down, we experienced sometimes so amazed at how we have felt the presence even the scent of our deceased loved ones comforting us, assuring us that all would be better.
This quarantine period invites us to experience and discover God anew in his hiddenness through prayers and silence so we can reflect on the many lessons this pandemic is teaching us today. In the darkness and emptiness of this pandemic are grace-filled moments with God hidden in our poverty and sadness, sickness and even deaths around us.
Some people have already asked me about what or how would our Simbang Gabi and Christmas celebrations be. They are sad and worried that it must be a very bleak Christmas for everyone with so many out of work.
But, despite this gloom, I tell them that Christmas 2020 would be one – if not the most meaningful Christmas we shall ever have despite forecasts that there would be less of everything, materially speaking.
So often in life, when we have so much material things, that is when we fail to find and experience God.
Recall that in Bethlehem more that 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was born, God came to us hidden in a stable, on a manger in the darkness of the night.
And do not forget, too, that Christmas is not a date but an event, the very person of Jesus Christ, the all-powerful God who came to us hidden in a child, who upon becoming an adult, was crucified and died. These are sad and down moments for us but for God, it is his hiddenness, his presence. Let us go and find him again for he continues to come to us in hiddenness. Amen.
After showing us some glimpses of the person of the Lord these past three weeks, St. Matthew now leads us into the middle of his gospel where Jesus takes a U-turn in his ministry by revealing himself to the Twelve as he heads back to Jerusalem to fulfill his mission.
Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Then he strictly ordered the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
Matthew 16:13-17, 20
St. Matthew told us last Sunday how Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon where he had healed the daughter of a Canaanite woman tormented by a demon. From there, they headed north to Caesarea Philippi, a pagan major city at that time.
It was a perfect setting for our gospel this Sunday – just like our present milieu that challenges us not only to be identified as a Christian but also to make a stand for Jesus as his true disciple at a time when faith and morals are disregarded, economics takes precedence over spirituality.
Who do people say I am: “what” I know of Jesus
The two questions posed by Jesus to his disciples while at Caesarea Phillip – and to us today – may sound very similar and even simple but are actually distinctly different and even worlds apart from each other.
His first question “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” is straightforward, seems to demand not much critical thinking and introspection. A plain question with a plain answer like the usual news we hear and read called “straight reporting” in journalism that tells us the essential “who, what, where, and when” of the story.
So many times, we face this question without even being asked at all!
Through our words and actions we reveal “who do you say the Son of Man is?” in how we pray, what we pray for, the things we post on social media, especially those electronic chain letters that if you say “Amen” you will get money. And so many other things when we try to show everyone we know Jesus without really thinking and reflecting well. No wonder, people get so many wrong impressions about who Jesus is: “some say he is John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah” or one of those prophets of wealth and health who make life easier!
Telling who Jesus Christ from “what” we know and believe can always be dangerous and misleading because it is all in our heads that could often be wrong. Telling who Jesus Christ from “what” we know and believe cannot be so reliable because it is always mechanical, by the book, not actual and most of all, not real.
It is always easy to speak highly of Jesus from “what” we know and believe like those many preachers with fire and brimstone or modern apostles, a.k.a. vloggers complete with their “shock” preaching and antics and gimmicks who end up more popular with thousands of followers and likes. And wealthy, too! Jesus Christ? Forgotten and stuck in Facebook, the bible, and tabernacle.
But who do you say I am: “how” I know Jesus
On the other hand, the Lord’s second question is direct and personal, probing our heart and soul, asking not just for answer from our lips but from our total self: “But who do you say that I am?”
See the words of the Lord after Simon had answered he is the Christ, the Son of the living God:
Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.”
More than a play of words, here we find a deeper dimension of saying who Jesus Christ is: not just telling the what but most of all, the how that reveals more than what we know in our minds but how we have experienced Jesus, of how we have been living in him!
For us to say who is Jesus Christ is always a how because it is a story of our relationship with him, it is a how we have grown deeper, how we have journeyed in him and with him.
It is the ability to see beyond structures and persons, excesses and sins, faults and misgivings because despite shortcomings, it is how we see Jesus as the foundation of our lives and of our Church.
See the ways of other religious sects, their pastors and members who spend so much time bashing us Catholics, insisting on the what of Jesus and the bible, never the how they live.
No wonder, they can raise their hands in prayers and still clap their hands while the President in maligning us Catholic priests and bishops in their gatherings.
To speak of who is Jesus is more than to tell what we know about him but how we have known him, how we have been since knowing him!
Anyone who can say who Jesus is from his how is always blessed like Simon because our answer is always the fruit of our life in Christ. We all become like Simon, another Peter or Rock whose very life and existence rests on Jesus our Lord. Despite our weaknesses and sinfulness, we are still blessed and entrusted with the keys of heaven because we have allowed Jesus to be our foundation of life. There is a process, a history always. Hence, it is a telling of the how.
In the first reading, we find God dismissing the master of the palace named Shebna to be replaced by Eliakim due to his infidelity. That is the meaning of the whole prophecy by Isaiah, of how the Lord will someday entrust his people to a trustworthy steward, someone who does not only know what God is but one who has truly known and experienced God.
Saying who God is, always a revelation from him
It is interesting that in the Jewish thought, to know another person is not knowing the what but of having a relationship or some degree of intimacy. Again, it speaks of the how we have been saying.
St. Paul shows us in the most beautiful manner in his many writings this saying of who Jesus is with his how, his very personal experience of the Lord in his life that has continued and deepened until his death. See the beautiful hymn he had composed for our second reading today:
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways! For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Romans 11:33, 36
Like St. Peter, we find here St. Paul so blessed despite his sins and sinfulness, of how he had experienced Christ not just a name or a man like any what he had known in his mind.
No one can ever write such great poetry with profound thoughts without any deep relationship with God. Whatever we know of God is always a revelation from him, too. When we speak of who God is, it is always borne out of how we have been relating with him our Lord which is called “spirituality”; it is deeper than religiosity or being religious that is always at the level of the head and more of our ego than of the reality of God.
Sometimes, we do not even have to speak and say who Jesus Christ is.
We simply have to live out that relationship we have in him and people would know who Jesus is. No need for elaborate and spectacular showmanships we have in our many rites and rituals, even in our liturgies now so maligned with our triumphalism.
Lest we forget, Jesus saved the world by suffering and dying on the Cross, not with activities and debates which would be his topic next Sunday. God bless everyone!