Faithful, grateful, and joyful

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 09 October 2022
2 Kings 5:14-27  ><000'>  2 Timothy 2:8-13  ><000'>  Luke 17:11-19
Photo by author, Egypt, May 2019.

Many times in life as we age and look back to our past, we find that our journeys are not geographical at all but more of spiritual ones. No matter how many places we visit or stay, our journeys actually happen within that lead us to our true selves, to others and finally, to God.

This is what St. Luke has been doing every Sunday as he guides us in following Jesus in his itinerary since he “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” last Sunday of June (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday); the path we have been following is not really geographical but theological in nature.

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed.

Luke 17:11-14
Photo by author, Egypt, May 2019.

Again, our gospel this Sunday is so brief with many layers of meanings found only in St. Luke. Imagine Jesus going through pagan districts like Samaria where his fellow Jews never dared to go. That is how immense is God’s love for us – even if we undeserving of his love, he sent Jesus to look for us sinners signified by the ten lepers he had healed.

In fact, some exegetes claim the wording for the “ten lepers” who met Jesus should have been “ten men with leprosy” for a more accurate translation of the Greek leproi andres. According to them, St. Luke was emphasizing here that no matter what weaknesses we are afflicted with, we are still the same persons and human beings loved by God. Very often in life, we categorize and define people by their sin and weakness or crime and worst, by illness and defects as seen in our penchant for bansag (Filipino for name calling) like Kardong mandurugas or si Putol or even tabachoy!

St. Luke wants us to see everyone first as a human being, a person so loved by Jesus; whatever weaknesses we have must come later. This I insist during confessions to penitents to never call one’s self as “thief” if you have stolen something nor “liar” if you have lied because we all remain God’s beloved children even if we have sinned.

Photo by author, 2018.

There is no doubt in God’s love for us despite our being “unworthy servants” and being afflicted with leprosy, or whatever. What matters to him is the fact we are his beloved children. That is why in the first reading, God healed Naaman through his prophet Elisha despite his being a pagan and unbeliever. And worst of all, an enemy of Israel being a Syrian army general! St. Paul beautifully expressed this truth about God’s love and mercy in Christ found in our second reading today:

This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

2 Timothy 2:11-13

What are the other diseases and ailments that make us cry “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us”? These are not literally a disease or sickness like leprosy but may have the same effects of alienation and depression with us like a vice too difficult to kick like drugs and alcohol or may be indifference and racism by others to us or our “self inflicted” ailments of arrogance, self-centeredness, and self-righteousness.

Many times, we hardly notice we are being healed slowly by Jesus of our many infirmities because our faith has never deepened and matured. The Samaritan noticed his healing because of the ten with leprosy, he was the only one truly faithful in awaiting Jesus Christ. He had faith in Jesus and though it was so small or too little, he had that faith nurtured that the moment he saw his skin cleansed, he remembered Jesus right away. As we have reflected last Sunday, faith is a relationship we keep, nurture and strengthen.

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Luke 17:15-19
Photo by author, Caesarea, Israel 2017.

The scene is so lovely because the Samaritan healed of leprosy teaches us that grateful people are also faithful – and joyful ones! Faith is a relationship that is nourished by gratitude wherein we not only thank God and other people who have blessed us but also remain with them and in them; hence, we keep on coming back to thank them.

The more grateful we are to God and other people, the more we are blessed, the more we become joyful, and the more our faith is deepened! As we walk in faith in Jesus, experiencing those daily suffering and dying to self, we become more aware too of our rising to new life in him. That is when miracles happen as we return and stay in Jesus to praise and thank him like that Samaritan man healed of his leprosy. Or Naaman who asked to bring home some soil from Israel so he could worship God and nurture his relationship with him in the process.

Photo by author, 2021.

Faith, gratitude, and joy always come together. We experience them every Sunday in the celebration of the Eucharist that means “thanksgiving” in Greek.

The Eucharist is the expression of our faith in God in Jesus Christ that also expresses our gratitude to him for all the blessings he abundantly pours upon us. As the summit of our Christian life, the Eucharist defines our worship and living because it is the only way we can truly express our faith and gratitude to God who wishes only our salvation in his Son Jesus Christ.

In the Eucharist, it is not only the bread and wine that are changed into Body and Blood of Christ but even us who are made perfect in Jesus as his disciples and members of his Body, the Church.

In the Eucharist we experience the joys of being faithful, thankful and joyful because that is where we are saved as we encounter Christ in the most intimate and personal manner in his Body and Blood who slowly transforms us in him as we receive him.

Let us imitate that Samaritan healed by Jesus to always be grateful to Jesus, to finally go back to the Sunday Mass F2F, so that together we may all grow in faith and be joyful for being saved. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

Glimpses of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Spiritual Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, 27 December 2021
Photo by author, Basic Education Department chapel, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 24 December 2021.

A blessed Merry Christmas to you, my dear readers and followers, fellow bloggers! Praying for you that the Child Jesus may be born daily in your hearts to fill you with his peace and joy always!

Thank you very much for your support and most specially for your likes and comments these past 624 days since this COVID-19 started. I have decided to blog my prayers and reflections daily as my contribution for those seeking spiritual nourishment and guidance during these difficult days of the virus.

Thank you my dear fellow bloggers. You are all a gift of God to me who have taught me so much about writing and blogging. Your thoughts and insights as well as photos have all enriched me, giving me glimpses of the the beauty and majesty, kindness and mercy of Jesus Christ. Most of all, you have inspired me to try writing poems which I never knew I could!

Will be taking a rest and will resume our blogs on January first, 2022.

Blessed Merry Christmas again, everyone!

The author in our chapel where we celebrate our online Masses, sharing his blogs as homilies and reflections.

Lent is acquiring taste for God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Fifth Week in Lent, 23 March 2021
Numbers 21:4-9  ><}}}*> + <*{{{><  John 8:21-30
Photo by author, Franciscan Monastery on Mount Nebo overlooking Israel, 2019.

It has been a year, dear God our Father, since we went into this journey into the wilderness of this COVID-19 pandemic. It has become very similar with the wandering in the desert of your chosen people during the time of Moses that like them, we have become impatient too.

But 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!” In punishment the Lord sent among the people seraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died.

Numbers 21:4-6

Of course, we know you do not punish for you are love, O God; you even took that occasion to foreshadow the dying on the cross of your Son Jesus Christ for us.

Very much like them, we have been grumbling and complaining with you, forgetting all your goodness to us while we have been remiss with our own duties and responsibilities.

How ironic that the more they spoke of the tastelessness of the food you sent from heaven called manna, the more they revealed their own tastelessness as people.

And that is what is sadly happening with us too — our tastelessness as a people: our tastelessness in choosing our leaders in government, our tastelessness in giving value to your many blessings in life like family and country, our tastelessness in tolerating corruption and all the evils in our society long before this pandemic came.

We have lost our sense of taste, Lord, like being afflicted with COVID-19 — exactly like what your Son Jesus declared to his enemies always seeking ways to entrap him.

He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.”

John 8:23-24

Send us your Holy Spirit, O Lord, to enlighten our minds and our hearts, to be simple and humble like those folks in Jerusalem who came to believe in you because you spoke in such a way (Jn.8:30), unlike the learned Pharisees and scribes who, despite thei education, remained tasteless like many among us.

O dear Jesus, give us some tastes! — a taste for what is decent and good, a taste of heaven and holiness, a taste of true order and beauty found only in you. Amen.

Becoming God’s children

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Feast of the Sto. Niño, 17 January 2021
Isaiah 9:1-6  >><)))*>  Ephesians 1:3-6.15-18  >><)))*>  Mark 10:13-16 
Photo by author, 16 January 2021.

Today we spend an extra Sunday for the Christmas Season’s Feast of Sto. Niño granted by Rome to the local Church in recognition of the important role played by that image of the Holy Child gifted by Magellan to Queen Juana of Cebu in 1521.

Its role in the Christianization of the country cannot be denied, considering the historical fact that when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in Cebu 44 years later after Magellan to claim the country for Spain, they were surprised to discover how the natives venerated the Sto. Niño inside a special hut for worship along with their other anitos.

Legazpi’s chaplain Fray Luis Andres de Urdaneta attested to how that devotion to the Sto. Niño in Cebu enabled them to Christianize other natives without difficulties as the Holy Child image at that time has become the favorite among the people in asking favors like children and bountiful harvests as well as protection from calamities and wars.

The late National Artist Nick Joaquin was absolutely right to claim in his many writings and talks that it was really the Sto. Niño who truly conquered the Philippines that continues to be the most popular Christ-devotion in the country along with the Nuestro Padre Jesus de Nazareno of Quiapo.

More powerful than the swords and cannons or any force in the world indeed is the Child Jesus who has continued to be a paradox in world history: the Son of God born in a lowly stable in a small town called Bethlehem because there was no room for them in the inn during the time of the powerful Caesar claiming to be the king of the whole world by ordering a census of all his subjects in the vast Roman Empire now totally forgotten, his kingdom long gone.

What an irony the God who came so weak like all of us, without any title to His name nor an army at His command still influencing the world in His weakness and silence, in His childlikeness. A reality in life until now we have refused to accept even in the Church.

People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then Jesus embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

Mark 10:13-16
A child praying in our Parish, 07 November 2019; photo by Mr. Red Santiago.

Christ’s path of weakness vs. the world’s path of power

It is so timely that during this Ordinary Time we have this Feast of the Sto. Niño to remind us of the central teaching of Jesus Christ to be childlike that gets lost in the novelty and sentimentality of our Christmas celebrations.

See how this call for us to be childlike becomes more difficult even almost impossible to achieve in our world that has become so technical and “sophisticated” as we seek to shape and manipulate everything according to our own design.

The world of men, of macho men we love to relish with delight in the secular and religious world in all of its trappings of fads and fashion and “hard talks”, of external showmanships that we try so hard to project cannot hide the hypocrisies within, of keeping grips and control on everyone and everything like the disciples of Jesus. The tragedy of that scene continuing to happen in our time is how some few people who live in darkness pretend to be seeing the light that in the process are actually misleading people towards darkness and destruction.

Every time we refuse to allow others to come forward with their new thoughts and new ideas, fresh perspectives in governance and management, in the ministry, in theology, when we close our minds to hear others ideas and opinions in doing things, then we are into serious power plays that can be pernicious at the same time.

When this happens, we are all the more challenged to be child-like before God in taking all the risks in exposing what is true, what is real like those kids shouting “the emperor has no clothes”!

To be a child means to owe one’s existence to another which we never outgrow even in our adult life. It is an attitude of being open, that Jesus can be talking to us through people not necessarily like us, even different from us. It is an attitude of trusting others, unlike those hungry for power who only believe in themselves, so afraid they might be proven wrong because their minds are either narrow or closed.

Are we not surprised at all that these control freaks around us who try so hard to project images of power and strength are often the perverts and deviants hiding their childishness and immaturities and other skeletons in the closet?

Photo by author, “Sleeping Sto. Niño”, January 2020.

Becoming and living as God’s children

Jesus shows us today in this feast of the Sto. Niño that it is in the path of being weak like children when we are truly free like Him – free to be a child of God indeed! This He accomplished by dying on the Cross not only to forgive us for our sins but made us a “new man/woman” in God as His children.

Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in then heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundations of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-6

How sad that in our efforts to be in the man’s world of power and dominance, we try so hard becoming somebody else whom we are not only to end up alone, lost and unfulfilled.

Our being children of God is something innate in us, already within us that was accomplished by Christ for us at the Cross.

The key is to always go back to Jesus at the Cross.

We have said earlier that to be a child is to owe one’s existence to another that is, ultimately speaking, to God alone.

Hence, one sure sign of being like a child is having the sense of gratitude, of thanksgiving.

Incidentally, the Greek word for thanksgiving is eucharistia or eucharist! In the gospel accounts, we find so many instances of Jesus thanking the Father for everything that beautifully reminds us of His childlikeness.

The moment we feel strong enough without need for others, then we stop being grateful, then we lose that childlikeness in us as we start tinkering with power and influence, assuming to ourselves that everybody owes us, the world needs us.

That is when we stop growing and sooner or later, we collapse and eventually fall so hard on our faces.

How amazing that the Sto. Niño image given by Magellan to Queen Juana holds an orb or a globe. It is very interesting where did the maker of that image got that idea that the world is round when in fact it was the theory that Magellan had in mind in setting out to his ambitious expedition by sailing westward and returning from the east?

Records show that the first images of the Child Jesus or Sto. Niño as we know came from Flanders, a region in the Netherlands. The Flemish people have been making those images as early as the late 1400’s. That is why there is also that popular image of the the Child Jesus in Prague in the Czech Republic.

The mystery remains where did they get that idea of the Child Jesus holding an orb?

Could it be that the Flemish people who were devoutly Catholics at that time must have found the “light” from Jesus Christ in their devotions and prayers as prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading?

Nobody knows for sure but the next time you look at a Sto. Niño, be reminded always that it is the Child Jesus who holds the world in His hands. If you want to have the world in your hand too, be child-like! Be always grateful for who you are and what you have. Jesus promised it anyway.

Blessed week ahead of you!

“Be Thankful for What You Got” cover by Pepe Marquez (2019)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 15 November 2020
Photo by author, after the floods, typhoon Ulysses, 12 November 2020.

We try to be subdued and sober this Sunday in thanksgiving to the gift of life as we remember and pray too for our brethren in Cagayan and Isabela suffering from the worst floods in decades after typhoon Ulysses pummeled our region this week with heavy winds and rains.

Here is Mexican Pepe Marquez and his band for his cover of William DeVaughn’s 1972 soul song “Be Thankful for What You Got” that was released two years later in 1974, selling almost two million copies as it reached #1 on the US R&B chart and #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that year.

There are other versions of this cool, cool music notably by Curtis Mayfield who had actually influenced DeVaughn in this song; thanks to Manny Pagsuyuin who shared me this music recently that I now prefer than the other covers for its superb percussions and instrumentations plus Marquez’s trademark videos of classic cars.

The song is so simple with gospel-like lyrics that remarkably hit home specially in a time of calamity like this when we have to be sensitive with others’ sufferings.

Most of all, despite its oft-repeated line “Diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin’ the scene, with a gangsta lean”, the music is so clean and crisp with its second part reminding us that of all that we have, the most precious are our loved ones.

Part of the Lord’s message today in being vigilant for his return is for us to be thankful for everything we have because he gives us according to our abilities. It is not how much or how little we have in life but how we make use of it that matters.

How sad we only realize this after a calamity or a crisis in life.

Let’s make it a habit to be thankful daily for our gifts, use them wisely in serving others as we thank and praise God for his goodness. A blessed Sunday, everyone. Amen.

Directed by: Pepe Marquez & Carlos Guillen with Gabriella Guillen for LA CIMA MUSIC along with Cj Infinito & Carlos Alvarez Aragon for CJ Infinito Productions. #lacimamusic Featuring: Jeff Lewis on Trumpet – Dora Sanchez on Vocals & Lorenzo Martinez on Percussion. Album available on, Spotify, cdbaby, Amazon Music and all digital download sites. https://www.facebook.com/pepe.marquez.33

To live is to love

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 13 November 2020
2 John 4-9     >><)))*> |\  >><)))*>  ||  >><)))*>     Luke 17:26-37
Photo by author, ICMAS Theologate Chapel, 05 October 2020.

My prayer to you today, O God our loving Father, is simple: thank you very much for the gift of a new day, thank you very much for the warm sunshine amid overcast skies, thank you very much most of all for the gift of life.

Once again you have made us experience your saving hand and protection the other night from the terrifying winds and rains of typhoon Ulysses; then yesterday, everybody was surprised at how fast the waters have risen following widespread floods.

So many of us are asking – not complaining – why all these things happening this year 2020?

Open our hearts, open our eyes and ears to listen and heed your voice amid these calamities happening among us.

Make us more sensitive to the needs and cries of others by living in love and charity, of witnessing the gospel of Jesus Christ your Son instead of entertaining so many “progressive” ideas and thoughts that lead nowhere.

Let us live in love, Lord.

For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments… Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh… Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for but may receive a full recompense. Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.

1 John 6,7, 8-9

May these calamities open ourselves to the reality and mystery of Christ’s coming again, of how we must strive to live in love, to see every body not just as a body like vultures but as somebody needing love and attention. Amen.

Our obedience in authority, our authority in obedience

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop, 11 November 2020
Titus 3:1-7     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 17:20-25
Photo from blog.obitel-minsk.com.

Glory and praise to you, O God our almighty Father, the Supreme Authority over the whole universe. As we celebrate the Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, one of your most glorious saints of the fourth century, we are reminded today by this former soldier of the important relationship of obedience and authority.

St. Paul in the first reading tells us:

Beloved: Remind them to be under the control of magistrates and authorities, to be obedient, to be open to every good enterprise.

Titus 3:1

Teach us, O God, how obedience and authority always go together, never apart from each other. May we see that obedience is not a virtue when authority is taken for granted and not rooted in you, our loving Father. At the same time, authority is corrupted when exercised without obedience to higher authority.

Your Son Jesus Christ had taught us so well that he spoke with authority, even the evil spirits obey his words; however, he had always insisted though that even if all authority has been given to him, all his life is a YES and obedience to you, God our Father.

Like St. Martin of Tours who had lived obedient to you O God all his life through his superiors and the people, may we live our obedience in authority in Jesus Christ our Savior while at the same time, may we live our authority in obedience to him by trusting in you alone.

We pray that we do not fall to the trap of the nine lepers healed by Jesus who obeyed him to present themselves to the priests after being healed; they were obedient but were not rooted in God, so mechanical in their obedience, unmindful of the authority of Jesus who healed them.

Instead, may we imitate the Samaritan who upon realizing his healing, returned to thank Jesus: here is a man whose obedience is not only rooted in you, O God, but most of all, whose exercise of authority will surely be in obedience to you for he is full of gratitude.

From being a soldier of the State into being a soldier of God, pray for us St. Martin of Tours to remain rooted in God so that in our obedience to authority as well as exercise of authority in obedience, may we begin and end in him. Amen.

Photo of St. Martin of Tours from St. Martin of Tours Parish, Bocaue, Bulacan.

To live in love is to live as children of light

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 26 October 2020
Ephesians 4:32-5:8     >><)))*> ||  >><)))*>  ||  >><)))*>     Luke 13:10-17
Easter Vigil in the midst of COVID-19, 2020.

How beautiful are your words for us, loving Father, on this last Monday of October 2020!

Despite the rains caused by a typhoon, our first reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is so heartwarming in reminding us of our new humanity in Jesus Christ your Son, encouraging us to live moral lives by “living in love” (Eph.5:2) as “children of light” (Eph.5:8).

Living in love is living as children of light by first being imitators of you, O God, which is to be holy as you are holy. Remove from our minds that holiness is being sinless; teach us to realize that being holy, being “whole” and perfect is a process of being filled with you, dear God.

Teach us to be open to let you fill us, God, full of life and zest, raring to explore and move forward despite the many pains and setbacks we have had.

Cleanse us of immorality and impurity in our minds and hearts and lips.

Keep us grateful to your many blessings we have received specially those we never asked from you yet you have generously given us.

Most of all, make us truthful and sincere in our love for you through our neighbors; take off our masks of hypocrisy like the leader of the synagogue where Jesus healed on a sabbath a woman crippled by a spirit for 18 years (Lk.13:14).

To live in love as your children of light Lord is also to free others from the many burdens burdens in life they carry so they may start living in you through Jesus Christ. Amen.

Praying for humility and gratitude

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXIX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 21 October 2020
Ephesians 3:2-12     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Luke 12:39-48     
Photo by author, Baguio City, 2018.

God our loving Father in heaven, teach us to accept that you love us, that you trust us, and that you believe in us so that we can finally be grateful and humble before you.

Yes, dear God – one reason we find it so hard to be grateful and humble before you is because we have hardly accepted nor appreciated your love and trust in us. Teach us to see ourselves as you see us, like St. Paul despite our sinfulness.

To me the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things.

Ephesians 3:8-9

What a wonderful attitude by St. Paul, expressing such gratitude to you God in calling him and entrusting him the “stewardship of your grace” (Eph.3:2) for others to experience you and your love!

Remind us, dear God, that everything we have is not simply a grace and blessing from you but a sign of your trust in us – whether as a husband or wife, mother or father, brother or sister, or, whatever profession and vocation we follow – they all mean you believe us, that we are responsible enough and most of all, we can all accomplish our mission in Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

May we heed your Son’s warning in today’s parable that

“Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.”

Luke 12:48

And to do so, let us humbly and gratefully accept your gifts always. Amen.

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

Generosity comes from the heart

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
Photo by the author on the way to Petra in Jordan, May 2019.

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.

Dearest Lord:
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. 
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

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?'”

Matthew 20:1-15

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.

Nuns bringing goods to the poor during the height of the Luzon-wide lockdown last summer.

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
Photo by author, Jaffa in Israel, May 2017.

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.

Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, March 2020.

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.

A blessed Sunday and week to you!