The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 08 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:18-22 ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'> Matthew 5:13-16
Jesus said to his disciples:
"You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste,
with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
Thank you very much for calling us “blessed”, Lord Jesus Christ; but, of what use is our being filled with the spirit of your Beatitudes if we cannot live it out, if we cannot show it and make it work in our lives? Then we are nothing but tasteless salt!
Give us, O Lord, the grace of integration, of wholeness or holiness of putting into practice the grace and virtues you have given us.
Enable us to activate your Spirit in us, not just filling us, not just a feeling of being with you but most of all, reaching out to others, touching lives, leaving your marks of loving service and mercy.
We do not have to be a stand out, we do not have to be known and even noticed by everyone.
It is enough for us to be like the salt, Lord: just a pinch or a dash enough to give taste, to blend with everyone and with everything we do, changing and transforming people and situations in your favor without being seen or known for that is true blessedness – making you known, not us.
Like St. Paul, let our “yes” to your call and mission remain firm and steadfast even if situations and circumstances would sometimes delay us in fulfilling our promise but never neglect our mission and fidelity to you.
When things do not happen according to our plans and schedules, keep us more faithful to you, dear Jesus; for although outside factors may change beyond our control, what matters most is the inside of us, within our very hearts, there you are reigning supreme, giving us security in your in fulfilling and completing your work.
We pray, dear God for our co-workers in you, our co-journeyers in this life of commitment who are feeling weak and saddened by the many criticisms from detractors when their mission is delayed or temporarily shelved for unforeseen circumstances. Do not let them lose sight of the goals and mission you have entrusted for our main challenge in life is being faithful to you than successful. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, 06 June 2021
Exodus 24:3-8 ><}}}'> Hebrews 9:11-15 ><}}}'> Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
The one most important thing this pandemic has cost us for over a year now is the simple joy of presence of our loved ones. For more than a year, we have stopped or limited our visits and celebrations with relatives and friends for fears of spreading the virus especially to our older folks.
It has become so insane for many of us, most especially with those health protocols when even couples were prevented from riding together in bikes!
But at least, the pandemic had taught us the value and importance of presence of everyone, of being present to those we love who, unfortunately, many have also died this year due to the virus and other sickness without us even seeing them at all.
This is the gist of our celebration today, of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ: the simplicity of God and his simple presence among us.
For the second Sunday in a row after the Pentecost, we celebrate another major feast of the Lord in Ordinary Time to show us that our God is a reality, not just a mystery of the Trinity that we cannot fully understand nor explain.
When Jesus Christ said
"this is my body" and "this is my blood of the covenant",
he brought to new significance
the insignificant gestures of hosting a meal
and the insignificant food of bread and wine
so common among peoples in every nation and culture.
The simplicity of God.
Last Sunday we celebrated and reflected on the central mystery of our one God in three Persons called the Holy Trinity. Today we celebrate his meaning and reality as a person, a God who relates with us in the most personal manner with his presence.
Recall our basic catechism of God being perfect – all knowing, all powerful, and always present because of his main attribute: his simplicity.
In our world that has become so complicated like our Facebook relationships or with all those gadgets and apps we have including our “intelligent” cars and homes, God remains so true, so real, so present with us because he is simple. No fuss, no nothing. Just pure presence among those who are willing to be still and simple. And present in the moment.
The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
Mark 14:16, 22-24
See the simplicity of the story, the simplicity of Jesus Christ who took the initiative to prepare everything for their Passover meal that his disciples “found it just as he had told them”.
When Jesus Christ said “this is my body” and “this is my blood of the covenant”, he brought to new significance the insignificant gestures of hosting a meal and the insignificant food of bread and wine so common among peoples in every nation and culture.
During their supper, Jesus gave a new meaning not only to their Passover meal but even to our most basic and common act of having a meal, of eating together to become a celebration of life, not just to feed one’s body but also one’s soul!
In becoming human like us, sharing in all of our experiences except sin, Jesus leveled up our very being and lives at his Last Supper when he established the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to be the everlasting sign of his loving presence among us and thus, revealed to us the deeper meaning of the common meal we used to take with everybody as a giving and sharing of our very selves with others.
Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands… he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his won blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
Hebrews 9:11, 12, 14
Like Jesus Christ, it is not really the food and drinks that we share whenever we eat together and dine with others but our very selves. No wonder, in every celebration and milestone of our lives, from a simple date of a young man and woman trying to get to know each other to weddings, birthdays, and other significant occasions, there is always a meal we host to share our joys, our triumphs, our lives with others.
And the most beautiful part of these meals we share with everyone is the deeper meaning we convey that it is essentially a thanksgiving to God for all of his abounding love and grace poured upon us which is the meaning of the Greek word “eucharistia”.
Our presence in the Lord with others
The word present, of being here now, is the other word we use to refer to “gift” like when we say birthday present or Christmas present. And that is the meaning of this Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood: God as the gift and the giver in Jesus Christ.
In the Holy Eucharist, we receive Jesus Christ wholly, nourishing us, blessing us, and most of all, enabling us to offer also ourselves to him through others.
But, are we present to him?
Are we willing to give ourselves to him?
From the very start since God entered into a covenant with his chosen people, he had shown his simple presence demanding nothing except our simple presence too to him and with others. This is the meaning of the offering of blood which symbolizes life, our sharing in the life of God.
But unlike the pagans, we offer our selves to God not to lose but to transformed our lives in him. With Christ’s self-sacrifice on the Cross on Good Friday foreshadowed by his Last Supper on Holy Thursday, we discover how life given to God is not lost but saved which is the meaning of the ratification by Moses of the covenant in the wilderness with the Israelites:
Taking the book of the covenant, Moses read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.” Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of life.”
Every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, we ratify the new covenant of Christ with us, when we give our great “Amen” to him like the Israelites at the desert, vowing to “heed and do” whatever he told us. That is also the meaning of attending a party or a dinner hosted by a relative or a friend: we renew our ties with them, promising to be there to give ourselves to them especially in times of need and danger.
But, how willing are we to remain true and faithful, always present to God, our family and friends especially in this time of the pandemic?
What a tragedy that while celebrating the Sunday Eucharist, we turn away from God in our sins in the same manner we turn against those people we share meal with and attended parties they hosted.
Let us be still
in the calming presence of God
in Jesus Christ's Body and Blood.
He is more than enough
to suffice all our needs and longing in this life.
Like the bread and wine,
we can all be transformed
into his Body and Blood
to be a present to others.
In celebrating this Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood on this second Sunday of Ordinary Time, we are challenged in our faith and conviction of truly being present like Jesus before him and with others in our daily life especially in this time of the pandemic with so many in great need of basic necessities.
Like the Lord Jesus Christ, do we take the time and effort to prepare for every Sunday Mass celebration as he prepared their Passover meal?
Jesus is not asking us to be particular with the details. All we need is the essential: our very presence with the Lord. Simply be our selves: no need to fake anything, to be somebody else because Jesus loves us as we are.
It is good to remember on this Solemnity too how take simplicity for granted as being bare, without much fanfare and even spectacle as we always want something to feast our eyes on like what we have done to many of our rites and rituals. We are never contented that less is always more that many times, our religious celebrations have become banal in nature with all the pomp and pageantry we have added like to our processions. Instead of turning to God, our attentions had turned into our very selves, clearly a case of “triumphalism” when we “exaggerate” even spiritual activities.
Let us be still in the calming presence of God in Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood. He is more than enough to suffice all our needs and longing in this life. Like the bread and wine, we can all be transformed into his Body and Blood to be a present to others. Amen.
Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-01 ng Marso, 2021
Noong mga araw na iyon,
umakyat si Jesus sa isang mataas na bundok.
Wala siyang isinama kundi
sina Pedro, Santiago at Juan.
Samantalang sila'y naroon,
nakita nilang nagbagong-anyo si Jesus,
nagningning ang kanyang kasuutan
na naging puting-puti, anupa't
walang sinumang makapagpapaputi
nang gayon (Marcos 9:2-3).
Kay sarap pagnilayan mga paglalarawan
ating buhay katulad ng kabundukan
dapat akyatin upang marating
rurok ng tagumpay na ating mithiin;
gayun din naman sa ganitong paglalarawan
ating matatanawan ating napagnilayan
paulit-ulit na Kuwaresma yaring ating buhay:
mula sa ilang, mataas na bundok pinuntahan
kasama tatlong alagad upang masaksihan
pagbabagong-anyo ng Panginoong Jesu-Kristo
paalala na Siya ay kasama at kaisa natin
umaahon upang matunton kabanalang nilalayon.
Alisin at iwanan mga dala-dalahang
sagabal katulad ng mga kasamaan at kasalanan
bunsod ng paghahangad sa mga walang kabuluhan
o kinalaman sa ating kaligtasan gaya ng
kayamanan, kapangyarihan at kapalaluan;
madalas pananamapalataya natin ay sinusubukan
tila ang Diyos mga pangako Niya ay nakakalimutan
basta makinig lamang at Siya ay sundan
asahan gagawa Siya ng paraan at daan
lalo kung tayo ay laang isuko ating pinanghahawakan
upang Kanyang mapalitan
ng higit na mas mainam.
Madalas sa itaas ng kabundukan
hindi kaagad nababanaagan tinutunguhan
pagbabago sa pangangatawan
maging sa kalooban;
higit sa magagandang tanawin
pagkaunawa at pananaw kapansin-pansin
lumalawak at nagiging malinaw ang lahat
kapag nataas antas ng ating karanasan
kaya mula sa itaas ng kabundukan
ibaba sa pangkaraniwang pamumuhay at pag-iral
natalos nating karunungan sa Krus ni Hesus!
Habang bumababa sila sa bundok
mahigpit itinagubilin sa kanila ni Jesus:
"Huwag ninyong sasabihin kaninuman
ang inyong nakita hangga't hindi
muling nabubuhay ang Anak ng Tao."
Sinunod nila ang tagubiling ito,
ngunit sila-sila'y nagtanungan
kung ano ang kahulugan
ng sinabi niyang muling pagkabuhay
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday of Lent in Cycle B, 28 February 2021
Genesis 22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18 + Romans 8:31-34 + Mark 9:2-10
As we have been saying, life is a daily Lent: from the desert of our lives last Sunday, today we ascend a mountain with Jesus to be with God and be transformed, transfigured in him. Our efforts to become holy and better persons in itself is like going up a mountain symbolizing God as expressed in many instances in the Bible.
This is the reason that every year following the temptation of Jesus in the desert, the Second Sunday of Lent tells us the story of the transfiguration of Jesus at Mount Tabor to stress anew this lenten character of coming and meeting God in our selves and in our daily lives through many ups and downs in life like in climbing a mountain.
Our readings this Sunday give us some tips on how ascend the mountain of God with Jesus so we may be transformed and transfigured in him.
First important step is to leave everything behind, to travel light. The key to approach a mountain is to bring nothing except one’s self and other essentials only like faith in God. There are many detours with no permanent path going up the mountain like what Abraham realized when God asked him to offer his son Isaac.
Feel the drama of the scene when Isaac sensed something unusual while Abraham remained confident in God…
As the two walked on together, Isaac spoke to his father Abraham: “Father!” he said. “Yes, son,” he replied. Isaac continued, “Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the sheep for the holocaust?” “Son,” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the sheep for the holocaust.” Then the two continued going forward.
When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Then he reached out and took his knife to slaughter his son. But the Lord’s messenger called to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am!” he answered. “Do not lay your hand on the boy,” said the messenger. “I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son.” As Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.
In the gospel, we find a similar situation after Peter had confessed at Caesarea Philippi that Jesus is the Messiah, thus expressing the faith of the Twelve in Christ while making a U-turn back to Jerusalem. It was at that time when Jesus made his first prediction of his coming Passion and Death that confused Peter.
As they travelled to Jerusalem, Jesus preached to the crowds and the Twelve the three conditions of discipleship: deny one’s self, take up his cross, and follow him. It was something Jesus would be teaching repeatedly until they reached Jerusalem to underscore the importance of that instruction from the voice during his transfiguration, “Listen to him”.
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then a cloud came, casting shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”
Mark 9:2-3, 7
Observe my dear reader how Jesus separated the three disciples from the rest so as to be by themselves like Abraham in the first reading in order to be empty and obedient to God.
An obedient person is first of all a good listener, one who is willing to forget one’s self, to be empty and open to instructions from those above him. From the two Latin words “ob audire” that mean to listen attentively, obedient men and women from Abraham to Jesus Christ to Peter and all the saints were first of all attentive listeners to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
One cannot follow unless he/she first listens. That is why it is in obedience when our faith in God is tested, where we grow deeper in our faith in him too! Every act of obedience is an ascend to God our mountain because to obey the Lord is to trust him especially at times when God seems to contradict himself.
Imagine how painful it must have been for Abraham after waiting for so many years for the birth of his own son by his wife Sarah when God suddenly asked him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice!? Or with Peter, James, and John. After learning that Jesus is finally the awaited Messiah during their conversations at Caesarea Philippi, suddenly the Lord gave his first prediction of his passion and death, to be repeated after his transfiguration.
So many times God can be too much for us to understand that we just have to believe and trust him, to ride on or make sakay. Most of the time we find God so “malabo” or “bomalabs” —- so unclear but at the same time very clear of his great plans for us that we feel him deep inside us that we continue to push ourselves higher to him, believing and hoping he is up to something for us. And that is when he surprises us with the bestest things in life!
When we trust God, when we dare to walk the darkness ascending to the mountain with him with nothing else except our very selves and faith, that is when we are transformed and transfigured in Christ. That is when we are opened to new possibilities we have never imagined. That is when we become fruitful and fulfilled.
As any mountaineer would tell, the best sights are seen from above, from the top when our horizons are widened as we journey to the summit, giving us new perspectives and views on everything, especially in our selves and life in general.
Even if we climb with somebody else like Abraham with Isaac or Peter with James and John, God touches us in the most personal and unique way.
See when Abraham was about to strike Isaac, an angel stopped him that he saw a ram caught by its horns in the thicket which he eventually offered as holocaust instead of his son. Peter hardly knew what to say as they were terrified when Jesus transfigured while conversing with Moses and Elijah until suddenly, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
Like Abraham and Peter and his companions, we have wondered many times what happened after feeling so lost and confused, when we felt “game over” but suddenly everything turns out perfectly well by the grace of God. We’re not only saved like Isaac but we also begin thinking deeper inside us of many things like the three disciples “questioning what rising from the dead meant” (Mk.9:10).
Go back to those moments of hardships and emptiness with nothing to hold on except God, when climbing up to him in faith was the only thing left to take when great things happen unexpectedly and joyously for us! How we wish to remain up there on cloud nine, in ecstasy, hoping those moments would never end, but….
The challenge of life and of Lent especially when seen in the light of our baptismal promises of being holy like God is not to remain on top of the mountain but to bring that mountain experience down into our daily living. It is an ongoing process of trusting, of being faithful to God especially in prayers, in ascending his mountain daily.
In this age of instants when everything has become so efficient and easy, more and more people are finding prayer and God in general as useless waste of time. We have reduced our lives and existence to mere activities for social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Tweeter flooding them with our photos and words empty of meaning. We have stopped living meaningfully as we have ceased probing deeper into life, exploring what’s inside ourselves who can truly lead us to fulfillment, Jesus Christ. How tragic that after quantifying everything in life to save so much precious time in doing so many things, we still lack quality time.
God is greater than our minds and our hearts (1John 3:30) that not everything can be measured in human success and failure. Sometimes, human success is failure with God while human failure can be success in God as we have seen in the experience of Abraham today.
In this time of Lent, we are encouraged to pray and sacrifice, to strive ascending the mountain of God to deepen our faith in him who has given us Jesus his Son to save us, to make us like him, divine and sublime.
Transfiguration is a process, a call to be faithful to God that to reach our glory, we have to go through a lot of pain and sufferings like the scandal of the cross of Jesus Christ. If we are faithful to God especially in our prayers, in our ascent to his mountain of purifications, we realize in the process we are not alone, that we have God by our side as St. Paul assures us in the second reading: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom.8:31)
This Sunday, let us be confident and trust in God that everything would be right. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, 11 February 2021
Thursday, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick
Isaiah 66:10-14 >><)))*> + <*(((><< John 2:1-11
Praise and glory to you, dearest God our Father through your Son Jesus Christ who gave us his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our Mother too as we celebrate today the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick.
From the beginning since Jesus Christ began his ministry to our modern time, Mary has always been with him showing us your great signs of presence, of generosity, and of life first anticipated at the wedding feast at Cana.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. when the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
I cannot help but rejoice at how our evangelist situated the first sign performed by Jesus which is “on the third day”, reminding us of Easter Sunday, the fullness of your coming to us, the fullness of our healing and salvation, the third day after the “hour” of the Lord.
Both at Cana and at Lourdes there was water, the sign of your life and in both instances, Mary was present interceding for our benefit.
At Cana, water became an excellent wine to prefigure the Lord’s Supper we celebrate each day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as a foretaste of our promised glory in heaven while at Lourdes, water transformed the sick who were healed after they have come to bathe at its springs.
Through the example of faith by Mother Mary, our human efforts now encounter the gift of God in Jesus to create the feast of joy of communion, of healing, of fulfillment that can only be made possible by God’s presence and his gift of self in Christ.
At Cana and on to Lourdes and wherever we may be, every day is God’s coming, the “hour” of Jesus in every “here” and “now” when we experience the sign of God’s overflowing generosity to us all who are so tired and exhausted in this life especially the sick in this time of the corona pandemic.
Thank, loving God our Father in fulfilling your promise through the prophet Isaiah that you would send us a mother who shall comfort us in moments of sickness and darkness.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes help us get through these tough times and lead us closer to Jesus her Son who is our true Peace and Joy by doing whatever he tells us like the servants at Cana. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, 21 September 2020
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Matthew 9:9-13
Glory and praise to you, O God our loving Father! Your Son Jesus Christ never fails to surprise us with your wondrous plans for us, with your ways of calling us, and of coming to us!
As we celebrate today on this first working day of the week the feast of St. Matthew, you fill us with hope and inspiration to work harder and pray hardest in life to find fulfillment in you our God.
Thank you for being so kind to come and call us like St. Matthew, Lord Jesus. It was a very extraordinary call not because we are so special but actually unimportant with Matthew also known as Levi belonged to the most despised group of people at that time in Israel, the tax collectors who were always mentioned along with sinners and prostitutes. And so were Matthews’s contemporaries at Capernaum, the brothers Simon and Andrew, James and John who were all fishermen, the most ordinary folks doing the most ordinary jobs of that time.
We were all just like them – nothing special and unimportant! If not for your call, we would be nobody at all even in our family circles.
What a joy that even if some people reject us for various reasons, you O Lord never exclude anyone of us from your friendship. Most of all, you even defend us.
While he was at table in his (Matthew’s) house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”
Give us the readiness and firmness of St. Matthew in leaving everything behind to follow you, Lord.
Like St. Matthew who “got up (rose in some translations) and followed you” (Mt.9:9) right after you have called him, help us realize that following you requires our detachment from our sinful situations, from things and people who prevent us from totally loving you and serving you.
Help us Lord to arise from our dark, sinful past so we can radiate your light in our version of your gospel like St. Matthew. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 September 2020
1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49 || + || Luke 8:4-15
Dearest Lord Jesus,
Today I wish to repeat my prayer to you yesterday: Please grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart in explaining and leading others to faith in you, most especially in believing the resurrection of the dead.
While we all profess faith in the resurrection of the dead, most of us are still puzzled like the Corinthians who could not accept it.
Here I have found St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart at its best when he wrote us the most wonderful and loveliest explanation of death and dying that lead to transformation and new life.
Brothers and sisters: Someone may say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?” You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-44
In this time of the pandemic when death has become so “ordinary” and most of all, “so closest to home”, I pray for the many people now facing death in their hospital beds, in their homes comforted by the loving presence of family, as well as for those left alone to themselves due to so many reasons only you can understand. And forgive.
Bless those with advanced stages of cancer, those awaiting transplants, for those in their terminal stages. Give them the grace of hope, to continue to love even if things are getting worst than better.
Ease their pains, Jesus, and make them feel your loving presence with them on the cross.
Most of all, transform them like the seeds after having died and sown in good soil, grew and produced fruit a hundredfold. 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.
What a wonderful lesson we have today from St. Paul about your wisdom, O God our Father that is found in the scandal of the Cross of your Son Jesus Christ!
Brothers and sisters: Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this stage, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
1 Corinthians 3:18-20
This we have realized at the start of this pandemic when everything in the world stopped and forever changed because of microscopic COVID-19 virus, affecting even the most advanced countries of the world.
Most of all, everybody – rich and poor alike – suffered greatly from this virus, teaching us to value persons more when people we took for granted for so long have become our “saviors” during this prolonged quarantine periods like vendors and delivery personnel, our househelpers, and others we used to look down upon who continued to serve us with food and other needs.
Not to be forgotten too are the members of neglected sectors of our society, specially those in the medical and healthcare system and the agriculture who showed us the importance of human and natural resources over imports and technology as well as entertainment.
What a great lesson about wisdom of God and foolishness of man in this modern time!
One thing very clear, O Lord, that to be a fool for you is first of all to let go of our foolish pride and be humble before you and others.
It is the only way we can let you do your work of changing us and the world when we learn to let go of our foolish pride like St. Peter in today’s gospel when he as an experienced fisherman heeded your command to cast his nets into the deep even though you are the carpenter’s son.
When we review the lives of all saints, they are all men and women of exceptional humility before you, Lord; like St. Gregory the Great who focused more on you that he was able to reform our liturgy, set up schools and monasteries, sent missionaries to England, and instill holiness among the clergy in his “Pastoral Instructions.”
Help us to believe more in you than in ourselves so that you may do your work in us and through us. May we value your Cross, Lord Jesus, considered as foolish in this sophisticated age yet has continued to prove that it is the only path to our transformation as persons and nations. Amen.
Maybe you have been asked so many times with the question, which do you prefer to hear first, the good news or the bad news? Usually we say it all depends to our mood and temperament or to the gravity of the situation. Sometimes, we ask for the bad news first so we can suffer earlier and enjoy the good news later. Or, we ask for the good news first to soften the impact of the bad news.
Our gospel this Sunday is still set in the pagan city of Caesarea Philippi and we heard Jesus giving his disciples – including us – with a strong dosage of “bad news” after hearing last week the good news that he is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly from the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised. Then Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Our gospel today seems to be a very big, bad news for everyone, with things getting worst before getting any better which the Lord had promised to be only in the end that nobody knows when!
See how Jesus started by saying he would “suffer greatly at the hands of elders, the chief priests, and the scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised again.” Not only that: he now calls Peter as “Satan” from being the Rock last Sunday after giving the right answer as to who he is.
Like Peter, we would probably say the same thing to Jesus why make suffering and death central to life that is meant to enjoy?
Like Peter, the Lord is inviting us today to focus more on the good news than on the bad news of suffering and death which for him – the Paschal mystery we call – is actually the best of good news!
Jesus Christ’s pasch is the best of good news!
What we have heard as “bad news” from the Lord is his first prediction of his coming pasch or Passion, Death and Resurrection. He would be announcing this prediction of his pasch two more times as they near Jerusalem.
From the He brew word pesach that means to pass over, it connotes suffering and death into new life. It came from the Exodus experience of the Chosen People from Egypt into the Promised Land during the time of Moses, taking its fullest meaning in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became human like us in everything except sin, “passing over” from eternity to temporal, from Passion and Death to Resurrection.
Authentic discipleship does not require us to seek suffering; no, God is not sadistic as some people with twisted minds would say. However, being faithful to Jesus, witnessing his gospel values bring enough of these sufferings and deaths but on a different level and meaning. We realize that life is a daily exodus, a passing over from darkness into light, from ignorance into wisdom, from sickness into health, from death into new life.
Like the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading, we discover that the more we follow God, the more sufferings we encounter in life but at the same time, we cannot let go of him because his attraction is so powerful! There is something so deep within, so profound and fulfilling in us we realize that living in the ways of God, in the gospel values of Christ can we truly find lasting joy and peace – even if we have to die in our very selves in the process.
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… But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.
Jeremiah 20:7, 9
Thinking in God’s ways
Today Jesus is assuring us that there is no such thing as “good news, bad news” with him. The good news/bad news question is really a non-question to disciples of Christ because whatever suffering and death we embrace in him is a sharing in his very life.
Hence, Jesus Christ’s good news is in fact the bestest news we can ever have. Always.
The key is to think as God does, not as human beings do as Jesus pointed out to Peter.
Three things I wish to share with you about thinking in God’s ways:
First is to accept and embrace pains and sufferings not for their own sake but as a way to cleanse our selves to greater glory. As we have said, God is not a sadist; we need to be cleansed like every thing in order to bring out the best in us like diamonds or any precious stone or any material.
Polishing and honing always mean “subtractions” with so many shaving and cutting of the rough edges to bring out the beauty and sharpness of a thing.
Man’s ways has always been to avoid every pain and suffering. No wonder, the most prescribed medicine worldwide is said to be the pain killer. But, experience has taught us this is not true and cannot be the norm of life. Like every gym enthusiast would tell you, “no pain, no gain”. Pain and suffering is part of life and the good news is, Christ has made it holy for us.
Second is to be silent in order to be able to listen to every sound and thus, heighten our sensitivities not only with our true selves but also with God and with others. In this age of social media and instant communications, silent has become a rare commodity. It is always easier to speak even without thinking much than be silent. That is the way of the world: speak out loud, make noises, and let everyone hear you — until they get tired of you.
Third is the most precious in God’s ways of thinking — the way of hiddenness. This is God’s most evident way of making himself felt, experienced, and yes, seen by being hidden and invisible.
Last Thursday we celebrated the memorial of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine who narrated the story of how she got sick at Ostia in Italy with his brother hurrying to get back home to Tagaste in Africa so that when she dies, she would be buried there. St. Monica “reproached him with a glance because he had entertained such earthly thoughts”; then, she looked at St. Augustine and told him to bury her anywhere, asking one thing only from him: that he remembers her always in his celebration of the Holy Mass.
So many times, we are so concerned with our popularity that whatever we do has to be made known to everyone to see specially by those so-called “followers” with their “likes” that even up to death, some would spend a fortune for lavish funerals and even mauseleoum.
That’s the way of the world of everybody making a statement, of being known as present, always seen. In the movie “The Devil’s Advocate”, Al Pacino played the role of satan who said it so well at the end after tempting Keanu Reeves, “vanity…vanity is my most favorite sin.”
See the life of Jesus Christ: more than half was spend in hiddenness and silence. He worked only for three years characterized by so many instances of silence and hiddenness too and yet, his impact continues to this day and hereafter.
Beginning with last Sunday after asking us who do we say he is, Jesus is inviting us to follow him in his Passion and Death to be one in his Resurrection. This is also the call by St. Paul in the second reading:
I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
Jesus is not asking too much from us, no need for any fanfares on our part; simply come to him with our true self, no matter how sinful and incomplete we are. Remember, all is good news with him and you never lose in him. Amen.