Two hands and a heart in-between

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXII-B in Ordinary Time, 29 August 2021
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8 >+< James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27 >+< Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Photo by the author, the Holy Land, 2017.

After an interruption of five weeks, we go back to Mark’s Gospel this Sunday that shall guide us until the end of our liturgical calendar with the Solemnity of Christ the King in November. See the beauty of the Sacred Scriptures that those five weeks from John chapter six did not break the flow of narration that is so seamless!

Returning to Mark’s account today after the feeding of five thousand and the bread of life discourse at Capernaum from John, Jesus crossed the lake and proceeded with the Twelve to Gennesaret where he preached and healed until some of his enemies arrived and found an issue to raise against him.

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed hands. For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites… You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

Mark 7:1-3, 5-8

The Israelites have taken pride in their laws given by Moses from God at Mt. Sinai. Simply referred to as the Law or Torah, it had united them as God’s “chosen people”, making it the very center of their lives that they enlarged its meaning and scope that soon consisted of more than 600 other precepts and practices to observe and keep.

Obeying the laws and traditions became their standard for holiness so that instead of becoming a means to bring them closer to God and others, these became an end in itself that they have forgotten God and others in the process.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

Into our hearts and the heart of Jesus

Once again, our gospel is so timely and relevant to our situation right now we are in the midst of a pandemic when we are told to always wash our hands. And if Jesus were with us in person today, he would surely speak the same things about the hypocrisy we have in our washing of hands!

First of all, let us clarify that Jesus is not against the washing of hands before eating nor of any of their other traditions and laws; what he criticized was the greater importance given by his enemies with the outward signs of their laws and traditions, forgetting its inner dynamics and meaning. Thus, he never failed to clarify with the people that he had “not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them” (Mt.5:17).

Here we find the same problem with the people at Capernaum and in our own time when people fail and refuse to look beyond material things to find the meaning of what is going on around us, of what we believe in and what we practice.

Then and now – right in the midst of this pandemic – Jesus is inviting us to deeper perspectives about our concepts and ways of doing and seeing things, of what is clean and not clean, of what is tradition and modern, of what is good and evil.

Jesus wants us to constantly examine our lives for our need of conversion of our hearts to him. He is inviting us to probe our hearts and see who or what dwells inside us because from the heart, everything flows outside not only to our mouth (cf. Lk.6:45, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”) but also to our hands.

That is why I love that imagery of the heart between two arms and hands: the heart at the center of our being and consciousness that whatever comes out of the heart naturally flows to our arms and hands, even to our entire body. If there is something wrong in the heart, so with the messages it sends out.

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils from within and they defile.”

Mark 7:14-15, 21-23

Here we find the essential question we must ask ourselves always: Do I find Jesus Christ in my heart as the sole basis and foundation of what I believe which I also say and do?

If we cannot find Jesus at the center of the things we do and believe, most likely we do not find others in the picture too! In that case, most likely, it is all about me, mine, my, and I! Like the Pharisees and scribes of his time, washing of hands and other traditions were more of a show than something more essential which is to serve God through one another.


Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, 
of our interior and spiritual motivations, 
of why we are doing the things we are doing, 
of what we really believe in; 
because, too often, many of the things we do and believe 
are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God.  
There are so many times in our lives 
that we simply do things out of habit 
and conventions without really understanding why.  

Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, of our interior and spiritual motivations, of why we are doing the things we are doing, of what we really believe in; because, too often, many of the things we do and believe are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God. There are so many times in our lives that we simply do things out of habit and conventions without really understanding why.

Simon Sinek said it so well in his bestselling book “Start with Why” – people buy products, patronize services, or are moved when they see the why you do things; they are willing to pay more not because of fad or prestige but more of the conviction in a belief espoused by a brand or company or by an individual.

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images in Paranaque City, 09 February 2020.

Washing of hands and eating, our hidden hypocrisies

One of the most frequently asked question by people to me as a priest these days is why despite all our prayers, God has seemed become deaf to our pleas for him to end this pandemic? The answer is simple: unless we see and accept the spiritual realities of this COVID-19 pandemic, it would linger with us longer than projected, even not be solved at all as it gets worst with new variants that have thrown back even some of the most vaccinated nations lately.

We can have all the soaps and alcohol to wash our hands during this pandemic but COVID-19 will persist for as long as we have no regard for the dignity of every person. See all the abuses and corruption going on that is more sickening than the virus itself!

That washing of hands is an imagery full of meanings we have lost since the time of Jesus. Inwardly, the washing of hands means washing of one’s heart, of cleansing ourselves of our sins and self-centeredness and other impurities.

So many times we have become like Pontius Pilate who washed his hands to free himself from any guilt in sentencing Christ to death without realizing the more he had implicated himself to the injustice by refusing to make a stand for what is true and just. Like us today, we keep on washing our hands in the hope that our conscience would be at peace or be not bothered with our indifference for what is true and good.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, 2019.

Washing of hands has always been closely related with eating which is an act of “appropriating something we cannot fully have” like when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. They took something they cannot wholly take or “swallow” that is why all they could do was just take a “bite” that opened their eyes to something they could not fully realize and appreciate. There are so many realities in this life we just cannot fully grasp right away, requiring us to have more faith, more patience in trusting God and those above us.

But, like Adam and Eve, we keep on taking a bite, of eating whatever our limited minds and reason find as “good” to have. And we wash our hands in clear hypocrisies like the Pharisees and scribes in worship and prayer when we lead double lives, when we laugh and cheer at all kinds of lies and filth, when we silently approve attacks against human life like tokhang and abortion.

Every day we wash our hands and keep them clean to avoid contaminating our food and body in hypocrisy as we agree and support in the name of “modernism” these trends of same sex relationships, promiscuity, and divorce. Or of graft and corruption we have resigned to accept as a fact of daily life.

To wash our hands is to wash our hearts clean of all kinds of evil, of mediocrity and indifference, of taking a stand to “pass over” from sin into grace by witnessing God’s goodness in our lives as Moses reminded Israel in the first reading.

The hands and the heart always go together as expressed in the Jewish thought of “mercy of the heart” and “mercy of the hand” when God’s mercy is more than a feeling but an act of righteousness, of justice and love.

Let us heed the reminder of the Apostle in the second reading to be truly clean in our hands and in our hearts: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:22, 27).

Stay safe everyone. Have a blessed week ahead! Amen.

The joy of acceptance

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle, 24 August 2021
Revelations 21:9-14     ><}}}'>  +  <'{{{><     John 1:45-51
Photo by author, 2018.
Once again on this feast of another saint,
the Apostle Bartholomew, you teach us O God
how you work in mysterious ways; for, indeed, 
how "can anything good come from Nazareth?"
like Jesus Christ when in fact he was from 
Bethlehem and ultimately from you, Father in heaven!
But the most wonderful mystery of all
is when your Son Jesus affirmed 
Nathanael-Bartholomew's perception
and still accepted him!

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How did you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

John 1:47-48
What did your Son see about Nathanael
doing under the fig tree is also a mystery
but it was more than enough to feel 
the love and acceptance
by Jesus despite his not so kind
words about Nazareth,
enabling him to trust him in return
committing himself as an Apostle
after realizing it did not matter to Jesus
his background nor his previous life.

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

John 1:49
Give us the grace, O God,
not only to be contented with your words
but most of all to go out of our way
like Nathanael in "coming and seeing"
to meet Jesus and experience
his unique love and mercy,
and be surprised with his presence
that welcomes everyone.
Amen.

Words, words, words!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 August 2021
Judges 11:29-39   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by author, Jerusalem at dawn, May 2017.
God our loving Father,
please make me conscious
beginning today of every word
that I say, of its meaning and
implications; better, teach me
to be silent and still, to speak only
when necessary, avoiding especially
making any oath even before you.

Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. “If you deliver the Ammonites into my power,” he said, “whoever comes ot of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the Lord. I shall offer him up as a burnt offering. When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah (after defeating the Ammonites), it was his daughter who came forth, playing the tambourines and dancing. She was an only child: he had neither son nor daughter besides her. When he saw her, he rent his garments and said, “Alas, daughter, you have struck me down and brought calamity upon me. For I have made a vow to the Lord and I cannot retract.”

Judges 11:30-31, 34-35
"Words, words, words!" 
Like Hamlet, we read and say 
many words without meaning, 
falsely believing words become true
when multiplied and said over and over
not realizing the most powerful words
ever spoken where those borne out of
silence when you created everything.
Give us the grace, dear God,
to be like Jesus your Son, 
"the Word who became flesh"
to be a person of credibility
and integrity whose "yes" means "yes"
and "no" means "no" - always dressed
in "wedding garment" for your
banquet in heaven (cf.Mt.22:12-14).
Amen.

To fear the Lord especially in time of crisis

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, 09 August 2021
Deuteronomy 10:12-22   ><]]]]*>  +  <*[[[[><   Matthew 17:22-27
Photo by author, April 2018.
August has always been a difficult 
month for us ever since when farmers 
wait for their crops to bloom while 
parents have spent most of their savings
for enrollment and other expenses
in the family; now, the pandemic has 
made August more difficult with the 
imposed lockdown due to pandemic.
But you have blessed us, O God our Father
in this month of August with so many great 
saints in our midst to inspire us, to pray for us
in our difficulties like St. Teresa Benedicta
of the Cross who rallied her fellow prisoners
at Auschwitz to keep their faith in you, our God
even she had been a Catholic nun having
left Judaism after becoming an atheist for some time.
"Those who seek truth seek God,
whether they realize it or not."
-St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Teach us to be like St. Teresa Benedicta,
Lord, who always sought the truth,
and once finding you, remained in you
like what Moses had asked your people:
  "And now, Israel, what does the Lord
ask you but to fear the Lord, your God
and follow his ways exactly, to love and
serve the Lord your God with all your heart
and all your soul." (Deuteronomy 10:12)
How good it is to know from a survivor
at Auschwitz that “Every time I think of her
sitting in the barracks, the same picture 
comes to mind: a Pieta without the Christ.” 
Like Jesus her Master, she died with him
and like him for her people and for their 
persecutors, paying everything with her life
worth more than any amount of tax money 
(cf. Mt.17:27).
St. Teresa Benedicta lived
during the darkest and most troubled
time in modern history, almost eclipsed 
today by this COVID-19 pandemic; 
we pray, God our Father, for the victims
of violence and exploitation that 
their plight be addressed and finally 
be stopped, never to happen again 
in whatever form in the future.  Amen.

When people malign us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 03 August 2021
Numbers 12:1-13   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 14:22-36
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, Batanes, September 2018.
Dearest God our Father,
you are just, always demanding 
us to be fair and just like you,
to never malign and bear false
witness against one another
especially those serving you.
We pray, loving Father
for those among us buffeted
with nasty talks, malicious
stories and gossips especially 
fake news that besmirch one's name
just to make them or their masters look good.
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses
on the pretext of the marriage he had
contracted with Cushite woman.
Now, Moses himself was by far
 the meekest man on the face of the earth.
So at once the Lord said to Moses and 
Aaron and Miriam, "Come out,
you three, to the meeting tent."
Then the Lord came down
in the column of cloud,
and standing at the entrance of the tent,
called Aaron and Miriam.
When both came forward, he said,
"Now listen to the words of the Lord:
Why, then, did you not fear to speak
against my servant Moses?"
So angry was the Lord against them
that when he departed, and the cloud
withdrew from the tent, there was
Miriam, a snow-white leper!
(Numbers 12:1, 3-6, 8-9)
Please, Lord, keep us
 and those being maligned
 to be meek like Moses,
 remaining kind to those
who speak ill about us, especially those
supposed to be closest or dear to us.
Jesus said, "Come."
Peter got out of the boat
and began to walk on the water
toward Jesus.  But when he saw
how strong the wind was
he became frightened; and,
beginning to sink, he cried out,
"Lord, save me!"
(Matthew 14:29-30)
Give us, O God, the courage
and strength to withstand the fierce
winds of criticisms and lies hurled
by our detractors, unlike Peter
let us never doubt the love and mercy
and protection of your Son Jesus we follow.  
Amen.

Listening attentively, selectively

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 21 July 2021
Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15   ><]]]]'>  +  <'[[[[><   Matthew 13:1-9
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.
Every day God, 
we pray to you
"Our Father in heaven
hallowed be thy name...
Give us each day
our daily bread"
without realizing the daily bread 
you give us that truly nourishes us:
your words of truth and of life
that became flesh in Jesus Christ.
On that day, Jesus went out of the house
and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables.
(Matthew 13:1-3)
Thank you very much, dear God
for listening to our prayers,
in giving us the food we need
to nourish our bodies
and your words that sustain us
especially in these trying times.
May we hunger more
for this daily bread from heaven,
listening attentively,
fulfilling your words as you willed them so.
Then the Lord said to Moses,
"I will now rain down bread 
from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out
and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow
my instructions or not."
(Exodus 16:4)
But most of all, O God
teach us to be like you: to be more
selective in our listening,
to be more circumspect with what
to hear and process wherein 
we listen more on essential things 
that matter most than on trivial
and mundane words that are
divisive, preventing our growth
and maturity in our relationships.
If you would listen and act
on everything we say, especially 
our grumblings and complaints, 
no one among us would still be alive;
but you are kind and understanding,
unlike us who listen more on petty
than essential things said by others.
May we be like the good soil
that is open to listen and nurture
words that build and give life.  Amen.

Engaging the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the XIVth Week, Year I in Ordinary Time, 06 July 2021
Genesis 32:23-33   > + <   Matthew 9:32-38
Photo by author, Agony at the Garden of Gethsemane, the Holy Land, 2019.
Your words, O Lord
of Jacob wrestling with you
or, your angel (?) 
reminds me of Jesus Christ's
own agony in the garden.
And for me, it is one of sweetest
scenes in the whole bible,
the finest example of an animated
and engaging relationship
with you, dear God our Father.
Jacob was left there alone.
Then some man wrestled 
with him until the break of dawn.
When the man saw that 
he could not prevail over him,
he struck Jacob's hip at its socket,
so that the hip socket was wrenched
as they wrestled.  Then the man said,
"You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob,
but as Israel, because you have contended
with divine and human beings
and have prevailed."
(Genesis 32:25-26, 29)
Loving Father,
forgive us when we "box" you
as being stern and stiff like the police
waiting for our slightest mistakes
and violations; surprise us, dear God
with your intimacy, closely engaging
wrestling and contending with you
to bring out the best in us
 and still see your very best plans
that cleanse and purify us of our intentions.
Grant us the grace of intimacy
that is most surprising
when we have to wrestle
with you like Jacob and be "Israel"
so that your might and your truth
will always prevail
unlike the Pharisees who were afraid
to get closer to Christ and be purified
that they vilified and later crucified
to hide in their weaknesses and sins.
Grant us courage and strength
dear God in engaging with you
realizing our limits 
humbly surrendering to your will
like Jacob at Peniel;
let us be not like those Pharisees
who refused to contend 
by insisting their contempt for Jesus
thinking they can prevail on him
only to reveal their evil within.
Amen.

Entering the narrow gate

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, Martyrs, 22 June 2021
Genesis 13:2, 5-18   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 7:6,12-14
Photo by author, the narrow door to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, 2019.

It is now getting clearer, God our loving Father, why we have to see ourselves in the way you see us as beloved and blessed: our strong selfish inclinations make us think more of ourselves, of what would give us most benefits with the least efforts as much as possible that make us forget others.

Like Abram’s nephew Lot who “chose for himself the whole Jordan Plain” settling near the city of Sodom because the whole region was well watered and prosperous, not knowing its inhabitants were very wicked in their sins whom God would punish later (Gen.13:10-11).

Teach us to be like Abram who thought more of others than himself: So Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land at your disposal? Please separate from me. If you prefer the left, I will go the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left” (Gen.13:8-9).

Help us to follow your Son Jesus Christ’s teaching that we “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Mt.7:13-14).

May we learn from the lessons of history how powerful men like King Henry VIII of England ended miserable in life when he chose the path of the wider gate that led to his destruction when he ordered in 1535 the beheading of Cardinal John Fisher and Chancellor Thomas More for their refusal to sign his Act of Succession paving the way for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn. Five more divorces later, Henry VIII never had a male successor except Edward VI who ruled England very briefly.

Grant us the courage and wisdom of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More who chose the more difficult and painful “narrow gate” of martyrdom to serve you, God, first and above all.

Choosing the narrow gate is always the best because it is choosing Jesus Christ your Son who chose the way of the Cross for our salvation and eternal life.

We pray for those trying to make shortcuts in everything in life, avoiding the way of the Cross to gain more wealth and fame without any regard for the value of other persons. We pray for those who have been blinded by power and money who could no longer see one another as a brother and sister, failing to be just and fair in their relationships and dealings. Amen.

True freedom

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Justin, Martyr, 01 June 2021
Tobit 2:9-14     <*(((>< + ><)))*>     Mark 12:13-17
Photo by author, inside the ruins of the Temple of Jerusalem, 2019.

Glory and praise to you, O God, our loving and merciful Father for this month of June as we go through the last 30 days of this year’s first half. How fast time flies! It is so relieving how we have gone through almost half of this extended year of pandemic.

As we celebrate today the Memorial of your great apologist and martyr, St. Justin, we pray for more enlightenment to always seek and follow and most of all, stand by the truth of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

It is not enough that we merely seek the truth because it can easily be faked like the Pharisees and the Herodians in our gospel today.

Some Pharisees and Herodians were sent to Jesus to ensnare him in his speech. They came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion. You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not?”

Mark 12:13-14

Truth can only set us free as Jesus had taught us if in our search for the truth we break away and discard our biases and prejudices. To truly seek the truth is to be empty in order to accept it so we can follow the truth and most of all stand by it.

Forgive us for the times and moments we have been like the Pharisees and Herodians who are not genuinely seeking the truth as they were evidently from the start were seeking a confirmation of a lie they insisted to be true. There are times we are like them even in coming to you not to find the truth but be affirmed with our own beliefs when deep inside us we know it is not right and true at all! It seems it is more difficult for us to discard lies and wrongful assumptions and beliefs than simply accept the bare facts of truth.

At the same time, give us the humility to accept truth because there are times, too, in our deep devotion to you like Tobit, we become blinded with our righteousness that we cannot accept the truth presented to us by others.

Help us masticate today’s responsorial psalm: “The heart of the just one is firm, trusting in the Lord.”

Like St. Justin, give us the courage and determination to seek and follow and stand by the truth by understanding it so well, ready to explain it and most of all, defend it even with our lives. Freedom comes from truth when we are not held captive by lies and unfounded beliefs.

Let us trust in you alone and make us not so proud and arrogant nor so righteous that we are enslaved by our ego that blinds us in our search for truth. Amen.

Prayer to deal with life’s many questions

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Feast of St. Philip and St. James the Less, Apostles, 03 May 2021
1 Corinthians 15:1-8   ><)))*> + <*(((><   John 14:6-14 
Photo by author, Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, January 2021.

Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught me in my many experiences in life that a man is known by the questions he asks, not by the answers he gives. So often, the answers we have are always wrong or simply not true at all.

But, if we ask the right questions, even if there are no immediate answers or if we do not fully grasp and understand especially your answer, it is always more than enough than everything we need to know and realize in life.

So many times, we are afraid to ask you because we think more of our selves than of the truth that would set us free. Help us imitate your apostle St. Philip who dared to ask you again something you have been teaching them – and us! – yet have not fully understood yet. It is even doubtful if he really got what you meant when you answered him during the last supper which is exactly the same thing with us until now who forget and could not master the things you have been teaching us.

Philip said to Jesus, 
"Master, show us the Father, 
and that will be enough for us."
Jesus said to him,
"Have I been with you for so long a time 
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, 'show us the Father'?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father
and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works."
(John 14:8-10) 

Give us, Lord, that same courage and humility of St. Philip to keep on asking things we cannot understand, things we cannot dismiss, things that keep on bugging us because that in itself is a grace from you so that we may know you more, so we can love you more, and most of all, follow you more closely.

If St. Philip had not asked you that question – even if you seem to have sighed in exasperation, did you, Lord? – even us until know would have not realized that you are indeed the em-bodi-ment and the in-carna-tion of the Father in human form.

On the other hand, there is another question that we most of the time avoid confronting: the need to address difficult situations in our lives that affect our interpersonal relationships and the way we live out your gospel, Lord Jesus Christ.

In writing to us a “pastoral letter”, St. James the Lesser tried answering the many questions about our practice of faith that boils down to the most essential which is to “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves” (James 1:22).

Likewise, it was St. James with St. Peter (Acts 12:17) who tried to face and resolve the questions about the difficult relations between the Christians of Jewish origin and those of pagan origin regarding the integration of Jewish practices and beliefs into Christianity during the Council of Jerusalem:

After they had fallen silent, 
James responded,
"It is my judgment, therefore,
that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles
who turn to God, but tell them by letter
to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage,
the meat of strangled animals, and blood.
For Moses, for generations now,
has had those who proclaim him in every town, 
as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath."
(Acts 15:13, 19-21) 

As we celebrate their feasts today, we ask for their intercessions, Saints Philip and James the Lesser that like them, we may also dare to ask and address questions especially when they blur our relationships and proper understanding of you and the Father so that your light, dear Jesus, may shine more than ever in our lives. Amen.

Photo by author, ICMAS-Theologate Chapel, 2020.