Refresh in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Josaphat, Bishop and Martyr, 12 November 2020
Philemon 7-20     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Luke 17:20-25
Photo from TurboSquid.com

How beautiful are your words, O Lord Jesus, today from St. Paul to Philemon! So techie! So timely:

Refresh my heart in Christ.

Philemon 20

As we continue to practice some forms of quarantine with the ongoing pandemic, help us, O dear Jesus to find time to “refresh – or reset – our hearts in you” like what we do we with our devices and gadgets when they “hang” and would not function properly.

Time and again have shown us how we have had too much of technologies and social media lately that have turned us away from you and from one another.

Teach us like Philemon and Onesimus, and St. Josaphat that true faith in you and the gospel demand changes in our social circumstances and conditions when our relationships with one another go beyond gender, race, and even religions and beliefs.

Let us refresh or reset our hearts in you, Jesus, and break all barriers that keep us apart from each other, preventing us to see the coming of the kingdom of God in you even if we have to pay this with our blood like St. Josaphat in trying to unite the Ukrainian Church and Rome. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred heart Novitiate, Novaliches, 2018.

Faithful and upright

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. John of Capistrano, Priest, 23 October 2020
Ephesians 4:1-6     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Luke 12:54-59
Pope Francis delivering his “Urbi et Orbi” before an empty St. Peter’s Square in Rome, 27 March 2020 at the height of COVID-19 pandemic. Photo from Vatican Media/AFP via Getty Images.

So many things have happened in the past 24 hours, O God our Father, that the peoples of the world felt as if the earth was shaken and thrown off its course following the news of the Pope’s recent interview.

So many have spoken without really reflecting the Pope’s statement proposing a “civil coexistence law” (translation by Fr. Darwin Resuello) among people with homosexual tendencies “so they may be legally covered” (Pope Francis, Catholic News Agency) “in seeking mutual help or helping another” (Fr. Resuello).

Many were quick to conclude Pope Francis is endorsing same sex relationships or same sex-marriage when in fact nowhere did the Pope said it; in fact, he had avoided using the word “marriage” in his adherence to our teaching that marriage is only between man and woman.

Everybody is now taking it to advance each one’s popular opinions and preferences long rejected that would never be allowed in the light of your teachings and commandment to truly love like your Son Jesus Christ.

In this world so divided and colored with different beliefs, guide us Lord Jesus in the Church as we seek ways to be compassionate and loving to everyone like Pope Francis, may everyone see it is always in your desire to be one, just as you and the Father are one.

Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received… striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace; one Body and one Spirit, as you were called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:1,3-6

We pray for Pope Francis, his continued guidance by the Holy Spirit as he tries to reach out to more people marginalized especially in the Church – which is so ironic. Help him in his efforts to bring into the fold those outside, those driven away by our lack of love and mercy.

Do not deter him from being your sign of unity despite his portrayal by some especially those in media who keep on presenting him as breaking away from tradition. May his life of kindness and compassion convince others of his fidelity and uprightness before you like St. John of Capistrano who called on us priests to be examples for others in holiness.

We pray also for everyone to be more reflective to avoid sowing confusion and divisions with the Pope’s pronouncements, just like during your time when those around you were so focused on themselves than on those truly in need. Amen.

The Chair of St. Peter, sign of the Primacy of Rome which is about the primacy of love and service especially to those neglected and unrecognized; how sad some sectors use these efforts by Pope Francis for their own agenda. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

Dalawang makabagong santo, kapangalan ng aming Patron

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-22 ng Oktubre 2020
Larawan nina San Juan Pablo II at San Juan XXIII kasama isa sa mga matandang imahen ng aming Patron San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista sa likuran ng aming simbahan sa Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

PANALANGIN KAY SAN JUAN APOSTOL AT EBANGHELISTA KAUGNAY NG MGA BAGONG SANTO NG SIMBAHAN: PAPA JUAN PABLO II at PAPA JUAN XXIII (Bahagi ng aming mga Panalangin sa Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan mula nang itanghal bilang Santo ang dalawang naturang dating Santo Papa noong 27 Abril 2014, Linggo ng Dakila Awa ng Diyos.)

Minamahal naming Patron na Banal, 
Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista po ang inyong ngalan!
Ngayo'y aming ipinagdiriwang sa buong Simbahan 
dalawang bagong Banal: Kapwa sila pastol ng kawan, 
nang manungkula'y pangalan mo ang hiniram.

San Juan Beinte-tres nang sa kanyang katandaan tuladmo,
Sinikap maging makabuluhan at buhay na palatandaan ng Diyos
sa gitna ng makabagong panaho nitong InangSimbahan
nang kanyang simulan ang Ikalawang Konsilyo sa Vatican. 

Kasabay niyang tinanghal bilang Banal 
ang tinaguriang Dakilang San Juan-Pablo Ikalawa;
Labis na pagtitiis ang kinamit sa kanyang sakit, 
Krus ay sinapit, katulad mo’y naging malapit
sa Ina ni Hesus kaya’t “Totus Tuus” ang kanyang awit.

Itulot mo aming Mahal na San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
kaming iyong mga anak sana’y matularan,
pinagsikapan ng dalawang bagong San Juan:
pamilya’t sambayanan mabuklod sa nagkakaisang pag-ibig
katulad ng dalangin ni Hesus doon sa Huling Hapunan. AMEN.

San Juan Ebanghelista, ipanalangin mo kami.
San Juan Beinte-tres, ipanalangin mo kami.
San Juan-Pablo Ikalawa, ipanalangin mo kami.

Our heavenly citizenship

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXIX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 20 October 2020
Ephesians 2:12-22     >><)))*> + >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Luke 12:35-38
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD in Quezon, 2020.

Glory and thanksgiving to you, God our Father, through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit for reconciling us all in you, making us one despite our many differences.

How lovely to the ears, to our being the words of St. Paul today, Lord Jesus, assuring us of our citizenship in heaven through the salvation you have brought us all, regardless of our color, race, status or even religion!

So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22

Help us, O Lord, to embody and manifest this unity of peoples in you in the Church, your Mystical Body here on earth.

Heal us of our many divisions and make us truly Catholic by helping everyone enter into communion with you through one another.

Keep us on guard for your return, Jesus, by “girding our loins and lighting our lamps” (Lk.12:35) ready to welcome you with our good works each day, leading others closer to you.

Let us start by going back to you in prayers and silent meditations that many have forgotten or taken for granted in this 24/7 world saturated by media with all the cacophony of sounds and blinding visuals that have blurred our vision of who we really are as citizens of heaven, beloved children of God our Father in heaven.

Help us find our way back home to the Father in heaven here on earth by finding our way back home to our true selves and to our brothers and sisters in you, dear Jesus. Amen.

Panalangin laban sa pagkakanya-kanya

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-02 ng Setyembre 2020
Halaw sa mga pagbasa mula sa 1 Corinto 3:1-9 at Lukas 4:38-44
Miyerkules sa Ikadalawampu't-Dalawang Linggo sa Karaniwang Panahon
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Pulilan, Bulacan, Pebrero 2020.
Panginoong Hesus, 
tulungan mo kaming makalaya 
sa aming sakit ng pagkakanya-kanya
liwanagan aming mga puso at kalooban
upang iwanan mga hinahangaan naming sinusundan
na nagiging sanhi ng mga kampi-kampihan at labanan
mula sa tahanan hanggang paaralan, 
sa pamayanan at maging sa simbahan
lalong-lalo na sa larangan ng pulitika. 
Buksan mo ang aming mga isipan at kalooban, 
punuin ng Iyong Espiritu Santo ng katotohanan
na kaming lahat ay pawang Iyong mga manggagawa 
sa iisang bukirin na tanging Ikaw lamang 
ang nagpapatubo at nagpapalago
 sa pananampalataya at mabubuting gawaing 
aming inihahasik at dinidiligan (1Cor.3:8-9).
Higit sa lahat, 
amin sanang mapagtanto
sa tuwing kami ay mayroong iniidolo 
maliban sa Iyo, Panginoong Jesu-Kristo,
lalo kaming nagiging palalo 
tulad ng kuwento sa Ebanghelyo:
ayaw kang paalisin ng mga tao sa kanilang lugar
hindi lamang sa sila'y bilib na bilib sa Iyong kapangyarihan
kungdi dahil higit silang makikinabang 
sa Iyong kapanatilihan.
Amen.
Larawan kuha ni G. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Separations, good and bad…

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr, 06 July 2020
Hosea 2:16, 17-18, 21-22 >><)))*> >><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 9:18-26
Photo by author, procession cross, 2019.

Today, O God our loving Father, your words have invited me to reflect about “separations” — something we are always afraid of, sometimes beyond our control, but one thing for sure, many times needed in life.

Usually, we dread separations because it means being detached, being away from people we love or, situations we are familiar with.

Like with death, the ultimate separation in this life.

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.

Matthew 9:18-19

Death as a separation is most painful when committed in cold blood, like the martyrdom of the young St. Maria Goretti who was only 12 years old when an older neighbor stabbed her to death in their home near Ancona, Italy after she had refused to give in to his sexual advances in 1902.

Death as a separation is painful and sad because it is “the end” in our running story, when we lose somebody so special, so close to us with whom we have special plans and dreams to be together but suddenly gone.

Sickness and diseases also separate us from others.

Often, people regard sickness as a kind of slow death. And here lies its agonizing pain when due to some medical conditions we are separated from others, unable to fully interact and relate with them even if they are near us. Its worst part is how we can only look from afar at the activities and things going on among our brothers and sisters because we are bedridden, stuck on a wheelchair, disabled, or sometimes deep inside us cannot fully integrate because of the sickness within like bleeding or some form of cancer or deafness.

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”

Matthew 9:20-21

Thank you for sending us your Son Jesus Christ who have not only come to lead us to life eternal but also to heal our sickness and mediate in bridging the gaps among us and within us.

By giving himself on the Cross, Jesus has made us whole again, brought us together in unity both in time and eternity for nothing can now separate us from you and from others through his immense love poured upon his death.

Photo by author, Petra in Jordan, 2019.

Give us the grace, O Lord of heaven and earth, to seek and follow your voice always, that sometimes, we on our own separate from our daily routines, from others to be one with you in the desert so we may know you more, love you more and follow you more.

Thus says the Lord: I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart. She shall respond there as in the days of her youth, when she came up from the land of Egypt. I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the Lord.

Hosea 2:16, 17, 22

There are still other forms of separations we experience in life, both good and bad.

Grant us the grace of courage, dear God our Father, to face every separation in life we experience, whether good or bad, permanent or temporary, our choice or imposed upon us — always trusting in the uniting power of your Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We are disciples of a meek and humble Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
XIVth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 05 July 2020
Zechariah 9:9-10 >><)))*> Romans 8:9, 11-13 >><)))*> Matthew 11:25-30
From Google.

We now come to the conclusion of our series of teachings of Jesus about discipleship that began two Sundays ago when he asked us not to be afraid and to be “possessed” or overtaken by him to fulfill our mission of proclaiming his good news of salvation.

And so, we now ask, “Why should we follow Jesus and be his disciples, forgetting our very selves and still carry our cross? Have we not suffered enough especially in this pandemic?”

His answer: because unlike other lord and master, Jesus is the only one who is meek and humble of heart, full of compassion to everyone!

He is the only one truly with us in our pains and cries because before all these trials have come to us, Jesus was there first to suffer and die for us on the Cross so we can share in the grace and peace of his Resurrection, calling us with these comforting words….

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Our desire for everything “lite” and easy

If there is anything that we all want at this time is a rest, a break from the heavy burdens 2020 has brought upon us all as individuals and as a nation, not only in the country but the whole world.

We all want things to be “light” and easy like before COVID-19.

The world has long been offering us everything that is “light” (also spelled as “lite”), claiming it to be the key to a healthy and fulfilling life that many products are labelled as lite — from cooking oil to mayonnaise, cheese and ice cream, soda and even brandy, beer, and cigarettes!

But they are all lies!

We still get fat and even sickly with those lite products because being light does not necessarily mean removing or taking away things that are heavy and “toxic” or difficult. Being light does not mean free from responsibilities and duties, or not having a cross and sufferings in life.

Life is difficult as M. Scott Peck insists in The Road Less Travelled, telling us that the sooner we accept this reality, the better we are in life.

It is the truth Jesus Christ has long been telling us, so timely to be reminded again this first Sunday of the second half of 2020 as we continue to hurdle more difficulties ahead in fighting COVID-19 as well as in dealing with a hosts of other problems it had created in the many aspects of our lives.

Today, the Lord is telling us that to be light in life, we have to come to him, be his disciple by taking his yoke and learning from him.

We all know from experience that anything becomes light, especially a burden and a problem, when shared with someone who loves us, someone who cares for us, someone who believes in us. Many times, our problems and burdens need not be solved at all; they simply have to be shared with any one willing to accompany us.

Being light in life is having a companion to share with our burdens and woes because having these all by ourselves is indeed so difficult and impossible. That is the literal meaning of the Latin origin of the word companion – cum panis – someone you break bread with in a journey.

Jesus Christ is that only companion par excellence we can have for he is meek and humble of heart

Photo by Ezra Acayan of Getty Images, Baclaran Church, February 2020.

The gentle mastery of Jesus Christ

In the past two Sundays, Jesus spoke about ourselves and our dispositions to become his disciples. This Sunday, he speaks about himself as our Lord and Master, describing himself as “meek and humble of heart”.

Earlier at the start of his preaching in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of true blessedness in the Beatitudes that actually gave us an image of himself as the Blessed One. Each beatitude speaks of Jesus Christ being poor in spirit, being meek, being merciful, being clean of heart, being a peacemaker, and being persecuted.

See that the third beatitude is how he also described himself today in the gospel, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land” (Mt. 5:5).

Very interesting is the fact that in his Sermon on the Mount when he preached the Beatitudes, Jesus was presenting himself to the people as the “new Moses” who gave them the Ten Commandments of God at Mount Sinai. As the most towering figure among the Jews, Moses is also described as “very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)!

Meekness of Jesus: focusing more on persons than letters of the law

In calling us to come to him to take his yoke and learn from him for he is meek and humble of heart, Jesus is telling us that indeed, he is the new Moses in whom pure goodness is found. And even more surpassing than Moses because Jesus himself is the Law and its fulfillment. Unlike in Moses wherein the people focused more on the letters of the laws, Jesus our Lord insists more on the person, always reminding us that “Sabbath was created for man, not man for sabbath.”

But the most beautiful key in understanding the meekness of Jesus is found in our first reading which we also hear proclaimed on Palm Sunday:

Thus says the Lord: Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem.

Zechariah 9:9-10a
Photo from Google of an ass considered as the dumbest creature on earth.

Unlike the proud masters and rulers of the world, Jesus our Lord and King entered Jerusalem riding on an ass in fulfillment of this part of the Old Testament.

Here we find Jesus as the exact opposite of the kings and rulers of the world whose kingship does not depend on political and military might, no exercise of brute force and power characterized by the chariots and horses of his time.

Meekness of Jesus: oneness with us his people

In this beautiful imagery of Jesus riding an ass considered as the dumbest creature on earth we find Christ’s inmost being of humility and meekness before God and men. No display of arrogance and shameless feelings of entitlements like our officials in the government and military. Most of all, Jesus riding on an ass illustrates his oneness with us all because the ass is the means of transportation of the poor, of the common tao.

Here is the meekness and humility of Jesus Christ — his being one with us in our brokenness and poverty, pains and hurts. You can really experience him especially in this time of the corona when everything seems to be getting worst than better, when everybody is trying to make ends meet amid the economic crisis with Jesus never abandoning us in our darkest moments of uncertainties, fears, hunger, and sadness.

At the rate things are going, we have nobody else to turn to at this time but Jesus our Lord. We have to muster all our faith in him, deepen ourselves in prayer because we cannot rely on our officials who cannot even get a clear data on COVID-19 infections nor even a sound plan in addressing this pandemic despite the longest days of lockdown in the world and loans from abroad.

And we all feel so hopeless, disgruntled and so disgusted especially with the public officials and those from congress and the police who are oblivious to our sufferings and hardships in this time of the corona as they shamelessly flaunt their privileges and exception to the rules.

How can we heal as one when in the first place they are not one with us?

Discipleship in Christ is life in the Holy Spirit

Despite all the irresponsibilities and inanities of the government, we choose to be like our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in bearing all pains and hardships in his holy name, always hoping that this experience can lead us to more meaningful lives as citizens of the republic.

We choose the path of non-violence despite the government’s militaristic response to the crisis aggravated by the legislative’s dangerous foray into more draconian measures to silence critics of the administration.

It is so tempting to fight back and forget all about meekness and humility but that is not the way of Jesus Christ.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us of the fundamental choice that lies before every disciple of the Lord: to live in solidarity with Christ empowered by his Spirit, or to live in solidarity with the old humanity enslaved to sin.

May we choose Jesus because he alone is meek and humble of heart, in him alone can we find rest because his yoke is easy and his burden light. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Angelo Nicolas Carpio, 2020.

Jesus our living bread, life of the world

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Cycle A, 14 June 2020
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16 )))+((( 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 )))+((( John 6:51-58
An icon of the Holy Trinity by Russian painter Anton Rublev. Photo from wikipedia.

Above is the beautiful 15th century icon of the Blessed Trinity by Russian painter Anton Rublev. It was based on the Genesis story of God (chapter 18) visiting Abraham at Mamre like angels sharing a meal while in deep conversations, indicating their relationships.

The icon masterfully portrays God as a Trinity of Persons relating with one another in love symbolized by the Eucharistic meal they share.

Most interesting like in most icons is how in this painting the viewer gets involved with the dialogue of the Trinity, thus, becoming the fourth person in the icon present with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit like Abraham at Mamre!

I am presenting this icon to you my dear readers and followers to show you the amazing flow of our liturgy these two Sundays as we resumed Ordinary Time on the Monday after Pentecost last month: From the highest truth in our teachings of One God in Three Persons last Sunday, today we have this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ to remind us and experience anew that this God we worship and adore is present among us, relating with us in the most personal manner.

Change in name, change of emphasis

Originally known as Corpus Christi or Body of Christ, today’s solemnity was renamed following Vatican II’s reform of the liturgy to give more emphasis on the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that the Preface used before the Consecration is that of Holy Thursday.

Holy Hour in our Parish, Sacred Heart Novena 2020

In the old tradition, focus was more on the Blessed Sacrament – of Jesus Christ reserved in the tabernacle and presented to the faithful for adoration as the Body of Christ, that is, Corpus Christi.

However, when Vatican II changed its name into the “Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ”, there was something deeper than the change of name.

The new name challenges us to see the deeper reality of the Holy Eucharist: more than spending time praying before the Blessed Sacrament – though it is good – we are demanded as followers of Jesus Christ to be present like him with others.

Without disregarding the importance of the Blessed Sacrament that have seen a renewed interest among people in this time of corona while churches are closed, Vatican II’s shift in emphasis dares to challenge us disciples of Christ to emulate him in allowing ourselves to be broken for others, to be poured out, offered and shared especially in this time of crisis.

It is in our being broken like the Body of Christ, and poured out like his Blood do we really live the paschal mystery.

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

John 6:51-53
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus is the living bread, the life of the world

Our gospel today is not from the Last Supper as we might expect; instead, it is taken from the “Bread of Life discourse” found only in St. John’s gospel which took place after Jesus had fed more than 5000 people in the wilderness from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish.

It was a very decisive moment in the ministry of Jesus as far as St. John was concerned; in fact, he refused to call the feeding of 5000 as a “miracle” but as a “sign” that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited Messiah.

Here, we have Jesus speaking clearly, no matter how difficult it may be for his listeners and even for us.

And we wonder, why he spoke that way?

Even today in the Holy Mass, considering the mixed crowd we have in every celebration, the priest is obliged to speak clearly and distinctly the words of Christ at the Last Supper similar to his bread of life discourse, “Take this, all of you and eat it. This is my Body which will be given up for you.”

Jesus always speaks the truth, he always tells us what is true and he never misleads us.

Unlike us when we say something and mean another thing. We always have to speak in ways that has to be deciphered because we really do not mean what we say. Or we are afraid of saying something else because we prefer to please people than stand by what is true.

But not the Lord! From that day until now, Jesus says the same thing and means always the same, that he is always with us, in us, and among us.

And he has proven then and now, time and time again most especially in our personal lives, that indeed Jesus was sent down from heaven as the “living bread” because he is the “life of the world”.

More than the bread from heaven called manna sent by God to the Israelites during their journey in the wilderness into the Promised Land (first reading), Jesus is the bread who sustains us in our new “exodus” and journey into the Father’s house, into fulfillment.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News of the plight of stranded people opting to wait at an underpass nearest the airport in their desire to get home

Life an Exodus with Jesus leading us

This pandemic and life under quarantine is an exodus in itself calling us to go back to God, to rely solely in him for he alone can save us. That is why he gave us his only Son, Jesus Christ who in turn gave himself totally, Body and Blood to sustain us in this journey or exodus.

Every exodus is always painful but filled with grace because God is most present with us.

That is why we join Masses on television or the internet while others dare to go to churches for the actual celebration of Mass to receive Holy Communion.

We are convinced that Jesus is sustaining us, nourishing us, raising us, helping us, inspiring us in this time of crisis.

And that is why the more we need to pray and even celebrate the Mass because the more we need Jesus Christ as food and drink in this difficult journey.

We can all feel the stress and pressures of the difficulties and uncertainties of this time. Making things worst than the financial and physical sufferings we all go through are the psychological burdens we silently bear that unfortunately others do not seem to think of or even realize.

Mang Dodong who was held for 30 days for not having a quarantine pass while buying fish in Navotas. Photo from GMA News TV.

How sad when others think only of themselves of getting tired, of being hurt, of being misunderstood that they do not care at all with the feelings and well being of those around them like our callous politicians and officials in government and the police.

Sometimes, watching the news can be so depressing when we see all the troubles and sufferings our brothers and sisters have to go through like those stranded in Metro Manila, those separated from their loved ones, those subjected to discrimination because of the COVID-19, those living alone, those who have lost family members and friends, those who have lost many opportunities in life.

But at the same time, the more we are challenged by these sufferings of our people to be like Jesus, to be the living bread, to share with them Jesus who is our very life.

Let us heed the call of St. Paul in the second reading to be one with our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ in their brokenness, in their sufferings by being present to them in love and kindness, in being more understanding.

We are the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, his very presence in this world that continues to disregard him, that until now tries to live without him.

May we not fall into that temptation and sin that is largely the reason behind this pandemic: modern man has forgotten that no matter what is our situation in life, we remain poor before God who alone can fulfill our deepest desires and longings.

Despite the many difficulties we face especially with the continued closure of houses of worship, let us continue to work and find creative means in sharing Jesus Christ with others, in coming to him and receiving him in the Holy Communion.

Only Jesus can help us through this pandemic.

In fact, he was the first to die on the Cross by giving us his Body and Blood so that we may live and share his gift of life with others.

A blessed week ahead of you!

Photo by our parish choir member Gelo Nicolas Carpio, our Church at sunset last Sunday.

Mission of healing

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Solemnity of the Pentecost-A, 31 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 2:1-11 <*(((>< 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13 ><)))*> John 20:19-23

Pope Francis praying at an empty St. Peter’s Square 27 March 2020. Photo from cruxnow.com.

As I prayed over the readings this coming Pentecost Sunday, my thoughts kept going back to those powerful images when Pope Francis prayed at an empty St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican last March 27 when COVID-19 was ravaging the whole Italy with so many deaths.

Now more than ever, the Church badly needs the Pentecost – a new Pentecost that will heal and rebirth the world so wounded and altered by the corona pandemic this year 2020.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

John 20:19-20
Modern rendition of the Pentecost. From Google.

Holy Spirit, breath of life and cause of unity

The Pentecost is not just an event remembered in the past but a reality that happens daily when the Holy Spirit comes and is received by those attuned with its life and mission which is to bring peace through unity and healing.

Promised by Jesus Christ to his followers as their Advocate and Counsellor, the Holy Spirit descended on them during the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem when Jews from all parts of the world gathered to remember the 50 days after their Passover in Egypt at the time of Moses.

It was the perfect setting for the Christian Pentecost – this time 50 days after Easter – to celebrate the new unity of mankind in Jesus he established on Holy Thursday evening at his Last Supper. Inasmuch as the Jews went home at that time to be one with their fellow believers in Jerusalem, on that day from the holy city comes forth the new solidarity of peoples in Jesus led by his followers gathered that day in the Upper Room.

Hence, the tradition of considering Pentecost Sunday as the birthday of the Church, too.

Though we have heard two different versions of its coming, what matters most is the Person of the Holy Spirit as the breath of life and the cause of unity among the followers of Christ.

In the first reading, Luke gives us an artistic presentation of the coming of the Holy Spirit showing the unity of the peoples: first of the followers of Jesus and later with the Jews gathered in Jerusalem on that day for their feast of Pentecost. Whereas the apostles were at first presented as timid and lacking in understanding, the Holy Spirit emboldened them on that day to go out and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Led by Peter, they were filled with life and wisdom and courage, converting thousands of people on Pentecost day despite their speaking in different languages, exactly the opposite at the Tower of Babel in the Old Testament.

In the gospel, John gives us the theological grounding of Pentecost when we find Jesus appearing to his disciples hiding from the Jews on the evening of Easter at the Upper Room where he breathed on them the Holy Spirit that filled them with joy upon seeing him risen and alive.

The scene was reminiscent of the many stories in the Old Testament of the “breath of God” giving life to the first human beings in the story of creation, the “breathing on” by Elijah on the nostrils of the widow’s dead son back to life (1Kgs.17:21), and the promise of God to Ezekiel to restore to life the many dry bones in their graves in the time to come (Ezek. 37:1-14).

These stories now take on deeper meanings in Jesus Christ its fulfillment. And not only were the disciples breathed on with new life in Christ but also the whole creation was renewed in the coming of the Holy Spirit that we pray, “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and you shall renew the face of the earth”.

Perennial Pentecost for peace and healing

Pentecost is an event that continues to happen daily especially when we are gathered as the body of believers of Jesus Christ tasked to realize its fulfillment. This coming of the Holy Spirit is not a one-shot deal that happened only in the past in Jerusalem more than 2000 years ago — it is something we as followers of the Risen Lord must always wait and make happen every day so as to continually bring life and renewal to this world especially at this time of the corona pandemic.

In giving us the Holy Spirit, Jesus not only renewed our lives as his disciples united in him but also conferred his own power without restrictions to accomplish our mission.

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20:21-23
The Chair of St. Peter at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with the stained glass of the Holy Spirit above. Photo from dreamstime.com.

At the Vatican inside the great St. Peter’s Basilica is a beautiful stained glass of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove rising above as background to the Chair of St. Peter ( Feast is February 22) at the sanctuary area.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI described this beautiful work of art:

“It seems to me that a deep analysis of the essence of the Church lies hidden here, is contained here… It unites the Church with creation as a whole. It signifies through the dove of the Holy Spirit that God is the actual source of all light. But it tells us something else: the Church herself is in essence, so to speak, a window, a place of contact between the other-worldly mystery of God and our world, the place where the world is permeable to the radiance of his light… The Church is the place of encounter where God meets us and we find God. It is her task to open up the world closing in on itself, to give it the light without which it would be unlivable.”

Images of Hope, pp.29-31

Here we find part of our mission in collaboration with the Holy Spirit is the the healing of the world that can be achieved only through peace. See how Jesus had to repeat twice his gift of peace to his disciples because it is his greatest gift to us following his Resurrection.

Life thrives and blooms most where there is peace, where there are disciples of the Lord willing to work for it with love and patience.

But the peace from Jesus Christ always has a price that we must be willing to pay to achieve it.

See that after his first greeting of peace, Jesus showed his wounds — he was the first to pay the price for peace with his own life.

Bringing around our Parish the Blessed Sacrament during the lockdown, March-May 2020.

This is the meaning of the many sacrifices and sufferings we all have to go through in this quarantine period expected to continue until 2021: if we want to get out of this pandemic, aside from the need for a vaccine and medication, we all need to change our ways to make sure this will not happen again.

It is always easy to join so many advocacies and rallies calling for every kind of change in the society and the world but nothing had ever happened because whenever we come home, we do not change our own ways of living! Sayang (what a waste) were all the inspiration and energies of the Holy Spirit for our many causes that have not taken roots right in our hearts.

All the apostles of the Lord paid the price of peace with their own lives that led to the healing not only of individuals and families but even of nations and the world.

The second time Jesus offered his gift of peace, he breathed the Holy Spirit on his apostles and commissioned them to forgive all sins.

Peace is the fruit of love according to Vatican II.

As such, peace from the Holy Spirit leads to healing when there is dialogue, prayer and repentance, that lead to justice, love, and forgiveness. Peace and healing need hard work that is why they are fruits. They never come on a silver platter.

On Monday, most of the quarantine levels in the country are downgraded because it is hoped we have somehow controlled the spread of COVID-19.

As we eagerly await more freedom and mobility in this time of pandemic, what have we achieved during these three months of quarantine, said to be the longest in the world?

Have we resolved our family differences? Have we rediscovered our family members, getting more close than ever, more kind, more understanding?

How sad that all we can share as our quarantine stories are all about food and other pursuits we have undertaken forgetting the unity and life of our family and community.

How sad when we in the Church have all been preoccupied with the new communication media but failed at all to make any impact or dent in the lives of our faithful because we have not shared Jesus Christ at all, when all our “live streaming” and vlogs are powered by likes and followers, not by the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis blessing the people last March 27 in an empty St. Peter’s Square during the height of COVID-19 in Italy that became the new epicenter of pandemic next to China. Photo from Vatican Media Office.

Jesus never takes back his gift of peace, his gift of healing, his gift of the Holy Spirit. He promised to never leave us orphans. Let us not leave the Holy Spirit behind and stop believing in our selves.

That’s the way we have been in the world and even in the Church.

That is why – to a large extent – we have this corona pandemic.

A blessed week to everyone.

Our sense of belonging

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Monday, Easter Week-IV, 04 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 11:1-18 ><)))*> ooo+ooo <*(((>< John 10:11-18

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

One good thing about this COVID-19, O Lord, is how it is teaching us today that we all belong to each other, that we all belong to you, our loving and merciful God.

How wonderful that in the midst of quarantine, the many brothers and sisters we have looked down or taken for granted for so long a time are finally telling us, showing us that in this life, we do not need boundaries or walls but bridges to link us all as one.

We belong to just one flock with one Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

In him alone can we rely and trust because he is the only one who is “the way and the truth and the life.”

Even him tells us in today’s gospel that there are still other sheep who do not belong to our fold of whom he must also look after and guide (Jn.10:16) because ultimately, we all go to one destination in life which is eternity in you, O God, our Father Almighty.

Help us realize like Peter in the first reading that the key is to be inclusive than exclusive. May we see that more than the many superficialities of our color, beliefs, and gender is your Son’s Easter gift of divinity you have shared with us.

May we focus more on our similarities than differences so that we may work and live harmoniously as one big community to never allow this calamity to befall us again. Amen.

From Google.