Getting up to follow Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle, 21 September 2022
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13     <*{{{{><  +  ><}}}}*>     Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, Lake Tiberias from the side of Capernaum where Jesus called Matthew to follow him.
You never fail to amaze me,
Lord Jesus Christ with your
unique manner and ways
of finding us, calling us, 
and loving us.
Of your Twelve Apostles, 
only five were called while
working:  the brothers Simon
and Andrew, James and John
who were fishermen and 
Matthew, a tax collector;
the first four belonged 
to the most ordinary 
and lowliest job of the time, 
fishing, while Matthew did
the most despicable job of
collecting taxes unjustly for
Roman colonizers making him
both a sinner and a traitor.
But, you have your plans
that are so different from our
ways when you told the Pharisees
and scribes that "Those who are well
do not need a physician, 
but the sick do... I did not come
to call the righteous
but sinners" (Mt.9:12, 13).
Thank you, Lord Jesus
for still calling me when
I was at my lowest point in life,
when I was most sinful,
when everyone was rejecting me;
thank you, Jesus,
for believing in me,
in calling me to come,
follow you; help me to rise
from my pit of anger and
bitterness, hopelessness 
and desolation like Matthew,
leaving all evil and sins
to follow you
and share you with 
everyone.
Help me, Jesus,
to write the fifth gospel
according to my life
like Matthew
by "living in a manner
worthy of the call I have
received" (Eph. 4:1).
Amen.

St. Matthew,
pray for us!
Caravaggio’s painting, “Calling of St. Matthew” from en.wikipedia.org.

*You may also want to check our reflection on Caravaggio’s painting “Calling of St. Matthew” by clicking this link:

Following Jesus in lights and darkness by Caravaggio

Poverty in priesthood

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 01 September 2022
Photo by author, Dominus Flevit Church overlooking Old Jerusalem, 2017.

Along with the vow of celibacy, the vow of poverty has become very contentious even among us priests these days which is very sad that one wonders why they got ordained in the first place if they were not totally sold out to being celibate and poor.

For most people especially Filipinos, how their priests practice poverty weighs more than their fidelity to celibacy, claiming they could understand and forgive priests getting into relationships with women than priests becoming “mukhang pera” (money-faced). For them, a priest falling in love with a woman is natural and therefore, understandable and “forgiveable”; but, a priest who worships money to the point of making his ministry a business endeavor even stealing from the church funds and donation boxes is what people detest most. In some parts of Bulacan and Cavite, they have a saying which is so vulgar to stress this point, “hindi bale madapa and pari sa puki kesa sa piso” (better for a priest to fall on a vagina than peso).

Photo by Ka Ruben, 24 June 2022.

Of course, it is always wrong to break any of these two important vows priests have made along with the third one which is obedience to his bishop because celibacy and poverty are closely related with each other for they both lead us priests to intimacy with God, our Caller. That is why, most often, when a priest has become “mukhang pera”, falling into the trap of money and luxuries, most likely he also has problems with celibacy. Even St. Ignatius had warned in his Spiritual Exercises that money is the first temptation the devil uses against every priest.

Like celibacy, poverty is a spiritual reality that is lived and felt by everyone in the material sense. More than being poor or having less in life, poverty is a choice we make for it to be real.  It is our attitude with material things in life: there are priests with so much and yet still feel poor like in advanced countries where cars and appliances are very common and ordinary while there are those with almost nothing and yet so attached with the little they have or wish to have and possess! One priest may have a brand-new car extensively using it to reach and serve his parishioners while another may have a second-hand car or owner-type jeep he tinkers daily, possessing him in the process. 

In our previous blog, we have mentioned that people should rejoice when their priest gives away their gifts because that means Father is not selfish, acting as the vessel or conduit of God’s graces and blessings to the poor and needy (https://lordmychef.com/2022/08/08/prayerful-requests-of-a-priest-to-parishioners/). 

Photo from inquirer.net, 2021.

Poverty is not a question of how much do we have but more of the question of how much do we share. See that very often, we are preoccupied thinking what we already and must still have without ever thinking how much do we share.

It is in sharing when we truly experience poverty; a priest who hoards everything – even people like benefactors and friends – is a priest in trouble. Here we find the direct relationship of poverty and celibacy: we renounce marriage which is a wonderful kind of wealth in the spiritual sense for something higher and better which is to be solely for Jesus Christ. That is the essence of our poverty, our being poor and empty so that we are wholly for Christ alone and his Church. It is being poor, materially and spiritually do we find our true wealth as priests, Jesus Christ and his Church or “people of God” as Vatican II rightly called.

Like everyone else, no priest can have everything in life; nobody is perfect but it is always the truth that we evade, priests and lay alike. Many people including priests often convince themselves of being self-sufficient, that we are the greatest, the most powerful so that we never ran out of construction projects in the church.  This is the mentality of the “dream-teams” or the “powerhouses” who claim to have everything and yet in reality, they rarely last long nor achieve much.  When everybody feels like a “heavyweight” – literally and figuratively speaking, always throwing their weight around, soon enough, he/she would surely sink. The Greeks call it hubris, another common ailment among us priests.

Photo by author, Capernaum, Israel, May 2017.

In my 24 years in the ministry, I have found and experienced that the key in any community and organization including family, profession and vocation like the priesthood is not in having everything, materially and non-materially speaking like talents and abilities that always end up into a mere show, a “palabas” even if it may be spectacular.  Life is not about dazzling others with our gifts and abilities but finding our limits and poverty. When we focus on what we do not have like our weaknesses and other limitations, our poverty becomes a wealth because that is when we are most creative and productive, achieving more in life.  Why is it when we do not have much on the table that there is always a leftover with everyone feeling satisfied? But when there is a plethora of food, we just feel satiated, filled up but not satisfied? 

Look at how many of our churches have become like birthday cakes that are so kitschy or baduy, tastelessly overdecorated looking like dirty old men (DOMs) and their counterparts, the matronix afflicted with hepatitis with all their gold trimmings. Many parishes are afflicted with a different virus more contagious than COVID without a vaccine where priests go “imeldific” in church decorations and renovations including liturgies that even the Blessed Virgin Mary is turned into a Miss Universe being “crowned” amid all pomp and pageantry. It is the virus of triumphalism with its ugly face of priests have too much of everything except God. The best priest, the holiest priest is often the poorest one, the one with less because that is when we have more of God. It is in poverty – and celibacy – we priests witness Christ’s lesson that “whoever saves his life loses it and whoever loses his life gains it” (Mk. 8:37-38). 

The problem of the priesthood for me is among other things a problem of poverty. I know that not all priests are necessarily committed, by their priesthood, to absolute poverty. But for my own part it seems to me that the two are connected.

To be a priest means, at least in my particular case, to have nothing, desire nothing, and be nothing but to belong to Christ. Mihi vivere Christus est et mori lucrum. In order to have everything, desire to have nothing.

Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas, page 191.
Photo by Fr. Howard Tarrayo, August 2021.

Poverty is blessedness because in our weak and fragile humanity, God chose to be one with us so that we can share in his divinity and thereby share in his life.  When we see each other’s wealth, the more we feel so poor and helpless; but when we see each other’s poverty, the more we see each one’s value. And we start enriching each one’s life.  This is the beauty of our poverty as priests when being poor is not to be destitute but be available to God and everyone. No wonder, poverty is the first of all beatitudes taught by Christ, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Mt. 5:3).

When we try to have less and become poor, that is when we discover the value of life, of every person created in the image and likeness of God. Then, we begin to share and give, to sacrifice and let go, truly loving one another by being forgiving and merciful and kind like Jesus Christ, “who, though he is God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at but rather emptied himself by being born in the likeness of men” (Phil.2:6-7).

Again, help us your priests live simple lives, to be poor so it would not be difficult for you to support us too. Thank you and God bless! 

Huli ka!

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-8 ng Pebrero 2022
Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com
Huli ka!
Mga salitang 
kinatatakutan,
hangga't maari ay
iniiwasan, 
tinatakasan,
tinatakbuhan dahil sa
tiyak na kapahamakan.
Ngunit mayroong 
bukod tanging pagkakataon 
ang salitang "huli ka" ay
katuwa-tuwa, 
dala ay galak
hindi takot at pangamba
bagkus kaluwagan
at kasaganaan.
Larawan kuha ni G. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Pagkatapos ni Jesus magsalita ay sinabi niya kay Simon, “Pumalaot kayo at ihulog ang mga lambat upang manghuli.” Sumagot si Simon, “Guro, magdamag po kaming nagpagod at wala kaming nahuli! Ngunit dahil sa sinabi ninyo, ihuhulog ko ang mga lambat.” Gayon nga ang ginawa nila at sa dami ng kanilang huli ay halos magkansisira kanilang mga lambat.

Lucas 5:4-6
Ano nga ba nangyari
magdamag wala silang huli
nagkubli ba mga isda
sa dilim ng gabi?
Paano ang nangyari nang
si Jesus ay nagsabi,
mga isda ay dumaiti
mga bangka napuno ng huli?
Araw-araw
dumarating si Jesus
sa buhay natin
upang tayo ay hulihin:
hindi upang pagdusahin
sa mga pagkakasala natin
bagkus upang lubusin
mga pagpapala niya sa atin.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 2018.
Kasabihan ng matatanda
sa bibig nahuhuli ang isda,
ngunit sinabi ni Jesus
sa bibig ng Diyos nagmumula
tunay na pagkain sa atin nagpapala
lahat ng pagpapagal at pagsisikap natin
 makabuluhan mayroon mang kabiguan
hindi mahuhuli ang Diyos sa kanyang kabutihan!
Parating abangan pagdaraan ni Jesus
pakinggan kanyang panawagan
at kung siya ay ating matagpuan
sana'y ating iwanan ang lahat
upang siya ay masundan
pamamalakaya sa sanlibutan
hindi mo pagsisihan, buhay na walang hanggan 
tiyak makakamtan ngayon pa lamang!
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 31 Disyembre 2021.

Catching Jesus, catching for Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week V-C in Ordinary Time, 06 February 2022
Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 ><}}}}*> Luke 5:1-11
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

The word catch is a very catchy one, like when we catch our breath. Or, when we catch a train or bus or catch a ball. Recently, we have been catching colds and have also started catching movies. But the most beautiful of all is catching a glimpse of someone special until we catch a person, like a bride or a groom.

To catch means “to have”. It may be something. Or someone. Wholly or partially.

There is always that sense of possession in catching. This Sunday, Jesus wants to catch us all by making us catch others for him, too!

After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Luke 5:4-6, 8-10

From their synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus came to the nearby shore of Galilee Lake at Capernaum preaching his good news of salvation. A large crowd of people followed him, listening to his teachings as he sat on the boat of Simon he had borrowed.

Simon and company were washing their nets, on their way home after a fruitless night of fishing when Jesus came. Simon Peter must have heard – “caught” – the words of Jesus while teaching and soon enough, he was caught with fear with their miraculous catch.

Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2017.

Again, we have Jesus with his powerful words making such impact on the people, being fulfilled in their hearing most especially to Simon: After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”

The fish has always been there in the lake but what made the big difference that morning was Jesus – he was not only with them but most of all, Simon believed in the words of the Lord!

Here we find again the words of Jesus being fulfilled because somebody listened and believed.

Last week we heard how Jesus was driven out of the synagogue by his own folks who doubted him and his words despite their amazement at the start; today, here at the shore of Capernaum, the people came to Jesus to listen to his words again.

But, the most beautiful part of our story this Sunday is how Jesus came at the most ordinary time and circumstances of the lives of the people. Too often, many people think Jesus comes only in dramatic and miraculous ways to invite us to come and follow him.

Not really. In fact, he comes when we least expect him like in this scene when Simon must have been feeling so down, coming home empty with nothing to feed his family after a fruitless night of fishing.

The good news of our Gospel this Sunday is how Jesus makes us all his worthy followers when we allow him to catch us. That is how the Gospel works – let yourself be caught by the Lord first and soon you shall find yourself being caught up in so many wonderful surprises: When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him.

Photo by author, statue of Simon Peter after the miraculous catch of fish,asking the Lord to depart from him at the shore of Galilee in Capernaum, 2017.

Jesus does not ask us for great things and deeds; he knows us very well and loves us so much, believing in us that he simply invites us to respond to his calls, to his words in the little everyday things of our lives like being faithful to your husband or wife, being obedient to our parents, being true to our friends, being honest in our work and studies, being kind and open to others. When bad things happen to us, all Jesus asks us is to go deeper in him in faith by being more patient or even uncomplaining to our pains and difficulties.

Of course, these are all easier said than done but this is what we always tell Jesus just before receiving him in the Holy Communion like that Roman official who said, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed”.

Nobody is truly worthy before the Lord but that is why Jesus came to invite us personally to let ourselves be caught by him like Simon and his brother Andrew along with their fishing partners, the sons of Zebedee, James and John, who left everything to follow him.

Every encounter with Jesus and his words always result in a self-discovery of our unworthiness and sinfulness like Simon Peter and Isaiah in the first reading. But, the good news is that every time God comes to call us, he also gives us the strength and gifts necessary to accomplish his mission for us. What is important is our willingness to follow, like Isaiah who said, “Here I am, send me” (Is.6:8) and be ready to leave everything behind like the first four disciples.

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

At the center of every call and mission is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master, the Word who became flesh and dwelled among us by being one with us in our pains and sufferings, even in death, so that we may become like him, holy and blessed.

To be holy like God is to share in his work of gathering his people into the Body of Christ which St. Paul had reflected these past three Sundays to remind us of the preeminence of love in fulfilling our mission from Jesus.

Every day, Jesus comes, trying to catch us, asking us to cast our nets, inviting us to catch others for him so we may all be one in him in his love.

Let us all be caught by Jesus, be totally his and experience his amazing love and mercy. Amen.

Have a blessed and COVID-free week ahead!

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Remembering our “fishers of men”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle, 30 November 2021
Romans 10:9-18   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Matthew 4:18-22
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.
On this Feast of your "Protokletos" or
your "first to be called" as Apostle, I pray
Lord Jesus, for the many other St. Andrew
who have led me to you to be your disciple.
How beautiful it is to recall from the 
fourth gospel how St. Andrew was
originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist
but when he met you on your baptism,
he dared asked you where you stayed;
and when you told him to "come and see",
the next thing we are told he called his
elder brother Simon, telling him how he 
had seen the Messiah and brought him to you.
My coming and seeing you, and following
you, dear Jesus, happened through the men 
and women you have earlier called to be fishers 
of men to call me too with their kindness and 
witnessing to your gospel:  my former teachers,
the many priests who have inspired me with
their ministry and friendships, the nuns who 
nurtured my vocation in elementary, the many
other dedicated men and women of faith
whose lives with their encouraging conversations 
and affirmations have inspired me 
to seek and follow you more, Lord.
Hence, on this day, I pray also for deeper faith,
livelier hope and more infectious love from you,
Lord Jesus, that I may also be like St. Andrew,
a fisher of men and women who would bring 
people closer to you in the service of the Church
and for the poor and needy. 

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?

Romans 10:14-15
Here I am, Lord; send me!
Amen.

Called without exception

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of Sts. Jude and Simon, Apostles, 28 October 2021
Ephesians 2:19-22   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 6:12-16
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, the 12 Apostles at the facade of the Basilica Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey in Barcelona, Spain, 2019.
Glory and praise to you,
O God our Father in sending
us your Son Jesus Christ who 
calls us to be his disciples and 
collaborators without exception, 
regardless of our backgrounds;
how wonderful it is to ponder on 
this feast of his two Apostles, 
St. Simon and St. Jude that it has 
always been people who interested
him, not social classes or labels!

Jesus went up the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.

Luke 6:12-13
Simon who was called the Zealot 
came in tenth place according to
Luke's narration of their order of
calling followed by Judas the son
of James also known as Jude to
distinguish him from Judas Iscariot
the betrayer.  How wonderful it is 
to meditate on the call of Simon
the Zealot - if he was really a member
of those nationalist Jews against
Roman rule in Israel, that puts him
directly opposite, a world apart from
Matthew the tax collector who was
a collaborator of the Romans!
It is so amazing, Lord Jesus that you
have united these men together despite
their varied backgrounds and marked
differences!
And so, we pray, too,
that we may transcend our
differences with our other co-
workers in your vineyard, 
that despite our individualities,
we come into unity in your name,
in your mission, in your call,
Lord Jesus Christ.
Transform the "zeal" burning in us
in our previous preoccupations and
advocacies to become a "burning zeal"
for you and your gospel of salvation;
may we see more of you, Jesus, our Caller
than your call to unite us in the mission
you have entrusted us.  Amen.

Remembering our call

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 11 October 2021
Romans 1:1-7   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Luke 11:29-32
Photo by author, 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father
who has called us through
Jesus Christ your Son 
to be your servants.
As we begin this brand new
week of work and school, 
let us be reminded
of this great honor from you
that we have taken for granted,
even forgotten and disregarded.
May we learn from St. Paul
to take pride in this calling
to be your servant.

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God… among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy. Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:1, 6-7
In Baptism, we have been called
to be your servant and apostle,
most of all called to be holy
like you, God our Father;
help us recapture the beauty
and honor of this call from you;
enable us to activate this call in us
set apart as a people for a very special
mission especially in this time of the
pandemic.
Most of all, let us remember today
your call for us to witness to Jesus Christ
and his Gospel of salvation through the
particular circumstances of our lives
lest that day of judgment catch us by
surprise immersed in sin and evil,
forgetting the sign of Jonah 
and Nineveh (Lk.11:29-32).
Amen.

Finding God and our mission

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest, 14 July 2021
Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 11:25-27
Photo by author, site of burning bush inside St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt, 2019.
Your words today, Lord,
speak of being surprised,
of how wonder can lead us
to you, dear God, the biggest
and most beautiful surprise of all
in this life.
There an angel of the Lord appeared
to him in a fire flaming out of a bush.
As he looked on, he was surprised to see
that the bush, though on fire was not consumed.
So Moses decided, "I must go over 
to look at this remarkable sight, 
and see why the bush is not burned."
(Exodus 3:2-3)
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
"I give praise to you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden
these things from the wise and the learned,
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been
your gracious will."
(Matthew 11:25-26)
Like Jacob at Bethel 
upon waking up from a dream,
Moses was surprised and wondered
what was with the burning bush
only to find out it was you, Lord,
calling him, sending him to a mission.
The same is true with Jesus our Lord
who exclaimed after being surprised
with the faith of the little ones in him;
what a beautiful flow of things in
every sense of wonder and surprise
when first we find and meet you, then you send us.
We pray, dear God,
you continue to surprise us
in this time of pandemic and trials;
may we take off our sandals like Moses
to realize the whole earth is sacred
because of your divine presence.
Like St. Camillus de Lellis,
open our eyes to find and see you
in various forms of the "burning bush"
like pains and suffering, failures and losses,
or victories and gains where you are always present
calling and sending us to our specific mission in life.
Amen.

Life in the Spirit

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 08 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:18-22   ><)))'> + <'(((><   Matthew 5:13-16
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

Praise and thanksgiving to you, O God our loving Father, for this brand new day, so blessed and filled with many opportunities for us to change and grow in the Holy Spirit, to test our limits and see your wisdom in calling and sending us to make you known in the world.

How amazing that in every day you give us, you keep qualifying your call so that even if we are not qualified at all, you still call us because you believe in us.

Not that of ourselves
 we are qualified to take credit for anything
as coming from us; rather, our qualification
comes from God, who has indeed qualified us
as ministers of a new covenant, 
not of letter but of spirit; 
for the letter brings death,
but the Spirit gives life.
(2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

Forgive us, dear Father, when so many times we refuse to obey your laws especially when they go against our whims and caprices, claiming them to be archaic and irrelevant but at the same time, when we complain of the Church’s many changes and reforms that do not suit us, when we choose to revert to the pass than embrace the changing world.

Let us understand the gospel today where Jesus declares, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt.5:17).

Let us live in the Holy Spirit to find and rediscover daily the person of Jesus Christ so that we may be gentle and kind like him with one another than being stuck in the rigidity and stagnation of our conservatism that make us harsh and legalistic in our relationships.

Let us live in the Holy Spirit so we may be free and faithful to you always, bubbling with spontaneity and creativity that express your glory, O Lord.

We pray today for those who choose to be sad, who insist on bringing back the past without understanding the true meaning of growing and changing in Christ, of maturing in freedom and love to fully appreciate the beauty of your gift of life. Amen.

Photo by author, 2018.

Prayer to respond faithfully to calls by Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, 22 January 2021
Hebrews 8:6-13     >><)))*>  = + =  <*(((><<     Mark 3:13-19
Photo by author, Dominus Flevit Church, the Holy Land, 2017.

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and have authority to drive out demons. He appointed the Twelve: Simon, whom he named Peter; and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

Mark 3:13-16, 19

How great indeed is your love for us, O Lord Jesus Christ! I just wonder how or what are your criteria in calling those you wanted to follow you? You do not seem to reject anyone at all! You want all because you love us all!

Thank you very much, dear Jesus! Despite our many flaws and weaknesses, you still want us, you still call us, and most of all, even send us despite our imperfections.

And amid your great love for us is your “poor memory”, of always forgetting or disregarding our sins against you. Like when you called Simon and named him Peter to lead the Twelve as attested in all accounts as being the first among the list of the Apostles; but, at the same time, always mentioned last in every list of your inner circle is Judas Iscariot who betrayed you. Why called him at all?

So often, I find that so strange with you who knows everything and reads our hearts; but, the more I pray over your calls and our response, the more I find it more strange on our part when despite your mediating a new and perfect covenant in God (first reading from Hebrews), we still choose to turn away from you in sin.

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, when I cannot resist the temptation to slide back to the past, to seek something already obsolete and imperfect simply because they are easier.

Teach me to have the inner strength like of St. Peter, your prince of the Apostles and of St. Vincent, your Martyr and Deacon whose feast we celebrate today. May we remain faithful and vigilant in our commitment in responding to your call, Lord Jesus so we may always be one in the Father. Amen.

Photo by author, St. Joseph Parish in Baras, Rizal (07 January 2021).