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.

Lead us, remind us, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 25 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>  Matthew 23:27-32
Photo by the author, Capernaum along the shore of Lake of Galilee (Tiberias), 2017.
Times are getting more tough,
more difficult, and most painful
for us these days, God our loving Father.
We ask you only for one thing -
lead us to your Son Jesus Christ our Lord
as we pray:
Lead us, O Lord closer to you
to be like you - loving and caring
merciful and forgiving;
Lead us, O Lord to your words
and actualize them in our lives;
Lead us, O Lord in your Holy Spirit 
to work in us and through us
to bring life and joy, hope and inspiration
to those overshadowed with gloom
due to the pandemic.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing for us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

1 Thessalonians 2:13
Remind us today, dearest Jesus
that the greatest impact we can have
in this life are not just the words we speak
but by the deeds of love and care,
compassion and dedication we show;
Remind us, Lord, that the real test
of our discipleship in you is not found
in what people say how good or holy we are
but that they themselves are led to the Father;
Remind us today, dearest Jesus
not to be hypocrites like the Pharisees
and scribes who only wanted to appear
beautiful outside but rotting inside (Mt.23:27).
Amen.
 

You are loved.

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, 23 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 8-10     ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><     Matthew 23:13-22
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Rhode Island, April 2021.
Our loving God and Father,
today I pray only for one thing:
give me the grace to let others know
that you love them
like St. Paul.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God how you were chosen.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-4
In times like this with so many
getting sick and dying due to this pandemic
when so many have lost their jobs and
sources of income
when so many are so confused and 
depressed with how things are going on,
everybody seems to be so busy 
surviving and coping,
forgetting the most essential:
"work of faith
labor of love
and endurance in hope
of our Lord Jesus Christ"
as St. Paul wrote us today.
There are times we have become
like the scribes and the Pharisees:
so callous and self-centered, 
hiding in our devotions and 
religiosities when in fact
full of hypocrisies:

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides who swear by the temple and by the altar…

Matthew 23:13-16
I know it is not that easy
to make even just one person
realize and feel that he 
or she is loved.

Like St. Rose of Lima,
let my faith in you
bear fruit with good works;
that my hope may not just be
a wishful thinking but confidence
in Jesus and eternal life;
and lastly, that my love be
like that of Jesus and his saints:
willing to suffer and give total self
for another.

Yes, it is not that easy, Lord
especially if we are afraid
to get hurt, to be laughed at,
to be last and to be least.
But with your grace,
let me do it, Lord.
Amen.

Always something, never nothing

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Eight Week of Ordinary Time, 25 May 2021
Sirach 35:1-12  ><)))’> + <‘(((><   Mark 10:28-31
Photo by author, St. Paul Center for Spirituality at Alfonso, Cavite 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O most loving and merciful God our Father, for you never leave us empty-handed even if we always claim to have nothing at all, to be “walang-wala” when we always have something with to offer and share, never without anything at all.

Forgive us in being so preoccupied with the “scarcity mentality” – of how little we have, of not having enough that we refuse to share and give to others, forgetting the reality that to be alive and to always do what is good and pleasing to you is all you want us to offer to you through others.

In works of charity one offers fine flour, 
and when he gives alms he presents 
his sacrifice of praise.  
To refrain from evil pleases the Lord, 
and to avoid injustice is an atonement.
Appear not before the Lord empty-handed,
for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts.

How wonderful, O Lord, are your words through Ben Sirach! Help us remember that true worship, true prayer is always being good and holy before you through our loving service to others.

We do not have to look beyond ourselves to find so many things to offer to you, primarily our good works that you ask from us. We may not have all the material wealth the world has to offer, but you always shower us with every spiritual gifts more needed especially in our world today plunged in the darkness of sin and selfishness.

Sometimes like Simon Peter, we become proud of the little things we give up for you, thinking they are so great without realizing the great rewards you have in store for our sacrifices.

Jesus said,
"Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house
or brothers or sisters or mother or father
or children or lands for my sake 
and for the sake of the Gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more 
now in the present age:  houses and brothers
and sisters and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life 
in the age to come.
(Mark 10:29-30)

Indeed, you have given us with so much, dear God and we have given so little. Teach us to give more of our kindness and mercy, love and understanding, time and presence and most of all, more of YOU to others. Amen.

True unity in God is love

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Seventh Week of Easter, 20 May 2021
Acts 22:30-23:6-11   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   John 17:20-26
Photo from inquirer.net

How should we pray today, Lord Jesus Christ when you are the one praying for us? How wonderful indeed that at the Last Supper, you have already thought of us who would come to believe you 2000 years later. And what a beautiful prayer you have for us all – that like you and the Father, we may all be one in love!

Lifting up his eyes to heaven,
Jesus prayed, saying:
"I pray not only for these, but also for those 
who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one, as you, Father,
are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me."
(John 17:20-21)

Yes, Lord Jesus: being one is being like you and the Father, a unity expressed in love and mutuality. It is a unity that comes from above, from you, and not simply from below or from us that is so fragile, so easily broken because of so many divisions within our very selves and among us.

Exactly what St. Paul had wittingly exposed when he spoke before the Sanhedrin – the polarity in beliefs of their religious leaders at that time, of the Pharisees who believed in resurrection and in angels and spirits and the Sadducees who refused to believe in these at all.

Teach us, Lord, to be witnesses of your love and unity in the Father in this time when unity is seen more as uniformity than oneness in diversity that spawns respect for one another.

Let your prayer be on our lips today so that in our lives of witnessing to your love and unity, the more we make you and the Father present in this world that has come to reject spirituality, accepting only what is materially tangible.

"Righteous Father,
the world does not know you, 
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name
and I will make it known, 
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them."
(John 17:25-26)

We pray, O Lord, for those losing hope in humanity, for those who have become cynical that we can still change and work for a better tomorrow as a Church and as a nation. Amen.

Prayer to not shrink

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Seventh Week of Easter, 18 May 2021
Acts 20:17-27   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 17:1-11
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, 2019.

God our loving Father, we thank you in giving us St. Paul and all the other saints who inspire us in dealing with life’s many troubles and challenges especially in this time of the pandemic. How great are his words – and courage – in telling “the presbyters of Ephesus” of the great trials coming his way that he might never see them again.

"You know how I lived among you
the whole time from the day I first came
to the province of Asia.  I served the Lord
with all humility and with tears and trials 
that came to me because of the plots of the Jews,
and I did not at all shrink from telling you
what was for your benefit, or from teaching
you in public or in your homes."
(Acts 20:18-20)

Twice St. Paul mentioned to them, “I did not at all shrink”: what an amazing gift and grace of courage! He never chickened out in proclaiming Christ’s gospel of salvation, boldly admitting to everyone his repentance to God in persecuting the Christians before while at the same time proudly declaring his deep faith in Jesus in words and in deeds.

Most of all, St. Paul gallantly faced the realities of life like rejection and other hardships most especially of death, telling the Ephesians they would never meet again (v.25) as he bid them goodbye for Jerusalem that led him to his trial in Rome.

Too often, O Lord, we are afraid to seriously discuss or even entertain thoughts of our death, of our finiteness not only because we are afraid of dying but mostly because we are also afraid of facing the harsh realities of our selves — that we have been wasting our time, we have been remiss with our duties and responsibilities.

And yes, we have shrunk from many instances when we should have stood for what is right and good, for what is fair and just.

Worst, we have left you, dear God and failed to do good, choosing to sin than be loving and kind, and forgiving.

May we hold on always to your High Priestly prayer for us, Lord Jesus that like you, may we realize that the path to glory is always the way of the Cross.

We pray most especially for those who are stuck in situations they know so well as not proper and good; give them the grace and chance to correct their lives, to repent for their sins and return to you and their loved ones.

We pray for those we look up to who do not shrink but deep inside are so hard pressed with the many challenges of remaining upright and holy.

Keep us faithful to you, O Lord, now and forever. Amen.

Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

Are we proud of our love for God?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 04 May 2021
Acts 14:19-28   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 14:27-31
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King, 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"but the world must know that 
I love the Father and that I do 
just as the Father has commanded me."
(John 14:31)

Your words today, dear Jesus are so striking. It was your “last supper” with your disciples before you were betrayed and then crucified. You were reassuring your disciples, telling them – and us – not to let our hearts be troubled or afraid as you give as your peace (Jn.14:27).

Those last words you have said struck me deep inside as a person and as your disciple. It is a wonderful feeling to be in a loving relationship with God our Father through you, in you, and with you. But, it made me feel so ashamed too at the same time of how I take for granted this relationship with the Father.

Am I also proud like you, dear Jesus, in making “the world must know that I love the Father”?

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to be willing to carry my cross and be crucified for what is true and just, for what is faithful and loving.

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to keep on praying even if nothing good seems to be happening in our lives.

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to let me surrender myself to your will and power, to let go and let God by setting aside my own plans and agenda in life so that his will is done not mine.

Making the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is letting myself decrease so that you may increase in me!

Grant me, O Lord, the zeal and courage of St. Paul in the first reading who continued preaching your good news despite his being stoned and rejected by the people in the cities they have visited. How amazing of all that after being driven out from the city, St. Paul even came back to preach your gospel of peace and mercy!

 They strengthened the spirits of the disciples
and exhorted them to persevere in faith, saying,
"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the kingdom of God."
(Acts 14:22)

Shame on me, O Lord! Please forgive me for never thinking like you that “the world must know that I love the Father” through my life of witnessing, of sacrifices, and of loving service to others.

Forgive me, sweet Jesus, in backing out from the mission and work you have entrusted me when I face some discomforts and pains, when rejected and unaccepted or even disliked by people I try serving.

Grant me the gift of perseverance like St. Paul and St. Barnabas in proclaiming your good news in words and in deeds, in season and out of season. Make me proud of you and the Father always, dear Jesus, by being more loving and humble with others. Amen.

From a Facebook post.

Praying for teachers who witness Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Third Week of Easter, 22 April 2021
Acts 8:26-40   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 6:44-51
From Facebook, 04 April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord.”
Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, 
a court official of the Candace, that is, the queen of Ethiopians,
in charge of her entire treasury, who had come to Jerusalem to worship, 
and was returning home.  Seated in his chariot, 
he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said,
"Do you understand what you are reading?"
He replied, "How can I, unless someone instructs me?"
So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.
(Acts 8:27-28, 30-31)

Today, O Lord, I pray for teachers. For true and good, honest teachers who are also witnesses of your gospel. Give us more teachers like your deacon Philip who can teach to clear and clarify in the minds of the people the essential truth of this life which is about you, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

And we pray for good teachers, for witnesses of your gospel, so unlike of the other teachers today especially our officials in government and the military who continuously peddle lies, maligning people without any qualms at all.

Send us teachers who will reawaken in us your presence among one another like Ms. Ana Patricia Non and all the others who have followed her witnessing in setting up community pantries that not only help those in need but also teach others to share.

In their witnessing as good teachers, they have brought out the innate goodness of so many people, rich and poor alike, men and women, young and old all over the country.

In their witnessing as good teachers, they have drawn so many people closer to you, dear Jesus Christ, our good Teacher!

At the same time, we pray for our professional teachers who continue to labor with love and dedication in forming young minds and hearts not only with modern knowledge but with wisdom based on fear of the Lord as they themselves struggle amid the many challenges of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Keep their minds and their hearts open in the promptings of the Holy Spirit so they may go wherever they are needed most for your greater glory. Amen.

Ms. Ana Patricia Non, the angel behind the community pantry movement now sweeping across the nation, giving us a fresh breath of hope after a year in the pandemic.

Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.

St. Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, #41

A “Monday exam” prayer

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in Third Week of Easter, 19 April 2021
Acts 6:8-15   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   John 6:22-29
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2015.

Your words in the first reading today sound like an exam, a personal quiz for each of us your follower and student, Lord Jesus.

Are we like "Stephen, filled with grace and power, 
working great wonders among the people?" (Acts 6:8)
Are we like Stephen who spoke with wisdom
and the Spirit? (Acts 6:10)
Are we like Stephen accused falsely
for echoing your teachings, Lord Jesus Christ? (Acts 6:13)

Forgive us Lord when lately we have been lacking in courage and vigor and enthusiasm in teaching and speaking what is true, what is just, what is good.

Sorry when we are no longer bothered by the many inconvenient truths prevailing these days, from the rampant disrespect for life and of the environment to our silence to injustices happening around us.

Fill us with your Holy Spirit, dear Jesus, to be bold enough like Stephen in following your life by witnessing your stance for what is right and true, just and holy. Enable us to perceive the deeper meaning of things happening in us and around us that are signs of your presence, indicating your will and mission for us.

May we work for “the food that endures for eternal life” (Jn.6:27) by first believing wholly in you as the Son of God to whom we must pledge our total and unconditional commitment.

More than receiving you as the Bread of Life in the Holy Communion, may we realize that to believe in you dear Jesus is to be like you – a bread who nourishes others with one’s total self giving in loving service founded on justice and respect for one another. Amen.

From Be Like Francis page at Facebook, 14 April 2021.

When we are disturbed

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
First Friday, Memorial of St. Agatha, 05 February 2021
Hebrews 13:1-8     >><)))*>   +++  <*(((><<     Mark 6:14-29
Photo by author, Silang, Cavite, September 2020.

Your words today are very disturbing, Lord Jesus. So many times I find myself like Herod perplexed at listening to your words, praying your words, analyzing and learning your words for they are so delightful to the feelings but so disturbing when I am in a state of sin.

Forgive us, dear Jesus, in making into a cliche that beautiful prayer we once in a while utter to you, “Disturb us, O Lord.” So often we hear and read this beautiful prayer without really meaning it so well like Herod in today’s gospel.

Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee…

The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison.

Mark 6:20-21, 25-27

Disturb us, O Lord?

So nice to read, so good to say but never easy to totally feel and live out its real meaning!

There is no doubt at how your words disturb us, dear Jesus, bothering our conscience, making us feel uncomfortable specially when we are deeply into sin and evil; but then, we would reason out with our usual alibis and justifications that eventually we find a way out of your teachings like Herod in taking the wife of his brother Philip.

Ironically, and yes, tragically, when our words are put to test by somebody else’s words, we feel more distressed like Herod when asked for the head of John after making a pledge to his daughter to ask for anything. Shamefully, that is when we are pushed to edge to finally make a decision on something so wrong simply because we felt challenged and dared to assert our position and power. We act instinctively without much thinking if we are just being taken for a ride, of being manipulated like Herod.

Beheading of John the Baptist from wikipediacommons.org.

O Lord, you know us so well. Too often in life, we would rather bear the daily hurts no matter how painful for as long as we look good among others than suffer big time in confronting and accepting our true selves before you for fear it could badly wound us, exposing our true selves and other vulnerabilities as a person like Herod. Yes, we would rather save face than save souls.

Give us the grace and courage, Lord Jesus Christ, to face up and dare ourselves to rise to your challenge of purifying ourselves into better persons like John the Baptist who truly played his role as your precursor with his prophetic preaching.

Like St. Agatha your holy virgin and martyr, may we persevere in our sufferings, not disturbed at all at what others may say except in how we may witness your Gospel of love and mercy for you are always “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Amen.

A mosaic of St. Agatha of Sicily whose breasts were cut off by her torturers hoping she would renounce her faith in Christ. She remained faithful to Jesus who sent St. Peter to appear to her in a vision to console her and thus became the patron saint for those with breast cancer. She eventually died a martyr while in prison as a result of the repeated cruelties inflicted to her around year 251. Photo from aleteia.org.