Finding our directions in life

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday in Week XIII of Ordinary Time, 01 July 2022
Amos 8:4-6, 9-12   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, 14 May 2022 in Los Baños, Laguna.
Glory and praise to you,
God our loving Father for this
brand new month of July 2022:
new beginning, new batch of 31
days filled with your wonderful 
surprises, filled with life and joy!
Grant us, dear Father,
with sense of directions in you
through Jesus Christ your Son;
like Matthew, may we have the grace
to respond to his call to follow him;
help us realize like Matthew
that life is not about having 
wealth and every thing money can buy
but finding meaning and 
directions in life in you.
Forgive us, O Lord, 
when affluence and comforts
overtake us that we forget you
and the people around us
like the people of Israel at the time
of Amos who "trampled upon the needy
and destroyed the poor of the land"
(Amos 8:4); all the sad conditions
happening then still happen today when
nobody cares at all about Sunday worship
nor with honesty in trading and work.

Yes, days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from north to the east in search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.

Amos 8:11-12
Continue to speak to us, Lord,
for without your words,
we are lost like many of those
among us today, "wandering from sea
to sea, roving from north to the east"
searching for your words,
searching for meaning and
directions in life.
Amen.

“Sleeping” in Christ, trusting in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2022
Acts 12:1-11 ><}}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 ><}}}}*> Matthew 16:13-19
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, August 2021.

Our readings today are a parable of the Church, of what we should and would be as the Body of Christ celebrating the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, the pillars of the Church.

Despite their personalities being poles apart while their social, cultural and religious backgrounds were greatly different, both men were won over by Jesus Christ to proclaim his good news of salvation, eventually dying as martyrs like the Lord. Both apostles displayed deep trust in Jesus Christ whom they have come to know on a personal basis.

Let us reflect first on St. Peter, the “prince of the Apostles” and servant of all. Notice how Peter could sleep soundly inside prison, even between two soldiers as narrated to us by Luke.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.

Acts 12:6-9

It is very amusing, even funny, but facts can truly be stranger than fiction!

How could Peter sleep soundly after being arrested and thrown into prison with two soldiers sandwiching him inside his cell while a host of other guards secured the area outside?

We think again of St. Joseph sleeping soundly in a similar critical situation when he decided to silently leave Mary who was found pregnant with a child before they were married. Too often, we find it difficult to sleep when we have problems because we cannot decide decisively as we lack trust and faith in God. Both Joseph and Peter slept soundly under critical situations because of their complete trust and faith in God.

But, Peter shows us another dimension of his trust in God – his total trust also in the Church, believing that they were all praying for him.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2022.

It is a beautiful imagery of the Church then and now, always in darkness like during night time when Peter was imprisoned. And that is the parable of this scene: it is always a time of Exodus for us in the Church, of passing over from every trials and difficulties, always trusting our leaders, trusting our faithful and most of all, entrusting everything to God!

If there is one thing most needed these days in our Church especially in the Philippines is this attitude of being in an Exodus, of exiting from our excesses from the past, of submitting ourselves more to God than to our own thoughts and plans especially in politics that we have forgotten the more crucial proclamation of the gospel by reaching out to the grassroots level, of witnessing our faith in God instead of lording it over among people, exerting our influences. The recent elections is a dark period of our imprisonment with secular thoughts and dispositions, forgetting our sphere of influence in spiritual matters.

May we, both clergy and laypeople, imitate Peter by abandoning everything to God in deep prayers, following God not our plans as symbolized by his putting on his belt and sandals as commanded by the angel.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

Meanwhile, we find the same kind of total abandonment by Paul of himself to God while in prison where he wrote some of his finest letters like this Second Letter to Timothy, the last of his captivity letters which we heard in the second reading today.

Imagine the stress of being in prison but without any hint of duress on Paul while awaiting death amid all humiliations with his incomparable eloquence:

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:6-7, 17, 18

Very evident in all his letters, Paul had always expressed his total abandonment of self to Christ, of his faith in God. Here in this portion of his second letter to Timothy, we find two important lessons so apt in our celebration of this solemnity.


First is the nature of Christian life lived as a worship: am already being poured out like a libation. That is what I like most with Paul, his mastery of language, always using the most perfect words to express his experiences and ideas. For some, especially first-time readers of Paul, they may find it so “mayabang” as we say in Filipino. But no. For me, Paul is the most sincere and most humble writer in the world of letters then and now.

A libation is a drink offered to gods in ancient Greece and Rome. Here, Paul as he approached death, summarized his entire life as an offering to God that we also see in his other writings.

And that is the challenge of this solemnity to us, that we live our lives as a form of worship to God.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, 15 June 2022.

Our very lives in itself are a prayer, always centered on God, something so foolish when we go by the standards of the world today that is all show – palabas – with nothing substantial inside because only money and fame matter. Paul was very much like Peter who lived their lives as prayers that like Christ in the end, both offered the highest offering of all, martyrdom.

Second thing we find in this short but rich excerpt from Paul’s letter to Timothy is the deeper meaning of death as a passage to heaven, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom”. Like the gospel last Sunday when we heard Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” wherein Jesus freely chose to face his death to fulfill his mission and express his deep love for the Father and for us. To the Philippians Paul declared that “for me life is Christ, death is gain”. Here in his letter to Timothy, Paul freely accepts his death, making it a blessing for others, something we must emulate. Instead of having those bucket lists of things to do before dying, Paul is teaching us death comes in every present moment that we must always prepare for its happening so that the next generation may continue the good things we have started. And that is exactly how until now the Church’s missionary zeal is kept aflame by Paul’s letters and works.


Photo by author, 2019.

In the gospel proclaimed today about the investiture of Peter as the head of the church of Christ, we heard Jesus entrusting to him “the keys to the kingdom of heaven that whatever he binds on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever he loosens on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (cf. Mt.16:19).

As I end this reflection for this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, I wish to use the word “key” in a different sense – the key to unlocking how Peter and Paul achieved so much for God and for the Church lies in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Both apostles who have become the pillars of the Church today truly experienced Jesus in their lives in the most personal and in timate manner that in the process they have mirrored the true Christ himself.

The problems we have in the Church today, notably the declining number of the faithful following an all-time low in credibility is largely due to the many wrong answers we give Jesus to his question “who do people say I am?” Many Christians are losing their faith and interest in the Church because of the mixed signals we give them on what do we say who Jesus is.

The Church grew so wide during the time of Peter and Paul because both apostles shared the true Jesus Christ not only in their words but also in their deeds. May we have the courage to open ourselves to Jesus Christ again so we may know him more clearly, love him dearly, follow him closely and preach him daily. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

We are God’s servant first

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, Martyrs, 22 June 2022
2 Kings 22:8-13, 23:1-3   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Matthew 7:15-20 
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 22 March 2020.
God our loving Father,
we thank you again for the
gift of two great martyrs today,
Saints John Fisher and
Thomas More who stood firm on
your side, offering their very
selves to die than conspire with
their king in allowing his divorce
and break from the Church.
Both Saints John Fisher and
Thomas More proved that we are
first of all your servants, and then
of the king or civil authorities.
They are both so relevant in these days
when people insist on separating 
politics and daily life from faith
and religion, in constricting the 
spiritual life as purely private and personal,
and worst, only on Sundays.
Like in the first reading today,
may we always pray and listen 
to your words O God found in the
sacred scriptures so that we may
never steer away from your path of
truth and righteousness.

The scribe Shaphan also informed the king that the priest Hilkiah had given him a book, and then read it aloud to the king. When the king had heard the contents of the book of the law, he tore his garments and issued this command to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, son of Shaphan, Achbor, son of Micaiah, the scribe of Shaphan, and the king’s servant Asaiah: “Go, consult the Lord for me, for the people, for all Judah, about the stipulations of this book that has been found, for the anger of the Lord has been set furiously ablaze against us, because our fathers did not obey the stipulations of this book, nor fulfill our written obligations.”

2 Kings 22:10-13
Help us find our way back
to you, Lord; do not let our
knowledge and technologies
blind our hearts and ideals,
most especially our relationship
with you which is the basis of
our relationships with one 
another. Amen.
St. John Fisher and
St. Thomas More,
Pray for us!

When God visits us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 31 May 2022
Zephaniah 3:14-18     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, 2021.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father,
in coming to visit us daily
in your Son Jesus Christ
our Lord!
Thank you for always believing
in us, for who are we worthy to be
visited by you and be given with 
importance?  And that is who we
are, beloved and blessed because
you chose to love us, to believe in
us, and trust us.
Keep us humble like Mary
in Jesus our Lord, that we are
your mere carriers, that whatever
greatness and attributes we have
are all a grace from you; keep us aware
of our nothingness before you.
Let us not be misled by the
ways of the world based on 
value systems of popularity,
personal excellence and superiority;
so many times it happens that
we are merely Christians in
a sleepwalking existence, 
thinking and believing we 
believe and follow you when actually,
we are just dreaming, 
we are just imagining
for we are so far from reality.
Wake us up, Jesus,
from our sleep,
wake us up to the 
realities of life that 
we need to work hard like
Mary walking from afar,
daring to sacrifice everything
so your coming and presence
in the world be felt especially
by those who badly need your 
care and healing, your love and mercy.
Forgive us, O Lord, 
for not believing in you
that you love us, that you
have a plan for us, something
beautiful if we would only believe
like Mary that your words will
be fulfilled.
May we always welcome your
coming, your daily visits to us
like Elizabeth, always open to
receive you and listen to your 
words, and to be blessed.
Amen.
Photo by author, 2021.

Reset/Refresh in the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 11 May 2022
Acts 12:24-13:5   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 12:44-50
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.
God our loving Father,
give us the stamina to continue
in this life's journey, most especially
to fulfill your mission; do not let us
to be sidetracked by failures and
disappointments; most of all,
"reset" our buttons to refresh us
in your Son Jesus Christ 
so that we may do your work anew
than insist on doing our work for you.
We have been working so hard for you
without truly asking you what work you
want us to do for you; we have forgotten
to await your mission task in true prayers
and discernment, relying mostly in our
good intentions when all mission is yours.

Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers… Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them off. So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus.

Acts 13:1, 3-4
Enlighten our minds and our hearts, 
Lord Jesus; shout or cry out again
so we may listen and believe in you
that we may do your work as teachers
and prophets among your people.

Let us return to you, dear Jesus,
and be rooted in you so we may have
a deeper insight into where you are
calling us to serve as your prophets,
following you to find new ways in
proclaiming your gospel in these times.

Let us be converted in you, dear Jesus,
to remain rooted in you, giving only you,
teaching you solely to the people,
conserving and handing on to them
your teachings, not ours.
Let us come to your words, Lord Jesus,
to be led anew in doing your work,
fulfilling your mission.  Amen.
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

When God seems to be far and does not care at all

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 30 March 2022
Isaiah 49:8-15   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   John 5:17-30
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, local residents stranded at the airport hoping to fly home to families during the 2020 lockdown.
There were so many times
in life especially during the
first year of the prolonged
COVID-19 lockdown that we
felt like your people thrown
into exile to Babylon, crying
out, "The Lord has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me"
(Isaiah 49:14).
But looking back to those days of
the lockdown, of how we have 
survived COVID and so many other
problems, sickness and difficulties, 
the more we have realized your loving
presence and involvement in our
struggles and hardships; you have not
only healed and saved us but even
opened many opportunities in life
during those trying moments!

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

Isaiah 49:15
Deepen our faith in you, O God,
especially when we could not 
understand the things happening
in our lives and around us; many times, 
we could not also understand your
very words expressed to us by 
Jesus like in the gospel today.
In times like that, Lord, please
let us just feel you, love you,
and trust you for surely, nothing
ever happens without your knowing.
Amen.

Lent is trusting God and his words

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the First Week of Lent, 08 March 2022
Isaiah 55:10-11  <'[[[>< + ><]]]'>  Matthew 6:7-15
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Thank you so much,
dear God for you reassuring 
words today:
"Just as from the heavens 
the rain and snow come down 
and do not return there 
till they have watered the earth, 
making it fertile and fruitful, 
giving seed to the one who sows 
and bread to the one who eats, 
so shall my word be that goes forth 
from my mouth; it shall not return 
to me void, but shall do my will, 
achieving the end for which I sent it"
(Isaiah 55:10-11).
Forgive us for being impatient,
for rushing everything and everyone
especially YOU with our many plans
in life that too often we refuse 
to trust so that we may control
everything and everyone.
Thank you for being so patient
with us, truly a lover who waits 
when we are ready to surrender
everything so that YOU may 
take charge with our lives.
I know, dear God, the question
with you is not how true are your
words and promises but when 
will you fulfill them because you are
truly "Our Father" who wishes only the
best things for us your children.
Through your Son Jesus Christ,
teach us that when we call you
"Our Father", we may submit 
ourselves to your will as we lay aside
our own plans and agenda so that
we may fully experience the reality
of your power and grace.  Amen.

Taking Jesus to the heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week VIII-C in Ordinary Time, 27 February 2022
Sirach 27:4-7 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:54-58 ><}}}}*> Luke 6:39-45
Photo by author, 2016.

We enter the Season of Lent this week with Ash Wednesday as the Ordinary Time takes on a long break until June; hence, our gospel this Sunday is a fitting cap to the teachings of Jesus these past three weeks about discipleship.

After expounding on the need to love like God full of mercy even to enemies, Jesus now speaks in parables citing ordinary experiences in life to underscore “wholeness” in one’s self that is rooted in one’s heart where speech and being go together.

True discipleship in Christ is taking into heart his words by putting them into practice – of walking the talk – to bear fruits in our lives of holiness.

Jesus told his disciples a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:39, 45
Photo from news.abs-cbn.com, 2020.

Our heart, our center of being

People often make various gestures of the heart to convey the message of love especially when posing for pictures. But of all these gestures, nothing beats those two hands shaped like ears and put together to look like a heart.

It is the best sign of the heart, of two ear lobes joined together because a loving heart is one that listens, never judges just like what Jesus taught us last Sunday.

Most of all, one’s heart is always known by its words and actions wherein the actions speak louder than words! In this symbolism, we find the inner dynamics of speech and being perfectly together.

See in the three parables of Jesus in today’s continuation of his sermon on the plains, we find this primacy of listening to his words and putting them into practice: guides cannot guide others unless they have clear eyesight; the hypocrisy of seeing other’s faults unmindful of one’s own faults; and, how every tree is known by its fruit.

Jesus is calling us today to an “education of the heart” so that we may have open ears, open hearts, open minds, and open arms to be truly his disciples!

It is with the heart that one must listen to the Word to produce good and plentiful fruit, it is in the heart where every disciple of the Lord must meditate and treasure his Word like his Blessed Mother Mary “who kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart” (Lk.2:19).

When the heart is cleansed of its impurities, it opens to God and to others, gets filled with the Holy Spirit to become like the Father who is merciful and loving as revealed by Jesus Christ.

Recall how in Genesis God created everything by simply speaking because his speech and being are one. In the prologue of the fourth gospel, we find how the Logos – the Word who is Jesus Christ became flesh to save us and make us experience God himself which he fully expressed while proclaiming the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth while launching his ministry (Third Sunday, 23 January 2022).

This Sunday we find everything coming to full circle, showing us the whole picture of Jesus and his mission, of his plans for us to be like the Father.

And here lies our problem so often when our words betray our true character, when our speech and being do not match, when what we say is far from what we live.

Image from Google.

Our sharing in the power of God to love

Of all that God has created, only humans were gifted with the ability to communicate intelligibly. Unlike the animals and other creatures, only us humans can speak to express what we feel, what we know, what we want.

Our ability to communicate is in fact a sharing in the power of God, a power to serve in love like Jesus, not power to dominate or lord it over upon others as the world sees and uses it.

This is why Ben Sirach reminds us in the first reading to hold our praises of any person, especially the eloquent speakers because words are empty unless supported by actions. One’s real worth is found in times of trials and tests like “what the potter molds in the furnace” (Sir. 27:5).

It is Jesus Christ himself, his very words who purify us his disciples to be able to preach his good news of salvation to others in words and in deeds without any duplicity and hypocrisy.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

The Lord is not asking us to stop criticizing nor be silent in the midst of so many injustices and evil around us. That remains an integral part of preaching the good news, of standing for what is true and just; however, Jesus is demanding us his disciples to always examine our very selves to see the kind of deeds that arise from our hearts.

Our actions, our very lives reveal the purity of our hearts, of our intentions and of our sentiments.

This is the reason why we priests and bishops are always doubted and even questioned by so many faithful whenever we denounce the many ills in the society, when we speak against social injustices, against corruption in government because our lives do not match our words. The worst and most painful part of it is when people see our “double-standard” with priests who lead lives so far from the Good Shepherd, that instead of taking care of the flock, there are some of us who take advantage of the poor sheep entrusted to us!

Today’s gospel challenges us, especially us your priests, if we lead a truly Christian life with preferential options for the poor?

Let us not be contented with outside appearances only, especially this coming Lenten Season. Take Jesus and his words into our hearts.

Discipleship is not about frequenting the church, reciting all the prayers, observing all the rites and rituals and devotions nor just denouncing the wrongs in the society nor fund-raising for so many projects for the benefit of the poor.

Discipleship is bringing to fruition all our prayers and faith expressions to loving service for one another. If not, we might just stay home so as to minimize the damages and hurts to the Body of Christ.

Let us continue to strive in purifying our hearts with the Word so that we may bear much fruits of good works in our lives, to “be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58). Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

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.

Living, loving amid contradictions

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday IV-C in Ordinary Time, 30 January 2022
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 13:4-13 ><}}}}*> Luke 4:21-30
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, Santorini, Greece, 2017.

Life and love are full of contradictions that make both so wonderful, so appealing, and so engaging. The more contradictions we encounter in life and love, the more we become better persons, more like Jesus Christ who is himself “the sign of contradiction”.

We are still inside the synagogue at Nazareth where Jesus had come one sabbath, proclaiming – and claiming himself as the fulfillment of that part from the Book of Isaiah he had read. And here we find him already a sign of contradiction at the inauguration of his ministry!

People were amazed with him at the beginning but, soon enough, their true colors appeared: first, they doubted him for being the “son of Joseph”; then, they became hostile to him after hearing him say how God sent Elijah and Elisha to help pagans after being rejected too by their ancestors.

He said to them, “Surely you will quote me this proverb, ‘Physician, cure yourself,’ and say, ‘Do here in your native place the things that we heard were done in Capernaum.'” And he said, “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own native place. Indeed, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah when the sky was closed for three and a half years and a severe famine spread over the entire land. It was none to these that Elijah was sent, but only to a widow in Zarephath in the land of Sidon. Again, there were many lepers in Israel during the time of Elisha the prophet; yet not one of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong. But Jesus passed through the midst of them and went away.

Luke 4:23-30
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, a Black Winged Stilt (Himantropus himantopus), Quezon Province, 27 January 2022.

Making a choice, taking a stand with Jesus

It is true that there are always two or even many sides to a story; that is why, it is imperative that we make a choice for what is true which we must accept and believe and hold on. That was the challenge posed by Jesus Christ to the people at the synagogue and to us today: which part of the scriptures do we fulfill today, his coming or his rejection?

While the gospel is good news, it is not always comfortable because it dares us to be like Jesus Christ, freely living in love and in truth. His gospel challenges us always to change our ways and be witnesses of his justice and mercy.

Last Sunday, we are told that every time we listen and take to heart the words of God found in the scriptures, Jesus becomes present among us, “fulfilled in our hearing”; today, we are challenged to affirm and live the word of God daily in words and in deeds.

And that is where the ironies, the contradictions begin when we make a stand for Jesus and his gospel: his words and teachings are all about love and mercy, kindness and care for one another but, the more we preach and practice them, the more life becomes difficult for us. The more we love, the more we are hurt.

Photo by author, 2019.

Like Jesus, every time we come out in the open to make a stand on what is true and just, good and proper, there will always be rejections. When we speak the truth, there will always be some or many who would be hurt and disturbed from the illusions (even delusions) they have been holding on.

It is the most unkindest cut of all, so to speak: the ones who reject us, the ones who feel “hurt” with our stance are the ones closest to us, the ones we are serving, the ones whose lives we are trying to uplift by liberating them from darkness and ignorance, sins and evil.

We have a Filipino saying that goes, “mahirap gisingin ang nagtutulug-tulugan” (it is difficult to wake up one pretending to be asleep).

That was the problem with the people of Nazareth at that time and even with some of us today: we can be easily astonished with one’s proclamations and words but it can happen that such rave can also mean doubts and skepticism. Some people are not really surprised and even if they ask for more proofs and arguments, no amount of explanations can ever enlighten them because they trust more in themselves and in their illusions of having the truth. They have already made up their minds and would keep on holding on their beliefs.

Worst of all, any appealing discourse is rendered useless and immaterial when people take on the person proclaiming or speaking like Jesus Christ: “Is this not Joseph’s son?”

Now we see the contradictions becoming more pronounced than ever when it involves the person. It always happens everywhere wherein it is the messenger, not the message, who becomes the focus and issue at hand. And here we have the perfect communicator of all, Jesus Christ who is both the medium and the message rejected by his own folks and by us today when we insist on the truths we believe in!

It has always been like that since the beginning of the Church until our present day when those who should have been the first to accept the good news and its preachers have reacted exactly like the folks of Jesus at Nazareth! More than 50 years after Vatican II, until now there are still those who continue to reject the reforms and changes we have in the Church, insisting on maintaining the past that was also borne out of developments in the course of history.

Sometimes I find it amusing whenever we put distinctions between “practicing” and “non-practicing” Catholics. Why be called a Catholic or a Christian at all if you do not practice or believe the teachings of our faith and of the Church?

Photo by author, April 2020.

The power of love that surpasses all others

Luke noted at the end of our story today how Jesus “passed through the people and went away” when they tried to hurl him down headlong at the brow of the hill on which their town was built. See their murderous intents against Jesus, their kin?!

But Jesus simply walked away from them, unharmed.

Like the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading, God assures his prophets and each one of us today how he would protect us every time we make a stand for the Gospel, when we live by the values of the Gospel.

We may not concretely experience God’s protection and deliverance in the given moment but we know from the life of Jesus that God is always present with us, especially at the nick of time, leading us to life eternal.

But, there is still something more to that image of Jesus “passing through” the people; it is very evocative of his own passover that would happen on Good Friday at the cross. For now, there would be so many oppositions and contradictions to him but nothing and no one can deter him from proclaiming his good news of salvation to all.

Like Jesus in this scene, we are invited to follow him in his path, to continue listening and internalizing his words, put it into practice in our daily lives which is a daily passing over, of passing through many contradictions and doubts sometimes from people supposed to love and understand us, accept us.

And that is why Paul encourages us in the second reading to choose a “more excellent way” that surpasses all other gifts, the way of love.

As I have told you earlier, life becomes more appealing and wonderful, so enriching when there are many contradictions coming our way because that is when we truly experience the power and meaning of love in Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters: “Love is patient, love is kind… It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

1 Corinthians 12: 4, 7, 8

When doubts are cast upon us by others, especially those closest to us whenever we persevere in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in words and in deeds, that is also when our love for him and for others is purified and made perfect.

It is very difficult and would always be painful but it is during these contradictions when our lives become more meaningful because of the love that we have and share. Remember the beautiful reminder about loving from St. John of the Cross, “The soul that walks in love never gets tired nor tires others.” Just love, love, love.

Jesus gives us the grace today of meaningful life lived in love if we listen and internalize his words, choosing to make a stand for him by fulfilling his words in deeds despite the many doubts and contradictions around us, especially from people we love and trust.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, a Black Winged Stilt (Himantropus himantopus), Quezon Province, 27 January 2022.