Lent is for setting things right

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent, 15 March 2022
Isaiah 1:10, 16-20   <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 23:1-12
Photo by author, Parish Via Crucis, 11 March 2022.

Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; but if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken!

Isaiah 1:18-20
Let us heed your call,
dear Lord, let us set things
right this season of Lent;
let us be sorry for our sins, 
be humble for who we really are
before you and one another.
Teach us through your Son
Jesus Christ to be true to ourselves,
practicing what we preach
and doing things for you and not
for others admiration; let us realize 
that authority is not for power but
for empowering and enabling others;
most of all, let us realize that 
authority is service, never a way of control
or domination or a claim to special
perks and privileges.
Let us set things right, Lord,
by breaking this cycle of trying
to be someone else, of being
somebody to be admired and 
looked up to when what is most 
essential is for us to see one 
another as brothers and sisters
in one God as our Father.  Amen.

The gift of authority

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 31 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11   ><)))*> ><]]]]'> ><)))*>   Luke 4:31-37
Photo by author, ruins at the ancient town of Capernaum beside a modern church, May 2017.
God our Father,
thank you for being on our side:  

"For God did not
desire us for wrath, but to gain
salvation through our Lord Jesus
Christ, who died for us, so that 
whether we are awake or asleep
we may live together with him.
Therefore, encourage one another
and build one another up, 
as indeed you do." 
(1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)
May we always seek and respond
to your call to us, O God,
in every person and in every
experience we go through daily
so that we are not caught by surprise
in your Son Jesus Christ's coming.
May we learn to understand
and appreciate the true meaning
of "authority" like that of Jesus Christ:
an authority to serve
and not of domination.

Jesus went down to Capernaum, a town of Galilee. He taught them on the sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching because he spoke with authority. They were all amazed and said to one another, “What is there about his word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out.” And news of him spread everywhere in the surrounding region.

Luke 4:31-32, 36-37
Remind us, almighty Father,
of your gift of authority
to each one of us -
in our family,
in our community,
 and in our jobs
or profession -
so that like Jesus,
 we may use our authority
to enhance, not to diminish,
the abilities of others.
Amen.

Praying to be in the world, not of the world

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Seventh Week of Easter, 19 May 2021
Acts 20:28-38   ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'>   John 17:11-19
From Facebook, 04 April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord.”
Lifting up his eyes to heaven,
Jesus prayed, saying:
"I do not ask that you take them out 
of the world but that you keep them
from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world, 
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them, 
so that they also may be consecrated in truth."
(John 17:11, 15-19)

Oh what a feeling, Lord Jesus Christ for us to be prayed for by you! What an honor and a great privilege for us all to be prayed for and consecrated by you, the Son of God to the almighty Father in heaven.

Thank you very much, Lord, for putting us in the world and consecrating us to you to be not of the world! Help us to keep this in our minds and in our hearts, that we are in the world but not of the world.

Help us remember your beautiful prayer when things are getting so difficult, when troubles bombard us daily, when our burdens get heavier that the temptations to follow the ways of the world by escaping pains and sufferings become so strong and even so enticing.

Make us remember this beautiful prayer you said for us all during your Last Supper so we may remain one in you as brothers and sisters, one as husband and wife, one as a family, one as a community, one in our places of work and studies, one as a nation.

May your prayer, sweet Jesus, prepare us in facing every kind of hostility and indifference of the world as we witness your gospel of salvation in the world through love and mercy, joy and kindness especially to those losing hope, those tired and exhausted, and those in the margins of the society.

Photo by author, November 2020.

Give us the grace to be like St. Paul who faithfully completed his mission at Ephesus that as he bid goodbye to the people there, “they were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship” (Acts20:37-38).

We are all “overseers” of your people and wealth entrusted to our care, Lord; keep us true and faithful, honest and sincere in taking care of them. It is you, O Lord Jesus, whom they must experience and love, not us.

We pray today for those holding positions in government and in the Church, in the private sector specially in our places of work and studies that they may always keep in mind all powers are from God that must be exercised for the good of the people they serve. Keep all authorities aware of their great responsibilities in the world and be careful not to fall into the traps and evil of the world. Amen.

“Authority Song” by John Mellencamp (1983)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 31 January 2021
Photo by author, sunset at NLEX-Pampanga, 06 January 2021.

Glad to be back with our Sunday blog on music and the Gospel which speaks today of the people of Capernaum so amazed with Jesus speaking with authority as he preached to them and exorcised a man possessed by an unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28).

We usually think of authority as having power over people, of subjugating and controlling them for our selfish motives. So often, the word and concept of authority is something we take with disdain and suspicion.

That is exactly the meaning of John Cougar Mellencamp’s Authority Song from his 1983 album called Uh-Huh.

The song is so typical of Mellencamp’s rebel attitude that made his music artistic and unique, making him the leading figure of the second generation of “heartland rockers” in the mid-80’s.

A very interesting part of this song whose video portrayed Mellencamp as a boxing underdog fighting for the ordinary people against the rich and powerful says something about authority’s real essence so close to our gospel this Sunday:

I call up my preacher
I say, “Give me strength for round 5”
He said, “You don’t need no strength, you need to grow up son”
I said, “Growin’ up leads to growin’ old and then to dyin’
Ooo, and dyin’ to me don’t sound like all that much fun”
And so I’ll say
I fight authority, authority always wins
Well, I fight authority, authority always wins
Well, I’ve been doing it since I was a young kid
I come out grinnin’
Well, I fight authority, authority always wins

From the Latin verb augere, augeribus which is to make something to increase, authority implies making things and persons better because in essence it is service. A person in authority is actually vested with powers to serve and help others become better by en-abling and em-powering them.

That’s the authority of Jesus, so powerful in bringing out the giftedness of everyone.

Jesus comes to us with authority to set us free from darkness and sins, fears and anxieties, angers and resentments that hinder us from appreciating the beauty of life and of being alive. He came with all authority from the Father to enable us to become the true persons God wanted us to be (https://lordmychef.com/2021/01/30/the-authority-of-jesus/).

At least, Mellencamp fought the wrong concept of authority; in his music video, it is implied he had lost but the kid who admired him so much was portrayed at the end as pulling his sleeves to indicate of continuing Mellencamp’s fight.

That kid represents us too, that we must continue to fight this wrong concept of authority as power to control people than serve as Jesus had shown us in the gospel.

Enjoy your Sunday with family and friends in Jesus!

Music video by John Mellencamp performing Authority Song. (C) 1984 John Mellencamp under exclusive license to The Island Def Jam Music Group.

The authority of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 31 January 2021
Deuteronomy 18:15-20  +  1 Corinthians 7:32-35  +  Mark 1:21-28
Photo by author, ruins of the old Capernaum where Jesus lived, May 2017.

As Jesus began his public ministry last week by the shores of the Lake of Galilee calling his first disciples, Mark presents us beginning today some glimpses into the life and person of the Lord in Capernaum where he grew up and would temporarily base himself.

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit… All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Mark 1:21-23, 27-28

First thing we notice with Jesus is his devotion to Judaism, his going to the synagogue at sabbath to worship God his Father; later we find how during major feasts he would also come to the temple at Jerusalem. What a beautiful reminder that personal faith and relationship with God has to be expressed and lived in a community like in our parishes.

In this glimpse into a typical sabbath day in the life of Jesus, we also find the reason why he launched his ministry from the province of Galilee and not at the center of Israel which is Jerusalem: and that is to serve the poor and marginalized, those neglected with nothing in life who always felt left out and forgotten by everyone.

That is no longer true as we heard him declared last Sunday, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1:15).

The author with friends and former colleagues at the ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus preached on sabbath (May 2017).

A new teaching, proclaimed with authority

Mark tells us twice in our short gospel this Sunday how the people experienced Christ’s having authority in the way he spoke that was so unlike their scribes. Most of all, the people were amazed at his authority and power of words that expelled an “unclean spirit” from a man at their synagogue.

It was definitely something totally new and different that they wondered if it were a new kind of teaching, not knowing it was already God right in their midst in Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh!

Today Jesus is teaching us the real meaning of power, his power of authority that actualizes persons and communities. Like the first disciples he had called last week, the people at the synagogue felt his words affecting them within. Their hearts must have been stirred and moved that they felt so good, moving them to share it with everyone that they all shared in the joy of hearing something new, something fresh and uplifting.

And it did not stop there.

The people then witnessed Jesus how drove away with his words an unclean spirit from a possessed man. They were amazed more upon seeing the possessed man freed from unclean spirit that “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.”

Such was the impact Jesus made on that day of sabbath at Capernaum that continues to our day especially when we gather for the Sunday Eucharist if we can only share in his authority.

Authority as power is always a service that sets people free.

Photo by author, a column among the ruins of the Capernaum synagogue in Galilee, May 2017.

The word authority came from the Latin verb augere, augeribus meaning “to make something increase” or become better. Akin to the word authority is also the word “author” as in the writer of a book or of a document whose words are regarded as true and correct, worth listening and following.

Therefore, real authority is not just having the power over the people to rule and subjugate them as most of us would always think.

Authority in the real sense is service, the power to enable and empower people so that they may become better persons, that they may mature and transcend themselves to grow as persons with so much potentials for change and development.

True authority always leads people to freedom from darkness and sins, sickness and evil that brings out their giftedness as beloved children of God.

That is the authority of Jesus who declared that he had come to serve and not to be served by giving his life as a ransom for many (Mt.20:28) so that we may all have life in him as our good shepherd, a life in abundance (Jn.10:10).

Jesus is the prophet promised by God to Moses in the first reading who shall come to his people to speak to them his very words of life. And by tracing our being prophets with authority to Moses, the first reading gives us too the only criterion for recognizing the true spokesperson of God: he must always speak the word of God that is always actualizing when spoken with humility and sincerity.

Notice how in our language and culture the close linkages of words and authority are so clearly pronounced and recognized: we call people with authority as “mga taong may sinasabi” because people who wield power always have a say in everything.

But what are they saying? What words would always come out of their mouths? Are they life-giving or inducing death, glorifying evil?

So many times, people say so many things that are nothing and senseless. Ang dami-daming sinasabi wala namang sinabi! That is how we call people without impact and true authority: walang sinabi.

Photo by author before celebrating a Mass at the back of Capernaum near the shore of the Lake of Galilee, May 2017.

How sad these recent years, we priests and bishops complain so often how people would no longer listen to us in the Church.

Could it be that this is due to the fact we have stopped speaking the words of God, when all we care to speak of is what we know, what we think of so we would be powerful and famous specially in the various social media platforms? (See https://lordmychef.com/2021/01/27/from-the-ear-to-the-heart/)

We say so many things but fall on deaf ears, no impact, no life at all because they are not the words of Christ whom we have long forgotten.

Worst, how tragic when we impose our own words, insisting our authority on the people that most often is self-serving, far from true and loving service of Jesus Christ.

Whatever happened to that ideal of lay-empowerment when we would not let people speak or at least listen to their voices and thoughts in running their parish?

Before we can make people listen to the words of God, we in the Church must be the first to listen to his words that come to us in a life of prayer and devotion to the Eucharist. What a hypocrisy on our part when we who are supposed to be unmarried and celibate who are “anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord” (1Cor.7:32) would not even spend time to pray and listen to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament daily.

Every day especially in every celebration of the Mass, Jesus comes to us in his authority to set us free from our fears and anxieties, sickness and sins, anger and resentments, compulsions and addictions among other things that hinder us from truly experiencing the beauty of this life.

Let us all pray today for us to have a share in the authority of Jesus Christ to set us free from our being deaf and dumb, blind and lame in the Church that is also his Body. Amen.

The old and charming Church at Baras, Rizal.