Lent is home in God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week V in Lent, 26 March 2021
Jeremiah 20:10-13   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   John 10:31-42
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.
I hear the whisperings of many:
"Terror on every side!  Denounce! 
Let us denounce him!"
All those who were my friends 
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
(Jeremiah 20:10)

God our loving Father, we are now in great danger, in critical level not only with the pandemic happening but with the continuing callousness and heartlessness of those in power in our land. Instead of fighting COVID-19, they are fighting those who speak the truth like your prophet Jeremiah.

They utter all lies and harsh words in public, even make faces to put down those who speak about the real situation and suggest solutions to the problem.

Even families and communities are breaking apart because of COVID-19 as many of us forget the enemy is the virus not the afflicted.

We only have you as our refuge,Lord. We count only on you. Indeed, you probe the mind and the heart of everyone as Jeremiah mentioned today.

Increase our faith in you and do not allow us to take vengeance into our hands against our oppressors who are our very own countrymen, even relatives and friends.

Let us focus on the evil that is pervading which is our closed minds, hard hearts, and angry fists.

May we all go back to you, dear God, in Christ Jesus.

Help us retreat to our own Jordan River (Jn.10:40) like Jesus where everything started – our baptism, our mission – to find rest and comfort in you.

Let us come home in you, God our Father, from whom everything started and finds meaning. Make us remember our journey in faith in you, our sense of mission from you.

In this time when many are rejecting Jesus and his message of salvation, open our minds and our hearts to believe the many signs by which you reveal in him your love and mercy to us. Amen.

Looking back, looking forward in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Baptism of the Lord, 10 January 2021
Isaiah 55:1-11   +   1 John 5:1-9   +   Mark 1:7-11

On this second week of January we celebrate the final epiphany of Jesus Christ as an adult in His baptism by John the Baptist at Jordan River which is also called a “theophany” when God the Father made known to everyone Jesus is His beloved Son with whom He is well-pleased.

The other two epiphanies were last Sunday when Jesus manifested to the nations of the world symbolized by the Magi while the other was during His Nativity when He appeared to the poor and lowly symbolized by the shepherds for whom He first came for.

His baptism at Jordan closes the Christmas season that coincides with our secular calendar’s entry to the second week of January which is named after the Roman god Janus who has two faces with one looking forward to the future and the other looking backwards to the past.

It is exactly what our liturgical and secular calendars in this month of January are both telling us – that we are at the threshold of new beginnings, new start as we slowly leave the past behind. And what a blessed start we have on this Solemnity of the Lord’s Baptism when Jesus reminds us of His presence this 2021 which experts predict would just be an extension of 2020. We are looking to the future in Jesus and with Jesus while we look back to the past seeing the great things the Lord had done for us!

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:7-11

Jesus Christ our Good News

For this year 2021 properly referred to in liturgy as “Cycle B”, we shall have Mark as our guide and companion in our Sunday Mass journey in the Lord (Cycle A is with Matthew, Cycle C is Luke; we hear John on special occasions like Christmas and Easter).

As I have told you during Advent, Mark wrote the first gospel account, it is the shortest because he was in a hurry in making known the good news right away. But, as Shakespeare had said, brevity is the soul of wit; Mark’s brief and direct reporting of the events and teachings of Jesus open for us so many reflections that make us experience the Lord.

Right away at the start of his gospel account, Mark tells us the baptism of Jesus as the inaugural event of the Gospel in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies announcing the coming of John the Baptist as Precursor to the coming of the Christ.

See his manner of narrating, stating matter-of-factly without any further ado that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John; he seems to be in a hurry to tell us something great, something important and so beautiful: On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.

I like that part when he said “the heavens being torn open” or in some translations which I prefer, “the sky rent in two”. What a beautiful imagery, so evocative of God intervening into our lives, descending into our world to bring order, to bring peace!

In the Book of Isaiah which is read during Lent, we find that beautiful expression, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down” (Is.63:19-64:3).

I love that so much! Imagine God rending, tearing apart the heavens like an action hero coming from behind to save us, to protect us, to get us.

Also in Mark’s gospel, he tells us how Jesus at his last breath “rending” while the curtain at the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Mk.15:38).

For the heavens to be rent apart shows us God finally intervening into our lives and affairs to set things right, to have some order.

And that is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ that happens daily in our lives. God has rent the heavens and descended upon us in His Son Jesus Christ who clothed Himself in our humanity so we can be like Him, divine and holy.

It is an invitation He extends to us every day, beautifully expressed by Prophet Isaiah in the first reading:

Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord… so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:1-3, 8, 11

What a beautiful assurance to us this day with the threats of new strains of COVID-19 and problems in having the vaccine, here is God assuring us all the good things we need in this life. Of course, it is not merely the material things we need but surely all good things like milk and honey we need not only to survive but to live fully.

This Feast of the Baptism of the Lord assures us all the blessings and fulfillment we need and long for this 2021 if we accept His invitation to be one with Him.

How sad that too often, we reject Christ’s invitation, thinking how difficult it is to keep the commandments of God without realizing that they are indeed “not burdensome” (1 Jn.5:3) because the more we sin, the more life gets harder and heavier for us.

Today God assures us of His love, of how his favor rests upon us in Jesus Christ.

May we heed His calls so we may see Him rending the heavens apart, coming to our rescue, coming to our aid and presence. Amen.

A blessed Sunday to you!

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 12 January 2020

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” is a song by American music duo Simon & Garfunkel released in January 1970, 50 years ago today as a follow up single to their other hit classic “The Boxer”.

The following year 1971, it won five awards at the 13th Annual Grammy Awards including Record of the Year and Song of the Year.

Ranked number 48 in Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, Bridge Over Troubled Water became Simon & Garfunkel’s biggest hit single, considered as their signature song covered by more than 50 artists making it also as the most performed songs of the 20th century.

No wonder with its beautiful poetry composed by Paul Simon set in a soothing melody with a touch of gospel music that continues to touch so many lives to this day.

And that is why we have chosen it to be our Sunday Music to accompany our reflections on today’s Feast of the Baptism of Jesus Christ that closes the Christmas Season.

From Google.

When Jesus became human being born as a child in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago, he became our Bridge both par excellence and non pareil.

In coming down to us, he became one of us truly human in everything except sin so that we can become like him who is divine and holy. In his Passion, Death, and Resurrection we have partaken through the Sacrament of Baptism, we have all become sons and daughters of the Father in heaven through him in the Holy Spirit.

Hence, every morning that we wake up, whether we are filled with joy and anticipation or saddled with pains and anxieties for the new day due to past failures, Jesus joins us in all of our dealings and tasks of each brand new day.

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all (all)
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooo)
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
From Google.

No matter what you are going through today, as you strive to be good, to be loving and caring with others even if they do not reciprocate all your love and concern, when your loved ones are oblivious to your sacrifices for them, keep doing good for the Father is so well pleased with you like Jesus Christ, our Bridge over troubled water.

A blessed Sunday to you!

Continuing the Christmas story

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul

Baptism of the Lord, 12 January 2020

Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 ><}}}*> Acts 10:34-38 ><}}}*> Matthew 3:13-17

From Google.

Today is our “holy birthday” as children of God, the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus. That explains the sprinkling of Holy Water at the start of our Mass to remind us of continuing the Christmas story the whole year through as sons and daughters of God.

With this feast, we close the Christmas Season by celebrating the great mystery of Christ’s Nativity when he became human like us so that we can become divine like him as children of the Father in heaven.

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you and yet you are coming to me?” Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:13-17

We are the children of God

Sunrise at Atok, Benguet. Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, September 2019.

Every morning when we wake up, the same thing happens with us with Jesus at Jordan: as we arise whether filled with joy or saddled with so many pains and worries from the previous day or night, Christ joins us in every brand new day as his brother and sister in the Father.

Despite all our anxieties and fears with every new day of work and school, the heavens open and the Holy Spirit comes down to us with our Father in heaven declaring to all his creation, “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”

That is the mystery of Christmas we must celebrate daily when Jesus became human like us in everything except sin. In Baptism, we have become sons and daughters of the Father in his Son Jesus Christ our Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit.

That coming down of Jesus to John to be baptized in Jordan is the message of Christmas, of how God became human like us to be one with us in our dirt and stain so he may cleanse us in his Passion and Death in order to share in the glory of his Resurrection .

That is why Christmas is a continuing story we have to keep on telling and sharing with our life of holiness with others.

As children of God, we are called to holiness

Please don’t be scared with the call to “holiness”, my dear reader and follower.

Holiness is not being sinless.

Holiness is being filled with God.

Holiness is following Jesus who calls us to be holy like the Father in heaven with all of our imperfections and sinfulness.

Morning in our Parish. Photo by author, 2019.

So many times in our lives, as we strive to lead holy lives by being good individuals, we also feel so tired and exhausted that we question or wonder if we are still doing the right things in life especially when we try to be faithful to God and with others.

There are times we just cry and suffer in silence in order not to hurt with our words and actions those people dearest to us who are oblivious or even do not care at all to the pains and difficulties they cause us.

Like a slave driver boss, demanding and exacting parents, a perfectionist husband or wife or partner, a naive sibling.

It is very difficult to be holy, to be like Jesus who is so loving and merciful, kind and understanding.

And that is why he chose to come to us, to be with us, to help us, to assure us that “the Father is so well pleased with us”!

Flowers at our Altar, Epiphany Sunday 2020. Photo by author.

God is well pleased with us

Three things I wish to share with you this lovely Sunday, especially for some of us feeling tired and exhausted this early with our many tasks and responsibilities at home, the school, the office, and even the church and community.

First is get it done. We all have roles to play in life. Remain faithful and stay focused with the mission not with the person. Yes, it is easier said than done but like Jesus instructing John for his baptism, he said, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt.3:15). It must have been so difficult for John to baptize Jesus the Son of God but the Lord told him anyway, get it done! And just as John did his role, everything happened according to God’s plan.

Second is give others the chance to do the will of God. Sometimes many of us have that “messianic complex” as if we are the saviour of the world. No! That is Jesus alone and he has tasked all us with specific roles in doing his mission. Let others do their part. Stop monopolizing all good deeds because when there is a monopoly of holiness, certainly there is already a pervading evil. Jesus as the Christ is the definitely the holy one but he told John to baptize him and he in turn “allowed” the baptism to take place.

Third is do whatever is good. Always. That’s what Jesus told John, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt.3:15). Doing what is righteous is doing what is good, what is holy, what is just. But, it is not that easy. I know.

“Minsan nakakapikon na magpakabuti lalo na kapag tila walang pakialam yung mga ginagawan mo ng kabutihan.”

We have felt so many times that being good, doing what is right can take its toll. We always wonder “when is enough really enough” with people who have made it their way of life of hurting us, of stressing us, of being pain in the ass.

We want to scream, to spill the beans, to unmask them to reveal them as fakes and hypocrites!

But, don’t!

Do not be like them.

Be good like Jesus, the one prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading.

Thus says the Lord: Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench…

Isaiah 42:1-3
Baby Jesus on a bed of white roses in our Sanctuary area, Epiphany 2020. Photo by author.

In the second reading, we heard St. Peter preaching after the Pentecost of how “Jesus went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil, for God was with him” (Acts 10:38).

Whatever difficulty you are going through at this very moment, you are still God’s beloved child with whom he is well pleased. God is always with you. Continue the beautiful Christmas story with your life of loving service, even to people who hurt you.

A blessed Sunday to you!

Being immersed in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Tuesday, Week XXIII, Year I, 10 September 2019

Colossians 2:6-15 >< )))*> <*(((>< Luke 6:12-19

Blessed Sacrament Chapel of the Sanctuary of San Pietro Pietrelcina-Nuovo Chiesa in Italy. Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual, February 2019.

“Brothers and sisters: As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead… he brought you to life along with him.”

Colossians 2:6, 12, 13b

Praise and glory to you, our Lord Jesus Christ! Thank you for dying with us in our sins, forgiving us and raising us to new life in you in the sacrament of baptism!

Let us be immersed in you, Lord Jesus.

Let us claim our new life in you by walking with you who is our Way and Truth and Life.

To be immersed in you, O Christ, is to be free and faithful to lovingly serve you with all our mind, heart and soul. Being immersed in you is letting go of our pains and hurts in the past to start anew in you. To be immersed in you, O Christ, is to see more the goodness within each one of us because of you, the most holy one.

May we heed the call of St. Paul today not to be swayed by false beliefs and other philosophies not rooted in you, claiming elemental and dark powers here on earth.

You alone are the sovereign power here on earth and the entire universe, Lord Jesus.

And the good news is that through baptism, you have made us share in your “cosmic victory” of the Resurrection. More than a rite of initiation, our baptism is a sharing in your great power here on earth to conquer evil with good.

Let us be your modern “apostles” — an apostolein, someone sent ahead of you, someone with special relationship with you, someone truly immersed in you, very personal with you, Lord Jesus, who reign forever and ever. Amen.

Lent is preparing for Baptism

40 Shades of Lent, Tuesday, Week IV, 02 April 2019
Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12///John 5:1-16

Dearest Jesus: Last night as I prayed amid the heat of summer, I realized that since the start of our 40-day journey of Lent, it is only now I have been reminded of one of the highlights of this Season, the sacrament of Baptism symbolized by water in the two readings today.

So often, Lord Jesus, we take water for granted, not realizing its value until it is gone.

Just like you, Lord.

Cleanse us, O Jesus, with your purifying waters of Baptism, keep us nourished like the trees seen in Ezekiel’s vision planted near the rivers, always filled with life, always green, always bearing fruits of good works.

Most of all, come to us Lord Jesus like in the pool at Bethesda or “house of mercy”.

Quench our thirsts for life’s meaning. Without you as our water, we are dehydrated, weakened, dried up by life’s so many demands and concerns. May you always refresh us, awaken us to many possibilities of life especially when the well runs dry. Amen.

Images from Google.