The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 24 September 2021
Haggai 1:15-2:1-9 ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'> Luke 9:18-22
I could feel and hear you, Lord
speaking to me, asking me like Haggai:
"Who is left among you that saw
this house in its former glory?
And how do you see it now?
Does it not seem nothing
in your eyes?" (Haggai 2:3)
When I remember the images
of the first few months of pandemic
last year that fell on the Holy Week
and Easter Season, I felt like Haggai
and the returning exiles to Jerusalem
seeing their temple in ruins, still under
construction; how I long, O Lord, to those
glory days when we celebrate and adore
you in our beautiful church!
But now, with the pandemic's second
year, our churches remain half empty.
How long shall we wait, Lord,
for COVID-19 to end so we can
go back to our church to celebrate
your presence, your love, your
salvation in Jesus Christ?
Strengthen us, dear God;
deepen our faith in you,
awaken our hope in you;
let us take courage like your
priests and returning exiles
to Jerusalem to await your promise
to "shake the heavens and the earth,
the sea and the dry land...
to shake all nations" (Haggai 2:6-7)
when you bring back the glory days
of worshipping you again in your
Most of all, open our minds
and our hearts to be shaken
inside for us to realize and
wholly embrace the Passion,
Death, and Resurrection of
Jesus your Christ (Luke 9:22), dear Father:
he is our glorious temple,
more magnificent than any church
or edifice when found in the hearts
of your people who abide in you,
who rely only on you. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVII-B in Ordinary Time, 25 July 2021
2 Kings 4:42-44 ><]]]]*> Ephesians 4:1-6 ><]]]]*> John 6:1-15
Beginning today until August 22, 2021, our Sunday gospel will be from the sixth chapter of John who continues last week’s scene of the great crowd following Jesus and his disciples to a deserted place in order to rest after returning from their first mission.
We were told by Mark how Jesus was “moved with pity” upon seeing the people who were “like sheep without a shepherd” that he taught them with so many things (Mk.6:34); after teaching them, Jesus fed them – about 5000 men excluding children and women – from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish with a lot of leftovers gathered that filled 12 wicker baskets!
It is a very beautiful story found in all four gospel accounts but it is only in John’s gospel where we are presented with a more complete and detailed story of the event followed by Jesus Christ’s “bread of life discourse” at Capernaum. Let us focus at the conversations among Jesus, Philip, and Andrew before the miracle where they used the demonstrative pronouns “where” and “there” that indicate deeper meanings.
The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”
When all directions point to Jesus – but we miss!
While praying over today’s gospel, one song kept playing in my mind, the Beatles’ 1966 classic love song by Paul McCartney, Here, There and Everywhere. It is a very lovely music, so unique in many aspects that it is also McCartney’s most favorite as a member of the Fab Four.
What struck me with this Beatles hit are the demonstrative pronouns here, there and everywhere used not to point at directions but to a person, the girlfriend of McCartney at that time he so loved who would also be his Here, There and Everywhere!
To lead a better life, I need my love to be here
Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there
There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking
But she doesn't know he's there
The same is so true with Jesus today asking Philip “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”
Jesus was not asking for a store in that deserted place to buy and get food for the people. John tells us that Jesus said this to test Philip because “he himself knew what he was going to do”. He wanted Philip to look deeper, to see beyond places and things even if his answer was correct, that “two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.”
When odds are against us, when things are beyond us and humanly impossible, where do we go to?
Of course, we go to God!
Where else do we go when we are in deep or great troubles?
We go to prayers, we go to church, we go to the prayer room or Adoration Chapel, or wherever there is peace and silence where we can be with God.
When this pandemic started, where did we go during lockdown? To God with our online Masses at home, daily praying of the Rosary with the whole family. But when the quarantines were eased, we suddenly forgot God, regarding every where as merely a place, a location.
Every where is where God is, where Jesus is!
We now come to that second demonstrative pronoun in the same scene before the miraculous feeding of five thousand said by Simon Peter’s brother Andrew who told Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”
How unfair that the boy who actually had Jesus working on his miraculous feeding of the crowd with those five barley loaves and two fish he had given was merely referred by Andrew as there or here!
See how Andrew did not bother to ask the boy’s name because during that time, any male kid had no any significance at all except by the time they reached 13 years of age for the bar mitzvah, when boys begin to read the Torah. In fact, John noted in this narrative how the children and women were not even counted to show their grave error at that time of giving importance only to men.
How sad the same thing continues to our own time when we are taken for granted as a person, reduced to mere statistics, to mere numbers, to there and here!
Despite our insistence on the use of inclusive terms for all, it seems that the more we have actually degraded the human person into objects as we personified objects. Listen to commercials and newscasts to realize what I mean: food is described as “masarap siya” while typhoon is referred to as “siya ay lalabas ng Philippine Area of Responsibility” while persons are made into objects like handsome men called “yummy” or “delicious”. No wonder, people have become like food, good only when young and fresh but when old, discarded like trash! Sometimes, people are labelled like ice cream as “flavor of the month” or “all-time favorite” when rich and famous while ordinary folks are called “dirty ice cream”.
There is always a person to be respected and recognized in every here and there!
Let us heed St. Paul in the second reading telling us “to live in a manner worthy of the call” we have received as beloved children of God “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (cf. Eph. 4:1-3).
How sad that we cannot even look at one another as a brother and a sister, even in our own family circles because we are so focused on the bread, that is, the money and wealth we could get for ourselves. And that is the great irony in this scene: the boy was willing to let go of his five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish yet Andrew did not notice at all the face, the personhood of the boy so kind to share what he had, thinking more of others than himself!
What a tragedy in our time, in our own family and circle of friends, at work and in school, even in our parish community when some people would give more value to things than persons, who would rather maintain or keep their honor and dignity at the expense of others.
When the “where” and “there” of Jesus meet on the Cross
This story of the multiplication of bread occupies an exceptional place in all four gospels. However, it was only John who added a long discourse preached by Jesus at Capernaum after this event to reveal its full meaning.
For John, the multiplication of bread is more than a miracle but a sign, a revelation of supernatural power above the ordinary pointing to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God who is the bread from heaven who had come down to nourish us in this journey of life to eternity like during the time of Moses in the wilderness. Or like Elisha in the first reading, Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread to satisfy the hunger of not just 100 people but over 5000 with leftovers of 12 wicker baskets.
We are reminded of other instances in the Old Testament like the Jewish feast of Passover as backgrounds of this sign by Jesus in the deserted place as a prelude to the sign of the Holy Eucharist he instituted on Holy Thursday that we celebrate daily especially on Sundays as one body, one family. This in turn will reach its highest point on Good Friday as the ultimate sign Jesus Christ’s loving presence when his being the “where” and “there” of God would be revealed in the final sign of the Crucifixion that many would still miss to recognize.
That is why in the next four weeks, we shall hear John narrating to us the discourse by Jesus to explain the full meaning of this multiplication of bread in that deserted place.
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him 0ff to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.
Let us “capture” Jesus in the Holy Communion of the Mass later when the priest holds high the Body of Christ saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”
Here in the Mass, it is very clear this is where Jesus is, where we get the real food to eat. Tell it to everyone, point unto Jesus, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world like John the Baptist. Most of all, it is in the the Holy Mass where Jesus is present here, there, and everywhere – in his words proclaimed, Body and Blood shared, and with everyone celebrating!
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, 06 June 2021
Exodus 24:3-8 ><}}}'> Hebrews 9:11-15 ><}}}'> Mark 14:12-16, 22-26
The one most important thing this pandemic has cost us for over a year now is the simple joy of presence of our loved ones. For more than a year, we have stopped or limited our visits and celebrations with relatives and friends for fears of spreading the virus especially to our older folks.
It has become so insane for many of us, most especially with those health protocols when even couples were prevented from riding together in bikes!
But at least, the pandemic had taught us the value and importance of presence of everyone, of being present to those we love who, unfortunately, many have also died this year due to the virus and other sickness without us even seeing them at all.
This is the gist of our celebration today, of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ: the simplicity of God and his simple presence among us.
For the second Sunday in a row after the Pentecost, we celebrate another major feast of the Lord in Ordinary Time to show us that our God is a reality, not just a mystery of the Trinity that we cannot fully understand nor explain.
When Jesus Christ said
"this is my body" and "this is my blood of the covenant",
he brought to new significance
the insignificant gestures of hosting a meal
and the insignificant food of bread and wine
so common among peoples in every nation and culture.
The simplicity of God.
Last Sunday we celebrated and reflected on the central mystery of our one God in three Persons called the Holy Trinity. Today we celebrate his meaning and reality as a person, a God who relates with us in the most personal manner with his presence.
Recall our basic catechism of God being perfect – all knowing, all powerful, and always present because of his main attribute: his simplicity.
In our world that has become so complicated like our Facebook relationships or with all those gadgets and apps we have including our “intelligent” cars and homes, God remains so true, so real, so present with us because he is simple. No fuss, no nothing. Just pure presence among those who are willing to be still and simple. And present in the moment.
The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”
Mark 14:16, 22-24
See the simplicity of the story, the simplicity of Jesus Christ who took the initiative to prepare everything for their Passover meal that his disciples “found it just as he had told them”.
When Jesus Christ said “this is my body” and “this is my blood of the covenant”, he brought to new significance the insignificant gestures of hosting a meal and the insignificant food of bread and wine so common among peoples in every nation and culture.
During their supper, Jesus gave a new meaning not only to their Passover meal but even to our most basic and common act of having a meal, of eating together to become a celebration of life, not just to feed one’s body but also one’s soul!
In becoming human like us, sharing in all of our experiences except sin, Jesus leveled up our very being and lives at his Last Supper when he established the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to be the everlasting sign of his loving presence among us and thus, revealed to us the deeper meaning of the common meal we used to take with everybody as a giving and sharing of our very selves with others.
Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands… he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his won blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
Hebrews 9:11, 12, 14
Like Jesus Christ, it is not really the food and drinks that we share whenever we eat together and dine with others but our very selves. No wonder, in every celebration and milestone of our lives, from a simple date of a young man and woman trying to get to know each other to weddings, birthdays, and other significant occasions, there is always a meal we host to share our joys, our triumphs, our lives with others.
And the most beautiful part of these meals we share with everyone is the deeper meaning we convey that it is essentially a thanksgiving to God for all of his abounding love and grace poured upon us which is the meaning of the Greek word “eucharistia”.
Our presence in the Lord with others
The word present, of being here now, is the other word we use to refer to “gift” like when we say birthday present or Christmas present. And that is the meaning of this Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood: God as the gift and the giver in Jesus Christ.
In the Holy Eucharist, we receive Jesus Christ wholly, nourishing us, blessing us, and most of all, enabling us to offer also ourselves to him through others.
But, are we present to him?
Are we willing to give ourselves to him?
From the very start since God entered into a covenant with his chosen people, he had shown his simple presence demanding nothing except our simple presence too to him and with others. This is the meaning of the offering of blood which symbolizes life, our sharing in the life of God.
But unlike the pagans, we offer our selves to God not to lose but to transformed our lives in him. With Christ’s self-sacrifice on the Cross on Good Friday foreshadowed by his Last Supper on Holy Thursday, we discover how life given to God is not lost but saved which is the meaning of the ratification by Moses of the covenant in the wilderness with the Israelites:
Taking the book of the covenant, Moses read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.” Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of life.”
Every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, we ratify the new covenant of Christ with us, when we give our great “Amen” to him like the Israelites at the desert, vowing to “heed and do” whatever he told us. That is also the meaning of attending a party or a dinner hosted by a relative or a friend: we renew our ties with them, promising to be there to give ourselves to them especially in times of need and danger.
But, how willing are we to remain true and faithful, always present to God, our family and friends especially in this time of the pandemic?
What a tragedy that while celebrating the Sunday Eucharist, we turn away from God in our sins in the same manner we turn against those people we share meal with and attended parties they hosted.
Let us be still
in the calming presence of God
in Jesus Christ's Body and Blood.
He is more than enough
to suffice all our needs and longing in this life.
Like the bread and wine,
we can all be transformed
into his Body and Blood
to be a present to others.
In celebrating this Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood on this second Sunday of Ordinary Time, we are challenged in our faith and conviction of truly being present like Jesus before him and with others in our daily life especially in this time of the pandemic with so many in great need of basic necessities.
Like the Lord Jesus Christ, do we take the time and effort to prepare for every Sunday Mass celebration as he prepared their Passover meal?
Jesus is not asking us to be particular with the details. All we need is the essential: our very presence with the Lord. Simply be our selves: no need to fake anything, to be somebody else because Jesus loves us as we are.
It is good to remember on this Solemnity too how take simplicity for granted as being bare, without much fanfare and even spectacle as we always want something to feast our eyes on like what we have done to many of our rites and rituals. We are never contented that less is always more that many times, our religious celebrations have become banal in nature with all the pomp and pageantry we have added like to our processions. Instead of turning to God, our attentions had turned into our very selves, clearly a case of “triumphalism” when we “exaggerate” even spiritual activities.
Let us be still in the calming presence of God in Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood. He is more than enough to suffice all our needs and longing in this life. Like the bread and wine, we can all be transformed into his Body and Blood to be a present to others. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, 09 November 2020
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 >><)))*> 1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17 >><)))*> John 2:13-22
Glory and praise to you O God our Father who had sent us your Son Jesus Christ to establish his Body among us, both as the Church made up of his people and made of stones. As we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication the Cathedral of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, we pray also for Pope Francis, all bishops and priests, and all the faithful who make us the Body of Christ.
May our temple of stones be a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, your Building among us as St. Paul reminds us today.
Let life flow like waters from the vision of Ezekiel in the first reading from our Church and give life to its members especially the sick and the poor, the marginalized and the forgotten.
Dearest Jesus, help us draw inspiration from the beauty and harmony of your beautiful churches despite our many flaws and sins to form a unity in you in the Holy Eucharist we celebrate day in, day out in our sacred buildings to proclaim your glory and majesty.
At the same time, as we strive to follow your will in building a spiritual temple of people who worship in truth and in spirit, may this feast remind us also to take special care in keeping your house in order where we meet you in our liturgy. Guide us with the Holy Spirit to make every sacred building a living temple of your love, a church of the poor. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 28 October 2020
I hold your Body
for every-body to see
saying again your words
on the night before you were betrayed:
all of you,
and eat of it,
for this is my Body,
which will be given up for you."
THIS IS MY BODY.
We have studied and learned
theology of your Body
but it was only lately
after I have held
with a malady
so sick, so weak, and untidy
have I truly felt your Body.
The nobility and beauty,
the awe and wonder
of holding your Body
dear Jesus came to me
after I have given up my own body
in need of my body.
Oh, how I felt your Body
next to me after I have held another body;
it was just the tip of my fingers
touching you but as I looked at you
I felt you in my whole body
filling me with your mystery
unfolding daily in the liturgy;
why did I not see, was it due to apathy,
when some-body comes to me
and treats him a no-body?
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Cycle A, 14 June 2020
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16 )))+((( 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 )))+((( John 6:51-58
Above is the beautiful 15th century icon of the Blessed Trinity by Russian painter Anton Rublev. It was based on the Genesis story of God (chapter 18) visiting Abraham at Mamre like angels sharing a meal while in deep conversations, indicating their relationships.
The icon masterfully portrays God as a Trinity of Persons relating with one another in love symbolized by the Eucharistic meal they share.
Most interesting like in most icons is how in this painting the viewer gets involved with the dialogue of the Trinity, thus, becoming the fourth person in the icon present with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit like Abraham at Mamre!
I am presenting this icon to you my dear readers and followers to show you the amazing flow of our liturgy these two Sundays as we resumed Ordinary Time on the Monday after Pentecost last month: From the highest truth in our teachings of One God in Three Persons last Sunday, today we have this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ to remind us and experience anew that this God we worship and adore is present among us, relating with us in the most personal manner.
Change in name, change of emphasis
Originally known as Corpus Christi or Body of Christ, today’s solemnity was renamed following Vatican II’s reform of the liturgy to give more emphasis on the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that the Preface used before the Consecration is that of Holy Thursday.
In the old tradition, focus was more on the Blessed Sacrament – of Jesus Christ reserved in the tabernacle and presented to the faithful for adoration as the Body of Christ, that is, Corpus Christi.
However, when Vatican II changed its name into the “Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ”, there was something deeper than the change of name.
The new name challenges us to see the deeper reality of the Holy Eucharist: more than spending time praying before the Blessed Sacrament – though it is good – we are demanded as followers of Jesus Christ to be present like him with others.
Without disregarding the importance of the Blessed Sacrament that have seen a renewed interest among people in this time of corona while churches are closed, Vatican II’s shift in emphasis dares to challenge us disciples of Christ to emulate him in allowing ourselves to be broken for others, to be poured out, offered and shared especially in this time of crisis.
It is in our being broken like the Body of Christ, and poured out like his Blood do we really live the paschal mystery.
Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”
Jesus is the living bread, the life of the world
Our gospel today is not from the Last Supper as we might expect; instead, it is taken from the “Bread of Life discourse” found only in St. John’s gospel which took place after Jesus had fed more than 5000 people in the wilderness from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish.
It was a very decisive moment in the ministry of Jesus as far as St. John was concerned; in fact, he refused to call the feeding of 5000 as a “miracle” but as a “sign” that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited Messiah.
Here, we have Jesus speaking clearly, no matter how difficult it may be for his listeners and even for us.
And we wonder, why he spoke that way?
Even today in the Holy Mass, considering the mixed crowd we have in every celebration, the priest is obliged to speak clearly and distinctly the words of Christ at the Last Supper similar to his bread of life discourse, “Take this, all of you and eat it. This is my Body which will be given up for you.”
Jesus always speaks the truth, he always tells us what is true and he never misleads us.
Unlike us when we say something and mean another thing. We always have to speak in ways that has to be deciphered because we really do not mean what we say. Or we are afraid of saying something else because we prefer to please people than stand by what is true.
But not the Lord! From that day until now, Jesus says the same thing and means always the same, that he is always with us, in us, and among us.
And he has proven then and now, time and time again most especially in our personal lives, that indeed Jesus was sent down from heaven as the “living bread” because he is the “life of the world”.
More than the bread from heaven called manna sent by God to the Israelites during their journey in the wilderness into the Promised Land (first reading), Jesus is the bread who sustains us in our new “exodus” and journey into the Father’s house, into fulfillment.
Life an Exodus with Jesus leading us
This pandemic and life under quarantine is an exodus in itself calling us to go back to God, to rely solely in him for he alone can save us. That is why he gave us his only Son, Jesus Christ who in turn gave himself totally, Body and Blood to sustain us in this journey or exodus.
Every exodus is always painful but filled with grace because God is most present with us.
That is why we join Masses on television or the internet while others dare to go to churches for the actual celebration of Mass to receive Holy Communion.
We are convinced that Jesus is sustaining us, nourishing us, raising us, helping us, inspiring us in this time of crisis.
And that is why the more we need to pray and even celebrate the Mass because the more we need Jesus Christ as food and drink in this difficult journey.
We can all feel the stress and pressures of the difficulties and uncertainties of this time. Making things worst than the financial and physical sufferings we all go through are the psychological burdens we silently bear that unfortunately others do not seem to think of or even realize.
How sad when others think only of themselves of getting tired, of being hurt, of being misunderstood that they do not care at all with the feelings and well being of those around them like our callous politicians and officials in government and the police.
Sometimes, watching the news can be so depressing when we see all the troubles and sufferings our brothers and sisters have to go through like those stranded in Metro Manila, those separated from their loved ones, those subjected to discrimination because of the COVID-19, those living alone, those who have lost family members and friends, those who have lost many opportunities in life.
But at the same time, the more we are challenged by these sufferings of our people to be like Jesus, to be the living bread, to share with them Jesus who is our very life.
Let us heed the call of St. Paul in the second reading to be one with our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ in their brokenness, in their sufferings by being present to them in love and kindness, in being more understanding.
We are the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, his very presence in this world that continues to disregard him, that until now tries to live without him.
May we not fall into that temptation and sin that is largely the reason behind this pandemic: modern man has forgotten that no matter what is our situation in life, we remain poor before God who alone can fulfill our deepest desires and longings.
Despite the many difficulties we face especially with the continued closure of houses of worship, let us continue to work and find creative means in sharing Jesus Christ with others, in coming to him and receiving him in the Holy Communion.
Only Jesus can help us through this pandemic.
In fact, he was the first to die on the Cross by giving us his Body and Blood so that we may live and share his gift of life with others.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 05 June 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is the most severe test the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines has ever faced, striking on the final year of her preparations for the quincentenary of the coming of Christianity in the country.
Making things worst is the “unfriendly” Administration whose policies contradict almost every known Church teaching, from the most basic GMRC and decency to the sanctity of human life.
In this three-part series of reflections, I wish to share with you my brother priests and lay partners in our ministry some lessons I have found in the life and teachings of St. Paul the Apostle that is centered on the person of Jesus Christ.
He never gave specific instructions and answers in dealing with the many issues and problems that confronted the early Church that may help us in the present generation; but, he had taught us to be always centered on Christ, measuring everything in him and his Cross.
Now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… Through it you are also being saved… For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: the Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.
1 Corinthians 15:1-3
The gospel thrives most in hostile environment
St. Paul lived in a time very similar with ours when great developments and changes were overtaking the world with the usual problems of poverty and inequalities due to growing materialism, and persecution of the Church.
Instead of seeing them as problems, St. Paul saw them as opportunities to spread the Gospel because his sole focus was the Lord Jesus himself and his Cross.
In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But you remain faithful to what you have learned and believed…
2 Timothy 3:12-14
When the former Mayor of Davao City assumed the presidency and started lashing out us priests and bishops with his profanities and vitriol including blasphemies against God and Pope Francis, we all expressed our indignation and opposition.
And rightly so! – even in fighting for Kian and those fallen by tokhang as well as the victims of injustice and fake news.
As days moved into months and years, with more vulgarities and lies dished out by the man at Malacañang, there also appeared some silver linings over Pasig River but many of us in the clergy have refused to see and admit— that some of his accusations are true. Although these are more of the exception than the rule, there are indeed some priests leading inauthentic lives far from their vows of poverty and celibacy with others pretending to be shepherds of souls who do not smell like their sheep because they are more keen in amassing wealth and gaining fame and popularity.
Worst of all are those who have sold their souls to politicians for some petty favors and a taste of power, of being seen with the rich and famous.
I am not putting down our priests. There are more good and holy priests working faithfully and silently not only in our country but everywhere in the world.
What I am trying to say since our “persecution” by the present Administration began, this is a wake-up call for us priests to shape up and regain our bearings in Christ.
Actually, it had been coming since the previous Administration, too. For the longest time we have been lording it over the people with our abuses and excesses hiding in the excuse as “alter Christus” but, now the changing times have finally caught on us, demanding more transparency and honesty on our part.
Like with the experience of St. Paul, these situations of “persecution” with a pandemic are calls for our conversion in Christ anew, something that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has been insisting that we priests go back to Jesus, especially in the Blessed Sacrament.
Like St.Paul, priests are first a witness of Jesus Christ
This time of crisis due to COVID-19 and the continued “persecution” by an unfriendly administration that has continued to keep our churches closed for no sane reason at all can be a grace-filled moment for us if we allow Jesus Christ to shine in us by bringing hope and inspiration to our people saddled with so much burdens due to COVID-19 and the government’s inconsistencies in managing the pandemic.
It is here where we are most expected by the people to be at the forefront but – unfortunately – we have been silent in asserting our religious freedom to worship within the rules and protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Only Bishop Pabillo of Manila had spoken against the “laughable policy” of allowing only five and ten people inside the church in areas under ECQ and GCQ, respectively.
Making matters worst was how the CBCP issued its statement reminding us priests and bishops to follow the directives and guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases regarding the celebration of the Mass! Instead of supporting the lone voice championing our rights to celebrate Mass in public, the CBCP just repeated the same situation when Jesus saw the crowd who have followed him to the wilderness, “sheep confused and lost without a shepherd” (Mt.9:36).
How sad we have given up the fight so easily to have our churches opened in the transition from ECQ to GCQ.
More sad now are the bishops and priests again in the news – filled with fire and courage – speaking out loudly against the anti-terror bill recently passed by Congress.
No problem fighting oppressive measures by any administration but to miss out that same fervor and zeal for our own rights and duties to provide the essential spiritual nourishment of our people at this time is something disturbing, something St. Paul would not allow to happen.
Yes, it is part of our priesthood to fight for people’s rights but always in the light of Jesus Christ.
St. John Paul II had shown us in recent history what it is when while still a priest and later as bishop in Poland, he spoke only of the words of God in the scriptures and fruits of his prayer that he was able to tore down the Iron Curtain his homeland and eventually throughout Europe.
St. Paul never played partisan politics like our Lord Jesus Christ, considering how they have lived at a time rife with occasions to be politicized. He never missed addressing social issues in the light of the gospel as he wrote one of his friends – presumably rich and influential – regarding a slave named Onesimus:
To Philemon, our beloved and co-worker… Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord.
Philemon 1, 15-16
How sad when we priests speak of so many things like current events and other trends without giving the people the Word of God.
It is even a scandal when we priests are more busy with social advocacies forgetting we are first of all a “man of the Word” according to Vatican II.
Let us not forget St. Paul’s reminder that though we are in the world, we are not of the world:
Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.
The gospel of Christ thrives most in hostile environment and situations but that does not mean going out like activists with clenched fists and raised voices walking the streets. We are not going to change the world; Jesus will — if we can proclaim him in words and in deeds.
The other week as we neared the conclusion of the Easter Season, one of the first readings on weekdays touched me so much, wondering if we priests can also say with all sincerity St. Paul’s words at Miletus when he spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus before sailing to Jerusalem for his trial:
So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears… I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus…
Acts of the Apostles 20:31, 33-35
According to St. Luke, after those words, the people wept loudly as they threw their arms around St. Paul and kissed him. He was so loved by the people because of Jesus Christ, not of his very self.
Surely, like Jesus, St. Paul stretched out his arms and hands more to pray over people after hearing their confessions and problems, spent longer hours praying in silence or writing his letters to the various churches he founded, strengthening and inspiring them in Christ than be out on the streets seething with anger against any despot and regime.
On Monday our second part in the series, Fighting our detractors like St. Paul in time of COVID-19.
Saturday, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, 25 January 2020
Acts 22:3-16 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 16:15-18
Glory and praise to you, O Lord Jesus Christ!
Thank you Lord for not leaving us alone, for continuing to live with us, calling us and sending us to your mission in the Church, your blessed Body!
As we celebrate today the Feast of the Conversion of your great Apostle St. Paul, we do not merely recall this personal event of his in the past but most of all, we try to listen to you with him anew in our own time and situation.
Nothing much had changed, O Lord Jesus since that day in Damascus when St. Paul was on his way to persecute your early followers.
Many of us continue to persecute you because of lack of faith in you, of pride, and yes, because of wrong beliefs all premised in that great lie we have the truth, just like St. Paul who was called Saul then.
I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.'”
It was the single event that converted St. Paul to become your most dynamic Apostle, Lord.
In that short instance, Lord, you remind us of how you personally call each one of us in our own name, no ifs nor buts, everything that is good and bad, even the worst in us.
Like St. Paul, we always hear your personal call but unlike him, we rarely have the courage to answer you, even enter into a dialogue with you just for a brief moment. We would rather stay on top of our horse, only to heed you when we have fallen and blinded by the world.
Likewise, Lord Jesus, in that brief encounter, you taught St. Paul and us today that basic reality of you identifying with the Church, your Body!
Every day, Lord, you continue to call us like St. Paul, asking us the same question, “why do you persecute me?”
O great St. Paul the Apostle, thank you for reminding us always in your letters how Jesus ceaselessly draws us into his Body the Church through the Holy Eucharist that for him is the center of Christian life where we experience Christ’s love in the most personal manner by giving himself for me.
Dearest St. Paul, pray for me that the love of Christ may always be my law and guide in life even to point of offering myself to him who had called me to a life of holiness. Amen.