Holiness is companionship in Christ

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Thursday, 14 April 2022
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14  +  1 Corinthians 11:23-26  +  John13:1-15
Photo from inquirer.net, 20 August 2021.

A blessed Holy Thursday everyone.  Tonight we begin the most holiest days of the year, the Holy Triduum of the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection known as the pasch of the Lord. From the Hebrew word pesach, a pasch is a passing over, the journey of the Hebrew people from Egypt into the promised land of God.

A journey does not necessarily involve physical distance as it can be something within one’s self like an inner journey to God dwelling within us. Journey is a process that leads us to growth and maturity from the many difficulties and trials we experience as we travel in life.

And whatever journey we take outside or within ourselves, we always need a companion to travel with. From the Latin words cum panis that literally mean “someone you break bread with”, a companion is someone who helps us in our journey, a friend who shares life with us, guiding us, protecting us. Like the bread we break and share, a companion sustains and nourishes us in our journey.

That is exactly the companionship of Jesus which is holiness. Having Jesus as our companion in life’s journey is to have him as our daily Bread who fills us with God in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist. I used to tell our students in elementary school that every Mass is a journey into heaven, a dress rehearsal of our entrance into heaven when we have a foretaste of eternal life we all hope for until Christ comes again. That is why last Tuesday we said the first test of our fidelity in found in our celebration of the Sunday Eucharist.

We are all travellers and journeyers on earth; our true home is in heaven with God our Father.  We are merely passing over this planet temporarily.  That is why we always say life is a daily lent, a daily passing over.

By celebrating the Lord’s Supper that Thursday evening with his disciples who represented all peoples of all time, Jesus established for us the everlasting memorial of his loving presence as our companion and our very Bread and Wine in the journey back to the Father that is often dark and difficult.

What he did that Thursday evening foreshadowed what he would do on Good Friday when he did his greatest act of love for us by dying on the Cross. What is most beautiful meaning we can find here is the importance of communion, of oneness as a community, as a family that are expressions of our companionship in Jesus. Every journey becomes wonderful when done in the context of a community, with true companions beginning in our very family.

At the very core of every companionship, of every community is LOVE. To become bread for someone in a journey is to become LOVE – like Jesus Christ at the last supper.

Love can never be defined for it has no limits; love can only be described like how Jesus described to us in his actions on that night of his supper, his kind of love we all must emulate:

So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

John 13:3-5
Photo from GettyImages/iStockPhotos.

During the time of Christ, restaurants were stops not only for meals but for rest that consisted of soaking their feet on a basin of water. It was therapeutic that gave travelers enough strength to travel far again as there were no other modes of transportation at that time and not everybody could afford an animal to ride on. Any hiker and mountaineer can attest that after so much trekking, one thing you would always hope for is a stream or tiny brook with cool, crisp, running water to dip your feet and rest!

This Holy Thursday, let us be a companion in Jesus Christ with others, beginning with our family members. Do not get tired of being broken and shared like bread, of loving and caring when the journey becomes so tiring like in this time of pandemic that seems to be still far from over.

“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

John 13:12-15

Lord Jesus Christ,
may we never get tired 
walking in love 
as a companion and 
bread to one another like you 
by giving rest to others 
already tired and about to give up. 
Let us all be together in welcoming Easter! 
Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“Casio” by Jungle (2018)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 01 August2021
Photo by Ray Piedra on Pexels.com

It is another rainy, heightened season of quarantine measures here in Metro Manila this Sunday with all religious gatherings being banned again while other business establishments especially like the spa are allowed with limited access by the public.

It is a crazy set up. While we believe there has to be some health protocols needed to control the spread of COVID-19, we find it so baffling since last year when religious gatherings continue to be at the bottom list of essentials in this predominantly Christian country.

And the more crazy is how every time our public Masses are restricted, the more people troop to churches to pray and worship!

That is why we have chosen the British neo soul band Jungle with their 2018 “Casio” for our featured music this Sunday that speaks of heartbreak and dysfunctional relationship. It is aptly called Casio because it speaks of a relationship so utilitarian like a Casio watch wherein the woman is just using the guy for her own advantage like the people who have followed Jesus to Capernaum in today’s gospel in order to have food again like last week (https://lordmychef.com/2021/07/31/beyond-when-and-what/).

Casio, playing on my heart just like a Casio
Breaking it apart so you can let it go
Wait another year that's not original, or cynical
Alright, let's go now

When all your dreams are gone
And you're still holding on
You waited far too long
Don't say
I know, you know it's over

We discovered this electronic band last year at the height of the pandemic and since then have been hooked with their funky sound that is characteristically British – intelligent and no non-sense. You have to see the music video for Casio we find so groovy and savvy, perfect for a quarantine Sunday with family.

In an interview at San Francisco’s KEXP, Jungle members explained how in their latest album For Ever (2018) they explored themes – “to shake off their shallow self-doubt” by making “more vulnerable songs” that gave “new directions where they were going in the soul.”

The band is clean cut like most Brits and hip, they really rock so well with their depth and simplicity – exactly what Jesus is asking in today’s gospel so we would desire things of higher levels that “lead to eternal life than food that perishes”.

*We have intentions of copyright infringements to the following music video except to share its good vibes and wonderful music and message.

Beyond “when” and “what”

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVIII-B in Ordinary Time, 01 August 2021
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15 ><}}}}'> Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 ><}}}}'> John 6:24-35
Photo by author, Church of Dominus Flevit overlooking Jerusalem, 2017.

Last Sunday we reflected the “where” of Jesus in asking Philip, “Where can we buy enough food” for the crowd who have followed them to a deserted place. We said that “where” of Jesus referred not to any place or location but to himself as the only one who can give “enough food” for everyone.

Today I invite you, my dear readers to join me reflecting on the “when” and “what” of the people who have followed Jesus to the other side of the lake, looking for him to have more food after that miraculous feeding last week. This time, the people are the ones asking Jesus with when and what that reveal their pride before God.

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

John 6:24-35
Photo by author, Capernaum’s shore at Lake Tiberias, 2017.

From a deserted place to Capernaum

To fully appreciate today’s gospel account by John, let us get its whole picture with a little help from Mark who started the story of Jesus and the Twelve crossing the lake to a deserted place to rest the other week. With his usual dash of humor, Mark told us how the people arrived to the place ahead of Jesus who was moved with pity at seeing the crowd “for they were like sheep without a shepherd that he taught them with many things.”

John continued the story last Sunday telling us how Jesus fed the people to their satisfaction with so many leftovers out of just five loaves of bread and two fish. The people were astonished that they tried to get Jesus to make him a king but he “withdrew again to the mountain alone.”

This Sunday, John continued his story telling us how the crowd finally found Jesus at Capernaum with his disciples.

How did he get there?

Photo by author, Lake of Tiberias (aka, Galilee), 2020.

According to Mark 6:45ff., after feeding the people, Jesus told the Twelve to proceed ahead of him to the other side of the lake that evening while he dismissed the crowd. Later that evening while Jesus was praying on the mountain, he saw his disciples’ boat being tossed by big waves due to strong winds. He followed them at the “fourth watch of the night” (about 3AM) by walking on water that terrified the Twelve who thought they have seen a ghost.

Upon identifying himself as the Lord, Peter asked to let him come to him by walking on water too; Peter sank when he doubted due to the strong winds until Jesus saved him and joined them on the boat going to Capernaum.

Mark’s story of Jesus walking on water after the miraculous feeding provides us the context for the people’s question to him today in John’s continuation of the story last week, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (Jn.6:25): it was very difficult, almost impossible for anyone to have crossed the lake at night due to giant waves caused by strong winds. (Any pilgrim to the Holy Land can attest to this fact even today.)

And that was the main issue here: the people refused to see the deeper meanings behind the two events when Jesus fed them and the almost impossible crossing of the lake that night.

That is why Jesus did not answer their question by bluntly addressing their suspicious motive, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

Ironically, while their asking of “when did you get here” implicitly acknowledged the Lord’s miraculous crossing of the lake, they still refused to accept it by downplaying everything like addressing Jesus as “Rabbi” when in fact, they were not interested with him but merely with the food he had given them!


Their question of "when" 
was not really about his time of arrival there 
but more of an inquiry on the person of Jesus....

Their question of when was not really about his time of arrival there but more of an inquiry on the person of Jesus as they wondered how could he made it across the lake that night. They have failed to recognize the deeper meaning of the sign Jesus did in feeding them with enough food which Jesus explained anew.

And the stage is now set for Jesus to reveal himself, of who he really is which his disciples were also asking and contending among themselves all these weeks and months of being with the Lord.

Photo by author(2017), ruins at Capernaum with a church built over the house where Jesus was believed to have stayed.

The need for us to be open to Jesus, our bread of life

Many times in life, our words and attitudes betray us of our inner motives, of our selfish interests to get near some people, to meet and know them not for who they are but for what we can have from them – even with God!

Remember Andrew last Sunday who did not bother to ask the boy’s name who gave the five loaves of bread and two fish from which Jesus performed his miracle? “There is a boy here with five barley loaves and two fish” – no name, just a “there” because the did not matter at all to Andrew except his food.

But there is something deeper being revealed in this attitude of forgetting the other person and being focused on material things: that is our pride, of believing only in ourselves, of playing God!

So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

John 6:28-31

See how the crowd ignored Christ’s promise of giving food that endures for eternal life by following up their question with What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” – another veiled question like their when, insisting on their own achievements and abilities, on what they can.

Worst is how in a twist highlighting pride in themselves as they dared to question Jesus again with What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?“!!! Helloooooo….!

Photo by author at the ruins of the synagogue of Capernaum where Jesus preached his bread of life discourse, 2017.

They have gone so blinded with their pride that suddenly the miraculous feeding they have personally witnessed plus the unimaginable crossing of the lake at night remained lacking, not enough for them to believe in the powers of Jesus that they still asked for another sign.

Their “what” had become a demand from them, an insistence on Jesus the Son of God to give them signs from heaven even if they ironically preferred without them knowing how they were stuck at the lowest level of looking at things.

They have closed their eyes to seeing beyond the ordinary things happening to them since Jesus came teaching and healing. And now after feeding them, they demanded Jesus to follow them instead of them following the Lord.

Is it not the same thing happens with us when we keep on demanding God for proofs of his love and mercy, demanding so many other things from him above while we refuse to rise above ourselves, to “level up” in our lives?

This is the call by St. Paul in the second reading, that we must “be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:23-24).


Once again, we are placed on highest level of quarantine due to a surge in COVID-19 cases with threats from the new Delta variant. Unless we learn to see this pandemic on a higher plane or level that calls for spiritual renewal among us, it will persist to disrupt and destroy lives among us.

It is more than a virus infecting us but an attitude deep within us when we have lost respect for one another and with nature. Pope Francis had long ago sounded this alarm in 2015 with his encyclical Laudato Si calling for each of us to change our lifestyle, each of us contributing for the betterment of the world because it is easiest to join advocacies but difficult to change our ways of life by having less.

With all these pandemic and climate changes going on around us, the signs are getting clearer for us to shift our perspectives, to see things on a higher plane like what Jesus had began at Capernaum declaring himself, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger; and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn.6:35).

Our misunderstandings with others and in life will persist unless we remove the veils and masks that cover so many insincerities of our questions in search of the many answers to the problems we face.

Like the people who have followed Jesus to Capernaum that day who were stuck in the desert experiences of Moses (first reading) that they could not see Jesus himself as the new bread from heaven; in fact, Jesus had to correct them that it was not Moses who gave the manna but God the Father in heaven who now gives Jesus to nourish us in our journey to eternal life.

Let us empty our selves of our pride to let Jesus fill us today with his words and his Body and Blood so we may realize next week the meaning and sweetness of himself as the Bread of life. A blessed week to you. Stay safe and keep praying. Amen.

Photo by author, April 2020.

Listening attentively, selectively

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 21 July 2021
Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15   ><]]]]'>  +  <'[[[[><   Matthew 13:1-9
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.
Every day God, 
we pray to you
"Our Father in heaven
hallowed be thy name...
Give us each day
our daily bread"
without realizing the daily bread 
you give us that truly nourishes us:
your words of truth and of life
that became flesh in Jesus Christ.
On that day, Jesus went out of the house
and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables.
(Matthew 13:1-3)
Thank you very much, dear God
for listening to our prayers,
in giving us the food we need
to nourish our bodies
and your words that sustain us
especially in these trying times.
May we hunger more
for this daily bread from heaven,
listening attentively,
fulfilling your words as you willed them so.
Then the Lord said to Moses,
"I will now rain down bread 
from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out
and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow
my instructions or not."
(Exodus 16:4)
But most of all, O God
teach us to be like you: to be more
selective in our listening,
to be more circumspect with what
to hear and process wherein 
we listen more on essential things 
that matter most than on trivial
and mundane words that are
divisive, preventing our growth
and maturity in our relationships.
If you would listen and act
on everything we say, especially 
our grumblings and complaints, 
no one among us would still be alive;
but you are kind and understanding,
unlike us who listen more on petty
than essential things said by others.
May we be like the good soil
that is open to listen and nurture
words that build and give life.  Amen.

Companionship in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Easter Triduum Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Maundy Thursday, 01 April 2021
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14 ><)))*> 1Corinthians 11:23-26 ><)))*> John 13:1-25
Photo by d0n mil0 on Pexels.com
"A journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step."
- Lao Tzu

We often hear and use this wise saying that is also most applicable to our celebration of the Holy Triduum of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection also known as the “Sacred Paschal Triduum”.

From the Hebrew word pesach, a pasch is a passing over. It is a journey which is a long trip taken over long period of time to different places. A journey does not necessarily involve physical distance as it can be something within one’s self like an inner journey to God dwelling within us. Hence, a journey is also a process that leads us to growth and maturity from the many difficulties and trials we experience as we travel, entailing a lot of sacrifices from us.

And whatever journey we take outside or within our selves, we always need a companion to travel with. From the Latin words cum panis that literally mean “someone you break bread with”, a companion is someone who helps us in our journey, a friend who shares life with us, guiding us, protecting us. Like the bread we break and share, a companion sustains and nourishes us in our journey.

Let us keep these three words of journey, companion, and bread in reflecting our celebration tonight of the Lord’s Supper that begins the Sacred Triduum.

We are all pilgrims on a journey to heaven

More than 40 days ago on Ash Wednesday, we said Lent is a daily journey to Easter where we find our very selves, others, and God who is our ultimate origin and end. It is a journey that reaches its summit in the Holy Eucharist where we make present the pasch or passover of Jesus Christ

Every Mass is a journey into heaven, a dress rehearsal of our entrance into heaven when we have a foretaste of eternal life we all hope for until Christ comes again. It is the Passover of the New Testament, a perfection of the Jewish Passover when God’s chosen people led by Moses went into exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land.

This “heavenly” journey had its ancient roots among nomadic Semites who used to celebrate a feast on the first full moon of spring as they prepared to lead their flocks to summer pastures. They ate a roasted lamb from the flock with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It was an important event of migration filled with many dangers for those nomads who marked their tent-pegs with the blood of the lamb to keep their journey safe.

Eventually this found place in the Jewish Passover which we heard in our first reading when God told his chosen people to begin their journey of exodus from Egypt “on the tenth of their first month” that happens on the second full moon of the spring equinox.

Notice that it happens at night that is coincidentally the usual start of every journey we usually make!

Before their Exodus, each family was told to roast an unblemished lamb to be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs “with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the passover of the Lord” (Ex.12:11). It has to be done in a hurry, as in a flight, a journey.

And to keep them safe in their journey, God instructed them to paint their door posts with the blood of the slaughtered lamb so that when his angel comes at night to strike death of every first born male child and animal, their homes would be “passed over” and be saved from death that night.


We are all travelers and journeyers on earth;
our true home is in heaven with God our Father.  
We are merely "passing over" this planet temporarily.

Photo by author, Egypt, 2019.

Jesus our companion and family in the journey

The Jewish Passover or Exodus became the actual event of God’s covenant with Israel as his people on a journey to their Promised Land. Unfortunately, they would break this covenant with God so many times that it would take them 40 years of wandering in the desert before finally got into the Promised Land.

And their stubbornness continued when they would always turn away from God with sins that led to the division of their nation until its conquest by foreign powers that led them anew into another exile. God would restore them as a nation but, again, they would turn away from him until the Romans ruled over them when Jesus came to perfect God’s covenant.

In perfecting and fulfilling the Jewish Passover, Jesus became the new and everlasting Lamb, perfect without any blemish, offering himself to God for the forgiveness of our sins and our liberation from all forms of evil especially sickness and death. It is no longer the blood of the lamb that we now offer but Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood which he established in the Sacrament of the Eucharist “on the night before he was betrayed” on Holy Thursday.

By celebrating the Lord’s Supper that Thursday evening with his disciples who represented all peoples of all time, Jesus established for us the everlasting memorial of his loving presence as our companion and our very Bread and Wine in the journey back to the Father always filled with darkness and sufferings.

What he did that Thursday evening foreshadowed what he would do on Good Friday when he did his greatest act of love for us by dying on the Cross at about 3PM, the same time when the lambs were being slaughtered in the temple for the coming passover feast.

Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. ?Do this in remembrance of me.”

1 Corinthians 11:23-25

Here we find again the darkness of the night as the beginning of our journey back to God perfected by Jesus Christ as our companion and very bread of life to sustain and nourish us.

What is most beautiful meaning we can find here is the importance of communion, of oneness as a community, as a family.

In the Old Testament, God instructed his people to take the passover meal together as a family; at the Lord’s supper, Jesus celebrated it with his “friends”, the Twelve Apostles. Even Judas Iscariot was present at the start but had to leave in the “darkness of the night” when he broke off from the unity of Jesus.

Perhaps, one reason why we are again together this Holy Thursday not in churches but in our homes, with our family so we may be one again in Jesus Christ in prayers and celebrating Mass on-line.

Therefore, do not be a Judas Iscariot! Go back to your family, to your loved ones – your most faithful and truest companions in this journey of life. You’ll never get to heaven, as Dionne Warwick sang, if you break somebody’s heart, when you refuse to love by turning your back from those who love you.


Holy Thursday reminds us in the Eucharist  
that no one is saved alone. 
Every journey becomes wonderful
when done in the context of a community, 
with true companions beginning in our very family.

Photo from wikipediacommons.org of Christ’s washing of feet of Apostles at Montreale Cathedral in Palermo, Italy

The commandment of love

Completing the picture of our celebration tonight with the key concepts of journey, companion and bread is LOVE, the very essence of everything in this life, the reason why we are in a journey in the first place since the Exodus up to this time.

At the very core of every companionship, of every community is LOVE.

To become bread for someone in a journey is to become LOVE.

Jesus Christ as the bread broken, as the cup of wine shared is essentially LOVE.

Love can never be defined but merely described.

And on the night before he was betrayed, Jesus described to us in his actions a very beautiful expression of his love we all must imitate:

So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

John 13:3-5

When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he showed us one beautiful aspect of LOVE which is tenderness.

Yes, I have been speaking about tenderness lately as something we badly need these days of the pandemic. Tenderness is an expression of love when we realize amid our own suffering the sufferings of others too. To be tender and loving amidst many sufferings is to offer rest to fellow journeyers like what Jesus did on that Holy Thursday evening.

Again, we find here something prevalent during that time which is the concept of “restaurants” where travelers used to stop during their journey not only to eat but to rest that meant soaking their feet on a basin of water. It was therapeutic that gave travelers enough strength to travel far again.

Remember there were no other modes of transportation at that time and not everybody could afford an animal to ride on. Any hiker and mountaineer can attest that after so much trekking, one thing you would always hope for is a stream or tiny brook with cool, crisp, running water to dip your feet and rest!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, April 2020.

Everybody is tired of this journey in the pandemic, almost exhausted.

What a shame especially when local officials like that one who refused food delivery because she considered the lowly lugaw as non essential. Lest we forget, Jesus chose one of the most lowly food, the unleavened bread, as the sign of his loving presence among us until the end of time when he comes again.

Indeed, this could be the holiest Holy Week of our lives in this most unholy time of history as it gives us great opportunities to love.

Just be tender with those around you!

Never get tired of loving, of understanding, of caring as everyone is already tired with this journey of ours in the pandemic that seems to be still far from over.

“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master’, and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

John 13:12-15

One of the most moving images of the pandemic for me lately is the one taken by our parishioner on the first day of the ECQ last March 22 when our Parochial Vicar, Fr. Howard John celebrated Mass without a congregation. He said, “the table of the Lord is full, but the pews are empty.”

And that is what we will continue to do in this pandemic. Even without the people, we shall continue to journey in Christ by still celebrating the Mass to give us all nourishment and sustenance and rest in this prolonged journey in the pandemic.

May we never get tired walking in love as a companion and bread to one another in Christ and like Christ by giving rest to others already tired and about to give up. Let us all be together in welcoming Easter! Amen.


El anda que en amor ni cansa ni se cansa.
(The soul that walks in love neither tires others nor grows tired.)
Saint John of the Cross 

Photo by Ms. Kysia Cruz, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Human situation, Divine response: multiplying our blessings

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVIII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 02 August 2020
Isaiah 55:1-3 >><}}}*> Romans 8:35, 37-39 >><}}}*> Matthew 14:13-21

Remember our reflection last Sunday? Of how parables teach us that “less is always more” because to have the kingdom of God – Jesus Christ himself – we have to learn to appreciate the little things in life?

Beginning this Sunday until August 16, our gospels will start telling us who is Jesus Christ by showing us his powers and abilities that are exactly opposite the way we see and understand them. This new series of stories are so relevant to us in this time of pandemic, giving us wonderful insights into God’s ways of responding to our human situations.

St. Matthew now leads us with Jesus to the wilderness after teaching us in parables to experience his power in transforming us like the five loaves and two fish to feed more than five thousand people.

Multi-layered story of the multiplication of bread

All four evangelists have recorded this story of Jesus Christ’s multiplication of the loaves of bread with their particular focus and stress, showing us that it truly happened and was a major event in the Lord’s ministry.

Very unique with St. Matthew’s version of this miracle story – which has not one but two! – is his economy of words in narrating it like a straight news as if it were a developing story or a “breaking news” unfolding before us, calling us to follow its updates and details due to its multi-layered meanings.

When Jesus heard of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

Matthew 14:13-21
Photo from iStock/Studio-Annika.

The consolation of Jesus.

Our situation in this time of the corona pandemic is so similar with that of Jesus. With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, it has finally hit us hard, so close to home with news of those we know getting infected and worst, dying from this disease.

Like Jesus upon hearing the death of John the Baptist, we are all saddened that we wish to withdraw away from everyone.

We want to mourn but there are more people in need of our presence and help in this time of pandemic like the countless medical frontliners and health workers who must be so tired – even sick, physically and emotionally – by now with the growing number of COVID-19 patients and yet have chosen to remain in their posts.

And there are still the other casualties of this pandemic like those who have lost their jobs, those evicted from their rented apartments, those stranded and separated from their loved ones, those begging for food, and those afflicted with other sickness going through dialysis and physical therapy.

Jesus knows so well the “wilderness” we are all going through and he is right here with us, one with us in our sufferings, in our fears and anxieties, and in our exhaustion.

To be one with us is consolation, from the Latin “con” or with + “solare” or alone, to be one with somebody feeling alone.

Jesus did not remove our pains and sufferings, even our death; he joined us to be one with us in these that he can call us to “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give your rest. Take my yoke upon you… For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt.11:28-30, 14th Sunday, 05 Jul 2020).

Compassion of Jesus.

Still with Christ’s reaction of being “moved with pity” at the sight of the crowds who have followed him to the wilderness, we find something more deeper with his being one with us, in consoling us that he had forgotten all about himself, his tired body that he went on to heal the sick among them.

To be moved with pity is more than a feeling of the senses but a response of his total person.

You respond for help, you reply to a call.

Ever wondered why we have the “responsorial psalm” after the first reading in the Mass? Because those words from the Psalms express our total assent and commitment to God, involving our total self like body, mind, heart and soul.

Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmel Monastery, Israel, 2016.

God cannot suffer because he is perfect.

That is why he became human like us in Jesus Christ to be one with our suffering and death so that we would one with him in his glorious Resurrection.

In the wilderness, Jesus stayed with the people, not allowing them to leave as suggested by the Twelve because he was moved with pity with the crowd because he wanted to suffer with them.

That is compassion, literally means to “suffer with” from cum + patior. Here in the wilderness, Jesus showed his compassion for the people which will reach its highest point in giving himself on the Cross on Good Friday.

Have we “responded” to God’s call to serve, to a call of duty, and to a plea for help from the poor? Have we truly given ourselves to somebody without ever thinking our own comfort or rewards? Or, are we running away from his Cross?

What a shame in this time of pandemic there are some among us who rejoice at the losses of others like the Twelve who wanted the crowd to be sent home because they were afraid of responsibilities, of taking care of the suffering people.

Consolation and compassion are the two most needed from each of us in this time of crisis.

Our scarcity mentality, the God of plenty.

We now come to the miracle of the feeding of five thousand. According to the late Fr. Henri Nouwen, this story is an example of our “scarcity mentality” when we think of not having enough, of finding what we have as too little, always looking for more; hence, our tendency to hoard everything.

The Twelve were thinking more of themselves, afraid they could go hungry with the five loaves of bread and two fish they have. They were so afraid of difficulties ahead of them in their situation where to find and how to feed those great number of people.

They were focused on what was lacking than on what they have, and who was with them, Jesus Christ! They were hungry for food in the stomach than for food to the soul unlike the crowds who have followed Jesus.

Worst of all, the Twelve got “mad” upon seeing the crowds who have followed them to the wilderness when in fact, it was Jesus who needed most to rest to mourn John’s death!

But through all these, Jesus patiently bore the people’s woes and the Twelve’s selfishness to teach them all in a very nice way something so essential in our response to every human suffering and extreme situation: opening and entrusting our selves totally to God.

And that was actually the greatest miracle that happened that day.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In doing it, Jesus simply asked the Twelve what they have, never asking how much they have or its condition. Just whatever they have to give everything to Jesus like those five loaves and two fish that he took, and while looking up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the Twelve to distribute to the crowd.

And everyone was satisfied with a lot of left overs too!

Matthew nor any of the other Evangelists ever explained how it happened because it does not really matter at all. What is most important is what are we willing to give up to Jesus so he can transform us into better persons.

That is what we continue to do this day in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist- whatever we have, even not the best or the worst and littlest we have, when given to Jesus becomes holy and multiplied!

The power of God is immense, without doubt. But, in this miracle of the feeding of five thousand, Jesus is showing us that his power is not meant to satisfy our material or bodily needs but our deepest desires that lead to our fulfillment in him as prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading.

Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.

Isaiah 55:2-3

Amid the pandemic worsened by our government officials’ inanities, irresponsibilities, and sheer lack of compassion with us in this wilderness, the Lord assures us today that he is with us for “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” (Second Reading) if we are willing to give him all that we have.

It is our spiritual transformation first that leads us to our material blessings. We can all have it if we are willing to give everything to Jesus and believe in him always. What do you have for miracles to happen?

A blessed August ahead for you! Amen.

Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmel, Israel, 2016.