Becoming God’s children

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Feast of the Sto. Niño, 17 January 2021
Isaiah 9:1-6  >><)))*>  Ephesians 1:3-6.15-18  >><)))*>  Mark 10:13-16 
Photo by author, 16 January 2021.

Today we spend an extra Sunday for the Christmas Season’s Feast of Sto. Niño granted by Rome to the local Church in recognition of the important role played by that image of the Holy Child gifted by Magellan to Queen Juana of Cebu in 1521.

Its role in the Christianization of the country cannot be denied, considering the historical fact that when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in Cebu 44 years later after Magellan to claim the country for Spain, they were surprised to discover how the natives venerated the Sto. Niño inside a special hut for worship along with their other anitos.

Legazpi’s chaplain Fray Luis Andres de Urdaneta attested to how that devotion to the Sto. Niño in Cebu enabled them to Christianize other natives without difficulties as the Holy Child image at that time has become the favorite among the people in asking favors like children and bountiful harvests as well as protection from calamities and wars.

The late National Artist Nick Joaquin was absolutely right to claim in his many writings and talks that it was really the Sto. Niño who truly conquered the Philippines that continues to be the most popular Christ-devotion in the country along with the Nuestro Padre Jesus de Nazareno of Quiapo.

More powerful than the swords and cannons or any force in the world indeed is the Child Jesus who has continued to be a paradox in world history: the Son of God born in a lowly stable in a small town called Bethlehem because there was no room for them in the inn during the time of the powerful Caesar claiming to be the king of the whole world by ordering a census of all his subjects in the vast Roman Empire now totally forgotten, his kingdom long gone.

What an irony the God who came so weak like all of us, without any title to His name nor an army at His command still influencing the world in His weakness and silence, in His childlikeness. A reality in life until now we have refused to accept even in the Church.

People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then Jesus embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

Mark 10:13-16
A child praying in our Parish, 07 November 2019; photo by Mr. Red Santiago.

Christ’s path of weakness vs. the world’s path of power

It is so timely that during this Ordinary Time we have this Feast of the Sto. Niño to remind us of the central teaching of Jesus Christ to be childlike that gets lost in the novelty and sentimentality of our Christmas celebrations.

See how this call for us to be childlike becomes more difficult even almost impossible to achieve in our world that has become so technical and “sophisticated” as we seek to shape and manipulate everything according to our own design.

The world of men, of macho men we love to relish with delight in the secular and religious world in all of its trappings of fads and fashion and “hard talks”, of external showmanships that we try so hard to project cannot hide the hypocrisies within, of keeping grips and control on everyone and everything like the disciples of Jesus. The tragedy of that scene continuing to happen in our time is how some few people who live in darkness pretend to be seeing the light that in the process are actually misleading people towards darkness and destruction.

Every time we refuse to allow others to come forward with their new thoughts and new ideas, fresh perspectives in governance and management, in the ministry, in theology, when we close our minds to hear others ideas and opinions in doing things, then we are into serious power plays that can be pernicious at the same time.

When this happens, we are all the more challenged to be child-like before God in taking all the risks in exposing what is true, what is real like those kids shouting “the emperor has no clothes”!

To be a child means to owe one’s existence to another which we never outgrow even in our adult life. It is an attitude of being open, that Jesus can be talking to us through people not necessarily like us, even different from us. It is an attitude of trusting others, unlike those hungry for power who only believe in themselves, so afraid they might be proven wrong because their minds are either narrow or closed.

Are we not surprised at all that these control freaks around us who try so hard to project images of power and strength are often the perverts and deviants hiding their childishness and immaturities and other skeletons in the closet?

Photo by author, “Sleeping Sto. Niño”, January 2020.

Becoming and living as God’s children

Jesus shows us today in this feast of the Sto. Niño that it is in the path of being weak like children when we are truly free like Him – free to be a child of God indeed! This He accomplished by dying on the Cross not only to forgive us for our sins but made us a “new man/woman” in God as His children.

Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in then heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundations of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-6

How sad that in our efforts to be in the man’s world of power and dominance, we try so hard becoming somebody else whom we are not only to end up alone, lost and unfulfilled.

Our being children of God is something innate in us, already within us that was accomplished by Christ for us at the Cross.

The key is to always go back to Jesus at the Cross.

We have said earlier that to be a child is to owe one’s existence to another that is, ultimately speaking, to God alone.

Hence, one sure sign of being like a child is having the sense of gratitude, of thanksgiving.

Incidentally, the Greek word for thanksgiving is eucharistia or eucharist! In the gospel accounts, we find so many instances of Jesus thanking the Father for everything that beautifully reminds us of His childlikeness.

The moment we feel strong enough without need for others, then we stop being grateful, then we lose that childlikeness in us as we start tinkering with power and influence, assuming to ourselves that everybody owes us, the world needs us.

That is when we stop growing and sooner or later, we collapse and eventually fall so hard on our faces.

How amazing that the Sto. Niño image given by Magellan to Queen Juana holds an orb or a globe. It is very interesting where did the maker of that image got that idea that the world is round when in fact it was the theory that Magellan had in mind in setting out to his ambitious expedition by sailing westward and returning from the east?

Records show that the first images of the Child Jesus or Sto. Niño as we know came from Flanders, a region in the Netherlands. The Flemish people have been making those images as early as the late 1400’s. That is why there is also that popular image of the the Child Jesus in Prague in the Czech Republic.

The mystery remains where did they get that idea of the Child Jesus holding an orb?

Could it be that the Flemish people who were devoutly Catholics at that time must have found the “light” from Jesus Christ in their devotions and prayers as prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading?

Nobody knows for sure but the next time you look at a Sto. Niño, be reminded always that it is the Child Jesus who holds the world in His hands. If you want to have the world in your hand too, be child-like! Be always grateful for who you are and what you have. Jesus promised it anyway.

Blessed week ahead of you!

Welcoming Jesus

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 28 December 2020
Photo by author, 28 December 2020.

“Welcoming Jesus”.

It is not really the title of this piece but the name of this image of the baby Jesus above.

See His smiles and open hands with eyes exuding with warmth and joy to anyone who sees Him. Even with the dusts and cracks held intact by scotch tapes, it is one of my most loved and cherished possessions I would never trade for anything.

Given to me by a brother priest in Christmas 2017, Welcoming Jesus measures about eight inches and seems to be Mexican or African inspired with his dark skin and lively colorful design of baby dress. I have always loved this Baby Jesus who seems so alive that I have kept Him on my desk, giving me so many inspirations and “kicks” in my studies in the past three years.

Small and handy, and so fragile, I have always imagined Him to be just like the infant Jesus when He was born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.

As I turned off my lamp last night before retiring, I saw Him, smiling and yes, “welcoming” to remind me of a story I have read ten years ago about St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India when one of their patients threw to her a crucifix in a fit of tantrum. After pacifying the patient, St. Mother Teresa picked the crucifix and pieced together with a scotch tape an arm of Jesus that was broken. She then gave it to one of her nuns with instructions to hang it again on their wall with a note that says, “Let me heal your broken arm”.

In the same manner, as I looked onto my little image of “Welcoming Jesus”, I felt it my Christmas message for 2020 as we celebrate Holy Innocents’ Day: “Let me show you tenderness, Baby Jesus.”

If there is one thing we all need at this time of the pandemic, this Christmas 2020, it must be tenderness. Like the tender compassion of God, His mercy.

Tenderness is being merciful, being soft in the heart in a very positive sense. Some people think that being tender, being merciful and forgiving is a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it is pure power and strength.

The former US President Theodore Roosevelt who was a military officer before getting into politics used to tell that in any argument or discussion, the first to use one’s fist is always the one with less intelligence, less power who resort to force because they have ran out of reasons to argue.

Very true! Exactly with that off-duty cop who brutally shot and killed mother and son in Paniqui, Tarlac whose tiny brain could not control his humongous body much less understand everything that was going then.

Mercy and tenderness, like courage, are movements within the heart. The Latin word for mercy perfectly captures its meaning: misericordia or a stirring of the heart, a moving of the heart. More than a feeling, it is taking concrete actions to bow down and be one with those suffering.

That is why the Son of God became human, chose to be born as an infant like everybody else, to be one with us, to suffer with us, that is, compassion from cum and passio, to suffer with.

The eminent theologian Fr. Hans urs Von Balthasar, a good friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, wrote before he died that “the central mystery of Christianity is our transformation from a world-wise, self-sufficient ‘adults’ into abiding children of the Father of Jesus by the grace of the Holy Spirit. All else in the Gospel – the Lord’s Incarnation, his hidden and public lives, his miracles and preaching, his Passion, Cross, and resurrection – has been for this” (Unless You Become Like This Child).

A baby is always welcoming to almost everyone, and vice versa, anyone even the most hardened criminal would always welcome and be moved by the sight of a baby or a child.

How sad that until now, there are still King Herods among us who are insecured with children and infants. Worst are those who abuse and molest children, the single most damning crime by some in the clergy this century because it is directly opposite the central theme of Christ’s teachings and warning – “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father” (Matt.18:10).

Photo by Mr. Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, Baby Jesus in our Parish, Christmas 2020.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in our churches, the traditional kissing (pahalik) of the image of the Baby Jesus is scrapped. Perhaps it is a good reminder to us all to meditate more in our hearts the meaning of Jesus being born an infant – so weak, so dependent to adults like us.

It is a call for us too to do something concrete about the many sufferings children have to go through in this time, on one end those denied of basic goods and services while on the other extreme are the children with all the material needs except the warmth and love of their parents.

One saint I have discovered before our ordination more than 20 years ago is St. Charles de Foucauld, a French priest who lived among the Tuaregs of the Sahara desert in the early 20th century. In his room, he always had a baby Jesus and an altar for the Blessed Sacrament to adore daily.

His core value is founded on “littleness” – of finding Jesus among the little ones, of being little before the Lord.

Have that tender care that expresses itself in the little things that are like a balm for the heart… With our neighbours go into the smallest details, whether it is a question of health, of consolation, of prayerfulness, or of need. Console and ease the pain of others through the tiniest of attentions. Be as tender and attentive towards those whom God puts on our path, as a brother towards brother or as a mother for her child. As much as possible be an element of consolation for those around us, as soothing balm, as our Lord was towards all those who drew near to him.

St. Chrales de Foucauld

What a beautiful reminder of the Child Jesus this Christmas and hereafter. If we can be tender with one another in the most minute detail like Jesus, then we can truly experience His coming to us, fulfilling us with His presence and love which is the spirit of Christmas. Amen.

Eat, pray, live, and love

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin, 11 August 2020
Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

O God our Father, we praise and thank you in sending us your Son Jesus Christ to show us how in the most ordinary and essential aspect of our lives – eating – we can either be far away from you or very near you.

Yes, O Lord! Just like in the movies, eat, pray, live, and love.

How wonderful it is to think that it was in eating the forbidden fruit at Eden that we have fallen from your grace while it is in partaking in the Supper of the Lord in the Eucharist that we have become blessed to be one in you, sharing in your holiness.

Help us to sink deeper into the inner reality of “eating” that leads us to praying, living and loving.

Like your prophet, may we realize that the key in understanding fully your words is in immersing ourselves into them like eating when we savor the aroma of food, biting and chewing in pieces to let its taste cover our palate, digesting it into our whole body system to nourish our lives.

Son of man, he then said to me, feed your belly and fill your stomach with this scroll I am giving you. I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth. He said: Son of man, go now to the house of Israel, and speak my words to them.

Ezekiel 3:3-4

So many times in life, O Lord, we complain at how difficult are your laws and teachings, your words without ever trying them.

Open our selves like Ezekiel and your saints, specially St. Clare who left everything behind after being inspired by your words through St. Francis of Assisi to be poor and spend life praying to you.

Leaving the world in exchange of a life in poverty and simplicity, of prayer and witnessing, her life was sustained by your words that eventually nourished countless souls in search of you and meaning in life.

If we can just plunge ourselves into your words and eat them like real food, digest their meaning to savor its sweetness and wonderful taste like St. Clare and other saints, then we would no longer be so concerned with things of this world like in knowing who is the greatest among us.

Give us the simplicity of children who delight in the most ordinary food offered them, enjoying life with the sense of awe and surprise of your presence. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

The goodness of God our Father

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 09 July 2020
Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9 >><}}}*> >><}}}*> >><}}}*> Matthew 10:7-15
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019 in Carigara, Leyte.

This is the fourth straight day, O God when you have come to me in the most touching and personal manner through your prophet Hosea. It is so comforting to dwell on the tenderness of your love for me but at the same time so embarrassing too at what I have given back to you.

Thus says the Lord: When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they were from me, sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it was I who thought Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms. I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks. Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know I was their healer.

Hosea 11:1-7

These expressions are so true and so lovely, O God! I could feel your personal closeness to me as my Father, feeling all your love and concern for me, teaching me how to walk, taking me into your arms. And most especially that part of being fostered and raised like an infant to a father’s cheeks.

That’s how close you have been to me in many instances but sadly, it is true that the more you called me to stay closer to you, the more I drifted apart from you in sin and evil.

Forgive me, dearest God our Father, in taking you for granted in the same manner we I disregard the love and affection of those closest to me.

And that is where I feel most your personal love for me — when despite my sinfulness and turning away from you, you prefer not to give vent to your “blazing anger” to me because you are God, not human.

In fact, when your Son Jesus Christ came, his first order to his disciples was to cure the sick among us, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and exorcise those possessed by evil spirits. You only have our good always in your mind that we always fail to see or even refuse to accept and believe.

Today, Lord, we ask you for the grace to bask in your goodness and grace! Amen.

Photo by author, Church of the Our Father outside Jerusalem where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer.

“Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson (1987)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 19 January 2019

Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com

Today we are celebrating an extension of Christmas Season with the Feast of the Sto. Niño that falls every third Sunday of January.

It is a special indult granted by Rome to the Philippines in recognition of the crucial role of the image of the Child Jesus we fondly call Sto. Niño given by Magellan to Queen Juana of Cebu almost 500 years ago when the Spaniards came to our shores to colonize and Christianize us as well.

The Sto. Niño is the second most popular Catholic devotion in our predominantly Christian nation, next to the Black Nazarene of Quiapo which we celebrated two weeks ago.

“Sleeping Sto. Niño” at our altar, 19 January 2020 photo by Jasper Dacutanan.

But a lot often, people forget the deeper meaning within the Sto. Niño that the path leading to becoming true disciples of Jesus, of following him to the Cross starts in becoming like a child, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt.18:3).

We will never be able to carry our cross and follow Jesus in selfless service and love to others unless we set aside our attitudes of being adults who know everything, insist on everything.

And that is why for this Sunday we have chosen the late Michael Jackson hit from his 1987 “Bad” album, Man in the Mirror.

It is one of the two songs in the album Michael Jackson did not write. It was written by Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard who eventually both carved names for themselves in the music scene composing for other artists later.

According to stories, Michael and his producer Quincy Jones have asked their pool of composers to come up with a song that would serve as “an anthem” for the Bad album that would “spread some sunshine on the world”.

Michael liked the song right away and even after he had died, the song has become a classic with its timeless message that if you want to change the world, change yourself first.

And we say that looking on the man or woman on the mirror is the first step in becoming like a child as Jesus would want us all to do to enter the kingdom of heaven.

A blessed Sunday to you, dear reader and follower!

First of all, be a child of God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul

Feast of Sto. Niño, 19 January 2020

Isaiah 9:1-6 ><)))*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18 ><)))*> Matthew 18:1-5, 10

The Cross and the Bell of our parish church. Photo by Gelo N. Carpio, 12 January 2020.

Looming high always at the center of our Christian faith is the Cross of Jesus Christ. Whether inside or outside any church, there is always the Cross reminding us of our salvation in Jesus and of the path we have to follow as his disciples.

But, so often we forget that the first call of the Cross is for us to be a child of God above all in order to follow his Son our Lord in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

Here we find the full meaning of our celebration of the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord last Sunday, of how in our Baptism we have become the children of God in Jesus Christ who became like us so that we may become like him, blessed and divine as the eternal Son of the Father.

Such is the plan of God in the very beginning of his Creation.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will, for the praise of the glory of his grace that he granted us in the beloved.

Ephesians 1:3-6

It is only in our becoming first the sons and daughters of the Father in Jesus Christ that St. Paul declares how we are saved in this part of the second reading skipped by the liturgy today:

In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.

Ephesians 1:7-8
A painting of Sto. Niño devotees by Bulakenyo artist Aris Bagtas, 2018.

Work of Christmas continues

We are already into the second week of Ordinary Time in our liturgy but, we in the Philippines are still celebrating an “extension” of the Christmas Season this third Sunday of January for the Feast of the Sto. Niño, the Holy Child Jesus.

And, for a very good reason! to remind us the story of Christmas continues even after the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism or when all decors have been kept.

The work of Christmas, of sharing Jesus Christ in our loving service with others continues the whole year through. In fact, it is during the 34 weeks of Ordinary Time where we are most challenged to continue Christ’s work he started at Christmas when he became a child among us.

And there lies the very core of his teachings, of his message to us: our being like a child!

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”

Matthew 18:1-5

Jesus remained the Child of God until the end

If we examine everything in the Gospel, from the Incarnation and Nativity of Jesus, his hidden and public lives, his miracles and preaching, into his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, everything is anchored in Christ’s being like a child, the eternal Son of God.

When he was lost and found in the temple at the age of 12, right away he told his Mother his being the Son of God: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk.2:49)

Painting by Aris Bagtas, 2018.

At Last Supper, Jesus explained his being the Child of the Father: “The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works” (Jn.14:10).

His being one with the Father is due to his being the Eternal Son that reached its highest point of expression at the crucifixion where Jesus repeatedly called God his “Father”.

Here we find as in our gospel today the essential requirement of first becoming a child of God to make it into the kingdom of heaven. It is impossible to follow Jesus to his Cross when we remain adults who know everything!

This is the problem with the Traslacion that has become rowdy, even crazy over the years which is completely the opposite of the Pit Señor de Sto. Niño in Cebu that remains solemn and orderly despite its vast crowd of devotees.

See how in Quiapo the devotees “fight” and insist on their own ways of doing the procession, of how things are now turned upside down with the hijos lording over (pun intended) everything every January 9 with the gall to call Christ “Padre Nuestro Jesus de Nazareno”?

Everybody wants to fulfill one’s panata of jumping into the revered image of the Nazareno, in total disregard of others.

Where is the spirit of being a child, of being generous and kind with others?

What we have been seeing these past years in the Traslacion is more of machismo, of who is the greatest to be able to reach the Nazareno. And included among them are the growing members of media suddenly becoming devotees with the panata to anchor Traslacion!

Being a child is a call to daily conversion in Christ Jesus

Becoming like a child a daily call to conversion to Jesus, a going back to the story of Christmas, of being humble and small. I like that word used by Jesus today – turn – when he declared, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children…”

To be able to carry our cross and follow Jesus, we have to turn first, that is, be transformed from world-wise, self-sufficient, all-knowing adults of the world into abiding children of the Father of Jesus Christ by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

Children always have that glow within them that can disarm us of our insecurities and fears. Below is a painting by the Danish-German Modern Artist Emil Nolde (1867-1956) portrayed children with Christ in bright colors while the adults were all dark and gloomy.

“Christ Among Children” (1910) by Emil Nolde.

Being like a child is letting go of our fears and insecurities to entrust ourselves to God’s care and providence. And to others dependability and reliability too!

Maybe that is why as we get older, we mellow: we realize after all that we remain children of God and of somebody else in the end. There is always somebody out there who would look after us especially when we are already old and weak. There is always somebody whose heart would always be moved to come to our rescue or simply to warm our hearts or make us smile.

If each of us can become like a child daily, simply loving and trusting others, then we can bring light into this world deeply plunged in the darkness of sin and pride, of rat race without any winner, or arms race without any war at all.

If we can become like the child, we can become like Jesus Christ, the great light in the land of gloom bringing joy and great rejoicing (Is.9:1-2) with his life of love flowing from the great sacrifice at the Cross. Amen.

“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!

Advent is finding our mission anew

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Advent IV-A, 22 December 2019

Isaiah 7:10-14 ><}}}*> Romans 1:1-7 ><}}}*> Matthew 1:18-24

Dome of the Malolos Cathedral Basilica, Advent 2019. Photo by author.

We are now at the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the final week of preparations for Christmas happening in about three days. And we go back to the gospel of Matthew to reflect anew on the annunciation of Christ’s birth to Joseph.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Matthew 1:18-21,24

As we look toward the coming Christmas Day, the story of the annunciation to Joseph invites us to examine ourselves, to look inside and look back through the years what have we done to bring Jesus Christ into the world like him.

Though Advent celebrates God’s fidelity and constancy in fulfilling his plan of salvation for us through Jesus Christ, this coming involves a human setting among us in the present time to realize its fulfillment.

Dream of St. Joseph (oil on canvas) by Spanish painter Francisco Goya via Google.

St. Joseph’s mission, our mission too

When the angel appeared to Joseph in his dream, it was not so much to explain to him about Mary’s virginal conception but to reveal to him his mission. Very clearly, Mary’s conception of Jesus is absolutely extraordinary, a mystery directly from God himself.

And that is how it is with life: there are certain things we simply have to let ourselves be wrapped by mystery than to unravel or explain it.

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary whom he loves so much, Joseph believed in God, agreeing to what was asked of him that upon waking up, he obediently did everything the angel had instructed him.

Joseph’s acceptance of Mary and of his role in giving name to Jesus brings to an end the genealogy of “Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham” because in the Jewish society, it is the father who bears much weight in recognizing one’s child.

Here we find the crucial and critical importance of Joseph’s mission in giving name to Jesus, in taking Mary as wife: it is through his “fatherhood” that Christ comes into the world as a person, and most of all, as fulfillment of God’s promise made to Abraham and David.

Last Tuesday we have reflected how through Jesus Christ’s coming we now trace our genealogy and roots with God in faith. As children of our loving Father, we too are now entrusted with the same mission like Joseph to bring Jesus Christ into the world in our own time and history.

Altar of the Chapel of St. Joseph beside the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Below the chapel are the ancient ruins of the home and shop of St. Joseph where he took care of Mary and Jesus. Photo by author May 2017.

Called to obedient faith

Salvation history continues and it is our duty to find our proper place in God’s plan like Joseph. The story of Christmas continues to our time that is why we have this Advent Season of preparation.

God has not diminished that great honor and privilege given to Joseph then and to us now of having an irreplaceable role in bringing Jesus into the world but this time, not through dream or voice of an angel. God continues to call us like Joseph to bring his plan of salvation in Jesus into fulfillment through our obedient faith through the Sacred Scriptures, the Church in her teachings and most of all, through the many situations and people we encounter in life.

We have to believe and accept this reality that “God needs us”, that the “baby Jesus” wants us to care for him, to give him a name so that “his glory would be eventually revealed for mankind to see the saving power of God” (communion antiphon of Christmas Eve).

St. Paul beautifully tells us in the second reading a very basic profession of faith affirming Jesus Christ as the Son of God descended from David through Joseph according to the flesh (Rom.1:1-4).

Through Jesus, we are called to “bring about obedience of faith” to spread this “good news to all Gentiles” or peoples of the world that they may honor and worship the Lord.

And the good news is this: despite or many flaws and weaknesses, all he needs is our complete faith and surrender to him like St. Joseph. It is Jesus Christ who shall provide us with the strength to fulfill this mission just like what he did to St. Joseph.

From Aleteia, 18 December 2019.

Hail to the fathers and men too

Last December 17 as the whole Church was proclaiming the gospel from Matthew on the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Pope Francis celebrated his 83rd birthday when he was presented with a unique Nativity scene called “Let Mum Rest” with St. Joseph taking care of the infant Jesus while Mary slept.

It went viral, and again, another unique imagery of the beloved St. Joseph courtesy of Pope Francis, a devotee of the Lord’s foster father. When he came to visit the Philippines in 2015, he narrated how he would pray to the sleeping St. Joseph and it became viral in the country.

And now this new image of St. Jospeh babysitting.

It is a very timely image at this time when there is a crisis in fatherhood, when many fathers have to make the difficult choice of leaving their families behind to work in distant places, often foreign countries just to earn decent living.

A crisis when fathers forget caring and loving their families because of the many demands of a high cost of living that along the way, they fall into many traps that sometimes make them forget their vows of marriage.

We need to pray hard for fathers and men. They too are blessed by God like St. Joseph.

We need to pray hard for fathers and men to help them remain upright like St. Joseph.

When Jesus began his ministry, he taught us the “Our Father” to show us that God is like a father because life comes from him. It is from the father that we receive the seeds of life with that genetic code called “DNA”. This is the reason why it is the father who gives name to the child at baptism like St. Joseph to Jesus.

Secondly, Jesus called God “our Father” because he is the one who protects and keeps life from dangers. He must have experienced this from St. Joseph who brought them to Egypt when Herod ordered the massacre of Holy Innocents after the visit by the Magi in Bethlehem. Fathers are often strict with children because he wants to ensure their safety.

Most of all, Jesus called God “our Father” because he is the one who brings back life to those who have lost it like the merciful father to his prodigal son (Lk.15).

How many times did our father saved us from scolding and punishment by our mother, from the simple misdemeanors to grave offenses like going wayward in life? It is often the father, ironically, despite his being strict and disciplinarian, who also has the softest heart for the prodigal child.

May St. Joseph help us men to be man enough to be faithful to God and loved ones to make everyone feel the love and mercy of the Father in heaven as revealed to us by Jesus Christ. Amen.

Blessed Are the Children

MarpaKids
Photo by Jim Marpa.  Used with permission.

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Sou
Thursday, 28 February 2019, Week VII, Year I
Sirach 5:1-10///Mark 9:41-50
 
Dearest Lord Jesus:

Your Mass readings today complement the disturbing and shocking news headlines of sex abuse in the Church festering for the last 30 years or so. 

 
What is so shameful and disgusting with this news is the fact you have never failed in warning us against hurting the little children including women and the poor who have nothing in life except you.
 
 
Those sins are so grave that moved you to harshly declare that “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mk.9:42).
 
We make no excuses O Lord for these grave sins against children.  No words, no programs and no compensation could ever bring back their lost innocence and dignity from the hands of your priests and servants.  It is a betrayal of the highest degree like what Judas Iscariot did to you.
We are angered by their sins, Lord; but, worst of all, we are deeply angered by our inaction that allowed them to continue with their evil deeds in the guise of mercy and compassion.
But, Lord, there is also something sickening than this news when our brother priests are falsely accused of sexual misconduct.  We pray you keep and protect them.  We pray for faithful priests to be spared of these false accusations.
You know very well O Lord you have more faithful and celibate priests working in silence and hiddenness than the unfaithful ones.  Yet, we still pray that you continue to help us heed your words of wisdom through Ben Sirach (Sir. 5:1-10):
“Let us stop relying on our wealth, power, and strength in following the desires of our hearts.
Let us stop being so sure that no one could prevail against us or subdue us for God will surely exact punishment against us.
Most of all, let us not delay our conversion and stop being overconfident with your forgiveness, adding sin upon sin, for your wrath alights with the wicked.”
Have mercy on us all your priests, dear Jesus, keep us faithful to you our Lord and our God.  Amen.
Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.