“I’ll Be Around” cover by Hall and Oates (2004)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 13 December 2020
Photo by author, Tabernacle, Gaudete Sunday, 2020.

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the third week of Advent known as “Rejoice Sunday” when our readings and pink motifs invite us all to rejoice because Jesus is coming.

And so, here we rejoice with some hard hitting old-school music with Daryl Hall and John Oates’ cover of the Spinners’ 1972 hit I’ll Be Around.

Yes, we have always preferred the original and the Spinners really did a good one that made I’ll Be Around now a classic but Hall and Oates really “kicked ass” on this one along with other hit classics from their 2004 album Our Kind of Soul.

I was watching Live from Daryl’s House the other day when their featured guest sang this and right away felt its energy but I still preferred this 2004 cover that featured the the dynamic duo’s kind of old-school music especially the signature guitar riff wrapped up in Daryl’s superb voice and performance.

I’ll Be Around was written by Phil Hurtt who clarified he was not “hurting” (pun intended) or into any emotional transition in composing the lyrics of this song that speak of the undying devotion of a brokenhearted man to his ex-girlfriend, that despite their parting of ways, he assured her that

Whenever you call me, I'll be there
Whenever you want me, I'll be there
Whenever you need me, I'll be there
I'll be around

In our gospel reflection, we have said that life is a perpetual Advent of Jesus – he had come, he will come again at the end of time, and he continues to come to us in our lives, among peoples and events.

And in this perpetual coming of Jesus, he needs us as new John the Baptist who shall guide others because “there is one among you whom you do not recognize” who could be Christ after all!

We find this song joyful, upbeat, and very much like the role of John the Baptist, the Lord’s Precursor and Awakener preparing the way of Jesus Christ even in our own time when this Season of Advent has become a parable of our life (https://lordmychef.com/2020/12/12/advent-a-parable-of-our-life/).

So, let us rejoice amid the pandemic, Jesus continues to come to bless us, to save us!

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Mary in the hiddenness of God

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 10 September 2020
Chapel of the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem where the Holy Family hid before fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod’s murder of innocent babies. According to tradition, a drop of milk from the Virgin Mary fell on the floor of the cave that turned color of the stones to white.

We have just celebrated the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the most perfect example of one who had experienced God’s hiddenness in her life, teaching us with some important lessons in rediscovering and keeping God’s hiddenness specially in this age of social media when everything is shown and has to be seen.

We have mentioned in our previous blog that hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”; hiddenness is more than not being seen per se but that feeling with certainty that God is present though hiding because he wants to surprise us. If God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all. And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him too as seen in the life of Mary (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/04/the-hiddenness-of-god/).

The hiddenness of Mary.

Simplicity and humility of Mary as venue for the perfect setting of God’s coming in Jesus Christ. Consider her origins: her town of Nazareth in the province of Galilee was definitely outside the more popular city of Jerusalem that was the place to be at that time. Most of all, it is the only town in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament nor by the prophets for lack of any significance in the coming of the Messiah.

Nazareth was largely unknown with some hint of notoriety as expressed by Nathanael (aka, Apostle Bartholomew) when he expressed disbelief to Philip who told him they have found the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, by saying “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

Photo by author of chapel at the grotto believed where Mary received the good news of bearing Jesus Christ in her womb underneath the Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth, Israel (2019).

But that is how God works in his hiddenness, coming to us in the most ordinary places and circumstances, even least expected like Mary who was definitely not “in” if we go by today’s popular standard of “who’s in and who’s out?”

In fact, she was so “outside” the circle of influence of their time with her being promdi as we say these days, without any illustrious lineage to be proud of like her spouse Joseph who was from the royal Davidic line or her cousin Elizabeth from the priestly branch of Aaron, the brother of Moses whose husband, Zechariah belonged to another priestly clan in Israel.

Yet, God chose Mary to be the Mother of Jesus Christ because of her hiddenness expressed in her simplicity and humility. It is a far cry from our extreme “Marianism” when we almost worship Mary forgetting Jesus Christ her Son and our Savior! Worst still is the growing trend of “triumphalism” in many parishes racing for the so-called “episcopal” and “canonical” coronation of their various images of the Virgin Mary that come in all kinds of names and titles that has come to look more of a fad than authentic Marian devotion.

Without any intentions of denigrating the role and stature of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our faith as well as her proper place in the life of the Church defined by Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, I dare ask the following questions:

Photo by author, a replica of Our Lady of the Poor of Banneux, Belgium at Girlstown, Cavite (2009).

Is her coronation in heaven as Queen of heaven and earth not enough?

Why the need for these lavish spectacles for the coronation of the most simplest and humblest woman to have lived on earth?

It is a clear case of triumphalism – that exaggeration or overdoing our worship and rituals – especially if the Marian image is less than 200 years old without widespread devotions like the ones at Sto. Domingo (Quezon City) and Manaoag (Pangasinan).

I do not think the Blessed Mother would favor this considering her simplicity and solidarity with the poor and marginalized peoples seen in her many apparitions.

See the quaint and charming simplicity of Mary at Fatima in Portugal (1917) and lately at Banneux in Liege, Belgium (1933) where she identified herself as “Lady of the Poor”.

Note how the Virgin Mary reads “the signs of the times” in her apparitions and appearances when during the 1500’s at the height of European royalties and expeditions, she was always portrayed as victorious in regal clothes; but since Fatima in the 20th century as the world sank into the excesses of Industrial Revolution and affluence, Mary appeared simple, always in solidarity with the poor and suffering.

It is a cue we are sorely missing and sad to say, instead of renewing the world as St. Paul had asked us, we have allowed ourselves with the Mother of God to be transformed into the ways of the world by immersing in its showbiz frenzies, focusing on the material aspects like expensive clothes and jewelries.

Second example of Mary’s hiddenness is her oneness with Jesus Christ. She was never on her own, always seen in Jesus, with Jesus her Son and Lord. She believed in him so much, making him the focus at the wedding feast at Cana as well as at the foot of the Cross where she expressed in the most strongest terms her solidarity with the Savior of the world.

This has always been insisted by the Church since Vatican II regarding our devotions to Mary that must always be in relation with Jesus and his mission — never on her own.

Photo by author, 2019.

In all her apparitions, the Blessed Mother has always been consistent with her messages of conversion and return to God through her Son Jesus Christ, the frequent reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession or Reconciliation.

Mary’s Christocentricity is best seen in her oneness with him in pains and sufferings like in the Pieta and the Mater Dolorosa where Jesus is the one standing out, not her. Nor anybody else.

When Mary, or anybody else for that matter goes on one’s own, Jesus is no longer hidden but removed from the scene. Then his Cross disappears and all that is seen is Mary in all her “beauty and glory” that are empty, very secular because these attributes come precisely from her communion in Jesus!

Perhaps, this pandemic is teaching us today to review our Marian devotions and processions that have become more of a show and a spectacle for Instagram than for deepening of our faith.

I pray that the Cofradia that holds the annual December 8 processions at Intramuros would take a rest this year until 2022 to discern their noble efforts before that have degenerated to pomp and pageantry among “devotees” specially camareros and camareras trying to outshine and outclass each other with some participation at the sidelights of their pastors and sacristans.

Keeping the hiddenness of God while we remain hidden in contemplation.

Of all the qualities of Mary we all must imitate to help people rediscover God’s hiddenness is her being hidden in prayer and contemplation.

St. John Paul II noted in Rosarium Virginis Mariae when he launched the Luminous Mysteries in 2002 that although the scriptures are silent about where was Mary during the other significant moments of the life of Jesus, especially at the institution of the Holy Eucharist, it was most likely that Mary was also present deep in prayer.

This we find clearly at the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary while they were praying at the Upper Room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:13-14).

Modern rendition of the Pentecost with Mary among the other disciples of Jesus. From Google.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI shares with us his profound insight in his second Jesus of Nazareth book series (Birth of Jesus) how after the annunciation of the the birth of Christ to Mary, the angel left her totally without ever coming back to warn or instruct her unlike with Joseph. After saying “Yes” to the plan of God to be the Mother of Jesus, Mary immersed herself deep in prayers and contemplation, becoming hidden herself in God.

Since then, she never doubted Jesus her Son as the Christ, nurturing her faith with prayers beautifully expressed by St. Luke in saying how “Mary treasured things in her heart” when facing difficult situations like during his birth and his finding at the temple. It is not surprising that in the contemplation by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Risen Lord must have first appeared to his Mother upon rising from the dead because she was the first to believe totally in him (which became the basis of our tradition of the Salubong).

Mary has always been present in the hiddenness of Christ from his coming in the darkness of the night on a manger in Bethlehem, to his hidden years in Nazareth, to his ministry when he would always retreat to a deserted place to pray, to his Crucifixion and death and burial on Good Friday and finally, in the darkness of Easter.

In this age of social media where everyone and everything has to be seen and shown with nothing hidden anymore even without qualms and shame at all, part of our mission and ministry as priests and religious is to lead people back to God’s hiddenness like the Virgin Mary so they may realize anew that the best things in this life are not always seen.

To fulfill this is for us first of all to imitate God like Mary — be hidden!

How unfortunate that instead of leading the people back to God’s hiddenness, we priests and religious have in fact joined the secular world, imitating the “influencers” like bloggers and vloggers that instead of focusing on God who is hidden, we are concerned with our selves and all the “porma” for the sake of number of “likes” and “followers” we have in our posts.

The more we try so hard to make God visible in our ministry by imitating the styles and gimicks of some media personalities that make our liturgy look like a variety show complete with song and dance numbers with our altars heavily decorated like a studio set with giant tarpaulins like in EDSA, that is when we remove God totally – not only his hiddenness – from the scene and inverse proportionately, the more we priests and pastors become more popular than the Lord himself.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

And that is how cults begin, with or without Jesus. It is very sad, even tragic and ironic because we have removed God himself – even Mary! – by unconsciously making ourselves the center of attention like pop icons and idols.

Mary had shown us the most perfect example of discipleship which is more of Jesus, less of self.

Can we not post without using our own pictures – no matter how profound our thoughts are – so the people may see the hiddenness of God in a photo of a lovely flower or a magnificent sunset? Unless you are a bishop or the Pope himself, having your photo published specially in the news is part of the information process about the person in focus. It is totally different in Church communications which is all about God and his message of love, not us.

The quarantine period invites us in the Church to appreciate and share this wonderful hiddenness of God by first becoming incognito, unknown and hidden from others, preferring to be at the background or “behind the camera” as we follow God in his hiddenness until we go to that great beyond of totally hidden from everybody except God.

Do not worry. We have Mary in every step along the way. Amen.

Building up the Body of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, 29 April 2020

Acts of the Apostles 8:1-8 ><)))*> 000 <*(((>< John 6:35-40

Our empty church since March 17, 2020.

Once again, O Lord Jesus Christ, your Body the Church is facing severe trials and difficulties at this moment of history with the pandemic COVID-19 that have closed churches worldwide even in Rome, Italy which is one of the worst hit countries of the corona disease.

Since the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the Church has always been persecuted but never defeated. On the contrary, it was during the persecutions when your Church had really grown beyond leaps and bounds, so to speak.

St. Catherine lived at that time when she was able to unite warring factions in Europe as well as in the Church with her counsels while through her, many individuals found directions in life with her holiness, teachings and directions.

And while churches remain closed with dim prospects of opening soon, you never fail to send us men and women full of devotion to you who continue to work tirelessly in building your Body, the Church.

One of them is Fr. Jun Villanueva from the Diocese of Balanga in Bataan who was infected with COVID-19 while serving in New York.

As he recovered from the deadly disease celebrating Mass in his parish, he had a wonderful realization that many of us priests have seem to forget:

“Then I realized that the Mass is not a show but our union with Jesus, whether there are people or none… from then on I started to look at the situation from that perspective”.

CBCP News, 27 April 2020

In the first reading we are told of the zeal of Saul in destroying the early church alongside the devotion of the early disciples in keeping the young church alive.

Devout men buried Stephen and made a loud lament over him.

Acts of the Apostles 8:2

Only St. Luke used that adjective “devout” in the New Testament to describe people of “good heart, ready to believe, and then act openly and with courage” according to Timothy Clayton of the book “Exploring Advent with Luke”.

Devout people make thing happen for God like St. Stephen and the early Christians.

From Google.

Devout people give themselves to God wholly like St. Catherine and all the saints who remained attuned with the Holy Spirit like Philip in the first reading today, ready to follow its promptings and leads.

Give us the same gift of devotion to you, Jesus, the “Bread of Life” who had come down from heaven so we can build up your Church as your body here on earth.

Help us avoid the pitfalls of pride and self-centeredness that tend to destroy the unity of your Body, the Church.

Most specially, keep us devoted to you in the Blessed Sacrament like St. Catherine of Siena with whom you have shown in a vision while she was sick the celebration of the Eucharist in their chapel making her a patroness of those in television. Amen.

Recognizing, meeting, and sharing Jesus, the Light of the world

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul, Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, 02 February 2020

Malachi 3:1-4 ><)))*> Hebrews 2:14-18 ><)))*> Luke 2:22-40

Photo by author of Baby Jesus at the Bishop’s Chapel, Malolos Cathedral, 07 January 2020.

We take a break from our Ordinary Sunday to celebrate today the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord at the temple, 40 days after Christmas. It is a prolongation of the celebration of the Lord’s Nativity with a paschal undertone recognizing Christ as Light who had come to us to lead us back to the Father through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

This feast used to be known in the East as the Ypapante or the Encounter of Jesus by the two elderly people at the temple, Simeon and Anna. When it reached Europe, it came to be known as the “Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary” based on St. Luke’s description, evolving into Candlemass or Candelaria when Pope Sergius I in Rome adopted in the eighth century the French tradition of procession of lighted candles at dawn before the Mass to signify Jesus as the light of the world who had come to bring us back to the Father expressed by Simeon in his canticle.

“Now, Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.”

Luke 2:29-32

Despite its evolution through the ages with its many names and practices, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord is a good reminder to us in recognizing, meeting, and sharing Jesus Christ to everyone as the light of the world.

Photo by author of a view from the Temple of Jerusalem, May 2017.

Being devout leads us to recognize and meet Jesus

Only St. Luke reports the story of the Presentation of Jesus at the temple because he wanted to show his audience who were Gentiles or pagan converts that Jesus came not only for the Jews but for everyone.

This remains true to us especially in these modern times when people live in artificial lights and “Klieg lights” that put us on the centerstage only to leave us later groping in the dark, even blinded to false hopes of virtual realities.

St. Luke invites us today to emulate both Simeon and Anna in recognizing and meeting Jesus, the only Light of the world who dispels darkness within and around us.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he head seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the cild Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God.

Luke 2:25-28
“Simeon’s Moment” by American illustrator Ron DiCianni. From http://www.tapestryproductions.com

Recall how during our Simbang Gabi that for the Jews, a “righteous” person is someone who is holy because he faithfully keeps the Laws of God like St. Joseph, the husband of Mary.

But more than being holy and just, St. Luke also described to us Simeon – as well as Anna implicitly – as “devout” Jews. It is a word rarely used in the Bible. In fact, St. Luke used it only four times: once here in this scene and thrice in the Acts of the Apostles.

In Acts 2:5, St. Luke called the Jews who came to Jerusalem for Pentecost as “devout” ones; then in 8:2, he said “devout men buried” the first martyr of the Church, St. Stephen; and finally in 22:12, he gave the distinction to Ananias as “a devout observer of the law” who came upon instructions from God to pray over and heal Saul who was blinded by Christ’s light on the way to Damascus.

In all four instances, St. Luke described people as “devout” including Simeon and Anna as those of “good heart, ready to believe, and then to act openly and with courage” (Timothy Clayton, Exploring Advent with Luke; page 125). Devout people or devoted persons are a notch higher than just being faithful because they do not merely wait but look forward to the fulfillment of what they believe.

Devoted people make things happen; they do not wait for things to unfold. And that is why they are always at the right place in the right time. Like Simeon and Anna, they give themselves to God wholly to stay attuned with the Holy Spirit and be ready to follow its promptings and leads.

Anna meeting Jesus from catholicfunfacts.com.

See the common trait of both Simeon and Anna as devout people — the presence of the Holy Spirit in them that amid the crowd in the temple on that day, they were able to spot the Child and Savior Jesus Christ being presented by his parents Mary and Joseph!

There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived seven years with her husband after her marriage, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple, but worshipped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.

Luke 2:36-38

Jesus comes to us everyday in various ways, in many occasions. He is always passing by, calling us. We have to be on guard in these moments so that we do not miss him. Like reporters following the news, we have to be focused or “tutok” and immersed or “babad” so that nothing or no one escapes us.

Three ways of being devout like Simeon and Anna

It is imperative that we have to be devout first with God so that we recognize and meet his Son Jesus Christ coming to us so we may eventually share him to enlighten everyone. Simeon and Anna show us three important things to keep for us to be devoted to God to encounter Jesus Christ.

First, we have to be faithful in our prayer life. There is no other way in meeting Christ except in having a life of prayer which is a discipline. It is something we do as a habit, every day, every night. Not just once a year like those going to Quiapo every January 9 or completing any novena and then the whole year does nothing.

Devotion is more than collecting images of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the saints, joining processions during fiesta or Holy Week, then nothing. Devotion is life, not a show.

Like Simeon and Anna, we have to grow intimately with the Lord by cultivating personal prayers and joining communal activities like the Sunday Mass so that we may know personally and vibrantly God who always leads us to various directions and mission. God is never static but dynamic, unlike us people who keep on insisting on some of our traditions and ways no longer applicable.

Notice how in the first reading the Prophet Malachi said the Lord will suddenly come in the temple, calling on people to always await him (Mal.3:1).

The Old Jerusalem from the inside of the Church of Dominus Flevit (The Lord Cried) at the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. Photo by author, May 2017.

Second, we can only recognize, meet and share Jesus Christ as Light when we care, love, and respect others. See how Simeon spoke to Mary about his coming mission and its harsh realities. He recognized not only Jesus but also Mary and Joseph. Simeon’s speaking to Mary and Joseph means he recognized the important roles of the parents in being instrumental that he met the Lord.

Any devotion to God and his saints and the blessed Mother Mary without any concern for the people especially the poor and the needy is merely a show and a pageantry of clerical and liturgical excesses. It is triumphalism in its purest sense and hypocrisy at its worst.

We meet Jesus among other people not only within us. This is the gist of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews today when he claimed how Jesus suffered and endured sufferings and death to help those facing trials and tests in life.

Third, we can only recognize, meet, and share Jesus Christ as Light when there is joy in our hearts. And not just being joyful but overflowing with joy like Simeon and Anna that upon encountering the Child Jesus, the more they felt eager to share the good news with others. In fact, they were overjoyed that they even felt so ready to die.

Our parish church on a Sunday afternoon. Photo by Angelo Nicolas Carpio, 12 January 2020.

Fruit of devotion is finally embracing Jesus Christ

Every night before we priests and religious pray Simeon’s Canticle in our Compline (Night prayer), we recite a responsory that says, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit”. And after that, the antiphon: “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.”

It is only then that we recite or chant Simeon’s Canticle or Nunc Dimittis. It is then followed by the final prayer closed with a blessing that says, “May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and peaceful death. Amen.”

Without sounding morbid or anything, it is my most favorite prayer of all our prayers because it is filled with joy, filled with Jesus, filled with Light. At the end of the day, what a consolation to be filled with joy of Christ that you have had a glimpse of him that you rest in peace hoping to meet him again as well as share him with others too.

I think it is only when we are overflowing with joy that we realize its fullness is found only in Christ, whether in this life or in eternal life. Amen.

Blessed Sunday to you!

“Devotion” by Earth, Wind and Fire (1974)

EWFdevotion
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music
Week XIV-B//15July2018
Discipleship is Directional, Not About Destination
 

            Somebody asked me last night after reading my Sunday reflection, “where is the direction?”

             As I have shared with you, life is essentially directional and not about destination.  Life is more of dealing with the questions “why” and “what” than of “where”.  When we search more of the where, we can get frustrated because in this journey of life, we really do not know the place where we should be or would be.  As we journey in life centered on Christ in prayer and silence, the more we still do not know of what will happen next, of what we’ll see next – yet, we are so excited.  We continue living because we believe, and most of all, we love!  When we love, we experience God.  That is when we begin to realize that indeed, heaven is more than a place or destination but a presence — that is also when we find our direction.  Here is a soothing music from Earth, Wind and Fire called Devotion from their album aptly titled Open Our Eyes released in 1974 that points to a direction.  Enjoy!

Through devotion, blessed are the children
Praise the teacher, that brings true love to many
Your devotion, opens all life’s treasures
And deliverance, from the fruits of evil
So our mission, to bring a melody
Ringin’ voices sing sweet harmony

For you here’s a song, to make your day brighter
One that will last, you long through troubled days
Giving your heart the light to brighten
All of the dark that falls in your way
You need devotion, bless the children
Deliverance from the fruits of evil
In everyone’s life, there’s a need to be happy
Let the sun shine, a smile your way
Open your heart, feel a touch of devotion
Maybe this song will help uplift your day.
Make a better way
You need devotion….