Lent for dreamers

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 05 March 2021
*Homily as Chaplain of Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) and Fatima University Medical Center (FUMC) in Valenzuela.
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Contrary to a common belief by many, Lent is a season of joy because it is a preparation for Easter, the “mother of all feasts” in our Church.  Although this season calls for intense prayers, contrition of sin, fasting and abstinence, and alms-giving, Lent does not have to be sober nor somber. 

Jesus said to his disciples, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.  They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face…”

Matthew 6:16, 17

At the start of this season during Ash Wednesday, I have told you that life is a daily lent, a daily exodus from darkness into light, from sickness into health, from sin into grace and new life. 

During Lent, we are filled with joy as we await our little Easter celebrations in life when we finish all our papers or pass our exams, or achieve whatever goals we have set even in the midst of this pandemic. Lent is a joyful season because it is a celebration of our rising to new life in Jesus Christ.  It is therefore a time for us to dream again, to aspire for the best, to “Rise to the Top” as our motto says at Our Lady of Fatima University and Medical Center.

In our readings today are two great dreamers, Joseph the son of Jacob (aka, Israel) called “the Dreamer” and our Lord Jesus Christ, the one referred to as son of the vineyard owner in our gospel’s parable of the wicked tenants. 

How sad that in our time of social media that have saturated us with too much showbiz and entertainment, many people no longer dream big except to be rich and famous with a lot of money and many “followers”.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.
Importance of dreaming to become better persons

Lent invites us to dream big again, dream things that really matter in life like being good and holy, being a better person or “Improving Man as Man” minus all the arte and kikay things and porma we are so used to these days.

Yesterday I went to the mall to get my pair of glasses.  I was so surprised to see great crowds seated in about six rows of chairs at the hall with a another row snaking through Watson’s while a guard directed the flow of human traffic with his megaphone.  When I inquired at my optical shop about the crowd, I was shocked to learn that it was all due to a sale of cosmmetics!

I am not judging nor demeaning those people lining up for a sale of cosmetics but, should we not examine our priorities again in this time of pandemic?

When I was still assigned in our diocesan school in Malolos, I used to require my students at elementary to start dreaming what they would want to be when they grow up even while still in grade one.  I tell them to start dreaming while young.  No wonder there are so many young people about to enter college still not certain what course to take or even what to do with his/her life.  

Do not be afraid to dream like Joseph and Jesus or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr with his famous “I have a dream” speech. 

Photo by author, 2020.

Dream big, it is free!  Do not be affected by those without dreams and plans in life.  Watch out for them who may be even those closest to you like family and friends like the brothers of Joseph who “hated him so much that they would not even greet him” (Gen.37:4) he spoke to them of his many dreams in life.

Danger of not having a dream

People without dreams are people without vision, people who cannot see beyond the present moment and the physical realities. 

Helen Keller said “The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” like the brothers of Joseph as well as the wicked tenants in the Lord’s parable who have no vision of things beyond this life. That is why they did not mind killing their own brother Joseph who was eventually sold or murdering the only son sent by the vineyard owner to collect his share of harvest. 

Here lies the evil of people without dreams in life:  they lack any concern at all to the value of person and of human life. 

People without vision, without plans in life, without dreams have no regard at all with others.  A dreamer is always one who thinks not only of the betterment of his life but also of others.  Dreamers are those who perfect themselves, who seek fulfillment in life, not just material things.  They think of how they can help others in need for they always seek the higher and deeper truths in life.  No wonder, dreamers are also merciful as we shall see how Joseph forgave his brothers for their grave sin against him.

Recently we have started our limited face-to-face classes in our College of Medicine because we are not contented waiting for things to happen, because we dream of something better even in the midst of a pandemic.  Dreamers make things happen, even against all odds like Joseph who never stopped dreaming in God after being sold to Egypt by his brothers.  The Dreamer eventually became the interpreter of the dream of the Pharaoh that led Egypt to adequately prepare itself for the great famine Joseph had predicted. It led to his rise to power and fame in Egypt that later became the fulfillment of his dream as a teenager when his brothers and father came to him to apologize and buy grains.

On Sunday, our graduates are taking the Physician Licensure Exam.  Let us pray for them to have the chance to fulfill their dreams of serving the people as doctors especially in this pandemic.  May they all pass the medical board exam with flying colors. 

It is not enough that we dream big for ourselves but we also share in others’ dreams because ultimately in the end, all our dreams lead us to God our fulfillment in life.  Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Lent is for dreaming again

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday of March, Second Week in Lent, 05 March 2021
Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28   ><}}}*> <*{{{><   Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Lately O Lord you have been consoling me with the shades and hues of Lent, providing much needed inspiration and enthusiasm to forge on amid the many trials I have been going through along with some loved ones hurdling great obstacles in life these days.

As we close another week, you have never stopped showering us with your immense love, dear Father, by inviting us to come to you to be forgiven and enlightened to set all things right again in our lives. No matter how dark or light are the various contrasts of daily life, there is always your Son Jesus Christ journeying with us.

On this first Friday of March, you invite us to dream again of great, good things in life: to dream again of being close to you, of being good, of being loving and loved, of being saved from our sins as we heard the story of Joseph in the first reading and the parable of the wicked tenants in the gospel referring to Jesus. Both were dreamers that someday, we shall be with you in your glory, O God.

But unlike other dreamers, Joseph and Jesus dreamt of salvation in you with “eyes wide open” by working hard on their dreams by remaining faithful and true to you even if others despised them, plotting their deaths.

And so, loving Father, I pray that we dream anew beginning today — of being with you, of doing your work, of making you present in this world where nobody dreams big anymore except of being rich and famous. For those who refuse to dream or cannot dream again for any reason, give them the grace to dream with other dreamers instead of blocking or hindering our dreams like the brothers of Joseph and the wicked tenants of the parable.

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he made him a long tunic. when his brothers saw that their father loved him best of allo his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him… They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelite for twenty pieces of silver.

Genesis 37:3-4, 28

Lastly, Lord Jesus, I pray for the dreamers among us that like Joseph and you, may we hold on to our dreams, to keep dreaming until they come true, in you and through you. Amen.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make my heart like thine.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son praying in our previous Parish, March 2019.

IQ, EQ, and AQ

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 18 December 2019

Jeremiah 23:5-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 1:18-24

Mosaic at the Chapel of St. Jerome, underneath the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem where St. Jerome lived while studying and translating the Bible into Latin. It is believed to be the place where St. Joseph received in a dream the message of the angel for him to take Mary as his wife. Photo by the author, May 2017.

First, we were told for a very long time the importance of IQ or “Intelligence Quotient” for anyone’s success in life.

Then came the EQ or “Emotional Quotient” this past decade that experts claim has more impact in determining one’s success in life than the IQ.

Now, scientists are claiming that more important than the IQ and the EQ is “AQ” or “Adversarial Quotient”, our ability to respond to various adversarial situations in life.

According to the proponents of AQ, the better we are able to deal with life’s troublesome situations like handling crises involving our many forms of relationships, the better we are equipped in having a more fuller life.

Dream of St. Joseph (Oil on canvas) by Francisco Goya. From Google.

Today we hear the story of St. Joseph facing an extremely adversarial situation when Mary who was betrothed to him was found pregnant with a baby not his!

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.”

Matthew 1:18-20

IQ + EQ + AQ = HQ

St. Matthew describes St. Joseph a “righteous man” or, in Jewish thought, a holy man, a saint who lives his life according to the word of God. Also known as a zaddik in Hebrew, a righteous man delights in the Torah (Law), entrusting everything to God.

According to the Book of Psalms’ first chapter, a righteous man or a zaddik is like a tree planted near a river bank that symbolizes God’s words, growing into maturity with good fruits because he is filled with God, putting into practice the Sacred Scriptures and the Laws.

That is precisely what holiness is all about: being filled with God, not being sinless!

Though holiness means being perfect and whole as its Greek origin tells us, holiness as preached by Jesus Christ is an ongoing process when he commanded us to “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48).

Holiness does not happen overnight; it takes time and a lot of cultivation on our part.

(One rule of thumb, though, that we must keep in mind: if you think or feel you are holy, definitely you are not. Saints do not know they are saints.)

IQ, EQ, and now AQ are in a sense, scientific expressions of holiness, of being filled with God to become better persons.

During the Solemnity of St. Joseph last year, Pope Francis issued “Gaudete et Exsultate” to reiterate Vatican II’s universal call to holiness by proposing practical ways in our modern time on how to be holy based on the beatitudes of Jesus Christ.

The Lord asks everything of us, and in return he offers us true life, the happiness for which we were created. He wants us to be saints and not to settle for a bland and mediocre existence. The call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible. We see it expressed in the Lord’s words to Abraham: “Walk before me, and be blameless” (Gen 17:1).

Gaudete et Exsultate, 1

Very interesting in our Simbang Gabi is how the Pope mentions Abraham, the very beginning of Jesus Christ’s genealogy, as a model of holiness now being expressed in our gospel by the last person in that genealogy, St. Joseph!

St. Joseph bridged faith and practice

St. Joseph is exactly that kind of Jewish zaddik who lived in constant dialogue with God in praying the Scriptures, concretely living it minus the legalisms of the Pharisees and scribes of his time.

For him, the Torah was a good news meant to make life better, not bitter by applying it to daily living which is to love by preserving life.

In dealing with his extremely adversarial situation, St. Joseph did the most important step we have totally disregarded these days: silently pray to God for guidance and grace.

As a man, one can just imagine the many thoughts running through St. Joseph’s mind and heart when the woman he loves so much is found with a baby not his.

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

His decision to silently leave Mary was due to his great love for her, not in disregarding the letters of the Law that declares that any woman betrothed to a man who bears a child not his must be stoned to death.

Read again St. Matthew’s account we have quoted above and you will feel the solemnity of the scene, of “how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” according to St. Matthew.

There was no sense of agitation or any other negative vibes, purely positive.

Very clear, St. Joseph’s holiness was not merely due to his bloodline or genealogy but his decision to bridge his faith and religion with his life and daily practice.

St. Joseph must be so purely absorbed in prayer that even at his sleep, there was his continuing communing with God that when he woke up, “he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus” (Mt.1:24-25).

Finding holiness in adversarial situations

Almost every month we find in social media so many videos and reports of road rage and people freaking out everywhere.

Sometimes I think that with the presence of too many CCTV’s and prevalence of smart phones around, people should be more well behaved, more kind. But the exact opposite is happening!

Life has become one big, giant TV show with everybody grandstanding, artificially creating their own limelight of fame that usually turns into five minutes of shame and notoriety.

Everybody wants to be on TV or Youtube but unknown to many, television screens tend to bring out the worst in us.

Whenever I would see people with their smartphones taking pictures, “talking alone” and doing all those crazy scenes, I fear how most of us have drifted away from our real gounding in life, God.

The story of St. Joseph reminds us of the need to resolve every issues in our lives by going back to our roots and grounding, God. And this happens by being deeply in touch with life and its realities! He was truly grounded and knew what could happen to Mary.

The more we experience life in each other, the more we experience God.

And the more we look at God, the more we see others.

Such was the holiness of St. Joseph that in bridging his faith with his daily life, the deeper his love for God and Mary grew! In looking up to God, the more he saw Mary and so Jesus Christ came too!

Photo from Forbes.com via FB, June 2019.

This is the problem of our time: we keep on looking outside, somewhere else to find meaning and life, answers to our many questions.

We just have to look inside our hearts where God truly dwells like St. Joseph.

His being “whole” as a righteous man is the reason why he could sleep soundly in the midst of many crises in life as he completely trusted God. Indeed, St. Joseph’s silence is his most remarkable sign of holiness that even in his sleep, he is filled with God.

There are four instances in the gospel of St. Matthew when the angel spoke to St. Joseph to deliver messages from God. He can sleep soundly because he never dilly-dallied with important decisions in life like secretly divorcing Mary.

We cannot sleep not because we have big problems but because we refuse to make decisions about them.

The word crisis is from the Greek krisis that means “requiring decision”; hence, critical situations require decisions.

St. Joseph was decisive because he was always grounded in God, discerning always his holy will.

Photo by GMA News editor Ms. JJ Jimeno of a man losing his head in prayer at the UP Diliman Parish, June 2019.

In the first reading we heard the prophecy of the coming Christ who shall be called “the Lord our justice” (Jer.22:6). Again, in Jewish thought, justice is not merely giving what is due but also means holiness.

The coming Christ is the Holy One of God, one who would completely entrust himself to the Father on the Cross. Very much like his foster father, St. Joseph who trusted God completely.

Sleeping and dying are essentially the same in the closing of our eyes when we entrust ourselves to God completely without knowing what will happen next, if we would still wake up or, in the case of death, really rise again.

Christmas happens, Jesus comes to us when like St. Joseph we abandon everything to God, especially our “adversarial situations” and go to sleep to be ready and prepared for new, unexpected, and even incredible things in this life. Sleep tight, and be surprised by the Lord! Amen.

Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate, paragraph 32.

“The Dream” by Michael Franks (1993)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 08 December 2019

Advent wreathe at the Malolos Cathedral, 04 December 2019.

Advent is the season of hope when we are encouraged to work on to fulfill God’s grand design for lasting peace here on earth. It is a time for us to dream with eyes wide open!

I had this dream
In which I swam with dolphins
In open sea a transparent blue
(Maybe you dreamt it too)
And on the earth
The trees grew heavy with blossoms
The rainforests had not died
And the Amazon shined like an emerald
Somewhere, somehow, some way
We must hold back the dawn
While there’s still time to try
Keep the faith, keep the dream alive

That is why we have chosen for this Second Sunday of Advent jazz master Michael Franks’ The Dream from his 1993 album “Dragonfly Summer”. It is a song very similar with Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading of a “peaceable kingdom” where

“the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.”

Isaiah 11:6

Considered as a leader of the “quiet storm” or “smooth jazz” movement, a genre of jazz music mixed with pop and rock tempo, Franks has collaborated with some of the great musicians of the world in the last 40 years with his compositions covered by many artists from the wide spectrum of the music world proving his genius and versatility.

For me, Franks is the Walter Becker/Donald Fagen of jazz, always precise and almost perfect in every piece of music that is intelligent and exquisite but never snobbish and definitely without pretensions. Like Steely Dan, his music is picturesquely evocative that one can feel and even see the timbre of every voice and instrument.

Gifted with a cool and sophisticated voice, Franks can sound playful like with “Eggplant” and “Popsicle Toes”, philosophical and dead serious with “Tiger in the Rain” and lovingly romantic with “Rainy Night in Tokyo” and “Lady Wants to Know”.

His music and lyrics are simple yet profound, always fresh and relaxing not only to ears but also to one’s soul that’s very inspiring.

Going back to our featured music on this second Sunday of Advent, Franks’ The Dream challenges us to test and keep our faith in order to work for a lasting peace here on earth.

I had this dream
That we were all one family
Which war and famine could not undo
(Maybe you dreamt it too)
Our family name
Was either Kindness or Compassion
We recognized each other
And we recognized the light inside us

Dream on in Christ, dream with Michael Franks!

Lent and our dreams that link us with God and one another

40 Shades of Lent, Tuesday, 19 March 2019
Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of Mary
2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16//Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22//Matthew 1:16, 18-24
The original site of the workplace of St. Joseph found at the basement of the church in his honor in Nazareth. Photo by the author, April 2017.

How was your sleep last night? And what did you dream about?

Too often, our dreams make our sleep more wonderful and meaningful no matter what we have dreamt. Our dreams are the means in uncovering the impulses and feelings suppressed in our waking state that reveal our unconscious state. And the kind of dreams we experience depend on the kind of waking stage we have. Some say that disturbing, recurring dreams reveal some problems within while wholesome dreams generally indicate everything is most likely going fine with your life. This we find very true in our celebration of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary.

St. Joseph is the most silent person in the bible without any words uttered ascribed to him. In his silence, he was so filled with God and that is why he is considered holy or “just” and “righteous” according to Matthew. Most of all, St. Joseph has the most enviable distinction of always sleeping soundly while in the midst of serious problems with great dreams where angels delivered him with messages from God – not once or twice but thrice!

Contrary to common beliefs, St. Joseph was able to sleep soundly in the midst of great problem after learning Mary was pregnant with a child because right away, he faced and confronted it with a decision. Being a just or holy man, he had decided to silently divorce Mary so as not to subject her to public humiliation. It must have been a very difficult choice for St. Joseph to make because he loved Mary so much which was also an expression of his great love for God. The love of God was the sole basis of his decision that put him into peaceful sleep.

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 to 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 1:20-21, 24

For St. Joseph to dream of receiving messages from God like in our gospel today shows his deep and profound disposition for God and His will. He made the right decision of silently leaving Mary behind to go on with her pregnancy because he loved her so much. When the angel revealed to him the reason behind Mary’s virginal conception through the Holy Spirit, his decision was perfected as he found himself an essential link, a connector, in the the plan of God! Being from the lineage of King David, he saw the important connection with him to marry the Blessed Virgin Mary so that her Son Jesus Christ would thus become the fulfillment of God’s promise through the Prophet Nathan.

“When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm… Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.”

2 Samuel 7:12, 16

So often, the very reason why we cannot sleep when we are beset with a problem is our failure or refusal to make a decision. It is not the problem that keeps us awake but our inaction and indecision. St. Joseph shows us the healthy link and connection of one’s self with God and with reality, with the present and the future. Just like the other great patriarchs in the Old Testament that included Abraham (second reading) and Jacob, they all received messages from God in a dream along with Peter in the Acts of the Apostles where they saw the interconnection of everything and especially of one’s self in God. Break away from this connection, sin and disorder happen.

Likewise, we also see how in the development of devotions to St. Joseph through history where he has always been linked or connected with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Compared with Marian devotions and other saints, veneration of St. Joseph started very late in the Church. One is the obvious reason that Mary is the Mother of God. The earliest record celebrating this March 19 feast of St. Joseph as Husband of Mary dates back to the year 800 that also indicates how devotion to him has always been linked with the veneration of the the Blessed Virgin. Devotions to St. Joseph spread later in the 12th century when the crusaders built a church in his honor in Nazareth when the Christians soon realized the many links and connections in our lives that our Lord’s foster father pointed us to. In 1621, Pope Gregory XV made this feast an obligatory and 270 years later, Pope Pius IX named St. Joseph patron of the Universal Church. Devotion to St. Joseph gained a big push in 1962 when Pope St. John XXIII introduced his name into the Roman canon which Pope Francis emulated, making it to be officially followed in every Mass after he assumed the papacy in March 13, 2013.

This unique role of St. Joseph being the link with Christ’s Davidic ancestry as well as direct correlation and connection of his love for God and for Mary and eventually, for us all in naming her Son Jesus that means “God saves”, perfectly jibe with the motif of Lent we celebrate this month of March: our interconnectedness with God and with one another in Jesus Christ our Savior. St. Joseph teaches us the basic truth about holiness which literally means being “whole” where there is a direct link or connection with our waking stage and inner self expressed in our dreams during deep sleep.

Main altar of the Church of St. Joseph in Nazareth originally built by the Crusaders in the 12th century above the site believed to be the home of the Holy Family. Photo by the author, April 2017.

Lastly, St. Joseph teaches us today in his dreams and decisions, in his life of silence and holiness what most people say about two kinds of dreamers: those who dream with eyes shut and those who dream with eyes wide opened. Those who dream with closed eyes are those who merely daydream and live in fantasies; those who dream with eyes wide opened are the visionaries, those who work to fulfill their dreams to make it a reality. St. Joseph belonged to that kind of dreamer, a visionary of God who strove hard with patience, protecting Mary and the child Jesus so that God’s plan of salvation is fulfilled. Amen.

Epiphany: New Beginnings in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, 06 January 2019
Isaiah 60:1-6///Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6///Matthew 2:1-12

            Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare is called EDSA for Epifanio delos Santos Avenue.  Its namesake is a famous scholar from the province of Rizal whose name means “manifestation” or “appearance” from the Greek epiphanes.  EDSA today may be considered as the epiphany of everything that is wrong in the country, from government inefficiency to people lacking in discipline and patriotism.  Mention the word EDSA and you feel sad and gloomy all of a sudden. On the other hand, the Epiphany we celebrate today brings joy and jubilation because it is the manifestation of the universal kingdom of Jesus Christ to the pagans symbolized by the magi from the East.  After the octave of Christmas, it is celebrated within this joyous season to remind us that while deep within each one of us is a natural search or inclination for God, it is actually God who looks for us and eventually finds us.  Though it is God who appears to us or “epiphanies” to us, we have to be like the magi who must look and find Him as well as lead others to Him too!

            When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Mt. 2:1-2)

            It takes a wise person to search for Jesus – and a wiser person to lead others to Him!  How sad that so many people today feel so lost and could not find the right directions to Jesus because as we have reflected last Christmas, there are so many of us who pretend to be the Christ.  When somebody comes to us, seeking comfort or counsel or simply company, do they find the newborn King in us?  When people come to our homes, do they experience Jesus in our family?  When people come to pray and celebrate the sacraments in our parish or chapel, do they find Christ present there among the people and the place itself?  How sad that so many churches are desecrated in the name of finding Christ among the people that we have allowed everything and everyone to disregard their sanctity with so much pomp and pageantry that tend to manifest more the pride and ego, or insecurities of those in charge of these sacred places.  People continue to search for that Bethlehem where they could find rest and comfort, solace and consolation in the newborn king Jesus Christ. The Epiphany of the Lord reminds us that Christ came to the world to be the fulfillment of everyone and He had become human like us in everything except sin so we can find Him easily.  There are many symbolisms that may be gleaned from these wise men representing us today.

            They are sometimes called as kings as attested from our first reading, “Rise up in splendor!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you… Nations shall walk by your light; kings by your shining radiance.  Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord” (Is.60:1, 4, 6).  From this part of Isaiah’s prophecy we also got that picture of the three wise men travelling as kings from the farthest parts of the world of that time riding on camels to show that even the most powerful men of the world recognize Jesus as the King of Kings.  In our responsorial psalm today, we heard ancient places that extend from the extreme west like Tarshish which is in Tartessos, Spain up to the isles off the coast of Africa and the Middle East which is part of Asia to represent rulers of the world who would come to worship Christ.  Notice how these places mentioned in Isaiah and Psalms refer to the three continents known during that time, namely, Africa, Asia, and Europe symbolizing the whole world coming to Christ.  Some Church Fathers even preached that the three kings symbolize the three stages of our life where Christ leads and guides us:  youth, maturity and old age.  In whatever state or stage of life we are, true wisdom and peace can only be found in Christ Jesus regardless of our differences.

            But above all of these we find that with the wise men coming from the East where the sun rises is that they show us the Epiphany as a new beginning in our lives.  The magi represent our inner journey in life to find and follow Jesus Christ.  Last year, I have dwelt a lot in that realization that life is more of a directional than a destination.  What matters most in life is that we keep on following Jesus Christ our light, our star.  That is direction, where He is leading us.  It never stops.  We just keep on following Him until we reach our final destination in heaven for we are all “coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).  This direction we have to follow in life never stops for the discovery of God is not the end but the beginning of a journey.  And in this journey in Jesus Christ, we do not simply go as followers but are expected to eventually become believers too.  Matthew noted at the end of the gospel today how the magi“departed for their country by another way” (Mt. 2: 12), meaning they have become believers eventually of Christ.  Their lives have changed and must have never been the same as before after finding Jesus because they have believed.  That is their big advantage and difference with Herod and the experts of Jerusalem who knew everything about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem but refused to believe Him.  This is the danger with us today:  many Christians today are mere followers but not wise enough to be believers of Christ.

            Like those young people aspiring to follow their stars at GMA-7’s talent search program “StarStruck”, we also need to dream, believe,and survive.  We all dream to be fulfilled in life.  And every lofty dream is always from above, from God as Matthew told us this Christmas the dreams of Joseph and now the dream of the magi.  It is said that those who dream with their eyes wide open are the real dreamers, the trailblazers who change the world.  That is because they did not only believe in their dreams and with themselves but most of all, they believed in God.  On this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, He is inviting us to dream and believe so that we may live fully in Him.  Every day is a new beginning to search and follow and believe Jesus Christ our light.  Today we are given with over 350 days to begin anew in Jesus.  Be wise.  Search Him.  Follow Him.  Believe Him.  Happy Epiphany of the Lord! AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

*Photos from Google.