Everything begins in God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 07 February 2021
Job 7:1-4, 6-7 >><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23 >><}}}*> Mark 1:29-39
Photo by author, January 2021.

Mark continues to show us a slice in the daily life and ministry of Jesus Christ. We have seen last week how everything began at the synagogue where Jesus preached and healed on a day of sabbath.

The Lord is clearly telling us that everything must begin and end in God. Always.

This Sunday we see a complete 24-hour look not only into the life and ministry of Jesus but most specially to his very person as the Christ, the Son of God as he continued his preaching while proclaiming his good news of salvation to everyone.

And to truly experience him and his gospel, we have to make that effort of meeting him.

On leaving the synagogue Jesus entered the house of Simon and Andrew with James and John. Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever. They immediately told him about her. He approached, grasped her hand, and helped her up. Then the fever left her and she waiting on them.

Mark 1:29-31

Day time with the Lord…

Photo by author, morning inside our parish church during last summer’s lockdown.

We all know by heart God’s third commandment to keep holy the sabbath day. This commandment was perfected in Jesus Christ when he rose again on Easter, the day after sabbath which is our Sunday celebration.

It is true that sabbath day is Saturday but when Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week, the early Christians who were all Jews shifted their day of worship to Sunday. Such shift was very remarkable, proving beyond doubt the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus for the Jewish followers of Christ to abandon their Saturday worship.

In Jesus Christ, we find sabbath not just a stop in work and everything but a return to God who is our life. Such is the centrality of God in our lives that sabbath is the day of the Lord because it is the only day without any other day at par with – walang katapat kasi walang katapat ang Diyos! See there are seven days in a week, an odd number because there is one day without any “partner day” like for example Monday-Tuesday, Wednesday-Thursday, Friday-Saturday.

Photo by author, parish altar one morning in November 2019.

Sabbath which is Sunday for us Christians is solely for the Lord!

The four disciples of Jesus must have known earlier of the fever of Simon’s mother-in-law; they must have been worried but they went along with Jesus to the synagogue to pray and worship God first, casting aside all their worries for they were with the Lord.

It was after coming from the synagogue, when Mark tells us how “they immediately told him about her” that they witnessed and experienced an outpouring of grace in their home and family.

That imagery of Jesus grasping the hand and raising her up is so rich in meaning that tells us how God helps those who help themselves.

Imagine how even if we do not pray daily nor celebrate Mass weekly yet God never fails to bless us every day. How much more if we come and meet him every Sunday!

Here we find how every true worship of God with the community extends to our families when we bring home Jesus if we are with him so we can immediately tell him our concerns in life. Jesus comes daily to us, always wanting to hold our hands and raise us up to be well and better than before like Simon’s mother-in-law but, are we willing to meet him especially in the Holy Eucharist?

In the first reading, we find Job crying to God, lamenting his many sufferings and the sad condition of life in general, something like what Qoheleth had written. It is not a cry of revolt by Job but more of a complaint coming from the heart of a faithful servant caught between despair and hope who finds life’s nothingness without God. Despite his losing all his children and workers in a day along with his properties not to mention his getting sick, Job never turned away from God and kept on calling to him in the silence of his heart from daytime to evening until the Lord heard him and blessed him fourfold.

When it was evening, after sunset, they brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door… Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed. Simon those who were with him pursued him… He told them, “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” So he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.

Mark 1:32-33, 35-36, 38-39

Remaining in the Lord even in darkness…

Photo by author of seminarians meditating in silence after their evening prayers, November 2020.

It was still Saturday but sabbath day had already ended at 5PM (having started at 5PM of Friday) that people have started to come to Jesus to seek his healing from their sickness and possessions by evil spirits.

Darkness did not stop Jesus from serving the people despite the difficulties of seeing them, of being so tired and hungry at night, even sleepy. Likewise, darkness did not prevent Jesus communing with the Father by rising before dawn to go to a deserted place to pray alone. What a very beautiful image of Jesus as our Good Shepherd lovingly serving the sick and the poor and as our Eternal Priest making time to pray, ensuring prayer as center not only of his ministry but of his life.

According to recent studies, Filipinos rank as the highest users in the world of social media for the sixth straight year in a row, spending an average of more than four hours and 15 minutes daily (https://www.rappler.com/technology/internet-culture/hootsuite-we-are-social-2021-philippines-top-social-media-internet-usage)

That is 28 hours a week, meaning we lose one whole day or 24 hours weekly just for Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms! Not included are the hours spent watching television. How about time with God and with our loved ones?

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera during our Christ the King procession, November 2020.

Please allow me now to be a little personal as this is also my last full week in this first parish I have served for nine years and seven months.

If there is one thing I have learned so well from here is the value and importance of less.

Since my ordination in 1998 until 2010, I have always been celebrating Masses in major parishes like the Malolos Cathedral, the Santissima Trinidad in Malolos (a pilgrimage parish), and the Parish and National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela. Every Mass, every sacrament there was really big time with large congregations coming.

Totally the opposite here in my first parish assignment under the beloved disciple of Jesus, St. John Evangelist. Small church building without a garage nor a patio in one small baranggay with about 12000 souls to care for.

Our Patron Saint, San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista of Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

My predecessors saw this as too small that they did not have daily Masses. But I felt in my prayers that is the only thing Jesus wanted me to do here: make him present in the daily Masses and other sacraments.

We started with just five people attending our daily Masses while Sundays were half-filled. Before COVID-19, we have increased attendees to our daily Masses to about 20 people and our Sunday celebrations have become almost seating capacity.

At first I felt sad and disappointed but the people here kept on telling me it is a miracle already that “so many people” were coming for the Masses. Slowly, I have come to accept our situation that that’s the way it is. And that is where I felt God blessing us so abundantly with our less!

Modesty aside, in the past nine years we have sent more children to receiving the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation (without any fees but with free snacks) since 1998 when this started as a quasi parish. We have almost baptized every adult person who have not yet received the sacrament too.

COVID-19 stopped everything, affecting our collections so bad but we just kept on serving and proclaiming Jesus with our daily Masses seen online, motorcade of the Blessed Sacrament every week, distribution of the Holy Communion every Sunday to those who attended our online Mass including through our innovative “drive-thru” Communion.

01 November 2020.

We never beg the people for donations but they all poured in, enabling us to continue helping the poor like helping them bury their dead, even renovate our church with the finest liturgical vessels and things!

One thing has become clear with me: always begin in God, keep him as our center in everything and all else follows.

Remember those days when you were centered in Christ; despite the problems and trials, we were never forsaken by the Lord. Even if we have lost some of our life’s battles, we have still emerged victorious because we have become stronger and fulfilled inside.

We all come and go, especially us priests but, our mission as disciples of Christ remains the same everywhere which is to make Jesus present, make God known to everyone like in the gospel today. This we can only accomplish when we remain one in him, totally free for him and free from other attachments to be free for all.

Like St. Paul, may we all strive especially us your priests to be “all things to all men” -omnia omnibus (1Cor.9:22) by being free to lovingly serve others especially the weak and the poor in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son praying in our parish, November 2019.

Praying for our Church and churches

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, 09 November 2020
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12  >><)))*>  1 Corinthians 3:9-11, 16-17  >><)))*>  John 2:13-22
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, 2018.

Glory and praise to you O God our Father who had sent us your Son Jesus Christ to establish his Body among us, both as the Church made up of his people and made of stones. As we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication the Cathedral of Rome, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, we pray also for Pope Francis, all bishops and priests, and all the faithful who make us the Body of Christ.

May our temple of stones be a symbol of the living Church, the Christian community, your Building among us as St. Paul reminds us today.

Let life flow like waters from the vision of Ezekiel in the first reading from our Church and give life to its members especially the sick and the poor, the marginalized and the forgotten.

Dearest Jesus, help us draw inspiration from the beauty and harmony of your beautiful churches despite our many flaws and sins to form a unity in you in the Holy Eucharist we celebrate day in, day out in our sacred buildings to proclaim your glory and majesty.

At the same time, as we strive to follow your will in building a spiritual temple of people who worship in truth and in spirit, may this feast remind us also to take special care in keeping your house in order where we meet you in our liturgy. Guide us with the Holy Spirit to make every sacred building a living temple of your love, a church of the poor. Amen.

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, 2018.

Human situation, Divine response: multiplying our blessings

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

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

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

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

Multi-layered story of the multiplication of bread

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

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

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

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

The consolation of Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compassion of Jesus.

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

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

You respond for help, you reply to a call.

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

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

God cannot suffer because he is perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our scarcity mentality, the God of plenty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 55:2-3

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

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

A blessed August ahead for you! Amen.

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

Jesus our living bread, life of the world

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, Cycle A, 14 June 2020
Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 14-16 )))+((( 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 )))+((( John 6:51-58
An icon of the Holy Trinity by Russian painter Anton Rublev. Photo from wikipedia.

Above is the beautiful 15th century icon of the Blessed Trinity by Russian painter Anton Rublev. It was based on the Genesis story of God (chapter 18) visiting Abraham at Mamre like angels sharing a meal while in deep conversations, indicating their relationships.

The icon masterfully portrays God as a Trinity of Persons relating with one another in love symbolized by the Eucharistic meal they share.

Most interesting like in most icons is how in this painting the viewer gets involved with the dialogue of the Trinity, thus, becoming the fourth person in the icon present with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit like Abraham at Mamre!

I am presenting this icon to you my dear readers and followers to show you the amazing flow of our liturgy these two Sundays as we resumed Ordinary Time on the Monday after Pentecost last month: From the highest truth in our teachings of One God in Three Persons last Sunday, today we have this Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ to remind us and experience anew that this God we worship and adore is present among us, relating with us in the most personal manner.

Change in name, change of emphasis

Originally known as Corpus Christi or Body of Christ, today’s solemnity was renamed following Vatican II’s reform of the liturgy to give more emphasis on the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that the Preface used before the Consecration is that of Holy Thursday.

Holy Hour in our Parish, Sacred Heart Novena 2020

In the old tradition, focus was more on the Blessed Sacrament – of Jesus Christ reserved in the tabernacle and presented to the faithful for adoration as the Body of Christ, that is, Corpus Christi.

However, when Vatican II changed its name into the “Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Jesus Christ”, there was something deeper than the change of name.

The new name challenges us to see the deeper reality of the Holy Eucharist: more than spending time praying before the Blessed Sacrament – though it is good – we are demanded as followers of Jesus Christ to be present like him with others.

Without disregarding the importance of the Blessed Sacrament that have seen a renewed interest among people in this time of corona while churches are closed, Vatican II’s shift in emphasis dares to challenge us disciples of Christ to emulate him in allowing ourselves to be broken for others, to be poured out, offered and shared especially in this time of crisis.

It is in our being broken like the Body of Christ, and poured out like his Blood do we really live the paschal mystery.

Jesus said to the Jewish crowds: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.”

John 6:51-53
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus is the living bread, the life of the world

Our gospel today is not from the Last Supper as we might expect; instead, it is taken from the “Bread of Life discourse” found only in St. John’s gospel which took place after Jesus had fed more than 5000 people in the wilderness from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish.

It was a very decisive moment in the ministry of Jesus as far as St. John was concerned; in fact, he refused to call the feeding of 5000 as a “miracle” but as a “sign” that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited Messiah.

Here, we have Jesus speaking clearly, no matter how difficult it may be for his listeners and even for us.

And we wonder, why he spoke that way?

Even today in the Holy Mass, considering the mixed crowd we have in every celebration, the priest is obliged to speak clearly and distinctly the words of Christ at the Last Supper similar to his bread of life discourse, “Take this, all of you and eat it. This is my Body which will be given up for you.”

Jesus always speaks the truth, he always tells us what is true and he never misleads us.

Unlike us when we say something and mean another thing. We always have to speak in ways that has to be deciphered because we really do not mean what we say. Or we are afraid of saying something else because we prefer to please people than stand by what is true.

But not the Lord! From that day until now, Jesus says the same thing and means always the same, that he is always with us, in us, and among us.

And he has proven then and now, time and time again most especially in our personal lives, that indeed Jesus was sent down from heaven as the “living bread” because he is the “life of the world”.

More than the bread from heaven called manna sent by God to the Israelites during their journey in the wilderness into the Promised Land (first reading), Jesus is the bread who sustains us in our new “exodus” and journey into the Father’s house, into fulfillment.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News of the plight of stranded people opting to wait at an underpass nearest the airport in their desire to get home

Life an Exodus with Jesus leading us

This pandemic and life under quarantine is an exodus in itself calling us to go back to God, to rely solely in him for he alone can save us. That is why he gave us his only Son, Jesus Christ who in turn gave himself totally, Body and Blood to sustain us in this journey or exodus.

Every exodus is always painful but filled with grace because God is most present with us.

That is why we join Masses on television or the internet while others dare to go to churches for the actual celebration of Mass to receive Holy Communion.

We are convinced that Jesus is sustaining us, nourishing us, raising us, helping us, inspiring us in this time of crisis.

And that is why the more we need to pray and even celebrate the Mass because the more we need Jesus Christ as food and drink in this difficult journey.

We can all feel the stress and pressures of the difficulties and uncertainties of this time. Making things worst than the financial and physical sufferings we all go through are the psychological burdens we silently bear that unfortunately others do not seem to think of or even realize.

Mang Dodong who was held for 30 days for not having a quarantine pass while buying fish in Navotas. Photo from GMA News TV.

How sad when others think only of themselves of getting tired, of being hurt, of being misunderstood that they do not care at all with the feelings and well being of those around them like our callous politicians and officials in government and the police.

Sometimes, watching the news can be so depressing when we see all the troubles and sufferings our brothers and sisters have to go through like those stranded in Metro Manila, those separated from their loved ones, those subjected to discrimination because of the COVID-19, those living alone, those who have lost family members and friends, those who have lost many opportunities in life.

But at the same time, the more we are challenged by these sufferings of our people to be like Jesus, to be the living bread, to share with them Jesus who is our very life.

Let us heed the call of St. Paul in the second reading to be one with our brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ in their brokenness, in their sufferings by being present to them in love and kindness, in being more understanding.

We are the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, his very presence in this world that continues to disregard him, that until now tries to live without him.

May we not fall into that temptation and sin that is largely the reason behind this pandemic: modern man has forgotten that no matter what is our situation in life, we remain poor before God who alone can fulfill our deepest desires and longings.

Despite the many difficulties we face especially with the continued closure of houses of worship, let us continue to work and find creative means in sharing Jesus Christ with others, in coming to him and receiving him in the Holy Communion.

Only Jesus can help us through this pandemic.

In fact, he was the first to die on the Cross by giving us his Body and Blood so that we may live and share his gift of life with others.

A blessed week ahead of you!

Photo by our parish choir member Gelo Nicolas Carpio, our Church at sunset last Sunday.

St. Paul in time of Covid-19: fighting with the sword of Christ

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 08 June 2020
Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, Rome, Italy. Photo from Google.

My earliest memory of St. Paul was not really so good; it was even scary.

It was summer of 1972 when we settled in our new house in my mother’s hometown of Bocaue in Bulacan. I was so skinny then (believe me, I can prove this with my pictures) and shy when my mother brought me to apply for Grade 1 at the only Catholic school there known as “SPCB” or St. Paul College Bocaue.

A male, dark teacher wearing those dark glasses like Leopoldo Salcedo clad in a barong interviewed me (the late Mr. Martin De Guzman, aka, Bagyo for typhoon). I cannot recall what he had asked me which I could not answer that made him say I cannot enroll in their school; but my mother angrily told me not to listen to him and, angrier told me to always speak louder.

That’s when I saw the statue of St. Paul at the window of the registrar’s office, eyes so intense while resting his right hand on a sword in front of him with the other hand clutching a bible with the Latin words, “Caritas Christi urget nos” – the love of Christ impels us (2 Cor. 5:14).

I stayed at SPCB for seven years and formed me into who I am today, making me so proud of being a Paulinian. Until now, that image of St. Paul with a sword is etched in my mind reminding me of how he fought so hard for Jesus Christ and his Body, the Church.

The Apostle Paul

Sometimes called the “Thirteenth Apostle”, St. Paul always stressed in his writings and teachings that he was personally called by the Risen Lord to be his Apostle sent to preach the gospel to everyone. That is why Jesus is so central in his life, declaring “whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ” (Phil.3:7), desiring only “omnia omnibus” — that is, to “become all things to all men” (1 Cor. 9:22) without any reserve.

As we have mentioned in our earlier reflection, St. Paul’s sole focus in his ministry and very life was the person of Jesus Christ: everything in our lives, especially us priests, is marked essentially by our encounter and communion with the Lord and his Word.

It is only in the light of Christ that we measure every other value in our lives and ministry.

Red Wednesday Mass and prayers in our parish for the Church persecuted last November 2019.

Even in this highly diversified and pluralistic society, while we join hands in promoting and working for a more humane and inclusive society, the more we must stand up for Jesus Christ like St. Paul as quoted by St. Luke while addressing the presbyters of the Church at Ephesus with these words:

“I served the Lord with all humility and with the tears and trials that came to me because of the plots of the Jews, and I did not at all shrink from telling you what was for your benefit, or from teaching you in public or in your homes. I earnestly bore for both Jews and Greeks to repentance before God and to faith in our Lord Jesus Christ… for I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God.”

Acts of the Apostles 20:19-21,27

I am so struck with that word “shrink” that St. Paul used twice to stress his dedication, fervor, and conviction in being centered in Jesus Christ alone. In what aspect did he not “shrink”? Did he raise arms and fought back against his detractors? Did he align with other forces to pursue his mission?

No! St. Paul did not shrink in proclaiming Jesus Christ by fighting back with force or with harsh words but by being more like our Lord and Master — more loving and understanding, more patient and more persevering, yet more intense in insisting the Gospel.

He did not shrink by running away from his detractors or diluting the gospel message by pleasing some powerful people or accommodating prevailing thoughts and culture. As we have mentioned in our previous reflection, St. Paul saw opportunities for the gospel in the midst of the hostile environment he lived during his time.

Despite all the pains and scars he had gone through, one can still find the light of Christ shining in this great apostle who bore everything filled with joy and pride without any complaint.

We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that in the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

2 Corinthians 4:8-11

Standing for Christ and his Church

From 2006 to 2018, I was so blessed to have worked at our Church-run Radio Veritas as a co-host in a morning program once a week and as a host of another show on Saturdays. Aside from bishops and priests, we interviewed experts and advocates in a lot of various topics affecting our faithful in particular and our society in general.

So many times I felt something so wrong when we have to interview whom we considered as “allies” or “kakampi” in some of our advocacies because I have found no single person fully believing in our Church teachings even if some of the issues they fight for jibe with ours.

Can we really ally ourselves with lawmakers and cause-oriented groups fighting capital punishment which we strongly support and yet support artificial means of contraception for population control? Can we align with those fighting repressive laws like this anti-terror bill and yet support same-sex marriage and divorce?

And please, spare us with those labels on these people that they insist on putting on with us priests and bishops: let us keep in mind we are only for Christ, no progressives or liberals, conservatives or whatever.

We are neither lobbyists nor cause-oriented advocates pushing for something because we only stand for Jesus Christ and his Word at the Cross. There can be no any instance of partisan politics or traces of strange bedfellows whatsoever because we are either for or against Jesus Christ:

Jesus said: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

Matthew 12:30

Here lies one of the greatness of St. Paul who never shrunk to other forces except Christ.

St. Paul statue at Malolos Cathedral by renowned ecclesiastical artist Mr. Willy Layug. Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, June 2019.

What a tragedy especially in our country that no amount of explanations can remove from the thoughts of ordinary people that priests and bishops do not even dabble their hands in partisan politics when it is so glaring they are beholden to these modern charlatans.

What moral ascendancy is left of our being pastors when after speaking against corruption and ineptitude in the government we turn to solicit from the same politicians and bureaucrats not only for parish projects and charities but even for our personal needs like vacations and trips abroad?

How can we reconcile all these immediate reactions by bishops and priests against the anti-terror bill urgently passed by Congress last week when not even a whimper was ever heard from them for the longest time to open our churches to serve the spiritual needs of the people?

Let me clarify like in my previous reflection that I am not saying we must be quiet about social issues; my point is, it must always be primary the Church as the Body of Christ that is primary in all our concerns.

This was very clear with St. Paul because it is the first reality he faced when he was called by Christ:

On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He said, “Who are you, sir?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

Acts of the Apostles 9:3-5

Next to our Lord, it is the Church that St. Paul had considered so much in his activities as subject of his thoughts and reflections. For him, adherence to the Church was directly caused by Jesus Christ himself, not by any chance or moments of realization and conversion.

And see the words of the Lord to him: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

He was the first to speak of the Church as the Body of Christ, illustrating for us in his many Letters our being “one in Christ” (Gal.3:28) deeply rooted in the Holy Eucharist, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body” (1 Cor.10:17).

Pope Francis blessing the world at an empty St. Peter’s Square last March 27 when COVID-19 was ravaging the whole of Italy and many parts of the world. Photo from Vatican News.

Until now our churches remain closed in many parts of the only Christian nation in this part of the world. It behooves us priests and bishops to first fight and insist, without shrinking, the opening of our houses of worship to allow the people to experience Jesus Christ anew in this pandemic.

Most of all, may the people feel and realize at the resumption of our public Masses that God is truly in us and with us because of our deep communion in our Lord Jesus Christ and with one another when we celebrate the Sacrament of our unity, the Holy Eucharist.

Our final installment of the series this Thursday, “St. Paul in time of COVID-19: Communicating Jesus Christ”.

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.

Stay with us, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week III-A, 26 April 2020

Acts of the Apostles 2:14.22-33 ><)))*> 1 Peter 1:17-21 ><)))*> Luke 24:13-35

Photo by author, sunset at Laguna de Bay (Los Banõs), February 2020.

I am sure all of us can identify with the two disciples going home to Emmaus on that evening of Easter. And surely, as we accept with a heavy heart the extension of this enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) until May 15, we pray like them, saying, “Stay with us, Lord.”

As they approached the village to which they were going, he (Jesus) gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts were burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Luke 24:28-32
From https://www.clarusonline.it/2017/04/29/i-discepoli-di-emmaus-andata-e-ritorno/

Jesus always walking with us, without us recognizing him

Once again we see the presence of darkness in this story of Easter found only in St. Luke’s gospel. And that is the beauty of Easter – like Christmas – showing us the immense love of God for us that he sent us his Son Jesus Christ in the darkest moments of our lives to lead us to light and life.

And it always happens when we least expect it like that Easter evening when Cleopas and his companion were on their way to Emmaus.

Jesus comes to us as a stranger and most of all, joins us in the “wrong direction” to bring us back to the right path we must take especially when things go against our plans and expectations.

Until now, we cannot still believe how these things are happening to us: the lockdown, the sufferings and uncertainty of life when everything is on a “wait-and-see” situation especially in business and education while houses of worship remain closed and mass gatherings prohibited to control the spread of COVID-19.

But, if we look back and see how we are today, do we not also feel our “hearts burning within” that despite all the sickness and deaths almost everywhere, we are still here, alive, forging on in darkness, and most of all, somehow being led by Jesus even though we do not recognize him right away to be always on our side?

Yes, we worry, we ache deep inside but, more than these, we hope, we love, we live because we firmly believe in the Risen Lord present in us, present among us.

Deep in our hearts we experience Jesus with us, feeling with us, listening to our cries and worries just like that Easter evening to Emmaus. As we would say in Filipino, “ah basta!” that means without doubt, we are certain of someone or something from deep within not visibly seen.

“Supper at Emmaus” by renowned painter Caravaggio. See the emotion depicted by Caravaggio with his trademark of masterful play of light and shadows. At the center is the Risen Lord blessing the bread that caught the two disciples who are seated in disbelief, one outstretching his arms and the others pushing back in his chair. The third character in the painting is the innkeeper unaware of the significance of the gesture of Jesus. It was at this instance that the two disciples recognized Christ as the travelling man with them to Emmaus.

Our inner recognition of Christ in the breaking of bread

Notice that in all resurrection stories, the followers of Jesus did not recognize him immediately. There is always that feeling within them, like what we feel when we see somebody and we try to recall where we have met him/her, trying to dig into our memories when and how did we get to know the seemingly not “stranger” before us.

It is a funny feeling that is finally resolved with a very simple memory of an instance long ago or a small detail that leads into an “inner recognition” of the person before us.

This is how the disciples of Jesus recognized him — not through his external appearances but more from within like when Cleopas and his companion invited him into their home in Emmaus or when the seven apostles led by Simon Peter met him by the shore of the lake when no one would dare ask who he is because deep within, they knew it was the Lord (Jn.21;12-14).

And this happens always in the context of a meal, a table fellowship when Jesus instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist on Holy Thursday evening before he was arrested to be crucified.

Here we find the mystery of this sign left to us by Jesus to be his very presence among us in his Body and Blood under the perceptible signs of bread and wine as well as the Sacred Scriptures proclaimed in every liturgical gathering: the more we do not see his outward appearances, the more we recognize Jesus!

Every time we celebrate the Mass and listen to the scriptures proclaimed, we realize within us like the people of Jerusalem in the first reading that this Jesus of Nazareth is a true person present in our lives fulfilling his works of salvation despite our sinfulness.

Like some people we meet, we recognize Jesus Christ not with the outward appearances but from within, from what we have experienced beyond explanations that gives us always a sense of awe because as St. Peter tells us in the second reading, “he had ransomed us from our futile conduct with his most precious blood” (1 Pt. 1:18-19) which is affirmed to us in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

The Easter mystery of recognizing Jesus when he vanishes

Every Sunday afternoon since this lockdown began due to COVID-19, we have been bringing the Blessed Sacrament around our Parish to remind the people of Christ’s presence among us.

And every Sunday, I am amazed at the faith of the people who would kneel on the side of the road, totally believing that it is Jesus himself who visits them in the Blessed Sacrament.

The sight is so moving with people from all walks of life bowing their heads or raising their hands, recognizing Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as they pray in silence with others crying. The few motorists passing by stop at the side of the road to see Jesus and be blessed while others get near our truck for a blessing.

Here lies the great mystery of Easter: Jesus need not appear to us in person because as he vanishes in the Blessed Sacrament, that is when we recognize him!

In the most simple gestures of the Mass under the most simple signs of bread and wine, Jesus vanishes from our outward view and through this vanishing our interior or inner recognition opens up that we “see” him in the many instances he had touched us especially in our “heart-breaking” experiences in the past.

We know with certainty that “it is the Lord” – Dominus est – present in every breaking of bread because part of the Easter mystery tells us deep within that it is only in his vanishing that he truly becomes recognizable to us.

What a shame and a tragedy especially in these days of live television or internet Mass when priests do all the gimmicks and antics to wow the people as if they are audience in a show than faithful in a sacred gathering.

May we not forget this mystery of Easter that, the more Jesus vanishes, the more we recognize him because Jesus is more than enough than anybody or anything else especially in the Mass. And when we pray “Stay with us, Lord”, we actually ask for more faith to believe in him to see him in his vanishing. Amen.

A blessed week ahead to everyone! Stay safe, stay in the Lord.

Modern painting of the road to Emmaus.

I believe in God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Thursday within the Octave of Easter, 16 April 2020

Acts of the Apostles 3:11-26 <*(((>< +++ ><)))*> Luke 24:35-48

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

Today I pray for just one simple thing for everyone: that we believe in you and the One who sent you.

How sad, O Lord, that in the midst of this pandemic, we still refuse to believe in you with some people continuing to rely more in themselves, in their sciences, in their technologies, in their peoples.

How sad, O Lord, when our religious beliefs border mostly between the two extremes of either blaming you for every tragedy and calamity we go through or, forgetting and even disregarding you from every triumph and victory we achieve in life.

Enlighten our minds and our hearts, Jesus.

“Now I know, brothers and sisters that yo acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he had announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer. Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Christ already appointed for you, Jesus…”

Acts of the Apostles 3:17-20

Indeed, O Lord, to believe in you is the starting point of everything.

Give us the grace to recognize you within us most especially when we break the bread even through the wonders of the modern internet.

One common thing that the evangelists tell us after you rose from the dead is how you would always join your disciples on the table and share meal with them.

In this time when churches are closed and all we can do is celebrate the Eucharist on TV or the Internet, pour out your grace upon us to continue to recognize and experience you in our table fellowship to remove our doubts of your presence and assure us of your salvation.

“Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts?” While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them. He said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and in then prophets and psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Luke 24:38, 41-48

Help us, Jesus in our unbelief, increase our little faith in you in these times of crisis.

Keep us strong in being your witnesses in this modern time when we have so many other gods being worshipped. Amen.

Praying with St. Paul

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Saturday, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, 25 January 2020

Acts 22:3-16 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 16:15-18

Photo by Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 29 June 2019.

Glory and praise to you, O Lord Jesus Christ!

Thank you Lord for not leaving us alone, for continuing to live with us, calling us and sending us to your mission in the Church, your blessed Body!

As we celebrate today the Feast of the Conversion of your great Apostle St. Paul, we do not merely recall this personal event of his in the past but most of all, we try to listen to you with him anew in our own time and situation.

Nothing much had changed, O Lord Jesus since that day in Damascus when St. Paul was on his way to persecute your early followers.

Many of us continue to persecute you because of lack of faith in you, of pride, and yes, because of wrong beliefs all premised in that great lie we have the truth, just like St. Paul who was called Saul then.

I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.'”

Acts 22:7-8

It was the single event that converted St. Paul to become your most dynamic Apostle, Lord.

In that short instance, Lord, you remind us of how you personally call each one of us in our own name, no ifs nor buts, everything that is good and bad, even the worst in us.

Like St. Paul, we always hear your personal call but unlike him, we rarely have the courage to answer you, even enter into a dialogue with you just for a brief moment. We would rather stay on top of our horse, only to heed you when we have fallen and blinded by the world.

Likewise, Lord Jesus, in that brief encounter, you taught St. Paul and us today that basic reality of you identifying with the Church, your Body!

Every day, Lord, you continue to call us like St. Paul, asking us the same question, “why do you persecute me?”

O great St. Paul the Apostle, thank you for reminding us always in your letters how Jesus ceaselessly draws us into his Body the Church through the Holy Eucharist that for him is the center of Christian life where we experience Christ’s love in the most personal manner by giving himself for me.

Dearest St. Paul, pray for me that the love of Christ may always be my law and guide in life even to point of offering myself to him who had called me to a life of holiness. Amen.

St. Paul Basilica in Rome. Photo from Google.

Our life of leaving and loving

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe, Holy Thursday of the Lord’s Passion, 18 April 2019
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14///1 Corinthians 11:23-26///John 13:1-15
Altar at the Carmelite Monastery in Israel with a unique Crucifix. Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Pena, 2011.

Today I am celebrating my 21st year in the priesthood. This is the first time our ordination anniversary falls on a Holy Thursday when we celebrate the institution of the two Sacraments most closely linked with us priests and the Church, Holy Eucharist and Holy Orders.

When we were ordained by Archbishop Rolando J. Tria-Tirona 21 years ago at the Malolos Cathedral, there were so many things going on in my mind and in my heart. But there was one thing that had remained very clear with me since that day: I am being ordained priest at the age of 33, the very same age Jesus was crucified on the Cross. From then on until now, I have kept in my heart that priesthood is suffering and dying on the Cross in Jesus and with Jesus centered on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.

John 13:1

Of the four evangelists, it is only St. John who repeatedly mentions the expression “hour of Jesus” in his gospel account. For him, the very life of Jesus is a journey and preparation to his “hour” which is his crucifixion and death. The hour of Jesus is his passion. The word passion is from the Latin verb patior that means to undergo, to pass through, evoking some form of suffering and pain.

The hour of Jesus started in his Last Supper. It was a very long hour so to speak. And very dark. However, it was also the finest hour of Jesus when he poured out his immense love and mercy for us. Beginning at his supper when he washed the feet of the Apostles to his agony in the garden when he perspired with blood to his arrest reaching it darkest point in his crucifixion and death, the darkest hour of Jesus is also his finest hour when he was able to bear all sufferings and insults, including death because of love. Jesus showed us that in fact, love is the very process of passing over, of going beyond our means and capacity in order to transform and become better persons. That is why our darkest hour is also our finest hour when we are transformed in Jesus because precisely that is when we truly love. It is also for this reason that the Eucharist is called an agape which is the Greek word for the highest form of love that does not expect anything in return. That is the love of Jesus Christ. And supposed to be the love of us priests.

Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end.

Jesus washes feet of Apostles. From Google.

Msgr. Epitacio Castro, one of our retired priests, has a favorite expression with his being a priest: “pinag-uubra lang ako ng Diyos”. True. God is just making do of us as priests because nobody is worthy of being one. We are the worst men around! We are also sinners like you, even more sinful than most of you. In the Eucharist, we priests experience that great love of Jesus Christ when he tries to make us fit as his priests, transforming us into men like him. It happens every time we are one with him in his hour of suffering and death. Priesthood is a life of leaving and loving, of passing over and transformation. The day we were ordained, our Last Supper began, our passion began because that is also our hour in Jesus Christ. Every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, we priests are reminded that our hour had come to pass, challenging us to love more. Pray for priests who no longer love the Eucharist; something is terribly wrong with them.

I am a sinner. But it is a tremendous grace of God through the Eucharist that I continue to leave and pass over, from sin to holiness and grace, from darkness to light, from selfishness to selflessness, from desperation to hope, from grief to joy. And all because of the power of love of God overflowing in the Eucharist. How can I resist to love and to forgive, to let go and move on, to be patient and to persevere when right in the Eucharist I could feel Jesus truly present, entrusting himself to me who is so untidy with sins and weaknesses? How could I not believe in him when Jesus is the first to believe in me despite my many self doubts? Every celebration of the Eucharist is an imitation of Christ when we priests go down to wash and kiss the feet of the people we serve whom we also hurt and hurt us too!

They say the darkest nights are the longest nights. Very true especially for us priests. Be patient with us when we forget so many things, when we change so often in our plans because every time there are celebrations, our hour goes over time too. Bear with us, pray for us when we sometimes become irritable even grouchy because aside from your many problems and burdens we help you carry, we have our own struggles and problems too. That hour of Jesus remains with us even after every Mass when you all go home to your own family while we priests are left alone in our parish thinking about the next celebrations. The hours are long and the nights are so dark and all we have is that flickering light of faith, hope, and love in Jesus in our hearts.

But, though the darkest nights are the longest nights, they also say that only the brave who dare walk the darkness can see the brightness of the stars above. Courage does not mean having no fear but the ability to face our fears. And, oh! We priests have many fears too, including the fears of rejection, of being misunderstood, of being boxed, and most of all, of failing. We are what you call as “warrior is a child” — “They don’t know that I come running home when I fall down. They don’t know who picks me up when no one is around. I drop my sword and cry for just a while, ‘Coz deep inside this armor, The warrior is a child.

In the Eucharist, we priests truly share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ because that is also when we feel transformed in his love, when we pass over with so much pains from the many experiences we have in our very selves and with others. Indeed, without the Eucharist, we are not priests! Every time I raise Christ’s Body and Blood, I pray that Jesus may make me whole in body, mind and heart, that he may wash me of all my sins, doubts and fears. Nobody else in the Mass perhaps, except us priests who truly feel the meaning of praying these words before receiving communion, “Lord I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my shall be healed.”

Maybe you have all seen the photos after the fire that razed the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris this Holy Tuesday. Intact were the altar table with the huge cross beaming with light. What a beautiful reminder to us all, especially us priests, that in this life, our darkest hours are also our finest hours when we are one with Jesus Christ. No fire nor anything can ever destroy us because Jesus had overcome every evil even death for us. Every destruction and darkness are a prelude to the light and new creation of Easter Sunday that begins right here in the hour of the Eucharist of Jesus. Let us remain in Christ in love in passing over, in leaving behind the pains and hurts of the past with much love in our hearts to move on in this life. Amen.

Photo from Yahoo.news.