The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 10 June 2021
2 Corinthians 3:15-4:1, 3-6 ><)))*> + <*(((>< Matthew 5:20-26
Lord Jesus Christ, please remove the veils that cover our minds that prevent us from truly seeing and meeting you. Let us remove the many veils we have unconsciously put on ourselves like our stubbornness and conservatism, legalism and formalism that have made our prayers and worship empty of you.
Brothers and sisters:
To this day, whenever Moses is read,
a veil lies over their hearts of the children of Israel,
but whenever a person turns to the Lord
the veil is removed.
Teach us to submit ourselves more to the promptings and light of the Holy Spirit so that we may reflect you more, dear Jesus, than ourselves.
So many times we have forgotten that we are just bearers of your light, “slaves for your sake” (2Cor.4:5), dear Jesus task to bring people closer to the glory and brightness of God.
Do not let us fall into the same mistakes of the people of your time when praise and worship of God was focused more on the externals than what is inside our hearts expressed in our genuine concern for one another like people we may have hurt or neglected.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I tell you, unless your righteousness
surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven."
Teach us to go beyond the letters of the Laws.
Enable us to see the deeper and wider meaning of the commandment not to kill by respecting in words and deeds the value of every person, of not maligning any one with nasty talks and through the social media.
Enable us to see the direct link of our celebration of the Eucharist with our behavior and dealing with one another, seeking peace and reconciliation to be truly one in you and with the Father in heaven.
O sweet Jesus, we pray most dearly for those people who have boxed us and refused to give us the chance to show our goodness and goodwill; for those whose frame of mind is so fixed that they would not make the necessary adjustments in this time of crisis to accommodate so many people in great sufferings and trials in their lives.
Let your brightness shine on us, Lord Jesus, in these times of darkness and storms. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Third Week of Easter, 23 April 2021
Acts 9:1-20 ><)))'> ><)))"> ><)))'> John 6:52-59
Praise and glory and thanksgiving to you, God our loving Father in heaven for this amazing movement sweeping our country called “community pantry” started by a young lady in a quiet neighborhood last week in Quezon City.
Your ways, O God, are indeed strange, filled with so many extraordinary turn of events.
Who would have thought how this community pantry will awaken the whole nation to suddenly see one another as brother and sister, sharing according to one’s abilities and taking according to one’s needs that for over a week, we have never ran out of food with a lot of smiles and tenderness that delight the hearts and souls of everyone?!
You are so amazing, O God that I feel like Jesus your Son rejoicing while filled with the Holy Spirit, giving you praise, Father, “for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike” (Lk.10:21).
Full of confidence in your power, I believe you can still win over the hearts of many of our generals and government officials to be converted like St. Paul on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians; how ironic, dear God, are the similarities of that story with how our government and military officials malign the people behind the community pantry movement!
Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him for letters to synagogues in Damascus,
that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
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?"
The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do."
Please, Lord, despite the malicious words some government and military officials have said about the people behind the community pantry movement, we still believe they can still be converted like what happened at EDSA in 1986.
Come, Jesus our Lord and Savior, blind us with your light of truth and humility so we may imbibe the true meaning of the Eucharist which is more than the sacramental partaking of your Body and Blood but, most of all, meeting and being one with you always in our daily lives, becoming the very food for others like you.
We pray also most specially for the well-being of Ms. Ana Patricia Non and her followers. Bless them and keep them, O Lord, and may they continue to inspire others in seeing everyone as a brother and sister in you. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Easter, 18 April 2021
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 ><)))*> 1 John 2:1-5 ><)))*> Luke 24:35-48
My dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
Today I am celebrating my ordination anniversary.
Twenty-three years of giftedness and grace and mystery,
until now I wonder why you called and chose me.
Thank you very much
for your love and mercy to me.
You know very well my sins and failures,
my weaknesses and limitations
that on many occasions
I have failed you.
There were times
I was like Cleopas
traveling back to Emmaus
trying to forget you
feeling at a loss and defeated
when my plans do not happen.
But you would join me,
walk with me even if I go the wrong direction
just to bring me back to Jerusalem,
back to the Cross where your Resurrection is.
So many times,
my eyes cannot recognize you appearing to me,
but surely always within me
my heart burns while you speak softly
as you tell me our stories
when you never left me.
In those twenty-three years,
dearest Jesus, what I treasure most
is when you appear and speak to me unknowingly,
an inner awakening happens in me
opening my mind, purifying my soul
that the more I see my sinfulness before you,
the more I see my worth in you
that is when you are so true!
One thing I ask you, my Lord and my God
keep me in your fellowship of the table
of your new covenant; even if I am not worthy
to receive you under my roof, but only
say the word and I shall be healed.
Be my guest always, dear Jesus,
appearing, speaking, and breaking bread
at your altar, sustaining and nourishing me
with the Blessed Virgin Mary
in this journey until you come again. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Easter Triduum Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Maundy Thursday, 01 April 2021
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14 ><)))*> 1Corinthians 11:23-26 ><)))*> John 13:1-25
"A journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step."
- Lao Tzu
We often hear and use this wise saying that is also most applicable to our celebration of the Holy Triduum of the Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection also known as the “Sacred Paschal Triduum”.
From the Hebrew word pesach, a pasch is a passing over. It is a journey which is a long trip taken over long period of time to different places. A journey does not necessarily involve physical distance as it can be something within one’s self like an inner journey to God dwelling within us. Hence, a journey is also a process that leads us to growth and maturity from the many difficulties and trials we experience as we travel, entailing a lot of sacrifices from us.
And whatever journey we take outside or within our selves, we always need a companion to travel with. From the Latin words cum panis that literally mean “someone you break bread with”, a companion is someone who helps us in our journey, a friend who shares life with us, guiding us, protecting us. Like the bread we break and share, a companion sustains and nourishes us in our journey.
Let us keep these three words of journey, companion, and bread in reflecting our celebration tonight of the Lord’s Supper that begins the Sacred Triduum.
We are all pilgrims on a journey to heaven
More than 40 days ago on Ash Wednesday, we said Lent is a daily journey to Easter where we find our very selves, others, and God who is our ultimate origin and end. It is a journey that reaches its summit in the Holy Eucharist where we make present the pasch or passover of Jesus Christ
Every Mass is a journey into heaven, a dress rehearsal of our entrance into heaven when we have a foretaste of eternal life we all hope for until Christ comes again. It is the Passover of the New Testament, a perfection of the Jewish Passover when God’s chosen people led by Moses went into exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land.
This “heavenly” journey had its ancient roots among nomadic Semites who used to celebrate a feast on the first full moon of spring as they prepared to lead their flocks to summer pastures. They ate a roasted lamb from the flock with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. It was an important event of migration filled with many dangers for those nomads who marked their tent-pegs with the blood of the lamb to keep their journey safe.
Eventually this found place in the Jewish Passover which we heard in our first reading when God told his chosen people to begin their journey of exodus from Egypt “on the tenth of their first month” that happens on the second full moon of the spring equinox.
Notice that it happens at night that is coincidentally the usual start of every journey we usually make!
Before their Exodus, each family was told to roast an unblemished lamb to be eaten with unleavened bread and bitter herbs “with your loins girt, sandals on your feet and your staff in hand, you shall eat like those who are in flight. It is the passover of the Lord” (Ex.12:11). It has to be done in a hurry, as in a flight, a journey.
And to keep them safe in their journey, God instructed them to paint their door posts with the blood of the slaughtered lamb so that when his angel comes at night to strike death of every first born male child and animal, their homes would be “passed over” and be saved from death that night.
We are all travelers and journeyers on earth;
our true home is in heaven with God our Father. We are merely "passing over" this planet temporarily.
Jesus our companion and family in the journey
The Jewish Passover or Exodus became the actual event of God’s covenant with Israel as his people on a journey to their Promised Land. Unfortunately, they would break this covenant with God so many times that it would take them 40 years of wandering in the desert before finally got into the Promised Land.
And their stubbornness continued when they would always turn away from God with sins that led to the division of their nation until its conquest by foreign powers that led them anew into another exile. God would restore them as a nation but, again, they would turn away from him until the Romans ruled over them when Jesus came to perfect God’s covenant.
In perfecting and fulfilling the Jewish Passover, Jesus became the new and everlasting Lamb, perfect without any blemish, offering himself to God for the forgiveness of our sins and our liberation from all forms of evil especially sickness and death. It is no longer the blood of the lamb that we now offer but Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood which he established in the Sacrament of the Eucharist “on the night before he was betrayed” on Holy Thursday.
By celebrating the Lord’s Supper that Thursday evening with his disciples who represented all peoples of all time, Jesus established for us the everlasting memorial of his loving presence as our companion and our very Bread and Wine in the journey back to the Father always filled with darkness and sufferings.
What he did that Thursday evening foreshadowed what he would do on Good Friday when he did his greatest act of love for us by dying on the Cross at about 3PM, the same time when the lambs were being slaughtered in the temple for the coming passover feast.
Brothers and sisters: I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. ?Do this in remembrance of me.”
1 Corinthians 11:23-25
Here we find again the darkness of the night as the beginning of our journey back to God perfected by Jesus Christ as our companion and very bread of life to sustain and nourish us.
What is most beautiful meaning we can find here is the importance of communion, of oneness as a community, as a family.
In the Old Testament, God instructed his people to take the passover meal together as a family; at the Lord’s supper, Jesus celebrated it with his “friends”, the Twelve Apostles. Even Judas Iscariot was present at the start but had to leave in the “darkness of the night” when he broke off from the unity of Jesus.
Perhaps, one reason why we are again together this Holy Thursday not in churches but in our homes, with our family so we may be one again in Jesus Christ in prayers and celebrating Mass on-line.
Therefore, do not be a Judas Iscariot! Go back to your family, to your loved ones – your most faithful and truest companions in this journey of life. You’ll never get to heaven, as Dionne Warwick sang, if you break somebody’s heart, when you refuse to love by turning your back from those who love you.
Holy Thursday reminds us in the Eucharist that no one is saved alone. Every journey becomes wonderfulwhen done in the context of a community, with true companions beginning in our very family.
The commandment of love
Completing the picture of our celebration tonight with the key concepts of journey, companion and bread is LOVE, the very essence of everything in this life, the reason why we are in a journey in the first place since the Exodus up to this time.
At the very core of every companionship, of every community is LOVE.
To become bread for someone in a journey is to become LOVE.
Jesus Christ as the bread broken, as the cup of wine shared is essentially LOVE.
Love can never be defined but merely described.
And on the night before he was betrayed, Jesus described to us in his actions a very beautiful expression of his love we all must imitate:
So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.
When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he showed us one beautiful aspect of LOVE which is tenderness.
Yes, I have been speaking about tenderness lately as something we badly need these days of the pandemic. Tenderness is an expression of love when we realize amid our own suffering the sufferings of others too. To be tender and loving amidst many sufferings is to offer rest to fellow journeyers like what Jesus did on that Holy Thursday evening.
Again, we find here something prevalent during that time which is the concept of “restaurants” where travelers used to stop during their journey not only to eat but to rest that meant soaking their feet on a basin of water. It was therapeutic that gave travelers enough strength to travel far again.
Remember there were no other modes of transportation at that time and not everybody could afford an animal to ride on. Any hiker and mountaineer can attest that after so much trekking, one thing you would always hope for is a stream or tiny brook with cool, crisp, running water to dip your feet and rest!
Everybody is tired of this journey in the pandemic, almost exhausted.
What a shame especially when local officials like that one who refused food delivery because she considered the lowly lugaw as non essential. Lest we forget, Jesus chose one of the most lowly food, the unleavened bread, as the sign of his loving presence among us until the end of time when he comes again.
Indeed, this could be the holiest Holy Week of our lives in this most unholy time of history as it gives us great opportunities to love.
Just be tender with those around you!
Never get tired of loving, of understanding, of caring as everyone is already tired with this journey of ours in the pandemic that seems to be still far from over.
“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master’, and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”
One of the most moving images of the pandemic for me lately is the one taken by our parishioner on the first day of the ECQ last March 22 when our Parochial Vicar, Fr. Howard John celebrated Mass without a congregation. He said, “the table of the Lord is full, but the pews are empty.”
And that is what we will continue to do in this pandemic. Even without the people, we shall continue to journey in Christ by still celebrating the Mass to give us all nourishment and sustenance and rest in this prolonged journey in the pandemic.
May we never get tired walking in love as a companion and bread to one another in Christ and like Christ by giving rest to others already tired and about to give up. Let us all be together in welcoming Easter! Amen.
El anda que en amor ni cansa ni se cansa.
(The soul that walks in love neither tires others nor grows tired.)
Saint John of the Cross
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Tuesday, 30 March 2021
Isaiah 49:1-6 ><}}}*> John 13:21-33, 36-38
Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the Lord,
my recompense is with my God.
So many times, dear Father in heaven, I feel like your “Suffering Servant” feeling that nothing is happening with all my efforts, with things I persevere, as if they are all useless until I realize what matters most is my being faithful to you.
Thank you for the sign of the Cross of Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord and Master: when things become so difficult and frustrating for me, I just look at him there on the cross, “dead” like me who had failed in your mission.
But as I contemplate his Cross, I remember how before all my sadness and sufferings, Jesus was there first for me to be good with others, to be kind, to be understanding, to be merciful and forgiving, to be patient, and most of all, first to be holy in being faithful to you and your call, Father.
Remind me the words of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta that we are called to be faithful, not successful.
Let me focus more on you, Lord, instead of wondering how I have been doing, how good I have been.
Let me stop competing with others, asking who is not faithful to you, who is going to betray you like Peter during the last supper when he told the beloved disciple to clarify it with Jesus:
He leaned back against Jesus' chest
and said to him,
"Master, who is it?"
How lovely is the context of that question when what we must contemplate with is whether we have been faithful to Jesus in his Holy Eucharist.
How sad, O dear Father, that we are most unfaithful to you when we betray you right in the Eucharist – when do not listen to your words and message to us, when we do not live and practice the essence of thanksgiving to you by being faithful in witnessing Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross in our daily lives. Amen.
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
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.
Day time with the Lord…
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.
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…
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.
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?
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 ofless.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 08 June 2020
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.
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.”
Here lies one of the greatness of St. Paul who never shrunk to other forces except Christ.
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).
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”.