Grace and blessedness of leaving

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday after the Ascension of the Lord, 01 June 2022
Acts 20:28-38     ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     John 17:11-19
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Obando, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
As we begin the first day of
the end of first half of the year,
your words today, O God, are full 
of wisdom worthy for us to keep 
about the blessedness and grace
of every leaving, of every departure;
how ironic when every leaving is
characterized with sadness because
of separation, your words today, O
Lord speak of lavish joy, of your desire
that our joy may be complete in you.
In the first reading, St. Paul is bidding
goodbye to the Ephesians on his way
to Rome for imprisonment and sure death;
there was so much grief among the 
people and yet, there is the pervading 
atmosphere of blessedness and grace.
First is the grace of the gift of person,
of St. Paul and ultimately, of Jesus Christ.

Dear God, may we be like St. Paul truly a
grace to everyone with his sincerity of
love and service, dedication to your
Son Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation;
teach us to imitate St. Paul of being a
blessing ourselves to others as we make
people experience and feel your love 
and care, your concern and goodwill;
evidently, his concern up to the end is you,
O God and your people whom he warned
on guard against those who would come
after his departure in "perverting the truth", 
reminding them how he loved and 
"admonished them with tears" 
(Acts 20:30-31).
And of course, the greatest blessing
and grace of all who have "left" us
physically is your Son Jesus Christ.
How wonderful that at the Last Supper
before his arrest, he prayed for us
all his disciples he would leave behind.

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one… Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

John 17:11, 17-19
Thank you, dear Jesus, for the
gifts of being one like you and the
Father and being consecrated to
the truth - to you yourself!
To be consecrated is to be separated
from the rest in order to be holy for you,
O Lord for the sake of the people;
you alone, Lord Jesus, are the holy one
and thank you in immersing us into you,
making us like you, apart from others in
holiness but united with everyone in
loving service.
Let us not forget this tremendous
blessing and grace you have given
us before returning to the Father,
Lord Jesus.  Keep us one in you with
the Father in loving service of others.
Let us not forget this tremendous
challenge too as part of our mission
that we always leave your marks of 
holiness and truth with everyone 
we serve and meet.  Amen.

Prayer to love the giver, not the gift

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 16 June 2021
2 Corinthians 9:6-11   ><)))'> + <'(((><   Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
From Pinterest.com.

So many times, O God our Father, we have been acting so foolishly, forgetting the more essential in life as we waste precious time and our very selves with less important things and matter.

And most often, it is you whom we always forget, whom we disregard when you alone is the one whom we must always desire, whom we must always please for you alone who truly loves us above all.

Most of all, you alone is the Source of all good things in this life to whom we must always turn to.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform religious deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”

Matthew 6:1

You do not need “advertisements” for your goodness and love for us for they are all self-evident.

Worst is how we fail to realize that every time we advertise our goodness and supposed to be holiness, the more we fool ourselves as we become most selfish and not holy at all!

Make us aware to remember the teaching of Thomas á Kempis that it is the love of the giver – YOU – that matters most than the gift itself.

A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover, as the love of the giver. He esteems the affection above the gift, and values every gift far below the Beloved. A noble lover is not content with a gift, but desires Myself above all gifts. 

Imitation of Christ, Book III, Part VI, “Of the proving of the true lover” by Thomas á Kempis (d. 1471)

It is because of this wrong focus on the gifts than on the Giver that we have failed in imitating your Son Jesus Christ in his loving service and generosity with others.

Help us realize, O Lord, that you alone are the source of every good gift in life, that you can never be outdone in generosity as you give us lavishly with all the gifts we need in this life.

Help us realize that we are all vessels and sharers of your grace:

“Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work…You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God”

2 Corinthians 9:8, 11

We pray, O Lord, for each of us to count the many blessings you have given us amid the hard times that have fallen upon us since the start of this pandemic so that we may see you more above all things. Amen.

The hiddenness of God

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 September 2020
Photo by author, sunset at the Lake of Galilee (Tiberias) in Israel, May 2017.

August has always been a “ghost month” for me since elementary school. Long before I have heard these stories and words of caution against many things in the month of August, I have always dreaded this month when days are grindingly slow.

Specially this year 2020 when the whole month of August felt like the season of Lent when everything was dry and empty, even literally speaking in our churches when the five Sundays of August were like five Good Fridays.

But, for the first time in many years during this pandemic, amid the dryness and emptiness of August 2020, I felt and “found” God anew in his most unique and wonderful characteristic — his hiddenness.

Hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”.

Hiddenness is something both simple and complicated but beautiful and wonderful when we find God in his hiddenness.

Hiddenness of God means more than not being seen per se; it is that feeling with certainty that he is present but, just hiding somewhere. In fact, if God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all!

And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him!

Photo by author, April 2020.

Remember when we were kids and could not find the things that our mother had asked us to get from somewhere in the sala or kitchen or her tocador? She would threaten us with the classic line my generation have all heard and memorized, “Pag hindi mo nakita yan, makikita mo sa akin!”

It is one of our funniest memories of childhood! I am sorry for my English-speaking readers but there is no appropriate translation for this because it is very cultural and even spiritual in nature. Literally translated, it says that if you do not find what you are looking for, you would find it with me. Crazy and insane, is it not?!

I told you, hiddenness of God is both simple and complex but whenever we remember those “sweet, maternal threats”, we laugh and shrug off the experience as we were dead serious then searching for whatever thing mom had asked us because deep in us we knew too well, it must be somewhere there. Sabi kasi ni Inay! (Mom said so!)

That is how it is with God too! We know for sure he is around, he is present. But in hiding because that is how loving God is, like moms and some lovers with surprises for us his beloved.

The Prophet Jeremiah experienced it so well when he wrote:

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter, everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding itin, I cannot endure it.

Jeremiah 20:7-9

No one can understand this without having experienced such intense kind of love of God or of another person that even if we are pained, we just cannot walk away or leave. More so with God, the most intense lover of all!

At the very center of Jeremiah’s torment is the invincible power of attraction of God. This is also the reason human love – whether for another a friend or a spouse, for the Church or any institution – must always be based on the love of Christ who told us to “love one another as I have loved you.” If our love remains in the human level, it can never go deeper or higher making it so sublime, so true, so pure.

That is how God is in his hiddenness who is like a lover who never stops looking for us, calling us, luring us, even seducing us to come to him, search him and once found, we may dwell in his great love; hence, even if we do not “see” him, we keep on following him as we also find him in his hiddenness!

Hiddenness of God, mystery and gift of Easter

This hiddenness of God is both the gift and mystery of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. It is a gift because in his hiddenness, God has become closest to us more than ever while at the same time, a mystery because it is in his very hiddenness that we truly find and discover God.

Remember the two disciples going home to Emmaus on Easter afternoon who was accompanied by Jesus while traveling? They did not recognize him but as they talked, their “hearts were burning” as he explained the Scriptures. Then joining them at their meal at sundown upon reaching Emmaus, Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it — and the disciples’ eyes were opened, recognizing him as the Lord who immediately disappeared! The two then rushed back to Jerusalem to announce to the other disciples that Jesus had indeed risen.

That is the beauty of hiddenness, its giftedness and mystery that we find God even our beloved who had died or not physically present with us but deep within, we are certain of their presence as being so true and so real.

Hiddenness is a deeper level of relationship coming from one’s heart and soul not dependent on physical presence. This is the reason why upon appearing to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, Jesus asked her not to touch him because from then on, knowing and relating with the Lord need not be physical and corporeal as he used to relate with them before his Death and Resurrection.

All these we must have experienced like when after a friend or a relative had died, that is when we felt growing closer with the person than when he/she was still alive and physically present with us. Or, when we were feeling low and down, we experienced sometimes so amazed at how we have felt the presence even the scent of our deceased loved ones comforting us, assuring us that all would be better.

This quarantine period invites us to experience and discover God anew in his hiddenness through prayers and silence so we can reflect on the many lessons this pandemic is teaching us today. In the darkness and emptiness of this pandemic are grace-filled moments with God hidden in our poverty and sadness, sickness and even deaths around us.

Photo by author, Christmas 2018.

Some people have already asked me about what or how would our Simbang Gabi and Christmas celebrations be. They are sad and worried that it must be a very bleak Christmas for everyone with so many out of work.

But, despite this gloom, I tell them that Christmas 2020 would be one – if not the most meaningful Christmas we shall ever have despite forecasts that there would be less of everything, materially speaking.

So often in life, when we have so much material things, that is when we fail to find and experience God.

Recall that in Bethlehem more that 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was born, God came to us hidden in a stable, on a manger in the darkness of the night.

And do not forget, too, that Christmas is not a date but an event, the very person of Jesus Christ, the all-powerful God who came to us hidden in a child, who upon becoming an adult, was crucified and died. These are sad and down moments for us but for God, it is his hiddenness, his presence. Let us go and find him again for he continues to come to us in hiddenness. Amen.

Of wages and gifts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorials of St. John Eudes & St. Ezechiel Moreno, Priests, 19 August 2020
Ezekiel 34:1-11 >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> Matthew 20:1-16
Photo by author, Pulilan, Bulacan, February 2020.

As we go through more difficulties and sufferings during this time of pandemic, your words today dear God speak so well of what we need most – a true shepherd who will care for the lost and injured sheep.

Yes, you have fulfilled, O God, your promise a long time ago to Ezekiel that you yourself will come by sending us your Son Jesus Christ to look after and tend your sheep after the shepherds of Israel have miserably failed in their duties and responsibilities.

Unfortunately, there are still so many shepherds today in government even in Church who continue to pasture themselves!

Woe to the shepherds of Israel who has been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally. As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; I swear I am coming against these shepherds.

Ezekiel 34:2-4, 8, 10

Teach us, O Lord, through the examples of two great shepherds of souls whose feast we celebrate today: St. John Eudes who was one of the early pioneers in propagating devotion to your most Sacred Heart and St. Ezechiel Moreno who served for 15 years in the Philippines and later in South America where innumerable cancer cures were attributed to him.

St. John Eudes and St. Ezechiel Moreno showed in their lives of faithful and loving apostolate for the poor that shepherding is always a gift, never to be counted or equated nor even be seen in terms of wages and pay like in the gospel.

Remind us sweet Jesus in the midst of this pandemic when we are called to be good shepherds like you, may we always see your call and mission to us as gifts freely given not as tasks or work to be compensated by material things because you believe in us.

May we always go the extra mile in answering your call, O Lord, which is in itself a tremendous gift we must cherish for we are not even worthy at all to receive. Amen.

From Google.

Giftedness of a gift

The Lord I My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Thursday, Easter Week VII, 28 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 22:30; 23:6-11 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 17:20-26

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

John 17:24

Wow! What a tremendous blessing you have poured upon us today, Lord Jesus Christ! Yesterday, you proved yourself to be a great friend to us, and today, you give us the great honor of being a gift to you from the Father.

We are nothing before you, O Lord, and yet that is who we are to you – a gift from the Father.

What an honor for us all when in fact, we have nothing except your gift of self, your gift of life.

And that is where the giftedness of any gift lies – not in the gift itself but in the giver and the receiver of the gift. Any gift is worthless unless somebody gives it and somebody receives it too.

Between the giving and receiving, therein happens the giftedness of gift when it is opened and offered. A gift left unopened under a Christmas tree or in a drawer remains nothing unless opened and used and appreciated.

Photo by author, Subic, Zambales, 2018.

We are a gift given by God to everyone in Christ Jesus. It is only when we are able to open and offer our selves do we become truly a gift.

Give us that grace, Jesus, of offering and sharing our giftedness like St. Paul in the first reading.

The following night the Lord stood by him (St. Paul) and said, “Take courage. For just as you have borne witness to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

Acts of the Apostles 23:11

There are many occasions, Lord, when we pray and ask you to spare us of all the sufferings and trials but now we have realized that it is only in being one with you in your passion when we truly become a gift to you from the Father.

It is in our becoming a gift to you that we become a gift to others and eventually realize our many gifts in ourselves too. Amen.