Silence: the sound of the end, the sound of new beginning

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 13 November 2022
Malachi 3:19-20 ><}}}}'> 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 ><}}}}'> Luke 21:5-19
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.

Silence is perhaps the most rare thing in this life that everybody is avoiding. See how that ubiquitous cell phone and ear phone/ear plugs on everyone, always speaking/texting to somebody or listening to something by one’s self.

Nobody appreciates the beautiful sound of silence anymore especially in the privacy of our homes with 24-hour television and unlimited streaming of movies. We are so at home with noise, from our talking gadgets to talking cars and talking elevators. Even jeepneys in my province speak Japanese when it stops!

But, no matter how hard we try to avoid silence, it imposes itself on us silently, telling us so many things for a more meaningful living like the need for us to slow down because the end is near.

In fact, it is right in silence when the end is already happening inasmuch as every beginning happens too!

Our readings today invite us to put some order in our lives because the end of everything is so real which happens not in the future but right in our present moment, in every here and now.

St. Paul in the second reading used the word “disorderly” twice to describe the kind of disorderly living some Thessalonians at that time were leading: “In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others” (2 Thess. 3:10-11).

So relevant to our time too!

Let us be wary of the devil’s greatest temptation to everyone, that there is still time – there is enough time to change, to be better, to say “I am sorry”, to say “I love you”, to be kind, to be loving and forgiving.

There is not enough time because when we waste time, it is us who pass by not time! We could not bring back time and most of all, everything ends. Period.

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here — the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Luke 21:5-6
Photo by author, Jerusalem, May 2019.

Everything ends to begin anew

Jesus is still in the temple area of Jerusalem giving his final teachings to his disciples and the crowd. And what a great topic he had chosen before his life ends on Good Friday outside Jerusalem in order to rise again on Easter – the destruction of the Jerusalem temple!

For the Jews, Jerusalem is not just their capital city but in fact the center of the world, even of the universe because that is where God is – signified by the temple. Imagine Jesus telling us Catholics how the Vatican City with the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica being destroyed and reduced to rubbles like the wailing wall of Jerusalem? Of course, it will happen but we do not know when as we have seen with other great churches that have collapsed due to earthquakes and fires like the famed Notre Dame Cathedral in France last year. Very often, we find the end unthinkable especially when we think of great buildings and structures like the World Trade Center in New York that collapsed following a terrorist attack on 9/11.

On the other hand, we try as much as possible to preserve in time great moments in our lives that we wish would never end like our first kiss or the significant events of triumphs and achievements we have had.

Jesus assures us today that everything ends.

But, every ending is also a beginning.

While everything ends even his life and mission here on earth as we shall see next Sunday in Christ the King, Jesus tells us that endings are not bad at all especially when seen in his light and life.

Despite his own warnings of many upheavals like wars among nations, natural calamities and disasters, and most of all, of our persecutions even by our own family members and friends, Jesus assures us these would not immediately be the end. Yes, it means there would be longer time and periods of sufferings and pains from the trials that would come our way as individuals and as a nation, most of all as a community of believers but Jesus will give us all the grace and help we need in giving testimony to him as the Christ.

“You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Luke 21:16-19
Photo by author, Jerusalem, May 2017.

Everything Jesus had foretold have come true, especially the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD, including those wars and calamities as well as all kinds of disasters that continue to happen to our days.

But, hey! Here we are all, still alive and well. Recall how in March 2020 when we were placed under quarantine, worldwide!

The world seemed to have stood still due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, we thought it would only be momentary like a few days or weeks but it dragged onto weeks and months! Until now, there is still the pandemic but a lot of great things have happened to us since 2020, for better and for worst.

That is the meaning of our brief first reading from the prophet Malachi reminding us that while the day of the Lord is the “day of judgment”, it is also the “day of salvation, day of redemption”.

And here lies the good news and challenge of this Sunday: while the end is not really an end in itself much to be feared as it is also a new beginning of a better life both here and in eternity, we have to strive harder each day in being more responsible disciples of the Lord, giving testimony to his loving service and mercy to everyone especially those in the margins like the poor and the sick.

I love the words of St. Paul in the second reading “instructing and urging us in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly” (2 Thess.3:12).

What a lovely reminder from the great Apostle who tirelessly – and silently – worked proclaiming the gospel and being an example to his people.

His call for us to work “quietly” in the Lord is an invitation to rediscover the beauty of silence in this noisy world of ours.

It is said that modern man is afraid of silence because he is afraid of confronting the truth of himself, that is he is finite, that everything will end. When we practice silence especially in prayer and in life generally, we come to terms with our very selves, with our life, and with death. That is when we start living authentically.

When we become silent, we learn to trust, we become faithful. No wonder, saints (along with monks and every religious including us priests ideally) are connoisseurs of silence.

Because, the truth is, God works silently in human history. Then and now, we have seen and experienced God working in silence in our lives and in the world, ensuring that history would end according to his Divine plan, not just according to fate or freak accident or human folly.

In the silence of our hearts, we are certain of these things, of God never ceasing in his love and care for us. Even without the prophets proclaiming, right within each of us, we can be sure that every day is a day of the Lord, a day of his judgement and a day of his salvation. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.

Hope in heaven is hope for others

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, 02 November 2022
Wisdom 3:1-9 ><}}}}*> Romans 6:3-4, 8-9 ><}}}}*> John 6:37-40
Praise and thanksgiving
to you our loving God and Father
for the grace of life
for the grace of death
for the grace of judgment:
in the end, your love prevails.
Our hope lies in your judgement,
O God and Father because it is
both justice and grace:
justice because you render fairly
to everyone what is due including 
everything we have done but
it is also grace because you know
our weaknesses, our sinfulness:
"The souls of the just are in the hands of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish,
to be dead; and their passing away was thought
an affliction and their going forth from us,
utter destruction.  But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet it is their hope of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them and found them
worthy of himself" (Wisdom 3:1-5).
Thank you, dear Father in sending us your Son
Jesus Christ who had closely linked
your justice and grace in his Passion,
Death and Resurrection we now share
in the hope of being with you in heaven;
as we remember today our faithful departed,
including those who have been forgotten,
we not only hope for ourselves but also
hope for others because we have realized
all the more these November 1 and 2
that no man is an island:  
we are all linked together in Jesus, 
no one lives alone
no one sins alone
no one is saved alone!
On this All Souls' Day
we express to you not only 
our own hope for salvation
but also our hope for other's salvation:
remember those who have died ahead of us,
purify them in the love of Christ
who assured us that "I came down from heaven 
not to do my own will but the will 
of the one who sent me.  And this is 
the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything
of what he gave me, but that I should 
raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son
and believes in him may have
eternal life, and I shall raise him
on the last day" (John 6:38-40). 
O most holy Virgin Mary,
our Mother who is the "Star of the Sea"
in this journey of life,
lead us safely to Jesus in eternity
especially at the hour of our death.
Amen.
Photo credits:  Top photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD in Portugal, October 2022.
Last photo by author, 2019. 

Ash Wednesday: rising from the ruins of life

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 02 March 2022
Joel 2:12-18 ><}}}}*> 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 ><}}}}*> Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Image from Google.

For the third straight year, we enter the Season of Lent in the most unusual conditions in the world. Perhaps, even surreal. We had in 2020 the start of the COVID-19 pandemic persisting through 2021 up to the present that has altered the way we live and how we look at life.

Just when we felt like “Easter” coming in 2021, there came the stronger Delta variant at around this time that claimed so many lives among us.

Now in 2022 after we have all the vaccines available to put COVID-19 in control with a “tamer” variant Omicron, we have a more serious concern with Russia invading Ukraine.

To a certain degree, it is “good” this had happened at this time when we are starting the Lenten Season with Ash Wednesday that reminds us the question we should be asking is not “where is God” but “where are we, his people”?

It has always been the same question ever since – of “where are we in relation to God” every time there are man-made and natural disasters like wars and famine, epidemics and plagues, or earthquakes, drought and floods.

It is easier to blame God for all of our troubles because he is always silent, never answering us back; but, it is in his silence when we also realize the truth that we are the ones who have drifted apart from God, who have gone lost away from him who is always looking for us, waiting for us to come back.

It is in the silence of God that he is most present especially when we are deep in sin and sufferings.

Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment. Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?” Then the Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.

Joel 2:12-13, 17b-18
From istockphoto.com by Getty Images.

Lent: A coming home to God for us mortals, sinners, and ruined

Lent is a “coming home” to God with Ash Wednesday serving like a porch that leads us inside the “house of God” with each of its five Sundays acting like a door opening us closer and closer into the innermost room where God is.

In the shadows of the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and the heated national elections in our country, let us focus on the practice of giving of ashes every Ash Wednesday which is a gesture often mentioned in the Bible.


Ashes remind us first of all, of our mortality, that we shall all die one day. This is the reason why we priests say “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen.2:7) while imposing ashes on your foreheads in the form of a cross.

And there lies the good news too of Ash Wednesday: we do not just die, rot and return to ash because at the end of time, we shall all rise again to become whole – body and soul – like Jesus Christ!

From ravenscov.org.

Though we are marked for death, Ash Wednesday reassures us of our resurrection and salvation in Christ signified by the ash in the form of a cross on our foreheads.

Ashes signal our readiness for repentance as expressed in the new formula in the imposition of ashes, “Turn from sin and believe in the Gospel”.

Recall how in the Book of Jonah when the king of Nineveh removed his royal robe, covered himself in sackcloth, and sat in ashes upon hearing Jonah’s preaching as he ordered too his people to do the same that averted the wrath of God.

In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we find how Jesus lambasted the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida for not repenting upon seeing his mighty deeds, so unlike the pagans at Tyre and Sidon who would have “repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Mt. 11:21 & Lk.10:13).

Ashes also signify ruin, destruction and devastation in life like Job who had lost all precious to him when he said, “(God) He has cast me into the mire; I am leveled with the dust and ashes” (Job 30:19).

It is the most applicable signification of ashes to us today in this time of prolonged pandemic with its deep emotional and psychological impact on everyone trying to grapple with life’s many challenges as we try to start anew almost daily.

The feeling is best described by the Book of Lamentations in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem: “Those accustomed to dainty food perish in the streets; those brought up in purple now cling to the ash heaps” (Lam. 4:5).

Indeed, that ash on our foreheads reminds us of the ruin we are into as an individual, as a nation, as citizens of the world.

How often did we have to shelve and postpone our many plans in life since 2020 due to this pandemic with its recurring surges now worsened by this war at Ukraine launched by Russian president Putin?

We were already sighing in great relief the past weeks with declining cases of COVID when suddenly – to our great disbelief and dismay that this can still happen in the 21st century when Putin invaded Ukraine, casting the world into another grave danger of unimagined proportion.

And lastly, who does not feel ruined after all these years of the pandemic worsened by decadent politics that has gone into an abyss of filth and insanity?

Now more than ever we could feel and experience the “ash heap” we are into with only God who can raise us up and cleanse us again.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

Lent is a joyful season!

Contrary to what most people believe, Lent is not all that drab and dry. While its prevailing mood is of sobriety and seriousness in the light of its call for penance, fasting and almsgiving, Lent is a joyful season preparing us to Easter.

St. Paul tells us in the second reading that “now is the day of salvation”:

Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 5:20, 6:2

To be reconciled with God who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” begins right inside our hearts when we open it – rend – so it may be cleansed of sins for Jesus to dwell inside again.

Like our reflection last Sunday, it is the truth of the heart that must be expressed on this Ash Wednesday, that must be cleansed and “repaired” after so many beatings and ruins especially these past years (https://lordmychef.com/2022/02/26/taking-jesus-to-the-heart/).

It is the heart that must be strengthened and converted by our lenten practices because its purity is revealed by our very lives, the kind of life we lead, the aura we project even if half of our face is covered by the face mask.

This is the very essence of the Lord’s calls in the gospel to do these practices “in secret”, not be seen by others that it becomes more of a show. It is God whom we must please, not the people; to enter into one’s room is to enter into one’s self to meet God with our true selves, without our usual alibis, of ifs and buts.

From Google.

This is the grace of Lent that begins on this Ash Wednesday: it is God who actually comes to us, to meet us, to work in us in his “mercy and graciousness” so we may experience his loving presence again despite all our sins and troubles.

Life is a daily Lent, a cleansing of our hearts, a repairing of our hearts ruined especially when we have truly loved and ended up being misunderstood and persecuted.

Do not worry, human love is always imperfect; only God can love us perfectly. That is what Ash Wednesday is reminding us, that we are finite and sinful, ruined most of the time but always open to God who never leaves nor forsakes us his children.

In this spirit, let us also not forget that Lent is a journey we take with others, a daily exodus from darkness to light, from sickness to healing, from ruins to newness, from sin to forgiveness and grace.

Photo by author, Lent 2019.

We come home to God together as a people, as a family, as brothers and sisters in Christ.

May our gathering together on this Ash Wednesday be an occasion to free ourselves from the ever-growing threats of individualism that has marked our age with everyone feeling a celebrity, even playing God.

Please don’t forget to practice fasting and abstinence today to create a space for God and for others in your heart.

Have a blessed and safe Lenten season, everyone!

Mary, advocate of grace and model of holiness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 08 December 2021
Genesis 3:9-15, 20 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Palazzo Borromeo, Isola Bella, Stresa, Italia, 2019.

Recently I saw on a Facebook post the photo of American model Kendall Jenner in a swimsuit showing what for many is the “perfect body” in a woman. The photo had reportedly gone viral last year.

What caught my attention was the other photo posted opposite Jenner: that of 19-year-old Alyssa Carson who became the youngest female in history to pass all NASA aerospace tests to train as astronaut for future travel to Mars! The caption said it so well, lamenting the fact how the world gives so much attention to “fashion models” with many going insane imitating their bodies forgetting the more essential like inner beauty and intelligence.

More sad is how we have fixed our human understanding and analogies of a “model” as someone who poses and remains still to be painted or photographed for glossy magazines and giant billboards that people are willing to buy or pay for just to view and let their senses feast on.

It may sound funny but those two photos accompanied me while praying and preparing for our celebration today of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Sorry, I am not going to show you the link to those photos but wha I want to share with you are the two beautiful expressions depicting Mary as “advocate of grace” and “model of holiness” found in the Preface of today’s Mass (that is the prayer before the Holy, Holy leading to the consecration): “She, the most pure Virgin, was to bring forth a Son, the innocent lamb who would wipe away our offenses; you placed her above all others to be for your people an advocate of grace and a model of holiness.”

Photo by Fr. Gerry Pascual at Einsiedeln Abbey, Einsiedeln, Switzerland, 2019.

So often with Marian feasts, many people complain and find it hard to relate with the Blessed Virgin because they find them as celebrations of the privileges of Mary who was so blessed and unique, thinking she’s almost a god, not human anymore whom we cannot imitate and emulate.

That is totally untrue and baseless!

Of course, only she has the distinction of being immaculately conceived, one never stained by sin but, aside from that, Mary is like all of us, so human; and we too can be like her, full of grace and holy!

Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will.

Ephesians 1:3-5

Very clear in this reflection by St. Paul in our second reading that our truest destiny is to be holy and without blemish – that is, immaculate. It is the plan of God since the beginning that we all become his people until sin came and destroyed momentarily that divine plan as we have heard in the first reading.

With the coming of Jesus through his sacrifice on the Cross, we were redeemed from sin to become God’s holy people which the same Preface mentions Mary as the “beginning of the Church”. The same prayer reiterates to us our universal calling from God which is to be holy and blameless before God through Jesus Christ. It is very doable and attainable “for nothing is impossible for God” as the Archangel Gabriel told Mary during the Annunciation (Lk.1:37). And Mary is our proof to that!

Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Santuario di Greccio, Rieti, Italy in 2019.

While it is very true that nothing is impossible for God, today’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception reminds of how God “needs” us to cooperate and participate in his beautiful plans for us like Mary to be his instrument or seedbed for his Divine Word to receive and grow and bloom.

That is the meaning of Mary as “advocate of grace” who became the vessel in the coming of Jesus Christ. See how St. Luke was very clear in narrating Mary’s “supporting” role and place in the plan of God: she remains a human being – not God – like us except she was full of grace, that is, immaculately conceived.

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end… The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Luke 1:31-33, 35

The Church Fathers used to call Mary as the “aquaeductus ecclesiae” or neck of the Church connecting Jesus the caput or head and us the corpus or body. Mary as an advocate of grace is that vessel of all blessings we now have in Jesus Christ because of her obedience and participation in that plan of God of sending Jesus.

Keep in mind that as advocate of grace, Mary brings us all to Jesus as the one Mediator, not away from him. True devotees of Mary bring others to Jesus not away from him for he alone is the Mediator. A true and authentic devotion to Mary always result in deeper knowledge and intimacy with Jesus and his gospel. Notice this in her apparitions especially at Fatima in 1911 where her messages call us to get closer to Jesus, not her.

Mary continues as our advocate of grace telling us the very same words she had told the servers at Cana to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn.2:5).

Do we do the same? Or, mislead others into putting Mary at par or even above Jesus her Son and Lord? In this time of pandemic, are we like Mary as an advocate of grace, a vessel and instrument of blessings to others or do we grab every credit of “charity” and “kindness”, grandstanding for more media mileage of “likes” and “followers” to be viral and trending?

Photo by Fr. Gerry Pascual at the Cathedral of Barcelona, Spain in 2019.

From her being an “advocate of grace”, Mary thus becomes our “model of holiness” too as she reminds us of God’s original plan for us, created in his image and likeness destroyed by sin with the fall of Adam and Eve. See how God immediately promised salvation through the woman fulfilled in Mary as he reprimanded the serpent in tempting Eve:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike you at your head, while you strike at his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

Because of her being the advocate of grace of God by giving birth to Jesus, Mary stands before us as the perfect reminder of Christ’s work of purification and recovery of the image of God in us. Described as the “perfect disciple” and “doer of the Word”, Mary had shown us in her very life which continues to this day in her intercessions and apparitions how discipleship is a life-long process and commitment of holiness. From giving birth to Jesus to his dying on the Cross until his burial, Mary had always been with Jesus that on Easter, it was to her that the Risen Lord first appeared because she was the first to believe totally in him.

At the Pentecost, Mary was with the Apostles awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit that became the coming out party of the Church. In her life, Mary is the model of holiness because she keeps on working with us and in us, guiding us in following Jesus our Lord and Master so that we might be “conformed to his image” (Rom. 8:29).

Photo by author, Christmas 2020.

Holiness is not being sinless but being filled with God who is all-holy, being like Jesus Christ. Mary showed us the way to holiness is being humble before God, seeing herself as the “handmaid” or servant of the Lord.

If there is one thing the world needs now so badly in this time of the pandemic, it is holiness. Before the pandemic came, mankind was so filled with self, so arrogant and proud acting like god, manipulating everything.

How ironic that a microscopic virus with the simplest signs similar to the common colds made the world stood still for some time, reminding us that there is a God all-powerful who is in control of everything.

Through Mary, may this Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception lead us back to God to recover in us his image and likeness, cleansed and purified of our blemishes and wrinkles of sin by having an enlightened devotion to her, the servant of the Lord par excellence. Amen.

A blessed day to everyone!

Renewal in God, with God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XVI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 24 July 2020
Jeremiah 3:14-17 <*(((><< ) + ( >><)))*> Matthew 13:18-23
Photo by author, Sonnen Berg Mountain View, Davao City, August 2018.

It is a Friday and we thank you, O God our loving Father, for your boundless grace and mercy of another week to close and a new one to start. Amid the many struggles we have to go through this week with the staggering number of people infected with COVID-19, you continue to bless us.

Help us return to you, your “rebellious children” (Jer.3:14), so we may be renewed in you and with you.

Keep our sights looking forward to our future with your promises of growth and fulfillment.

Let us forget and learn our lessons from our past mistakes and sins so we may walk uprightly, guided by “shepherds you have appointed after your own heart who will shepherd us wisely and prudently” (Jer.3:15), never again to grow “hardhearted in wickedness” against you and others.

Thank you for sending us your Son Jesus Christ, the Sower who never gets tired sowing seeds into our hearts of all your grace necessary for us to be fruitful in life. May we become good soil who will accept and take care of your seeds. Amen.

Photo by author, ricefields in Pulilan, Bulacan, January 2020.

The power and grace from stretched hands

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Wk. XVI, Yr. I, 23 July 2019
Exodus 14:21-15:1 >< }}}*> >< }}}*> Matthew 12:46-50
Holy Family Chapel, Sacred Heart Retreat and Spirituality Center, Novaliches, July 2017.

Thrice in our readings today, O loving Father, we heard “stretching of hands” to impart your power and grace. What a beautiful gesture so that today, we also stretch our hands in praising and thanking you God for all your love and kindness.

Stretching of hands is a gesture we usually do to you and others when we are pleading for something or when we express surrender or submission. We also stretch our hands over people and things to show our power or your power passing through us.

Moses stretched out his hand over the sea ,and the Lord swept the sea with a strong east wind throughout the night and so turned it into dry land…

Then the Lord told Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the water may flow back to the Egyptians, upon their chariots and their charioteers.”

Exodus 14:21, 26

In our gospel, when your Son our Lord Jesus Christ identified his family, he used the same gesture to show his grace and blessing of making us his family, making us one in him and with him.

And stretching his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, my sister, my mother.”

Matthew 12:49-50

Keep us always in the protection and care of your powerful and loving hands, Lord, that are always stretched upon the sick especially the bed-ridden and seriously ill, to those who have to work far from their loved ones, those who have to deal and handle with delicate matters and situations.

Continue also to stretch your hands upon us, Lord, to shower us with your blessings especially the fresh graduates, for the newly weds, for those working hard for their families, for those pursuing their stars and dreams with passion and determination, and for those getting tired and weak with their many burdens and load on their shoulders.

Help us also, Lord, to be like you on the Cross when you stretched your hands to express your deep love and mercy for each one of us. Give us that power and grace to stretch our hands in your name to be your instruments of change, healing and joy to everyone especially those in pain and sufferings. Amen.

Holy Family Chapel, Sacred Heart Retreat and Spirituality Center, Novaliches, July 2017.