Finding our proper place

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 28 August 2022
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 ><}}}*> Luke 14:1, 7-14
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan City, 31 December 2021.

Sometimes I feel life in the Philippines is a daily game of musical chair with each of us trying to secure our favorite seats in the bus or jeepney or train, in the classroom, in the church, in the restaurant. Everywhere.

And the favorite seats are always the ones at the back of the room most especially in churches and those nearest the door like in buses and jeepneys.

Most funny of all is when you find our kababayan in airports here and abroad rushing to board the plane as if they would not find a seat already paid for!

All because we put too much premium on our seats that mean power and control, even prestige although no one among us would admit it. In fact, our usual excuse of being seated at the back is due to shyness which is not true at all! More truthful is the fact that too often, we choose our seats for personal convenience that seats are everything for us.

But, unknown to many of us, what truly matters most in life, in being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not where we sit but where we stand which is the gist of our gospel this Sunday.

On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

Luke 14:1,7
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

See how Luke had briefly compressed in his opening lines for this Sunday’s gospel the gravity of Christ’s teachings today about discipleship. Setting was the most important day of the week for the Jews, the Sabbath, celebrated right in the house of a leading Pharisee.

Wow! It must had been a big party with all the “who’s who” that everybody was trying to get a piece of the action with all eyes on Jesus being observed carefully.

But, why?

To impress him? To be closer to him? To test him as most often would happen with him when in a gathering of people?

I find the scene overloaded with meanings that concern us when unconsciously we also “closely observe Jesus” whenever we would pray and celebrate the Sunday Mass in our parishes. There are times we forget God in our prayers as we are so preoccupied with our very selves, so focused and even insistent on what we believe and hold on to whatever we are asking from him. The “me, me, me” and “I, I, I” attitudes of being right, of being good, of being deserving and of course, entitled. Hence, the confiteor and kyrie are merely recited just for the sake of saying we are sorry for our sins even if we do not really mean them because so often, many are either late or do not examine their consciences.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Luke seems to be having some shades of humor when he noted how the “people carefully observed Jesus” at the dinner without them realizing the Lord himself had already and easily unmasked their pretensions and true characters of choosing the places of honor at the dinner that he had to tell them a parable about choosing the lowest seat!

When we come to the Lord most especially at prayer and the Mass, or even to a party and dinner for that matter, our main attitude must be of humility; to be invited to any party is an indication of our special relationship with the host. Multiply this to the highest degree in coming to the Holy Mass and simple prayer because it is God who gives us the grace to come to him, who values so much our relationship as Father and beloved children.

That is the point of Ben Sirach in the first reading, tenderly addressing the reader “My child, conduct your affairs with humility” (Sir.3:17), indicative of a relationship.

Every Sunday Mass is a banquet of the Lord like that Sabbath dinner Jesus attended in the gospel. No need to choose our places of honor because we are already honored by Jesus to celebrate “in him, with him and through him”. It is the very reason why we must celebrate Mass every Sunday as good, practicing Catholics.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Prayer and Mass are moments we strip ourselves naked before God who welcomes us to come near him even before we say sorry for our sins, even if we are not worthy of being in his presence at all. Recall the story of the calling of Nathanael or St. Bartholomew the Apostle last Wednesday; like him, Jesus had already seen and known us with joy long before we have approached him!

Every prayer moment, every Eucharistic celebration like a banquet on a Sabbath Jesus attended in the gospel today is an occasion for us to be truthful and sincere, to be our true selves, to be humble. St. Teresa of Avila said that “humility is walking in truth.” Just be yourself before God.

That is why Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk.14:11). In the end, when we die, we shall all be placed in our proper places before God; hence, the need for us to be humble and sincere with who we really are. Do not try to be somebody else not you because God knows everything, even the hair on our heads.

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14
Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

The first parable was addressed by Jesus to the guests while this second parable was meant for the host; however, both parables are meant for us all who are all guests of God in this big banquet called life that leads to eternity.

First of all, just be our true and best selves in prayers and in life for we are all honored in Jesus Christ as God’s beloved children.

And if we live and act like Jesus our Host making him the most important guest in our hearts, then our hearts become big enough to welcome everyone, especially “the crippled, the lame, the blind”, making us inclusive like Jesus himself and not exclusive as our seating arrangements would often reveal.

The right attitude in being a guest and a host in this life is to imitate God in the responsorial psalm “who made a home for the poor”, of being like Jesus welcoming everyone with love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, care and understanding.

Again, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews beautifully reminds us today in the second reading that the ultimate goal of our Christian life is communion with God that starts here in this life on earth. Every Mass is a “dress rehearsal” of our entrance into heaven because

Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which cold be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy and darkness… No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven… and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Hebrews 12:18, 22, 23, 24
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

My dear fellow journeyers in Christ, the blessedness of this Sunday shows us how fast time flies, that in a few days, it would be September, the beginning of the -ber months, the approaching Christ the King celebration to close our liturgical calendar.

Before thinking of Advent and Christmas, we are reminded today of “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday, June 26, 2022) to face his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Along the way are invitations to join him too in banquets; let us not seek the seats of honor but instead be firm in making our stand for Jesus on the Cross by being loving and merciful like him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Straight from the heart…

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin, 11 August 2022
Ezekiel 12:1-12   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 18:21-19:1
Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com
"So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from
his heart" (Matthew 18:35).
Dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
take away my stony heart
and give me a heart of flesh
that beats with firm faith,
fervent hope and unceasing charity
and love for you through others.
Enable me to see with my heart,
let me not be blind to my many sins,
especially in dealing with my fellow sinners
for we are all loved and forgiven sinners of the Father;
incline my heart to your Holy Will,
let me not be rebellious like the people
during the time of the Prophet Ezekiel -
so numb and callous, no sense of sinfulness
at all that they were not bothered at all 
with your efforts to turn back to you
by being contrite to reform
 their lives.
Let me heed the prayer of the psalmist today,
"Do not forget the works of the Lord!"
Let me remember your great sacrifice
for me to forgive my sins,
to wipe me clean and
start anew!
Reign in my heart, Jesus;
dwell in my heart, O Lord,
empty me of my pride
and fill me with your
humility, justice, and love;
grant me the grace of poverty
like St. Clare whose memorial
we celebrate today so that we may
serve you with joy and gladness
coming from a heart so blessed
by you.
Amen.

Finding God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Dominic de Guzman, Priest, 08 August 2022
Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28   ><))))*> + <*((((><   Matthew 17:22-27
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.
Once in a while, 
I imagine dear God
our Father what would
it be like to have a vision
of you, to find you and
your dwelling place?
Would I have the
courage and composure
of your prophet Ezekiel?

As I looked, a storm wind came from the North, a huge cloud with flashing fire enveloped its brightness, from the midst of which (the midst of fire) something gleamed like spectrum. Within it there were figures resembling four living creatures that looked like this: Their form was human… Like the bow that appears in the clouds on a rainy day, was the splendor that surrounded him. Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

Ezekiel 1:4-5, 28
You are always with us,
dear God, revealing your 
truth, goodness, and beauty;
you cannot be kept in any 
particular place for you are
all-powerful and in fact, 
the sole legitimate power
for everything belongs to
you as implied by Jesus to Simon
in today's gospel (Mt.17:22-27).
There is no need for me to have
the apocalyptic vision of Ezekiel
to find and see your dazzling 
majesty; just give me the humility
like of St. Dominic to passionately
seek you in prayers and studies,
following his footsteps in simplicity
of life and self-denial so that upon
finding your light and your truth, 
I may share you in Jesus Christ 
with everyone.
Amen.
St. Dominic from a detail of a fresco painted by Fra Angelico in 1441 in Convento di San Marcos in Florence, Italy; photo from commons.wikimedia.org.

Loving means a lot of bending

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 19 May 2022
Acts 15:7-21   ><))))*> + <*((((><   John 15:9-11
Photo by author, Bgy. Pulang Bato, San Juan, Batangas, 14 May 2022.
Lord Jesus Christ,
let me "remain in your love
by keeping your commandments
so that my joy might be
complete in you" (cf. Jn.15:9-11)!
To remain in your love, 
dear Jesus, takes a lot of
bending and bowing low
before you and others, 
of forgetting myself and 
all my other ideas of you
in order to truly see you 
in others especially with 
those different from me.

The whole assembly fell silent, and they listened while Paul and Barnabas described the signs and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles through them.

Acts 15:12
I wonder, Lord, why the whole 
assembly fell silent after Peter had
spoken about your works among 
Cornelius and his household; whatever
it meant, it must have paved the way
for everyone to bend their ways
and beliefs especially with their
traditions in order to commit 
themselves anew to you,
Jesus Christ, our way and truth
and life!
In this highly competitive world 
we now live in, we have forgotten
to bend low in life, literally and
figuratively speaking; we are always
seeking the vantage position of 
being above others, always clapping
for others and for one's self but
rarely bending; maybe, that is why
it has become so difficult to truly love
others these days.  Teach us to learn
to bend, to kneel, to bow not out of 
fearful submission to anyone but 
out of respect and love for you
present among us despite and in spite
of our many differences.  Amen.

Maturing in the Holy Spirit

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 16 May 2022
Acts 14:5-18   ><))))*> + <*((((><   John 14:21-26
Photo by author, Parish of San Juan Bautista in Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.
Dearest Lord Jesus,
you have promised to send us 
the Holy Spirit to teach us everything
that you have told; bless us,
cleanse us to be open to you always,
to welcome the Holy Spirit so we may
always be disposed to its will and 
directions.
How funny to hear the experience 
of Paul and Barnabas today at Lystra 
where people insisted to offer
them with sacrifices and garlands to
honor them both as gods, Zeus and 
Hermes after they have healed a crippled
man; funny because it continues to happen
among us your disciples these days when at the 
other end are people persecuting us for
speaking about justice and truth while at the
other extreme are people who worship us,
regarding us like gods in bringing your good
news of salvation and healing to them.
In both instances, Lord, we need to mature
in the Holy Spirit:  that we be filled with courage
and determination to proclaim your gospel
among those who resist us and at the same
time that we may always be humble and 
sincere in our mission to share you alone, 
dear Jesus when people tend to see us more, 
almost adoring us that we forget we are your
mere servants and vessels of grace.  Amen.

Lent is for setting things right

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent, 15 March 2022
Isaiah 1:10, 16-20   <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 23:1-12
Photo by author, Parish Via Crucis, 11 March 2022.

Come now, let us set things right, says the Lord: Though your sins be like scarlet, they may become white as snow; though they be crimson red, they may become white as wool. If you are willing, and obey, you shall eat the good things of the land; but if you refuse and resist, the sword shall consume you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken!

Isaiah 1:18-20
Let us heed your call,
dear Lord, let us set things
right this season of Lent;
let us be sorry for our sins, 
be humble for who we really are
before you and one another.
Teach us through your Son
Jesus Christ to be true to ourselves,
practicing what we preach
and doing things for you and not
for others admiration; let us realize 
that authority is not for power but
for empowering and enabling others;
most of all, let us realize that 
authority is service, never a way of control
or domination or a claim to special
perks and privileges.
Let us set things right, Lord,
by breaking this cycle of trying
to be someone else, of being
somebody to be admired and 
looked up to when what is most 
essential is for us to see one 
another as brothers and sisters
in one God as our Father.  Amen.

Most powerful prayer is when we are weakest

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week III, Year II in Ordinary Time, 27 January 2022
2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   Mark 4:21-25
“Losing one’s head in prayer”, photo by Ms. JJ Jimeno, GMA-7 News, May 2019.
God our Father,
thank you for the gift 
of prayer, for the grace
and chance to feel and hear
you, experience you, be
blessed by you at prayer.
Let us always be still before you,
Lord, especially in prayer; free us
from so many thoughts of worrying
about you like building or having a 
"suitable" place to experience you
in prayer like King David who planned
a temple for you.
After listening from your words
through the prophet Nathan,
David realized the most powerful
prayer to you is when we are weakest:

After Nathan had spoken to King David, the king went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, Lord God, and who are the members of my house, that you have brought me to this point? Yet even this you see as too little, Lord God; you have also spoken of the house of your servant for a long time to come: this too you have shown to man, Lord God!”

2 Samuel 7:18-19
What a beautiful prayer
and disposition by David
your servant, Lord; this early
in his reign as King, he had
shown his most wonderful 
trait before you - humility,
always accepting his weakness
and limitations, always aware
that the fulfillment of your
promise depends entirely on
you, O God; and, that he is just
a fragile instrument in the process.
This would continue in moments of
his great sins later in life, of having
a humble and contrite heart always.
Help us to appreciate, dear Father,
our feebleness, our being like a 
flickering lamp that still gives light
in the darkness; may we realize
that it is during our weakest moments
when you can achieve the most
in us and through us for as St. Paul
had said, "when I am weak then I
am strong" (2 Cor.12:10)!  Amen.

Advent is humility before God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, 14 December 2021
Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 21:28-32
Photo by Gelo Nicolas Carpio, 2020.
God our loving Father,
teach us humility and simplicity
in life in this time of the year 
when temptations are so strong,
even irresistible to be proud
and powerful and sufficient in
things we need that we forget you
in the people around us.
As we celebrate the memorial of
St. John of the Cross who was so 
eloquent both in his words and in deeds, 
help us to choose always in finding the 
path of Jesus Christ on the Cross which
for him is the "highest wisdom attainable 
in this life".

The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.

St. John of the Cross, Office of Readings, 14 December
In both the first reading and
the gospel today, your words
assure us, dear God, that it is never
too late to start listening to you and
to follow your Son Jesus Christ in
his life of simplicity and dedication
to the well-being of others.
Teach us to be "a people humble
and lowly" before you, O God, who
"shall do no wrong and speak no lies,
who would pasture and couch your 
flocks with none to disturb them" 
(Zephaniah 3:12-13).  Amen.

Advent is being small and simple

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday of Advent-C, 05 December 2021
Baruch 5:1-9 ><}}}*> Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11 ><}}}*> Luke 3:1-6
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

From “beginning with the end” last Sunday at the start of Advent, we now move into its second week when we are reminded by the readings and gospel that “everything begins small and simple” in God and with God’s kingdom.

So often in life, God’s beauty and majesty are revealed in small, little beginnings that are hidden and obscured, things and persons we take for granted without knowing it is in them and through them that God silently continues his works of wonder among us.

Such is the reality of Christ’s coming – then and now and in the end of time – as presented by Luke who began his account this Second Sunday of Advent with the introduction of John the Baptist.

“St. John the Baptist Preaching In the Wilderness” by Anton Raphael Mengs from en.wikipedia.org.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

Luke 3:1-2

Feel the solemnity of Luke’s report, so formal, evoking a sense of power and might, an air of superiority with all the trappings of those in the corridors of power in government and religion.

Then abruptly, he wrote tersely, “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert”. Boom! So simple yet elegantly emphatic.

Notice Luke’s artistry presenting a list of who’s who living in palaces and Temple with all the comfort and luxury available at that time when in a sudden shift, without losing the building up of the drama that led to the climax that is John “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths'” (Lk.3:3-4).

In introducing to us the person of John the Baptist which started in the very first chapter of his gospel, Luke is actually telling us how John was already the presence of Christ, that aside from being his precursor, he had Jesus in himself already! For Luke, John foreshadowed Christ’s work of salvation reaching its summit at Easter even while orienting us to Christmas.

The nearness of God

Every year, the second and third Sundays of Advent narrate the preaching and baptism by John the Baptist at Jordan to remind us how Jesus comes to us whenever, wherever the word of God is heard, accepted, and proclaimed that result into repentance and forgiveness of sins.

See how Luke shows us the overlapping of salvation history with our secular history, a clear indication of the presence and nearness of God with us in Christ’s coming. Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, and Lysania with the high priests Caiaphas and Ananias were true persons who have lived in a particular time and specific places when John and Jesus lived too.

Here we find so true that God works silently and subtly in Jesus in our own personal lives and in the whole world for indeed, he is the God of history.

Photo by author, Chapel at the Basic Education Department, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 28 November 2021.

This Second Sunday of Advent we are assured of God’s nearness with us in Christ, especially when there are those darkness and obscurity, hiddenness and being unknown. These little and simple things in life are occasions where God reveals himself to us! Take them to heart.

Sometimes in life it is good to be down and even unknown, away from the limelight specially in this age of social media where everything even coffee breaks and new purchases or grades and medals of children are made known to everyone with much noise like blaring trumpets.

This boom in social media is so tiring and even disgusting with nothing hidden anymore, nothing is personal, and worst, nothing sacred any more! God and faith and sacraments have become commodities, persons are cheapened and used for personal advantages that even personal messages or PM’s have become “public happenings”. No more respect and dignity to others and most of all, unknown to those so immersed in the social media, they are the ones in the losing end, losing their very selves as they lose touch and grounding with reality.

Contrast it with John the Baptist in the desert with his balanced life between solitude and community and most of all, his rootedness in God and with realities of life that he can speak about the need for repentance to renew one’s self.

The gift of Advent

It can happen that when we are so filled with our selves, when we are so spread out feeling famous, “viral” and “trending” that we are also most empty and nothing like those powerful men mentioned by Luke, from the Roman emperor to the high priests; hence, the need to be hidden and unknown, little and small once in a while to allow enough room for changes and growth, and most especially to have a room within us for Jesus to work in us.

This is the gift of Advent Season: a time for us to be like John, to withdraw from the busy and toxic world so we may be alone and at home again with one’s true self, with loved ones, and with God in Jesus, through Jesus.

In the first reading we heard the end of a poem by Baruch where God consoles his people personified by Jerusalem, giving them hope of redemption someday from their Babylonian conquerors. It was the lowest point in the Jewish history when Jerusalem and their Temple were destroyed with the entire nation exiled to Babylon as slaves. No country, no Temple, so down and so small yet, God tells them:

Photo by author, Advent 2019.

Jerusalem take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor; you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.

Baruch 5:1-4

See the beautiful image of God taking possession of his people exiled and enslaved, changing their lot into something so wonderful filled with splendor!

The same thing happens with us when we are down and lost for that is when God doubles his efforts in finding us, redeeming us, uplifting us. It had happened before in the coming of his Son Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago which continues to happen now and would surely happen again in its fullness at his Parousia.

Nothing happens in life and in the world without God knowing even the minutest, single details we do not notice at all. Let us imitate the confidence of Paul this Season of Advent:

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6, 8
Photo by author, Advent 2020.

This Second Sunday of Advent we are told that even if we do not see Jesus like in the gospel of Luke when it is still concerned with the preaching of John the Baptist, he is already with us in those small and little sacrifices we do out of love for him.

Like John, Advent invites us to withdraw to the wilderness, to the desert to be hidden from the limelight to give God a space to come to us, to be present in us.

Like John, Advent invites us to empty ourselves of our pride and sins, to repent and be washed clean by God’s loving mercy and forgiveness to be filled with his humility, justice and love.

Like John, Advent wants us to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: to be the voice of reason and faith in this noisy world of lies and superficialities; to make straight the path so bended with many excuses and alibis that have moved the lines of morality and propriety; to fill the valleys with sense and meaning; and, to make low every mountain and hill of human pride and arrogance that have left us more empty and lost than before.

Let us all be a John the Baptist, not only a precursor but also a presence of Jesus.

A blessed second week of Advent to everyone!

Following Jesus in lights and darkness by Caravaggio

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 20 September 2021
Detail of Caravaggio’s painting, “Calling of St. Matthew” from en.wikipedia.org.

That beautiful painting by Caravaggio, “The Calling of St. Matthew” completed in 1600 for the French congregation of San Luigi Francesi in Rome is said to be the favorite of Pope Francis among the many other masterpieces found in the eternal city.

It was through the Holy Father that I have started to fall in love with Caravaggio’s works, promising myself to see them if given another chance to return to Rome. His paintings like the meeting of Thomas Didymus with the Risen Lord and his breaking of bread at Emmaus evoke body movements and inner motions among the characters that lead us to continue the beautiful story of his subject.

And that is what I wish to share with you on this Feast of St. Matthew, a reflection on his sitting, arising and standing to follow Jesus who had called him while at work as a tax collector.

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

Matthew 9:9
From shutterstock.com.

Sitting. Many centuries from now, anthropologists and other experts will be studying our generation on how humans have evolved – or retrogressed – with our spending too much time sitting. Doctors warn of the many health risks that result in prolonged sitting like obesity and heart disease. They have recently sounded the alarm anew following a surge in zoom meetings and webinars as well as the new set ups of classes on-line and work from home that entail sitting for long hours.

When the term “couch potato” was coined in the 1980’s, potato growers in the US complained against the association of their beloved crop with those people glued on their seats watching TV, doing nothing at all.

Sitting is an important human movement especially in studying and learning lessons through reading and writing, meeting and discussions. Meals become more satisfying and fulfilling when taken while seated in a leisurely manner whether at the table or even on the ground like picnics in the park or forest. In fact, it is when we are seated at the table for meals we are most peaceful and neutral – nobody eats with weapons laid on the table or while holding a gun or clenching a fist which is the reason why we are not supposed to rest our elbows on the table!

Imagine St. Matthew when he was called by Jesus, while sitting at the customs post: here we find sitting at its worst imagery of being stuck on our seats of comfort and complacency, sins and other vices. Worst is see how in our modern time we have given so much premium on where we sit to insist on our ego trips and sense of territory as well as claims to fame and prominence not realizing that what really matters in life is not where we sit but where we stand (https://lordmychef.com/2019/02/22/it-is-where-we-stand-that-matters-most-not-where-we-sit/).

From en.wikipedia.org.

Following Jesus

Going back to Caravaggio’s painting, we notice everybody seated at the table with St. Matthew dressed in the artist’s period of the 1600’s to show that Jesus continues to come in our own particular time in history.

Most of all, the gospel tells us that St. Matthew was seated at his customs post when called by Jesus but Caravaggio’s painting portrays them to be inside a tavern to tell us that we are also St. Matthew whom Jesus visits and calls daily while we are busy or drunk sitting at our comfort zones, in our vices and sins, in our complacency and mediocrity.

And like St. Matthew, we, too, are invited to rise and follow Jesus right away!


Don't you hear how Jesus is calling you daily, 
asking you, "will the real you please rise up and stand for who you really are"?
See yourself the way Jesus sees you - forgiven and beloved,
precious and loved.  No need for us to look good before Jesus.
Just rise and stand with him!

Standing. Following Jesus demands that we must first rise from our seats to make a stand for Jesus and his teachings of love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, service and self-sacrifice. Notice how St. Matthew, the fat man at the middle with a black hat like a beret pointing to the man bowed down to the table.

See and feel the hesitancy of St. Matthew – like us – always wondering, asking God, “is it I, Lord?” So many times we cannot believe Jesus really looking for us, wanting us, calling us, believing in us!

And in all that beautiful interplay of light and darkness by Caravaggio in his painting, we feel the eyes of Jesus looking at our beloved apostle as if telling him, “yes, you, Matthew; Follow me”.

Cast all your doubts if Jesus were really calling you, believing in you, trusting you – he does! Jesus always comes to each of us in the most personal manner like with all his apostles, telling us, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit” (Jn.15:16).

Don’t you hear how Jesus is calling you daily, asking you, “will the real you please rise up and stand for who you really are”? See yourself the way Jesus sees you – forgiven and beloved, precious and loved. No need for us to look good before Jesus. Just rise and stand with him!


Photo from Facebook of nuns delivering relief goods to people in far-flung areas during the pandemic last year.

Walking. It is not enough for us to remain standing. Making a stand for Jesus means to follow him in his path of justice and love, mercy and forgiveness, being small and the least serving the weak and the poorest of the poor.

To walk in Christ is to be like Christ because Jesus himself is “the way the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6).

Walking in Christ is following the “road less travelled” that leads to the Cross of self-offering and sacrifice, of love and acceptance.

Notice in Caravaggio’s painting how he portrayed Jesus in his own traditional clothes along with Simon Peter – and they are both barefooted!

There seems to be a slight commotion wherein Simon is like warning the man with a sword close to him to be still, to not make any move for they are walking away soon once St. Matthew rises and stands from his seat. Look at the feet of Jesus and Simon; they are all set to walk, as if telling St. Matthew, “come on, let us go!”

But where to?

While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Matthew 9:10-13

We all first walk home with Jesus, right into our hearts to reconcile again with him and be healed of many hurts and aches in the past. Then, we walk with Jesus to our fellow sinners so that they too may experience Christ’s love and forgiveness.

Following Jesus, walking on his path of the cross means going to those forgotten by us and the society, walking to meet those who are not like us – in beliefs and way of thinking, in clothing and appearances, in disposition and backgrounds.

It can be a lonely walk filled with pains and sufferings, and yes, disappointments like the two disciples who walked back to Emmaus on Easter without realizing Jesus was the stranger who had joined them along the way. That is the beauty of walking with Jesus, in Jesus, and to Jesus: you never see him nor recognize him right away but he is always with us, walking with us by our side even if we are going the opposite direction in life!

Walking the way of Jesus is tough and rough. It is not easy but it is the only way we must follow. That is why we need to rest in Jesus, with Jesus who asks us to be seated again as he washes our feet to comfort and console us, and prepare us for longer walks in the journey.


Photo by Ms. JJ Jimeno of GMA-7News, Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, UP Diliman, 2019.

Kneeling. Of all the body movements modern man has forgotten is kneeling. Again, look at Caravaggio’s painting, take a peek below the table and notice the robust knees of St. Matthew, look at the soft throw of light on his right leg and the softer tone on his left.

Caravaggio must be telling us something about the healthy lower body of St. Matthew despite his sitting position. See Caravaggio’s genius in throwing that soft light on St. Matthew’s legs and knees that were made strong not only by long hours of standing and walking with Jesus but with longer time of kneeling and praying after the Lord’s Ascension.

Kneeling is one very important gesture and body movement we must regain to truly follow Jesus and regain order in ourselves and in our nation. It is the best praying position for it signifies surrender and humility before God. In fact, for the Hebrews, the knee is the symbol of strength that to bend one’s knees – to kneel – means to submit one’s self to God the all-powerful.

How sad when people refuse to kneel because their knees or expensive pants and clothes might get dirty. Worst of all is when we have refused to kneel and bend our knees because we feel so strong and able to accomplish a lot that we would rather be pursuing our own interests than following Jesus.

Photo by author, 07 September 2021.

Like Caravaggio’s painting of “The Calling of St. Matthew”, our lives and nation are into a great darkness due to the pandemic and the worsening decadence in every aspect of our society.

It is not a time to be a fence-sitter or a bystander; Jesus calls us to arise and make a stand against the pervading evils, asking us whom are we really following in this journey in history and life.

Amid the gloom are streaks of light bringing hope and reason, truth and goodness, inviting us to learn from the call of St. Matthew to…

Sit and learn more of Jesus
Rise and stand with Jesus
Walk and follow Jesus 
Kneeling always at the foot of his cross 
to truly follow him our Lord and Master.
Amen.