Daily conversion in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 09 May 2022
Acts 11:1-18   ><))))*> + <*((((><   John 10:1-10
Photo by author, a house near the home of Cornelius in Jaffa, Israel, 2017.
Today O Lord we go to the polls
to cast our votes for the next group
of national and local leaders of our
nation; we have long been praying
for these elections to be peaceful
and orderly.  
Most of all, a matured and intelligent one.
That we finally learn to vote according
to our informed and guided conscience,
carefully and prayerfully evaluating every
candidate, listening more to the voice 
of Jesus the Good Shepherd.
But for us to be able to listen to Jesus,
let us first pass through him, our 
only door.

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.” So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.”

John 10:1, 7
To pass through Jesus our gate
requires our own conversion to him;
and not just a conversion like that of
unbelievers and Gentiles in the first
reading but to be converted like Peter
himself and the rest of his fellow 
believers who were of Jewish roots:

Peter began and explained it to them (Apostles and brothers in Jerusalem) step by step, saying, “If then God gave them the same gift he gave us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?” When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, “God has then granted life-saving repentance to the Gentiles too.”

Acts 11:4,17-18
To pass through you, dear Jesus,
is to be one in you which calls for our
daily conversion to you; so many times
we feel complacent, resting on whatever
we have achieved or reached in our
relating with you; it is in our daily-
conversion in you that truly leads us
to communion in you.  Amen.

Knowing is belonging

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Easter-C, 08 May 2022
Acts 13:14, 43-52 ><}}}}*> Revelation 7:9, 14-17 ><}}}}*> John 10:27-30
Photo from https://aleteia.org/2019/05/12/three-of-the-oldest-images-of-jesus-portrays-him-as-the-good-shepherd/.

The Good Shepherd is the earliest portrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ in art. Mostly done in paintings in the catacombs of Rome, Jesus the Good Shepherd is shown as a young, muscular man to signify his eternity carrying on his shoulders a lost sheep.

But that imagery of a shepherd taking care of the lost sheep and flock was an original thought among peoples in the ancient Near East that included Israel. Kings in Babylonia and Assyria regarded themselves as shepherds tasked by their gods to care especially for the weak. This concept we also find in the Old Testament like in the Books of Psalms and of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel where God promised to send true “shepherds after his own heart” (Jer. 3:15) who shall lead his flock Israel with justice back to him.

That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is not just a shepherd but “the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn.10:11) because he is one with his flock.

Oneness is an inner sense of belongingness in personhood and experiences, a common union or communion of selves and experiences like in Jesus becoming human like us to be one in our pains and sufferings and death so that we may be like him in his glorious resurrection and eternal life.

Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. The Father and I are one.”

John 10:27-28, 30
Photo from Pinterest.com.

Jesus knows us, gives us eternal life; we hear and follow him.

To know in Jewish thought is not merely an intellectual activity of having information and details especially when used in relation with persons. To know somebody means to have a relationship. Knowing is belonging.

Jesus as the Good Shepherd knows us his sheep because we belong to him, and whether we like it or not, we know him precisely because we are his! Recall that during his trial before Pilate, Jesus declared “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (Jn.18:37).

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

From the very start, we have always belonged to God so that out of his great love for us he sent us his Son Jesus Christ so we can find our way back home to him. We are all God’s children created in his “image and likeness” who have become in many instances prodigal sons and daughters living like lost and injured sheep who need all the care and redemption to gain our status again as the Father’s beloved.

Our “belonging” to God is different from “possessing” in the same manner we belong to our parents or spouses to their partner. Human belongingness is way different from things as belongings, although so many times, it happens that people treat persons as things and objects to be possessed than subjects to be loved and cherished.

What do we mean? Children belong to parents and spouses belong to their partner but they can never be considered as possessions or property to be used and manipulated. People belong to one another like children to parents, husband to wife, and wife to husband as most cherished possessions in the sense that they are gifts from God, so unique in one’s self, free to grow and mature as a person. We belong to one another in mutual responsibility not as property; hence, the need for us to accept and support each other in love which leads to deeper communion and oneness through intimacy that extends to eternity!

Now we see why Jesus said he knows his sheep and gives them eternal life. Here we find the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd is in fact the image of Christ the King of the universe which sheds light on his very kingship as seen by John in his vision in our second reading today “of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9) which is reminiscent of his triumphal entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

In the first reading we have also heard how from the very beginning, it has been God’s plan to lead all men to salvation in Jesus Christ. Despite the setbacks encountered by Paul and Barnabas in Antioch when they were rejected by their fellow Jews, their decision to turn to the gentiles to proclaim the Gospel was in fulfillment of of the Lord’s will that “have made them a light to the Gentiles to be instruments of salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47).

The mark of a true shepherd is like a light who leads us to Jesus Christ and his values of prayer, life, persons, family, and justice among others. Here is the distinction between the true shepherd and a thief – a robber does not pass through Jesus, the gate of the sheep (Jn.10:1ff). A thief like many politicians and dictators including their handlers see the flock as things and properties they own and possess who can be bought and be forgotten, even disregarded, until the next elections. (So, vote wisely by listening more to Jesus than to anyone like the candidates’ endorsers.)

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2018.

Belonging and mutuality

Human belongingness calls for mutuality for it to truly lead to oneness and communion. Jesus said he knows us and gives us eternal life because according to him, we his sheep hear his voice and follow him (v.27).

Do we listen to him and follow him?

Today we are also celebrating Mother’s Day. What a wonderful tribute to mothers who are indeed one of the truest good shepherdess in the world – the one to whom we all belong to, having cared for us from the very beginning in their womb.

Mothers are the most loving, most merciful, and most forgiving of all persons in the world, just like Jesus our Good Shepherd but sad to say, the one we most hurt when we disrespect her, from answering her back to swearing and sadly, when we disobey her. Ironically, when things go wrong with us and our lives, the first person we go to and accepts us is our mother too!

So many times, mothers bear all pains and hardships in life just to see their children fulfilled in life, choosing to suffer and cry in silence to hide the great difficulties they face daily, both physically and emotionally. That is how loving mothers are that in the Old Testament, God introduced himself as a mother, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Is.49:15).

It is so easy to say “we love our mom” like claiming “Jesus is our Good Shepherd” but it is entirely another thing to live as a mother’s child or Christ’s sheep.

The grace of this Good Shepherd Sunday is Christ’s coming to us not only to lead us to greener pastures but to renew our relationships, our belonging to him and the Father to experience fulfillment in life. Whether at home or in our nation, may we listen more to Jesus by being mutual in our respect and love for one another and to our Motherland too!

May we have a peaceful and matured elections this Monday! Amen.

Jesus our Gate

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week IV-A, 03 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 36-41 ><)))*> 1 Peter 2:20-25 ><)))*> John 10:1-10

Entrance to the Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose again. Photo by author, May 2017.

Starting this Sunday, we stop hearing stories of the appearances of the Risen Lord as we go back to the days before his Passion, Death, and Resurrection to reflect further on his words and teachings.

In fact, it is the same path taken by his followers after Easter when they recounted everything Jesus had done and told them as they slowly understood their meanings later in the coming of the Holy Spirt at Pentecost.

Also today is “Good Shepherd Sunday” when every year on this fourth Sunday of Easter the gospel is taken from John 10 which is about Christ’s “Good Shepherd” discourse that actually begins with him declaring he is the gate or the door for the sheep.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

John 10:7-10
Photo from Google.

Entering Jesus our Gate who truly owns the sheep

Let us start our reflection today by recalling our Sunday gospel on the Fourth Week of Lent last March 22 which is about the healing of the man born blind on a sabbath day.

The healing stirred the people and the temple officials led by the Pharisees whom Jesus had hinted as being the ones truly blind who could not see God’s coming in him. As expected, the Pharisees dismissed Christ’s accusations, claiming themselves to be “clean” unlike the man born blind.

Our gospel today is the scene that immediately follows that where Jesus now speaks of himself as the gate where shepherds enter through to tend their sheep. According to the author of the gospel, Jesus was using a figure of speech in referring to himself as the gate for the sheep.

Unfortunately, the Pharisees did not understand Christ’s figure of speech, refusing to be referred to as “thieves and robbers” that Jesus had to use the emphatic “Amen, amen” to declare he is in fact the gate for the sheep.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

To clearly understand his being the gate for the sheep, let us fast-forward to his last Easter appearance to Simon Peter and companions by the lake after a night of fishing when they caught nothing until Jesus told them to cast the net on the right side found in John chapter 21.

After their breakfast by the lake, Jesus asked Peter thrice, “do you love me?” and each time he would say yes, the Lord would always tell him to feed his sheep.

It was after that third query as Peter assured him of his love that Jesus told him, “Follow me” (Jn. 21:19).

Here we find the essential truth before anyone can follow Jesus, one has to love him first above all like Simon Peter!

It is only in loving Jesus can anyone truly care for his sheep who “belongs” only to Christ and nobody else.

And this is what we should pray for today as World Day of Prayer for Vocations: not only for more men and women to answer the call to priesthood and religious life but most of all, that we in the ministry love Jesus more than our vocation!

When priests and religious love more their vocation, that is when they become thieves, stealing the sheep from Jesus, claiming them to be theirs that lead to so many abuses in the church, in the liturgy, and in the ministry.

Jesus is the gate for the sheep because first of all the flock belongs to him!

And that is only when we can truly realize too why Jesus is the gate for the sheep.

Photo by Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, June 2019.

How to enter Jesus our Gate

Jesus is the gate who leads his sheep to greener pastures because he is “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6). And his way is no other than the way of the Cross, of being with him in his daily suffering and death so we can be with him in his resurrection!

One of my favorite scenes of the Crucifixion is when Jesus told Dimas – the good thief who stole heaven – “today you shall be with me in Paradise” (Lk.23:43).

From Google.

See my dear reader that Jesus did not tell Dimas that he would be with him in Paradise later when they die or on Easter when he rises from death.

Jesus was very clear in telling him that “today you shall be with me in Paradise”.

The today is the here and now of heaven in Jesus Christ present to us, present with us, present in us.

Jesus never promised Paradise to anyone when he was freely walking around, neither thirsty nor hungry to show us that every time we go through trials and difficulties, sufferings and pains, that is when we enter Paradise in him our Gate.

When a person suffers a long illness, he/she has already started entering Paradise long before his/her death. That is the unique grace of sickness, of suffering with Jesus and suffering in Jesus which St. Peter tells us in the second reading today:

Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.

1 Peter 2:20

Yes, we are all into great suffering in this time of the corona virus without any clear sign yet when would this finally end.

This in itself is a clear presence of Jesus among us as our Gate: let us “follow in his footsteps” (1Pt. 2:21) to “save ourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40) where so many shepherds in government even in the church unconsciously claiming theirs are the sheep, leading them to darkness and misery.

May we all first love the Caller, Jesus Christ our Gate and Good Shepherd, than see more our call or vocation in life that deludes us into owning his flock. Amen.

A blessed Sunday to you!