The need to be one in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 30 April 2021 (St. Pius V, memorial)
Acts 13:26-33   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 14:1-6
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me."
(John 14:1)

O dearest Lord Jesus Christ, how can we not let our hearts be troubled these days?

How can we not be troubled and worried with this prolonged pandemic and resulting quarantine made worst with our government’s inefficiency and incompetence, thriving in lies and malice against everybody who is not on their side and political color?

How can we not be troubled, Lord, when more and more people are sinking into depression, languishing, losing hope and meaning in this life?

Like your apostles at that time, we are trembling in fear as to what will happen to us, to our jobs, to the schooling of children, to our sick family members, to our very selves as well as to our country and its future.

We know that now is the time to be ever closer to you, Lord Jesus – to be one with you, to be one in you but, like Thomas, we do not know the way.

Help us in our unbelief and increase our faith, Lord!

Most of all, let us imitate Thomas your Apostle who dared ask you the simplest question we are afraid to ask because we also fear your answer might demand courage from us to totally identify ourselves to your values and attitudes being the Way, the Truth and the Life yourself.

Our hearts will always be troubled unless we have that deep relationship in you and with you, Jesus.

Like Paul in the first reading, give us that sense of firmness and certitude in your very person so that we may firmly and joyfully proclaim your Good News of salvation in these most troubling times of pandemic and divisions among us your people. Amen.

Easter is being led by God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Second Week of Easter, 12 April 2021
Acts 4:23-31   ><)))*> + <*(((><   John 3:1-8
Photo of an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Barrington, Rhode Island, 10 April 2021.
Jesus answered Nicodemus, 
"Do not be amazed that I told you, 
'You must be born from above.'  
The wind blows where it wills, 
and you can hear the sound it makes, 
but you do not know 
where it comes from or where it goes; 
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."  
(John 3:7-8)

Lord Jesus Christ, like Nicodemus in the gospel today, we continue to be amazed amid the darkness surrounding us at this time of the pandemic. Enlighten us as we grapple in the darkness of this experience so surreal and unreal.

Many among us feel at a loss, many are losing hope, many are angry, and more are suffering, grieving in pain after losing a loved one.

Clear our minds and our hearts, dear Jesus. Break all barriers that prevent us from finding you, from embracing you, and following you. Let us see your wounds left by the nail marks on your hands and the side pierced by a lance so we may experience your presence in us with the wounds we now bear.

Rekindle the fire and intensity of the Baptism we have received and renewed this Easter Season.

Reawaken our zeal and stimulate us like Peter and John after being released from prison in the first reading to set our sights to the directions and ideal toward which we must strive at the moment with open hearts and confidence in the possibilities granted by the Holy Spirit.

Give us the courage to trust God wherever he is leading us in the Holy Spirit so we may properly respond to the challenges of this pandemic.

Oh, yes..! We are ready, Lord Jesus Christ, to answer God’s call through the Holy Spirit to lead us to new directions in life beginning today. Amen.

From Facebook, 04 April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord.”

Looking at Easter, seeing Easter

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday within the Octave of Easter, 07 April 2021
Acts of the Apostles 3:1-10  <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Luke 24:13-35
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias in Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.
When the crippled man saw Peter and John 
about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.  
But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, 
and said, "Look at us."  He paid attention to them, 
expecting to receive something from them.  
Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold, 
but what I do have I give you:  
in the name of 
Jesus Christ the Nazorean, 
rise and walk."  
Then Peter took him by the right hand 
and raised him up, and immediately 
his feet and ankles grew strong.  
(Acts 3:3-7)

Praise and glory to you, our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, in sharing with us your victory and glory over sin and death, sickness and powerlessness. In joining us in our humanity in all of its aspects except sin, you have made us share in your divinity at Easter.

Like Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate that afternoon, fill us with your presence and power, love and mercy to uplift and empower our brothers and sisters afflicted with sickness and other burdens that drag them down, unable to rise again to experience life anew.

Give us the courage to tell people to look at us and find you like that crippled man you have healed through Peter and John.

Moreover, let us look at your face, look for what will unite us than divide us, look at your light than at the world’s darkness and shadows so we may look for Easter especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remove the pessimism and cynicism growing among us in this worsening pandemic.

Ignite the flames of faith, hope and love within us so our eyes may be opened to see you again walking with us in this journey.

Cleanse us of our biases and prejudices, as well as of our expectations and other personal beliefs so we may see you most especially when we are treading the wrong path to our Emmaus of sunset and defeat.

That very day, the first day of the week, 
two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village 
seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, 
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.  
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, 
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them 
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.  
(Luke 24:13-16)

O dear Jesus, may we look at Easter on the face of everyone you send us and at every situation we find ourselves into so we may lead and guide others to you.

May we see and recognize you most of all in the darkness enveloping us this time of crisis so that eventually, we may come together in the breaking of bread and sharing of our very selves to others blinded by the calamities that have fallen upon us. Amen.

“Road to Emmaus I” painting by Daniel Bonnel, 2011 from mwerickson.com.

Lent is for softening the heart

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Third Week in Lent, 11 March 2021
Jeremiah 7:23-28   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Luke 11:14-23
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, March 2020.

O God our loving Father in heaven, how great indeed is your love and patience with us your children. Despite our sinfulness that hardened our hearts, you never stopped sending us prophets even your Son Jesus Christ to call us and return to you.

Why still be bothered with us so afflicted with a hardness of the heart and stiffened necks?

But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed. They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me… Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed; they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers… Say to them: This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God, or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech.

Jeremiah 7:24, 26, 28

Thank you, dear God, for never getting tired with us that we join the psalmist in praying, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Please do not allow our hearts to remain hardened because that is when it leaves no room nor space to listen nor repent and turn back to you again.

Soften our hearts or better, take away our stony hearts as you have promised your other prophet Ezekiel, so we may open ourselves to Jesus and listen to his good news of salvation instead of always seeing evil and Satan in everything, even in Christ like in the gospel today!

In this season of Lent, let us be persevering like you in exhausting all means to listen and discern every voice we hear. Soften our hearts, Lord, so we may choose you always no matter how difficult it may be for truly, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Lk.11:23).

Amen.

Photo by author, Mt.St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

Sincerity of God, hypocrisy of human

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent, 02 March 2021
Isaiah 1:10, 16-20  ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>  Matthew 23:1-12
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Infanta, Quezon, February 2021.

Thank you, dear God our Father for this wonderful Season of Lent when we are able dwell and contemplate your immense love for us. Despite our many and serious sins that we deserve to be called as “princes of Sodom” and “people of Gomorrah” (Is.1:10) reminiscent of those two cities you have annihilated with fire, you still call us to come to you, ready to forgive us and set things right in our lives.

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.

Isaiah 1:18

How lovely are those lines from you, Father, “Come now, let us set things right” — filled with love and tenderness, so sincere, so true!

Whose heart would not melt with such an invitation, when we should be the one begging you for mercy and forgiveness?

But, here you are, O Father, so concerned with us that you made the move, even willing to adjust so we may be able to start anew. You are so sweet and comforting that you did not mind going down to our level in your Son Jesus Christ to reach us, fix us, and set things right once and for all.

Give us the grace through your Son Jesus Christ to believe in your love, mercy and forgiveness.

Most of all, give us the courage to turn our hearts back to you, dearest God, to be true and humble as who we really are instead of pretending to be somebody clean and perfect (cf. Mt.23:8-12). Amen.

Be surprised this Lent

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week I, 24 February 2021
Jonah 3:1-10     <*(((><   +   ><)))*>     Luke 11:29-32
Photo by author, 26 February 2020.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father, in making Lent a season of surprises just like in our readings today. Continue to surprise us with your love and mercy, with your movements in our lives and in our time. Open our hearts and minds at the many possibilities of good things happening even in the midst of great evil and sufferings.

Forgive us when we lose hope, when we refuse to be surprised with our pessimism and cynicism like Jonah who refused to obey you in going to Nineveh to warn the pagans and sinners there of your coming wrath lest they repent and change their ways.

Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.

Jonah 3:4, 10

It is about time that we reflect and examine also this Lent our attitudes with other people, especially those different from us not only in ways and looks but also in beliefs, that there is always hope in everyone to change and become a better person.

Even your Son Jesus Christ had told us how we would be surprised someday with the kinds of people entering your kingdom in heaven. Let us not be surprised in the end in the wrong sense like that warning by Jesus:

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater that Jonah here.”

Luke 11:29-32

Cleanse us of our prejudices and biases, Lord, and open our sense of wonder and awe to continue to be surprised of your presence and coming, of your love and mercy in us and among others. Amen.

Take me out of the dark, O Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, Memorial of St. Josephine Bakhita, Virgin, 08 February 2021
Genesis 1:1-19     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Mark 6:53-56
Photo by author, Petra, Jordan, May 2019.

I know dearest, Lord, my prayer sounds like a song but on this first day of work, I wish to pray for all those living in darkness, for those whose lives are in disarray due to so many reasons like being misled by others or left out on their own weaknesses.

So many people today are living in the darkness of sin, darkness of addiction, darkness of failures, darkness of diseases and sickness, and darkness of social evils that continue to denigrate every person’s dignity and honor.

Despite all of these darkness and evil in the world, you never stop, O God, to bring light and grace through Jesus your Son like in the story of creation.

In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.”
Thus evening came, and morning followed — the first day.

Genesis 1:1-5

This you have proven so many times in everyone’s life, most especially in St. Josephine Bakhita of Sudan whose memorial we celebrate today.

Kidnapped and sold to slavery when she was only seven years old in Darfur, Sudan around 1876, St. Josephine went through so much physical and emotional sufferings that she had forgotten her true name after being resold to many different masters until finally to the Italian consul in Khartoum, Callino Legasti.

Legasti brought her to Venice and gave her to his friend as her new master, Augusto Michielli who made her a babysitter to his daughter Mimmina who was then receiving catechetical instructions for baptism. While babysitting the young Michielli, she felt drawn to the Catholic faith, eventually getting baptized and confirmed in 1880, adopting the name Josephine. Her ordeals did not end with her becoming a Catholic until all conflicts in her were resolved by the Italian court in 1885, declaring her free from slavery. In 1893 she entered the Canossian Sisters excelling in service and charity not only among the poor and suffering they served but even among her fellow religious. She was canonized by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI in 2000.

Sometimes in life, we have to cross as in today’s gospel great seas of challenges and sufferings, go through many darkness so we may arrive at the light of brand new days in Jesus Christ.

Help us to trust in you always, Lord Jesus, so we may get out of the many darkness of our lives. Amen.

Photo by author at the chapel of the Graduate School of Theology, Immaculate Conception Major Seminary, November 2020.

Prayer for our own “flight to Egypt”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, Feast of the Holy Innocents, 28 December 2020
1 John 1:5-2:2   >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Matthew 2:13-18
Photo by Ms. Janine G. Lloren, metal engraving of the flight to Egypt by the Holy Family on one of the doors of a church in Florence, Italy taken in 2015.

In this time of COVID-19 pandemic with news of a new and more vicious strain possibly now spreading, I have come to realize this Christmas how you also went through worst scenarios during your birth and infancy.

From the moment of your birth, Lord, you have experienced so much dangers and uncertainties just like us today with many women giving birth in harsh and hostile situations like in the middle of an armed conflict or in a refugee camp, or maybe while being held hostage in human trafficking.

When I imagine how difficult it must have been during your time when you fled to Egypt because of Herod’s murderous ways, I feel so sad at how things have not really changed yet, of how such things continue to happen daily in so many parts of the world.

But with your coming, Lord Jesus, though there are still those dark clouds looming above us as Pope Francis had noted in his latest encyclical, hope and joy abound.

Beloved: This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.

1 John 1:5

So consoling are the words of your beloved disciple, Lord! Let your light shine on us! May our love and kindness to one another dispel the many darkness around us specially this year. And yes, forgive us too, Lord Jesus, at how we have been “treating” and calling this year 2020 with so many taunts and ridicules.

If there is one thing we have always been good at, it is the blaming game – we keep on blaming others except ourselves. Like Herod. At such great costs.

As we near the closing of this year, help us to remember how with your coming you have sanctified and made us all holy like you. Each year is always a blessed and good year from you. It is us who make it so bad, so defiled. We caused this pandemic. Long before it came, we have been distant from one another, have always washed hands, refusing to take a stand for what is true and just. Most of all, we have stopped looking at each other’s face to see you again.

May this pandemic be an “Egypt” for us all —- a time to pray and reflect about your light and coming, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Christmas in COVID-19

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas 2020 Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
“The Adoration of the Shepherds”, a painting of the Nativity scene by Italian artist Giorgione before his death at a very young age of 30 in 1510. From wikipediacommons.org.

A blessed Merry Christmas to you, my dear Reader! As I have been telling you these past weeks, this Christmas may be the bleakest and saddest we have in our lifetime due to the pandemic but at the same time it may be our most meaningful of all. Consider the following:

We may have less material things this Christmas, but we have more spiritual values
like faith, hope, and love along with kindness, compassion, and tenderness;
We may have less of ourselves but finally, we have more of others,
especially family;
 Most of all, we may have less of all the trimmings of the season 
to have more of the Reason, Jesus Christ our everything!

Last Holy Week and Easter, I have told you that while we were so sad in the midst of a strict lockdown when COVID-19 hit us so bad, Jesus must be more sad than us with what we were going through at that time.

However, while many of us may still be sad this Christmas, Jesus must be happy not for our misery but because finally, He can have us completely as we continue to learn the many lessons of the pandemic, of finding the more important and essential and valuable in life.

But, can He finally have us completely this Christmas 2020 and hereafter?

How sad and alarming that after nine months in the pandemic, many of us have gone back to our old ways of not praying, not celebrating Sunday Mass, and worst, still emotionally distant from God and others.

Photo by author, Christmas 2019.

Christmas is Jesus reminding
us life is precious because it is fragile;
He came to us an infant born in precarious
situations like us.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-7

If Luke were to write the gospel today, he would have surely mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic that has greatly altered our lives in less than a year. And that is the good news of Christmas: Jesus comes to us in the most trying time of our lives like 2000 years ago when He was born in Bethlehem.

See the beautiful contrast presented by Luke: the powerful Caesar Augustus of the Roman empire and the true King of kings being born like any infant in a manger for there was no room for them in the inn.

Yes, in our time there are so many women delivering their babies in difficult situations even worst like those fleeing their own countries due to wars and persecution. Here we find the Son of God from the moment of his birth had experienced the uncertainty and insecurity we ourselves are into. I have always told in my funeral Masses how easy it is these days to just die and pass away: recall the people we knew who simply died from COVID-19 and other sickness this year alone. Everybody says the difficulty of seeking medical attention due to the corona virus.

But that is how life is truly is: it is most precious because it is fragile, precarious, so delicate like an infant and a child.

That is what Jesus is showing us in coming to us born as an infant, in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloth: the all-powerful and mighty God and King asking us to be tender and kind with Him born among everyone of us.

I love Zechariah’s description of God’s mercy in his Benedictus or canticle to God after he regained his speech when he confirmed the name of his son John:

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Luke 1:78-79

And that is perhaps one of the things we sorely miss so much these days from everyone, tender compassion. The tender compassion, tender mercy of Jesus. Recall how during His ministry all four evangelists would narrate how Jesus was moved with pity and compassion to the people who were lost, tired and sick “like sheep without a shepherd” that no matter how tired He may be, He would always find time to teach them, heal their sick, and even feed them.

Like courage, tenderness or mercy is a movement in the heart called misericordia in Spanish from the Latin mittere, meaning to be moved, to be stirred that is why it is soft. It is something dynamic, not static. It is a deep feeling that moves toward someone in pain and suffering — an identification of Jesus right at the moment of His birth with every person going through so much hardships and sufferings in life.

Let God stir your hearts this Christmas, especially for the poor and the weak, for those closest to us we have taken for granted. Share the joy of the newborn Jesus by considering always the fragility of this life we have, of being kind, not hurting others physically or verbally. Enough with all the violence and brutality around us.


Christmas is Jesus coming to us
to affirm our very first love:  God.

Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, 06 December 2020.

At the time of Jesus, rabbis used to teach that God had intervened in the history of the world during “four great nights”: the first night is the beginning of creation (Gen. 1); the second was when God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15); the third night was the liberation of Israel from Egypt or Exodus.

The fourth is the future one, the night when God will break all chains to put an end to all kinds of misery, to create a new world and begin His kingdom here on earth. For us Christians, Christmas is that fourth night when Jesus was born in Bethlehem as well as when He rose from the dead.

December 24 is always believed to be the darkest night of the year, the perfect setting of the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ so vividly presented to us by Luke in his Christmas story when he juxtaposed the misery of humanity (darkness) and the glory from high of angels announcing His birth.

What a mysterious exchange, an eternal presence of the Son of God entering into our history as a human like us in everything except sin.

See the paradox of his birth: poverty and glory when Jesus was born into destittion under the decree of the pagan emperor, childbirth far from home without any help to His Mother, and then honored by the lowest kind of people of his time , the shepherds yet glorified by the angels of heaven!

All of these to affirm to us humans that we are God’s first love!

We may be living in the darkness of the night with no clear sight yet of the end of this pandemic despite the discovery of a vaccine. Both the government and big businesses do not give a damn on the people, not even provide the basic services like good internet or efficient toll system. Violence and vile becoming a daily staple among those in power.

It is so dark indeed but the love of Christ Jesus can brighten and illumine even the darkest corners of our lives if we come to Him in firm and consistent faith like Mary His Mother. Christmas reminds us that the night has been overcome and conquered by the love of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Take note that Luke is the only evangelist who calls Jesus so often as “Savior”: 14 times in his gospel and at least 40 times in the Acts of the Apostles. Likewise, Luke insists in his Christmas story using the word “today” to show that God’s salvation continues to happen at this very moment because He loves us so much!

Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2020.

Let me end these reflections with a prayer as I tried to silence myself these past nine days of Simbang Gabi:

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

Thank you for still coming, not only today but every day, in good times and in bad times.
Thank you for loving us in spite and despite our sinfulness, especially when we have no time for you, when we are so busy with so many other things we claim for our loved ones and sometimes, for you.

Despite the clouds of darkness above us, you continue to come to us, bringing light to dispel the many darkness especially in our hearts, in our relationships.  So many times, we have lacked tenderness and mercy with one another despite our profession of faith and love for you.

In this time of COVID-19, help us go back to the basic truths and realities your birth and coming teach us:  the value of our family, of simplicity, of humility, of smallness or littleness, of love and mercy, kindness and sincerity.

O dear sweet child Jesus, move our hearts to be kind and loving to others; to always be careful not to hurt you in every person we meet so they may realize despite the miseries of this world, there is always your glory, your salvation to anyone who trusts in you.

Bless us with your grace and truth, Jesus, so that through us, through our lives of witnessing, God may dwell upon us and be made known to everyone not only this Christmas but all year through.
Amen.
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2020.

Life in the dead of the night

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B, 29 November 2020
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7  +  1 Corinthians 1:3-9  +  Mark 13:33-37
Photo by Atty. Polaris Grace Rivas-Beron at the summit of Mt. Sinai, May 2019.

A blessed happy new year to everyone as we begin today the new liturgical year of our Church calendar with the first Sunday of Advent. From the Latin word adventus for “coming”, Advent is a time meant to prepare us spiritually for Christmas.

And with all the problems and sufferings we have been going through this 2020 with the pandemic still around us in this joyous season of Christ’s coming, we hope that we make this Advent Season more serious so we may have a more meaningful Christmas, prepared for 2021 (see our recent blog, https://lordmychef.com/2020/11/23/surely-there-will-be-christmas-2020/)!

Like Lent, though in a less penitential mode, Advent is a time to pray and reflect on our lives and if possible, go to confessions to cleanse our hearts so Jesus may come and rest there like when he was born on a manger in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.

Our first reading today beautifully sets the mood for Advent 2020 in the midst of COVID-19 with a prayer so true with each one of us:

You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you…

Isaiah 63:16-17, 19
Photo by author, Advent 2019.

Advent is for new beginnings, for coming again.

Year 2020 is without doubt very difficult for everyone but it teaches us in the most unique way the essentials in life like God, family, friends, true self, and things like kindness, respect, thoughtfulness, simplicity, presence, and other niceties we have taken for granted for so long. It is about time that we recover these specially in Advent which is the season of new beginnings when we start anew in life.

And where do we start?

Right where we are, here in our darkness in the pandemic and within our hearts, far from God by beginning to pray anew to him so he may finally come and return to us!

The words by Prophet Isaiah in the first reading are so perfect at this time as if these were written only recently, expressing our true sentiments within: that we are sorry for having drifted far from Jesus and from others all these years, so focused with things and gadgets than with God and persons.

Our hearts have been too hard, distant from God and each other, so cold and so dark that we have become so insensitive, callous and numb or even without any conscience at all that in the midst of a pandemic, there are some who can still utter lies and malice with their hands also tainted with blood and corruption.

It is so sickening but, the more we pray and listen to our inner selves, we also find how this darkness has slowly encroached on us too, happening at different levels right in our own family circles, in our community, and even in our church maybe!

On bended knees, we humbly admit our need for God to intervene now – to rend the heavens – and bring us back to our senses and unto him, so we may finally find rays of hope, even a glimmer of light in this darkness we are into.

As we pray for the Lord’s advent or coming, we need to strive to be vigilant on our part as we patiently await him right in our hearts in this night of the pandemic and chaos going on.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

Mark 13:33, 35-37
Photo by author, Red Wednesday, 25 November 2020.

Though we live in darkness, we belong to Christ who is light himself!

Everywhere in the world, except Down Under perhaps, the Season of Advent always falls in that time of the year when the nights are longer and most of all, darkest as in winter experienced in the western hemisphere, including Europe.

In fact, Christmas Eve is the darkest night of the year, the date Christ was born to bring light and be the light of the world.

See how Jesus used the night as the time of the return of the “lord of the house” (who is himself, too) when everything is dark and difficult.

For the young generation today, it may mean nothing at all as they have grown accustomed to our 24/7 world where work continues into the night like during the day with offices and stores opened and public transportation readily available.

During the time of Jesus and even 30 years ago, we rarely travelled nor even went out past six in the evening because of the many dangers at night like criminal elements lurking for their preys and simply the difficult situation of seeing clearly the roads ahead. In the bible, darkness is the realm of evil and sin like Jesus being betrayed by Judas after their last supper while in Genesis, we find how in darkness was nothing but chaos until God created everything.

And there lies the good news of the night, of darkness, and of Advent: Jesus Christ as the light himself of the world comes to save us at night! It was before dawn when Jesus walked the waters of the Sea of Galilee to save his apostles while being tossed by giant waves in their small boat. It was also in the darkness of the night when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Yes, we all live in the night when darkness envelops us, even our hearts and very lives with so many problems and crises happening but we never lose hope, we never lose sight of that glimmer of light for we do not belong to the night but to Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Photo by author, Red Wednesday, 25 November 2020.

Advent is patient waiting for the Lord’s coming.

Night is the time when it is best to believe in the light. As one poet had said, “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” But, another unknown poet had also said that “Only the brave who dare to walk the darkest of nights shall see the brightness of the stars above.”

Our lives may be in darkness or even dark itself these days but we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist today even if the the Lord’s coming may be delayed because we know deep in our hearts that “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor.1:9).

One thing we need to pray for this season are patience and vigilance in awaiting his return during this darkness.

Patience is a virtue becoming so rare these days when everything is rushed as we live in a world of “instants” like instant gratification and, yes! — even instant vaccine against COVID-19 without us realizing its deep implications of calls for changes in the way of living and doing things in the world as individuals and as nations. From the Latin “patior” which is to bear all pains, patience is also believing that something better will happen in every sufferings we patiently endure.

Likewise, vigilance is more than being awake and prepared for any eventuality but an active waiting for someone or something by taking risks due also to a firm belief something better will come out of trying situations.

Patience and vigilance go together for both are fruits of real and hard prayer, expressions of deep faith in God.

Photo by author, Advent 2019.

On this first Sunday of Advent with clouds still turning dark with rains that have never stopped drenching us these past weeks, we continue to celebrate the Eucharist thanking God for our long-term faith in Christ’s Second Coming.

When we look back to those past nine months of darkness in this pandemic worsened by recent calamities and a clueless government since January, we actually gone far than we have expected.

Why? Because we have never lost hope from the little glimmers of lights God has sent us since the lockdown in March! We have survived and slowly, many of us are finding life’s deeper meanings and realities in God our Father.

Notice how in every patient waiting for Christ’s Second Coming in the midst of the many darkness in life, the Lord actually comes nearer to us, albeit slowly and unnoticeably?

That’s the beauty of Advent, new beginnings always happening for those patiently waiting in the Lord.

Let us be on guard during these long nights of darkness when temptations are strongest and so appealing. Like at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wants us to “watch” with him by praying to the Father so we may remain faithful and focused on him alone to soon find life in the dead of the night. Amen.

A blessed Sunday to you!