The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XVI, Year I, 23 July 2021
Exodus 20:1-17 ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> Matthew 13:18-23
It has been raining for a week,
loving God and Father.
Farmers and sowers must be so
delighted to come out in the fields
to sow their seeds while we stay home
trying to keep ourselves dry and warm.
Help us to make room for you, dear Father,
to open up ourselves to the seeds
of your presence that come to us daily
in your words in the Sacred Scriptures.
Let us be like the fertile soil in the parable
by Jesus "who hears the word and
understands it, who indeed bears fruit
and yields a hundred or sixty or
thirtyfold." (Matthew 13:23)
Your seed is always good
springing into life wherever it falls
for you alone, O God, is good!
How lovely it is to imagine
that all Ten Commandments sprang up
from just one seed that is YOU, dear Father -
You are the seed we always reject
when You are the seed we all need.
Whenever we choose to commit sin,
we take on other strange gods
and idols besides You that
we worship and follow.
May we open ourselves to You, God
welcoming you like a seed into our little room
so we may find home in You when it blooms.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, Third Week in Ordinary Time, 27 January 2021
Hebrews 10:11-18 >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*> Mark 4:1-20
Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for being deaf, for refusing to listen to you, for not having the ears to hear your calls. Twice you called out on the crowd gathered before you in the gospel today, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow… Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear” (Mk. 4:3, 9).
So many times in life, we have forgotten the essential use of our ears which is to hear and listen so we may understand. Most of the time, our ears have been reduced to mere decorations of our head to hold eyeglasses as well as be stuffed with ear plugs or covered with headsets to be deadened by sounds we prefer to hear and listen to.
Make us realize anew that our ears were shaped in such a way to look like our heart when put together so that the more we hear and listen to you and others, the more we love.
So many things begin with our ears.
And so often, from the ears, they go to our hearts to be processed.
From hearing to listening to loving.
It is only with a listening heart that we can truly see you passing by everyday in our lives like the Sower sowing to us the seeds of love, the seeds of the kingdom of heaven.
Moreover, cleanse our hearts, remove so many other things not supposed to be there that distort our perceptions of you and of others.
May we realize too that in our refusal to listen to you, so many people have also stopped listening to us, your disciples, especially when we speak more of our words, more of our thoughts, than of your Word and Holy Will.
As you open our ears and hearts to your Word, dear Jesus, teach us to be patient too like our Father, the Sower, to never give up sowing your seeds of the kingdom of God even if nobody listens to us. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXXIII-A in Ordinary Time, 15 November 2020
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 >><)))*> 1Thessalonians 5:1-6 >><)))*> Matthew 25:14-30
It is my fervent hope and prayer that by this time, everybody is feeling better after those harrowing experience of winds and rains by typhoon Ulysses that have induced flash floods and left a path of destruction and deaths in Central Luzon and Metro Manila this week.
Indeed, it was like tropical storm Ondoy happening again after eleven years when everybody was caught by surprise by the floods and severe aftermath of dirt and trash left behind with no electricity nor water supply available in many parts of the affected areas.
As a result, many of us have again reflected on the one topic we have always avoided in life – death and things of the end like parousia or Second Coming of Christ, end of the world, and judgement day that have preoccupied the early Christians. St. Paul’s reminder to them in today’s second reading is so timely and relevant even for us today to be vigilant for Christ’s coming.
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.
Vigilance is faith in Christ.
Jesus gives us another parable today to illustrate his Second Coming and judgement; but unlike last week, today is more picturesque, touching our innermost core, challenging us to be “wiser” in daring to gain eternal life by working harder in this life.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one — to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.”
Vigilance is more than being prepared and ready for any eventuality. It is active waiting by taking risks to ensure a more safe and sound situation when emergencies strike. This is the reason why investors are always surveyed how much risks they are willing to take with their investments: the bigger the risks, the higher the returns are. But, can we take the risks?
The same is true with everything if we wish to have a better future. We have to take risks like working harder, sacrificing more in order to save money and have better homes, to keep our body physically fit and healthy, and burning the night lamp to finish our studies and achieve our goals in life. In this all we find the need to maximize what we have – no one can claim as having nothing at all or “walang-wala” as we would always claim in Tagalog.
Jesus clarifies this today in his parable, telling us that each servant was given with talents “according to his ability”. We are all blessed by God! It is not a question of how much we have received but what have we done to what we are given with.
Of course, not everyone can have all in life but each one has his/her many talents as well as weaknesses. Focus more on what we have than what we do not have. Keep in mind that nobody is perfect, that everybody is going through some struggles in life.
Being vigilant, being “children of light” means striving for the best, choosing what is the best which is part of being holy, an expression of our faith in God. Whenever we dare to take risks like casting our nets into the deep like Simon Peter, we express our deep faith in God as we hope and trust in him.
We are made by the choices we make.
When I was still teaching in our diocesan schools, I used to tell my students to “study hard, work harder and pray hardest”, reminding them that their being good and successful lawyers, doctors, engineers or any professional starts not in the future but today, in the here and now.
Make the right choices in life by truly working on them not just at the spur of the moment or simply based on what others say. Most of all, pray first to discern God’s will for our decisions so we may choose what is best for us according to him.
God wants only the best for us — he made us share in his Life and gave us his only Son Jesus Christ to have its fullness in him here and in eternity. Unlike wealth managers who help people invest for their future, only Jesus assures us with sure, high yields in our “investments” in life by being good and holy.
A lot often, we decide and take risks based on the people we are with like when we have friends or superiors who are good and trustworthy. In the first reading we have heard how a faithful wife uses all her talents in serving her family as she is moved by the fidelity and love of her husband. The same is true if we have good and inspiring friends and employers who move us to be our very best. And most true of all with God who moves us to be our very best to lovingly serve him in others.
Here we find Jesus in his parable as the master who went on a long journey who risked all for us and continues to believe in us, giving us all the grace we need in this life to be fruitful in him.
All we have to do is just be faithful to him to whatever task and mission he has given us. It does not matter how big or small that may be; all he wants is for us to remain faithful to him, of not wasting that talent that must be put into good use not only for us but for others too.
If we are faithful to Jesus, anytime he returns to call us back to eternity, we can be sure of “sharing in his (master’s) joy” of Eternal Life! And if we are not faithful, then….
Today as we praise and thank God for the gift of life with the sun shining anew, let us ask ourselves following the recent calamities happening: what have I done with the many gifts and blessing God has given me? with the tasks, big and small, he has entrusted me?
Remember, it is not how big or how little talents we have received but how we have made it grow that matters. Our lives are the gift of God to us, what we do with our lives, that is our gift to him!
Have a blessed Sunday! Please pray and help our brothers and sisters in Cagayan and Rizal provinces severely affected by typhoon Ulysses. Lastly, kindly say a prayer for me and my six other classmates as we celebrate today (15 November 1997) our 23rd anniversary of ordination as Deacons. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXVIII-A in Ordinary Time, 11 October 2020
Isaiah 25:6-10 ><)))*> Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20 >><)))*> Matthew 22:1-14
As we end the series of teachings in parables by Jesus directed to the chief priests and elders of the people, St. Paul concludes his Letter to the Philippians in our second reading with words so moving for a man awaiting trial and sure death, giving us a glimpse at how this great Apostle of the Lord looked at the most ordinary things in life.
Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live in abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.
Wow! Here we find St. Paul at his best and finest, with his mastery of language at the service of his innermost thoughts and feelings, indicating his transformation from the many hardships and difficulties he had gone through as an Apostle and suffered as a prisoner.
Like St. Paul, there are times we experience that perfect balance in life called equilibrium when we are able to bridge the distance between our mind and our heart with Jesus at the center amid so many trials and difficulties.
Most of all, we see in this short passage how St. Paul accepted both living in need and in abundance with calmness and composure because of Jesus Christ who strengthened him!
What an encouragement for us all in this time of pandemic to remind us of learning to adjust to situations, that true peace within comes not from abundance or scarcity of material goods but of letting go and letting God in our lives. St. Paul witnessed to us the centrality of the Lord’s teaching of denying ourselves, taking our cross and following Jesus.
Most of all, in St. Paul we find what is to be clothed in Christ or “to put on Jesus Christ” (Rom.13:14) by accepting God’s invitation to salvation through his Son as the parable of the wedding feast tells us in our gospel this Sunday.
Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants… Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.
Matthew 22:1-4, 5-7
Do not ignore God’s invitation; carpe diem (seize the moment).
Jesus continues to direct his parables to the chief priests and elders of the people not really to shame them and expose their sinister plots against him but more in the hope of converting them, of giving them the chance of getting into God’s kingdom in heaven.
That is how great is his love for everyone, especially the sinful even if they would not admit it — just like us!
Keep in mind that Christ speaks always in the present and this parable is also meant for us who feel “entitled” in may ways like the chief priests and elders at that time. Interestingly, today’s parable to a large extent has to be taken in the context of the Sunday Mass, the prefiguration of the wedding feast in heaven to which we are all invited.
But how can we get to the wedding feast in heaven if we feel so sure like the chief priests and elders that we refuse to accept God’s invitation?
The Eucharist is the summit of our Christian life where we receive Jesus Christ in words proclaimed, in his Body and Blood, and among the people gathered. Every day Jesus is inviting us to partake in his Sacred Meal to be nourished and get our bearings in life through him like St. Paul.
See how before the pandemic, people refused to celebrate Mass and other Sacraments; but, when quarantine measures were implemented with the suspension of public Masses, everybody wanted to go to churches and receive the Sacraments, specially Holy Communion and Baptism, as well as Confession and Anointing of the Sick!
After seven months of pandemic, many of us have learned to adjust to the new situation but sadly, many have gone back to totally ignoring the Sunday Mass. Worst is at how some have considered online Masses as “video-on-demand” making Jesus Christ a “commodity” anyone can have when most convenient. Pope Francis had reminded us last summer that online Masses are not the norm but a response to the pandemic. Nonetheless, we still have to dispose ourselves properly when celebrating with online Masses like in actual live Mass in a Church and strive to be punctual and avoid doing other things during the online celebration.
In giving us these modern means of communications, God continues to invite us to come to him and gather in his name as a family in our homes for the Sunday online Masses and other liturgical activities that nourish our souls so essential in these trying times. Like the king in the parable today who had to invite guests thrice to his son’s wedding feast, God gives us all the opportunities and chances to celebrate in his gift of salvation through Jesus in the Eucharist which is the summit of Christian life.
May we not miss every opportunity!
When I was assigned to our diocesan schools during my first ten years in priesthood, I used to tell my students that God’s mercy and forgiveness are unlimited but there are acts that can have irreversible consequences like getting involved in a murder, getting pregnant outside marriage, or being caught in a video scam. I would tell them that God will surely forgive you and give you many chances in life while people like your family and friends including those you may have hurt may also forgive and accept you; however, you cannot escape the consequences of those acts that will surely limit your freedom and change forever your situations in life. Bottomline is, do not let yourself be missed out in accepting God’s invitation to his feast of life and salvation by following the path of holiness that beings in the Holy Mass.
The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah directs our attention to “that day” when God would save us and welcome us into heaven symbolized by the feast or banquet with great food and drinks. The good news is we are all invited to his feast, assured with a seat and it would only be our fault to not make it there, either by refusing it or not getting dressed properly.
Being properly dressed is always a sign of maturity.
“The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, good and bad alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”
As is often the case in his parables, Jesus pulled a surprise when he added another parable to this parable of the wedding feast that could have easily ended in the annihilation of those who rejected the king’s two earlier invitations.
God is the king who was so good that he never tired of inviting guests thrice to the wedding feast of his son, and this time he opened it to everyone! And here lies the clincher: though everyone is invited, guests were expected to come in proper attire.
We have learned at a very young age of getting properly dressed in an occasion. In fact, dressing properly is a sign of maturity. Some people especially in this age always claim what matters is the inside of the person not the outside appearance like clothes; but, they forget that the outside also indicates what is inside of us!
Clothes speak a lot of who we are and what we are that even St. Paul used several times the metaphors of clothes like “putting on the Lord Jesus” or being “clothed in Christ” as we have cited earlier.
See how the king went to meet the guests not just for pleasantries but for inspection that immediately his eyes caught the man not dressed in a wedding garment. The king was even courteous addressing the man as “my friend” when asked why he came not in a wedding garment.
Try to imagine the scene with that man “reduced to silence” meaning, he was guilty of not putting on a wedding garment even if he knew that was the occasion he was going to. He had been remiss of his duties and obligations, just like the wicked tenants last week or the merciless servant last month.
"Many are invited, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14)
St. Matthew never failed to remind us these past weeks that our faith has no value if not translated into actions, if it does not bear fruits. Today, he reminds us to be properly dressed to become a part of the wedding feast of the Lord, of the need to be clothed in holiness, in charity, and kindness with others.
Moreover, with just barely two months to go before we end the liturgical year to usher in Advent in preparation for Christmas, Jesus tells us today to never feel so sure, even “safely assured” of getting into heaven like the chief priests and elders of his time that even if we celebrate Sunday Masses weekly, online or actual, nothing is final yet in this life until we all get into the hall of the wedding feast in heaven when we are judged for our good deeds.
For the meantime, let us not miss joining the “rehearsals” for that feast – the Sunday Mass we celebrate weekly when he invites everyone to come. Be sure to be properly dressed for the occasion, literally and figuratively speaking. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXVII-A in Ordinary Time, 04 October 2020
Isaiah 5:1-7 ||+|| Philippians ||+|| Matthew 21:33-43
To all the plantitos and plantitas: happy feast day this Sunday, the fourth of October which is also the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron of those in the green movements.
Part of the grace of this pandemic is the new awareness and interests of many among us for all kinds of plants borne out of the prolonged quarantine periods these past seven months. I remember growing up in our barrio where fences were all plants like santan, San Francisco and gumamelas whose flowers we used to mix with Tide to play bubbles. Who would have thought that after several decades those plants we used to take for granted like the gabi varieties and others along with cactus found almost everywhere would cost a fortune today?
But what I really miss and hope the plantitos and plantitas will be able to revive and bring back are the fruit trees every home used to have even in vacant lots like guava, santol, atis, aratiles, mabolo, achesa, duhat, kamias and of course, mango. Whenever me and my cousin would trek to the mini forest at the back of our compound called “duluhan” near a swampland to shoot birds and everything with our slingshots (tirador), we always had some fruits to munch in our little adventures.
And part of that adventure was to “shake” until we break branches of trees to get fruits and local beetles called salagubang (on mango trees).
Shaking of tree. Exactly the same thing that Jesus did today in his next parable addressed to the chief priests and elders of the people who would soon have him arrested, tried, and crucified: after telling them parable of the wicked tenants who killed the servants and the son of the owner, Jesus shook and shocked his listeners who later realized the parable was about them!
“What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?’ Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
We are the vineyard of the Lord
Jesus had already entered Jerusalem and was teaching at the temple area. Among his audience were the chief priests and elders of the people trying to gather evidences against him for his arrest and execution. Unknown to them, Jesus knew what was in their hearts.
Last Sunday the parable was directed to them so they may realize how wrong they have been in regarding them so highly above the publicans and prostitutes who repented for their sins and went to receive the baptism by John the Baptist.
Today, Jesus “shook them” with this second parable taken from a well known song and lament of a beloved to his vineyard by the Prophet Isaiah which we have heard at the first reading.
Vineyards are very common in Israel as in the rest of the Mediterranean and Europe where grapes and wine symbolize life. Hence, the vine is always considered as a highly prized plant that biblical authors have taken as the image of the people whom God cultivates and from whom he expects beautiful fruits.
In the first reading, we find God lamenting why after investing his vineyard with the best of everything, the grapes it produced were so bad that it had to be burned. It was a very strong warning against Israel who have gone wayward in its ways of living that aside from worshipping idols, they also killed the prophets sent by God.
Notice the transition by Jesus using the same imagery from the Old Testament of the vineyard as the people of God but this time bearing fruits at harvest time. By that time, the chief priests and the elders of the people felt they were better than their ancestors who had the prophets killed. In fact, they felt proud that they have been faithful to God, and therefore, fruitful — thinking they were a far cry from Isaiah’s lament. Unknown to them, Jesus could read their hearts, how they were all planning to kill him like the son in the parable so they can have the vineyard, the people and lord it over them!
Everything fell into right places at the end of the parable when Jesus asked them:
“What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Try to imagine the scene with Jesus face-to-face with the chief priests and elders of the people – and with us – discussing the present time, not the past.
Here is Jesus Christ shaking us all to find whatever fruits we have, telling us that this parable is about me and you (see v. 45), asking us, why are you trying to remove me from the people? Why are you easing me out, creating all these cults around yourselves like celebrities, getting the people’s money and approval for your own sake?
Sometimes we need to be shaken – even shocked – to bring out our fruits
See again my dear Reader the beauty of the Lord’s parables wherein he invites us to be involved with it to see how we felt with certain situations like in the merciless debtor and early workers at the vineyard; today, Jesus is asking us our opinion on what the vineyard owner must do against the wicked tenants.
He knows what to do and wants us to realize that we could be those tenants too because like the chief priests and elders, we easily see the sins and shortcomings of others, the fruitlessness of others without realizing our own darkness within, even our sinister plans to dominate.
See how the chief priests and elders of the people called the tenants “wretched men” deserving “wretched death”, not realizing that the more we talk of other people, the more we actually talk of ourselves!
Every parable by Jesus is always set in the present moment with sights set to the future, to eternal life.
Sometimes, God has to shaken us, even shock us so we may bring out and give him his share of harvest of fruits like our faith, hope and love that will build the community in him, not take people away from him. Problem with us is like with those tenants and the chief priests and elders: “masyado tayong bumibilib sa ating sarili”, that is, we believe too much on ourselves that unconsciously we feel like God, forgetting we are mere stewards or tenants of his vineyard.
St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that we strive to imitate Jesus, be like Jesus so that people may find in us a model in following Jesus. Very clear with St. Paul: nobody is replacing Jesus Christ whom we must all imitate.
This time of the pandemic is a time of harvesting, of showing others our fruits like love and kindness so we may lead more people to God, not to ourselves or anyone else trying to lord over us.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 September 2020
1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49 || + || Luke 8:4-15
Dearest Lord Jesus,
Today I wish to repeat my prayer to you yesterday: Please grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart in explaining and leading others to faith in you, most especially in believing the resurrection of the dead.
While we all profess faith in the resurrection of the dead, most of us are still puzzled like the Corinthians who could not accept it.
Here I have found St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart at its best when he wrote us the most wonderful and loveliest explanation of death and dying that lead to transformation and new life.
Brothers and sisters: Someone may say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?” You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-44
In this time of the pandemic when death has become so “ordinary” and most of all, “so closest to home”, I pray for the many people now facing death in their hospital beds, in their homes comforted by the loving presence of family, as well as for those left alone to themselves due to so many reasons only you can understand. And forgive.
Bless those with advanced stages of cancer, those awaiting transplants, for those in their terminal stages. Give them the grace of hope, to continue to love even if things are getting worst than better.
Ease their pains, Jesus, and make them feel your loving presence with them on the cross.
Most of all, transform them like the seeds after having died and sown in good soil, grew and produced fruit a hundredfold. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 28 July 2020
Jeremiah 14:17-22 >>><)))*> >><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 13:36-43
God our merciful Father, today we pray for our countrymen blinded by the many evils happening in our land today. For those who continue to defend the cycle of murders and killings to weed us out of criminals and addicts, for those who defend the blasphemies uttered against you and jokes against everyone, for those who continue to deny something is terribly wrong among our leaders.
We pray for them all, Lord. Open their eyes and their ears to the many sufferings around us: the cries of mothers losing a child, the pains of fathers losing their jobs, the frustrations of young people in finding a job, and the alienation of a nation lost in a circus where clowns are running the government.
Like your Prophet Jeremiah whom you have asked to tell your people in Judah and Israel how their sins have caused all their miseries and sufferings, enlighten us more to wake up our nation to the truth we have turned away from you.
Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound. If I walk into the field, look! Those slain by the sword; if I enter the city, look! Those consumed by hunger. Why have you struck us a blow that cannot be healed? We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead. We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you. Is it not you alone, O Lord, our God, to whom we look?
Jeremiah 14:17-18, 19-20, 22
Show us the way, the path back to you, O Lord.
We have become the weeds among the wheat, trying to ruin everything.
We have become callous and numb with our sins, too, that others cannot believe our calls for conversion and renewal.
Renew us, O Lord, so we may listen more to your words that will guide us to recovery and conversion. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 26 July 2020
1 Kings 3:5,7-12 >><}}}*> Romans 8:28-30 >><}}}*> Matthew 13:44-52
The other Sunday during our Mass, I saw a man wearing a black t-shirt with these signs:
– = +
Of course, it means “Less is more” because a minus (-) is equal (=) to an addition or a plus (+)!
That is also the meaning of the Cross of Jesus Christ wherein it is in giving that we receive, in dying that we live, in losing that we gain more of everything because the cross is a plus sign.
This Sunday, that is essentially the lesson Jesus is telling us on this final installment of his parables wherein we have to lose everything in order to have him, the kingdom of God.
See how the three parables present us with one situation: to get the treasure in a field, its finder has to bury it again, sell all he has to buy the field where he had found the treasure; a trader searching for fine pearls sells everything he has to acquire a pearl of great price he had found; and lastly, not all fish caught in a net thrown in the sea are good to be sold with bad ones that must be thrown.
These parables are reminding us today of the need to exercise our freedom properly by making wise choices in life. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want but the ability to choose always what is good.
In every situation in life, we always have to make a choice; it is never true that we have no choice left to make. Choosing not to make a choice is actually choosing what is wrong, what is bad, and what is not good for us and for others.
We are always made by the choices we make in life. And that is why the parables are teaching us to choose wisely like King Solomon in the first reading.
The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this — not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right — I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.”
1 Kings 3:5,7,9, 11-12
Here we go back again to that basic reality of a parable which is a simple story of every day life filled with profound meanings. It is something we take for granted because it is so ordinary like the seed forgetting its great potentials in the future.
Many times in life we get distracted like today when we have a plethora of products and services available that we cannot focus on what is really essential and important. Our decisions are clouded even erratic because we are so distracted with the wide array of choices to make, from food to eat to clothes to wear, movies or series to watch on Netflix or cable TV as well as music to listen from thousands of titles in our playlists.
And in our distraction, many times we miss our priorities in life, especially God and our loved ones.
Then, we end up sad and miserable, way too far from what God had envisioned for us since the beginning which is to live in joy in him.
For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.
St. Paul is reminding and assuring us in these short passages we heard from his letter today that God called us to be saved and glorified in Jesus Christ not by chance but by purpose. He willed it, he wanted it so because he loves us so much, assuring us all of future glory in him in eternity.
The key to experiencing that joy from God is to always abide in him like King Solomon of choosing what is good, letting go of everything that will separate us from him like sin and evil. For God’s plan and grace to operate and materialize, we need to cooperate with him like being a good soil that produces fruitful wheat.
Our Christian life of joy
Like the Twelve inside the house listening to Jesus explained and narrated more parables, the Lord is also asking us today the same question:
“Do you understand all these things?”
To “understand all these things” is not about human intelligence like being smart or brilliant but of holy wisdom or spiritual intelligence characterized by humility and simplicity before God and others.
To “understand all these things” and be like “every scribe… or the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old” (Mt.13:52) is to be one in Jesus Christ, a person learned in the ways of God, who knows how to prioritize things, always making things relevant in the present even if it is an old lesson.
To be truly joyful in life is to just have Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus.
It is easier said than done but we must try even little by little, slowly by learning more to give of our very selves to others.
It is difficult to imitate the main characters in the parables today – the finder of treasure, the pearl merchant, and the fisherman – when we always think of having more than having what is most valuable and important.
Have we noticed during this pandemic that whenever we would count or take tabs of everything we share, we feel sad and even grouchy because we feel we have lost a lot? And if we get too much in return, we cannot rejoice because we somehow feel guilty?
True joy comes when we are able to be generous, of giving without counting the costs, without thinking of what would be left for me because my only concern is what else can I give the other persons so that my joy can be complete when I see them like me – happy, contented, and peaceful with a simple smile or delighted by a hot bowl of soup or a hearty breakfast.
And that’s that greatest parable of Jesus of all that we need to understand and embrace: the less we have of created things, the more we have of the Creator, of himself who is the kingdom of God.
We are all familiar with the expression that “familiarity breeds contempt” and sad to say, it has always been true to us even with our relationship with you, God our loving and merciful Father in heaven.
Day in, day out we pray, or simply mumble prayers.
We pray more of security latch, just in case something bad happens to us.
But to be one with one, nah….
Besides, even if we do not pray, there is always somebody praying for us. We believe so.
Everywhere we see churches and your images to remind us of your presence and existence, of your love and goodness to us.
But, we take you for granted. You have become so ordinary to us that sometimes, we look for something extraordinary.
Unknown to us, that is when we stop believing in you and when we also stop living in you.
Be amazed at this, O heavens, and shudder with sheer horror, says the Lord. Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; they have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.
Through your Son Jesus Christ who preached using parables, open our eyes and our ears, our hearts and our very being to begin seeing anew from the ordinary and usual things the deeper realities of your presence and love.
Familiarity need not breed contempt among us and in you.
Let familiarity remind us of your consistency in relating with us, Lord.
Let familiarity lead us to the natural flow of life rooted in you, God, so that we may discover daily the many wonders and beauty of this life; that, despite the seeming cycle and repetition even routine, we may find its deeper meaning right in our hearts where you dwell. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVI, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 19 July 2020
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 >><}}}*> Romans 8:26-27 >><}}}*> Matthew 13:24-43
Our Lord Jesus Christ invites us today to join him into a different kind of journey that would take us deep into God’s mystery in our very selves through the parables he has started to tell us last Sunday.
Recall, dear readers, that parables constitute the heart of the Lord’s preaching.
We have defined these as simple stories with deep realities that must be cracked open through prayers and reflections to get its meaning. From the French para bolein that literally means “along the path”, a parable is likewise a bridge that leads us into something unknown to us before.
In itself, a parable is a journey calling us to walk through it into our inner selves to discover the many inner beauties that lie within us but we take for granted. Ultimately, as we discover these giftedness within us, we then uncover God dwelling within us.
This is the reason why Jesus would always tell his audience after narrating his parables that “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Mt.13:43) to insist on them to go deeper inside themselves for their meaning.
And that is when we are transformed, when our lives are changed into true disciples of Jesus Christ.
Greatness in littleness
First thing we notice in the three parables of Jesus today is his insistence on the coming of the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God through him as the mysterious seed.
This kingdom of heaven is used interchangeably with “kingdom of God” that Jesus would always speak of in his entire ministry until his crucifixion is not according to our understanding of a kingdom: it is not about a territorial domain or the exercise of power over subjects using force.
St. John Paul the Second expressed it beautifully by declaring the person of Jesus Christ himself is the kingdom of God. No wonder, Christ would always liken himself and the kingdom of God with the seed being sown.
It is always good. It is for everyone as the sower scatters the seeds everywhere. And it is always small like Jesus who was born like any infant so fragile and even poor like most of us. He is like the seed we take for granted from which comes forth all kinds of plants like trees, big and small.
Or most specially, like those seeds that turn into crops of wheat and shrubs like the mustard with leaves and branches where birds may dwell that describe the first two parables today.
Jesus then added a third parable of the yeast mixed into flour that leavened the dough into a bread.
Like him our Lord, we his disciples are also like the small seeds packed with great possibilities in God.
In all these three parables today, there is that element of smallness, of littleness that remind us how everything that is great always starts small.
When we come to think of this, we realize how we embarked on this great mission of making Jesus Christ known: it started like a small spark within us, perhaps from a single word we have heard or read, a simple inspiration by God through the most ordinary persons and situation.
Not only in things regarding our spiritual lives but even our personal lives when we recall those humble beginnings of our family and of our business.
Like a little seed or yeast, they just grew!
Now we are surprised, even amazed, how we have changed, how we have grown. Of how we are now reaping the fruits of our labors and sacrifices.
Most of all, how we have known and experienced Jesus Christ who fulfills our lives.
Weeds among the wheat
But not all days are bright and sunny. There are dark clouds that hover above us bringing storms and heavy rains that lead into floodings. A lot often in life, the darkest nights turn out to be the longest nights too.
And this is the meaning of Christ’s main parable for today.
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seeds in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slave of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
During my prayer periods this past week, I have been filled with anger and disappointments at how things are going on in our country and even in my personal life. It pains me so much why at this time of the pandemic when we have to go through all these bad things.
Last Friday morning before our daily Mass, we discovered the glasses shattered in our windows near the office door and at the side door of the church. There were scratches outside indicating attempts to unlock the doors inside and steal from the church.
After the Mass, I grew more angry as we inspected the damages, thinking so negatively harsh against whoever tried to burglarize us.
By night time during prayers, I remembered Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables where Valjean was caught by the police stealing silver from the good bishop who had welcomed him into his rectory with food and accommodations. Instead of pinning him down for his crime, the bishop told the police he had given Valjean the silver found in his bag, even chastising him he had left behind the other silver candlesticks he had asked to take!
The wheatfield owner in our parable and the good bishop of Les Miserables are both the merciful God mentioned by the author of the Book of Wisdom in our first reading today:
But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.
Think of our parents and elders, our mentors or those we look up to for their wisdom gifted with wonderful insights in life called perspicacity which means “a penetrating discernment… a clarity of vision or intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight.”
Being perspicacious or having perspicacity like the wheatfield owner or the good bishop of Les Miserable means having a deeper wisdom that one can keenly see and understand things beyond ordinary perception following a long process of silent reflections in life.
Many times, our sights can be limited that we do not see the other repercussions and even ramifications of our decisions on certain situations. There are times we think only of finding solutions, of winning the battle but not the war.
It is also along this line that Jesus added the third parable: the yeast is mixed with the flour to leaven the dough.
We are like the yeast who have to mix with others, including the evil ones to become bread that will feed the world.
We are the wheat, the mustard seed, the yeast thrown into the world to make a difference in Christ! We are not the ones who will change the world but Jesus Christ, the mysterious seed, the yeast in the dough who grows and effects the changes in us and among us.
Parables as inner journey in Christ Jesus
With Jesus living and nurturing within us, that is when we become fruitful like the wheat and mustard plant or leavened bread that we are able to feed more people who would eventually become bearers his in the future. That is how the kingdom of heaven comes into this world, when God is seen and felt by everyone through us
This we achieve in prayers as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading. It is not just reciting our basic prayers as Christians including the novenas we love to collect and follow through. The kind of prayer that St. Paul speaks here is a prayer guided by God’s Holy Spirit who perfectly knows God’s will.
Brothers and sisters: The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
In this time of too much weeds among the wheat, of so many evil and sins prevailing over us, we can feel frustrated at times that make it so difficult for us to pray.
Sometimes, the evil and sins, or the plain sufferings we go through in our own family, in our community or at work and in school can be so overwhelming that we feel our prayers are useless, that God is not listening at all to us.
Then we stop praying, we stop journeying within even with weeds among the wheat. How can the flour be leavened if the yeast is not mixed with the dough to become bread or cake.
Remain in the Lord!
Pulling out the weeds will not solve the problem; worst, it may endanger us all too in the process that we become like our enemies in the end. Never lose hope in God who knows very well of the presence and source of weeds. Sometimes, these pains and sufferings from evils we go through from others may actually lead us to our being fruitful!
Evil and sins are a parable in themselves that can teach us so well in life if we handle them with prayers.
Praying in the Holy Spirit is when we spend time with Jesus to reflect and crack open his words that come to us in the Sacred Scriptures and ordinary events in daily life through long hours of silent meditation and contemplation.
The more we dive into God’s mysteries in the parables he sends us in daily living, the more we see the beauty and wonder of life because our horizons are widened and get clearer.
Praying into our parables in life is like looking into a telescope or binoculars that enable us to see something distant within reach.