Life’s many crossovers

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 30 January 2023
Hebrews 11:32-40     ><0000'> + ><0000'> + ><0000'>     Mark 5:1-20
Photo by author, sunrise at Bgy. Igulot, Bocaue, Bulacan, 29 January 2023.
Thank you dear Jesus
for this Monday;
another "crossing over"
from Sunday rest yesterday
to working days beginning
today.
Today's gospel speaks
so beautifully of life's many
crossovers with you leading us,
joining us, coming to us to heal us,
to cleanse us, to forgive us:

Jesus and his disciples came to the other side of the sea, to the territory of the Gerasenes. When he got out of the boat, at once a man from the tombs who had an unclean spirit met him. The man had been dwelling among the tombs, and no one could restrain him any longer, even with a chain.

Mark 5:1-3
Many times, O Lord,
we have been bound by chains
of sins and shackles of vices
we have found comfort with;
like that man, some of us have
been living in tombs among
the dead and zombies;
but worst, dear Jesus,
were the people who drove you
away after you have cleansed
that man of his evil spirits,
giving more importance to the herd of
swine that perished than to the one
possessed person freed from evil.
Lord Jesus,
life is a series of crossing overs
from darkness to light,
from ignorance to wisdom,
from slavery to freedom,
from sin to grace;
let us not be afraid to cross
over to the other side to follow you,
to cross with you in faith;
let us lead others into crossing
over through the nights of life into
the day filled with your grace and
challenges; most of all, let us cross 
over life with firm faith in you,
persevering even if we do not receive
"what had been promised" because
"God had foreseen 
something better for us" (Heb.11:39-40).
Amen.

True blessedness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, Year A, 29 January 2023
Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ><}}}*> Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by author, 2020.

Blessedness is a very contentious term for us Filipinos. Very often, we equate blessedness with being rich and wealthy like having a lot of money, a beautiful house, and the latest car model as well as clothes and gadgets. Being blessed sometimes means being lucky or fortunate like winning the lotto or having a child graduating in college or getting promoted in one’s job.

In the Visitation, Elizabeth defined for us the true meaning of being blessed like Mary as someone who believed that what the Lord had promised her would be fulfilled (Lk.1:45). Blessedness is essentially a spiritual reality than a material one; however, it implies that being blessed results from doing something good like being faithful to God.

Today in our gospel from Matthew, Jesus shows us that blessedness is still a spiritual reality than a material one but, it is more of a being – like a status in Facebook – than of doing.

Most of all, being blessed is not being in a good situation or condition when all is well and everything proceeding smoothly in life; blessedness according to Jesus at his sermon on the mount is when we are on the distaff side of life like being poor, being hungry, being persecuted and insulted – being like him!

Photo by author, Church of the Beatitudes, Israel, 2019.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Matthew 5:3-12

After going around the shores of Galilee, preaching and healing the people, Jesus went up a mountain upon seeing crowds were following him. They were mostly poor people with deep faith in God, hoping and trusting only in him for their deliverance called the anawims.

They were in painful and difficult situations, maybe like many of us, fed up with the traffic and rising costs of everything, fed up with the corruption among public officials and most of all, disillusioned with our priests and bishops!

Then, Jesus called them blessed.

Now, please consider that it is more understandable and normal to say that after being persecuted or after losing a loved one, after all these sufferings that people would be blessed, that the kingdom of God would be theirs.

But, that is not the case with the beatitudes whereby Jesus called them already blessed now, right in their state of being poor, being persecuted, being maligned!

Keep in mind that Matthew’s audience were his fellow Jewish converts to Christianity. By situating Jesus on the mountain preaching his first major discourse, Matthew was reminding his fellow Jewish converts of their great lawgiver, Moses who stood on Mount Sinai to give them the Ten Commandments from God.

However, in the sermon on the mount, Matthew was presenting Jesus not just as the new Moses but in fact more than Moses because Jesus himself is the Law. His very person is what we follow that is why we are called Christians and our faith is properly called Christianity so unlike other religions that are like philosophies or any other -ism.

To understand the beatitudes, one has to turn and enter into Jesus Christ for he is the one truly poor in spirit, meek, hungry and thirsty, merciful, clean of heart, who was persecuted, died but rose again and now seated at the righthand of the Father in heaven. Essentially, the Beatitudes personify Jesus Christ himself. Those who share what he had gone through while here on earth, those who identify with him in his poverty and meekness, mercy and peace efforts, and suffering and death now share in his blessedness.

Therefore, the Beatitudes are paths to keeping our relationship with Jesus Christ who calls us to be like him – poor, hungry and thirsty, meek, clean of heart and persecuted. The Beatitudes are not on the moral plane like the Decalogue that tells us what to do and not to do. Have you ever used the Beatitudes as a guide in examining your conscience when going to Confessions? Never, because the Beatitudes are goals in life to be continuously pursued daily by Christ’s disciples.

Photo by author, Church of the Beatitudes, Israel, 2017.

The Beatitudes are more on the spiritual and mystical plane of our lives that when we try imitating Jesus in his being poor and merciful, meek and clean of heart, then we realize and experience blessedness as we learn the distinctions between joy and happiness, being fruitful and successful.

That is when we find fulfillment while still here on earth amid all the sufferings and trials we go through because in the beatitudes we have Jesus, a relationship we begin to keep and nurture who is also the Kingdom of God. Of course, we experience its fullness in the afterlife but nonetheless, we reap its rewards while here in this life.

As we have noted at the start, we must not take the beatitudes in their material aspect but always in the spiritual meaning. This we find in the first beatitude, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Actually, this first beatitude is the very essence of all eight other blessedness. Everything springs forth from being poor in spirit, of having that inner attitude and disposition of humility before God. We cannot be merciful and meek, nor pure of heart nor peacemakers unless we become first of all poor in spirit like Jesus, who, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and humbled himself” (Phil. 2:6-7, 8).

The prophet Zephaniah showed us in the first reading that poverty in the Old Testament does not only define a social status but more of one’s availability and openness to God with his gifts and calls to us to experience him and make him known. Experience had taught us so well that material poverty is one of life’s best teacher as it leads us to maturity and redemption best expressed in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In this sense, the beatitude is also the “be-attitude” of every disciple who carries his cross in following Christ. See that each beatitude does not refer to a different person; every disciple of Jesus goes through each beatitude if he/she immerses himself/herself in Christ. That is why last week Jesus preached repentance which leads to conversion. Notice that the beatitudes of Christ are clearly opposite and contrary to the ways of the world as St. Paul tells us in the second reading with God calling the weak and lowly to manifest his power and glory.

Many times in life, we fail to recognize our blessedness when we are so focused with what we are going through, with our work and duties and obligations. This Sunday, Jesus takes us up on the mountain, in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist for us to see ourselves blessed and loved right in the midst of our simplicity and bareness, sufferings and pains. Stop for a while. Find Christ in all your troubles or darkness in life. If you do not find Jesus in your labors and burdens, you are just punishing yourself. If you find Christ because you see more the face of other persons that you become merciful, you work for peace, you mourn and bear all insults and persecution… then, you must be loving a lot. Therefore, you are blessed! Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Church of the Beatitudes, Israel, 2017.

Advent is also the coming of the Cross

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the First Week of Advent, Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, 30 November 2022
Romans 10:9-18   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   Matthew 4:18-22

Brothers and sisters: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 10:9
If Advent is the preparation 
for your coming, Lord Jesus Christ,
then Advent is also the preparation
for the coming of your Cross!
As St. Paul had taught us in all his
writings, there can be no proclamation of
of your salvation for us without preaching
your Cross, O Lord Jesus Christ!
Without your Cross, O Lord,
all your words and deeds
would be empty;
that is why, there is no saint
without a love for your Cross!
Teach us to love the cross 
you have assigned each of us
because it is on the Cross 
where you are found, Lord Jesus;
like St. Andrew, make us realize
that our own crosses can only have value
if we consider and accept them
as part of your own Cross;
though our crosses may be
of different shapes or colors,
each one is always a reflection of 
your eternal light, dear Jesus,
that ennobles our sufferings and pains.
Amen.

Making things happen in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop, 04 November 2022
Philippians 3:17-4:1   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 16:1-8
Praise and thanksgiving,
God our loving Father
for the grace of your Son
Jesus Christ 
who had come 
to make us closer to you
more than ever, 
making us "citizens of heaven"
(Philippinas 3:20).
Teach us, dear Jesus,
to be imitators of St. Paul
witnessing your Cross, 
the only path to salvation
because it is our liberation from sin;
do not allow us to be
"enemies of the cross"
whose "God is their stomach;
their glory is in their shame.  
Their minds occupied with earthly
things" (Philippians 3:18-19);
keep us faithful to your teachings 
and example, Lord Jesus Christ
by living your paschal mystery.
Like St. Charles Borromeo
whose memorial we celebrate today,
give us the grace of determination
and perseverance in keeping us
true and faithful to you
by making things happen 
like making Christ present
no matter how difficult and 
unpopular it may be especially 
when others especially our pastors 
have forgotten to live in your footsteps,
when too much time and emphasis
are spent with outward appearances
forgetting internal reformation;
let us stop wishful thinking that
things may get better by being just idle,
simply awaiting for events to happen.
Like that shrewd steward in the gospel,
let us find ways, O Lord, in making
justice and mercy,
love and kindness
become realities
by making them happen
by standing firm in you
Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Entering through the narrow gate

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 26 October 2022
Ephesians 6:1-9   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 13:22-30
Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, 2019.
Bless me, dear Jesus,
and forgive me for being like
that someone in the gospel
who asked you, "Lord, will only
a few people be saved?"
(Luke 13:23); many times
I am that someone in the 
crowd, so eagerly feeling inside
you would answer with a 
resounding "yes" to my 
question, feeling that I am one
of those few who would be
saved because I belong
to your chosen ones,
the ones "who ate and drank
with you, the ones you taught
in the streets" (Luke 13:26).
Forgive me Lord Jesus
for feeling so entitled;
let me realize your Kingdom
is not about affiliations nor
about the company we are with
but more of the path we take
in life, your path of the Cross.

He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough. After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, ‘Lord, open the door for us.’ He will say to you in reply, ‘I do not know where you are from.”

Luke 13:24-25
Entering heaven,
being a part of your
Kingdom, dear Jesus
is keeping our relationships
Christ-centered that begins
right in the family, to our parents,
of parents to children, of siblings
among each other, and with those
in the household.
How sad, dear Jesus,
when we all desire of heaven
when we make a mess of our
family life when couples are
unfaithful to each other,
when parents wrongly pursue 
wealth not realizing their children 
are their greatest riches, 
when siblings compete with one
another instead of loving each other,
and when children do not care at
all to their parents. 
O Lord Jesus Christ,
as we count the days 
until Christmas,
make us realize you
came to bring salvation
to the world by coming
through the husband and
wife of Joseph and Mary;
when you came to save us,
you opened the narrow gate
to salvation there on the Cross
with your Mother and beloved
disciple standing until the end.
Let us strive to enter
through your narrow gate,
Jesus, that is found first
in our own family.
Amen.