Beyond “when” and “what”

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVIII-B in Ordinary Time, 01 August 2021
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15 ><}}}}'> Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 ><}}}}'> John 6:24-35
Photo by author, Church of Dominus Flevit overlooking Jerusalem, 2017.

Last Sunday we reflected the “where” of Jesus in asking Philip, “Where can we buy enough food” for the crowd who have followed them to a deserted place. We said that “where” of Jesus referred not to any place or location but to himself as the only one who can give “enough food” for everyone.

Today I invite you, my dear readers to join me reflecting on the “when” and “what” of the people who have followed Jesus to the other side of the lake, looking for him to have more food after that miraculous feeding last week. This time, the people are the ones asking Jesus with when and what that reveal their pride before God.

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

John 6:24-35
Photo by author, Capernaum’s shore at Lake Tiberias, 2017.

From a deserted place to Capernaum

To fully appreciate today’s gospel account by John, let us get its whole picture with a little help from Mark who started the story of Jesus and the Twelve crossing the lake to a deserted place to rest the other week. With his usual dash of humor, Mark told us how the people arrived to the place ahead of Jesus who was moved with pity at seeing the crowd “for they were like sheep without a shepherd that he taught them with many things.”

John continued the story last Sunday telling us how Jesus fed the people to their satisfaction with so many leftovers out of just five loaves of bread and two fish. The people were astonished that they tried to get Jesus to make him a king but he “withdrew again to the mountain alone.”

This Sunday, John continued his story telling us how the crowd finally found Jesus at Capernaum with his disciples.

How did he get there?

Photo by author, Lake of Tiberias (aka, Galilee), 2020.

According to Mark 6:45ff., after feeding the people, Jesus told the Twelve to proceed ahead of him to the other side of the lake that evening while he dismissed the crowd. Later that evening while Jesus was praying on the mountain, he saw his disciples’ boat being tossed by big waves due to strong winds. He followed them at the “fourth watch of the night” (about 3AM) by walking on water that terrified the Twelve who thought they have seen a ghost.

Upon identifying himself as the Lord, Peter asked to let him come to him by walking on water too; Peter sank when he doubted due to the strong winds until Jesus saved him and joined them on the boat going to Capernaum.

Mark’s story of Jesus walking on water after the miraculous feeding provides us the context for the people’s question to him today in John’s continuation of the story last week, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (Jn.6:25): it was very difficult, almost impossible for anyone to have crossed the lake at night due to giant waves caused by strong winds. (Any pilgrim to the Holy Land can attest to this fact even today.)

And that was the main issue here: the people refused to see the deeper meanings behind the two events when Jesus fed them and the almost impossible crossing of the lake that night.

That is why Jesus did not answer their question by bluntly addressing their suspicious motive, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

Ironically, while their asking of “when did you get here” implicitly acknowledged the Lord’s miraculous crossing of the lake, they still refused to accept it by downplaying everything like addressing Jesus as “Rabbi” when in fact, they were not interested with him but merely with the food he had given them!


Their question of "when" 
was not really about his time of arrival there 
but more of an inquiry on the person of Jesus....

Their question of when was not really about his time of arrival there but more of an inquiry on the person of Jesus as they wondered how could he made it across the lake that night. They have failed to recognize the deeper meaning of the sign Jesus did in feeding them with enough food which Jesus explained anew.

And the stage is now set for Jesus to reveal himself, of who he really is which his disciples were also asking and contending among themselves all these weeks and months of being with the Lord.

Photo by author(2017), ruins at Capernaum with a church built over the house where Jesus was believed to have stayed.

The need for us to be open to Jesus, our bread of life

Many times in life, our words and attitudes betray us of our inner motives, of our selfish interests to get near some people, to meet and know them not for who they are but for what we can have from them – even with God!

Remember Andrew last Sunday who did not bother to ask the boy’s name who gave the five loaves of bread and two fish from which Jesus performed his miracle? “There is a boy here with five barley loaves and two fish” – no name, just a “there” because the did not matter at all to Andrew except his food.

But there is something deeper being revealed in this attitude of forgetting the other person and being focused on material things: that is our pride, of believing only in ourselves, of playing God!

So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

John 6:28-31

See how the crowd ignored Christ’s promise of giving food that endures for eternal life by following up their question with What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” – another veiled question like their when, insisting on their own achievements and abilities, on what they can.

Worst is how in a twist highlighting pride in themselves as they dared to question Jesus again with What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?“!!! Helloooooo….!

Photo by author at the ruins of the synagogue of Capernaum where Jesus preached his bread of life discourse, 2017.

They have gone so blinded with their pride that suddenly the miraculous feeding they have personally witnessed plus the unimaginable crossing of the lake at night remained lacking, not enough for them to believe in the powers of Jesus that they still asked for another sign.

Their “what” had become a demand from them, an insistence on Jesus the Son of God to give them signs from heaven even if they ironically preferred without them knowing how they were stuck at the lowest level of looking at things.

They have closed their eyes to seeing beyond the ordinary things happening to them since Jesus came teaching and healing. And now after feeding them, they demanded Jesus to follow them instead of them following the Lord.

Is it not the same thing happens with us when we keep on demanding God for proofs of his love and mercy, demanding so many other things from him above while we refuse to rise above ourselves, to “level up” in our lives?

This is the call by St. Paul in the second reading, that we must “be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:23-24).


Once again, we are placed on highest level of quarantine due to a surge in COVID-19 cases with threats from the new Delta variant. Unless we learn to see this pandemic on a higher plane or level that calls for spiritual renewal among us, it will persist to disrupt and destroy lives among us.

It is more than a virus infecting us but an attitude deep within us when we have lost respect for one another and with nature. Pope Francis had long ago sounded this alarm in 2015 with his encyclical Laudato Si calling for each of us to change our lifestyle, each of us contributing for the betterment of the world because it is easiest to join advocacies but difficult to change our ways of life by having less.

With all these pandemic and climate changes going on around us, the signs are getting clearer for us to shift our perspectives, to see things on a higher plane like what Jesus had began at Capernaum declaring himself, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger; and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn.6:35).

Our misunderstandings with others and in life will persist unless we remove the veils and masks that cover so many insincerities of our questions in search of the many answers to the problems we face.

Like the people who have followed Jesus to Capernaum that day who were stuck in the desert experiences of Moses (first reading) that they could not see Jesus himself as the new bread from heaven; in fact, Jesus had to correct them that it was not Moses who gave the manna but God the Father in heaven who now gives Jesus to nourish us in our journey to eternal life.

Let us empty our selves of our pride to let Jesus fill us today with his words and his Body and Blood so we may realize next week the meaning and sweetness of himself as the Bread of life. A blessed week to you. Stay safe and keep praying. Amen.

Photo by author, April 2020.

Easter is obeying God than men

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Easter, 15 April 2021
Acts 5:27-30   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 3:31-36
Photo by author, dome of the chapel at Shepherd’s Field, Bethlehem, the Holy Land, 2019.

Your words today, O Lord, from the first reading invites me to examine my attitude when somebody or something reminds me of my sins and sinfulness. What a shame that too often, we are like the members of the Sanhedrin who refused to acknowledge their complicity in your crucifixion, much less even mention your name.

When they heard this,
they became infuriated
and wanted to put them to death.
(Acts 5:33)

Forgive us, Jesus, when our worldliness prevents us from seeing you and others, when we tend to see only ourselves that we do not care at all to others, thinking we have a monopoly of truths, of having so many excuses and alibis defending ourselves.

We pray most especially to our government officials led by the president himself who continues to see himself self-righteously, maligning his detractors and critics despite the many deaths and sufferings of the people especially the poor.

We pray for their blind supporters that you open their minds and hearts that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) as Peter had told the Sanhedrin during their trial.

Most of all, dear Jesus, only you has the power to cast away all evil and convert hearts: we pray for our leaders and their blind supporters to be reminded always that it is only you “who comes from above is above all” (Jn.3:31), that there is no other God except you!

How sad and tragic that while this pandemic is raging around the world, so many people, world leaders and nations are acting as if they are gods who are above all, doing everything that pleases them, unmindful of you and of others.

For so long, our government leaders have been “rationing God’s gift of the Spirit” (Jn.3:34), feeding us with half truths and worst until now, they have no definitive plan in containing the pandemic except quarantines that have severely affected the poor.

Like the psalmist, we trust only in you our Lord and our God.

The Lord confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them on the earth.
When the just cry out,
the Lord hears them,
and from all their distress
he rescues them.
(Psalm 34:17-18)

Amen. Amen. Alleluia, Amen!

The golden calves we believe

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Fourth Week in Lent, 18 March 2021 (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)
Exodus 32:7-14     ><}}}*>  +  <*{{{><     John 5:31-47
Illustration from chabad.org.

God our Father in heaven, forgive us for being constantly in the same situation like your people at the wilderness when Moses was up conversing with you on Mount Sinai. So many times we are like them, creating our own golden calves, turning away from you our true God.

So many times in life, we simply want to be in total control of everything that we doubt you, even grow impatient with you because we have other agendas in life like being god like you! And so, we make golden calves of everything we like to believe in, including in our selves.

Jesus said to the Jews: “You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life. I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.”

John 5:39-43

You said it perfectly right, Lord Jesus: “I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.”

As we turn to idolatrous worship of our selves, then we stop loving you in others both in our hearts and in our hands. When we begin manipulating everything and everyone even our very own belief system, especially your gift of faith in each of us, that is when we become gods.

When we stop believing in you, then we stop loving, we stop relating, we stop authentic living as we forget others.

Forgive us, Lord, and look kindly upon us like at Sinai, reminding us always of the many blessings the Father showers us despite our sinfulness. Teach us to be grateful always so we may learn humility and embrace our humanity to start believing in you and love again by turning away from sins.

Once again, let your tender compassion, Lord, break upon us this Lent so we may begin to love and care, be tender with those who suffer amid our own pains and trials in life. Teach us to believe in you again to realize that wherever there is loving service, tenderness, and care for the weak and lowly, there you are too! Amen.

From quarantine to cleansing and proclaiming…

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 20 November 2020
Revelation 10:8-11    >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Luke 19:45-48
Photo by author, National Bible Sunday, 26 January 2020.

Praise and glory to you, Lord Jesus that through this pandemic, you continue to bless us, teaching us valuable lessons we have taken for granted for so long. For the past eight months, we have been doing many quarantine measures to cleanse us and keep us COVID free and healthy, reminding us of the truth of that “cleanliness is next to Godliness”.

Today’s gospel reminds us so well of this need to cleanse ourselves first before we can cleanse people and institutions.

Jesus entered the temple area and proceeded to drive out those who were selling things, saying to them, “It is written, My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” And every day he was teaching in the temple area. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people, meanwhile, were seeking to put him to death, but they could find no way to accomplish their purpose because all the people were hanging on his words.

Luke 19:45-48

People were “hanging on your words”, Lord Jesus, because they could feel power and authority in them for you are the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us.

Purify us, Jesus, like you so that our words may be filled with you.

Let your words not remain sweet only on our lips as experienced by St. John when he ate the small scroll given by the angel to him; let your words disturb us, turn our stomach sour (Rev.10:10) to cleanse us first inside, emptying us of our pride so you can fill us with your Holy Spirit to proclaim your good news of salvation.

May we desire more of being disturbed by your words than being pleased with its beauty that is superficial and can be misleading.

Most of all, may we keep in mind that it is you, dear Jesus, who must increase, who must be known not us in sharing and proclaiming your words. Amen.

Imitating the attitude of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious, 03 November 2020
Philippians 2:5-11  +++ ||| +++   Luke 14:15-24
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Center for Spirituality, Novaliches, 2018.

Brothers and sisters: Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus. Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Philippians 2:5-6

God our Father, I feel too small, even ashamed before you today as I prayed on your words through St. Paul; it is not just a very tall order but the sad part is the fact that we have all known it all along since our catechism days in school or the parish but rarely put into practice.

We admit it is the fundamental rule of Christian life, to be like Jesus Christ your Son who had come to show us the way back to you is by emptying one’s self for others, to be one with others especially in their pains and sufferings, of being the last, being the servant of all, being like a child.

Unfortunately, we always find it so difficult to learn.

Partly because we lack the very attitude of Jesus Christ we must first imitate according to St. Paul.

And that is the attitude of being small, being the least.

Exactly like St. Martin de Porres:

From Pinterest.com

Such was his humility that he loved them even more than himself and considered them to be better and more righteous that he was. He did not blame others for their shortcomings. Certain that he deserved more severe punishment for his sins than others did, he would overlook their worst offenses. He was tireless in his efforts to reform the criminal, and he would sit up with the sick to bring them comfort. for the poor he would provide food, clothing and medicine.

Homily by St. Pope John XXIII at the Canonization of Saint Martin de Porres in 1962

So often, our attitude is like with those invited by the king to his great dinner: feeling great, feeling so important with themselves that they find no need to be with others that they all turned down the invitation.

Sometimes our arrogance and high regard for ourselves miserably fail us in being like Jesus; hence, we continue to be divided into factions because no one would give way for others that lead to peace and harmony.

Teach us Lord to change that attitude of greatness in us with an attitude of smallness, of leaving a space for others in our lives so we can all work together as one community of believers in you like St. Martin de Porres and all the other saints. Amen.

We are God’s handiwork

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXIX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 October 2020
Ephesians 2:1-10     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 12:13-21
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

As we begin our work this Monday, guide us O God our Father to discover anew this great gift of life in you. May we see ourselves the way you see us – beloved and forgiven children made in your own image and likeness — your handiwork as St. Paul beautifully expressed!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Let us value this unique blessing from you, dear Lord; in your power and supremacy, you could have just let us vanished and be forgotten. Yet, you chose to redeem us in your Son Jesus Christ, giving us countless opportunities to rise again, to bloom, and to be healed.

Make our hearts whole in you, undivided in pride, complacency and selfishness unlike that man in the parable whom we imitate most often, busy storing treasures for ourselves that we forget real wealth is found in what matters to you our God (Lk. 12:21).

Wake us up from this insanity of amassing too much of everything, not realizing that in the process, the more we have, the more we are actually empty and lost because all these things perish.

Only you, O God, suffices. Make us aspire and desire more of you so your glory and majesty may be seen in us. Amen.

Our foolish pride

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church, 03 September 2020
1 Corinthians 3:18-23 >><)))*> | >><)))*> | >><)))*> | >><)))*> Luke 5:1-11
One of the best ads during the lockdown last summer from Smart.

What a wonderful lesson we have today from St. Paul about your wisdom, O God our Father that is found in the scandal of the Cross of your Son Jesus Christ!

Brothers and sisters: Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this stage, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

1 Corinthians 3:18-20

This we have realized at the start of this pandemic when everything in the world stopped and forever changed because of microscopic COVID-19 virus, affecting even the most advanced countries of the world.

Most of all, everybody – rich and poor alike – suffered greatly from this virus, teaching us to value persons more when people we took for granted for so long have become our “saviors” during this prolonged quarantine periods like vendors and delivery personnel, our househelpers, and others we used to look down upon who continued to serve us with food and other needs.

Not to be forgotten too are the members of neglected sectors of our society, specially those in the medical and healthcare system and the agriculture who showed us the importance of human and natural resources over imports and technology as well as entertainment.

What a great lesson about wisdom of God and foolishness of man in this modern time!

One thing very clear, O Lord, that to be a fool for you is first of all to let go of our foolish pride and be humble before you and others.

It is the only way we can let you do your work of changing us and the world when we learn to let go of our foolish pride like St. Peter in today’s gospel when he as an experienced fisherman heeded your command to cast his nets into the deep even though you are the carpenter’s son.

When we review the lives of all saints, they are all men and women of exceptional humility before you, Lord; like St. Gregory the Great who focused more on you that he was able to reform our liturgy, set up schools and monasteries, sent missionaries to England, and instill holiness among the clergy in his “Pastoral Instructions.”

Help us to believe more in you than in ourselves so that you may do your work in us and through us. May we value your Cross, Lord Jesus, considered as foolish in this sophisticated age yet has continued to prove that it is the only path to our transformation as persons and nations. Amen.

Photo by author, XVth Station of the Cross, the Resurrection, Mount St. Paul, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

The “heart is false”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 08 July 2020
Hosea 10:1-3, 7-8, 12 <*(((><< >><)))*> Matthew 10:1-7
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, statues of the Twelve Apostles on the facade of the Church of our Lady of Montserrat in Spain, 2019.

How beautiful are your words today, dearest God our Father. You never fail to surprise me with your deep personal involvement with us all that you can capture exactly what is inside us without any doubt at all.

After praising Israel’s great achievements that have brought them material prosperity, you remain impartial and fair in pronouncing your judgement:

Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth. The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built. The more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up. Their heart is false, and now they pay for their guilt. God shall break down their altars and destroy destroy their sacred pillars.

Hosea 10:1-2

Indeed, only you can read our hearts, our inmost beings.

How many times have we been deceived by outward appearances like material prosperity in life, thinking these are the crowing glory of one’s great efforts in balancing prayer and work only to be rejected by God for their hard headedness and pride?

A heart that is false is also a heart that has turned away from you, O God; sometimes, these are not evident right away because a heart can always fake outside what is inside.

A heart that takes pride in its grand designs and visions is a heart that is false. Most of all, a heart that refuses to look into the pains and hurts of others, their shortcomings and sins, is a heart that is false because it denies humanity, its being a human flesh tormented by love amidst pains and sufferings. A heart that is false is a heart that refuses to see other hearts with many hurts because it believes more with its self than with God’s love and mercy.

A heart that is false is a heart that has refused to grow and outgrow its previously held convictions and beliefs, more intent in looking at its own heart than into Christ’s meek and humble heart, eventually betraying Jesus and loved ones.

Incline our hearts into the Father’s loving heart, dear Jesus, and give us a heart that is both true and humble, accepting our many limitations, full of hope in becoming a better person in you like your Apostles who started out like us all with imperfect hearts. Amen.

Photo by author, Davao City, 2018.

Playing God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Tuesday, Easter Week-III, 28 April 2020

Acts of the Apostles 7:51-8:1 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 6:30-35

Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com

Thank you… and forgive us also, Lord Jesus, in this time of the corona virus.

Thank you in giving us the much needed time to be with you and with our loved ones in this time of quarantine. Thank you most of all, Lord, in giving us this chance to meet our true selves too.

The enhanced community quarantine has brought out the best in us, like with St. Stephen in the first reading who was filled with the Holy Spirit while being stoned to death by the people in proclaiming your gospel.

Thank you for the gifts of humility and courage to confront our true selves to see your true glory.

Forgive us also, Lord, because this same quarantine period has brought out the worst in us: every day in the news we see disturbing reports of people getting into all kinds of troubles displaying arrogance and pride that have wounded many bloated egos and, sadly even led to death.

We have been playing gods more than ever in this time of the corona virus, Lord Jesus.

Are we the ones also being referred to by St. Stephen in the first reading?

Stephen said to the people, the elders, and the scribes: “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the Holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors.”

Acts of the Apostle 7:51

On the other hand, sometimes we act like the people of your time in Capernaum who, despite the many signs you have shown as being the Christ, we continue to doubt you, Lord Jesus, even daring you to do more than Moses and others!

The crowd said to Jesus: “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

John 6:30-31

Forgive us, Lord Jesus in playing gods when we neither see you among others nor in your very self because the sad truth, all we can see, that we choose and insist on seeing is only our very selves.

Open our eyes, dear Jesus. And if needed, humiliate us so we may be humble again to see you are our Lord and our God and nobody else before we end up inflicting more harm to one another than the corona virus . Amen.

From quotefancy.com

Who we are vs. who we are not

40 Shades of Lent, Sunday Week I-A, 01 March 2020

Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7 +++ Romans 5:12-19 +++ Matthew 4:1-11

From Google.

Lent has always been associated with the Sacrament of Baptism since the beginning of the Church. In fact our Sunday readings this 2020 (Cycle A) are among the oldest in our liturgy used in the preparation of candidates or catechumens to Baptism on Easter Vigil.

This intimate link between Lent and Baptism is very evident in our synoptic gospels as Matthew, Mark, and Luke present to us how after Jesus was baptized by John in Jordan River, his temptations by the devil in the desert immediately comes next.

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

Matthew 4:1-3

The Season of Lent and the Sacrament of Baptism

From Google.

Let us go back a little to that Baptism scene of Jesus at Jordan so we can understand this link between Lent and Baptism as well as to appreciate the meaning of our celebration this first Sunday of Lent.

It was during his Baptism at Jordan when the Father formally launched and made known the mission of Jesus as the Christ or the “Anointed One” of God, that is, the Messiah in Hebrew or Christo in Greek from which we derived the word Christ in English.

As a prefiguration of his coming Pasch – Passion, Death, and Resurrection – Jesus Christ’s Baptism became his “investiture” or “commissioning” when the Father declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17).

In his Baptism, Jesus entered into solidarity with us sinners when he plunged into Jordan River to be one with us in everything except sin. It is here we find very clear the intimate link of Baptism with Lent when we are called to be faithful children of God like Jesus Christ

An anatomy of temptation and sin

Detail of the mosaic of the “Temptations of Christ” at the St. Mark Basilica in Venice. Photo from psephizo.com.

Every temptation by the devil, every sin is always a turning away from God, a deviation from our identity as children of the Father in Jesus Christ.

Whenever we would wake up, the Father reminds us like at the Baptism of Jesus at Jordan that we are his beloved son or daughter with whom he is well pleased despite our many sins, failures, and weaknesses.

And like Jesus Christ right after his Baptism at Jordan, the devil also comes every day to tempt us to turn away from the Father, echoing to us his same words in the desert with the Lord, “If you are the Son of God” to lure us into becoming someone we are not.

The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written…”

Matthew 4:3-6

See this pattern of the devil in his first two temptations, “If you are the Son of God” – very enticing to be somebody else, to prove one’s worth and being.

This pattern will significantly change at the third temptation when the devil took Jesus to a high mountain to show him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence. No more “If you are the Son of God” but a more direct temptation that is affront and “garapal” as we say in Filipino:

“All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”

Matthew 4:9

Observe how cunning was the devil in his temptations of Jesus until finally, he brings out his sinister plot: worship him, turn away from God!

The same is true with us: the devil will lure and deceive us in so many ways with just one objective which is for us to turn away from God. In every temptation, in every sin, the issue has always been the primacy of God which Jesus Christ firmly affirmed in his triumph over the devil’s temptations at the desert.

And this issue on the primacy of God is always attacked by the devil in every temptation when he confuses us on who we really are like the woman in the first reading after the serpent had told her that she would be like God:

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its frit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Genesis 3:6-7

Do we not feel the same way after every sin? We feel naked – ugly, dirty, and alienated from our very selves precisely because we have not become our true selves!

These temptations of Jesus by the devil would persist up to his crucifixion where some people jeered and taunted him, telling him “if you are the Son of God” or “if you are the Messiah” so that he would turn away from the Father and forget all about his mission and Divine plan of salvation.

Notice that the last temptation of Jesus is exactly our last temptation too: abandon God the Father and simply be like the devil, with no dignity, with nothing at all because he is separated from God, our only grounding of being.

Hubris, our greatest temptation and sin

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, Batanes, 2018.

Last Sunday we have mentioned how the Greeks have always held that man’s first and greatest temptation and sin is hubris – that is, the arrogant presumption of man that he is god, or that he can defy the divine to do everything and have anything.

We call it pride which is at the very core of every temptation and sin. The director of the classic film “Ten Commandments”, Mr. Cecil de Mille was once asked which of the Lord’s commandments is most often violated by man?

According to Mr. De Mille, it is the first commandment of God that we always violate because whenever we sin, that is when we also have another false god or idol aside from the true God.

Very true!

Our problem in the world is not really hunger or war or poverty but our refusal to be faithful to God, to be who we really are as his blessed sons and daughters. In some instances, there are some who have totally rejected and denied God, believing more in themselves, in the sciences and technologies.

Jesus is not indifferent to hunger or wars still going on in many parts of the world today; he had come to show us the path to our problems is to reclaim our being children of the Father, listening and living his words, worshiping and trusting him alone.

In going through his Pasch, in fighting all temptations, Jesus shows us the path to see and experience the God we can meet when we come to our desert where we rely only in him alone. It involves hard work, without any shortcut and quick fixes or instants that have become our norm these days.

It is not a simplistic approach to the many problems we are facing, but if you read the newspapers or watch the news, we see how humanity is still in solidarity with Adam, with sin, with the material world as St. Paul explained in the second reading.

On this first Sunday of Lent, we are reminded anew of our identity as beloved children of the Father in Jesus Christ who showers us with every grace and blessing that we need. Let us live in him, trust in him, hold on to him to experience life anew.

Let us give Jesus a chance to work in us, rise with him to our being beloved children of the Father! Amen.

Photo by author at the ancient city of Jericho, Israel, May 2019.