The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 14 March 2021
We are now halfway through to celebrating another Easter amid the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic worsening anew with a recent surge in infections. But today’s Sunday readings especially the gospel give us so many reasons to celebrate and rejoice for the gift of life and love, light and hope in Jesus Christ who had come not to condemn us but to save us (Jn.3:16-17).
By his dying on the Cross, Jesus had opened a path for us back to the Father by uplifting us from our sins and miseries, becoming our light that dispelled the many darkness that enveloped us if we follow him with our sacrifices and efforts to be good like him (https://lordmychef.com/2021/03/13/the-joy-of-lent-4/).
This we find in our gospel story of Jesus conversing with Nicodemus under the cover of darkness of the night, reminding us of the 1982 hit Up Where We Belong by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes from the equally smash hit movie of that year, “An Officer and A Gentleman” starring Richard Gere and Debra Winger.
The movie is also interesting for us because of some references to the Philippines with the opening scenes of Zack played by Gere growing up with his father who was a Navy officer assigned at the Subic Naval Base.
Like Nicodemus in the gospel, Zack had so many darkness within him following his mother’s suicide and his living with his father who initially refused to take him, afraid he would not be a good father after separating from his mother earlier in childhood. After graduation in college, Zack went to train to become a Naval aviator where he encountered more darkness in life especially from their tough and hard-driving Marine training officer played by Louis Gosset Jr. that earned him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film (the first African-American male to do so).
More instances of darkness in Zack were also shown in the film like the suicide of a fellow trainee and friend whose marriage proposal was rejected when his girlfriend learned he had left Naval training. Zack almost quit his training because of that but was prevailed upon by Gosset after an unsanctioned fight bout.
After graduation, Zack went to see his girlfriend at work (Debra Winger), declaring his love for her. And when she said yes to his love, they kissed, after which he carried her in his arms as he walked out of the factory while her co-workers clapped their hands in a round of applause.
The scene is so touching, so lovely. And that is when Jennifer and Joe began their duet.
Who knows what tomorrow brings In a world few hearts survive All I know is the way I feel When it’s real, I keep it alive
The road is long There are mountains in our way But we climb a step every day
Love lift us up where we belong Where the eagles cry On a mountain high Love lift us up where we belong Far from the world below Up where the clear winds blow
Some hang on to used to be Live their lives looking behind All we have is here and now All our lives, out there to find
The road is long There are mountains in our way But we climb a step every day
Love lift us up where we belong Where the eagles cry On a mountain high Love lift us up where we belong Far from the world we know Where the clear winds blow
The song is very Lent, in fact very spiritual that some Christian stations in the States have reportedly adapted it into some religious variations as it speaks so well of overcoming every obstacle in life with determination and perseverance. And of course, with a lot of help and light from above, Jesus Christ. Have a joyful and blessed week ahead, everyone!
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Second Week in Ordinary Time, 19 January 2021
Hebrews 6:10-20 <*(((><< +++ >><)))*> Mark 2:23-28
Dear God our Father:
Today I pray for those feeling low, for those having the blues lately when everything seems to be going wrong in their lives, feeling they have been forgotten, not cared for and not loved.
Please touch their hearts, enkindle the flames within them in continuing to serve you because You do love them.
Teach me Lord how I can let them know or feel and experience your encouraging words in today’s first reading:
Brothers and sisters: God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones. We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.
Increase, O God, the inspiration and zeal of those serving you by continuing to be open to Your Son Jesus Christ our eternal High Priest who had gone to your presence to bring us closer to You more than ever, especially when our skies are dark and gloomy.
I pray, dear Father, in the most special way for all of our medical frontliners in the fight against COVID-19 to never lose hope despite the dismal way how things are going on in our country in this time of the pandemic; touch the hearts of those losing hope in fighting for what is true and just, for those striving to contribute to make this world a better place to live in with their contributions in the sciences and to the society.
Assure them, O Lord, that all your promises of salvation and healing will be fulfilled soon by experiencing your loving presence in the celebrations of the Holy Eucharist.
Like the apostles in the gospel today, may those working for improving human life in various sectors of the society experience Jesus Christ’s love and defense for them against those trying to discredit them. May their love for others, for the country, for the Church, and for You, Lord, mature according to Your will. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Christmas 2020 Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
A blessed Merry Christmas to you, my dear Reader! As I have been telling you these past weeks, this Christmas may be the bleakest and saddest we have in our lifetime due to the pandemic but at the same time it may be our most meaningful of all. Consider the following:
We may have less material things this Christmas, but we have more spiritual values
like faith, hope, and love along with kindness, compassion, and tenderness;
We may have less of ourselves but finally, we have more of others,
Most of all, we may have less of all the trimmings of the season
to have more of the Reason, Jesus Christ our everything!
Last Holy Week and Easter, I have told you that while we were so sad in the midst of a strict lockdown when COVID-19 hit us so bad, Jesus must be more sad than us with what we were going through at that time.
However, while many of us may still be sad this Christmas, Jesus must be happy not for our misery but because finally, He can have us completely as we continue to learn the many lessons of the pandemic, of finding the more important and essential and valuable in life.
But, can He finally have us completely this Christmas 2020 and hereafter?
How sad and alarming that after nine months in the pandemic, many of us have gone back to our old ways of not praying, not celebrating Sunday Mass, and worst, still emotionally distant from God and others.
Christmas is Jesus reminding
us life is precious because it is fragile;
He came to us an infant born in precarious
situations like us.
In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
If Luke were to write the gospel today, he would have surely mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic that has greatly altered our lives in less than a year. And that is the good news of Christmas: Jesus comes to us in the most trying time of our lives like 2000 years ago when He was born in Bethlehem.
See the beautiful contrast presented by Luke: the powerful Caesar Augustus of the Roman empire and the true King of kings being born like any infant in a manger for there was no room for them in the inn.
Yes, in our time there are so many women delivering their babies in difficult situations even worst like those fleeing their own countries due to wars and persecution. Here we find the Son of God from the moment of his birth had experienced the uncertainty and insecurity we ourselves are into. I have always told in my funeral Masses how easy it is these days to just die and pass away: recall the people we knew who simply died from COVID-19 and other sickness this year alone. Everybody says the difficulty of seeking medical attention due to the corona virus.
But that is how life is truly is: it is most precious because it is fragile, precarious, so delicate like an infant and a child.
That is what Jesus is showing us in coming to us born as an infant, in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloth: the all-powerful and mighty God and King asking us to be tender and kind with Him born among everyone of us.
I love Zechariah’s description of God’s mercy in his Benedictus or canticle to God after he regained his speech when he confirmed the name of his son John:
“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”
And that is perhaps one of the things we sorely miss so much these days from everyone, tender compassion. The tender compassion, tender mercy of Jesus. Recall how during His ministry all four evangelists would narrate how Jesus was moved with pity and compassion to the people who were lost, tired and sick “like sheep without a shepherd” that no matter how tired He may be, He would always find time to teach them, heal their sick, and even feed them.
Like courage, tenderness or mercy is a movement in the heart called misericordia in Spanish from the Latin mittere, meaning to be moved, to be stirred that is why it is soft. It is something dynamic, not static. It is a deep feeling that moves toward someone in pain and suffering — an identification of Jesus right at the moment of His birth with every person going through so much hardships and sufferings in life.
Let God stir your hearts this Christmas, especially for the poor and the weak, for those closest to us we have taken for granted. Share the joy of the newborn Jesus by considering always the fragility of this life we have, of being kind, not hurting others physically or verbally. Enough with all the violence and brutality around us.
Christmas is Jesus coming to us
to affirm our very first love: God.
At the time of Jesus, rabbis used to teach that God had intervened in the history of the world during “four great nights”: the first night is the beginning of creation (Gen. 1); the second was when God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15); the third night was the liberation of Israel from Egypt or Exodus.
The fourth is the future one, the night when God will break all chains to put an end to all kinds of misery, to create a new world and begin His kingdom here on earth. For us Christians, Christmas is that fourth night when Jesus was born in Bethlehem as well as when He rose from the dead.
December 24 is always believed to be the darkest night of the year, the perfect setting of the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ so vividly presented to us by Luke in his Christmas story when he juxtaposed the misery of humanity (darkness) and the glory from high of angels announcing His birth.
What a mysterious exchange, an eternal presence of the Son of God entering into our history as a human like us in everything except sin.
See the paradox of his birth: poverty and glory when Jesus was born into destittion under the decree of the pagan emperor, childbirth far from home without any help to His Mother, and then honored by the lowest kind of people of his time , the shepherds yet glorified by the angels of heaven!
All of these to affirm to us humans that we are God’s first love!
We may be living in the darkness of the night with no clear sight yet of the end of this pandemic despite the discovery of a vaccine. Both the government and big businesses do not give a damn on the people, not even provide the basic services like good internet or efficient toll system. Violence and vile becoming a daily staple among those in power.
It is so dark indeed but the love of Christ Jesus can brighten and illumine even the darkest corners of our lives if we come to Him in firm and consistent faith like Mary His Mother. Christmas reminds us that the night has been overcome and conquered by the love of Jesus Christ, our Savior.
Take note that Luke is the only evangelist who calls Jesus so often as “Savior”: 14 times in his gospel and at least 40 times in the Acts of the Apostles. Likewise, Luke insists in his Christmas story using the word “today” to show that God’s salvation continues to happen at this very moment because He loves us so much!
Let me end these reflections with a prayer as I tried to silence myself these past nine days of Simbang Gabi:
Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
Thank you for still coming, not only today but every day, in good times and in bad times.
Thank you for loving us in spite and despite our sinfulness, especially when we have no time for you, when we are so busy with so many other things we claim for our loved ones and sometimes, for you.
Despite the clouds of darkness above us, you continue to come to us, bringing light to dispel the many darkness especially in our hearts, in our relationships. So many times, we have lacked tenderness and mercy with one another despite our profession of faith and love for you.
In this time of COVID-19, help us go back to the basic truths and realities your birth and coming teach us: the value of our family, of simplicity, of humility, of smallness or littleness, of love and mercy, kindness and sincerity.
O dear sweet child Jesus, move our hearts to be kind and loving to others; to always be careful not to hurt you in every person we meet so they may realize despite the miseries of this world, there is always your glory, your salvation to anyone who trusts in you.
Bless us with your grace and truth, Jesus, so that through us, through our lives of witnessing, God may dwell upon us and be made known to everyone not only this Christmas but all year through.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 29 November 2020
I have been thinking of a song that speaks of darkness and light that best describes the Season of Advent. As I surfed YoutTube song with words like “night” and “darkness”, I stumbled upon this old classic and everyone’s favorite (those in our generation) with its unmistakable opening:
Hello, darkness my old friend...
Advent is from the Latin adventus that means coming or arrival. It is the start of the new year in our Church calendar made up of four Sundays meant to prepare us spiritually for Christmas.
This year, it is hoped that we take the Advent Season seriously by praying more, reflecting our lives and examining our conscience so we can have a meaningful Christmas this 2020 that will surely be bleak and dark due the pandemic.
And that is why I immediately felt Paul Simon’s The Sound of Silence as the perfect music this first Sunday of Advent when darkness is all around us with the pandemic and other calamities while also deep within each of us is another darkness like an illness or somebody with a serious ailment in the family, a lost job, or even death of a beloved.
In the bible, darkness is the realm of evil like when Jesus was betrayed by Judas on that Thursday evening at Gethsemane; however, with the coming of Jesus, darkness has become also the best time to believe in light! See how Jesus was born on the darkest night of the year, Christmas eve, to bring light to the world; likewise, it was during the darkness of the first day of the week when Jesus also rose from the dead on Easter.
It is in silence where we learn to be patient and vigilant, two virtues becoming so rare in our world that has come to live 24/7 in artificial lights many think to be the real thing.
Patience and vigilance are both fruits of prayer and expressions of our faith when we bear all pains and sufferings wide awake because we believe God is leading us to something good, something better and brighter.
In this song written by Paul Simon and first recorded with Art Garfunkel in 1965, we find silence that represents prayer and reflections helping us find the realities of life amid the many darkness surrounding us or even encroaching within us.
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
I have always loved these two stanzas, citing them in my teachings and sharing with students and young people to explain to them the value of silence and to befriend the many darkness we have in life. It is a paradox, a part of life’s mystery when we actually find its light and understanding in darkness which is also our starting point in clearing and dealing with all these darkness around and within us.
After the Lord’s supper on Holy Thursday, we find in the gospel how he brought his three apostles with him to Gethsemane to accompany him pray in agony while awaiting his betrayer. Jesus asked the three apostles to watch with him, to pray with him.
This Advent, Jesus is asking us to watch and pray with him so we remain focused in God, not to the neon gods we have made to overcome the many darkness of life.
If darkness is the realm of evil in the bible, silence is the realm of trust: even if life may be dark when we cannot see clearly, we go on in silence because we believe somebody sees better than us, leading us to light and better days.
Enjoy this classic again with family and friends. Have a blessed Sunday!
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B, 29 November 2020
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7 + 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 + Mark 13:33-37
A blessed happy new year to everyone as we begin today the new liturgical year of our Church calendar with the first Sunday of Advent. From the Latin word adventus for “coming”, Advent is a time meant to prepare us spiritually for Christmas.
And with all the problems and sufferings we have been going through this 2020 with the pandemic still around us in this joyous season of Christ’s coming, we hope that we make this Advent Season more serious so we may have a more meaningful Christmas, prepared for 2021 (see our recent blog, https://lordmychef.com/2020/11/23/surely-there-will-be-christmas-2020/)!
Like Lent, though in a less penitential mode, Advent is a time to pray and reflect on our lives and if possible, go to confessions to cleanse our hearts so Jesus may come and rest there like when he was born on a manger in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.
Our first reading today beautifully sets the mood for Advent 2020 in the midst of COVID-19 with a prayer so true with each one of us:
You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you…
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19
Advent is for new beginnings, for coming again.
Year 2020 is without doubt very difficult for everyone but it teaches us in the most unique way the essentials in life like God, family, friends, true self, and things like kindness, respect, thoughtfulness, simplicity, presence, and other niceties we have taken for granted for so long. It is about time that we recover these specially in Advent which is the season of new beginnings when we start anew in life.
And where do we start?
Right where we are, here in our darkness in the pandemic and within our hearts, far from God by beginning to pray anew to him so he may finally come and return to us!
The words by Prophet Isaiah in the first reading are so perfect at this time as if these were written only recently, expressing our true sentiments within: that we are sorry for having drifted far from Jesus and from others all these years, so focused with things and gadgets than with God and persons.
Our hearts have been too hard, distant from God and each other, so cold and so dark that we have become so insensitive, callous and numb or even without any conscience at all that in the midst of a pandemic, there are some who can still utter lies and malice with their hands also tainted with blood and corruption.
It is so sickening but, the more we pray and listen to our inner selves, we also find how this darkness has slowly encroached on us too, happening at different levels right in our own family circles, in our community, and even in our church maybe!
On bended knees, we humbly admit our need for God to intervene now – to rend the heavens – and bring us back to our senses and unto him, so we may finally find rays of hope, even a glimmer of light in this darkness we are into.
As we pray for the Lord’s advent or coming, we need to strive to be vigilant on our part as we patiently await him right in our hearts in this night of the pandemic and chaos going on.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”
Mark 13:33, 35-37
Though we live in darkness, we belong to Christ who is light himself!
Everywhere in the world, except Down Under perhaps, the Season of Advent always falls in that time of the year when the nights are longer and most of all, darkest as in winter experienced in the western hemisphere, including Europe.
In fact, Christmas Eve is the darkest night of the year, the date Christ was born to bring light and be the light of the world.
See how Jesus used the night as the time of the return of the “lord of the house” (who is himself, too) when everything is dark and difficult.
For the young generation today, it may mean nothing at all as they have grown accustomed to our 24/7 world where work continues into the night like during the day with offices and stores opened and public transportation readily available.
During the time of Jesus and even 30 years ago, we rarely travelled nor even went out past six in the evening because of the many dangers at night like criminal elements lurking for their preys and simply the difficult situation of seeing clearly the roads ahead. In the bible, darkness is the realm of evil and sin like Jesus being betrayed by Judas after their last supper while in Genesis, we find how in darkness was nothing but chaos until God created everything.
And there lies the good news of the night, of darkness, and of Advent: Jesus Christ as the light himself of the world comes to save us at night! It was before dawn when Jesus walked the waters of the Sea of Galilee to save his apostles while being tossed by giant waves in their small boat. It was also in the darkness of the night when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Yes, we all live in the night when darkness envelops us, even our hearts and very lives with so many problems and crises happening but we never lose hope, we never lose sight of that glimmer of light for we do not belong to the night but to Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
Advent is patient waiting for the Lord’s coming.
Night is the time when it is best to believe in the light. As one poet had said, “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” But, another unknown poet had also said that “Only the brave who dare to walk the darkest of nights shall see the brightness of the stars above.”
Our lives may be in darkness or even dark itself these days but we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist today even if the the Lord’s coming may be delayed because we know deep in our hearts that “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor.1:9).
One thing we need to pray for this season are patience and vigilance in awaiting his return during this darkness.
Patience is a virtue becoming so rare these days when everything is rushed as we live in a world of “instants” like instant gratification and, yes! — even instant vaccine against COVID-19 without us realizing its deep implications of calls for changes in the way of living and doing things in the world as individuals and as nations. From the Latin “patior” which is to bear all pains, patience is also believing that something better will happen in every sufferings we patiently endure.
Likewise, vigilance is more than being awake and prepared for any eventuality but an active waiting for someone or something by taking risks due also to a firm belief something better will come out of trying situations.
Patience and vigilance go together for both are fruits of real and hard prayer, expressions of deep faith in God.
On this first Sunday of Advent with clouds still turning dark with rains that have never stopped drenching us these past weeks, we continue to celebrate the Eucharist thanking God for our long-term faith in Christ’s Second Coming.
When we look back to those past nine months of darkness in this pandemic worsened by recent calamities and a clueless government since January, we actually gone far than we have expected.
Why? Because we have never lost hope from the little glimmers of lights God has sent us since the lockdown in March! We have survived and slowly, many of us are finding life’s deeper meanings and realities in God our Father.
Notice how in every patient waiting for Christ’s Second Coming in the midst of the many darkness in life, the Lord actually comes nearer to us, albeit slowly and unnoticeably?
That’s the beauty of Advent, new beginnings always happening for those patiently waiting in the Lord.
Let us be on guard during these long nights of darkness when temptations are strongest and so appealing. Like at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wants us to “watch” with him by praying to the Father so we may remain faithful and focused on him alone to soon find life in the dead of the night. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XIX, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 09 August 2020
1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 >><}}}*> Romans 9:1-5 >><}}}*> Matthew 14:22-33
I have always loved the sea and lately my thoughts have always been about the beach as I miss it so much after COVID-19 had robbed us of our summer vacation.
In ancient time, the sea evoked fear because it was largely unknown that even in the bible, it is the symbol of evil and its powers over man. That is why our gospel today is very significant when Jesus walked on water to show God’s greater power over evil and sin.
And like our gospel last week, our story today tells us a lot more about Jesus walking on water in the midst of a storm to reveal himself and most of all, his desire to meet us his disciples.
Place and location as non-verbal communication of one’s presence
Every meeting and encounter presupposes locations or places, a locus; but, everything is “levelled up” or elevated in Jesus in whom things do not remain in the physical level.
Proxemics is the non-verbal communication that refers to places and location, its nearness and orientation. How we arrange our furnitures, designate the rooms and sections in our homes, offices, schools and every building we stay and gather communicate and reveal who we are.
For example, Catholic homes are easily identified in having a grotto at the garden, an altar of the Sacred Heart or any saint at the sala, and the Last Supper painting in the dining hall.
But for Jesus, a place or a location is more than the physical site because in him, proxemics takes on a deeper dimension and higher meaning when we meet him in situations and places. That is why after feeding the more than five thousand people last week, he ordered the Twelve to cross the Sea of Galilee (which is actually a lake) ahead of him while he dismissed the crowds.
After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. during the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Crossing to Jesus, crossing with Jesus
I love that scene very much, of Jesus getting his disciples into the boat to precede him to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. Again, St. Matthew never bothered to tell us why Jesus sent the Twelve ahead of him as he stayed behind, dismissing the crowds and later praying alone at night atop the mountain.
Let us now reflect the proxemics or non-verbal communication of our gospel scene this Sunday.
We need to cross to the other side to meet Jesus.
To meet Jesus Christ, we always have to “cross to the other side” by leaving our “comfort zones”.
More than going to the other side of the lake physically, we have to move over to unchartered areas of life, be bold and daring to try new things, new situations in order to mature and find fulfillment by meeting Jesus Christ.
And sometimes, we really have to literally cross the sea or get to the other side of the country or the world to find our self and meet Christ.
Fifteen years ago I went on vacation to Toronto for some soul-searching as I went through a burn-out. While serving at St. Clement Parish, I met many Filipinos serving as lectors, choir members, catechists and volunteers.
They would always confess to me with both a sense of pride and little shame that they never went to Mass regularly when in the Philippines and now in Canada, they were amazed at how God had brought them there to be involved in parish activities and be closer to Jesus than ever!
As I listened to their stories, I realized the many sacrifices and hardships they have to endure in that vast and cold country with no one to turn to except God. If given the chance, many of them admitted they would return to the Philippines for there is no place like home!
Though I have found so many things I have been searching for in my initial three months of stay there on top of other opportunities given me, I still felt empty. That raging storm within continued. As I prayed and reflected guided by an old, Polish priest who claimed to have been the student of St. John Paul II, I saw myself more, eventually leading me to God anew who refreshed my vocation that I finally decided to go back home after six months of my supposed to be one year leave.
Sometimes in life, we need to get away from our comfort zone, cross to the other side, especially when life becomes so artificial. Jesus invites us to go ahead and cross to the other side of the lake or sea to experience life at its “raw” so we can feel again our souls within and desire him anew until we finally meet him wherever we may be in the world.
It is when we are at the other side of the sea in the midst of a storm when Jesus comes, immediately answering our cries for help – At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage; it is I” – because when we are reduced to emptiness and nothingness, then our faith kickstarts again. Faith, like love, is always an encounter with God.
Try going to the other side, leave your comfort zone to meet Jesus and finally have meaning and direction in life!
Silence is the presence of God.
In the first reading we have heard that beautiful story of Elijah meeting God at the mouth of a cave — not in the strong and heavy wind nor earthquake nor fire like Moses before him.
After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.
1 Kings 19:12-13
Silence is the place of the presence of God because silence is his language too. Wherever there is silence, we can surely find and meet God there.
That is why Jesus wants us to cross to the other side, to be silent and listen to him.
In his silence, God teaches us that except for sin, he never considers everything as being finished; everything is a “work-in-progress” even if he seems to be silent that some think he must be absent or even dead.
The world thrives in noise, loud talks, and screams with each voice trying to dominate another resulting in cacophony of sounds. Shakespeare’s Hamlet said it well when he told Polonius what he was reading were “Words, words, words” — nonsense!
Some people like those in power think that the more words they say, the more meaningful their thoughts and ideas become. Worst, they thought that using foul and filthy language make them so natural and credible, not realizing the more they look stupid with their crazy thoughts and ideas not even clowns and comedians would ever attempt to imitate.
But when our words come from deep silence, they come with power and meaning, touching everyone’s heart and inner core.
That is when silence becomes fullness, not emptiness or mere lack of noise and sound.
Like when our medical frontliners and medical experts spoke with one voice last week airing their thoughts about the pandemic — we were all moved and reawakened to realize how we have been going about with our lives almost forgetting them these past five months!
What a tragedy at how our officials in government and Congress reacted negatively, feeling hurt deep inside with the painful truth of how they have been irresponsible from the beginning. Sapul!
Pico Iyer wrote in a TIME magazine essay 30 years ago that “silence is the domain of trust”.
True. The most trustful people are the most silent; those who speak a lot trust no one and most likely, cannot be trusted too.
Jesus invites us to cross to the other side to be silent and learn to trust him. It is only then when we can meet him. In silence.
Jesus meets us in darkness.
Jesus asks us to cross to the other side of the lake or sea like his disciples in order to meet us in darkness. This is a paradox because Jesus is the light of the world.
But, note the most notable moments in his life happened in darkness: he was born on the darkest night of the year, he died when darkness covered the whole city of Jerusalem, and he rose from the dead when it was still dark on the first day of the week.
Jesus had overcome darkness! So, what happened to Peter in this episode after being called by Jesus to walk on water too?
Jesus said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Imagine how everything was going so well with Peter doing another crossing while crossing the lake! But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Jesus calls us into the dark so that we only look for him and upon finding him, focus on him alone. Peter saw the strong wind, not the stronger and powerful Jesus walking on water, that fear overtook him.
That’s the whole point of St. Paul in our second reading today: he was telling the Romans how some people in Israel trusted more in their physical descent from Abraham than in God’s promise of salvation fulfilled in Jesus they have refused to see and recognize as the Christ (Rom.9:1-5).
When in the dark, be silent and still for Jesus is near! Keep your sights at him, not on anything else. Problem in darkness is not God but us who follow other lights or have become delusional.
That is the tragedy we are into as a nation while crossing to the other side of the sea of pandemic in just one boat when our officials see only themselves as always being right. Worst, they all want to be on the stage with all the lights on them as they speak and sing in cacophony like psychopaths.
All the more we must hold on tight, trust and focus in Jesus who is “now here”, not “nowhere” for he will never allow us to perish.
Let us trust Jesus overcoming all these evil, leading us to the shore. Amen.
A blessed rainy Sunday to you and your loved ones!
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, 22 July 2020
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 >><}}}*> >><}}}*> >><}}}*> John 20:1-2, 11-18
Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
Today as I prayed on the feast of your beloved Saint Mary Magdalene, my sights were focused on your beautiful exchange of names on that Easter morning at your tomb.
It is so lovely and so deep, and very personal for all of us whom you love so much despite our many sins like St. Mary Magdalene.
When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.
You called her by her name, “Mary” and she called you by your title “Rabbouni” – what a beautiful scene of two people loving each other so deeply, so truly! You – humbly and lovingly accepting the sinner, and she – submitting herself to you as disciple.
You have expelled seven demons from her, you have known her so well even her darkest secrets and sins, and despite all these knowledge, Lord Jesus, the more you have loved her that you called her by the sweetest word she could ever hear in her life, “Mary”.
The same with us, sweet Jesus: every day you call us by our names, each one of us as a person, an individual, a somebody not just a someone. You love us so much in spite and despite of everything. We are not just a number or a statistic to you but a person with whom you relate personally.
Help us to realize this specially when darkness surrounds us, when self-doubts and mistrust abound in us without realizing your deep trust in us, in our ability to rise again in you and follow you.
Teach me to trust you more and love you more like St. Mary Magdalene, to give and offer my self to you totally as yours, calling you “Rabbouni” or Teacher and Master.
Let me give up whatever I still keep to myself, whatever I refuse to surrender so that I may enjoy the intimacy you offer me as a friend, a beloved, and a family in the Father.
What a joy indeed to be like St. Mary Magdalene, fully known and fully loved by you, dear Jesus.
May I learn to know and love others too like you so I may proclaim you to them. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe, Holy Wednesday, 08 April 2020
Tonight is “Spy Wednesday” – the night traitors and betrayers are put on the spotlight because it was on this night after Palm Sunday when Judas Iscariot struck a deal with the chief priests to hand them over Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 26:14-16).
The “Tenebrae” is celebrated in some churches when candles are gradually extinguished with the beating of drums and sounding of matraca to evoke silence and some fear among people as they leave in total darkness to signal the temporary victory of evil in the world for tomorrow we enter the Paschal Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil of the Lord.
Darkness generally evokes evil and sin, uncertainties and sufferings. But, at the same time, darkness preludes light!
That is why Jesus Christ was born during the darkest night of the year to bring us light of salvation.
Beginning tonight, especially tomorrow at his agony in the garden, we shall see Christ entering through darkness reaching its climax on Friday when he dies on the cross with the whole earth covered in darkness, rising on Easter in all his glory and majesty.
Our present situation in an extended Luzon-wide lockdown offers us this unique experience of darkness within and without where we can learn some important lessons from the Lord’s dark hours beginning tomorrow evening of his Last Supper.
St. John gives us a glimpse into how we must deal with life’s darkness that plagues us almost daily with his unique story of the Lord’s washing of his disciples’ feet on the night he was betrayed.
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper… he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter…
John 13:1-2, 4-6
It is very interesting to reflect how Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter dealt with their own inner darkness on that night of Holy Thursday when Jesus was arrested.
Though Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter are poles apart in their personalities, they both give us some traits that are so characteristic also of our very selves when we are in darkness. In the end, we shall see how Jesus turned the darkness of Holy Thursday into becoming the very light of Easter.
Getting lost in darkness like Judas Iscariot
Right after explaining the meaning of his washing of their feet and exhorting them to do the same to one another, Jesus begins to speak of Judas Iscariot as his betrayer.
When he had said this, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me …It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I had dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After he took the morsel, Satan entered him… and left at once. And it was night.
John 13:21, 26-27, 30
The scene is very dramatic.
Imagine the darkness outside the streets of Jerusalem in the stillness of the night and the darkness inside the Upper Room where they were staying.
More darker than that was the darkness among the Apostles not understanding what Jesus was saying about his betrayer because they thought when Judas left, he was being told to buy more wine or give money to the poor!
Most of all, imagine the darkness within Judas.
To betray means to hand over to suffering someone dear to you.
That’s one darkness we always have within, of betraying Jesus, betraying our loved ones because we have found somebody else to love more than them. Satan had taken over Judas. The same thing happens to us when we sin, when we love someone more than those who truly love us or those we have vowed to love always.
And the darkest darkness of all is after handing over our loved ones, after dumping them for something or somebody else, we realize deep within the beautiful light of truth and love imprinted in our hearts by our betrayed loved ones – then doubt it too!
The flickering light of truth and love within is short lived that we immediately extinguish it, plunging us into total darkness of destruction like Judas when he hanged himself.
See how Judas went back to the chief priests because “he had sinned”, giving them back the 30 pieces of silver to regain Jesus.
Here we find the glow of Jesus, of his teachings and friendship within Judas still etched in his heart — the light of truth and love flickering within.
Any person along with their kindness and goodness like Jesus, our family and true friends can never be removed from one’s heart and person. They will always be there, sometimes spurting out in our unguarded moments because they are very true.
That is the darkest darkness of Judas – and of some of us – who think we can never be forgiven by God, that we are doomed, that there is no more hope and any chance at all.
See how the evangelist said it: “Judas left at once. And it was night.”
And that is getting lost in darkness permanently, eaten up by darkness within us because we refuse to believe in the reality of a loving and forgiving God who had come to plunge into the darkness of death to be one with us so we can be one in him. What a loss.
Groping in the dark into the light like Peter
Of the Twelve, it is perhaps with Simon Peter we always find ourselves identified with: the eager beaver, almost a “bolero” type who is so good in speaking but many times cannot walk his talk.
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Here is Peter so typical of us: always assuming of knowing what is right, which is best, as if we have a monopoly of the light when in fact we are in darkness.
See how during the trial of Jesus before the priests, Peter denied him thrice, declaring he never knew Jesus while outside in the dark, completely in contrast with Jesus brilliantly answering every question and false accusation against him inside among his accusers!
Many times in our lives, it is so easy for us to speak on everything when we are in our comfort zones, safe and secured in our lives and career. But when left or thrown out into the harsh realities of life, we grope in the darkness of ignorance and incompetence, trials and difficulties.
How often we are like Peter refusing Jesus to wash our feet because we could not accept the Lord being so humble to do that simply because he is the Lord and Master who must never bow low before anyone.
And that is one darkness we refuse to let go now shaken and shattered by the pandemic lockdown! The people we used to look down upon are mostly now in the frontlines providing us with all the comforts we enjoy in this crisis like electricity, internet, security, food, and other basic services.
We have always thought of the world, of peoples in hierarchy, in certain status where there are clear delineations and levels of importance, totally forgetting the lessons of Jesus of being like a child, of service and humility: “whoever wants to be great must be the least and servant of all.”
According to Matthew and Luke, Peter realized his sins – the darkness within him – of denying Jesus thrice after the cock crowed that he left the scene weeping bitterly, feeling so sorry. Eventually after Easter, Peter would meet Jesus again on the shores of the Lake of Tiberias, asking him thrice, “do you love me?”
Peter realized how dark his world has always been but in that instance when he declared his love that is so limited and weak did he finally see the light of Christ in his love and mercy!
Unlike Judas, Peter moved out of darkness and finally saw the light in the Risen Lord right in the very place where everything started when he was called to be a fisher of men, in his humanity as he was called by his original name, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?”.
Human love is always imperfect and Jesus knows this perfectly well!
The best way to step out of darkness within us is to be like Simon — simply be your imperfect self, accepting one’s sins and weakness for that is when we can truly love Jesus who is the only one who can love us perfectly.
Overcoming darkness in, Jesus, with Jesus, through Jesus
Though the fourth gospel and the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke differ in providing us with the transition from the Upper Room of the Last Supper into the agony in the garden, the four evangelists provide us with one clear message at how Jesus faced darkness: with prayer, of being one in the Father.
Even on the cross of widespread darkness, Jesus spoke only to pray to the Father.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.
Before, darkness for man was seen more as a curse falling under the realm of evil and sin; but, with the coming of Jesus, darkness became a blessing, a prelude to the coming of light.
We have mentioned at the start of our reflection that Jesus was born during the darkest night of the year to show us he that is the light of the world, who had come to enlighten us in this widespread darkness, within us and outside us.
As the light of the world, Jesus was no stranger to darkness which he conquered and tamed in many instances like when they were caught in a storm at sea and in fact, when walked on water to join his disciples caught in another storm.
But most of all, Jesus had befriended darkness and made it a prelude to light.
How? By always praying during darkness. By prayer, it is more than reciting some prayers common during his time as a Jew but as a form of submission to the will of the Father. Jesus befriended darkness by setting aside, forgetting his very self to let the Father’s will be done.
This he showed so well in two instances, first on Mount Tabor where he transfigured and second in Gethsemane before his arrest.
In both events, Jesus showed us the path to overcoming darkness is always through prayers, of being one in the Father.
It is in darkness when God is most closest to us because it is then when we get a glimpse of himself, of his love and mercy, of his own sufferings and pains, and of his glory.
This is something the three privileged disciples – Simon Peter, James and his brother John – did not realize while being with Jesus at both instances until after Easter. We are those three who always fall asleep, who could not keep with praying in Jesus, with Jesus, and through Jesus.
It was in the darkness of the night when Jesus spent most of his prayer periods, communing with the Father up in a mountain or a deserted place.
On Mount Tabor, Jesus showed his coming glory while in Gethsemane he showed his coming suffering and death. But whether in Gethsemane or on Mount Tabor, it is always Jesus we meet inviting us to share in his oneness with the Father, in his power in the Holy Spirit to overcome every darkness in life.
And the good news is he had already won for us!
In these extended darker days of quarantine period, let us come to the Lord closer in prayer to. experience more of his Passion and Death, more of his darkness so we may see his coming glory when everything is finally cleared in this corona pandemic.
Prayer does not necessarily change things but primarily changes the person first. And that is when prayer changes everything when we become like Jesus in praying.
Jesus is asking us to leave everything behind, to forget one’s self anew to rediscover him in this darkness when we get out of our comfort zones to see the many sufferings he continues to endure with our brothers and sisters with lesser things in this life, with those in total darkness, with those groping in the dark.
Now more than ever, we have realized the beauty of poverty and simplicity, of persons than things.
And most especially of darkness itself becoming light for us in this tunnel.
May Jesus enlighten us and vanish all darkness in us so that soon, we shall celebrate together the joy of his coming again in this world darkened by sin. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul, Sunday Week V-A, 09 February 2020
Isaiah 58:7-10 ><)))*> 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ><)))*> Matthew 5:13-16
For most of us, 2020 is a very tough year with all the dark clouds that have come to hover above us in January remain in this month of February.
Threats from the corona virus are growing especially in our country. And while the alert level at Taal Volcano had gone down, dangers of its major eruption remain while volcanologists observed last week a “crater glow” on Mayon Volcano, indicating a possible rising of magma in the world’s most perfect cone.
Elsewhere, more bad news are happening like the sudden deaths this week of healing priest Fr. Fernando Suarez and of our very own and beloved Fr. Danny Bermudo, just 24 hours apart due to heart attacks.
In our own circles of family and relatives, friends and colleagues are also dark clouds covering us while we go through our many trials and tests in life that seem to eclipse this early the many gains we have achieved in the whole of 2019.
Indeed, year 2020 shows us in “perfect vision” the sad realities of dark spots in life that behoove us more to heed Christ’s call to be the light of the world.
Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the light of the world. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father.”
Matthew 5:14, 16
Jesus is the light of the world, not us
Our gospel this Sunday follows immediately the inaugural preaching of Jesus called “the Sermon on the Mount” with the Beatitudes at its centerpiece. We have skipped that part of the gospel last Sunday due to the celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
For us to better appreciate this Sunday’s gospel, let us keep in mind that for Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount is the great discourse of Jesus Christ that depicts his image not only as the new Moses but as the Law himself, being both our Teacher and Savior as well.
Jesus shows us a picture of his person in the Beatitudes as someone we must imitate in being “poor in spirit, meek, and merciful” so we can follow his path to the Father. After all, as the Son of God, Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6).
Hence, after enumerating the nine Beatitudes, Jesus followed up his Sermon on Mount with a call for us to be the salt and the light of the world: as salt, we merely bring out the Christ or the taste in every person and as light, it is the light of Christ that we share.
Focus remains in being like Jesus, not in replacing him who is our Savior. That is why he tells us clearly before shifting to another lesson in his Sermon that “your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father” (Mt.5:16).
Sharing Christ’s light with our good deeds as a community
So, how do we share the light of Jesus Christ in this age when so many others are claiming to be the light that will dispel all darkness in our lives?
As early as during the darkest period in the history of Israel in the Old Testament called the “Babylonian Captivity (or Exile)”, God had taught his people how to become light for one another during trials and sufferings.
Thus says the Lord: Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn… if you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.
Isaiah 58:7-8, 10
To share one’s bread with the hungry, to welcome the homeless, to clothe the hungry are some of the most concrete demands placed by God to his people since he had freed them from slavery in Egypt and later in Babylonia (Iraq today) when the third part of the Book of Isaiah was written.
Eventually, this prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus Christ who also preached exactly the same things shortly before fulfilling his mission in Jerusalem when he stressed the need to do good to one another because “whatsoever we do to one another, especially to the least among us, we also do unto him” (Mt.25:31-40).
We shall hear this part of Matthew’s gospel at the end of our current liturgical year on November 22, 2020 in the celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King.
These instructions became the basis of our catechism’s “spiritual and corporal works of mercy” that Pope Francis stressed in 2016 during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
By saying “you are the light of the world”, Jesus is telling us that to fulfill this mission, we have to do it together as a community, as his Body, the Church!
No matter how good and holy we are, none of us is the “light of the world” on our own.
One candle or lamp, or even a light bulb today cannot produce enough light to brighten a whole town or community. But, if one Christian will be lighting just one little candle in the dark, he or she can encourage others especially those who are timid, hesitant, and indifferent until they finally set the world ablaze with Christ’s light.
Christ’s call to be the light of the world is also a call for us to be united as one community, one family, one faithful couple with all our imperfections and sinfulness. What matters is our striving to be good disciples, always charitable to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Here we find the direct relationship of mission and community: every mission given by Jesus is also a call to become a community because without it, it soon becomes a cult centered on the disciple than the Lord.
The example of St. Paul in sharing Christ’s light
St. Paul shows us the best example of being a light of Jesus is to always have it done and fulfilled in the context of a community, of the Church as the Body of Christ, avoiding chances of grabbing the light from him for personal gains.
“I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of Spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:3-5
It has always happened especially for us serving in the Church that in sharing the light of Christ, we get carried by our ministry and apostolate that we forget him until we claim being the light ourselves.
Sometimes, we consciously or unconsciously create clouts and personality cults for ourselves for being the best, the brightest, even the holiest and most humble of all!
We foolishly brag the great buildings and edifices we have built or the countless malnourished kids we have fed or sent to school for free through college, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera without being bothered at all where is Jesus Christ in all our efforts and projects!
How sad when we forget that what matters most in life is not what we have done or what we have achieved but what have we become as bearers of the light of Christ like St. Paul.
My dear friend, if you are going through many darkness in life today, simply be good, think only of Jesus Christ in everybody you meet and deal with. That is actually when you shine brightest as the light of Christ because people will be surprised at how calmly and gracefully you carry your cross.
In that way, you encourage others living in darkness to let their little sparks of light come out too without realizing how in their own darkness and limitations they have made Christ’s light seen. Amen.
Have a bright and blessed Sunday with your loved ones!
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe of the Epiphany of the Lord, 05 January 2020
Isaiah 60:1-6 ><}}}*> Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 ><}}}*> Matthew 2:1-12
A very blessed Merry Christmas to you, my dear reader and follower! As I have been insisting to you since January first, we are still in the Christmas Season as we celebrate today the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.
It is the third major celebration of Christmastime after the Nativity of the Lord (December 25) and Mary Mother of God (January 01).
In some parts of the country especially the countrysides, they regard Epiphany in equal standing with Christmas, calling it “Three Kings Sunday” known as “Pasko ng Magsasaka” (Christmas of Farmers).
So, please, do not cut the Christmas Season short and stop greeting others with a happy new year.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Jesus Christ is our one and only true Star
Epiphany is from the Greek word epiphanes that means revelation or manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the whole world symbolized by the “magi” or wise men from the East.
While there are many sources that confirm to us both in history and tradition that the magi were from Persia (Iran) who have truly paid homage to the Infant Jesus, evidence pointing to the reality of the star of Bethlehem are still scarce but slowly developing.
Though it is still important to establish the factual basis on the existence of the star of Bethlehem, we who believe in Jesus Christ need to focus more on the theology behind this detail from Matthew’s Christmas story which refers to the Lord himself.
We all search for a “star”, something great and noble in life.
It is a given, a gift that every person is capable of rising above one’s self for something lofty and greater than himself/herself.
Too often, we pursue stars that are so common and ordinary – perhaps low and dull ones – like wealth and fame. Eventually we mature that we follow bigger and more luminous stars that are higher and found deeper in space so to speak like wisdom and peace within.
But no matter what we search in life, whatever star we follow, the saints and our faith teach us how we all desire and long only for the one and only true star of all, Jesus Christ.
St. Benedicta dela Cruz (Edith Stein) said that “anyone who seeks the truth eventually finds God” while the great St. Augustine eloquently wrote in his Confessiones, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI beautifully said it in one of his books:
“The key point is this: the wise men from the east are a new beginning. They represent the journeying of humanity toward Christ. They initiate a procession that continues throughout history. Not only do they represent the people who have found the way to Christ: they represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religions and human reason toward him.”
Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives (page 97)
Lessons of the Magi
Last January first, we reflected how we must make that conscious decision to empty ourselves of our pride to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we can bring Jesus into the world today like Mary the Mother of God.
Today on this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, we are invited to imitate the magi, to be wise men too in continuing the beautiful Christmas story by always seeking, following and submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ, our only true star in life.
There are three important lessons we can learn from the magi in being truly wise to seek and follow Jesus:
First, welcome darkness and chaos in life. The most life-changing and enriching moments we have are also the most adversarial ones. Remember the “AQ” or adversarial quotient experts are now proposing as true indicators of success in life?
More than success is fulfillment which we desire most when we are in desolation, when we are in the middle of a storm and trial in life, when we are in darkness.
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and the thick clouds cover the peoples; but pon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.
In the gospel, we have heard how “King Herod was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Mt.2:3) upon hearing from the magi the birth of “the newborn king of the Jews” signified by the star they saw from the East.
Troubles and chaos are great motivators for us to seek better things like meaning in life!
Second, dark moments in life are are an invitation to pray more, especially in meditating the Sacred Scriptures, the word of God.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, Herod inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet…
The bible is the word of God and when we pray it, it is God himself who speaks to us directly. It is not enough to read and study the Sacred Scriptures like the scribes and chief priests summoned by King Herod.
They knew the book but refused to recognize the Author, God himself.
The scribes and chief priests got it right that the Christ was born in Bethlehem but were not wise enough to join the magi in paying homage to him.
Prayer is a call to communion with God that requires humility and total surrender of self which leads us to lesson number three in following Jesus our true star in life.
Third and last but not least lesson from the magi is what are you willing to give in order to follow the Star, Jesus Christ?
The magi from the East were rightly called wise men because they knew very well the most important things in life, the most essential. They did not merely leave the comforts of their home and country to follow the star of Bethlehem.
They were willing to give up so many things just to find Jesus Christ!
This 2020, many of us are having new year’s resolutions, so many plans and dreams and aspirations in life.
It is always good to reach for the stars but we must always keep our feet on the ground as Casey Kasem would always say at the end of his American Top 40 program during the 80’s.
And keeping those feet on the ground is working hard for our dreams with a lot of sacrifices. Keeping feet on the ground is doing all the hard work and avoiding shortcuts.
The magi did not mind going into Jerusalem, asking around amid dangers of suspicions from the powerful, just to find Jesus Christ. Most of all, they have brought gifts with them, precious commodities of that time to signify their sincerity in finding and following Jesus.
How about us today, in this age that is marked with so may people feeling entitled to everything in life?
This early in his Epiphany, Jesus is already showing us the path we have to follow, the way of the Cross, of forgetting one’s self, of setting aside our ego, of letting go and letting God.
Unless we are able to forget our ego, we can never imitate the magi in being wise “to depart for their country by another way” (Mt.2:12) to avoid King Herod.
That is the ultimate indication of being wise, that after finding Wisdom, we change our ways, our lives and live in Jesus Christ, the Holy One. Amen.