When harbor is not a harbor…

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of First Martyrs of Holy Roman Church, 30 June 2022
Amos 7:10-17   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 9:1-8
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Nazare, Portugal, March 2022.

Harbor (noun) – a place on the coast where vessels may find shelter, especially one protected from rough water by piers, jetties, and other artificial structures.

Harbor (verb) – keep (a thought or feeling, typically a negative one) in one’s mind, especially secretly; also, shelter or hide (a criminal or wanted person). In Pilipino, “magkimkim”.

On this final day of June 2022
as we honor all the martyrs in the
persecution under Nero in 64 AD Rome,
you gave me O Lord the word "harbor"
as a focus of prayer and reflection after
finding the playful twist in the gospel
of Jesus crossing the lake into his own town 
where he healed a paralytic by telling him 
"Courage, child, your sins are forgiven" 
(Mt.9:2).

At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?”

Matthew 9:3-4
What a sad turn of events that continue
to this day when prophets come into our midst, 
especially those of our own like Jesus to his folks, 
who are denounced for speaking your words, 
O God our Father; instead of finding shelter among
us like a "harbor" for telling the truth, prophets
have always become targets of negative thoughts
we "harbor" within like when Brazilian Archbishop
Helder Camara said, "When I give food to the poor,
they call me a saint; when I ask why they are poor,
they call me a communist."
Bless us, dear Father, to be like a "harbor"
to your prophets; let us not imitate Amaziah
in the first reading who drove away your prophet
Amos back to Judah to earn his keeps as
shepherd and dresser of sycamores;
forgive us when we "harbor" negative thoughts
on those who tell and speak to us your truth;
and most especially, let us "stir into flame 
the gift of God that we have" (cf. 2 Tim.1:6)
at Baptism, the sharing in Christ's prophetic
ministry of witnessing your truth and mercy,
justice and love among the people at all time.
Let us not fear, O Lord, 
to cross the seas of this life
to spread your gospel of salvation,
finding only in you our safe harbor
from all storms that come our way
in carrying your Cross.  Amen.

The “hand of the Lord”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist, 23 June 2022
Isaiah 49:1-6 ><]]]]'> Acts 13:22-26 ><]]]]'> Luke 1:57-66, 80
Photo by author, the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem, Israel, 2019.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:66-67

The term “hand of the Lord” is a description of God’s presence and power in the Old Testament, a vivid way of presenting God “intervening” in the daily lives of his people, saving them from all kinds of dangers like the prophets.

There was Elijah who was hunted by the soldiers of Jezebel and the “hand of the Lord was on Elijah” (1 Kgs. 18:46) that he was spared from their murderous plots. Then there was also Ezekiel who saw “the hand of the Lord” (Ez. 37:1) upon him at the vision of a valley of dry bones coming back to life.

Sometimes, the “hand the Lord” referred to God’s judgment like when King David had sinned against God in not trusting him when he ordered a census of soldiers before a battle. It angered God who asked David to choose which punishment he preferred: natural disaster or victory by his enemies or God’s judgment. David chose the third option, saying, “Let me fall into the hand of the Lord for his mercy is great…” (1 Chr. 21:13).

In narrating to us the events that transpired at the birth and circumcision of John, Luke merged the two meanings of the expression “hand of the Lord” to show that every moment of judgment is also a moment of grace as seen in the life of John the Baptist who “grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Lk.1:80).

If we go back to Luke’s account of the annunciation of John’s birth, we also find the hand of God clearly at him with Elizabeth feeling vindicated with her pregnancy specially when visited by Mary. Most of all, the hand of the Lord was strongly felt at the birth, circumcision and naming of John in the most unique manner not only because no one among their relatives have such name (Lk.1:61) but most of all when Zechariah his father wrote “John is his name” and “Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God” (Lk.1:63).

Photo by author, site of John’s birthplace underneath the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem, Israel, 2019.

What a beautiful scene of Zechariah and Elizabeth wrapped in the arms of God, basking in his tremendous blessings with the people so amazed for evidently God was present among them, working in the most special ways albeit in silence that after looking back to the past and the present moment, they wondered what more good things God has in store for the three.

The same scene happens daily in our lives as individuals, as families and communities and as a nation – of how the hand of God saving us in so many occasions like during this pandemic and recent disasters through generous people coming to our side. There lies the greatness of Zechariah and Elizabeth – through them despite their weaknesses, the hand of the Lord worked wonders not only for them but for everyone including us in this time.

We are invited today to be like John’s parents who, despite their weaknesses and shortcomings, they allowed the hand of God to work in them and manifest in them. The name Zechariah means “God remembers” while Elizabeth means “God promised”, a beautiful combination of names of a couple who tell us how God remembered his promise to them and gave them John which means “graciousness of God.”

Photo by author, 2019.

In this age when we act as though God does not exist with our emphases on the wrong notions of freedom and the “dictatorship of relativism” along with materialism and consumerism, we celebrate this Solemnity of John’s nativity to remember our calling to be prophets and precursors of Jesus like Isaiah in the Old Testament who voiced dissensions to the wrong ways of the people like “a sharp-edged sword” and “polished arrow” (Is. 49:2) even to the point of offering one’s life, truly a precursor of the coming Christ.

John’s testimony still resounds today as proclaimed by Paul in our second reading, urging everyone to repent ones sins to go back to God, always ensuring we are not the Christ but merely his messengers not worthy to unfasten his sandals.

Today is also the eve of another Solemnity, that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as we come to close the first half of 2022. Let us not forget the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, that we must not let our guards down lest all our gains this year go to waste. Are we willing to be used as expressions of the “hand of the Lord”?

May we keep “the hand of the Lord” with us, allowing ourselves to be used by God like Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist in meditating where Jesus is leading us in the second half of 2022. It is enough that we lead others to Jesus. In fact, that is the only joy we have in this mission and once others have met Christ, then, like John the Baptist, we begin to disappear, leaving only the hand of the Lord. Amen.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Praying for a holy attitude

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time, 16 June 2022
Sirach 48:1-14   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 6:7-15
Photo by author, October 2020.
God our loving Father,
today I pray for the grace of
having not just the right or 
positive attitude in life but 
most of all, an attitude
that is is holy and blessed.
It is not enough, Lord,
that we have a positive attitude
in life; that attitude or disposition
must always be holy and blessed,
inclined into your heart and will,
dear Father because so often,
the right attitudes of the world do
not agree with your ways, O Lord.
It is not enough we are happy and 
positive; there are times we have
to stand for what is right and true,
just and fair like Elija and Elisha.

Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. How awesome are you, Elijah! Whose glory is equal to yours? You sent kings down to destruction, and nobles, from their beds of sickness. You heard threats at Sinai, at Horeb avenging judgments. You anointed kings who should inflict vengeance, and a prophet as your successor… O Elijah, enveloped in the whirlwind! Then Elisha, filled with a twofold portion of his spirit, wrought many marvels by his mere word. During his lifetime he feared no one, nor was any man able to intimidate his will. In life he performed wonders, after death, many marvelous deeds.

Sirach 48:1, 4, 6-8, 12, 14
What a blessed attitude you
have bestowed on Elijah and
Elisha you have bestowed upon us
too in Jesus Christ's coming
and sending of the Holy Spirit.
In Jesus Christ, we have
become your beloved children,
dear God our Father but too 
often, we lack the blessed attitude
we must have before you as shown
to us in the Our Father, our most
common prayer recited but taken
for granted.  Help us, dear Jesus, 
to acquire and imitate this holy
attitude you have taught us in how
to pray by always addressing God
"our Father", recognizing his holiness,
praying to make his kingdom come
by doing his will always and 
forgiving those who have sinned
against us.
Amen.

Awakening the Elisha in us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time, 15 June 2022
2 Kings 2:1, 6-14   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Photo by author, Singapore 2018.
Today we heard, dear God,
the beautiful story of your two
great prophets, Elijah and his
successor Elisha; but what is 
most wondrous is the loyalty
of Elisha's discipleship which is
a beautiful imagery of our relationship
with your Son Jesus Christ.

When the Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, he and Elisha were on their way to Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha, “Please stay here; the Lord has sent me on to the Jordan.” “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you,” Elisha replied. And so the two went together.

2 Kings 1, 6
Our loyalty and fidelity are only
to you, heavenly Father but expressed
through prophets and leaders and mentors
you sent us to prepare us too for your 
mission; like Elisha, keep us faithful to you,
may we receive your call gladly through
them, and most of all, like Elisha,
may we submit to you, O God, to become
like Elijah your prophet to your people, 
speaking to them only your words,
and doing to them only your will.
Let us be more focused on you,
loving Father, not on us and our work;
may we heed the calls of your Son
Jesus Christ for us to lead prophetic lives
amid this age of too much self-promotion:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”

Matthew 6:1
Lord Jesus Christ,
let me decrease so that
you will increase in me
like all your prophets.
Amen.