Listening to God, Speaking for God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 02 July 2020
Amos 7:10-17 >><)))*> >><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 9:1-8
Photo by author, Bible Sunday, January 2020.

Again, O God our loving Father, we pray that you send us prophets especially in this time of so many “spokespersons” who do not know how to listen, like Amaziah the priest at Bethel and the scribes in Capernaum.

Like many of our public figures and even some of us priests who speak a lot in public these days, we all claim to be speaking the truth, speaking for you.

But to speak is always a gift from you, a sharing in your power that whatever you speak happens like in creation and in Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh presented today in the gospel healing a paralytic by simply speaking the words of forgiveness and then telling him to rise and walk.

How funny that in your words today, dear God, are two groups of people claiming to be speaking for you and yet too far from your words and realities, Amaziah and the scribes; and on the other hand, another group, that of Amos and Jesus, claiming nothing for themselves but doing everything in your name.

Teach to be like Amos and Jesus your Son, to speak and do only your Holy Will.

Amos perfectly explained the giftedness of being your prophet:

Amos answered Amaziah, “I was no prophet, nor have i belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'”

Amos 7:14-15

Make us realize, Lord, that to speak for you, we must first listen to your voice, wait and listen to your words.

To be your prophet or spokesman is to never harbor evil thoughts on others.

And most of all, like Amos and Matthew, to be your prophet means to leave everything behind especially fame and honor in order to follow you — even to the Cross! Amen.

Praying for prophets and martyrs

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of the First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church, 30 June 2020
Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12 >><)))*> <*(((><< >><)))*> <*(((><< Matthew 8:23-27
First Martyrs of the Holy Roman Church photo from ucatholic.com.

As we remember today, O Lord our God, the courage and fidelity of the first martyrs of Rome, we also pray for more martyrs and prophets who may inspire us to be your witnesses in this troubled time.

Or better still, make us one!

How sad that until now, we live in a time so similar with ancient Israel and ancient Rome where many of us turn away from you to worship money and other false gods, blinded by the material wealth and prosperity around us.

Many of us have become greedy and unjust in our ways to others especially the poor and marginalized.

Send us a prophet, Lord, like Amos who would dare to speak your words of truth, warning people who have gone astray.

The lion roars — who will not be afraid! The Lord God speaks — who will not prophesy! I brought upon you such upheaval as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah: you were like a brand plucked from the fire; yet you returned not to me, says the Lord. So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! And since I will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.

Amos 3:8, 4:11-12

Increase our faith in you, O God, while at the middle of this great storm of COVID-19 pandemic worsened by many social upheavals happening around the world and right in our country.

Sometimes, we feel like the disciples of your Son Jesus, so terrified with the violent storm going on with waves almost swamping us.

Forgive us, Lord, when we panic because we sometimes feel that you do not care at all that we are perishing in the storm while you are “sound asleep”.

Fill us with your courage, sweet Jesus, to give witness to you like the martyrs of Rome who chose death than be one with the modern Neros of our time who lie and mislead many others into evils and sin. Amen.

Red Wednesday in our Parish last November 2019.

Our prophetic mission in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

First Friday, Week IV, Year II, 07 February 2020

Sirach 47:2-11 ><)))*> 0 <*(((>< Mark 6:14-29

Photo from catholicworldreport.com, “The Beheading of St. John the Baptist” (1869) by Pierre Puvis de Chevannes.

Your gospel today, O Lord, is so appropriate and timely: while we were busy, albeit foolishly discussing the novel coronavirus in every fora, a technical committee in the House of Representatives has approved three measures seeking to legalize divorce in the country.

We do not know what have really happened but it is so sad that no one among the Catholic and Christian lawmakers there made a solid stand against these measures like St. John the Baptist who was imprisoned on account of his objection to Herod’s taking of his brother’s wife Herodias.

So many times, Lord, we are so afraid and worried of what others might say against us when we make a stand for what is right and just, for what is proper and decent, for what is right and good, for what is your will.

Worst, O Lord, many of us are like Herodias who have prostituted our very selves in the service of the worldly allures of sex, fame, and wealth, choosing to be silent with all the many immoralities going on in government, in the society, and even in the church!

Give us the same courage, Lord, you have given your precursor St. John the Baptist to be prophets in this modern age, to be a voice in the wilderness, making a stand for what is holy, true, and just.

Like David, may we always seek your ways, ask for your grace to do your will against the giants and monsters of this world who ram into us every modern thought and idea that disregard the sanctity of life, the value of every person, as well as the sanctity of marriage.

Let us not be silent anymore with the growing impunity of many in their arrogant display of authority, throwing their weight around us with their cuss words and fallacious arguments that dignify their truncated egos and pride for the sake of progress and modernity. Amen.

Christ, the Sign of Contradiction

PhilipLourdes
The Cross of Christ atop the church of our Lady of Lourdes in France. Photo by my former student Philip Santiago during his pilgrimage, September 2018.

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
03 February 2019, Week IV, Year C
Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19///1Corinthians 12:31-13:3///Luke 4:21-30

            We had a rare weekend yesterday in the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord that wonderfully complemented our gospel on this Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time.  Recall that last Sunday we were told how Jesus went home to Nazareth, entering the synagogue on a day of rest.  Everybody was amazed with His “gracious words” in proclaiming the word of God that we ended the gospel with a very positive note when Jesus declared “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:22).  Our gospel today repeated this line as its take off point to continue the story of Jesus at the synagogue but, this time Luke tells us of a twist from the very positive “all spoke highly of him” to their skeptical “Isn’t this the son of Joseph?” (Lk.4:22).  The mood deteriorated further after Jesus had spoken so that “the people at the synagogue were filled with fury.  They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong” (Lk.4:28-29)!

            What and how did this sudden turn of events happen?  Here we find the complementing Feast of the Presentation yesterday based on the infancy narratives of Christmas by St. Luke when Simeon told Mary the mother of Jesus, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted – and you yourself a sword will pierce you – so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Lk.2:34-35).  See how Jesus at the inauguration of His ministry at their Nazareth synagogue last week proclaiming the word of God would now start to be seen as a sign of contradiction among His people as prophesied by Simeon to His mother yesterday.  That would reach its highest point 33 years later in Jerusalem where He was presented to the Temple 40 days after Epiphany after resolutely going there to offer or present Himself to the Father on the Cross.  This explains why Jesus merely “passed through the midst of them and went away” when the people at the synagogue tried to hurl Him down headlong because His time of final offering had not yet come.  But very clearly here at the synagogue of Nazareth, Christ is indeed the sign of contradiction not only to His people but also to us in this generation when we would also speak highly of Jesus, shouting Amen with clapping of hands and suddenly hit people near us with harsh and nasty words or even brutal force.  Most of all, like the Lord, we too have experienced being a sign of contradiction when people would speak highly of us then suddenly or over time, turn against us and speak ill of us, betraying us like what Judas did to Jesus on Holy Thursday.

           My dear friends in Christ, it is our calling and our life too in living out the word of God through our life of witnessing His immense love in service and mercy for those in the margins.  Every time we gather for the Sunday Mass like when Jesus entered the synagogue of Nazareth on a day of rest, He invites us to follow Him to be a prophet by entering Him more than merely the church building.  Being a sign of contradiction like Jesus is our prophetic mission in Him.  So unlike what most people think, a prophet is not a fortune teller or a seer of the future.  As the spokesperson of God, a prophet is one who makes God’s word happen or fulfilled in every here and now.  Keep in mind that one feature of Luke’s gospel is the pre-eminence of “listening and doing” the word of God like when he reported how Jesus declared Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled in their hearing that led into the sharp and sudden shifting in the reaction of people against the Lord, from approval to rejection.

            First of all, those reactions were most evidently from His claiming to be the Messiah referred to in Isaiah’s prophecy on whom the “Spirit of the Lord rests upon.”  He was the one who proclaimed the word and if we have truly immersed ourselves into this beautiful scene in the synagogue on that Sabbath day, we would really feel Jesus is in fact the one Isaiah is speaking of as being “anointed to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberty to captives, sight to the blind, freedom to those oppressed, and to usher in a year acceptable to the Lord” (Lk.4: 18-19).  Salvation decisively begins in Christ and through Christ whenever we enter Him in His words.  That “today” in Nazareth synagogue is also the today of our own time that continues to provoke astonishment among others when we try to be Christ’s witnesses of authentic love for others.  That is perhaps the sad reality of these days when it becomes big news when people do something genuinely good and beautiful like the woman who impulsively rented 20 hotel rooms in Chicago so the homeless could escape the deep freeze this week in the US Midwest; her deed snowballed into other strangers doing the same!  That is essentially the meaning of Paul’s lofty words on love being the greatest of all gifts because it makes God most present in our midst.  To truly love like Christ is essentially being a sign of contradiction in this world where the norm is selfishness and self-centeredness often masked in different in lofty terms and ideals bereft of any love at all.

           Along this line of self-centeredness we find Luke reminding us in this scene at the Nazareth synagogue of the persisting problem self-entitlement among people then and now when we prophetically live out our mission of making Christ present.  People always look down and frown upon those who try to be good and holy by striving to do what is right and just while the holier-than-thou sanctimoniously feel they are the only ones anointed to do such things because they are entitled.  They are the modern Gnostics according to Pope Francis in his latest encyclical about holiness in our modern time (Gaudete et Exsulatate)” who feel as the only ones gifted in knowing what is right or wrong, true and good as if they are God.  Like those people at the synagogue in Nazareth, they refused to accept Jesus of being more knowledgeable because He is the son of Joseph who was a carpenter.  Jesus would strike at the very core of their self- entitlement when He told them “Amen, I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his native place” (Lk.4:24), citing how Elijah and Elisha of the Old Testament days were both sent by God to help pagan peoples and not the Jews who have turned away from Him exactly like them.  That filled them with fury against Jesus, wanting to hurl Him down the hill headlong.  It is the same feeling those people around us experience like our relatives and friends who could not accept we are better than them that they start spreading all kinds of lies and nasty talks against us as they see their self-entitlement slowly eroding.  Such is our life as a prophet like Jeremiah, always going against the flow of the people, choosing Christ to be a sign of contradiction and give way to the fulfilment of God’s word among us.  Amen.  Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.