Our lives in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 18 September 2020
1 Corinthians 15:12-20   ///   Luke 8:1-3
Photo by author, “private Mass” during lockdown, March 2020.

Another week is about to close, loving Father. Praise and thanksgiving to you for the grace of making it through, of passing over doubts to certainty, darkness to light, sickness to health, and death to new life in Jesus Christ your Son.

What a pity indeed if there is no resurrection of the dead nor resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Brothers and sisters: If Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.

1 Corinthians 15:12-14

In this time of so much divisions fueled by dictatorship of relativism without any absolute truth nor good, many among us have stopped believing not only in resurrection of the dead but even in you, O God. Many have created themselves as their own god or have turned to other gods and idols. Sadly, many even have the guts to blaspheme you and dare challenge you and your precepts.

We are sorry, Lord , at how many of us have gone astray from you, relying more on science and technology and modern thoughts, leading lives empty of meaning, without directions. Aimless and worst, homeless.

Show us, Lord, the path we have to take to lead people back to you.

Give us the clarity of mind, purity of heart and intentions of St. Paul in leading our lives in Christ Jesus.

Enable us to embrace the new life in Christ like those women who followed Jesus in his ministry, “providing for them out of their resources” (Lk.8:3).

May our lives glow with your loving presence Jesus to lead others back to you. Amen.

Contact

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 27 July 2020
Jeremiah 13:1-11 >><)))*> >>><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 13:31-35
Photo from Google.

What a great way to start our last week of work and studies in July with your sense of humor, O God! Your words are so witty and funny but with a strong punch. Hard-hitting, so biting. And so revealing.

For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so I had made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord; to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty. But they did not listen.

Jeremiah 13:11

You really got me, Lord.

What can I say?

Our underwear, that is, the loincloth of Jeremiah’s time, is our most intimate clothing, always in contact with our very selves, in that part of our body that we always guard and keep to ourselves.

But, what happens when we “dirty” ourselves with sins, when we put on all those filth in ourselves, we also feel the same way inside, no matter how clean and crisp our clothes are but when deep down our loincloth – underwear – is rotted and good for nothing?

We can always hide it from others and they will never know the kind of underwear we have but we cannot deceive ourselves of how dirty we are with sins and evil.

And so far from you, O God.

Forgive us when you are supposed to be the closest to us, the one we are always in contact with but we have totally disregarded because of our many sins, when we thought we can always have our own ways without you, denying the fact it simply cannot be for indeed, you have made us to be that closest to you.

Forgive us in your Son and our Lord Jesus Christ. Renew us inside, cleanse us and refresh us to be in close contact with you again, O God.

Help us to remain good and clean inside like the little mustard seed so we may grow to have leafy branches for birds to come and dwell in us.

In your mercy, cleanse us of our sins and be our yeast to mix with us again to leaven into a dough to make your kingdom come here on earth. Amen.

Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

The goodness of God our Father

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 09 July 2020
Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9 >><}}}*> >><}}}*> >><}}}*> Matthew 10:7-15
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019 in Carigara, Leyte.

This is the fourth straight day, O God when you have come to me in the most touching and personal manner through your prophet Hosea. It is so comforting to dwell on the tenderness of your love for me but at the same time so embarrassing too at what I have given back to you.

Thus says the Lord: When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they were from me, sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it was I who thought Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms. I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks. Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know I was their healer.

Hosea 11:1-7

These expressions are so true and so lovely, O God! I could feel your personal closeness to me as my Father, feeling all your love and concern for me, teaching me how to walk, taking me into your arms. And most especially that part of being fostered and raised like an infant to a father’s cheeks.

That’s how close you have been to me in many instances but sadly, it is true that the more you called me to stay closer to you, the more I drifted apart from you in sin and evil.

Forgive me, dearest God our Father, in taking you for granted in the same manner we I disregard the love and affection of those closest to me.

And that is where I feel most your personal love for me — when despite my sinfulness and turning away from you, you prefer not to give vent to your “blazing anger” to me because you are God, not human.

In fact, when your Son Jesus Christ came, his first order to his disciples was to cure the sick among us, raise the dead, cleanse lepers and exorcise those possessed by evil spirits. You only have our good always in your mind that we always fail to see or even refuse to accept and believe.

Today, Lord, we ask you for the grace to bask in your goodness and grace! Amen.

Photo by author, Church of the Our Father outside Jerusalem where Jesus taught his disciples the Lord’s Prayer.

God our Lord and Master

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 17 June 2020
2 Kings 2:1, 6-14 ><)))*> +++ <*(((>< ><)))*> +++ <*(((>< Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Dome and side altar of the Malolos Cathedral photo by author, 2019.

Glory and praise to you, our mighty God and Father! Truly there is no other Lord and Master of all but you alone from whom all good things come, even greater things than we can ever expect!

When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of your spirit.” “You have asked something that is not easy,” Elijah replied. “Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise not.”

2 Kings 2:9-10

How blessed was Elisha to dream big, asking for a double portion of the spirit you have granted his mentor Elijah!

Most often, we just have to trust you, we just have to believe in you as source of everything so we may be bold and daring enough to ask for greater things.

Help us believe in you, Lord.

Most of all, let us love you totally and unconditionally for you know everything what is deep in our hearts as Jesus your Son taught us in the gospel today. Amen.

Shore of Galilee at the back of ancient Capernaum where Jesus lived and preached. Photo by author, May 2019.

And God said… get real, man!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Cycle A, 07 June 2020
Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9 ><)))*> 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 ><)))*> John 3:16-18
Our empty church at the height of the lockdown in March-April 2020.

Two young ladies attended our 4:00 PM Mass last Sunday. Just before the Lamb of God, the other lady collapsed and fell on the floor. Thank God she suffered no injury; later after the Mass I checked on her to see if she was sick or maybe hungry that caused her to collapse.

She said she could find no other reason for feeling dizzy and later collapsing except that they have walked two kilometers from their home under the intense heat of the sun that afternoon to celebrate Mass in the parish. She added that sometimes they also ran so as not to be late.

Then, they told me something that really touched me and broke my heart: “sawa na po kami magsimba sa Facebook Live kaya po kami nagpunta sa Parokya para magsimba” (we are fed up joining Facebook Live Masses that we decided to celebrate Mass at the parish).

As I prayed this week, reflecting on this Solemnity of the Holy Trinity, that story from my two parishioners kept on echoing in my head because that is the reality of God in the Holy Trinity: a God who loves because he keeps on giving, without taking anything in return.

The reality of God in the Holy Trinity

Beginning this Sunday as we resumed Ordinary Time in the liturgy, we are celebrating three solemnities successively: Trinity today, Body and Blood of Christ or Corpus Christi next Sunday and Friday after that, the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

In a sense, these three solemnities remind us that God is with us always; hence, on this Sunday as we celebrate his being God in three Persons, he is also telling us to “get real” with him especially in this age of virtual realities and media manipulations.

Getting real with God is like my two parishioners who walked two kilometers under the sun just to celebrate Mass in the parish because they were fed up with online Masses that cannot capture entirely the experience of God in an actual Mass.

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

When we come to think of it, God does not need to prove himself to us. He simply shows us himself. That is why those two parishioners were willing to sacrifice walking two kilometers because they must have received something, must have experienced something from this God who is so personal, relating and so real that they wanted to experience him personally in the actual Mass.

The same must be true with us all who miss going to actual Masses, who continue to pray at home.

Why do we pray, why do we praise God, why do we ask him for mercy and forgiveness for our sins, why do we ask him for so many things, and the list can go on with one essential question: why do we come to God?

Is it not because he comes first to us? He makes himself known to us by giving himself to us, showering us with many blessings both material and spiritual, surprising us with so many wonderful things and sights like sunset and nature that we praise him? Most of all, he is so kind and loving that we feel sorry when we are mean with others, when we choose to do wrong, when we are not that good like him?

God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.

John 3:16

That is the essence of God, a personal and relating God who gives everything because he loves us. Only God can adequately “speak” of him to show us he exists in ways so marvelous we cannot even dissect yet jump into conclusion right away that “it is the Lord!” like Peter in Lake Tiberias.

When we speak of a Trinity, of Persons, we speak of relationships that presuppose giving and loving. That is God in himself that he poured out this love in him by first creating everything (Father), then giving us his Son to save us after we have turned away from him, and to ensure that we never get lost again and find our way back to him, gave us the Holy Spirit as Advocate and Counselor.

Here we find God is more than a concept or an abstract and structure in our minds that we have construed or created. He has always been there. He has no need of proving himself to us, unlike us who always have to prove ourselves with others.

God is the giver and the gift himself because he is perfect and complete unlike us who can only give gifts and things as representations of our very selves.

And there lies more the mystery of the Holy Trinity — in his being both the gift and the giver, God remains perfect and one even if he keeps on giving and giving without taking anything for himself, a mystery he shares with us by asking us to be like him in giving so we would remain full like him.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa at Carigara, Leyte, 2019.

Something’s got to give

This mystery of the Trinity, of a relationship of persons that only gives yet never depleted or exhausted reveals to us what we must can and must always do as created image of the loving God.

Time and time again we have proven in history and in ourselves that it is only in giving when we truly receive, when we are truly human, truly loving.

This pandemic is telling us in no uncertain ways that our lifestyle of having and gaining has led us to more wanting and more wasting, more destruction and more separation.

God is telling us in the midst of this pandemic that we get real — learn to give and forgive, to let go and let God!

We are all linked together as one, a community of beloved, saved and forgiven though imperfect and sinful. On Mount Sinai Moses saw for himself this God giving everything despite his people being so stubborn, that he asked God to accompany them in their journey.

Since then God has always accompanied us in our journey in life though we always turn away from him, wandering off in the wilderness, following other paths that we end up more lost, more tired.

What are we willing to give up in this life to experience fullness in God and with others?

Getting real is giving up ourselves so we may be filled by God so we may experience life’s fullness in him and in our relationships with others and even with nature. Amen.

Our closed church but open hearts willing to give, willing to sacrifice will enable us to go through this crisis, more complete, more fulfilled.

What does it take to believe in God?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Monday, Easter Week VII, 25 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 19:1-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 16:29-33

Stained glass in our parish of the appearance of Jesus to Thomas Didymus. Photo by author, April 2020.

If you ask me Lord, or even anyone for that matter, I may never be able to answer completely and satisfactorily that question: what does it take to believe that you are God?

The disciples said to Jesus, “Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech. Now we realize that you know everything and that you do not need to have anyone question you. Because of this we believe that you came from God.”

John 16:29-30

As I prayed on your words today, dear Jesus, I wondered on what was it that you must have told the apostles that they realized you knew everything that you do not need anyone to question you that finally convinced them to believe you came from God?

Could it be that as you neared your Passion and Death, the more they felt your love?

As I have told you, if you or anyone asks me how I have come to believe that you come from God, that you are the Son of God, I cannot give any precise answer except that I have felt your love.

Love is your only distinction that enables us to believe in you.

Before we believe, before we know, we first felt loved.

Love is your simplest language, Lord, because you are love.

You are able to love us all because you know everything.

And that is why you love.

So unlike us.

When we have known the other person, usually, we stop loving. But not you: the more you know, the more you love.

Mary Magdalene knows it so well, she from whom you have driven out seven demons!

For that great love, I thank you dearest Jesus, for loving me so immensely through my parents and siblings, my relatives and friends, through all the people you have sent me to experience your love.

Photo by author, 2019.

When you called me to the priesthood, the first I really felt was your love, of how much you love me that I felt so special.

Before priesthood came, there was your love first.

That continues to these days. That feeling of being loved despite my sins and shortcomings make me believe you are from God, dear Jesus.

I am sure when St. Paul laid his hands on some disciples in Ephesus to receive the Holy Spirit, what they must have really felt to be so inspired and energized in doing their mission is your immense love.

Give us the grace to remember, to recall these many moments you felt us your love that we usually take for granted or disregarded.

Once we have retrieved those loving memories in you, give us the courage Jesus to share this love you pour on us daily, especially at this time of the pandemic when all we long for is a little love from one another: a smile, a pat on the shoulder, an encouragement, a kind word, a sweet voice calling our name.

Teach is to be more loving on this last Monday of the Easter Season, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Lamenting in time of quarantine

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 03 May 2020
Photo by author, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan. April 2020.

Against the advice of good friends, I went out to distribute Holy Communion in the streets to some parishioners who have participated in our Sunday Mass early this morning at Facebook Live.

I know the risks involved despite our best efforts in having all the precautionary measures but, what convinced me to go on with it is a beautiful Psalm so appropriate during this quarantine period.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.

My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?

Psalm 42:2-3
Photo from Reddit.

Sometime in March, I had some blues when I came across a reflection in one of the blogs I follow that soothed me like a gentle caress from God himself that I began praying Psalm 42 again (https://prodigalthought.net/2020/03/02/lament-in-silence/#comments).

And when our quarantine period was extended for the second time before the end of Holy Week last month, I began praying again Psalm 42 every night for that is when I truly long for God so much, most of the time lamenting to him our situation, my condition of being alone in my rectory.

This is the first time I felt like this, so different from those so-called “desolation” or “dryness” because I could feel God present in my prayers but… he is not “fresh”.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Like the deer longing for streams of water, my soul longs for God too.

Not just like the water we buy from a filling station but exactly what the deer yearns for — fresh water that is refreshingly cool not only on your face but deep into your body when sipped amid the burbling sounds of the spring, babbling through rocks and branches of trees with the loamy aroma of earth adding a dash of freshness in you.

Admittedly, sometimes I wonder if I still know how to pray or if I still pray at all!

I can feel God present but he is like someone stacked there in my mind, in my memory, in my ideas shaped by my years of learning and praying.

What I am longing for is a God so alive, so true not only in me but also in another person.

And that is when I realized, most likely, my parishioners must be longing for God too in the same way — the God we all come to meet and celebrate with every Sunday in our little parish, among the people present who are so alive, so vibrant, so true, so touching.

Our empty church since March due to COVID-19.

Psalm 42 is believed to have been sang by David when he was prevented from coming to the tent of God either during the reign of King Saul who plotted to kill him or during the revolt of his own son Absalom when he was already the king of Israel.

Like David or the psalmist, I miss celebrating Mass with my parishioners.

And maybe it is safe to assume that two or three of my parishioners are also feeling the same way with me and David, saying these to the Lord:

My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily, “Where is your God?”

Those times I recall as I pour out my soul,

When I went in procession with the crowd, I went with them to the house of God,

Amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival.

Psalm 42:4-5

If there is one very essential thing this pandemic has brought back to us in our very busy lives, it is most certainly God. And if ever this is one thing people need most in this time of corona virus, it is spiritual guidance and nourishment from God through his priests.

Of course, people can pray and talk to God straight as the Pope had reminded us before Holy Week.

But, human as we are, we always experience God and his love, his kindness, his mercy, his presence among other people who guide us and join us in our spiritual journey. They are special people like friends or relatives or pastors with whom they can be themselves, let off some steam, get some rays of light of hope and encouragement.

And that this is why I try to keep in touch with my parishioners in various ways in this time of corona: even I myself can feel so low and dark despite my prayers and very condition of living right here in the house of God who can still feel alone and desolate, even depressed.

If I – a priest – go through all these uncertainties and doubts this in this time of quarantine, how much more are the people, the beloved sheep of Jesus the Good Shepherd?

Why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me?

Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.

Psalm 42:6
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 10 April 2020.

After our Mass this morning when we set out to distribute the Holy Communion, there was a little drizzle. It did not last long that I just wore a hat and left my umbrella in the rectory.

There were about 30 people who waited for us to receive Holy Communion, most of them along the main highway that stretched to about 2 kilometers. Some families gathered with a little altar at their front gate while a waited a couple waited in a gas station along our route.

In less than 20 minutes, we have completed our mission and as we headed back to the parish, the rains fell again, this time stronger than before.

My driver commented, “The weather cooperated with us, Father”1

I just nodded my head to him inside his tricycle but deep inside me, I felt joy because God answered my prayer, my lamentations for he was crying too, – for me and his people.

May this lamentation be an answer to your lamentations during this pandemic of COVID-19.

Continue with your lamentations to God our Father for this very act of crying out to him is the working of the Holy Spirit he had sent us through our Lord Christ Jesus. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 26 April 2020.

Ang kinawawang Diyos ng kawawang tao

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-16 ng Abril 2020

Larawan kuha ni G. Raffy Tima ng GMA-7 News nang sumabog ang Bulkang Taal, Enero 2020.
Hindi lamang minsan
sumagi sa aking isipan
nakalulungkot nating kinagawian
Diyos ay ating kinakawawa 
kapag may masamang karanasan
Siya ating pinagbibintangang
tayo ay pinarurusahan
kulang na nga lang
lahat ng kasamaan inatang
lahat ng sisi sa Kanyang pangalan.
Kinakawawa natin ang Diyos
sa tuwing siya ang tinuturing pinagmulan
ng bawat kalamidad at kasawian;
madalas idahilan pa ng karamihan
sa pagaakalang mabuting katuwiran
na mga ito ay pagsubok lamang
ng Maykapal na hindi ibibigay  
kung hindi malalampasan
gayong Siya ay purong kabutihan
paanong ipaliliwanag iyan? 
Kinakawawa natin ang Diyos
katulad noong kanyang kapanahunan
nilalapastangan at pinasasakitan
gayong tao ang may kasalanan
at palaging nagkukulang
katulad doon sa ilang nang tuksuhin ng diyablo
hinahamon Kanyang katuwiran
pati katarungan bakit Niya
pinababayaan mga kahirapan
at hindi pakinggan mga karaingan?
Ang mahirap maintindihan
Diyos ang laging tinatawagan
sa maraming pangangailangan
ngunit kapag napagkalooban
Siya ay kinalilimutan, tinatalikuran
habang ating inaangkin
lahat ng husay at galing
sa nakamit na katanyagan
at magandang kapalaran
na tila baga wala Siyang kinalaman?
Kay laking kabalintunaan
kakatwang kahangalan
at sukdulang kayabangan
nating mga nilalang
na Diyos ay kalimutan at talikuran
sa paniniwalang lahat ating makakayanan
pati kamatayan pilit iniiwasan
mga kamay ng orasan pinipigilan
habang hinahatulan sinong may karapatang mabuhay
sanggol sa tiyan at mga tinotokhang!
Lingid sa ating kaalaman
na pinalabo ng ating kapalaluan
sa bawat kalungkutan at kahirapan
pagtitiis at kabiguan
Diyos ang higit sa ating nasasaktan
sa pagpanaw ng maski isa lang
Siya ang labis nahihirapan
dahil sa ano mang ating kalagayan
Diyos ay palagi tayong sinasamahan
pilit naman nating iniiwan at sinusumbatan.
Sakaling tayo ay dumaraan
sa kahirapan at ano mang kagipitan
hindi ito nagmula sa Diyos
dahil Siya ang kabutihan;
gayon pa man ating maaasahan
lahat ng ating nararanasan 
Kanyang nalalaman
hindi Niya papayagang magwagi 
anumang dalamhati bagkus Kanyang titiyakin
mga ito ay humantong sa ating luwalhati.
Hindi ang Diyos ang kawawa
sa tuwing atin Siyang kinakawawa
sa salita at sa gawa
kungdi tayong kanyang mga tinubos
pagkatao natin ang nauubos
dangal nati'y nauupos
sa tuwing aasta tayong boss
gayong tayo ang nabubusabos
nitong kapalaluan nating lipos
na sana ay maubos, matapos kasabay ng corona virus.
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Divine sighs, human signs

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Monday, Week VI, Year II, 17 February 2020

James 1:1-11 ><)))*> 0 <*(((>< Mark 8:11-13

Photo by author, Laguna Lake, Los BaƱos, Laguna, 13 February 2020.

How often does it still happen today, Lord Jesus Christ, that like in our gospel today you would “sigh from the depth of your heart” after we, your people, would ask you for more signs from heaven?

Have mercy on us, Lord, for our lack of faith in you after all these years.

Forgive us for being “unstable in all our ways” with you, always “a man of two minds” as St. James would describe us (James 1:8) in seeking wisdom and things from you.

Forgive us for those moments we doubt your presence and power especially when we fail to win your favor, to get your blessings for our particular prayers and supplications.

The fault is really on us, Lord.

If sighing is your way of keeping your patience with our being so stubborn, teach us to reach out to you in the depths of our hearts, to remember those countless occasions you have saved us.

That instead of asking for signs from you, we may just sigh deep inside us to experience you again. Amen.

Blessed be God forever!

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 24 December 2019

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16 ><)))*> <*(((>< Luke 1:67-79

Marker on the Church where St. John the Baptist is believed to have been born in Ein Karem, Jerusalem. Photo by author, May 2019.

At last!

These are most likely the two words we must be saying today on this ninth day of our Simbang Gabi.

Finally, we have completed the nine day novena to the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ for tonight will be Christmas.

But, more than being the last day of our novena, today is also the beginning of better days ahead for us all starting with Christmas!

From this day on, let us imitate Zechariah in his new found faith, hope and love in God expressed in his song of praise and thanksgiving after recovering his sense of hearing and speaking after nine months of forced silence.

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.”

Luke 1:68-69
Sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land. Photo by author, May 2019.

Three canticles of praise, three prayers of faith

Popularly known as the Benedictus from its Latin opening verse “Blessed be God”, this is the second of the three canticles St. Luke tells us Zechariah had sang after naming his son “John”.

The other two songs are the Magnificat by Mary during her Visitation of Elizabeth and the third is the Nunc Dimittis by Simeon upon seeing the child Jesus during his presentation at the Temple of Jerusalem.

These canticles or songs make up the beautiful Christmas story by St. Luke who put them onto the mouths of Mary, Zechariah, and Simeon to signify their being filled with the Holy Spirit in experiencing the coming of Jesus Christ: Mary sang “my soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” during the Visitation in response to the praises by Elizabeth (Lk.1:46-55) while Simeon the prophet prayed to God to “let him go in peace” – to die – after seeing the coming of the Savior (Lk.2:29-32).

These eventually became part of the prayers of the Church (Liturgy of the Hours) we priests and religious are obliged to pray day in, day out:

  1. Benedictus in the morning to show how willing are we to face the new day by making our Savior Jesus Christ present in our lives like St. John the Baptizer, his precursor;
  2. Magnificat in the evening to praise and thank God in working his salvation in us through Jesus Christ;
  3. Nunc Dimittis at night before bedtime to signify our readiness to die and finally be one with God in Jesus Christ.

They are our “spiritual vitamins” that fill us with the Holy Spirit to strengthen and deepen our relationship with the Father in Jesus Christ which every Christian may pray too to experience and be one with God daily.

Pilgrims waiting outside the Church of St. John the Baptist in Ein Karem, Jerusalem. On the walls are the translation into different languages of the world, including Filipino, of Zechariah’s Benedictus. Photo by author, May 2019.

Why God is blessed according to Zechariah

The Benedictus signifies Zechariah’s coming to full circle after nine months of forced silence after doubting the angel’s message that he and Elizabeth would finally have a son.

Our sacristy, Advent 2019.

In singing the Benedictus, Zechariah did not only recover his power of speech but most of all showed the fruits of his nine months of silence and prayer preparing for the birth of his son John as well as, ultimately, for Christ’s coming (his song indicates it).

Finally, Zechariah has been healed of his pains and hurts that prevented him in experiencing God, in believing in his powers again, giving him more reasons to hope and be joyful.

This is the reason we also have the Advent Season when we try to dispose ourselves more to Christ’s coming to us not only at Christmas but everyday in our lives.

Zechariah mentions three powerful verbs why he praised God: for he has come to his people, set them free, and has raised up a mighty Savior.

God has come to us

Zechariah first experienced God coming to him when the angel announced to him John’s birth while incensing at the temple during the Day of Atonement. Unfortunately, he was “absent” at God’s “presence” that he questioned how Elizabeth would bear a child.

Everything now changes not only because he had seen his own son but he himself experienced God’s coming in his life.

Sometimes, our pains and hurts, frustrations and disappointments, defeats and failures blind us, numb us that we cannot see, we cannot experience God coming to us in every brand new day he gives us, through the people we meet with their smiles and greetings, with our family and friends who have have stayed with us in good times and bad.

Every morning we wake up to reminds us God has come to us. Rise and meet him in joy, entrust the new day to him, and ask for the grace to remain in him!

God has set us free

Every time God comes, there is always freedom – freedom from evil and sin, freedom from the past and all its pains and hurts, freedom from guilt feelings, freedom everything that prevents us from being truly free to be our own, good sel, to be free and faithful to love and forgive others too.

Carmelite Monastery, Guiguinto, Bulacan. Photo by author, November 2019.

Literally speaking, Zechariah felt free again to speak and express himself fully. But more than that is the experience to go and live fully in God.

We can never experience Christmas if we cannot assert this freedom Christ had won for us when he died on the Cross. Forget all those “hugot” lines and move forward with life.

The name of God is “I AM” because he is always in the PRESENT, never in the past nor in the future.

That is why each new day is a gift, a present from God who as set us free from yesterday’s mistakes and failures and sins.

Go and be free for God!

God has raised up for us a mighty Savior

Christmas is not a date but an event, a person we experience in Jesus Christ who is a dialogue himself according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Jesus is always communing with us, inviting us to be one in him in his love.

In his Benedictus, Zechariah is also professing the saving work of God in Jesus Christ who became human like us in everything except sin. God is so blessed because of his great love for us, he chose to enter, or intervene into human history to bring us into eternal life by faith in Christ Jesus.

To raise up is a strong term also indicating the Paschal mystery Christ will go through, the ultimate communion of God into our own lowliness of suffering and death to bring us into the glorious victory of his resurrection.

Every morning, every day we are reminded by Zechariah of the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary regarding the birth of John: nothing is impossible with God.

And Zechariah had experienced this first hand when his barren and old wife Elizabeth conceived their child John.

May we have a renewed faith, hope and love in God at the closing of our Simbang Gabi this year. Like David in the first reading, rest be assured of God’s plan for each of us. Let us be patient to wait and prepare always for his coming like Zechariah even in his old age. Amen.

Birthplace of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karen, Jerusalem. Photo by author, May 2019.