Prayer to enter God’s rest

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Week-I, Year -I in Ordinary Time, 15 January 2021
Hebrews 4:1-5, 11  >><)))*> >><)))*> + <*(((><< <*(((><<  Mark 2:1-12
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee in Israel, 2017.

Let us be on guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed… Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:1, 11

Thank you, dear God this Friday with Your words reminding us of “entering Your rest”, Your Sabbath!

But what is Your “rest”, God our Father?

More than a particular day of the week, it is first of all Your very presence like in paradise that our first parents have lost due to their pride and disobedience to You.

May we heed and learn from the reflections of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews of how Your chosen people, the Israelites, disobeyed you, dear God, while in the wilderness that prevented them from entering Your rest in the Promised Land of Israel, spending 40 years wandering in the desert.

Sadly, all these continue to happen in our own time when we are supposed to be disciples of Your Son Jesus Christ.

Help us O God to resist the temptations and strive hard to see you, feel you, and experience you.

Help us to be like those men carrying the paralytic who sought ways and means to see Jesus Christ, our only true hope and inspiration and consolation in times like these. It is in Jesus Christ’s coming that we are able to enter Your rest freely and truly, dear God, to experience Your love and mercy, kindness and compassion we have all taken for granted.

But, more than a place and a day, Your rest, O Lord, is heaven, Your very presence, that very moment when Jesus healed and forgave the sins of the paralytic, astounding everyone, glorifying You, saying, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mk.2:12).

Let us “rest” in You, dear God by returning to You, of being renewed in You with Your whole creation in Jesus. Amen.

Photo by author, sunset somewhere in Pampanga, 13 January 2021.

Human situation, Divine response: multiplying our blessings

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVIII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 02 August 2020
Isaiah 55:1-3 >><}}}*> Romans 8:35, 37-39 >><}}}*> Matthew 14:13-21

Remember our reflection last Sunday? Of how parables teach us that “less is always more” because to have the kingdom of God – Jesus Christ himself – we have to learn to appreciate the little things in life?

Beginning this Sunday until August 16, our gospels will start telling us who is Jesus Christ by showing us his powers and abilities that are exactly opposite the way we see and understand them. This new series of stories are so relevant to us in this time of pandemic, giving us wonderful insights into God’s ways of responding to our human situations.

St. Matthew now leads us with Jesus to the wilderness after teaching us in parables to experience his power in transforming us like the five loaves and two fish to feed more than five thousand people.

Multi-layered story of the multiplication of bread

All four evangelists have recorded this story of Jesus Christ’s multiplication of the loaves of bread with their particular focus and stress, showing us that it truly happened and was a major event in the Lord’s ministry.

Very unique with St. Matthew’s version of this miracle story – which has not one but two! – is his economy of words in narrating it like a straight news as if it were a developing story or a “breaking news” unfolding before us, calling us to follow its updates and details due to its multi-layered meanings.

When Jesus heard of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

Matthew 14:13-21
Photo from iStock/Studio-Annika.

The consolation of Jesus.

Our situation in this time of the corona pandemic is so similar with that of Jesus. With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, it has finally hit us hard, so close to home with news of those we know getting infected and worst, dying from this disease.

Like Jesus upon hearing the death of John the Baptist, we are all saddened that we wish to withdraw away from everyone.

We want to mourn but there are more people in need of our presence and help in this time of pandemic like the countless medical frontliners and health workers who must be so tired – even sick, physically and emotionally – by now with the growing number of COVID-19 patients and yet have chosen to remain in their posts.

And there are still the other casualties of this pandemic like those who have lost their jobs, those evicted from their rented apartments, those stranded and separated from their loved ones, those begging for food, and those afflicted with other sickness going through dialysis and physical therapy.

Jesus knows so well the “wilderness” we are all going through and he is right here with us, one with us in our sufferings, in our fears and anxieties, and in our exhaustion.

To be one with us is consolation, from the Latin “con” or with + “solare” or alone, to be one with somebody feeling alone.

Jesus did not remove our pains and sufferings, even our death; he joined us to be one with us in these that he can call us to “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give your rest. Take my yoke upon you… For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt.11:28-30, 14th Sunday, 05 Jul 2020).

Compassion of Jesus.

Still with Christ’s reaction of being “moved with pity” at the sight of the crowds who have followed him to the wilderness, we find something more deeper with his being one with us, in consoling us that he had forgotten all about himself, his tired body that he went on to heal the sick among them.

To be moved with pity is more than a feeling of the senses but a response of his total person.

You respond for help, you reply to a call.

Ever wondered why we have the “responsorial psalm” after the first reading in the Mass? Because those words from the Psalms express our total assent and commitment to God, involving our total self like body, mind, heart and soul.

Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmel Monastery, Israel, 2016.

God cannot suffer because he is perfect.

That is why he became human like us in Jesus Christ to be one with our suffering and death so that we would one with him in his glorious Resurrection.

In the wilderness, Jesus stayed with the people, not allowing them to leave as suggested by the Twelve because he was moved with pity with the crowd because he wanted to suffer with them.

That is compassion, literally means to “suffer with” from cum + patior. Here in the wilderness, Jesus showed his compassion for the people which will reach its highest point in giving himself on the Cross on Good Friday.

Have we “responded” to God’s call to serve, to a call of duty, and to a plea for help from the poor? Have we truly given ourselves to somebody without ever thinking our own comfort or rewards? Or, are we running away from his Cross?

What a shame in this time of pandemic there are some among us who rejoice at the losses of others like the Twelve who wanted the crowd to be sent home because they were afraid of responsibilities, of taking care of the suffering people.

Consolation and compassion are the two most needed from each of us in this time of crisis.

Our scarcity mentality, the God of plenty.

We now come to the miracle of the feeding of five thousand. According to the late Fr. Henri Nouwen, this story is an example of our “scarcity mentality” when we think of not having enough, of finding what we have as too little, always looking for more; hence, our tendency to hoard everything.

The Twelve were thinking more of themselves, afraid they could go hungry with the five loaves of bread and two fish they have. They were so afraid of difficulties ahead of them in their situation where to find and how to feed those great number of people.

They were focused on what was lacking than on what they have, and who was with them, Jesus Christ! They were hungry for food in the stomach than for food to the soul unlike the crowds who have followed Jesus.

Worst of all, the Twelve got “mad” upon seeing the crowds who have followed them to the wilderness when in fact, it was Jesus who needed most to rest to mourn John’s death!

But through all these, Jesus patiently bore the people’s woes and the Twelve’s selfishness to teach them all in a very nice way something so essential in our response to every human suffering and extreme situation: opening and entrusting our selves totally to God.

And that was actually the greatest miracle that happened that day.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In doing it, Jesus simply asked the Twelve what they have, never asking how much they have or its condition. Just whatever they have to give everything to Jesus like those five loaves and two fish that he took, and while looking up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the Twelve to distribute to the crowd.

And everyone was satisfied with a lot of left overs too!

Matthew nor any of the other Evangelists ever explained how it happened because it does not really matter at all. What is most important is what are we willing to give up to Jesus so he can transform us into better persons.

That is what we continue to do this day in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist- whatever we have, even not the best or the worst and littlest we have, when given to Jesus becomes holy and multiplied!

The power of God is immense, without doubt. But, in this miracle of the feeding of five thousand, Jesus is showing us that his power is not meant to satisfy our material or bodily needs but our deepest desires that lead to our fulfillment in him as prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading.

Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.

Isaiah 55:2-3

Amid the pandemic worsened by our government officials’ inanities, irresponsibilities, and sheer lack of compassion with us in this wilderness, the Lord assures us today that he is with us for “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” (Second Reading) if we are willing to give him all that we have.

It is our spiritual transformation first that leads us to our material blessings. We can all have it if we are willing to give everything to Jesus and believe in him always. What do you have for miracles to happen?

A blessed August ahead for you! Amen.

Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmel, Israel, 2016.

Prayer under pressure

40 Shades of Lent, Friday, Week IV, 27 March 2020

Wisdom 2:1, 12-22 ><)))*> +++ <*(((>< John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 22 March 2020.

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. Many are the troubles of the just man but out of them all, the Lord delivers him.”

Psalm 34:19-20

God our heavenly Father, we come to you today, begging you for more strength, more courage, more faith in you as the pressures and stress increase and worsen due this COVID-19 pandemic the whole world is suffering with.

Like your Son Jesus Christ in today’s gospel, we can feel so strongly the tremendous pressure he was going through from his enemies in the weeks leading to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection that he could not openly go to Jerusalem.

But, still he went there in secret to continue his mission of proclaiming the good news, trusting in you, our Father in heaven, who alone designates each one’s “hour”.

So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.

John 7:30

Give us the grace, Lord, to withstand all the pressures and stress going on within us, in our family and community as we enter the second week of lockdown.

Most especially, we pray for our frontliners in health and medicine who are subjected to intense pressures by the pandemic. Some of them have lost their lives fulfilling their mission. Bless their souls, bless their loved ones left behind.

We pray, Lord, for those who have to work today so we can have food on our table, electricity and communication lines, water, and also security we have seem to take for granted these days.

May this lockdown provide us with the much needed rest to fight all the stresses and pressures we have been carrying on our shoulders for a long time.

May this lockdown be a Sabbath for us like you have envisioned in the beginning when you created everything. Amen.

Photos by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, 26 March 2020. See Mt. Samat and the 1,821 feet Memorial Cross in Bataan as seen from the GMA Network Bldg. in Quezon City across the expanse of Manila Bay. Used with permission.

Let God Come Close to You

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Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 18 January 2019

            People have been telling me to get a tablet or at least upgrade my iPhone so I can continue with my blogs when I go on vacation just like this past week; but, I am not yet that techie to be able to blog away from my study table.  Besides, I feel it is going against the very idea of a vacation when we are supposed to “vacate” or empty ourselves of the ordinary things and routines we always have.  Vacation is the first and most essential kind of “Marie Kondo-ing” or decluttering of self of so many things we have accumulated that have disfigured us.  A vacation is not merely taking a break from the usual stuff and routines in life but to rest and recreate so we find our true selves again.  In the bible we find a more beautiful term for vacation called “sabbatical” from the word “Sabbath” or day of rest.  Genesis 2:2 tells us that after creating everything, God rested on the seventh day that later God made it His third commandment, “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day” (Ex. 20:8).

            Vacation is always a gift of God not only for the resources to rest and recreate but most of all, it is a grace to rediscover our true selves by discovering Him again.  God rested on the seventh day because He had completed His work; but we people and all creation have to rest so we can all continue to work in God.  Every vacation as a Sabbath is a celebration of life, of being children of God because the more we turn away from Him, the more we get lost in life.  The more we turn away from God, the more we lose our true identity and self as His beloved children.  See how when Adam and Eve sinned:  they hid from God because they found themselves naked whereas before, they felt no shame because they felt and found everything good.  They have been alienated from their very selves the very instant they turned away from God.  Hence, every vacation in the spirit of Sabbath is a return to Eden or paradise!

              An author whose name I could no longer recall said that “a sabbatical is when I stop playing God, when I go back to the original image of God.”   In our Filipino language, vacation and Sabbath have a more beautiful translation called pahinga.  It is from the root word “hinga” or“breathe” which is a verb and becomes “hininga” or breath when taken as a noun.  To rest which is “magpahinga” literally means “to be breathed on.”  Therefore, to rest as in vacation is to empty ourselves so that we can be filled again with the breath of God or to be breathed on by God!  In this sense, in every vacation, we are also re-created by God who fills us with His Spirit.  And there lies the true beauty of every vacation when we feel so alive, when all of a sudden everything and everyone looks so nice and lovely as we realize how blessed we are, how fortunate not only to have gone and visited wonderful places and destinations but most of all in having found our rootedness in God – that we are so loved by this personal God who relates with us truly as a Father.  When we experience a lovely sunrise or sunset, when we are captivated by nature’s wonders, when we suddenly realize we are alive and existing that no matter how little we may be in this vast universe, we are assured deep within that we are loved and cared for by Somebody bigger and powerful.  When we stand in total darkness of the night to see the stars above or be awed by the Aurora Borealis, we realize that even if we are just a speck of dust in this vast universe, we are so special because everything was created for us to see and experience and enjoy!  It is an awesome feeling that we exist, that we are alive and most of all, we are far better, more lovely and beautiful than anything because we are the only ones created by God in His own image and likeness.

            And there lies the joy of coming home from every vacation as we are eager to go back to share not only the wonderful sights and sounds we have experienced but deep within us – unconsciously – we want to show our newfound self, our refreshed self to others.  We yearn to go home after a vacation not because we have nowhere else to go but because we now have a clear direction in this journey of life.  Every year we look forward to our vacation, to venture out there somewhere for our Sabbath and let God come closer to us so that we can always come home to ourselves, to our family and friends, and eventually to Him in all eternity.  Amen.

Photos by the author:  above is sunset at the Assumption Sabbath Place in Baguio City, below is the lobby of the retreat house.

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Resting and Remaining in the Lord

northernlights
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe-Prayer
Tuesday//09October2018//Week XXVII, Year II
Galatians 1:13-24///Luke 10:38-42

            Your words today O Lord are so comforting, inviting me to rest in you, to stay in you like a child peacefully asleep on a parent’s lap or tummy.  Today O Lord I just wish to be comforted by your loving presence as I try to examine my past and present life.

            “O Lord, you have probed me and you know me… Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.” (Ps.139:1,13)

            Like St. Paul, give me the grace to realize deep within me how you have personally called me for this mission in life that began “from my mother’s womb when you set me apart and called me.”(Gal.1:15)

            Teach me to be like St. Paul that before going to anyone or anywhere, I must first seek you within me, right inside my own wilderness, my own “Arabia” in a retreat to reconnect with you before “consulting flesh and blood.” (Gal.1:16-17) 

            So often, I am like Martha who is so “anxious and worried about so many things” (Lk.10:41), forgetting that to truly welcome you like Mary is to sit at your feet, listen to you as you speak for it is the only one thing needed in life that St. Padre Pio had also taught us in this modern time to simply “pray, hope and don’t worry.” AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022. 

Photo from Google.

Resting In Jesus

SacredRest
Resting in Jesus Christ
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XVI-B, 22 July 2018
Jeremiah 23:1-6///Ephesians 2:13-18///Mark 6:30-34

            As I was telling you last Sunday, discipleship is directional than about destination.  And though we have different missions in life, every mission always has Jesus Christ as direction.  Today we deepen this direction in Christ with the return of the Twelve after being sent by Jesus to their first mission last week when He invited them to rest with Him to a deserted place.

            The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.  He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat… When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to preach them many things. (Mk.6:30-31)

            Friends always wonder what kind of “rest” I take when I go on a little solitude every Thursday on my weekly day-off or during my annual personal retreat.  They ask, “anong klaseng pahinga po iyon Father kung nagdarasal pa rin kayo?”   Of course, I sometimes go on out-of-town vacation but when we try to reflect on our gospel today, we discover some beautiful dimensions about rest.  To rest means to stop because tasks have been completed.  This we find in Genesis 2:2 when God rested on the seventh day after creating everything good.  In John 19:30, we find Jesus Christ saying “it is finished” when He died to complete His work of salvation that after His Resurrection, He ascended into heaven to seat at the right hand of His Father in heaven.  To rest primarily means to stop because work has been completed like God when He completed His works of creation and salvation.  But in the gospel today we find how Jesus and the Twelve could not rest nor eat because of the people coming!

            Here we find the essential reality about rest which is always to rest in the Lord.  We do not only rest with Jesus Christ but also rest in Him.  Unlike God, we complete our works by episodes, not in its entirety.  Jesus invited the Twelve to rest after completing their first mission given them.  There would still be other missions to be given to them until Jesus ascended into heaven.  Those missions continue to this day and would never be fully completed until His Second Coming.  For us to fulfill any mission in life, we need to rest always in Christ because as we have seen last week, He Himself is our direction in the ministry.  That is the direction of intimacy with Jesus, of being close with Jesus because it is Jesus Himself whom we share with the people we serve.

            People would always be coming to us but never forget that before they all came, Jesus came first to call us and send us.  Therefore, when we rest, we rest in Him too which is a call to a personal and intimate relationship with Him.  Note how Mark referred to the “Twelve” last week and now being called as “apostles” upon their return from their first mission.  This is an important shift in calling them as apostles for later we shall see they are distinct from followers or disciples.  An apostle is someone who is sent forth ahead of Jesus.  It is from the Greek verb “apostolein”, to send forth while disciple is from “discipulous”, to follow like discipline.  Most of all, an apostle is someone who had seen Jesus Christ like the Twelve so that Paul had to insist on this title too because he met the Lord on the way to Damascus.  In a deeper sense, an apostle is also someone very intimate with Jesus Christ, always interacting with Him, doing His works.  We are all apostles of the Lord sent into the world to continue His saving works which demands a close relationship with Him in fulfilling that mission that is very demanding, even impossible.  Most of all, what the people are really hungry and thirsty of are not things of this world but Jesus Christ Himself – His love and presence, His mercy and forgiveness, His joy and consolation.  It is for this reason that when a priest asked St. Mother Teresa for any message to priests, she simply asked them “to give them Jesus, only Jesus, and always Jesus.”  This will also be the focus of the gospel in the next five weeks when we shift to John’s gospel account of the bread of life discourse in chapter six.

            In the recent Philippine Conference on New Evangelization, speakers kept on reminding us priests, religious and consecrated persons on this essence of our ministry:  we can never be moved with compassion to feed the multitude like Jesus Christ when we are apart from Him.  Of the many speakers there, I was moved most on the first day by the Bulakenyo Jesuit Fr. Albert Alejo who asked us, “who/what gives you joy in the ministry?”  He reminded us to always go back to Jesus Christ in everything we do because without Him, we could never lead people to Him.  He capped his talk with a beautiful metaphor of the rooster by demonstrating and mimicking how the rooster would crow at the break of dawn.  According to Fr. Alejo, once the rooster had seen the first rays of light of the day, he stands erect first, flaps his wings to make sure he is already awake, then beats his chest to muster enough courage and strength to announce morning has broken with a powerful crow.  And when other roosters follow with the same methodology of crowing, the whole farm is awakened as the new day begins filled with life and hope.

            Without Jesus in our hearts, without resting in Jesus in every mission we have labored along with its triumphs and failures, pains and joys, it would always be difficult to feed the multitude.  Worst like the shepherds of Israel, we could “mislead and scatter the flock of the Lord’s pasture”(Jer. 23:1) that has sorely marred our own history of the Church with the many scandals that have rocked us.  Jesus Christ is the promised Good Shepherd God had spoken through Jeremiah (Jer.23: 5-6), the one sent to reconcile us all in God and with others (Eph.2: 16) whom Paul proclaimed in the second reading.  This Sunday, let us not just stop from our work to rest with our gadgets and other things.  Let us rest in God – magpahinga – let Him breathe on us His life-giving spirit so we may be recreated for the challenges of this new week.  Amen. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.  <lordmychef@gmail.com>