Christmas, our being & mission

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday in the Third Week of Advent, Day 2 of Christmas Novena, 17 December 2022
Genesis 49:2, 8-10     ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>     Matthew 1:1-17
Photo by author, 2021.

Beginning today, we shift our focus in our Christmas preparations into the second phase of Advent, of looking back to the first coming of Jesus Christ when he was born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.

The birth and origin of Jesus has always been an issue to many people then and now. It was the main reason he was put to death for the case of “blasphemy” because his enemies at that time refused to accept he is the Son of God, the fulfillment of the promises in the Old Testament, of him coming from the lineage of King David.

Until now, people continue to question his origin with so many others insisting Jesus is not God, that he is only human.

That is why all four evangelists began their gospel accounts by first establishing his identity and roots with Matthew doing a very superb job by starting right away with the genealogy of Jesus Christ.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram….

Matthew 1:1-3
Photo by author, November 2022.

For the early Christians, it was very important to first establish the origin of our Lord because his roots reveal his very being and mission – that indeed, he is the Christ, the promised one of God since the beginning sent to save us from sin and bring us back into one with the Father.

The same is very true with us. Unless we know our roots, our origins, we will always have those confusions in life like identity crisis and meaning of existence. All these problems about gender identity, drug addictions, teenage pregnancies, depressions and so many others are basically due to lack of our knowing of ourselves, of our being. How can we go on with our life journey and mission if we are not even sure of ourselves, of who we are, of our grounding, of where we came from?

When I was a newly ordained priest assigned to a school in Malolos, at first I felt so mad at seeing how our young people behaved, their lack of discipline and sense of responsibilities. But after three months in school, I realized that the question we should be asking even until now is not why are the young acting that way today but, “where are their parents”?

Now that I am assigned as a university chaplain, the more I see this reality so true, even at its worst and ugly faces of the many burdens and sufferings our young people have to bear and contend with right in their homes – incest and physical abuses, absentee parents and separated parents or single parents made more difficult by poverty that many of them even go without breakfast or decent meal on many occasions every week.

Now more than ever, the school has become truly the home of every student because they have no home, no parents and no love to come home to! They prefer hanging out anywhere including school and get into drugs and other vices at a young age because nobody cares for them except their equally lost peers. Many practically live in the internet and social media because nobody is around to interact with them at home.

Many young people are lost simply because their parents are lost too. They have all kinds of issues because they do not know who they are and where they are going to. They have low self-confidence and low self-esteem, depressive and yes, almost everyone contemplates committing suicide even once because they could not find meaning in their lives anymore.


... human love is imperfect,
only God can love us perfectly.

So sad, so disheartening.

This past week, I have been hearing confessions of our students who poured out everything to the point of crying. What is so moving for me was how they still professed their love for their parents and siblings despite their pains and sufferings.

After listening to them – sometimes crying with them – I tell them that human love is imperfect, only God can love us perfectly. For sure, I tell them that their parents must have also come from so many pains and hurts in their lives, even broken homes too like theirs. Widen your perspectives, I tell them. And keep your hearts wide open to God, to welcome Jesus who comes daily in our lives especially in the most trying time.

This is the meaning of all those names in Jesus Christ’s genealogy – he is so like us with many imperfect relatives and family like quarrelsome siblings, single-parents, prostitutes, unfaithful kings and husbands, illegitimate children, and probably all those things we describe or label as “dysfunctional family”.

Deep within every name is a real person, broken and sinful, hurting and lost just like us yet, loved and saved by God in Jesus Christ. All of them remind us we all came from God like Jesus and with him, in him and through him, we shall all come home to God our true Father.

Every time I administer Baptism, I remind parents to shower their children with love especially in their formative years from infancy to early teens while singing to them a few lines from James Taylor’s “Shower the People with Love” to make my point.

Recently I found in my Facebook feeds from one of the sites I follow a beautiful story and shared it on my wall, saying, “Ito ang tunay na pag-ibig” (this is true love):

From Facebook, The Language Nerds, 13 December 2022.

Our being is from God who is love. Therefore, our mission too is love. Just like Jesus Christ. That is the meaning of all those names in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. The very same meaning we shall find when we trace our own roots, when we do our family tree to find our being and mission.

This is the grace of Christmas 2022 – after two years in the pandemic with so many restrictions, we are celebrating face-to-face to personally experience one another again. Most of all, to personally experience of being loved and loving again.

Christmas is essentially a story of our first love – God – who comes to us face-to-face. Even its preparation as we have seen in the Lord’s genealogy, of God coming to us in our imperfections and weaknesses happened face-to-face in the context and spirit of love, a love that covers a multitude of sins, welcomes everyone, ready to forgive and celebrate life.

Let us see and welcome God in our hearts by rekindling that love we have always have. And upon finding him there, may we also find him in the face of everyone we meet, especially those closest to us, our family and relatives. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
thank you for coming to us;
thank you for showing us that
like us, you came from very 
dysfunctional family too!
Thank you for assuring us
that despite our many imperfections,
sins and weaknesses,
you still come and even more present
in our hurts and wounds.
Let us find you where we are,
right here in our brokenness 
and darkness so that in the process,
we may also show you to others
lost in their many sufferings and pains.
You have given us yourself, Jesus,
let me give you to others 
in love and kindness,
in my mere presence.
Amen.
Photo by author, November 2022.

Praying to be radical

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Cyril of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church, 27 June 2022
Amos 2:6-10, 13-16   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 8:18-22
Photo by author, Subic, 2019.
God our just and merciful Father,
today I pray for the grace of being
radical - of going back to my roots or
"radix" in Latin; how sad that more
than 3000 years ago, the words of
your prophet Amos still sound so true
today.

Thus says the Lord: for three crimes of Israel, and for four, I will not revoke my word; because they sell the just man for silver, and the poor man for a pair of sandals. They trample the heads of the weak into the dust of the earth, and force the lowly out of the way. Son and father go to the same prostitute, profaning my holy name.

Amos 2:6-7
The situation then in Judah is
very much the same in our own time,
so distressing at how we have turned
away from you, O Lord, and from one
another, living so low without any 
respect and regard especially for
the weak and poor; may we heed 
the call of Jesus Christ to come and
follow him truthfully, radically by keeping
in mind and heart that there can be
no true love of God nor true religion
without a genuine practice of justice
and love among the weak.
Grant us the wisdom and courage of
St. Cyril of Alexandria to fight heresies
that now come as fads in many aspects,
from clothings to lifestyles that are so far
from the beauty of Christ's person as
exemplified by his own Mother, the 
Blessed Virgin Mary; make us firm in
holding on to your teachings on the values 
of life and of every person rooted in you
dear God our Lord and Creator.
Amen.

The problem with beginning

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-2 for the Soul 
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Advent Week III, 17 December 2020
Genesis 49:2, 8-10     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Matthew 1:1-17
Photo by author of sun beginning to shine over the mountain ranges Sinai Desert in Egypt, May 2019.

Yesterday we started our reflection with an old Christmas song, Do You Hear What I Hear? by Bing Crosby; today, it is Andy Williams turn to serenade us with the opening lines to the theme of the 1970 film Love Story:

Where do I begin 
To tell the story of how great a love can be 
The sweet love story that is older than the sea 
The simple truth about the love she brings to me 
Where do I start

No. I did not see that movie now a classic but I was old enough to remember its theme that became popular even for some more years during the 70’s that made Andy Williams so well-known when we were in elementary school. His song came to my mind as I grappled – which usually happened – on how to begin this reflection.

Where do I begin or how shall I begin? is one of our most common question in almost anything we start doing or telling because beginning any undertaking is always difficult. Experts have tackled it like Stephen Covey telling us to “begin with the end in sight” while Simon Sinek insists we always “start with why”.

Every beginning – like a homily or a speech, a business venture, or even an exercise program – means so much as it gives us a gist of where it is leading to, of what is going to happen.

The evangelists also wrestled with the same issue and they all have their own style in starting their gospel account but nothing beats Matthew in his most unique manner by beginning with a series of names in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. According to the late American biblical scholar Fr. Raymond Brown, he was willing to bet that if anyone is asked to tell the story of Jesus to a non-believer, no one will ever imitate Matthew by starting with Abraham begetting Isaac, Isaac is the father of…

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar…

Matthew 1:1-3
Photo by author of an oasis in the Dead Sea region of Israel, May 2017.

God the Prime Mover, the Beginning of everything

Today we shift our focus in our Advent preparations to the first coming of Jesus Christ when he was born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago. Strictly speaking, the Church’s official countdown to Christmas begins only today when all our weekday readings from December 17-24 are focused on how the birth of Jesus happened.

And what a way to start this series with the gospel by Matthew that begins with “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”! The Greek is more literal in stating it as “The book of the genesis of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

That makes Matthew’s gospel so unique by starting it with names that all sound so weird to us today.
So, what’s with the names? Of course, a name is everything!

Companies and organizations pay huge amounts of money for their trademarks and logos like Coca-Cola, IBM, and Apple. Some corporate or product names have in fact entered our vocabulary like Xerox for copiers, Colgate for toothpaste and Frigidaire for refrigerators.

Every name carries a story, a meaning, a mission, even a destiny. How sad that we Filipinos rarely take this seriously especially in giving names to children that often becomes a joke or a disaster, or both. But to foreigners especially the Jewish people, a name is more than an identification but also one’s mission.

When we examine each name in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, we discover it is just like our own family trees with some men and women not really that exceptional, even a shame and an embarrassment to the family. Behind each name we have heard is an imperfect person -except for Joseph and Mary – with so many sins and mistakes.

And that is the good news of today: God does not call the qualified but qualifies His call.

Everything begins with God – our lives and coming into being. In all eternity, God perfectly knows everything that will happen to us and yet He chose to believe in us, despite our imperfections and being prone to sin that He sent us to this world with a mission to make His Son our Lord Jesus come into the world through us, just like his ancestors.

Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, January 2020.

From the imperfect “house of King David” to Jesus Christ’s eternal kingdom

Let us take the first name mentioned by Matthew in starting his gospel, David who makes this genealogy so interesting. In fact, it was on him the whole genealogy is structured by Matthew. And we all know how imperfect was David, of how he had sinned when he took Bathsheba the wife of army officer Uriah whom he ordered placed in a position that got him killed in a battle.

But that is how God works – so unlike us! God is a God of surprises who works so unpredictably unlike us humans. Imagine after all the sex scandals with Bathsheba, God still promised an eternal kingdom coming from the house of David, that of Jesus Christ: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Sam.7:16, first reading on Sunday and morning of Thursday).

At the end of his genealogy of Jesus, Matthew added this interesting note:

Thus the total number of of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations.

Matthew 1:17

Matthew is up to something here! Why build around the history of Israel and genealogy of Jesus Christ around a person who had gravely sinned against God and others?

Most likely. Remember how Matthew experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness when Jesus came to call him while at his tax collection booth and he immediately stood and left everything behind to follow the Lord. Matthew knew well that God is not like humans who box people and label them like things.

Caravaggio’s famous painting of the call of Matthew by Jesus from wikicommons.org.

In assembling to us three sets of fourteen generations that traced the coming of Jesus Christ from Abraham structured around David, Matthew shows us how God worked through this sinful man a series of new “beginnings” in life, both in grace and in sin. See the genealogy rising from Abraham to David, then its decline and descent from Solomon to the Babylonian Exile, and then rising again to the advent of Jesus.

Now try to imagine how great and loving is our God and Father who chose to believe in David, a person just like us with many imperfections and prone to sins! See His power and holiness in setting any sinful situation for new beginnings of grace and blessings.


Sometimes,
God uses our occasions of sins
as new beginnings 
of His grace and blessings.

One thing I have realized in life is that our most unforgettable moments happen either when we are nearest, or farthest away from God.

This is very amazing. Consider when are we closest to God? Most often that is when we were high and good, feeling blessed and loved, when healthy and successful that were ironically the times we rarely thought of God. We only remember those moments as our closest with God after being away in fact from Him!

And when are we farthest from God? Quickly we say when we were deep in sin, when lost, or when unloved and misunderstood.

Between these two moments, it is most often when we are farthest from God that is always most unforgettable, the ones we remember always, the ones that have left the deepest cut in us because those times in turn have become occasions for us to begin anew in God!

Like David. Or Matthew known before as Levi the tax collector.

Photo by author of the Lake of Galilee shortly after sunrise, May 2019.

That is how God sometimes would make it for us to begin anew in Him! See how at the first set of fourteen generations from Abraham to David, we find the whole history of Israel so close with God punctuated by Egypt and Exodus when their sins “turned” into their favor. In the second set of fourteen generations from Solomon to the Babylonian exile, the Israelites sank into their lowest point in history when led by their kings they turned away from God, worshipping idols. But, God did not abandon them as we see in the third set of fourteen generations when things got better as the Israelites returned to God and to their Promised Land reaching its high point in Jesus Christ’s birth.

God is the beginning of everything and even if we try to “end” with our many sins what He had began, He always finds ways to begin anew even when we are so far away from Him.

This is also the meaning of the Jacob’s choice for Judah over his other sons in being the tribe to continue his family line leading to the fulfillment of the Davidic lineage in Jesus Christ. It was from Judah came the name of their religion “Judaism” even if Judah was not the best and holiest of Jacob’s sons. Joseph the Dreamer must have been the wisest choice as more suitable to have been blessed by their father or by God himself but, that is not the way of God.

By starting his gospel with the line “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”, Matthew shows us God’s total power and goodness as source and beginning of all good things who also has the last and final say in everything.

In the genealogy of Jesus, we are reminded that every day is a new beginning in God, right in our darkness and sin, in our sickness and pandemic. David like Judah may have sinned so great before God but His mercy and love proved greater than their sins that they were able to rise again to become better and holier in His grace.

That’s one great beginning we can start right here, right now in our Simbang Gabi! A blessed Thursday to you! Amen.

Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, our Parish at night, 29 November 2020.

Praying to be rooted and grounded in love

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. John Paul II, Pope, 22 October 2020 
Ephesians 3:14-21     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Luke 12:49-53
Pope John Paul II waves to well-wishers in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in 1978 when he was elected as the 263rd successor to St. Peter (CNS photo/Arturo Mari, L’Osservatore Romano).

One of the things I am so thankful to you, O God our Father in making me live in this generation is your gift to us of a great shepherd in St. John Paul II whose memorial we celebrate today. It is a tremendous blessing from you to grace our years of existence along with a great man like him who had overcome so many difficulties and struggles in life, being orphaned at a very young age from his mother, then from his father and later from his only beloved brother, not to mention his coming from Poland, a country exploited by foreign powers and subjected to communism for the longest time.

In his entire life, Lord, you have always manifested your loving presence in him and destined him to be your sign in this most difficult period in history when men and women have gravely challenged you with so many evil and sins, including some priests you have called to serve.

Praise and glory to you, O God, for the great St. John Paul II, a man rooted and grounded in love!

and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19

What a beautiful prayer by St. Paul after extolling your love to call us all to be your children by having faith in your Son Jesus Christ!

What a beautiful prayer by St. Paul so perfect for today the memorial of St. John Paul II, a man rooted and grounded in love!

But, beyond the beautiful language, teach us, Father, what is to be rooted and grounded in love to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, to be filled with all of your fullness?

Roots refer to something inside, deep within and hidden, not seen; on the other hand, grounded is something outside, above and seen.

What do you mean, Father?

It is so demanding but that is what to follow you, to be set on a blazing fire of purification in Jesus Christ (Lk. 12:49), to be one with him on the Cross so that inside and outside, we are totally yours with Mary like St. John Paul II’s Totus Tuus!

St. John Paul II, pray for us to be not afraid to follow Jesus and be one with the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

From Pinterest.com.

The priest is always a radical

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 10 December 2019

Homily for the First Mass of Rev. Fr. Roel Aldwin C. Valmadrid, First Priest from our Parish of St. John Evangelist, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan

In my 21 years of priesthood, I have found so many descriptions and interpretations of being a priest. But there is only one priesthood we all share — the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

And that is why, every priest has to be a radical like Jesus.

From the Latin word radix which means “roots”, a radical is someone who is always rooted, grounded in being as we say in philosophy.

A priest is a radical because he always has to be rooted in Jesus Christ, our Eternal Priest. He alone is our model and everything in our lives and ministry. Everything and everyone must be seen in relation with Jesus Christ.

I am the true vine… I am the vine, you are the branches.

John 15:1, 5

It is the Caller, Not the Call

Since last year when I was invited to be a guest spiritual director of our School of Theology, I have realized how seminarians and eventually priests give more importance to the vocation or call to the priesthood than to Jesus Christ himself, the Caller.

When we priests and seminarians are focused on the call, we get so many excuses in life: we have every justification for everything like in acquiring material goods and gadgets, indulging in so many luxuries and lifestyles for the rich and famous simply because we are priests.

See how some seminarians and priests alike, despite the many immoralities in life, they cling to the vocation but never to Jesus.

Worst, when we are more focused with our call than with Jesus the Caller, that is when we see more of ourselves that soon enough we play gods and we start making our vocation an excuse for everything, even flaunting them in social media.

Call it triumphalism, exaggeration of devotions when in fact it is the start of a cult around the person of the priest. That is when we start having our own interpretations of everything, starting from Jesus Christ, on the liturgy, morality, scriptures and everything!

Sad and tragic. Most of all, a grave scandal of our time.

When we focus more on our Caller Jesus Christ, then we start praying and discerning.

That’s when everything gets clearer because when we examine things in the light of Christ, we become sensitive of others and sensible as well.

When we see Jesus more than our priesthood, that is when we see more of Christ among others, especially the poor and marginalized.

Yes, when we priests look at Jesus more, the better we see him in others that we get inspired to do more, to serve more with love and kindness.

“I Am”

We have learned in our studies of the scriptures that Jesus Christ’s declarations of “I AM” in all gospel accounts mean a lot, especially in the fourth gospel by our beloved Patron, Saint John the Evangelist. It is indicative in itself of Jesus being the Christ, the awaited Messiah.

Keep that in mind, keep that in your heart, Fr. RA: that “I AM” is Jesus Christ, not you.

A priest is always a radical because every day we have to go back to this very root of our being, Jesus. Without him our Caller, there is no call. No Jesus Christ, no priesthood.

Twice did Jesus declare this I AM: at the opening verse where he used the adjective I AM the true vine then at the fifth verse when he said I am the vine, you are the branches.

Most important part here is the I AM to show how Jesus has let himself planted on earth, never to be uprooted like that story of the vine producing sour grapes in the Book of Isaiah.

His I AM here is the very mystery of his incarnation mentioned by our Patron Saint, John the Evangelist at his prologue to his gospel account. Like what St. Paul had written to the Romans we always read in the Evening Prayer I of each week, “God’s gift and call are permanent and irrevocable.”

Jesus called us to the priesthood, he will never recall that. That is why we are celebrating tonight despite your many sins and heavy warnings in the seminary. He called you Fr. RA and he kept that.

Chapel of the Holy Family, Jesuit Novitiate and Retreat House, Novaliches, 2017.

Now you are priest, Fr. RA, let Jesus dwell in you as you keep grounded in him too.

Have an altar in your room, Father. Keep the TV set outside your bedroom. Upon waking up even if your bladder is full, kneel before your altar, say the Morning Offering, be with Jesus, hear him tell you every morning “I AM the true vine, you are the branches.”

People always ask me what is the most difficult in being a priest?

It is not really being celibate. In fact later in life, ask your married friends, it is a great blessing to be celibate!

Since my first year in the priesthood, I have always been telling people since then until now that the most difficult in being a priest is we have to pray every day. I mean, real prayer where we strip ourselves naked before Jesus. No ifs, no buts. Just our plain, ugly self before him.

It is difficult to pray every day because it means being true to one’s self that requires a lot of discipline and courage.

Bp. Dennis Villarojo ordaining Fr. RA, 10 December 2019, Malolos Cathedral.

Most of all, it is difficult to pray because that is surrendering one’s self to God. It is like being ordained every day when we keep on saying, “yes, Lord…yes Lord.”

Whatever is the fruit of our prayer, that is what we share in our homilies and talks to people.

That is when we come into the most difficult part of our prayer life as priests: when we preach, then people measure us, even judge us. They ask if we “walk our talk”.

When a priest does not preach anymore, when a priest avoids celebrating Mass, pray for that priest. Most likely he is no longer praying. He is already separating himself from the vine, forgetting the Caller.

Remember St. Augustine who told his deacon in De Catechizandis de Rudibus, “the catechist is the lesson himself”. In the same manner, the priest is the homily himself.

It is prayer where we grow deeper in our faith as priests. And people would right away notice this if we believe in God, if we believe in the Mother Church, if we believe in the sacraments we celebrate.

When we experience Jesus our true vine, it is always Jesus whom people would see and feel in us his priests.

“Remain in Me so you will bear fruit”

Our prayer life as priests keeps us one with Jesus our Caller and our true vine. In our gospel today, Jesus repeated the word “remain” about nine times, the most of any word in our gospel this evening.

Remaining in Jesus as a priest is imitating our Patron Saint John the Beloved, the only one who remained and stayed by our Lord’s side at his crucifixion.

To remain in Jesus is stay with him at the Cross.

Notice how Jesus reminded us that as branches, the Father has to prune us always. Pruning means sufferings. Pruning means carrying the cross daily.

Ten years ago I was invited to give a recollection to our students at the Theology Deaprtment with the topic, “The Cross as the Cost of Discipleship”.

People praying for Fr. RA after Holy Communion, 10 December 2019. Chinggoy Futol Photography.

I accepted the invitation to correct their topic because it is absolutely wrong: the Cross is not and should never be considered as a cost of discipleship. When you talk about costs, then you think of rewards and profits. Then it becomes a business. No longer a vocation.

The Cross is the life of a priest because that is the life of our Caller, Jesus Christ!

Remain in Jesus, bear all pains and hurts. Kneel always before his Cross and look at him to realize that before our sufferings came, Jesus was there first to suffer and die for you, Father!

Part of that Cross comes from those nearest to us priests, our family and brother priests!

Every day, especially Sunday, you celebrate life and death, health and sickness with people you hardly know, some of them even hurt you and malign you when you can not even be with your parents, sisters and nieces and nephews.

Worst, there are times it is your brother priests are the ones who would hurt you too!

Rejoice when you are being pruned, when you suffer, Father. Remember the beatitudes, “Blessed are you when people persecute you and malign you.”

Photo by Chinggoy Futol.


Be good and kind to your brother priests, Father RA.

Do not fight back if they hurt you.

Love your parish priest. Help him always in his Masses. Volunteer to him especially when you see the slightest of him catching colds!

When a priest is kind to his brother priest, that priest is surely a good priest, a kind priest.

By being good to fellow priests, you keep them remain in Jesus our true vine too.

And you become fruitful.

Being fruitful is different from being successful.

Sometimes, our failures are the very joys of our Lord Jesus Christ because that is when we are nearest to him.

To be fruitful is to rely more in the powers of God. Relying more on our powers is success.

And there is only one fruit Jesus wants from us: love.

Photo by Neil Jumaquio Adriano.

See how after Jesus declared himself as the vine and we are his branches, that is when he would speak eloquently about love, his commandment.

“I have told you this so that my joy might be in you and your joy might be complete. ?This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay one’s life for one’s friends.”

John 15:11-13
The new priest with his family. Chinggoy Futol Photography.

Love like Jesus Christ, Father RA.

Be a radical priest, not as a subversive but always go back to our very root, Jesus Christ.

Better, restore Jesus Christ.

Next year, I will be moving to another parish, Father RA.

When you are broken, when somebody maligns you again, you are most welcomed wherever I may be transferred and together, with our aching gouts, we shall kneel to before Jesus our vine, our root, our Caller. Amen.

The throne of Christ the King

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Solemnity of Christ the King-C, 24 November 2019

2 Samuel 5:1-3 ><}}}*> Colossians 1:12-20 ><}}}*> Luke 23:35-43

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Cross is the throne of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. It is also a lesson in itself, the most profound Jesus has given us that continues to unfold and unravel the “depth and breath” of God’s love for each of us.

Through his Cross, Jesus did not only enter humanity but also allowed humanity to enter him by putting into his heart its very symbolism which is death we all deny and are afraid of. By dying on the Cross, Jesus turned it into a blessing to now become the symbol of life.

Let’s make an illustration.

Yes, it is Bruce Willis from a scene in one of his popular series, “Die Hard” which I continue to watch whenever possible.

What I like most with Bruce Willis in all of his movies is his being so “human” – very vulnerable physically, emotionally and even psychologically. His roles never hide his being a frail human being despite his muscular strength and tactical acumen. Bruce never hides his weaknesses that he can get shot and wounded, dumped and divorced or cheated by his wife like in “The Last Boy Scout”, making him more believable than the other action stars.

And that’s our point here: Jesus never hid his humanity from us. The all-powerful God on whose everything was created according to St. Paul in the second reading became human like us in every aspect except sin.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth… He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Colossians 1:15-19
Carmelite Monastery, Guiguinto, Bulacan, 12 November 2019.

In becoming human like us, Jesus entered our humanity. He who is the Son of God became an infant and child so weak, entrusting himself to us humans.

And when he had grown into a man, he experienced leaving home and family to fulfill his mission like almost everybody. He had friends, some eventually became faithful while another had betrayed him.

Jesus went to almost every gathering like weddings and banquets, met everybody from the “who’s who” to the nobody like sinners and marginalized. He was manly enough to relate with every kind of people, be they children or women, rich and poor alike.

He had wept at the death of a good friend and the impending destruction of his beloved city of Jerusalem, felt hunger and thirst, got angry and was surprised in some occasions.

Jesus is truly human that we can also identify with him but in his dying on the cross, we were able to enter him to become like him when on his Resurrection, he took away the curse of death and turned it into pure grace in him.

Cross at the Dominican Hill in Baguio City, January 2019.

A very unique characteristic of Jesus as a human is his being a radical in its truest essence and meaning. From the Latin word “radix” that means roots, Jesus brought us back to our very roots, to our grounding of being who is God himself.

Too often, we think of radical people as rebels and revolutionaries leading movements and many changes in the society. They are the “game changers” because they radically change things to show us the more essential.

But in reality, radicals do not change things: they restore things to its original state and being. They get into the roots or “radix” of things to bring out its true meanings by doing away with the unimportant accidentals that have taken over the realities.

That is why Jesus is a radical: by dying on the Cross, he firmly reestablished his throne as King of the Universe because that is where evil ended and death is conquered.

It is on the Cross his throne where every new life begins because it is our very rootedness and “grounding of being” as beloved children of God in him.

Most of all, it is on the Cross his throne, our root and grounding from which comes our sole focus and attention in life – God in Christ Jesus.

The rulers sneered at Jesus… even the soldiers jeered at him. Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.” The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:35, 36, 39-43

We have a beautiful expression in Filipino about a person described as “malalim” or deep. A radical is the truly deep person because he is rooted and grounded in his being who is God!

Anyone who truly recognizes Jesus Christ becomes a radical person too, a person of depth because he is rooted in God like the other thief hanging on the cross with Jesus.

See how the rulers or the elite like the priests and elders of Israel who sneered at Jesus: the more they poked fun on him as “the Christ of God”, the more they indict themselves of the grave crime of putting Jesus to death. Eventually at the death of Jesus, the Temple curtain would be torn from top to bottom to signal the end of temple worship and the start of worshipping God in “truth and spirit” in Christ.

The soldiers jeered Jesus too because they “know not what they were doing” because they were all pagans. But again, upon Christ’s death, we find one soldier there at the scene declaring “truly this is the Son of God.”

In any case, some members of Israel’s rulers and Roman soldiers eventually followed Jesus after the Resurrection to show us how the Cross is indeed the throne of Christ the King: it is also a door that opens anyone to conversion, to accept his reign and kingdom!

Most of all, the “good thief”, usually referred to as Dimas, shows us how at the cross any one can become radical like the Lord. While agonizing with Jesus on the cross, Dimas must have examined his life and got into his very core, his roots and realized that basic truth inside him was right there suffering also with him — Jesus whose name means “Yahweh saves”.

What is so surprising with his request from Jesus “to remember him he gets into his kingdom” is the fact that in the Old Testament, it is God who always remembers his people, remembers his promise, remembers his covenant.

Man always forgets God and his covenant that we always turn away from him to live in sin. But at the cross, the throne of Jesus our King, he enables us to remember our roots, our being children of God, our being loved and forgiven that we finally find our way back home.

And that home is God in eternity: “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.”

Every time we are at the cross, when we are getting through so many pains and sufferings, failures and disappointments, even darkness and sin, get into your roots – Jesus Christ – and you will never get lost.

Long before we got into all these crosses in life, remember Jesus was there first for us to suffer and die on his Cross. And that is why he is our King for he rose again so we can become like him in eternity. Amen.

Going back to our roots

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, Easter Week IV, 15 May 2019 (Feast of St. Isidore Labrador)
Acts 1224-13:5///John 13:16-20
Plants growing on walls along the Palm Sunday Path of Jesus in Jerusalem. Photo by author, 03 May 2019.

You know O Lord Jesus Christ how grateful I am and my fellow pilgrims for the gift of coming to your Holy Land last week. And you know how we felt later when we were so eager to come home, to get back to the Philippines.

Partly it was homesickness but largely I think due to our “rootedness”, to our desire to get back to our roots in our home, with our family, with my parishioners.

Yes, we have felt and experienced you Lord in the Holy Land but you are felt most when we all go back to our roots, when we touch base to our home, family and friends.

After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission, they returned to Jerusalem… While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

Acts 12:25, 13:2

This touched me so much,Lord: Barnabas and Saul began to venture far and wide in their mission to the Gentiles while they were praying with the others in Jerusalem. It happened when they returned to Jerusalem, their home, their base where you first gathered them together after Easter!

Yes… you are most present whenever we come home and touch base with our roots like family and relatives, friends and neighbors, even schools or places where we first met you!

You can boldly claim that whoever believes in you believes also in the Father who sent you because you remained rooted in the Father, Lord Jesus.

Help us, Lord, to find our way back home to you in the Father. Give us the courage to touch base with our roots, to find you in our selves, in others around us including our places of work and study.

Like St. Isidore Labrador who always prayed and visited you, touching base with you as his roots always before farming, may we come to realize that ultimately, our rootedness is in God alone. Amen.

The Our Father Church in Jerusalem. Photo by the author, 03 May 2019.