What a wonderful lesson we have today from St. Paul about your wisdom, O God our Father that is found in the scandal of the Cross of your Son Jesus Christ!
Brothers and sisters: Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this stage, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
1 Corinthians 3:18-20
This we have realized at the start of this pandemic when everything in the world stopped and forever changed because of microscopic COVID-19 virus, affecting even the most advanced countries of the world.
Most of all, everybody – rich and poor alike – suffered greatly from this virus, teaching us to value persons more when people we took for granted for so long have become our “saviors” during this prolonged quarantine periods like vendors and delivery personnel, our househelpers, and others we used to look down upon who continued to serve us with food and other needs.
Not to be forgotten too are the members of neglected sectors of our society, specially those in the medical and healthcare system and the agriculture who showed us the importance of human and natural resources over imports and technology as well as entertainment.
What a great lesson about wisdom of God and foolishness of man in this modern time!
One thing very clear, O Lord, that to be a fool for you is first of all to let go of our foolish pride and be humble before you and others.
It is the only way we can let you do your work of changing us and the world when we learn to let go of our foolish pride like St. Peter in today’s gospel when he as an experienced fisherman heeded your command to cast his nets into the deep even though you are the carpenter’s son.
When we review the lives of all saints, they are all men and women of exceptional humility before you, Lord; like St. Gregory the Great who focused more on you that he was able to reform our liturgy, set up schools and monasteries, sent missionaries to England, and instill holiness among the clergy in his “Pastoral Instructions.”
Help us to believe more in you than in ourselves so that you may do your work in us and through us. May we value your Cross, Lord Jesus, considered as foolish in this sophisticated age yet has continued to prove that it is the only path to our transformation as persons and nations. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 17 July 2020
Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8 >><)))*> >><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 12:1-8
Our loving and merciful Father, every time I hear the siren of an ambulance or stories of people I know getting sick, I grapple with words in praying for them and those who take care of them.
I could not find the words what to pray for them except to beg for your mercy that whomever inside a rushing ambulance or my parishioner or friend or relative may get well soon, may be healed totally in their mind, body and soul.
There are just too much sickness and death going on these days, Lord, and the truth is, deep inside me you know very well my own prayer even if it does not pass through my lips – spare me of any sickness at least during this pandemic.
Thank you for your loving mercy, Father, that have sustained me since March, especially when I feel low and sad, even depressed thinking if I would ever survive this COVID-19 pandemic.
Your words today are very consoling and reassuring: you are more than willing to heal us of our sickness, Lord.
Like your servant King Hezekiah, I turn to you merciful Father on behalf of those stricken with COVID-19 and other illnesses in this time of the corona to give them a chance to recover their health to serve you and their families too.
I pray also for their loved ones looking after them to keep them faithful and filled with hope hurdling this sickness.
Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord: “O Lord, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you!” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go, tell Hezekiah: thus says the Lord, the God of your Father David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you…”
Unlike Hezekiah who must have been so extraordinary before you, we are not asking any signs from you. Just heal us, strengthen our medical frontliners and caregivers. Most of all, spare us of any sickness in this time of the pandemic.
Father, we beg you in this most trying time of our history as a nation, that we may be filled with your mercy so that we in turn may share this same mercy to those living in the margins, that we may be more compassionate and kind to people so hard-pressed with life these days.
Yes, indeed, your Son’s reminder to the Pharisees are also meant for us today when we are so concerned with laws than with persons:
Jesus said to them: “If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”
40 Shades of Lent, Ash Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Joel 2:12-18 + + + 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 + + + Matthew 6:1-6,16-18
We begin today the Season of Lent, the 40 days of prayers and fasting, contrition and alms-giving in preparation for Easter Sunday. It is the only season in our liturgical calendar that starts on an ordinary day, Ash Wednesday when we are reminded of that basic truth in life we have always evaded: that we all die and go back to God.
“Remember man that dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
In this age of social media where many practically live in media making known to everyone everything happening to them from confinement to hospital to drinking coffee somewhere or simply saying “thank you” to someone just beside for a gift they have received, the more we need this blessed season to recover the essential realities in life like our true self and God.
So unlike Adam and Eve who went into hiding after their fall, modern men and women have shamelessly flaunt everything they think they have that actually indicate what they lack – depth and meaning, sense and respect.
Ash Wednesday enables us to find anew our bearings in life that must be centered in God, our very life and meaning of being and existence.
Life is a daily Lent.
St. Benedict tells his followers in his Rule that “the life of a monk ought to be a continuous Lent”. And this is also very true for every Christian who follows Jesus Christ as Lord and Master.
Our life is a daily Exodus from darkness into light, from sin into grace, from failure into victory, from slavery into freedom when we experience the Paschal mystery of Jesus Christ even if we are not aware of it.
And the sooner we become aware of this reality, the better for us because that is when we find more meaning in life, the deeper our existence becomes.
Pope Francis tells us in his Lenten Message this year that “Jesus’ Pasch is not a past event; rather, through the power of the Holy Spirit it is ever present, enabling us to see and touch with faith the flesh of Christ in those who suffer.”
Life is all about God. This life we live is a sharing in his very life and the more are aware of this reality and link, the more we discover its beauty because we get to know God more in Jesus Christ who have come in flesh and blood for us.
“Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
2 Corinthians 5:20
To be reconciled to God is to be one in God in Christ Jesus through daily conversion. This we achieve through the many sacrifices and corporal and spiritual works of mercy during this season. Fact is, these pious practices are meant to be done even outside the Lenten season so we never lose sight that life is all about God, not us.
Lent is a journey into our hearts, and into the heart of God, too!
In these 40 days of Lent, we try little by little to “rend our hearts, not our garments to return to the Lord our God” (Joel 2:13) through prayers and sacrifices. These are done not for others to see but primarily for us to find and meet God waiting for us always to experience his love and mercy, his life and his fullness right in our hearts.
Like in our gospels these past two weeks when we reflected on the “education of the heart”, it is the truth of the heart that is being worked out in Lent. It is our heart that must be strengthened and converted by all these religious practices of the season.
It is in our hearts where God dwells and resides though we often try to bury and disregard.
All these fasting and abstinence, confessions and alms-giving as well as other works of mercy are meant to create a space in our hearts for God and for others. Without the proper attitude in our hearts, everything then becomes a hypocrisy that neither deceives God nor fools humans.
See how Jesus in the gospel which is also a part of his Sermon on the Mount which we have been reflecting these past three Sundays of Ordinary Time have painstakingly reminded us to guard against pleasing humans than God.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”
It is not that we are encouraged to give alms, pray and fast to get rewards from God that Jesus is telling us to practice these pieties but in order to be more focused with the Father. Ultimately, getting into heaven is the reason why Jesus came to save us, to assure us of this reward of being with the Father eternally. There is nothing else greater than that.
This is why Lent is all about God, not us.
In our journey to him this season, both as an individual and as a community, Lent enables us to free ourselves from our strong individualistic drives within so we can truly experience conversion in the midst of a community of believers.
The more we see God, we see our sinful selves, and that is when we are converted and renewed in Christ.
This is always marked with a deep realization that we are not alone, that there are also others suffering with whom we must share with God’s rich mercy and love rather than keep these for ourselves alone.
That is what that ash on our forehead reminds us, of God who loves us all, dwelling within each one of us, renewing us, loving us, and most of all, forgiving us. Amen.
Tuesday After Epiphany of the Lord, 07 January 2020
1 John 4:7-10 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 6:34-44
Praise and thanksgiving to you, O Lord Jesus Christ in coming to us, in becoming human like us that we have experienced and realized deeply all about love.
Christmas itself can be spelled as L-O-V-E.
It is your birthday yet you were the one who gave us yourself as both “the gift and the giver” according to the great Karl Rahner, SJ. Most of all, even it is your birthday we celebrate, we are still the ones receiving gifts at Christmas!
In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent us his son as expiation for our sins.
1 John 4:7-10
In our gospel today, Lord Jesus, you have shown us that your being “love” is your very person because love is being with others, a gift of presence, of staying and remaining with the people.
Love, dear Jesus, is exactly what you did in the feeding of the more than 5000 people in the wilderness when you blessed, broke and gave the little bread you have with the people.
Love, dear Jesus, is exactly what you did in the feeding of the more than 5000 people in the wilderness when you divided the two pieces of fish to be shared with the crowd there in the wilderness.
And still, Lord Jesus, after feeding them, love is still being the one to pick up the pieces of leftovers to be kept by the 12 among themselves.
You are love, dearest Jesus because your very person is love, a giving of self to others.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe of the Epiphany of the Lord, 05 January 2020
Isaiah 60:1-6 ><}}}*> Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 ><}}}*> Matthew 2:1-12
A very blessed Merry Christmas to you, my dear reader and follower! As I have been insisting to you since January first, we are still in the Christmas Season as we celebrate today the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.
It is the third major celebration of Christmastime after the Nativity of the Lord (December 25) and Mary Mother of God (January 01).
In some parts of the country especially the countrysides, they regard Epiphany in equal standing with Christmas, calling it “Three Kings Sunday” known as “Pasko ng Magsasaka” (Christmas of Farmers).
So, please, do not cut the Christmas Season short and stop greeting others with a happy new year.
When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
Jesus Christ is our one and only true Star
Epiphany is from the Greek word epiphanes that means revelation or manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the whole world symbolized by the “magi” or wise men from the East.
While there are many sources that confirm to us both in history and tradition that the magi were from Persia (Iran) who have truly paid homage to the Infant Jesus, evidence pointing to the reality of the star of Bethlehem are still scarce but slowly developing.
Though it is still important to establish the factual basis on the existence of the star of Bethlehem, we who believe in Jesus Christ need to focus more on the theology behind this detail from Matthew’s Christmas story which refers to the Lord himself.
We all search for a “star”, something great and noble in life.
It is a given, a gift that every person is capable of rising above one’s self for something lofty and greater than himself/herself.
Too often, we pursue stars that are so common and ordinary – perhaps low and dull ones – like wealth and fame. Eventually we mature that we follow bigger and more luminous stars that are higher and found deeper in space so to speak like wisdom and peace within.
But no matter what we search in life, whatever star we follow, the saints and our faith teach us how we all desire and long only for the one and only true star of all, Jesus Christ.
St. Benedicta dela Cruz (Edith Stein) said that “anyone who seeks the truth eventually finds God” while the great St. Augustine eloquently wrote in his Confessiones, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI beautifully said it in one of his books:
“The key point is this: the wise men from the east are a new beginning. They represent the journeying of humanity toward Christ. They initiate a procession that continues throughout history. Not only do they represent the people who have found the way to Christ: they represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religions and human reason toward him.”
Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives (page 97)
Lessons of the Magi
Last January first, we reflected how we must make that conscious decision to empty ourselves of our pride to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we can bring Jesus into the world today like Mary the Mother of God.
Today on this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, we are invited to imitate the magi, to be wise men too in continuing the beautiful Christmas story by always seeking, following and submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ, our only true star in life.
There are three important lessons we can learn from the magi in being truly wise to seek and follow Jesus:
First, welcome darkness and chaos in life. The most life-changing and enriching moments we have are also the most adversarial ones. Remember the “AQ” or adversarial quotient experts are now proposing as true indicators of success in life?
More than success is fulfillment which we desire most when we are in desolation, when we are in the middle of a storm and trial in life, when we are in darkness.
Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and the thick clouds cover the peoples; but pon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.
In the gospel, we have heard how “King Herod was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Mt.2:3) upon hearing from the magi the birth of “the newborn king of the Jews” signified by the star they saw from the East.
Troubles and chaos are great motivators for us to seek better things like meaning in life!
Second, dark moments in life are are an invitation to pray more, especially in meditating the Sacred Scriptures, the word of God.
Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, Herod inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet…
The bible is the word of God and when we pray it, it is God himself who speaks to us directly. It is not enough to read and study the Sacred Scriptures like the scribes and chief priests summoned by King Herod.
They knew the book but refused to recognize the Author, God himself.
The scribes and chief priests got it right that the Christ was born in Bethlehem but were not wise enough to join the magi in paying homage to him.
Prayer is a call to communion with God that requires humility and total surrender of self which leads us to lesson number three in following Jesus our true star in life.
Third and last but not least lesson from the magi is what are you willing to give in order to follow the Star, Jesus Christ?
The magi from the East were rightly called wise men because they knew very well the most important things in life, the most essential. They did not merely leave the comforts of their home and country to follow the star of Bethlehem.
They were willing to give up so many things just to find Jesus Christ!
This 2020, many of us are having new year’s resolutions, so many plans and dreams and aspirations in life.
It is always good to reach for the stars but we must always keep our feet on the ground as Casey Kasem would always say at the end of his American Top 40 program during the 80’s.
And keeping those feet on the ground is working hard for our dreams with a lot of sacrifices. Keeping feet on the ground is doing all the hard work and avoiding shortcuts.
The magi did not mind going into Jerusalem, asking around amid dangers of suspicions from the powerful, just to find Jesus Christ. Most of all, they have brought gifts with them, precious commodities of that time to signify their sincerity in finding and following Jesus.
How about us today, in this age that is marked with so may people feeling entitled to everything in life?
This early in his Epiphany, Jesus is already showing us the path we have to follow, the way of the Cross, of forgetting one’s self, of setting aside our ego, of letting go and letting God.
Unless we are able to forget our ego, we can never imitate the magi in being wise “to depart for their country by another way” (Mt.2:12) to avoid King Herod.
That is the ultimate indication of being wise, that after finding Wisdom, we change our ways, our lives and live in Jesus Christ, the Holy One. Amen.