Advent is beginning with the end in sight

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent-C, 28 November 2021
Jeremiah 33:14-16 ><}}}*> 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2 ><}}}*> Luke 21:25-28, 34-36
Photo by author, Malolos Cathedral, 2019.

Blessed happy New Year, everyone!

Today we are celebrating a new calendar year in the Church with this First Sunday of Advent. From the Latin word adventus meaning arrival or coming, it was adapted by the early Christians from the Roman practice of preparing for the visits or assumption to power of their emperors then considered as “gods”.

It is most fitting that we prepare not only outside but most especially inside our very selves for the coming of the true God and King of kings, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior!

Hence, Advent not only opens but also defines our whole liturgical year that is centered on Christ who has come, who comes now and will come again in the end of time. This is the reason why our gospel this Sunday is looking towards the end of time at the beginning of our Church calendar.

The three comings of Jesus Christ

Advent has two aspects: beginning today the First Sunday of Advent until December 16, all readings and prayers are oriented towards the Second Coming of Christ; from December 17 to the evening of the 24th, our focus shifts to the first coming of Jesus at Christmas.

Between these two comings of Jesus that the Season of Advent reminds us is what St. Bernard of Clairvaux called as the Lord’s “third coming” – his coming everyday into our lives, especially in the celebration of the Sacraments, particularly the Holy Eucharist.

Photo by author, 2019.

Again we find that tension of his being here but not yet. It is in that between his first coming more than 2000 years ago and his Second Coming which no one knows exactly when where we are situated daily, making everyday Christ’s Advent.

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.”

Luke 21:27-28

It may sound frightening to hear Jesus spoke of the signs of his coming but at closer look and reflections, we find it filled with joy because our redemption is at hand!

Yes, every ending forebodes destruction and passing of the old but that is in order to give way to something new, something better which Jesus had promised his disciples then and us now.

The grace of this season of Advent is the reawakening of our hope in the salvation that has already come in Jesus, who still comes now, and will surely come again in the end of time which is happening in every here and now.

That is why, there is also the sense of urgency and vigilance this Advent.

We are already living in the end-time Jesus had predicted as we have seen in the wars and conflicts going on among nations, the natural calamities happening around the globe made worst by the climate change plus this pandemic we are now having. But, it does not mean the creation will end soon as portrayed in many Hollywood films because these signs are calls for us to be ready and prepared for the final end that will prelude the new beginnings of all.

The days are coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and Judah… In those days Judah shall be safe and Jerusalem shall dwell secure; this is what they shall call her: “The Lord our justice.”

Jeremiah 33:14, 16
Photo by author, 2018.

Meeting Jesus in Advent

Notice how Jeremiah’s prophecy so “pregnant” with meanings: more than the coming of the promised Messiah is the radical newness of the whole creation. Judah and Jerusalem, the main province and city of Israel at that time will be transformed, referring to John’s vision in the Book of Revelation of “new heaven and new earth”.

As we have said, Advent not only opens our liturgical calendar but also defines the whole year which is the daily coming of Jesus who had come over 2000 years ago and will come again at the end of time which nobody knows.

Meanwhile, in this “third coming” of Jesus everyday, we find God working in him silently and subtly in the human history and right in our individual lives.

It is in our faithful waiting when Jesus Christ comes. It is the beauty and joy expressed by Jeremiah’s words “the days are coming” that assure us no matter how dark and bleak are our days, despite all the destructions and even death around us, the days are coming when we see everything getting better because God never stops working in our midst in Jesus, the Emmanuel.

“Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap. For that day will assault everyone who lives on the face of the earth. Be vigilant at all times and pray that you have the strength to escape the tribulations that are imminent and to stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke 21:34-36

Last Sunday in our celebration of the Solemnity of Christ the King we have reflected how Jesus spoke of the “truth” of his kingdom being among us, of how he had made us into his kingdom which is the reason why he was born and came into the world to testify to this truth (Jn.18:37).

See now the clearer picture of our life, of our time: we start our Church calendar preparing for the coming of Jesus our King and we end every year with the celebration of Christ the King. And we begin each new year with the end in sight of his Second Coming.

On this season of Advent, we are reminded how in our joyful waiting through prayers especially in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist that Christ’s presence is little by little being unveiled, unfolding before us, and being revealed.

It is a call for us of deepening our prayer life to truly experience Christ’s coming in our daily life. This new year in the Church, St. Luke will be our guide in our Sunday readings during the Ordinary Time; one distinction of his gospel is his portrayal of Jesus in prayer always.

Jesus comes to us first of all when we pray, when we enter into communion with him, when we listen to his voice and follow his instructions. In prayer, we are filled with God, allowing him to work his wonders in us and through us and thus make Christ’s coming a daily reality.

That is how prayer truly leads to holiness: when we are filled with God, our prayers are translated into a life of kindness and acceptance, mercy and forgiveness and most of all, of loving service to one another especially those in need.

There will always be sins and shortcomings on our part but in prayers and vigilance, we slowly “increase and abound in love for one another… strengthening our hearts to be blameless before our God our Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones. Amen. (1 Thess. 3:12,13)

A blessed happy new year again and a more blessed first week of Advent to you!

Living in the End-Time

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 26 November 2021
Daniel 7:2-14     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     Luke 21:29-33
Photo by author, Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, 2019.
Thank you very much for this
last Friday of November, God our
loving Father; what a beautiful 
reminder to us all as we prepare
for Advent at the closing of the
liturgical calendar tomorrow that
we are in fact living in the end-time.
All the signs of the end of time Jesus
mentioned in the gospel these past two
days are already happening like wars, 
plagues, famines, and earthquakes;
grant us the spiritual knowledge to 
learn the parable of the fig tree:  that
we have to be rooted in you, O God,
through Christ so that even while in
the midst of a destructive world, we
may get to know you more and be 
aware of your coming.
Like the Prophet Daniel in the first
reading, we may not even know at all
how the Son of Man - Jesus - would look like
when he comes amid the clouds;
give us the grace to know Jesus 
personally so that we may live in
communion with him to have 
the eyes to see and the ears to hear 
his Second Coming in 
every here and now, following
him in the path he had shown us
as truly our King and Savior. 
Remove our blindness of pride
and many excuses in seeing the
signs of your coming expressed 
in the parable of the fig tree; let
us rest in that complete trust in you,
dearest God, that whatever happens
in this world, you are always in control
and would always have the last say in
Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Endings are new beginnings

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXXIII-B in Ordinary Time, 14 November 2021
Daniel 12:1-3 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 10:11-14, 18 ><]]]]'> Mark 13:24-32
Photo by author, lantern store in San Fernando, Pampanga, 11 November 2021.

With nowhere else to go last Thursday during my day off, I headed north to the Christmas capital of the Philippines to check on the colorful lanterns or parol sold along the highway in San Fernando, Pampanga.

What a sight to behold, a refreshing break from two years of quarantine and a better alternative to the malls! Like the stars above they represent, these colorful lanterns are best seen at night, when darkness is all around us like when Jesus was born on first Christmas – the darkest night of the year – to be our light in the world. And that is his message on this penultimate Sunday in our Church calendar when we hear him teaching us about the end of time.

Jesus said to his disciples: “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

Mark 13:24-27

With or without God, the “end of the world” has always been one of mankind’s preoccupation. We Christians are the most eager, having put on so much thoughts and efforts and concerns about the end of the world because it was spoken by Jesus Christ himself. However, it is not just an end of the world as portrayed in many Hollywood films that evoke fear with all the deaths and destructions happening.

When Jesus spoke of the tribulations and the darkening of the sun and the moon with stars falling, he was speaking in symbolic languages common at that time. It is a part of theology called escathology that deals with everything about the last things but, it is not all destruction. The end that Jesus spoke of to his disciples follows a certain direction towards the final end which is the eternal glory of God.

Hence, our faith about the end of the world at the Second Coming of Christ should not evoke fear in us because it will be the final fulfillment God’s plan that we shall all be with him in all eternity. On the contrary, Jesus speaking of the end of time should bring us hope and joy for better tomorrow. If it were so bad that everything would be destroyed and gone, how could he “come in the clouds with great power and glory”? Jesus was clearly speaking of good things than bad things here, of the passing of old to be replaced with new and better ones.

Photo by author, view of Jerusalem Temple from the Mount of Olives, 2019.

In fact, Jesus was encouraging the Twelve in this scene when they were by themselves on the Mount of Olives across the Temple. It was a very private moment when Jesus spoke of these things to the Twelve after Peter had inquired about the coming destruction of the Temple the Lord had told them after a disciple marveled at its magnificent stones.

Of course, we know nothing is permanent in this world, no matter how beautiful and sound it may be.

One thing we notice at the very start of Mark’s gospel is the presence of tribulations both in the time of Jesus and early Christians. Remember that in Mark’s account, the beginning of the “good news” of Jesus Christ is the story of the arrest of John the Baptist, a very bad news at that time (Mk.1:14). It was the “ending” of the preaching by John the Baptist but the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

When Mark wrote his gospel, the early Christians have already experienced persecutions and many sufferings like when Nero blamed them for the great fire that burned Rome in year 68. Although the Temple was still intact when Mark wrote his gospel account, there were already persistent rumors of the coming attack in Jerusalem by the Roman army which took place in year 70.

These teachings of the end of the world and Second Coming were meant by Jesus to strengthen and assure his disciples that include us in this time not to panic nor be shaken by trials and tribulations. So often in life, it is when we are sick or defeated, when we are down when we actually see the light clearer, when God begins to work his wonders in us and for us.

This Sunday, our first reading and gospel both tell us to never lose heart in the face of darkness and sufferings, encouraging us to remain faithful to God because he is coming, he has come and he is come inaugurating his kingdom right here in our hearts, among us (Lk.17:21).

Endings are new beginnings. Welcome every ending or closing in life. Most of all, be ready for no one knows the exact day nor time when it would come and happen.

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heave, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Mark 13:28-32
Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.

It is useless and impractical to know the date and time when all these things will happen because salvation and any other change will never be realized when they are determined. Instead of waiting for the date, do everything in every here and now so that we become more prepared how to act properly when faced with the Lord’s Second Coming and whatever emergencies in life. This is the meaning of the parable of the fig tree when we learn to read the signs of the times and other events in our lives in the spiritual sense and not just in human terms like this pandemic.

It is our task as a believer and as a community to decipher and discern their spiritual meanings because these are grace-filled moments for growth and maturity in the Lord. Jesus assures us that he is definitely coming. He is the God of history. This is the gist of the first reading where Daniel had seen in a vision mankind’s moving forward in history with all the ups and downs with just one assurance: “the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (Dan.12:3). This was eventually fulfilled in Jesus.

Every time we see and hear or even experience disasters and famines, pandemics and wars, coming of false prophets and despots, elections and other upheavals, they are harbingers of the coming of Jesus Christ. The more darkness and sufferings come, the more everything seemed to be ending or even lost, that is when surely the Lord is coming.

The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews tells us how Jesus seated at the right hand of God in heaven awaits until all things on earth come to completion as planned while we stand vigilant, faithfully awaiting also that day when we shall be with him in all his glory. Let us do our part specially in this time of the pandemic which is a wake up call than a punishment for our sins because God does not punish at all.

This darkness above us calls us to deepen our faith, hope and love in God through one another that we become Christ’s loving presence. Jesus is definitely coming. Are we ready?

Have a blessed week ahead! Amen.

Photo by author, lantern store in San Fernando, Pampanga that shows us how in the darkness of this pandemic, slowly we can now see the beauty and light of God’s love and mercy (11 November 2021).

Advent: A parable of our life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Advent-B (Gaudete Sunday), 13 December 2020
Isaiah 62:1-2, 10-11 >><)))*> 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 >><)))*> John 1:6-8, 19-28
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday at the Parish, Advent 2019.

Advent is a parable of our lives. Three months ago we reflected every Sunday the many parables of Jesus and we have learned that a parable is a simple story that contains deep meanings. Just like Advent: a season that comes in our church calendar every year that we take for granted not realizing the deeper meanings it teaches in the four weeks before Christmas or the Second Coming.

On this third Sunday of Advent also known as “Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday”, joy is the motif of all our readings for indeed, we are moving too closely to Christmas – and parousia. The lovely shades of pink remind us that we have to be alert to experience the advent of Jesus. Once again, its precursor John the Baptist guides us this Sunday in grasping the parable of Advent during his time and in our own time.


We are all a John the Baptist -
a reminder of Christ present among us.

All four evangelists mention John the Baptist in their gospel version before telling the ministry of Jesus Christ; but there is something so different with the approach of the author of the fourth gospel in introducing the Lord’s precursor.

In the fourth gospel, he is simply called “John”, omitting his title “the Baptist” for he is the only John in this gospel. The author of the fourth gospel never named himself preferring to be known as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” or simply “beloved disciple”. We learned his name is John through the other three gospel accounts, that he is the brother of another apostle James, both being the sons of Zebedee.

Why the author of the fourth gospel never identified himself with his name John is another topic; what matters to us is that there is only one man named John in his gospel and that is no other than John the Baptist whom he presented in the most unique manner like an official pronouncement, full of solemnity by declaring that this “man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (Jn.1:6-7).

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 20 September 2020.

Here we find John the Baptist clearly being placed by the author of the fourth gospel in relation to the Christ that is essentially the meaning of our being a baptized Christian — we are another John to remind people of Jesus present among us. It is one of life’s parables we always miss, something that can elicit joy in everyone.

And the more we find ourselves like John the Baptist in his mission, the more we experience Jesus closest to us too!


Life is a perpetual Advent
of Jesus who needs a 
John the Baptist in us.

After formally introducing to us John as man sent from God to testify for the Christ, our gospel today skipped the rest of the Prologue and jumped into the mission of John to introduce the ministry of Jesus Christ. See how in a few verses we find transitions from John to Jesus then to us.

Painting by Raphael of John preaching in the wilderness; photo from wikicommons.

John said: “I am the voice of the one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said. I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

John 1:23, 26-27

John is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. But, at the same time, he is the continuation of the Old into the New as he stood present pointing to Jesus Christ who had come and would come again!

This we find in his last reply to the query of the Pharisees: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

This is the parable of Advent: it is a perpetual event, something that keeps on happening even in our time that needs a John the Baptist to remind us that Jesus had come, that he is coming and most of all, he is come!

Aside from preparing others for Jesus Christ’s coming – we need to be like John the Baptist who also prepared himself for his Lord and Master!

In telling us that “there is one among you whom you do not recognize”, John humbly prepared himself to recognize and receive Jesus when he identified the Lord while coming to him for his baptism as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, saying “He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me'” (cf. Jn.1:29-30).

But most of all, we find the most beautiful lesson of John in preparing for the Lord’s coming when like him, we allow Jesus to reveal himself to us, always saying “He must increase; I must decrease” as he taught his disciples asking him about Jesus’ ministry.

“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”

John 3:29-30

Advent is being alert
and open to the Holy Spirit
who always comes with Jesus.

Advent is a parable of life when we hope in joy and humility for the Second Coming of the Lord who also continues to come to us in so many ways we never expect. It is a time of prayer and reflections when we try to become more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

In the first reading we are reminded of the exact words of the Prophet that Jesus proclaimed in their synagogue when he came home to preach that,

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.

Isaiah 61:1-2
Photo by author, Advent 2018.

After proclaiming those beautiful words of the prophet, while people were all eyes on him, Jesus declared “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:21).

That is the power of the word of God, it is always effective and performative as the very sign of his presence among us. That is why Advent is the season when we are encouraged to cultivate that habit of praying the Sacred Scriptures that cleanse our hearts to be empty and ready to receive Christ in his coming. We encounter God first in his words filled with parables that enrich our lives.

To be open for the word of God and to the Holy Spirit means being alert that Jesus is “one among you whom you do not recognize” as John had told us.

Like John, it is finding the “whole” of God’s plan for us from the Old Testament to the New Testament and into our own time in the Church. It is the joy of discovering in this myriad of events and happenings, there is a God personally coming to us, loving us in the most personal way.

Like John, we are sent from God to give testimony to Jesus who had come, will come again and always comes.

That is the parable of Advent: when we realize deep within that we are able to rejoice and be glad to be alive to meet Jesus. May we heed to the words of St. Paul in the second reading:

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Have a blessed and joyful week!

Photo by author, Advent 2018.

Advent is being at home with God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Advent Week I, 02 December 2020
Isaiah 25:6-10     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Matthew 15:29-37
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Quezon, March 2020.

O God our loving Father, as we eagerly await the coming Christmas break to finally come home and be with our loved ones, may we also pray and reflect the greatest homecoming of all when your Son Jesus Christ returns to bring us back to you in heaven, our truest home.

How interesting that Jesus must come again to finally bring us home to you; yes, he had already come and always comes to us but unfortunately, we rarely come home to you. We insist on going somewhere or to someone else who just leave us empty and disappointed.

Home is where the heart is and that is you, Father, in heaven. May we constantly search you and dwell in you while still in this world; destroy the “veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations” (Is.25:7) that mislead and imprison us with false hopes in superficial relationships and materialistic briberies of the world.

Sometimes we have to go hungry and thirsty to realize the more essential things in life like you, dear God and the people who truly care for us and love us like our immediate family and friends.

Like the crowd who have followed Jesus in the wilderness for three days with nothing to eat: they experienced advent, the coming of God when Jesus fed them after they were first disposed to desire the longings of their soul than of their bodies. It was only then when Jesus fed them through the miraculous multiplication of the loaves of bread for the second time.

May the darkness and gloom that envelop us this season of Advent like the pandemic and other personal crises dispose us to desiring you alone, God our Father, so we may finally enter your heavenly banquet with “rich food and choice wines” (Is.25:6). Amen.

Why are violets blue?

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 November 2020
When we were growing up
discovering the power of love,
these nursery rhymes
were so sublime
we used to find
  every Valentine's
without knowing why
"Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Sugar is sweet.
So are you.
And I love you!"
Red means love
but what about blue
that has become violet too?
It is funny, though
now that I have become 
a priest and pastor
that I have come to know
why violets are blue:
According to one review,
violets mean
fidelity, humility,
modesty and simplicity
that to give
a violet is to reply
"I love you too!"
Like the season of Lent
when everything is violet,
Advent's shade is in blue
to keep things subdued
as we try to imbue 
value of patience and vigilance too. 
During Advent, violets are blue
the hue of God's mercy, that is so true.
In these four Sundays before Christmas
hear my prayer to you, dear Jesus
as I borrow the rhyme from "Mother Goose":
"Roses are red,
violets are blue;
let your Advent come true
because I love you too!" 

*All photos by author from our Advent celebrations in the parish this year 2020 (topmost collage) and last year 2019 (collage above). Flower arrangements by our liturgy commission head Ms. Imelda Santiago and Ms. Lucila Verana; am so thankful to their dedication and creativity in the past eight years, learning everything by experience, nurtured by prayer.

God in the signs of the times

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 27 November 2020
Revelations 20:1-4, 11-21:2     >>>  +  <<<     Luke 21:29-33
Photo by author, October 2020.

O God our loving Father, today I echo the song of the psalmist, yearning to be with you, hoping to dwell with you: “My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young — Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God!” (Ps.84:3, 4).

As we come closer to the end of the current liturgical calendar, looking forward to Advent and Christmas, make us more sensitive in finding you Lord in the signs you always give us by cleansing our hearts so that there is always a sacred space for you there within us.

May we always abide in you, O Lord, living in your precepts, finding you among us in the many signs you send us so that when your promised “new heaven and new earth” is realized in Jesus Christ, may we find favor in his judgement as we strived to live his gospel.

You have created us, fashioned us in your hands, breathing in us your life-giving spirit, Father; we are yours and meant to dwell in you in all eternity. Amen.

From “cage” of sin to heavenly wedding

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 26 November 2020
Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9     >>>  +   <<<     Luke 21:20-28

Praise and glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ for your words today that offer us with clear images about true freedom that leads to fullness of life. So often, many among us are greatly misled by the belief that true freedom is breaking free from sufferings and God and morals, of having absolute freedom to do everything.

That has always been one of the fundamental tenets of pagans of ancient Rome you have banished for being a “cage”, an imprisonment!

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. She has become a haunt for demons. She is a cage for every unclean spirit, a cage for every unclean bird, a cage for every unclean and disgusting beast.”

Revelation 18:2, 21

True freedom is choosing what is true and good, trying to bear all pains and sufferings that purify us into better persons, that free us from impurities to enter into your heavenly banquet of eternal life.

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

Revelation 19:9

Life continues to bear down upon us these days, Lord, especially the poor who are left with almost nothing in this life; worst, with nothing else but their dignity as persons, there are times they are being forced to give it up for a price.

Give us the grace of perseverance, to withstand all pressures by holding on to you, clinging to your merciful love that amid all the trials and sufferings going on, we may “stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand” (Lk.21:28).

Let us not be ashamed of being faithful to you, Jesus, for you alone can lead us to true freedom as a person. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King celebrations in the parish, 22 November 2020.

Praying not to be deceived

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs, 24 November 2020
Revelations 14:14-19     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Luke 21:5-11
Photo by author, “wailing wall” of Jerusalem, May 2017.

Your words today, Lord Jesus, are disturbing because they are actually happening: “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name saying ‘I am he’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!” (Lk.21:8).

In our age of instant communications when everything is reduced to bits and pieces of information to be consumed by everyone through various media platforms, we have become so gullible for whatever is fed to us. The more outlandish even unbelievable, the better! Worst, we never bother to check their veracity and even sanity that sometimes, we have become so foolish to accept everything we hear and see and read.

Heighten our sense of reason and most especially our faith in you.

Let us not be deceived in following your impostors as well as focusing more on the coming end that we forget to live in the present moment by making a stand for your gospel truths.

Like St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companion martyrs in Vietnam, they chose to live in the present moment of giving witness to your gospel than arguing or debating if it were the moment of your final coming or not.

Let us not be deceived by focusing on the peripherals of our faith like rites and rituals empty of loving service for others.

May we stand firmly by your side, for what is true and just, so that when judgement day comes, we may remain faithful in you like grapes so ripened, ready for harvesting, and when pressed, produce good wine to uplift the spirits. Amen.

Christ the King: never imposing, always inviting

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Jesus, King of the Universe, 22 November 2020
Ezekiel 14:11-12, 15-17  >><)))*>  1Corinthians 15:20-26, 28  >><)))*>  Matthew 25:31-46
Photo by author, Chapel of the Graduate School of Theology, ICMAS, Guiguinto, Bulacan, 11 November 2020.

We Filipinos have a saying – sometimes taken as a riddle (bugtong) – that goes, “Utos ng hari, hindi mababali” that literally means the command of the king is unbreakable, always absolute.

Kings exist primarily to unite and help the people especially the weak, the suffering, and the voiceless; hence, kings are portrayed with strong bodies as well as sound minds to render justice. But, as we all know, power corrupts people that once kings like politicians have tasted the sweet elixir of authority and fame, everyone and everything is forgotten except one’s self interests.

And that has always been how kingship is seen based on power and supremacy, always imposing and domineering, insisting in their “power trips” that lead to divisions among peoples even nations that eventually, instead of serving others, they become the ones being served.

Exactly the opposite with the kingship of Jesus Christ that is not based on human power and authority but on the loving service of others, especially the weak and the marginalized. It was a radical move, of moving back to the very roots of kingship by God himself as prophesied by Ezekiel in the first reading. No wonder in Israel, kingship is closely seen in the imagery of shepherding.

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so I will tend my sheep. I will rescue them… I will pasture them… I will give them rest… The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal…

Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 16

This is the essence of our celebration today of the Solemnity of Christ the King: Jesus is in the other and within us, the Emmanuel or “God-is-with-us” that the greatest honor we can give him as our King is to lovingly serve him in one another. See our many images in art of him suffering and dying than regal as a king because Jesus is truly one with us in our most difficult and trying times. That is why he is the only one truly a king!

“Ecce Homo” by Murillo, from wikipediacommons.com.

Christ the King grounds us to God and others again

When Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925, the world was going through a lot of changes in every sphere of human life – for better and for worst – following the many advances in science and technology as well as in thoughts and ideas.

This continues to this day in our own age with its own twists that are more pernicious with everyone trying to reign supreme as kings and queens in life no longer with a scepter that was like a “magic wand” to get everything done but with the cellphones that can either build or destroy anyone with the slightest touch of ones’s fingers!

How sad that as the world had shrunken into a global community interconnected by modern means of communications invented to bring us all together, we have actually grown more apart from each other, polarizing us even further with every color of the rainbow signifying so many groups, agenda, and beliefs.

Worst of all, with these modern means of communications, we have become more focused with gadgets and things than with persons.

What an irony that we can be so close with those miles apart from us yet we hardly notice nor even recognize the persons seated next to us. Long before COVID-19, we have always been socially distant from each other, have always failed to appreciate or even look at the warmth and beauty of the human face now covered with a mask because we have always been “washing our hands”, escaping from our responsibilities as our brothers and sisters’ keepers.

See how in our readings this Sunday Jesus Christ is reminding us to go back to our solid grounding in God who dwells in each one of us.

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them from one another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Matthew 25:31-32
Photo by John Bonding, Architecture&Design Magazine, 25 May 2019 via Facebook.

I have always loved this photo above that speaks perfectly well of our situation today, of how most of us are missing so much in life when everything is “media-ted” that we no longer touch ground as if we are “floating on air” with everything reduced to a mere show or “palabas” that must be caught, kept, and shared in Instagrams instead of being enjoyed in our collective memories.

More tragic is the fact how most of these are often fake and not true at all, leaving many of us empty, even alienated that have resulted in many instances of depressions and suicides.

What an irony when everybody is claiming to be their own king or queen and master, of being free from religions and God, the more they have become unfree and empty! The more our egos and self-interests reign, the more chaotic we have become with peace and fulfillment most elusive.

When Jesus is our only King reigning in our hearts and relationships, that is when we find fulfillment in our lives as we discover our rootedness in God and interconnectedness with others.

When Jesus spoke of separating the goats and the sheep, we are reminded of how these animals can sometimes be indistinguishable — exactly like when we fail to recognize our loved ones and persons nearest to us.

And true enough, even Jesus has become indistinguishable among us right in our homes and most of all, among the suffering people like the hungry and thirsty, the strangers and homeless, the sick, the poor we have stripped not only of their clothings but also of their dignity as persons, and those imprisoned.

Recall what Jesus told Pilate at his trial, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth…” (Jn.18:37) that “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1Jn.4:16).

All this comes to full circle today as Jesus tells us, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt.25:40) and “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me” (Mt.25:45).

Jesus will surely come again

As we have reflected these past two Sundays, Jesus is coming again at the end of time to judge us if we have been faithful and loving to him through others. He himself assures us of his return as he declared When the Son of Man comes in his glory” and not the conditional If the Son of Man comes”.

The key is not to know the when and how but to be vigilant, of being awake, always finding Jesus our king with the least among us which is the truest sense of kingship — never imposed on others but always recognized and imitated. In Filipino, “sinusunod, sinusundan at tinutularan; hindi nasusunod”.

St. Paul reminds us anew in the second reading how Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross had decisively won over sin and death; but, he is coming again to fully establish his kingship when he vanishes sin and death completely to pave the way for new heaven and new earth.

When he comes again, will anyone recognize him among the poor and suffering like the hungry and thirsty, the sick and imprisoned, the strangers and homeless, and the naked? May we all have the eyes of a child who sees God in everyone and everything! Amen.

A blessed Sunday to you all!

Photo by a parishioner of his son, Red Santiago, praying in our parish, November 2019.