Remove my blindness, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week VI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 15 February 2022
James 1:12-18   ><))))*> + <*((((><   Mark 8:14-21
Photo by Philip Santiago, Lourdes, France, 2018.
Lord Jesus,
please remove the many
blindness I have in myself
that prevent me from seeing you
from understanding you
from following you.
Please remove that one
particular blindness in me
about temptations:  they
do not come from God nor
God wills anyone of us to be tempted;
temptations come from deep
within each one of us!

No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God;” for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sins, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.

James 1:13-15
Thank for this clarification and
reminder by St. James that 
temptations originate from
one's self in three stages:
desires, sins, death.
Please open my eyes, Jesus,
enlighten my mind, my heart
and my soul to see the sources
of evil in me to see where these
are leading me.
At the same time, Lord, 
let me count my blessings too
at how "God willed to give us
birth by the word of truth 
that we may be a kind of
firstfruits of his creatures"
(James 1:18).
Open my eyes, dear Jesus,
remove my many blindness
like your apostles who readily
jumped into conclusions and 
missed your whole point about 
hypocrisies of the Pharisees,
thinking you were worried with
their lack of bread, totally forgetting
how you have multiplied bread twice
to feed thousands.
Sometimes too, we are so blinded
with our high regard for ourselves,
seeing more ourselves that we no
longer look at you nor see you
as our sole sole reference in 
everything and everyone.
Amen.

Jesus, truly our King

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus, King of the Universe, 21 November 2021
Daniel 7:13-14 ><]]]]'> Revelation 1:5-8 ><]]]]'> John 18:33-37
Photo by GMA-7’s Mr. Raffy Tima, 07 November 2021.

We now come to the final Sunday of our liturgical calendar, leading us to our “new year” next Sunday with the Season of Advent. See how we in the Church begin and end every liturgical year: in the four Sundays of Advent we prepare the coming of Jesus the “King of kings” and now we close the year with the Solemnity of Christ the King.

But despite this emphasis of our celebrations on the kingship of Jesus, many people still refuse to recognize him as King while more others are not clear yet of his kind of kingship. Until now, the same scene of Jesus being tried by Pilate continues to happen when we put Christ on trial, questioning him if he were truly a king.

Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world…”

John 18:33-36
“Ecce Homo” painting by Murillo from commons.wikimedia.org.

So many times in life, we keep asking God with many questions but we cannot take his answers. Instead of being contented with what he tells us, we even feel slighted when it is God who wishes to clarify our questions.

Jesus asked Pilate whether his question was really his own or due to others’ perception because to recognize Jesus as King is ultimately to recognize his very person as the Son of God, true God and true man who became like us so we may become like him.

Every Sunday this year, Mark (and John for six weeks) step by step presented to us like an unfolding the identity of Jesus who “spoke with authority” unlike the scribes and priests of his time, mighty in power and in deeds who could command the sea and the winds, heal the sick and bring back to life the dead. This Sunday, all questions by the disciples and the people “who is this man” are answered with finality by Jesus himself.

Photo by author, Chapel of St. John at Cana, Galilee, 2019.

Evidently in our readings and in our own lives, we have experienced Jesus always in control, truly a king in total command especially in hopeless situations like when there was a great crowd with just a handful of bread or when they were caught in a violent storm in the middle of the sea.

Like the Prophet Daniel and the beloved disciple John in the first two readings, we need to have their conviction in God’s very person first.

Daniel lived at the time of severe trials when King Antiochus of Greece invaded Israel, desecrated the Temple of Jerusalem, and killed so many Jews who refused to worship idols and eat pork. It was the topic last week’s daily first readings from the Book of Maccabees.

Despite those very difficult times, Daniel saw in his vision his very conviction of the coming of God’s Messiah called “Son of man” – the title Jesus adopted top himself – who would deliver Israel from their enemies with his “everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed” (Dn. 7:14).

In a similar way, John expressed his conviction and faith in God through Jesus Christ in his vision of the Lord’s “coming amid the clouds…even those who pierced him”, calling him “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who and who was and who is to come, the almighty” (Rev.1:7, 8).

In both visions by the prophets who not only saw and spoke the words of God but most of all, lived out his very words that they made God’s will happened, there is no doubt of the kingship of Jesus Christ as the God of history, its origin and final destination. Both Daniel and John were convinced of the very person of God, of the One who has the final say in this life through Jesus Christ and whose powers reign supreme from the past to the present and into the future.

And so, never lose hope in life and its various aspects, from the simplest to the most complex. There is nothing that God cannot prevail upon for he got us all in his hands. Most of all, Jesus had triumphed over death and sin. Let us have that faith and conviction in him.

But there is still something deeper in that trial of Jesus by Pilate we also repeat in our own time: it reveals not only the tensions about the spiritual and material realms, of the kingdom of God and of the kingdom of men but also of our own self-identity.

So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

John 18:37
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

At the crux of the trial of Jesus – then and now – is man’s usurpation of power as “king” of the world, as captain of his ship and master of his fate, of his obsession to break free from God, crowning himself as the king of the world. It is a question that boils down to issues with our own identity.

Notice the “irritation” of Pilate with the question of Jesus, trying to separate and distance himself from Jesus, as if he was different, not one of them but immediately in the course of their conversation, Pilate himself would conclude that “then, you are a king” – a self indictment to himself that also answered his question to Jesus!

Here is the irony, the twist in our pursuit to assert our very selves as the one in charge in life, in this world like Pilate when we fall into our own traps against God. The more we run away from him, the more we separate ourselves from him and refuse to do anything with him, eventually we swallow our own pride before God, confessing that indeed, he is the Boss, the one in charge.

And that is the truth, something inherent in us, something we cannot shrug off and deny.

Jesus is our King because he has made us into his kingdom, the very reason he was born and came into the world, to testify to this truth.

Truth in the bible means the path to follow. And that is who Jesus is, the way because he is the truth and the life (Jn.4:16). Without him, we are nothing. And the path he shows us is the path of the Cross which he had repeatedly explained to us these last two months.

“Losing one’s head/self in prayer”, photo by GMA7 News Ms. JJ Jimeno, 2019.

In this Solemnity of Christ the King, Jesus reminds us of this basic truth we always evade, of how he invites us to elevate or “level up” our lives and existence in him through the Cross. The sooner we accept and embrace his Cross, the sooner we experience his kingship and great power over our lives.

The main stumbling block why people cannot accept or are confused that Jesus Christ is our King is our refusal to accept or denial of the path of the Cross of Jesus. Power in the world is always equated with force and prestige, in the ability to dominate and subdue others.

How amazing, how wonderful to see our almighty and powerful King took the path of powerlessness to show us his immense power. Let it be a reminder to each one of us to imitate and follow that path. Most of all, to never lose hope especially at this time when so many fake kings and wannabe kings abound, making all promises without having proven anything at all and worst, lacking the moral integrity to lead.

It is now in our very hands, if we are truly the followers of Christ the King that “we make his kingdom come and his will be done here on earth like in heaven” by taking the decisive steps to witness his Cross and sufferings by standing and abiding by his very truth. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

From inquirer.net,20 August 2021.

Praying to rediscover JOY

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 06 May 2021
Acts 15:7-21   ><)))*>  ><)))'>  ><)))*>   John 15:9-11
Photo by author, Mount St. Paul Center for Spirituality, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

Lord Jesus Christ, teach me to rediscover joy. Teach me to be joyful again. Most of all, complete my joy in you, sweet Jesus as you have promised us before you were betrayed.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If you keep my commandments,
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's  commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy may be complete."
(John 15:10-11)

You know very well, Lord, how hard our lives have been since this pandemic happened last year. Aside from the difficulties and sufferings of getting sick, of avoiding COVID-19 came the many days and nights of loneliness and depression, of feelings of being alone and not cared for. Even forgotten.

Indeed, as experts claim, 2021 is the time when we are all “languishing” – not really depressed but not having zest in life, unproductive, and yes, lacking in joy.

And if we lack joy, it means only one thing: we do not have you because we do not love truly. Or at all.

Teach us to love again, Lord. To continue loving others without distinction, especially those who are not like us. Open our eyes to see the way you see everyone, that no matter what is one’s color or gender or belief or background in life is blessed and saved in you alone.

Saint Peter is absolutely right at the opening of the Council of Jerusalem in our first reading today.

"On the contrary,
we believe that we are saved 
through the grace of the Lord Jesus,
in the same way as they."
(Acts 15:11)

Only you, O Lord Jesus and no one else or nothing else can ever complete our joy for it is only in truly loving you through others, especially those difficult to love, that we truly love and thus become truly joyful.

And that is when our joy becomes complete. Amen.

The golden calves we believe

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Fourth Week in Lent, 18 March 2021 (St. Cyril of Jerusalem)
Exodus 32:7-14     ><}}}*>  +  <*{{{><     John 5:31-47
Illustration from chabad.org.

God our Father in heaven, forgive us for being constantly in the same situation like your people at the wilderness when Moses was up conversing with you on Mount Sinai. So many times we are like them, creating our own golden calves, turning away from you our true God.

So many times in life, we simply want to be in total control of everything that we doubt you, even grow impatient with you because we have other agendas in life like being god like you! And so, we make golden calves of everything we like to believe in, including in our selves.

Jesus said to the Jews: “You search the Scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf. But you do not want to come to me to have life. I do not accept human praise; moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.”

John 5:39-43

You said it perfectly right, Lord Jesus: “I know that you do not have the love of God in you. I came in the name of my Father, but you do not accept me; yet if another comes in his own name, you will accept him.”

As we turn to idolatrous worship of our selves, then we stop loving you in others both in our hearts and in our hands. When we begin manipulating everything and everyone even our very own belief system, especially your gift of faith in each of us, that is when we become gods.

When we stop believing in you, then we stop loving, we stop relating, we stop authentic living as we forget others.

Forgive us, Lord, and look kindly upon us like at Sinai, reminding us always of the many blessings the Father showers us despite our sinfulness. Teach us to be grateful always so we may learn humility and embrace our humanity to start believing in you and love again by turning away from sins.

Once again, let your tender compassion, Lord, break upon us this Lent so we may begin to love and care, be tender with those who suffer amid our own pains and trials in life. Teach us to believe in you again to realize that wherever there is loving service, tenderness, and care for the weak and lowly, there you are too! Amen.

“Alfie” by Dionne Warwick (1966)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 25 October 2020
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary in Quezon, 2020.

Sorry for being away these past four weeks without any secular music inspiration for our Sunday gospels. Hoping to make up with you my dear Reader on this partly cloudy and warm Sunday with a classic song from a 1966 movie that starred Michael Caine, Alfie.

Written by the highly successful duo of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, sang and recorded for the said movie by their favorite interpreter Dionne Warwick, Alfie gives in its opening stanza the questions that create the drama of this 1966 film about a self-centered playboy who cared only for himself, using the people around him for his own gratification and satisfaction.

I have not seen the original 1966 film except its 2004 remake starring Jude Law that I find too “sleazy” that lacked what I suppose as the British “touch of class” and deep drama found in Caine’s starrer.

Nonetheless, we have chosen this song because of our Gospel this Sunday when a scholar of the law challenged Jesus with the question “which commandment in the law is the greatest”. Jesus answered the question so well by taking us all to the very foundation of all laws which is loving God with one’s total self expressed in loving others as we love our selves.

Here we find Jesus doing away with our legalisms that focus on the letters and individual laws and commandments, summing them all in love (https://lordmychef.com/2020/10/24/the-test-of-love/).

Jesus “passed the test” by the Pharisees and the question now is, how do we fare in the same test of love?

Do we love enough?

And that is why we have chosen the song Alfie that speaks so well of the same question.

There is a very interesting line in the song’s second stanza that relates perfectly well with Jesus Christ’s summary of the laws into love of God expressed in love of others:

And if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it’s wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above, Alfie
I know there’s something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in

For years, many listeners including artists like Ms. Barbara Streissand have been baffled with the possible meaning of that line “What will you lend on an old golden rule?”; it has always been interpreted in so many ways despite Mr. David’s admission it meant nothing at all but just a line to fill in Mr. Bacharach’s music.

In that case, all the more we find how music is indeed more of the soul, touching our hearts with its deep meanings that transcends our physical world, giving us a glimpse of the Divine, of a personal and relating, loving God.

I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you’ve missed you’re nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you’ll find love any day, Alfie
Alfie …

The problem with love, my dear Reader and Friend, too often our words are not enough to truly express it. Most often, when we love, we just have to love, love, and love!

A lovely and loving week to everyone!

Provided to YouTube by Rhino Alfie (2013 Remaster) · Dionne Warwick Playlist: The Best Of Dionne Warwick ℗ 1967 Scepter Records Producer: Burt Bacharach Producer: Hal David Writer: Burt Bacharach Writer: Hal David Auto-generated by YouTube.

“Where Is the Love?” by The Black Eyed Peas (2003)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 06 September 2020
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, April 2020 at Infanta, Quezon.

The most severe test of our being Christian lies in our being able to love one another specially when it is so difficult to love them, when the one we love like a brother or a sister or a friend sins (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/05/presence-and-love-of-christ/).

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you… If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector… Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Matthew 18:15-16, 19-20

In our Sunday gospel today, Jesus is asking us to have love as basis of our relationships, whether at home or in the community, in the church or in the society. When there is love, there is Jesus, there is order, there is peace and harmony. Even when there is imperfection and sin, when love prevails, life and its struggles become bearable, even fulfilling. But when there is no love, there is always disorder and chaos and life becomes more difficult.

And that is why we go back to Black Eyed Peas’ 2003 hit “Where Is The Love?” for our Sunday music today which is very timely and relevant in this time of the pandemic.

People killin’ people dyin’
Children hurtin’, I hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preachin’?
Would you turn the other cheek again?
Mama, mama, mama, tell us what the hell is goin’ on
Can’t we all just get along?
Father, father, father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me
Questioning
(Where’s the love)

Of course, we all know our kababayan apl.de.ap is part of this group and one of the composers of this smash hit that was also the largest selling record of 2003, earning a nomination to the Grammy the following year for Record of the Year and Best Rap/Sung collaboration. From their third album Elephunk, “Where Is the Love?” gave Black Eyed Peas its first commercial success that also put them onto the mainstream music scene. Not mentioned at its single release was the back-up vocals rendered by Justin Timberlake who showed support to the group even though he was from another record label.

Very interesting is the last stanza which I just realized while reflecting on the song relating it to the gospel this Sunday: our problem is not really the corona virus but a disease within us when we refuse to accept and share that love freely given us by God.

I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders
As I’m gettin’ older y’all people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ the wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinemas
What happened to the love and the values of humanity?
(Where’s the love)
What happened to the love and the fairness and equality?
(Where’s the love)
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
(Where’s the love)
Lack of understanding leading us away from unity
(Where’s the love)

Some people have been asking me this early how would Christmas 2020 be?

We need not read the news for we can feel and readily see around us the bleak prospects of this coming Christmas — financially and materially speaking. But I am filled with hope that Christmas 2020 amid the pandemic will most likely be one, if not the most meaningful Christmas we shall ever have because when we have less of the material things, that is also when we have more of the spiritual things in life, more of love, more of kindness, more of the person next to me, and most of all, more of Jesus. All we have to do is honestly answer the question, “where is the love?”

Have a blessed Sunday everyone!

Music video by Black Eyed Peas performing Where Is The Love?. (C) 2003 Interscope Geffen (A&M) Records A Division of UMG Recordings Inc.

“You’re so Vain” (1972) by Carly Simon

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 30 August 2020
Photo by STANLEY NGUMA on Pexels.com

Jesus in the gospel today makes his first prediction of his coming pasch or Passion, Death and Resurrection but it was such a terrible “bad news” for Peter that he

… took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” 

Matthew 16:22-23

With Jesus, there is no such thing as “good news, bad news” because all is good news with him. The good news/bad news question is really a non-question to disciples of Christ because whatever suffering we go through and embrace in him is a sharing in his very life. The key is to think as God does, not as a human beings do as Jesus told Peter (https://lordmychef.com/2020/08/29/when-good-news-bad-news-do-not-matter-at-all/).

And that means avoiding being so vain.

That is why we have Carly Simon singing to us this Sunday her 1972 classic “You’re so Vain” that have left our generation guessing who was she referring to in this superb music and poetry. (Personally, I think there is something “genetic” about this guessing game on whomever Ms. Simon was referring to: it was a non-issue among us males even when I have gone working in a radio station for six years. It has been the women who have kept on raising the issue on who could be that man so vain Ms. Simon was narrating in her number one song. And even if Ms. Simon had already identified him as Warren Beatty 40 years after, I still do not care because the song is so good, filled with gospel values too.)

How many times in our being so vain have we refused to embrace pain and sufferings in life, preferring noise than silence, and popularity than hiddenness that are some of the ways of God taught us by Jesus Christ?

Oh, you had me several years ago
When I was still quite naive
When you said that we made such a pretty pair
And that you would never leave
But you gave away the things you loved
And one of them was me
I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee
Clouds in my coffee, and

You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you
You’re so vain (you’re so vain)
I’ll bet you think this song is about you
Don’t you?
Don’t you?
Don’t you?

About ten years ago, Al Pacino played the role of Satan in the movie “The Devil’s Advocate” where at the end after tempting the gullible small-town lawyer Keanu Reeves, he proclaimed “vanity… vanity is my most favorite sin.”

This Sunday, Jesus is telling us all is good news with him, no bad news and you can never lose in him. Just come to him with our true self, no matter how sinful and incomplete we are. A blessed week to everyone and happy listening!

Provided to YouTube by Rhino/Elektra

“What do I still lack?”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 17 August 2020
Ezekiel 24:15-23 >><)))*> || + || <*(((><< Matthew 19:16-22
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2017.

The young man said to him (Jesus), “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Matthew 19:20-22

The young man’s question to you, Jesus, still echoes in me: “What do I still lack?” A question that reverberates in me on many occasions for different reasons. So many times, Lord, I felt the answer lies on something that my hands can simply grab or hold to take and be not lacking anymore.

What do I still lack? A question I automatically ask because I have always felt I have the answers, I can always work for it and have whatever I lack.

When tragedy and failures strike, I ask the same question, what do I still lack? What have I missed? What went wrong?

It is a question I have always felt as a problem needing solutions, of something missing that must be filled to be no more lacking.

But today, Lord, I felt the emptiness of the young man too.

It is not just lacking of something but more of a longing for you. It is an emptiness of the heart and soul that nothing can ever fill because “What do I lack” is not a problem to be solved but a situation, a condition to be with you always, Lord.

That is why, sometimes, you have to “take away the delight of our eyes” (Ez.24:16), Lord, so we may see what we lack ––YOU! Amen.

Photo by author, Palm Sunday 2020.

Love without borders

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XX, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 16 August 2020
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7 >><}}}*> Romans 11:13-15, 29-32 >><}}}*> Matthew 15:21-28
Twilight at our parish by Ms. Ria De Vera, 12 August 2020.

For the third Sunday in a row, Jesus reveals a very wonderful side of him who goes out of his way to meet us and comfort us in the most difficult situations and places we are into. It is something we need so much in these days of Moderate Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) seen right away in the opening of today’s gospel.

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.

Matthew 15:21-23

Jesus goes out of his way to meet everyone

Israel is a very small country but always leaves a big impact on everyone who goes on a pilgrimage there. There is that sense of awe in every sacred site that until now continues to “speak” and evoke among pilgrims the presence and holiness of God and his saints.

Like what we have mentioned last Sunday, the proxemics or the non verbal communication of the places Jesus have visited convey to us deeper meanings than just mere sites. And that is more true during the time of Christ like the setting of this Sunday’s gospel, the region of Tyre and Sidon.

Now part of Lebanon found south of its capital city Beirut that was devastated by powerful explosions two weeks ago, Tyre and Sidon were gentile or pagan cities during the time of Jesus with a considerable Jewish population.

His going there shows us his fidelity to his mission of “searching for the lost sheep of the house of Israel” that partly explains to us why he never bothered to give the slightest hint of recognition to the Canaanite woman who had sought his help for her daughter “tormented by a demon”.

Photo by author, the Holy Land, May 2019.

And despite the lack of any explanation again by St. Matthew on the attitude by Jesus “snubbing” the pagan woman, we can safely assume that Christ surely knew that by going to Tyre and Sidon, gentiles would seek his healing as news of his fame had spread beyond Galilee at that time.

Here we find the great love and concern of Jesus for everyone, specially the rejected and marginalized in the society.

His “withdrawing to the region of Tyre and Sidon” was in itself a revelation of his universal love, a love without borders reaching out to those lost and feeling alone in life, those rejected, those discriminated for their color and beliefs, status and gender, sickness and diseases like AIDS and lately, COVID-19!

Inclusive Jesus, exclusive human

At the beginning of chapter 11 of St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans from which our second reading is taken today, the great Apostle starts by asking “has God rejected his people?” St. Paul emphatically said “no”, explaining at length the plan of God in Jesus Christ to save all peoples not just the Jews, beautifully telling us,

For the gifts and the call of God are (permanent and) irrevocable.

Romans 11:29

St. Paul’s reflections on God being “inclusive” as against our being so “exclusive” in sending us Jesus Christ to bring us all together as one sheds us some light on that extraordinary incident in the region of Tyre and Sidon involving the Canaanite woman.

Again, I invite you my dear reader to reflect on the many layers of meaning found in this episode so special like the feeding of more than five thousand people the other Sunday and Jesus walking on water last week.

First, notice the silence of Jesus. Keep in mind when the Lord is silent, it does not mean he is out or does not care at all to our needs and pleas. When there is silence – specially a deafening one – the problem is never with God but with us people.

And, true enough! See how the disciples asked Jesus to “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us” (Mt.15:23) — exactly the way we deal sometimes with those begging our help and attention, seeing them as a nuisance to be sent away? What a shame!

From Google.

Now, we go to the climax of this episode with the woman coming to Jesus, “paying him homage” for the healing of her daughter tormented by a demon. It was a scene similar with St. John’s wedding at Cana where the Blessed Mother also approached Jesus with a request when wine ran out during the feast.

In both episodes we find Jesus being a snub – suplado, as we say.

Most of all, in both scenes we find the remarkable faith in Jesus by his Mother at Cana believing he can do something to spare the newly wed couple of embarrassment from running out of wine while this Canaanite woman felt so sure only Jesus can cure her daughter.

See how she addressed Jesus like his disciples with not just “Lord” but also with the title “Son of David” to indicate her faith in him as the Messiah.

And it did not stop there as she engaged Jesus into a dialogue — indicating intimacy and trust, depth and communion that we refer in Filipino as “matalik na ugnayan” or “matalik na usapan”.

Sometimes in life, Jesus seems to have that longing for some “lambing” from us that he tries to be “pakipot” or hard to get in order to be intimate with us. Please take these Filipino traits positively to get what I mean from this unique scene of Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Tyre and Sidon.

Jesus said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Matthew 15:26-28
Photo by author, Church of All Nations beside the Garden of Gethsemane in the Holy Land, May 2019.

Brothers and sisters all in one God as Father

St. Matthew recorded this episode not to scandalize and shock us with those words coming from the Lord, referring to the Canaanite woman as one of the “dogs” that was the term used to designate pagans at that time.

For St. Matthew who was writing for Christians of Jewish origins, the episode was a reminder that the people of Israel were indeed the “children” of God to whom the coming Messiah and salvation – like bread or food – were first promised. St. Paul spent a great deal of explaining of this in his letter specially to the Romans .

Rigthly then, theirs was the “food” not right to be thrown to the “dogs” but, that fact does not exclude the “dogs” from partaking later from the leftover food of the children, as if telling Jesus, today we satisfy ourselves with crumbs, tomorrow we shall have bread!

The Canaanite woman clearly knew where to place herself before the Lord, proving to him her deep faith and amazing knowledge of God’s goodness and plans for everyone. For that, she was highly praised by Jesus for her faith. The only other person also praised by Jesus in having a tremendous faith in him was the centurion – another pagan – who begged the Lord for the remote healing of his servant.

Last Sunday afternoon I read the story of how a nurse was driven out of her boarding house after she tested positive for COVID-19 virus. The poor lady had nowhere to go to spend the night after being denied of any assistance by barangay officials, even by her own family in Batangas! Good enough, somebody reported her to the Philippine National Red Cross that sent an ambulance to take care of the nurse who was found crying by herself at the gutter of a street in Pasay City.

What a very sad and tragic reality happening among us these days of the pandemic.

Where is our love and concern for everyone, especially the weak and the sick, those in our own versions of Tyre and Sidon where no one would dare to go except Jesus, perhaps like the dorms and residences of our medical frontliners who are so tired and sick physically, emotionally, and spiritually during this pandemic?

In these past three weeks we have reflected how Jesus lovingly joined us, staying with us in the wilderness, in the storms of the dark sea, even at the pagan territories where nobody would ever want to go.

This Sunday, Jesus is inviting us to break all barriers and borders between us that separate us from each other. Let us animate our community with Christ’s love and mercy for us all amid our many differences so that slowly we fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading that someday the house of the Lord shall be called “a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is.56:7). Amen.

A blessed and safe new week to you! And please do not forget to pray ten Hail Mary’s every 12-noon for national healing and end of the pandemic until September 15, 2020.

Our face mirrors our soul

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, 06 August 2020
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14 >><}}}*> 2 Peter 1:16-19 >><}}}*> Matthew 17:1-9
Transfiguration of the Lord by Raphael (c.1520) from wikipedia

Thank you very much, Lord Jesus Christ for this wonderful feast of your Transfiguration happening today at more than half past this very difficult year of 2020.

Perfect at this time of the year in our Ordinary Time of the liturgy when everything seems too slow and laid-back as if nothing is happening or even changing in our lives.

Worst, with this pandemic, many of us are already tired, even losing enthusiasm with everything.

But, here you are, dear Jesus, giving us light and inspiration to keep on and be persistent disciples of yours, journeying with you and ascending with you every mountain of hardships and trials in life so that with you and in you, we may also be transformed from within.

Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother, John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.

Matthew 17:1-2

In the midst of the darkness and gloom around us today, what a welcome break and relief are the visions of your prophet Daniel in the first reading of your eternal glory in heaven amid great display of lights and flames with your clothes “bright as snow” (Dn.7:9).

But, what I like best is how your “face shone like the sun” at your transfiguration, Lord.

I like that part because most of the time, the depths of the soul are reflected on the face.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Dearest Lord, help us to remain faithful to you, patiently forgetting ourselves, carrying our crosses, and following you closely in this time of the corona virus.

Teach us to listen to your voice, to heed your words, always attentive to your presence even in the many darkness of our lives in this time of pandemic, reminding ourselves that “Lord, it is good we are here” (Mt.17:4) with you.

Every year, we hear this passage of your Transfiguration on the second week of Lent to remind us of your coming glory at Easter; but, even at this time, Lord, we already feel discouraged at how would Christmas 2020 be!

May this feast of your Transfiguration during Ordinary Time remind us to remain faithful in following you, be your persistent disciples rising above ourselves from the many challenges and trials during this pandemic.

Keep our face aglow with your light amid the many sufferings in this time of COVID-19.

Transform us within to change our countenance so that whenever those people crying in pain see us, they may see and experience you, Jesus, within us.

Keep us open to the workings of your Holy Spirit in these difficult weeks and months ahead so we may be cleansed and purified, and transformed within to become your presence and your joy among those with sagging spirits among us, hoping their face may also mirror you within them. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.