Arise, be whole again in Christ!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 27 June 2021
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 <+> 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 <+> Mark 5:21-24, 35-43
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

Once again, we find Jesus crossing the Lake of Galilee this week with a crowd following him to listen to his teachings and experience his healing. What a beautiful image of life in Jesus, of constantly crossing the sea, sometimes in the darkness of the night amid storms.

It was something like what we had gone through last Thursday on the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist when as a nation we crossed history with the inauguration of the new Archbishop of Manila marked with the passing of former President Noynoy Aquino.

We hope and pray that like our gospel this Sunday, our recent crossing will lead us to new awakenings and realizations leading to national healing and yes, a resurrection, a rising from the dead like that young daughter of Jairus brought back to life by Jesus.

When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, Talitha koum, which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded.

Mark 5:38-42
Photo by author with friends at ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum, 2017.

Examining our faith in Jesus

Notice, my dear reader, how similar is our story of Jesus raising to life the dead daughter of Jairus with that of the calming of the storm while crossing the lake last Sunday. In both instances, we find Mark “exaggerating” some details as if Jesus were somewhat oblivious to what was going on around him.

But again, Mark is not entertaining us with his stories narrating the powers and miracles by Jesus for he is telling us something deeper and very important with those surprising details of his stories. Primary of which is the supremacy of Jesus as the Son of God over nature like the sea and death both symbolizing evil and sin.

Mark affirms this truth today in telling us how Jesus brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus, that Jesus is the Christ who had come launching a new world order where death and sin are overcome in him through his pasch.

Recall last Sunday how Mark ended his story with the disciples asking, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mk.4:41).

That question is finally answered by our story today that clearly shows Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who is life himself when he brought back to life the dead little girl.

Unfortunately, like during the time of Mark until now, many still doubt the powers of Jesus. Then and now, there is still that crisis of faith among us expressed by people from the synagogue official’s house who arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”(Mk.5:35).

If you were in that crowd following Jesus, would you still go with him to enter the house? Would you heed his words like Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk.5:36)?

And while inside the house, knowing the little girl was already dead, would you join the rest in ridiculing Jesus who said, “The child is not dead but asleep” (Mk.5:39)?

These are the questions Mark is asking us today like the Christians of his time going through persecution and crisis in the early Church.

It is easy to “believe”, proclaiming with arms raised that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is the Son of God but it is another thing to be truly convinced, to have faith in him when faced with the stark realities of life persistently attacked by sickness and death, of pains and sufferings that make us wonder why God could allow these to happen!

We have all felt our faith shaken when this pandemic struck us last year that took away those dearest to us so sudden, often without seeing them at all before they were cremated.

Like his story last Sunday, Mark’s narration of the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus is filled with many surprising details we find it so true with our own experiences of struggling to avoid or survive COVID-19, of having a sick child or spouse, of trying to make it to another day, of keeping our jobs to pay for food and rent and other needs of our family.

Do we really have that faith in Jesus, convinced that everything will be “okay” like Nightbirde who can brim with all smiles even if saddled with three kinds of cancer with a 2% chance of survival, claiming it is better than zero?

Today’s gospel is more than the revelation of who Jesus Christ is: the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus dares to invite us in examining our faith in God in the face of unrelenting attacks on life by sickness and death especially in this time of the pandemic.

Death and sickness are realities we face daily, that make us doubt God’s love and concern for us which the first reading clarifies with its declaration that

God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

Wisdom 1:13, 2:23-24
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2019.

Arising and being whole in Jesus

Jesus came not to remove sickness and death, pains and sufferings which did not come from God for God is love. He came to be one with us in sickness and death, in our pains and sufferings so that we may rise with him too in his resurrection and be whole again in him.

Notice the words Jesus used in every healing, “your faith has saved you” to show that healing is not just a cure of the disease but making the person whole again. The words health, healing, wholeness, and holiness are all interrelated if we examine their origins and implications. Hence, we see that whenever Jesus would heal, it is not only an eradication of an illness but restoring harmony and balance in the person – physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects.

It is the same in raising the dead young man in Nain and his friend Lazarus: Jesus or the evangelists used the word “arise” as a foreshadowing of Easter when Jesus himself rose from the dead, an indication of his power over death.

All these people in the gospels Jesus had healed and brought back to life eventually died but the good news is that death and sickness are no longer dark and an ending in itself.

Jesus came to bring salvation to the world, a wholeness in life which disease and physical death can no longer control and hold. That is why we need a firm faith to believe in him in spite of the many sickness and deaths now around us. It is faith that will enable us to grasp the full meaning of this pandemic and other sufferings we are going through in life. It is our deep faith in God that will also enable us to explain and show to others especially our loved ones the true meaning of healings and resurrections performed by Jesus who gives us a share in his victory over sickness and death.

May we dwell on the beautiful exposition of St. Paul today about being poor like Christ “that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2Cor. 8:9).

We can only be whole when we share whatever we have because that is when we allow Jesus to work in us, to be in us, to complete us. This happens when we wholeheartedly celebrate the Holy Eucharist where we become poor like Jesus, emptying ourselves of our sins, sharing with others our wealth through our contributions not only to the church collections but also to other charities where some of us share also time and talent aside from treasures.

The experience of the community pantry recently had taught us the value of St. Paul’s call for us to share and be poor like Christ when we were encouraged to take only what one needs and to give according to one’s ability – “kumuha ayon sa pangangailangan, magbigay ayon sa kakayahan”.

Yes, the realities of poverty and hunger remain with us but people are fed, sufferings are alleviated and most of all, the whole nation is united in believing again there is hope amidst the pandemic worsened by the systematic evil that has plagued us for so long.

Faith in God is deepened and strengthened when we become poor and weak like Jairus because that is only when we can arise and be whole again in Jesus Christ who is himself our Resurrection and Life. Amen.

A blessed new week to you and everyone!

Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2017.

Prayer to love the giver, not the gift

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 16 June 2021
2 Corinthians 9:6-11   ><)))'> + <'(((><   Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
From Pinterest.com.

So many times, O God our Father, we have been acting so foolishly, forgetting the more essential in life as we waste precious time and our very selves with less important things and matter.

And most often, it is you whom we always forget, whom we disregard when you alone is the one whom we must always desire, whom we must always please for you alone who truly loves us above all.

Most of all, you alone is the Source of all good things in this life to whom we must always turn to.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform religious deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father.”

Matthew 6:1

You do not need “advertisements” for your goodness and love for us for they are all self-evident.

Worst is how we fail to realize that every time we advertise our goodness and supposed to be holiness, the more we fool ourselves as we become most selfish and not holy at all!

Make us aware to remember the teaching of Thomas á Kempis that it is the love of the giver – YOU – that matters most than the gift itself.

A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover, as the love of the giver. He esteems the affection above the gift, and values every gift far below the Beloved. A noble lover is not content with a gift, but desires Myself above all gifts. 

Imitation of Christ, Book III, Part VI, “Of the proving of the true lover” by Thomas á Kempis (d. 1471)

It is because of this wrong focus on the gifts than on the Giver that we have failed in imitating your Son Jesus Christ in his loving service and generosity with others.

Help us realize, O Lord, that you alone are the source of every good gift in life, that you can never be outdone in generosity as you give us lavishly with all the gifts we need in this life.

Help us realize that we are all vessels and sharers of your grace:

“Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work…You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God”

2 Corinthians 9:8, 11

We pray, O Lord, for each of us to count the many blessings you have given us amid the hard times that have fallen upon us since the start of this pandemic so that we may see you more above all things. Amen.

Always something, never nothing

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Eight Week of Ordinary Time, 25 May 2021
Sirach 35:1-12  ><)))’> + <‘(((><   Mark 10:28-31
Photo by author, St. Paul Center for Spirituality at Alfonso, Cavite 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O most loving and merciful God our Father, for you never leave us empty-handed even if we always claim to have nothing at all, to be “walang-wala” when we always have something with to offer and share, never without anything at all.

Forgive us in being so preoccupied with the “scarcity mentality” – of how little we have, of not having enough that we refuse to share and give to others, forgetting the reality that to be alive and to always do what is good and pleasing to you is all you want us to offer to you through others.

In works of charity one offers fine flour, 
and when he gives alms he presents 
his sacrifice of praise.  
To refrain from evil pleases the Lord, 
and to avoid injustice is an atonement.
Appear not before the Lord empty-handed,
for all that you offer is in fulfillment of the precepts.

How wonderful, O Lord, are your words through Ben Sirach! Help us remember that true worship, true prayer is always being good and holy before you through our loving service to others.

We do not have to look beyond ourselves to find so many things to offer to you, primarily our good works that you ask from us. We may not have all the material wealth the world has to offer, but you always shower us with every spiritual gifts more needed especially in our world today plunged in the darkness of sin and selfishness.

Sometimes like Simon Peter, we become proud of the little things we give up for you, thinking they are so great without realizing the great rewards you have in store for our sacrifices.

Jesus said,
"Amen, I say to you,
there is no one who has given up house
or brothers or sisters or mother or father
or children or lands for my sake 
and for the sake of the Gospel
who will not receive a hundred times more 
now in the present age:  houses and brothers
and sisters and mothers and children and lands,
with persecutions, and eternal life 
in the age to come.
(Mark 10:29-30)

Indeed, you have given us with so much, dear God and we have given so little. Teach us to give more of our kindness and mercy, love and understanding, time and presence and most of all, more of YOU to others. Amen.

Love, love, love….

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 05 January 2021
1 John 4:7-10     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Mark 6:34-44
Photo by author, 12 December 2020.

Dearest God our Father:

Today my heart has only two things to say:

First is, “Thank you for being love, for loving me!”

Beloved, let us love one another; because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4:7-8

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical Deus caritas est which was taken from this letter of the beloved disciple, that, what makes Christianity so unique of all other faith is the statement, God is love.

Indeed, in all the stories told about you in the Bible, in all our experiences in life, there is only one thing you have shown and given us from the very beginning that shall continue in eternity — LOVE.

The very coming of your Son Jesus Christ is all because of LOVE. Christmas is a story of love. Epiphany is also love.

It is all love, love, love… dear God! Please open our hearts, our senses to experience this love of yours you continue to pour upon us. Touch our hearts, open our minds, let us stop denying this truth that we are loved by You.

And so, my second prayer to you today is this: as a sign of thanksgiving, let me to share your love. Let me love like Jesus your Son, thinking more of others than myself – so unlike his apostles who wanted to send home the crowd hungry, worried at where to find food for them:

By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

Mark 6:35-36

Just for me to start thinking and feeling and acting like you when you saw the crowd like sheep without a shepherd (Mk.6:34, 37), worried for their spiritual and material hunger that you taught them so many things and then fed them with food is a good lesson to start loving like you.

O dear Jesus, fill me with your warmth and enthusiasm whenever I would look at you on the Cross so I may pass on the love you have given me to others. Amen.

Photo by author, 12 December 2020.

Surely, there will be Christmas 2020….

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 23 November 2020
Photo by author, Christmas decors at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.
Surely, there will be Christmas this year
despite the pandemic
but there will be less traffic, 
less madness in malls and streets
and more praying and silence
in our homes and parishes.
There will be less dinging
of cash registers
and maybe more singing
from the hearts
as we begin to see more 
of Jesus in the other 
person despite 
the face mask.
Surely, there will be Christmas in this time of corona
as there will be more presence
of persons and loved ones
than presents and gifts recycled
or bought without any thoughts;
there will be more crèche
and boughs of greens
so we do not have to be mean
if we do not receive anything.
For so long
we have been receiving gifts
when it is not us celebrating
birthday but the Lord
who only asks for our open hearts.
Photo by author, National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, QC, 2019.
Surely, there will still be Christmas amid COVID-19
when we shall finally be hearing
music celebrating Christ's coming
not cheesy songs masquerading as carols 
wishing for every maiden's Prince Charming;
there may be less cheese and ham and wine
for our Christmas dinner
with memories and dreams overflowing
as we gather filled with faith, hope and love;
it does not matter if there are no blinking lights
or even Christmas trees with all the trimmings
or boxes of gifts below or socks hanging
for as long as the glow of Christ's light
and warmth bursting in everyone's hello!
Surely, there will always be Christmas
no matter how favorable or
unfavorable each year
because Christmas
is more than a date to
keep and remember
but an event, a Person
to cherish and welcome,
to follow and imitate,
to care and let grow
within us, among us
the God who became human
 like us so we can be divine 
like Him.
Surely there will always be Christmas every year
but after 2020, may our Christmas be for real:
less hugging and kissing 
but more loving and caring;
less laughing and merrymaking 
but more of rejoicing and comforting;
less having and buying
more giving and sharing;
more sacrificing
more striving
for justice and peace;
less clapping, less "liking", less "trending"
more praying, more kneeling
to Jesus our Savior and everything!  AMEN.
Photo by author, Christmas 2019.

“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.

Sharing the light of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Memorial of St. Teresa of Calcutta, 05 September 2020
1 Corinthians 4:6-15 /// Luke 6:1-5
Photo by author, 25 August 2020.

By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta (26 August 1910-05 September 1997)

One of the great joys I have come to treasure lately, O Lord, is the grace to have lived in these interesting part of history among some of the great modern saints of our time like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta whose Memorial we celebrate today.

I practically grew up during her time when she was called a “living saint”, a very small woman in stature clad in her usual white and blue-striped habit, always wearing a smile, radiating with your light, sweet Jesus Christ.

Yet, deep in her fragile-looking body was a rock-solid faith in you, Lord, that enabled her to accomplish so much to alleviate the sufferings of so many people!

She knew so well our time marked with material affluence amid spiritual and moral bankruptcies that she went to serve the “poorest of the poor” not only in India but in the entire world. She was a soul filled with your light, Lord, burning with love for you with the sole desire to be your love and compassion to the poor.

Thank you, dear Jesus for being present with us through saints like St. Mother Teresa.

Like her, I pray that I may remain faithful to you than be successful by becoming your light to the world plunged in darkness of sin.

Like St. Paul before her, use me, Jesus, to heal the world of its wounds and divisions by remaining faithful and true to your words that you are the “Son of Man, the lord of the sabbath.”

Like St. Mother Teresa, may I share you Jesus, only Jesus, and always Jesus. Amen.

A statue of St. Mother Teresa in their Mother House in Calcutta, India. From devdiscourse.com.

Of wages and gifts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorials of St. John Eudes & St. Ezechiel Moreno, Priests, 19 August 2020
Ezekiel 34:1-11 >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> Matthew 20:1-16
Photo by author, Pulilan, Bulacan, February 2020.

As we go through more difficulties and sufferings during this time of pandemic, your words today dear God speak so well of what we need most – a true shepherd who will care for the lost and injured sheep.

Yes, you have fulfilled, O God, your promise a long time ago to Ezekiel that you yourself will come by sending us your Son Jesus Christ to look after and tend your sheep after the shepherds of Israel have miserably failed in their duties and responsibilities.

Unfortunately, there are still so many shepherds today in government even in Church who continue to pasture themselves!

Woe to the shepherds of Israel who has been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally. As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; I swear I am coming against these shepherds.

Ezekiel 34:2-4, 8, 10

Teach us, O Lord, through the examples of two great shepherds of souls whose feast we celebrate today: St. John Eudes who was one of the early pioneers in propagating devotion to your most Sacred Heart and St. Ezechiel Moreno who served for 15 years in the Philippines and later in South America where innumerable cancer cures were attributed to him.

St. John Eudes and St. Ezechiel Moreno showed in their lives of faithful and loving apostolate for the poor that shepherding is always a gift, never to be counted or equated nor even be seen in terms of wages and pay like in the gospel.

Remind us sweet Jesus in the midst of this pandemic when we are called to be good shepherds like you, may we always see your call and mission to us as gifts freely given not as tasks or work to be compensated by material things because you believe in us.

May we always go the extra mile in answering your call, O Lord, which is in itself a tremendous gift we must cherish for we are not even worthy at all to receive. Amen.

From Google.

Understanding the parables is giving up everything for Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 26 July 2020
1 Kings 3:5,7-12 >><}}}*> Romans 8:28-30 >><}}}*> Matthew 13:44-52
Photo by author, 2020.

The other Sunday during our Mass, I saw a man wearing a black t-shirt with these signs:

– = +

Of course, it means “Less is more” because a minus (-) is equal (=) to an addition or a plus (+)!

That is also the meaning of the Cross of Jesus Christ wherein it is in giving that we receive, in dying that we live, in losing that we gain more of everything because the cross is a plus sign.

This Sunday, that is essentially the lesson Jesus is telling us on this final installment of his parables wherein we have to lose everything in order to have him, the kingdom of God.

See how the three parables present us with one situation: to get the treasure in a field, its finder has to bury it again, sell all he has to buy the field where he had found the treasure; a trader searching for fine pearls sells everything he has to acquire a pearl of great price he had found; and lastly, not all fish caught in a net thrown in the sea are good to be sold with bad ones that must be thrown.

These parables are reminding us today of the need to exercise our freedom properly by making wise choices in life. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want but the ability to choose always what is good.

In every situation in life, we always have to make a choice; it is never true that we have no choice left to make. Choosing not to make a choice is actually choosing what is wrong, what is bad, and what is not good for us and for others.

We are always made by the choices we make in life. And that is why the parables are teaching us to choose wisely like King Solomon in the first reading.

Photo by author, February 2020.

Choosing wisely

The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this — not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right — I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

1 Kings 3:5,7,9, 11-12

Here we go back again to that basic reality of a parable which is a simple story of every day life filled with profound meanings. It is something we take for granted because it is so ordinary like the seed forgetting its great potentials in the future.

Many times in life we get distracted like today when we have a plethora of products and services available that we cannot focus on what is really essential and important. Our decisions are clouded even erratic because we are so distracted with the wide array of choices to make, from food to eat to clothes to wear, movies or series to watch on Netflix or cable TV as well as music to listen from thousands of titles in our playlists.

And in our distraction, many times we miss our priorities in life, especially God and our loved ones.

Then, we end up sad and miserable, way too far from what God had envisioned for us since the beginning which is to live in joy in him.

For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:29-30

St. Paul is reminding and assuring us in these short passages we heard from his letter today that God called us to be saved and glorified in Jesus Christ not by chance but by purpose. He willed it, he wanted it so because he loves us so much, assuring us all of future glory in him in eternity.

The key to experiencing that joy from God is to always abide in him like King Solomon of choosing what is good, letting go of everything that will separate us from him like sin and evil. For God’s plan and grace to operate and materialize, we need to cooperate with him like being a good soil that produces fruitful wheat.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Our Christian life of joy

Like the Twelve inside the house listening to Jesus explained and narrated more parables, the Lord is also asking us today the same question:

“Do you understand all these things?”

Matthew 13:51

To “understand all these things” is not about human intelligence like being smart or brilliant but of holy wisdom or spiritual intelligence characterized by humility and simplicity before God and others.

To “understand all these things” and be like “every scribe… or the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old” (Mt.13:52) is to be one in Jesus Christ, a person learned in the ways of God, who knows how to prioritize things, always making things relevant in the present even if it is an old lesson.

To be truly joyful in life is to just have Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus.

It is easier said than done but we must try even little by little, slowly by learning more to give of our very selves to others.

It is difficult to imitate the main characters in the parables today – the finder of treasure, the pearl merchant, and the fisherman – when we always think of having more than having what is most valuable and important.

Have we noticed during this pandemic that whenever we would count or take tabs of everything we share, we feel sad and even grouchy because we feel we have lost a lot? And if we get too much in return, we cannot rejoice because we somehow feel guilty?

True joy comes when we are able to be generous, of giving without counting the costs, without thinking of what would be left for me because my only concern is what else can I give the other persons so that my joy can be complete when I see them like me – happy, contented, and peaceful with a simple smile or delighted by a hot bowl of soup or a hearty breakfast.

And that’s that greatest parable of Jesus of all that we need to understand and embrace: the less we have of created things, the more we have of the Creator, of himself who is the kingdom of God.

Then, that is heaven.

A blessed Sunday to everyone!

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos at Infanta, Quezon, July 2020.

“Possession Obsession” by Hall and Oates (1984)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 28 June 2020
Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com

One reason I have this blog on trying to link secular music with the Sunday gospel is the firm belief that God continues to speak to us through modern means of communications like music and films. Sometimes I feel that if Jesus were with us today, he might be instructing us priests to “feed my geeks” than “feed my sheep”.…..

For this Sunday we have the dynamic duo of Daryl Hall and John Oates — my most favorite group standing side by side with the late Walker Becker and Donald Fagen of Steely Dan.

Released in 1984 from their “Big Bam Boom” album, Possession Obsession is one of a kind in their long list of superb music with John Oates taking the front seat in this song unlike in their previous hits where it would always be Daryl taking the lead.

I have listened maybe a hundred times to Possession Obsession but it was only yesterday after preparing my Sunday homily that I have tried to internalize its lyrics, including the music video directed by Bob Giraldi who did Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”.

The song perfectly echoes the Sunday teaching today of Jesus Christ who said that

“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:39

Possession Obsession echoes Christ’s teaching this Sunday on life’s paradox wherein the more we give, the more we actually receive, that life is not about possession and having but about love, of giving and of sharing with others.

You know there's something you need
Right here and now
To fill the space inside of yourself
Money love or power
When you want to have the number one first run anyone
You're crazy 'til you own them

You ought to know better than that
The more that you buy the less you get back
It's a case of possession obsession
Gimme Gimme

The compulsion to count the percentage of time
Spent between two lovers
Can turn an hour into a crime
And all the good times suffer
Though you know it's only jealousy
You can't help but be
Haunted by your passion

Don't you know it's a matter of fact
The more that you take the less you give back
Just a taste of possession obsession
Brings a case of possession obsession
Gimme Gimme

Watch closely too this music video set inside a cab with John Oates as driver, taking different passengers in all the different forms of “love” understood these days, far from the truth witnessed to us by Jesus Christ.

In fact, it is one of the first music video to present two men holding hands as lovers at the back of John’s cab with one of the men looking like the late David Bowie (?).

At the last sequence of the music video is a beautiful presentation of giving and loving when Hall and Oates were in their usual attires in a cafe, competing in “possessing” the sugar dispenser. Hall prevailed and right before putting sugar into his coffee, he changed his mind and slid the sugar dispenser to Oates at the other end of the bar table.

Nice song, nice music, nice video.

For reflections on this Sunday’s gospel, check my homily https://lordmychef.com/2020/06/27/let-christ-possess-us/

Have a beautiful and blessed Sunday.

From YouTube.com