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.

Discipline and tenderness

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 21 July 2020
Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 >><)))*> ] + [ <*(((><< Matthew 12:46-50
Photo by author of sheep grazing at Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, QC, 2018.

What a beautiful prayer today to you, O God our Father by your prophet Micah:

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance that dwells apart in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old; as in the days when you came from the land of Egypt, show us wonderful signs.

Micah 7:14-15

Shepherd us like a true father, God, the old fashioned and right way symbolized by your staff: strong and sturdy to discipline us especially when we wander far from you, and yet at the same time, so tender and forgiving – full of clemency as Micah mentioned – when we are lost or stuck in a cliff or a crevice.

This is probably the one combination we are terribly missing these days, discipline and tenderness, the cornerstone of formation in every family expressed in the adage from the Sacred Scriptures, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” which the modern society strongly objects and frowns upon:

St. John Paul II waves to well-wishers in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in 1978 when elected as Pope, holding his staff, symbol of his being a shepherd.

He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him takes care to chastise him.

Proverbs 13:24

Discipleship or being a disciple is primarily about discipline, of following not only the steps of the Lord and Master but also his ways.

From the word discipulos or to follow came the words follower and discipline alike.

Jesus Christ your Son perfectly said it in our gospel today when he rightly claimed that “whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt.13:50).

Give us the grace, O Lord, to take the right path anew of discipline to form our moral backbones tempered with your tenderness and mercy so we may truly work for a just and humane society here on earth so that your kingdom may finally come! Amen.

Our sense of belonging

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Monday, Easter Week-IV, 04 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 11:1-18 ><)))*> ooo+ooo <*(((>< John 10:11-18

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

One good thing about this COVID-19, O Lord, is how it is teaching us today that we all belong to each other, that we all belong to you, our loving and merciful God.

How wonderful that in the midst of quarantine, the many brothers and sisters we have looked down or taken for granted for so long a time are finally telling us, showing us that in this life, we do not need boundaries or walls but bridges to link us all as one.

We belong to just one flock with one Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

In him alone can we rely and trust because he is the only one who is “the way and the truth and the life.”

Even him tells us in today’s gospel that there are still other sheep who do not belong to our fold of whom he must also look after and guide (Jn.10:16) because ultimately, we all go to one destination in life which is eternity in you, O God, our Father Almighty.

Help us realize like Peter in the first reading that the key is to be inclusive than exclusive. May we see that more than the many superficialities of our color, beliefs, and gender is your Son’s Easter gift of divinity you have shared with us.

May we focus more on our similarities than differences so that we may work and live harmoniously as one big community to never allow this calamity to befall us again. Amen.

From Google.

Jesus our Gate

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week IV-A, 03 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 2:14, 36-41 ><)))*> 1 Peter 2:20-25 ><)))*> John 10:1-10

Entrance to the Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified, buried, and rose again. Photo by author, May 2017.

Starting this Sunday, we stop hearing stories of the appearances of the Risen Lord as we go back to the days before his Passion, Death, and Resurrection to reflect further on his words and teachings.

In fact, it is the same path taken by his followers after Easter when they recounted everything Jesus had done and told them as they slowly understood their meanings later in the coming of the Holy Spirt at Pentecost.

Also today is “Good Shepherd Sunday” when every year on this fourth Sunday of Easter the gospel is taken from John 10 which is about Christ’s “Good Shepherd” discourse that actually begins with him declaring he is the gate or the door for the sheep.

So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.”

John 10:7-10
Photo from Google.

Entering Jesus our Gate who truly owns the sheep

Let us start our reflection today by recalling our Sunday gospel on the Fourth Week of Lent last March 22 which is about the healing of the man born blind on a sabbath day.

The healing stirred the people and the temple officials led by the Pharisees whom Jesus had hinted as being the ones truly blind who could not see God’s coming in him. As expected, the Pharisees dismissed Christ’s accusations, claiming themselves to be “clean” unlike the man born blind.

Our gospel today is the scene that immediately follows that where Jesus now speaks of himself as the gate where shepherds enter through to tend their sheep. According to the author of the gospel, Jesus was using a figure of speech in referring to himself as the gate for the sheep.

Unfortunately, the Pharisees did not understand Christ’s figure of speech, refusing to be referred to as “thieves and robbers” that Jesus had to use the emphatic “Amen, amen” to declare he is in fact the gate for the sheep.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

To clearly understand his being the gate for the sheep, let us fast-forward to his last Easter appearance to Simon Peter and companions by the lake after a night of fishing when they caught nothing until Jesus told them to cast the net on the right side found in John chapter 21.

After their breakfast by the lake, Jesus asked Peter thrice, “do you love me?” and each time he would say yes, the Lord would always tell him to feed his sheep.

It was after that third query as Peter assured him of his love that Jesus told him, “Follow me” (Jn. 21:19).

Here we find the essential truth before anyone can follow Jesus, one has to love him first above all like Simon Peter!

It is only in loving Jesus can anyone truly care for his sheep who “belongs” only to Christ and nobody else.

And this is what we should pray for today as World Day of Prayer for Vocations: not only for more men and women to answer the call to priesthood and religious life but most of all, that we in the ministry love Jesus more than our vocation!

When priests and religious love more their vocation, that is when they become thieves, stealing the sheep from Jesus, claiming them to be theirs that lead to so many abuses in the church, in the liturgy, and in the ministry.

Jesus is the gate for the sheep because first of all the flock belongs to him!

And that is only when we can truly realize too why Jesus is the gate for the sheep.

Photo by Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, June 2019.

How to enter Jesus our Gate

Jesus is the gate who leads his sheep to greener pastures because he is “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6). And his way is no other than the way of the Cross, of being with him in his daily suffering and death so we can be with him in his resurrection!

One of my favorite scenes of the Crucifixion is when Jesus told Dimas – the good thief who stole heaven – “today you shall be with me in Paradise” (Lk.23:43).

From Google.

See my dear reader that Jesus did not tell Dimas that he would be with him in Paradise later when they die or on Easter when he rises from death.

Jesus was very clear in telling him that “today you shall be with me in Paradise”.

The today is the here and now of heaven in Jesus Christ present to us, present with us, present in us.

Jesus never promised Paradise to anyone when he was freely walking around, neither thirsty nor hungry to show us that every time we go through trials and difficulties, sufferings and pains, that is when we enter Paradise in him our Gate.

When a person suffers a long illness, he/she has already started entering Paradise long before his/her death. That is the unique grace of sickness, of suffering with Jesus and suffering in Jesus which St. Peter tells us in the second reading today:

Beloved: If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.

1 Peter 2:20

Yes, we are all into great suffering in this time of the corona virus without any clear sign yet when would this finally end.

This in itself is a clear presence of Jesus among us as our Gate: let us “follow in his footsteps” (1Pt. 2:21) to “save ourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40) where so many shepherds in government even in the church unconsciously claiming theirs are the sheep, leading them to darkness and misery.

May we all first love the Caller, Jesus Christ our Gate and Good Shepherd, than see more our call or vocation in life that deludes us into owning his flock. Amen.

A blessed Sunday to you!