Being true collaborators of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus, Bishops, 26 January 2021
2 Timothy 1:1-8    >><)))*>   +++   <*(((><<     Luke 10:1-9
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, sunrise at Natonin, Mountain Province after a devastating landslide in October 2018.

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

A day after celebrating the feast of the conversion of your great Apostle Paul, we now remember his two collaborators and companions in fulfilling his mission from you, Timothy and Titus, trustworthy men who carried out so many of his works.

And so today, we pray Lord Jesus in your name to please send us collaborators in your mission, men and women who are trustworthy who share in your vision and mission, endeavors and responsibilities. Collaborators in you, Lord, who are willing and ready to serve the Gospel with generosity like Timothy and Titus who represented Paul in many circumstances far from easy.

Send us, dear Jesus, more workers in your field, collaborators in you with our bishops and priests, even with our leaders in government who shall think more of serving the people, thinking more of the welfare of others than one’s personal advantages like power and fame.

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”

Luke 10:2-3

What will happen to your people, Lord Jesus when your servants and collaborators become the wolves, unmindful of the needs of the people, forgetting their mission of proclaiming your Gospel, of celebrating your Holy Sacrifice of the Mass much needed these days?

What will happen to your people, Lord Jesus when your servants and collaborators become afraid of doing what is true and right, trying to please men and women than God, avoiding problems and difficulties?

Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, MD, Carmelite Monastery, the Holy Land, 2017.

“For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control … bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”

2 Timothy 1:6-7, 8

Help us follow, dear Jesus, your Apostle Paul’s recommendation to Titus, “I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply to themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men.”

May we be more committed to you, Jesus Christ than to anyone else, even to our selfish motives so that we may be rich in good deeds to open the doors of the world to you our Lord and Master. Amen.

A holy déja vu?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2020
Acts of the Apostles 12:1-11 >><)))*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 <*(((><< Matthew 16:13-19
Photo from americamagazine.org.

As I prepared to celebrate today’s Solemnity of the two pillars of the Church you have established, Lord Jesus Christ, that image of your Vicar and St. Peter’s successor, Pope Francis delivering his extraordinary Urbi et Orbi message last March 27, 2020 before an empty St. Peter’s Square flashed into my mind, something like a deja vu.

It is a holy deja vu, Lord, of St. Peter’s experience in prison on a Sunday night…

In those days, King Herod laid hands upon some members of the Church to harm them… he proceeded to arrest Peter also – it was the feast of the Unleavened Bread – he had him taken into custody and put in prison under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. He intended to bring him before the people after the Passover. Peter thus was being kept in prison, but prayer by the Church was fervently being made to God on his behalf. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, “Put hi on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.

Acts of the Apostles 12:1, 3-5, 7-9

It is happening again, Lord, when we are all in great darkness due to this COVID-19 pandemic.

How blessed are we, O Lord, here with us in the midst of this pandemic is Pope Francis, St. Peter’s successor and St. Paul’s reminder to continue in proclaiming your Gospel in season, out of season.

Keep him strong and inspired always in order to lead us through this dark 2020.

We pray, O dear Jesus, for our Church especially here in the Philippines.

Our churches remain closed, some of our leaders are under attack while some of them along with our fellow workers are so afraid, so timid, abandoning their flock in this crucial moments of tests. Others are so concerned with trivial things, pursuing positions, fame, and wealth.

Have mercy on us, Jesus in veering away from your person and your Cross.

Strengthen us your Church, Lord, especially Pope Francis and all the bishops and priests, to always be aware of the angels you are sending us to deliver us from so many dangers in this time of crisis.

May we avoid “over thinking” that results into “analysis paralysis” that we forget to focus and do the more important things at this time which is to accompany, to be one with your flock now under various attacks not only by the corona virus but the diseases of indifference and convenience.

May we your body, the Church continue to pray with confidence, remembering your own pasch that brought us to salvation as we thank you too in keeping us safe and alive since March.

Give us the courage of St. Paul to take this period of pandemic and crisis as a form of pasch for each one of us, that we may willingly die in our selves and offer ourselves to you through others as an offering through worship with our loving service to one another.

May we keep our sights focused on you alone, Lord Jesus, the Christ of the living God sent to make us one.

Like St. Peter and St. Paul, though they were poles apart in their personalities and backgrounds, they were united in serving you, working for you by seeking only your face, your voice, your will and your presence.

May we keep in mind that when we fail to know you, Lord, that is when people fail to know and meet you too like the people of your time who claimed you were one of the prophets

Yes, the situations today may be like a holy deja vu from the past but you are definitely and truly present among us in this time of crisis.

St. Peter and St. Paul, pray for us!

Amen.

St. Peter by ecclesiastical artist Willy Layug at the Malolos Cathedral.
St. Paul by ecclesiastical artist Will Layug at the Malolos Cathedral.

St. Paul in time of COVID-19: need for pastoral communication

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 11 June 2020
Painting by Raphael (1515) of St. Paul preaching at Areopagus in Athens, Greece. From wikipedia.

With houses of worship still closed despite the opening of most business establishments, here is the final installment of reflection in our series on how the life and teachings of St. Paul may help us in our ministry during this time of COVID-19 amid a perceived government “persecution” of the Catholic Church.

There is no doubt that like during his time, St. Paul would be using modern means of communication to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ especially in this most trying time of our history, using the internet as the new “Areopagus” with social media in particular.

Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious. For as I walked around looking carefully at your shrines, I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To An Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and all that is in it…”

Acts of the Apostles 17:22-24

Social Communication

Perhaps before we go into our reflection, it is imperative especially for bishops and priests to be reminded anew of some important terms in communications; this is more than about names or nomenclature because for as long these terms of communications are not clear with us, all our evangelization efforts would be askewed as it is now showing with an explosion of online Masses and other religious celebrations.

First priority is to stop using the words “mass media” and even “social media” in our church communications because these are very limited in scope and context.

It is important to note that in the 2000-year history of the Church, it was only in Vatican II that we have issued a conciliar document on communication wherein the Fathers also introduced the term social communication as a new name for communications in the Church.

How sad that there are still bishops and priests using the terms “mass media” or “media” and lately “social media” when more than 50 years ago the Church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit coined social communication to refer to “the communication of and in human society including all the ways and means used in this process” (Fr. Franz-Josef Eilers, svd, 2009 BISCOM-FABC, Bangkok).

Social communication is a very prophetic term because it is theological and rooted in God who is communication himself, sharing with us his power to communicate so we may also communicate with him and with others. Most of all, God continues to communicate with us and from that lies our task as a Church to communicate him to the world.

This is the reason why we have to keep on using this term “social communication” in our Church communications to keep us Christocentric, meaning, every communication in the Church and by the Church has Jesus as Message.

And that is essentially the kind of communication process followed by St. Paul the Apostle. In fact, reviewing his letters and the various accounts about him would show us that early, this great apostle has been into social communication, specifically “pastoral communication” that is an emerging field in Church communications whose realities have long been espoused by St. Paul himself.

Pastoral Communication

Pastoral communication is anchored on Jesus Christ, the “Good Shepherd” who sets himself as the norm and standard of our Church communications.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.”

John 10:11, 14-15
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

St. Paul has always been very clear with this in all his communications that towards the end of his life, he had beautifully written his disciple this wonderful piece:

Beloved: I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; per persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient… For I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.”

2 Timothy 4:1-2, 6-7

Communicating Jesus Christ is always about self-sacrifice, about giving of one’s self like our Lord and Master. In whatever form of communication we use, it is always a call to “enflesh” the Word. In short, communication is spirituality that indicates the kind of relationship we have with God. How we reflect that relationship with God in words and in deeds, in our clothings and everything is communication.

Like St. Paul, he was able to offer himself wholly to God as reflected in his writings and preaching because he was more concerned with the needs of the flock and not with his own needs.

And this is where I sadly feel our bishops sorely absent and silent except for just two, Lingayen-Dagupan’s Archbishop Soc Villegas and Manila’s Apostolic Administrator Bishop Broderick Pabillo.

Where are the other bishops?

Business establishments are almost all opening, even dine-in restaurants and yet, until now for no valid reason, the government continues to ban religious mass gatherings except for maximum of ten persons in areas under GCQ.

When are the bishops and priests going to speak out against this and open the churches so people may be spiritually nourished?

What an auspicious time for the clergy and hierarchy to speak against this continued closure of churches as we are on the eve of our 500th year of Christianization when under serious persecution. Has the Church grown timid in the face of an unfriendly government?

Worst are some priests who seem to follow more the secular world in their digital presence but empty of Jesus Christ, concerned only with popularity measured in number of likes and shares as well as followers.

Many of us have become more of personalities than as priests and ministers, unconsciously trying to be more popular than the Lord himself that we no longer have sacrifice of the Mass but a variety show, complete with sound effects and digital characters, some wit dance numbers and raffles!

When God is displaced, then our love is misplaced, then, we lose all communications too.

Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion. At its most profound level it is the giving of self in love. Christ’s communication was, in fact, spirit and life.  In the institution of the Holy Eucharist, Christ gave us the most perfect and most intimate form of communion between God and man possible in this life, and, out of this, the deepest possible unity between men. Further, Christ communicated to us His life-giving Spirit, who brings all men together in unity. The Church is Christ’s Mystical Body, the hidden completion of Christ Glorified who “fills the whole creation”.  As a result we move, within the Church and with the help of the word and the sacraments, towards the hope of that last unity where “God will be all in all”. 

Communio et Progressio # 11
From Google.

Problem with online Masses and religion

Every communication presupposes presence. That is essentially the meaning of God’s “I AM” in the burning bush to Moses and the “I AM” declarations by Jesus in the New Testament, especially in the fourth gospel where we find him saying “I am the good shepherd”.

Even St. Paul in his letters always began with his standard salutations like “I, Paul…” to indicate his very presence among his “parishioners”.

However, in the digital media, presence is not so essential and can even be faked both ways, either by being “taped” or “replayed” by viewers.

And there lies the great danger of online Masses and other celebrations: whether we like or not, online religious celebrations give the impressions on people that God is a “consummable”, a product or a show that can be had when most convenient to us like video on demand or the streamed shows of Netflix.

That is why we have to open churches soon to stop these online Masses except for those in the Cathedrals and in existence long before COVID-19 that cater to the needs of the sick and elderly in their homes.

Pope Francis has always been clear with this, stressing that these online Masses and religious celebrations are very temporary due to the extraordinary situation brought about by the pandemic.

From Pinterest/Aleteia.

Imagine the problem at Corinth that reached St. Paul’s attention, prompting him to write them another letter to reprimand them but at the same time to encourage them to mend their ways. It was a problem of abusing the Eucharist when St. Paul was no longer with them.

It is the same thing happening in many of our online Masses that have become variety shows to impress viewers. Long before we got into this lockdown, many priests have crossed the boundaries without knowing they have made fools of themselves as they rely more on “likes”, on being viral or trending, dishing out shallow reflections covered with cute song numbers, litany of greetings on air, and so many other inanities that Jesus is lost in the process.

Unfortunately, many laypeople are now also having their own digital preaching or evangelization with their own “productions” taking their cue from their showbiz pastors.

If St. Paul were with us today, he would surely write again to express his dismay at the people seeking more of entertainment than having Jesus Christ.

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts may be corrupted from a sincere and pure commitment to Christ. For I think that I am not in any way inferior to these “superapostles”. Even if I am untrained in speaking, I am not so in knowledge; in every way we have made this plain to you in all things.

2 Corinthians 11:3, 5-6

Church communication is Jesus Christ and his Cross as St. Paul reminds us in his writings (1Cor.15:1-3); it is never about techniques or gadgets.

Though we need to be present online, the cutting edge of real communication remains in pastoral communication that means being present with others who need us most including those without internet access, witnessing to the values of Jesus in relating with people, bringing people together into a communion and helping them find answers in their search for meaning and directions in life, in making the right choices and in living their convictions and faith.

What we are speaking of are real people, persons and lives that matter so much, more precious than goods and commodities.

Let us not fall into the trappings of this “media revolution” that made one futurologist describe our contemporary society as

Technologically Intoxicated Zone defined by the complicated and often paradoxical relationship between technology and our search for meaning.

John Naisbitt

According to Naisbitt and other experts, while people prefer quick fixes online of everything, from religion to nutrition, while at the same time fearing and worshipping technology that had blurred the distinction of what is real and fake, the more they live their lives distanced and distracted — something we are already seeing even before the coming of social distancing!

To communicate in the Church at this time is to imitate St. Paul: be present for and with the people wherein we help them find their way to God by being their companions and “co-journeyers” in life, witnessing to them the Cross of Jesus Christ with our very lives as an offering and sacrifice, not as a commodity or a show to be “liked” on Facebook and Instagram.

And, lest we forget, it is God whom people must follow and worship, not us.

So be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

Ephesians 5:1-2
Pope Francis praying before an empty St. Peter’s Square last March 27, 2020 at the height of COVID-19 in Italy.

Praying with St. Paul

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Saturday, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, 25 January 2020

Acts 22:3-16 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 16:15-18

Photo by Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 29 June 2019.

Glory and praise to you, O Lord Jesus Christ!

Thank you Lord for not leaving us alone, for continuing to live with us, calling us and sending us to your mission in the Church, your blessed Body!

As we celebrate today the Feast of the Conversion of your great Apostle St. Paul, we do not merely recall this personal event of his in the past but most of all, we try to listen to you with him anew in our own time and situation.

Nothing much had changed, O Lord Jesus since that day in Damascus when St. Paul was on his way to persecute your early followers.

Many of us continue to persecute you because of lack of faith in you, of pride, and yes, because of wrong beliefs all premised in that great lie we have the truth, just like St. Paul who was called Saul then.

I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I replied, ‘Who are you, sir?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazorean whom you are persecuting.'”

Acts 22:7-8

It was the single event that converted St. Paul to become your most dynamic Apostle, Lord.

In that short instance, Lord, you remind us of how you personally call each one of us in our own name, no ifs nor buts, everything that is good and bad, even the worst in us.

Like St. Paul, we always hear your personal call but unlike him, we rarely have the courage to answer you, even enter into a dialogue with you just for a brief moment. We would rather stay on top of our horse, only to heed you when we have fallen and blinded by the world.

Likewise, Lord Jesus, in that brief encounter, you taught St. Paul and us today that basic reality of you identifying with the Church, your Body!

Every day, Lord, you continue to call us like St. Paul, asking us the same question, “why do you persecute me?”

O great St. Paul the Apostle, thank you for reminding us always in your letters how Jesus ceaselessly draws us into his Body the Church through the Holy Eucharist that for him is the center of Christian life where we experience Christ’s love in the most personal manner by giving himself for me.

Dearest St. Paul, pray for me that the love of Christ may always be my law and guide in life even to point of offering myself to him who had called me to a life of holiness. Amen.

St. Paul Basilica in Rome. Photo from Google.

The Sword of St. Paul

stpaulsword
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, 25 January 2019, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul
Acts 22:3-16///Mark 16:15-18

            Today we thank you O Lord for your gift of St. Paul whom you converted from being a persecutor of the early Christians to becoming your “Thirteenth Apostle” who stands at equal footing with St. Peter in the growth of your Church.

            What made him truly great and effective as an apostle, O Jesus, is not his brilliant rhetoric and sophisticated strategies but his willingness to suffer so much for you and your gospel.  He had shown us the essence of discipleship which is to live one’s life completely in you alone – “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).

            St. Paul was able to accomplish this by showing us true conversion that we always misunderstand as something like changing into another person completely like turning around a shirt, from being proud and violent to becoming meek, or from being so shy to becoming daring or being impulsive to almost timid.  While his letters teem with so many gems in teaching us how he was converted into loving you until the end, his imposing images with his sword remain his most beautiful symbol of conversion.

            All his life as his images rightly portray him everywhere, he had kept that sword:  when still called Saul, he had that sword to express his zeal and fire for the Law that he persecuted Christians; but on the way to Damascus, you called him and after a period of prayers and studies, he picked up again his sword to preach your gospel with the same fire and zeal that eventually in the end, he willingly accepted death by the sword in your name.  From the sword that inflicted pain on others, it became a sword that slew his defects until later at the end of his life in Rome, it caused his martyrdom.

           Help me Lord to keep my sword – my weaknesses and shortcomings – not for their own sake but because that’s me, that’s my personality.  Help me to change my ways not my heart by using this same sword to slay the defects within me without extinguishing that fire for you and your gospel.  Let these defects I have remind me always like St. Paul that “whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ… everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:7-8).  Let me fight, O Lord, for your gospel, for your Spirit as I fight pride and other sins within me.   Amen.  Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

*Photo from Google, statue of St. Paul in front of the Major Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the- Walls, Rome.