In our Father’s house

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Feast of the Sto. Niño, Sunday II in Ordinary Time, 16 January 2022
Isaiah 9:1-6 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18 ><}}}*> Luke 2:41-52
Photo by author, Sto. Niño exhibit at the Malolos Cathedral, 13 January 2022.

We Filipinos celebrate the longest Christmas season in the world which starts – unofficially -every September first when radio stations begin playing Christmas songs, ending officially today, the third Sunday of January with the Feast of the Sto. Niño (Holy Child Jesus).

Today’s feast is considered a part of the Christmas season which is in recognition of the crucial role of the image of Sto. Niño given by Magellan 500 years ago to Queen Juana of Cebu in the evangelization process of the Philippines. As the late Nick Joaquin would rightly claim in his essays, the Philippines was colonized by the Sto. Niño which is clearly seen in its widespread devotion coming in close second with Nuestro Padre Hesus Nazareno of Quiapo we celebrate every January 09.

What a wonderful “coincidence” or Divine intervention that the two most popular Christ devotions in the country happen on the same month of January, immediately after Christmas, reminding us despite our many shortcomings as the only Christian nation in this part of the world, Jesus reigns supreme in our hearts and homes.

And churches.

Despite the many accusations hurled against our brand of Christianity, of being sacramentalized but not evangelized, we can find hope and consolation in our being as very “church people” – our coming to the church even outside during this pandemic period in itself is a child-like trait, a grace we can deepen for a more matured faith that can lead to our transformation as a people.

This we see in our gospel today which we have heard proclaimed last month at the Feast of the Holy Family, a day after Christmas that was also a Sunday.

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Luke 2:41-43, 46, 48-49
“The Finding of the Savior at the Temple” painting by William Holman Hunt (1860) from en.wikipedia.org.

We are all children of the Father in Christ

When we examine Christ’s life and teachings, we find how everything is anchored in being a child of God the Father as he would always remind everyone that unless one becomes like a child, one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

This Jesus clearly showed when he was 12 years old after staying behind at the Temple in Jerusalem that left Mary and Joseph so “anxiously looking for him”.

We see in this gospel scene how Jesus must have been so rooted in his own childhood experience that he could speak with familiarity about the child’s being and dignity. Most of all, of being the Son of God, a child of God when he told his Mother Mary, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk.2:49).

As he grew up and matured during his ministry, Jesus frequented the synagogues and later the Temple as a devout and faithful Jew.

What a beautiful expression of his being a child of the Father, always coming to the “Father’s house” to worship and praise, to be one with God and with the people.

What a beautiful expression of his – and our being children of God the Father!

Every time we come to the church to celebrate the Sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist, every time we come to pray inside the church, we express our being children of the Father. It is the most beautiful expression of our being child-like before God when we come to him in his house of worship in total surrender, on bended knees to plea for his grace and mercy.

Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, September 2021.

To believe in the Church and come inside the church is part of our faith in the mystery of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ we profess in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church”.

Recall that after cleansing the Temple, Jesus declared to those asking him for signs to “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn.2:19) with the Evangelist’s added note, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (Jn.2:21). Eventually on Good Friday as he died on the cross, we are told in another gospel account how “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mt.27:50), indicating a new phase in worshipping God in his Son Jesus Christ who has become the Body of the new people he had called that includes us today, the Church.

Therefore, every time we come to the church as a community of people, it is an act of being child-like as taught by our Lord Jesus Christ in the same manner he told his parents that “I must be in my Father’s house”.

Our being able to come to the church for the Mass and the other sacraments is a pure grace from God, an act of being child-like before him when we submit ourselves to him, when we try to listen to his words proclaimed, when we believe in the power of prayers and Sacraments.

At the height of this pandemic when religious gatherings were banned, so many faithful expressed their child-likeness to God by turning to on-line Masses and prayers.

However, as we slowly open up churches for live celebrations, there now arises the call for us to return into the Father’s house. The very nature of the Church as the Body of Christ and the Sacraments presuppose presence.

Here, we find the great relevance of today’s Feast of the Sto. Niño to return to the Father’s house and reconnect anew with our fellow disciples without disregarding health protocols of course.

When the Spaniards returned to the Philippines in 1565 (40 years after Magellan), they saw the Sto. Niño venerated on an altar above other anitos inside a hut presumed to be a house of worship of the natives. Most likely, the natives felt the Sto. Niño as the superior deity always answering their prayers for abundant harvests, healing from sickness or avoidance of pestilence, and fertility for more children to work in the fields. Again, the imagery of that child-like attitude of coming into the “Father’s house” to commune in prayer by those natives.

Photo by author, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 14 January 2022.

It is perhaps the new challenge we will be facing as the COVID-19 virus wears off as experts claim, how to bring back people into the Father’s house. Confounding the problem is the lure of the convenience of online Masses that have commodified the Sacrament, a clear indication of lack of any child-like attitude but more of manipulation.

Added to this is the relativistic attitude of modern time when some people claim to believe in God without necessarily having the need to believe in the Church that is deeply embroiled in cases of sexual abuses by its clergy.

All of these are calls for everyone in the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church which is a mystery in itself for its members, clergy and lay alike, to recapture that child-like attitude of Jesus himself to always affirm his being in the Father’s house. Amen.

A blessed week ahead to everyone. Stay safe!

Becoming an adult Jesus Nazareno at Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 09 January 2022
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 ><}}}*> Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7 ><}}}*> Luke 3:15-16,21-22
Photo from flickr.com by Mark S. Abeln, Resurrection Cemetery in Affton, Missouri, USA, 16 November 2010.

Today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord closes the Christmas Season in the most unique way as we are again in another surge of COVID-19 while for the first time, not even during these past two years of pandemic, people are totally barred from celebrating the Mass outside the Quiapo church for the feast of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno or the Black Nazarene.

It is the second consecutive year due to pandemic that there is no Traslacion of the Poon Nazareno but whereas before despite COVID-19 all roads led to Quiapo every January 09, all devotees today are directed to the website of the Minor Basilica of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno to celebrate the hourly online Masses from dawn until late night tonight.

Police and Church officials have appealed to the public to stay home with the Archbishop of Manila assuring devotees of the grace and blessings still being granted to them by the Señor Nazareno through the “modern means of communications”.

Here we find a most wonderful grace of God for us to mature into an “adult Jesus” in this time still in the Christmas Season when we are invited to put some spirituality to our devotions that are both amazing but baffling even to us. How can we so devoutly Catholic as a nation be blind to all the corruption and disrespect for life going on in our country that we cannot progress like other Asian nations made worst by our choices of leaders in government?

As we close the Christmas Season before going into Ordinary Time tomorrow, let us not remain children but become adults like Jesus Christ when baptized at Jordan by John.

After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:21-22
Photo by author, Ubihan River, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

Jesus as “one of us”, present among us

All four evangelists have their particular emphasis in narrating the baptism of Jesus at Jordan by John. For this year, we look into Luke’s version that celebrates the anointing and royal investiture of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

Though there is no need for him to be baptized, Christ’s baptism at Jordan signified his solidarity with us sinners making us share in the gift of the Spirit he had received on that day, making each of us a “beloved child” of God with whom he is well pleased!

First thing we notice with Luke’s baptism account is the Lord being incognito during the baptism by John. There were no conversations or “debate” with John as Jesus was readily presented as among the crowd. It is a beautiful imagery by Luke of the Christ always present but unknown among us.

Jesus being with the people in Jordan River reminds us that Christmas does not mean only of him remaining a child lying in a manger because part of this season’s story is how he grew up and matured in wisdom and spirit in Nazareth, Galilee before embarking on his ministry and mission.

Imagine the Lord joining the sinners like tax collectors, soldiers, and perhaps with some prostitutes going to John for baptism without any special treatment whatsoever. From the very start, Jesus had been eating and conversing, interacting and living with sinners that include us today.

Photo by author of sisters posing along the Israeli border near Al-Maghtas in Jordan, the site where Jesus was baptized, May 2019.

His being immersed in Jordan River (that has always been dirty according to our pilgrimage guide) with the sinful people was a testament of his love and kindness for us without any hints of being judgmental to anyone. Whether we are in dire situations or in the midst of sins and evil or darkness and sufferings, we can always find Jesus standing with us, one with us, even reaching out to us. All we need is to be matured enough to open our eyes and our hearts like the people around him to admit we need conversion, we need God.

Second thing we immediately notice with Luke’s baptism account is Jesus at prayer when the heaven opened and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him with a voice declaring, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”.

One distinct characteristic of Luke’s gospel is presenting Jesus always at prayer. In fact, all major events in his life in Luke’s gospel are always preceded by prayer, part of his artistry in teaching us about the importance of prayer.

Here in the baptism of Jesus at Jordan, we are reminded that prayer always precedes every divine revelation. Recall also during the Feast of the Holy Family a day after Christmas last year when we heard Luke’s account of the finding of Jesus at the temple when he told Mary how he must be at his “Father’s house” – of being one and united with the Father especially through prayer! The Christmas story is an everyday reality that happens with those who mature in their faith in Christ in prayers.

Prayer is more than the recitation of prayers and novenas nor of keeping a devotion; prayer is oneness with God. See that after narrating to us the baptism of Jesus at Jordan, Luke tells us the Lord’s genealogy traced back to “Adam the son of God”(Lk.3:38). Unlike Matthew who began his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Luke puts his version of the Lord’s genealogy in the context of baptism at Jordan to show us Christ’s eternal birth in God. And this we all share in our Baptism, in our faith we nurture and celebrate daily in our prayer life.

The sad thing with our Christmas celebrations, along with that of the Holy Week, is how we immediately lose sight of the meanings of our feasts and devotions meant to make our lives centered on God. It is good to be led and carried by the signs of our liturgy but these were meant to inculcate in us, to deepen in us our relationship with God expressed through our relations with others which is what spirituality is all about.

This invites us today on this Feast of the Lord’s Baptism along with that of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo to examine our level of maturity in Jesus Christ whom we religiously and devoutly remember and celebrate during Christmas and Good Friday, the two most prominent dates of the Lord’s feasts tied up in this month of January.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, 09 January 2020.

Like Jesus Nazareno, we are consecrated to God

As we have mentioned at the start of our reflection, this is a most unique Sunday when we celebrate together two Christ feasts – the Lord’s Baptism and the Traslacion in Quiapo – with the former signaling the closing of Christmas and the latter as the most popular Christ devotion in the country.

Both feasts show us an adult Jesus in Christmas, especially the Black Nazarene of Quiapo.

When Matthew spoke of the Holy Family residing in Nazareth so that what the prophets spoke might be fulfilled that “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Mt.2:23), the evangelist was not referring to the Lord’s place of origin.

Nazareth is the only town in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament to be of significance unlike Bethlehem. The word “Nazoraios” or Nazarene mentioned by Matthew refers to the overall designation of Jesus by the prophets as the hope and fulfillment of God’s promise that there shall come forth a “shoot from the stump of Jesse” (Is. 11:1). Shoot in Hebrew is from the word nezer which is also the context used by Isaiah in chapters 7 and 9 found in Isaiah 11:1 cited by Matthew.

If we add that in the inscription above the Cross, Jesus is called ho Nazoraios (cf. Jn.19:19), then the title acquires its full resonance: what at first sight refers simply to his origin, actually points to his essence: he is the “shoot,” he is the one completely consecrated to God, from his mother’s womb to the day of his death.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pp. 117-118.

Now we get a complete picture of an adult Jesus Christ at the closing of Christmas Season.

Truly an Emmanuel, God-with-us, whom we so often fail to recognize journeying with us in life specially at its most difficult moments because we continue to refuse to grow and deepen in our spiritual maturity in him in prayers.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the first reading telling us “Here is your God! Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care” (Is.40:9, 11).

Let us heed the calls by St. Paul in the second reading that we “reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and our savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13).

Have a blessed and safe week ahead, everyone! Amen.

Photo from Google.com.

New year, new directions

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday After January 1, Epiphany of the Lord, 02 January 2022
Isaiah 60:1-6 ><]]]'> Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 ><]]]'> Matthew 2:1-12
From Google.com.

Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare is called EDSA for Epifanio delos Santos Avenue.  Its namesake is a famous scholar from the province of Rizal whose name means “manifestation” or “appearance” from the Greek epiphanes

EDSA today may be considered as the epiphany of everything wrong in the country, from government inefficiency to people lacking in discipline and patriotism.  Mention the word EDSA and you feel sad and gloomy all of a sudden.

But, the Epiphany we celebrate today brings joy and jubilation because it is the manifestation of the universal kingdom of Jesus Christ to the pagans symbolized by the magi from the East.

After the octave of Christmas on January 1, Epiphany reminds us on this joyous season of Christmas that while deep within each one of us is a natural search or inclination for God, it is actually God who looks for us and eventually finds us.

It is always a grace from God that we desire him and his grace is doubled even tripled when we are like the magi who search and follow God in his “epiphanies”!

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Matthew 2:1-3
The Magi with baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Source: Henry Siddons Mowbray / Public domain

Nobody really knows for sure where and who were those magi who looked and came for the Child Jesus at Bethlehem. They are called kings as attested from our first reading, “Rise up in splendor!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you… Nations shall walk by your light; kings by your shining radiance.  Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord” (Is.60:1, 4, 6). 

From this part of Isaiah’s prophecy we also got that picture of the three wise men traveling as kings from the farthest parts of the world of that time riding on camels to show how everyone, from the most most powerful to the simplest of men and women of the world recognize Jesus as the King of Kings. 

At the start of this new year 2022, our third year in this COVID-19 pandemic, we are invited to be wise like the magi to search for that Bethlehem where we could find rest and comfort, solace and consolation in the newborn king Jesus Christ. It takes a wise person to search for Jesus – and a wiser person to lead others to Him! 

The Epiphany of the Lord reminds us that Christ came to the world to be the fulfillment of everyone and He had become human like us in everything except sin so we can find Him easily right within us, there in our hearts where he is born everyday, where he dwells.

Every new year, every day is a new beginning in Jesus, a day of his epiphany leading us to him. The wise men coming from the East where the sun rises show us Epiphany as a new beginning in our lives, representing our inner journey in life to find and follow Jesus Christ. 

From Google.com.

It is said life is a journey; but, as a journey, life is more of a direction than a destination. So often in life, it is really the trip that matters most, the people we journey with as companions that make our life so meanignful.

What matters most in life is we keep on following Jesus Christ our light, our star.  That is direction, where He is leading us.  It never stops.  We just keep on following Him until we reach our final destination in heaven for we are all “coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). 

This direction we have to follow in life never stops for the discovery of God is not the end but the beginning of a journey.  And in this journey in Jesus Christ, we do not simply go as followers but are expected to eventually become believers too.  Matthew noted at the end of the gospel today how the magi “departed for their country by another way” (Mt. 2: 12) to show how they have become believers eventually of Christ.  Their lives have changed and must have never been the same as before after finding Jesus because they have believed, so unlike Herod and the experts at Jerusalem who knew everything about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem but refused to believed him. 

This is the danger with us today:  many Christians today are mere followers but not wise enough to be believers of Christ.

We all dream to be fulfilled in life.  And every lofty dream is always from above, from God as Matthew told us this Christmas the dreams of Joseph and now the dream of the magi.  It is said that those who dream with their eyes wide open are the real dreamers, the trailblazers who change the world.  That is because they did not only believe in their dreams and with themselves but most of all, they believed in God. 

On this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, He is inviting us to dream and believe so that we may live fully in Him.  Every day is a new beginning to search and follow and believe Jesus Christ our light.  Today we are given with over 350 days to begin anew in Jesus.  Be wise.  Search Him.  Follow Him.  Believe Him.  Happy Epiphany of the Lord! Amen. 

Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauyan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

Advent is “sacred moment” with God visiting us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday of Advent-C, Day 4 of Simbang Gabi, 19 December 2021
MIcah 5:1-4  ><}}}*>  Hebrews 10:5-10  ><}}}*>  Luke 1:39-45
Photo by author, bronze statues of Mary and Elizabeth at the patio of the Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem, Israel, 2017.

We are now in the fourth Sunday of Advent, the final stretch leading to Christmas. Part of that shift in focus of readings and prayers since December 17, we hear today the lovely story of Mary’s Visitation of Elizabeth.

It is very rare in the bible to find a story of two women meeting and conversing, especially women of faith sharing God’s joy and blessings like Mary’s visitation of her cousin Elizabeth six months pregnant with John the Baptist, the Precursor of Jesus Christ.

It is a very wonderful occasion in this Season of Advent when God visits his people before finally coming to dwell with us at the birth of Jesus Christ.

This early through Mary, Elizabeth felt strongly God’s coming and visitation – a sacred moment, a blessed period of encountering God in our selves and through others.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:41-45
Photo by author, facade of the Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem, Israel, 2017.

Christmas is a story of love, about the meeting of lovers with God as the Great Lover who gave us His only Son because of His immense love for us. That is why it is also a sacred moment, a blessed and holy moment!

Recall that time you fell for and truly loved someone so special: every moment is so sacred and divine, so special because you know something extraordinary had happened, is happening and would soon be unfolding when this love grows and matures!

You feel humbled by the occasion why would somebody so wonderful choose to love you, recognize you, and find you special among many others. It is very touching, bringing kilig moments.

How unfortunate these days this love of Christmas so sacred has been cheapened and degraded into superficial and romantic love about mere feelings and emotions that are physical and sexual in nature as we hear in “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, “Last Christmas” and “Pasko na Sinta Ko”.

The word “lovers” may be too serious as a term for us to relate this with today’s gospel but, the truth is, both Mary and Elizabeth were so in love with God who clearly loved them so much with children in their womb bound to change the course of human history forever. They in turn, were also filled with love for each other as expressions of their love for God. And when there is love, there is holiness or sacredness that is always manifested in God’s tenderness which is the most endearing description of God’s love and mercy.

At the Visitation, both Mary and Elizabeth felt God working in them, doing great things in them despite their being women at that time and unfortunately until now when women are always looked down upon by our patriarchal and chauvinistic culture and society.

Both women felt so loved by God, especially Elizabeth who was filled with the Holy Spirit to say, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Photo by author, ceiling of the Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem, Israel, 2017.

Elizabeth had perhaps been accustomed to seeing herself as the one who was barren and therefore also shamed. All her adult life as wife of Zechariah the priest, she had carried a burden or “excess baggage” in her mind and identity that she could never forget that is why Luke tells us how she went into seclusion after conceiving John:

After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time whe he has seen fit to take away the disgrace before others.”

Luke 1:24-25

Her life had a complete reversal and turn around when she conceived John and that is why at the Visitation, she was so amazed with God, recognizing the honor and privilege given to her to be in the story of the coming of Christ.

Elizabeth had no idea she could mean so much in the plan of God, asking “who am I?” that all these great things could happen to her, having a child at so late an age and now visited by the Mother of the Lord, wondering what is going on? Something so big, so great is happening and she just could not grasp it!

We all have such “sacred moments” with God when we felt so loved, so blessed that we feel so humbled, wondering deeply in all honesty why me, Lord? And yes, we always know so well why God should not choose us: because somebody is more smart, more patient with lesser wrong decisions in life, and simply better than us.

But that is the mystery of God explained by the angel to Mary at the Annunciation, nothing is impossible with God. He can make the barren and old like Elizabeth bear a child and so does a virgin like Mary.

God could always choose anyone like you and me because he wants us, he believes in us.

This fourth Sunday of Advent, God is visiting you with all the tenderness or “lambing” of a great lover, telling you, convincing you to value your self, value your life, value others because he has great plans for each one of us

Photo by author, 16 December 2021.

Tenderness is one God-like quality we all have but have buried deep into our innermost selves due to our refusal to love for fears of getting hurt and left behind or, even lost. When Mary heard about Elizabeth’s condition, she simply followed her human and motherly instincts that are in fact so Godly – she went in haste to visit her.  Elizabeth, in turn, welcomed her.

The question is, do we have a room to welcome God’s coming visit to us like Elizabeth?

Also on this Sunday as we listened to the beautiful story of Mary’s visitation of Elizabeth, let us remember or if we can, let us visit the important women in our lives God had chosen to share with us his Son Jesus Christ. Let us express to our mother or wife, sisters or aunties and grandmothers, female friends and colleagues our gratitude and joy for the sacred moments we have had with God in their gifts of love and presence, kindness and patience, mercy and forgiveness and a lot of inspiration to be better. Amen.

Have a blessed week preparing for Christmas!

Advent is rejoicing in God within us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Advent-C, 12 December 2021
Zephaniah 3:14-18 ><}}}*> Philippians 4:4-7 ><}}}*> Luke 3:10-18
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2019.

Our liturgy bursts in colorful hues of pink this Third Sunday of Advent known as “Gaudete Sunday” or “Rejoice Sunday” following the calls of our readings to rejoice in God’s coming and nearness among us.

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again – rejoice!

Philippians 4:4

We rejoice because of a person. Always. Gadgets and material things can never bring joy to us; joy is something deeper, touching one’s heart and soul.

Joy brings assurance of presence and of love; hence, joy comes only from another person for what he or she brings or for what happens to him or to her. And too often, it can happen that we share in another’s joy.

Now, imagine if the joy is coming from the Second Person, Jesus Christ the Son of God – it is “joy to the max!” as young people would say these days. Jesus, the Emmanuel or God-with-us who had come more than 2000 years ago, who always comes to us, and who will come again in the end of time.

To rejoice in the Lord as St. Paul puts it in our second reading today means to be one with Christ who is the source of “every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Eph.1:3) in whom “nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, not even death nor any creature” (Rom. 8:38-39).

And that is the essence of joy: the firm assurance that when worst comes to worst in life, there is always Jesus Christ remaining faithful to us when our chips are down, when we are alone and abandoned by family and friends, even in death.

Joy is a result of salvation, of being free in Jesus

Joy is when the heart and soul smile even when we are in the midst of suffering. It is unlike happiness expressed by laughter or smiles that depend on external factors that trigger happiness. Joy bursts from within us, something automatic because of a deeper feeling of right there in our heart, deep in our soul dwells Jesus Christ, assuring us we shall never be alone. That is why we can rejoice while in the midst of pains and sufferings, unlike happiness.

In the first reading we heard four imperative verbs that call us to rejoice, each evoking God’s coming to save his people which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ:

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.

Zephaniah 3:14-15

Here we find joy synonymous with salvation, with freedom.

The people of God at that time were in exile, feeling so low and so sad as they saw their plight as punishment for their sins.

Recall how when the angel announced to Mary the coming birth of Jesus, he told her to “Do not fear” (Lk.1:30) while Jesus himself told the same words – “Do not fear” – to the women at the tomb on Easter morning and later to his disciples (Mt. 28:10). Every time the disciples and the people were in danger and overcome with fear, Jesus always comes saying to everyone the same thing, “Do not be afraid…it is I”.

That is the most wondrous thing about joy – one experiences not only assurance of love and support, presence and security but one also becomes free specially from all sins and fears!

Such was the mood of the people when John the Baptist preached repentance and baptized people at Jordan. Even the most hopeless among them like sinners and marginalized people at that time felt joy within with John’s proclamation of the good news, of Jesus himself.

Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

Luke 3:15-18

Luke beautifully summarized the mission of John the Baptist by saying “he preached good news to the people” (Lk.3:18). This is the grace of the third Sunday of Advent: that the Lord is with us, that he had set us free from our sins and from all our fears. Let us go out of our toxic relationships and toxic mindset to claim this salvation in Christ!

Like John, let us experience Jesus in our selves, in our lives in order to bring hope and joy to others by proclaiming not only the coming but the very presence of Jesus Christ among us.

See how John told the crowds to live simply so that others may simply leave while at the same time, he never asked the tax collectors and soldiers to leave their jobs by them to be fair and just with everyone.

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

So many times in life, we desire so many material things in life because of our wrong belief we can only be joyful in life with whatever money can buy that in the process, we miserably forget to love and care for the other persons, especially those nearest to us.

We sadly realize later in life that what truly prevent us from experiencing joy are these things like wealth and fame we have tried accumulating in our entire lives!

As we have said earlier, joy can only come from persons, not things. Those people in the gospel felt joy upon listening to John’s preaching and experiencing his baptism of water.

In our time, we are called to be another John the Baptist but this time to baptize people “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” as commanded by Jesus on his Ascension. Moreover, this third Sunday of Advent calls us to emulate John in telling people to be vigilant for the final judgment when Jesus comes again at the end of time which is NOW for “His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” These we do with our lives of witnessing to the gospel values of Christ seen in the joy we have in our lives.

How sad that even Pope Francis had noticed early in his pontificate how many of us Christians lack joy in our lives, in our attitudes and in our faces specially when celebrating the Holy Eucharist.

Joy is the mark of every true Christian who rejoices always in the salvation and freedom Jesus had brought us. Let us share the joy of life in Christ not only today but everyday for Jesus comes to us in every person filled with joy, free from sin and worries! Amen.

Have a joyful week ahead!

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

“The Nearness of You” by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (1956)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 05 December 2021
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, Israel, May 2019.

Lately everybody has been saying “Christmas is around the corner” or “Christmas is in the air” or simply “It’s Christmas”! This is the time of the year when we are most conscious of the season not of the Person behind the celebrations.

Christmas is Jesus Christ, of God becoming human like us, of God dwelling and living among us.

Christmas is the nearness of God among us.

That is why as we get closer to Christmas on this Second Sunday of Advent, we have chosen the very popular and lovely song The Nearness of You written in 1938 by Hoagy Carmichael with lyrics by Ned Washington to remind us of the Person of God so near among us ( see our reflection https://lordmychef.com/2021/12/04/advent-is-being-small-and-simple/).

Covered by so many artists since its debut in the 1938 movie Romance in the Dark, The Nearness of You has been covered since then by so many artists. Our favorite is still Frank Sinatra’s and this duet by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong.

The song is very short but very touching because it is person-oriented which is what Christmas is all about, of God in Jesus Christ getting closest to man and vice-versa.

It’s not the pale moon
That excites me
That thrills and delights me
Oh no
It’s just the nearness of you

It isn’t your sweet conversation
That brings this sensation
Oh no
It’s just the nearness of yo
u

Here we find in our relationships, whether with God or with others, the importance of being small, of being humble before everyone to be absorbed by the magic of the moment, of the relationship. When we look at the stars and the moon above us at night or watch a majestic sunrise or sunset, we experience our littleness yet it is in that being small when we also feel our greatness. It is in that being small when we feel so aware of our very selves, of others around us and of this beautiful world.

It is the same story of Christmas, of Christ born a Child on a lowly manger. Most of all, before his coming, there was also John the Baptist his Precursor who went to the desert to become small before God in preparing the way of the Lord.

On this Second Week of Advent we are reminded of God’s nearness among us if we can be small like John in the wilderness who preached the need to repent our sins to make a space within us for the coming Jesus Christ. Amen.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.

Advent is being small and simple

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday of Advent-C, 05 December 2021
Baruch 5:1-9 ><}}}*> Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11 ><}}}*> Luke 3:1-6
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

From “beginning with the end” last Sunday at the start of Advent, we now move into its second week when we are reminded by the readings and gospel that “everything begins small and simple” in God and with God’s kingdom.

So often in life, God’s beauty and majesty are revealed in small, little beginnings that are hidden and obscured, things and persons we take for granted without knowing it is in them and through them that God silently continues his works of wonder among us.

Such is the reality of Christ’s coming – then and now and in the end of time – as presented by Luke who began his account this Second Sunday of Advent with the introduction of John the Baptist.

“St. John the Baptist Preaching In the Wilderness” by Anton Raphael Mengs from en.wikipedia.org.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

Luke 3:1-2

Feel the solemnity of Luke’s report, so formal, evoking a sense of power and might, an air of superiority with all the trappings of those in the corridors of power in government and religion.

Then abruptly, he wrote tersely, “the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert”. Boom! So simple yet elegantly emphatic.

Notice Luke’s artistry presenting a list of who’s who living in palaces and Temple with all the comfort and luxury available at that time when in a sudden shift, without losing the building up of the drama that led to the climax that is John “proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah: A voice of one crying out in the desert: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths'” (Lk.3:3-4).

In introducing to us the person of John the Baptist which started in the very first chapter of his gospel, Luke is actually telling us how John was already the presence of Christ, that aside from being his precursor, he had Jesus in himself already! For Luke, John foreshadowed Christ’s work of salvation reaching its summit at Easter even while orienting us to Christmas.

The nearness of God

Every year, the second and third Sundays of Advent narrate the preaching and baptism by John the Baptist at Jordan to remind us how Jesus comes to us whenever, wherever the word of God is heard, accepted, and proclaimed that result into repentance and forgiveness of sins.

See how Luke shows us the overlapping of salvation history with our secular history, a clear indication of the presence and nearness of God with us in Christ’s coming. Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate, Herod, Philip, and Lysania with the high priests Caiaphas and Ananias were true persons who have lived in a particular time and specific places when John and Jesus lived too.

Here we find so true that God works silently and subtly in Jesus in our own personal lives and in the whole world for indeed, he is the God of history.

Photo by author, Chapel at the Basic Education Department, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 28 November 2021.

This Second Sunday of Advent we are assured of God’s nearness with us in Christ, especially when there are those darkness and obscurity, hiddenness and being unknown. These little and simple things in life are occasions where God reveals himself to us! Take them to heart.

Sometimes in life it is good to be down and even unknown, away from the limelight specially in this age of social media where everything even coffee breaks and new purchases or grades and medals of children are made known to everyone with much noise like blaring trumpets.

This boom in social media is so tiring and even disgusting with nothing hidden anymore, nothing is personal, and worst, nothing sacred any more! God and faith and sacraments have become commodities, persons are cheapened and used for personal advantages that even personal messages or PM’s have become “public happenings”. No more respect and dignity to others and most of all, unknown to those so immersed in the social media, they are the ones in the losing end, losing their very selves as they lose touch and grounding with reality.

Contrast it with John the Baptist in the desert with his balanced life between solitude and community and most of all, his rootedness in God and with realities of life that he can speak about the need for repentance to renew one’s self.

The gift of Advent

It can happen that when we are so filled with our selves, when we are so spread out feeling famous, “viral” and “trending” that we are also most empty and nothing like those powerful men mentioned by Luke, from the Roman emperor to the high priests; hence, the need to be hidden and unknown, little and small once in a while to allow enough room for changes and growth, and most especially to have a room within us for Jesus to work in us.

This is the gift of Advent Season: a time for us to be like John, to withdraw from the busy and toxic world so we may be alone and at home again with one’s true self, with loved ones, and with God in Jesus, through Jesus.

In the first reading we heard the end of a poem by Baruch where God consoles his people personified by Jerusalem, giving them hope of redemption someday from their Babylonian conquerors. It was the lowest point in the Jewish history when Jerusalem and their Temple were destroyed with the entire nation exiled to Babylon as slaves. No country, no Temple, so down and so small yet, God tells them:

Photo by author, Advent 2019.

Jerusalem take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of eternal name. For God will show all the earth your splendor; you will be named by God forever the peace of justice, the glory of God’s worship.

Baruch 5:1-4

See the beautiful image of God taking possession of his people exiled and enslaved, changing their lot into something so wonderful filled with splendor!

The same thing happens with us when we are down and lost for that is when God doubles his efforts in finding us, redeeming us, uplifting us. It had happened before in the coming of his Son Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago which continues to happen now and would surely happen again in its fullness at his Parousia.

Nothing happens in life and in the world without God knowing even the minutest, single details we do not notice at all. Let us imitate the confidence of Paul this Season of Advent:

I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6, 8
Photo by author, Advent 2020.

This Second Sunday of Advent we are told that even if we do not see Jesus like in the gospel of Luke when it is still concerned with the preaching of John the Baptist, he is already with us in those small and little sacrifices we do out of love for him.

Like John, Advent invites us to withdraw to the wilderness, to the desert to be hidden from the limelight to give God a space to come to us, to be present in us.

Like John, Advent invites us to empty ourselves of our pride and sins, to repent and be washed clean by God’s loving mercy and forgiveness to be filled with his humility, justice and love.

Like John, Advent wants us to be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: to be the voice of reason and faith in this noisy world of lies and superficialities; to make straight the path so bended with many excuses and alibis that have moved the lines of morality and propriety; to fill the valleys with sense and meaning; and, to make low every mountain and hill of human pride and arrogance that have left us more empty and lost than before.

Let us all be a John the Baptist, not only a precursor but also a presence of Jesus.

A blessed second week of Advent to everyone!

“Hey Look At the Sun” by Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’77 (1973)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 28 November 2021
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake of Galilee, Israel, 2017.

A blessed happy New Year, everyone!

It is the first Sunday of Advent, the start of another year in our Church calendar as we officially prepare for the coming Christmas these next four Sundays. And that is why we have chosen this 1973 music by Sergio Mendes and his Brasil ’77 for this Sunday, “Hey, Look At the Sun”.

From their third studio album called “Love Music”, Hey Look At The Sun sounds so personal with that Hey! – which is close with the spirit of Advent when Jesus calls us to be vigilant for his Second Coming (https://lordmychef.com/2021/11/27/beginning-with-the-end-in-sight/).

Sometimes I wonder if sunrise happens only once or twice a year, maybe every nation would stop and pause on those days so that everybody could see the beauty and charm of life every morning brings with the rising of the sun.

It is my favorite time of the day, of catching the rising sun that makes me feel so alive.

And so loved.

all of my life
there were things i wanted to do
but they all change the moment i set my eyes on you
the magnet is on that attracted me to you
there’s something inside i just can’t explain
but now i know what i must do

hey look at the sun
it’s fin’lly shining on my life
shining on my life
and it’s because of you
it’s finally shining on my life
for me and for you

Sergio Mendes and his lovely singers were suave and sophisticated, so to speak. Their songs are very inviting and melodious as they fused bossa nova with jazz and funk. Most of all, their lyrics – even the ones they covered – always touched on the human experience of love.

In Hey Look At the Sun composed by Nelson Angelo which was covered a decade ago by local artist Sitti, the main character speaks of how everything changed in her life after discovering love in a man who suddenly came to her life. Everything changes in our lives when we love and when we are loved.

This is the reason Jesus tells us in the gospel this Sunday to “beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties daily life” today along with St. Paul in the Second reading” (Lk.21:34), meaning, to love more the other person not only our very selves focused on material things.

To wait for his Second Coming at the end of time means to remain in loving service for one another; hence, the need for us to change our ways to rediscover love by rediscovering the next person to us as brothers and sisters in Jesus.

all of my life i’ve wondered round time and again
but i’ve never thought that i am searching with to an end
and then you came along
and my world of love began
so now i’m gonna change my ways
you’re all i want
you’re all i need

hey look at the sun
it’s fin’lly shining on my life
shining on my life
and it’s all because of you
it’s fin’lly shining on my life
for me and for you

A blessed week ahead of everyone!

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com

Advent is beginning with the end in sight

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

Blessed happy New Year, everyone!

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

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

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

The three comings of Jesus Christ

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

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

Photo by author, 2019.

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

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

Luke 21:27-28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting Jesus in Advent

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 21:34-36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any World (That I’m Welcome To) by Steely Dan (1975)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 21 November 2021
Photo by author, Singapore, 2018.

Please suspend any judgment yet for our choice of music this Sunday: I have waited so long for this inspiration to come in my prayers since we started this blog on music linked with the gospel.

Yes, I have always been a big fan – a Danhead – of Steely Dan since my elementary days in the mid-70’s and thanks to YouTube and the internet, the more I have come to love their music now that I am a priest!

Though I must confess that I have never learned nor fully understood their lyrics until now, I have always been faithfully in love with their music that is brusque and sophisticated at the same time yet charming and mysterious.

Just Google the meaning of Steely Dan, the band is essentially the duo of the late Walter Becker and Donald Fagen whose ability to gather the best musicians in itself is a stroke of genius.

Next to prayers, Steely Dan music has been my best antidote against all the blues, worries and fears since this pandemic began last year. And when burdens are so heavy that I feel so down, this is the Steely Dan tune I liked most at this time as it spoke so well exactly how I would always feel:

If I had my way
I would move to another lifetime
I’d quit my job
Ride the train through the misty nighttime
I’ll be ready when my feet touch ground
Wherever I come down
And if the folks will have me
Then they’ll have me

Any world that I’m welcome to
Is better than the one I come from

From their album Katy Lied released in 1975, Any World (That I’m Welcome To) speaks so well of our longing to go to another world where everything fits us right — the kind of feeling we tend to have when our plans do not happen, when everything seems to be wrong and out of order.

Like all their songs, Any World is loaded with philosophical musings by Becker and Fagen that words could not sufficiently express and that is why they always have to improvise and innovate in their music and instrumentations that sound so sublime, filled with enigma.

But, where is Jesus Christ and our celebration today of Christ the King in this music which many of my elders used to frown when I was growing up (and discerning my vocation)?

The inspiration came to me while praying on the first reading, on the “vision” of the prophet Daniel of the “Son of man” or Savior God sent to save us, Jesus Christ. Instantly, I remembered the last stanza of this song:

I think I’ll go to the park
Watch the children playing
Perhaps I’ll find in my head
What my heart is saying
A vision of a child returning
A kingdom where the sky is burning
Honey I will be there
Yes I’ll be there

Any world that I’m welcome to
Is better than the one I come from

And when we try visualize the gospel from John of the trial of Jesus before Pilate, the more we wish we are in any world where we are welcomed to! How ironic when we continue to put God on trial, always questioning him for all our woes, doubting his love and presence, his kingship, his very person in Jesus Christ (https://lordmychef.com/2021/11/20/jesus-truly-our-king/).

And that is where I find the genius and “spirituality” of Becker and Fagen: their music like Any World not only tells us of our deep longings but also at the same time of our convictions that there is something better, something good coming despite all the problems and darkness we have in life.

Yes, it will be pushing too hard to speak of faith and religion with Steely Dan music but, as I have cautioned you at the start, suspend any judgment and get the feel of Becker and Fagen in the second stanza of this great song:

I can hear your words
When you speak of what you are and have seen
I can see your hand
Reaching out through a shining daydream
Where the days and nights are not the same
Captured happy in a picture frame
Honey I will be there
Yes I’ll be there

Any world that I’m welcome to
Is better than the one I come from

Who else can understand us so well, who can see everything in us and most of all would be there? That must be Jesus, truly our King who died for us to make this a better world for us!

Have a blessed Sunday!

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.