Holiness in gentleness

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Monday, 29 March 2021
Isaiah 42:1-7   ><}}}*>   John 12:1-11
Photo by author, December 2020.
Here is my servant whom I uphold,
my chosen one with whom I am well pleased,
upon whom I have put my spirit;
he shall bring forth justice  to the nations,
not crying out,
not shouting, 
not making his voice heard in the street.
A bruised reed he shall not break, 
and a smoldering wick  he shall not quench.
(Isaiah 42:1-3)

On this Holy Monday of our holiest week, we pray to you, O God, for gentleness for us to be holy like your “Suffering Servant” according to Prophet Isaiah and fulfilled in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

In this world saturated in a cacophony of many voices and noises competing to be heard in the various social media platforms, teach us to be gentle, to never view ourselves better than someone else when we would rather be silent to listen more, “not crying out, not shouting, not making our voices heard in the street.”

In this world where “size always matters” while power is always expressed in force and violence, teach us to be gentle with them who are actually weak and soft inside, even broken like the reed or a smoldering wick.

Teach us holiness in gentleness through Jesus Christ who showed us the path to real power is in weakness, that instead of asserting superiority, we would rather help others to assert their innate goodness especially when the weak come forward to express their gentleness too like Mary who poured oil and perfume on his feet.

Give us the grace to dwell today on his words, “Leave her alone. Let her keep this for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me” (Jn.12:7-8).

O how foolish we can be, dear Father, to miss this essential truth that we can only love the poor in you and through Jesus your Son. Take away that attitude of Judas Iscariot among us of “thinking the poor” yet always feeling superior to them, even to Jesus our Lord!

Make us gentle in our thoughts and in our words, most especially in our actions so that everyone may feel your gentle mercy and compassion in Christ. Amen.

Becoming the TLC of God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Homily, Wednesday in Lent Week IV, 17 March 2021
Isaiah 49:8-15     + ++     John 5:17-30    
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Today we resumed the community Masses on a limited basis at the Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) and Fatima University Medical Center (FUMC) in Valenzuela where I am now serving as their chaplain.

Our aim is very simple:  to share Jesus with everyone in our Fatima community including their families and friends.

Sharing Jesus means being tender and caring with one another like God our Father in heaven who gave us the loveliest description of these attributes in the first reading today by being like a mother.

Thus says the Lord:  “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?  Even should she forget, I will never forget you.”

isaiah 49:15

If there is one thing missing in our country
 in this one year old pandemic and lockdown, 
it must be tenderness.

In the gospel of St. Luke, we find Zechariah singing praises to God at the birth of his son John the Baptist:

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Luke 1:78-79

St. Luke used the Greek word “splaghna” to designate tenderness as “tender mercy of God”

Mercy, or “misericordia” which is also our University motto is from the Latin “misereor” that means to stir, to move. More than a feeling, mercy is compassion in action wherein one is moved or stirred in the heart to go down, reach out and be one with the suffering like Jesus Christ.  And that is when we are filled with tenderness of God. Then we become caring.

Tenderness of God as tender compassion is misericordia that is “tagos sa buto” as in “sagad-sagad” that even if we feel tired and hungry, or afraid and anxious, we still go out to help, to uplift, to keep company and inspire those in pain and suffering, those about to give up in life, those who are lost because of sickness, poverty, and other difficulties.

This we find and do in Jesus, through Jesus, with Jesus who said in our gospel today, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (Jn.5:17).

Remember that scene of the feeding of five thousand in the wilderness when Jesus and the Twelve crossed the lake to the other side to rest but a vast crowd followed them and even got ahead of them to the site.  When Jesus saw them, he was moved with pity because they were like “sheep without shepherd” that despite his being hungry and tired, he taught them many things, healed their sick, exorcised the possessed and later, fed and satisfied them all from just five loaves of bread and three pieces of fish.

Tenderness is when we are moved to help those in need while we ourselves are also suffering. Hence, it is not surprising at all to find that the most tender and caring people are also the ones who suffer most. Like moms and these days, the medical front liners who continue to serve us amid the risks they face!


Being tender and caring
are essentially the works of God
made known to us in Jesus Christ.

It has been a year since we had the longest lockdown in the world. It is fitting that as we recall those days even if dark clouds still loom above us these days that we remember the people who have cared for us and made life bearable: all those working in the hospitals supporting our doctors and nurses; the market vendors who ensured we have food on the table; the staff members of the botica we usually visited to get our medicines; the panadero who prepared our daily bread; our teachers who braved the digital world so we may continue with our schooling and learning process, and many more.

It is a tremendous grace from God to be able to be tender with someone because that means we care like Jesus Christ.

Photo from GMA-7 News of Mang Dodong.

Today, God reminds us that amid this great darkness still looming above us in this time of the pandemic, He cares for us very much and wants us to care for one another too, especially for those going through many trials and difficulties in life.

Let us give Jesus our hands and our hearts to be vessels of his divine Tender Loving Care. Amen.

Lent is TLC of God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Fourth Week in Lent, 17 March 2021 (St. Patrick's Day)
Isaiah 49:8-15     <*{{{><  +  ><}}}*>     John 5:17-30
Photo by author, December 2020.
"Can a mother forget her infant,
be without tenderness for the child of her womb?
Even should she forget, 
I will never forget you." 
(Isaiah 49:15)

If there is one thing we terribly miss these days a year since the start of this pandemic is tenderness, your kind of Tender Loving Care (TLC) only you, God our Father, can give like a mother to her child.

How sad that in this time of difficulties when there are so many sufferings and darkness around us, there are also much arrogance and apathy afflicting many of us.

More sad is how everybody is solely focused in finding a cure to control spread of COVID-19, often in drastic measures that only worsen the plight of the weak and marginalized, many have forgotten the need for more care for everyone, not only for those sick but also for our front liners who have lost so many of their family and friends in this time of the corona.

In this continuing darkness of our lives despite the sparkle from vaccines that are still unavailable to many of us, we know you continue to work to save us in Jesus Christ your Son who assured us, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work” (Jn.5:17).

Let us do your work, Lord, especially today as we celebrate the feast of St. Patrick. Use our hands and our hearts to tenderly serve others especially those deep in darkness with sins and sufferings.

Teach us not only to be compassionate willing to suffer with others but most of all, fill us with the Father’s tenderness to care like you so that we are moved to reach out, going down to the level of those crying, of those so tired and about to give up in life.

Soften our hearts that have been hardened with negativities and cynicisms of time.

Stir our hearts, O Lord, that like you even in our hunger and pain, we may realize there are others more hungry and more in pain than us, hoping for some comfort and care, healing and encouragement, or simply company and inspiration and reason to live.

Let our hands and our hearts, our whole selves be an extension of your tender mercy and care so that “the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the path of peace” (Lk.1:78-79). Amen.

Welcoming Jesus

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 28 December 2020
Photo by author, 28 December 2020.

“Welcoming Jesus”.

It is not really the title of this piece but the name of this image of the baby Jesus above.

See His smiles and open hands with eyes exuding with warmth and joy to anyone who sees Him. Even with the dusts and cracks held intact by scotch tapes, it is one of my most loved and cherished possessions I would never trade for anything.

Given to me by a brother priest in Christmas 2017, Welcoming Jesus measures about eight inches and seems to be Mexican or African inspired with his dark skin and lively colorful design of baby dress. I have always loved this Baby Jesus who seems so alive that I have kept Him on my desk, giving me so many inspirations and “kicks” in my studies in the past three years.

Small and handy, and so fragile, I have always imagined Him to be just like the infant Jesus when He was born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.

As I turned off my lamp last night before retiring, I saw Him, smiling and yes, “welcoming” to remind me of a story I have read ten years ago about St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India when one of their patients threw to her a crucifix in a fit of tantrum. After pacifying the patient, St. Mother Teresa picked the crucifix and pieced together with a scotch tape an arm of Jesus that was broken. She then gave it to one of her nuns with instructions to hang it again on their wall with a note that says, “Let me heal your broken arm”.

In the same manner, as I looked onto my little image of “Welcoming Jesus”, I felt it my Christmas message for 2020 as we celebrate Holy Innocents’ Day: “Let me show you tenderness, Baby Jesus.”

If there is one thing we all need at this time of the pandemic, this Christmas 2020, it must be tenderness. Like the tender compassion of God, His mercy.

Tenderness is being merciful, being soft in the heart in a very positive sense. Some people think that being tender, being merciful and forgiving is a sign of weakness; on the contrary, it is pure power and strength.

The former US President Theodore Roosevelt who was a military officer before getting into politics used to tell that in any argument or discussion, the first to use one’s fist is always the one with less intelligence, less power who resort to force because they have ran out of reasons to argue.

Very true! Exactly with that off-duty cop who brutally shot and killed mother and son in Paniqui, Tarlac whose tiny brain could not control his humongous body much less understand everything that was going then.

Mercy and tenderness, like courage, are movements within the heart. The Latin word for mercy perfectly captures its meaning: misericordia or a stirring of the heart, a moving of the heart. More than a feeling, it is taking concrete actions to bow down and be one with those suffering.

That is why the Son of God became human, chose to be born as an infant like everybody else, to be one with us, to suffer with us, that is, compassion from cum and passio, to suffer with.

The eminent theologian Fr. Hans urs Von Balthasar, a good friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, wrote before he died that “the central mystery of Christianity is our transformation from a world-wise, self-sufficient ‘adults’ into abiding children of the Father of Jesus by the grace of the Holy Spirit. All else in the Gospel – the Lord’s Incarnation, his hidden and public lives, his miracles and preaching, his Passion, Cross, and resurrection – has been for this” (Unless You Become Like This Child).

A baby is always welcoming to almost everyone, and vice versa, anyone even the most hardened criminal would always welcome and be moved by the sight of a baby or a child.

How sad that until now, there are still King Herods among us who are insecured with children and infants. Worst are those who abuse and molest children, the single most damning crime by some in the clergy this century because it is directly opposite the central theme of Christ’s teachings and warning – “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father” (Matt.18:10).

Photo by Mr. Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, Baby Jesus in our Parish, Christmas 2020.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in our churches, the traditional kissing (pahalik) of the image of the Baby Jesus is scrapped. Perhaps it is a good reminder to us all to meditate more in our hearts the meaning of Jesus being born an infant – so weak, so dependent to adults like us.

It is a call for us too to do something concrete about the many sufferings children have to go through in this time, on one end those denied of basic goods and services while on the other extreme are the children with all the material needs except the warmth and love of their parents.

One saint I have discovered before our ordination more than 20 years ago is St. Charles de Foucauld, a French priest who lived among the Tuaregs of the Sahara desert in the early 20th century. In his room, he always had a baby Jesus and an altar for the Blessed Sacrament to adore daily.

His core value is founded on “littleness” – of finding Jesus among the little ones, of being little before the Lord.

Have that tender care that expresses itself in the little things that are like a balm for the heart… With our neighbours go into the smallest details, whether it is a question of health, of consolation, of prayerfulness, or of need. Console and ease the pain of others through the tiniest of attentions. Be as tender and attentive towards those whom God puts on our path, as a brother towards brother or as a mother for her child. As much as possible be an element of consolation for those around us, as soothing balm, as our Lord was towards all those who drew near to him.

St. Chrales de Foucauld

What a beautiful reminder of the Child Jesus this Christmas and hereafter. If we can be tender with one another in the most minute detail like Jesus, then we can truly experience His coming to us, fulfilling us with His presence and love which is the spirit of Christmas. Amen.

Advent is tenderness of God

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul-9
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Advent Week IV, 24 December 2020
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Luke 1:67-79
Photo by author, altar at our sacristy, 19 December 2020.

One thing that have really made this pandemic so bad and so sad is the lack of tenderness of our many officials to the people they are supposed to serve. Consider all these pains and inconveniences they have caused us the public from the fatal shooting of that Marawi veteran in Quezon City to the detention of Mang Dodong at the height of the lockdown to the closure of the largest network in the country mid-year then on to stupidities of first the motorcycle barrier, then the closure of U-turn slots at EDSA capped by the insane RFID at NLEX and now the inhuman shooting of mother and son by an off-duty policeman.

As one of my friends wrote on his FB page last April, “bakit kung kailan panahon ng pandemya na dapat magtulungan at magmahalan saka puro karahasan?” (why all the the violence happening during pandemic when we are supposed to be helping and more loving to one another?).

What a year indeed of natural calamities worsened by some public officials so detached from the sufferings of the people.

And that, my friends, is why we have to celebrate all the more – meaningfully – Christmas.

God is perfect and cannot suffer; hence, He sent us His only Son Jesus Christ to be one with us in our sufferings and miseries, to suffer with us – cum passio – express His compassion.

On this last day of our novena to Christmas, we see how Zechariah comes into full circle singing praises to God (called Benedictus in Latin) after being forced by the angel into full silence becoming speechless when he doubted God’s gift of a child to him and his wife Elizabeth.

Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.”

Luke 1:67-69
Photo by author, Advent Week IV, 20 December 2020.

Jesus already present among us in the coming of John

During the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Luke never mentioned Zechariah around the house so that Elizabeth and her baby in her womb were the only ones were filled with the Holy Spirit upon hearing Mary’s greeting.

Now, after naming his son “John”, Luke tells us how Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit too that he prophesied the meaning of the coming of his son as “prophet of the Most High” in 1:76.

See the three verbs he used after blessing God in his canticle called Benedictus: “Blessed be the Lord… he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.” The verbs are all in the past tense when in fact, what he was saying was supposed to be of what would happen after the birth of John, the coming of Jesus Christ.

Here we find the complete faith and trust of Zechariah to the plan of God like Mary in her Magnificat. Zechariah had seen something so big, something momentous taking place while still in the midst of darkness of his time and world just like us in this pandemic and calamities, callous officials in government and police.

Dear friends: Jesus has come, had set us free (saved us), and had risen to work all His wonders! Let us keep our faith and hope like Zechariah that God has already started working in our favor to turn the tide and soon, things will surely get better if we remain consistent to our response to His calls, standing for life and dignity of every person through whom Jesus comes, for what is true and just.

Photo by author, Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein-Karen, Israel (2019).

From the hand of God into the heart of God

Yesterday we reflected on how we have to allow ourselves to be “the hand of God”, to let Him do His work among us through our hands. Today in Zechariah’s Benedictus we find a movement from the hand of God to His very heart in Jesus Christ our Savior.

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Luke 1:78-79

After seeing the coming of the Christ in the birth of his son John, Zechariah now summarizes to us the very essence of Jesus our Savior, of God Himself: tender compassion or in the original Greek, splaghna or “tender mercy” of God.

It is not just compassion which is to suffer with us but at the same time be filled with tenderness that one is so moved to reach out, to do something by going down with the one suffering.

Like courage, mercy is a movement in the heart called misericordia in Spanish from the Latin mittere, meaning to be moved, to be stirred. It is something dynamic, not static. It is a deep feeling that moves toward someone in pain and suffering. An identification of Jesus with every person going through so much hardships and sufferings in life.

Zechariah’s heart is no longer hardened with negativity and cynicism – it was so stirred by God that he mentioned His tender mercy or compassion because he had personally felt it as he recovered his voice and speech. With the birth of John, he now believes that God’s love for his suffering people is deep and personal. As we say in Filipino, “tagos o sagad sa buto” which may be translated as “through and through”.

And that is perhaps one of the things we sorely miss so much these days from everyone, tenderness. The tender compassion, tender mercy of Jesus. Recall how during His ministry all four evangelists would narrate how Jesus was moved with pity and compassion to the people who were lost, tired and sick “like sheep without a shepherd” that no matter how tired He may be, He would always find time to teach them, heal their sick, and even feed them.

That is the mercy of God that Jesus had brought forth to us in His coming, experienced by Zechariah himself that he could foresee its coming at the birth of John.

Photo by author, Advent Week IV, 20 December 2020.

We priests and religious pray the Benedictus in our morning prayer called lauds (Latin for praises). It is so fitting because at the start of each day, that must be the one thing clear with us always – that the Lord is come to save us, to forgive us, to love us.

One saying I have always loved mentioning in my talks to people came from an anonymous writer I found on the table of a good friend long before I became a priest. It says: “If you have love in your heart, you have been blessed by god; if you have been loved, you have been touched by God.”

That is the Benedictus, the song of every faithful disciple of Jesus introducing His coming, His birth. So many people have forgotten God, do not know God, refused to believe in God because many among us He had lavishly loved have refused to share His love with others.

Have a blessed and meaningful Christmas! Thank you for following our reflections. Share it if you have been blessed.

Photo by author, Christmas 2019.

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.

Advent is God’s Tenderness and Sweetness

49116908_550946642036661_8965409051152220160_n
The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-8
Fourth Sunday of Advent, 23 December 2018
Micah 5:1-4///Hebrews 10:5-10///Luke 1:39-45

            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.  Unfortunately, this love of Christmas is often presented in the cheesy songs as romantic love like in “Pasko na Sinta Ko”and “Last Christmas”.  The word “lovers” may be too serious as a term for us to relate this with today’s gospel the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth; but, the truth is, both women 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 expression of their love for God.  And when there is love, there is always tenderness and sweetness that all happen in the context of a visitation that we first try to reflect upon.

             Visit and visitation may seem to be one and the same in the sense that both have a common Latin root word, the verb to see, “vidi, videre” from which came the word video.  But, a visit is more casual and informal without intimacy because it is just “a passing by” or merely to see.  It is more concerned with the place or the location and site and not the person to be visited.   We say it clearly in Filipino as in “napadaan lang” when it just so happened you were passing by a place and even without any intentions, you tried seeing someone there.  On the other hand, visitation is more commonly used in church language like when a bishop or priests come to see the parishioners in remote places.  This is the reason a chapel is more known as a visita in our country because that is where priests visit and check on the well-being of people living in areas very far from the parish usually at the town proper.  Aside from being the venue for the celebration of Masses, the visita serves as classroom for catechism classes and other religious even social gatherings in a particular place.  Thus, visitation connotes a deeper sense in meaning because there is an expression care and concern among people, a kind of love shared by the visitator/visitor and the one visited like Mary and Elizabeth.  Visitation is more of entering into someone’s life or personhood as reported by St. Luke on Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth where Mary “entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Lk.1:40),  implying communion or the sharing of a common experience.  In this case, the two women shared the great experience of being blessed with the presence of God in their wombs!

          Visitation, therefore, is a sharing or oneness in the joys and pains of those dear to us.  The word becomes more meaningful when we try to examine its Filipino equivalent which is “pagdalaw” from the root word “dala” that can be something you bring or a verb to bring.  When we come for a visitation, we dala or bring something like food or any gift.  But most of all we bring our very selves like a gift of presence wherein we share our total selves with our time and talents, joys and sadness, and everything to those being visited.  And that is what Mary did exactly in her visitation of Elizabeth where she brought with her the Lord Jesus Christ in her womb, becoming the first monstrance of the Lord as well as His first tabernacle.  We are invited to become like Mary in the visitation of others to bring Christmas and Jesus Himself to others by allowing our very body to be the “bringer” or “taga-dala” of Christ.  The Lord Himself is the highest good we can bring as pasalubong in ever visitation we make.  And if we can only be like Mary in our visitations and dealings with one another sharing Jesus Christ, then we also bring with us God’s tenderness and sweetness to others.  In a world that admires toughness and roughness, qualities like tenderness and sweetness are so rare to find these days.  How sad, even tragic is the viral video of bullying at the Junior High School of the Ateneo last week that has spawned other forms of bullying with everybody lynching on the bully, making all kinds of jokes out of the incident while forgetting the bigger bullies we have in the halls of power these days.  See that the two most popular presidents ever elected won the hearts of many voters because of their macho image of astig or sanggano, relishing their pugnacious character and behavior with matching cuss words and street talk, exactly the bullies we often condemn?!

             Back to our topic…tenderness and sweetness in Filipino are often translated in just one word which is “malambing” from “lambing” that has no direct English translation except that it connotes a loving affection; but, both terms are more than just affections but stirrings from the heart that move us into action.  Tenderness is very much like gentleness; the former is more focused while the latter is very general attitude.  Tenderness is more than being soft and gentle but an awareness of the other person’s weaknesses, needs and vulnerabilities.  A tender person is one who tries not to add more insult to one’s injuries or rub salt onto one’s wounds so to speak.  A tender person is one who tries to soothe and calm a hurting person, trying to heal his/her wounds like God often portrayed in many instances in the bible in lovingly dealing with sinners filled with mercy.  Like God, a person filled with tenderness is one who comes to comfort and heal the sick and those taking on a lot of beatings in life.  When Jesus Christ came, He also personified this tenderness of God like when He is moved with pity and compassion for the sick, the widows, the women and the children and the voiceless in the society.  Tenderness is coming to heal the wounds of those wounded and hurt, trying to “lullaby” the restless and sleepless.  Mary visited Elizabeth because she also knew the many wounds of her cousin who for a long time bore no child, living in “disgrace before others” as she had claimed (Lk.1:25).

            Sweetness always goes with tenderness.  It is the essence of God who is love.  Anyone who loves is always sweet that always comes naturally from within, bringing out good vibes.  It is never artificial like Splenda, always flowing freely and naturally that leaves a good taste and feeling to anyone.  In the Hail Holy Queen, Mary is portrayed as “O clement, O sweet Virgin Mary” to show her sweetness as a mother.  According to the late Fr. Henri Nouwen in his book “The Return of the Prodigal Son”, we are all invited to be like God in having both the qualities of a father and mother in Him.  Basing his reflections on the painting by Rembrandt of the said parable, God has a father’s hand that is supportive, empowering and encouraging and a mother’s hand that is consoling, caressing, and comforting.  There are no pretensions and pompousness in being sweet, never needs much effort to exert in showing it for it comes out naturally and instantly.

            Tenderness and sweetness are the most God-like qualities we all have but have buried deep into our innermost selves, refusing them to come out because of 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.  Tenderness and sweetness are the twin gifts of Christmas to humanity when God almighty became little and vulnerable like us so we can be great and powerful like Him in being able to love.  Let me end this long reflection with a quotation from the classic novel “The Plague” by Albert Camus:  “A loveless world is a dead world, and always there comes an hour when one is weary of prisons, of one’s work, and of devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.”  Let that love in you come out this Christmas and hereafter, simply be human like the child Jesus and be surprised at its tremendous power to change the world like God Almighty.  AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

*Photo by the author, our Nativity scene at the side of the church with the manger still empty.  Be the Child Jesus Christ, be tender and sweet to someone going through hard times in life, to someone suffering in silence.  Let them feel Christ, let them be touched by God with your concrete love of tenderness and sweetness.