Shrewd as serpents, simple as doves

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Baccalaureate Mass of Senior High School,
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 08 July 2022
Photo by author at Mt. Nebo, Jordan overlooking the Holy Land, May 2019. Modern sculpture of the bronze serpent God told Moses to erect in the desert so that those bitten by snakes would be healed when they looked up to it, a prefiguration of Christ himself.

Congratulations, our dear graduates of Senior High School. You are so blessed today because our gospel is like a valedictory address given to you by no less than our Lord Jesus Christ whose message is so simple, yet so rich and so timely during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.”

Matthew 10:16

You are the modern apostles of Jesus Christ.

You are so special, Senior High Batch 2022. The past two years are the most difficult in modern history, and probably doubly difficult for young people like you who were supposed to be outside learning and discovering more about life beyond the classrooms but COVID-19 kept you grounded.

But, here you are! Nakatapos din! – despite the poor internet services, the boring online classes, and limited personal interaction with others, you are graduating, soon fulfilling your dreams to become doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers.

Truly as Jesus Christ had said in the gospel today, you are being sent like sheep among wolves, a very wild world indeed where evil and darkness seem to prevail especially when you listen to all the news of missing ladies or even adults.

Photo by author, view of the desert to the Holy Land as seen from Jordan, May 2019.

I refuse to use that expression when somebody graduates, “welcome to the real world”. Was there any moment in your lives that was not real like, kunwa-kunwarian lang? What you went through in senior high was real, what you have experienced were all true. Lahat ay totohanang buhay especially those two years of isolation and lockdowns which may continue for the next three or five years according to experts.

Life will be more difficult in college but most challenging for growth and maturity.

Yes, there are so many dangers from within and from the outside but trust in God for in him alone can we find life and fulfillment as the prophet Hosea reminds us in the first reading today.

Thus says the Lord: “Let him who is wise understand these things, let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble.”

Hosea 14:10

What Hosea is telling us is to be wise, to be filled with wisdom which begins in having that holy fear of the Lord. Handle life with prayer. As I would always tell you, “study hard, work harder, pray hardest”. In God alone can we find meaning and fulfillment in life.

Photo by author, St. Catherine’s Monastery near Mt. Sinai, Egypt, May 2019.

Maybe you are wondering why Jesus is asking us to be shrewd like the serpents. As you must have learned in world literature and world history, the ancient peoples like the Egyptians have always considered snakes as symbols of wisdom. But what I wish to focus more is the revision of the older translation of this passage from “be wise as the serpents” to “be shrewd as the serpents”.

Being shrewd is often mistaken into a negative trait because it suggests a practical wisdom that does not necessarily look deeply into things at all but wily and conscious of its personal interests.

That’s according to the late Dr. S. I. Hayakawa of the the veritable Reader’s Digest guide to synonyms, “Use the Right Word”. However, Dr. Hayakawa explained that the word “shrewd” is often used to indicate an unusual mental agility or perceptiveness of taking advantage of hidden opportunities. It speaks of a more penetrating kind of wisdom that is why the new versions of bible of “be shrewd as the serpents” is more precise and exact.

In that sense, too, you are all shrewd as the serpents during your senior high school because you were able to perceive hidden opportunities during the pandemic that you strived in your studies. Believe me, you are well-equipped for life because of the online classes during the pandemic, teaching you, showing you so many opportunities our generation had never seen.

Here is the more interesting part of being shrewd like the serpents….

From reddit.com.

The snake is the only one in the animal kingdom that regularly sheds off its skin, a sign of renewal. In Filipino, we call that “paghuhunos ng balat”. During Lent, we hear the elders telling us “maghunos dili” – literally to shed some of one’s self or pride and ego. In short, be converted.

The snake is shrewd because it sheds its skin so often, renewing itself, adjusting and adapting to new situations.

And that is true wisdom – adjusting and adapting to new situations. Most of all, spiritually speaking, it is a daily conversion in God.

Conversion is not changing our personality, like a very courageous person becoming timid or a talkative person becoming silent. Conversion means having new directions in our selves. Perfect example is St. Paul who used to persecute Christians but upon conversion, became the missionary of the gospel of Christ. He was practically the same person still – zealous and full of enthusiasm but no longer in persecuting Christians but promoting Christ.

Conversion is being like the snake in shedding its skin, letting go of the old ways and self to be renewed – still a snake but a better snake after each shedding of skin. That’s being shrewd like the serpents: of the many lessons taught to us by this COVID-19 pandemic, one of the leading lessons is the need for us to adapt and adjust when things are not going good.

And you are the experts in this because during those two years of online classes – for better and for worst – you must have perfected the art of adjustments, of adaptation. Nobody ever expected or even predicted the things that happened in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic is so unique, even surreal. We were so used to our comfort zones, so used to what has always been long before but COVID forced us to abandon that frame of mind and be like serpents, to adjust to situations by shedding off our skins, our pride to be more attuned with the environment to eventually emerge victorious. And we are all better now, especially you who are graduating soon!

Of course, you do not have to adjust and adapt to everything. You have to weigh things carefully. That is why Jesus balanced his instruction to be shrewd as the serpents with being simple as doves. We do not change and renew ourselves for the sake of adapting to new situations; we renew and adapt to become better persons, to become holier.

Remember, you are like the sheep – symbol of humility and holiness – being sent among wolves.

Be shrewd as the serpents and simple as doves. God bless you more in your college studies, Batch 2022!

Praying for joy and wisdom

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Cyril, Bishop and St. Methodius, Monk, 14 February 2022
James 1:1-11   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Mark 8:11-13
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 2019.
So many people today, O Lord,
are so busy and excited, being  
Valentine's day, a day of the heart
when sweethearts speak sweet 
nothings, giving flowers to
express their love to their beloved.
I can't blame them, O Lord,
for being taken for a ride in this
highly commercialized world that
has become more stressful;
people have been suffering from
so many forms of difficulties and 
trials that for many, they try to 
escape momentarily.

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4
Teach, O Lord, to consider it true
joy and a blessing in disguise every
trial we go through in life; inasmuch as
we greatly dislike inconvenience and 
sufferings, failures and powerlessness,
poverty and sickness, may we recall 
yesterday's Beatitudes, that true
blessedness and joy come from going
through these difficulties that bring out
the best in us through time than the 
instant gratifications and feel-good 
offered by the world.
Grant us the wisdom to appreciate
the trials that come our way, producing
in us the depth and maturity that lead 
to fulfillment and perfection; may we
stop looking for outward signs like 
those Pharisees who kept on debating
with Jesus without any intentions of 
being open to find and accept him.
Amen.
Brothers Saints Cyril and
Methodius,
Pray for us!

Keep my heart in you, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin, 10 February 2022
1 Kings 11:4-13   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Mark 7:24-30
Photo from ABS-CBN News, medical frontliners making the heart sign, 2020.
Your words today, O Lord,
invite me to examine closely
where is my heart especially after all
the triumphs and gains I have had
lately, after being showered with
your many blessings.

When Solomon was old, his wives had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of his father David had been.

1 Kings 11:14
Keep my heart entirely yours, Lord;
I am afraid that like Solomon,
I may have also been like him
with my heart being stolen from you
by the very blessings you have
showered me with like health
and some degrees of comforts,
triumphs and successes.
I do not ask for more pains and
sufferings, dear Jesus; just keep 
my heart closest to you always
like that Syrophoenician woman in
the gospel who begged you to heal
her daughter possessed by the devil;
she was witty and wise in her answer
to you:  "Lord, even the dogs under
the table eat the children's scraps"
(Mark 7:28) that you have her child
healed. 
So many times, Lord, in our wisdom
and intelligence, we rationalise 
everything to justify what we want
and what we do like Solomon;
so many times, Lord, our wisdom
could not prevent our being ruled
by our hearts and selfish interests that
we keep on doing what we know is not
right and sinful; so many times, Lord, 
we try other paths forgetting 
that you are the only WAY, 
the TRUTH and the LIFE.
Help me imitate St. Scholastica, 
the twin sister of St. Benedict,
whose minds and hearts have 
always remained united in you,
dear Jesus that even in the end
of their lives, not even death could
separate their bodies as they shared 
just one grave.  Amen.

Living on the inside

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week V, Year II in Ordinary Time, 09 February 2022
1 Kings 10:1-10   ><))))*> + <*((((><   Mark 7:14-23
Photo by author, 2018.
Praise and glory to You, 
God our Father in heaven
that you see more what is inside 
than what is outside, 
what is essential 
than what is accidental. 
Purify and cleanse my heart,
Lord, so I may also see beyond 
what is external, what is on the surface
and everything that is superficial;
give me the drive to probe 
deeper into the heart to see
the many wonders of every person 
instead of criticizing and judging everyone
like the Queen of Sheba who travelled far 
to verify for herself King Solomon’s wisdom.
Bless me with courage
to face and change things 
not pleasing within me like 
“evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, 
murder, adultery, greed, malice, 
deceit, licentiousness, envy, 
blasphemy, arrogance, folly” (Mark7:21).
It is only with a clean heart, 
dear God through Jesus your Son
when we are truly good and wise 
because it is YOU, not us, 
who must be seen and eventually 
be praised by those who can see 
the inner reality like the Queen of Sheba 
who told King Solomon, 
“Blessed be the Lord, your God, 
whom it has pleased to place you 
on the throne of Israel… 
to carry out judgment and justice” 
(1Kings10:9). 
Moreover, it is only those
who live inside your heart, 
Lord, like the psalmist today
who can murmur with ones lips 
your wisdom and majesty.  Amen.

A prayer for 2022

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Sixth Day within the Octave of Christmas, 30 December 2021
1 John 2:12-17  ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 2:36-40
Photo by author, 18 November 2021 at San Fernando, Pampanga.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2:39-40
God our loving Father, 
we are now about to complete 
another blessed year to meet 
another one more blessed;
thank you for the year 2021, 
for its bountiful grace and lessons
learned; for the gift of life, for the gift
of family and friends still with us.
Thank you also for all the pains and
hurts specially brought by COVID-19
to many of us; at least, we have 
realized our weaknesses and most of
all, the we love and needed to be loved.
And so, dear God, we pray like your
Son Jesus Christ after being presented
to the Temple, we may not only grow strong
physically and materially in 2022 
but most of all, that we may grow spiritually
to be filled with your wisdom so we may grow 
deeper in your favor; teach us to be like 
your prophetess Anna to cultivate a deep 
prayer life, seeking and patiently waiting 
for your voice and directions
to take in life this coming new year.
Let us heed St. John the Beloved's
warning that "the world and its enticement
are passing away.  But whoever does the
will of God remains forever" (1Jn.2:17).
Amen.

Fluidity in life

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop, 11 November 2021
Wisdom 7:22-8:1   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 17:20-25
Photo by author, La Union, 2018.
Today O God I am so struck
by your words from the first reading:
"For Wisdom is mobile beyond all
motion, and she penetrates and 
pervades all things by reason of 
her purity.  For she is an aura of 
the might of God and a pure effusion
of the glory of the Almighty; 
therefore, nought that is sullied
enters into her... Indeed, she reaches
from end to end mightily and
governs all things well" 
(Wisdom 7:24-25, 8:1).
What a beautiful description
of Wisdom, of you, dear God!
Someone so fluid, so natural 
like water:  everything flowing
naturally in order - so subtle yet
powerful, hidden but evident and 
felt that so often for those with 
closed minds and closed hearts,
you seem to be so far, even 
unrecognizable.

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is’. For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

Luke 17:20-21
Teach me to be fluid, Jesus,
like St. Martin of Tours who
naturally cut his tunic into two
to share it with a poor beggar
one cold evening; his kindness was
instinctively filled with Wisdom, fluidly
finding you among the least of our
brethren; may we have the same grace
of  St. Martin to find you among the needy
and most specially to look up to heaven
for our soul's journey back to you.
Amen.
St. Martin of Tours, Patron of my hometown Bocaue, Bulacan; photo from the Parish Commission on Social Communication.

Being wise, avoiding sin

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 08 November 2021
Wisdom 1:1-7   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Luke 17:1-6
Photo by author, Israel, 2017.
Thank you dear Jesus 
for the assurance of your
love and understanding 
as well as the fair warning that
"Things that cause sin will 
inevitably occur.  It would be
better for him if a millstone 
were put around his neck and 
he be thrown into the sea than
for him to cause one of these
little ones to sin" (Luke 17:1-2).
I know, Lord, it is not an excuse
but a fact of life that we shall always
be fighting sins and evil while here
on earth as we strive to follow you;
but I know too well, dear Lord, of the
deep pains and sorrows, the widespread 
anguish every kind of scandal brings
to our family and society, most 
specially to the Mother Church.

Love justice, you who judge the earth; think of the Lord in goodness, and seek him in integrity of heart; because he is found by those who test him not, and he manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. For perverse counsels separate a man from God, his power, put to the proof rebukes the foolhardy; because into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not, nor dwells she in a body under debt of sin.

Wisdom 1:1-4
Forgive us, merciful Jesus,
strengthen us to live in wisdom,
keeping our hearts free from "perverse 
thoughts" so that your Holy Spirit of
instruction may fill and guide us to 
keep us from becoming a "skandalon"
or a rock that causes one to fall and sin.
Amen.

God knows what is best

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, 15 July 2021
Exodus 3:13-20     ><)))*> + <*(((><     Matthew 11:28-30
Photo by author, Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, January 2019.
Your words today, O Lord,
are very encouraging,
so reassuring in these days
when many are languishing
of having that feeling something 
is not right, unable to move
and make progress in life
and in one's self due to this pandemic.
Like your people in Egypt during 
the time of Moses,
we feel alone and abandoned,
trapped and imprisoned.
Therefore, we pray dear God,
that you awaken in us that courage
and deep trust in you
fill us with your very self
or "enthusiasm" from "en-theos"
to forge on in this life amid 
the many darkness and difficulties
we encounter right now
whether at home or at school,
in our office and community
in our country where we have so 
many pharaohs lording over us!
"Yet I know
that the king of Egypt will not
allow you to go unless he is forced.
I will stretch out my hand,
therefore,
and smite Egypt by doing all kinds
of wondrous deed there.
After that he will send you away."
(Exodus 3:19-20)
You really know what is best
for us, O God our loving Father!
Even before any problem happens
or trial comes to each of us,
you have already prepared us
a long time ago how we can handle
or deal with any crisis, even sending us
the right persons who can help us
to overcome every obstacle 
and difficulties that come our way.
Problem is we always turn away from you,
we always forget you.
Jesus said:
"Come to me,
all you who labor
and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you
and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble
of heart; and you will find rest
for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden light."
(Matthew 11:28-30)
Let us come to you,
dear Jesus, in all humility;
like St. Bonaventure whose 
memorial we celebrate today,
may we learn to balance
what we know and what we feel,
of what is in our mind and 
of what is in our heart
so we may follow the path 
to your mysteries of wisdom and love.
Amen.

Keeping our eyes open

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday in the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, 29 May 2021
Sirach 51:12-20     <*(((><  +  ><)))*>     Mark 11:27-33
Photo by author, Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto chapel, Baguio City, 2019.

Let me join Ben Sirach in praising you today, O God our loving Father as I take his parting words in his beautiful book as my prayer to you too on this blessed and beautiful Saturday:

I thank the Lord and I praise him;
I bless the name of the Lord.
When I was young and innocent,
I sought wisdom openly in my prayer.
I prayed for her before the temple,
and I will seek her until the end...
In the short time I paid heed,
I met with great instruction.
Since in this way I have profited,
I will give my teacher grateful praise.
(Sirach 51:12-14, 16-17)

O dear God, how sad at how so many people these days seek wisdom and knowledge outside of you. They think you have nothing to do with it, without realizing you are all-knowing and truly the fount of wisdom and knowledge.

May we imitate Ben Sirach and all the saints and wise men of the world who found and learned much wisdom and knowledge from you in prayers.

How sad at how some people supposed to be learned and yet still blind to the reality that so many times in this life, not everything can be planned nor calculated nor be fool proof. There are so many other things that can happen in our lives, for better or for worst, without us really knowing and so prepared how to deal with the severe blows and beatings we receive especially from others whom we trust and expect so much.

It is only your Divine wisdom that can truly teach us how to deal and go on with life’s many questions and difficulties we might never answer nor understand.

Give us the grace of humility to come to you through Jesus Christ your Son in our prayers to cultivate a spiritual life which is a relationship centered on you, not on us or anybody else. Give us the grace of humility most especially to keep our eyes wide-opened to your coming, to your prodding, and to your words of wisdom that run contrary to what we think and believe as true.

Help us not to fall into the shameful errors of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Jerusalem who were so blinded with pride and intellectual arrogance that they have refused to open their eyes to your working and coming in John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.

Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels.com

Jesus said to them, “I shall ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?” — they feared the crowd, for they all thought John really was a prophet. So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” Then Jesus said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Mark 11:29-33

Have mercy on us, dear God especially on those who continue to insist on their arrogance and pride because their ego have been badly hurt and bruised that no light of reason can open their eyes to see the bigger beauty of life you offer in following your “unconventional wisdom”. Amen.

Understanding the parables is giving up everything for Jesus

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

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

– = +

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by author, February 2020.

Choosing wisely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 8:29-30

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

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

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Our Christian life of joy

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

“Do you understand all these things?”

Matthew 13:51

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, that is heaven.

A blessed Sunday to everyone!

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