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.

Following Jesus, our true Star

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe of the Epiphany of the Lord, 05 January 2020

Isaiah 60:1-6 ><}}}*> Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 ><}}}*> Matthew 2:1-12

From Google.

A very blessed Merry Christmas to you, my dear reader and follower! As I have been insisting to you since January first, we are still in the Christmas Season as we celebrate today the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord.

It is the third major celebration of Christmastime after the Nativity of the Lord (December 25) and Mary Mother of God (January 01).

In some parts of the country especially the countrysides, they regard Epiphany in equal standing with Christmas, calling it “Three Kings Sunday” known as “Pasko ng Magsasaka” (Christmas of Farmers).

So, please, do not cut the Christmas Season short and stop greeting others with a happy new year.

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
From Google.

Jesus Christ is our one and only true Star

Epiphany is from the Greek word epiphanes that means revelation or manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ to the whole world symbolized by the “magi” or wise men from the East.

While there are many sources that confirm to us both in history and tradition that the magi were from Persia (Iran) who have truly paid homage to the Infant Jesus, evidence pointing to the reality of the star of Bethlehem are still scarce but slowly developing.

Though it is still important to establish the factual basis on the existence of the star of Bethlehem, we who believe in Jesus Christ need to focus more on the theology behind this detail from Matthew’s Christmas story which refers to the Lord himself.

We all search for a “star”, something great and noble in life.

It is a given, a gift that every person is capable of rising above one’s self for something lofty and greater than himself/herself.

Too often, we pursue stars that are so common and ordinary – perhaps low and dull ones – like wealth and fame. Eventually we mature that we follow bigger and more luminous stars that are higher and found deeper in space so to speak like wisdom and peace within.

But no matter what we search in life, whatever star we follow, the saints and our faith teach us how we all desire and long only for the one and only true star of all, Jesus Christ.

St. Benedicta dela Cruz (Edith Stein) said that “anyone who seeks the truth eventually finds God” while the great St. Augustine eloquently wrote in his Confessiones, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI beautifully said it in one of his books:

“The key point is this: the wise men from the east are a new beginning. They represent the journeying of humanity toward Christ. They initiate a procession that continues throughout history. Not only do they represent the people who have found the way to Christ: they represent the inner aspiration of the human spirit, the dynamism of religions and human reason toward him.”

Jesus of Nazareth, The Infancy Narratives (page 97)
Old Jerusalem, May 2017. Photo by author.

Lessons of the Magi

Last January first, we reflected how we must make that conscious decision to empty ourselves of our pride to be filled with the Holy Spirit so we can bring Jesus into the world today like Mary the Mother of God.

Today on this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, we are invited to imitate the magi, to be wise men too in continuing the beautiful Christmas story by always seeking, following and submitting ourselves to Jesus Christ, our only true star in life.

There are three important lessons we can learn from the magi in being truly wise to seek and follow Jesus:

First, welcome darkness and chaos in life. The most life-changing and enriching moments we have are also the most adversarial ones. Remember the “AQ” or adversarial quotient experts are now proposing as true indicators of success in life?

More than success is fulfillment which we desire most when we are in desolation, when we are in the middle of a storm and trial in life, when we are in darkness.

Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you. See, darkness covers the earth, and the thick clouds cover the peoples; but pon you the Lord shines, and over you appears his glory.

Isaiah 60:1-2

In the gospel, we have heard how “King Herod was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him” (Mt.2:3) upon hearing from the magi the birth of “the newborn king of the Jews” signified by the star they saw from the East.

Troubles and chaos are great motivators for us to seek better things like meaning in life!

Pilgrims entering through the narrow door of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, May 2019. Photo by author.

Second, dark moments in life are are an invitation to pray more, especially in meditating the Sacred Scriptures, the word of God.

Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, Herod inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet…

Matthew 2:4-5

The bible is the word of God and when we pray it, it is God himself who speaks to us directly. It is not enough to read and study the Sacred Scriptures like the scribes and chief priests summoned by King Herod.

They knew the book but refused to recognize the Author, God himself.

The scribes and chief priests got it right that the Christ was born in Bethlehem but were not wise enough to join the magi in paying homage to him.

Prayer is a call to communion with God that requires humility and total surrender of self which leads us to lesson number three in following Jesus our true star in life.

From Google.

Third and last but not least lesson from the magi is what are you willing to give in order to follow the Star, Jesus Christ?


The magi from the East were rightly called wise men because they knew very well the most important things in life, the most essential. They did not merely leave the comforts of their home and country to follow the star of Bethlehem.

They were willing to give up so many things just to find Jesus Christ!

This 2020, many of us are having new year’s resolutions, so many plans and dreams and aspirations in life.

It is always good to reach for the stars but we must always keep our feet on the ground as Casey Kasem would always say at the end of his American Top 40 program during the 80’s.

And keeping those feet on the ground is working hard for our dreams with a lot of sacrifices. Keeping feet on the ground is doing all the hard work and avoiding shortcuts.

The magi did not mind going into Jerusalem, asking around amid dangers of suspicions from the powerful, just to find Jesus Christ. Most of all, they have brought gifts with them, precious commodities of that time to signify their sincerity in finding and following Jesus.

How about us today, in this age that is marked with so may people feeling entitled to everything in life?

This early in his Epiphany, Jesus is already showing us the path we have to follow, the way of the Cross, of forgetting one’s self, of setting aside our ego, of letting go and letting God.

Unless we are able to forget our ego, we can never imitate the magi in being wise “to depart for their country by another way” (Mt.2:12) to avoid King Herod.

That is the ultimate indication of being wise, that after finding Wisdom, we change our ways, our lives and live in Jesus Christ, the Holy One. Amen.

Merry Christmas!

From Desicomments.com. Last line should be “Lift our eyes”, not “Life”.

True mobility is in Christ Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Thursday, Week XXXII, Year I, 14 November 2019

Wisdom 7:22-8:1 ><)))*> <*(((>< Luke 17:20-25

Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O Lord our mighty God!

We keep on searching for so many things in this life to make us more “upwardly mobile” in life: knowledgeable and affluent, healthy and everything.

Nice.

But in our pursuits, we miserably fail becoming better persons for eventually, everything ends up with about money and material things, prestige and fame.

We forget you, O God who is Wisdom beyond compare.

For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion, and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity.

Wisdom 7:24

Let us find you right here in our hearts, in Christ Jesus who had come to dwell within us. Amen.

Wisdom Is About Communion, Not Affiliation

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, 27 February 2019, Week VII, Year I
Sirach 4:11-19///Mark 9:38-40
 
 
“Wisdom breathes life into her children and admonishes those who seek her.  He who loves her loves life; those who seek her will be embraced by the Lord” (Sir.4:11-12).

Forgive us, Lord Jesus, when there are times we think more about our various affiliations like religion that we forget the need for communion of minds and hearts in you. 

Like John in the gospel, there are times we feel so entitled in life simply because we are with you, believing that we have the monopoly of doing what is right and what is good.
 

Instead of building bridges so we could be linked together as one, we put up walls that confine us with our own group but apart from others.

Enlighten us O Lord with your wisdom, finding the great truth that God dwells within each one of us despite our many differences in color and creed. 

Give us your grace of wisdom and truth, fill us with your life so we may share your life freely with one another.

May God our Father embrace us with His great love and wisdom to drive away the demons and evil within us that keep us apart.  Amen. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

walls-instead-of-bridges
Quote and photo from Google.

Lead Us Back to You, O Lord, Like in EDSA 1986

edsaMary
God was the true spirit of EDSA 1986; may we find our way back to Him again in our modern EDSA.  Photo from Google.

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, 25 February 2019, Week VII, Year I
Sirach 1:1-8///Mark 9:14-29

O God our Father, today I praise and thank you for the 33rd anniversary of the People Power Revolution that happened at EDSA.

I am proud O Lord of that historic moment in our history because I was there with my sister.

But I also feel so sad today, O Lord, because we have wasted your gift at EDSA.  I feel betrayed by many of our leaders there who have left us.  I feel betrayed by many of the other veterans of that bloodless coup who have left our cause.

EDSA 86 was our moment of Exodus from our own Egypt but due to our many idolatrous ways, here we are as a nation still wandering in the wilderness when EDSA has become the symbol of everything wrong in us.

Help us to return to you again as our Lord and only Master.

Let us turn back to you for more wisdom to finally set our course right on track as a nation, giving priority to the value of every person and of human life.

God our Father, sometimes I really can’t figure out anymore what went wrong with EDSA because I know I also have a part in its failure.

I still do believe in the ideals of EDSA and most especially in you, the God of history.

Yes, like that father of an epileptic, “I do believe, help me in my unbelief!” (Mk.9:24)
Amen.  Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

edsa1
EDSA today, the image of everything wrong with us.  Photo from Inquirer.net via Google.