500 Years of Christianity Countdown

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Wk. XIX-C, 07 August 2016
Wisdom 18:6-9//Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19//Luke 12:32-48

Thank you very much for remembering and praying for us priests last Thursday on the Feast of our Patron Saint, John Marie Vianney! I really wanted to gift myself watching “Ignacio of Loyola” but due to many factors, I ended up seeing one of my all-time favorites, “Jason Bourne.” Like our Gospel this Sunday which is too long, this latest Bourne movie is longer than the other series; most of all, like our Gospel today, “Jason Bourne” speaks a lot of identity, of being from which flows one’s doing. In this latest Bourne series, Jason discovers his father as the main proponent of the CIA black operation that recruited him to become “Jason Bourne”; his father was eventually killed by the CIA in Beirut meeting him! The agency is now trying to lure him back into service, calling him a “patriot” but learning of their sinister plot to kill him like his father, Jason walked away.

After teaching us last week on the primary importance of God and eternal life over earthly possessions and wealth, the Lord continues to ask us anew today to shed off those things that would hinder us from truly becoming His disciples. Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not be afraid any longer, little flock, for your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.” (Lk.12:32-33) Jesus is not asking us to be paupers but invites us to reassess our priorities and values in life so that we become aware of the great gift we already have, the kingdom of God- Him!

One of the greatest lessons I have learned in the story of my priesthood is that when we discover God – or, actually when He discovers us – we also discover who we are! The more we get to know God, the more we enter into communion with Him, the more we see who we really are. This is the reason why we have to first search God in life because it is only in Him do we truly find who we really are as His beloved children. Moreover, it is only in Him do we find meaning and fulfillment in life. Hence, in our soul-searching, we always come across the questions of “who am I?” and “why am I here?” because these lead us ultimately to God as our source and grounding of our being. It is from our being flows our doing, from our identity naturally comes next is our sense of mission in life, one of the main teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola that requires discerning the will of God to rightly choose our vocation in life, and even profession I would say. God knows what is best for us that we need to seek Him. When we follow God’s plan for us, fulfilling our mission becomes easier because despite the pains and sufferings we encounter in whatever path we have chosen in life with Him, we still find joy, peace, and fulfillment.

In the three parables narrated today by Jesus, we find His call for us to be “faithful servants” coming from our union with Him as our “Lord and Master” (favorite titles used by St. Ignatius of Loyola about God): “For where your treasure is, there also will heart be. Gird your loins and light your lamps be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Then Peter said, “Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?” And the Lord replied, “Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward whom the master will put in charge of his servants to distribute the food allowance at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master on arrival finds doing so.” (Lk.12:34-37,41-44)

Jesus calls those servants “blessed” because emphasis is not really on the task or duty they have done but precisely on their being true and faithful to their master. Servants imbibe the personality and being of their master when they truly value and highly regard their master; therefore, they do not simply fulfill their tasks out of obedience and fear but simply because that’s the way it should be, that’s how they perceive things like their master. As teenagers say, “that’s it pancit!” “Ganun talaga.” The author of the Letter to the Hebrews noted that in his reflection on the fidelity of Abraham to God in three instances: first when he followed God’s command to leave Ur and go where he would be directed; second, when he believed to become the father of all nations with the birth of Isaac despite his advanced age and Sarah’s sterility; and last, when he offered Isaac freely and obediently to God. Abraham was not simply following orders from God but above all, it was clear to him who God is and who he was as His servant.
As I have told you last month, the cross we carry becomes bearable when we know and love the One Crucified, Jesus Christ. Now, we are seeing the bigger picture why we have to be in communion always with the Lord which is to be like Him! It is exactly what Pope Francis recently asked us, “be the mercy of God”. One of the many graces God had showered me recently was when I had to anoint a dying parishioner who had maligned me so much a couple of years ago. Yes, I felt so cold and could not explain what I felt inside when I was asked to visit her. She could no longer speak when I saw her and did not know she had been bed-ridden for some time. When I put my hand on her head to pray over her while absolving her sins, I prayed hard that she may experience God’s mercy and forgiveness, praying silently to God that I have forgiven her and that I may also be forgiven for wishing bad things for her long ago.
That’s the way it is with us priests. When we forgive penitents, when we give the Eucharist, when we bless people, we do these in the name of Christ as “alter Christus” or other Christ and not merely because they are part of our “job descriptions.” When things in the parish and ministry become so heavy and so dark, and nobody’s there to listen or even support us that “hopelessness is the only hope” available (TS Eliot), we just have forge on because like the Israelites in the first reading, deep in our hearts we are sure we are the chosen ones of the loving God who shall deliver us from every passover, from every exodus in life. The same thing is true with all the good and dedicated teachers, nurses, doctors and other professionals out there as well as parents who bear all beatings and pains in life not only because they have a job to do but simply because it is the life they have come to embrace to live. Indeed, “Blessed are the people the Lord has chosen to be his own” as our responsorial psalm proclaims today because we are that people who are “pilgrims to the City of God” whose “heart is restless until it rests on Him the Lord” (St. Augustine).
Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista,
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.