Posted by: cris | September 14, 2009

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe Week XXIV, Year B 13 September 2009

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
Week XXIV, Year B
13 September 2009

Isaiah 50:5-9a /// James 2:14-18 /// Mark 8:27-35

On my second year of seminary formation, I brought a small aquarium into my room to start a new hobby.  I still remember the only decoration I had in that aquarium: a frog sitting on a leaf with a sign that says, “Kiss me but don’t expect miracles.”

All my fish had rest in peace while my aquarium broke during our summer vacation but the memory of that decorative frog had remained vividly in me, especially when dark clouds loom over me as a priest.
A lot often, people expect so much from us priests that make me so sad.  Relatives and friends alike could not simply accept the reality of my life being a priest wherein I could not just do whatever they would want me to do like joining them during weekends or late nights, or simply going out.  That’s when I remember that frog in my aquarium to be relieved of the pains and hurts I go through.
I remembered that decorative frog I had as I prayed over today’s Gospel account:  Jesus began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.  He spoke this openly.  Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.  At this He turned around and, looking at His disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Mk.8:31-33)
This is considered as the center of the Gospel of St. Mark when Jesus was finally identified by Peter as “the Messiah” (the Christ) or the Anointed of God.  This happened when Jesus and the 12 were on their way to Jerusalem to fulfill His mission, making a brief stop-over at the pagan region of Caesarea Philippi.

This is also considered as the turning point of St. Mark’s Gospel because this is where Jesus would make the first prediction of His coming Passion, Death and Resurrection.  This is where Jesus revealed the deeper truth and reality of Himself as the Christ who would suffer as prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading.  Hence, this could also be our own turning point like Peter and the Apostles because what Jesus declared here was a far cry from our expectations of Him and of the kind of life we are imitating in Him!
“You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Mk.8:33)
Thinking in human terms is going into the “way of the world” that tells us to  “Just Do It” and “Obey your thirst!”, very self-centered and selfish.  What the world teaches us, as seen on TV, ads and other media is always on being “upwardly mobile” which is being rich and famous, powerful, beautiful and sexy.  In our world today, there is no other way but to be always on top— the greatest, the famous, the powerful.  And that is how success is gauged too; always in terms of money and fame and power.  Security is also seen in the same manner.  In our society today, the most important question is “How much do you have?”

On the other hand, the thinking of God is exactly the opposite of the world which really shocked Peter at that time and even us in this age.  Instead of “upward mobility,” Jesus tells us today about “downward mobility” like His Passion, Death and Resurrection.  Success for Jesus is not being popular or famous, of being served and idolized but being obedient like Him who declared that “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” (Mk.8:34)
Security for Jesus is not a question of “How much do I have?” but of “How much do I share?” as seen in the poor widow giving all the money she got in the Temple.  This is main point of St. James in today’s second reading:  “Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.” (Jms.2:18)  To have faith in God is to be open as we have seen last week with the person next to us.  Our belief in God is nothing if we live apart from one another, failing to see Jesus Christ in everyone we meet and hereby respecting them always than maligning or cheating on them.  This is the reason why people always have different opinions on who Jesus really is because we fail to lead authentic Christian life that is based on love that is willing “to lose one’s self.” (Mk.8:34)
These past two weeks since I moved into our new rectory, I have been experiencing some sort of depression or simply being melancholic.  I refuse to consider it as “midlife crisis” because I’m only 44 nor could it be a burnout because I love what I am doing.  There’s this feeling inside that I need something more.  Like Peter, I could feel Satan working in me to aspire for more things like money, pension plans or insurance, popularity and fame, most of all, acceptance.  Like Peter, I could not see why despite all my giving of self to God and His people, I am still being maligned, misunderstood, unaccepted and worst, literally poor, almost broke!  Like Peter, I could not see why Jesus Christ should end up crucified rather than be successful?
I am not Jesus Christ and I have so many flaws and imperfections; but, there are times when the pains and hurts are so strong that I cry, complaining to God that “I don’t deserve this kind of life…”  But, when I pray more intently, and look at my life these past years or just the last 12 months, I find that there are so much grace and blessings I should be thankful with than be sorry for what I do not have.  I have realized that when we see things in human terms, we would always be miserable and sad, and even always lacking because our life is not only of this world and in this world.  As image and likeness of God, we all share in His divine life and only Jesus can suffice us in this life.
When we have that loving presence of God in our lives, we come to realize and even see not only the past and present life we enjoy but even the future filled with faith that whatever suffering and daily dying we go through in this life would not end in vain.  As the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah affirmed, “See, the Lord God is my help; who will prove me wrong?” (Is.50:9a)
On this “Year of Priests” may I suggest that you read or watch the classic film “Diary of a Country Priest” by Robert Bresson based on the novel by Georges Bernanos.  I could identify very much with that “country priest” who was so maligned by his parishioners, almost losing his vocation and faith in God. He just forged on with his ministry and life, praying more and working harder for the souls of his parishioners until he died of stomach cancer.  The unnamed country priest had a famous line that said something like “all I have are my empty hands.”
That’s what Jesus Christ also had that we must strive for—empty hands that would always reach out to help, assist, guide, embrace other suffering people.  The worst thing that could happen to anyone is die with hands full of material things, failing to grasp the warm hands of God among us.
May we always look at our lives in God’s perspectives that lead us to eternal life!  Amen.
A blessed week ahead to everyone!
fr. nicanor f. lalog II
santissima trinidad parish
malolos city 3000
bulacan, philippines
PS-Kindly pray for the eternal rest of two people so dear to me:  my Tita Eli Palis-Principe who died Wednesday night at age 85, and my first cousin, Tina Lalog-Garcia who passed away early Saturday due to cancer.  She was 45 years-old.  thanks very much!


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