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The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Misa de Gallo VI, 21 December 2023
Zephaniah 3:14-18 <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*> Luke 1:39-35
Photo by author, bronze statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Elizabeth, Church of the Visitation at Ein-Karem, Israel, April 2017.

For the third straight day since Tuesday until Saturday morning at the end of our Christmas novena, all our gospel readings will be from St. Luke, the only evangelist with the most “comprehensive coverage” of the first Christmas following his extensive research on Jesus Christ’s life and teachings (cf. Lk.1:1-4).

Hence, his gospel has the most stories and parables than the gospel accounts of Mark and Matthew. Most of all, St. Luke’s gospel account has two distinctive characteristics that showed Jesus always at prayer while at the same time gave special emphasis on women like the Blessed Virgin Mary. You must have noticed this by this time since Tuesday when we began listening to his infancy narrative.

Mary set out in those days and travelled to the hill country in haste to a town in Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

Luke 1:39-42

Photo by author, mural on the apse of the Church of the Visitation at Ein-Karem illustrating the Visitation (left panel) and how the angel helped St. Elizabeth hid the infant St. John the Baptist after King Herod ordered the murder of all children aged two and below.

It is rare in the Bible to find two women presented positively together in a single scene. Very often especially in the Old Testament, there is always a sort of animosity among them due to the prevailing patriarchal points of view of the time.

The only instance two women were presented together in good terms in the Old Testament is in the Book of Ruth that still hinted some sense of superiority of Naomi over her daughter-in-law Ruth who was like her a widow but childless.

Therefore, this scene of the Visitation only St. Luke has is a gem in itself as it speaks eloquently of the important place of women in God’s plan of salvation. It beautifully portrays to us the joy of two great women filled with God and humble before him, affirming and acknowledging the two great men in their wombs about to change the course of human history: Elizabeth with John the Baptist who would prepare the way of the Savior, Jesus Christ in the womb of Mary.

Photo by Mr. Boy Cabrido, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, QC, Misa de Gallo, 18 December 2023.

The story of the Visitation reminds us how God works mysteriously in everyone without exceptions by linking or interconnecting us with each other in Jesus Christ our great Mediator and Savior. How lovely to see in this instance how John and Jesus already performing their mission even while in the womb of their mothers, of bringing together people. What a wonderful illustration of women as God’s vessels and carriers!

In both Mary and Elizabeth, we now “shout for joy” as Zephaniah prophesied in the first reading at how God saved us when he “removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior, who will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love… so that no one may recount your disgrace” (Zep. 3:14,15,17, 18).

Do we truly share in this shout for joy for the women of the world, for the women among us? How sad that until now women continue to suffer from all kinds of abuses not only from men but even from their fellow women.

Some spiritual writers say God is more like a woman because whatever was lacking in man, God put it in her. Perhaps that is why it is the woman who completes every man – including with us priests! But sadly, as we speak a lot about synodality in the Church these days, it is often among us priests with whom women are often taken for granted, and worst, abused.

One problem directly related today with how we regard women is the great number of people especially the youth trapped in the insidious effects of pornography due to prevalence of social media. At its core, the problem and evil with pornography is the failure of so many to recognize the lack of respect for women who are created equal with men in the image and likeness of God.

St. Joseph showed us the other day that true holiness is expressed in the way we respect women. According to an article by Papal Preacher Cardinal Cantallamessa I have read two decades ago where he cited a Dominican biblical scholar who’s name I could not recall, “the way we treat and regard women is a reflection of our relationship with God”.

That is very true.

When I review my life, I have found God making so many ways to lead me into the priesthood through the many women I have met and known, and many of them have remained my “bestest” friends like the three former executives of GMA-7 News Department who asked me to guide them in their Holy Land pilgrimage in Easter 2017.

Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Ein Karem, Israel, April 2017.

It was my second Holy Land pilgrimage but my first time to visit the beautiful Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem.

Outside that lovely church are two bronze statues of Elizabeth and Mary conversing on how God had blessed them with sons under unique circumstances:  Elizabeth was too old and barren while Mary was too young, a virgin, not yet married with Joseph.

What a beautiful reminder of God coming to us through women!

While there at Ein Karem, I prayed for all the women I have loved and have loved me before, all the women who have blessed me and have taken care so well of my vocation to the priesthood.  I thanked God for the women like Elizabeth who have blessed me in believing that what was spoken to me by the Lord would be fulfilled in the priesthood.  Blessed are the women who like Mary have helped me see the women’s perspectives that made my priesthood more complete especially in dealing with feminine issues.  The women who taught me how to respect differences, to feel the society’s bias against them, and most especially feel their deep pains when they shared with me their ordeals of abuse and rape.

Let me end this reflection with an unforgettable anecdote at the funeral Mass for the mother of our late Bishop Jose F. Oliveros in Quezon province about ten years ago when he recalled how his mother held his right hand while still a child, and taught to make the sign of the Cross.  On her deathbed, it became his turn, as a priest and a bishop, to hold his dying mother’s hands to make the sign of the Cross.

Hail to all women and mothers in the world who bring life into this dying world with their joy and perseverance, artistry and simplicity, warmth and presence of God almighty. May this story of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Visitation of St. Elizabeth teach us to always respect women for they are the carriers of God to us. Amen.

At the wailing wall of Jerusalem, April 2017.

Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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