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The riches of Christ

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The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Homily, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 16 June 2023
Deuteronomy 7:6-11 ><}}}*> 1 John 4:7-16 ><}}}*> Matthew 11:25-30
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, Quezon City, 20 March 2023.

It has been two months since I celebrated by silver anniversary of ordination to the priesthood. Until now, I still continue to reflect and relish on this immense gift of priesthood, still asking with the same sense of awe and wonder since ordination day, “why me, Lord?”

As I reflected this week the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus which is dedicated for the sanctification of us priests, I have realized how I have remained the same sinful, insecure and fearful man ordained 25 years ago with my six other classmates. As I get closer to becoming a senior citizen in 2025, the more my past sins and stupidities, carelessness and vices are coming back like “Facebook Memory”, reminding me how I have them kept under control, that they could burst and be out in the open if I get careless.

But in the midst of all these darkness and weaknesses still in me, the more I feel so blessed and consoled, and overjoyed by the fact that I still have that same desire to proclaim Jesus Christ to everyone, of how beautiful this life is because of the Lord’s immeasurable love for each of us. Whenever I look back to my past with all my sinfulness and weaknesses amid my getting older, the more I am eager to make Jesus known to everyone while I am still strong and able. There is that feeling of being like St. Paul in saying, “To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things” (Eph. 3:8-9).

Or, like in our first reading, I could identify with the Israelites being reminded by Moses in the wilderness that “You are a people sacred to the Lord, your God; he has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth to be his people peculiarly his own. It was not because you are the largest of all nations that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really the smallest of all nations. It was because the Lord loved you” (Dt.7:6-8).

Beautiful!

Love, love, and love!

That is the “inscrutable riches of Christ”, his immense love for us, dying for us, coming for us even if we are worth nothing at all. And it is because of that love of God for us that we have become so worthy that he gave us even his only Son, Jesus Christ.

That is the essence of this celebration of the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Love.

A reality we all experience and know but could not define for it has no limits. Love can only be described and best expressed in actions than in words.

See this Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus comes right after the Solemnities of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Most Precious Body and Blood of Jesus these past two Sundays. Both celebrations speak of love: the latter is about relationships based on love and the former is about giving of self in love.

Now that we are well into the Ordinary Time of our liturgical calendar, our celebration today tells us to remember throughout this year this most basic truth and reality of our faith – that we are so loved by God.

Beloved, let us love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him.

1 John 4:7-9

Love is symbolized by the heart, the very core of every person. That is why I love the Spanish word for heart which is corazon, evocative of the core, of the deeper self. And of course, love is the very the person of God.

Of all the writers in the Bible, St. John is the one who most frequently used the word “love”, an indication of its centrality in his thoughts. Moreover, he clarified that this love is not human love because its origin, motives and effects are supernatural in nature who is God himself.

Being the very self and also the riches or wealth of Christ, love is for sharing, for giving. Never for keeping. Because of its supernatural nature, love is inexhaustible. The more you give it, the more you share, the more you have it!

In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

1 John 4:10-12

Photo by Ms. April Oliveros, March 2023 at Mt. Pulag.

Let me repeat that last sentence, “if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.”

The more we love, the more we are able to see and recognize God and other people amidst the darkness around us. Likewise, the more we love the more we see our true selves too despite dark spots within us.

Love is the law of life. To love God by loving ourselves and others is not an obligation imposed from outside. It is the very proof of our faith and union with God in Jesus Christ.

Jesus makes this very clear to us today in the gospel that opens with him praising the simple people, those who were child-like who welcomed him and his preaching. They were the ones Jesus referred at his sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the poor” because love is not an intellectual structure or system to be learned or analyzed. Love is a call to be disarmed of everything we hold onto so we can totally love and follow Jesus Christ.

“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 is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Jesus came to reveal to us God our Father. And to know the Father is not through the head or intelligence but through our heart that is like Christ’s, meek and humble, filled with love.

By becoming human like us in everything except sin, Jesus who is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15) enables us to feel and experience God now closest to us than ever. Most of all, we are able to love and still love especially when the going gets tough and rough.

Here Jesus shows us that love is not absence of sufferings. In fact, love is truest and noblest when there are sacrifices and sufferings as exemplified by Jesus in his life and death on the Cross.

There are times we feel grouchy, so sensitive when people seem to ask even demand so much from us.

From Facebook, 2021.

Sometimes we wonder why are we the ones always giving, always loving, always forgiving. Sometimes we even ask God why are we the ones going through all these trials in life, why are we the ones afflicted with this sickness, why are we given with a special child, why your child had gone ahead of you to eternal life?

So many whys, so many questions.

Rest today in Christ. Feel his embrace. Listen to his silence. Be filled with his love. As you ask Jesus with all those questions, realize that each cry, each lamentation is the “inscrutable riches of Christ”, his very love perfected in your labors and burdens. Amen.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart,
Make my heart like thine!
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