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The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Misa De Gallo IV, 19 December 2023
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25 <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'> Luke 1:5-25
Photo by Taryn Elliott on Pexels.com

Here’s another beautiful story I got from a blogger I recently followed from Spain at wordpress.com. It is actually an analogy which may sound simple but very true.

You are holding a cup of coffee when someone comes along and bumps into you or shakes your arm, making you spill your coffee everywhere. 
Why did you spill the coffee?

"Because someone bumped into me!!!"
 
Wrong answer. You spilled the coffee because there was coffee in your cup. Had there been tea in the cup, you would have spilled tea. Whatever is inside the cup is what will spill out.

Therefore, when life comes along and shakes you - which surely happens all the time - whatever is inside you will come out. It's easy to fake it, until you get rattled. So, we have to ask ourselves, "what's in my cup?" When life gets tough, what spills over from me? 

(see, https://pkmundo.com/2023/12/17/i-love-this-analogy/comment-page-1/#respond)
Photo by Mr. Boy Cabrido, Quiapo Church, Misa de Gallo, 17 December 2023.

My dear friends, we are now on the fourth day of our Misa de Gallo and I find that story/analogy so appropriate with our readings today.

How interesting that Zechariah with his wife Elizabeth – according to St. Luke – prayed so hard all their lives to have a child but when God was about to fulfill it, Zechariah doubted it despite being told by an angel from God. Like in that story/analogy we presented above, Zechariah was “rattled” by the angel’s good news. “What was inside Zechariah that he doubted the good news”? 

Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the days these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.”

Luke 1:18-20

Photo by author, Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, May 2017, the section of the remaining parts of the temple closest to the Holy of Holies where priests used to incense once a year.

Advent is the presence of God but sometimes when we are overburdened with so many things like anxieties and problems in life, frustrations and disappointments, sickness and death in the family, we become unaware of his divine presence even if we continue to pray and do our religious duties and devotions.  Too often we lack the conscious awareness of God in our lives that we take him for granted, considering him more as a given than a presence and a reality.

This is exactly what we told you yesterday about some of us pretending to be real disciples of Christ when in reality we are merely dreaming in a sleepwalking existence. It is a kind of spiritual immaturity due to our lack of honesty and sincerity with one’s self and with God that we remain a spiritual dwarf. Like Zechariah who happened to be a priest who must be more attuned and rooted in God, we too hardly notice God’s coming or even doubt him and his powers because we want to hold on to our comfort zone or insist our own agenda.

God is never put off by our queries in life but what “irritates” him is when we question him, when we doubt him, when we ask about his character like Zechariah.  That is a lack of faith in God, a lack of trust, and lack of personal relationship with him unlike St. Joseph in our reflection yesterday, truly a righteous man.

Contrast Zechariah with his wife Elizabeth who is presented by St. Luke in a better position despite her being barren. In the Bible, barrenness is a sign of lifelessness and absence of God’s blessings. Worst, it was seen as a punishment from God for one’s sins.

Yet in this opening scene of St. Luke’s infancy story beginning with the annunciation of John’s birth, we find God’s power at its fullest when we are most emptied which is exactly the imagery of Elizabeth being barren and old. She had nothing at all to be proud of unlike Zechariah who still had duties to perform as a priest.

As we have reflected yesterday too, we burst in great rejoicing actually in those moments filled with negativities, with a lot of “no” answers of rejections and failure. That was how Elizabeth felt after being pregnant with John.

After this time, his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”

Luke 1:24-25

Earlier, we asked what was inside Zechariah that he doubted the good news of the angel; now, we imagine what was inside the barren Elizabeth who welcomed the good news rejoicing by voluntarily going into a seclusion?

The story of the elderly couple Zechariah and Elizabeth finally being blessed by God with a child shows us God’s consistency not only in keeping his promises but most of all in working best even in our worst conditions, in the most unusual circumstances. In these two stories, one from the Old Testament and in the New Testament, we find the importance of being filled with God always.

Recall our story/analogy above. What is inside us that comes out when we are shaken? What spills over from our cup, is it joy, gratitude, and peace? Or, anger, bitterness, harsh words and reactions long festering within?

In starting his Christmas story with the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist, St. Luke is telling us an important aspect in celebrating this blessed season – the need to fill ourselves with God.

See how Zechariah was forced to be silent and made mute so that he could spend more time listening and rediscovering God anew in his heart, of filling himself with God. On the other hand, Elizabeth opted to go into seclusion also to contemplate God already dwelling in her though she may have never known before that is why she wanted to listen more intently to his other plans with the gift of John. Similarly like her in the first reading was the wife of Manoah who remained silent and open when a man of God told her she would bear a son to be called Samson, saying that “I did not ask him where he came from” (Jgs.3: 6). Advent invites us to simply be still to be filled by God, with God.

The other day I joined my nieces and nephew for lunch. After dropping me off at the parish, they asked for a nearby Starbuck’s because my nephew had to buy a coffee mug for his exchange gift in their class. When I asked him why he had to give a Starbuck’s mug as gift, it turned out that is now the way it is in class Christmas party – your exchange gift partner can make a wish for the gift to receive for as long as it is within the agreed budget by the class.

Anyway, our life gives us the cup or the mug. We make the decision, the choice to fill it with coffee or chocolate or tea, in the same manner we fill ourselves with joy or bitterness, anger or serenity, gratitude or complaints. Or God.

Like Zechariah in the gospel today, we could be so tired already of doing so much, of banging our heads on the wall to solve everything, to answer everything.  In this final stretch before Christmas, let us empty our cups or mugs of our selves and fill it with God who alone can truly fill us with life despite our dryness and barrenness. Amen.Have a blessed Tuesday!

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