12th January 2023
For a long time, like many religious men, most of my own difficulties in my personal life sprang from my hunger for fatherly love. Many religious men have “lost father syndrome.” Our fathers were either physically or emotionally distant. My dad was a strange combination. He was mostly emotionally distant. But when he was being affectionate, he was the sweetest guy. Kaya lang mas konte yon kesa distant. Kaya tuloy, lumaki akong bitin. Pati sa height. So most of the things that needed fixing in my life sprang from that hunger.
Life expectancy in the first century was between 30-35 years old. Women lived longer than men because men had to do backbreaking work under the sun, without Alaxan, Ponstan, or Zithromax. Women weren’t allowed to work for pay. So they stayed home and took care of the family. So, if you think about that life expectancy, Jesus went on ministry at the tail end of his life, around two to two and a half years.
For quite a long time, Jesus was a carpenter. Sons learned and inherited their father’s work. But after building and fixing stuff for more than 30 years, Jesus diversified into another kind of building and fixing – building and fixing people. Malamang hanggang ngayon marunong pa ring magpanday si Hesus. Once you have a lifetime skill, you never forget it. Like riding a bike, swimming, or twirling a hula hoop.
And it can be quite consoling to hear him speak to our hearts, “I’m a carpenter both by trade and by ministry. So, I can fix you. Now that you are in my taller, what can I do for you? What shall I build in you and for you? Walang bayad! Libre! What do you desire that I fix the most in your life? Anong gusto mong kumpunihin natin?” Maganda ang salita natin sa fix or repair: kumpuni. From the Spanish, componer, to put together. Also, to compose. If Jesus were into music, maybe he’d ask, “Anong sintunado sa buhay mo? Apinahin natin. Let’s tune it?”
Bethlehem literally means house of bread. How appropriate that our Lord was born in the house of bread. And there’s a tradition that says he was born in a manger—a feeding trough. How appropriate is it that in French, to eat, is manger. Then when the child grew up, how fitting that he broke bread w/ith his friends, shared bread with sinners, multiplied bread for the hungry crowd? And how marvelous that the Lord called himself the Bread of Life. And in Old German, the word Lord means “loaf ward “ (as in steward, warden); keeper of the loaf, custodian of the bread. It all comes together.
Jesus is our carpenter as well as our bread. He was fixer and feeder. Kaya intinding intindi niya tayo. Di n’yo po ba napapansin: maraming nasisira sa ating pagkatao at sa ating buhay kasi may malalim tayong gutom na parang hindi yata nabubusog. Our brokenness often comes from a hunger that was for a long time unfed or undernourished.
So, just as we can hear him say, “Anak, what can I fix in your life?” We can very well also hear him say, “Anak, anong gusto mong kainin? What hunger may I nourish in you?”
Jesus, born in the house of bread, our carpenter, our keeper of the bread, our fixer and feeder, is our everything. And this, even as when he was born, he had next to nothing.
*Delivered at the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
**Photo by Nikki la Ó