The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Easter, 13 April 2021
Acts 4:32-37 ><)))*> + <*(((>< John 3:7-15
Jesus said to Nicodemus,
"If I tell you about earthly things
and you do not believe,
how will you believe
if I tell you about heavenly things?"
Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to us, in becoming human like us so that we may become divine like you. Unfortunately, so many times in life, we refuse to believe in your humanity, in your being human like us that we cannot understand earthly things.
Like Nicodemus in the gospel who had come to you hiding in the darkness of the night to enlighten his own spiritual darkness within, we come to you at this time of our history when everything seems to be crumbling, everything is getting out of control.
Teach us to believe in you again, Jesus, that you are the Son of God. Level up our sights and thoughts, let us be more concerned with things of the above than those of below that unfortunately distract us from real issues at hand when we get ourselves involved with mundane inanities like many of our benighted officials in government still detached with the people and with the realities happening.
How can we be of “one mind and one heart” with you, Lord, in this time of crisis? Sometimes it is so tempting to get down to the level of our officials who have always been caught lying, so detached from the people, lacking any clear plans for the pandemic since last year.
Send us someone like St. Barnabas who would encourage us to do something concrete in helping the suffering among us in this time of the pandemic.
Level up our sights and consciousness so we may think more of the things above than waste time and energies with petty discussions that lead nowhere.
It is only in being focused on you, dear Jesus, on your very person and your mission, can we truly address our many earthly needs that are always self-serving and selfish.
Direct all our actions, operations and intentions purely to the divine service of your name, Lord, so that everything we do may begin and happily end in you. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 12 April 202
We had a blessed happy Easter last year in 2020 despite the pandemic following the support of our parishioners to our activities since the start of the lockdown like the motorized processions of Palm Sunday and Good Friday as well as the online Masses.
Though we have to start our Easter Vigil while the sun was still up following the protocol rules, it was clearly an image of hope for us all especially when I carried the Paschal Candle into our church for the celebrations: Jesus the Light of world, illuminating us in the darkness of the pandemic.
It was the simplest Easter Vigil in my entire 22 years in the priesthood but most meaningful.
Very early the following Sunday before dawn in lieu of the traditional salubong, we went around our parish with the beautiful image of the Risen Lord generously lent to us since 2011 by Mrs. Baby Halili in hopes that the people would at least feel again the presence of Jesus Christ.
It was still dark but some people were already awake awaiting the passing of our libot before celebrating our Mass.
Most of the people, though, missed the libot of the Risen Lord that dawn that we did it again in the afternoon with the usual sights of people waiting on the streets for the blessing.
It was an amusing and unforgettable sight and image of COVID-19 last year,
an image of hope, and most of all,
an image of Christ Risen among us in the pandemic,
answering our prayers, never abandoning us even in the dark.
At the last leg of our libot of the Risen Lord with still an hour before the curfew, a soldier in fatigue uniform at a gas station saw us and left his motorbike, walking towards us with both hands up in the air.
I thought we were being told to stop. And worst, being arrested!
Immediately, I prayed to Jesus to not let it happen, that we were just less than 500 meters from the parish and soon it would be over.
I acted disregarding the soldier as in “dead malice” (patay malisya) by blessing him with Holy Water until we heard him closer, asking for blessings indeed!
It was an amusing and unforgettable sight and image of COVID-19 last year, an image of hope, and most of all, an image of Christ Risen among us in the pandemic, answering our prayers, never abandoning us even in the dark.
More unforgettable images of COVID-19, images of hope and images of Christ during the extensions of the lockdown last year unfolded before us after Easter. That was when I began to feel the emotional drag of the pandemic and lockdown as I lived alone in our parish rectory that was a mere oversized room at the second floor of the church.
It was the second extension of the lockdown when I felt during prayers that Jesus seemed to be getting “tired” with our “libot” of his Blessed Sacrament.
Most of all, I realized that if I felt dried and zapped despite my regimented lifestyle of prayers, studies, exercises and recreation during the pandemic right inside our parish church, how much more were my parishioners?
I just felt they must be worst affected than me!
It was very clear for me that prayers and online Masses cannot suffice for them as their spiritual nourishment.
That was when I decided to go out and bring Holy Communion to my parishioners after our Sunday morning Mass: I would announce in our online Masses the route we shall take so that people would wait for me on the main roads while observing the necessary health protocols.
We called it “walk-in Holy Communion” because after each stop of our tricycle, I would walk giving Communion to everyone waiting to receive finally and not just see, Jesus Christ, Body and Blood!
On the third Sunday of our “walk-through” Holy Communion, a family on board their van arrived just before we left the parish, asking if they could receive the Holy Communion after attending our online Mass. They wanted to get inside the church for the Communion when suddenly, a spark of inspiration came upon me — I told them to remain in their van as I gave them Communion through the windows!
And thus started our “drive-thru” Holy Communion for families and individuals who attended our online Sunday Mass and then proceeded to our parish where I would wait for them at the gate of our church from 8-830AM to give their Holy Communion.
Rain or shine, I would just put on my hat with my reliable volunteer Kuya Oliver driving his tricycle or assisting in the traffic flow of cars, vans, tricycles and even bicycles, we gave Holy Communion during those difficult months of the first year of pandemic and quarantine.
Sometimes, like the couple above, some people would chase us along the way, asking to receive the Holy Communion as they assured us that they have attended our online Mass earlier.
I was so glad other parishes did the same for our people so hungry and thirsty for Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
Did I ever get afraid?
Of course! Even terrified. But it was pure grace from the Lord we were able to do all those things in his glorious name.
Those images of COVID-19 have truly become images of hope and images of Christ that helped me forge on with my life and ministry through these difficult times in our history. They are forever imprinted in my heart and memory along with the people who made me experienced God.
Like the “beloved disciple” John – the patron saint of my former parish where these took place – who was with Peter in the boat gone fishing at Lake Tiberias before the ascension of Jesus, every time I remember those images of last year or see similar ones, I silently exclaim like him “It is the Lord!” (John 22:7).
Come April 13, 2021, I will log my 365-day streak at http://www.lordmychef.com publishing prayers, reflections, homilies, poems, and essays since Easter Monday last year when I thought of helping the spiritual nourishment of people unable to come to celebrate the Mass.
When I was assigned to my new assignment as chaplain of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center last February 15, I felt the same thing in my prayers: help in enriching the spiritual lives of the flock Jesus entrusted to me at this time of the pandemic by learning all these new technologies like Zoom and webinars as well as Facebook live and this daily blog. From still pictures as images of hope and of Christ, we now have moving images of hope and of Jesus Christ!
But, with or without modern technology, and even after this pandemic, the challenge of Easter remains that we continue to proclaim the joy and saving presence of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ among peoples, “in season and out of season” like St. Paul (2Timothy 4:2).
That is something we all have to work for even now, being images of hope and of Christ to the world. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Second Week of Easter, 12 April 2021
Acts 4:23-31 ><)))*> + <*(((>< John 3:1-8
Jesus answered Nicodemus,
"Do not be amazed that I told you,
'You must be born from above.'
The wind blows where it wills,
and you can hear the sound it makes,
but you do not know
where it comes from or where it goes;
so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Lord Jesus Christ, like Nicodemus in the gospel today, we continue to be amazed amid the darkness surrounding us at this time of the pandemic. Enlighten us as we grapple in the darkness of this experience so surreal and unreal.
Many among us feel at a loss, many are losing hope, many are angry, and more are suffering, grieving in pain after losing a loved one.
Clear our minds and our hearts, dear Jesus. Break all barriers that prevent us from finding you, from embracing you, and following you. Let us see your wounds left by the nail marks on your hands and the side pierced by a lance so we may experience your presence in us with the wounds we now bear.
Rekindle the fire and intensity of the Baptism we have received and renewed this Easter Season.
Reawaken our zeal and stimulate us like Peter and John after being released from prison in the first reading to set our sights to the directions and ideal toward which we must strive at the moment with open hearts and confidence in the possibilities granted by the Holy Spirit.
Give us the courage to trust God wherever he is leading us in the Holy Spirit so we may properly respond to the challenges of this pandemic.
Oh, yes..! We are ready, Lord Jesus Christ, to answer God’s call through the Holy Spirit to lead us to new directions in life beginning today. Amen.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way
– in short, the period was so far like the present period,
that some of its noisiest authorities insisted
on its being received, for good or for evil,
in the superlative degree of comparison only.
(Charles Dickens, "A Tale of Two Cities")
I know this blog is supposed to be music but Charles Dickens’ famous lines opening his novel “A Tale of Two Cities” are in fact very lyrical and musical. And with our Dickensian situation especially in the way this government has mishandled the pandemic since the very start, we have chosen for our music this Sunday of Divine Mercy something so lively and upbeat, so intense like our Risen Lord who broke free from death and sin, able to enter any locked door and person.
It is a song “resurrected” in 2014 with Justin Timberlake after Michael Jackson suddenly died in 2009, earning so much popularity and acclaim as if MJ were back in life again with this posthumously released hit, Love Never Felt So Good.
Originally written and recorded in a demo track in 1980 with Paul Anka, Love Never Felt So Good was the first single released from Jackson’s second posthumous album, Xscape.
The song is the second collaboration between Jackson and Anka to be released since Jackson’s death in 2009 with This Is It being the first. (Interesting trivia: Anka rearranged the song in 1984 for Jackson’s longtime friend Johnny Matthis who recorded it in his 1984 album A Special Part of Me.)
We chose Love Never Felt So Good primarily for its feel good, positive vibes so infectious which we all need this Easter 2021 with all the deaths and sickness happening due to the pandemic.
There is also the semblance with Easter in a sense with MJ being “resurrected” with the reworked version of the song with Timberlake, another intense artist who can surely drive away the blues today.
Most of all, we find the lyrics very apt with our gospel story of St. Thomas who doubted Christ’s appearance to his fellow apostles (not his Resurrection).
In Love Never Felt So Good, Jackson mentions his doubts many times if he is also loved by the woman he desires; but in spite of those doubts, he believed deep in his heart that love never felt so good if they would be together.
The same thing is true with us: amid our doubts are also the strong conviction something good can still happen with the grace of God. What matters is that we learn to balance the many twins in our lives like Thomas: the joys and sorrows we experience, the light and darkness that come our way, the triumph and defeats we face, and lately, the births and healing and deaths we experience in this pandemic.
Trust in Jesus always who promised us his Divine Mercy overflowing despite our sins and sufferings.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday in Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), 11 April 2021
Acts 4:32-35 >><)))*> 1John 5:1-6 >><)))*> John 20:19-31
Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father in heaven! Despite the recent surge in the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still here today celebrating the Easter Octave which is also the Divine Mercy Sunday of your Son Jesus Christ.
Thank you for the gift of life.
Thank your for the tears we have been shedding lately for those whom we have lost.
Thank you for the gift of faith in you, for the grace to still pray amid all the pains and sufferings coming our way.
Thank you so much for our medical frontliners who are so exhausted and drained serving us for over a year now since this pandemic started. Keep them strong in body, mind and soul. Take care of their families and loved ones. We want to see them and celebrate with them when this is all over so we may thank them personally for being our rays of hope and life in these times.
Thank you also for those who have been working tirelessly especially at night so we can have bread and other food in the morning, those who keep our industries and utilities running, those people we hardly know and remember but so essential not only in keeping us alive and comfortable but most of all sane in this crazy period in history.
You know very well our cries, our complaints and our pleadings, dear Father.
Forgive us when we forget those living in the margins, suffering and crying in silence, those who have stopped going to school, those who have lost jobs, those to be evicted from their homes for lack of money to pay their rentals, for those who could not make their ends meet.
Dear Father in heaven… we do not know what else to do. Show us the way in Jesus, the object of our faith, the guarantee of our hope and future glory in you.
And for those now in your presence, those who have gone ahead of us, we pray for their eternal rest, O Lord. We pray also for those they have left behind. One death is too many, Lord.
Rekindle our faith, direct our gaze onto your Son Jesus Christ who had conquered death and sin, sickness and darkness in his Resurrection.
Like Thomas his apostle, make us realize that we can only recognize him in his wounds from the cross.
And like Thomas called Didymus or Twin, help us strike balance and harmony in the many twins in our lives like our faith and doubts, joys and sadness, victory and defeats, glory and sorrows, as well as life and death, rejoicing and mournings.
Oh God… help us in this time that is so Dickensenian in every sense!
It is the best of times, it is the worst of times;
it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness;
it is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity;
it is the season of Light, it is the season of Darkness;
it is the spring of hope, it is the winter of despair;
we have everything before us, we have nothing before us;
we are all going direct to Heaven,
we are all going direct the other way—
(adapted from "A Tale of Two Cities"
by Charles Dickens)
Help us learn the lessons of this pandemic and make us turn back to you in Jesus Christ your Son, who is our Lord and our God as we pray with conviction, “Jesus, King of Mercy, we trust in you!”Amen.
More than the “resuscitation” of a dead person, Jesus Christ’s Resurrection opened us to a new dimension and new possibilities of human existence that leads us all to a new kind of future now.
At Easter, Jesus broke out into an entirely new form of life with his glorified body that it is not just an event in the past we remember but something that continues up to now (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Part II, page 244; Ignatius Press, 2011).
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked,
where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, "Peace be with you."
When he had said this,
he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Easter is not an ending but a beginningstill continuing in our lives, in our time.
The Intensity of Easter
Easter is not an ending but a beginning still continuing in our lives, in our time. It is a reality so intense that even now we feel deep within us especially in the darkest moments of our lives like during this COVID-19 surge proving to be more dangerous and fatal than last year.
Its intensity comes from the Risen Lord Jesus himself who had conquered death and sin for our salvation. Such is the meaning of his ability to enter the room where his disciples gathered on that Easter Sunday night, despite their doors and windows were all locked for fear of the Jews outside.
This is also the reason that even the evangelists did not have to record so much his every appearance but remain simply noble and grand in their stories because adding details did not matter at all. Most important for them especially to the beloved disciple was the inexpressible intensity of the Lord’s appearances which he mentioned twice, first at the end of this episode and at the conclusion of his gospel account.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
John 20:30-31; 21:25
Many times in our lives, the Lord is not asking us to be intense like him.
Only Jesus can remain that intense in his love and mercy for us. He only wants us to be there always, even if we come in late like his apostle Thomas Didymus.
Like Thomas, what we really need are silence and adoration before the Lord who remains with us, comes to journey with us amid the darkness and gloom that envelop us like these days of the pandemic as we now see with everybody posting on Facebook the need to be silent, to be contemplative in spirit.
Thomas Didymus, balance and harmony
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe."
Thomas answered and said to him,
"My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him,
"Have you come to believe
because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen
and have believed."
First, let us not take the doubts of Thomas negatively. Some accounts claim that his name Didymus or “Twin” in both Aramaic and Greek may refer to his twin characteristics of having doubts and faith at the same time.
Thomas was not an unbeliever when he doubted the news told by his companions that the Lord had risen. In fact, when he said he will not believe them unless he sees and puts his hands into the mark of the nails in the Lord’s hands and side was already an expression of his faith in Jesus. He already knew at that time that the Lord can only be recognized by his wounds from the cross and not by his face which is the usual and ordinary way of knowing another person.
Here we find Thomas having deep faith in Jesus though not so intense. When Jesus told him “do not be unbelieving, but believe”, he was not reproaching Thomas but more of exhorting him to cling more in that faith in him. And that exhortation applies to us to this time too!
Yes, it is not enough to see in order to believe for there are times that it is in believing that we are able to see.
But in this episode with Thomas, we are reminded that our faith lies more in our personal acknowledgment of Jesus Christ alive in us, is risen among us. Even if we can enumerate so many reasons for believing in him along with the proofs by other reliable witnesses attesting to us, what is most crucial is always our own, personal conviction that Jesus Christ is “my Lord and my God.”
That is the giftedness of our faith that John tries to tell us in the second reading: all of our sight and faith in God beginning with the commandments rest in Christ Jesus affirmed to us daily by the Holy Spirit as we slowly inch closer to our future glory in heaven with him in the Father.
Through the Holy Spirit, our faith in God in Jesus Christ is led onto the horizontal dimension of our relationships with one another in love as a “community of believers of one heart and one mind where no one claimed any of his possessions as his own, but had everything in common” (Acts 4:32).
On this eight day of Easter that signifies the continuation of Easter, may we experience the intensity of our Risen Lord Jesus anew in his Divine Mercy working in us, working through us.
We are not asked to be intense like Jesus who can break every barriers in life. He knows our weaknesses and limitations, especially our doubts and insecurities.
In his Divine Mercy, Jesus comforts us amid the grave sufferings we are going through in this pandemic surge, encouraging us to persevere in our faith, hope, and love in him.
Let us imitate the Apostle Thomas to always strike that balance and harmony of our faith and doubts, joys and sadness, glory and sorrows so that we keep ourselves awake and responsive to Christ’s calls to share in his wounds and healing especially in this time of the pandemic. May we keep the commandments of God, walk in the truth of the Spirit and live in faith and love of Jesus for others. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 09 April 2021
The reality – and gravity – of the lockdown hit me most that Wednesday morning when I celebrated Mass alone. Without the usual faces and voices of our regular Mass goers who greeted me daily upon opening our church door since I came to my former parish in 2011, I just felt something so unique.
It was as if Jesus was making some “lambing” (tender moments) with me as his priest.
For so long, I have been celebrating Mass on weekdays with at least five people present that there were times it had become mechanical like a routine, sometimes even like a “show” that it has to be good so that I look good, sound good, and everybody feels good.
But on that first day of the lockdown, as I prepared everything from removing the altar cover to bringing out the books and sacred vessels to celebrating “alone” with some birds keeping me company, I somehow felt Jesus most truly present.
Just him and me, at his altar, in his church.
That was how I realized deep within me the beauty and sanctity of the Holy Mass not in the external things we see and hear but most of all in my intimacy and union with Jesus Christ as his priest.
With or without the congregation, every Holy Mass is the summit of the priest’s life and very existence because that is where his union in Jesus Christ our Eternal Priest is most true.
The way the priest celebrates the Mass – his disposition, his attitude, the way he looks and keep things in order – all indicate his oneness with Jesus Christ. Liturgy flows from the heart of the priest and from that springs our social action and involvement.
How sad when some priests has made the lockdown an excuse not to celebrate the Mass at all.
In depriving himself of the essential union with the Lord and Master, in effect he has deprived his flock the much needed strength from the Good Shepherd.
Even without the pictures and videos of the priest celebrating the Mass sine populo (without the people), that is the most wonderful and most treasured image of COVID-19 only God sees because it is the most sublime image of his Son Jesus Christ present amid this pandemic.
Every word in the Lectionary and the Sacramentary, every moment of that private Mass during the lockdown was like a “cosmic experience” where the eternal and the temporal converge as if time stands still, with these words echoing in the silence of the universe within me:
"...you never cease to gather a people to yourself,
so that from the rising of the sun to its setting
a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name."
(Eucharistic Prayer III)
Images of COVID-19,
Images of Hope,
Images of Christ
Two Sundays after the lockdown last year came the Holy Week ushered in by Palm Sunday when we went around the parish blessing the palms and fronds of people who have gathered on the streets after our announcement in Facebook and online Mass.
Skies were overcast that morning that we decided to visit first the other end of our parish, Purok Gulod, where we experienced rains and saw the beautiful rainbow the other Sunday.
Nobody saw the lockdown coming. Most of the people did not have the ready-made palms and instead had branches of leaves and fronds available in their surroundings which we blessed while on board our borrowed Ford F-150 after the Mass that morning attended by a few parish volunteers.
But the most touching images of COVID-19 that Holy Week last year happened on the Good Friday procession of the Santo Entierro we have mounted on a truck, brought around the parish after the Veneration of the Cross at 3PM.
From images of COVID-19 as images of hope, the sights have transformed into images of Christ suffering and dead among the people who knelt and prayed while others cried on the streets during procession.
Since it was a Good Friday when there was no holy water, I brought the crucifix with which to bless the people not only on the streets but also those in their vehicles passing by during the procession.
It was very edifying.
How I felt Jesus described in the gospel while going around preaching the good news to all towns and villages:
At the sight of the crowds,
his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
I can still remember my short homily during that Good Friday’s Veneration of the Cross: I told the people that while we were so sad with what was happening due to the pandemic, Jesus was surely more sad with what was going on in the world, in our parish community.
It was a very meaningful Good Friday after all when as the sun set, God reassured me anew and I think everybody else in our parish that we were not alone. We have him as company, consoling us in this time of the pandemic with the beautiful sights of everyone out in the streets praying.
Yes, they are images of COVID-19 but also images of hope.
Most of all, images of Christ among us, suffering and dying first among us in our community during the pandemic.
Join us again on Monday with more images of COVID-19 as images of hope and images of Christ risen among us!
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday within the Octave of Easter, 09 April 2021
Acts of the Apostles 4:1-12 <*(((>< + ><)))*> John 21:1-14
I could easily identify with your words today, Lord Jesus, especially with the flow of the story of the healing of the crippled man through Peter and John: from the Upper Room to the Beautiful Gate to Solomon’s Portico to their being thrown to prison; from the proclamation of the Good News of salvation to the healing of the crippled man and now their persecution and harassment.
After the crippled man had been cured,
while Peter and John were still speaking to the people,
the priests, the captain of the temple guard,
and the Sadducees confronted them,
disturbed that they were teaching the people
and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
They laid hands on Peter and John
and put them in custody until the next day,
since it was already evening.
So many times, Lord, we resent and avoid sufferings in life like persecution without realizing that it is through these trials that we make it to Easter like you when you passed over from your Passion and Death to Resurrection.
There are also times, Lord, when we feel so down, feeling lost and disappointed that we try going back to our old ways like Peter and his companions that Sunday morning when they decided to go fishing again after you have risen.
Like them, we feel we can be on our own that when failures come, we fail to recognize you only to realize later that without you, we can do nothing.
When it was already dawn,
Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them,
"Children, have you caught anything to eat?"
They answered him, "No."
So he said to them, "Cast the net
over the right side of the boat and you will find something."
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved
said to Peter, "It is the Lord."
Thank very much, dear Jesus for bearing with us when we feel afraid of your mission, when we doubt if it is really you who is with us, directing us, guiding us.
Send us your Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and our hearts to be firm in our faith in you, to trust you that when trials come our way, your abundant blessings are also there pouring into us to weather every storm in life. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday within the Easter Octave, 08 April 2021
Acts 3:11-26 ><)))*> + <*(((>< Luke 24:35-48
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem... The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way, and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, "Peace be with you." Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things." (Luke 24:33,35-36,45-48)
O dearest Jesus, help us find our way back to you! Let us turn around, turn towards you, go back to you in Jerusalem to meet you with the other disciples. Help us to repent and be converted as Peter preached in the first reading so our sins may be wiped away to see and experience you (Acts 3:19).
Cast away our doubts and fears of coming to you, of experiencing you, of seeing you because all you want is for us to be free from the bondage of sins and guilt, of the past pains and hurts so we may experience Easter – which is the fulfillment and fullness of life in you, Lord Jesus.
Strengthen our faith through the words of the scriptures that attest everything written about you is true and are meant for our own good as children of the Father.
May we keep in mind that Easter is not an ending, Lord.
As your “witnesses” to your passion, death, and resurrection, remind us of this great mission to spread your gifts of peace and forgiveness to everyone as we strive to establish your Kingdom here on earth by making life more humane especially in this time of the pandemic.
Give us patience and perseverance to go through the process of daily conversion so that your Easter may continue in us and lead to our genuine reconciliation with everyone to the Father by removing our many divisions, fears and hostilities that prevent us from caring and loving each other. Amen.
It was a Tuesday within the Octave of Easter under our first – and world’s longest – Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) when I started this prayer blog based on the Mass readings as a “spiritual recipe” for tired and weary souls at that time when churches were closed and public Masses were not allowed.
It was pure grace that I was able to keep it daily until now in my new assignment, never running out of inspiration from God for my prayers, poems, essays and reflections, and the usual Sunday homilies I have been sharing via email since 2003.
Some of my inspirations came from unforgettable images of COVID-19 that went viral on Facebook and the news that for me were “images of hope” of the Risen Christ reminding us of his presence during this pandemic.
They are images of hope because they tell us modern Easter stories of holiness and kindness, love and sacrifice among ordinary people willing to share Jesus in their very selves for others in need.
And this photo tops them all!
I got this from the Facebook by a church-beat reporter who personally met the photographer who took that shot and interviewed the banana vendor.
What a beautiful reminder of the poor widow praised by Jesus who gave “two small coins worth a few cents” into the temple collection box, saying: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mk.12:43-44).
My initial reaction upon seeing this image of COVID-19 was how the world never runs out of many good people, who give without expecting anything in return: “may mga tao pa rin palang tunay at dalisay ang pagmamahal at hindi naghihintay ng kapalit.”
I wonder where is that vendor now and what has happened to him. Surely, God must have blessed him abundantly!
A week before the lockdown that March 2020, another set of images appeared on Facebook of a beautiful story of miracle in the supermarket.
According to the Facebook post that became viral, people were panic buying following rumors of a lockdown to be imposed due to the pandemic.
A young lady waiting at the long line to the counter noticed a man had only a basket containing a handful of grocery items.
She turned out to be a “fairy godmother” who offered the manong to get more goods for his family assuring him she would pay for them.
Manong was hesitant at first, very shy with the kind offer by the young lady until he acceded, getting a few more canned goods.
According to the post by an eye-witness, the “fairy” asked manong again to get more goods, saying “dagdagan pa po ninyo at babayaran ko.”
That was when miracle happened…
Some of those at the counter were infected with a holy virus by the young lady’s generosity.
One by one, each customer gave manong a can or an item of their purchases so that he had a basket full of goodies to take home for his family!
Indeed, love begets love begets love… it is the kind of good virus I am sure still happening today even without being reported in social media.
What a beautiful modern version of Jesus Christ’s feeding of 5000 in the wilderness when everybody shared their baon with others (Jn.6:1-15) that filled everyone to his/her delight with still plenty of leftovers.
I turned 55 on March 22, the first Sunday of the start of last year’s lockdown, the fifth Sunday of Lent. It was also the first time we went online with our Mass that morning when I called on the people to wait outside their homes later at 3PM – while maintaining health protocols – for the “paglibot” (motorized procession) of the Blessed Sacrament in our Parish at Barangay Bagbaguin made up of ten purok.
How my heart was moved at the sight of people, young and old, rich and poor alike, kneeling on the streets with some crying, adoring Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament!
Truly the images of hope that have sustained and blessed our parishioners at Bagbaguin with the lowest incidence of COVID infections and deaths that year in the whole town of Santa Maria, Bulacan!
But the most beautiful image of hope for me that day was the appearance of a rainbow before the end of our “libot” of the Blessed Sacrament.
We were at the last leg of our “libot” when it started to rain with our volunteers asking whether we would still go to the next purok of Gulod or not. From the back of our truck with both my hands holding the big monstrance, my response was adamant: we proceed even if it rains!
I knew we have brought plastic to cover and protect the Blessed Sacrament from the rains and I felt what mattered most then were the people to have a glimpse of Jesus in their most difficult trials in life.
Lo and behold, after a few minutes, the rains stopped and a rainbow appeared at the horizon!
Tears rolled down to my cheeks saturated with perspirations as I held the big monstrance.
I could not contain the joy within my heart as I thanked God for the grace of that moment, of sending us with a rainbow to assure us like during Noah’s time that he would keep his promise never again to destroy earth with floods or with virus, that we would be safe during this pandemic.
It was the best birthday gift I ever had in recent years that made me decide to continue that practice of libot of the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday while public Masses were not allowed during the lockdown.
What are your images of COVID-19 that were images of hope that sustained you in this year-old pandemic?
Join us again this Friday with more images of COVID-19 and this time, images of Christ among us!
*Other photos by Ms. Ria De Vera and Ms. Anne Ramos of our Parish Commission on Social Communications.