When evil overtakes us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 28 January 2022
2 Samuel 11:1-4, 5-10, 13-17   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Mark 4:26-34
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 25 January 2022.
Why do we always try to "imprison"
or keep you in a place, God our Father?
Why, despite our faith and knowledge
of your power and might, we insist on 
trying to entrap you in the hope we can
get away with our evil deeds or sins?
Praying over the first reading for today
on how King David committed his first 
grave sins against you, I could see myself
in him overpowered by evil during those
instances when I thought you were out
or far from my side not to see my sins:

At the turn of the year, when kings go out on campaign, David sent out Joab along with his officers and the army of Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. David, however, remained in Jerusalem (while the ark of the covenant was lodged in tents while his soldiers fought the Ammonites, cf. v. 11).

2 Samuel 11:1
What happened with David that
after getting Bathsheba pregnant,
he tried to dupe her husband Uriah
by luring him to sleeping with his wife
that when it did not work, he had him
positioned in a battle to die and get away
with his sins?
How sad and so shameful when we,
like David, fall into a series of sins we
thought we could get under control
only to find ourselves imprisoned
in the darkness of evil.
Make us realize, Lord, the enduring
truth of your powerful and silent 
presence even in the darkest night
when nothing seems to happen:

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God: It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise, night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.”

Mark 4:26-27
"Grant me, O Lord my God", 
as St. Thomas Aquinas would 
pray to you: 
"a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you."
Amen.

St. Thomas Aquinas,
Pray for us!

Most powerful prayer is when we are weakest

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week III, Year II in Ordinary Time, 27 January 2022
2 Samuel 7:18-19, 24-29   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   Mark 4:21-25
“Losing one’s head in prayer”, photo by Ms. JJ Jimeno, GMA-7 News, May 2019.
God our Father,
thank you for the gift 
of prayer, for the grace
and chance to feel and hear
you, experience you, be
blessed by you at prayer.
Let us always be still before you,
Lord, especially in prayer; free us
from so many thoughts of worrying
about you like building or having a 
"suitable" place to experience you
in prayer like King David who planned
a temple for you.
After listening from your words
through the prophet Nathan,
David realized the most powerful
prayer to you is when we are weakest:

After Nathan had spoken to King David, the king went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, Lord God, and who are the members of my house, that you have brought me to this point? Yet even this you see as too little, Lord God; you have also spoken of the house of your servant for a long time to come: this too you have shown to man, Lord God!”

2 Samuel 7:18-19
What a beautiful prayer
and disposition by David
your servant, Lord; this early
in his reign as King, he had
shown his most wonderful 
trait before you - humility,
always accepting his weakness
and limitations, always aware
that the fulfillment of your
promise depends entirely on
you, O God; and, that he is just
a fragile instrument in the process.
This would continue in moments of
his great sins later in life, of having
a humble and contrite heart always.
Help us to appreciate, dear Father,
our feebleness, our being like a 
flickering lamp that still gives light
in the darkness; may we realize
that it is during our weakest moments
when you can achieve the most
in us and through us for as St. Paul
had said, "when I am weak then I
am strong" (2 Cor.12:10)!  Amen.

Panatilihin ang Alab sa Diyos

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Miyerkules, Paggunita kina San Timoteo at San Tito, mga Obispo, 26 Enero 2022
2 Timoteo 1:1-8   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   Lucas 10:1-9
Larawan kuha ni Irina Anastasiu sa Pexels.com

Tatlong taon bago nagsimula ang pandemya noong 2017, naanyayahan ako na pangunahan ang pananalangin sa “retirement ceremony” ng kaibigan na dati ring kasamahan sa trabaho. 

Nakatutuwa pala na makita at makausap muli mga dating kasamahan maging mga naging “bossing” namin na dati’y aming iniilagan dahil baka kami masabon.  Ganoon pala ang magka-edad, ang pumalo sa 50 anyos pataas, pare-pareho kaming nakasalamin at malalabo mga mata, mapuputi ang mga buhok at bago kumain, umiinom ng iba’t ibang mga gamot. 

At ang mga usapan, puro “noong araw”!

Kaya naman hindi maiwasan magkumparahan sa bagong henerasyon at isang nakatatanda na retiree dati naming boss ang nagsabi, “bakit kaya mga bata ngayon maski 40 anyos na, bata pa rin?”            

Napagnilay ako ng katanungang iyon at habang nagkakasiyahan kami sa mga alaala ng aming kabataan, naalala ko ang mga kuwentuhan namin noon kasi ay bihirang-bihira mapag-usapan ang Diyos at mga tungkol sa Kanya gaya ng pagsisimba at mga paksang espiritwal maliban lamang na ako ay kanilang tatanungin lalo na kapag nasa lamayan.

Kaya nawika ko sa aking sarili “marahil kaya bata pa rin mga bata ngayon maski 40 anyos na” dahil nagkulang kaming nakatatanda, ang mga magulang at mga lolo at lola ngayon sa pagdiriin ng pangangaral at pagsasabuhay ng pananampalataya. 

Pansinin po natin si San Pablo paano niya itinuring sina San Timoteo at San Tito bilang kanyang mga anak habang ipinagdiinan ang kanilang pagkamulat sa pananampalataya:  “Hindi ko malilimutan ang tapat mong pananampalataya, katulad ng pananampalataya ng iyong Lola Loida at ni Eunice na iyong ina.  Natitiyak kong taglay mo pa ngayon ang pananampalatayang iyon. Dahil dito, ipinaalala ko sa iyo na maging masigasig ka sa pagtupad sa tungkuling tinanggap mo sa Diyos nang ipatong ko ang aking mga kamay sa ulo mo. Sapagkat hindi espiritu ng kaduwagan ang ibinigay sa atin ng Diyos kundi Espiritu ng kapangyarihan, pag-ibig, at pagpipigil ng sarili” (1Tim.1:5-7).

Larawan kuha ni G. Jim Marpa, 2017.

Hindi ba nakakahiyang isipin na sa ngayon, ang mag-igib at maglinis ng bahay ay pawang mga “reality games” na lang sa telebisyon gayong ganito ang ating buhay noon? 

Hindi ba nakakabahala na parang malaking balita ngayon yung makarinig ng mga tao na nagsusumakit sa pagsisikap na maging mabuti at marangal sa buhay at gawain?

Bakit mangha-mangha mga tao ngayon sa mga kuwento ng pagmamalasakitan ng pamilya at magkakaibigan gayong dapat naman ganoon talaga tayo sa buhay?

Hindi kaya masyadong na-spoil mga henerasyon ngayon, lahat ng kanilang hilig ay ibinigay ng mga magulang at lolo at lola di alintana masamang epekto sa gawi at pag-uugali ng mga bata?  At dahil nga “napanis” o na-spoil ang mga bata, pati ang disiplina ng buhay espiritwal gaya ng pagdarasal at pagsisimba ay napabayaan. 

Opo, disiplina ang pagdarasal at pagsisimba. Kapag pinabayaan mga ito at nawala sa mga tao, wala na tayong igagalang na kapwa o lugar man lamang at pagkakataon dahil maski Diyos at simbahan hindi na kayang igalang pa. 

Nananatili hanggang ngayon lalo sa ating nakatatanda at di lamang sa mga bata ang misyon ni Hesus kaya siya humirang pa ng pitumpu’t dalawang mga alagad na kanyang sinugo na mauna sa kanya (Luc.10:1-9).

Larawan kuha ni G. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Tayo ang mga iyon sa panahong ito, tayong mga nakatatanda na dapat puno ng alab para sa Panginoon at Kanyang mabuting balita na hatid sa lahat na sa panahong ito ay litong-lito maski na sagana sa mga bagay na materyal.

Tayo ang inaasahan ni Hesus na gagabay sa maraming naliligaw ng landas, lalo na mga kabataan na ibig siluin at lapain ng mga nagkalat na “asong-gubat” sa gitna ng saganang anihin.

Tayo ang mga makabagong San Timoteo at San Tito, dalawang banal na nagparubdob ng alab para sa Diyos sa pagpapahayag nila noon sa salita at gawa na “Nalalapit na ang paghahari ng Diyos sa inyo” (Luc. 10:9) dahil sila rin mismong dalawa ay naranasan ang sigasig sa pananampalataya ng kanilang mga magulang at ninuno noon.  Amen. 

Stiring into flame God’s gifts to us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of Sts. Titus & Timothy, Bishops, 26 January 2022
2 Timothy 1:1-8   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   Luke 10:1-9
Photo from Facebook April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord.”
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father,
in sending us the great 
apostle St. Paul whose feast
of conversion we celebrated
yesterday!  His life and teachings
continue to loom above us this
day as we celebrate the memorial
of his two close associates, Saints
Timothy and Titus.

…to Timothy, my dear child: as I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice, and that I am confident lives also in you. For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.

2 Timothy 1:1, 5-7
O God, so many times we complain
of the young generation for so many
things like loyalty and dedication, 
commitment and responsibilities
without examining our very selves
as their elders or adults ahead of them:
how I envy St. Paul to be able to say those
words to Timothy while remembering the 
witnessing to faith by his grandmother Lois
and mother Eunice who were all guided
and shepherded by the great Apostle!
Before we expect too much from those
younger to us, teach us to be humble and
sincere:  what have we taught and lived by
example to them?  Have we been like 
St. Paul who was so full of zeal and enthusiasm
in preaching the Good News to everyone, 
in season and out of season?
Dearest Jesus, you are the one
who calls and sends us to announce
"The Kingdom of God is at hand" 
(Lk.10:9), stir into flame in us your gifts
of witnessing to your values of love, 
peace and justice in a world so 
abundantly rich in things but 
miserably poor in meanings;
awaken us, O Lord, young and old
alike, to the urgency of your mission.
Amen.

Pagbabalik-loob, pagpapaloob sa kalooban ng Diyos

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Kapistahan ng Pagbabalik-loob ni San Pablo, Ika-25 ng Enero 2022
Gawa ng mga Apostol 22:3-16  ><}}}*> + <*{{{><  Marcos 16:15-18
Larawan mula sa en.holyordersofststephen.org ipinapakita pagkamatay ng unang martir ng Simbahan si San Esteban habang pinapanood ni Saul na noo’y taga-usig ng mga Kristiyano habang napakita naman mula sa langit ang Panginoong Jesu-Kristo.

“Kalooban ng Diyos.”  Ito ang sa tuwina palagi nating inaalam sapagkat batid nating ito ang pinakamabuti para sa atin.  Subalit kadalasan tayo ay nabibigo, naguguluhan kung ano ang kalooban ng Diyos dahil madalas akala natin para itong tanong na isang pindot ay malalaman kaagad ang sagot tulad ng sa Google.

Kauna-unahang hinihingi sa atin upang mabatid ang kalooban ng Diyos ang tayo muna ay “pumaloob sa Diyos” na ibig sabihi’y dapat nasa loob tayo ng Diyos. Kung ikaw ay nasa labas ng Diyos, tiyak ikaw ay lumayo sa Kanya dahil sa kasalanan; kaya, pagbabalik-loob sa Kanya ang kinakailangan.

Ibig kong simulan dito ang pagninilay sa Kapistahan ng Pagbabagong-buhay ni San Pablo Apostol na ating ipinagdiriwang sa araw na ito. Ito ang upisyal na salin mula sa Inggles ng “Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle” na tila may kulang.

Ganito kasi iyon: Tama rin namang sabihing “pagbabagong-buhay” dahil bawat conversion wika nga ay pagbabago tulad ng na-convert sa ibang relihiyon o sa ibang anyo o gamit. Ngunit sa bawat pagbabago, mayroong higit na malalim na nababago na hindi namang ibig sabihin ay nag-iiba o nagiging different.

Kasi iyong sinasabing conversion ni San Pablo o ng sino pa mang tao ay hindi naman pagbabago ng pagkatao kung tutuusin; sa bawat conversion ng isang makasalanan o masamang tao, hindi naman nababago yaong tao talaga kungdi kanyang puso na siyang naroon sa kanyang kalooban.

Ibig bang sabihin ang pagbabagong buhay ay yaong dating masayahin o palatawa magiging malungkutin o iyakin? Yaong dating mapusok at malakas ang loob magiging duwag? O yaong pagbigla-bigla at padaskol-daskol ay magiging makupad at mabagal sa pagdedesisyon?

Sa pagbabagong-buhay ng sino man tulad ni San Pablo, hindi nababago ang pagkatao: mapusok pa rin si San Pablo, palaban at matapang nang tawagin at sumunod kay Kristo. Hindi naman nabago kanyang karakter pero nabago kanyang puso na nahilig sa kalooban ng Diyos pagkaraan. Iyong kanyang dating kapusukan at katapangan sa pag-uusig ng mga Kristiyano ay nalihis naman sa pagpapahayag ng Mabuting Balita ni Hesus sa mga Hentil at kapwa niya Judio.

Kaya naman higit na malalim at makahulugang isalin ang conversion ng sino man sa katagang “pagbabalik-loob”. Bawat nagkakasala ay lumalayo ang loob mula sa Diyos na ibig sabihin ay “ayaw sa Diyos” gaya ng ating pakahulugan tuwing sinasabing “malayo ang loob”.

Kapag nagsisi at tumalikod sa kasalanan ang isang tao, hindi lamang siya nagbabagong-buhay o nag-iiba ng pamumuhay kungdi higit sa lahat, siya ay “nagbabalik-loob” sa Diyos. Tatlong bagay ang itinuturo sa ating ni San Pablo sa kanyang karanasan ng pagbabalik-loob sa Diyos.  

Larawan mula sa en.wikipedia.org ni San Pablo sa harapan ng Basilica ni San Pablo sa Roma, Italya.

Una, bawat pagbabalik-loob ay isang personal na pagtawag at paanyaya mula sa Panginoong Hesus.  Batay sa salaysay ni San Pablo, “Nasubasob ako sa lupa, at narinig ko ang isang tinig sa akin, ‘Saulo, Saulo!’”(Gawa 22:7).  

Araw-araw inaanyayahan tayo ni Hesus na magbalik-loob sa Kanya. 

Iyong mabatid lamang natin sa ating kalooban na mali ang ating ginagawa o kaya tayo ay kabahan at matakot sa isang masamang gawain, iyon na ang tinig ni Hesus na tumatawag sa atin katulad kay San Pablo. 

Huwag na nating hintayin pa ang isang “dramatic” o “bonggang” pagkakataon wika nga upang pakinggan ang tawag ng Panginoon katulad nang mahulog sa kanyang kabayo si San Pablo.  Hindi ibig ng Diyos na sumadsad pa ang ating buhay sa kasamaan at mawala na ang lahat ng pagkakataong makabalik pa sa Kanya.            

Ikalawa, madalas kapag tayo tinawag ng Diyos na magbalik-loob sa Kanya ay hindi kaagad maliwanag ang lahat sa atin kaya kailangan natin ng taga-akay: “Nabulag ako dahil sa kaningningan ng liwanag na iyon, kaya’t ako’y inakay na lamang ng mga kasama ko papasok sa Damaso” (Gawa 22:11). 

Larawan kuha ni G. Jim Marpa, 2019.

At hindi lamang basta taga-akay ang kailangan natin sa bawat pagbabalik-loob kungdi isang mahusay na gabay katulad ni Ananias na “isang taong may takot sa Diyos, tumutupad sa Kautusan, at iginagalang ng mga Judiong naninirahan sa Damasco” (Gawa 22:12). 

Si Ananias ang ginamit ng Diyos upang mapagaling ang pagkabulag ni San Pablo at malahad sa kanya ang kalooban ng Diyos na mapalaganap ang Mabuting Balita.

Ang mahusay na gabay ay yaong pumapawi at nagpapagaling sa ating mga pagkabulag sa katotohanan ng Diyos sa buhay na ito. Wika mismo ni Hesus, maaring bang maging taga-akay ng mga bulag ang isa pang kapwa bulag?

Magkaroon ng isang mabuting taga-akay o spiritual director na hindi namang dapat pari o madre lamang kungdi yaong isang mabuting pastol na kalakbay at kaagapay sa ating spiritual journey.

Ikatlo, bawat tawag sa pagbabalik-loob sa Diyos ay palaging paanyayang pumasok sa isang komunyon o kaisahan kay Hesus at Kanyang pamayanan o komunidad.  Ito ang magandang bahagi ng pagtawag kay San Pablo:  nagpakilala si Jesus bilang kanyang inuusig na Kristiyano, “Saulo, Saulo!  Bakit mo ako pinag-uusig?  Ako’y si Jesus na taga-Nazaret na iyong pinag-uusig” (Gawa 22:7,8)

Ang totoong pagbabalik-loob o pagbabagong-buhay ay yaong hindi lamang makita ang sarili kungdi makita ang kanyang kaisahan kay Hesus at sa kapwa-tao.  Walang kabuluhan ang ano mang pagpapakabuti ng sarili na nakahiwalay sa Diyos at sa kapwa.  Hindi kabutihan kungdi kapalaluan ang walang ibang makita kungdi sarili.  


Madaling sabihin ang mga bagay na ito at sadyang mahirap gawin.  Subalit kung ating susuriin ang naging buhay ni San Pablo, hindi lamang minsanang pangyayari ang magbalik-loob sa Diyos.

Isang mahabang proseso ang kanyang pinagdaanan sa kanyang pagbabalik-loob o pagbabagong-buhay; katulad natin marahil siya ma’y nagkakasala minsan-minsan sa Panginoon. 

Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 2019.

Ang mahalaga ay ang patuloy niyang pagninilay at pananalangin, ang pagsisikap niyang “pumaloob sa Diyos” upang mabatid at maisakatuparan ang Kanyang Banal na Kalooban na “Humayo kayo sa buong sanlibutan at ipangaral ninyo sa lahat ang Mabuting Balita” (Mc.16:15).  

Kaya, huwag manghinawa sakaling mabagal ang iyong “pagbabagong-buhay”; minsa’y akala mo lamang wala namang nababago at masama ka pa rin.

Hindi totoo iyan dahil batid ni Hesus, nakikita ni Hesus ang pagsisikap natin mula sa kaloob-looban natin hindi pa man tayo pumapaloob sa Kanya.

Ang totoo kasi, palagi namang nasa loob natin si Hesus, kahit anong pilit nating lumayo sa Kanya. Amen.

Thoughts on homesickness

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 22 January 2022
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.

I have always taken homesickness lightly, dismissing it as a simple feeling we all go through once in a while when we leave home for various reasons. Maybe that is due to my entering the seminary in high school, aged 13-16, when I left my family for three years.

Everything changed when I went on vacation to the US in 2003. For the first time in my life, I felt so homesick after extending my two-month vacation to almost five months! That was when I realized the painful truth of homesickness: it is not really that you wanted to come home but more of longing for your loved ones from home, wishing they are with you having a great time at Times Square or enjoying the views from Washington’s Monument or devouring those giant oysters at New Orleans.

Homesickness is not really missing home as a place but home as family, as persons. One writer had said it so well that “homesickness is not really about the places but the faces we miss”!

It is having that feeling while in the midst of all those sights and sounds and tastes, you wish your loved ones are with you too, doubling the fun and adventures you are having. It is wanting to go home and take everybody out to your vacation or location.

But, lately I found out there is something else deeper with the faces and company we miss when we feel homesick; it is also the time and moments lost and gone in the past you try to bring back into the present. Not just of other persons but your very self – including all your dreams and pursuits or desires that got sidelined for so many reasons, valid or not. It is not really about having regrets in life but somehow, homesickness is a feeling best described by our Filipino word panghihinayang. Or, sayang.

It is a case of wasted presence, of taking persons and things for granted.

Thanks to the COVID pandemic. Aside from the virus, we are all afflicted with homesickness, of missing our loved ones whom we cannot visit or stay with due to the corona virus. And, whether we had mild or severe symptoms, homesickness was strongest – and strangest – when we were in isolation or quarantine due to infection.

Basta, all we strongly felt was to see our family and friends because we love them.

Photo by author, Sonnen Berg, Davao City, 2019.

Homesickness depends – for better or for worst – on the kind of presence we have spent with our loved ones.

If we have always been intense – and truthful – in our relationships with family and friends, homesickness becomes a soothing balm that relaxes us after a very tiring day or week specially when in isolation or quarantine. You know that kind of feeling within of assured contentment that you love and you are loved by other persons you do not see often or not even communicate with frequently. That is because when you were together, the presence you have spent with each other was so intense and pure that it had created an invisible bond between or among you that you do not seem apart from each other at all.

There is that wonderful feeling of remembering, of suddenly experiencing the warmth and loving face of your beloved. It happens briefly like a blink of an eye that seemed eternal. That’s because of the love you have.

Problem happens when our occasions of being present with one another is superficial or shallow, when we were physically present with another but emotionally and spiritually detached. That is when the hairline difference between homesickness and regrets occurs. We become homesick, trying to go back not only in place but in time to meet the persons including our old self now all gone. Our former rector, Fr. Memeng Salonga used to tell us in high school seminary that it is not really time that is passing by but you who are passing by. One cannot bring back time that had passed, specially the chances and opportunities it had for you if you do not use it wisely.

That’s the painful truth with homesickness when you miss so much how you have missed and let go of the time and moments you have to be truly present with someone and with your very self. And we say sayang.

Photo by author, Israel, 2017.

Recently I was exchanging text messages with a former student. We last met five years ago and both promised to meet again to work on a project and just simply have another great time together over some bottles of beer.

It never happened because we were both busy. Last Friday, he told me how he had COVID last year, the Delta surge. None of his connections could even get him into the ER of any hospital in the city. It was an eye-opener for him, indeed a second life as he survived COVID with a lot of faith and prayers. And love of family.

As I told him of my plans of slowing down in life and retiring early, he texted, “The way I see it po, it can also be wanting to really live. And not function like a machine.” (See why I love talking to him?)

Exactly! Sad, but true.

That has always been the challenge of life, of authentic living – when we become truly free to live and love and be faithful to God expressed in our kindness and service to one another. Of living in the present, in the here and now, in the “today” of Jesus Christ.

Homesickness does not need to be a sickness if we are always “present”.

Then all we have are memories, persons and events we remember and make present again as part of the here and now.

We hope the experts are proven right that the Omicron could be the beginning of the end of the pandemic. And if ever they are wrong, still, may we all be present, be a gift to everyone, and be home in every today God gives us.

From Facebook by Fragments of My Mind, 22 January 2022.

Praying for unity

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 24 January 2022
2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Mark 3:22-30
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, 18 January 2022.
Bless us, dear God our Father,
with the gift of unity among us -
in the family, in the community,
in office and in school, even in the
church; how sad that with the recent
surge of COVID-19, we have forgotten
the Church's annual Week of Prayer
for Christian Unity that closes tomorrow.
Like your servant King David, 
let us always seek you, God our Father
to be the very center and foundation
of our lives; like David, may we find 
you among one another as our kin -
"our bone and our flesh" - and never 
forget to serve you like a shepherd
to his flock.
Unlike the scribes who had come from
Jerusalem to accuse Jesus of driving out
demons by the power of Beelzebul, let us
not be instruments of divisions and 
fragmentations but of peace and unity.
May we heed the teachings of St. Francis
de Sales that in whatever situations we happen 
to be, may we always aspire to the life of
perfection through the practice of devotion
in different ways proper to our calling.  Amen.

Listening leads to presence

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday III-C in Ordinary Time, 23 January 2022
Nehemiah 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, January 2019.

I am still in quarantine after testing positive for COVID last Monday. One good thing I have realized these past days is how precious every moment of life as I counted each day, checking on my vital signs three times daily until I will have completed soon the required seven days.

Sometimes, we only realize the existential meaning and gravity of every “today” when we go through a difficult phase in life like getting COVID or like the Israelites finally getting home from exile, suddenly hearing the word of God proclaimed after many years of silence:

Then Ezra the priest-scribe said to all the people “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep,” for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further, “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”

Nehemiah 8:9-10

There are also times in our lives when suddenly we become so open to God’s words, so focused on Jesus to experience his presence like that sabbath day in a synagogue in Nazareth:

Photo by author, January 2019.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the yes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:20-21

Thanks to COVID that now I have felt how difficult it is to be separated from everyone, considering the mild symptoms I had as a fully vaxxed with booster too. It must have been so traumatizing for those who caught the virus during the early surges of 2020 and 2021 without the benefits of the vaccines and other modern medicines. Many of them who survived COVID or have lost loved ones until now feel the pains and hurts of those experiences. Indeed, it is after a difficult situation when we truly realize the value of every present moment we have with our loved ones, when everyone becomes so real and precious, when every present is truly a gift.

Today our readings invite us to slow down, to saunter – so to speak – as we journey in Jesus with Luke as our guide who at his prologue to his gospel tells us how he had “investigated everything accurately anew” regarding the “certainty of teachings of Jesus handed down” to us since the beginning (cf. Lk.1:3-4). Like with our loved ones we miss so much these days of quarantine and surge, Jesus reminds us to always listen to make everyone and him present in us.

Our conscious coming into the Father’s house

Last Sunday at the Feast of the Sto. Niño we reflected how we exercise our child-like traits before God whenever we go into “the Father’s house” like the 12-year old Jesus who was found at the Temple. Our going into the Father’s house to pray and receive the Sacraments expresses our rootedness and oneness with God through Jesus Christ.

This Sunday in our gospel, we find Jesus going again into his Father’s house to “proclaim and claim” the word of God as his very presence among us.

Imagine his movements in “slo-mo” when “He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” (Lk.4:16-18).

It must have been a moving moment for everyone. So mesmerizing for here was a man so present, so strongly felt with something in him freely walking up to proclaim the word of God. And what an experience for everyone that after “Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:21).

That “today” would be repeated by Jesus with the same intensity on Good Friday shortly before he died when he promised to Dimas “today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk.23:43).

But, do we make that conscious approach in coming into the Father’s house to celebrate the Sacraments particularly the Sunday Eucharist where the first part itself is devoted to the liturgy of the Word?

Photo by author, April 2020.

In non-verbal communications, we have that communication of spaces called “proxemics”, of how places are designed and positioned to convey something special and profound. Houses of worship of every faith are built on this important aspect of proxemics as every space conveys something about God and his people.

One example of proxemics is the patio of the church with its tall cross at the middle to remind the faithful they are about to enter the Father’s house, of their need to dispose themselves both inside and outside by being silent and being dressed properly.

Sadly, many churches in the country has no patio at all or its patio had become a parking area and worst, a basketball court. What is most tragic is how all these dispositions of coming into the Sunday Mass are disregarded by many people, led by church volunteers who talk endlessly with one another while some priests dress and look sloppily. This is one of the positive aspects of the Tridentine or Latin Mass where the atmosphere of solemnity fills the church and the people as well – and that is why many of the faithful are asking for it! A good example of what St. Paul tells us about the unity in diversity within the Church in the Holy Spirit.

How can we experience the “today” of Jesus being present in us and among us when we do not have such kind of attitude and disposition to listen to him which begins outside the church? If we cannot do it in the proxemics or spatial level, how can we even do it right inside our hearts, whether we are laypeople or the clergy?

Listening to Christ today

One of my favorite writings by the great St. John Paul II is Ecclesia de Eucharistia published in 2003. He tells us something so beautiful about the “universal and cosmic character” of the Eucharist which for me captures the essence of the “today” mentioned by Jesus in the gospel:

Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #8).

Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #8

This is very true but we rarely experience it happening because we have refused to immerse ourselves in the very words of God. So few among our people read and pray the scriptures while many of us priests rarely speak the Lord’s words as we prefer to tell what we have seen or heard in media or from some famous theologians or thinkers.

Whatever our vocation and place in the Church and the assembly, each of us must immerse one’s self in the word of God first because it is his very presence too. In the story of creation, we learned how everything came into being simply with the words spoken by God.

Photo by author, ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum in Galilee frequented by Jesus, May 2017.

This Sunday we have heard how Jesus “read” on a sabbath at a synagogue in Nazareth, of how in his proclamation of that part of the Book of Isaiah the very words were fulfilled in their hearing.

It happens daily in the celebration of the Mass everywhere in the world whenever we – lay and clergy alike – imitate Jesus, asking us first of all to come with strong desire to be one with the Father, whether in his house of worship or in our room when we pray the scriptures.

Let us enter God with Jesus and in Jesus in the Sacred Books to find him there so we can listen to him how and what he reads, not what we want to hear and say.

We can only touch the hearts of the people and make them hear God speaking again in his words offered us daily in the Mass if we first learn and listen to what Jesus reads and tells us. It is only then when we hear the Word who became flesh that we are able to respond, “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.” Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead.

The nobility of respect

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, 21 January 2022
1 Samuel 24:3-21   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Mark 3:13-19
Photo by Dr. Myelene A. Santos, MD, 2020.
Just the other day, Wednesday,
you invited us, God our Father, 
to examine how we "look at each
other", what do we really see in the
other person:  friend or a foe, 
companion or rival, good or evil?*
Today, you teach us to always
"respect" one another despite 
each one's flaws and sins, especially
those in authority above us; after all,
to "respect" is "to look again" to the 
other person, from Latin words
"re" (again) + "specere" (to look/see).
So many times, we fail to respect one
another because we have refused to see
or look at them as a brother or a sister,
most especially as your anointed authority
above us or at least find your image and
likeness in each one of us.

David also stepped out of the cave, calling to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked back, David bowed to the ground in homage and asked Saul: “Why do you listen to those who say, ‘David is trying to harm you?’ You see for yourself today that the Lord just now delivered you into my grasp in the cave. I had some thought of killing you, but I took pity on you instead. I decided, ‘I will not raise a hand against my lord for he is the Lord’s anointed and a father to me.’ Look here at this end of your mantle which I hold . Since I cut off an end of your mantle and did not kill you, see and be convinced that I plan no harm and no rebellion.'”

1 Samuel 24:9-12
Make us like David, full of nobility
in his respect even to an enemy!
While it is a given that we must respect
one another as your beloved children,
O God, perhaps respect is truly earned
most by the one giving respect to
someone who had lost respect to 
others and self!
Enable us to imitate your Son
Jesus Christ full of respect to the
Twelve men he had chosen to be
his apostles even if he knew they were
of diverse backgrounds and most of all,
one of them would betray him.
But, that is respect to the highest
degree, Lord, when you choose
to always respect us and our choices
in life.
O blessed St. Agnes, martyred
at so young an age, pray for us
to be always pure like you, 
respectful before God and everyone,
including our persecutors!  Amen.

*https://lordmychef.com/2022/01/18/how-do-we-look-at-each-other/

The evil that is jealousy

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week II, Year II in Ordinary Time, 20 January 2022
1 Samuel 18:6-9, 19:1-7   ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'>   Mark 3:7-12
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Saul was very angry and resentful of the song, for he thought: “They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me. All that remains for him is the kingship.” And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David.

1 Samuel 18:8-9
God our loving Father,
today you present to us the
very familiar feeling of jealousy
we experience in our relationships 
when we feel and fear losing 
something or someone we already have; 
it is an unpleasant feeling that creeps 
into us when we think someone 
is trying to take what is already ours -
like Saul who felt David was trying
to steal the kingship from him.  
But what is most evil with jealousy
is how it makes us so obsessed with 
how we compare ourselves with others,
competing with people close to us
we perceive as rivals when they are not!
Teach us to be at home with our
true selves, with who we really are,
that we are good and adequate in ourselves; 
like Jesus Christ who was 
being pressed by people for his 
teaching prowess and power to heal,
give us the grace to always be ready
to go out to the sea to see our worth
before you our Father who loves us so
much in our very own uniqueness lest
our jealousies lead us to more harmful
evils and sins.  Amen.