Finding God in the ordinary

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 01 February 2023
Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15     ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>     Mark 6:1-6
Jesus departed from there 
and came to his native place,
accompanied by his disciples.
When the sabbath came
he began to teach in the synagogue,
and many who heard him were astonished
(Mark 6:1-2).

How nice, O Lord,
that you never stop 
to come home with us,
to be with us,
to be one of us.
And too often,
we are astonished
with your works.
Just like your local folks
back then at Nazareth.
So often, it all ends
that way with us with you,
Jesus:  we are astonished,
surprised, amazed, and wowed
by your works.
But rarely by your person
that we cannot see you anymore
in ordinary things and most especially,
when things become difficult.
Forgive us, Jesus, when like
your town folks, we also "took
offense at you" (Mk. 6:3), 
questioning you,
daring you with your powers;
make us realize the beauty of
you being a Brother,
a Friend to us,
someone we can come to,
someone we can rely on
as being present with us
always, and most of all,
our life and salvation 
for you are our Lord and Master.
Help us also endure our trials 
as a discipline like what the author of the
Letter to the Hebrews exhorted us
in the first reading today;
let us enter into a personal relationship
with you, Jesus, so we may also experience
our being children of the Father
who disciplines us with the trials
that come our way.

At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.

Hebrews 12:11-13
On this first day of February,
open our eyes and our hearts
to you dear Jesus that we may find you
always in ordinary and difficult times
of our lives for that is when 
you are most present in us and 
among us.  Amen.

Something old, something new

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 16 January 2023
Hebrews 5:1-10     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Mark 2:18-22
Glory and praise to you,
O God our loving Father,
for this brand new day
to begin anew in life,
to bridge and process
our past so we may live fully
in every present moment 
as we project our future.
Beginning today,
teach us in Christ Jesus your Son
the need for us to understand fully
and put into practice his teaching
"new wine is poured into
fresh wineskins" (Mk.2;22).
Enable us to always welcome change,
to find you coming to us in new
and often unexpected situations or
things and persons;
may we learn to bridge,
in fact become a bridge like Jesus,
the old and new,
the past and the present,
God and your people:
"In the days when he was in the Flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications
with loud cries and tears to the one
who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience
from what he suffered; and when he was made
perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation
for all who obey him" (Hebrews 5:7-9).
Dear Jesus,
teach me to have new perspectives,
new outlook in life in you,
by focusing more on you,
by believing in you,
in seeking and following you,
most of all, 
in seeing everything in you
so that I may learn to accept 
things of old
like pains and sufferings,
need for trials and difficulties
so that I may grow in
strength and maturity,
love and compassion
like you.
Amen.

Christmas is about accepting

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Advent, Third Simbang Gabi, 18 December 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14 ><]]]]'> Romans 1:1-7 ><]]]]'> Matthew 1:18-24
Photo from vaticannews.va, 14 December 2020.

We are now at the final stretch of our Advent Season, getting closer to Christmas Day with our gospel today directly telling us how it all happened. And it was not very easy – in fact so difficult – just like with most of us in our many experiences in life when everything did not go so well as planned.

It would not be surprising at all that so many times, many of us would have also thought of giving up, of letting go everything like St. Joseph!

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Matthew 1:18-19

Christmas is a story of accepting difficulties in life especially persons dearest to us suddenly thrown into challenging situations. Exactly what happened to St. Joseph and Mama Mary.

Many times in life, we advise people going through problems to just simply accept how things are –“tanggapin na lang” – with some sense of resignation as if there is nothing we can do.

Sometimes it is true but many times, not at all true like with St. Joseph’s predicament. He accepted first Mary and then Jesus on a totally different manner worthy of our emulation. It was not out of resignation to the situation but was first of all focused in accepting and valuing persons.

St. Joseph decided to silently leave Mary because of his great love for her. He did not want to expose her to shame and public humiliation that would surely result in being pregnant with a child not his. He did not merely accept the situation as if it were his lot to be “scooped” out by somebody else faster than him with Mary. Keep in mind how the evangelist described St. Joseph as a righteous man, a holy man that despite Mary’s pregnancy, he loved and valued her so much, totally as a person. His leaving her silently was a testimony to his great love and respect for her!


We demand "understanding" in order to "accept" 
without realizing that it is different 
with persons and with life in general 
when we must first "accept" in order to "understand"!

Unlike with us these days when everything has to be explained and spelled out in details before anything or anyone may be accepted. In this age of instants, we want instant explanations too on everything before making any decision, demanding many information to understand anything.

And everyone.

We demand “understanding” in order to “accept” without realizing that it is different with persons and with life in general when we must first “accept” in order to “understand”!

That was exactly the accepting attitude of St. Joseph. He might have not totally understood everything when explained to him by the angel in a dream. Imagine how very difficult it must have been to listen to instructions and explanations in a dream that are already difficult to grasp when done in normal circumstances while awake. But that shows the great maturity and deep spirituality of St. Joseph, of how he accepted everything told to him by the angel in a dream that upon waking up, he absolutely obeyed God’s instruction by taking Mary as his wife.

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Basilica of San Padre Pio, Italy, 2017.

One of my favorite singers is the late Marvin Gaye whose 1971 hit What’s Going On I have used extensively in lessons and recollections to young people. Its lyrics are so poetic yet so deep, with its first two stanzas calling for “loving” before it could lead to “understanding” at the third stanza after the chorus. It calls for acceptance first of everyone, of respect so we could love and understand more.

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
Oh, what’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)
What’s going on (What’s going on)

People can never be understood really. There are some people who are truly difficult to understand or as we say, “mahirap ispellengin”. Many times in life I have learned that we simply just have to accept everyone as unique, that God comes through everyone in each one’s uniqueness and peculiarities.

Situations become more difficult to accept unless we accept first the persons involved.

That begins with our very selves when we have to set aside our pride, our own good, even our own plans and agendas like St. Joseph in order to let God lead us truly to fulfillment.

Very often this is the problem with us when we insist on ourselves, on our own ideas and own plans. We get blinded with what we know and even with what we believe in like King Ahaz in the first reading.

Photo from Aleteia.org, “Let Mum Rest”, 2019

St. Joseph as an accepting person was also a very welcoming man like St. Paul in the second reading who took pride in being called and sent by God to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. A truly accepting person is always a welcoming one, full of warmth and joy because he/she has Jesus!

See the beauty of St. Joseph’s acceptance of God’s plan: when he accepted Mary, that is when Jesus came.

Thus, we must first accept God.

If we truly accept God, we must accept others as his gifts to us. No matter what.

It is in accepting others with all their differences when Jesus Christ truly comes.

When we learn to accept and welcome people, that is when Christmas truly happens. Not only in December but all year through! Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
thank you for coming to us daily
not only in our very selves and the many
events that happen to us but most especially
among people you send us;
there are times they are good and so faithful
like St. Joseph who are easy to accept;
but there are also times, they are very
difficult to accept or even understand
especially when they happen to be those
closes to us whom we also love.
Teach us to appreciate the value of silence
like St. Joseph so we may be accepting like him
because it is in our accepting of people and difficult
situations in life when you often come.
Amen.

Being transformed in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 2022
Number 21:4-9 ><}}}*> Philippians ><}}}*> John 3:13-17
Photo by Mr. Gelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020.
With their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses
(Numbers 21:4).
God our loving Father,
grant us patience and
perseverance in this journey
of life, to never complain against
you when things get difficult
and dark, or uncertain sometimes; 
open our minds and 
our hearts to find you,
to see you in Christ Jesus
who had come to accompany us
in this journey of life so we may be
transformed into better persons
who are more loving,
more kind, 
and more like you, 
our dear Father.
Teach us, dear God,
to imitate Jesus in emptying
ourselves in order to be filled
with your Spirit so that we may 
realize that the path to true
greatness, to exaltation is 
opposite the direction of the world
of adulations and affirmations,
ease and comforts  
but through the Cross to 
encounter Christ deep down
inside in all my weaknesses
and sins and vulnerabilities
because transformation happens
only from within. 

Teach us, dear God,
to imitate Jesus in emptying
ourselves to have a space for others
who are like us, weak and lost,
needing you and one another 
to rise as better persons by 
forming a community, of establishing
relationships that acknowledge you
truly as the Emmanuel, God-with-us;
how can we be raised up, O Lord, 
if we are all "up" in our false selves,
false relationships and false securities?
Jesus said to Nicodemus,
"No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down 
from heaven, the Son of Man.
For God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
might not perish but might have
eternal life" (John 3:13,16).
Empty us. dear Jesus,
of our pride and fill us
with your humility, justice
and love by joyfully 
taking our cross
and being one 
with you in your people.
Amen.

Friends in Jesus Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 20 May 2022
Acts 15:22-31   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 15:12-17
Photo by Mr. Gelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples,
"I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know 
what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything
I have heard from my Father"
(John 15:15).
Lord Jesus, thank you very much
for this great honor of being called
your friend, for this great status of
being your friend, of having known
everything you have heard from the Father,
that we are loved, we are forgiven,
that we are cared for.
How sad, dear Jesus, so many times
I have not been a friend to you by 
not believing your words, of refusing to
believe that I am loved by the Father,
that I am your friend.
There are times also, dear Jesus,
that I refuse to tell others how they
are cared for, how they are loved
and even looked up to; so unlike the
Apostles and presbyters who affirmed
Barnabas and Paul as co-workers with
the Lord, as his friends too when they 
wrote the believers in Antioch, "we have
with one accord decided to choose 
representatives and to send them along
with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
who have dedicated their lives in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:25-26).
How lovely were the Apostles and
presbyters here in recognizing the
labors of love for you by Barnabas and
Paul!  Here they have shown their
intimate friendship in you, dear Jesus
and with Barnabas and Paul.
To be considered as your friend, Lord Jesus
means to consider others as my friends too,
especially fellow workers in your vineyard,
fellow shepherds of your sheep;
To be considered as your friend, Lord Jesus
means to recognize your friendship with
others not with me alone;
To be considered as your friend, Lord Jesus
means to tell everyone what you have told us
too about the goodness and dedication
of our fellow workers in you.
Teach me Jesus to truly love you
and to love like you, willing to forget
myself, to let go of all recognition and
honor because it is only when you are made
known and glorified that we truly experience
deep joy inside, when we have done your most
holy will.  Amen.

New commandment, new heaven, new earth

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Easter-C, 15 May 2022
Acts 14:21-27 ><}}}}*> Revelation 21:1-5 ><}}}}*> John 13:31-33, 34-35
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

Our readings today speak a lot about being “new” – new followers of the new faith as Christianity spread during the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, a vision of new heaven and new earth by John at the end of time, and a new commandment by Jesus Christ to his disciples that include us today.

What is so wonderful and so new in this “new” order of things in our readings is how they encompass the past, present, and future as expressed in the beautiful tension we all experience in life like Jesus Christ on the night before he was betrayed, after Judas had left their Last Supper.

Many times, we feel like being caught in a time warp when everything seems to be happening too fast that the past, present and future are in just one setting. It is like seeing one’s life in a flash.

“My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:33, 34-35
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

Most often, we feel ambivalent with anything or anyone that is new like being excited but at the same time afraid because it is always something or someone we are not familiar with. It is generally what we feel when we move into new residences or new school or new jobs; when we meet new people like new superiors, new co-workers and new classmates.

But lately, we have found something new and different with our new set of leaders after the elections last Monday: of course, followers of the winners are happy and glad while those who have lost are more than sad, wondering what have happened, and still could not accept the new developments (or retrogression, depending on which side you are with).

Perhaps it is in this recent events that we feel our readings this Sunday very relevant and appropriate to us all, to always welcome whatever and whomever is new by seeing them in the light of Jesus Christ who is ever new with us each day.

For a proper understanding of Jesus and of our faith in him, we need to experience him in that tension of the here and not yet he beautifully expressed in saying “I will be with you only a little while longer”. Remember, Jesus declared these words shortly before his arrest; notice his composure and dignity. Unlike most of us, Jesus was never caught off guard by his impending death. In fact, “when the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51) to face his death. As truly human, he was frightened but faced all his fears so that he was in total control with everything until he had given up his breath and spirit to the Father. That is why in this scene after he had washed their feet and Judas had left them, Jesus gathered his disciples in a “heart-to-heart” talk, calling them “my children”.

Problem with us when things or, as Pablo Coelho put it in one of his works, when the universe does not seem to conspire in our favor, we resist the change: we keep frozen in the past, spending the present thinking all possible scenarios in the future, forgetting that God is in the present as he calls himself as “I AM.” Focus on Jesus than on things around us so we may see beyond them.

Photo by Ms. Jing Rey Henderson in Taroytoy, Aklan, 30 April 2022.

First thing we recognize in the words of Jesus is what we have reflected last week in his being our Good Shepherd – his oneness with his flock, with us. There is that inner sense of belongingness of Christ in the Father, and of Christ in us. It is what that makes us embrace whatever or whomever new comes to us, regardless we like or do not like them because it is Jesus with whom we are one with first of all.

Jesus stayed only a little while with his disciples here on earth; now he is risen, Jesus is in the glory of the Father in heaven who shall come again at the end of time to establish the new heaven and new earth John was privileged to see in the second reading. It is in this tension between the here and not yet, of Jesus who had come and will come again and is come that we are challenged to witness his presence among us in love.

It is love that is truly the power the Risen Lord has and enabled him then and now to break all barriers in time and space to appear to his disciples and us to experience him today. It is a love so unique – so new unlike the “love” preached by other gurus. Christ’s love is rooted in oneness, in his being one with the Father, one in the Father. It is a love so divine yet human too because it is a love Jesus had shared with us as a gift, something we have, a love we must acknowledge for it to work in us by having that inner belongingness and oneness with him, in him and through him.

How?

Photo from gettyimages.com.

This we find in the preceding scene of the washing of the disciples’ feet: it is Jesus who cleanses us in the sacraments and in our daily encounter with him. When we allow Jesus to cleanse us daily, purifying us from all our sins and imperfections, that is when we enter into communion in him. It is only then that we are truly able to love like him – love without measure willing to offer one’s self, loving even those we consider as enemies.

This is perhaps what we need most these days following the elections. Suspend our biases and presumptions for a while and allow Jesus to work in us, to make us new.

Let us go back to Jesus Christ, allow ourselves to be cleansed by him anew so that we may enter into being-in him and being-with him like Paul and Barnabas who always acted in union with him, never on their own. Since then until now, we continue to experience this love of Christ expressed in our liturgy and most especially in the Church’s oneness and charity. It is a love we all have to recapture and continue for it a love always new because it is Jesus who works in us and through us even in the worst situations to transform every dismal picture we see to become new and wonderful.


Lord, let us come to you again
for we have been not clean;
wash our feet so that
we may listen to you
and do your work and mission;
help us to let go of our own agenda
no matter how lofty they may be
for the mission is yours, not ours;
most of all, let us come to you again
at your Cross to be able to truly love
like you, one in the Father and the Holy Spirit
found among our brothers and sisters
especially those not like us;
forgive us for our harsh words
and our lack of kindness with them;
it is only in loving like you 
can there be truly a new order in this world
that heralds a new heaven and 
a new earth.  Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead.

Photo by author, 2018.

Pang-intindi o pagiging kapwa?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, ika-21 ng Pebrero 2022
Mula sa Facebook post ni P. Marc Ocariza, Abril 2020.
Kay daming nangyayari 
palaging panawagan sa isa't-isa
ay pang-unawa at pang-intindi
ngunit hindi sasapat at laging kapos
ating kaisipan upang isang tao
ay lubusang makilala at maunawaan.
Kapag mayroong may-sakit
mayroong nagigipit
ano ba ang ating nasasambit?
Mag-usisa at magsalita
huwag lang walang masabi
sa akalang makapagpapabuti?
Kamakailan sa mga talakayan
mainit pinag-uusapan
respeto daw ang kailangan;
tama din naman
at nararapat lang
igalang bawat nilalang.
Ngunit paano na lang
kung sa ating pag-respeto
at pag-galang mayroong
ibang nalalapastangan
o nasasaktan at natatapakan,
sasapat ba itong panawagan?
Sa ating kasalukuyan, 
marahil higit nating kailangan
kilalaning kapwa-tao isa't-isa
na katulad ko, higit sa respeto,
pang-unawa at pang-intindi
mayakap at matanggap kay Kristo. 
Larawan guhit ni P. Marc Ocariza, Abril 2020.

Action vs. Reaction

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. John Bosco, Priest, 31 January 2022
2 Samuel 15:13-14, 30; 16:5-13   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Mark 5:1-20
Photo by author, 2020.
God our loving Father,
give us the grace to ACT more
than to REACT to many people and
situations that come our way.
Give us the grace to accept the
truth no matter how painful it may be;
likewise, give us the grace 
to simply ignore falsehoods thrown
at us especially if it will not cost us 
anything serious at all.
Like King David in our first
reading today, make us realize
that our reactions, our hitting back
at others accusing us do not necessarily
protect our dignity but actually 
reveal our many insecurities;
many times, our reactions bare 
our sensitivities or touchiness that
we really deserve even more than
what is being said about us.

Then the king said to Abishai and to all his servants: “If my own son, who came forth from my loins, is seeking my life, how much more might this Benjaminite do so! Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. Perhaps the Lord will look upon my affliction and make it up to me with benefits for the curses he is uttering this day.” David and his men continued on the road, while Shimei kept abreast of them on the hillside, all the while cursing and throwing stones and dirt as he went.

2 Samuel 16:11-13
Teach us to act decisively
in every situation, especially 
against evil like your Son,
Jesus Christ:  the moment he
came to the Gerasenes and met
the man possessed by demon, 
Mark tells us how "He had been 
saying to him, 'Unclean spirit,
come out of the man!'" (Mk.5:8);
when the people drove him out of
their town for sending the demons 
into a herd of swine, off he went
for he knew it was best; most of all,
when the exorcised man begged
to join him, he sent him home to his
family.
Like your great Saint, Don Bosco,
who early in life faced so many 
obstacles in life up to his priesthood,
he never reacted to adverse situations 
and people but kept his cool,
always cheerful in his disposition, 
acted only on your divine will, winning 
so many hearts and souls to Jesus 
in his work among the youth 
and the poor that continues to
this day.  Amen.

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.

Praying our religions bring us together, not apart

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions, Martyrs, 20 September 2021
Ezra 1:1-6   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Luke 8:16-18
Photo from en.wikipedia.org.
On this blessed Monday
as we celebrate dear God our Father
the Memorial of the first Korean priest,
St. Andrew Kim Taegon and his companion
martyrs led by St. Paul Chong Hasang,
we pray you may bless like King Cyrus of 
ancient Persia more world leaders 
and most especially heads of many 
religions to be instruments of unity
instead of divisions.

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: ‘All kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Therefore, whoever among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!'”

Ezra 1:1-3
How sad, O God
that throughout history
up to the present time,
men have ironically waged
wars on other peoples and nations
primarily in the name of their God,
instead of bringing love and understanding,
they have caused so much hatred
and sufferings; the only truth proven
that in war, nobody wins except
more coffins are nailed with
beloved children inside as victims
and casualties. 

Jesus said to the crowd, “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.”

Luke 8:16
Dear Jesus,
enlighten our minds
and our hearts with your light
in the Holy Spirit
to illumine the world with
more love and acceptance
of each other and their faith;
please, like King Cyrus of ancient Persia,
may we all realize that our religion
should bring us closer to each other
and not bring us apart.
Amen.