When going in is the best way out

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 11 May 2021
Acts 16:22-34   ><)))*> + ><)))'> + ><)))*>   John 16:5-11
“Losing One’s Head to God” by Ms. JJ Jimeno of GMA-7 News at UP Parish of the Risen Lord, 2019.

You continue to amaze us, O Lord, with your wisdom and grace, presenting us again another paradox that is so timely to what we are going through in this time of pandemic and quarantine.

Yesterday, you taught us that the best way to get “in” to you is go “out” of our ordinary and usual ways.

Today, you are showing us another great paradox in life where you prove to us again your ways are so different from ours: in order to get “out” especially of problems and mess in life, sometimes we have to get “in”!

After inflicting many blows on Paul and Silas,
they threw them into prison 
and instructed the jailer to guard them securely,
putting them in the innermost cell 
and secured their feet to a stake.
An earthquake occurred at midnight 
that the foundations of the jail shook;
all the doors flew open, and the chains 
of all were pulled loose.
When the jailer woke up and thought the prisoners
have all escaped, he drew his sword to kill himself.
Paul shouted out in a loud voice,
"Do no harm to yourself; we are all here."
Then he brought them out, took them to his house
then he and all his family were baptized at once.
(Acts 16:23-33)

Lord Jesus, so many times we resist your ways as we insist on what we know but most of all, because we are afraid of what could happen next. We do not trust you that much, Jesus. Unlike Paul and Silas who were beaten up and thrown into jail, they never stopped believing in you, praying and singing hymns to you while in jail until that great earthquake happened.

Give us the courage to give in to your ways, to rely more on you than on what we believe and others say.

Let us come in to you empty, losing our selves to be filled with your Holy Spirit and be one in you and with you as you have promised on your last supper when you told your disciples that you are going to the Father to be one in him.

Today we pray for those dilly-dallying on whether they would seek medical help and attention to their conditions, for those to undergo surgery, for those to go “in” to many procedures to be healed of their sickness.

We pray also for those afraid to get in to their very selves to examine their conscience and be humble to accept and own any sins and mistakes they may have committed so they may find their way out of their many miseries and mess in life.

You know what is best for us, dear Jesus. Just let us in so we may come out alive and better! Amen.

Praying to rediscover JOY

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 06 May 2021
Acts 15:7-21   ><)))*>  ><)))'>  ><)))*>   John 15:9-11
Photo by author, Mount St. Paul Center for Spirituality, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

Lord Jesus Christ, teach me to rediscover joy. Teach me to be joyful again. Most of all, complete my joy in you, sweet Jesus as you have promised us before you were betrayed.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If you keep my commandments,
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's  commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy may be complete."
(John 15:10-11)

You know very well, Lord, how hard our lives have been since this pandemic happened last year. Aside from the difficulties and sufferings of getting sick, of avoiding COVID-19 came the many days and nights of loneliness and depression, of feelings of being alone and not cared for. Even forgotten.

Indeed, as experts claim, 2021 is the time when we are all “languishing” – not really depressed but not having zest in life, unproductive, and yes, lacking in joy.

And if we lack joy, it means only one thing: we do not have you because we do not love truly. Or at all.

Teach us to love again, Lord. To continue loving others without distinction, especially those who are not like us. Open our eyes to see the way you see everyone, that no matter what is one’s color or gender or belief or background in life is blessed and saved in you alone.

Saint Peter is absolutely right at the opening of the Council of Jerusalem in our first reading today.

"On the contrary,
we believe that we are saved 
through the grace of the Lord Jesus,
in the same way as they."
(Acts 15:11)

Only you, O Lord Jesus and no one else or nothing else can ever complete our joy for it is only in truly loving you through others, especially those difficult to love, that we truly love and thus become truly joyful.

And that is when our joy becomes complete. Amen.

Easter is obeying God than men

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Easter, 15 April 2021
Acts 5:27-30   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 3:31-36
Photo by author, dome of the chapel at Shepherd’s Field, Bethlehem, the Holy Land, 2019.

Your words today, O Lord, from the first reading invites me to examine my attitude when somebody or something reminds me of my sins and sinfulness. What a shame that too often, we are like the members of the Sanhedrin who refused to acknowledge their complicity in your crucifixion, much less even mention your name.

When they heard this,
they became infuriated
and wanted to put them to death.
(Acts 5:33)

Forgive us, Jesus, when our worldliness prevents us from seeing you and others, when we tend to see only ourselves that we do not care at all to others, thinking we have a monopoly of truths, of having so many excuses and alibis defending ourselves.

We pray most especially to our government officials led by the president himself who continues to see himself self-righteously, maligning his detractors and critics despite the many deaths and sufferings of the people especially the poor.

We pray for their blind supporters that you open their minds and hearts that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) as Peter had told the Sanhedrin during their trial.

Most of all, dear Jesus, only you has the power to cast away all evil and convert hearts: we pray for our leaders and their blind supporters to be reminded always that it is only you “who comes from above is above all” (Jn.3:31), that there is no other God except you!

How sad and tragic that while this pandemic is raging around the world, so many people, world leaders and nations are acting as if they are gods who are above all, doing everything that pleases them, unmindful of you and of others.

For so long, our government leaders have been “rationing God’s gift of the Spirit” (Jn.3:34), feeding us with half truths and worst until now, they have no definitive plan in containing the pandemic except quarantines that have severely affected the poor.

Like the psalmist, we trust only in you our Lord and our God.

The Lord confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them on the earth.
When the just cry out,
the Lord hears them,
and from all their distress
he rescues them.
(Psalm 34:17-18)

Amen. Amen. Alleluia, Amen!

Questions of Easter

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday within the Octave of Easter, 06 April 2021
Acts 2:36-41  ><)))*>  +++  <*(((><  John 20:11-18   
Painting by Giotto of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene from commons.wikimedia.org.

Recent events of sufferings due to a surge in COVID-19 infections and the difficulties this lockdown had put on our people have somehow “cut us to the heart” like the listeners of Peter in Jerusalem after the Pentecost, God our loving Father.

Yes, we feel being cut to the heart, so moved by your presence in Christ despite this crisis in the pandemic.

Help us, Lord, answer the two questions posed by your words this Tuesday within the Easter Octave that can help us experience you more amid this unholy events happening in our history.

"What are we to do, my brothers?" 
(Acts 2:37)

First of all, Lord, we pray for our government officials who are until now clueless on what really to do during this pandemic. We pray for their conversion, to get down from their ivory towers and admit their mistakes rather than cover up with so many lies and inanities.

Give us the courage to examine too what we are really doing to overcome this crisis. So many times, we have been hiding and running away from our responsibilities in our home, in the school, in the office and even in the church! Let us confront our many fears to start trusting you and take the big leap forward learning and working on how to help others.

Teach us to be grateful for the many blessings you have given us even in this time of crisis and therefore find purpose in our lives to share the good news of Easter with others especially the less fortunate.

 "Woman, why are you weeping?"
(John 20:13, 15)

Secondly, Lord, let us live in the present moment so we may recognize and find you amid all the darkness that surround us these days. Twice your friend Mary Magdalene was asked with the same question, first by the angels and then by you, dear Jesus: “Woman, why are you weeping?”

Why did she not recognize you, Lord, considering you are the best of friends?

Sometimes, Lord, we are not like her your friend: we do not live in the present moment, always in the past that is why we cannot find you. We cannot find nor recognize you because we are stuck in your old ways and looks, in our old ways of relating with you, forgetting you have passed over from the past into the new present.

If we shall be able to live in the present moment, we shall stop weeping and start rejoicing finding you amid all the darkness and uncertainties of this pandemic. Give us the grace, dear Jesus to level up in our relating with you and with others by first meeting you in your words, in prayer, and in the Eucharist. Amen.

Photo by Bro. Cristian Pasion, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela, 03 April 2021.

What…?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, 15 February 2021
Genesis 4:1-15, 25     >><)))*>  >><)))*>  >><)))*>     Mark 8:11-13
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte at Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.

Last Saturday, Lord, you surprised us as we prayed over the deeper meaning of the question “where” like “where are you?” and “where are we going to get?” The question where always implies something that is lost or about to lose, missing or denied.

Today, we pause for the more usual question of “what” like your question to Cain in the first reading:

The Lord then said: “What have you done? Listen: your brother’s blood cries out to me from the soil!”

Genesis 4:10

In the gospel, the enemies of your Son Jesus were also asking, in effect, about “what” signs he can show them from heavens to prove he is the Christ you have sent.

How funny it is, dear God our Father that in your asking Cain as in most cases, you ask us with WHAT because you knew what had happened, you know everything and merely want us to admit the truth and be sorry— but we would not!

For you, the what is already known for you know everything! Nothing can be hidden from you.

On the other hand, for many of us like the Pharisees, we keep on asking you with WHAT because we refuse to recognize or acknowledge what is present, what is existent, what is there because we prefer to accept what is in our minds than what is revealed and true.

What a silly world at how we have made the objective question of what very subjective, depending on what we wish to know and accept or believe. May the question what lead us closer to recognizing every person as a subject to be loved and cherished because we are indeed, our brothers’ keepers. Amen.

Photo from Facebook posted by Ms. Marivic Tribiana, 17 April 2020 during fire in Tondo area.

The “gift” of face masks

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, 09 February 2021
Genesis 1:20-2:4     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Mark 7:1-13
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, March 2020.

Praying over your words today, O Lord our God, made me rejoice and thank you in giving us the face masks that remind us of our being “created in your own image and likeness (Gen.1:26-27)”, helping us heal our broken relationships as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thank you Lord for this face mask because we now look longer into the eyes of one another, trying to recognize everyone but most of all, trying to find you in every face we meet each day. Before the pandemic, we have taken everyone for granted. We would hardly even look into each one’s face and eyes but now, with masks covering our faces, we strive to recognize each one by looking into each other’s eyes, trying to listen to each one’s voice, trying hard to recall how we have met, trying to figure out how have we known each other.

Suddenly with the face masks, we have finally tried to look into each other’s face again to recognize each one as a friend, a brother and sister in you and to finally find you, too, sweet Jesus!

But there is still another blessing in disguise for us in the wearing of these face masks when we finally learned to become silent and appreciate silence too!

Before the pandemic without the face masks, we spoke too much, never looking into one another. We would rather speak and speak and speak without hearing nor listening nor feeling the other person, hardly looking into each other’s eyes, numbing our selves of our connectedness in the invisible ties that bind us as your children, almighty God our Father.

So true are your words today, Lord Jesus, especially before the pandemic when our mouths were exposed without masks that we have become a people more on lip service, “honoring you with our lips while our hearts are so far from you and from others that we nullify your words in favor of our traditions empty of meaning” (Mk.7:6, 13).

May we learn to internalize in our hearts the words we are about to speak so that like you, may we share in the power of your words that create than destroy, enlighten than darken so that one day, sooner or later, may contribute to the end of this pandemic.

Help us realize, God our Father, during these trying times that a more lasting solution to this pandemic is to go back to you in paradise, to experience true sabbath of having you as our God at the center of our lives, always listening and trusting in your voice and words. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, March 2020.

Prayer to respond faithfully to calls by Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Memorial of St. Vincent, Deacon and Martyr, 22 January 2021
Hebrews 8:6-13     >><)))*>  = + =  <*(((><<     Mark 3:13-19
Photo by author, Dominus Flevit Church, the Holy Land, 2017.

Jesus went up the mountain and summoned those whom he wanted and they came to him. He appointed Twelve, whom he also named Apostles that they might be with him and he might send them forth to preach and have authority to drive out demons. He appointed the Twelve: Simon, whom he named Peter; and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him.

Mark 3:13-16, 19

How great indeed is your love for us, O Lord Jesus Christ! I just wonder how or what are your criteria in calling those you wanted to follow you? You do not seem to reject anyone at all! You want all because you love us all!

Thank you very much, dear Jesus! Despite our many flaws and weaknesses, you still want us, you still call us, and most of all, even send us despite our imperfections.

And amid your great love for us is your “poor memory”, of always forgetting or disregarding our sins against you. Like when you called Simon and named him Peter to lead the Twelve as attested in all accounts as being the first among the list of the Apostles; but, at the same time, always mentioned last in every list of your inner circle is Judas Iscariot who betrayed you. Why called him at all?

So often, I find that so strange with you who knows everything and reads our hearts; but, the more I pray over your calls and our response, the more I find it more strange on our part when despite your mediating a new and perfect covenant in God (first reading from Hebrews), we still choose to turn away from you in sin.

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, when I cannot resist the temptation to slide back to the past, to seek something already obsolete and imperfect simply because they are easier.

Teach me to have the inner strength like of St. Peter, your prince of the Apostles and of St. Vincent, your Martyr and Deacon whose feast we celebrate today. May we remain faithful and vigilant in our commitment in responding to your call, Lord Jesus so we may always be one in the Father. Amen.

Photo by author, St. Joseph Parish in Baras, Rizal (07 January 2021).

Christmas: A call to openness and sincerity

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, 03 January 2021
Isaiah 60:1-6  >><)))*>  Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6  >><)))*>  Matthew 2:1-12

Christmas is the greatest exchange gift of all when God became human like us so that we in turn can become holy like Him. For some, it is something so unthinkable even impossible but history proves Jesus Christ did come while our faith continues to affirm this reality daily when we continue to tell and relive the story of Christmas through every new year.

And this we can only do if we become open and sincere to God who revealed Himself to us in His Son Jesus Christ. No need to hide things from Him. He knows everything but He does not force us to come to Him. He merely invites us. Just like the three wise men from the East or Magi who came to pay homage to Him in Bethlehem.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

Matthew 2:1-2

The meaning of magi and star.

After the Nativity of the Lord and the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God we celebrate this Sunday the third major feast of the Christmas Season called the Epiphany from the Greek term that means manifestation or appearance of Jesus to pagan wise men symbolizing the peoples of the world.

So much attention has always been given on the magi and the star that we sometimes forget that the stories in the Bible are not pure accounts in history that are factual to satisfy our curiosities; it is not that they did not happen at all but the most important thing is the meaning they impart to those reading the Sacred Scriptures.

As we have noted during our Simbang Gabi, Matthew has the most unique in beginning his gospel account with “the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt.1:1) to show right away to his readers that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of God in the Old Testament. Recall how behind every name in the genealogy of Jesus is a story and history full of meaning and significance.

Matthew continues this in his story of the epiphany to show us again that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises since Abraham by using the story of Moses as his framework.

See how the story of Jesus resembled that of Moses, the greatest figure of the Old Testament: the flight to Egypt, the threat of murdering all infants in the time of the Pharaoh and then of King Herod, and the saving act of God in the exodus which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

See my dear Reader that in the story of the epiphany of Jesus is also found glimpses of His crucifixion and death: at His birth, the magi were the first to recognize Jesus as the new King of the Jews while at His death, there hung above Him the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews” with a Roman centurion, another pagan like the magi who would declare to himself, “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Mt.27:54).

Here we find Matthew’s infancy narratives of Jesus are not only appealing to our sentiments and emotion but on a deeper level, these stories reflect how we Christians have always believed based in our experiences and faith that indeed Jesus is the Emmanuel of God, His presence among us who truly walked this planet and continues to guide us in the power of the Holy Spirit after His Ascencion into heaven, making Him truly a star above us guiding us in this life’s journey.

Unfortunately, for some people, it is something unthinkable and even impossible, choosing to live in their own follies and blindness like King Herod and yes, some Christians who claim to believe and know God.

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet… Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”

Matthew 2:3-5, 7-8

Jesus calling us to our "epiphany".

I like that part when Matthew tells us how “Herod called the magi secretly” to inquire further to them about their knowledge about Jesus and the star. How ironic and tragic that they in Jerusalem were the ones who did not even notice the unusual star above them and worst of all, with the information and knowledge they have, not to have known the birth of Jesus Christ!

How sad that so many times, we keep on looking so far without even noticing those nearest to us!

Most of all, of our blindness and refusal to accept what is obvious, what is so clear like the love and mercy Jesus pours on upon us despite our sinfulness.

See at how some government officials are making a mockery of our laws and of their very selves, trying to cover up their wrongdoings, trying to defend their mistakes and sins not knowing the more they sink in their follies with all their lies and secrecies.

Keeping secrets can sometimes be needed for a good reason; but most often, to act in secret is often indicative of something sinister like in our story today, of Herod calling the magi secretly to snoop around and eventually launch his evil plot.

What a shame that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were never in hiding yet here were people secretly plotting something against them — just like inn our own lives, in ur own time when we try to deceive even those dearest to us, hiding in our so many secrets and lies that eventually come out in the open.

How sad that while Jesus keeps on revealing Himself to us but we still hide many secrets from Him as if he would not know!

This Epiphany Sunday while Jesus appears to us in His words and in the Eucharist, He invites us to open up to Him, to be sincere and have our own epiphany too. May this prayer help you in discarding your many secrets that are after all, very known to Jesus who merely waits for us to come to Him in our openness and sincerity.

Lord Jesus Christ,
in so many instances this past year 2020
You have continued to reveal Your presence among us,
in my own life, in keeping me safe from so many harm,
in healing my sickness, in providing for my needs,
in obviously being my Lord and my God;
You know everything in me, my many secrets
that I continue to hide from You.
Forgive me Jesus in hiding from you 
even if I know you know better than I am.
I have no gold, frankincense nor myrrh
but this Christmas help me offer to you
my many "secrets" I hide  from you and others
so I may fully experience your love and mercy poured out
since that first Christmas when you first came to us.
AMEN.

To live is to love

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 13 November 2020
2 John 4-9     >><)))*> |\  >><)))*>  ||  >><)))*>     Luke 17:26-37
Photo by author, ICMAS Theologate Chapel, 05 October 2020.

My prayer to you today, O God our loving Father, is simple: thank you very much for the gift of a new day, thank you very much for the warm sunshine amid overcast skies, thank you very much most of all for the gift of life.

Once again you have made us experience your saving hand and protection the other night from the terrifying winds and rains of typhoon Ulysses; then yesterday, everybody was surprised at how fast the waters have risen following widespread floods.

So many of us are asking – not complaining – why all these things happening this year 2020?

Open our hearts, open our eyes and ears to listen and heed your voice amid these calamities happening among us.

Make us more sensitive to the needs and cries of others by living in love and charity, of witnessing the gospel of Jesus Christ your Son instead of entertaining so many “progressive” ideas and thoughts that lead nowhere.

Let us live in love, Lord.

For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments… Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh… Look to yourselves that you do not lose what we worked for but may receive a full recompense. Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in the teaching of the Christ does not have God; whoever remains in the teaching has the Father and the Son.

1 John 6,7, 8-9

May these calamities open ourselves to the reality and mystery of Christ’s coming again, of how we must strive to live in love, to see every body not just as a body like vultures but as somebody needing love and attention. Amen.

Imitating the attitude of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious, 03 November 2020
Philippians 2:5-11  +++ ||| +++   Luke 14:15-24
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Center for Spirituality, Novaliches, 2018.

Brothers and sisters: Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus. Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Philippians 2:5-6

God our Father, I feel too small, even ashamed before you today as I prayed on your words through St. Paul; it is not just a very tall order but the sad part is the fact that we have all known it all along since our catechism days in school or the parish but rarely put into practice.

We admit it is the fundamental rule of Christian life, to be like Jesus Christ your Son who had come to show us the way back to you is by emptying one’s self for others, to be one with others especially in their pains and sufferings, of being the last, being the servant of all, being like a child.

Unfortunately, we always find it so difficult to learn.

Partly because we lack the very attitude of Jesus Christ we must first imitate according to St. Paul.

And that is the attitude of being small, being the least.

Exactly like St. Martin de Porres:

From Pinterest.com

Such was his humility that he loved them even more than himself and considered them to be better and more righteous that he was. He did not blame others for their shortcomings. Certain that he deserved more severe punishment for his sins than others did, he would overlook their worst offenses. He was tireless in his efforts to reform the criminal, and he would sit up with the sick to bring them comfort. for the poor he would provide food, clothing and medicine.

Homily by St. Pope John XXIII at the Canonization of Saint Martin de Porres in 1962

So often, our attitude is like with those invited by the king to his great dinner: feeling great, feeling so important with themselves that they find no need to be with others that they all turned down the invitation.

Sometimes our arrogance and high regard for ourselves miserably fail us in being like Jesus; hence, we continue to be divided into factions because no one would give way for others that lead to peace and harmony.

Teach us Lord to change that attitude of greatness in us with an attitude of smallness, of leaving a space for others in our lives so we can all work together as one community of believers in you like St. Martin de Porres and all the other saints. Amen.