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.

My screen this quarantine – love and respect, the perfect company

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 September 2021
Image from Pinterest.

Romantic movies are what I have always avoided since I was a teenager and now that I am a priest: it is so nakaka-iinggit (so tempting)! Mahirap na. That is why I have always gone for action and comedy films and series, as well as documentaries.

But sometimes, the soft side in me prevails that I give into some love story flicks especially in Netflix since this surge in COVID-19 cases.

Two movies I highly recommend catching while still in Netflix are The Upside and The Last Letter From Your Lover; the former is an old remake based on a true story made to look modern while the latter is a modern one set in the past.

What I like most with these two movies is the strong emphasis on the value of respect, something that has become rare these days.

The word respect is from two Latin words “re” (again) and “specere” (to look/see) that literally mean “to look again” or “see again”. From specere came the words spectacular and spectacles or glasses to see and read. When we look at another person again and again especially when we are not actually together, that is when we not only respect them but also become faithful and loving with them because that is when we recognize their dignity as persons. That is one good thing with our wearing of face masks this pandemic when we rediscover the value of looking again closely at the face of the other person we meet – hopefully, not only to recognize who is he/she but to respect most of all!


Going back to The Upside and The Last Letter From Your Lover ….

The Upside is about an ex-con being chosen by a paralyzed billionaire and best-selling author to be his personal nurse despite the long list of better qualified applicants.

It is a third remake of a French movie said to be based on a true story. Though many critics find it short of making a better version than the previous ones, we find it very good.

Because it teems with a lot of respect!

The ex-con turned caregiver is played by Kevin Hart as Deli while Bryan Cranston plays the quadriplegic billionaire Philip Lacasse. It opens with Deli driving Philip around New York City in his Ferrari when they were stopped by cops. They duped the cops into believing they were on a medical emergency but after being escorted to the nearest ER, they sped away and the film switches to the past previous weeks.

Photo from en.wikipedia.org

Philip had lost his wife in a hang gliding accident in the mountains of New York that left him paralyzed. He had wanted so much to be dead after losing his wife that he kept on reminding his secretary Yvonne played by Nicole Kidman to “don’t resuscitate” him in case of another accident.

Then came Deli who was recently granted with a parole from jail and the exact opposite of Philip: he was desperately trying to pick up his life by reconnecting with his wife and son as he tried his best to find a job to no avail until he tried his luck to apply as Philip’s caregiver after seeing the long queue of people leading to his penthouse in an exclusive section of the Big Apple. He was the exact opposite of Philip but they clicked – because they had respect for each other.

It was their mutual respect for each other as seen in the various scenes in the movie that they both found their self-worth as persons.

Deli found direction in his life after Philip taught him to “just do what you like best” which he did by doing a painting which Philip was able to sell for 50 grand which he gave Deli as his “seed money” for whatever undertaking he was planning. First thing Deli did was find a better apartment for his wife and son with the remaining money he invested in a business manufacturing motorized wheelchairs.

The most beautiful part is how Philip regained his self-worth and confidence – and new love – with a lot of respect given him by Deli, from smoking weeds to going on a date again and returning to the site where he and his wife last went on a vacation.

This is when the movie switched back to the present when they were escorted by the police to a New York City ER but Deli sped away and drove Philip to the mountains to enjoy hang gliding again. They later checked into the same hotel where he and wife last spent their vacation and the following morning at breakfast, Deli led Philip to a table to meet his new love, his “boo”.

The last scene is very short but got a very strong impact, even romantic. Very simple yet lovely. And filled with respect. Find out who that woman is!


Truly a British movie released to Netflix this year, we find most striking with The Last Letter from Your Lover is its use of elegant English language that actually features the love stories of two journalists more than 50 years apart.

It opens with lead star Felicity Jones as Ellie Haworth waking up late in bed with her ex as she rushed to her newspaper office to write a feature article about a deceased editor. After having a hard time in getting access to their archives due to the very formal Rory played by Nabhaan Rizwan, Ellie found a mysterious love letter to someone identified as “J” from somebody named “Boot”.

Photo from en.wikipedia.org

She became friend eventually with Rory who helped her find more love letters between “J” and “Boot” that she soon followed up to become the main story of the film set in 1965 about the socialite Jennifer Stirling as “J” married to a stern industrialist interviewed by business writer Anthony O’Hare who called himself “Boot” or “B” while at the French Riviera. Jennifer’s husband had to hurriedly leave for business that became the occasion for her to get closer with Boot who had recently divorced from his wife.

Though one can readily see the sparks and intense feelings between them in their many informal meetings while awaiting the return of J’s husband at the French Riviera, Boot was very respectful to her. His respect would be put to test when one night J tried to kiss him but he declines – out of respect for her which he explained in one of his letters.

It was upon their return to London that they began writing each other and after some trysts in London, Boot finally asked J to join him to New York where he was being assigned as correspondent. On her way to the train station for their flight to New York, J met an accident and had a partial lost of memory while Boot thought his proposal was rejected.

It was during her hospitalization when J’s husband learned of her affair after discovering a letter from Boot. Meanwhile, Ellie and Rory discovered more love letters between the two lovers of the past while at the same time, they have started to fall for each other too. So funny is how the film writer Jojo Moyes had seamlessly weaved together the two love stories in the past and present, coinciding with each one’s peculiar twists and turns.

Eventually, Rory found out J and Boot were still alive and most of all, very eligible to finally reunite. She convinced Boot to write another letter to J for them to meet anew at their favorite meeting place as lovers. Boot wrote one last letter, meeting up with J finally after more than 50 years. Watching them not far were Ellie and Rory embracing each others also filled with love – and respect – who were instrumental in bringing the two lovers again. The scene is so “kilig” with both couples unknowingly being instrumental in making their loves bloom with a lot of respect.


Jesus told his disciples: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you… You are my friends if you do what I command you. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”

John 15:12, 14, 15

Whenever I officiate weddings especially of friends who have turned into lovers, I always choose this beautiful Last Supper scene of Jesus with his apostles discussing his commandment of love.

I tell the couple that one very important letter in the word F-R-I-E-N-D is the letter “R” which when removed changes the word into F-I-E-N-D or “enemy”.

That letter “R” stands for RESPECT. When there is no respect in any relationship especially among friends and lovers, love dies and ties are damaged or even lost.

Both movies teem with many instances of respect for the other person that in the end, love triumphed.

Have a blessed viewing!

Photo by Plush Design Studio on Pexels.com

The joy of acceptance

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle, 24 August 2021
Revelations 21:9-14     ><}}}'>  +  <'{{{><     John 1:45-51
Photo by author, 2018.
Once again on this feast of another saint,
the Apostle Bartholomew, you teach us O God
how you work in mysterious ways; for, indeed, 
how "can anything good come from Nazareth?"
like Jesus Christ when in fact he was from 
Bethlehem and ultimately from you, Father in heaven!
But the most wonderful mystery of all
is when your Son Jesus affirmed 
Nathanael-Bartholomew's perception
and still accepted him!

Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How did you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”

John 1:47-48
What did your Son see about Nathanael
doing under the fig tree is also a mystery
but it was more than enough to feel 
the love and acceptance
by Jesus despite his not so kind
words about Nazareth,
enabling him to trust him in return
committing himself as an Apostle
after realizing it did not matter to Jesus
his background nor his previous life.

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

John 1:49
Give us the grace, O God,
not only to be contented with your words
but most of all to go out of our way
like Nathanael in "coming and seeing"
to meet Jesus and experience
his unique love and mercy,
and be surprised with his presence
that welcomes everyone.
Amen.

Celebrating life in God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XVII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 30 July 2021
Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34-37   ><]]]]*>   Matthew 13:54-58
Photo by author, 2020.
Today we move onto the third book
of your Pentateuche, God our Father,
the Book of Leviticus which tackles the 
various celebrations you have stipulated
the children of Israel to celebrate until
they have entered your Promised Land.
It is good to know the major celebrations
you have set before them while still wandering 
at the desert have become the roots 
of our many liturgical celebrations that
have found fulfillment in your Son Jesus Christ
who is the basis of every sacrament and feast.
Unfortunately, dear Father,
like the children of Israel,
even us until now have forgotten
your saving presence in our midst
when we were wandering in the desert
of darkness and trials, sufferings and sins.
These, therefore, are the festivals
of the Lord on which you shall proclaim
a sacred assembly, and offer as an oblation
to the Lord burnt offerings and cereal offerings,
sacrifices and libations,
as prescribed for each day.
(Leviticus 23:37)
Forgive us, merciful God,
when we forget in our worship
and celebrations that its center
is you alone, not us nor the festivities
nor the rituals prescribed; 
let us remember your continuing presence 
among us marred by our many sins 
when we break away from you; hence, 
the need for oblations and offerings
for us to be reconciled in you again.
Jesus came to his native place
and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
"Where did this man get such
wisdom and mighty deeds?"
And they took offense at him.
And he did not work
many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.
(Matthew 13:54, 57, 58)
Let us be open to you, loving Father
through your Son Jesus Christ 
who had come to reconcile us to you
by leading our celebrations
so we can have a perfect offering for you
in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; 
Do not let us imitate his folks at Nazareth
who refused to accept him that he was 
not able to make any miracle
for their lack of faith in him.  Amen.

Making room for God, finding our home in God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XVI, Year I, 23 July 2021
Exodus 20:1-17   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 13:18-23
“The Sower” by Van Gogh from commons.wikimedia.org
It has been raining for a week,
loving God and Father.
Farmers and sowers must be so
delighted to come out in the fields
to sow their seeds while we stay home
trying to keep ourselves dry and warm.
Help us to make room for you, dear Father,
to open up ourselves to the seeds 
of your presence that come to us daily
in your words in the Sacred Scriptures.
Let us be like the fertile soil in the parable
by Jesus "who hears the word and 
understands it, who indeed  bears fruit
and yields a hundred or sixty or 
thirtyfold."  (Matthew 13:23)
Your seed is always good
springing into life wherever it falls
for you alone, O God, is good!
How lovely it is to imagine
that all Ten Commandments sprang up
from just one seed that is YOU, dear Father -
You are the seed we always reject
when You are the seed we all need.
Whenever we choose to commit sin,
we take on other strange gods
and idols besides You that
we worship and follow.
May we open ourselves to You, God
welcoming you like a seed into our little room
so we may find home in You when it blooms.
Amen.

Blessed are those lost

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 July 2021
Exodus 14:5-18   ><]]]'> ><]]]*> ><]]]'>   Matthew 12:38-42
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, June 2020.
What a beautiful day to reflect
on your very unusual ways, O God our Father;
once again, there is that issue of 
being lost in our readings today:
your people have to take a long and 
circuitous route out of Egypt
going to your Promised Land only to be
caught up near the Red Sea by
their former masters pursuing them
to take them back to slavery.
But Moses answered the people,
"Fear not!  Stand your ground,
and you will see the victory 
the Lord will win for you today."
Then the Lord said to Moses,
"Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and,
with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two, that the children
of Israel may pass through it
on dry land." (Exodus 14:13,15-16)
Yes, dearest God our Father,
sometimes we need to get lost
in order to find you and one's self;
we have to be led to unfamiliar routes
and places and situations in life for indeed,
complacency breeds contempt.
Set us free from our routines and
own ways of thinking and doing
 that have unconsciously enslaved us
that we no longer trust you.
Teach us to "stand our ground"
like when Moses answered his
people amid their many complaints
that we may be consistent with our
desires to be truly free and fulfilled.
Teach us to "go forward"
as you commanded your people
to cross the Red Sea and believe in you,
follow your lead to experience
your great power and wonders.
He said to them in reply,
"An evil and unfaithful generation
seeks a sign, but no sign 
will be given it except
the sign of Jonah the prophet."
(Matthew 12:39)
Forgive us, dear Jesus
in seeking so many signs from you,
doubting you, mistrusting you 
despite all the love and mercy 
and blessings you have showered us.
When we are lost in the many 
trappings of this world,
help us find our way back
home to you, to rest anew 
in your gentle mercy and love.  Amen. 

The wonders of gratitude

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 July 2021
Photo by author, 2019.

Along with the word “please”, saying “thank you” is one of the virtues we have been taught since childhood with hopes the values they impart become part of our lives like a habit or something good we can keep doing for the rest of our lives.

Unfortunately, we only learn but do not necessarily remember our lessons.

Saying thank you and please have long been at the brink of extinction, so endangered in our fast paced and consumeristic society.

Thanks to COVID-19. The pandemic that refuses to end and continues to threaten our well-being and sanity has taught us to recapture and relearn gratitude expressed in the simple words thank you the world has seemed to almost forgotten.

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

Gratitude is a virtue that works great wonders for everyone because it makes us live in the present moment. A grateful person is one who lives in the here and now, not in the past nor in the future.

When our heart is filled we gratitude, we have no time to complain and nurse old wounds and pains in the past but simply learn from them and move on with life. Living in the present moment means making things happen, working hard on our dreams and aspirations to become a reality. People who refuse to be grateful in life are busy wishful thinking of how things should be or would be, always looking at the future as a fantasy that would just pop out of nowhere instead of working for it in the present moment.

Unknown to many, gratitude is the fount of all good vibes in life, enabling us to be more positive than negative. It helps us accept the reality we are into – whether it is good or bad.

And that is when we start growing and maturing as persons when we learn to accept our present realities.

Most of all, gratitude disposes us to more blessings and grace from God because a thankful heart is always the one that seeks relationships, with God and with others.


   People who go out of their way to say thank you,  
to express gratitude are person-oriented.   
They see more the persons
  not just the kind deeds done to them  
and beautiful gifts given them. 

People who go out of their way to say thank you, to express gratitude are person-oriented. They see more the persons not just the kind deeds done to them and beautiful gifts given them. When we say thank you, when we let others know of how grateful we are, we recognize their personhood that is why we reach out to them, trying to connect with them and befriend them. Or, to keep our ties alive and strong. As the old song of my father’s generation would go, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Remember the ten lepers healed by Jesus Christ on his way to Jerusalem?

Only one returned – a Samaritan – to thank Jesus.

Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Luke 17:17-19

From being cleansed like the nine others, it was only the Samaritan who returned to thank Jesus was healed – or saved – from his sickness. Healing is something more than a cure of one’s disease that refers to total well-being of one who is restored not only to health but into life as whole.

Gratitude is a very practical virtue, “the parent of all virtues” according to the Roman scholar and statesman Cicero. It is the one virtue we need to recapture and reacquire to make through the many challenges and trials this pandemic has brought us.

Instead of complaining and being so sorry with the plight we are into due to COVID-19, let us start counting our many blessings in life to see the vast opportunities and lessons this crisis has given us. In fact, the more this pandemic has persisted, the more blessings we can find that we must be thankful too.

Because of the pandemic, we have learned to cherish more one another as we come to value persons and life more than things again. Aside from learning how to cook and bake during the lockdowns, we learned to value food anew, not to mention the new source of income for many.

There are so many things we have to be grateful in life during this time of the pandemic, perhaps even more than the sufferings and trials we have gone through as it opened to us new views and perceptions about life itself.

Most of all, it had brought us back to the grounding of our being, God who is life himself, the source of all good things we have long forgotten and now remember. And rightly praise and thank. Amen.

From iStockphoto.com.

Hospitality vs. Hostility

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 08 July 2021
Genesis 44:18-21, 23-29; 45:1-5  >>+<<   Matthew 10:7-15
Photo by Mr. Howie Severino, Taal Lake, Batangas, 2018.
It is the rainy season again,
God our loving Father
and we are awashed with news
of furies of nature:  floods and 
landslides including a restive
volcano in our midst at Taal.
How lovely sometimes to think
when nature is full of hospitality
with its beauty for all to see; but,
there are times when nature 
is more of hostility like an enemy
leading us to sadness and distress.
Hospitality and hostility
are extremes in our personality
one indicating maturity
the other a lack of self mastery
borne out of jealousy
causing so many pains and miseries. 
Come closer to me,
he told his brothers.
"I am your brother Joseph,
whom you once sold into Egypt.
But now do not be distressed,
and do not reproach yourselves
for having sold me here.
It was really for the sake of
saving lives that God sent me here
ahead of you."
(Genesis 45:4,5)

We pray, O Lord
for the hostilities among us
when we try to imprison one another
taking them hostage to our whims and  
selfishness like the brothers of Joseph
disregarding the value of the other person.
"Whatever town or village you enter,
look for a worthy person in it,
and stay there until you leave.
As you enter a house,
wish it peace.
If the house is worthy,
let your peace come upon it;
if not, let your peace return to you.
Whoever will not receive you
or listen to your words ---
go outside that house or town
and shake the dust from your feet."
(Matthew 10:11-14)
Teach us hospitality, dear God,
to welcome and accept each other
as a brother and a sister
in Jesus our Lord and Master
finding security in him alone
so we may proclaim his salvation.
In this time of the pandemic
may we find amid the crises
your image and likeness, O God
on the face of everyone so that
your "marvels may be done"
as we pray in the responsorial psalm. Amen.

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.