Becoming a messenger of God

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of Archangels Michael, Gabriel, & Raphael, 29 September 2021
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   John 1:47-51
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.
Praise and glory to you, O God
our loving Father!  Thank you for sending
us your Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and
Raphael for your special messages of
protection, love and healing for us all
though we are not always available.
But most of all, we praise and thank you
for sending us your Son Jesus Christ whom 
we may consider as the "Archangel"
of archangels - your ultimate Messenger
of your truth and love for us.
Through him, You O God had come to us;
through him, with him and in him, we are 
able to come to you, dear Lord. 

A surging stream of fire flowed out from where he sat; thousands upon thousands were ministering to him, and myriads upon myriads attended him. The court was convened, and the books were opened. As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a son of man coming, on the clouds of heaven. When he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, he received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and people of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.

Daniel 7:10, 13-14
Help us in our unbelief,
in our little faith in you, dear God;
through Jesus, open your heaven
for us and let us be like your Archangels
in these troubled times of the pandemic:
amid the many occasions of sins
and the seeming reign of evil,
let us be like Archangel Michael
fighting satan in your name
 to ward off his devious attacks
that fragment our relationships;
let us be like Archangel Gabriel
delivering your messages of
faith, hope and love to so many
people awaiting salvation;
and last but not least, Father,
let us be like Archangel Raphael
bringing healing to the many ailments
and diseases that afflict not only our bodies
but most especially our hearts and souls
that prevent us from becoming truly free
and faithful to love and serve you.
Amen.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We are God’s favorite!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Memorial of Guardian Angels, 02 October 2020
Exodus 23:20-23   | + |  >><)))*>   | + |   Matthew 18:1-5, 10
Photo by author, dome of the Malolos Cathedral, December 2019.

Praise and thanksgiving to you, O God our loving Father! In your great love for us, you did not only give us your Son Jesus Christ to redeem us but also sent us guardian angels who guide and protect us in this journey in life.

What an honor in making each one of us truly your favorite child!

May we always heed the guidance and leading of our guardian angels so we may always follow and do your Holy Will, O God.

May we be respectful, devoted and grateful to our guardian angels who function as our protectors, keeping us safe from all harm and dangers.

Lastly, give us the courage and banish our fears, Lord, for we have our guardian angels always beside us, sometimes ahead of us to prepare our paths.

Let us “follow them, stay close to them so we may dwell under the protection of God’s heaven” (St. Bernard). Amen.

Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, January 2019.

In the presence of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of Archangels St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael, 29 September 2020
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14     >><)))*>   +   >><)))*>   +   >><)))*>     John 1:47-51
Photo by author, dome of the chapel at Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem, the Holy Land, May 2019.

Thank you Lord Jesus Christ for opening the heaven for us to be in the presence of God the Father anew and most especially, to become like him again in his image and likeness.

As we celebrate today the Feast of your Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, we remember God’s original plan for us to be with him like his angels and Archangels, of being like him not to compete but to reflect his image and likeness.

And so today, we pray that we may have the grace to be like St. Michael whose name means “who is like unto God?” that we may be like God not to compete with him but to be holy and merciful like him, fighting evil and sins with justice and truth.

Make us strong, Lord Jesus, like St. Gabriel whose name means “God is my strength” so we may deliver always your good news of salvation to the world now numb to bad news of wars and murders, injustice and inhumanity, poverty and starvation as well as the excesses of the first world with more than half the world starving and barely surviving with bare essentials.

Lastly, we beg you Lord in this time of the pandemic to grant us the gift of healing for those sick not only with COVID-19 but with other sickness. May St. Raphael who name means “God has healed” come and guide us in this journey like he did to Tobias, providing him the medications to heal not only bodily sickness but also emotional and spiritual maladies.

These we present to God our Father through you our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Nang mabuksan ang langit

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-29 ng Setyembre 2020
Martes, Kapistahan ng mga Arkanghel San Miguel, San Gabriel, at San Rafael
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Juan 1:47-51
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, pagbubukang-liwayway sa Lawa ng Tiberias, Israel, Mayo 2019.

At sinabi ni Jesus sa lahat, “Tandaan ninyo: makikita ninyong bukas and langit, at ang mga anghel ng Diyos ay manhik-manaog sa kinaroroonan ng Anak ng Tao.”

Juan 1:51
Batid namin Panginoon
 noon pa mang kami'y 
Iyong tinubos sa kasalanan
 nabuksan na ang langit 
upang kami ay makalapit sa Ama 
na bukal ng buti at bait;
Ngunit ang masakit sa langit 
hindi kami makatingin 
dala nitong mabibigat na pasanin
mga kasalanan aming inaamin;
Kaya sana Iyong dinggin
aming dalangin at hiling
ngayong kapistahan ng tatlong Arkanghel
na palaging nasa Iyong banal na piling.
Kay San Miguel Arkanghel
kahulugan ng pangalan 
ay "Sino ang katulad ng Diyos?" 
kami sana'y bigyan, O Jesus, ng tapang
labanan kasamaan at kasalanan 
upang makapanatili sa Iyong banal na harapan;
Bigyan Mo rin kami, Jesus ng Iyong lakas 
katulad ni San Gabriel Arkanghel
na ang kahulugan ng pangalan 
"Diyos ang aking lakas" 
upang Iyong mabuting balita aming maipahayag
lalo na ngayong panahon na ang daigdig
ay manhid sa kasalanan at kasamaan;
Gayon din naman, Panginoon
batid ninyo minsan dala ng aming karamdaman
hindi lamang pangangatawan nanghihina 
kungdi pati puso at kalooban 
Ikaw ay aming tinatalikuran
kaya naman sana Inyong mapagbigyan
sa pamamagitan ni San Rafael Arkanghel
na kahuluga'y "nagpapagaling ang Diyos"
sana'y gumaling o maibsan hirap at tiisin
ng mga may sakit, hipuin kanilang
puso at kalooban upang paghilumin.
Itulot po Ninyo, Panginoong Jesu-Kristo
na katulad ni Nataniel 
kami ma'y walang pagkukunwaring 
tumalima at sumunod 
sa Iyong tawag bilang alagad 
upang maakay ang marami pang iba
palapit sa langit na Iyong binuksan
upang kami ay maligtas ngayon at magpasawalang-hanggan.
AMEN.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Aral ng COVID-19, I: Pagmamahal at pagpapahalaga sa kapwa

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-19 ng Abril 2020

Maraming aral sa atin
itong COVID-19
ngunit ito muna ibig kong sabihin
dahil kung mayroong mga ningning
sa gitna nitong dilim 
na bumabalot sa atin
ay ang tila pagkagising sa kahalagahan
ng pag-ibig at pagtingin 
sa bawat kapwa natin.
Bago pa man dumating
itong social distancing
matagal na tayong malamig
at manhid sa nasa paligid natin;
nagsasarili, kapwa di pansinin
nahuhumaling sa texting, 
gaming, at social media networking.
Kaya ngayon nakita natin
bagsik at bangis ng COVID-19
hindi malaman gagawin
lahat ibig dalawin
maski makipag-lamayan gagawin
mapadama lang kalinga natin.
Nakakatawang isipin
na mga microorganism
nakapagpagising sa katauhan natin
mahalin at pahalagahan kapwa natin
buhay di natin matitiyak
kung ito'y magniningning 
o magdidilim, papanaw sa lilim.
Panatilihin sa puso at kalooban natin
isang buhay hindi kayang himayin
biliangin man o tuuusin
dahil maski isang buhay lang
ito ay mahalaga at napakarami pa rin.

*lahat ng larawan ay kuha ni g. raffy tima ng gma-7 news maliban yaong una sa ibaba, kaliwa na kuha ni bb. lane blackwater nagpost sa kanyang facebook ng kabutihang loob ng mga nagpapanic buying sa isang supermarket nang mapansin ng isang babae ang kakaunting pinamili ni manong na mukhang hirap sa buhay; lahat ng namimili ay nag-ambag sa kanya ng iba’t ibang de lata at pangangailangan kaugnay ng banta ng covid-19.

Transforming presence of God

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 20 December 2019

Isaiah 7:10-14 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 1:26-38

Manor House, Camp John Hay, December 2017. Photo by author.

One reason Christmas is the most favorite time of the year is its colors. From houses to malls and almost every building, one can find a spectacular display of different colors and lights that brighten everyone.

But everything changes when one enters the church.

Advent is so different. Color is violet near the deep blue shade to signify the importance of conversion and penance that lead into transformation while the colors of the world found in malls are about money and material things.

Our parish sanctuary area, Advent 2019.

God takes initiative

We have seen yesterday in St. Luke’s first Christmas story how God entered through human activities and history for the coming of Jesus Christ by first announcing the birth of his precursor, St. John the Baptizer.

But today, in his second Christmas story which is the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Lukes shows us how God is now acting on his own. Of course, God always takes the initiatives in life being the “prime mover”.

But in announcing the birth of Jesus, God went “out of his way” so to speak to bring us this tremendous grace of Christmas as he would always do in many instances in our lives.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with yo.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus .”

Luke 1:26-31
Mosaic of the Annunciation to Mary at the Shrine of St. Padre Pio at Rotondo, Italy. Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, 2018.

So different from yesterday’s story of the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptizer to Zechariah, let us see how God took the initiative in the annunciation in the birth of Jesus to Mary.

  1. Zechariah was a priest while Mary was a commoner. It was natural for God to work through his ministers but in choosing Mary an ordinary woman was something else not because of any special quality she had but simply because God is good. The angel clearly told this to Mary, “you have found favor with God”. God does not call the qualified but he qualifies the call!
  2. God used the setting of the Temple of Jerusalem in yesterday’s account because that is where he is supposed to dwell but today, everything happened in a very simple house in Nazareth, the only place of significance and importance in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament. It was a place looked down upon by many like St. Bartholomew asking Philip, “can anyone good come from Nazareth?”
  3. There was a major feast going on, the Yom Kippur, with a lot of people present when Zechariah was informed of the birth of John; Mary was alone in her house when the angel came to announce to her the birth of Jesus on the six months after going to Zechariah.

Intense Presence of God and of Mary

Usually, as we have seen yesterday in the annunciation of the birth of John, God always acted in silence and hiddenness. He blends and flows with world history as well as with our own personal histories.

But, there are times even in our own experiences when God really pulls something extraordinary, a miracle to bless us, to save us.

That was the case in the Annunciation to Mary. God “freely acted on his own” for the good news to happen, regardless of whoever was the king of Judea or emperor of Rome. He set the stage and everything for the fulfillment of his plan of salvation for us.

And the very good thing here is we find a perfect congruence or an equilibrium wherein, God was intensely present and so was Mary.

In the annunciation of John’s birth, God was very much present answering the prayers of his parents but Zechariah was miserably absent, doubting the good news!

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

God is always coming to us in many instances and persons who come to our lives. Are we present to him?

Notice how she entered into a dialogue with the angel Gabriel in explaining how things would happen. She was so open and so absorbed too as if the Holy Spirit must have had a perfect landing on her that she became pregnant with Jesus!

It sounds funny but that was how it happened because tomorrow, we would hear St. Luke telling us how Mary hurriedly went off to see her cousin Elizabeth, meaning there was a transforming change that occurred in Mary right away!

And that is how God truly works – if we can be truly open like Mary with God’s intense presence, we can experience overnight conversion and transformation that we have heard experienced by many unbelievers, sinners, addicts of all kinds. All they could say was there was a very brief moment when they felt God so intensely present and boom! everything changed for the best.

Mary believed

Mary was not only open to God but most of all, she has always believed in him. See how St. Luke tells us after the Annunciation, “then the angel departed from her”, never to come again to inform her of special messages from God unlike St. Joseph.

After the Annunciation, Mary was left on her own in the sense that all she had was her firm faith in God through Jesus Christ her Son.

Mary believed in everything that was spoken to her! It was all she had up to the foot of the Cross when Christ died, when she waited with the apostles in Jerusalem for the Pentecost and in all her other apparitions later. She has always believed in Jesus her Son.

Today, we complain a lot of people no longer believing in God, leaving the Church, refusing to pray and celebrate the sacraments.

Perhaps it is about time for us to ask our very selves too, especially us your priests and pastors as well as the parents: do we truly believe what we are doing, what we are practicing as Catholics?

It is always easy to say we believe in God like King Ahaz in the first reading who refused to ask God for signs that Israel would be delivered from the advancing Babylonians.

It was merely a “show” because Ahaz had already entered into alliance with small kingdoms to fight the Babylonian invaders. He had never believed God or his Prophet Isaiah; hence, Israel was conquered and crushed as a nation, thrown into exile in Babylon for a long time.

A Filipino painting of the Annunciation to Mary on a wall facing the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Photo by author May 2017.

God’s power and his intense presence can only work in proportion with the faith we have. This is what Jesus had told the apostles when they asked him to “increase their faith”: “If you have the faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to the mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and panted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Lk.17:5-6).

In another instance, the apostles failed to cast away the demon possessing the son of a certain man. After Jesus had driven away the evil spirit, his apostles came to him in private to ask, “Why could we not cast it out? And Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your little faith'” (Mt.17:19).

Like Mary, let us believe wholly to God by giving our whole selves to him. Let us create a room in ourselves for God so he can be present in us and transform us like Mary. Amen.

Holy presence in hiddenness

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 19 December 2019

Judges 13:2-7, 24-25 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 1:15-25

The Walls of Jerusalem, May 2019. Photo by the author.

From St. Matthew, we now move to the Christmas story by St. Luke that starts in the temple of Jerusalem. And surprisingly, not precisely with Jesus or his parents.

In the days of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren and both were advanced in years. Once when he was serving as priest in his division’s turn before God, according to the practice of the priestly service, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense. Then, when the whole assembly of the people was praying outside at the hour of the incense offering, the angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right of the altar of incense.

Luke 1:5-11

We know what happened, of how Zechariah doubted the good news announced to him about the birth of his son John the Baptizer.

Many times in our lives, especially in this age of too much communications in the social media where everything is exposed, we hardly notice the best and nicest things in life happening in silence, mostly in hiddenness.

And the saddest part of this present reality is that it is God whom we miss in this “overexposures” we have in social media because he always comes to us hidden in the most ordinary and simple things in life.

Yesterday St. Joseph taught us the need to value silence and stillness in the Lord as an important lesson in facing life’s many adversarial situations.

Today we hear Zechariah forcibly silenced to experience the Lord’s power and grace, his very presence in fact.

An inside section of the remaining Walls of Jerusalem. Photo by author, May 2019.

God’s presence hidden in our time and space

Advent is the season that reminds us that God comes to us always hidden in our very time and space. Unless we know how to be silent and simple, we shall never experience the Divine presence that has covered the whole world ever since.

Of the four evangelists, St. Luke is the only one who claims to have “investigated everything accurately” about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ (Lk.1:3). That is why he has the most stories and details about Christmas.

For St. Luke, Christmas begins with the coming of St. John the Baptizer, Jesus Christ’s precursor. In a very unique manner, he tells us how God’s presence came through a husband and wife yearning so much to have a child of their own, Zechariah and Elizabeth, both belonging to the upper crust of the Jewish society having descended from the priestly families.

In fact, Zechariah was a priest who was so blessed that Day of Atonement known as the Yom Kippur of the Jews that happens around September 18-24. (That is how we come to celebrate Christmas on December 25: Elizabeth conceived John in September, giving birth to him in June 24; tomorrow, we shall hear in the Annunciation to Mary that Elizabeth was six months pregnant which falls on March 24. Simple math, we arrive at December 25 as Christ’s birthdate.)

Praying at the Wall, May 2019.

During the Yom Kippur, priests drew lots on who would incense the Holy of Holies where the “Ark of the Covenant” was kept containing the stone tablets of God’s commandments given to Moses. It was the closest thing they have as signs of God’s presence among them. Hence, until now they venerate and pray at the “wailing Wall” of Jerusalem because that is supposed to be the only remaining structure of their temple destroyed in 70 AD closest to that part of the Holy of Holies.

It was so rare at that time to be assigned to incense the Holy of Holies because there were so many priests drawing lots and only one would be chosen for the rite that happens about twice daily for the whole week. It was a tremendous blessing indeed to be chosen to incense the Holy of Holies.

Here we find St. Luke setting the stage of his Christmas story to remind us all that God comes right into our time and space, in our history, in our here and now.

See his descriptions:

  1. It happened in a specific time during during “the days of Herod, King of Judea”, when Zechariah was “chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense” while people were outside praying and waiting.
  2. It happened in a specific place, the temple of Jerusalem.
  3. Most of all, it happened to real people, “Zechariah of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was from the daughters of Aaron.”
A view from the Walls of Jerusalem of the Jewish section; dome is the Moslem section, Mount of Olives at the background. Photo by author, May 2017.

The Presence of God, the Absence of Man

When we are deeply hurt and disappointed, we are usually less rational. Worst, although we try to keep our faith alive, that is also when we doubt God, refusing to recognize his presence among us, and even right in us.

In this story of the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptizer, we find God giving Zechariah the tremendous grace to approach his Divine presence by having the rare opportunity to incense the Holy of Holies.

Most of all, at their most important feast when priests gather in the temple to pray for the people and for their personal intentions, God sent Zechariah the angel Gabriel to personally tell him his and Elizabeth’s prayers have been heard and granted!

But what happened? Zechariah doubted, even questioned God!

“How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”

Luke 1:18

That’s the problem with us: God is always present but we are always absent that we never meet him. And every time he comes to visit us, we are so busy with so many other things.

If we cannot see and experience God in the most ordinary things and events in our lives, nothing would be enough to convince us of his love and mercy, of his presence and power.

That is why Zechariah was silenced by the angel, who, by the way, is already the presence of God yet Zechariah doubted.

This remaining week before Christmas, let us try to have some silence, or better, let us create a space for silence and solitude to experience God’s loving presence among us, in us.

It is only in silence where we can truly learn how to trust and be intimate with God and with our loved ones because it is only in silence where we can dare to open our selves to God and to others.

Let “the spirit of the Lord stir” you like Samson in the first reading (Jgs.13:25) this Christmas by creating silent moments with Jesus. Amen.

Seen Zone, Sin Zone

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe, Memorial of Guardian Angels, 02 October 2019

Exodus 23:20-23 >0< >0< >0< Matthew 18:1-5, 10

Photo by Rene Asmussen on Pexels.com

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.”

Matthew 18:10

Almost all the religions in the world believe in the existence of guardian angels who guide people and protect them from harm.

From the Greek angelos that means “messenger”, angels are exactly that: messengers from God or “divine apps” who work like Messenger!

Last summer break, I have learned something “millennial” and at the same time very theological or spiritual when some of our former teachers in a school where I used to be assigned reprimanded me – even scolded me – for putting them always on “seen zone”. If you are a dinosaur like me, seen zone is when you send somebody a message (PM) and that person sees it but refuses to give any reply, to the extent of ignoring not only your message but most of all, you. I still have contentions against this but, that’s how most of people take a seen zone: a kind of disrespect, that you are not important.

What was so embarrassing with my new learning was the realization of how stupid I have been until recently when I would “seen zone” people with pathetic late response saying, “sorry just saw your message now”. How I wish I could turn back the time…

Anyway, I have learned my lesson so well that since May I have been very careful with “PM’s” as I tried to be more kind and gentle in Messenger.

But, there is something very interesting in this popular app in relation with our celebration today of the memorial of the guardian angels.

So many times, we give our guardian angel or God’s messenger with the “seen zone” like in Messenger. We ignore the angel’s admonition to avoid sin and do what is good. Like in Messenger’s seen zone, we totally ignore and disregard our guardian angel until we get into the “sin zone”.

Ignore what you have read in Messenger, you go into a seen zone that may be temporary and not really that serious at all. But, lo! worse is the “sin zone” when you ignore the Divine messenger because you ignore God who sent us his angels with his messages of love and mercy, peace and salvation!

Today we are reminded that inasmuch as we try to behave properly in social media where we interact virtually in real time, God and his angels do relate with us in real time but not in virtual but actual reality.

If we try hard doing everything not to hurt our friends with seen zone, all the more we must try to avoid the sin zone that have more serious repercussions up to eternal life. Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com