The sins of others we always see

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Twelfth Week of Ordinary Time, 20 June 2022
2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15, 18   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 7:1-5
Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com
Help up with your right hand, 
O Lord, and answer us.
(Responsorial Psalm today.)
Help us, dear Father,
to see more our many sins
than the tiny sins of others;
Help us, dear Father,
to control our lips in
being so quick to judge
and speak so much of others;
Help us, dear Father,
to change our ways and
leave our sins.
So many times in life
when bad things happen to
us, we look on others to
blame, including you,
O Lord, without looking 
first into our very selves
at how we have indulged
in evil and sins that started 
so small that we have dismissed
as simple and nothing at all.
Forgive us, Father,
in always blaming others
without ever looking into
our hearts and ways 
that have been so disordered
and strayed from your paths
of love and justice, mercy
and kindness, humility and 
sincerity.  Amen.

That sin called “adultery”

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 04 April 2022
Daniel 13:41-62   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   John 8:12-20
Photo by author, 2019.
For the second straight day,
we hear the story of adultery:
yesterday the woman was guilty,
today the woman is accused wrongly
but in both instances, your justice
and kindness prevailed, O God our Father!
But what is really with adultery 
that it is a favorite sin and topic in
your Sacred Scriptures, dear Lord?
More than its nature of infidelity, 
adultery also speaks deeply of our 
broken relationships with women:
like those two old men accusing Susana
wrongly of having a tryst with another man,
so often we have forgotten, even refused
to recognize adultery involves another man,
not just the woman.
Open our eyes, Father, especially the
"chauvinist pigs" and misogynists among us;
may the light of Jesus Christ your Son
enlighten the darkness within us and
enable us to see "where we came from" 
and "where we are going" so that we 
stop accusing and judging each other
of sins we ourselves are guilty too.

“You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me. Even in your law it is written that the testimony of two men can be verified. I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me.”

John 8:15-18
How funny, dear God,
that the root of this word
adultery means to pollute
or defile when in fact, that is
also the root of our sinfulness
when we defile others because
we have defiled our very selves
first when we turn away from you
as our origin and destination.
Amen.

“Do you want to be well?”

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 29 March 2022
Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12 <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'>   John 5:1-16
Photo from stisidoreparish.org program for baptism.
"Do you want to be well?"
(John 5:6).
How blessed was that sick man
at the Sheep Gate pool called
Bethesda or "house of mercy":
like him, we all want to be well and
healed of our ailments not only in
body but also in mind, heart, and
soul; but, alas, nobody would help
us.
Thank you dear Jesus in passing by,
in coming to our lives daily to heal us,
to wash us of our sins; help us to not 
sin anymore, to match our physical
wholeness with spiritual wholeness.
"Do you want to be well?"
(John 5:6).
Yes, dear Jesus!
Have mercy on us, poor sinners;
heal us and make us well from our blindness 
that prevent us from seeing you and 
from recognizing you as our Savior.
"Do you want to be well?"
(John 5:6).
Yes, dear Jesus, we want to be well
and healed from our paralysis that
prevent us from following you, from
doing your work and from leading 
others to you, the only way, truth,
and life in this world.  
Let us remain in you, dear Jesus;
like the prophet Ezekiel, may we realize
that for as long as we are with you like
the plants and trees by the side of the river,
we shall always be fully alive, bearing fruits,
even abloom despite the drought 
and summer.  Amen.

The joy of coming home in the Father

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Lent-C a.k.a. "Laetare Sunday", 27 March 2022
Joshua 5:9, 10-12 ><}}}*> 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ><}}}*> Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Lourdes, France, 20 March 2022.

Life is a daily Lent, a coming home to the Father. As I have been telling you, the 40-days of Lent is a journey back home to God in Jesus Christ with each Sunday like a door leading us closer to Him. We rejoice this Fourth Sunday – Laetare Sunday – as we near God’s inner room, knowing Him more than ever as we experience His immense love and mercy for us like a Father welcoming his children to “enter” and celebrate home in Him.

But, are we really in the journey?

Or, are we just like the two selfish, self-centered brothers in the parable who took their father for granted by pursuing for their own very selves?

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them Jesus addressed this parable: “A man had two sons…”

Luke 15:1, 3, 11
Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019 in my former parish.

Acting like the sons…

Once again, we hear another story from Luke that is uniquely his. It is more known as the parable of the prodigal son when in fact the center of the story is the loving and merciful father giving everything including his very self to his two sons.

There are two preceding parables before this third one, that of the lost sheep and of the lost coin that are in chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel. See how Jesus developed into a rising crescendo his series of parables starting with a lost sheep, a lost coin, and finally, lost sons. The common thread running through the three parables was the great joy of the shepherd, woman and father upon having their lost ones again. Clearly, God is the shepherd, the woman, and the father looking for the lost sheep, lost coin and lost sons. And here lies the very essence of the parables, especially in this third one about the loving and merciful father: “the Pharisees and scribes who began to complain why Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

We are those Pharisees and scribes who doubt and refuse to believe, even run away from our loving God in the belief there must be somebody else there who could love us truly by giving us what we need.

Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019 in my former parish.

Exactly like the younger son in the parable who sees God merely as a provider, an ATM or a Western Union counter who gives the cash we need to buy things we believe would complete us without realizing God is our life, our identity and root of being. This we find at what prompted the younger son to return home (return home, not come home which happens only when home is a person, not a place nor thing).

When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”

Luke 15:14-19

Sometimes we are like the younger son who returns home just to preserve one’s self – to have a roof and to have food so as not to starve, never go hungry. It is the first temptation of the devil, teasing Jesus and us to turn stones into bread because man lives to eat! That is why we keep on asserting our own power so we can do everything because we have forgotten our being-ness in God. We hate having nothing, being empty and would rather fill our bellies with whatever we can stuff our mouth with that in the process even swallow our pride and dignity to have, to possess everything, even everybody except God.

Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019.

On the other hand, we are like the Pharisees and scribes “complaining why Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them” so personified by the elder son who refused to enter their house to join the celebrations at the return of his prodigal brother because his manipulative schemes have been unmasked. For him, serving his father was just a show because he was only an actor, everything was a movie or a teleserye playing one’s roles in exchange of a fee and fame.

He said to his father in reply, “Look all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.”

Luke 15:29-30

Again, we find here some semblance of the second and third temptations to Jesus and to us by the devil: worship him and you will be popular and powerful! We all want having the best for us to be the very best among our peers and neighbors. We are willing to buy time, even buy people just to be known and popular. We would not mind being patient over a long period of time believing in the end, we could end up having all.

When we think of our needs to be secured and safe, popular and powerful, the first that comes to our minds and consciousness are things that money can buy, food that fill stomach, and drinks that refresh the body. Like the two brothers, they were all concerned with material and physical, nothing spiritual nor emotional or even mental. A life without any depth like Alfie played by Michael Caine with music by Burt Bacharach asking, “What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?”

That’s the tragedy of our lives, of being like the Pharisees and scribes personified by the two brothers who were so lost in their own selves, refusing to see beyond to find others and God, now and eternity, earth and heaven.

Photo by author, view from the Old Jerusalem, May 2019.

…becoming like the Father

This is the grace of this fourth Sunday, its greatest joy and cause for celebration: our being home in God, being whole again in Him after realizing and accepting our broken and sinful selves.

Make no mistake that it was us who have found God; no, it is the other way around.

God is the Father always awaiting for us that He sent Jesus Christ to lead us home again in Him. In this parable, the late Fr. Henri Nouwen rightly said Jesus is the “prodigal son” who left heaven not out of rebellion but because of obedience and submission to lead us all back to the Father, the only One who loves us truly, our very “first love” for He is the one who loves us first and still loves us no matter what.

Stop seeking for the world’s basic staples of food and wealth, fame and power because the most basic truth in this life is we are loved by God who is love Himself because He is life. See Luke’s sense of humor: the prodigal son wanted only food and shelter but the father gave him back his status as son with the ring, fine clothes and slippers, and feast while the elder son was longing for a mere young goat without realizing it has long been his for everything the father has was his too! Like us in many occasions in life, we fail to see how much we already have in God that we turn away from Him to settle for lesser things.

See our foolishness in desiring the world when it has always been ours if we remain in God. That is why we need to celebrate because finally we have found what is truly basic and valuable, God who gave us his Son Jesus Christ so we can find our way back home to Him and learn what is most valuable in life.

In this parable, Jesus is asking us to “level up” our existence, to rise above our very selves and be who we really are as beloved children of the Father who is merciful and rich in kindness.

Like in the first reading, no more manna for we have entered the Promised Land where we can have real food and real drink – Jesus Christ who sustains us to eternal life. Let us keep in mind and heart Paul’s reminder and call in the second reading that “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation… so, let us be reconciled in God” (2 Cor. 5:17, 20). Only those who are reconciled in God in Jesus can experience true joy… so, stop complaining and whining of others getting close with God. Join us and celebrate! Amen.

Have a joyuful week ahead.

Lent is for seeking God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Third Week of Lent, 21 March 2022
2 Kings 5:1-15  <*{{{>< + ><}}}*>  Luke 4:24-30
Photo by author, St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Egypt, May 2019.
Thank you dear Father
in bringing us to this third week
of Lent, of experiencing your loving
presence, your mystery, your
person; but, still, O God, I continue
to seek you.
Or, do I really seek you?
So many times I seek you
God like a lost object, a thing
I need at the moment like Naaman
seeking for a cure to my sickness that
in the process, I try to pull strings
around, asking help from everyone -
the more knowledgeable, the more
famous and credible, the better.
Why can't I just take the word of a believer
like that captured slave girl 
in our first today?
So many times I seek you
God like an idea, merely with 
an operation of my intellect
that I reason out a lot, even arguing
with all my preconceived ideas of 
who you are, of what you like, even of
what must be done like Naaman 
who felt insulted when your prophet Elisha 
merely sent him a message to wash seven times
in Jordan river; why can't I just be like 
his servants who knew better of 
simply obeying orders, of keeping 
things simple than our preference 
for complicated ones? 
Worst, O God, are the many times like
the people of Nazareth when I seek you
to dominate you, to insist myself on
you than me surrendering to you!
Remove my many blindspots,
Lord Jesus in truly seeking God
especially in this season of Lent;
teach me to seek him by surrendering
myself to his will like you,
simply believing in him who
dwells within me and in others
through my loving service
and kindness to everyone. 
Amen.

Keeping in touch with the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week VI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 16 February 2022
James 1:19-27   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   Mark 8:22-26
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.
Please bear with me, 
O Lord Jesus, for being
playful today like a child:
first thing that came to my 
mind while praying is how 
things have really changed
so much in our time.
If your Apostle James were
with us today, he might have 
written us first with the admonition
to "Think before you click..." 
and then proceeded with his timely 
reminders:

Know this, my dear brothers and sisters: everyone should be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God. Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and be able to save your souls. Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.

James 1:19-22
So much have really changed
among us, dear Jesus:  we have
been so glued to our TV and 
computer screens and cellphones
and other gadgets, so detached from
God and from others; we no longer 
listen nor hear your voice, Lord, and
worst, we speak so much that we 
have come to dread silence where
we can hear you loud and clear;
as a result, we gone out of touch with you
and others too, isolated, alone and 
distant not only from everyone 
but with reality.
Touch us again, Jesus,
pull us away from all the noise and
screens of media that hinder us from
experiencing you and your presence;
let us pray and listen first to your words,
then think before clicking the computer;
most of all, be patient with us, Jesus, 
like the blind you healed away from others 
and help us find our way home 
to the Father and one another.  Amen.

Remove my blindness, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week VI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 15 February 2022
James 1:12-18   ><))))*> + <*((((><   Mark 8:14-21
Photo by Philip Santiago, Lourdes, France, 2018.
Lord Jesus,
please remove the many
blindness I have in myself
that prevent me from seeing you
from understanding you
from following you.
Please remove that one
particular blindness in me
about temptations:  they
do not come from God nor
God wills anyone of us to be tempted;
temptations come from deep
within each one of us!

No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God;” for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sins, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.

James 1:13-15
Thank for this clarification and
reminder by St. James that 
temptations originate from
one's self in three stages:
desires, sins, death.
Please open my eyes, Jesus,
enlighten my mind, my heart
and my soul to see the sources
of evil in me to see where these
are leading me.
At the same time, Lord, 
let me count my blessings too
at how "God willed to give us
birth by the word of truth 
that we may be a kind of
firstfruits of his creatures"
(James 1:18).
Open my eyes, dear Jesus,
remove my many blindness
like your apostles who readily
jumped into conclusions and 
missed your whole point about 
hypocrisies of the Pharisees,
thinking you were worried with
their lack of bread, totally forgetting
how you have multiplied bread twice
to feed thousands.
Sometimes too, we are so blinded
with our high regard for ourselves,
seeing more ourselves that we no
longer look at you nor see you
as our sole sole reference in 
everything and everyone.
Amen.

How do we look at each other?

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week II, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 January 2022
1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Mark 3:1-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.
Your words today, O Lord, 
invite me to examine and reflect
sincerely how do I look at others, 
what do I think, what do I search
on others I meet or encounter?

With his shield bearer marching before him, the Philistine advanced closer and closer to David. When he had sized David up, and seen that he was youthful, and ruddy, and handsome in appearance, he held David in contempt.

1 Samuel 17:41-42
Forgive us, dear God our Father
when so often we "size" up everyone
we meet, when we always try competing
with everyone, examining their outward
appearances to compare them with our
very selves, with our competencies and 
abilities, or records and backgrounds.

Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.

Mark 3:1-2
But the most unkindest look we make
at others is when we condition ourselves
at finding faults and sins and slightest malice
against others for whatever they do;  what
a shame when our hearts and minds "see"
evil when what our eyes truly "see" is all good.
How difficult it must be for you, merciful Jesus,
to experience it happening even among us who 
claim to be your disciples and followers, that until
now you are "filled with anger and grieving 
for our hardness of heart" (Mk.3:5).
Cleanse our minds and our hearts to find your
image and likeness in everyone we meet,
purify our biases with others so we start
to mean what we keep on hearing
and saying to one another, 
"may the Lord be with you".
Amen.

Jesus, our only true ally

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 15 November 2021
1 Maccabees 1:10-15, 41-43, 54-57,62-64   > + <   Luke 18:35-43   
Photo by author, August 2021.
Your words today, O God
our Father are so perfect 
to what is happening exactly
in our country:  politicians 
busy entering into all kinds of
alliances just to have power 
and control in the country.
What a pity, O Lord, that in
the name of politics and power,
they have forgotten all about
their dignity and honor, families
and the nation and ultimately,
you dear God.

The proposal was agreeable; some from among the people promptly went to the king, and he authorized them to introduce the way of living of the Gentiles. Thereupon they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem according to the Gentile custom. They covered over the mark of their circumcision and abandoned the holy covenant; they allied themselves with the Gentiles and sold themselves to wrongdoing.

1 Maccabees 1:12-15
Keep us faithful to you, Father
and to your ideals of justice,
mercy, and charity; let us choose
righteousness amid afflictions
and never give into the evil 
ploys of the enemies for the 
sake of convenience and power.
Let us imitate the blindman of 
Jericho who persevered to get
near Jesus to be healed of his
blindness:  we pray O God for
our politicians and most specially
voters blinded by power and 
wealth, forgetting your laws 
that value life and the human person.
Amen.

Praying for our obstinate beloved

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 29 October 2021
Romans 9:1-5   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 14:1-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.
Today I feel dear God our Father
the pains and sadness of St. Paul
in the first reading for his fellow Jews'
refusal to accept and believe in your
Son Jesus Christ.
But it is something more than just
about faith, in accepting Jesus as
Savior that I am speaking of;
you know it very well of some loved
ones who are "blinded" by so many 
other things in life that they cannot see
or refuse to see not only Jesus passing 
by daily in our lives but even us family
and friends who truly care for them.

Brothers and sisters: I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.

Romans 9:1-3
How can we open the eyes,
awaken our obstinate loved ones to 
the truth that they are loved 
when they are fixed with their past,
their hurts and pains despite
our apologies and amends made to them?
How can we make our obstinate beloved
realize we are present for them when 
they prefer their gadgets and things, 
their addictions and vices, even their
toxic friends and relationships?
How can we enable our obstinate
loved ones experience the beauty of life
when all they do is complain
 what is lacking than what we have?
We pray today Lord Jesus for
those people we love who act like
those Pharisees and scholars of law
who refused to respond to your question
when you asked them, "Is it lawful to cure
on the sabbath or not?" before healing a
man suffering from dropsy; worst,
they preferred to be coldly silent
after you have healed the man (Lk.14:2-6).
Teach us to be more patient
and kind, loving and open to still accept
those who for all kinds of blindness
refuse to accept us, most especially YOU.
Amen.