The human child, mystery of God’s love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 15 January 2023
Isaiah 9:1-6 ><]]]]'> Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18 ><]]]]'> Matthew 18:1-5, 10
Photo from reddit.com.

The photo above is a sculpture called “Love” by Ukrainian artist Alexander Milov he created in 2015. I have kept the photo as a bookmark in one of the books I have read and saw it recently. Milov rightly called it “Love” because it shows how that mystery of love expressed to us by God in Christ’s coming continues if we could only be like a child!

See how the sculpture depicts two adults after a disagreement sitting with their back to each other while their inner child in both of them wanting to connect. What a beautiful expression of our condition when despite our vast learning and knowledge, we seem to can’t live without ego and pride, hatred and grudges that prevent us from forgiving and moving on in life. The free spirit exhibited by children in this sculpture shows our true nature which is the very core of Jesus Christ’s teaching, of being a child always.

At that time the disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst, and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven… 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 18:1-3, 10

On this Sunday of the second week in Ordinary Time, we extend our Christmas celebration for a day with the Feast of Sto. Niño or Child Jesus in honor of the crucial role of that image gifted by Magellan to Queen Juana of Cebu 500 years ago. It was the Sto. Niño who actually conquered our country to become the only Christian nation in this part of the world – proof enough of Christ’s teaching about being a child so powerful in God’s eyes!

This Feast is a very timely for us too as we go into the busyness of our lives to be reminded anew even for a day of the meaning of Christmas, of Jesus Christ’s coming in love. He came because of love, coming as love himself by being a child, an infant.

It was only recently as a chaplain in the hospital have I felt and realized why a baby is called a “bundle of joy” – my heart melts whenever I visit mothers with their newborn babies especially twins. It is said that even the most hardened criminals are softened upon seeing babies and children. And that is because of what Jesus told us today in the gospel,

“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 16:10

What is there with children and the face of God?

I think that is God’s gift of love in each of us, so innately in us right during our moment of conception when life begins as the Church rightly insists based on Sacred Scriptures. It is nurtured and cared for first by the mother that even after we have matured, we call on our mother when surprised or shocked as in “Inang ko po!” or “Nanay ko po!”. See how those approaching death would always speak of seeing their departed mother, coming and visiting them.

This shows and proves to us the deep impact of a mother’s love to each of us because she is always the first to make us experience God’s love in her womb that even long after our umbilical cords have been cut off at birth, there remains an invisible line always between us and our mothers.

It is not only with our mother but also with everyone. This love innately gifted upon each of us by God who is our very first love remains in us through our family and friends and later the people we meet in life as living representatives of that invisible love of God in us. This is what Jesus meant when he warned his disciples in the gospel today,

“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

How sad when this love that has always been in us and in the world suddenly becomes unrecognizable – even unrealistic – because of the darkness of sins and evil. When the child is born and begins to see, experience and realize the absence of love in the family, of a lack of that love between the child’s mother and father who quarrel or separate, or when the child himself/herself is threatened or hurt by anyone he/she looks up to, then trouble happens.

Children can only grasp the gift of life and of their existence when they experience the concreteness, the reality of love first right in their homes. One thing we adults always forget which I insist on every man and woman entering marriage that it is always the children who bear all the pains and sufferings when they separate. Experts claim that criminals mostly come from families where children witness domestic violence, especially when the husband beats the wife.

It is unfortunate that today’s gospel did not include Jesus Christ’s most terrible curse against those inflicting harm on children when he said in the same scene that “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and drowned in the depths of the sea” (Mt. 16:6).

As chaplain of a university, I have been hearing the confessions of our students, recently from junior and senior high school. After listening to their stories and woes, I tell them point blank about their parents and family, of the love among them and they start crying. I do not blame parents for their apparent lack of love for their children nor for their separation nor for their need to work abroad; I stress to young people human love is always imperfect. Only God can love us perfectly.

When the world and the people around us miserably fail in showing us the face of our loving God, that is when all the more we have to be like children anew as Jesus tells us today. It is is in going inside our inner child within, in becoming like a child trusting in the great love of God in us like when we were in our mother’s womb can we grasp again this invisible love poured upon us in Jesus Christ.

This is the challenge for us of the Sto. Niño: let us keep the face of God aglow in us, on our face and in our lives like the light Isaiah spoke of in the first reading when the Messiah comes. Anyone who lives in the gospel of Jesus Christ, even amid all pains and sufferings, would always be aglow with that radiant face of God filled with love and mercy, kindness and compassion despite our many imperfections. The beloved disciple said it so well, “No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us” (1 Jn. 4:12). Simply love, love, and love. No ifs nor buts. Just love.

Let us remain children of God most especially in our adulthood like Jesus Christ who upon his death on the Cross called God Abba – Father – because he has always been the Son, the Child of God. Remember how at the Last Supper when he gave the new commandment of loving one another as he loves us: it is “new” because unlike the love the world knows which is all feelings and self-centered, Christ’s love is rooted in God through him, in him, and with him.

Let us pray:

Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ
every spiritual blessing in the heavens (Eph. 1:3),
as he chose us to be born
and be filled with his love as 
icons and representatives of his love;
enlighten the eyes of our hearts, Father,
so we may always answer your call
in your Son Jesus Christ for us to follow
him in being like a child
manifesting your face full of
warmth and love,
kindness and care
especially to those 
feeling unloved.
Amen.

Maturing in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 09 January 2023
Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7 ><}}}}*> Acts 10:34-38 ><}}}}*> Matthew 3:13-17
Photo by author, September 2022.
God our loving Father,
thank you for this most wonderful 
Monday when we close 
the Christmas Season 
with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 
we also celebrate the feast 
of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo 
which is the most popular
devotion in our predominantly
Catholic nation. 
As you opened the heavens
with your outpouring of love
and life upon us today like
what happened at the baptism in Jordan,
open our minds and our hearts, Father,
to recognize Jesus as your Anointed One;
most of all, may our double celebrations
this Monday remind us of the need for us to mature
in our faith in you.
Photo from flickr.com by Mark S. Abeln, Resurrection Cemetery in Affton, Missouri, USA, 16 November 2010.
Fix our eyes on your Chosen One,
Jesus Christ, upon whom you have 
put your Spirit who brought forth
salvation to us all,
not crying out,
not shouting,
not breaking a bruised reed
nor quenching a smoldering wick;
let us imitate the gentle humility
of your Servant, our Lord Jesus Christ
in whose person you have made your
covenant, a light for the nations,
healing us of our infirmities of 
body and most especially of soul,
not yielding to anyone nor anything
because you and him are one
(cf. Isaiah 42:1-4, 6-7).
Let us continue the teaching of Peter
in the house of Cornelius with our own
experiences and meditations, with our
own witnessing "of how God anointed 
Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power. 
He went about doing good 
and healing all those oppressed
by the devil, for God was with him"
(Acts 10:38).
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, 09 January 2020.
God our loving and merciful Father,
let us see Christ's presence and
coming in our lives daily,
his coming out of Jordan
with your mission to save us,
to journey with us in this life;
most of all, let us heed your voice,
Father, to be one in Jesus in all
sufferings and trials, standing 
and fighting for truth and justice
even to the point of death on the 
Cross because he is your beloved Son
with whom you are well pleased
(Matthew 3:16, 17).
Lord Jesus Christ,
our Nuestro Padre Nazareno,
make us realize that more than
the devotions and panata,
more than that lovely robe of your
royalty as King of kings,
help us penetrate your dark skin
in Quiapo to realize your being
called "Nazarene" does not only mean
your origin, Nazareth, but most of all,
from the Hebrew word "nezer" or shoot -
that you are, O Lord Jesus is the "shoot
from the stump of Jesse" (Is.11:1),
the one completely consecrated
to God from your mother's womb
until your death on the Cross.
Make us realize this, Jesus Nazareno,
that we too, in our baptism, are 
consecrated to God:  let us manifest
your love,
your justice,
your humility,
your healing,
your mercy
in our lives.
Amen.
From google.com.

Christmas is “manifesting” Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, 08 January 2023
Isaiah 60:1-6 ><}}}}*> Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 ><}}}}*> Matthew 2:1-12

Still, a blessed Christmas to everyone! As I have been telling you, let us continue greeting one another with a Merry Christmas for it is still the Christmas Season. Forget those happy new year greetings. Insist on Merry Christmas especially today when our celebration reminds us that Christmas is manifesting, showing Jesus Christ!

In fact, our celebration today is a high point of Christmas – even the Christmas in some parts of Europe, the US and even the Philippines. As a result, so much focus have been given on the magi that we forget the very essence of Epiphany is Jesus Christ – not the names of the magi nor their gifts nor their number.

From the Greek word epiphanes that means “manifestation”, the Epiphany of the Lord celebrates the discovery of Jesus by the foreigners known as magi from the East, learned men who were seeking the truth. In discovering Jesus, he was made known to all the world as the Savior and the King of Kings.

It is very interesting that what we have we heard proclaimed in the gospel today is the first conversation ever recorded by Matthew in his account that was uttered by the magi searching for Jesus:

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of 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

That spoken question by the magi which stirred the whole of Jerusalem and bothered even King Herod – “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? – is a theme that resonates throughout Matthew’s gospel because in the Jewish thought, God is their only king. King for them is more than a political ruler but a manifestation or reflection of the face of God who alone is the king of the universe.

Matthew is teaching us something very important in recording the first conversation spoken in his gospel account was by the magi asking “where is the newborn king of the Jews” to remind us that every day, it is Jesus Christ whom we must seek first in our lives, in our prayers, especially in the scriptures.

Upon waking up in the morning, what is the very first thing you do – check on your cellphone for messages? turn on the radio or TV or laptop? What or who do you look for first thing in the morning? Do you at least light a candle on a little altar in your room to pray the Morning Offering or meditate on the scriptures of the day?

The person(s) or things that we immediately focus upon waking up indicate very much the persons or things that rule us daily. See how the magi from the east were seriously seeking Jesus Christ by daring to ask even King Herod about the newborn king of the Jews! Don’t you find that funny considering that the magi were regarded as men of wisdom but dared to inquire and trouble Herod with that question? Were they insulting Herod?

Definitely not. They were just sincerely searching for the true King of all!

That is the essential point in Matthew’s telling us of the magi searching for Jesus: the experts of Jerusalem knew where their newborn king was born based on the scriptures but they never bothered to look for him! Many times we are guilty like them when God is just in our head as an idea or a concept but not a reality in our life.

Next to assiduously seeking Christ, I love to reflect on that aspect of these wise men asking (with sarcasm?) King Herod where is the newborn king of the Jews: the magi must have noticed and felt King Herod was not a true king after all in the Jewish thought and tradition. They must have heard and personally proven upon meeting him that he was indeed ruthless and evil when he ordered the massacre of all boys two years old and below in Bethlehem and vicinity after they have left by going through a different route.

See how Matthew as well as the other gospel writers showed in their accounts the kindness and goodness of Jesus in healing the sick, forgiving the sinners, teaching and guiding the people who were so lost. When we pray the gospel accounts, what we find and experience is the immense love and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. He is rightly called the face of the unseen God – so gentle, so loving, so humble, so merciful. Because of Jesus, we were able to have a glimpse and experience of the great love of this God Jesus taught us to call as Father. That is why at his crucifixion we saw Jesus hailed as truly the “King of the Jews, truly the Son of God” (Mt. 27:37, 54) because he manifested God’s love and holiness, compassion and mercy, kindness and care.

This is the essence of the Epiphany. It was not just the discovery of Jesus by the magi nor his manifestation to all the nations but most of all, the making known of God’s goodness when like the magi who “departed for their country by another way” (Mt.2:12), we change our ways to become icons of Jesus Christ.

Don’t worry; it is a lifelong process. The magi saw Jesus as a child, not as an infant anymore because of their long journey. What matters is that like them, we never stop persevering in following and manifesting Jesus in our lives.

Perhaps this Sunday, we must examine ourselves in the way we deal with other people especially in our family and in our office or school, especially in our parish and community: do we reflect the Kingship of Jesus Christ or that of the world like Herod in our lives?

This Solemnity of the Epiphany is inviting us not just to seek Christ our King but most of all, to manifest Christ’s Kingship based on loving service to others. That is the best gift we can offer Jesus, our very gift of selves just like him. Let us pray:

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
let me search you always in my life,
in my prayers,
among the people I meet,
in the Sacraments;
most of all, 
let me manifest you Jesus
not only my words and thoughts
but most of all in my daily living,
in my actions
of loving service to others
especially the sick and lowly,
the marginalized and misunderstood;
let me be your light, O Lord,
to guide people in darkness of sin
and ignorance and indifference;
most of all, let me reveal like St. Paul
your mystery of love and salvation
to the many among us who have turned
away from you,
seeking to follow and imitate
King Herod in his ruthless ways
of control and too much pride.
Amen.

Come and see so you will see greater things!

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Weekday of Christmas, 05 January 2023
1 John 3:11-21     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     John 1:43-51
Phot by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 02 January 2023 in Paco, Obando, Bulacan.
Lord Jesus Christ,
now I can feel your insistence
for me to come so I may see you;
I think it should be the first thing
to preoccupy us every new year:
how we must come in order to see
you each day, each year.

Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said to him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.”

John 1:45-47
Let us be sincere, O Lord Jesus,
like Nathanael or St. Bartholomew
who never hesitated to tell Philip
the prevailing belief of your time that
nothing good comes from Nazareth;
problem with us is we always deny
such truths deeply ingrained within us
like our personal biases against others
due to region and religion,
language and politics,
color and inclinations.
Let us come so we may see
you more in others that despite
our many biases and prejudices,
you do come in our many differences;
let us be bold and brave to subject
our beliefs and perceptions to tests
by personally coming to see the reality,
the truth so that we may realize
that you are not only the Messiah
but most of all, like Nathanael,
you are "the Son of God, the King of Israel"
(John 1:49).
Most of all,
Lord Jesus Christ,
let us come and see
with all our reservations
and doubts,
biases and mistrust
so that we may see
far more greater things
than what we have already seen
in passively following you -
let us come so we may see
"the sky opened and 
the angels of God
ascending
and descending
on the Son of Man"
(John 1:51).
Amen.

Come in order to see

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Christmas Weekday, 04 January 2023
1 John 3:7-10     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     John 1:35-42
Photo by Mr. Ryan John Jacob, 02 January 2023 in Paco, Obando, Bulacan.
I have always wondered, Lord Jesus,
what have you shown Andrew and his
companion that day you invited them
to "come and see"?

He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah,” which is translated Christ.

John 1:39-41
Everyday, you also invite me 
to come so that I will see you but
rarely do I really COME to experience
you; rarely do I come to feel you;
rarely do I come to listen to you;
rarely do I come to just sit beside you
nor watch the day go by; forgive me,
Jesus for always refusing to come to you
especially when you are down and sad,
sick and aching inside, when you are
boxed by people, imprisoned in wrongful
thoughts, or simply because you are poor,
not like me and my friends who are cool
and hip and modern...
That is why, many times,
I also fail to SEE you in person,
Lord Jesus that I do not see your smiles 
and your tears; I do not see
your sufferings and pains; 
I do not see your point of view; 
I cannot see your reasons and your
situations nor plight; most of all,
I fail to see your love and trust in me
because I keep on spending more time
coming to see the make believe world of media.
What did Andrew and companion
see that whole day, Jesus?
It must be a lot of you!
A lot of you in yourself,
a lot of you in themselves,
and a lot of you in others
as well as in life and in nature!
Dearest Lord Jesus,
bless me and let me 
this 2023 to always come
and see where you stay
so that at the end of each day
I may also say or exclaim like Andrew
"We have found the Messiah"!
Amen.

Who are you? What are you?

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of Sts. Basil the Great & Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops/Doctors of the Church
02 January 2022
1 John 2:22-28     ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>     John 1:19-28
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 31 December 2022, Paco, Obando, Bulacan.
What a great Monday morning
in this new year of 2023,
God our loving Father!
Thank you for your words
that invite us to examine
our true selves,
of who we are,
and what are we?

This is the testimony of John. When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him to ask him, “Who are you?” He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Christ.” So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.”

John 1:19-21
Many times we are at a loss
for answers for these basic
questions we refuse to face
and answer, always evading
because deep inside we are lost;
empty our hearts of our pride
and sin to let your Son Jesus Christ
come within;
may we let him dwell in our hearts
and fill us with his humility,
justice,
and love.
Like John,
may we be firm in telling
and showing everyone who we are;
let us not be liars who deny
Jesus is the Christ not only in
words but most especially in deeds;
many times, we just remain silent
amid all the evil and indecencies
that abound us these days especially
in social media.
Like the two great friends
Sts. Basil the Great and
Gregory Nazianzen who were both
Bishops and Doctors of the Church,
they never buckled down in their faith
defending and fighting the truth of Jesus Christ;
help us cultivate such kind of friendships
and relationships that flourish
in great faith and love of Jesus.
Amen.

Imitating, praying with Mary in 2023

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Eighth Day in the Octave of Christmas, 01 January 2023
Numbers 6:22-27 ><}}}}*> Galatians 4:4-7 ><}}}}*> Luke 2:16-21

A blessed Merry Christmas everyone! Our Mass on this first day of 2023 is not for the new year but in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God because her Son Jesus Christ is true God and true Man. Of all human beings, she is therefore the best model for us to follow in welcoming every new year.

First thing we notice with Mary is her prayerful silence at the birth of Jesus Christ, the very new year in humanity when henceforth, time is reckoned in relation with his birth that is why we have those initials BC for “Before Christ” and AD for “Anno Domini” or “Year of the Lord”.

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Luke 2:16-19

I come from the town of Bocaue in Bulacan known as the “fireworks capital” of the Philippines and I have never liked our manner of ushering every new year with a bang. Even the Chinese are ashamed at how we overdo our fireworks and firecrackers during the new year. What I hate most are the human lives lost every year because of pyrotechnics.

Life always begins in silence. Destruction comes in loud noises just like what we do every new year with fireworks and firecrackers. It is Jesus Christ who drives out the evil spirits from our lives and the world since he came to the world more than 2000 years ago and here we are, calling all the evil spirits back!

In my former parish, we used to have a Holy Hour after our Mass of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God in the evening of December 31. Like Mary, we pray in silence to Jesus to thank him for all that have happened the past year, for everything, whether good or bad.

Let Jesus come and dwell in our hearts tonight and tomorrow. Pray with your family and loved ones. Pray by yourself.

Secondly, like Mary, let us treasure all our memories of the past year in our hearts, both the good and the bad ones especially the people who have touched us and hurt us too.

Silence is the door through which God enters our heart and soul, enabling us to have that meaningful awareness of Jesus in us and among us, helping us to see the larger picture of life with its many realities. One of my favorite writers, T.S. Eliot wrote in his very long Four Quartets that “tragedy occurs when we have the experience but miss the meaning”. Very true!

Most of all, it is in silence where we grow deeper in faith, hope and love of God because silence is the domain of trust. That is why saints and monks and every holy person of high level of spirituality are lovers of silence. Silent people are the most trusting ones to God and to others.

I have been dwelling this week on that scene when the shepherds came with all their noises and talks while Mary sat in silence along with St. Joseph, the patron saint of silence.

What was Mary thinking or praying? Was she asking for a better year in their lives after all the trials and difficulties she and Joseph have in having Jesus?

I don’t think she prayed for a better year ahead like many of us wishing in Facebook that 2023 would be better.

If we have Jesus Christ in us like Mary, every year, every day is always the best. If I may say so, every today becomes the least joyous days of our lives in Christ. Read and pray the gospel to see how the lives of Mary and all the other disciples went through the most wonderful and spectacular experiences in having Jesus.

Like Mary after giving birth to Jesus, she never prayed nor wished for a better year despite her being the Mother of God because nothing is better than living each day in Christ our Savior.

It is useless and futile to get all those lucky charms nor consult fortune tellers on what is in store for us this 2023. Mary knew nothing at all what was in store for her in giving birth to Jesus, much less in following him as his foremost disciple. All she was certain at that time time was the name to be given to her child, Jesus that means “God is my savior”.

Jesus is still and will always be our only certainty in life – day in, day out in every year. Let us not lose Jesus. Like Mary, let us treasure him in our hearts where he dwells. Let us pray with Mary:

Lord Jesus Christ,
on this passing of 2022
as 2023 comes, make me silent
in you, trusting you like your Mother
and our Mother too, 
the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Thank you for everything; 
despite the many disappointments
and failures, trials and sufferings, 
hurts and pains amidst the more 
joys and laughters I have had from
people you have given me this 2022,
teach me to trust you more that everything
in the past year indicates more better days are ahead!
I pray only for one thing this new year
as your disciple, Lord:
like Mary, let me love and trust you more,
never let me leave you,
keep me at your side even 
at your Cross.  Amen.

Christmas is family

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Octave of Christmas, Feast of the Holy Family, 30 December 2022
Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14 ><}}}}*> Colossians 3:12-21 ><}}}}*> Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Photo by Ms. Janine Lloren (2015), Duomo Cathedral in Florence, Italy depicting the harsh conditions the Holy Family faced in Egypt while escaping Herod.
God our loving Father,
thank you for sending us
your Son Jesus through the
husband and wife of 
Joseph and Mary;
as we celebrate today
the feast of the Holy Family
of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
you remind us too that
Christmas is a living story
that happens daily when you
come first in every family.
Help us imitate the Holy Family
in getting closer with you
and with one another in their
flight to Egypt when they faced
so much sufferings and hardships;
how sad that as families face
so many attacks these days from 
within and from the outside,
family members have failed to 
realize that our flights to Egypt 
when we have to go through trials
and difficulties are occasions 
to get closer to Jesus and one another; 
teach us to go back to you in prayer as
a family, to bring back our altars
of sacred images and icons now 
replaced by the giant flatscreen TV;
enable us to reach out more to one
another, to hug more, to converse more
than to spend the whole day before the
computer screen and cellphone
or with business partners and colleagues
or friends and classmates.
Most of all,
as Ben Sirach and St. Paul
reminded us in our first two readings
today, make us realize that our
relationships in the family 
mirror our relationship 
with you, O God, our Father;
let all our love and charity,
kindness and care begin at home
because that is where Christ
comes first to us!  Amen.

A prayer for Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, our modern Simeon

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Octave of Christmas, 29 December 2022
1 John 2:3-11     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Luke 2:22-35
God our loving Father,
on this Thursday in the Octave of Christmas,
I pray only for the well-being of our beloved
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI.
I love him and deeply respect him for
his holiness characterized by his wisdom
expressed so clearly in his many writings
in defending our faith and proclaiming
Jesus Christ our Lord;
all these he had expressed in all humility
and simplicity with a life full of love
and fervent hope in you and eternity.
He is our modern Simeon,
so misunderstood and even maligned by many
yet, you have been in deep conversations with him
that he had boldly took the great sacrifice of stepping down
from the papacy to await his final call.
Now that Pope Benedict XVI is seriously sick,
I pray like Simeon for him,
"Lord, now you let your servant Benedict XVI 
go in peace, your word has been fulfilled in him:
he has not only seen the salvation with his own eyes
but had enabled us all to see Jesus"; 
in his life and writings, Benedict XVI was clearly
in your light because all he lived and taught
is love for you, O God, and,
love for others and humanity.
Amen.

St. John Paul the Great,
pray for your faithful servant,
Benedict XVI.

Christmas is recognizing the face of Christ in everyone

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Octave of Christmas, Feast of Holy Innocents, Martyrs, 28 December 2022
1 John 1:5-2:2     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Matthew 2:13-18

Beloved: This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:5-7
God our loving Father,
thank you for sending us your Son
Jesus Christ, the light of the world;
we have experienced many times in life
especially during these three years of pandemic
that no matter how dark our lives may be,
for as long as we walk in Jesus Christ,
there is always light.
Forgive us, Father,
that many times we look for other lights;
we are so tempted and delighted in 
following the lights of the world with its
vast array of colors that blind our eyes
or with klieg lights that put us on spot like stars
yet leave us groping in emptiness after;
forgive us, Father, in following other lights 
that turn us away from one another and you;
until now, many of us act and think like Herod
and the experts of Jerusalem who refuse to
follow the light of Jesus that make us recognize
you on the face of one another.
Let the light of Jesus born on Christmas
enlighten our minds and our hearts to see
and follow you, O God our Father,
found on the face of every child still in the womb,
on the face of every child who must be cared and protected,
on the face of every woman, especially mothers
and grandmothers forgotten after nurturing us,
on the face of every dad especially those working 
away from family and loved ones, rarely seen
crying and rejoicing for their loved ones,
on the face of young people so lost with no one
to listen to them, be with them, assure them of love,
on the face of our health workers considered heroes
yet still taken for granted and even forgotten,
on the face of farmers and fishermen marked with
so many lines of hardships and sufferings under the sun
to feed us yet totally left on their own,
on the face of others in the margins and the disadvantaged,
those forgotten by the society and unfortunately by families:
this Christmas, call us into our own Egypt,
into a retreat and soul-searching for enlightenment
to find your face anew within us
so we may find you on one another.
Amen.