Pursuing the most precious

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 17 September 2021
1 Timothy 6:2-12   ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*>   Luke 8:1-3
Photo by Mr. Vigie Ongleo, Singapore, August 2021.

But you, man of God, avoid all this. Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:11-12
Thank you for the wonderful
reminder today through St. Paul,
O God our loving Father.
It is so true that many times
in our pursuit of you
in worship and service,
in the practice of our faith,
we "suppose religion to be a means
of gain" (1 Timothy 6:5):
in your name we shamelessly
pursue money and fame using
our gifts and talents,
wasting precious time in useless
arguments and discussions.
Let us pursue only you, O God 
in Jesus Christ through the more
precious things that enrich our lives
and those of others leading to
eternal life.
Purify our motivations and intentions
in following you, dear Jesus
like those women you have healed
and decided to accompany you 
sharing their treasures and very selves.
Today,
let me dare confront myself
to examine my following you, Jesus:
has it led me to qualities mentioned
by St. Paul to Timothy or,
has it made me divisive?
What does my way of life
today speak really of who am I?
Give me, dear Jesus,
the clarity of mind
and purity of heart
of the great Jesuit priest
St. Robert Bellarmine.
Amen.

We are the Lord’s indwelling

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 06 September 2021
Colossians 1:24-2:3   ><)))*> + ><)))'> + ><)))*>   Luke 6:6-11
Photo by author, December 2020.

But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for your glory.

Colossians 1:27
Praise and glory to you, God
our loving and merciful Father,
in choosing us, calling us despite our
sinfulness and weaknesses
to be the indwelling of your Son
Jesus Christ.
Thank you, dear Father,
in making us all a part of your grand
design since the beginning
that Jesus Christ may dwell in us
so we may participate in your glory.
As the "image of the invisible God"
and the "first-born from the dead",
Christ is our own destiny
who cannot be attained apart
from his Church, his Body.
Keep us united and one, Father,
as your children and brother of Christ
 in the Holy Eucharist that is the summit
 of our Christian life, bearing all pains and
sufferings with joy like St. Paul for the good
of everyone, especially the marginalized;
may in our Eucharistic celebrations
we learn to set things "straight" by doing
 what is good and pleasing to your sight
like what Jesus did in healing the man
with a withered hand at the synagogue
on a sabbath day.
Amen.

Seeing Christ in what is traditional and what is new

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church, 
03 September 2021
Colossians 1:15-20   ><)))'> ><]]]]*> ><)))'>   Luke 5:33-39
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, MD in Barcelona, Spain, 2018.

The scribes and the Pharisees said to Jesus, “The disciples of John the Baptist fast so often and offer prayers, and the disciples of the Pharisees do the same; but yours eat and drink.”

Luke 5:33
Oh yes, God our Father!
So many times we are like
the scribes and the Pharisees
asking Jesus not to seek the truth
but to confirm what we believe 
as true and proper, trying to find
justifications for what we are
doing which we hardly understand
the deeper meaning.
Like the gospel last Sunday,
we cannot distinguish what is
traditional and what is new,
what is clean and unclean,
and most of all, what is good
and what is evil because 
we are more focused with our
selves than with you and Jesus.

And he also told them a parable. Likewise, no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins, and it will be spilled, and the skins will be ruined. Rather, new wine must be poured into fresh wineskins. And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, “The old is good.””

Luke 5:36, 37-39
Like St. Gregory the Great,
refresh us in your Son Jesus Christ,
dear Father.  
Make us "new wineskins"
to be poured with Jesus, the "new wine";
indeed, old wine always tastes good
but we have to become new wineskins too
to be able to adjust to the new wine
to bring out its goodness and zest.

For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the Blood of his cross through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Colossians 1:19-20
Let us always seek first Jesus Christ,
loving Father in looking at things
in life and especially in the Church;
like St. Gregory the Great who
accomplished so much not only
in the Church but also in civil society
despite his short stint as Pope for
only 13 years, help us to center our
lives in Christ Jesus because
"he is the image of the invisible God,
the first born of all creation"
(Colossians 1:15).
Amen.

Mary, mirror of God’s greatness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2021
Revelation 11:19-12:1-6,10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, December 2020.

We take a break this Sunday from our readings in the bread of life discourse in John’s gospel to celebrate on this date the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary following Pope Pius XII’s dogma in 1950 that at the close of her earthly life, Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.

Without telling the manner or the circumstances of time and place of the Assumption, its dogma forms part of the deposit of our faith received from the Apostles as attested by its long line of traditions since the Pentecost. It is so important that its celebration supersedes the liturgy of any Sunday because it invites us all to see in Mary raised to heaven the image of the Church and of all the faithful on our way to eternal glory with God.

It is a very timely celebration while we are in the midst of another lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, giving us hope and inspiration to persevere in all these difficulties and trials to become better disciples of Jesus like his beloved Mother.

Photo by author at the Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, 2019.

Mary, a type of the Church

Our first reading today presents us with two images of a woman that seem to contradict each other with scenes that anti-climactic, flowing in the reverse mode. It could have been better as in most cases that the first scene depicting the woman in all glory should have been last instead of the woman in childbirth pains and dangers that comes in second. Is it not the sorrowful always comes first leading to glory?

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.

Revelation 12:1-3

It is easy to see the Blessed Virgin Mary in that woman depicted in John’s vision especially if we continue reading on to find the title and authority attributed to her child as our Savior Jesus Christ. But modern biblical studies go deeper than that simplistic view: the scenes speak more of the birth of Christ among us his disciples. It is “painful” because it takes place amid many evil and sins like persecutions and temptations symbolized by the red dragon; but, amid all these, Jesus remains among us, leading us, protecting us, and blessing us. Hence, the woman in this passage becomes a symbol of the Church in the glory of God following Christ’s Resurrection while at the same time in the midst of many earthly battles.

Of course, no other woman can best fit that image than Mary who gave birth to Jesus, who has always been in the most intimate relationship with her son as disciple among all humankind. And because of her role in relationship to her Son, to us his disciples also his Body as community, Mary is the image or type of the Church still giving painful birth to believers like in this time of the pandemic while we are already assured of glory in heaven as children of God. Vatican II perfectly expressed it in declaring:

“By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.”

Lumen Gentium #63

With that, Mary has also become the mirror of God’s greatness in all time, the very reason we venerate her as first among the saints and angels because it is also the same call of holiness to us all as children of the Father and disciples of Christ. It is in this framework that we celebrate her Assumption, especially when we profess every Sunday: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of body and life everlasting. Amen.”

Photo by author, Nazareth, 2019.

Greatness of God, lowliness of Mary

As we have mentioned at the start, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary does not go into details how it took place. What matters most is the fact of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul. Like with her Immaculate Conception, there are no direct nor explicit biblical references to her Assumption; however, from the collective meditations and contemplations in the Church, we find vast and rich sources in reflecting the beauty and wonder of the Blessed Mother’s unique place in our salvation history.

For the Mass of the day of the Solemnity, we contemplate on Mary’s canticle called Magnificat which she sang after being praised by her cousin Elizabeth during the Visitation.

And Mary said:
"My soul proclaims 
the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generation will call me
blessed:  the Almighty has done 
great things for me, and holy is his Name."
(Luke 1:46-49)

It was the first proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ whom Mary first received and shared first with her cousin Elizabeth in a town in Judah. See how in the Visitation Elizabeth praised and admired Mary, becoming the first to call her “blessed among women” because “she believed the word spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45). Instead of giving back her praise and admiration to Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist at that time despite her old age and being barren, Mary sang praises to God like the other great women in the Old Testament after experiencing God’s extraordinary acts in their personal lives and in Israel’s history.

Though we may never have the same personal experiences of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as members of the Church she represents, we can always look through her Magnificat the extent we have also become the mirror of the greatness of God especially at this time when everybody seems to doubt his loving presence in this time of the pandemic.


 It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat 
during our evening prayers in the Church because 
before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, 
we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

See how the Magnificat sings of the depths of Mary’s soul and her faith, of her perfect obedience to the word of God and the mission entrusted to her. Very clear in its lyrical expression, the focus and center is God, not Mary. It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat during our evening prayers in the Church because before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

Have we truly been God’s lowly servant like Mary, allowing God to work his great wonders through us?

Three things I wish to share with you on Mary’s lowliness that enabled God to work his wonders through her:

First is her openness to the word of God like in the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus. Mary had a prayer life, a discipline of making time with God, setting her self aside for the Lord. Prayer is always the start of every relationship with God. That is when we truly become humble to lose control of ourselves, to forget our selves and let God in the Holy Spirit dwell into us. Even in the darkest moments of our lives, there will always be that glimmer of hope because the Holy Spirit enlightens us in our paths.

Second is Mary’s saying “YES” to God. She does not merely listen to God; she says “be it done unto me according to your word.” From the very start, Mary never doubted God in his wisdom and plans that she always said yes. One most beautiful expression by the evangelists of Mary saying yes to God is whenever Mary would “treasure in her heart” words of Jesus and of others.

But Mary’s greatest yes happened at the Cross, in her sharing in the Paschal Mystery of her Son Jesus Christ, being the only other disciple who remained with the Lord until his death. No wonder, it was to her based on tradition that the Risen Lord first appeared on Easter.

Third is Mary’s fidelity to God, her yes was not just a one-shot deal but an everyday yes to Jesus even after he had ascended into heaven. The Acts of the Apostles tells us explicitly how Mary was among the disciples present inside the upper room at Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Throughout the ages in her numerous apparitions, Mary said yes to God delivering Jesus Christ’s call for us to penance and conversion, to prayers and the Holy Eucharist especially at Fatima in Portugal.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

Mary went through many hardships and difficulties in her life and in the history of Israel, coming from an obscure town that was a butt of jokes of their time like when Nathanael asked Philip who claimed to have found Jesus Christ, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (Jn.1:45)”.

In this time of the pandemic, the vision of John in the first reading becomes more real when people refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of COVID-19, of the need to be converted and to again nurture that relationship with God following decades of affluence and materialism. Like Mary, let us be humble to accept we are not the masters of this world nor of our own life but God almighty.

We are called to persevere with Mary, to be strong in our faith and charity that God will never forsake us so we can be present among the poor and marginalized including those spirits weakened by the prolonged quarantines.

With Mary, let us believe the words of St. Paul how all will come to life again – body and soul like Mary – in the final end of time that begins right now, right here in the midst of all these trials and sufferings. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

God our rock, our life

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of the Dedication of St. Mary Major, 05 August 2021
Numbers 20:1-13   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 16:13-23
Photo by Vigie Ongleo, 03 August 2021, Singapore.
Glory and praise to you, 
O God, our loving Father!
You are our rock and foundation, 
our life and meaning especially
when dark clouds hover above us.
Bless us on this eve of our lockdown
due to a surge in COVID-19 infections.
May the responsorial psalm be our prayer too:
"If today you hear the voice of the Lord,
harden not your hearts."
Your words today speak a lot
of your goodness and holiness
and of our sinfulness;
so many times we have been like 
your people at the wilderness with Moses:
always grumbling and complaining
at the slightest discomforts and difficulties,
easily forgetting your many blessings
like when they were at Meribah
and Massah without water to drink.
Then, raising his hand,
Moses struck the rock twice
with his staff, and water gushed 
out in abundance for the peoples
and their livestock to drink.
But the Lord said to Moses
and Aaron, "Because you were not
faithful to me in showing forth my 
sanctity before the children of Israel,
you shall not lead this community 
into the land I will give them."
(Numbers 20:11-12)
Forgive us, dear God, when even
like Moses whom you trusted so much
we falter in our faith in you, giving in 
to our "small" doubts of you that like him
we disobey your "little" instructions -
instead of speaking and just raising his staff 
before the rock at Meribah, he struck it twice,
 doubting you and your words 
but despite that, you still let waters
gush forth for the peoples and their animals.
The situation is so different at Caesarea
of Philippi, the pagan capital north of Israel
blessed with plenty of water where Jesus
stopped and asked his disciples what people say
 who he is, their answers were so varied 
like our answers these days because we rarely 
get to know you personally, always focused
on your blessings than your very self!
Forgive us, O Lord, for always forgetting you,
when there is plenty of "water" like at Caesarea Philippi.
He said to them,
"But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son
of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
for flesh and blood has not revealed
this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build
my church, and the gates of the
netherworld shall not prevail against it."
(Matthew 16:15-18)
Open our minds and our hearts,
let Jesus reign in us, revealing to us
your plans and your will, God our Father;
let us be faithful to you in the Church
Christ had founded as vessel of your grace
and salvation to nourish us in this earthly journey;
as we celebrate the memorial of the dedication
of St. Mary Major in Rome, may we remain 
united and faithful with the Mother Church
led by the Pope as successor of Peter, the Rock.
Amen.

When “where” and “there” are persons, not locations

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVII-B in Ordinary Time, 25 July 2021
2 Kings 4:42-44 ><]]]]*> Ephesians 4:1-6 ><]]]]*> John 6:1-15
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, Batanes after a storm, 2018.

Beginning today until August 22, 2021, our Sunday gospel will be from the sixth chapter of John who continues last week’s scene of the great crowd following Jesus and his disciples to a deserted place in order to rest after returning from their first mission.

We were told by Mark how Jesus was “moved with pity” upon seeing the people who were “like sheep without a shepherd” that he taught them with so many things (Mk.6:34); after teaching them, Jesus fed them – about 5000 men excluding children and women – from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish with a lot of leftovers gathered that filled 12 wicker baskets!

It is a very beautiful story found in all four gospel accounts but it is only in John’s gospel where we are presented with a more complete and detailed story of the event followed by Jesus Christ’s “bread of life discourse” at Capernaum. Let us focus at the conversations among Jesus, Philip, and Andrew before the miracle where they used the demonstrative pronouns “where” and “there” that indicate deeper meanings.

The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

John 6:4-9
Photo from iStock/Studio-Annika.

When all directions point to Jesus – but we miss!

While praying over today’s gospel, one song kept playing in my mind, the Beatles’ 1966 classic love song by Paul McCartney, Here, There and Everywhere. It is a very lovely music, so unique in many aspects that it is also McCartney’s most favorite as a member of the Fab Four.

What struck me with this Beatles hit are the demonstrative pronouns here, there and everywhere used not to point at directions but to a person, the girlfriend of McCartney at that time he so loved who would also be his Here, There and Everywhere!

To lead a better life, I need my love to be here
Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there

There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking
But she doesn't know he's there

The same is so true with Jesus today asking Philip Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”

Jesus was not asking for a store in that deserted place to buy and get food for the people. John tells us that Jesus said this to test Philip because “he himself knew what he was going to do”. He wanted Philip to look deeper, to see beyond places and things even if his answer was correct, that “two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.”

When odds are against us, when things are beyond us and humanly impossible, where do we go to?

Of course, we go to God!

Where else do we go when we are in deep or great troubles?

We go to prayers, we go to church, we go to the prayer room or Adoration Chapel, or wherever there is peace and silence where we can be with God.

When this pandemic started, where did we go during lockdown? To God with our online Masses at home, daily praying of the Rosary with the whole family. But when the quarantines were eased, we suddenly forgot God, regarding every where as merely a place, a location.

Every where is where God is, where Jesus is!

From Facebook, May 2020.

We now come to that second demonstrative pronoun in the same scene before the miraculous feeding of five thousand said by Simon Peter’s brother Andrew who told Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

How unfair that the boy who actually had Jesus working on his miraculous feeding of the crowd with those five barley loaves and two fish he had given was merely referred by Andrew as there or here!

See how Andrew did not bother to ask the boy’s name because during that time, any male kid had no any significance at all except by the time they reached 13 years of age for the bar mitzvah, when boys begin to read the Torah. In fact, John noted in this narrative how the children and women were not even counted to show their grave error at that time of giving importance only to men.

How sad the same thing continues to our own time when we are taken for granted as a person, reduced to mere statistics, to mere numbers, to there and here!

Despite our insistence on the use of inclusive terms for all, it seems that the more we have actually degraded the human person into objects as we personified objects. Listen to commercials and newscasts to realize what I mean: food is described as “masarap siya” while typhoon is referred to as “siya ay lalabas ng Philippine Area of Responsibility” while persons are made into objects like handsome men called “yummy” or “delicious”. No wonder, people have become like food, good only when young and fresh but when old, discarded like trash! Sometimes, people are labelled like ice cream as “flavor of the month” or “all-time favorite” when rich and famous while ordinary folks are called “dirty ice cream”.

There is always a person to be respected and recognized in every here and there!

Let us heed St. Paul in the second reading telling us “to live in a manner worthy of the call” we have received as beloved children of God “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (cf. Eph. 4:1-3).

How sad that we cannot even look at one another as a brother and a sister, even in our own family circles because we are so focused on the bread, that is, the money and wealth we could get for ourselves. And that is the great irony in this scene: the boy was willing to let go of his five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish yet Andrew did not notice at all the face, the personhood of the boy so kind to share what he had, thinking more of others than himself!

What a tragedy in our time, in our own family and circle of friends, at work and in school, even in our parish community when some people would give more value to things than persons, who would rather maintain or keep their honor and dignity at the expense of others.

Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

When the “where” and “there” of Jesus meet on the Cross

This story of the multiplication of bread occupies an exceptional place in all four gospels. However, it was only John who added a long discourse preached by Jesus at Capernaum after this event to reveal its full meaning.

For John, the multiplication of bread is more than a miracle but a sign, a revelation of supernatural power above the ordinary pointing to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God who is the bread from heaven who had come down to nourish us in this journey of life to eternity like during the time of Moses in the wilderness. Or like Elisha in the first reading, Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread to satisfy the hunger of not just 100 people but over 5000 with leftovers of 12 wicker baskets.

Photo by author, March 2020.

We are reminded of other instances in the Old Testament like the Jewish feast of Passover as backgrounds of this sign by Jesus in the deserted place as a prelude to the sign of the Holy Eucharist he instituted on Holy Thursday that we celebrate daily especially on Sundays as one body, one family. This in turn will reach its highest point on Good Friday as the ultimate sign Jesus Christ’s loving presence when his being the “where” and “there” of God would be revealed in the final sign of the Crucifixion that many would still miss to recognize.

That is why in the next four weeks, we shall hear John narrating to us the discourse by Jesus to explain the full meaning of this multiplication of bread in that deserted place.

When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him 0ff to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

John 6:14-15

Let us “capture” Jesus in the Holy Communion of the Mass later when the priest holds high the Body of Christ saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

Here in the Mass, it is very clear this is where Jesus is, where we get the real food to eat. Tell it to everyone, point unto Jesus, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world like John the Baptist. Most of all, it is in the the Holy Mass where Jesus is present here, there, and everywhere – in his words proclaimed, Body and Blood shared, and with everyone celebrating!

Have a blessed week! Keep safe and stay dry. Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Missing Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 13 July 2021
Exodus 2:1-15   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 11:20-24
Photo by author, St. Agnes Church at Bethsaida, Israel, 2017.
Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds 
had been done, since they had not
repented.  "Woe to you, Chorazin!
Woe to you Bethsaida!  For if 
the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented 
sackcloth and ashes."
(Matthew 11:20-21)
I could hear you, Lord Jesus
crying again the same words
to us in this generation
of not heeding your voice,
of refusing or failing to recognize
God's loving presence among us
in you through the Church.
If our non-Christian brothers and
sisters were given the same 
chance we have been given in
belonging to your Church, 
maybe they have been more 
generous, more kind, and 
more ardent in their faith.
Forgive us, dear Jesus,
for not listening to your words, 
for not meeting you,
for always missing your coming to us
in the Church, in the Sacraments,
and most especially, in the Scriptures.
Sometimes, Lord Jesus
we are like those two Hebrews fighting
pacified by Moses in the first reading
who missed the opportunity of meeting God,
of discovering God among our community
when the culprit dared ask Moses:
"Who has appointed you ruler
and judge over us?
Are you thinking of killing me
as you killed the Egyptian?"
Then Moses became afraid and thought, 
"The affair must certainly be known." 
(cf.Ex.2:11-14)
Teach us, dear Lord
to be like the sister of Moses
who ensured she would not miss
the important opportunity when the Pharaoh's
daughter found baby Moses in a basket among
the reeds while taking a bathe at the river
to find their own mother to nurse the child
you have destined to set free your people from Egypt.
Make us realize every moment a grace of encountering
you Lord, of making your wonderful plans happen.
Amen.

Sts. Peter and Paul, Mirrors of the Church

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2021
Acts of the Apostles 12:1-11 + 2Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 + Matthew 16:13-19
Easter Sunday 2019 at St. Peter’s Rome with Pope Francis, photo from vaticannews.va.

God our loving Father, thank you for this Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul who both mirror to us our primary tasks as stewards of the Church founded by your Son Jesus Christ. Despite our many differences in our personalities and backgrounds, help us find in them what the Church should be and would be by our love and faith in Christ Jesus and the mission he entrusted us.

Remind us we are stewards of the kingdom of heaven among our brothers and sisters – not their masters even if we are entrusted with the power of binding and unbinding

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Matthew 16:18-19

Let us be won over by Jesus Christ, by giving him entirely our faith and love despite our many weaknesses. Like Sts. Peter and Paul, may we keep in mind that our primary task in the Church is to serve, not to rule over the people nor amass wealth and fame along the way.

Let us strive to be loved than be feared so that in every decision we make people may find and realize your Holy Will.

O dear God, as we face today another serious threat of a new COVID-19 strain called Delta variant that is believed to be more dangerous as it spreads so fast, may we witness in our lives as we proclaim in words and in deeds your saving love and mercy in Jesus Christ.

May we offer our very selves like St. Peter and St. Paul, messengers of your love to everyone especially those in the margins of the society so they may continue to keep their faith amidst the many hardships during this pandemic for you, O God is always among us in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Mary, Mother of the Church

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Mary, Mother of the Church, Monday after Pentecost, 24 May 2021
Genesis 3:9-15, 20 +++++ John 2:1-11
Photo by author, December 2020.

On this first day of the resumption of Ordinary Time, a day after Pentecost Sunday when we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit to launch the Church, we also offer this day in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of the Church.

Indeed, inasmuch as she had stayed by your side at the foot of the Cross, Mary has always been with us in our journey as your Mystical Body here on earth. She has always been home for us, taking care of us, looking after us, and reminding us of our mission in you.

She was the first to believe in your saving power, coming to your side when win had ran out in that wedding feast at Cana.

It is so unfortunate that we have always taken her granted.

Worst, some people have maligned and derided her important role in cooperating with all your plans for the Church.

May her charity and fidelity to you, Lord, inspire us to work further for the mission of the Church to make you present in the world now in pandemic, seeking the best ways to pick up the pieces and start anew their lives.

May the world be ready now to listen to the teachings of Mary your Mother to return to you and turn away from sins and evil. Amen.

True greatness in being small to become part of the whole

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Pentecost, 23 May 2021
Acts 2:1-11  ><}}}*>  Galatians 5:16-25  ><}}}*>  John 15:26-27.16:12-15
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

Today we bring to completion our celebration of the Lord’s Paschal Mystery – his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Ascension and Coming of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Although this mystery is one single reality, we have stretched its celebration over a period of 50 days (hence, Pentecost) or more than seven weeks because it will never be enough to fully grasp its whole meaning for it is a continuing reality and mystery in our midst just like the Ascension last week.

Note the upward movement of the Ascension that calls us to “level up” our relationships with God and one another in Christ; today, the downward movement of the coming of the Holy Spirit calls us to being small in order for us to be broken and shared with others. Whenever there is a downward push, what happens usually is a breaking down into smaller parts to fuse with the larger whole like a mix.


...our greatness is in our sharing ourselves with others...  
It is in our becoming small to participate in the whole 
that we truly become great - 
whether in the Church or a community, 
in our personal relationships...

Jesus had taught us in his life and example especially on the Cross that our greatness is in our sharing ourselves with others like him. It is in our becoming small to participate in the whole that we truly become great – whether in the Church or a community, in our personal relationships like family and circle of friends and most especially in the union of man and woman as husband and wife in marriage.

That is why the Pentecost is called the birthday of the Church when the disciples after being filled with the Holy Spirit came out in the open to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. It was actually more of a “coming out party” of the Church that was established by Christ during his Last Supper.

See that since the very beginning, the Church started as a catholic – a whole – at the Last Supper of the Lord when he also instituted the Holy Eucharist that has become the sign of our unity from then on that enabled the disciples to recognize him at Easter at the breaking of bread.

Jesus promised them at the Last Supper how things would get clear to them when the Holy Spirit comes.

"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you
from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds
from the Father, he will testify to me.  And you 
also testify... I have much more to tell you,
but you cannot bear it now.  But when he comes,
the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth."
(John 15:26-27. 16:12-13)

Believing in the Holy Spirit, Believing in the Church

Every Sunday in the Mass we profess our faith, declaring “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church” but, do we really understand its meaning? To believe in God is to believe in the Holy Catholic Church, to forget one’s own agenda in life, to submit ones self to her teachings from Christ our Lord and Master.

It is a declaration of the mystery and reality of the Pentecost, reminding us that becoming Christian means receiving and embracing the whole Church!

This is the beautiful meaning of the account by St. Luke at the first reading of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost at Jerusalem when all barriers – physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual – were broken as the disciples went around speaking in various languages to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ.

When the time of Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky a noise
like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house
in which they were.  Then there appeared to them
tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest
on each one of them.  And they were all filled 
with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues,
as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.
(Acts 1:1-4)

Here we find the disciples of Jesus and their converts on that day of Pentecost allowing themselves to be taken up into the Church!

And how did this happen? St. Luke tells us “Then there appeared to them tongues of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” Each one was parted, was broken down from their sins and selfishness that they became open for each other, trying to understand and accept each one as brother and sister in Christ.

It was a reversal of the story of Babel in Genesis when people were so arrogant and proud building a tower that reaches to heaven who were punished to speak in different languages that led to their confusion and quarrel until they all perished along with their ambitious plan.

Pentecost was different. There were different languages, different peoples with different backgrounds yet they were united and understood each other because everybody tried to become small, to mix into the whole and thus becoming a part of the Church on that day.

Unless we are willing to be parted by the Holy Spirit’s “tongues of fire” and “strong driving wind” like a storm, we can never be filled with God and his holiness to experience his peace and his joy.

It is a lifelong process and that is why Pentecost is a daily reality, happening to us especially when we sometimes have to be shaken by so many events and circumstances that come our way.

In the second reading, we heard St. Paul reminding the Galatians, including us, to “live by the Spirit and not gratify the desire of the flesh” (Gal.5:16). At that time, some missionaries sowed confusion among the Galatians, telling them to follow Jewish practices and Mosaic prescriptions to be fully Christians like circumcision. The issue had long been settled at the Council of Jerusalem but some Jewish converts persisted.

Here, St. Paul teaches us a valuable lesson in resolving conflicts and confusions in daily life in the light of Jesus Christ, of salvation, of the Church. For St. Paul, we always have to ask the Holy Spirit in guiding us in everything, no matter how secular and mundane it may be to find the theological and spiritual implications of our experiences.

What he told the Galatians remains true to our days, that freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want but to choose and do what is good. Every person has that tendency to sin, an imperfection in the “flesh” that is always in contradiction with the “spirit”.

As we have mentioned earlier, our greatness lies in our ability to share and give ourselves to others by dying to our sins and selfish motives, precisely what St. Paul is telling us:

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.

Galatians 5:19-21

These are the things that the Holy Spirit “part” in us when it comes to us daily especially in our prayers and in the celebrations of the sacraments like the Holy Eucharist. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are unified as a person, we become whole and integrated that we see the value and importance of being one with God and with others. It is not longer the rituals that become the law guiding us but the interior law of love of Jesus Christ that enables us to get out of our selfishness to give ourselves in loving service to others.

When we live in the power of the Holy Spirit guided by this interior law of love, that is when we become truly free and experience the gifts and fruits mentioned by St. Paul like peace and joy.

In our world today marred by sin and so many divisions happening in our society and even in the Church, in our communities and right even in our families and personal relationships, let us pray today to the Holy Spirit to come to us, break down within us the many walls we have and lead us to surrender ourselves to God to be led by his hand in continuing the mission of love and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

A blessed week ahead of everyone!

Photo of the stained glass with the Holy Spirit bringing light into the altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Photo from wikipediacommons.org.