“Sleeping” in Christ, trusting in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2022
Acts 12:1-11 ><}}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 ><}}}}*> Matthew 16:13-19
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, August 2021.

Our readings today are a parable of the Church, of what we should and would be as the Body of Christ celebrating the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, the pillars of the Church.

Despite their personalities being poles apart while their social, cultural and religious backgrounds were greatly different, both men were won over by Jesus Christ to proclaim his good news of salvation, eventually dying as martyrs like the Lord. Both apostles displayed deep trust in Jesus Christ whom they have come to know on a personal basis.

Let us reflect first on St. Peter, the “prince of the Apostles” and servant of all. Notice how Peter could sleep soundly inside prison, even between two soldiers as narrated to us by Luke.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.

Acts 12:6-9

It is very amusing, even funny, but facts can truly be stranger than fiction!

How could Peter sleep soundly after being arrested and thrown into prison with two soldiers sandwiching him inside his cell while a host of other guards secured the area outside?

We think again of St. Joseph sleeping soundly in a similar critical situation when he decided to silently leave Mary who was found pregnant with a child before they were married. Too often, we find it difficult to sleep when we have problems because we cannot decide decisively as we lack trust and faith in God. Both Joseph and Peter slept soundly under critical situations because of their complete trust and faith in God.

But, Peter shows us another dimension of his trust in God – his total trust also in the Church, believing that they were all praying for him.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2022.

It is a beautiful imagery of the Church then and now, always in darkness like during night time when Peter was imprisoned. And that is the parable of this scene: it is always a time of Exodus for us in the Church, of passing over from every trials and difficulties, always trusting our leaders, trusting our faithful and most of all, entrusting everything to God!

If there is one thing most needed these days in our Church especially in the Philippines is this attitude of being in an Exodus, of exiting from our excesses from the past, of submitting ourselves more to God than to our own thoughts and plans especially in politics that we have forgotten the more crucial proclamation of the gospel by reaching out to the grassroots level, of witnessing our faith in God instead of lording it over among people, exerting our influences. The recent elections is a dark period of our imprisonment with secular thoughts and dispositions, forgetting our sphere of influence in spiritual matters.

May we, both clergy and laypeople, imitate Peter by abandoning everything to God in deep prayers, following God not our plans as symbolized by his putting on his belt and sandals as commanded by the angel.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

Meanwhile, we find the same kind of total abandonment by Paul of himself to God while in prison where he wrote some of his finest letters like this Second Letter to Timothy, the last of his captivity letters which we heard in the second reading today.

Imagine the stress of being in prison but without any hint of duress on Paul while awaiting death amid all humiliations with his incomparable eloquence:

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:6-7, 17, 18

Very evident in all his letters, Paul had always expressed his total abandonment of self to Christ, of his faith in God. Here in this portion of his second letter to Timothy, we find two important lessons so apt in our celebration of this solemnity.


First is the nature of Christian life lived as a worship: am already being poured out like a libation. That is what I like most with Paul, his mastery of language, always using the most perfect words to express his experiences and ideas. For some, especially first-time readers of Paul, they may find it so “mayabang” as we say in Filipino. But no. For me, Paul is the most sincere and most humble writer in the world of letters then and now.

A libation is a drink offered to gods in ancient Greece and Rome. Here, Paul as he approached death, summarized his entire life as an offering to God that we also see in his other writings.

And that is the challenge of this solemnity to us, that we live our lives as a form of worship to God.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, 15 June 2022.

Our very lives in itself are a prayer, always centered on God, something so foolish when we go by the standards of the world today that is all show – palabas – with nothing substantial inside because only money and fame matter. Paul was very much like Peter who lived their lives as prayers that like Christ in the end, both offered the highest offering of all, martyrdom.

Second thing we find in this short but rich excerpt from Paul’s letter to Timothy is the deeper meaning of death as a passage to heaven, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom”. Like the gospel last Sunday when we heard Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” wherein Jesus freely chose to face his death to fulfill his mission and express his deep love for the Father and for us. To the Philippians Paul declared that “for me life is Christ, death is gain”. Here in his letter to Timothy, Paul freely accepts his death, making it a blessing for others, something we must emulate. Instead of having those bucket lists of things to do before dying, Paul is teaching us death comes in every present moment that we must always prepare for its happening so that the next generation may continue the good things we have started. And that is exactly how until now the Church’s missionary zeal is kept aflame by Paul’s letters and works.


Photo by author, 2019.

In the gospel proclaimed today about the investiture of Peter as the head of the church of Christ, we heard Jesus entrusting to him “the keys to the kingdom of heaven that whatever he binds on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever he loosens on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (cf. Mt.16:19).

As I end this reflection for this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, I wish to use the word “key” in a different sense – the key to unlocking how Peter and Paul achieved so much for God and for the Church lies in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Both apostles who have become the pillars of the Church today truly experienced Jesus in their lives in the most personal and in timate manner that in the process they have mirrored the true Christ himself.

The problems we have in the Church today, notably the declining number of the faithful following an all-time low in credibility is largely due to the many wrong answers we give Jesus to his question “who do people say I am?” Many Christians are losing their faith and interest in the Church because of the mixed signals we give them on what do we say who Jesus is.

The Church grew so wide during the time of Peter and Paul because both apostles shared the true Jesus Christ not only in their words but also in their deeds. May we have the courage to open ourselves to Jesus Christ again so we may know him more clearly, love him dearly, follow him closely and preach him daily. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Won over by Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2022
Acts 12:1-11 ><}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 ><}}}*> Matthew 16:13-19
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.
God our loving Father,
as we celebrate today the
Solemnity of the two pillars
of the Church, St. Peter and St. Paul
who are poles apart in their 
temperament and in their social,
cultural, and religious backgrounds,
help us imitate them in being open
to your grace always, in being open
to your plans so we may set aside
our own agendas in order to be won
over by your Son Jesus Christ. 
Nothing is impossible with you,
dear Father:  
Peter denied Jesus
during the passion while 
Paul persecuted Jesus in
the persons of his disciples;
Peter was impetuous and 
presumptuous but sometimes
hesitant yet solidly loyal to
Christ while Paul was proud 
of his Roman citizenship and of
his being a Pharisee, demanding
his title as Apostle but likewise,
admits his fragility as a "pot of
clay", most unworthy vessel of Christ; 
Peter was attached to his Jewish
roots and convictions but did not resist 
the Holy Spirit in leading him where 
he did not want to go while Paul was 
resolute in being led by the Spirit in
proclaiming Jesus to the gentiles
while deep inside was torn within 
by the resistance and
rejection of his fellow Jews.
Merciful Father,
let your Son Jesus Christ
win over us like what he did
to St. Peter and St. Paul
who both gave their lives as 
a living worship to you,
witnessing your love and mercy,
kindness and majesty;
give us the grace to know Jesus
and love Jesus first so we may
follow him to his Cross 
for your greater glory.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

In praise of women

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, 06 June 2022
Genesis 3:9-15   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   John 19:25-27
Photo by author, 2018.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father
for all the women of the world
as we resume Ordinary Time
in our Church calendar honoring
Mary, Mother of the Church.
How wonderful to recall how
all four evangelists narrated the 
presence of women at the crucifixion
of your Son Jesus Christ:  what a 
most wondrous sight that continues 
to this day when behind every sufferings
we go through are the women who
often join and accompany us even
until death, giving us strength and 
courage, comfort and consolation.
But most wondrous, O God,
is the account of the beloved disciple
of Mary, the Mother of Jesus at the
foot of his Cross on Good Friday,
being addressed as "woman".

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19:25-27
Only you, O God in your Son Jesus, 
can give that unique gift of womanhood
especially your Mother Mary;
you first called her "woman" at the
wedding feast at Cana and now here
at the Cross, when your hour had come.
What a beautiful image, dear Lord,
of Mary, of the woman in your work of
redemption so close and so near you
that is in direct contrast with the other woman
in Genesis, Eve, who turned away from you
in sin.
Bless us dear Jesus, 
to constantly repeat this beautiful
scene at the Cross, as an individual
and as a community of your disciples:
let us relive this scene in our lives
as Christians taking Mary your Mother
as well as the Church into our own homes
and most especially of respecting every
woman still ignored and taken for granted
in this time; let us remember always our
equal dignity with women as image and likeness
of God as we carry out your final instructions
of remaining one in you in love and mercy.
Amen.
Photo by author, 2019.

Holiness is being faithful

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Tuesday, 12 April 2022
Isaiah 49:1-6   +   John 13:21-33, 36-38
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King Procession, 2020.

Maybe so many times you have felt nothing seems to be happening with all your efforts in school or office, in your relationships, and even in your prayers and devotions. Everything seems to be going to nothing at all.

Have a heart. Just be faithful in your studies, in your work, with your family and friends, most especially with God.

Though I thoughts I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.

Isaiah 49:4

When I was still a seminarian, there was a moment after our class when I went straight into our chapel and slouched on a pew, complaining and whining to God for the many problems that never stopped coming my way despite my efforts to be good. With my head bowed down, I had a litany of complaints to God that I felt like packing my things, go home and forget all about the priesthood. But after getting tired with my monologue and as I raised my head, something struck me that I felt so good while looking at our huge image of the Crucifixion at the altar of the chapel. As I looked in silence, I felt myself praying,

"Lord Jesus Christ, 
before all these pains and sufferings came, 
before all these problems happened, 
you were there first on the Cross - 
suffering for me, dying for me first."
Photo by author, ICMAS Chapel (Theology Dept.), 2020.

My dear friends, holiness is being faithful to God in Jesus Christ. St. Mother Teresa perfectly said that, “We are called to be faithful, not successful.” In my 24 years in the priesthood, I have realized that many times, our success are actually failures with God while our failures are what he often considers as success!

Of course, we need to plan and set goals in life and in work but we need to focus more on Jesus Christ as center of our lives, trying to see everything in his light not in our own limited views and perceptions. There so many things in life that cannot be quantified like our spiritual and emotional well-being on which actually depend many of our other aims in our personal and professional life.

Notice how in our gospel today the Apostles were so focused on themselves instead with Jesus that they totally missed what he was telling them about his coming betrayal by “one of them”. Particularly interesting was Simon Peter who asked the beloved disciple, John, to clarify it with Jesus since he was seated closest to him.

He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I had the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.

John 13:25-28

Did you see the comedy, the humor?

Everybody was so focused on everyone and with each self except with Jesus! Were they so dumb not to understand the words of Jesus that to whomever he would give the morsel dipped in wine is the one who would betray him? Not really. Most likely, they were not listening, they were not focused on Jesus but with their very selves.

Being faithful is first of all being focused on God, in Jesus.

How can God fill us with his holiness when our thoughts and our being are always somewhere else or with somebody else? How can God fill us with his holiness when we cannot spend time with him every day in prayer?

Photo by author, Mass by the shore of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

How lovely is the context of Simon Peter’s question that it happened during their Last Supper because that is where our fidelity to God is first nurtured to grow and deepened – at the Holy Eucharist of the Mass.

Remember, the minimum requirement for anyone to be called a good, practicing Catholic is to go Mass every Sunday. That is the most minimum but, have we kept it? It has been more than two months since we returned to alert level 1 in this time of the pandemic with almost everybody going to the malls and many vacation spots but what a shame when many still refuse to go to churches for the Sunday Mass!

Being faithful to Jesus to become holy begins with the Sunday Eucharist where we are nourished by the words of God and by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ himself who enables us to overcome the many trials and difficulties of this life and make it into the Father’s house in eternity.

Have you gone back to your parish church for the Sunday Masses?

Forgive us, Lord Jesus Christ,
for being unfaithful to you, 
for betraying you like Judas Iscariot
right in the context of the Holy Eucharist
when we skip Sunday Masses;
when we come to Mass not for you 
but for our friends to whom we listen more; 
and most especially when we refuse or fail 
to practice the essence of the Eucharist
of sharing the love of Christ to everyone.
Amen.
Photo by author, Parish of St. John the Baptist in Calumpit, Bulacan, 31 March 2022.

Salamin, sabihin sa akin

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-14 ng Pebrero 2022
Larawan kuha ni Jenna Hamra sa Pexels.com
Salamin, 
salamin sa dingding
sabihin sa akin at
ipakita rin
mga puwing 
na hindi ko pansin
ni ayaw kilalanin
ni tanggapin!
Ayoko sanang sabihin
ngunit ito binubulong
ng aking damdamin:
paano nga ba tayo humantong
at ganito ating narating
sa tuwing halalan darating
nagpapanting mga tainga natin
sa mga usaping alam na natin?
Paulit-ulit pinag-uusapan
walang kinahihinatnan
pagkatapos ng halalan
kaya paulit-ulit na lamang
walang katapusang 
mga pangakong binibitiwan
nakakalimutan, pinababayaan
pasan ng taong-bayan, di maibsan.
Tingnan nga natin
at suriin ang sarili
kung atin ding sinasalamin
magagandang adhikain
o mga paratang at
pambabatikos natin
dahil kung tutuusin
ang pamahalaan ay larawan natin.
Larawan kuha ni STANLEY NGUMA sa Pexels.com
Galit tayo sa mga sinungaling
dahil tunay nga sila'y magnanakaw rin;
nguni't paanong naaatim
ng marami sa atin araw-araw
magsinungaling sa kapwa
lalo na't nagtitiwala sa atin
maging Panginoong Diyos
pinagtataksilan natin?
Paanong diringgin
panawagan ng nagmamalinis
gayong batid kanilang
mga bahid na dungis
kaban ng simbahan
pinakialaman
para sa sariling kaluguran
maging kahalayan?
Sila ba'y naparusahan
marahil ni hindi pinagsabihan
at ang masaklap
hinayaan na lamang
alang-alang sa habag
at awa, palaging katwiran
kapatawaran
ng mga kasalanan.
Katapatan sa pangakong
sinumpaan, hindi rin mapangatawanan
kunwa'y maraming kaabalahanan
 ang totoo'y puro kababalaghan
maraming pinupuntahan
kasama'y mayayaman
mga aba at walang-wala
kanila ring iniiwan.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 2020.
Totoo na malaki ang papel ng Simbahan
na ginagampanan tuwing halalan
ngunit huwag sanang makalimutan
sa araw-araw na katapatan ang tunay na labanan
kung saan mga alagad at pastol ng kawan
magsilbing huwaran sa paglilingkod
kaisa ang bayan ng Diyos
sa karukhaan, kagutuman at kapighatian.
Salamin, salamin sa dingding
kami ba'y marunong pang manalangin?
Bakit tila hindi dinggin ating mga panalangin
gayong mabuti ating layunin?
Diyos pa ba pinagtitiwalaan,
pinananaligan natin o baka naman
lumalabis mga salita natin
habang salat mabubuting gawa natin?
Salamin, salamin sa dingding
kung kami ay magising
maging kasing ingay ng batingaw
katapatan namin sa araw-araw
na gampanin, hindi katiting
pinagaganda lang ng kuliling
lalo na kung mayroong nakatingin
para lang mapansin.
Ang dapat nating ipanalangin
hindi lamang ang halalang darating
kungdi makatotohanang pagsusuri
at pag-amin sa mga kasalanan natin;
pagkaraan ng limang-daang taon
pagkakanya-kanyang dinatnan ni Magellan
umiiral pa rin habang mga puna at pansin 
nina Rizal at GomBurZa nananatiling pangarap pa rin.
Larawan mula sa commons.wikimedia.org

Listening leads to presence

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday III-C in Ordinary Time, 23 January 2022
Nehemiah 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, January 2019.

I am still in quarantine after testing positive for COVID last Monday. One good thing I have realized these past days is how precious every moment of life as I counted each day, checking on my vital signs three times daily until I will have completed soon the required seven days.

Sometimes, we only realize the existential meaning and gravity of every “today” when we go through a difficult phase in life like getting COVID or like the Israelites finally getting home from exile, suddenly hearing the word of God proclaimed after many years of silence:

Then Ezra the priest-scribe said to all the people “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep,” for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further, “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”

Nehemiah 8:9-10

There are also times in our lives when suddenly we become so open to God’s words, so focused on Jesus to experience his presence like that sabbath day in a synagogue in Nazareth:

Photo by author, January 2019.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the yes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:20-21

Thanks to COVID that now I have felt how difficult it is to be separated from everyone, considering the mild symptoms I had as a fully vaxxed with booster too. It must have been so traumatizing for those who caught the virus during the early surges of 2020 and 2021 without the benefits of the vaccines and other modern medicines. Many of them who survived COVID or have lost loved ones until now feel the pains and hurts of those experiences. Indeed, it is after a difficult situation when we truly realize the value of every present moment we have with our loved ones, when everyone becomes so real and precious, when every present is truly a gift.

Today our readings invite us to slow down, to saunter – so to speak – as we journey in Jesus with Luke as our guide who at his prologue to his gospel tells us how he had “investigated everything accurately anew” regarding the “certainty of teachings of Jesus handed down” to us since the beginning (cf. Lk.1:3-4). Like with our loved ones we miss so much these days of quarantine and surge, Jesus reminds us to always listen to make everyone and him present in us.

Our conscious coming into the Father’s house

Last Sunday at the Feast of the Sto. Niño we reflected how we exercise our child-like traits before God whenever we go into “the Father’s house” like the 12-year old Jesus who was found at the Temple. Our going into the Father’s house to pray and receive the Sacraments expresses our rootedness and oneness with God through Jesus Christ.

This Sunday in our gospel, we find Jesus going again into his Father’s house to “proclaim and claim” the word of God as his very presence among us.

Imagine his movements in “slo-mo” when “He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” (Lk.4:16-18).

It must have been a moving moment for everyone. So mesmerizing for here was a man so present, so strongly felt with something in him freely walking up to proclaim the word of God. And what an experience for everyone that after “Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:21).

That “today” would be repeated by Jesus with the same intensity on Good Friday shortly before he died when he promised to Dimas “today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk.23:43).

But, do we make that conscious approach in coming into the Father’s house to celebrate the Sacraments particularly the Sunday Eucharist where the first part itself is devoted to the liturgy of the Word?

Photo by author, April 2020.

In non-verbal communications, we have that communication of spaces called “proxemics”, of how places are designed and positioned to convey something special and profound. Houses of worship of every faith are built on this important aspect of proxemics as every space conveys something about God and his people.

One example of proxemics is the patio of the church with its tall cross at the middle to remind the faithful they are about to enter the Father’s house, of their need to dispose themselves both inside and outside by being silent and being dressed properly.

Sadly, many churches in the country has no patio at all or its patio had become a parking area and worst, a basketball court. What is most tragic is how all these dispositions of coming into the Sunday Mass are disregarded by many people, led by church volunteers who talk endlessly with one another while some priests dress and look sloppily. This is one of the positive aspects of the Tridentine or Latin Mass where the atmosphere of solemnity fills the church and the people as well – and that is why many of the faithful are asking for it! A good example of what St. Paul tells us about the unity in diversity within the Church in the Holy Spirit.

How can we experience the “today” of Jesus being present in us and among us when we do not have such kind of attitude and disposition to listen to him which begins outside the church? If we cannot do it in the proxemics or spatial level, how can we even do it right inside our hearts, whether we are laypeople or the clergy?

Listening to Christ today

One of my favorite writings by the great St. John Paul II is Ecclesia de Eucharistia published in 2003. He tells us something so beautiful about the “universal and cosmic character” of the Eucharist which for me captures the essence of the “today” mentioned by Jesus in the gospel:

Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #8).

Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #8

This is very true but we rarely experience it happening because we have refused to immerse ourselves in the very words of God. So few among our people read and pray the scriptures while many of us priests rarely speak the Lord’s words as we prefer to tell what we have seen or heard in media or from some famous theologians or thinkers.

Whatever our vocation and place in the Church and the assembly, each of us must immerse one’s self in the word of God first because it is his very presence too. In the story of creation, we learned how everything came into being simply with the words spoken by God.

Photo by author, ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum in Galilee frequented by Jesus, May 2017.

This Sunday we have heard how Jesus “read” on a sabbath at a synagogue in Nazareth, of how in his proclamation of that part of the Book of Isaiah the very words were fulfilled in their hearing.

It happens daily in the celebration of the Mass everywhere in the world whenever we – lay and clergy alike – imitate Jesus, asking us first of all to come with strong desire to be one with the Father, whether in his house of worship or in our room when we pray the scriptures.

Let us enter God with Jesus and in Jesus in the Sacred Books to find him there so we can listen to him how and what he reads, not what we want to hear and say.

We can only touch the hearts of the people and make them hear God speaking again in his words offered us daily in the Mass if we first learn and listen to what Jesus reads and tells us. It is only then when we hear the Word who became flesh that we are able to respond, “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.” Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead.

In our Father’s house

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Feast of the Sto. Niño, Sunday II in Ordinary Time, 16 January 2022
Isaiah 9:1-6 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18 ><}}}*> Luke 2:41-52
Photo by author, Sto. Niño exhibit at the Malolos Cathedral, 13 January 2022.

We Filipinos celebrate the longest Christmas season in the world which starts – unofficially -every September first when radio stations begin playing Christmas songs, ending officially today, the third Sunday of January with the Feast of the Sto. Niño (Holy Child Jesus).

Today’s feast is considered a part of the Christmas season which is in recognition of the crucial role of the image of Sto. Niño given by Magellan 500 years ago to Queen Juana of Cebu in the evangelization process of the Philippines. As the late Nick Joaquin would rightly claim in his essays, the Philippines was colonized by the Sto. Niño which is clearly seen in its widespread devotion coming in close second with Nuestro Padre Hesus Nazareno of Quiapo we celebrate every January 09.

What a wonderful “coincidence” or Divine intervention that the two most popular Christ devotions in the country happen on the same month of January, immediately after Christmas, reminding us despite our many shortcomings as the only Christian nation in this part of the world, Jesus reigns supreme in our hearts and homes.

And churches.

Despite the many accusations hurled against our brand of Christianity, of being sacramentalized but not evangelized, we can find hope and consolation in our being as very “church people” – our coming to the church even outside during this pandemic period in itself is a child-like trait, a grace we can deepen for a more matured faith that can lead to our transformation as a people.

This we see in our gospel today which we have heard proclaimed last month at the Feast of the Holy Family, a day after Christmas that was also a Sunday.

Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Luke 2:41-43, 46, 48-49
“The Finding of the Savior at the Temple” painting by William Holman Hunt (1860) from en.wikipedia.org.

We are all children of the Father in Christ

When we examine Christ’s life and teachings, we find how everything is anchored in being a child of God the Father as he would always remind everyone that unless one becomes like a child, one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

This Jesus clearly showed when he was 12 years old after staying behind at the Temple in Jerusalem that left Mary and Joseph so “anxiously looking for him”.

We see in this gospel scene how Jesus must have been so rooted in his own childhood experience that he could speak with familiarity about the child’s being and dignity. Most of all, of being the Son of God, a child of God when he told his Mother Mary, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk.2:49).

As he grew up and matured during his ministry, Jesus frequented the synagogues and later the Temple as a devout and faithful Jew.

What a beautiful expression of his being a child of the Father, always coming to the “Father’s house” to worship and praise, to be one with God and with the people.

What a beautiful expression of his – and our being children of God the Father!

Every time we come to the church to celebrate the Sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist, every time we come to pray inside the church, we express our being children of the Father. It is the most beautiful expression of our being child-like before God when we come to him in his house of worship in total surrender, on bended knees to plea for his grace and mercy.

Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, September 2021.

To believe in the Church and come inside the church is part of our faith in the mystery of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ we profess in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church”.

Recall that after cleansing the Temple, Jesus declared to those asking him for signs to “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn.2:19) with the Evangelist’s added note, “But he was speaking about the temple of his body” (Jn.2:21). Eventually on Good Friday as he died on the cross, we are told in another gospel account how “the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom” (Mt.27:50), indicating a new phase in worshipping God in his Son Jesus Christ who has become the Body of the new people he had called that includes us today, the Church.

Therefore, every time we come to the church as a community of people, it is an act of being child-like as taught by our Lord Jesus Christ in the same manner he told his parents that “I must be in my Father’s house”.

Our being able to come to the church for the Mass and the other sacraments is a pure grace from God, an act of being child-like before him when we submit ourselves to him, when we try to listen to his words proclaimed, when we believe in the power of prayers and Sacraments.

At the height of this pandemic when religious gatherings were banned, so many faithful expressed their child-likeness to God by turning to on-line Masses and prayers.

However, as we slowly open up churches for live celebrations, there now arises the call for us to return into the Father’s house. The very nature of the Church as the Body of Christ and the Sacraments presuppose presence.

Here, we find the great relevance of today’s Feast of the Sto. Niño to return to the Father’s house and reconnect anew with our fellow disciples without disregarding health protocols of course.

When the Spaniards returned to the Philippines in 1565 (40 years after Magellan), they saw the Sto. Niño venerated on an altar above other anitos inside a hut presumed to be a house of worship of the natives. Most likely, the natives felt the Sto. Niño as the superior deity always answering their prayers for abundant harvests, healing from sickness or avoidance of pestilence, and fertility for more children to work in the fields. Again, the imagery of that child-like attitude of coming into the “Father’s house” to commune in prayer by those natives.

Photo by author, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 14 January 2022.

It is perhaps the new challenge we will be facing as the COVID-19 virus wears off as experts claim, how to bring back people into the Father’s house. Confounding the problem is the lure of the convenience of online Masses that have commodified the Sacrament, a clear indication of lack of any child-like attitude but more of manipulation.

Added to this is the relativistic attitude of modern time when some people claim to believe in God without necessarily having the need to believe in the Church that is deeply embroiled in cases of sexual abuses by its clergy.

All of these are calls for everyone in the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church which is a mystery in itself for its members, clergy and lay alike, to recapture that child-like attitude of Jesus himself to always affirm his being in the Father’s house. Amen.

A blessed week ahead to everyone. Stay safe!

Red without fear: the Church journeying as one

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Red Wednesday, 24 November 2021
Revelation 15:1-4   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 21:12-19
Photo by author, Red Wednesday 2020.
It is this time of the year again,
dear God our Father, when we 
your people unite with the Pope's
official charity for persecuted Christians
worldwide through the Aid to the
Church in Need (ACN) to celebrate
Red Wednesday.
Yes, your Church continues to suffer
persecution in various forms, some
very subtle while in others very violent;
but this year, we pray most specially not
only for our Filipino martyrs who sacrificed
their lives for the Gospel but most of all
for each one of us to be a living witness
in taking the path of your Son Jesus Christ
as one Church.
As we come to the closing of our 500 years of
Christianization while preparing for the 
Synod of Bishops in 2023, help us to 
remember, celebrate, and promote 
oneness and unity in faith as we journey 
as one Church.
Banish all our fears, let us persevere
amid the trials and persecution that 
come specially from those closest to
us, those who refuse and continue to
deny you, choosing a life of sin and evil.
Inflame us, O Lord, with your fire of love
and zeal to always seek and stand by your
truth and justice; let us not, through our 
stupid choices, face your "anger" or "fury"
John saw in his vision at the "sea of glass
mingled with fire" (Rev.15:1-4) and be 
denied entry for not being worthy. Amen.

We are God’s temple

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 November 2021
1 Maccabees 4:3-37, 52-59   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 19:45-48
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, November 2020.
Today you remind us, dear God
our Father, of the need to keep our
house of worship always in order, 
clean and sacred; like Judas and
his brothers who rededicated and purified
your Temple in Jerusalem after driving
away the pagans, may we also keep
in mind that your house of worship is
always indicative of the kind of relationship 
and faith we have in you.
While it is very true you dwell in us
your people, O God, for we are indeed
your temple, we cannot discount the fact
that the way our church buildings and facilities 
look like show the kind of people we are, 
of how much care and respect we have for you 
and for one another; buildings and material
structures of any church and house of worship
always reflect the spirituality or lack of it 
of the pastors who minister and the
people who celebrate and worship there.
It is in this manner we become truly
your very temple! 
Cleanse our hearts in Jesus Christ,
may he dwell in our hearts and reign
over us so that we the people, the 
body of believers become your true
temple dear God, no matter what others
may say for or against us like the chief
priests, scribes and leaders of the 
people during the time of Jesus.
Amen.

Zeal for God not enough

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul, 18 November 2021
1 Maccabees 2:15-29   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Luke 19:41-44
Photo by author, Capernaum, Israel, 2017.
Once again we celebrate today
the Dedication of two other major 
churches in Rome, the Basilicas of 
St. Peter and St. Paul, the two pillars
of the Church who signify our unity 
as one body in Jesus Christ.
Thank you, dear God our Father
for this tremendous grace of being
your holy people that unfortunately
many among us disregard, even 
refuse to recognize; worst, many have turned 
away from the Church in the belief that
they can worship you on their own.
Teach us anew the importance 
of having "zeal" for you and your Church, 
of being zealous for your house of stone here
like Jesus two weeks ago who cleaned the temple
and now like Mattathias and his men 
filled with zeal in preserving the sanctity 
and honor of your house of worship;
twice the word “zeal” was used in today's
first reading to show the men’s passion for you, 
dear God.

Then Mattathias went through the city shouting, “Let everyone who is zealous for the law and who stands by the covenant follow after me!” Thereupon he fled to the mountains with his sons, leaving behind in the city all their possessions. Many who sought to live according to righteousness and religious custom went out into the desert to settle there.

1 Maccabees 2:27-29
How sad, O God, 
when it is us your priests 
who lack the zeal 
in keeping your sanctuary holy 
and dignified for worship;
worst, when we also lack 
the courage to sustain our zeal for you!
Zeal for you alone is never enough, Lord, 
while too much zeal can sometimes 
distract us from you; give us focus
and direction in our zeal for you.
Let us not be like Simon Peter 
who zealously asked Jesus to let him 
walk on water but upon seeing the strong winds, 
he was terrified and started to sink;
help us learn in prayers and faith like
St. Peter and St. Paul, Mattathias and his men
"who sought to live according to righteousness 
and religious custom went out into the desert" 
to cultivate and harness other virtues needed 
so that our zeal for you would lead us and 
your people closer to you in worship and in
service.  Amen.