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.

Jesus, our only true ally

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

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

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

Zeal for God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of Dedication of the Lateran Basilica, 09 November 2021
Ezekiel 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 ><)))*> 1 Corinthians 3:9-13, 16-17 ><)))*> John 2:13-22
Photo by author, Jerusalem, 2017.
Glory and praise to you,
God our loving Father in heaven!
As we celebrate today the feast of
the dedication of the "mother and head
of all churches of Rome and the world" -
the Lateran Basilica - my thoughts
returned to Jerusalem where it all started
when your Son Jesus Christ cleansed
the Temple just before the Passover.

He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, “Zeal for your house will consume me”.

John 2:14-17
Fill us with your Holy Spirit
to be like Jesus, full of zeal for you,
O God and for our Mother Church;
let us come to the church like Jesus
on that day in all humility and simplicity
"riding a donkey", with nothing else
except the desire to praise and serve you
by cleansing and purifying our very selves,
putting things in order in the church
where at the very core are always the 
poor and needy with whom Jesus identified
himself with.
Like that "whip out of cords" that Jesus used to
drive the traders in the temple area, bind us
together as one again, ready and willing 
to suffer and die on the Cross with Christ
for the sake of our unity and communion 
in him, with him and through him.
We pray for more zeal in us as we journey
together as a Church in the ongoing "synod on 
synodality" in preparation for the most unique
Synod of Bishops called by Pope Francis beginning
this October until 2023; may it be a journey for us
all in the spirit of sharing, reflecting, and listening
for a "synodal Church of communion, participation
and mission".  Amen.
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, 2016.

Jesus, our glorious temple

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 24 September 2021
Haggai 1:15-2:1-9   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 9:18-22
Good Friday 2020 in my former parish.
I could feel and hear you, Lord
speaking to me, asking me like Haggai:
"Who is left among you that saw
this house in its former glory?
And how do you see it now?
Does it not seem nothing 
in your eyes?" (Haggai 2:3)
When I remember the images 
of the first few months of pandemic
last year that fell on the Holy Week
and Easter Season, I felt like Haggai
and the returning exiles to Jerusalem
seeing their temple in ruins, still under
construction;  how I long, O Lord, to those
glory days when we celebrate and adore
you in our beautiful church!
But now, with the pandemic's second 
year, our churches remain half empty.
How long shall we wait, Lord,
for COVID-19 to end so we can
go back to our church to celebrate
your presence, your love, your
salvation in Jesus Christ?
Strengthen us, dear God;
deepen our faith in you,
awaken our hope in you;
let us take courage like your
priests and returning exiles
to Jerusalem to await your promise
to "shake the heavens and the earth,
the sea and the dry land...
to shake all nations" (Haggai 2:6-7)
when you bring back the glory days
of worshipping you again in your
temple.
Most of all, open our minds
and our hearts to be shaken
inside for us to realize and 
wholly embrace the Passion,
Death, and Resurrection of 
Jesus your Christ (Luke 9:22), dear Father:
he is our glorious temple,
more magnificent than any church
or edifice when found in the hearts
of your people who abide in you,
who rely only on you.  Amen.
Easter 2020 in our former Parish.

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.