Following Jesus in lights and darkness by Caravaggio

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 20 September 2021
Detail of Caravaggio’s painting, “Calling of St. Matthew” from en.wikipedia.org.

That beautiful painting by Caravaggio, “The Calling of St. Matthew” completed in 1600 for the French congregation of San Luigi Francesi in Rome is said to be the favorite of Pope Francis among the many other masterpieces found in the eternal city.

It was through the Holy Father that I have started to fall in love with Caravaggio’s works, promising myself to see them if given another chance to return to Rome. His paintings like the meeting of Thomas Didymus with the Risen Lord and his breaking of bread at Emmaus evoke body movements and inner motions among the characters that lead us to continue the beautiful story of his subject.

And that is what I wish to share with you on this Feast of St. Matthew, a reflection on his sitting, arising and standing to follow Jesus who had called him while at work as a tax collector.

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

Matthew 9:9
From shutterstock.com.

Sitting. Many centuries from now, anthropologists and other experts will be studying our generation on how humans have evolved – or retrogressed – with our spending too much time sitting. Doctors warn of the many health risks that result in prolonged sitting like obesity and heart disease. They have recently sounded the alarm anew following a surge in zoom meetings and webinars as well as the new set ups of classes on-line and work from home that entail sitting for long hours.

When the term “couch potato” was coined in the 1980’s, potato growers in the US complained against the association of their beloved crop with those people glued on their seats watching TV, doing nothing at all.

Sitting is an important human movement especially in studying and learning lessons through reading and writing, meeting and discussions. Meals become more satisfying and fulfilling when taken while seated in a leisurely manner whether at the table or even on the ground like picnics in the park or forest. In fact, it is when we are seated at the table for meals we are most peaceful and neutral – nobody eats with weapons laid on the table or while holding a gun or clenching a fist which is the reason why we are not supposed to rest our elbows on the table!

Imagine St. Matthew when he was called by Jesus, while sitting at the customs post: here we find sitting at its worst imagery of being stuck on our seats of comfort and complacency, sins and other vices. Worst is see how in our modern time we have given so much premium on where we sit to insist on our ego trips and sense of territory as well as claims to fame and prominence not realizing that what really matters in life is not where we sit but where we stand (https://lordmychef.com/2019/02/22/it-is-where-we-stand-that-matters-most-not-where-we-sit/).

From en.wikipedia.org.

Following Jesus

Going back to Caravaggio’s painting, we notice everybody seated at the table with St. Matthew dressed in the artist’s period of the 1600’s to show that Jesus continues to come in our own particular time in history.

Most of all, the gospel tells us that St. Matthew was seated at his customs post when called by Jesus but Caravaggio’s painting portrays them to be inside a tavern to tell us that we are also St. Matthew whom Jesus visits and calls daily while we are busy or drunk sitting at our comfort zones, in our vices and sins, in our complacency and mediocrity.

And like St. Matthew, we, too, are invited to rise and follow Jesus right away!


Don't you hear how Jesus is calling you daily, 
asking you, "will the real you please rise up and stand for who you really are"?
See yourself the way Jesus sees you - forgiven and beloved,
precious and loved.  No need for us to look good before Jesus.
Just rise and stand with him!

Standing. Following Jesus demands that we must first rise from our seats to make a stand for Jesus and his teachings of love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, service and self-sacrifice. Notice how St. Matthew, the fat man at the middle with a black hat like a beret pointing to the man bowed down to the table.

See and feel the hesitancy of St. Matthew – like us – always wondering, asking God, “is it I, Lord?” So many times we cannot believe Jesus really looking for us, wanting us, calling us, believing in us!

And in all that beautiful interplay of light and darkness by Caravaggio in his painting, we feel the eyes of Jesus looking at our beloved apostle as if telling him, “yes, you, Matthew; Follow me”.

Cast all your doubts if Jesus were really calling you, believing in you, trusting you – he does! Jesus always comes to each of us in the most personal manner like with all his apostles, telling us, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit” (Jn.15:16).

Don’t you hear how Jesus is calling you daily, asking you, “will the real you please rise up and stand for who you really are”? See yourself the way Jesus sees you – forgiven and beloved, precious and loved. No need for us to look good before Jesus. Just rise and stand with him!


Photo from Facebook of nuns delivering relief goods to people in far-flung areas during the pandemic last year.

Walking. It is not enough for us to remain standing. Making a stand for Jesus means to follow him in his path of justice and love, mercy and forgiveness, being small and the least serving the weak and the poorest of the poor.

To walk in Christ is to be like Christ because Jesus himself is “the way the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6).

Walking in Christ is following the “road less travelled” that leads to the Cross of self-offering and sacrifice, of love and acceptance.

Notice in Caravaggio’s painting how he portrayed Jesus in his own traditional clothes along with Simon Peter – and they are both barefooted!

There seems to be a slight commotion wherein Simon is like warning the man with a sword close to him to be still, to not make any move for they are walking away soon once St. Matthew rises and stands from his seat. Look at the feet of Jesus and Simon; they are all set to walk, as if telling St. Matthew, “come on, let us go!”

But where to?

While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Matthew 9:10-13

We all first walk home with Jesus, right into our hearts to reconcile again with him and be healed of many hurts and aches in the past. Then, we walk with Jesus to our fellow sinners so that they too may experience Christ’s love and forgiveness.

Following Jesus, walking on his path of the cross means going to those forgotten by us and the society, walking to meet those who are not like us – in beliefs and way of thinking, in clothing and appearances, in disposition and backgrounds.

It can be a lonely walk filled with pains and sufferings, and yes, disappointments like the two disciples who walked back to Emmaus on Easter without realizing Jesus was the stranger who had joined them along the way. That is the beauty of walking with Jesus, in Jesus, and to Jesus: you never see him nor recognize him right away but he is always with us, walking with us by our side even if we are going the opposite direction in life!

Walking the way of Jesus is tough and rough. It is not easy but it is the only way we must follow. That is why we need to rest in Jesus, with Jesus who asks us to be seated again as he washes our feet to comfort and console us, and prepare us for longer walks in the journey.


Photo by Ms. JJ Jimeno of GMA-7News, Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, UP Diliman, 2019.

Kneeling. Of all the body movements modern man has forgotten is kneeling. Again, look at Caravaggio’s painting, take a peek below the table and notice the robust knees of St. Matthew, look at the soft throw of light on his right leg and the softer tone on his left.

Caravaggio must be telling us something about the healthy lower body of St. Matthew despite his sitting position. See Caravaggio’s genius in throwing that soft light on St. Matthew’s legs and knees that were made strong not only by long hours of standing and walking with Jesus but with longer time of kneeling and praying after the Lord’s Ascension.

Kneeling is one very important gesture and body movement we must regain to truly follow Jesus and regain order in ourselves and in our nation. It is the best praying position for it signifies surrender and humility before God. In fact, for the Hebrews, the knee is the symbol of strength that to bend one’s knees – to kneel – means to submit one’s self to God the all-powerful.

How sad when people refuse to kneel because their knees or expensive pants and clothes might get dirty. Worst of all is when we have refused to kneel and bend our knees because we feel so strong and able to accomplish a lot that we would rather be pursuing our own interests than following Jesus.

Photo by author, 07 September 2021.

Like Caravaggio’s painting of “The Calling of St. Matthew”, our lives and nation are into a great darkness due to the pandemic and the worsening decadence in every aspect of our society.

It is not a time to be a fence-sitter or a bystander; Jesus calls us to arise and make a stand against the pervading evils, asking us whom are we really following in this journey in history and life.

Amid the gloom are streaks of light bringing hope and reason, truth and goodness, inviting us to learn from the call of St. Matthew to…

Sit and learn more of Jesus
Rise and stand with Jesus
Walk and follow Jesus 
Kneeling always at the foot of his cross 
to truly follow him our Lord and Master.
Amen.

The Holy month of August

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 August 2021
Photo by Fr. John Howard Tarrayo, National Shrine and Parish of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 06 August 2021.

Like the months of November and January, August now suffers the same fate of being more known with pagan rituals and beliefs despite its rich liturgical celebrations and feasts we celebrate – ironically – as the only Christian nation in this part of the world.

Spurred mainly by the social media, more and more Filipinos now believe that August is a “ghost month” with almost everybody even not a Chinoy are posting those “Do’s” and “Don’ts” on Facebook to cast away or avoid the evil spell by ghosts that August is supposed to bring.

What a sad reality in our Catholic Christian country.

Forty or 30 years ago, all we have was “pangangaluluwa” when some people would sing in front of our homes for some donations like in caroling during Christmas season. With the advent of social media and our penchant for anything American, we now have every November those grossly erroneous and pagan Halloween practices of costume party and “trick or treat”. Not far from that is our January tradition borrowed also from pagans of literally welcoming every New Year with a lot of “bang”, wasting precious money that also cost some lives and injuries to so many due to fireworks and firecrackers.

Here we find the kind of religiosity that binds most of us, more on rites and rituals but lacking in roots and spirituality, centered on ourselves to be assured of every kind of blessings, forgetting all about the very object of faith who is God expressed in our concern for one another.


August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year.  
Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one.  
No day nor date nor time is malas because 
when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, 
life has become holy, filled with God, 
debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year. Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one. No day nor date nor time is malas because when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, life has become holy, filled with God, debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

In this regard a text by Saint Gregory Nazianzen is enlightening. He says that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ[2]. This scene, in fact, overturns the world-view of that time, which in a different way has become fashionable once again today. It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. In ancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. Heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love[3].

#5 of Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 30 November 2007
From catholicapostolatecenter.org.

Consider the name of this month August which was borrowed from the Roman Caesar Augustus that signifies reverence or to hold someone in high regard. As an adjective, august means “respected and impressive” like when we say “in this august hall of men and women of science”.

Most of all, consider the great feasts that fall on this month of August: the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ on August 6 and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven on August 15. Both feasts remind us of the promise of glory in heaven as we strive and persevere to lead holy lives in this world filled with pain and sufferings.

(See our blogs on these feasts, https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/06/transfiguration-in-time-of-corona/ and https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/14/mary-mirror-of-gods-greatness/.)

There are also so many saints we celebrate on this month of August like our patron saint as priests, St. John Vianney (August 4); St. Dominic who died 800 years ago on August 8 after serving not only the Church but also the whole world in general when he founded the Order of Preachers (O.P.) also known as the “Dominicans”; St. Clare of Assisi (August 11), a contemporary and friend of St. Francis; St. Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20) who wrote so many beautiful homilies, hymns and prayers like the Memorare; St. Rose of Lima (August 23) who was the first saint from the New World; and of course not to forget the greatest mother and son tandem next maybe to Mary and Jesus, St. Monica (August 27) and St. Augustine (August 28).

August is also the month of two great followers of Jesus, St. Bartholomew the Apostle (August 24) and two former Pharisees who buried our Lord, St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. Nicodemus (August 31). Likewise, it is on August 29 when we celebrate the martyrdom of the Lord’s precursor, St. John the Baptist who was beheaded during the birthday party of Herod who was so afraid to take back his oath to give whatever Salome would ask him after delighting his guests with a dance number.

There are two special saints we celebrate this holy month that according to St. John Paul II are both saints of our modern time, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (August 09) and St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14). Both saints were martyred in the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

St. Teresa Benedicta is the same German philosopher Edith Stein, a former Jew who had become an atheist in her younger years in the university but upon further studies and prayer, converted into Catholicism, becoming a Carmelite nun where she adopted her new name. She wrote in one of her writings that “Those who seek truth seek God, whether they realize it or not“.

Though she had become Catholic, she did not abandon her Judaic roots, even writing the Pope at that time to ask him to speak strongly against the Nazi Germans’ extermination of Jews. Her death on August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz with her younger sister who had become a Catholic too was a fitting testimony to her faith, honoring her Jewish roots by dying among them as a martyr of Christ and one who had “learned to live in God’s hands” according to Sr. Josephine Koeppel, OCD, a translator of much of her works.

Dying ahead of her in Auschwitz on August 14, 1941 was St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who was arrested for his writings against the evil Nazis. It was actually his second time to be arrested.

When a prisoner had escaped from the camp, authorities rounded up ten men to die in exchange of the lone escapee. Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a married man with children. They were all tortured and starved in order to die slowly in pain. A devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Maximilian was injected with carbolic acid on the eve of the Assumption after guards found him along with three other prisoners still alive, without any signs of fear like screaming but silently praying.

Photo of Auschwitz from Google.

We no longer have gas chambers but atrocities against human life continue in our time, hiding in the pretext of science and laws. Until now, men and women, young and old alike including those not yet born in their mother’s womb are hunted and killed to correct what many perceived as excesses and wrongs in the society. Just like what Hitler and his men have thought of the Jews at that time.

The Nazi officers and soldiers of Auschwitz remind us the true “ghosts” or evil spirits of our time sowing hatred and deaths are people who may be well-dressed, even educated in the best schools, and come from devout or “normal” families. They sow evil every day without choosing any particular month, blindly following orders without much thinking and reflections or introspection.

By the lives of the many great saints of August, or of any other month for that matter, we are reminded especially in this time of the pandemic that holiness is not being sinless but simply being filled with God, allowing that holiness to spill over and flow onto others with our lives of authenticity to the truth of God among us in Christ expressed in charity and mercy, kindness and justice, humility and openness with one another.

It is very sad and depressing to watch in the news and social media feeds how some among us continue to display their lack of any concern at all with the suffering people with their lavish lifestyles and display of expensive clothes and food. And worst of all are those men and women, in power or hungry for power, in their excessive display of brute force against the weak and the poor.

Let us make every month holy and blessed with our good deeds to make everyone aware of Christ’s presence among us.

Photo from inquirer.net.

Looking intently

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 30 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18   ><]]]]*> ><)))'> ><]]]]*>   Luke 4:16-30
From Forbes.com
"Rolling up the scroll,
Jesus handed it back to the attendant
and sat down, and the eyes of all in the
synagogue looked intently at him."
(Luke 4:20)
So many times in life, Lord,
we are like your townsfolk in Nazareth
who looked intently at you after
proclaiming the scriptures,
after saying or doing something
so beautiful.
But, what do we "looked intently at" you, Jesus?

Is it really you whom we look at?
Is it the Father whom we try to look and find
in you, his mercy and love?
Or, it is still our very selves
 with all our personal interests,
 of what we can have from you,
that we look intently at you?
"Then we who are alive,
who are left, will be caught up
together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, console one another 
with these words."
(1 Thessalonians 4:17-18)
How funny, O God our Father,
how the early Christians also looked intently
for the Second Coming of your Son Jesus
while us in this time no longer look forward
for that great day of "new heaven, new earth";
people hardly looked intently to you these days
and if ever they do so, most often
because with our personal interests.
Give us the grace, dear God,
to start looking intently again to you
and for you in Christ Jesus,
in his coming to "bring glad tidings to the poor,
to claim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to you"
(Luke 4:18-19).
In this time of the pandemic
when so many are suffering
and getting sick
and dying,
let us look intently anew
to everyone with love and respect,
kindness and compassion
as if we are looking at you
in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

Aral ng lumot sa panahon ng pandemya

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-25 ng Agosto 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Tam-Awan, Baguio City, 2018.
Minsan isang umagang kay panglaw
sikat at busilak ng araw aking tinatanaw
ako ay gininaw sa malagim na katotohanan
hindi pa rin papanaw 
at patuloy pang hahataw 
pananalasa nitong pandemya;
Kahit mayroon nang bakuna
dumarami pa rin mga nahahawa
isang paalala maaring lumala pa
bago humupa at tuluyang mawala na.
Noon din ay aking namataan 
mga tumutubong halaman 
sa kapaligiran tila nagsasabi
huwag susuko
magpatuloy sa paglago
ano man ang panahon
tagtuyot o pag-ulan
manatiling luntian
maski mga dahon lamang
saka na mga bulaklak at bunga.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Malagos Gardens, Davao City, Agosto 2017.
Pinakamahalaga
manatiling buhay at umunlad
sa gitna ng karahasan
aral ng mga halaman
sa ati'y kay lalim at
napakayaman sa
kahulugan na maari nating
tularan at gamiting aral
na gagabay sa ating buhay
ngayong panahon ng pandemya.
Sa lahat ng halaman
na lubos kong kinagigiliwan
bukod sa hindi ko kailangang
mga ito ay alagaan 
ay ang mga lumot
sa sumusulpot 
maski sa mga sulok-sulok 
na kahit malimot
tutubo at lalago, kakapal
parang alpombra sa mga paa!
Hindi gaanong naabot
ng liwanag itong lumot
ngunit kay lamig sa paningin
kay gandang tanawin
kung ating susuriin
nagsasabi sa atin
ng himig ng lilim at dilim
tinig na mahalumigmig;
hindi man masikatan ng araw
mayroon din busilak sa kadiliman!
Paalala sa atin ng mga lumot
ngayon ang panahon ay masalimuot
katotohanan at kagandahan
nitong ating buhay
bumubukal saan man malagay;
Maykapal sa ati'y hindi humihiwalay
pahalagahan at pangalagaan
lahat ng ating taglay
dahil walang kapantay ating buhay, 
mas makulay sa ano mang halaman
lalo't higit sa lumot
huwag sanang iyan ay malimot.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Agosto 2019.

Keep us calm, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 17 August 2021
Judges 6:11-24   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 19:23-30
Photo from Facebook, April 2020.
You know so well the hardships
we are all into these past months,
God our Father.
And you must have heard all our 
complaints to you, even those we
have kept in our hearts for you also 
know how we feel like Gideon.

Gideon said to him, “My lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers told us when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ For now the Lord has abandoned us and has delivered us into the power of Midian.”

Judges 6:13
You are so kind, dear God
in allowing us to bring out to you
what we feel which after all, we cannot
hide from you; and here lies your blessing:
after allowing us to recognize before you 
the problems and misery we are into, 
you send us to work on its solution.

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian. It is I who send you… Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.” So Gideon built there an altar to the Lord and called it Yahweh-shalom.

Judges 6:14, 23-24
We all want peace,
we all desire a world with less
pains and sufferings like an end
to this pandemic but no one among us
would dare to follow your instructions,
your commands to do our part in finding
solutions to our many problems in life,
in doing our part in alleviating the pains
and sufferings of the sick and dying
for until now we have refused to give up
and surrender our selves to you, Lord.
We are afraid of detaching from whatever
or whomever attachments we have,
so we can be truly free for you and for others.
Most of all, we are afraid to get hurt,
to lose and to get lost in order to have you
and find life and fulfillment.
Give us the grace to realize
and keep in mind always
your Son's words today:
"For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible."
(Matthew 19:26)
Keep us calm, Lord, amid
the darkness and uncertainties
around us these days of the pandemic.
Amen.

Pagsusumakit patungong langit

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-05 ng Agosto 2021
Larawan kuha ni G. Vigie Ongleo sa Singapore, 03 Agosto 2021.
Akin nang kinalakhan
kasabihan ng matatanda,
"Kapag may tiyaga,
may nilaga!'
Ngunit sa aking pagtanda
ako ay namangha sapagkat
mayroon pang higit sa pagtitiyaga,
isang dakilang biyaya:  ang pagsusumakit. 
Sa wikang Inggles,
"persistence" kung isasalin
ang salitang pagtitiyaga
na kung saan nagsisikap
ang sino man upang matamo
 kanyang inaasam na tagumpay
kaya buong lakas at panahon
 doon nakatuon upang maging kampeon.
Ngunit higit pa sa pagtitiyaga ang pagsusumakit:
sa wikang Inggles ay perseverance
na kung saan sino man ay laan masaktan
at mahirapan upang mapanatili
 at mapangalagaan sumpa 
at pangakong binitiwan (komitment),
di lamang sa mithiing inaasam
na ibig makamtan kaya pinagtitiyagaan.
Sa pagsusumakit, 
hindi nakakaakit tagumpay
na makakamit kungdi higit 
sa lahat ay hindi maipagkait ang
nararapat at naayong tugon sa 
bawat pagkakataon kung kayat
ano man kahantungan ng bawat punyagi
kabutihan at kaganapan ang mapanatili.
Hindi pansamantala
ang pagsusumakit di tulad
ng pagtitiyaga at pagsisikap
na kadalasan ang layunin 
ay bagay at gamit na makakamit;
bawat pagsusumakit saan man
at kanino man ay paglapit 
at pagkamit na rin ng langit!
Sinabi ni Jesus sa mga tao:
"Ngunit pagsumakitan ninyo ng higit
sa lahat ang pagharian kayo ng Diyos
at mamuhay nang ayon sa kanyang
kalooban, at ipagkakaloob niya
ang lahat ng kailangan ninyo."
(Mateo 6:33)

Celebrating life in God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XVII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 30 July 2021
Leviticus 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34-37   ><]]]]*>   Matthew 13:54-58
Photo by author, 2020.
Today we move onto the third book
of your Pentateuche, God our Father,
the Book of Leviticus which tackles the 
various celebrations you have stipulated
the children of Israel to celebrate until
they have entered your Promised Land.
It is good to know the major celebrations
you have set before them while still wandering 
at the desert have become the roots 
of our many liturgical celebrations that
have found fulfillment in your Son Jesus Christ
who is the basis of every sacrament and feast.
Unfortunately, dear Father,
like the children of Israel,
even us until now have forgotten
your saving presence in our midst
when we were wandering in the desert
of darkness and trials, sufferings and sins.
These, therefore, are the festivals
of the Lord on which you shall proclaim
a sacred assembly, and offer as an oblation
to the Lord burnt offerings and cereal offerings,
sacrifices and libations,
as prescribed for each day.
(Leviticus 23:37)
Forgive us, merciful God,
when we forget in our worship
and celebrations that its center
is you alone, not us nor the festivities
nor the rituals prescribed; 
let us remember your continuing presence 
among us marred by our many sins 
when we break away from you; hence, 
the need for oblations and offerings
for us to be reconciled in you again.
Jesus came to his native place
and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
"Where did this man get such
wisdom and mighty deeds?"
And they took offense at him.
And he did not work
many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.
(Matthew 13:54, 57, 58)
Let us be open to you, loving Father
through your Son Jesus Christ 
who had come to reconcile us to you
by leading our celebrations
so we can have a perfect offering for you
in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; 
Do not let us imitate his folks at Nazareth
who refused to accept him that he was 
not able to make any miracle
for their lack of faith in him.  Amen.

Kung narito ka Panginoon…

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-29 ng Hulyo 2021
“Ang Pagbuhay kay Lazaro”, isang painting ni Duccio de Buoninsegna noong 1311. Larawan mula sa commons.wikimedia.org
Sinabi ni Marta kay Jesus,
"Panginoon, kung narito kayo
hindi sana namatay
ang aking kapatid." (Juan 11:21)
Maraming pagkakataon, Panginoon
ganyan din aming sinasabi
kapag kami ay sakbibi ng dalamhati,
tulad ni Santa Marta sa pagpanaw
ng kapatid nilang si San Lazaro:
Kung narito ka, Panginoon.....
...hindi sana nagkaroon ng pandemic,
...hindi sana kami nagipit,
...hindi sana kami nagkasakit,
...hindi sana kami nagkamali,
...hindi sana kami kinakapos,
...hindi sana kami nagugutom,
...hindi sana kami naghikahos,
...hindi sana kami nalinlang,
...hindi sana kami nasaktan,
...hindi sana kami nawalan,
...hindi sana kami nagkahiwalay,
...hindi sana kami napaalis,
...hindi sana kami natalo,
...hindi sana kami napahiya,
...hindi sana kami sumuko,
...hindi sana kami napatigil sa pag-aaral,
...hindi sana kami naulila,
...hindi sana kami naligaw,
...hindi sana kami nabigo,
...hindi sana kami nagkaganito.
 
Tiyak na marami pa kaming
masasambit na sana ay hindi
nangyari kung narito ka,
Panginoong Jesu-Kristo
katulad ni Santa Marta nang
pumanaw kapatid niya at
kaibigan ninyo na si San Lazaro;
ngunit hayaan din ninyo na aming
mapagtanto kalooban at layon ninyo
kaya kayo naparito upang kami 
ang maging kapanatilihan mo
at sumaklolo sa mga nasa peligro.
Itulot po ninyo, Panginoon
aming tularan bunsong kapatid 
nina Santa Marta at San Lazaro,
si Santa Maria ng Betanya:
manatili sa iyong paanan, 
magnilay at madalisay ang buhay 
sa pananalangin upang sa pagdamay
namin sa mga nahihirapan at nabibigatan
ikaw bilang Buhay at Muling Pagkabuhay
ay kanilang panaligan sa aming 
pagkakapatiran at pagtutulungan
maramdaman nila, narito ka, Panginoon!
Icon ni Jesus dumalaw sa magkakapatid na San Lazaro, Santa Maria, at Santa Marta sa kanilang tahanan sa Betanya. Larawan mula sa http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com.

On living and courage

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 July 2021
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A former classmate and friend from elementary school suddenly died of a heart attack last week. At his wake, everybody was saying of how they wish to die ahead of everybody just like Larry. “Mas gusto ko ako yung mauna” was the trending line of everyone’s conversation that there seemed a surge in courage with everyone bravely claiming readiness to die.

For me, it was like a déjà vu when suddenly it flashed to my mind our school discussions how we would prefer to die first than our parents. As kids, we were so afraid of living without parents that we deemed it better to be the first ones to die.

But, it did not mean we were not afraid of death nor of dying nor of living, too. We were just kids then.

Now that we have passed the half century mark of living, fast approaching the senior age, I think we know better the realities of life.

And of death.

On the surface, it seems that facing death and dying require super graces especially courage as we go into the threshold of the great unknown. But on deeper reflections, we realize that in dying, it could be really true that we have nothing to fear but fear itself because when we die, we don’t feel it anymore and would not even know it at all!

Death and dying can easily come to our minds when we are so hard pressed in life, when sufferings and pains are so unbearable that death wrongly becomes an escape, a cowardice than a courage no matter how hard others would romanticize it.


Yes, it takes a lot of courage to accept and face death 
but much more courage is needed to live than to die.

Yes, it takes a lot of courage to accept and face death but much more courage is needed to live than to die.

Living is different because it is filled with paradoxes unlike death that is clearly “the end” and the start of the great unknown, with or without God.

But for us believers, for those with faith in God, living in itself is already a tremendous grace to overcome all fears and difficulties of being alive than being dead.

More than ten years ago, I lost my best friend from high school to cancer. When he was first diagnosed, he cried a lot whenever we would visit him, clearly indicating his fears of dying. Six months after receiving intensive treatment from one of the best hospitals in the country, Gil finally accepted the inevitable after his doctors said his cancer cells were “so aggressive”.

On that final week of his life, I visited him thrice when I noticed a marked change in Gil as he would no longer cry, looking so calm and serene, so composed even in his manner of speaking. This time, I was the one who cried a lot whenever he spoke to me of his “habilin” or reminders upon his death. That is when I realized how God gives the courage needed to face death once the dying accepts it and surrenders one’s self to Him our Maker. That is when death becomes peaceful and a blessing too when the dying is able to make peace with everybody and with God almighty.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, June 2021.

When somebody dies, we cry not only because of the pain of separation. Deep inside us is the fear of living alone without them. That is why we need more courage to live than to die because when you die, you do not feel anymore.

The pain of death is more felt by those living than by those dying, especially those blessed to have prepared for it like my friend Gil as they already knew where they were going while those left behind are still at a loss for directions in life.

Living, facing life’s challenges requires tough courage. Real courage.

Our drive or will to live and survive shows the great amount of courage and strength we muster from deep within we never knew we even have at all! That is why after hurdling every challenge we faced in life, we wonder how we did it, how we made it.

From Facebook, May 2020.

That’s because of courage.

Congratulate yourself! You are good. You are doing well.

Those bruises and scars are badges of courage, medals of valor in fighting, in living this life that prepares us to fullness in heaven with God.

For as long as you feel pains and sufferings, hardships and difficulties… you are alive! Rejoice and celebrate life! Make the most of it. You can surely make it because you are alive.

And there lies the beauty and greatness of life – we are enormously blessed to be alive, blessed with courage to go on living because we are meant for something. We have a mission. Do not lose sight of that immense blessing.

When Jesus faced his death, it was not cowardice but courage because his dying was meant to lead us all to living fully in him. Jesus is life himself when he said “I am the resurrection and life” (John 11:25).

On the Cross, Jesus showed us the realities of life- of joys and pains, of sickness and health, of poverty and wealth, of light and darkness, most of all, of life and death in our daily dying to old self and rising to new life.

On the Cross, Jesus showed us that life is living in courage that comes from him to be like him: standing for what is true and good, for what is just and fair, and most of all, for loving another more than one’s self!


"The real test of courage is in living, not in dying", 
according to the the Italian playwright 
and poet Vittorio Alfieri (1749-1803).  

“The real test of courage is in living, not in dying”, according to the the Italian playwright and poet Vittorio Alfieri (1749-1803).

Stop wishing and praying for death for it will surely come.

At the moment, activate that courage in you and start living life to the fullest.

Coming to terms with death is coming to terms with life and vice-versa. For us to have the courage to face death when that time comes means to have the courage first of all in living. It is a grace always in our heart which is in Latin called “cor”, the root of the word courage itself, meaning “coming from the heart”.

Have the heart – and courage to see and experience the many joys and beauty of life waiting for you! Don’t miss them.

Photo from intentionalinspirations.com

Listening attentively, selectively

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 21 July 2021
Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15   ><]]]]'>  +  <'[[[[><   Matthew 13:1-9
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.
Every day God, 
we pray to you
"Our Father in heaven
hallowed be thy name...
Give us each day
our daily bread"
without realizing the daily bread 
you give us that truly nourishes us:
your words of truth and of life
that became flesh in Jesus Christ.
On that day, Jesus went out of the house
and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables.
(Matthew 13:1-3)
Thank you very much, dear God
for listening to our prayers,
in giving us the food we need
to nourish our bodies
and your words that sustain us
especially in these trying times.
May we hunger more
for this daily bread from heaven,
listening attentively,
fulfilling your words as you willed them so.
Then the Lord said to Moses,
"I will now rain down bread 
from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out
and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow
my instructions or not."
(Exodus 16:4)
But most of all, O God
teach us to be like you: to be more
selective in our listening,
to be more circumspect with what
to hear and process wherein 
we listen more on essential things 
that matter most than on trivial
and mundane words that are
divisive, preventing our growth
and maturity in our relationships.
If you would listen and act
on everything we say, especially 
our grumblings and complaints, 
no one among us would still be alive;
but you are kind and understanding,
unlike us who listen more on petty
than essential things said by others.
May we be like the good soil
that is open to listen and nurture
words that build and give life.  Amen.