Imitating, praying with Mary in 2023

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

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

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

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

Luke 2:16-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Christmas prayer to be a Christmas to others too

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Christmas Eve, 24 December 2022
Isaiah 9:1-6 ><}}}}*> Titus 2:11-14 ><}}}}*> Luke 2:1-14

Christmas is the busiest season for us priests. How ironic that as we keep on reminding the people to prepare more on the spiritual aspect of this most loved season, we priests are also caught in all the rush and busyness of Christmas, beginning with the Simbang Gabi and Misa de Gallo and other parish concerns.

But, God gives us the grace to hurdle all difficulties of sleeping late, rising early and in between, praying as we prepare for our homilies. Thank you too for your appreciation and prayers for us priests. Forgive us when sometimes we get too touchy this week for lack of sleep.

As usual, I woke up early today to pray and prepare for Christmas but unfortunately, I felt like waking up on the wrong side of the bed, feeling grouchy. Most of all, so dried in prayer. Yet, God is so merciful after being silent before him before noon, I just felt writing this prayer interspersed with my reflections of the scriptures which I have been praying over since Wednesday.


Dearest sweet Jesus:
I feel agitated.
Or excited?
So many things are coming
and filling me at this moment;
I could not be still to find you,
to experience you.
Come, Lord Jesus,
So that I may share you
with others!

Let me be your Christmas too
by being Your presence to others, 
myself as a gift and present especially
to those grieving for the loss of a loved one
during this difficult years of the pandemic;
let me be your Christmas and presence,
myself as a gift and present to those nursing
fresh wounds or wounds that would not heal
because they are so deep and painful;
let me be your Christmas to those with nothing
this Christmas Day except their very selves
with that firm faith and fervent hope in you, 
Lord Jesus, by being small and fragile like you
on the manger in Bethlehem.

How lovely is Luke’s presentation of the first Christmas, of Jesus Christ coming in a time of history that is so troubled, so inhospitable especially for children.

Just like today with this ongoing pandemic made worst by the many wars going on that have triggered so many other difficulties and sufferings, from poverty to homelessness. Yet, it is the most beautiful setting of Christ’s coming set at the background of many leaders feeling they are the savior of the world or of their country just like the Roman emperor at the time of his birth. In all their “larger than life” portrayal of themselves, there is Jesus Christ in the most ordinary yet powerful truth of God among us – coming as an infant, coming and starting small!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of Bethlehem…with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-4, 5-7

We need not be famous nor have all the power and wealth to change this world. We all just have to be our true selves, little “earthlings” because in our being small when Jesus comes. We do not have to live in luxuries nor be in the cities or any country. Just be where we are, in our simplicity and humanity where Christ comes to fill us because he is God’s Firstborn in whom everything is created for him, with him and in him as St. Paul had noted.

Inasmuch as God believes in us by entrusting to us his Son Jesus Christ, let us believe also in God truly that he will work miracles in us, with us and through us! That is why Jesus came.


Let me be your Christmas to others, Jesus:
I may not be able to wrap any gift this Christmas,
let my arms and smiles wrap others in a hug
so they may experience your warmth and loving presence;
let me be your Christmas to others, Jesus,
by sharing food, and being the food myself to
those hungry and thirsty to give them strength 
not only in body but also in soul;
I do not know how to bake cookies 
and other goodies but, still make me your Christmas
to others by sharing your joy and kindness with them
so we could have memories of my love 
no matter how imperfect it may be;
most of all, dear Jesus, let me be your Christmas light
this Christmas for others especially those in the darkness
of sin and evil, depression and confusion,
helplessness and despair, isolation and alienation,
of festering anger and recurring painful memories.

We have been through a lot of so many things these past three years. It is God’s will that since the pandemic started in 2020 that this time, we celebrate Christmas face-to-face, which is what Christmas is essentially all about – the Son of God coming to us in flesh to experience Father personally.

Christmas is a story of encounters, of God meeting persons, real people like me and you.

Jesus came as a baby so that we could easily and lovingly receive him as he entrusts himself to our love and care and protection. So many things have happened to us since 2020 but hey, we are still alive, still here celebrating Christmas. Let us dwell in this joy of Jesus coming to us so we may also share him with others still sulking in all the negative vibes brought by COVID-19.

May we imitate his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary who “kept all these things, reflecting them in her heart” (Lk. 1:19) for it is in our hearts where Jesus comes daily.

How sad that with all the experiences we have had these years of pandemic that we lose sight of its meaning that amid all the darkness and hostilities of this world, Jesus surely comes to save us!


Dearest Jesus,
let me be your Christmas to others:
make me firm in my conviction and faith in you
"rejecting godless ways and worldly desires
by living temperately, justly and devoutly" (Titus 2:12);
let me be your Christmas,
be born in me every day as I strive
to follow you even to the Cross
so that "the people who walked in darkness
may see your great light to experience peace"
(Isaiah 9:1, 5) when I say your words
and do your works.  Amen.

A blessed Merry Christmas, everyone!

Be a Christmas to others too!

Advent is for soul-searching

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Third Week of Advent, 15 December 2022
Isaiah 54:1-10     ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>     Luke 7:24-30
Your questions today, O Lord Jesus,
are so disturbing, touching us to our very core:
"What did you go out to the desert to see ---
a reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine garments?
Then what did you go out to see?
A prophet?" (Luke 7:24, 25, 26)
What do we want to see this Christmas?
What are we expecting?
What aspect of life are we more
concerned with, the material or the spiritual?
Maybe, it is also about time
to examine ourselves and ask,
what do people see in us?
What do they expect from us,
especially us who are supposed to be
prayerful and religious?
I wonder, O Lord, when people see us,
will they rejoice like what Isaiah spoke of
in the first reading?
Do I reflect your presence,
your healing,
your salvation?
Lord Jesus,
empty me of my sins and pride,
fill me with your humility,
justice and love.
Amen.

Yakapin pagwawakas, salubungin pagsisimula

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-22 ng Nobyembre 2022
Larawan kuha ng may akda, 16 Nobyembre 2022 sa Pulilan, Bulacan.
Nakakatawang isipin
na palagi nating nararanasan
mga pagwawakas at katapusan
nguni't bakit lagi nating kinatatakutan?
Sa dapithapon naroon ang takipsilim,
ang lahat mababalot ng dilim
na kinasasabikan natin dahil
tapos na rin mga gawain at aralin;
batid natin, ano mang kuwento
maski Ang Probinsiyano
magwawakas din;
mahirap isipin, maski tanggapin
kapag mayroong mga gusali na gigibain
lalo't higit mga ugnayan at kapatiran
na puputulin at papatirin
dahil sa alitan at, kamatayan.
Mismo ang Panginoong Hesus
tumiyak sa atin lahat ay magwawakas
hindi upang tapusin kungdi
muling buuin buhay at mundo natin
na mas mainam kaysa dati.
Kaya huwag isandig sarili natin 
sa mga bagay ng daigdig na maglalaho rin
katulad ng dapithapon at takipsilim
bagkus ay ating yakapin 
bawat wakas na tiyak darating
upang salubungin pagbubukang-liwayway
ng bagong araw ng buhay, pag-asa
at pagpapanibago kay Hesu-Kristo
na sariling buhay man ay nagwakas din 
doon sa Krus upang muling mabuhay
at mabuksan Paraiso para sa atin --
ang tunay na katiyakang nakalaan sa atin!
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Danna Hazel de Castro, Sagada, Mt. Province, 2017.

When we fall, feeling down…

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 October 2022
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It was a Monday morning when rains started falling as I was about to complete my first round of walks when I saw an old lady with a cane tripped on the inclined pavement. I ran to help her but in her frantic efforts to rise, she had dragged down her caregiver too.

Upon reaching the old lady, I asked her to keep herself down and take deep breaths while I checked her for possible injuries. Thank God there was none except a broken cane and perhaps a bruised amor propio as tears were rolling from her eyes while telling me, “nakakahiya naman sa inyo, Father.” I told her not to worry as I invited her to have a seat near our gate but, she seemed so embarrassed and left.

When I resumed my walking in the rains, the scene kept flashing in my mind and had me musing…

When we fall,
when we are down,
just be still
to feel the earth beneath
then roll your eyes to see
the skies above everything
between.
When we fall,
when we are down,
do not rush to rise up
do not be ashamed 
you slipped
or tripped
there is no trick.
When we fall,
when we are down,
it is better to cry
to shed some tears
surely there are pains
and aches deep within
we have not yet seen.
When we fall,
when we are down,
people standing on ground
would always offer a hand
to help us stand
shake off dirt from us
even clean our hands.
When we fall,
when we are down,
everyone will understand that
no one, nothing remains up
all must go down; 
it is time for us to be calm
Jesus is coming, our Good Samaritan.
Photo from cbcpnews.net, May 2020.

Ang Diyos at ang kulay ng hangin

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-30 ng Setyembre 2022
Larawan kuha ng may akda, bukang liwayway sa Lawa ng Tiberias, Israel, Mayo 2019.
Kay sarap namnamin,
kaninang pagkagising
Iyong tugon Panginoon namin
sa mga tanong ni Job
na amin ding dinaraing
sa gitna ng maraming hirap at tiisin:

"Job, 
nakalikha ka ba
kahit isang bukang liwayway?
Ang daigdig ba ay ang iyong
naigawa ng tanglaw?
Napunta ka na ba sa
pinagmumulan ng bukal?
Nakalakad ka na ba sa 
pusod ng karagatan?
Alam mo ba kung saan nanggaling
ang liwanag, o and kadiliman,
kung saan nagbubuhat?
Ang mga ulap ba iyong mauutusan
sa lupa ay magbuhos ng malakas na ulan?"
(Aklat ni Job 38:12-13, 16, 19, 34)
Inyong ipagpaumanhin
Panginoong namin
kapangahasan Ikaw ay tanungin, 
usisain kapag mabigat aming pasanin
 kami ay patawarin
katulad ni Job iyong dinggin:

"Narito, ako'y hamak, 
walang kabuluhan,
walang maisasagot, 
bibig ay tatakpan
hindi na kikibo, 
mga nasabi'y di na uulitin"
(Aklat ni Job 40:4-5).
Hinding hindi namin
makakayang sagutin
ni arukin kalaliman 
nitong maraming lihim 
ng buhay lalo't kung madilim;
sana'y Iyong dalisayin, Panginoon
aking mga paningin, upang Ikaw ay
malasin tulad ng kulay ng hangin!
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Jo Villafuerte, pagbubukang liwayway sa Atok, Benguet, Setyembre 2019.

The majesty of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 30 September 2022
Job 38:1, 12-21, 40:3-5   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 10:13-16
Photo by Greg on Pexels.com
God our loving Father,
open my eyes
open my mind
open my heart and soul
to your majesty
to experience your
immense mystery
so profoundly
unthinkable
unexplainable
yet so true
that it can be felt
and experienced
because we live
in you though we
are not aware.

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place for taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from its surface? The earth is changed as is clay by the seal, and dyed as though it were a garment. Have you entered the sources of the sea, or walked about in the depths of the abyss? Have the gates of death been shown to you, or have you seen the gates of darkness? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?

Job 38:1, 12-14, 16-18
Dearest Father,
many times I have asked you
so many questions 
and would still have more to
follow you up with but,
when I contemplate
your love and presence
in my life,
among the people you
have surrounded me with,
then I realize 
you are all questions 
that in itself more than enough
for me to see, even imagine you!

Like Job,
let me remain silent
and be wrapped by
your majesty
and glory!

Then job answered the Lord and said: Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth. Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again; though twice, I will do so no more.

Job 40:3-5
Open my eyes
in Jesus your Son
to appreciate more
your coming
your loving presence
your healing
O God our Father;
let me listen
and be more attentive
to Jesus,
your Word who became
flesh to dwell
among us;
like St. Jerome,
give me the grace
to read and study
especially to pray
your Sacred Scriptures
each day of my life
to be still
and remain
in you always.
Amen.
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 2019.

Liham ni Lazaro sa mayaman

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-28 ng Setyembre, 2022
Larawan mula sa https://krugsstudio.blogspot.com/2016/07/does-anyone-write-letter-anymore.html

Hitik sa mga kahulugan ang talinghaga ng mayaman at ni Lazaro noong araw ng Linggo (Lukas 16:19-31). Kaya namang aking napag-isipan ano nga kaya at sumulat si Lazaro doon sa mayaman? Ano kaya kanyang sasabihin?

Isang kathang-isip lamang ang liham na ito katulad na rin ng talinghaga ng Panginoong Jesu-Kristo. Gayon pa man, batay ito sa mga kuwento na aking pinakinggan at pinagnilayan mula sa mga tao na aking nakadaupang-palad sa mahabang panahon bilang pari. Sinikap ko na mahabi kanilang mga istorya ng buhay na parang hibla ng sinulid upang maging isang telon na maglalarawan ng iba’t-ibang mukha ni Lazaro at ng mayaman.

Wala akong pinatatamaan maliban sa maihatid mahalagang mga aral ng naturang talinghaga ukol sa buhay at kamatayan na tila nalilimutan na ng maraming pamilya at mag-anak kung saan maraming mayaman at Lazaro na nakalupasay, pinababayaan at tinalikdan.

Sinabi ni Jesus sa mga Pariseo, “May isang mayamang nagdaramit nang mamahalin at saganang-sagana sa pagkain araw-araw. At may isang pulubing nagngangalang Lazaro, tadtad ng sugat, na nakalupasay sa may pintuan ng mayaman upang mamulot kahit mumong nahuhulog mula sa hapag ng mayaman. At doo’y nilalapitan siya ng aso at dinidilaan ang kanyang mga sugat.

Lukas 16:19-21
Larawan ng painting ni Bonifacio de Pitati noong 1540 ng “Dives and Lazarus” mula sa commons.wikimedia.org.
Minamahal kong mayaman,

Ako nga si Lazaro at sumusulat ako sa iyo na manhid at ayaw pumansin sa akin dahil ako ay tadtad ng sugat sa buong katawan, nakakadiring tingnan sa aking karumihan at kawalan ng kagandahang mabanaagan dahil ako ay naiiba sa iyo na kinikilala at maraming kaibigan, malakas at malinis.  Kung tingnan.

Mabuti pa ang aso, napapansin ako, dinidilaan aking mga sugat na kailanma'y hindi niya mauunawaan pinagmulan at naging mga sanhi, na pawang mga tao ang may kagagawan.

Isang bagay lang ibig kong ipahayag sa iyo, kapatid ko na mayaman:  sapat na bang dahilan na ako ay iyong talikuran at kalimutan dahil lamang sa ilang halaga ng salapi, mga gamit at ari-arian gaya ng kapirasong lupa na higit pa ang sukat sa ating libingan?

Dahil lamang sa magkakaiba nating paniniwala at sa iyong sariling katuwiran na hindi mabitiw-bitiwan ay ipagpapalit mo ako na kapwa tao gaya ng iyong ina o ama, at kapatid? 

Madalas, ako si Lazaro yung magulang na kung ituring ng mga anak ay kontra-bida sa buhay nila.  

Ikaw iyon, kapatid kong mayaman.

Ikaw iyong bata, yung anak na sadyang mayaman sa kaalaman at kahusayan sa maraming bagay ngunit hindi kailanman sasapat ang mga iyan upang tayo ay mabuhay; mahalaga ang mga kapwa, lalo na mga magulang na nagpalaki at nag-aruga sa atin, mga kapatid na kasabay nating lumaki at lumago, nagkamalay sa mundo, kasama at kasalo sa maraming pagkakataon ng buhay.

Walang perfect love maliban sa pag-ibig ng Diyos; ano man mga nakaraan ikaw ay nasaktan kung maari ay lampasan, pag-usapan, at magpatawaran.

Saan mang tahanan, maraming mga desisyon ang mga magulang na hindi nagugustuhan at marahil hindi rin naunawaan hanggang ngayon; sakaling nagkamali man mga magulang, hindi ba ang mga iyon din ang nagpatibay at nagpatatag upang mga anak ay maging mayaman?  Bakit sila ngayon ang iniiwan, mga Lazaro na nakalupasay sa pintuan na hindi pinapansin, ipinagpalit sa ego at prinsipyo?

Hindi ito drama dahil ang totoo, darating ang panahon tayong lahat mamamatay.

Huwag nating hintayin tulad sa talinghaga ng Panginoon na malibing at mabaon ang mayaman doon sa Hades; ibig mo ba talaga na tayo ay magkahiwalay hindi lamang sa daigdig kungdi hanggang sa kabilang buhay?

Huwag mo nang hintayin, kapatid ko na mayaman na matanawan ako, si Lazaro kapiling ni Abraham, walang dusa at sakit sa kabilang buhay habang ika'y hirap na hirap, kumakaway, tumatawag gayong kakilala mo naman pala ako.  Gayun din naman, kakilala mo rin pala si Amang Abraham --- kung gayon, ikaw ay Kristiyano katulad ko, kilala si Kristo, sumasamba sa Diyos nating Ama!  Bakit hindi mo ako nakilala noong tayo ay nabubuhay pa?

Bahala ka kung ayaw mo pa rin akong pansinin; ito na lamang iiwanan ko sa iyo, higit sa lahat:  huwag kang umasa at maniwala sa ilusyon na makapagbabago ka pa sa tamang panahon lalo na kung kapani-paniwala ang magsasabi na mayroon nga buhay sa kabila!  Ilusyon lang yan na may oras pa upang magbagong-buhay....

Habang maaga pa, magbalik-loob sa Diyos upang siya ay matagpuan at makilala sa mukha ng bawat kapwa, lalo na sa mga Lazaro na tadtad ng sugat ang katawan, nakalupasay sa iyong harapan. 


Lubos na gumagalang,

Lazaro
(Mula sa salitang Hebreo
"El 'azar", ibig sabihi'y
"sinagip ng Diyos".)
Larawan kuha ni G. Jay Javier sa Taal, Batangas, 15 Pebrero 2014.

The gospel according to Five for Fighting on living & leaving

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 20 September 2022
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
I'm 15 for a moment
Caught in between ten and 20
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

I'm 22 for a moment
And she feels better than ever
And we're on fire
Making our way back from Mars

The piano, the voice and the lyrics were unmistakably Five for Fighting when I heard it played again after a very long time at the 40th day of the death of a young college student in our parish recently.

It was only then when I truly appreciated this 2003 hit “100 Years” after realizing its deeper implications about life and death leading to eternity. Besides, there were some interesting things about the song and the deceased young man who was also a talented pianist like Five for Fighting himself – Vladimir John Ondasik III. Most of all, the deceased young man I have celebrated Mass for was aged 22 like the character depicted in the song 100 Years.

Celebrating Mass at the funeral of a child, whether an infant or a grown-up is the most difficult one for me. Normally, we children bury our parents but, it is so different when children die ahead of their parents and even grandparents. As a priest, I could feel the pain of the grieving parents in losing their son or daughter even if I totally do not know them at all. Yet, it is a grace of the priesthood that while we are emotionally affected by grieving parents we hardly know that we are likewise uplifted in identifying with Jesus who had brought back to life a dead young man at Nain after being moved with pity for the man’s widowed mother (Lk.7:11-15).

Photo by author, Pangasinan, April 2022.

Notice that Jesus brought back to life the dead young man because of pity for his mother, not because he pitied the dead son. God tells us in the Old Testament that he is saddened with the death of even just one of us but the event at Nain shows us how the eyes of the Lord are always with those left behind especially mothers because they are indeed the most pitiable in losing a child who would always be a part of them. Moreover, life is most difficult for those left behind who have to continue to bear all pains and sufferings while their departed loved ones rest in peace in eternity. And here lies the call of Jesus for us all to help those grieving to rise again and move on with life after the death of a beloved, especially of a child.

We shall talk about this later and let us just remain a little more with the reality of death.

Although 100 Years is a soft-rock ballad about a love relationship, it is very philosophical, in fact a Martin Heidegger, in calling for “authentic living” because we are all “being-towards-death”. While the song is generally a “feel good” piece, it reminds us of that reality we refuse to accept that coming to terms with death is coming to terms with life. It is when we are faced with the “existential” possibility of death that we begin to see the beauty of life and the joy of living.

15, there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose yourself within a morning star
15, I'm alright with you
15, there's never a wish better than this
When you've only got a hundred years to live

Half time goes by, suddenly you're wise
Another blink of an eye, 67 is gone
The sun is getting high
We're moving on

Truly, as the song tells us, our life is precious – whether you are 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 – because it could all be gone in a moment or a blink! Like Heidegger, Five for Fighting is calling us in his song to cherish each one’s presence with more love and kindness, care and understanding, with a lot of mercy and forgiveness because we live only for a period of time like 100 Years.

St. Paul also spoke of this constant awareness of death, of how “the world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31) that we should live authentically as Christians. This pandemic has taught us in the most strongest terms this truth, not only with actually dying but also of being prevented from spending precious moments with our dead’s remains! May we not forget this pandemic’s lesson of living in the present moment as if it is also your final moment in life, of cherishing each other always because true riches are found only in God through one another as Jesus reminded us in last Sunday’s gospel (Lk.16:11).

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, September 2019.

To live is to love. What we need are more people, more children, more friends to celebrate life with. Like God, friends and family do not perish; they live on even if we do not see them because they just move on to higher level of existence. Unlike money and wealth, power and fame, and other material things that perish and become obsolete after a year.

Our weekday readings these past week teemed with so many beautiful nuggets of wisdom about people and relationships learned at the heels of death: the centurion who sent for Jesus for the healing of his slave who “was valuable to him” (Lk.7:2) on Monday; praying for those who grieve like that widowed mother in Nain (Lk.7:13) on Tuesday; and last Wednesday at the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross we were reminded of our transformation through life’s sufferings or little deaths in life; and, finally on Thursday at the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, of how we are invited to imitate Mary who remained at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday with her dying Son Jesus Christ. Here we find how death has become a blessing when seen in the light of Jesus and his Cross as witnessed by the Blessed Mother and preached by St. Paul.

This positive aspect of death as a blessing is wonderfully portrayed in the music video of 100 Years set in an isolated place in soft shades of dark blue and green, with some hues of grey evoking a deep sense of peace and tranquility minus the morbidity. Laid-back and relaxed, perhaps. Of course, Five for Fighting’s trademark piano makes the music video so lovely, so appealing, giving a joyful note on death’s certainty leading to eternity.

I'm 99 for a moment
And dying for just another moment
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

15, there's still time for you
22, I feel her too
33, you're on your way
Every day's a new day

At the start of the music video of 100 Years, we find a younger man playing the piano before Five for Fighting appears singing. That shifting of the younger and older Ondasik would happen about six times maybe interspersed with other characters coming to play the piano too until in the end he leaves to walk toward a big tree to meet his older self. Or God maybe.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, “Acacias”, UP Diliman, QC, April 2022.

That big tree seems to convey something like paradise, a gateway to eternity where time is totally held in completeness with everything at the present moment shown by Five for Fighting’s repeated returns to climb the big tree to look at his younger self kissing his first girlfriend until toward the end, he fell from the tree as if he had died only to be seen singing while playing the piano again. It was reminiscent of one of the final scenes in the 1990 movie Flatliners with Kiefer Sutherland trying to amend his childhood sin and crime in pushing to death his playmate from a similar big tree; Sutherland was eventually forgiven when during an induced “flatline” he was able to go back to his past to apologize to his dead playmate with a reversal of role, of him as an adult in the present moment falling from the big tree.

It was after that scene of falling from the big tree when Five for Fighting had awakened singing and playing the piano again when he finally stood to walk back to the big tree to meet his older self, or maybe God — something like Easter.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken by Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.

John 20: 1, 11-14
“Noli me tangere” (touch me not) fresco in the Lower Basilica of St. Francis Assisi Church in Italy painted by Giotto de Bondone in the 13th century from commons.wikimedia.org.

Like on that Easter morning, there will always be the darkness of death but only for a moment if we keep our eyes and our hearts open to Jesus who had risen. Many times we are like Mary Magdalene grieving and weeping that we fail to see the light of Jesus and of our deceased staying with us right in the darkness of grief and death that envelop us. And like Mary, we keep on insisting in relating with them in our old, physical level, forgetting the fact they have risen with Jesus to new life, to new realm of existence.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary of Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.

John 20:16-18

“Stop holding on to me” or “noli me tangere – touch me not” are the words also meant for us today who continue to cling and hold to our departed loved ones like Mary Magdalene, still hoping to hug and kiss them again, to touch and tell them how much we loved them or perhaps say sorry for our sins and lapses when they were still around. It is time to level up in our relationships with them as Five for Fighting reminds us in the last stanza that “every day is a new day”.

It does not really matter if we, or they our departed, are just 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 — what is most important is we value each moment of our lives here and now where in the present we meet them once or twice if we are living fully and not blinded by our grief and wishful thinking. Have faith in God. Someday, we shall all be together. For the moment, here is Five for Fighting with his100 Years. May the Lord console you and raise you up to move forward again in life. Amen.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.

The other half of the sky

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 06 June 2022
Photo by author, Silang, Cavite, August 2020

While reflecting last night John’s gospel for today’s memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, the song “Woman” by another John – John Lennon – kept playing at the back of my mind as I prayed over the words of Jesus calling Mary her mother as “woman” (Jn.19:26).

It is the second time, and final one in the fourth gospel that Mary the mother of Jesus was at a scene with her Son; the other instance they were together in a scene in John’s gospel was at the wedding feast at Cana where Jesus did his first miracle by converting water into wine. In both events, John tells us Jesus addressed Mary as “woman” (Jn.2:4, 19:26).

In 1980, Lennon composed “Woman” as a tribute to his wife Yoko Ono. In that lovely song, we find two instances of how John, like the beloved disciple used the word “woman” very positively. First we hear Lennon quickly declaring right after the first few notes of the song, “For the other half of the sky” to refer to women; and secondly, by starting each verse of this song with the word “woman” which he never used in the chorus that is just “ooh-ooh, well-well”.

For the other half of the sky
Woman
I can hardly express
My mixed emotions at my thoughtlessness
After all, I’m forever in your debt
And woman
I will try to express
My inner feelings and thankfulness
For showing me the meaning of success
Ooh-ooh, well-well
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
Ooh-ooh, well-well
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
Woman
I know you understand
The little child inside the man
Please remember, my life is in your hands
And woman
Hold me close to your heart
However distant, don’t keep us apart
After all, it is written in the stars
Ooh-ooh, well-well
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
Ooh-ooh, well-well
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
Woman
Please let me explain
I never meant to cause you sorrow or pain
So let me tell you again and again and again
I love you, yeah-yeah
Now and forever
I love you, yeah-yeah
Now and forever
I love you, yeah-yeah
Now and forever
I love you, yeah-yeah
Now and forever
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, February 2022.

How true were the confessions by Lennon, of our “thoughtlessness” and “childishness” in dealing with women, hurting them physically and emotionally without realizing how “indebted” we are to them in bringing us forth into this world, in nurturing us.

So true his words too that no matter how far we turn away from women, we cannot deny the fact we are always close with them, we long for them because we are meant for each other as “written in the stars”.

And most true which I like most is Lennon’s claim that women are “the other half of the sky”.

What a shame when we men think of the world as “us” and ours alone, as if the earth revolves around us, that we are not only the center of the universe but also the universe itself! No wonder we are always lost and at a loss in life.

Women as the other half of the sky tells us how we men and women complete the whole picture of reality, of how we need the feminine side and feminine touch to have a fuller grasp of life, its meaning, and its many mysteries.

This image of the woman as “the other half of the sky” I find so perfectly true with our Blessed Virgin Mary too, most especially when she stood at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ on Good Friday.

When John the beloved disciple chose to use the word “woman” for Mary as addressed by Jesus, it was the most wonderful effort to recognize the dignity and honor of women in the world especially at the very crucial moment of dying and separation of loved ones:

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

It is a scene happening daily in our lives as individuals and disciples of Christ, of how Mary addressed as “woman” signifying the Church as the Body of Christ to which we belong and we must care for always; and, as Christians, at how we disciples must obey Christ’s commandment to love one another by respecting and accepting every woman.

Photo by author, 2018.

Both man and woman were created in the image and likeness of God, with equal dignity though different in order to complement each other in coping with life’s many challenges and trials.

See how at creation God entrusted woman to man to love and care for her, to protect her which Jesus repeated to the beloved disciple before he died on the Cross. In the Hebrew language, the word for woman and wife is “ishsha” which is a play from the word for man which is “ish”. Woman came from man, woman is a part of man. Without her, he is not complete and neither shall she also be complete without man. That is why, all these talks about the battle of sexes are all insanity for we are all created to love and care for each other!

The bible tells us many instances of negative views about women along with children that they were not even counted in the feeding of five-thousand by Jesus in the wilderness. Women were never considered as reliable witnesses that is why Jesus himself corrected this by appearing first to Mary Magdalene in the gospels. Women were never seen as holy too that is why the story of Visitation of Elizabeth by Mary was a most unique scene in the whole bible of two women together so blessed by God.

As we resume the Ordinary Time in our Church calendar this Monday with a memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, let us be more conscious from now on of the dignity of women, of finding Jesus in them by making constant efforts to change the persistent wrong impressions and ideas about women since time immemorial. Whenever you look up the sky, think of those other half of you staring at the heavens, then thank God for the women he had sent you to experience his loving presence especially in these trying times. Amen.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.