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
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.
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.
Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-29 ng Hulyo 2021
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,
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!
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 July 2021
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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."
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.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 July 2021
Exodus 14:5-18 ><]]]'> ><]]]*> ><]]]'> Matthew 12:38-42
What a beautiful day to reflect
on your very unusual ways, O God our Father;
once again, there is that issue of
being lost in our readings today:
your people have to take a long and
circuitous route out of Egypt
going to your Promised Land only to be
caught up near the Red Sea by
their former masters pursuing them
to take them back to slavery.
But Moses answered the people,
"Fear not! Stand your ground,
and you will see the victory
the Lord will win for you today."
Then the Lord said to Moses,
"Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and,
with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two, that the children
of Israel may pass through it
on dry land." (Exodus 14:13,15-16)
Yes, dearest God our Father,
sometimes we need to get lost
in order to find you and one's self;
we have to be led to unfamiliar routes
and places and situations in life for indeed,
complacency breeds contempt.
Set us free from our routines and
own ways of thinking and doing
that have unconsciously enslaved us
that we no longer trust you.
Teach us to "stand our ground"
like when Moses answered his
people amid their many complaints
that we may be consistent with our
desires to be truly free and fulfilled.
Teach us to "go forward"
as you commanded your people
to cross the Red Sea and believe in you,
follow your lead to experience
your great power and wonders.
He said to them in reply,
"An evil and unfaithful generation
seeks a sign, but no sign
will be given it except
the sign of Jonah the prophet."
Forgive us, dear Jesus
in seeking so many signs from you,
doubting you, mistrusting you
despite all the love and mercy
and blessings you have showered us.
When we are lost in the many
trappings of this world,
help us find our way back
home to you, to rest anew
in your gentle mercy and love. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 July 2021
Along with the word “please”, saying “thank you” is one of the virtues we have been taught since childhood with hopes the values they impart become part of our lives like a habit or something good we can keep doing for the rest of our lives.
Unfortunately, we only learn but do not necessarily remember our lessons.
Saying thank you and please have long been at the brink of extinction, so endangered in our fast paced and consumeristic society.
Thanks to COVID-19. The pandemic that refuses to end and continues to threaten our well-being and sanity has taught us to recapture and relearn gratitude expressed in the simple words thank you the world has seemed to almost forgotten.
Gratitude is a virtue that works great wonders for everyone because it makes us live in the present moment. A grateful person is one who lives in the here and now, not in the past nor in the future.
When our heart is filled we gratitude, we have no time to complain and nurse old wounds and pains in the past but simply learn from them and move on with life. Living in the present moment means making things happen, working hard on our dreams and aspirations to become a reality. People who refuse to be grateful in life are busy wishful thinking of how things should be or would be, always looking at the future as a fantasy that would just pop out of nowhere instead of working for it in the present moment.
Unknown to many, gratitude is the fount of all good vibes in life, enabling us to be more positive than negative. It helps us accept the reality we are into – whether it is good or bad.
And that is when we start growing and maturing as persons when we learn to accept our present realities.
Most of all, gratitude disposes us to more blessings and grace from God because a thankful heart is always the one that seeks relationships, with God and with others.
People who go out of their way to say thank you,
to express gratitude are person-oriented.
They see more the persons
not just the kind deeds done to them
and beautiful gifts given them.
People who go out of their way to say thank you, to express gratitude are person-oriented. They see more the persons not just the kind deeds done to them and beautiful gifts given them. When we say thank you, when we let others know of how grateful we are, we recognize their personhood that is why we reach out to them, trying to connect with them and befriend them. Or, to keep our ties alive and strong. As the old song of my father’s generation would go, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”
Remember the ten lepers healed by Jesus Christ on his way to Jerusalem?
Only one returned – a Samaritan – to thank Jesus.
Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”
From being cleansed like the nine others, it was only the Samaritan who returned to thank Jesus was healed – or saved – from his sickness. Healing is something more than a cure of one’s disease that refers to total well-being of one who is restored not only to health but into life as whole.
Gratitude is a very practical virtue, “the parent of all virtues” according to the Roman scholar and statesman Cicero. It is the one virtue we need to recapture and reacquire to make through the many challenges and trials this pandemic has brought us.
Instead of complaining and being so sorry with the plight we are into due to COVID-19, let us start counting our many blessings in life to see the vast opportunities and lessons this crisis has given us. In fact, the more this pandemic has persisted, the more blessings we can find that we must be thankful too.
Because of the pandemic, we have learned to cherish more one another as we come to value persons and life more than things again. Aside from learning how to cook and bake during the lockdowns, we learned to value food anew, not to mention the new source of income for many.
There are so many things we have to be grateful in life during this time of the pandemic, perhaps even more than the sufferings and trials we have gone through as it opened to us new views and perceptions about life itself.
Most of all, it had brought us back to the grounding of our being, God who is life himself, the source of all good things we have long forgotten and now remember. And rightly praise and thank. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 07 July 2021
Homily for Wednesday in the 14th Week in Ordinary Time
Genesis 41:55-57;42:5-7,17-24 ><)))*> Matthew 10:1-7
There are two essential questions each of us asks in our lifetime that give meaning to our lives and existence: “Who Am ?” and “Where am I going?”. Both questions go hand in hand even if their answers unfold or evolve through time because the directions we take in life flow from how we have known ourselves (identity).
But of the two questions, it is the second one that we keep asking, thinking it is easier to answer that so often, we take many directions in life without much reflections.
Today our readings speak about “going”, directions from God that we must take in life, inviting us to pray and reflect about the many directions we have taken in life.
From the beautiful story of Joseph the “dreamer” in the Old Testament to Jesus in our gospel, God gives us directions, telling us where to go to find fulfillment and fulness in life.
When hunger came to be felt throughout the land of Egypt and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread, Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.
Go to Joseph…
God directs us to go find people of credibility and integrity who will mold us into better persons by discovering our true selves, harnessing our talents, learning and growing from our mistakes and painful past.
Here we see the need to have a true friend, a good spiritual director, a faithful co-journeyer in life who can nourish us with their holiness and spirituality, positive outlook in life, maturity and sincerity.
The other day I came across an anecdote from the late Filipino taipan John Gokongwei who claimed that the most important decision one has to make in life is choosing the person to marry because your spouse is your lifetime partner with whom you shall make your dreams come true, clarifying things for you when there are uncertainties and doubts, showing you other perspectives to consider, and one who would always stand and believe in you.
That’s is very true!
God speaks and comes to us most of the time through people he sends us like family and friends, colleagues and superiors, even strangers and people we hardly know.
Important thing is for us to be open not only to learning new things but to simply meeting people because life is about interacting with persons. See that the author of Genesis narrated how the Pharaoh told the Egyptians to “go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.”
Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
This is the most striking but also most beautiful direction of God that he sent us Jesus Christ our Savior: to go and search for the lost, the weak and sick, the forgotten and those in the margins. We find God most among those people.
This direction of God is also a call to service, to a loving charity to share and bring his Son Jesus Christ among the poor and rejected.
It is among the poor that we find Jesus because whenever we come to them sharing Jesus, we are surprised to find out that the Lord has been with them – also waiting for us to meet him among them! And that is when grace happens and blessings abound: the Christ among the marginalized affirming the Christ in those serving and proclaiming his gospel.
That is heaven, union with God who directs us to go and share life, to have life in its fullness.
This brings us to the heroism of the 50 soldiers who died in the plane crash last July 4 in Patikul, Sulu.
One of those who perished there is an alumnus of Our Lady of Fatima University’s College of Medicine, Capt. Dr. Nigel Emeterio of Batch 2015.
From what I have gathered among some people in the University and those who have known him and his wife who is pregnant with their second baby, Capt. Dr. Nigel was a “fearless fighter in life” who have selflessly given himself to everyone since medical school, helping friends and strangers alike in every way he could.
He had always wanted to serve in the Philippine Air Force and was the flight surgeon of the the C-130 that crashed in Sulu last Sunday while transporting troops from Cagayan de Oro City.
As a flight surgeon of the Air Force, Capt. Dr. Nigel was not only at the forefront of the government campaign against terrorists.
The young military doctor is also a medical frontliner against COVID-19 when the pandemic struck early last year, serving people in remote areas of the country being served by the Philippine Air Force.
In him we find the truth that life is not measured in years but the life in years. Though he died so young at the age of 30, Capt. Dr. Nigel had lived life to the fullest. In his six years of being a doctor, he had served and saved so many lives mostly those from the margins of the society.
He had lived life to the fullest most of all with his love not only for the people but most of all to his family, especially his wife, Dr. Dana who was also a classmate at Fatima University. She is now pregnant with their second child.
I have not talked to his widow but from the screen grabs of his posts to her shared with me by their friends, the more I admired this Capt. Dr. Nigel who had followed God’s directions in life.
His messages to his wife who is also a Doctor are filled with love and respect, hopes and dreams in the future.
Most of all, Capt. Dr. Nigel was fond of speaking about the beauty of life he had found in her and their first child, his gratitude for her love and support, and “after a year of prayers”, for the gift of a second baby.
Here is a man in touch with God, who followed the Lord and Master in serving the poor, who went to follow the divine direction to go and marry his wife to raise a family.
Last Sunday, Capt. Dr. Nigel was again sent to go as flight surgeon of some 90+ troops and civilian volunteers to fight terrorists in Sulu.
Like in his previous missions of saving lives, Capt. Dr. Nigel followed orders.
Their plane crashed and exploded after missing the airport.
Though they did not make it to their destination, surely, Capt. Dr. Nigel and the soldiers and civilians with him must have found fullness of life, now in the presence of God where we shall all go in the end.
It was a mission well-accomplished in the Lord.
Eternal rest grant unto Capt. Dr. Nigel, and companions, O Lord;
May your perpetual light shine upon them.
*Please do pray also for those wounded, for those left behind by the casualties of this accident, their friends and colleagues as well as for our military men and women who serve selflessly our country, always going wherever the Lord directs them.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 10 June 2021
2 Corinthians 3:15-4:1, 3-6 ><)))*> + <*(((>< Matthew 5:20-26
Lord Jesus Christ, please remove the veils that cover our minds that prevent us from truly seeing and meeting you. Let us remove the many veils we have unconsciously put on ourselves like our stubbornness and conservatism, legalism and formalism that have made our prayers and worship empty of you.
Brothers and sisters:
To this day, whenever Moses is read,
a veil lies over their hearts of the children of Israel,
but whenever a person turns to the Lord
the veil is removed.
Teach us to submit ourselves more to the promptings and light of the Holy Spirit so that we may reflect you more, dear Jesus, than ourselves.
So many times we have forgotten that we are just bearers of your light, “slaves for your sake” (2Cor.4:5), dear Jesus task to bring people closer to the glory and brightness of God.
Do not let us fall into the same mistakes of the people of your time when praise and worship of God was focused more on the externals than what is inside our hearts expressed in our genuine concern for one another like people we may have hurt or neglected.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I tell you, unless your righteousness
surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven."
Teach us to go beyond the letters of the Laws.
Enable us to see the deeper and wider meaning of the commandment not to kill by respecting in words and deeds the value of every person, of not maligning any one with nasty talks and through the social media.
Enable us to see the direct link of our celebration of the Eucharist with our behavior and dealing with one another, seeking peace and reconciliation to be truly one in you and with the Father in heaven.
O sweet Jesus, we pray most dearly for those people who have boxed us and refused to give us the chance to show our goodness and goodwill; for those whose frame of mind is so fixed that they would not make the necessary adjustments in this time of crisis to accommodate so many people in great sufferings and trials in their lives.
Let your brightness shine on us, Lord Jesus, in these times of darkness and storms. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 27 April 2021
Acts 11:19-26 ><)))'> + <'(((>< John 10:22-30
Your words today, O God our Father, speak both of scattering and of gathering: of how we must respond when the world scatters us and when we must join you to gather those scattered.
Those who had been scattered by the persecution
that arose because of Stephen went as far as
Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch,
preaching the word to no one but Jews.
There were some Cypriots and Cyrenians among them,
however, who came to Antioch and began to speak
to the Greeks as well, proclaiming the Lord Jesus.
The hand of the Lord was with them and a great number
who believed turned to the Lord.
Teach us to trust your amazing ways, dear God, when we are disturbed, when we are thrown off-balanced from our usual ways of doing things like when the early Church was persecuted in Jerusalem, it became a blessing in disguise and led to its quickly spreading to other parts of the known world.
But at the same time, help us realize that every time the world destabilizes and scatters us, let us take it also as our cue to gather one another closer to you.
Like Barnabas who was sent to Antioch to encourage and strengthen those early followers of Jesus Christ who were scattered even among many gentiles.
Most of all, let us go out of our way like Barnabas to find and gather those lost and scattered like Saul who was doubted with his conversion. Help us to bring home to you and to one another those who have been separated from us due to various reasons.
Let us be the voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd gathering the lost sheep into one flock.
Merciful Father, with so many problems and sufferings we have been going through with this pandemic that had scattered us literally and figuratively speaking, give us the grace to gather once again our family and friends, to let go of our many differences, and to forgive those who have wronged us through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 12 April 202
We had a blessed happy Easter last year in 2020 despite the pandemic following the support of our parishioners to our activities since the start of the lockdown like the motorized processions of Palm Sunday and Good Friday as well as the online Masses.
Though we have to start our Easter Vigil while the sun was still up following the protocol rules, it was clearly an image of hope for us all especially when I carried the Paschal Candle into our church for the celebrations: Jesus the Light of world, illuminating us in the darkness of the pandemic.
It was the simplest Easter Vigil in my entire 22 years in the priesthood but most meaningful.
Very early the following Sunday before dawn in lieu of the traditional salubong, we went around our parish with the beautiful image of the Risen Lord generously lent to us since 2011 by Mrs. Baby Halili in hopes that the people would at least feel again the presence of Jesus Christ.
It was still dark but some people were already awake awaiting the passing of our libot before celebrating our Mass.
Most of the people, though, missed the libot of the Risen Lord that dawn that we did it again in the afternoon with the usual sights of people waiting on the streets for the blessing.
It was an amusing and unforgettable sight and image of COVID-19 last year,
an image of hope, and most of all,
an image of Christ Risen among us in the pandemic,
answering our prayers, never abandoning us even in the dark.
At the last leg of our libot of the Risen Lord with still an hour before the curfew, a soldier in fatigue uniform at a gas station saw us and left his motorbike, walking towards us with both hands up in the air.
I thought we were being told to stop. And worst, being arrested!
Immediately, I prayed to Jesus to not let it happen, that we were just less than 500 meters from the parish and soon it would be over.
I acted disregarding the soldier as in “dead malice” (patay malisya) by blessing him with Holy Water until we heard him closer, asking for blessings indeed!
It was an amusing and unforgettable sight and image of COVID-19 last year, an image of hope, and most of all, an image of Christ Risen among us in the pandemic, answering our prayers, never abandoning us even in the dark.
More unforgettable images of COVID-19, images of hope and images of Christ during the extensions of the lockdown last year unfolded before us after Easter. That was when I began to feel the emotional drag of the pandemic and lockdown as I lived alone in our parish rectory that was a mere oversized room at the second floor of the church.
It was the second extension of the lockdown when I felt during prayers that Jesus seemed to be getting “tired” with our “libot” of his Blessed Sacrament.
Most of all, I realized that if I felt dried and zapped despite my regimented lifestyle of prayers, studies, exercises and recreation during the pandemic right inside our parish church, how much more were my parishioners?
I just felt they must be worst affected than me!
It was very clear for me that prayers and online Masses cannot suffice for them as their spiritual nourishment.
That was when I decided to go out and bring Holy Communion to my parishioners after our Sunday morning Mass: I would announce in our online Masses the route we shall take so that people would wait for me on the main roads while observing the necessary health protocols.
We called it “walk-in Holy Communion” because after each stop of our tricycle, I would walk giving Communion to everyone waiting to receive finally and not just see, Jesus Christ, Body and Blood!
On the third Sunday of our “walk-through” Holy Communion, a family on board their van arrived just before we left the parish, asking if they could receive the Holy Communion after attending our online Mass. They wanted to get inside the church for the Communion when suddenly, a spark of inspiration came upon me — I told them to remain in their van as I gave them Communion through the windows!
And thus started our “drive-thru” Holy Communion for families and individuals who attended our online Sunday Mass and then proceeded to our parish where I would wait for them at the gate of our church from 8-830AM to give their Holy Communion.
Rain or shine, I would just put on my hat with my reliable volunteer Kuya Oliver driving his tricycle or assisting in the traffic flow of cars, vans, tricycles and even bicycles, we gave Holy Communion during those difficult months of the first year of pandemic and quarantine.
Sometimes, like the couple above, some people would chase us along the way, asking to receive the Holy Communion as they assured us that they have attended our online Mass earlier.
I was so glad other parishes did the same for our people so hungry and thirsty for Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
Did I ever get afraid?
Of course! Even terrified. But it was pure grace from the Lord we were able to do all those things in his glorious name.
Those images of COVID-19 have truly become images of hope and images of Christ that helped me forge on with my life and ministry through these difficult times in our history. They are forever imprinted in my heart and memory along with the people who made me experienced God.
Like the “beloved disciple” John – the patron saint of my former parish where these took place – who was with Peter in the boat gone fishing at Lake Tiberias before the ascension of Jesus, every time I remember those images of last year or see similar ones, I silently exclaim like him “It is the Lord!” (John 22:7).
Come April 13, 2021, I will log my 365-day streak at http://www.lordmychef.com publishing prayers, reflections, homilies, poems, and essays since Easter Monday last year when I thought of helping the spiritual nourishment of people unable to come to celebrate the Mass.
When I was assigned to my new assignment as chaplain of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center last February 15, I felt the same thing in my prayers: help in enriching the spiritual lives of the flock Jesus entrusted to me at this time of the pandemic by learning all these new technologies like Zoom and webinars as well as Facebook live and this daily blog. From still pictures as images of hope and of Christ, we now have moving images of hope and of Jesus Christ!
But, with or without modern technology, and even after this pandemic, the challenge of Easter remains that we continue to proclaim the joy and saving presence of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ among peoples, “in season and out of season” like St. Paul (2Timothy 4:2).
That is something we all have to work for even now, being images of hope and of Christ to the world. Amen.