Daily conversion in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 09 May 2022
Acts 11:1-18   ><))))*> + <*((((><   John 10:1-10
Photo by author, a house near the home of Cornelius in Jaffa, Israel, 2017.
Today O Lord we go to the polls
to cast our votes for the next group
of national and local leaders of our
nation; we have long been praying
for these elections to be peaceful
and orderly.  
Most of all, a matured and intelligent one.
That we finally learn to vote according
to our informed and guided conscience,
carefully and prayerfully evaluating every
candidate, listening more to the voice 
of Jesus the Good Shepherd.
But for us to be able to listen to Jesus,
let us first pass through him, our 
only door.

Jesus said: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber.” So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep.”

John 10:1, 7
To pass through Jesus our gate
requires our own conversion to him;
and not just a conversion like that of
unbelievers and Gentiles in the first
reading but to be converted like Peter
himself and the rest of his fellow 
believers who were of Jewish roots:

Peter began and explained it to them (Apostles and brothers in Jerusalem) step by step, saying, “If then God gave them the same gift he gave us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?” When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, “God has then granted life-saving repentance to the Gentiles too.”

Acts 11:4,17-18
To pass through you, dear Jesus,
is to be one in you which calls for our
daily conversion to you; so many times
we feel complacent, resting on whatever
we have achieved or reached in our
relating with you; it is in our daily-
conversion in you that truly leads us
to communion in you.  Amen.

“I Don’t Know How to Love Him” by Yvonne Elliman (1970)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 03 April 2022
Photo by author, Lent 2019.

It’s the final Sunday of our 40-day journey this Lenten season. As we get closer to Holy Week, it is presupposed that by this time, we have also gone closer to God our Father in Christ Jesus.

Last Sunday we have heard the parable of the merciful father more known as the parable of the prodigal son, the beautiful story of coming home to God; this Sunday, we encounter the Father in Jesus Christ in this beautiful story by John of the woman caught in adultery.

And there’s no other song more appropriate that comes to our mind and memory than that moving scene in the 1971 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar where Mary Magdalene played by Ms. Yvonne Elliman sang “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”, referring to Jesus who had forgiven her after being caught committing adultery by the Pharisees and scribes. Of course, that was based on the long held belief that the woman caught committing adultery was Magdalene although latest biblical scholarships have unanimously debunked it as totally false.

Nonetheless, the song composed by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice is hailed as the high point of the rock opera that until now critics acclaim Ms. Elliman for a very superb performance, combining “power and purity of tone” (Simpson, Paul, 2003. The Rough Guide to Cult Pop. London: The Penguin Group. p. 141ISBN 978-1843532293).

I don't know how to love him
What to do, how to move him
I've been changed, yes really changed
In these past few days
When I've seen myself
I seem like someone else

I don't know how to take this
I don't see why he moves me
He's a man, he's just a man
And I've had so many men before
In very many ways
He's just one more

The woman caught in adultery remains one of the beautiful scenes in the fourth gospel that is so simple yet set in the most profound language and imageries by John that Weber and Rice have apparently emulated with the lovely music and lyrics of this song. Very interesting are the lines by Ms. Elliman claiming “I’ve been changed, yes really changed// In these past few days// When I’ve seen myself I seem like someone else//.”

Here we not only experience God’s love and mercy but most of all the kindness of Jesus, his bending twice to show the sinful woman as well as her equally sinful accusers that despite their sins, God chose to go down to our level in order to raise us up to regain our lost dignity as children of God (https://lordmychef.com/2022/04/02/the-joy-of-meeting-god/).

More than a stroke of genius, it was likewise a divine inspiration that Weber and Rice have written these moving words about Jesus, “He’s a man, he’s just a man// And I’ve had so many men before// In very many ways// He’s just one more//” that invite us to imitate the kindness of God with one another, especially for those who have sinned.

The gospel scene and the song assure us of God’s boundless mercy to everyone who have sinned and willing to reform, “to go and sin no more”. It is not a passport to sins but a call to change our sinful ways to holiness, to being like God, loving and kind to everyone.

And that begins with our being kind first of all to ourselves. 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.

Repenting, remaining in God present in us, with us in Christ

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Lent-C, 20 March 2022
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 ><}}}*> Luke 13:1-9
Photo by author, July 2020 in Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

As I have told you at the start of this 40-day journey, Lent is like a coming home to God with Ash Wednesday until Saturday after as the porch and each Sunday a door leading us into the inner rooms closer to God.

At each door these past two Sundays, we were opened to God’s majesty and wonder, love and mercy in Jesus Christ who had come to help us triumph over many temptations in life, to be transformed and transfigured in him.

With Luke as our guide this year, he had opened to us each Sunday a very unique door to experience God’s majesty and mystery, his love and mercy offered in Jesus Christ.

This becomes most pronounced this Third and Fourth Sundays when we find his gospel stories as exclusively his alone: Christ’s call to repentance following the news of Pilate’s massacre of 18 Galileans during a temple worship and the parable of the Merciful Father more known as parable of the Prodigal Son.

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

Luke 13:1-5
Photo by author, parish Via Crucis, 11 March 2022.

Our “blaming game”

At first hearing, our gospel today sounds like a news broadcast of brutalities and mishaps, trials and sufferings happening almost daily around the world. So many times, they happen closest to us personally or within our own circles of family and friends.

Only Luke has this account of teaching by Jesus; nowhere would you find in the gospels any account of Pilate ordering this massacre of Galileans but the Jewish historian Josephus had recorded many instances of the Roman governor’s ruthless reign.

And here we find the artistry of Luke in inserting this scene in his gospel the Church has chosen as part of our Lenten itinerary. So often in life, we keep on blaming somebody else except our very selves for every negative things happening to us and around us, even considering it as “divine chastisements” or karma to those people we consider as evil.

It is true that evil begets evil, but the seeming dominion of sin and evil in the world is so wide for us to attribute blame only to certain persons as if others, including ourselves, had no part in it. It always takes two to tango!

Worst case of this “blaming game” of ours is to even link our sufferings and trials with God.

Nothing bad can ever come from God like disasters and catastrophes, sickness and turmoils because God is love. God offers only life, never death nor destruction for he does only what is good. It is very wrong to think at all that God has something to do with any of these problems happening in the world like the pandemic or in our personal lives.

Photo by author, Sinai Mountain Range in Egypt, May 2019.

This is the gist of the Lord’s response to the people bringing him the bad news of the 18 Galileans ordered massacred by Pilate, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means!”. God does not punish at all! Bad things happen because of sins and that is what we always have to look inside us, how have we contributed to the evil happening.

And to make it clearer that God has nothing to do whatsoever with all these bad things happening to us, Jesus added, “Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means!”.

However, Jesus is not telling us to be resigned to the absurdities of the world and of humankind. We can all do something to greatly prevent and reduce all these misfortunes and sufferings around us and that is the way of repentance, of conversion – the very calls of the prophets in the Old Testament and by John the Baptist.

Now, Jesus our Savior, the Son of God, is voicing out this call of repentance with urgency and new authority not only because it is the only way back to God but precisely due to his very nature of being loving and patient, merciful and forgiving.

The kind of God we have, the only one there is

The grace of this third Sunday of Lent is the revelation of the kind of God we have, the only one there is: a very loving and patient, merciful and forgiving God who is also perfectly present among us in Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, site of the burning bush in Sinai now inside St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.

In the first reading, we are told of that unforgettable scene of Moses at the burning bush where God revealed himself as “I AM WHO AM” – the One who is always present with us in the past, in the future, and most especially in every here and now, the present moment.

When we think of God, what comes to our mind, what do we say about him?

God told Moses “Thus you say to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you” (Ex. 3:15) to remind them that this God has always been present with his people.

With Abraham, God first made the promise of being the father of all nations (last Sunday’s first reading), to Isaac he revealed himself in the stairway to heaven, and to Jacob that he would bring them to Egypt and liberate them after. Now in Moses, everything is coming into fulfillment of this great nation to be set free by God, a prefiguration Christ and his saving mission.

Throughout history, God never left his people, working great marvels in the past to deliver them from slavery, a passing over and exodus, assuring us of his presence and salvation in the future by remaining at our side.

History is cyclic, everything seems to be happening again but with an upward trajectory towards God; in every repetition of history, the question is where are we standing with God, are we still the same the first time we encountered him, descending to vice and sins or have we grown in virtues and holiness?

Salvation history and secular history continue to unfold for both are one in God; hence, we must not waste every moment to return to God, to repent and be converted. Beware of Paul’s warning, “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor. 10:12)! Remember those Galileans massacred by Pilate or those 18 people at Siloam crushed to death by tower that had fallen – anything can happen with us, so be ready. Never leave God who is always with us, assuring us with salvation in Jesus.

Beginning this Sunday, continuing to next week with the parable of the prodigal son and finally on the fifth Sunday of Lent when we skip Luke’s gospel to borrow from John for the story of the woman caught in adultery, we are being immersed into the deeper mystery of this God we call Father made known to us by Jesus Christ through his own passion, death and resurrection.

The more we enter God’s mystery every Sunday of Lent, the more his “height, breath and depth” (Eph. 3:18) appear to us, making us realize he is real, very true like another person we can feel and hear, always with us, patiently waiting for us to bear fruit like the owner of the fig tree in the parable.

How have you experienced God’s presence this past week?

What else do we need to be convinced of his love and mercy that we still refuse to repent and be converted in Jesus Christ?

The time is now, not yesterday or tomorrow for God is I AM WHO AM, one who is in the present. Amen. Have a blessed week.

Thank you for the prayers; I am home trying to recuperate from my surgery.

Photo by author, inside St. Catherine Monastery with Mt. Sinai at the background in Egypt, May 2019.

Praying for someone with “anything against us”

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the First Week of Lent, 11 March 2022
Ezekiel 18:21-28   <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 5:20-26
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Novitiate, 2017.
You, O God,
are indeed so good and loving!  
How true is our Responsorial Psalm 
as we close Lent’s first week, 
“If you, O Lord, mark iniquities, 
who can stand?” because nothing 
can be hidden from you; 
yet, so many times you pretend like 
a dumb - “nagtatanga- tangahan" po kayo - 
as if not knowing our sins and evil 
just because you love us like when 
Jesus said in the gospel, 
“if you bring your gift to the altar, 
and there recall that your brother 
has anything against you, 
leave your gift there at the altar, 
go first and be reconciled with your brother, 
and then come and offer your gift (Mt.5:23-24).”
When does 
a “brother has anything against us?”, Lord?
If you mean, dear Jesus,
that a brother/sister has something 
against us because of his/her wrongdoing, 
then we could never be able 
to offer anything at all to you
because we all have something 
against each other!  
But here, it is very clear, 
“a brother has anything against you” 
because we have done something wrong 
against somebody; the burden is on us 
that is why we are obliged, 
even ought to be 
“reconciled with him first then offer our gift” 
because we’re the guilty one.  
Forgive us, Jesus,
for always pretending to be 
the offended or aggrieved ones
when in fact, we are the offender,
the sinner who had done wrong 
to another that is why he/she
has anything against us".
We pray for those who have something
against us because of our own making,
of our own provocations; let us be real
with you, O God, to change our ways
beginning this Lent as you assure us
through Prophet Ezekiel, 
“When someone virtuous 
turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, 
and dies, it is because of the iniquity 
he committed that he must die.  
But if the wicked, turning from wickedness 
he has committed, does what is right and just, 
he shall preserve his life; 
since he has turned away from all the sins 
that he committed, he shall surely live, 
he shall not die (18:26-28).”
Amen. 

Lent is believing in others

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, First Week of Lent, 09 March 2022
Jonah 3:1-10   <*{{{>< + ><}}}*>   Luke 11:29-32  
Photo by author, April 2021.
God our Father,
so often we are like Jonah
 who doubt and mistrust people 
of the good they could do;
like Jonah, we refuse to follow 
your instructions because we see
others as good for nothing,
hopeless to change and become better.  
Sadly, the very people we doubt of 
their own abilities and goodness 
are the ones closest to us like husband or wife, 
children, brother or sister, and friends! 
How sad in our modern time,
despite our many "achievements",
we continue to refuse in appreciating
our worth as your beloved children 
that we also fail to value others around us,
especially those who truly care and 
love us like family and friends.
Help us see, dear God,
this spirit and challenge of Lent
for us to be trusting first of ourselves,
of our worth, of our identity as your 
beloved children to believe in  others too.
May the words of your Son Jesus awaken 
us to how "This generation 
is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, 
but no sign will be given it, 
except the sign of Jonah" (Luke 11:29). 
Yes, Lord, we keep looking for signs 
from you and others so that we could 
believe in ourselves forgetting that 
we are already your sign of presence
in Jesus Christ who offered us his life
on the Cross to be whole again in you. 
On this season of Lent,
give us dear Jesus,
the grace to rediscover and 
return to the sacrament of reconciliation
to confess our sins, experience your
forgiveness through your priests;
let us return with our whole heart
for you are gracious and merciful,
O God; take away those silent burdens of
guilt feelings that nag and disturb 
our conscience which prevent us from
seeing your light in us and in others.
Amen. 

Pagbabalik-loob, pagpapaloob sa kalooban ng Diyos

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Kapistahan ng Pagbabalik-loob ni San Pablo, Ika-25 ng Enero 2022
Gawa ng mga Apostol 22:3-16  ><}}}*> + <*{{{><  Marcos 16:15-18
Larawan mula sa en.holyordersofststephen.org ipinapakita pagkamatay ng unang martir ng Simbahan si San Esteban habang pinapanood ni Saul na noo’y taga-usig ng mga Kristiyano habang napakita naman mula sa langit ang Panginoong Jesu-Kristo.

“Kalooban ng Diyos.”  Ito ang sa tuwina palagi nating inaalam sapagkat batid nating ito ang pinakamabuti para sa atin.  Subalit kadalasan tayo ay nabibigo, naguguluhan kung ano ang kalooban ng Diyos dahil madalas akala natin para itong tanong na isang pindot ay malalaman kaagad ang sagot tulad ng sa Google.

Kauna-unahang hinihingi sa atin upang mabatid ang kalooban ng Diyos ang tayo muna ay “pumaloob sa Diyos” na ibig sabihi’y dapat nasa loob tayo ng Diyos. Kung ikaw ay nasa labas ng Diyos, tiyak ikaw ay lumayo sa Kanya dahil sa kasalanan; kaya, pagbabalik-loob sa Kanya ang kinakailangan.

Ibig kong simulan dito ang pagninilay sa Kapistahan ng Pagbabagong-buhay ni San Pablo Apostol na ating ipinagdiriwang sa araw na ito. Ito ang upisyal na salin mula sa Inggles ng “Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle” na tila may kulang.

Ganito kasi iyon: Tama rin namang sabihing “pagbabagong-buhay” dahil bawat conversion wika nga ay pagbabago tulad ng na-convert sa ibang relihiyon o sa ibang anyo o gamit. Ngunit sa bawat pagbabago, mayroong higit na malalim na nababago na hindi namang ibig sabihin ay nag-iiba o nagiging different.

Kasi iyong sinasabing conversion ni San Pablo o ng sino pa mang tao ay hindi naman pagbabago ng pagkatao kung tutuusin; sa bawat conversion ng isang makasalanan o masamang tao, hindi naman nababago yaong tao talaga kungdi kanyang puso na siyang naroon sa kanyang kalooban.

Ibig bang sabihin ang pagbabagong buhay ay yaong dating masayahin o palatawa magiging malungkutin o iyakin? Yaong dating mapusok at malakas ang loob magiging duwag? O yaong pagbigla-bigla at padaskol-daskol ay magiging makupad at mabagal sa pagdedesisyon?

Sa pagbabagong-buhay ng sino man tulad ni San Pablo, hindi nababago ang pagkatao: mapusok pa rin si San Pablo, palaban at matapang nang tawagin at sumunod kay Kristo. Hindi naman nabago kanyang karakter pero nabago kanyang puso na nahilig sa kalooban ng Diyos pagkaraan. Iyong kanyang dating kapusukan at katapangan sa pag-uusig ng mga Kristiyano ay nalihis naman sa pagpapahayag ng Mabuting Balita ni Hesus sa mga Hentil at kapwa niya Judio.

Kaya naman higit na malalim at makahulugang isalin ang conversion ng sino man sa katagang “pagbabalik-loob”. Bawat nagkakasala ay lumalayo ang loob mula sa Diyos na ibig sabihin ay “ayaw sa Diyos” gaya ng ating pakahulugan tuwing sinasabing “malayo ang loob”.

Kapag nagsisi at tumalikod sa kasalanan ang isang tao, hindi lamang siya nagbabagong-buhay o nag-iiba ng pamumuhay kungdi higit sa lahat, siya ay “nagbabalik-loob” sa Diyos. Tatlong bagay ang itinuturo sa ating ni San Pablo sa kanyang karanasan ng pagbabalik-loob sa Diyos.  

Larawan mula sa en.wikipedia.org ni San Pablo sa harapan ng Basilica ni San Pablo sa Roma, Italya.

Una, bawat pagbabalik-loob ay isang personal na pagtawag at paanyaya mula sa Panginoong Hesus.  Batay sa salaysay ni San Pablo, “Nasubasob ako sa lupa, at narinig ko ang isang tinig sa akin, ‘Saulo, Saulo!’”(Gawa 22:7).  

Araw-araw inaanyayahan tayo ni Hesus na magbalik-loob sa Kanya. 

Iyong mabatid lamang natin sa ating kalooban na mali ang ating ginagawa o kaya tayo ay kabahan at matakot sa isang masamang gawain, iyon na ang tinig ni Hesus na tumatawag sa atin katulad kay San Pablo. 

Huwag na nating hintayin pa ang isang “dramatic” o “bonggang” pagkakataon wika nga upang pakinggan ang tawag ng Panginoon katulad nang mahulog sa kanyang kabayo si San Pablo.  Hindi ibig ng Diyos na sumadsad pa ang ating buhay sa kasamaan at mawala na ang lahat ng pagkakataong makabalik pa sa Kanya.            

Ikalawa, madalas kapag tayo tinawag ng Diyos na magbalik-loob sa Kanya ay hindi kaagad maliwanag ang lahat sa atin kaya kailangan natin ng taga-akay: “Nabulag ako dahil sa kaningningan ng liwanag na iyon, kaya’t ako’y inakay na lamang ng mga kasama ko papasok sa Damaso” (Gawa 22:11). 

Larawan kuha ni G. Jim Marpa, 2019.

At hindi lamang basta taga-akay ang kailangan natin sa bawat pagbabalik-loob kungdi isang mahusay na gabay katulad ni Ananias na “isang taong may takot sa Diyos, tumutupad sa Kautusan, at iginagalang ng mga Judiong naninirahan sa Damasco” (Gawa 22:12). 

Si Ananias ang ginamit ng Diyos upang mapagaling ang pagkabulag ni San Pablo at malahad sa kanya ang kalooban ng Diyos na mapalaganap ang Mabuting Balita.

Ang mahusay na gabay ay yaong pumapawi at nagpapagaling sa ating mga pagkabulag sa katotohanan ng Diyos sa buhay na ito. Wika mismo ni Hesus, maaring bang maging taga-akay ng mga bulag ang isa pang kapwa bulag?

Magkaroon ng isang mabuting taga-akay o spiritual director na hindi namang dapat pari o madre lamang kungdi yaong isang mabuting pastol na kalakbay at kaagapay sa ating spiritual journey.

Ikatlo, bawat tawag sa pagbabalik-loob sa Diyos ay palaging paanyayang pumasok sa isang komunyon o kaisahan kay Hesus at Kanyang pamayanan o komunidad.  Ito ang magandang bahagi ng pagtawag kay San Pablo:  nagpakilala si Jesus bilang kanyang inuusig na Kristiyano, “Saulo, Saulo!  Bakit mo ako pinag-uusig?  Ako’y si Jesus na taga-Nazaret na iyong pinag-uusig” (Gawa 22:7,8)

Ang totoong pagbabalik-loob o pagbabagong-buhay ay yaong hindi lamang makita ang sarili kungdi makita ang kanyang kaisahan kay Hesus at sa kapwa-tao.  Walang kabuluhan ang ano mang pagpapakabuti ng sarili na nakahiwalay sa Diyos at sa kapwa.  Hindi kabutihan kungdi kapalaluan ang walang ibang makita kungdi sarili.  


Madaling sabihin ang mga bagay na ito at sadyang mahirap gawin.  Subalit kung ating susuriin ang naging buhay ni San Pablo, hindi lamang minsanang pangyayari ang magbalik-loob sa Diyos.

Isang mahabang proseso ang kanyang pinagdaanan sa kanyang pagbabalik-loob o pagbabagong-buhay; katulad natin marahil siya ma’y nagkakasala minsan-minsan sa Panginoon. 

Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 2019.

Ang mahalaga ay ang patuloy niyang pagninilay at pananalangin, ang pagsisikap niyang “pumaloob sa Diyos” upang mabatid at maisakatuparan ang Kanyang Banal na Kalooban na “Humayo kayo sa buong sanlibutan at ipangaral ninyo sa lahat ang Mabuting Balita” (Mc.16:15).  

Kaya, huwag manghinawa sakaling mabagal ang iyong “pagbabagong-buhay”; minsa’y akala mo lamang wala namang nababago at masama ka pa rin.

Hindi totoo iyan dahil batid ni Hesus, nakikita ni Hesus ang pagsisikap natin mula sa kaloob-looban natin hindi pa man tayo pumapaloob sa Kanya.

Ang totoo kasi, palagi namang nasa loob natin si Hesus, kahit anong pilit nating lumayo sa Kanya. Amen.

Christmas is reflecting Jesus, the Light of the world

Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Day 1, 16 December 2021
Isaiah 56:1-3, 6-8   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   John 5:33-36
Photo by author at San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

The Parol or lantern is a uniquely Filipino sign and reminder of Christmas. When we were in elementary school, we used to make our own parol with colorful papel de japon as part of our subject “work education”. The most beautiful parol submitted was usually the one hanged above the Belen like that star pointing to the Child Jesus born in Bethlehem at the first Christmas.

And that is the truth about the beautiful and colorful parol – a sign leading to Jesus Christ like John the Baptist.

“He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.”

John 5:35-36

Since the second and third Sundays of Advent, we have been introduced to the person and mission of John the Baptist. As we begin our nine-day novena to Christmas with our Simbang Gabi, we are reminded again of that important role we have in becoming another John who not only prepares the way of the Lord but must also be very sign of Christ’s presence.

All routes lead to churches every December 16, a beautiful sight to behold with so many devotees trying to fulfill their vows of completing the Simbang Gabi for so many reasons, from thanksgiving to favors granted and for more wishes for the coming year!

But, like other novenas, Simbang Gabi in itself will not make one a better or holier person. It takes a lot of prayer and hard work on our part to be like John the Baptist, a parol “burning and shining” pointing to Jesus who had come 2000 years ago, who comes daily in our lives, and will come again at the end of time.

In our gospel we heard Jesus praising John who did a wonderful job preparing the people for his coming because in his very life, they have found hope and inspiration to strive in what is good and just. In fact, the people felt as if John was already the Messiah they were waiting for!

It was very clear to John that he was not the Messiah, that he was merely the Precursor of the Lord, not even worthy to untie his sandals. This is what we must pray for in every Simbang Gabi, specially at this time of the pandemic: that we beam more of the light of Jesus who is like the sun while we are the moon. What we share is the Light itself – Jesus Christ – not our own light that can sometimes be misleading and not really that bright at all.

Photo by author, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 08 December 2021.

To reflect the light of Jesus Christ is to be like him, good and kind, just and merciful, exactly what we heard from the first reading which is a call to personal conversion; we cannot convert others to Jesus unless they see first we are converted in Christ.

Thus says the Lord: Observe what is right, do what is just… All who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold on to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer.

Isaiah 56:1, 6

No matter how good or “holy” as we can be, we are not the Light; our mission is to bring people closer to Jesus and be “conformed to his image” (Rom. 8:29).

How sad these days when “credit-grabbing” has become a hobby and a national past-time not only among those in power but even with everybody else specially those in social media trying to draw attention to themselves to earn precious statistics to be known as “influencers”.

This is our second Christmas in the pandemic: last year was more difficult than this year and we have so much to be thankful to God in tremendously blessing us since last year. We are still alive, many still have their jobs with steady income, others have started to pick up the pieces of their lives but moving on personally, spiritually, emotionally and even financially. Kids still go to school no matter how difficult online classes may be.

We have so many things to thank God this Christmas – first among them are the many John the Baptists who were like a “burning and shining lamp” to us, guiding us and inspiring us to move on with life amid the darkness and gloom of this pandemic

Yes, Christmas this year like last year is still difficult, so unlike the other Christmases we have experienced in the past. Perhaps the only other worst Christmas than we ever had in 2020 and 2021 were the Christmasses experienced by our parents and grandparents during the Japanese occupation at World War II. Ours pale in comparison with those wartime years.

During this Simbang Gabi, let us ask ourselves how much have we changed and matured in our experience of Christmas since the start of the pandemic last year? Do we now have Jesus in our hearts or, are we back to our old selves of having that “Christmas rush” for material things, forgetting Jesus Christ is Christmas himself?

Let the light of Christ burn and shine in you! Amen.

Photo by author at San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

Aral at alaala ng kapa ni San Martin ng Tours

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-10 ng Nobyembre 2021
Larawan mula sa Parokya ni San Martin ng Tours sa Bocaue, Bulacan.
Mula pa sa aming kabataan
palaging nilalarawan kabutihan
ng Patron naming mahal 
San Martin ng Tours sa France 
kung paano niyang hinati 
kanyang kapa upang damitan
at huwag malamigan dukhang
matanda nakasalubong sa daan.
Kinagabihan ay kanyang napanaginipan
Panginoong Jesus sa kanyang paanan
tangan-tangan kapang ibinigay sa 
matandang tinulungan, kaganapan ng
kanyang katuruan na ano mang kabutihan
ang inyong gawin sa mga maliliit at 
nahihirapan ay siya rin ninyong
ginagawa sa Kristo na sa atin nakipanahan.
Nguni't hindi lamang iyon ang hiwaga
ng kapa ng ating Patrong mahal 
na dating kawal, sanay sa mga digmaan:
nang siya ay mabinyagan, 
hinasa niya kanyang isipan upang matutunan 
mga aral ng pananampalataya na kanyang
dinalisay sa taos-pusong pananalangin
kaya't lubos siyang napaangkin sa Panginoon natin.
Upang maging mataimtim 
sa kanyang pananalangin, 
nagtutungo si San Martin sa kagubatan
at hinuhubad suot niyang kapa upang 
isampay at ibitin upang sakali man 
siya ay kailanganin, 
madali siyang tuntunin 
tanging kapa niya ang hahanapin.
Mula sa "kapa" ni San Martin
na noo'y kawal sa France
nanggaling salita na "kapilya"
na mula sa "chapele" ng mga Pranses
na tumutukoy sa kanyang kapa na hinuhubad
tuwing nananalangin at ngayon gamit natin
sa munting pook-dalanginan upang tulad
ni San Martin taimtim din tayong makapanalangin.
Kay sarap pagnilayan at tularan
halimbawa ni San Martin ng Tours:
hinubad kanyang "kapa" ---
kapangyarihan at katanyagan
upang maramtan ng katauhan 
ni Kristo-Jesus na "hinubad kanyang 
pagiging katulad ng Diyos upang mamuhay 
bilang alipin tulad natin" (Fil.2:7)!
Mula sa flickr.com.

“Lord, to whom shall we go?” : Faith in Jesus in time of pandemic

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXI-B in Ordinary Time, 22 August 2021
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18 ><}}}'> Ephesians 5:21-32 ><}}}'> John 6:60-69
Inquirer’s Friday front page tells us in essence the message of this Sunday’s Gospel – “Lord, to whom shall we go?” in this time of crisis. Photo from inquirer.net.

We conclude our series on the Lord’s discourse on bread of life with the same question he had posed to his disciples more than 2000 years ago at Capernaum, repeatedly asking us the same question daily, especially on Sundays: “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn. 6:67).

This is the first time in John’s gospel that the people have rejected Jesus Christ whom they have always admired and followed to listen to his teachings and most of all, to be healed of their sickness. When they were fed to their satisfaction at the wilderness, they wanted to take Jesus and make him their king but he evaded them, going to Capernaum where he was found the following day. All this time, religious leaders were the only ones against Jesus, challenging his authority especially when he cleansed the temple and healed on a sabbath day.

But today, in a sudden twist, people rejected and abandoned Jesus because they could not accept him as the Bread of Life who came down from heaven who would give his flesh as food and blood as drink for eternal life. Worse, this was led by those supposed to be close to him, his disciples.

Often used as a generic term for a follower or a believer, the word “disciple” is from the Greek word discipulos that literally means “one who comes after or follows the master” (also the root of discipline). In the gospels, disciples were the common followers of Jesus, distinct from the apostles often referred to as “the Twelve”. From another Greek word apostolein meaning “one who is sent forth ahead of a master”, an apostle is one who is close to Jesus, who personally knows him and have also seen him. That is why Paul insisted his being an apostle too.

This distinction between a disciple and an apostle is found in all four gospel accounts. It is important to know this especially in our gospel today which is the first time John had introduced to us the presence of disciples among the crowd with Jesus at Capernaum. They have all been silently listening to his discourse until Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn.6:54-56).

It was from here where our gospel this Sunday picks up the story:

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

John 6:60-62, 66-67
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on the eve of the ECQ, 05 August 2021.

Aversion vs. Conversion

Here we find a painful truth we all experience when following Jesus as our Lord and Master. Sometimes it can happen that those closest to us are the ones who cannot accept and understand us like those disciples of Jesus who have left home and family to listen to his teachings after witnessing many of his healings. Then all of a sudden, they abandoned him because he had said it is his flesh he shall give as food to eat and his blood as drink for eternal life.

They were thinking in the literal sense, more preoccupied with what they knew, with what they have in their minds, without any room for Jesus nor for others. They would rather stick with what they have heard and learned from the Old Testament, of Moses and the manna from heaven.


Refusing Jesus is always a refusal 
to grow and mature not only in faith 
but most of all in life and in our relationships. 
 It is pride and self-centeredness, 
a form of self worship and idolatry 
when one believes more to one's self
 than with God through others.

Refusing Jesus is always a refusal to grow and mature not only in faith but most of all in life and in our relationships. It is pride and self-centeredness, a form of self worship and idolatry when one believes more to one’s self than with God through others.

Jesus came to deepen our faith by experiencing himself, inviting us all to be converted back to God. But instead of conversion or turning back to God in the light of Jesus, we choose aversion, that is, turning away from God, returning to blindness and darkness like those disciples: As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (Jn.6:66).

They cannot accept and take Jesus personally and wholly as his very words implied the Eucharist where we receive Jesus, Body and Blood under “the perceptible signs of bread and wine” as explained by Vatican II’s Sacrosantum Concilium #7.

Every Sunday when we gather as the Body of Christ in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist prefigured in the time of Moses in the wilderness until their entry into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership, we likewise reaffirm and renew our commitment to love and “serve the Lord, for he alone is our God” (Jos. 24:18).

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, March 2020.

Yes, “this saying and teaching of the Lord is hard to accept” (Jn. 6:60) especially in this time of the pandemic when many among us have lost family and friends including sources of income and savings while things are expected to worsen before getting any better at all.

Then there is also the familiarity with the Holy Mass breeding contempt among us these days when all we have are virtual Masses.

It is very sad that many of us these days have “returned to our former way of life and no longer accompanied Jesus” like those disciples at Capernaum; there are some who have stopped believing in Jesus due to the many pains and sufferings of this prolonged pandemic!

We are in a time of severe crisis not only in faith but also in every aspect of life due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. As we moved Saturday to lower level of quarantine controls, new records were set in new infections and deaths while ICU’s and hospitals are almost if not at full capacity already.

Lest we forget, there is the severe stress on our medical frontliners and their families too, with some literally passing out of exhaustion.

Some major decisions really have to be made not only by leaders but by everyone. That is the literal meaning of the word “crisis” which is from the Greek krisis that means time for decision-making to prevent (more) disasters from happening.

Disasters are due to poor or wrongful decisions.

One of that is removing God from every equation in life, including in our political and social life, giving rise to a culture of impunity where corruption has become a way of life.

Despite our being a Christian nation, we have chosen to remain in our morally bankrupt style of politics based on popularity, compadrazgo system, and vote selling. No wonder that even while we are in a pandemic with thousands getting sick or dying and millions are suffering, public officials continue to plunder our nation’s coffers blatantly while candidates shamelessly campaign early with their giant tarpaulins and television ads to ensure they all remain in power.

To whom shall we go? With the corrupt officials and trapos who do not care at all for us?

The good news today is that even if we have abandoned Jesus many times in our lives and in our nation’s history, he remains with us, still asking us like the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn.6:67).

Let us tell Jesus like Peter, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn.6:68-69)?

Remaining in Jesus like Peter

Last Friday, the Inquirer eloquently showed on its front page the sad plight of our nation with a banner story on corruption at the DOH following the recent reports by Commission on Audit as well the arrogant display of powers-that-be in Cebu.

Then, a breath of fresh hopes with this photo by Grig C. Montegrande on how the QC General Hospital had converted its chapel into a COVID-19 ward to accommodate the growing number of patients. The photo summarizes our Sunday readings, that we are in a critical moment not only in our history but also in our lives, calling us to conversion or turning to God instead of aversion which is turning away from God.

From inquirer.net.

Remember the “I AM” declaration by Jesus first used in this bread of life discourse two weeks ago when he said “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (Jn.6:41)?

That must have lingered in Peter. His faith did not deepen right away but it had surely grown and matured while listening to Christ’s discourse on the bread of life which became clearer to him after Easter.

Let us try “to feel at home” in Peter’s company during this pandemic to be led to a similar faith insight and commitment in Jesus no matter how difficult it may be.

Faith is like love: we believe and love not because we are sure of ourselves but because we are sure of the one we believe and love. That is why we commit our lives to our beloved. It is not primarily because of us at the center but of the other. Like Jesus. Or a loved one.

This is Paul’s reminder to us in the second reading of having Jesus as the basis of our relationships: Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21).

It is not a call to dominance over one another but mutual-subordination in Christ by imitating his self-sacrificing love for everyone in the giving of his total self, Body and Blood. This we can do these days by observing health protocols like social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands frequently. Best is to stay home as much as possible by giving ourselves more to our family and loved ones. Amen.

Have a safe and blessed week, everyone!

Transfiguration in time of corona

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, 06 August 2021
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14  ><}}}'>  2 Peter 1:16-19  ><}}}'>  Mark 9:2-10
A 1311 painting of the Transfiguration by Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna from commons.wikimedia.org.
God our loving Father,
as we celebrate today the Feast
of your Son Jesus Christ's Transfiguration,
we come to you amid the same darkness
that enveloped them that night atop Mount Tabor
as we enter another series of lockdown
in this COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken
faith in you among many of us.
Like the apostles before his Transfiguration,
we too are wondering the meaning of Christ's  
Passion and Death when he is your Son, the Messiah.
"How could he suffer and die?", they must have wondered.
In the same manner, we too wonder, could not stop
the questions coming from deep within us why are you
allowing these sufferings and trials, Lord?
Have you been angry with us, Lord, that these happen?
Jesus took Peter, James,
and John and led them up a high
mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach
them... Then a cloud came, casting
a shadow over them; then from the
cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved
Son.  Listen to him." (Mark 9:2-3, 7)
Like Peter during the Transfiguration,
we do not know what we are saying to you, Lord;
whether we are filled with joy or burdened
with sorrow, we speak without thinking much
even if you know what is in our hearts.
Open our hearts, dear God, to always
listen to your Son by remaining with him
in his journey on the path to his Cross.
Moreover, we possess
the prophetic message that is
altogether reliable.  You will do well
to be attentive to it, as to a lamp
 shining in a dark place, until day dawns
and the morning star rises
in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19) 
Bring us back to the path of faith in you, Father;
despite our dismal progress or lack of faith this year due to 
the many trials and difficulties by this pandemic, 
open our hearts to let us go back to you in Jesus, 
listening to him intently when all is dark and even dead 
because for as long as we return to you, sin and failures
become means for us to be changed and transformed -
transfigured when we rise in Jesus Christ's Resurrection.
Amen.