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.

When you say nothing at all

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 25 September 2022
Amos 6:1, 4-7 ><000'> 1 Timothy 6:11-16 ><000'> Luke 16:19-31
Photo by author, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.
It's amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word you can light up the dark
Try as I may I could never explain what I hear when you don't say a thing

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There's a truth in your eyes saying you'll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you'll catch me if ever I fall
You say it best when you say nothing at all

Yes, my dear friends, I am so in love these days; the Lord is doing a lot of things in my heart and soul in my ministry that songs automatically play within me like a jukebox every time I pray and meditate. The other day was Five for Fighting’s 100 Years; this Sunday it is When You Say Nothing At All by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz first recorded by Keith Whitley in 1988 but became popular with Alison Krauss in 1995 that finally became a worldwide hit with Roan Keating’s version used as soundtrack of the 1999 Julia Robert-starrer Notting Hill.

The lyrics are so lovely, so true while the melody is so cool that is so uplifting and even spiritual as the song tells us a lot of the love of God for us expressed in his Son Jesus Christ who does everything, saying nothing at all, just loving us, understanding us, forgiving us. Most of the time, with us saying nothing at all too because he knows everything.

The more I listen to this song, the more I feel it speaking also of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, of how we truly regard each other as a person, as a brother and sister, as disciples of Jesus when we say nothing at all, when our actions speak loudly or, silently of our love for each other.

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.”

Luke 16:19-21
Photo from bloomberg.com of a homeless man in New York City during a fashion week in summer 2019.

Rich Man, Poor Man

Today’s parable is uniquely found only in Luke’s gospel like last Sunday that stresses Christ’s lesson on the wise use of money in the service of God through one another; but, the parable adds an important dimension in how this wise use of money will have a bearing in our judgment before God upon death. Hence, the gravity of the message expressed in great simplicity with beautiful layers of meaning.

First of all, the rich man has no name while the beggar was named Lazarus that means “God has rescued” or El ‘azar in Hebrew. The scene is still from the previous Sundays when the Pharisees and scribes complained why Jesus welcomed tax collectors and sinners. Jesus took it as an occasion to teach through parables the value of everyone before God, including the lost, the sick, the poor, and the sinful. They are the Lazarus who are given with a name because they are special in the eyes of God who rescues them all.


Then follows the juxtaposition of Lazarus
 lying at the door of the rich man's home
 - a very powerful image that punches us hard
 right in our face, of how numb we have become
 with each other!  

On the other hand, the rich man had no name not because he was less important but because he stands for each one of us blessed and loved by God. Notice that Jesus did not say whether the rich man and Lazarus were good or bad because their character would be revealed later as the parable unfolds.

See how Jesus presented the outer appearances of the two: the rich man was dressed in colorful and fine clothes, eating sumptuous food while Lazarus was somewhat naked, covered with sores in his whole body that dogs would lick as he filled himself with scraps falling from the rich man’s table.

Then follows the juxtaposition of Lazarus lying at the door of the rich man’s home – a very powerful image that punches us hard right in our face, of how numb we have become with each other!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, stranded local residents at the airport, June 2020.

Here we find a valuable lesson from this pandemic courtesy of the face mask that finally opened our eyes, including our minds and hearts to look again onto each one’s face, to recognize each person. Before the virus came, we just did not care with everyone we met as we were so cold that we would not even look at each others face, snubbing even those close to us.

There are still other Lazarus around us, living among us, not begging at all from us like this one in the parable who would not say anything at all but silently suffer in pain, hungry and thirsty for recognition and love like parents forgotten and neglected by their grownup children, wives cheated by their spouse, children left alone and misunderstood by their parents, our classmates and colleagues so maligned in the nasty talks going around us and in the social media, the poor and lowly workers exploited by their employers, or just anyone often criticized and judged but never appreciated.

Try thinking of the other Lazarus around us we never bothered to talk to nor even smiled at because we have been preoccupied with our many other worldly pursuits in life. Let us examine ourselves while amid the comforts and luxuries of life may have rightly earned with decent hard work that but may have caused us to have forgotten the “feel” of being human, of being sick and weak that we have forgotten or been totally unaware of those around us.

Death and the urgent call to conversion

See how the parable gets interesting when both characters died and a reversal of situation in the afterlife occurred. The rich man was buried, immediately going down to hell to suffer while Lazarus was carried – not buried – by angels to Abraham in heaven to be comforted. In the two conversations that followed between the rich man and Abraham, we find at the core the primary importance of daily conversion of everyone.

When Abraham told the rich man of the great chasm dividing them that Lazarus could do nothing to alleviate his torment, Jesus is warning us of the exact situation when we die which is eternity, without end. Therefore, while we are still alive, let us be aware and conscious of others too, not just of ourselves. That is essentially conversion, defocusing from our selves to see those around us more.

Remember how the dishonest steward in the parable last week who made friends with the debtors of his master to ensure his good fate after being fired? That finds its application in this Sunday’s parable wherein the rich man should have been like that dishonest steward in befriending Lazarus so he could have made it too in heaven! That is why I love so much that part of the parable of the juxtaposition of Lazarus at the gate of the rich man.

How did the rich man miss and did not see Lazarus right there at his face, hungry and with sores?

From Facebook, 2020.

Let us not be “complacent” as the Prophet Amos warned in the first reading of not being aware of the excesses and sacrilege going on during that time (Am.6:1). It could be happening right now with us when we choose to be silent and uninvolved, even blind and deaf to the suffering people around us because we are like the fool rich man who grew rich for himself instead of “growing rich in what matters to God” (Lk.12:13-21, August 1, 18th Sunday)!

In the second conversation with Abraham by the rich man, we find the pressing need for conversion more urgent, of heeding the calls of the scriptures, of the prophets and of Jesus Christ himself we hear in the gospel proclaimed daily. See also how the rich man had not really changed amid his torments, requesting that Lazarus be sent to warn his brothers living the same way he had lived in order to avoid hell. Imagine while in the afterlife, the rich man was still thinking of those he had left behind on earth!

So ridiculous was his request and yet, we too must be careful because so often, we have such illusion that a clear and irrefutable sign from heaven like what the Pharisees and scribes insisted from Jesus could lead everyone to conversion. It is an illusion because as Jesus had been telling since then, we need to have faith first to see and acknowledge him for us to be converted. It is the same faith that we need to heed St. Paul’s call in the second reading to “Lay hold of eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). It is faith that is vibrant and so alive that enables us to recognize our true wealth is God found among one another with us.

When we have faith, whether we are rich or poor, we always see everyone as a brother and sister in Christ. When we have faith, whether we are rich or poor, we are able to love truly because we also believe. And that is when we do not say anything at all because we just keep on doing what is good to everyone, especially the Lazarus among us.

This Sunday, Jesus reminds us of God’s immense love for each one of us, a love we have to share with everyone especially if we have so much unlike others.

Let us reflect our lives these past days and weeks when we felt like Lazarus unrecognized at all, even forgotten amid our being right in the middle of life and everyone. It must be painful and sad. Jesus knows it so well; hold on to him our Savior who is always doing something for us always, especially when he says nothing at all. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead! God bless you more!

Photo from inquirer.net, Ms. Patricia Non of the Maginhawa Community Pantry, 2021.

Getting up to follow Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle, 21 September 2022
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13     <*{{{{><  +  ><}}}}*>     Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, Lake Tiberias from the side of Capernaum where Jesus called Matthew to follow him.
You never fail to amaze me,
Lord Jesus Christ with your
unique manner and ways
of finding us, calling us, 
and loving us.
Of your Twelve Apostles, 
only five were called while
working:  the brothers Simon
and Andrew, James and John
who were fishermen and 
Matthew, a tax collector;
the first four belonged 
to the most ordinary 
and lowliest job of the time, 
fishing, while Matthew did
the most despicable job of
collecting taxes unjustly for
Roman colonizers making him
both a sinner and a traitor.
But, you have your plans
that are so different from our
ways when you told the Pharisees
and scribes that "Those who are well
do not need a physician, 
but the sick do... I did not come
to call the righteous
but sinners" (Mt.9:12, 13).
Thank you, Lord Jesus
for still calling me when
I was at my lowest point in life,
when I was most sinful,
when everyone was rejecting me;
thank you, Jesus,
for believing in me,
in calling me to come,
follow you; help me to rise
from my pit of anger and
bitterness, hopelessness 
and desolation like Matthew,
leaving all evil and sins
to follow you
and share you with 
everyone.
Help me, Jesus,
to write the fifth gospel
according to my life
like Matthew
by "living in a manner
worthy of the call I have
received" (Eph. 4:1).
Amen.

St. Matthew,
pray for us!
Caravaggio’s painting, “Calling of St. Matthew” from en.wikipedia.org.

*You may also want to check our reflection on Caravaggio’s painting “Calling of St. Matthew” by clicking this link:

Following Jesus in lights and darkness by Caravaggio

Our forgiving God & our lost sense of sinfulness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 11 September 2022
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 ><}}}}*> 1 Timothy 1:12-17 ><}}}}*> Luke 15:1-10
Photo by author, 2018.

Last Wednesday morning during breakfast, we heard on television news the interview of the undersecretary of agriculture blaming our farmers for the recent oversupply of garlic in Batanes and cabbage in Benguet, saying “they plant crops but they don’t think about the market for their harvests.”

We have been so used to such comments by many heartless government officials ever since; and, they also happen everywhere like in our schools where teachers blame students, at homes with parents blaming children and siblings blaming one another and of course, not to be left out is our church where priests always blame people for whatever problems and mishaps that happen in the parish.

No wonder, we feel more comfortable with God depicted in the Old Testament like in our first reading today when God was so angry and instructed to immediately get down from the mountain to punish the people who have created a golden calf to worship.

We find it so difficult to fully and truly accept despite Christ’s words and assurances that God our Father finds joy in forgiving as depicted today in our gospel. So often, we are like the Pharisees and scribes who could not understand why we have to share in the joy of God when a sinner repents.

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. So to them he addressed this parable.

Luke 15:1-3
Photo by author, 2018.

Jesus reminded us these past two Sundays of the demands of discipleship, of the need for us to conform to his very person and not just with morality and even religiosity. Discipleship is being like Jesus, always having him as our top priority in life.

This progression of Christ’s teaching on discipleship reaches its peak as we move into the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel account considered as the “heart” of the Gospel in presenting to us three parables showing God full of mercy and forgiveness for sinners. Actually, it does not merely present God as forgiving but in fact as the One who finds joy in forgiving, who is inviting us to share in his joy of forgiving repentant sinners.

There are three parables in Luke chapter 15: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son known as prodigal son. We have opted to consider the shorter form of the gospel which skips the third parable which we have already reflected in the recent Season of Lent.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Quezon, July 2022.

The first two parables deal with things that are lost, a lamb and a coin; both deal with only one person like “one of you” and “a woman”. On surface, the two parables seem very ordinary but Jesus – and Luke – have a very captivating manner of narrating them, similarly ending each parable with great sense of rejoicing after finding the lost sheep and lost coin.

Simply put, Jesus is appealing to our common experience of how one lost item would surely claim our attention, no matter how small or even insignificant it may be compared with the rest of what we have.

How do you feel when after losing something you were so worried and disturbed searching for it then someone tells you, “para yun lang?”

We feel so mad, like being rubbed with salt on our wounds because such comment “para yun lang?” betrays their lack of concern and love for us, of not knowing at all or at least recognizing how much that missing thing means to us!

How much more with persons like family and friends who have gone wayward in life like the prodigal son and suddenly coming back to us, saying sorry, trying to pick up the broken pieces of our lives to be whole again as friends and family? Would we not also rejoice when they come home, when we finally find them again?

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

In narrating the two parables in such manner so common with us, Jesus now affirms the incomparable value of every repentant sinner. Moreover, Jesus is showing us in these parables the more deeper ties we have with each other that we must rejoice when a sinner is converted. Hence, the demand too on the part of the sinner, of everyone, to recognize our sinfulness first.

Notice how Luke began this new chapter by telling us how “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So to them he addressed this parable.”

Look at the attitudes of the Pharisees and scribes that are not just snobbish but recriminating against the tax collectors and sinners; for them, those kind of people were hopeless, improbable to change that no one should be socializing with them like Jesus.

But, what really got to their nerves that they were complaining why Jesus was sharing meals with them was the fact that tax collectors and sinners were not turning to the Law but to Jesus himself, following him, and even preferring him more than everything! They felt left out when in fact they were the first to separate themselves from everyone.

That’s what they could not accept, that they were no longer relevant.

And the main stumbling block to that was their lost their sense of sinfulness as they have believed so much with themselves as if they were like God, so pure and so clean. Due to their lost sense of sinfulness, they have been totally detached from God and from others as well because they were playing gods, setting them apart from everyone even from God himself because they believed they were sinless. In that sense, they felt God had nothing to do with them because they were sufficient in themselves.


There is nothing God cannot forgive.  
This is the grace of this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  
Whenever we admit and confess our sins to him, 
it is God who is first of all filled with so much joy
 for he has long been searching 
and waiting for us to return to him.

Photo by author, 2019.

This is the problem we have in this modern time, when we have all kinds of excuses and alibis, reasons and arguments in doing just everything, losing our sense of sin that unconsciously, we feel like God, in fact always playing God when we presume to know everything that we would neither rejoice when people change for the better nor sympathize with those suffering and in misery. Like the Pharisees and scribes and those heartless people in power and authority in government and schools, at home and in the church, they have no time to even see and review why and what have caused people to sin.

In the first reading, Moses is teaching us the attitude of a true disciple, of one who intercedes for the people by confessing the tender mercy and fidelity of God to his promises and to his people; Moses did not bargain with God to relent in punishing the people. Notice his language, his manner of praying to God, appealing to him as “Lord” filled with faith in God’s boundless mercy and forgiveness. We all know how in a twist of humor, it was Moses who was so furious later when he saw the people worshipping the golden calf that he threw on them the two tablets of stone of God’s Ten Commandments.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us through Timothy of God’s boundless love expressed in his mercy and forgiveness to us all sinners. We can never experience this unless we first realize and admit and own our sinfulness like St. Paul who may be considered the worst of sinners for having persecuted the early Christians. There are so many other saints who followed after him with so dark and sinful pasts but became great men and women of faith because they first admitted their sins and sinfulness. As the saying goes, there is no saint without a sinful past and there is no sinner who is denied of a saintly future.

There is nothing God cannot forgive. This is the grace of this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Whenever we admit and confess our sins to him, it is God who is first of all filled with so much joy for he has long been searching and waiting for us to return to him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Mount Sinai at the Monastery of St. Catherine, Egypt, 2019.

We are in God’s good hands always

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Seventeenth Week of Ordinary Time, 28 July 2022
Jeremiah 18:1-6   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 13:47-53
Photo by author, St. Anne Church, Jerusalem, May 2017.
Bless me today,
loving God our Father;
help me to be still,
to be silent, and be like
a clay in your hands.
Do whatever you want 
with me for I have offered you
myself long ago though like
your prophet Jeremiah, there
were times I have whined and
complained, or worst even indulged
in self-pity when I felt you 
have left me or forgotten me
when things get rough and tough
with me.
Thank you, loving Father
for what and who I am today -
these are all because you have
molded me like a clay in the potter's
hand:  so many times I have to be 
mashed over and over again,
remodeled, redesigned, reconstructed
until your desired image appears;
truly, all we can do is to propose but
ultimately, it is you, O God, who disposes.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done?” says the Lord. “Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.”

Jeremiah 18:5-6
When I look back to those difficult
and even painful days of molding,
everything was pure grace from you
and your loving hands:  nothing was 
wasted because I have become a better
person, I have learned to blend what is
new and what is old.

And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the Kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

Matthew 13:52
In the name of Jesus
your Son, keep me strong,
fill me with courage to forge on
with life's many trials as you
mold me into your beautiful
masterpiece, an "earthen vessel"
of your glory and mystery.
Amen.

We are “earthen vessels” handled with care by Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of St. James the Greater, Apostle, 25 July 2022
2 Corinthians 4:7-15   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 20:20-28
Photo by author, 2018.
Praise and glory to you,
Lord Jesus Christ for your
saint and apostle, James the
Greater!
His martyrdom and holiness
are testaments to your
gentleness, Lord, 
for we are all earthen vessels
keeping you, proclaiming you
to all nations.

Brothers and sisters: We hold this treasure in earthen vessels that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.

2 Corinthians 4:7-10
Despite his weaknesses
in having a big ego as seen
in many instances like when he 
his brother John told you to send 
fire to a Samaritan village that have
refused you to pass through and
making a request through their mother
to be seated at your right later when
you have established your kingdom,
you never dismissed James as a 
hopeless case; instead, full of love and
mercy, kindness and patience, you
"handled him with so much care" by 
bringing him along during your transfiguration
and agony in the garden; you let him
experienced your gentleness and humility
that after you have gone back in heaven,
he became the first bishop of Jerusalem
and because of that, the first among 
your Apostles to die like you, 
for you and your flock.
Dearest Jesus,
please be patient with me,
with my pride and arrogance;
let me realize that I am nothing
but like an earthen vessel, a claypot
so privileged not because of my own
merit but due to your own choosing
to be a vessel of your love and mercy.
Thank you, Jesus,
for taking care of me, 
for handling me with care
the way you did with James
the Greater and all the others saints
who were all like us - sinful and weak
but so loved and blessed by the Father
in you.  Amen.

Shrewd as serpents, simple as doves

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Baccalaureate Mass of Senior High School,
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 08 July 2022
Photo by author at Mt. Nebo, Jordan overlooking the Holy Land, May 2019. Modern sculpture of the bronze serpent God told Moses to erect in the desert so that those bitten by snakes would be healed when they looked up to it, a prefiguration of Christ himself.

Congratulations, our dear graduates of Senior High School. You are so blessed today because our gospel is like a valedictory address given to you by no less than our Lord Jesus Christ whose message is so simple, yet so rich and so timely during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.”

Matthew 10:16

You are the modern apostles of Jesus Christ.

You are so special, Senior High Batch 2022. The past two years are the most difficult in modern history, and probably doubly difficult for young people like you who were supposed to be outside learning and discovering more about life beyond the classrooms but COVID-19 kept you grounded.

But, here you are! Nakatapos din! – despite the poor internet services, the boring online classes, and limited personal interaction with others, you are graduating, soon fulfilling your dreams to become doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers.

Truly as Jesus Christ had said in the gospel today, you are being sent like sheep among wolves, a very wild world indeed where evil and darkness seem to prevail especially when you listen to all the news of missing ladies or even adults.

Photo by author, view of the desert to the Holy Land as seen from Jordan, May 2019.

I refuse to use that expression when somebody graduates, “welcome to the real world”. Was there any moment in your lives that was not real like, kunwa-kunwarian lang? What you went through in senior high was real, what you have experienced were all true. Lahat ay totohanang buhay especially those two years of isolation and lockdowns which may continue for the next three or five years according to experts.

Life will be more difficult in college but most challenging for growth and maturity.

Yes, there are so many dangers from within and from the outside but trust in God for in him alone can we find life and fulfillment as the prophet Hosea reminds us in the first reading today.

Thus says the Lord: “Let him who is wise understand these things, let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble.”

Hosea 14:10

What Hosea is telling us is to be wise, to be filled with wisdom which begins in having that holy fear of the Lord. Handle life with prayer. As I would always tell you, “study hard, work harder, pray hardest”. In God alone can we find meaning and fulfillment in life.

Photo by author, St. Catherine’s Monastery near Mt. Sinai, Egypt, May 2019.

Maybe you are wondering why Jesus is asking us to be shrewd like the serpents. As you must have learned in world literature and world history, the ancient peoples like the Egyptians have always considered snakes as symbols of wisdom. But what I wish to focus more is the revision of the older translation of this passage from “be wise as the serpents” to “be shrewd as the serpents”.

Being shrewd is often mistaken into a negative trait because it suggests a practical wisdom that does not necessarily look deeply into things at all but wily and conscious of its personal interests.

That’s according to the late Dr. S. I. Hayakawa of the the veritable Reader’s Digest guide to synonyms, “Use the Right Word”. However, Dr. Hayakawa explained that the word “shrewd” is often used to indicate an unusual mental agility or perceptiveness of taking advantage of hidden opportunities. It speaks of a more penetrating kind of wisdom that is why the new versions of bible of “be shrewd as the serpents” is more precise and exact.

In that sense, too, you are all shrewd as the serpents during your senior high school because you were able to perceive hidden opportunities during the pandemic that you strived in your studies. Believe me, you are well-equipped for life because of the online classes during the pandemic, teaching you, showing you so many opportunities our generation had never seen.

Here is the more interesting part of being shrewd like the serpents….

From reddit.com.

The snake is the only one in the animal kingdom that regularly sheds off its skin, a sign of renewal. In Filipino, we call that “paghuhunos ng balat”. During Lent, we hear the elders telling us “maghunos dili” – literally to shed some of one’s self or pride and ego. In short, be converted.

The snake is shrewd because it sheds its skin so often, renewing itself, adjusting and adapting to new situations.

And that is true wisdom – adjusting and adapting to new situations. Most of all, spiritually speaking, it is a daily conversion in God.

Conversion is not changing our personality, like a very courageous person becoming timid or a talkative person becoming silent. Conversion means having new directions in our selves. Perfect example is St. Paul who used to persecute Christians but upon conversion, became the missionary of the gospel of Christ. He was practically the same person still – zealous and full of enthusiasm but no longer in persecuting Christians but promoting Christ.

Conversion is being like the snake in shedding its skin, letting go of the old ways and self to be renewed – still a snake but a better snake after each shedding of skin. That’s being shrewd like the serpents: of the many lessons taught to us by this COVID-19 pandemic, one of the leading lessons is the need for us to adapt and adjust when things are not going good.

And you are the experts in this because during those two years of online classes – for better and for worst – you must have perfected the art of adjustments, of adaptation. Nobody ever expected or even predicted the things that happened in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic is so unique, even surreal. We were so used to our comfort zones, so used to what has always been long before but COVID forced us to abandon that frame of mind and be like serpents, to adjust to situations by shedding off our skins, our pride to be more attuned with the environment to eventually emerge victorious. And we are all better now, especially you who are graduating soon!

Of course, you do not have to adjust and adapt to everything. You have to weigh things carefully. That is why Jesus balanced his instruction to be shrewd as the serpents with being simple as doves. We do not change and renew ourselves for the sake of adapting to new situations; we renew and adapt to become better persons, to become holier.

Remember, you are like the sheep – symbol of humility and holiness – being sent among wolves.

Be shrewd as the serpents and simple as doves. God bless you more in your college studies, Batch 2022!

Walking our talk

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time, 08 July 2022
Hosea 14:2-10   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Matthew 10:16-23
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD in France, March 2022.
Another week is closing,
another brand new week coming
but here I am, O God, still undecided,
dilly-dallying when to follow you,
when to change my ways,
when will I ever be true
in walking my talk; this time,
may I take with me my words
of contrition, of decision to turn
away from sin and follow your path
in Jesus Christ your Son.

Thus says the Lord: Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return to the Lord, say to him, “Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls.”

Hosea 14:2-3
Grant me, O Lord, 
the courage to be wise as the serpent 
and gentle as the dove in this world 
so filled with wolves and other
predators out for a kill with 
their seductive temptations
to rule and dominate; may I always
have the presence of mind to think
what is fair and just, true and good
that I may not be tempted to take 
shortcuts in life; inspire me to innovate
and be creative in proclaiming 
and living out the gospel of Jesus 
in this highly modern and complex
world; most of all, keep me faithful
to you, to always walk your path
for you are the way, the truth and 
the life.

Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.

Hosea 14:10
There is no other way
to life, Lord, except you 
and this is the reason why
so many want to remove you,
to delete you from life, from
the world so that they can do
what is most pleasing to themselves
without realizing nor admitting
the collapse and slow death
they are experiencing.
Amen.

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.