40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 25 February 2021
Thursday, Week-I of Lent, 35th Anniversary of EDSA People Power Revolution
Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25 ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*> Matthew 7:7-12
Late have I realized, God our Father and of history, that our much revered event/experience of the past, the EDSA People Power of 1986, happened during the Season of Lent. Was it because we were sincere in our prayers that the impossible happened on those days from February 22-25, 1986?
I believe so.
And that is why I pray again for our beloved country before EDSA is totally relegated to just dates in our poor memories or worst, as the most notorious symbol of everything wrong in us which is the highway where it all happened 35 years ago today.
In this Season of Lent as we celebrate another EDSA People Power Revolution Anniversary, teach us again how to pray.
First, to have that attitude of total surrender to you, O God, like when we faced tanks and soldiers in full battle gear holding flowers and rosary beads and images of Mary and the saints at EDSA.
Like Queen Esther in the first reading today, may we pray in total surrender and dependence on you.
Queen Esther, seized with mortal anguish, had recourse to the Lord. She lay prostrate upon the ground, together with her handmaids, from. morning until evening, and said: “God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob, blessed are you. Help me, who am alone and have no help but you, for I am taking my life in my hand.”
Esther 12, 14-15
Most of all, teach us that in order to obtain whatever we may pray from you, let us ask only for what is good for us and for others like during those days at EDSA. So many times you neither hear nor grant our prayers because it is not good enough, for us and for others. Teach us to be good, to desire only what is good, for you are the only Good One.
“Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asks for fish? If you then, who are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.”
You know very well how most of us, the ordinary people who came there, simply wanted change in our country. You know so well we have neither lands nor money nor names to keep and safeguard. You know so well how most of us simply have you until today.
How sad some persons of power and influence took advantage of that and fooled us into believing they we were one with us in the ideals of EDSA. You also knew so well what were in their hearts then which they still keep to this day — self interests and greed for power, wealth, and fame.
Forgive us, Lord, in allowing them to prostitute EDSA.
Never again should it happen again.
Please show us again the way to regain its glory, its dreams and aspirations especially at this time we are at our lowest point in history as a nation. Send us selfless men and women willing to leave everything behind to you for the good of the nation.
Yes, Lord, “The Filipino is still, and always, worth dying for.”Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week I, 24 February 2021
Jonah 3:1-10 <*(((>< + ><)))*> Luke 11:29-32
Praise and glory to you, O God our Father, in making Lent a season of surprises just like in our readings today. Continue to surprise us with your love and mercy, with your movements in our lives and in our time. Open our hearts and minds at the many possibilities of good things happening even in the midst of great evil and sufferings.
Forgive us when we lose hope, when we refuse to be surprised with our pessimism and cynicism like Jonah who refused to obey you in going to Nineveh to warn the pagans and sinners there of your coming wrath lest they repent and change their ways.
Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.
Jonah 3:4, 10
It is about time that we reflect and examine also this Lent our attitudes with other people, especially those different from us not only in ways and looks but also in beliefs, that there is always hope in everyone to change and become a better person.
Even your Son Jesus Christ had told us how we would be surprised someday with the kinds of people entering your kingdom in heaven. Let us not be surprised in the end in the wrong sense like that warning by Jesus:
While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater that Jonah here.”
Cleanse us of our prejudices and biases, Lord, and open our sense of wonder and awe to continue to be surprised of your presence and coming, of your love and mercy in us and among others. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 14 February 2021
A blessed happy Valentine’s to everyone! Strictly speaking, every Sunday celebration of the Holy Mass is a celebration of God’s great love for each of us. This Sunday is so special not only because it falls on the day of the hearts but most of all because of that lovely and touching story of the healing of a leper by Jesus.
A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.
It is so touching because Jesus welcomed the leper, touched him and healed him, making him a totally “brand new” person, exactly like the one mentioned in the 1974 hit by the Stylistics You Make Me Feel Brand New. It was the first love song I had learned to memorize its lyrics after finally saving enough money to buy a song hits while in grade five.
The song elegantly speaks in simple beauty and sincerity the great relationship of true love experienced by a man with a wonderful woman who loved him so much, who must have touched him so much that made him feel brand new.
My love I’ll never find the words, my love To tell you how I feel, my love Mere words could not explain
Precious love You held my life within your hands Created everything I am Taught me how to live again
Only you Cared when I needed a friend Believed in me through thick and thin This song is for you, filled with gratitude and love
And what I like most with this song is how it thanked God for this wonderful gift of love who is after all, love himself!
God bless you You make me feel brand new For God blessed me with you You make me feel brand new I sing this song ’cause you Make me feel brand new
It is now a classic covered by so many great artists through the years. We have chosen Simply Red’s version recorded at the Sydney Opera House in 2010 with Mick Hucknall’s moving interpretation, full of emotion and passion. They first released You Make Me Feel Brand New in 2003 as part of their album Home, reaching the #7 spot in the UK hit list.
You Make Me Feel Brand New is one song that had really touched so many of us, reminding us of the power of love to transform us, to change us, to make us better persons like that leper in the gospel. An anonymous writer had said that “If you have love in your heart, you have been blessed by God; if you have been loved, you have been touched by God.”
As you relive your most touching and loving moments while listening to this classic covered by Hucknall, think also of concrete ways to touch somebody with God’s love this Valentine’s — not just with flowers or chocolates.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle, 25 January 2021
Acts 22:3-16 <*(((><< +++ >><)))*> Mark 16:15-18
Praise and glory to you, O Lord Jesus Christ in coming to us always in the most personal manner in calling and inviting us to follow you to become fishers of men like in this Sunday’s gospel. You always come in the ordinariness of our lives, challenging us to face our responsibilities and most of all, asking for our commitment to you.
It is very funny but so true when you called St. Paul, he was out on his “ordinary” task of arresting followers of your Way while en route to Damascus. In that brief moment of encounter with him that eventually led to more days of prayers and teachings, you have shown us Lord the true meaning of conversion: it is not really a change in person in us but more of a change in focus.
St. Paul remained zealous in his ways but this time no longer to defend the old Mosaic Law he had defended at all costs before but this time for your gospel, Lord Jesus. He remained a committed person but no longer to the old ways but now in your person, dear Jesus, that he can claim in that “it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me” (Gal.2:20) .
That is essentially what conversion is all about: remaining the same person but no longer living in himself alone but in Jesus Christ alone.
Teach us, dear Jesus, that conversion in you is a daily happening, that needs to be cultivated in prayer and witnessing like St. Paul; that what really matter is to place you, O Lord Jesus at the center of our lives so that our identity is essentially marked by our encounter in you, by our communion with you and with your Word. More than seeing you in a vision, illumine us with your light, Jesus so we may recover and purify everything in us that has become dull due to sin.
We pray also for those people like Ananias who have been instrumental in bringing us close you, Jesus, people who set aside their biases against us and listened to your instruction so we may be converted and be your witness. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-B, 24 January 2021
Jonah 3:1-5, 10 >><)))*> 1 Corinthians 7:29-31 >><)))*> Mark 1:14-20
The sea evokes mixed feelings of both joy and fear at the same time. It symbolizes life itself that may be nice and lovely but difficult and dangerous too. For many people, the sea is the sign of abundant life, a source of livelihood while for some, a reminder of death and misery.
Such is the mystery of life too that at the start of the ministry of Jesus Christ, we find Mark locating its setting by the sea as we embark fully into the Ordinary Time of the liturgy.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.
Mark wrote the first gospel account that became the framework for Matthew and Luke in writing their own versions. He was in a hurry in writing his gospel because he felt the urgency in making known the good news of Jesus Christ; thus, his gospel is also the shortest, doing away with so many other details without losing the essentials.
This we find in his brief presentation today of the beginning of Christ’s ministry set by the Sea of Galilee.
Our sea of discontent.
First thing we notice is the very nature of the coming of Jesus Christ that happens when we are in rough waters, perhaps even with a violent storm at the middle of the sea called life: After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
The setting was not totally good. John had been arrested. People must have been disappointed. But, that is always the cue in God’s coming called “kairos” or fullness of time, the day of judgment.
It is when we are going through difficult situations in life when we must examine ourselves too, of the need to set aside our own plans and agenda to let go and let God.
Every here and now is the time of fulfillment, a time of God’s coming to us.
Do we have the room, the space in us to welcome him to bring us into fulfillment? Hence, the need to empty ourselves, to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, the gospel himself.
Secondly, it is when we are sailing through rough seas when we also experience within that feeling of discontentment, of emptiness when there seems to be something missing in our lives even if everything is going fine like with our career or business, relationships, or family where nobody is sick or maybe the kids have all grown up and now on their own.
There comes a time in our lives when our problem is not having any problems at all — when we are no longer contented with being happy and satisfied but longing for fulfillment.
Rejoice and be glad when feeling this way! Emptiness leads to fullness as discontentment in life is always a sign of spiritual growth if we heed the calls of Jesus when desolation is a prelude to consolation.
Like in the story of creation, out of chaos comes order, exactly the experience of the first four disciples of Jesus.
As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.
When we are sailing through rough seas in life, that is when we have to trust God more so he can do and move in our lives to achieve the great plans he had created us for. “Be still and confess that I am God!” (Ps. 46:10), so the psalmist tells us.
Money and material things were not a problem for Simon and company. They must be well to-do as they have their own fishing boats at the time, even with men hired to work for them. Opening their hearts to listen to Jesus, they must have felt deep inside them that finally, they have found direction in life, something they have been searching for a long time.
Did they understand the meaning of “fishers of men”? We have no way of knowing it but Mark tells us how upon listening to Jesus, Simon and Andrew left everything behind and followed the Lord! Imagine the great fortune they have left behind.
Even Zebedee, the father of James and John, did not complain nor run after them to at least ask them to stay behind so they would help him run their family business because he too must have been praying for his sons to grow up and mature! Recall how the mother of James and John requested Jesus the favor to have them seated beside him when reigning in his kingdom they thought to be like the kings of their time living in a palace. Or, their attitude in asking Jesus to burn down a Samaritan village that refused them passage. These instances indicate how the brothers James and John may have been like today’s typical happy-go-lucky rich kids of their time but searching for meaning in life amid the many troubles and misadventures in life.
Jesus comes to us in a similar manner, in the ordinariness and problems and struggles of our lives like when Simon and Andrew, James, and John were busy working near the Sea of Galilee. The Lord speaks to them about what they were doing as fishermen to express to them his plans to make them fishers of men.
We do not find God;
it is God who finds us.
Every day, Jesus Christ is passing by, calling us, inviting us to repent and believe in his gospel, challenging us to face our responsibilities and most of all, asking us for our commitment. He never imposes but would always patiently wait for us.
We all search for meaning in life; for some, it may come early in life while for others, it might come later. But surely, our search for meaning, for God always come for sure because we were created that way by God.
In my personal experience, I have realized that we do not really find God; it is God who actually finds us! Moreover, nobody escapes God as attested by so many saints and even ordinary people we have known who have experienced conversion.
One beautiful story of God coming to us, searching for us, and saving us from storms at the middle of the sea of life is that of Jonah and the city of Nineveh in the first reading. Jonah himself tried to escape God when his ship encountered a severe storm in the middle of the sea that he was thrown out to be swallowed by a whale. Of course, it is symbolic but it tells us in a nutshell the urgency of proclaiming God’s message of conversion, of not escaping God. This we find when Jonah was surprised at how a pagan nation like Niniveh listened to his preaching that they were spared of God’s wrath and punishment.
Jonah and Niniveh both give us beautiful lessons in resolutely turning back to God and his ways without wasting any instant as well as God’s immense love and concern for everyone, offering his mercy and forgiveness no matter how serious our sins are.
The characters of Jonah and of the inhabitants of Niniveh may be exaggerated but they are very true even among us in our own days! Recently we have seen how things have gone worst in this life in almost every aspect especially since last year with the coming of COVID-19 pandemic.
That is why St. Paul’s call in the second reading is so timely: “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. For the world in its present form is passing away” (1Cor.7:29,31).
When St. Paul wrote the Corinthians telling them to act as not having wives or weep as not weeping means we have to detach ourselves from all that perish like material things as well as jobs and careers, and even this life we have. We have to focus more on things that last who is ultimately God in Jesus Christ.
Last week, I was so saddened with the news of the closing of the Makati Shangri-la Hotel next month. One of our parishioners is a young man working there as a chef since 2004. He is a very good man, always dropping by the parish after work, never missing a Sunday with his father who died last summer. When COVID-19 started, he would always attend our online Mass wherever he may be.
I texted him the night the news came out of the closure of their hotel next month. Beside is a screenshot of our chat that turned my sorrow into joy upon realizing Carlo’s deep faith in God.
That night, I thanked God in my final prayer, for letting Jesus passed by my room while chatting with Carlo, in taking care of Carlo.
Yesterday after Mass I talked to him again and he was already very upbeat, looking forward to celebrating the Mass with us more often while looking for a new job.
Let us pray this Sunday for everyone going through many hardships these days so they may remain open in their hearts, listening to Jesus who is passing by, calling them to be his fishers of men in this troubled seas. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Thursday, Seventh Day in the Christmas Octave, 31 December 2020
1 John 2:18-21 >><)))*> + <*(((><< John 1:1-18
O God our Father, on this last day of 2020, we thank you so much for all the blessings you have given us these past 365 days. Yes, we shall always remember this year as the most difficult and most life-changing we ever had but we are grateful to you.
No matter how much people would ridicule and play jokes on 2020, despite its being so heavy for many of us who have lost loved ones, lost jobs and livelihood, and forced us to change plans and directions in life, we still thank you Lord for letting us make it through.
The problem, Lord, is not the year 2020 which means “perfect vision”; the problem is us who have lost all our vision for moral and upright living, decency, and good governance. We have lost vision, of the ability to see beyond the surface of things we have gone through this year.
How sad when many of us have seen only the year, the days and the months without realizing the deeper meaning of the events that resulted from our poor and wrong decisions, inactions and indifference to the calumnies and lies dished out daily by those in power.
Open our minds and our hearts that the presence of so many antichrists in our midst who lie and speak without thinking so well what they say signal the final hour of Christ’s coming and judgment as well as the final hour for us to do something concrete to end the reign of evil.
Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour.
1 John 2:18
Let us claim, dear Jesus, on this last day of 2020 and into the coming new year the two great gifts you have given us in your coming — light and life (Jn.1:4).
Your light has always been there present among us. Give us the courage to bring out your light, sweet Jesus so there may be more truth, goodness, justice, love, beauty, compassion, kindness, freedom, and peace in this world that have ironically reached great new heights in science and technology but has remained inside the caves of evil and malice.
May we rediscover anew the value of every life, that one life being lost is too many, whether due to the pandemic or the war on drugs.
On this last day of the year, may we do something so good, so kind, so true as if today were also our last day on earth. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Advent Week-II, 07 December 2020
Isaiah 35:1-10 >><)))*> >><)))*> >><)))*> Luke 5:17-26
Your words today, O God are so uplifting, evoking in us springtime when everything is bursting into new life making this Season of Advent a prelude to Easter. And rightly so!
The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.
Isaiah 35:1-2, 5-7
But for us to see life bursting forth around us, let us in our selves first desire life, persevere our healing, and keep your gifts of mercy and forgiveness like the men who lowered through the roof a paralyzed man on a stretcher before Jesus while preaching inside a packed house.
Strengthen us to go out and find ways in meeting you, Jesus, like those men.
Forgive us for the many occasions of cynicisms and indifference, as well as arrogance and pride like the scribes and Pharisees who questioned your authority to forgive sins.
As we have reflected yesterday, Advent is a two-way street: you always come, Lord Jesus but we must also come to meet you. So many times you have come to our lives but we never met you, never experienced you nor even felt you because we have always been full of ourselves, of our sins, and of so many other people and things.
Keep us one with you always, Jesus – in your cross, in your humility, in your love.
Like St. Ambrose your great Bishop of Milan, may we lead more souls discover you, Jesus, and experience life anew like St. Augustine, his famous convert. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 22 November 2020
"As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging"
So many times I see myself in him
blinded by sins
and false securities
preferring to remain
at the safe side
at home with my comfort zone;
I get tired of begging
of being blind
deciding to leave the roadside
to finally meet Jesus,
asking him to restore my sight.
O what a scene to behold
of the beautiful journey
only if I go
to the middle of the road
to be with the Lord!
"At that time Jesus came to Jericho;
but Zacchaeus was short in stature"
So often in life
Jesus truly intends to pass
through wherever we are
only to test
if we would dare
to rise above our selves
to see and meet him there;
the key is to admit reality
that we are always short
in moral standing
but never in humility
if we can truly
then we see its beauty
when from the middle of the road
the Lord looks up to us
calling us to come down
for he had come to be with us!
This is the most lovely
thing I have heard
the Lord said:
"Those whom I love,
I reprove and chastise.
Be earnest, therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door
and knock. If anyone hears my voice
and opens the door, then I will
enter his house and dine with him,
and he be with me."
The Lord always comes,
bidden and unbidden,
but, are we open to meet him,
willing to leave
the roadside, climb a tree
if needed or turn the knob
to see and meet him?
Yes, Jesus is always passing by,
do not let yourself be left behind.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXXIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 17 November 2020
Revelation 3:1-6, 14-22 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Luke 19:1-10
Your words today, O Lord, are so comforting — after some reprimanding for our sins and misgivings!
And that is how you display your love and mercy and forgiveness that sometimes we fail to see and even recognize.
Despite our being “alive but dead” like the church in Sardis (Rev. 3:1) when we backslide to our old ways of sinfulness as well as our being “neither cold nor hot” like those in Laodicea when we refuse to make a stand for what is true and just, you still come to us, seeking us, trying to bring us back to your fold.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.
Keep us humble, Lord Jesus, like Zacchaeus who openly admitted his “being short in stature” (Lk.19:3-4) that he had to climb a sycamore tree to see you passing by. And when you finally met him and told him of your coming into his home, he welcomed you right into his heart by being sorry for his sins, promising to repay or recompense those he had extorted money from.
Like the blind man you have healed yesterday and now Zacchaeus, keep us following you Jesus on the middle of the road, leaving our comfort zones, to dirty our hands and garments in doing your works among the poor and needy specially in this time of calamity.
Open our ears to listen to your voice, to be on guard waiting for your coming, to your knocking at our door to welcome you back into our lives.
May we grab every opportunity to welcome you into our lives, Lord Jesus, by turning away from sins and heeding your voice of love and compassion among the poor and suffering. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Week XXXI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 06 November 2020
Philippians 3:17-4:1 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Luke 16:1-8
Sometimes I wonder if we are still in a pandemic, God. It seems we have slowly gone back to our old ways or, even worst as we seem to have totally forgotten you. We have become so used with the new situations we prefer to call as “new normal” as if the norms or standards of what is just and moral, right and true change at all.
Have we become an enemy of your Son’s Cross?
Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us. For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame”. Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our loving Father, I am not asking for a return to our situation during the lockdowns of summer with growing number of COVID infections; I am not praying for more crosses to bear as if the ones we now have are not enough. Just help us befriend your Son’s Cross again, to forget ourselves and follow him instead of following more the social media that has become our new god.
How prophetic were the words of St. Paul to the Philippians, Lord! They are all happening especially in social media that has become everyone’s new religion that seemingly binds but actually divides us as a nation, as your children.
Everybody wants to be in social media, doing all the crazy stuff to be popular by being viral and trending with many followers to boast without realizing what St. Paul referred to as “their glory is their ‘shame'” when we are filled with our ego – or selfies -that we forget you in others.
Many are beginning to accept the lies being peddled in social media like abortion and euthanasia, genetic engineering, same sex marriage or unions, and homosexual relationships that end in destruction.
Facebook and Instagram have become the altars of those who have made their “stomach as their God” flaunting their food in social media, insensitive to the plight of many going hungry these days.
Wake us up to the reality in Jesus of how our “minds are occupied with earthly things” these days that even you our God we have made into a commodity whom we can have when we want like any product or the Netflix when celebrating online Masses.
Help us realize like the steward in the parable that life is about the giving of self in love for others like Jesus – of befriending your Cross – not wealth nor fame. Amen.