From the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz sang by Ms. Judy Garland which also became her signature song, Over the Rainbow that was also featured by Hong Kong film director John Woo in the 1997 action movie Face/Off starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage.
While praying over the gospel this past week, I remembered Woo explaining why he inserted the music Over the Rainbow in the violent gunfight scene of Face/Off between Travolta and Cage where Nicolas placed a headset on “his” son as they shoot out with the FBI:
“When I was young my life was very difficult — almost like a living hell. But when I heard Judy Garland sing this in The Wizard Of Oz, I suddenly felt as if I was on the other side of the rainbow, in heaven, in a place full of hope. When I used it in Face/Off, it was to say thanks for showing me that the world is still full of beauty.”
Woo is such a great director that aside from his beautiful choices of music for his movies, he always used symbolisms like white doves in trying to show the good side of life no matter how violent and bad is the scene or story.
And that is the meaning of our gospel this Sunday: there will always be a lot of darkness and storms in our lives that sometimes we feel and think God does not seem to care like when Jesus was sleeping soundly at the stern of their boat during a squall in the middle of the night as they cross the lake. His silence does not mean he does not care; moreover, he is silent because he had won over a long time ago at his Cross every evil and suffering in this life!
He was the first one to pass “over the rainbow” who now assures us of reaching the shores of safety and peace, joy and fulfillment with him and in him. Hence, this Sunday let us cultivate an intimacy in Christ to be reconciled with God our Father who alone is our surety in this life who had promised Noah with a sign of the rainbow as an assurance he shall never destroy earth.
In the movie Face/Off, Woo masterfully sequenced the song playing at the high point of the gunfight when Nicolas Cage’s “son” was caught in the cross fires:
Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true
Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me
Try watching Face/Off this Father’s Day and reflect on Judy’s music to find faith in God anew that after all these storms in life during the pandemic, there is a beautiful rainbow to delight us.
*We have no intentions of infringing the copyrights of the music except to share its beautiful message. Thank you.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 20 June 2021
Job 38:1, 8-11 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 ><}}}'> Mark 4:35-41
More than a year ago in March, Pope Francis delivered an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Message before an empty St. Peter’s Square reflecting on the gospel we heard today when COVID-19 began to wreck havoc upon us, claiming about 3.85 million deaths worldwide as per latest data show.
We are still in the same darkness, in the same storm but much have already changed since the pandemic first struck us last year. Jesus had calmed the seas and the storms with some relief offered by vaccines. Our journey continues as we cross this sea of the pandemic to safer shores.
Like the Pope’s Message last year, we must continue to call and trust in the Lord but at the same time, realize the deeper spiritual meaning of this pandemic, of the need to have a more intimate relationship with God through Jesus.
On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.
Life is a constant crossing of the sea in darkness with Jesus.
See that in our journey in life,
it is when evening comes,
when there is darkness
that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea.
When there are problems and crisis in life,
that is when Jesus calls us
to get to the other side of life's situation.
On his side.
I love that imagery painted to us by St. Mark in our gospel today, from a casual preaching last week out in the open field with the warm sun shining, Jesus invited his disciples when it was getting dark to cross to the other side of the Lake of Galilee.
Life is a journey that when evening approaches, our instinct is to find a safe place to spend the night. But, today St. Mark shows us a more appropriate imagery of life as a journey which is like crossing the sea.
See that in our journey in life, it is when evening comes, when there is darkness that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea. When there are problems and crisis in life, that is when Jesus calls us to get to the other side of life’s situation. On his side.
And what a beautiful expression we have in “to cross to the other side”! There is always the cross to carry in this life that is like the sea, the uncertainty from our usual sureties like family and friends, jobs, and the status quo because Jesus wants us to have him alone as our surety in life.
A few years ago a Malaysian Air plane perished at sea; despite all the modern technologies, it has not been found yet. It is a reminder to us all of how vast is our world with so much mysteries impossible for humans to master or even fully understand.
Yet, our gospel and first reading assure us that though the world is awesome with great wonders and occurrences, its Creator – GOD – is more awesome for he alone has complete control over nature, especially the sea which is the most difficult of all!
The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Who shut within the doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther; and here shall your proud waves be stilled!
Job 38:1, 8, 10-11
Our awesome world, more awesome God.
St. Mark’s description of the situation inside the boat with Jesus asleep in the middle of a violent storm at sea is very surprising that seems to be exaggerated like in the movies for dramatic effects not to entertain us but to remind us of that basic reality found in his entire gospel account that Christ came to usher in a new world where never again shall sin and death prevail over us.
Recall the other scenes he would later show Jesus exercising total control over the sea like when he walked on water amid a storm (Mk.6:45ff) and ordered a legion of demons to enter a herd of swine that drowned into the sea (Mk.5:13).
As the Son of God, Jesus has total sovereignty over the sea that symbolized the realm of evil, exorcising it to free us from its clutches when he finally died on the cross.
In the first reading, we heard the fictional story of Job being assured by God who got everything under control, even the mighty sea, putting a limit by stilling its proud waves.
In our gospel, we see the reality of God in Jesus Christ calming the storm at sea.
Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”
Notice Jesus was sleeping soundly, not disturbed at all neither by the storm with its giant waves that tossed their boat nor the commotion and yelling of his disciples. He was so composed and serene.
The same scene we shall see again when St. Mark tells us how on the night of Holy Thursday when Jesus was betrayed and arrested to be tried by members of the Sanhedrin. It was all dark with Christ so composed and relaxed answering the questions of his enemies while outside was Peter so afraid, denying the Lord thrice while the rest of the apostles went hiding out of fear for their lives.
What a beautiful imagery of our Lord and of us!
Here is Jesus so composed and serene as always while us on panic mode, so terrified, even reproaching God – “do you not care that we are perishing?” – when our lives are threatened as if God does not care at all.
When we look back to last year, it was very frightening like that situation the disciples were into: nobody knew exactly the nature of COVID-19, without any known cure and method of treatment, people were dying daily, and life was at a standstill due to the lockdown.
But, with faith in God, we have moved on. Some weddings finally pushed through, students went back to school while others dared to venture into new businesses and other endeavors, crossing the sea so to speak amid the darkness. Those who got married last year now have their first born while students who enrolled last year have graduated and we who risked to move on are now better off than before.
Had we waited for the pandemic to end before deciding to enroll back in school or find a job or get married, we would surely be into great losses for there is still the pandemic that will most likely remain until 2022 or beyond.
As we have reflected last week, Jesus continues to work in silence in us, with us and for us, making us grow like the tiny seed. He never abandons us especially in times of great trials. This we have proven when we dared to venture in life during this pandemic.
Let us entrust to him our very lives for he alone has total sovereignty in this world and in this life for he himself is life – more powerful than any storm who has the whole world, especially the seas, in his hand.
A life centered in Jesus
We cannot wait for things to get better,
for the pandemic to end,
for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially.
It is right in the middle of a storm
when we are expected to make a stand for Christ,
to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us.
After Jesus had pacified the storm and the sea, St. Mark briefly ended our gospel story by telling us how the disciples “were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?'”(Mk.4:41).
More than the stories of the Lord’s teachings and miracles, St. Mark wants us to make a stand for Jesus, to center our lives in him as we journey in this life, whether in the ordinariness of parables, the safety of the open field and high mountains, or the dangers and perils of the sea at night, with or without storms.
Remember Nightbirde last week who said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” We cannot wait for things to get better, for the pandemic to end, for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially. It is right in the middle of a storm when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us as St. Paul tells us in the second reading.
Brothers and sisters: The love of Christ impels us… So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.
2 Corinthians 5:14, 17
Now more than ever in our modern history that the whole world needs a lot of healing and reconciliation. But unlike the proposals of experts, it is not merely a reconciliation of peoples with one another. We do not need a “new normal” which is a misnomer because a norm does not change. What is true and good and fair would always be true and good and fair at all times.
That is what we need, to bring back the true normal in life which is a reconciliation of every person with God so that we may see our world in a more wholistic sense that we become more just and humane.
There can be no true reconciliation among peoples unless there is first of all our reconciliation with God in Jesus Christ so that we become in him a new creation, new persons filled with his love and mercy, justice and kindness. Of course, there will still be many storms as we cross the many seas of our lives but they will be less frightening if we have Christ on board, even if he is soundly asleep. Amen.
Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Baccalaureate Mass, Basic Education Department
Our Lady of Fatima University, 16 June 2021
Congratulations! Today, everyone deserves a warm round of applause, a pat on the shoulder and perhaps, a little treat after our Mass for making it through the Academic Year of the pandemic, 2020-2021.
Most likely while you were chilln’ after your final exams last Wednesday evening, you have seen and heard this great woman of America’s Got Talent, Nightbirde who mesmerized us not only with her voice but most of all with her infectious joy and presence on the stage.
Her words last week are the most quoted in social media even in our Masses last Sunday: “You can’t wait untillife isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”
She connected so well with us because there is a little Nightbirde in each one of us when we look back to this past academic year when the pandemic happened before we ended classes last year and did not have any Baccalaureate Mass in our University.
Despite the uncertainties and fears and apprehensions due to COVID-19 , we decided to be happy.
We did not wait “until life isn’t hard anymore” to go back to school despite the enormous challenges and adjustments we all have to go through: parents, teachers and faculty, University admin, and most especially you, our dear students.
And if there is one most important lesson we have learned in this past academic year of the pandemic, it is GOD.
Like Nightbirde, we have realized how God never abandoned us, always with us, loving us, silently working for us even with just 2% chance of surviving cancer or COVID or passing an exam.
St. Paul said it so well in our first reading:
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:8, 11
The Lord never failed in providing us with all that we need, even during this pandemic.
Let us be open to more of his grace by trusting him more, and sharing his blessings with others.
Dare to “rise to the top” amid the pandemic and other challenges in life!
We did not wait
"until life isn't hard anymore"
to go back to school
despite the enormous challenges
and adjustments we all have to go through:
parents, teachers and faculty,
University admin, and most especially you,
our dear students.
God never abandoned us this year. We are still alive and we are now moving up, advancing in our pursuit for education. Some of us may have lost a loved one, others were left behind due to many reasons but we celebrate today our achievements made possible by God.
He is the most important lesson we have learned this year of COVID-19: only God suffices. Without God, we are nothing.
What would our lives be today if we all waited last year for the pandemic to be over to resume classes?
And the good news is, God is assuring us today in this Baccalaureate Mass that he shall be blessing you more this coming academic year 2021-2022.
There will surely be a lot of challenges awaiting us, even more difficult but rest assured that if you were able to complete your Prep or Kindergarten, Elementary or Junior High and Senior High stage, there is nothing you cannot do now!
Lahat kakayanin ninyo huwag lang kayong bibitiw sa Diyos!
God has beautiful plans for you despite this pandemic. Persevere and remain in him.
Study hard, work harder, pray hardest!
I have one assignment to give you my dear students as you go on your academic break this June: continue studying, continue praying.
Try to get a copy of a book called “Imitatio Christi” or the Imitation of Christ written around the years 1418-1427 by the German-Dutch monk named Thomas á Kempis.
Don’t worry… it is available in the internet and it is an excellent devotional book. You won’t regret reading it. In fact, next to the Bible, the Imitatio Christi is the other leading devotional book in Christianity.
His reflections are very timely and relevant especially in this time of COVID when he said that what matters most is that we love the Giver – God – and not the gift because God is the source of all good things in life.
A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover, as the love of the giver. He esteems the affection above the gift, and values every gift far below the Beloved. A noble lover is not content with a gift, but desires Myself above all gifts.
Imitation of Christ, Book III, Part VI, “Of the proving of the true lover” by Thomas á Kempis (d. 1471)
Do not forget amid the many gifts we have received this year of pandemic is the giver of these gifts, God.
When you have God, you have everything. And you can do everything.
Fall in love with God.
So many times in our lives especially when we are still young and strong, we forget God, wasting our lives and precious time with less important things.
We do not realize that God alone is the one whom we must always seek and have in life because he alone loves us truly to whom alone we must always turn to.
To fall in love with God is to cultivate a prayer life, to be a man or woman of prayer.
When you love somebody, you always talk to that person.
If you love God, then you will always pray.
God loves you very much. He believes in you. He knows what you need even before you ask him.
What we do not know is what God wants from us. That is why we have to pray in order to learn what are the plans of God for us this coming academic year 2021-2022.
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
God is the best and most loving teacher of all. His lessons are always practical and personal. That is the meaning of “entering your inner room” – go into your heart and there you shall meet God, always waiting for you, eager to listen to you and speak to you about his love and plans for you.
He only has one lesson plan: love, love, love.
See how during the pandemic even the most powerful nations were crippled by COVID-19. Even until now these vaccines we have are not an assurance of being safe from the virus. We do not even know its other side effects.
We still have to hurdle so many problems this year.
Problem is we refuse to see that this pandemic is also spiritual in nature, not just medical and social.
Let us learn our lesson very well – God.
And so, I ask you again, my dear students to work hard, study harder and pray hardest this coming Academic Year 2021-2022 to achieve your dreams and realize God’s great plans for you in the future, now. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Seventh Week of Easter, 17 May 2021
Acts 20:17-27 ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*> John 16:29-33
What a blessed Monday you have given us today, our loving Father, filling us with so many hopes for better days ahead of us. Yes, work has piled up for most of us with so many demands and targets to be met, so many obligations and responsibilities to fulfill this week, not to mention our many concerns in the family and with our very selves.
But, like the apostles in the gospel today, we are joyful even if we do not fully understand everything in life because you have assured us of your loving presence especially when troubles and problems arise.
"Behold, the hour is coming
and has arrived when each of you
will be scattered to his own home
and you will leave me alone.
But I am not alone,
because the Father is with me.
I have told you this so that
you might have peace in me.
In the world you will have trouble,
but take courage, I have conquered the world."
Truly, indeed, Lord, troubles have never stopped coming our way especially since the start of this pandemic.
We have so many worries and anxieties at the moment but we are thankful to your love and mercy. Your blessings and grace far outweigh all the troubles we have at the moment. Your kindness is more than enough as you give us everything we need.
Teach us to be content and grateful. Most of all, to remember and reach out to those with less in life, those who go through more troubles these days.
Like St. Paul who chose to travel “through the interior of the country down to Ephesus” instead of taking the usual and easier route to meet more people in need and rarely seen by almost everyone.
Give us the grace today to be one with those having many problems and troubles today. May our presence make them realize they are not alone, like you, dear Jesus who is always with the Father.
We pray most especially today for those going through many troubles whether by their own making or by others. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 2021
Acts 1:12-14 ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-47
While this Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima was approaching, I was asking myself – consciously or unconsciously – “how many more Rosaries do we have to pray before this pandemic ends”?
Like you, I have been praying the Rosary primarily for the ending of this pandemic since it started last year. And it is not far-fetched that even before the Blessed Virgin Mary first appeared 104 years ago today at Fatima in Portugal, the people were most likely asking God in countless prayers and Rosaries too, to end the First World War that had started in 1914.
See some of the similarities of our time with that time 104 years ago when Mother Mary appeared to the three children of Fatima, asking them to remind the whole world to pray and be converted in her Son Jesus Christ:
1917 was in the first two decades of the new century (20th), just like ours (21st) when COVID-19 was first detected in 2019.
In 1917, the world witnessed the fiercest and bloodiest large-scale war to ever happened in human history, World War I until it was followed shortly by World War II; at the start of the 21st century, we witnessed the a different kind of deadly war that is “faceless” and “borderless” with the 9/11 attacks as we continue to live daily under threats by another wide scale war and ongoing pocket wars in various parts of the globe.
In 1917, Communist Russia was threatening the world of “spreading its errors”; since 2010 or even earlier, the only remaining “Communist” country of China has been flexing its muscles in Asia and Africa to assert its power and dominance in the world.
The Relevance of Fatima
Both in 1917 and 2021, God’s response to our cries and pleas is still the Our Lady of Fatima because then and now, mankind had never heeded Jesus Christ’s calls to return to him and be converted: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1:15).
It does not matter how many Rosaries we pray or how many Masses we celebrate or how often we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The problem is not with God but with us who until now refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of this pandemic.
Whatever solution we eventually find in ending COVID-19, most likely another pandemic or worldwide problem could occur if we continue to refuse in respecting life and every person as an image and likeness of God. Recall that when World War I ended in 1918 as promised by our Lady of Fatima, that same year started the Spanish flu pandemic that claimed about 50-M lives worldwide. Then in 1939, World War II started.
The Spanish flu and the World War II were not punishments from God; he does not punish because “God is love”, nothing evil and bad can come from him. Those things happened after the Fatima apparitions because of man’s refusal to heed Mary’s calls for prayers and conversion of peoples which is happening again in our own time.
Our Lady of Fatima consistently reminds us since 1917 her Son Jesus Christ’s teaching of the centrality of God in our lives through prayers and our daily conversion through humility and being like a child, trusting God completely like her.
More than a century ago, the Lord through his Mother, has been telling us the key to lasting peace in the world and in our very lives lies in our daily conversion, in our conformity to his life intimately united in the Father like the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It is a life of daily fiat – of faith in God, of letting his will be done in us! The Holy Rosary and the Sacraments are the means so we may bear fruits of love and holiness in our faith in God like Mary.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
For better and for worst, COVID-19 had truly changed our lives, teaching us that true blessedness is not found in money and things, nor in popularity and influence or other things that have become the benchmarks of everything that is good in this life.
In less than a year when everything stood still as COVID-19 ravaged earth with so many deaths, the pandemic had shown us what our Lady of Fatima has always been telling us since 1917: go back to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Mary believed and lived her faith in God. She was the first to receive the Good News of Jesus Christ by setting aside all her plans in life, her wedding to St. Joseph, of what people would say if found pregnant before they were actually married, and many other things to consider.
She abandoned herself to God completely that immediately after Gabriel had left her, she went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the hills of Judea not to help her nor verify her being pregnant but to share with her the Good News she had received (Jesus Christ) to show that God’s plan for them are closely linked even with their sons to be born with John being the forerunner of Jesus.
Thus, Mary became the perfect image and model of discipleship in Christ that at the start of his public ministry, she was the first to believe in his saving work when she interceded at a wedding in Cana.
Mary was also the first to believe in Christ’s Resurrection that she remained standing at the foot of his Cross on Good Friday. Last but not least as we have heard in our first reading today, Mary was the first to believe in the coming of the Holy Spirit that she accompanied the Apostles praying at Jerusalem on Pentecost day.
The Challenge of Fatima in our time
Like Mary who appeared at Fatima in Portugal 104 years ago today, may we grow deeper in our faith in God by believing more in him than believing in the world or with our very selves.
In this time of COVID-19, may we bring unity to our family and community, church and nation, so that like the Blessed Mother we may help in strengthening the faith of one another, in believing in God by submitting ourselves to his holy will.
May we not waste time to avert another catastrophe – not as a punishment from God who does not punish – that when rooted can always be traced back to our selfishness and pride, lack of concern for others, and for playing gods who claim to know everything.
These were some of the reasons Mary appeared at Fatima in 1917 to bring us back to God through his Son Jesus Christ. After all the pains and losses we have gone through in this time of COVID-19, have we not still learned the need to be simple and humble?
Like Mary, let us believe more in God by being kind and charitable with one another so that sooner, we may finally end this pandemic. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 11 May 2021
I have always been wondering
how would it be when suddenly one morning
we realize COVID-19 is gone
what song shall we sing
as we dance, celebrating its leaving
and our coming out again?
Whom shall I first see
to visit, hug and kiss
telling them how I terribly missed them
in all those months of quarantine
how my heart deep within was longing
to hear them speaking and laughing, and crying.
It would be so joyous but also
sorrowful and painful as we proceed next
to our loved one's final resting place
to offer flowers and tribute
telling them again
how we love and sorely miss them.
While waiting for that new dawning
amid this prolonged quarantine
let's keep living one moment at a time
loving and caring, smiling and forgiving
everyone is awaiting something good
may still happen amid this COVID-19.
Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-04 ng Mayo 2021
Sinabi mo sa amin Panginoon
huwag kaming mabalisa,
manalig sa Diyos
at manalig din sa Iyo
dahil ikaw ang tunay na puno
at kami ang iyong mga sanga;
kung kami'y mananatili
kami'y mamumunga ng sagana
kaya naman sa tuwina
aming hiling at dasal
sa Iyo huwag kaming bibitiw
hanggang aming masapit
inaasam naming langit.
Patuloy nawa kaming sa Iyo lumapit
ano mang sakit aming ipagwalang kibit
upang manatili sa Iyong piling
lalo na't kapag dumarating
pag-aalinlangan aming mga hiling
at daing tila hindi Mo pinapansin
kahit mga ito sa Iyo ay makarating;
ipaunawa Mo sa amin
ang pananatili sa Iyong piling
ay pagsuko ng aming mga mithiin
at hangarin, baguhin
aming mga landasin
upang tuntunin at malasin
Iyong banal na kalooban
sa amin Iyong inilaan noon pa man.
simula ng pandemya noong isang taon
mga problema at hirap aming sinuong
hanggang ngayon hindi kami makaahon
tila nilalamon ng mga dambuhalang alon;
sa aming mahigpit na pagkapit
hindi namin lubos maisip itong sinapit
kaya sana sa amin daglian kang lumapit
ibsan aming mga hapis at sakit
manatili at magsumakit
Iyong kalooban ay masaliksik
upang Iyong kapangyarihan maranasan
sa gitna ng aming kahinaan at kawalan.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Easter, Cycle B, 02 May 2021
Acts 9:26-31 ><}}}'> 1John 3:18-24 ><}}}'> John 15:1-8
"Ang lungkot, Father. Wala na akong asawa na mauuwian, abo na ang asawa ko."
This broke my heart last Friday evening from a post by Jesuit Fr. Marlito G. Ocon of a woman who came by herself to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to deliver her baby. Her husband had just died of COVID-19 while she and her baby are both COVID positive. Worst, she has not informed her parents-in-law about the death of her husband because they are also in critical condition in the province for COVID-19.
“Ang lungkot, Father. Wala na akong asawa na mauuwian, abo na ang asawa ko. Hindi man lang kami nagkausap. Hindi ko man lang maibalita na may second baby na kami. Hindi man lang sila nagkita ng anak namin.” (“It is so sad Father. I do not have a husband anymore to come home to, he’s all ash now. We did not even have the chance to speak to each other. I cannot even tell him the news we have our second baby. He did not even get the chance to meet our new baby.”)
Fr. Ocon is one of the chaplains at the PGH, the largest public hospital in Metro Manila. He said, “I have no words because I know any word can’t explain enough why horrible things like this happened. But I realized that it is in our deep, deep silence and it is when we run out of words, and when theology can’t explain enough, that our faith can speak louder.”
Lately I have noticed a shift in prayer requests by relatives and friends, from the usual healing prayers for those afflicted with COVID-19 to prayers for their and loved ones’ emotional and psychological well-being.
More and more people have been coming to me for counseling via Zoom and Messenger apps as they hurdle so many crises in marriage, work, livelihood and self since the pandemic started last year. We have resumed yesterday in our parish our weekly confessions and everyone who came cried not only for their sins but most of all for their emotional baggages either triggered or worsened by this pandemic.
And like Fr. Ocon, I could not say anything at all except to pray and tell them to hold on to God, to never let go of him, “kapit lang at huwag bibitiw sa Diyos”, exactly what Jesus is telling us this Sunday:
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own
unless it remains on the vine,
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him
will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing."
(John 15:1, 4-5)
“Remain in me.”
In St. John’s vocabulary, “remain in me” is one of the key phrases he used 68 times in his writings (gospel, three letters and the Revelation), 11 times in this whole discourse in John 15:1-17, and if you have listened attentively, that phrase was mentioned eight times in eight verses!
In its strongest sense, “to remain in me” speaks of the intimate bond of the Father and the Son, of the Son and the Spirit that only St. John recorded for us during the Lord’s discourse at his last supper found in John 14-15. Most of all, “to remain in me” follows that great revelation by Jesus as the Christ in the fourth gospel like “I AM the bread of life”, “I AM the good shepherd”, “I AM the way, the truth and the life” and now “I AM the true vine”.
To remain in the Lord is to live in him in faith even if nothing seems to happen like during this pandemic when God seems to be silent and even distant from us.
It is first of all a call to prayer life. Not just recitation of prayers we have memorized since childhood but to cultivate a deep and personal relationship with God when we do not have to speak at all but simply be in his loving presence.
There are times we feel nothing is happening with our prayers but unknown to us, that is precisely when something is actually happening because prayer does not change the situation but the person!
As we grow and mature in our prayer life, we become more aware of God and of the other persons that we become less focused with our very selves. And that is when we change, when we realize our mistakes and sins, our weaknesses, teaching us to be humble, patient and persevering. It is worth keeping in mind this four-letter word PUSH – Pray Until Something Happens.
Most of the time,
we do not see things in our lives the way God sees them.
He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that his ways are not our ways,
his thoughts are not our thoughts for God is totally different from us!
We have to trust him and remain in him
"for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything" (1Jn.3:20).
And that is for sure - as we have proven so many times in our lives.
Remaining and being fruitful
Remaining in Jesus means being faithful especially when things get worse, when even in bad times, we consistently stay in the Lord in silence.
Remember how we have been so sullen in March, wondering if God has forsaken us with the deadly surge of COVID-19 cases amid the glaring incompetence of this government when suddenly our hopes were raised high by this community pantry movement?
Who would have thought of Ms. Patricia Non in the quiet street of Maginhawa in Quezon City would rally the whole nation with her “Community Pantry” now helping so many people going hungry?
Not only that. The most beautiful thing Ms. Patricia Non had done is her bringing out the best in every one of us, rich and poor alike, young and old to share whatever we have for our suffering brothers and sisters!
Most of the time, we do not see things in our lives the way God sees them. He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that his ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts for God is totally different from us! We have to trust him and remain in him “for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything” (1Jn.3:20). And that is for sure – as we have proven so many times in our lives.
In the first reading we find the very difficult and almost impossible situation of St. Paul following his conversion: nobody would believe him and everybody suspected him of possible sinister plots against them! But, St. Paul remained consistent in his prayers and studies in Tarsus until Barnabas introduced him to the apostles who gave him the opportunity to preach in Jerusalem. Despite his dark past, St. Paul won so many converts in his preaching in the name of Jesus that eventually, he was sent to missions abroad that led to the growth of the early church.
That is remaining in the Lord – allowing God to work in us and through us like St. Paul so that we become fruitful, not just successful.
Fruitfulness is the result of remaining in the Lord, of letting God do his work in us. Most often, this leads to pains and failures as Jesus tells us of the need to be pruned like the branches of the vine to be more fruitful. But, despite these failures and defeat in our lives, we experience that sense of fulfillment within us because we have grown and matured in the Lord. We have not really failed at all because we have become fruitful.
On the other hand, being successful means relying more on our human efforts like our strengths and intelligence that is usually measured in tangible things like money and popularity. But, we have also experienced or heard many successful people still feeling empty and lost, that despite their fame and wealth, they have no peace and joy within, feeling nobody truly loves them for who they really are.
Many times in life we have experienced that even if we feel safe and sufficient, that is when we feel so empty, something is missing. As we usually say, parang may kulang pa.
This Sunday, Jesus our Good Shepherd reminds everyone of us to remain united in him who is our true vine. It is only in him can we find life and meaning amid the many sufferings and trials going our way especially at this time of the pandemic.
Only in remaining in Jesus is the surest path to fulfillment despite our pains and sufferings, as well as losses in life. Just stay and remain in him as he is always doing something beautiful for us. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, 01 May 2021
Genesis 1:26-2:3 <*(((>< + ><)))*> Matthew 13:54-58
God our loving Father, we praise and thank you for the gift of St. Joseph whom you have called to be the husband of Mary and the foster father of your Son Jesus Christ here on earth. In him, you have shown us the value of sharing in your work to nurture earth and its resources.
Most of all, in St. Joseph you have taught us to work centered on our Lord Jesus Christ by integrating work with family and with fatherhood to become truly a provider not only of food, clothing and other material needs but most of all in providing love and guidance to the family.
In St. Joseph, the motivation and the purpose of work is solely to serve Jesus Christ which is very evident in the gospel today.
Jesus came to his native place
and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
"Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter's son?"
How beautiful that in the “wisdom and mighty deeds” displayed by Jesus, the people remembered St. Joseph the carpenter – what a marvelous job he must have done in forming and providing for our Lord!
He must have worked diligently for you, dear God, never focusing attention to himself so unlike these days when we have categories of workers like those doing “white collar jobs” and “blue collar jobs”.
Dearest God our Father, in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic when so many people have lost work and are now suffering the adverse effects of quarantine, we pray in the most special way for our workers to please protect them from all harm and sickness especially those working in the hospital.
We pray for those trying to find work these days so they may continue to provide for their families.
Open our hearts on this year of St. Joseph as proclaimed by Pope Francis last December 8 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his proclamation as patron of the universal church:
The crisis of our time, which is economic, social, cultural and spiritual, can serve as a summons for all of us to rediscover the value, the importance and necessity of work for bringing about a new “normal” from which no one is excluded. Saint Joseph’s work reminds us that God himself, in becoming man, did not disdain work. The loss of employment that affects so many of our brothers and sisters, and has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, should serve as a summons to review our priorities. Let us implore Saint Joseph the Worker to help us find ways to express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work!
Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-30 ng Abril 2021
Tirik noon ang araw
aking ramdam ang init at alinsangan
sa paradahan ng paaralan,
nanunuyo lalamunan habang
tagatak ang pawis, naiinis
naiinip, kailan aalis
virus ng COVID-19 sa atin;
kaya hanggang sa gitna ng init
sumasagitsit sa isip at kamalayan
paghihirap nating pinagdaraanan
nang ako'y maginhawahan sa malamig na lilim
ng nakayungayong mga dahon at sanga ng Banaba;
sa aking paglingon patingala
ako ay namangha at nabighani
mga lilang bulaklak namumukadkad
handog ay kagalakan at kapahingahan.
Luminga-linga pa ako sa kapaligiran
saka lamang napagmasdan
isa pang puno ng Banaba nalampasan
hitik sa mga bulaklak niyang lila
naroon din sa bukana ng paaralan
nagpaparamdam ng mahalagang aral
matutunan sa pandemyang pinagdaraanan:
kung kailan kainitan,
walang patak ng ulan
saka ipinagyayabang nitong Banaba
angking kagandahan at kabutihan
maging kahusayan dapat nating tularan
sa panahon ng kagipitan, doon lumalabas
tunay nating kulay -
ikaw ba'y matamlay at mapusyaw
at hindi makagalaw?
Alalahanin pangangaral ni Hesus nating mahal,
"At bakit kayo nababagabag tungkol sa pananamit?
Isipin ninyo kung paanong sumisibol
mga bulaklak sa parang, hindi nagpapagal
ni humahabi man; maging si Solomon
sa kanyang karangyaan hindi naramtan
ng gayong karinglan!
Kaya't huwag kayong mabalisa
sa inyong kakanin, iinumin o daramtin."
Madaling sabihin, mahirap gawin
lalo na sa marami sa atin sapin-sapin
suson-suson mga paghamon sa buhay
ngunit sa puno ng Banaba naroon
ating tugon: magpakatatag sa pagkabaon sa lupa
paglipas ng taon uusbong mga dahon at bulaklak
dulot nitong bunga lunas sa maraming sakit at karamdaman.