To rest – magpahinga -is to be filled with God

The Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 19 January 2022
Photo by author, 31 December 2021 Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan.

It is my fifth day in home quarantine after contracting COVID-19 with mild symptoms of colds and coughs last Saturday. From the bottom of my heart, thank you everyone for your love and concern, prayers and gifts like food and fruits you have been sending.

But, no thanks at all to those who told me that God simply wanted me to have much needed rest that is why I got sick.

Whoa!!!

And to those planning to tell me or anyone else afflicted with Omicron, please STOP!

With another week to spend in home quarantine, I feel compelled asking everyone to PLEASE DO NOT EVER SAY GOD WANTS US SICK SO THAT WE CAN HAVE OUR MUCH-NEEDED REST.

It is not true.

It is not uplifting because it is simply stupid and insane. Nothing bad can ever come from God, like sickness or accidents or disasters. Or pandemic. Always remember 1 John 4:16, “God is love”.

However, God continues to work in silence even in the midst of our troubles, doing his very best that even the worst scenarios in our lives would still turn out well and good in the end to proclaim his love and mercy for us.

Photo by author, 31 December 2021 Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan.

A few years ago I concelebrated in the funeral Mass for the two brothers of a priest shot multiple times by a neighbor with an Armalite right at the gate of their home. How I wanted to walk out from the Mass to tore my garments when the homilist said with his matching “drama” of tears and breaking voice that it was the will of God: “Ipagpasa-Diyos natin ang lahat… kalooban niya ang pangyayaring ito ngunit siya ang nakaaalam ng higit na mabuti”!

OMG!

So kawawa our God…. and most kawawa are we!

How can a priest claim God willed the brutal slaying of those two brothers?

When Ondoy flooded vast areas of Metro Manila and nearby provinces in 2009, “acts of God” became the most notorious phrase to simply describe a disaster never imagined.

It is neither spirituality nor even Christianity when God is always made the reason and – scapegoat – for anything that happens to our lives. May the Good Lord have mercy on us!

Photo by author, Singapore, 2018.

Now with another surge in COVID due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the “spiritualists” and “pseudo-theologians” among us are busy spinning those blasphemous threads of God simply wanting the sick to have much needed rest and “me-time” too.

Totally untrue.

God could have just sent us with tickets to Boracay or El Nido or anywhere to go on vacation to rest, instead of sending us the COVID pandemic!

When we are sick, that is when we have a dis-ease. We are not at ease, there is dis-order in our body functions. And we remedy that with medications and a lot of rest which is part of recovery and healing.

But we do not need to be sick in order to rest.

In fact, we need to always rest so that we do not get sick.

That is the lesson of this pandemic. What we can do is to continue praying and help those who are sick instead of “theologizing” or “spiritualizing” them with such insane ideas.


In the Old Testament, God gave the third commandment to “Keep holy the sabbath day” (Ex.20:8 and Dt. 5:12), instructing us for all time to always rest – in God.

Here we find the beauty of our Filipino language: to rest is “magpahinga” from the root “hinga/hininga” or breathe/breath. Literally speaking, to rest in Filipino which is “magpa-hinga” is to be “breathed on by God”.

Photo by author, November 2021.

In the story of creation, we find how the “Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being” (Ge. 2:7).

In our Filipino Bible, it is translated as “hiningahan”. This beautiful scene was repeated by Jesus on the evening of Easter when he came to visit his disciples at the Upper Room in Jerusalem, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (Jn.20:22).

In its simplest sense, to rest essentially means to reconnect with God, to be breathed on by God to be one with him again who is our source and final end.

To rest – magpahinga – is to be filled with God anew. A rested person is always a renewed creation!

This is one of the many important lessons this pandemic has taught us, of the need for us to go back to God and be one with him again in Jesus Christ through one another along with Mother Nature. This we do by taking a rest, a pause and conscious stop from the daily grinds of life so we can see clearly again ourselves and one another in God and in his creation.


This COVID came because we have not only abused Earth but also our very selves. This pandemic is definitely not from God but he is using it to remind us of his loving presence. And most especially of his healing that can truly last and end this pandemic if go back to him.

Experts say the Omicron variant is the beginning of the end of COVID.

But, just before it finally ends, may this also be the start of our renewed relationships with God and with our very selves as we rediscover the essence and meaning of rest.

So, take a rest and stop saying God makes us fall sick in order to rest; God created rest so we do not get sick.

Have a restful moment with the Lord and your loved ones to be well and healthy!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, 18 January 2022.

What prompts us…?

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in Week I, Year I of Ordinary Time, 11 January 2022
1 Samuel 1:9-20   ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'>   Mark 1:21-28
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son Caius in January 2020.

“It isn’t that, my lord,” Hannah answered. “I am an unhappy woman. I have had neither wine nor liquor; I was only pouring out my troubles to the Lord. Do not think your handmaid a ne’er-do-well; my prayer has been prompted by my deep sorrow and misery.”

1 Samuel 1:15-16
In the midst of this new surge
in COVID infections, we identify
so well with Hannah, dear God
our loving Father:  we are not happy,
and we are so sorry for this surge
that has affected almost every 
family and household among us.
Listen to our pleadings to you, dear Lord,
heal our family members and friends
afflicted with the virus as well as those
most vulnerable like those bed-ridden
and those going through dialysis and
chemotheraphy and other treatments.
You know, O Lord, our deep longings and 
desires; purify and cleanse us inside, 
especially the sources of our pleadings
and speaking; whatever prompts us to 
say and do may always be rooted in you
not in us nor in our pride and ambitions
like the scribes.  May our promptings be
from the Holy Spirit always so that like
Jesus, we may speak with authority.
Amen.

Parol ating pastol

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-16 ng Nobyembre 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 11 Nobyembre 2021.
Hindi ko maiwasang umindak
sa awiting "kumukuti-kutitap,
bumubusi-busilak" tuwing 
makakakita ng mga parol 
nakasabit sa mga binatana,
binebenta sa kalsada
kahit malayo pa ang Pasko.
Ang mga parol ay tulad ng pastol
umaakay sa atin sa gitna ng dilim
hatid ay liwanag at galak
upang matunton at marating
Sanggol na sumilang sa sabsaban
habang mundo ay balot sa kasamaan
upang tayo ay tubusin sa ating mga kasalanan.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 11 Nobyembre 2021.
Makukulay, puno ng sigla
alalaong-baga, buhay na buhay
itong mga parol at iba pang mga palamuti
hatid ay hindi lamang ngiti sa labi
kungdi tuwa at kagalakan sa puso at kalooban
isang taon na naman matatagpusan
kahit COVID-19 kayang lampasan!
Katulad ng mga bituin at tala
mga parol at palamuti ng Kapaskuhan
matutunghayan lamang sa gitna
ng malaking kadiliman kagaya sa ating buhay
kung kailan mayroong kapighatian 
at lahat ay nalalabuan, doon naman
nagiging maliwanag at makulay ang lahat!
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 11 Nobyembre 2021.
Isang kabalintunaang tunay
ganda at busilak ng mga parol
sa atin nagpapastol tungo sa
liwanag ng kinabukasan;
sana manatiling nagningning 
liwanag ni Kristo sa puso at 
kalooban natin. 
Aking dasal at hiling
ngayong Paskong darating
sana matapos na itong COVID-19;
matularan sana natin mga parol
magpastol sa kawan, huwag silang maligaw
sa kadiliman  ng mga mapanlinlang 
tanging Diyos ang maging sandigan.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 11 Nobyembre 2021.

Life is “face-to-face” – on earth and in eternity!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, 02 November 2021
Wisdom 3:1-9 ><}}}*> Romans 8:31-35, 37-39 ><}}}*> John 14:1-6
Photo by author, November 2020.
God our loving and merciful
Father in heaven, as we commemorate
today all the faithful departed on
this All Souls' Day, my thoughts are
still with this ongoing COVID-19 
pandemic:
Of how I lament the way authorities
continue to insist religious gatherings
as non-essential that despite the many
deaths since last year due to this pandemic,
our people are still denied of the chance to
pay respects to their departed loved ones
in the cemeteries when malls, restaurants,
and public places like tourist destinations
are opened and allowed to operate 
to revive the economy.
How sad, dear God, it is still the money
and the economy that matter for them
than the soul and spiritual needs of people.
But I am also thankful, Father
for the valuable lessons this pandemic
has taught us most especially the value
of every person seen in the beauty
 of "face-to-face" or F2F encounters
we all so desire these days;
due to the pandemic, we have realized
nothing beats face-to-face meetings,
personal and actual relationships
despite the conveniences of online classes
and work from home set ups or any
of those internet transactions. 
How funny, dear God,
now we realize "life is F2F",
face-to-face both here on earth
and in heaven, your best gift to us
to be present and actual with you
and with one another!
And so, through the assuring words
 of your Son Jesus Christ to "Do not let
your hearts be troubled.
  You have faith in God;
 have faith also in me.
In my Father's house
there are many dwelling places"
 (Jn.14:1), we pray for the souls
 of our departed loved ones
 to finally have that grace of seeing you,
merciful God and Father, face-to-face
in your eternal glory in heaven,
and not that soon, we too may join them
in that ultimate F2F, praising you,
thanking you for making us worthy
in Jesus Christ.
And while still here on earth
as we approach the end of 2021,
we pray most earnestly to you, O God,
that slowly we may have the grace
and joy of experiencing anew one another
face-to-face, celebrating life
more meaningfully as we continue
 to learn the harsh lessons of COVID-19.
Amen.
Photo by author, November 2020.

Touching Jesus among us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXXI-B in Ordinary Time, 31 October 2021
Deuteronomy 6:2-6 ><]]]]*> Hebrews 7:23-28 ><]]]]*> Mark12:28-34
Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com

Since the start of this pandemic last year, I have always have that strange feeling of COVID-19 chasing me like a mad dog that would not stop until I am dead. Even after I have had the jabs, practicing all health protocols and best efforts of being “positive” to be negative of the virus, that morbid feeling keeps on creeping.

It is depressing but, it is not that bad as the pandemic has slowly become a grace-filled moment for me like to many of you (I hope so) to discover anew and realize that GOD is absolutely the one thing most important in this life, that GOD is not just the first among all things in life but essentially the very reason of everything in life!

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

Mark 12:28-30

Maturing and growing from fear to love.

From Jericho last Sunday, Jesus had finally reached Jerusalem, teaching in the temple area of the many valuable lessons on growing and maturing in our faith, in nurturing a personal relationship with God through him by moving from fear to love, from knowing to experiencing persons.

Like us in this time of the pandemic thrown into confusion, the scribe approached Jesus to be clarified with the many laws and precepts they were tasked to follow to lead a holy life and enter eternity. Like Bartimaeus last week, the scribe sincerely asked Jesus for enlightenment from the many darkness and blindness afflicting him.

And he was not disappointed when Jesus answered his question so differently by quoting verbatim from the most ancient prayer known by every devout Jew called the Shema Israel which we heard proclaimed at the first reading. By directly quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Jesus showed that more than the question of being the “first commandment” in the list of things to follow that is always binding on all, loving God with one’s total person is actually the source of all other commandments – even of those not listed!

In his answer to the scribe’s question, Jesus perfectly showed what holiness is all about – an integration (wholeness) of one’s faith and prayer and life from which flows the very essential fact of our lives that there is no other God than our God who alone is the One.

And the good news is that this great and powerful God had chosen to be one with us in the most personal manner by residing in our hearts!

We have a beautiful expression in Tagalog, “nakialam ang Diyos” – God “intervened” in our very lives by sending us his own Son Jesus Christ, unmindful of our nothingness, because he chose to love us, to be with us, to redeem us. What an amazing and loving God is he indeed who is perfect and most holy seeking an intimate and personal relationship with the broken and imperfect, sinful humans through our Lord Jesus Christ who embraced everything in us except sin.

Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal.

In this scene, Jesus is inviting us to move away from our usual “impersonal” relationship with God that is based on laws to follow, resulting in fears to the punishments due when failed to obey them. It is not even a relationship to speak of but more like a deal or transaction wherein we look at him as God our Lord and Master who takes care of our needs as his subjects and servants. Very feudal, so far from God’s will.

Making matters worst is our Filipino psyche of “sapagkat ako ay tao lamang” where we capitalize on our being weak as humans, therefore lowly but not necessarily humble using it as an excuse for failing to “love” him accordingly, and thus, an expression of our pride and insubordination to God.

Like Bartimaeus before his healing, we prefer to stay at the roadside than join Jesus on the way, avoiding relationships that call for a commitment to love.

Jesus wants us to be involved with God through him personally for it is only through him and in him can we experience God’s immense love and mercy by letting go our selfish selves. And the more we let go our selves in love, experiencing pains and sufferings like Jesus, the more we mature and grow better as persons, realizing the need to nurture this wonderful relationship with God who is love, who is the very core of our being.

That is when we move closer to the kingdom of God which is the very person of Jesus Christ found in everyone!

“The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all the burn offerings and sacrifices.”

Mark 12:31-33

Maturing and growing, loving personally

Jesus continued his answer to the scribe by explaining the evolution of commandments from God as its very source, telling us that as we appreciate his majesty and grandeur, we naturally and progressively flow to our discovery and loving too of the other persons around us.

Christ reminds us that whenever we find there is no other God than our God, we likewise discover that everyone is our neighbor, not just those like us in belief and color. The more God reveals himself to us in his grandeur and majesty, the more he also reveals himself to us in every person. Thus, it was in this moment in that encounter with the scribe that Jesus reintroduced his teaching on the universality of salvation, not just for Jews but for everyone!

In a similar manner when Bartimaeus was healed of his blindness last Sunday, today’s gospel is a wonderful story of enlightenment of the scribe who also regained his sight and vision in realizing that the love of God is also the love of one another! That is why he too cannot deny in himself the very truth that the highest form of worship, of “burnt offering and sacrifices” at the temple is personally loving God through everyone around us.

This is one of the important lessons this COVID-19 pandemic has taught us: it is always easy to say or even assume most of the time that we love, that we are loved, taking for granted the expression of our love and concern for others. We now feel so sorry how we have let days and weeks, months and years to have passed without seeing or calling family and friends or at least saying “hi” in whatever platform of social media until COVID-19 came.

Photo from inquirer.net.

While this pandemic has taught us the value of many ordinary things we have taken for granted like simple washing of hands and basic practices of cleanliness that matter so much to remain virus free and healthy, it has painfully taught us too the value of every person dear to us when one by one they were getting infected with COVID-19, some never recovered from the dreaded disease and now gone forever.

So many deaths have occurred in our circles of family and friends since last year in this pandemic; and, the saddest part is how swiftly they have left without any warning at all, denying us the chance of even a few seconds to see them and tell them how much we loved and cared for them.

It is always easy to know and say there is only One God, that he loves us so much, and that we also love him in turn. But, to move from fear to real loving, from formal knowledge to personal relationship, it is different. How true is that saying of us seeing the forest but missing the trees!

This Sunday, Jesus tells us to grow and mature in our relationships with him in prayer that must flow progressively and naturally to the people around us. It is only in finding this close link of loving God and loving neighbors that we get nearer to Jesus, who is the kingdom of God.

Tomorrow we celebrate All Saints Day in honor of all the departed already in heaven and on November 2, the All Souls Day for those awaiting in purgatory. Two great feasts that coincide with our Sunday gospel preparing us for the final destination, of being in the kingdom of God fully which is heaven.

While still here on earth not from the kingdom of God, Jesus is giving us the grace to experience heaven in our personal love in him to the Father through each other. Amen.

Have a blessed November!

Jesus, our glorious temple

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 24 September 2021
Haggai 1:15-2:1-9   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 9:18-22
Good Friday 2020 in my former parish.
I could feel and hear you, Lord
speaking to me, asking me like Haggai:
"Who is left among you that saw
this house in its former glory?
And how do you see it now?
Does it not seem nothing 
in your eyes?" (Haggai 2:3)
When I remember the images 
of the first few months of pandemic
last year that fell on the Holy Week
and Easter Season, I felt like Haggai
and the returning exiles to Jerusalem
seeing their temple in ruins, still under
construction;  how I long, O Lord, to those
glory days when we celebrate and adore
you in our beautiful church!
But now, with the pandemic's second 
year, our churches remain half empty.
How long shall we wait, Lord,
for COVID-19 to end so we can
go back to our church to celebrate
your presence, your love, your
salvation in Jesus Christ?
Strengthen us, dear God;
deepen our faith in you,
awaken our hope in you;
let us take courage like your
priests and returning exiles
to Jerusalem to await your promise
to "shake the heavens and the earth,
the sea and the dry land...
to shake all nations" (Haggai 2:6-7)
when you bring back the glory days
of worshipping you again in your
temple.
Most of all, open our minds
and our hearts to be shaken
inside for us to realize and 
wholly embrace the Passion,
Death, and Resurrection of 
Jesus your Christ (Luke 9:22), dear Father:
he is our glorious temple,
more magnificent than any church
or edifice when found in the hearts
of your people who abide in you,
who rely only on you.  Amen.
Easter 2020 in our former Parish.

The Paradox of the Cross

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXV-B in Ordinary Time, 19 September 2021
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20 ><]]]]'>James 3:16-4:3 ><]]]]'> Mark 9:30-37
Photo by author, Church of Dominus Flevit overlooking Jerusalem, 2017.

From the pagan capital of Caesarea Philippi where he revealed himself as the Christ or Messiah, Jesus turned back to travel south towards Jerusalem to fulfill his mission. He did not want people to know about his journey as he was intensively teaching the Twelve with important lessons before his approaching pasch.

For the second time, he mentioned to the Twelve of his coming Passion, Death and Resurrection but they did not understand it again; but, instead of asking Jesus for explanations, they argued among themselves who was the greatest, presumably thinking who would get the best post once Jesus becomes “king”.

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.

Mark 9:30-34

The pandemic as a prolonged sabbath

This whole pandemic period may be considered a prolonged sabbath for everyone when we, along with nature in some instances are asked to take a rest, be silent and still. And return to God. That is the beautiful imagery of Mark telling us last week how from Caesarea Philippi in the north Jesus and the Twelve took a U-turn to go back south towards Jerusalem, hidden and silent.

It is along this way that Jesus is inviting us also to spend these quarantine periods to rediscover him and his teachings. Primary of these lessons from him is the paradox of the Cross, of Christ’s glory in his crucifixion and death that has always been a great stumbling block for many of us throughout the ages.

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, February 2020.

Any disciple of Jesus can easily identify with the Twelve, of not understanding why Jesus had to suffer and die first in order to rise again on the third day. And like the Twelve, we have learned our lessons so well at Caesarea Philippi not to question it or be clarified lest we too are rebuked by the Lord like Peter!

There are times we cry out or complain to God when we are going through sufferings and trials why we have to get sick, why we have to lose a loved one, why we have to fail, why we have to suffer so much when we have tried our very best to be good and honest, sharing our time, talent, treasures and very selves in loving service to others?

But, let’s accept that it is often a sense of entitlement on our part, of trying to manipulate God when we surreptitiously tell him as if he does not know what we are really thinking and feeling that we are following Jesus to avoid pains and sufferings, or at least to have lighter cross because we believe we are good and better than others, therefore, we deserve better treatment.

And this is also the reason why like the Twelve “along the way”, we argue a lot on who is the greatest because it is better to think of the coming glory than contemplate every Good Friday we go through as Christ’s disciples. Sad to say, there are times we “compete” with one another for having the most pain gone through.

It can happen that whenever we are passing through some difficulties in life that we really do not see Christ at all but our selves alone because we are more focused on the rewards and gains we may have for the efforts, not really sacrifices.

See how Jesus asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”; recall how he declared during the Last Supper in John’s gospel, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn.4:16). How come we do not see him along the way?

How could we have missed that while we are on the way (of the cross), our thoughts are focused on the coming glory than on Jesus himself in every undertaking? This is the problem with “health and wealth” kind of preaching and ministry when Jesus is more seen as giver and dispenser of material blessings than Lord and Savior. It is a clear case of what Jesus told Peter last week, “you are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Mk.8:33).


"...in this paradox of the cross lies another paradox, 
that of human living wherein the more we try to live uprightly, 
striving to be good and loving, 
the more we are attacked and confused by the devil...
Holiness always engenders hatred
 among men and women filled with evil 
as we have been witnessing in the news lately."

Photo by author, Dominican Hills, Baguio City, January 2019.

And no wonder, in this paradox of the cross lies another paradox, that of human living wherein the more we try to live uprightly, striving to be good and loving, the more we are attacked and confused by the devil through others as we have observed last week.

Holiness always engenders hatred among men and women filled with evil as we have been witnessing lately in the news. This had been foretold long ago by the author of the Book of Wisdom we have heard in the first reading:

The wicked say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.

Wisdom 2:12, 20

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, see how man had always put God on trial like a criminal, being accused with all the miseries and sufferings on earth that reached its lowest point when Jesus was hanging on the cross with his enemies mockingly telling him, “If you are really the Son of God, come down and we will believe… He had saved others, now let him save himself!”.

The core of the paradox of the Cross

At the core of this paradox of the Cross is Jesus Christ’s central teaching of being like a child which he had first expressed clearly in his Incarnation and Birth by the Blessed Virgin Mary – the almighty God being born an infant, so small and so weak just like everyone of us! In coming to us a child and later dying on the cross, Jesus showed us that true greatness is in becoming small to become a part of the larger whole.

Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Mark 9:35-37

To be a child means to owe one’s existence to another which we never outgrow even in our adult life. It is an attitude of being open to every possibility in life, an attitude of trusting others, of having clean mind and clean heart.

The world of men, of macho men we love to relish with delight in the secular and even religious world in all of its trappings of fads and fashion and “hard talks”, of external showmanships that we try so hard to project cannot hide the hypocrisies within, of keeping grips and control on everyone and everything like the disciples of Jesus.

The tragedy of that scene of the Twelve arguing who among them is the greatest to get the best position when Jesus comes to power continues to happen in our time with some people actually living in darkness are the ones who pretend to be seeing the light that in the process are misleading people towards darkness and destruction! Even in the church when we keep on referring to ourselves as “servants” of the poor when our lifestyles as priests and bishops, nuns and religious are that of the rich and famous!

The key to greatness is to be like a child – be simple, be trusting because children lack jealousy and selfish ambitions which according to James in the second reading are signs of the presence of “disorder and every foul practice” (Jas.3:16).

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

This Sunday, Jesus is inviting us to examine ourselves truly why are we following him?

What have become of us in serving him – argumentative and divisive or welcoming of others especially the weak and marginalized?

Does my way of life speak of who I am as a disciple of Jesus, like a child, open to God and to others?

Have a blessed week, everyone!

When negative is positive

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 2021
Numbers 21:4-9 ><]]]]*> Philippians 2:6-11 ><]]]]*> John 3:13-17
Photo by author, statue of the bronze serpent mounted on a pole by Moses overlooking the Promised Land of Israel at the Franciscan Monastery on Mt. Nebo in Jordan (May 2019).
God our loving Father,
in this time of the COVID-19
pandemic when being "negative"
is actually "positive",
help us see the meaning
of celebrating your transformation
of repugnant symbols of suffering
and death into signs of glory
and majesty like the snake
and the cross.

Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Numbers 21:9
How wonderful it is, Father
when you transformed a
dangerous snake into a
healing and saving symbol
at the desert,
prefiguring the crucifixion
of your Son Jesus Christ
who showed us personally
that the path to exaltation
 is through lowliness
or self-emptying.

Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

Philippians 2:6-9
Most amazing of all, dear Father
is how you have transformed in Jesus
the most cruel instrument of suffering
and death which is the cross
into a symbol of salvation.
What a beautiful transformation
you have brought in Christ's Passion,
Death, and Resurrection
when the most negative sign
has become the clearest positive sign of all!

Jesus told Nicodemus: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:14-17
Help us find and celebrate, 
O God, in this Feast 
of the Exaltation of the Cross 
Christ's resurrection and glory
in heaven, instead of mourning
his death for he is Life himself; 
help us focus on healing and salvation
instead of dwelling on pain and
suffering especially in this time
of the pandemic; may his Cross
be our light in guiding us through
the darkness of COVID-19,
transforming us within to see
ourselves and one another clearly
as your beloved children, dear Father,
realizing the depths of your love 
and mercy while looking up to Jesus 
on the Cross.  Amen.
Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

Schooling in time of COVID-19

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II 
Mass of the Holy Spirit for the College Department
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City
06 September 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2021.
"Those who seek truth seek God,
whether they realize it or not."
- St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Last August 9 we celebrated the memorial of a modern saint who died at the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Second World War. She was a German Jew named Edith Stein who became an atheist but later regained her faith as she pursued higher learning in the field of philosophy that was so rare for women at that time.

As she progressed into her philosophical studies working as an assistant to Prof. Edmund Husserl known as the “father of phenomenology”, she converted into Catholicism, eventually leaving her teaching post at a university to become a Carmelite contemplative nun, adopting the name Teresa Benedicta dela Cruz.


Congratulations, our dear students in college who dare to learn and seek the truth by enrolling in this Academic Year 2021-2022.

Students and teachers are both seekers of truth. As St. Teresa Benedicta had experienced, every search for truth leads us to God, the ultimate Truth.

This is a very difficult and trying year for us all but like St. Teresa Benedicta and all the other saints as well as great men and women of history, they all sought for the truth in the most troubled time in history. Trials and hardships in life make learning more “fun” – and an imperative at the same time. In fact, the more we must study and search the truth during critical moments in history and in our lives in order to learn more lessons that are valuable not only to us in dealing with our problems but also with the succeeding generations.

Two important virtues we need to cultivate in seeking the truth, in learning our lessons in this time of the pandemic that I hope you, teachers and students will rediscover this Academic Year: patience and humility.


This pandemic may be considered as another Pentecost, 
teaching us the value of patience, 
of patient waiting for everything, 
reminding us that the beauty of life is best experienced 
by allowing nature to take its course, 
without shortcuts nor rush, to enjoy its beauty as it unfolds before us.

Photo by author, 2019.

Patience is from the Latin “patior” that means “to suffer, to bear with.”

Learning is a process. We cannot know everything right away. It requires a lot of patience on every student and teacher.

This is the reason why Jesus assured his disciples at the Last Supper that he would send them the Holy Spirit he referred to as the Advocate.

“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning… I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.

John 15:26-27, 16:12

In the last 20 years, so much have changed in our lives brought about by modern means of communication.

Great volumes of information have become so readily accessible at great speed, that many in the younger generation have seemed to have lost the virtue of patience. At the snap of your fingers, you can easily have almost everything you need aside from information and music – including food and groceries, clothes and appliances, plants and pets, even medicines and dates!

But life, most especially learning, takes time, requiring a lot of patience in waiting and searching.

Like the Apostles of Jesus who had to wait for the descent of the Holy Spirit at the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

This pandemic may be considered as another Pentecost, teaching us the value of patience, of patient waiting for everything, reminding us that the beauty of life is best experienced by allowing nature to take its course, without shortcuts, to enjoy its beauty as it unfolds before us.

Let our Lord Jesus Christ be our example in following in the path of patience, of suffering; every trial becomes a blessing, a moment of transformation when seen in the light of Jesus Christ who suffered and died for us on the Cross. His very life tells us that there can be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday.

This pandemic period is an extended Good Friday but in between those moments of sufferings, we experience little Easter if we try to be patient like what some of you have experienced when you graduated in this time of the pandemic.


Photo by author, January 2020.

The second virtue I wish to invite you to rediscover, teachers and students alike, is humility which is again from the Latin word humus that literally means “soil”.

From humus came the words human and humor.

Man was created from clay, a kind of soil. A person with a sense of humor is one who can laugh at things because he or she is rooted on the ground. We call a person with sense of humor in Filipino as “mababaw” or shallow – not empty but close to the ground or deeply rooted.

It is very difficult to learn anything nor discover the truth unless we first become humble. Pride and ego are the greatest stumbling blocks to any kind of learning. You will find in history, even in our personal lives how many opportunities in the past were lost simply because of our pride or “ego trip”.

Pride was the very sin of Adam and Eve that led to their fall. That is why when Jesus came to save us from effects of that Fall, humility became his central teaching when he demanded us to forget ourselves and, most of all, to become like that of a child so we shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

This humility Jesus himself showed us the path by being born like us – small and helpless.

And that has always been the way of God ever since: the small and little ones, those taken for granted, the unknown and rejected are always the ones used as God’s instruments, the ones always effecting the most far-reaching changes in history and our personal lives.

Even in the story of the Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, we find the centrality of becoming small to become a part of the whole.

It is the exact opposite of the story at Babel when people in the Old Testament dared to build a tower reaching to the skies; because of their pride, God confused them by making them speak different languages that led to the collapse of their tower and ambitions. During the Pentecost, the people were all united as one despite the different languages they speak because everybody was willing to listen, to become small in themselves to give way to others.

Like during the Pentecost, let us allow the “tongues of fire” and the “strong, driving wind” of the Holy Spirit part us of our fears and indifference, pride and ego during this Academic year 2021-2022 to fully realize and learn the important lessons and truth this pandemic is teaching us.

Photo from vaticannews,va, 13 May 2017.

Whenever, and wherever there is a search for truth that leads to the discovery of God through our patience and humility, there springs simultaneously the growth of a community. It is no wonder that wherever there is prayer and worship, there is always learning leading to bonding, or communing.

The first universities – from the Latin term universitas or “community of teachers and scholars” – where all offshoots of the efforts of the monks in their monastery as they evangelized peoples, teaching them not only prayers but also the basics of learning like reading and writing. Eventually monasteries had annex buildings as schools and universities that led to the establishment of towns and cities in Europe that spawned the growth of commerce and trade following the great many interactions among peoples.

Here we find the beautiful interplay of the search for truth that leads to discovery of God that bears fruit into mercy and love among people.

Another learned Saint who sought the Truth, Thomas Aquinas said that the more we learn the truth, the more we become intelligent, the more we must become holy.

How lovely it is, my dear students and teachers of Our Lady of Fatima University that wherever there is Truth which is Veritas, there is also Misericordia, the two mottos of our beloved University.

Amid the threats of COVID-19, amid the difficulties of online learning, let us continue to seek the truth, be patient and humble with one another as we try to build a community of “achievers” by “improving man as man”, “rising to the top” not to be conceited and proud but to be able to offer ourselves in the service of the country and of the world, for the praise and glory of God.

May our Patroness, the Our Lady of Fatima, lead us closer to Jesus Christ who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Amen.

From Facebook.com/fatima.university.

Opening our ears and heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIII-B in Ordinary Time, 05 September 2021
Isaiah 35:4-7 ><}}}'> James 2:1-5 ><}}}'> Mark 7:31-37
Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, 08 August 2021.

Since the start of our Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) last month, I have always admired the faithful people who continue to celebrate Mass with us outside our church as well as those in other places like Quiapo.

I have nothing against ECQ but I have always questioned the government decision in prioritizing churches in every lockdown when we have always been very strict in our protocols unlike malls and groceries. Most of all, it is during this time of crisis when we must give people the chance to express their faith in going to houses of worship to pray in silence and celebrate with the community while observing protocols.

It is very touching and inspiring to see people – young and old alike, healthy and sickly going to churches every Sunday, catching up with our Lord Jesus Christ even outside, rain or shine.

And that is why our gospel this Sunday is again very timely at this time we have reached the two-million mark in less than a year in the number of those infected with COVID-19 while those in government corruption are also breaking the billion peso mark in anomalous transactions! That is how evil those people are that while many are suffering in the pandemic, there those in government with gall to steal big time.

Has God forsaken us his people, especially at this time we are celebrating our 500th year of Christianization? Of course not!

Jesus Christ continues to come to us everyday not only to cleanse by washing our hearts of evil and sin as we have seen last Sunday in the gospel; today, Mark tells us how Jesus comes also to open our ears in order to hear and listen to his words that eventually open our hearts to freedom and salvation.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!”

Mark 7:31-34

“Jesus went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into Decapolis

Of the four evangelists, Mark is the only one who portrays Jesus as always on the go without even telling us details of his itinerary nor of the places he visited and people he had met. As the first gospel account written, Mark wrote in straight news style as he felt the urgency of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.

However, when Mark gives even the slightest details of the places and people in the journeys of the Lord, it always means something else. Like in our gospel today.

Photo by author, Sea (Lake) of Galilee, 2017.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.

Mark 7:31

You will recall that in July when Jesus sent his disciples to their first missionary journey, they were told to seek the “lost sheep of Israel”, to not go to pagan and Samaritan lands.

Today, it is the Lord himself who left Tyre and Sidon in northern Israel to go into the pagan territories of Decapolis that literally means “ten cities”.

Here we find the universality of Christ’s mission, not just for his fellow Jews. His love is so encompassing covering all the peoples of all time, then and now.

Jesus seeks us out who are in totally alien territory in life like this pandemic because he loves us.

When we look back and reflect in our lives, we find so many instances in the past how it was in the most foreign and lost situations when we have actually found God, is it not?

Reflecting further in this scene in the Decapolis, Mark is reminding us how we could also be those people who have brought the deaf-mute to Jesus, begging him to heal the man.

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.

Mark 7:32

Those people who have begged Jesus to heal the deaf-mute are the same people who went out of their ways since the start of the pandemic helping others in their many needs and sufferings, those people who sacrificed time, talent and treasures for the less fortunate like the community pantry.

They were also those elder brothers and sisters who have helped their younger siblings to learn and thrive in the new mode of learning online that began last year.

Those people who begged Jesus to heal the deaf-mute were also the same medical health frontliners who have died or still continue to serve us despite our callous government officials led by the health secretary.

Though there were so many abusive people last year -mostly civil servants and police officials who have notoriously made headlines – there were still more generous and kind people who made Jesus present to someone in need during this pandemic.

How wonderful it is to realize – and relish this Sunday as we find ourselves in this unusual and surreal situation of the COVID-19 pandemic that Christ is also with us, staying with us, speaking to us.

But, are we listening to him? Are we not also the same deaf-mute who needs Christ’s healing?

Photo by author, Caeasaria in northern Israel, 2017.

“Ephphata” – Be opened!

Notice another significant detail that Mark has mentioned in this gospel scene. Aside from identifying the Lord’s coming to the pagan territory of Decapolis, Mark surprisingly tells us in details the unique and unusual manner of healing by Jesus there.

There must be something very important in this unique healing by Jesus whereas before, he would just lay his hands on the sick or most usually, he would merely speak. Remember that we could also be this deaf needing Christ’s healing.

He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.

Mark 7:33-35

Opening to God involves our whole person, our whole being. Not just our eyes and ears, but most of all our heart. And the first step for us is to take a break from our ordinary life, from our daily routines that have numbed us that we have lost our consciousness of the present moment, even of our very selves.

This is why Jesus “took him off by himself from the crowd.”

Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, 08 August 2021.

To a certain sense, this is the grace of the pandemic – an opportunity for us all to spend more time with Jesus in prayers at home or in the church and to bond and fix those broken ties in our family. Before the pandemic, couples and children rarely have the chance to be together even at meals due to each one’s busy schedule; but, with COVID-19’s new mode of work and learning “from home”, many were thrown off balance because some have long lost their sense of being with family members.

Prayer in fact is an awareness of our presence that leads us to God’s presence. Unless we learn to separate from others and the usual ordinariness of our lives characterized by madness and toxicity in everything, we can never experience the presence of God in Jesus Christ in us and among us as well as in the sacraments and prayers.

That putting of Jesus of his finger into the man’s ears and touching his tongue with a spit indicate the personal encounter of the Lord with each of us, of how he would reach out to us daily to feel and experience his presence but we are always “out-of-touch”.

It is said that our heart is the shape of two ears put together.

I believe so. Opening to God is opening our ears to Jesus speaking to us daily. He has been trying so hard to converse with us but we hardly notice him around us because of those ubiquitous ear pods and headphones always stuck into our ears. We shut ourselves from the world to be into our own world, separated from everyone including God. We would rather listen to influencers and personal playlists that confirm things we believe as true, no more room for others especially the poor and marginalized as James noted in his Letter we have heard proclaimed in the second reading.

Beginning this Sunday, let us set ourselves apart from the rest to open ourselves to Jesus to see his light and hear his words so we can walk his path of joy and peace because he is “the Way” (Jn.16:6).

Let our hearts be strong, not to fear this crisis because God has fulfilled his promise prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading on Christ’s coming with “vindication and divine recompense to save us” (Is.35:4).

Have a blessed first week of September!

Photo from news.abs-cbn.com, 2020.