Natatangi ang Pasko 2022

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-28 ng Nobyembre 2022
Larawan kuha ng may akda, Nobyembre 2022.
Sa lahat ng Pasko 
nating naipagdiwang
itong darating ay makahulugan:
 pagkaraan ng dalawang taon
ng lockdown at social distancing
dahil sa COVID-19,
sama-sama tayo muli magdiriwang 
ng harap-harapan o "face-to-face"
sa tahanan at simbahan,
lansangan at mga pasyalan. 
Kung tutuusin,
face-to-face ang diwa ng Pasko
kaya nagkatawang-tao ang Diyos-Anak
at sumilang katulad natin upang 
Diyos-Ama na maibigin ay personal 
na makilala at maranasan 
katulad ng isang kapwa
mayroong katawan at kamalayan,
buhay at kaugnayan na tuwina ay
masasandigan at maaasahan.
Gayon din ay pagmasdan,
Disyembre beinte-singko ngayong taon
papatak sa araw ng Linggo:
ito ba ay nagkataon o niloob ng Panginoon
na matapos ang dalawang taon
sa Kanyang kaarawan tayo ay magdiwang
puno ng kahulugan, 
namnamin Kanyang kabutihan
sapagkat hindi tayo kinalimutan
o pinabayaan sa pandemyang nagdaan?
Larawan kuha ng may akda, Adbiyento 2021.
Ngayong Kapaskuhan
huwag pabayaang maging ganun lang
ating paghahanda sa pagdiriwang:
abangan si Hesus araw-araw
dumarating, sumisilang sa ating katauhan
kaya mga face masks ng pagkukunwari 
ay hubarin at alisin, magpakatotoo
nang si Kristo makitang totoo;
hugasan at linisin mga kamay
maging bibig upang talikuran 
mga kasinungalingan at karuwagang 
maninindigan sa katotohanan at kabutihan;
mga palad, puso at kalooban
ay buksan upang abutin at tanggapin
bawat kapwa bilang kapatid
kay Kristong Panginoon natin!
Kailanma'y hindi napigilan
pagdiriwang ng Pasko
kahit ng mga digmaan at kalamidad
bagkus mga ito pa nagpatingkad
sa liwanag at kahulugan nito;
hindi pa tapos ang pandemya
kaya ngayong Pasko ng 2022,
huwag kabahan
pawiin agam-agam
lapitan at samahan bawat isa
upang magkahawahan
hindi ng corona virus kungdi
ng tuwa at kagalakan
ng pagsilang at pagliligtas 
ni Jesu-Kristo sa ating
puso at katauhan palagian.
Larawan kuha ng may akda, Pasko 2021.

Hold on to God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac & Companion Martyrs, 24 November 2022
Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 21:20-28
As we get closer to the end
of this liturgical year,
we get more excited with 
Advent and Christmas;
please help us, Lord Jesus,
to see more at the moment 
the meaning of the end of this
calendar, the end of time,
the end of everything that would
be renewed in you.
Many of us are so blessed
with family and friends,
jobs and education
that after two years.
we are looking forward
to a face-to-face
Christmas;
but, keep us aware
and conscious of the many others,
definitely more than most of us
who have lost so much these
past years of the pandemic;
many have lost loved ones,
until now have not moved on yet
with their lives, grieving in pain
made worst with other losses like
jobs, careers, business and livelihood;
many are still facing so many forms
of sufferings and trials in life
as individuals and communities;
we pray for them, Lord Jesus.

But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.

Luke 21:28
Help us, Lord, 
in our lives to witness 
the strength and courage
in you to forge on in life's many trials
and difficulties so that those deep 
in trouble may be encouraged to believe
and trust more in you;
more than our words of encouragement,
help us to show in our actions
and commitment to others
that always in this life,
God and good have the final say.
Amen.

God, our true treasure in life

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II for the Baccalaureate Mass
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 17 June 2022
2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20     <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*>   Matthew 6:19-23
Photo by Ms. Jing Rey Henderson in Taroytoy, Aklan, 30 April 2022.

Congratulations, dear graduates of Academic Year 2022! The term “earning your degree” is most appropriate for your batch because it was no easy task and feat to go through college these last two years on line and limited face-to-face classes.

Most difficult for you, Batch 2022 who are all so young and should have been out there exploring the world, learning life beyond the classrooms but due to the COVID-19 pandemic have to be kept inside your homes, denied even of lakwatsa? (I doubt…)

You have not only earned a degree nor would receive a diploma next week; remember, Batch 2022 of Our Lady of Fatima University, you have made it in one of the most difficult moments in modern world history!

The past two years were truly difficult as we navigated through uncharted journeys, making the best of whatever we can and we have to finish our studies and yes, keep our sanity. Let us be grateful to our Administrators and professors, and everyone in Our Lady of Fatima University who ensured our online classes continued so you may graduate this June.

These past two years are so precious that surely in the years to come, we would all look back for the many lessons we have learned about life.


God must be preparing you for something big, something so special like the young King Joash of Judah in our first reading.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Our first reading today is very interesting, a bit like Stranger Things for its bizarre plot and most of all, it tells us something good and beautiful about isolation like what we have experienced in COVID-19 pandemic.

Around the year 387 BC, the King of Judah by the name of Ahaziah died at a very young age of 22. His mother Athalia seized power after his death and to ensure she would keep the throne as queen, she ordered the king’s children – her own grandchildren – killed!

Here now are the stranger things: Athalia’s husband, King Jehoram who was the father of Ahaziah, also killed all his brothers and their sons upon succeeding their father to the throne so that no one among them would seize power from him. To top it all, the brothers of Ahaziah were killed by raiding Arabs that have left their royal lineage from King David almost deleted, except for one infant who survived Athalia’s carnage – his youngest son named Joash. He was saved by his auntie, Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba by hiding him for a year in the maids’ quarter with his yaya or baby sitter. After a year, Joash was brought to the temple to hide him there for six years under the care and protection of the high priest Jehoida who happened to be the husband of Jehosheba.

When Joash turned seven years old, his uncle, the high priest Jehoida staged a coup d’etat against his grandmother Queen Athalia by revealing to the people gathered at the temple the evil deeds of Queen Athalia. Furthermore, he revealed to the people how one of the princes had survived, Joash, who was immediately installed as the new and legitimate king of Judah.

Athalia was arrested and killed outside Jerusalem along with the priests of the pagan idol Baal. King Joash lived long to rule over Judah to eventually continue the Davidic lineage of kings to fulfill God’s promise of sending the coming Messiah from the family of King David.


We are not told what was taught or the kind of formation the little prince Joash had while in isolation and hiding in the temple but that surely prepared him for the great task and mission he would have later in life.

From Facebook, April 2020.

Imagine King Joash had to hide for seven years from his own, wicked Lola and, we are just in our second year of the COVID-19 pandemic with many semblances of normalcy beginning to return; I won’t be surprised at all that many of you have already gone to Baguio City or Boracay or any vacation spot these past months.

My message for you, dear Batch 2022 is simple: following the COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation, never forget its beautiful lesson that God is our only surety in life, that God alone is our true treasure who could never be stolen or destroyed.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

Matthew 6:19-21

God alone is our true treasure whom we must keep and nurture in life, both in good times and in bad.


We have all experienced these past two years that nothing is permanent in life except God alone. Some of us have lost friends and relatives, even family members not only to COVID but to other sickness.

Many of us got sick with COVID and other diseases and ailments.

We experienced tightening our belts, trying to cut down on many expenses as finances went down while others lost their jobs and livelihood. We cannot even rely on our savings and investments as the pandemic brought them down.

Despite the many viral trends that came out these past two years, we have learned too that popularity does not last. In fact, it wanes too fast until the next trending topics or videos.

There is nobody else we can truly rely on except God and his everlasting love. Remain in him in your prayers and communal celebrations like going to Mass on Sundays. Since last year when I came here at the Our Lady of Fatima University, I have been telling you in our Masses and conferences, most especially during Baccalaureate Mass like this, study hard, work harder, and pray hardest.

Bad times like sickness and death, problems and difficulties are like storms that keep us inside our homes so we can reflect more about ourselves, our lives and our goals. Though the clouds may be dark, it is during the storms in life when we are truly enlightened to see the more important things in life, our true treasures.

Remember, it is always after the rains and the storms when the leaves are greenest.

Photo by Peter Fazekas on Pexels.com

Just like you, Batch 2022, who went through severe tests and storms these past two years. Now, you rejoice for the well-deserved recognition of completing your courses, of graduating.

There will be more storms coming your way, even darker and stronger than what you went through while at Our Lady of Fatima University. We are still in a pandemic and nobody knows until when we shall have all these set-ups in life, in work and in school. However, if we have made it this far especially you, Batch 2022, better days are coming ahead for you.

God has special plans for you like King Joash that is why he kept you at home for two years, why he pushed you to be patient and persevering in your online classes despite the many problems you have had like the perennial slow internet.

As you go out to the world with your diploma, with your knowledge and wisdom as you rise to the top, do not forget God. Handle life with prayer, practice well our two mottos, Veritas et Misericordia, Truth and Mercy. Sometimes, go into isolation or retreat with God to find the truth, to examine how merciful you have been and to listen to God’s voice, to discover his plans for you. And to be focused more in him through Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Keep Jesus your light. Even if you are not able to see the entire path, one step is enough because Jesus will never leave you, would always guide you to our true treasure in life, God. Amen.

Congratulations again and God bless you more, OLFU’s Batch 2022!

From Facebook, Our Lady of Fatima University, 15 June 2022.

He touches me

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 26 April 2022
From Google.

The word “touch” is a very touching one, connoting so many meanings while at the same time gives us a “feel” of what it really is. Its literal and figurative senses always go together with the most touching reaching deep down inside us that are also the gentlest and simplest.

We are touched by words and gestures, by sights and sounds, and literally speaking, we are touched most when touched by another person. Experts claim that a five second touch is equivalent to about 300 words of encouragement so that for us to be emotionally well, we need at least three hugs a day.

Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Villa and Retreat House, Baguio City, January 2019.

Reflecting on the very few stories of the Easter appearances by Jesus to his disciples, we find how the gospel writers did not need to write so much details to convince us that the Lord had risen for it is not the number nor length of his appearances that matter but its inexpressible intensity. Especially in the fourth gospel, we notice – and we are touched, too like the disciples – the deep intensity of Christ’s appearances that resulted only in silence and adoration among them.

And that is one very true characteristic of Jesus – he touches us. Always. Even if we can not touch him nor see him. There is always that joy of Easter bursting forth within us in moments of prayers, of intimate conversations with loved ones and friends, or upon seeing a beautiful sight or experiencing nature.

It is Jesus Christ who touches us most that is why we believe in him even if we cannot explain how it all happened. It has always been like that since he rose from the dead. In fact, I doubt Thomas really touched Jesus when they met on the eighth day because he was so “touched” upon seeing the Risen Lord that he said, “My Lord and my God”, the most intense expression of faith in the bible!

See that nothing is said if Thomas indeed touched the wounds of Jesus for he was caught up in the experience and sight of the Risen Lord.

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:27-28
“The Incredulity of Saint Thomas”, a painting by Caravaggio from commons.wikimedia.org.

Like Thomas, Jesus touches us in the most personal and unique manner that deep inside us we also cry with intensity “my Lord and my God” to him. Though we can enumerate many reasons and persons who have led us into believing in Jesus, we also admit at the same time that there is no specifically single reason nor person for our faith in God except our very selves, of our personal conviction that transcends all proofs and logic because, we were so touched.

The gospels teem with so many stories of Jesus touching especially the sick when healing them and surprisingly, as we reflect on these stories, we too are touched, even by the Lord. And our perspectives and lives eventually change because we have experienced Jesus.

The same is very true with the many people we have known and met, the few perhaps we have befriended and loved: so many things in our lives have turned for the best simply because we were touched, literally and figuratively speaking.

When I was still teaching in our all-girls’ school in Malolos City, I used to remind my students in high school to never be fooled by a man’s looks and “porma”, to always look for a man who really loves you, respects you, and touches you as a person, as a woman. And they would always ask me how can they determine that? My usual response was they would “feel” that because a man or any person with integrity would always “touch” you.

Then I would play to them Lisa Stansfield’s 2004 He Touches Me:

He don’t bring me anything but love
He don’t bring me anything but love
If you offered me the stars I would decline
I don’t need ’em I got mine
I don’t know where to start
But I know what’s in my heart
So keep your silver and your gold 
’cause I got my man to have and hold

As our lives gradually return to some semblance of normalcy following the decrease in cases of COVID-19, it would be nice that we try to remember and recall those many experiences we have had since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the people who touched us.

One beautiful lesson this pandemic had taught us is that even if we practice social distancing, we can still be emotionally close with one another in so many ways and means. And even if we still have to maintain that social distance as minimum health protocol in this pandemic, there are so many occasions for us to touch one another to express our love and concern, our gratitude and apologies to any one who have touched us.

From QuotesGram.com.

It is about time that we touch base with them again, and this time, let us get in touch with one another in the most meaningful and loving way, with intensity, so that no matter what happens next, we may have that deep sense of joy and fulfillment of being truly human, of having experienced “the warmth of a loving face” as Camus expressed in The Plague.

Everyone is drained and exhausted by COVID-19, with many still out of touch following their many losses during the pandemic – loved ones, career, studies, goals and plans in life that were disrupted, permanently or temporarily.

Let us help each other to regain composure and directions in life by being kind with everyone. Most of all, let us touch one another with our simplest gestures of a smile or a wave of hand that here is another person – also struggling, also trying to pick up the pieces of life, moving on to start anew. Many times, the simplest things have the most lasting impact on us because they are also the most touching. And that is because, with our kindness, that is also when people feel being touched and loved by God most.

I hope you were touched… a blessed day ahead of you!

Photo by author, Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

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.