Lead us, remind us, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 25 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>  Matthew 23:27-32
Photo by the author, Capernaum along the shore of Lake of Galilee (Tiberias), 2017.
Times are getting more tough,
more difficult, and most painful
for us these days, God our loving Father.
We ask you only for one thing -
lead us to your Son Jesus Christ our Lord
as we pray:
Lead us, O Lord closer to you
to be like you - loving and caring
merciful and forgiving;
Lead us, O Lord to your words
and actualize them in our lives;
Lead us, O Lord in your Holy Spirit 
to work in us and through us
to bring life and joy, hope and inspiration
to those overshadowed with gloom
due to the pandemic.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing for us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

1 Thessalonians 2:13
Remind us today, dearest Jesus
that the greatest impact we can have
in this life are not just the words we speak
but by the deeds of love and care,
compassion and dedication we show;
Remind us, Lord, that the real test
of our discipleship in you is not found
in what people say how good or holy we are
but that they themselves are led to the Father;
Remind us today, dearest Jesus
not to be hypocrites like the Pharisees
and scribes who only wanted to appear
beautiful outside but rotting inside (Mt.23:27).
Amen.
 

“Lord, to whom shall we go?” : Faith in Jesus in time of pandemic

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXI-B in Ordinary Time, 22 August 2021
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18 ><}}}'> Ephesians 5:21-32 ><}}}'> John 6:60-69
Inquirer’s Friday front page tells us in essence the message of this Sunday’s Gospel – “Lord, to whom shall we go?” in this time of crisis. Photo from inquirer.net.

We conclude our series on the Lord’s discourse on bread of life with the same question he had posed to his disciples more than 2000 years ago at Capernaum, repeatedly asking us the same question daily, especially on Sundays: “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn. 6:67).

This is the first time in John’s gospel that the people have rejected Jesus Christ whom they have always admired and followed to listen to his teachings and most of all, to be healed of their sickness. When they were fed to their satisfaction at the wilderness, they wanted to take Jesus and make him their king but he evaded them, going to Capernaum where he was found the following day. All this time, religious leaders were the only ones against Jesus, challenging his authority especially when he cleansed the temple and healed on a sabbath day.

But today, in a sudden twist, people rejected and abandoned Jesus because they could not accept him as the Bread of Life who came down from heaven who would give his flesh as food and blood as drink for eternal life. Worse, this was led by those supposed to be close to him, his disciples.

Often used as a generic term for a follower or a believer, the word “disciple” is from the Greek word discipulos that literally means “one who comes after or follows the master” (also the root of discipline). In the gospels, disciples were the common followers of Jesus, distinct from the apostles often referred to as “the Twelve”. From another Greek word apostolein meaning “one who is sent forth ahead of a master”, an apostle is one who is close to Jesus, who personally knows him and have also seen him. That is why Paul insisted his being an apostle too.

This distinction between a disciple and an apostle is found in all four gospel accounts. It is important to know this especially in our gospel today which is the first time John had introduced to us the presence of disciples among the crowd with Jesus at Capernaum. They have all been silently listening to his discourse until Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn.6:54-56).

It was from here where our gospel this Sunday picks up the story:

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

John 6:60-62, 66-67
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on the eve of the ECQ, 05 August 2021.

Aversion vs. Conversion

Here we find a painful truth we all experience when following Jesus as our Lord and Master. Sometimes it can happen that those closest to us are the ones who cannot accept and understand us like those disciples of Jesus who have left home and family to listen to his teachings after witnessing many of his healings. Then all of a sudden, they abandoned him because he had said it is his flesh he shall give as food to eat and his blood as drink for eternal life.

They were thinking in the literal sense, more preoccupied with what they knew, with what they have in their minds, without any room for Jesus nor for others. They would rather stick with what they have heard and learned from the Old Testament, of Moses and the manna from heaven.


Refusing Jesus is always a refusal 
to grow and mature not only in faith 
but most of all in life and in our relationships. 
 It is pride and self-centeredness, 
a form of self worship and idolatry 
when one believes more to one's self
 than with God through others.

Refusing Jesus is always a refusal to grow and mature not only in faith but most of all in life and in our relationships. It is pride and self-centeredness, a form of self worship and idolatry when one believes more to one’s self than with God through others.

Jesus came to deepen our faith by experiencing himself, inviting us all to be converted back to God. But instead of conversion or turning back to God in the light of Jesus, we choose aversion, that is, turning away from God, returning to blindness and darkness like those disciples: As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (Jn.6:66).

They cannot accept and take Jesus personally and wholly as his very words implied the Eucharist where we receive Jesus, Body and Blood under “the perceptible signs of bread and wine” as explained by Vatican II’s Sacrosantum Concilium #7.

Every Sunday when we gather as the Body of Christ in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist prefigured in the time of Moses in the wilderness until their entry into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership, we likewise reaffirm and renew our commitment to love and “serve the Lord, for he alone is our God” (Jos. 24:18).

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, March 2020.

Yes, “this saying and teaching of the Lord is hard to accept” (Jn. 6:60) especially in this time of the pandemic when many among us have lost family and friends including sources of income and savings while things are expected to worsen before getting any better at all.

Then there is also the familiarity with the Holy Mass breeding contempt among us these days when all we have are virtual Masses.

It is very sad that many of us these days have “returned to our former way of life and no longer accompanied Jesus” like those disciples at Capernaum; there are some who have stopped believing in Jesus due to the many pains and sufferings of this prolonged pandemic!

We are in a time of severe crisis not only in faith but also in every aspect of life due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. As we moved Saturday to lower level of quarantine controls, new records were set in new infections and deaths while ICU’s and hospitals are almost if not at full capacity already.

Lest we forget, there is the severe stress on our medical frontliners and their families too, with some literally passing out of exhaustion.

Some major decisions really have to be made not only by leaders but by everyone. That is the literal meaning of the word “crisis” which is from the Greek krisis that means time for decision-making to prevent (more) disasters from happening.

Disasters are due to poor or wrongful decisions.

One of that is removing God from every equation in life, including in our political and social life, giving rise to a culture of impunity where corruption has become a way of life.

Despite our being a Christian nation, we have chosen to remain in our morally bankrupt style of politics based on popularity, compadrazgo system, and vote selling. No wonder that even while we are in a pandemic with thousands getting sick or dying and millions are suffering, public officials continue to plunder our nation’s coffers blatantly while candidates shamelessly campaign early with their giant tarpaulins and television ads to ensure they all remain in power.

To whom shall we go? With the corrupt officials and trapos who do not care at all for us?

The good news today is that even if we have abandoned Jesus many times in our lives and in our nation’s history, he remains with us, still asking us like the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn.6:67).

Let us tell Jesus like Peter, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn.6:68-69)?

Remaining in Jesus like Peter

Last Friday, the Inquirer eloquently showed on its front page the sad plight of our nation with a banner story on corruption at the DOH following the recent reports by Commission on Audit as well the arrogant display of powers-that-be in Cebu.

Then, a breath of fresh hopes with this photo by Grig C. Montegrande on how the QC General Hospital had converted its chapel into a COVID-19 ward to accommodate the growing number of patients. The photo summarizes our Sunday readings, that we are in a critical moment not only in our history but also in our lives, calling us to conversion or turning to God instead of aversion which is turning away from God.

From inquirer.net.

Remember the “I AM” declaration by Jesus first used in this bread of life discourse two weeks ago when he said “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (Jn.6:41)?

That must have lingered in Peter. His faith did not deepen right away but it had surely grown and matured while listening to Christ’s discourse on the bread of life which became clearer to him after Easter.

Let us try “to feel at home” in Peter’s company during this pandemic to be led to a similar faith insight and commitment in Jesus no matter how difficult it may be.

Faith is like love: we believe and love not because we are sure of ourselves but because we are sure of the one we believe and love. That is why we commit our lives to our beloved. It is not primarily because of us at the center but of the other. Like Jesus. Or a loved one.

This is Paul’s reminder to us in the second reading of having Jesus as the basis of our relationships: Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21).

It is not a call to dominance over one another but mutual-subordination in Christ by imitating his self-sacrificing love for everyone in the giving of his total self, Body and Blood. This we can do these days by observing health protocols like social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands frequently. Best is to stay home as much as possible by giving ourselves more to our family and loved ones. Amen.

Have a safe and blessed week, everyone!

Keep us calm, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 17 August 2021
Judges 6:11-24   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 19:23-30
Photo from Facebook, April 2020.
You know so well the hardships
we are all into these past months,
God our Father.
And you must have heard all our 
complaints to you, even those we
have kept in our hearts for you also 
know how we feel like Gideon.

Gideon said to him, “My lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers told us when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ For now the Lord has abandoned us and has delivered us into the power of Midian.”

Judges 6:13
You are so kind, dear God
in allowing us to bring out to you
what we feel which after all, we cannot
hide from you; and here lies your blessing:
after allowing us to recognize before you 
the problems and misery we are into, 
you send us to work on its solution.

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian. It is I who send you… Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.” So Gideon built there an altar to the Lord and called it Yahweh-shalom.

Judges 6:14, 23-24
We all want peace,
we all desire a world with less
pains and sufferings like an end
to this pandemic but no one among us
would dare to follow your instructions,
your commands to do our part in finding
solutions to our many problems in life,
in doing our part in alleviating the pains
and sufferings of the sick and dying
for until now we have refused to give up
and surrender our selves to you, Lord.
We are afraid of detaching from whatever
or whomever attachments we have,
so we can be truly free for you and for others.
Most of all, we are afraid to get hurt,
to lose and to get lost in order to have you
and find life and fulfillment.
Give us the grace to realize
and keep in mind always
your Son's words today:
"For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible."
(Matthew 19:26)
Keep us calm, Lord, amid
the darkness and uncertainties
around us these days of the pandemic.
Amen.

Mary, mirror of God’s greatness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2021
Revelation 11:19-12:1-6,10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, December 2020.

We take a break this Sunday from our readings in the bread of life discourse in John’s gospel to celebrate on this date the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary following Pope Pius XII’s dogma in 1950 that at the close of her earthly life, Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.

Without telling the manner or the circumstances of time and place of the Assumption, its dogma forms part of the deposit of our faith received from the Apostles as attested by its long line of traditions since the Pentecost. It is so important that its celebration supersedes the liturgy of any Sunday because it invites us all to see in Mary raised to heaven the image of the Church and of all the faithful on our way to eternal glory with God.

It is a very timely celebration while we are in the midst of another lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, giving us hope and inspiration to persevere in all these difficulties and trials to become better disciples of Jesus like his beloved Mother.

Photo by author at the Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, 2019.

Mary, a type of the Church

Our first reading today presents us with two images of a woman that seem to contradict each other with scenes that anti-climactic, flowing in the reverse mode. It could have been better as in most cases that the first scene depicting the woman in all glory should have been last instead of the woman in childbirth pains and dangers that comes in second. Is it not the sorrowful always comes first leading to glory?

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.

Revelation 12:1-3

It is easy to see the Blessed Virgin Mary in that woman depicted in John’s vision especially if we continue reading on to find the title and authority attributed to her child as our Savior Jesus Christ. But modern biblical studies go deeper than that simplistic view: the scenes speak more of the birth of Christ among us his disciples. It is “painful” because it takes place amid many evil and sins like persecutions and temptations symbolized by the red dragon; but, amid all these, Jesus remains among us, leading us, protecting us, and blessing us. Hence, the woman in this passage becomes a symbol of the Church in the glory of God following Christ’s Resurrection while at the same time in the midst of many earthly battles.

Of course, no other woman can best fit that image than Mary who gave birth to Jesus, who has always been in the most intimate relationship with her son as disciple among all humankind. And because of her role in relationship to her Son, to us his disciples also his Body as community, Mary is the image or type of the Church still giving painful birth to believers like in this time of the pandemic while we are already assured of glory in heaven as children of God. Vatican II perfectly expressed it in declaring:

“By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.”

Lumen Gentium #63

With that, Mary has also become the mirror of God’s greatness in all time, the very reason we venerate her as first among the saints and angels because it is also the same call of holiness to us all as children of the Father and disciples of Christ. It is in this framework that we celebrate her Assumption, especially when we profess every Sunday: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of body and life everlasting. Amen.”

Photo by author, Nazareth, 2019.

Greatness of God, lowliness of Mary

As we have mentioned at the start, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary does not go into details how it took place. What matters most is the fact of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul. Like with her Immaculate Conception, there are no direct nor explicit biblical references to her Assumption; however, from the collective meditations and contemplations in the Church, we find vast and rich sources in reflecting the beauty and wonder of the Blessed Mother’s unique place in our salvation history.

For the Mass of the day of the Solemnity, we contemplate on Mary’s canticle called Magnificat which she sang after being praised by her cousin Elizabeth during the Visitation.

And Mary said:
"My soul proclaims 
the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generation will call me
blessed:  the Almighty has done 
great things for me, and holy is his Name."
(Luke 1:46-49)

It was the first proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ whom Mary first received and shared first with her cousin Elizabeth in a town in Judah. See how in the Visitation Elizabeth praised and admired Mary, becoming the first to call her “blessed among women” because “she believed the word spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45). Instead of giving back her praise and admiration to Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist at that time despite her old age and being barren, Mary sang praises to God like the other great women in the Old Testament after experiencing God’s extraordinary acts in their personal lives and in Israel’s history.

Though we may never have the same personal experiences of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as members of the Church she represents, we can always look through her Magnificat the extent we have also become the mirror of the greatness of God especially at this time when everybody seems to doubt his loving presence in this time of the pandemic.


 It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat 
during our evening prayers in the Church because 
before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, 
we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

See how the Magnificat sings of the depths of Mary’s soul and her faith, of her perfect obedience to the word of God and the mission entrusted to her. Very clear in its lyrical expression, the focus and center is God, not Mary. It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat during our evening prayers in the Church because before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

Have we truly been God’s lowly servant like Mary, allowing God to work his great wonders through us?

Three things I wish to share with you on Mary’s lowliness that enabled God to work his wonders through her:

First is her openness to the word of God like in the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus. Mary had a prayer life, a discipline of making time with God, setting her self aside for the Lord. Prayer is always the start of every relationship with God. That is when we truly become humble to lose control of ourselves, to forget our selves and let God in the Holy Spirit dwell into us. Even in the darkest moments of our lives, there will always be that glimmer of hope because the Holy Spirit enlightens us in our paths.

Second is Mary’s saying “YES” to God. She does not merely listen to God; she says “be it done unto me according to your word.” From the very start, Mary never doubted God in his wisdom and plans that she always said yes. One most beautiful expression by the evangelists of Mary saying yes to God is whenever Mary would “treasure in her heart” words of Jesus and of others.

But Mary’s greatest yes happened at the Cross, in her sharing in the Paschal Mystery of her Son Jesus Christ, being the only other disciple who remained with the Lord until his death. No wonder, it was to her based on tradition that the Risen Lord first appeared on Easter.

Third is Mary’s fidelity to God, her yes was not just a one-shot deal but an everyday yes to Jesus even after he had ascended into heaven. The Acts of the Apostles tells us explicitly how Mary was among the disciples present inside the upper room at Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Throughout the ages in her numerous apparitions, Mary said yes to God delivering Jesus Christ’s call for us to penance and conversion, to prayers and the Holy Eucharist especially at Fatima in Portugal.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

Mary went through many hardships and difficulties in her life and in the history of Israel, coming from an obscure town that was a butt of jokes of their time like when Nathanael asked Philip who claimed to have found Jesus Christ, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (Jn.1:45)”.

In this time of the pandemic, the vision of John in the first reading becomes more real when people refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of COVID-19, of the need to be converted and to again nurture that relationship with God following decades of affluence and materialism. Like Mary, let us be humble to accept we are not the masters of this world nor of our own life but God almighty.

We are called to persevere with Mary, to be strong in our faith and charity that God will never forsake us so we can be present among the poor and marginalized including those spirits weakened by the prolonged quarantines.

With Mary, let us believe the words of St. Paul how all will come to life again – body and soul like Mary – in the final end of time that begins right now, right here in the midst of all these trials and sufferings. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

St. Lawrence: the saint we need during this pandemic

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, 10 August 2021
2 Corinthians 9:6-10   ><}}}}'> + ><}}}}'> + ><}}}}'>   John 12:24-26
“Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, Deacon” by Hipolito de Rioja (16th c.) from commons.wikimedia.org
God our loving Father,
give us the grace in this time
of pandemic the zeal and fervor,
kindness and humor of Saint Lawrence,
deacon and martyr of the second century.
You must have loved him so much,
lavishing him with your grace to 
witness the gospel of Jesus Christ
for St. Paul said:  "God loves a 
cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
Saint Lawrence was so cheerful
in his dedication and fidelity to his
office as deacon, serving the Pope
and the people by distributing alms 
and other help to the poor and suffering.
In this time of the pandemic 
when so many people lack
food and money and other essentials,
give us the courage to trust in you
Lord to share whatever we have. 
Most especially, in this time of lockdowns
when so many of us are emotionally drained
with spirits sagging due to quarantine fatigue, 
gift us with the wit and humor of Saint Lawrence
who asked his executioners to turn his body
to make his roasting even on all sides!
Above all dear Father,
like Saint Lawrence may we realize
that to see your Son Jesus 
is not only with one's eyes but 
with one's total self, willing to lose 
one's life like a grain of wheat that dies 
and produces much fruit in Christ (Jn.12:24).
Amen.

To fear the Lord especially in time of crisis

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, 09 August 2021
Deuteronomy 10:12-22   ><]]]]*>  +  <*[[[[><   Matthew 17:22-27
Photo by author, April 2018.
August has always been a difficult 
month for us ever since when farmers 
wait for their crops to bloom while 
parents have spent most of their savings
for enrollment and other expenses
in the family; now, the pandemic has 
made August more difficult with the 
imposed lockdown due to pandemic.
But you have blessed us, O God our Father
in this month of August with so many great 
saints in our midst to inspire us, to pray for us
in our difficulties like St. Teresa Benedicta
of the Cross who rallied her fellow prisoners
at Auschwitz to keep their faith in you, our God
even she had been a Catholic nun having
left Judaism after becoming an atheist for some time.
"Those who seek truth seek God,
whether they realize it or not."
-St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross
Teach us to be like St. Teresa Benedicta,
Lord, who always sought the truth,
and once finding you, remained in you
like what Moses had asked your people:
  "And now, Israel, what does the Lord
ask you but to fear the Lord, your God
and follow his ways exactly, to love and
serve the Lord your God with all your heart
and all your soul." (Deuteronomy 10:12)
How good it is to know from a survivor
at Auschwitz that “Every time I think of her
sitting in the barracks, the same picture 
comes to mind: a Pieta without the Christ.” 
Like Jesus her Master, she died with him
and like him for her people and for their 
persecutors, paying everything with her life
worth more than any amount of tax money 
(cf. Mt.17:27).
St. Teresa Benedicta lived
during the darkest and most troubled
time in modern history, almost eclipsed 
today by this COVID-19 pandemic; 
we pray, God our Father, for the victims
of violence and exploitation that 
their plight be addressed and finally 
be stopped, never to happen again 
in whatever form in the future.  Amen.

COVID-19, our transfiguration

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 06 August 2021
Homily for Baccalaureate Mass, Our Lady of Fatima University
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14  ><}}}'>  2 Peter 1:16-19  ><}}}'>  Mark 9:2-10

I know. Just like everybody, I have that surreal feeling this could not be happening again: another lockdown with a strong probability of being extended that will definitely cement our position as world record holder in having the most and longest lockdown in this pandemic.

And of all the dates for the start of this new lockdown, it begins right on this day of our Baccalaureate Mass, right on this week of our Graduation rites, and still, so close to our school opening!

Talaga naman… talagang-talaga!

But, don’t be sad.

If we examine the situation leading to the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor witnessed by his selected apostles Peter, James and John, you will discover that the Lord is also leading us to another transfiguration.

This pandemic is definitely not from God. Nothing bad can come from God. And whenever something bad happens to us, especially for those who strive to become good people, God would always ensure that any dismal situation would turn out to work in our favor like your graduating this year.

Prelude to the Transfiguration

See, my dear graduates, the apostles were feeling very sad too before Jesus was transfigured. They have just made a U-turn at the pagan city of Caesarea Philippi to head south to Jerusalem after Jesus asked them what do the people say about him, his identity. Their answers were varied and the people clearly did not know who Jesus really is.

Then, Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Messiah.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him” (Mk.8:28-30).

Immediately after admitting to them that indeed he is the Messiah or Christ that means the Anointed One of God, Jesus told them for the first time about his coming Passion, Death and Resurrection. That is in fact the reason they were going to Jerusalem – in order for him to suffer and die and rise again on the third day.

The apostles were disturbed. They could not understand how could Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would be rejected by their leaders and would suffer greatly and be killed but rise again on the third day. It was too much for them.

Like this pandemic.

How could this be happening to us if God is love, if God is merciful? Why all these pains and sufferings?

Where is Jesus Christ now that we need him most?

A 1311 painting of the Transfiguration by Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna from commons.wikimedia.org.

Our transfiguration in time of pandemic

Congratulations, dear graduates! You hold that great distinction of graduating in time of the pandemic. Do not be ashamed nor listen to what others are saying about your going through online classes, of not having much exposures like on-hand training.

On the contrary, be proud because you are so blessed and privileged by the Lord to go through all these difficulties and still finish your courses. You are like the three apostles – Peter, James, and John – Jesus had selected to join him up a very high mountain to witness his transfiguration and be transfigured themselves too in the process.

That is your main distinction, graduates of 2021: you are privileged. Many years from now you will realize that and be thankful to God, to your parents, to your professors, and even to COVID-19 pandemic in letting you go through this process of transformation and transfiguration.

You were privileged to experience and witness so many unique and new opportunities in learning and in life in general that were never known before. You were in fact shown like the apostles with Jesus on that mountain with a glimpse of the future glory to come.

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.

Mark 9:2-4

In the most concrete way, Jesus tells you today in the same manner he had shown the three apostles that the surest way to any glory is is the path of the Cross, of being one with Jesus Christ in life and in prayers. That is the beautiful imagery of going up a high mountain. In the bible, the mountain is the presence of God; ascending a mountain is being one with God in prayer.

Study hard, work harder, pray hardest, my dear graduates and students of Our Lady of Fatima University.

Transfiguration in Christ means learning the importance of what is basic and necessary, of not basic and unnecessary.


In this one and a half years of the pandemic, 
we have all learned the most essential in life 
are not our gadgets nor grudges 
but our family and friends, God and life itself.

In this one and a half years of the pandemic, we have all learned the most essential in life are not our gadgets nor grudges but our family and friends, God and life itself.

The pandemic is a transfiguration moment most especially to you graduates and students because now more than ever, we learn the essence of education, of educare from the Latin “e ducere” that literally means to lead out of darkness and ignorance which is as we say in Our Lady of Fatima University, “to rise to the top” by “improving man as man”.

That is “pagpapakatao”. It is in our being human and humane we become true to our ideals of Veritas et Misericordia, Truth and Mercy.

Therefore, fall in love, stay in love with humanity, dear graduates and students.

Of what use are our degrees, our years of studies if we do not serve and care for every person, if in the process of our profession we kill people, destroy lives instead of inspiring them, transforming them and the society?

What matters most in life is not what we have achieved nor done but what have we become.

Have we become better persons?

See the clothes of Jesus dazzling white, an expression of his very person that is pure and clean. In Matthew and Luke, they both mentioned the face of Jesus shining to indicate his holiness.

To love God is to love humanity.

And that can only be through listening.

Then a cloud came, casting aa shadow over them; then from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

Mark 9:7-8

After admitting to his apostles that he is indeed the Christ at Caesarea Philippi, God the Father now himself affirmed on Mount Tabor before Peter, James and John that Jesus is his beloved Son to settle once and for all the question of his identity.

The only question remaining is what kind of a Messiah is Jesus?

At his Transfiguration, the answer was laid before us: Jesus is the suffering Messiah of God, the one who had come not to remove but be one with us in our pains and sufferings to be one with him in his Resurrection.

After this event, everything that Jesus would be teaching is all about being good, of being loving by forgetting one’s self, carrying one’s cross and following him every day.

Doing our share in the vaccination program with our volunteers. Photo from FB/OLFU.

We have learned in this pandemic that life is a daily dying to one’s self, of forgetting our selves, letting go of our self-centeredness and selfishness to allow the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us.

We cannot know everything, we cannot do everything.

But Jesus knows everything and he needs us to cooperate with him in order to effect the changes and transformations in us and in the world.

That is why we have to listen to him always. In school and at home, you must have been so tired of listening but as you go into the world to practice your profession, you will be doing a lot of listening to be successful.

Listening is not just hearing but acting on what you have listened to.

It is in listening we are transfigured like Peter, James, and John who after the event continued to ask among themselves, wondering what was “rising from the dead” meant. It would only be after Easter and the Pentecost when everything would be clearer to them.

That is the beauty of this story of the transfiguration of the Lord: the three apostles were also transfigured in a process after that as they went down the high mountain, discussing the experience and eventually living it out for the rest of their lives.

Peter as the leader of the Twelve would treasure this experience so much and most likely must have learned a lot from it too that he keeps on telling the story to everyone until his martyrdom.

Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.

2 Peter 1:19

Treasure this trying time of the pandemic, my dear graduates of 2021 of the Our Lady of Fatima University.

Remember and be attentive to the voices of God and of one another not only in this time of COVID-19 but throughout your career so that someday, a new day dawns and the morning star of love and joy rises in your hearts. Amen.

The wonders of gratitude

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 July 2021
Photo by author, 2019.

Along with the word “please”, saying “thank you” is one of the virtues we have been taught since childhood with hopes the values they impart become part of our lives like a habit or something good we can keep doing for the rest of our lives.

Unfortunately, we only learn but do not necessarily remember our lessons.

Saying thank you and please have long been at the brink of extinction, so endangered in our fast paced and consumeristic society.

Thanks to COVID-19. The pandemic that refuses to end and continues to threaten our well-being and sanity has taught us to recapture and relearn gratitude expressed in the simple words thank you the world has seemed to almost forgotten.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, 2020.

Gratitude is a virtue that works great wonders for everyone because it makes us live in the present moment. A grateful person is one who lives in the here and now, not in the past nor in the future.

When our heart is filled we gratitude, we have no time to complain and nurse old wounds and pains in the past but simply learn from them and move on with life. Living in the present moment means making things happen, working hard on our dreams and aspirations to become a reality. People who refuse to be grateful in life are busy wishful thinking of how things should be or would be, always looking at the future as a fantasy that would just pop out of nowhere instead of working for it in the present moment.

Unknown to many, gratitude is the fount of all good vibes in life, enabling us to be more positive than negative. It helps us accept the reality we are into – whether it is good or bad.

And that is when we start growing and maturing as persons when we learn to accept our present realities.

Most of all, gratitude disposes us to more blessings and grace from God because a thankful heart is always the one that seeks relationships, with God and with others.


   People who go out of their way to say thank you,  
to express gratitude are person-oriented.   
They see more the persons
  not just the kind deeds done to them  
and beautiful gifts given them. 

People who go out of their way to say thank you, to express gratitude are person-oriented. They see more the persons not just the kind deeds done to them and beautiful gifts given them. When we say thank you, when we let others know of how grateful we are, we recognize their personhood that is why we reach out to them, trying to connect with them and befriend them. Or, to keep our ties alive and strong. As the old song of my father’s generation would go, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Remember the ten lepers healed by Jesus Christ on his way to Jerusalem?

Only one returned – a Samaritan – to thank Jesus.

Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Luke 17:17-19

From being cleansed like the nine others, it was only the Samaritan who returned to thank Jesus was healed – or saved – from his sickness. Healing is something more than a cure of one’s disease that refers to total well-being of one who is restored not only to health but into life as whole.

Gratitude is a very practical virtue, “the parent of all virtues” according to the Roman scholar and statesman Cicero. It is the one virtue we need to recapture and reacquire to make through the many challenges and trials this pandemic has brought us.

Instead of complaining and being so sorry with the plight we are into due to COVID-19, let us start counting our many blessings in life to see the vast opportunities and lessons this crisis has given us. In fact, the more this pandemic has persisted, the more blessings we can find that we must be thankful too.

Because of the pandemic, we have learned to cherish more one another as we come to value persons and life more than things again. Aside from learning how to cook and bake during the lockdowns, we learned to value food anew, not to mention the new source of income for many.

There are so many things we have to be grateful in life during this time of the pandemic, perhaps even more than the sufferings and trials we have gone through as it opened to us new views and perceptions about life itself.

Most of all, it had brought us back to the grounding of our being, God who is life himself, the source of all good things we have long forgotten and now remember. And rightly praise and thank. Amen.

From iStockphoto.com.

Graduating in time of COVID-19: Being the right person in the right place at the right time

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 July 2021
Genesis 23:1-4, 19-24:1-8, 62-67   ><}}}'> + <'{{{>< Matthew 9:9-13

Congratulations, my dear Senior High School graduates of Our Lady of Fatima University Batch 2021. Yes, you hold the distinction of belonging to the first graduates of the pandemic who persevered, who were not daunted by COVID-19 that continues to plague us after more than a year of altering our lives.

Take pride in belonging to this batch because you have just proven you are the right people in the right time at the right place called by God to witness his truth and mercy, our university motto, “Veritas et Misericordia”.

Too often we pray God would send us the right person to become our friends and colleagues at work or project, or simply our co-journeyer in this life – perhaps lovers – without realizing we are in fact the right person being called and sent first by God in the right place, at the right time.

This was the experience of Matthew in our gospel today:

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

Matthew 9:9
“Calling of St. Matthew” painting by Caravaggio from en.wikipedia.org.

Let me tell you a beautiful story about the call of St. Matthew as depicted in a painting by the renowned artist named Caravaggio during the 1600’s in a chapel in Rome. It is one of the favorite paintings of Pope Francis who claims he used to see it while a student in Rome and later as the Cardinal of Buenos Aires whenever he would go to the Vatican.

Caravaggio’s painting is very unique and amusing especially in the way he would play with lights and darkness like in that other famous painting of the meeting of the Risen Lord and doubting Thomas eight days after Easter. This contrast of light and darkness is very evident in painting the call of Matthew by Jesus.

Very interesting is the kind of clothes the characters wear in this painting: notice how Caravaggio portrayed Matthew, the bearded man with a beret and his companions at the table wearing the expensive clothes of the Middle Ages while Jesus and Simon Peter are in their traditional garments and – barefooted! The room looks like a tavern of Caravaggio’s time than a customs house as narrated by Matthew during the time of the Lord in Galilee.

All of this because Caravaggio was fond of incorporating biblical scenes into his milieu to show the relevance of Christ in their time.

And that is also the reason why I share this painting with you: aside from being the gospel on this first Friday of the month, I find its story so relevant with you Senior High School students and graduates.

When you look at the painting, it is like a video happening in split seconds, very much like that photo taken in the live mode of an iPhone with the picture moving a little, wondering if Matthew would stand and leave to follow Jesus.


When you look at the painting, it is like a video happening in split seconds, 
very much like that photo taken in the live mode of an iPhone 
with the picture moving a little, 
wondering if Matthew would stand and leave to follow Jesus.

From en.wikipedia.org.

See Matthew and company seated at the dark side of the room with Jesus standing near the window partially washed by lights specifically his face and hand with finger pointed towards Matthew whose face is clearly lighted, evidently hesitant, asking Jesus if he were referring to him or to the one slumped on the table. Notice the bright face of Matthew and his index finger pointing to the man beside him, his thumb to himself as if asking “is it I, Lord?” or “who, me?” while his other hand is holding a coin on the table.

So beautiful as it evokes the hesitancy of Matthew and certainty of Jesus!

That is how we have felt this first year of COVID-19, the Academic Year 2020-2021, your batch: there is our hesitancy and uncertainty, fears and anxieties in life, of going back to school or not, of where to get money or laptop or reliable internet service while deep inside us, we felt the Lord so certain in his plans for us, in his love and mercy, that we can “rise to the top” here at Fatima University!

We are the ones always doubting, asking Jesus if he were talking or calling us because we cannot let go of that “coin” Matthew is holding on in the painting symbolizing the materials things and persons on whom we put our trust instead of having faith in God alone.

Doubt no more, my dear graduates of the COVID-19 batch of 2020-2021! You are the right person in the right place – Our Lady of Fatima University – at the right time, Academic Year 2020-2021 on the first year of COVID-19 pandemic.


Jesus is telling you today as he fills you with his light 
of truth and mercy in finishing Senior High School in our beloved University 
that you are indeed the right people called in the right place at the right time.  
Will you "rise to the top" to pursue further studies 
to achieve your dreams in this time of the pandemic?  

Jesus is telling you today as he fills you with his light of truth and mercy in finishing Senior High School in our beloved University that you are indeed the right people called in the right place at the right time. Will you rise to the top, pursue further studies to achieve your dreams in this time of the pandemic?

Come and follow Jesus, make your dreams come true here with us in Our Lady of Fatima University for we do not stop seeking ways in dealing with the pandemic with our innovative classes and curriculum. We are the first university approved by the government to conduct limited face-to-face classes in our medical courses.

Like Abraham in the first reading from Genesis, trust God that he will send you his messenger, that he will send you people who will be teaching and preparing you for the post-pandemic period while journeying with you, learning with you in this time of the COVID-19.

Amid the darkness of our time like Caravaggio’s painting, do not fail to see the light brightening the scene, getting intense on the face of Matthew and people around him with Jesus looking intently on you, making sure you do not get sick, that you rise and follow him in pursuing your dream.

Don’t worry, my dear graduates, your Rebekah or your Isaac will surely come along the way but at the moment, Jesus wants you to finish your studies first.

Study hard, work harder, and pray hardest! See you in August!

Have blessed break!

Arise, be whole again in Christ!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 27 June 2021
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 <+> 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 <+> Mark 5:21-24, 35-43
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

Once again, we find Jesus crossing the Lake of Galilee this week with a crowd following him to listen to his teachings and experience his healing. What a beautiful image of life in Jesus, of constantly crossing the sea, sometimes in the darkness of the night amid storms.

It was something like what we had gone through last Thursday on the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist when as a nation we crossed history with the inauguration of the new Archbishop of Manila marked with the passing of former President Noynoy Aquino.

We hope and pray that like our gospel this Sunday, our recent crossing will lead us to new awakenings and realizations leading to national healing and yes, a resurrection, a rising from the dead like that young daughter of Jairus brought back to life by Jesus.

When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, Talitha koum, which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded.

Mark 5:38-42
Photo by author with friends at ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum, 2017.

Examining our faith in Jesus

Notice, my dear reader, how similar is our story of Jesus raising to life the dead daughter of Jairus with that of the calming of the storm while crossing the lake last Sunday. In both instances, we find Mark “exaggerating” some details as if Jesus were somewhat oblivious to what was going on around him.

But again, Mark is not entertaining us with his stories narrating the powers and miracles by Jesus for he is telling us something deeper and very important with those surprising details of his stories. Primary of which is the supremacy of Jesus as the Son of God over nature like the sea and death both symbolizing evil and sin.

Mark affirms this truth today in telling us how Jesus brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus, that Jesus is the Christ who had come launching a new world order where death and sin are overcome in him through his pasch.

Recall last Sunday how Mark ended his story with the disciples asking, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mk.4:41).

That question is finally answered by our story today that clearly shows Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who is life himself when he brought back to life the dead little girl.

Unfortunately, like during the time of Mark until now, many still doubt the powers of Jesus. Then and now, there is still that crisis of faith among us expressed by people from the synagogue official’s house who arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”(Mk.5:35).

If you were in that crowd following Jesus, would you still go with him to enter the house? Would you heed his words like Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk.5:36)?

And while inside the house, knowing the little girl was already dead, would you join the rest in ridiculing Jesus who said, “The child is not dead but asleep” (Mk.5:39)?

These are the questions Mark is asking us today like the Christians of his time going through persecution and crisis in the early Church.

It is easy to “believe”, proclaiming with arms raised that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is the Son of God but it is another thing to be truly convinced, to have faith in him when faced with the stark realities of life persistently attacked by sickness and death, of pains and sufferings that make us wonder why God could allow these to happen!

We have all felt our faith shaken when this pandemic struck us last year that took away those dearest to us so sudden, often without seeing them at all before they were cremated.

Like his story last Sunday, Mark’s narration of the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus is filled with many surprising details we find it so true with our own experiences of struggling to avoid or survive COVID-19, of having a sick child or spouse, of trying to make it to another day, of keeping our jobs to pay for food and rent and other needs of our family.

Do we really have that faith in Jesus, convinced that everything will be “okay” like Nightbirde who can brim with all smiles even if saddled with three kinds of cancer with a 2% chance of survival, claiming it is better than zero?

Today’s gospel is more than the revelation of who Jesus Christ is: the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus dares to invite us in examining our faith in God in the face of unrelenting attacks on life by sickness and death especially in this time of the pandemic.

Death and sickness are realities we face daily, that make us doubt God’s love and concern for us which the first reading clarifies with its declaration that

God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

Wisdom 1:13, 2:23-24
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2019.

Arising and being whole in Jesus

Jesus came not to remove sickness and death, pains and sufferings which did not come from God for God is love. He came to be one with us in sickness and death, in our pains and sufferings so that we may rise with him too in his resurrection and be whole again in him.

Notice the words Jesus used in every healing, “your faith has saved you” to show that healing is not just a cure of the disease but making the person whole again. The words health, healing, wholeness, and holiness are all interrelated if we examine their origins and implications. Hence, we see that whenever Jesus would heal, it is not only an eradication of an illness but restoring harmony and balance in the person – physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects.

It is the same in raising the dead young man in Nain and his friend Lazarus: Jesus or the evangelists used the word “arise” as a foreshadowing of Easter when Jesus himself rose from the dead, an indication of his power over death.

All these people in the gospels Jesus had healed and brought back to life eventually died but the good news is that death and sickness are no longer dark and an ending in itself.

Jesus came to bring salvation to the world, a wholeness in life which disease and physical death can no longer control and hold. That is why we need a firm faith to believe in him in spite of the many sickness and deaths now around us. It is faith that will enable us to grasp the full meaning of this pandemic and other sufferings we are going through in life. It is our deep faith in God that will also enable us to explain and show to others especially our loved ones the true meaning of healings and resurrections performed by Jesus who gives us a share in his victory over sickness and death.

May we dwell on the beautiful exposition of St. Paul today about being poor like Christ “that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2Cor. 8:9).

We can only be whole when we share whatever we have because that is when we allow Jesus to work in us, to be in us, to complete us. This happens when we wholeheartedly celebrate the Holy Eucharist where we become poor like Jesus, emptying ourselves of our sins, sharing with others our wealth through our contributions not only to the church collections but also to other charities where some of us share also time and talent aside from treasures.

The experience of the community pantry recently had taught us the value of St. Paul’s call for us to share and be poor like Christ when we were encouraged to take only what one needs and to give according to one’s ability – “kumuha ayon sa pangangailangan, magbigay ayon sa kakayahan”.

Yes, the realities of poverty and hunger remain with us but people are fed, sufferings are alleviated and most of all, the whole nation is united in believing again there is hope amidst the pandemic worsened by the systematic evil that has plagued us for so long.

Faith in God is deepened and strengthened when we become poor and weak like Jairus because that is only when we can arise and be whole again in Jesus Christ who is himself our Resurrection and Life. Amen.

A blessed new week to you and everyone!

Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2017.