Jesus, truly our King

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus, King of the Universe, 21 November 2021
Daniel 7:13-14 ><]]]]'> Revelation 1:5-8 ><]]]]'> John 18:33-37
Photo by GMA-7’s Mr. Raffy Tima, 07 November 2021.

We now come to the final Sunday of our liturgical calendar, leading us to our “new year” next Sunday with the Season of Advent. See how we in the Church begin and end every liturgical year: in the four Sundays of Advent we prepare the coming of Jesus the “King of kings” and now we close the year with the Solemnity of Christ the King.

But despite this emphasis of our celebrations on the kingship of Jesus, many people still refuse to recognize him as King while more others are not clear yet of his kind of kingship. Until now, the same scene of Jesus being tried by Pilate continues to happen when we put Christ on trial, questioning him if he were truly a king.

Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world…”

John 18:33-36
“Ecce Homo” painting by Murillo from commons.wikimedia.org.

So many times in life, we keep asking God with many questions but we cannot take his answers. Instead of being contented with what he tells us, we even feel slighted when it is God who wishes to clarify our questions.

Jesus asked Pilate whether his question was really his own or due to others’ perception because to recognize Jesus as King is ultimately to recognize his very person as the Son of God, true God and true man who became like us so we may become like him.

Every Sunday this year, Mark (and John for six weeks) step by step presented to us like an unfolding the identity of Jesus who “spoke with authority” unlike the scribes and priests of his time, mighty in power and in deeds who could command the sea and the winds, heal the sick and bring back to life the dead. This Sunday, all questions by the disciples and the people “who is this man” are answered with finality by Jesus himself.

Photo by author, Chapel of St. John at Cana, Galilee, 2019.

Evidently in our readings and in our own lives, we have experienced Jesus always in control, truly a king in total command especially in hopeless situations like when there was a great crowd with just a handful of bread or when they were caught in a violent storm in the middle of the sea.

Like the Prophet Daniel and the beloved disciple John in the first two readings, we need to have their conviction in God’s very person first.

Daniel lived at the time of severe trials when King Antiochus of Greece invaded Israel, desecrated the Temple of Jerusalem, and killed so many Jews who refused to worship idols and eat pork. It was the topic last week’s daily first readings from the Book of Maccabees.

Despite those very difficult times, Daniel saw in his vision his very conviction of the coming of God’s Messiah called “Son of man” – the title Jesus adopted top himself – who would deliver Israel from their enemies with his “everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed” (Dn. 7:14).

In a similar way, John expressed his conviction and faith in God through Jesus Christ in his vision of the Lord’s “coming amid the clouds…even those who pierced him”, calling him “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who and who was and who is to come, the almighty” (Rev.1:7, 8).

In both visions by the prophets who not only saw and spoke the words of God but most of all, lived out his very words that they made God’s will happened, there is no doubt of the kingship of Jesus Christ as the God of history, its origin and final destination. Both Daniel and John were convinced of the very person of God, of the One who has the final say in this life through Jesus Christ and whose powers reign supreme from the past to the present and into the future.

And so, never lose hope in life and its various aspects, from the simplest to the most complex. There is nothing that God cannot prevail upon for he got us all in his hands. Most of all, Jesus had triumphed over death and sin. Let us have that faith and conviction in him.

But there is still something deeper in that trial of Jesus by Pilate we also repeat in our own time: it reveals not only the tensions about the spiritual and material realms, of the kingdom of God and of the kingdom of men but also of our own self-identity.

So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

John 18:37
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

At the crux of the trial of Jesus – then and now – is man’s usurpation of power as “king” of the world, as captain of his ship and master of his fate, of his obsession to break free from God, crowning himself as the king of the world. It is a question that boils down to issues with our own identity.

Notice the “irritation” of Pilate with the question of Jesus, trying to separate and distance himself from Jesus, as if he was different, not one of them but immediately in the course of their conversation, Pilate himself would conclude that “then, you are a king” – a self indictment to himself that also answered his question to Jesus!

Here is the irony, the twist in our pursuit to assert our very selves as the one in charge in life, in this world like Pilate when we fall into our own traps against God. The more we run away from him, the more we separate ourselves from him and refuse to do anything with him, eventually we swallow our own pride before God, confessing that indeed, he is the Boss, the one in charge.

And that is the truth, something inherent in us, something we cannot shrug off and deny.

Jesus is our King because he has made us into his kingdom, the very reason he was born and came into the world, to testify to this truth.

Truth in the bible means the path to follow. And that is who Jesus is, the way because he is the truth and the life (Jn.4:16). Without him, we are nothing. And the path he shows us is the path of the Cross which he had repeatedly explained to us these last two months.

“Losing one’s head/self in prayer”, photo by GMA7 News Ms. JJ Jimeno, 2019.

In this Solemnity of Christ the King, Jesus reminds us of this basic truth we always evade, of how he invites us to elevate or “level up” our lives and existence in him through the Cross. The sooner we accept and embrace his Cross, the sooner we experience his kingship and great power over our lives.

The main stumbling block why people cannot accept or are confused that Jesus Christ is our King is our refusal to accept or denial of the path of the Cross of Jesus. Power in the world is always equated with force and prestige, in the ability to dominate and subdue others.

How amazing, how wonderful to see our almighty and powerful King took the path of powerlessness to show us his immense power. Let it be a reminder to each one of us to imitate and follow that path. Most of all, to never lose hope especially at this time when so many fake kings and wannabe kings abound, making all promises without having proven anything at all and worst, lacking the moral integrity to lead.

It is now in our very hands, if we are truly the followers of Christ the King that “we make his kingdom come and his will be done here on earth like in heaven” by taking the decisive steps to witness his Cross and sufferings by standing and abiding by his very truth. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

From inquirer.net,20 August 2021.

Seeing Jesus, walking with Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week XXX-B in Ordinary Time, 24 October 2021
Jeremiah 31:7-9 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 5:1-6 ><]]]]'> Mark 10:46-52
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

We are about to end our liturgical calendar in five Sundays from now and Jesus is fast approaching Jerusalem, his final destination in fulfilling his mission to redeem us from our sins. Along this path, we are reminded of the many blindness within us that prevent us from meeting Jesus who is passing by.

Recall how last week we reflected on the “blindness” of the brothers James and John to their ambitions, wishing to Jesus that once he becomes king, they would be seated at his right and at his left, forgetting the Lord’s teaching that he is a “suffering Messiah”, far from their expectations of a triumphant victor or liberator.

Today, we heard the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus who kept shouting, pleading to Jesus’ attention who was passing by the city of Jericho on his way to Jerusalem.

The story reminds us of the need for us to be aware of our many blindness in life, of things that keep us from seeing Jesus, others and our very selves. Here is a man very realistic, aware of his blindness, focused on his need and goal to be able to see, most specially Jesus.

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

Mark 10:46-49

So often, we get blinded by even the most obvious things in life like our present condition that needs to be improved or even saved. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles is a story of that crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the temple whom Peter and John healed one afternoon after the Pentecost. According to Acts 3:1-9, when the beggar who was crippled from birth saw Peter and John approaching him, he thought they would give him alms; but much to his surprise and of everybody, Peter made him walk in the name of “Jesus Christ the Nazorean”!

Imagine how the crippled beggar so used to his condition, so comfortable to some extent that he was preoccupied to just begging for alms, forgetting or abandoning all hopes to be able to walk like most people.

There are times we really do not know what we need and want in life that we are easily distracted and defocused from having the essential things in life like seeing our true selves, those around us and even our need for God who has been loving us, showering us with his many blessings and grace we hardly notice because we are busy complaining for so much wants not important.

Here, Bartimaeus was so sure of what he wanted: to recover his sight.

And the most wonderful thing is how he completely had faith in Jesus as the only one who can restore his sight, calling him “Son of David” which is the title of the coming Messiah or Christ. He must have heard a lot about his healings and preaching, realizing Isaiah’s prophecy of how the Messiah would restore sight to the blind. Jesus himself had confirmed this at the inauguration of his ministry at Nazareth when he proclaimed that part of the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue (Lk.4:18).

That is how realistic and grounded was Bartimaeus to the realities of himself that he shouted to beg Jesus to have pity on him. His faith in Jesus was so firm that when people tried to silence him, the more he persisted and shouted aloud so Jesus would hear him!

How well do we know the many blindness we have in ourselves that we would exert such effort like Bartimaeus in asking Jesus for light, to restore our sight so we would see and know him clearly, love him dearly and follow him closely?

He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

Mark 10:50-52

Moreover, it is not enough to be healed of our blindness in faith; 
the truest sign of having our sights back, 
of being healed from blindness is to leave 
the roadside to follow Jesus "on the way".

“Jesus healing the Blind Man” painted by Brian Jekel (born 1951) in 2008, oil on canvas. From http://www.Christian.Art.com.

What a wonderful story of healing and faith, of seeing and following Jesus! “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” Today the gospel reminds us to take a critical look at ourselves to root out whatever it is that keeps us from seeing who Jesus is like self-centeredness and pride, preoccupation with fame and wealth, or our toxic relationships and painful past we could not let go.

See how Bartimaeus “threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus” upon being called from the roadside. That is the key to any real prayer, of encountering and meeting Jesus when we are willing to let go of whatever we have, of letting ourselves be stripped naked before God without any ifs and buts, offering him our very selves.

Moreover, it is not enough to be healed of our blindness in faith; the truest sign of having our sights back, of being healed from blindness is to leave the roadside to follow Jesus “on the way”.

Again, we hear from St. Mark using that word “way”: last month Jesus asked his disciples what were they arguing along the way and no one could answer him because they were discussing who was the greatest among them. In the healing of Bartimaeus, there is that beautiful imagery of Jesus our way, truth and life; of Jesus passing by, calling everyone to come to him, to leave the roadside and walk with him on the way to Jerusalem like Bartimaeus.

In this critical period of our history when we are celebrating the 500 years of the coming of Christianity while we are in the midst of a crucial election campaign period on the second year of a crippling pandemic, we are all called by Jesus to leave the roadside like Bartimaeus to join him on the main road, to journey with him, and most of all, to carry our cross with him.

Joining Jesus on the main road with his Cross means becoming his very presence among other people too. Discipleship is more than seeing and following Jesus – it means setting aside our false securities and “springing up” from our comfort zones in order to give ourselves to others too.

Discipleship is walking with God, walking with his people, bringing them joy and hope while in the midst of sufferings like the prophecy of Jeremiah in the first reading: “Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng” (Jer.31:8).

Yes, this has been fulfilled by Jesus in his coming but the journey continues to this day with his faithful disciples who guard against all kinds of blindness within, leaving the roadside of comforts to meet and share Jesus on the dusty road of life.

Many times, Jesus is passing by the road invisible to many, unnoticed by many due to various kinds of blindness. Jesus wants us all to be with him, to join in his journey to light, to freedom, to peace and to joy. Everybody is invited to leave the roadside and hit the main road with Jesus.

Let us be open to listen to his coming, to his calls.

Most of all, let us beg him for mercy to open our eyes, to heal us from the many blindness we have so we may see and meet him, love and follow him always. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

The things we wish vs. things we pray to Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIX-B in Ordinary Time, 17 October 2021
Isaiah 53:10-11 ><}}}*> Hebrews 4:14-16 ><}}}*> Mark 10:35-45
Photo by author, 10 October 2021, Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

Five minutes before our Mass last Sunday afternoon at the Holy Cross Parish in Paco, Obando, two rainbows appeared in the sky, freezing me for a while to cherish the moment as I felt God smiling at me, promising me a better week ahead.

It was only after a brief pause savoring the moment when I had the chance to take a shot of the lovely sight before getting inside the church at exactly 530 PM for the Mass. The following Monday, I had the photo posted on “my day” with everybody asking what was my wish upon seeing the double rainbows

When I told them I did not make any wish at all, they said it was “sayang” (what a waste!), that if I had made a wish, it could have been granted or fulfilled.

But, looking back, I did not make any wish at all because at that very moment I felt I had Jesus in my heart, that God had me on his palms, assuring me of his loving presence.

Why make any wish at all when you already have God? Besides, I felt too old for those wishing upon a rainbow or a falling star thing!


My dear friends and relatives, this Sunday, Jesus asks his disciples, brothers James and John “What do you wish me to do for you?” (Mk.10:36); next Sunday, the Lord will ask a blind man “What do you want me to do for you?” (Mk.10:51).

It is very interesting to note that Jesus outrightly explained to James and John he could not fulfill their wishes while next Sunday, he would restore the sight of the blind man named Bartimaeus who pleaded to him as he passed Jericho. It seems that there is more than meets the eye between a wish and a prayer!

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” He replied, “What do you wish me to do for you?” They answered him, “Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.”

Mark 10:35-38
Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos when a rainbow appeared as we went around around my former parish assignment bringing the Blessed Sacrament to bless then people on the first Sunday of our quarantine lockdown, 22 March 2020.

Wishes are only granted in fairy tales…

Jesus is now nearing Jerusalem where he would suffer and die but on the third day rise again. He had just repeated for the third and last time to his disciples of his coming pasch but, sadly, they still could not comprehend it fully.

The other Sunday, they could not answer Jesus when he asked them what were they arguing about while along the way to Capernaum because they were discussing among themselves who among them was the greatest.

They could not understand how their Lord and Master, the Messiah of Israel will have to suffer and die; it was beyond their grasp. Nonetheless, amid their lack of understanding and fears of its true meaning, they still followed Jesus, believing he would eventually triumph as a King.

And that is what the brothers James and John were thinking, the two closest to the Lord along with Peter who was earlier rebuked by Jesus at Caesarea Philippi for going against his pasch: they thought of Jesus as a “political leader”, a “game changer” who could surely change their lot for the best, assuring them and their future generations with the good life.

When Jesus asked the brothers James and John, he knew the two were just “fancying” on something not so true. That is what a “wish” is all about: something so fancy, almost untrue like coming from fairy tales that could come true with so slim a probability like hitting a jackpot in lottery or meeting a superstar. We make wishes to fairies often represented by celebrities who try to bring some joy to children suffering from cancer. Or, politicians who for a day would give some voters with huge amounts of money without any conviction at all to fulfill their promises.

As we say in Filipino, “suntok sa buwan” that literally means “punching the moon”.

But again like last Sunday when Jesus looked with love to the man asking him how to gain eternal life, Jesus respected the brothers James and John by entertaining their “wish”, asking them questions until he flatly told them “to sit at my right or at my left is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared” (Mk.10:40).

When the ten heard this, they became indignant at James and John. Jesus summoned them and said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant: whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:41-45
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, 2016.

Prayer changes the person, not the situation.

Recall how Jesus assured his disciples and us last Sunday of great rewards awaiting those who have left everything to follow him; but, along these come persecutions because following Jesus means standing for what is true and good that invite enemies and detractors.

There will always be persecutions coming in our life – even if we do not follow Jesus along the way because that is a fact of life. Jesus came not to remove but join us, accompany us, be one with us in our sufferings and trials.

Today, Jesus opens our eyes to the realities, beauty and nobility of discipleship that is unfortunately becoming rare even among us in the clergy. True discipleship in Christ is first of all sharing in his passion and death in order to have a part in his glorious resurrection.

Once again, we feel the Lord’s recurring teaching these past weeks of us entrusting everything to the Father’s hands like children filled with confidence on God’s promises. This is the meaning of Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading that spoke of the “Suffering Servant of God” who “through his suffering shall justify (save) many” (Is.53:11).

See the gentle humility of Jesus in explaining things to his disciples. There was no hint at all of anger nor exasperation but pure love and understanding, patience and perseverance hoping someday the Twelve would realize in the most personal manner his kind of kingship, the true meaning of being the Messiah.

Photo by author, Garden of Gethsemane, the Holy Land, 2017.

Here Jesus exemplifies so well in his very self the kind of relationships his followers must have based on love and respect, serving the weakest and lowliest, so unlike the way of the world that is based on relations of power and dominance. This we continue to experience when we pray fervently especially before the Blessed Sacrament and most of all when we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist which is the summit of our Christian life.

In the Holy Mass, Jesus the Son of God leads us to the Father in signs perceptible to human senses, exactly what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of in the second reading, “So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help” (Heb.4:16).

So, instead of wishing upon rainbows or shooting stars, better pray!

Lord Jesus Christ,
thank you for understanding 
our lack of understanding 
and appreciation to your coming
to us daily in the many sufferings and 
pains we go through in life;  help us
to be more realistic, to stop all 
wishful thinking of living happily
ever after and instead become
more loving and kind, finding you 
with everyone we meet.  
Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!

Imitating St. Matthew

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle, 22 September 2021
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13   ><}}}'> + <'{{{><   Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, pilgrims ready to walk at a site in Jerusalem, the Holy Land, May 2019.

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
We know for sure, dear Jesus Christ
that you are always passing by,
calling us to follow you but
most often, we do not see you,
or worst, we refuse to look at you
nor listen to you.
Forgive us, dear Jesus
for choosing to be contented
and comfortable on our seats -
especially on those seats of power;
sorry when we are so glued on
our seats watching mostly trash
on television and internet;
drag us, if you may, if we choose
to be stuck on our seats of all
kinds of vices and sins.
Give us the grace, O Lord Jesus
of imitating St. Matthew
who immediately heeded your call:
open our eyes and our ears
to await your daily coming to us;
may we have the will and resolve
to change ourselves, to arise from our
being seated and slumped on our 
comfort zones of mediocrity and sins;
most of all, strengthen our knees and our feet,
our limbs that as we arise 
to listen to your voice, we may follow
you closely every step of the way
to the Cross.

Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3
Merciful Jesus Christ,
teach us to forget our desires
for positions and recognition,
for fame, power and wealth;
make us realize that what really
matters is not where we are seated
but where we make a stand -
and to how far can we go walking
in standing up for you always.
Like St. Matthew, 
your Apostle and Evangelist,
let us arise and follow you
daily in faith, hope and love
as we write another gospel of
 Jesus Christ according to each one of us.
Amen.

The Paradox of the Cross

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

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

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

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

Mark 9:30-34

The pandemic as a prolonged sabbath

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Wisdom 2:12, 20

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

The core of the paradox of the Cross

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

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

Mark 9:35-37

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

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

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

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

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

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

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

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

Have a blessed week, everyone!

Mary, our model in time of sorrows

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, 15 September 2021
Hebrews 5:7-9   ><)))*> + <*(((>< + ><)))*> + <*(((><   John 19:25-27
“Mater Dolorosa” also known as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Lest we forget
a day after the Feast of 
the Exaltation of the Cross,
you remind us today O Lord
Jesus Christ of your beautiful 
gift to us, your own Sorrowful Mother
not only to comfort us in times of
trials and sufferings but also as our
model in discipleship when things
become harsh and unbearable 
like during this pandemic. 

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Hebrews 5:8-9
The first to obey you,
dear Jesus from the very start
has always been Mary your Mother;
no wonder as your beloved disciple
had told us unlike the other evangelists,
your Mother and her sister stood by
your cross that Good Friday,
remaining there with you until
your last breath, until the soldier
pierced your side from which flowed
blood and water.
Bless us with the same courage
of your Mother, dear Jesus to remain
faithful to you, to keep on hoping and 
believing even in the face of so many deaths
these days; bless us with the same dignity
and serenity of Mary in the face of so much
agonies especially those mothers who
have lost sons and daughters 
in this pandemic.
Most of all,
it was there at the foot of the cross
when you called again your Mother
as "Woman"
like at the wedding feast at Cana
and entrusted her to your beloved disciple
to make her the image
of the "New Israel", the Church,
your Body here on earth.
Bless us with the courage and
humility, the silence and hiddenness
of Mary to "give birth" to new members
of your Church now under attacks
from within by her members
led by unfaithful priests;
and from the outside world
that has turned away from you,
refusing to accept your truths
in this age of individualism
and relativism.
Our Lady of Sorrows,
pray for us to comfort the many
among us suffering and crying
in silence with so many pains
 especially from their own families
and people supposed to love
and care for them.
Amen.
Photo by the late Mr. Noli Yamsuan, Pieta at the Manila Cathedral, 2012.

Why the cross of Jesus is a “must”

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 14 September 2021
Photo by author, St. Ildephonsus Parish, Tanay, Rizal (January 2021).
Must you, O Lord, 
come and suffer 
so I may see 
your great love
for me?
Must you, O Lord,
be betrayed and denied thrice
so I may see
your loyalty?
Must you, O Lord,
die and rise again
so I may see
your glory?

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Mark 8:34
So many times
like the young man
who came to you
I find myself asking too
"Lord, what must I do
to gain eternal life?"
But always the same
scene you repeat
again and again:
that I must deny myself,
take up my cross,
and follow you
my Lord to realize
the gravity of my sins
and the immensity of your
love and mercy for me.
Let me turn to you
and remain with you, Lord
at your Triumphant Cross
that I must raise up
over the world
to illumine the paths
that lead to life and love
into the gates of heaven
found here on earth
and not above;
must I fall and stumble,
raise me up
along with others
who are also following you
with whom I must find you too
to truly exalt your Cross!
Photo by author, November 2019.

When negative is positive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paano pumunta sa langit?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-13 ng Setyembre 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, La Niña Maria sa Pambansang Dambana ng Fatima, Valenzuela, 07 Setyembre 2021.
Bisperas ng kaarawan
ng Mahal na Birheng Maria
matapos manalangin
bumati si Andrei ng
"Happy birthday, Mama Mary!"
sabay sabi sa kanyang mommy:
"Bibili ko sana siya ng cake
pero paano ako mapupunta
sa langit?"
Tunay ang sinabi
ng Panginoon noong dati:
mula sa mga labi ng bata
nahahabi karunungang
walang pagkukunwari;
pawang katotohanan 
kay dali nilang bitiwan
nakakatuwa dahil puno ng karunungan
tila bugtong na palaisipan.
Madali namang malaman
kasagutan sa kanilang mga tanong
ngunit bakit nga ba ganoon
sa pagkakaroon ng gulang ng taon,
kamusmusan nati'y
nawawala, napapalitan
ng pagmamaang-maangan
kunwa'y hindi alam
pangunahing kaalaman sa buhay.
Katulad ng paano nga ba
pumunta sa langit?
Hindi natin masambit
gayong palagi nating
nilulungating masapit
dahil mayroong pagsusulit
at baka tayo sumabit
kaya hangga't maari
sa kasalukuyang buhay kumakapit.
Paano nga ba pumunta
sa langit?
Hindi ka naman mamatay
daglit
Ngunit ang turo ni Hesus
palagi niyang sambit,
limutin ang sarili, pasanin ating krus 
kada araw at sa Kanya'y sumunod -
 papuntang langit!
Larawan mula sa Google.

Knowing Jesus with conviction

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIV-B in Ordinary Time, 12 September 2021
Isaiah 50:5-9 ><]]]]'> James 2:14-18 ><]]]]'> Mark 8:27-35
Photo by author, Parish of St. Joseph, Baras, Rizal (January 2021).

Last Wednesday as we celebrated the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a friend told me how on the eve of that feast her eldest son Andrei expressed to her his wish to gift Mama Mary with a cake but did not know how to get to heaven. “Bibili ko sana siya ng cake, mommy, pero paano ako mapupunta sa langit?”

My friend simply told her son how difficult it is to get into heaven because he has to get so many ladders to get there and see Mama Mary and Jesus.

What a beautiful question from a child filled with innocence, “how do we get into heaven?”

Ironically, it is a question we all know the answer but do not care nor take seriously for many reasons, primarily because of fear until this pandemic hit us, forcing us into facing again this reality of death – of going into heaven.

In today’s gospel, Jesus teaches us how we can get into heaven by knowing him truly with conviction, not just according to our own or somebody else’s thinking and ideas of him as the Christ.

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.

Mark 8:27-31

Other’s opinion vs. my conviction

When we look at the gospel of Mark as a whole, we find it is a step-by-step revelation of who is Jesus Christ, following certain stages in his stories. Notice since the beginning Mark has been telling us how the people including the Twelve were asking among themselves who was Jesus for he spoke with authority that even the sea and the wind obeyed him while demons cried when exorcised by him. People were so amazed at his great powers, both in words and in deeds that everybody was getting near him to know him.

Photo by author, St. Catherine Monastery at Sinai, Egypt (May 2019)

It is at Caesarea Philippi where Mark’s gospel reaches the middle section, a turning point when Jesus reveals himself in stages.

From here on, Mark will take a faster pace in his narration and revelation of who is Jesus now making a U-turn from Caesarea Philippi to head towards Jerusalem to face his death. We too are expected to make a U-turn in our knowledge of Jesus, from mere opinions of others to a personal conviction of who Jesus is.

Observe the step-by-step manner by Jesus in revealing himself to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi.

First, Jesus surveyed the Twelve, asking them “Who do people say that I am?”.

Feel the uncertainty among them while telling Jesus what they have heard the people saying: John the Baptist? Elijah? One of the prophets?

We find a tinge of being unsure even in themselves in what to tell the Lord because they have also heard the questions and accusations by the scribes and Pharisees against their young teacher. “Kabado sila” as we say in Filipino.

But to their surprise, Jesus came up with a second question directly to each one of them at point blank, requiring a deep, personal conviction and commitment: “But who do you say that I am?”.

Like at Capernaum after the bread of life discourse when everybody left Jesus led by his disciples, here he is asking the Twelve -including us – again for a faith decision, to say what we really feel and think about him, without repeating what we have heard from others or read from any book.

Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” See in this statement by Peter the clear difference from the people’s opinions of Jesus. Feel the conviction of Peter in declaring “you are the Christ.” There must have been something he had experienced deep within that he felt Jesus so real, so new, so alive – not just any prophet from old who had come back but in fact the very one referred to by the prophets before!

Jesus is clearly distinct and different from what we have heard and read, so personal and so true. As we would usually tell others of how convinced we are of someone or something, “ah, basta!” which is akin to Archimedes’ “eureka” experience.

Like at Caesarea Philippi, our lives get on a turning point significantly once we have had that kind of experience of who Jesus Christ is. We can never grow deep in our faith in him and experience him personally without that Caesarea Philippi experience.

However, it is not everything. Even Peter would falter immediately after this turning point.

He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Mark 8:32-33
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

Christ’s pedagogy of the Cross

It is not enough that we set aside sometimes what others say or write about Jesus; we also have to discard and forget whatever we have entertained in our minds and hearts on who Jesus could be. In telling Peter to “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”, Jesus is telling us too that it is still a long way to go for us to truly know him.

Remember that in Jewish thought, to know someone is to have a relationship, an intimacy with the other person. Although the disciples have already taken a great step in knowing Jesus as the Christ following Peter’s confession that is so distinct from what others say, such knowledge leads us to the hardest and most difficult stage of knowing Jesus through his Cross.

It is can also be the most painful stage in truly knowing Jesus that is why he warned them not to tell anyone about him like what Peter realized that he reacted that way. Of course, we also know how Peter got to know Jesus more in the most painful way when he denied knowing the Lord thrice on the night he was arrested leading to Good Friday.

Remember, the more we get to know Jesus, the more we experience him so real in our lives, the more we follow him, the more the devil confuses us, the more the devil feeds us with so many thoughts or sends us with people like those in this Administration and politicians now campaigning with grand designs, with great intentions for Jesus and for the poor when in fact detract us from the path of the Cross.

Notice how Jesus insisted in his first prediction of his Passion, Death and Resurrection at Caesarea Philippi that “the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” There is always that qualifier “must” in suffering and pain with Jesus for there is no shortcut nor easy way to get to heaven, to be holy, to be fulfilled in this life which is so unlike the promises of the devil acting in our selfish thoughts or among our politicians and government officials.

Jesus himself had shown us in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection the key to truly knowing him is to have a complete trust in the Father like him as the Servant referred to in the first reading from Isaiah who bore all insults and beatings but never felt disgraced because “the Lord God is my help.”

For so long in our country, many have been duped by politicians who have promised the people of a wonderful life minus sufferings by just electing them into office. All these miseries and misfortunes we are into show us clearly that hardly do we really know who is Jesus Christ as we keep on putting into office people we hardly know as demons in many disguises.

During this pandemic when we have so much time to reflect and pray, let us empty our hearts and minds, exorcise them of many evil thoughts to be penetrated by the divine thoughts found in the scriptures so we may know Jesus clearly, love him dearly, and follow him closely with our lives of faith expressed in works of charity as James exhorts us in the second reading.

It is the clearest sign that we truly know Jesus when our faith in him bears much fruits in works of charity and mercy. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, close-up shot of the Seventh Station of the Cross at St. Ildephonsus Parish, Tanay, Rizal (January 2021). Notice one of the men wearing shades believed to be Caiaphas, the chief priest during the time of Jesus; we have to remove our shades to truly know Jesus especially when there are trials and sufferings in life. See our article, https://lordmychef.com/2021/02/04/road-trip-in-time-of-covid-19-the-company-we-keep-in-lifes-journey/