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/

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!

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.

Transfiguration in time of corona

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, 06 August 2021
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14  ><}}}'>  2 Peter 1:16-19  ><}}}'>  Mark 9:2-10
A 1311 painting of the Transfiguration by Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna from commons.wikimedia.org.
God our loving Father,
as we celebrate today the Feast
of your Son Jesus Christ's Transfiguration,
we come to you amid the same darkness
that enveloped them that night atop Mount Tabor
as we enter another series of lockdown
in this COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken
faith in you among many of us.
Like the apostles before his Transfiguration,
we too are wondering the meaning of Christ's  
Passion and Death when he is your Son, the Messiah.
"How could he suffer and die?", they must have wondered.
In the same manner, we too wonder, could not stop
the questions coming from deep within us why are you
allowing these sufferings and trials, Lord?
Have you been angry with us, Lord, that these happen?
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 a cloud came, casting
a shadow over them; then from the
cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved
Son.  Listen to him." (Mark 9:2-3, 7)
Like Peter during the Transfiguration,
we do not know what we are saying to you, Lord;
whether we are filled with joy or burdened
with sorrow, we speak without thinking much
even if you know what is in our hearts.
Open our hearts, dear God, to always
listen to your Son by remaining with him
in his journey on the path to his Cross.
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) 
Bring us back to the path of faith in you, Father;
despite our dismal progress or lack of faith this year due to 
the many trials and difficulties by this pandemic, 
open our hearts to let us go back to you in Jesus, 
listening to him intently when all is dark and even dead 
because for as long as we return to you, sin and failures
become means for us to be changed and transformed -
transfigured when we rise in Jesus Christ's Resurrection.
Amen.