On leaving and living

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 09 November 2020
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 30 October 2020.
I have always believed
life is more on coming
than on leaving 
because 
whenever we leave,
we also come.
But, 
there is something
about leaving 
that makes 
it strongly felt 
than coming:
from the pain of leaving
follows emptiness -
the angst of still living
when someone is missing.
Most painful part of leaving
is when you are the one left behind;
it is the one who leaves
who actually comes
to somewhere else
while the one left
bears the scars
of leaving,
like grappling
with the unseen
presence
of nothing
but memories
gone 
with the one who had left
who might never come again.
But, I think
it is when leaving 
is truly hurting
that it turns into a coming -
an arrival 
of blessing
of opening 
to a new lease on life 
and living when we discover 
somebody anew
filling what's missing within 
not necessarily seen
that together we spin
a new thread in life again.
The other person
gone is never replaced
by a newfound one;
that's the beauty
of every leaving
and coming
when we leave
in order to come
creating a space
for a new one
until it leaves again
to come another one
until finally
we become one in the Only One.

Friendships should depend on nothing like TIME and SPACE. Remove TIME and what we have is NOW; remove SPACE and what we have is HERE. Don’t you think we could meet once or twice between NOW and HERE?

Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1970)
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 07 November 2020.

Active waiting, authentic living now

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXXII-A in Ordinary Time, 08 November 2020
Wisdom 6:12-16   ><)))*>   1 Thessalonians 4:13-18   >><)))*>   Matthew 25:1-13
Photo from MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images, 10 September 2020 during the widespread California forest fires.

Beginning this Sunday until the Solemnity of Christ the King three weeks from now, we hear from the gospel Jesus speaking of his Second Coming at the end of time to render judgement to everyone.

It is during this time as we come to close the liturgical year and begin the new one with the Advent Season four weeks before Christmas when the Church reminds us in our Sunday Masses the true meaning of Christ’s Second Coming that have disturbed so many people for 2000 years.

Throughout history, it has spawned many doomsday and apocalyptic scenarios among peoples everywhere, particularly religious fanatics and cult followers with disastrous aftermaths like bloodbaths and murders despite their being anchored in a religious belief in God.

Lately there is a growing trend among some people of preparing for the final end of the world without any belief in God but more based on “science” and pop cultures but still with some degree of violence too.

And between these two extremes of awaiting the end of time with and without God, we find a majority who do not seem to care at all!

Everything comes to an end in order to begin anew.

Last Sunday in our reflection on All Saints Day we have mentioned the tension of the here and not yet, of Jesus being here now and still coming again at the end of time we call parousia which we proclaim in every Mass after the consecration.

This tension was a big deal during the time of the early Church with many believers including the Apostles believing they would witness the return of Jesus in their lifetime; but, when many of them started to die without the Second Coming happening, they began to question and reflect on the nature of parousia. They wondered what will happen with those who have died already and those left behind still alive when Christ comes again?

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep… we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep… will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

From St. Paul’s reflections developed what we call escathology, that branch of theology dealing with the end of time and everything related with it like general and particular judgements, death and resurrection, parousia or Second Coming of Christ at the end of time.

It was St. Paul who insisted the centrality of Christ’s resurrection upon which is also hinged the resurrection of the dead and of his parousia (1Cor.15:14) which we call as mystery of our faith. For him, Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of the resurrection of the dead, the beginning of the end time; therefore, the end is something we shall not fear but in fact be excited with because it is the final victory of God over sin and death. Yes, Christ had definitively won over death at the cross but it is on his Second Coming when death and sin are final vanished to give way to new heaven and new earth.

Everything will come to an end not to simply terminate all but in order to bring forth new beginnings! And the key is authentic living in every here and now.

From a post at Facebook, 2018.

Live in the present, not future; focus on life, not on dates.

It is sad when many among us Catholics specially those who celebrate Mass every Sunday acclaiming “Christ will come again” are the ones so afraid of end time, always asking for the blessing of their candles in the belief that these would save them from days of darkness.

Wrong! What will truly save us on judgement day is our firm faith in Jesus Christ, not blessed candles. Most of all, what will truly save us on judgement day is to live daily as authentic Christians witnessing the gospel values of Jesus Christ our Savior and Judge.


In today’s parable of the ten virgins awaiting the arrival of the groom, the Lord wants to instill among us the need to focus on the present moment of our lives not on any particular time or date because nobody knows when he would come like the groom in a wedding.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.

Matthew 25:1-4

We are all the virgins awaiting the coming of the groom for the wedding. We all came from God and we are designed to return to him in the end for eternal life. Here I find the late Stephen Covey so real in teaching us to always begin with the end in sight which is heaven. In one of his writings, he said “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey; we are spiritual beings on a human journey.”

In 2012, we were shocked when we heard news how he fell from a bicycle in an apparent accident and a few days later, he died. In an instant I have felt how this layman who strongly advocated the infusion of values into business and management is after all a saint, perhaps now in heaven.

His seven habits of highly successful people are all anchored in meaningful, authentic living in the present. That is being wise, of bringing extra oil of charity and kindness and goodness in life while actively waiting the coming of the groom, the coming of our death and end. Habit is something that is good we always do; its opposite is vice. (Stop saying bad habits.)


Life is keeping our lamps burning even if it produces little light than be extinguished and be plunged to total darkness. Nobody is perfect; we all have our lapses in life that is always in darkness. Like those virgins in the parable, wise and foolish alike, we feel drowsy and fall asleep.

Photo by author, Holy Thursday Mass, 2020.

Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

Matthew 25:5

Therefore, all the more we need to be wise, not foolish. Being wise is always seeking and following the will of God who is Wisdom himself.

In the first reading, we are told how Wisdom as the personification of God himself can always be had by anyone sincerely searching for him.

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.

Wisdom 6:12-14

To seek and obtain wisdom is to have pure or clean hearts that try to seek what is good, free of carnal desires and worldly allurements. Again, the need to have even the faintest light than be in total darkness.


So often, many things in our lives are decisively won – or lost – in a spur of the moment, in single crucial moments when everything comes to the fore. Woe not to those caught asleep but not ready or prepared, ill-equipped for the demand of the moment.

At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may be not enough for us and you. /go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.

Matthew 25:6-10
Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, January 2018.

See how in the parable where everything was similar and the same: ten virgins with lamps becoming drowsy and falling asleep in the night waiting for the groom. Everything changes at midnight with the announcement of the arrival of the groom where the wise virgins were clearly distinguished from the foolish. The wise had extra oil and came into the wedding with the groom, leaving behind the foolish who had to buy for oil in the dead of the night only to return with doors locked, leaving them outside.

This is life in a nutshell: being ready when opportunity strikes is not based on luck but hard work.

And that is the saddest and difficult part we always take for granted: life is often decided on short, instant moments that in a snap of a finger can decide our rising or downfall.

This pandemic is an eye opener for everyone that caught so many of us unprepared.

Any extra oil kept in this time of the corona has proven so wise for some who have adjusted so well in the situation, coping and even managing so well amid the crisis.

What is so disappointing, even appalling are the foolish who chose to wallow in their follies, whining and blaming everyone for the troubles and mess without admitting their own shortcomings.

Let us heed the Lord’s call to “stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt.25;13) by living authentically as his disciples in every here and now. Amen.

A blessed Sunday and week ahead to everyone!

Photo by author, 22 September 2020.

We are never lost

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls' Day), 02 November 2020
Wisdom 3:1-9  >><)))*>|+|>><)))*>  Romans 6:3-4, 8-9  >><)))*> |+| >><)))*>  John 6:37-40
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dearest God almighty Father: this All Souls’ Day is so special, so unique for us just like the rest of the other feasts and celebrations we have had so far this 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic when we do not have much of our rites and rituals and traditions but more of their meaning.

Thank you, Lord, for making us realize and experience the essence and beauty of our celebrations like yesterday’s All Saints’ Day and today’s All Souls’ Day that are both a “festival of hope” – a virtue we have always taken for granted and misconstrued as something like optimism.

Thank you for the gift of hope, loving Father, that even if we feel everything is lost and gone for us, it is never the case with you. In fact, the more we lose ourselves and everything, the more we give up our beloved to death and eternal rest, the more we are all found in you!

In hope, we are assured that you will never reject us when we come to you:

Jesus said to the crowds: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.”

John 6:37-39

How lovely to keep in mind, Lord, that hope is never empty because to hope is to rely on your promise and fidelity, on your love and compassion, on your mercy and forgiveness; to hope means keeping our ties and relationships with you who is Life itself.

As we remember our departed loved ones, we not only look back to our happy memories with them but most of all look forward into the future in eternal life Jesus promised us all.

May we stop saying we have “lost” a loved one when a beloved dies because we never “lose” anyone even to death as you assured us in the first reading:

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.

Wisdom 3:1-3

Teach us to hope always in you by living in Jesus (Rom. 6:8), never to steer away from his ways for that is when we truly get “lost” in life.

Also today, we thank and praise you, Lord Jesus, for not “rejecting” our prayers to spare us from the wrath of yesterday’s super typhoon “Rolly” as it weakened in category while passing through our region last night.

However, we continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Bicol region who have suffered so much from the impact of the super typhoon. Enlighten our minds and our hearts on how we can help them rise and start again to recover their material “losses” while at the same time, heal their memories in “losing” their loved ones.

May they find comfort and strength in you that they have not “lost” loved ones but have found you.

And for those injured, may your healing hands touch them, Jesus, be witnesses of hope in you. Amen.

Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.

“King of Pain” by The Police (1983)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 01 November 2020
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, Bohol, 2019.

I have lined up some songs with “heaven” in their titles or lyrics for this Sunday’s celebration of All Saints’ Day and tomorrow’s All Souls’ Day; but, during prayers and reflections, I kept on hearing Sting singing in my head King of Pain which is my most favorite among his long list of great music.

Our celebrations this November first and second are a mixture of joy and mourning, of heaven and sufferings, of life and death. As we remember today those already in heaven and tomorrow pray for those awaiting entrance into heaven, we also remember on these twin dates the death of loved ones.

No matter how much we may extoll the redemptive nature of death not as an end but a beginning of eternal life, we cannot miss the sadness and pain it brings to everyone that is always for a lifetime.

And that is what hope is all about: hope does not remove sadness or pain. When we hope of getting into heaven with our departed loved ones, no matter how blissful heaven may be, we always have to deal with the hurts of losing a parent or a spouse, a sibling or a friend.

To hope means to firmly believe that when things get worst, even unto death, there is Life itself, God remaining in the end, loving us, taking us to his presence in heaven to live life in its fullness in him.

To hope means to face new beginnings in this life amid the pains we have in our hearts from deaths and separations, believing that someday, if not in this life, everything would be whole and perfect again.

That is why I find King of Pain more apt for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

Written by Sting in 1982 at the Goldeneye Estate in Jamaica where Ian Fleming wrote his first James Bond novels, King of Pain expresses the inner torments he was going through as an individual at that time — his recent divorce from his first wife and growing misunderstanding with his other two colleagues, Andrew Summers and Stewart Copeland. They eventually parted ways after the release of the Synchronicity album from which King of Pain came in 1983.

The beat, the music and the lyrics seem to be dark and melancholic at first but as you get the feel of the entire song sung by Sting, then you realize it is actually about a man struggling with sadness or even depression, of a man filled with hopes until you realize it is speaking about you as king of pain.

Aren’t we all the king of pain in one or the other?

And as we bear all the pains, we keep on forging on with life, we never resign but keep hoping even for a piece of heaven, of the sun to celebrate life each day until we make it to the Other Side like our departed loved ones.

All in the grace of a loving God. Amen.

Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group

We are blessed, meant to be saints

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of All Saints, 01 November 2020
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14   |+|   1 John 3:1-3   |+|   Matthew 5:1-12
“Mary and the Saints” painting by Duccio di Buonoinsegna (1308-1311) from en.wikipedia.org.

Let me begin our reflection on this All Saints’ Day with a joke from the “Language Nerds” on how the past, the present and the future came and appeared in a bar. Everybody was tense.


Our celebrations today and tomorrow deal with “verb tenses” – the past, the present, and the future that somehow converge in the here and now of Jesus Christ our Lord. We call it the tension of the already here but not yet, like God and heaven – both already here but not yet.

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are two Catholic celebrations so unique and distinctive of our faith that bring to the fore the beautiful tensions of the “here and not yet”, of that convergence of the temporal and eternal in our present lives.

It is something like our Filipino delicacies of tuyo (dried fish) and balut (fermented duck egg): when you smell the aroma of the frying tuyo by your neighbor, you could taste it but if you want to really experience its delight, you have to go to your neighbor and join their meal. Or the balut: is it an egg or a duckling?

In a similar manner, we find in our Gospel today that proverbial question of which came first, the egg or the chicken? Are we blessed because we followed the Beatitudes first or, are we blessed first that we can practice the Beatitudes of Christ?

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be sown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are….

Matthew 5:1-8
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We are all blessed

When Jesus preached his sermon on the mount to launch his ministry, he first presented himself — that he is the Christ, the Anointed or Blessed One because he is in fact the Beatitudes: he is the poor in spirit, the merciful and meek, the one with a clean heart.

Inasmuch as the Beatitudes tell us who is Jesus Christ, the Beatitudes also challenge us followers of Jesus to imitate and follow him in being poor in spirit, merciful, and clean of heart.

At first glance, we notice that blessedness seems like a reward given by Jesus after we have imitated him like being blessed after being insulted and persecuted in his name, working for peace and hungering and thirsting for righteousness.

However, the very fact we are able to bear all these sufferings to live the Beatitudes means that we are already blessed.

And that is the truth: in Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, we have all been blessed by God that we are able to live as his beloved children, now living in his “kingdom of heaven” right here on earth.

Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are… we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.

1 John 3:1, 2-3

Blessedness is who we are as children of God unless we choose to live otherwise.

Blessedness is God’s gift to us that enables us to live according to his will and plans, projecting us further into the future to finally be with him in all eternity in heaven. When we try to live the Beatitudes of Jesus, of going against the tide and flow of the world where power and wealth, popularity and fame are the means life is measured, then that becomes our gift to God.

And that is when we enter into heaven and become saints like what we celebrate today.

According to St. John Paul II, the good news of life is that we all share in the life of God — and that is why we are all blessed.

Our sharing in the life of God makes us blessed.

The difference that we have with the saints is just the tenses: they are now celebrating at present the fullness of their blessedness, of being present before God in all eternity in heaven because they have so well accomplished while living here on earth the works of the Beatitudes of Christ in the past. They have overcome all tests and trials in the past and now having the rewards of full blessedness.

We, on the other hand, though already sharing in the blessed life of God here on earth in the present, still have to face and endure many other trials in the future to perfect ourselves in Christ until we get a final glimpse of him in the afterlife.

Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, MD, at Spain, 2018.

Blessedness is a relationship with God.

It is now clear with us that saints are like us who are blessed because we share in the life of God. However, saints enjoy the fullness of this blessedness of being in the very presence of God as a “reward” or a result of their striving with God’s grace to live out the Beatitudes.

Saints now enjoy the eternal presence of God, the fullness of blessedness and fullness of their relationship in God and with God, from earth into heaven.

This is the reason we have a feast for all the saints or those who have gone ahead of us and tried to lead holy lives, living out their blessedness that they now enjoy the eternal presence of God in heaven. They need not be declared by the Church as saints whoever gets into heaven in the presence of God is a saint.

We who are still living here on earth, though blessed as we share in the life of God, cannot be considered as saints yet because we still have to go through a lot of purifications, of tasks in loving.

Again, we see that tension of the here and not yet in this aspect of being saints, of blessedness: heaven is eternal union with God (hell is eternal separation from God); blessedness and heaven are both our relationships with God.

Therefore, the challenge of our blessedness here on earth as seen in the Beatitudes of Jesus is how we maintain and keep that intimate relationship with God that every choice we make is always a choice for life, of choosing to love than hate, to forgive than revenge, to understand and let go.

In the first reading, John tells us of his vision of heaven with great multitude of “saints” or holy men and women “wearing white robes holding palm branches in their hands”. The Lord told him,

“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:14

Although we are extolling in this solemnity all the unnamed saints now in heaven, this is still a feast celebrating the goodness of God, of his immense love for us in blessing us in Jesus Christ who enables us to do good in the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we remember all the Saints, we celebrate also this sharing of God’s life in us for us to be blessed, assuring us of being saints someday!

We are challenged today to live out this blessedness freely given to us by God by being more loving with others specially in this time of COVID-19 as well as when two super typhoons are threatening to slam into some parts of our country this week.


A short note about cemeteries

Sometimes, non-Catholics laugh at us every November first when we troop to the cemeteries to be with our departed loved ones instead of November 2. Despite the closure of cemeteries this week due to COVID-19, many have earlier visited their loved ones in cemeteries while the rest among us would surely do the same once the ban is lifted.

Is there something wrong? NONE. Except for those who just go to cemeteries to drink and have fun without praying and celebrating Mass in their parishes. But there is nothing wrong with our tradition of visiting cemeteries on November first.

In fact, it is a vibrant display of our faith in God because every time we visit the dead on All Saints’ Day, we also presume they are already saints, already in heaven.

Most of all, our coming to the cemeteries on All Saints’ Day is an expression of our hope in heaven while still here on earth.

The cemetery reminds us of hope in the future. In the past when we buried our dead, the cemetery has become the place of our mourning; but, every November first, the cemetery reminds us it is the place of hope where sadness is not really removed but where we find strength and faith that like our departed loved ones, we shall overcome all trials and sufferings here on earth to be one with them in the presence of God in heaven.

That is the good news of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day: we are so blessed by God in Jesus Christ who had opened our access into heaven not only in the future when we die but even now as we mourn – and celebrate the memory of our dead, we already have a taste of eternal life.

May we live out this blessedness God has given us. Amen.

Hope. And be surprised!

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 14 October 2020
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Tiberias, the Holy Land, May 2019.

HOPE. A favorite word among us, used as an expression for things to get better, especially when we express our “hope” God grants what we pray for, or, in ending our letters of request with “hoping for your kind consideration”.

Even Hollywood is fond of this virtue, portraying it as a reserved power to overcome evil when Neo in the 2003 The Matrix Revolutions was summoned into action to defend their city because he was the only one with “hope”.

Or, something like a turbo charger that will boost every leap of faith when Toretto in Fast and Furious 6 handed to his rival Owen Shaw the computer chip they were tasked to retrieve in the “hope” of getting it back even if they have to chase a giant Antonov An-124 plane taking off.

Of course, Neo and Toretto succeeded in their efforts filled with hope, defeating evil.

But, that is not what hope is all about.


To hope is different from optimism, of believing things can get better;
in fact, we hope because things can get worst.

The late Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote in one of his books that to hope means having that firm conviction within that even if things get worst like death, we are certain God will never forsake us for he loves us very much.

Jesus Christ showed us this true meaning of hope when he decided to go to Jerusalem to accomplish his mission by dying on the Cross for our salvation. I love the way Luke narrated in his gospel this attitude of Jesus in showing us the path of hope amid his knowledge things would get worst than before leading to his Passion and Death (and Resurrection):

When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he (Jesus) resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem…

Luke 9:51

Imagine Jesus “resolutely determined” going to Jerusalem, the very same attitude of saints witnessing the Gospel by facing martyrdom. It is also very true with us when we say our only hope is the Lord when we know of sure death while facing a serious illness.

To hope is to be “resolutely determined” like Jesus and the saints along with our loved ones to follow the arduous path of life, of putting up the good fight against sickness or injustice and evil even if they knew things will lead unto death. At first we wonder, what victory can we claim if in the end we die like the saints and martyrs?

That’s the mystery and paradox of hope: to hope is to completely trust in God that death is not the end of life or any struggle but the highest point of our transformation as we dive to life’s lowest level like defeat, loss, and death when we pray like Jesus on the Cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk.23:46).

Hope is faith severely tested, believing and abandoning everything to God, come what may.

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Fatima, Portugal, 2016.

Hope is clearly not positive thinking nor optimism; hope is “faith in God” as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI tells us in his second encyclical, Spe Salvi (2007). According to Pope Benedict, hope gives us the direction towards the future by enabling us to face the challenges of this life leading to salvation and eternal life.

In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hope, is ultimately without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (Eph.2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God — God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (Jn.13:1 and 19:30)… If we are in a relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.

Spe Salvi, #27

Four weeks ago, a former parishioner had asked me for prayers for her husband with liver cancer. Both are medical doctors; in fact, it was her husband who had actually diagnosed himself while going through radiological lab exam.

It was at that time they “resolutely determined” to go home and face the inevitable by praying together, hoping together in God.

Here lies the mystery and paradox of hope we were talking earlier: why and what do we really hope when we know it is going to end in death?

God. Nothing else and nobody else. God is the reason we hope and what we hope for.

It is only when we have been stripped of everything else when we truly “see” and experience God is all we have in life after all.

Then we become confident God will never abandon us until the end.

That is what my friend and her husband have realized, especially when Dr. Mike died two weeks later after going home.

When I celebrated Mass at his wake, I could not resist telling my friend how the smile of her husband is the sweetest, even most infectious one I have ever seen on the lips of a dead person in my 22 years as a priest!

Truly, the Lord loved Dr. Mike until the end that he died with a smile as the fruit of his hoping in God with his wife.

Indeed, friends have told me that God will give us the grace to face our death when that time comes; and I believe them because I have seen them transformed after accepting their terminal condition that they no longer cry of their situation getting worst while those to be left behind in turn become the ones crying knowing their beloved is passing (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/22/the-gift-of-tears/).


Hope surprises.
Even God.

Photo by author, 2019.

When I was on my second year of seminary formation in theology, I experienced the most severe test of my vocation to the priesthood that I almost left and abandoned all plans of becoming a priest at all.

What sustained me in the seminary were prayers — and some lines from T.S. Eliot’s very long poem “Four Quartets” published in 1941:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Too bad I have lost the index card on which I wrote this stanza which I posted on my study lamp, reading it daily even until I have become a priest.

To truly hope, one has to get totally lost and empty, stripped naked of our very selves when darkness is our only light and hopelessness is our only hope.

It is when we have totally lost everything except God when we truly hope.

And that is when all the surprises happen, not only with ourselves but with others.

Not only here but definitely even in eternity, the biggest surprise we are all hoping for.

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

In 1912, the French poet Charles Pierre Péguy (1873-1914) wrote a very long poem ahead of T.S. Eliot about the virtue of hope, claiming it is God’s favorite because it is full of surprises.

Péguy portrayed Hope as a “little girl” who enlivens her older sisters Faith and Love.

I do not want to dilute its magic and power so I leave it that way for you to savor its sweetness, its truth and beauty in Péguy’s poetry:

The faith that I love best, says God, is hope. Faith doesn’t surprise me. It’s not surprising. I am so resplendent in my creation…. That in order not to see me these poor people would have to be blind. Charity, says God, that doesn’t surprise me. It’s not surprising. These poor creatures are so miserable that unless they had a heart of stone, how could they not have love for each other…. But hope, says God, that is something that surprises me. Even me. That is surprising.

Charles Péguy, The Portal of the Mystery of the Second Virtue

Sometimes in life, we have to hit rock bottom in order to truly hope. Keep hoping and you will surely be surprised by God, by others, and by our very selves that we are always blessed! Amen.

Prayer to age gracefully

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 26 September 2020
Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Luke 9:43-45
Photo by author, sunset at Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

It is officially the end of the week, and how true are your words through Qoheleth that everything comes to an end, that we must strive to make every ending a happy one. Especially our very lives.

Rejoice, O young man, while you are young and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart, the vision of your eyes; yet understand that as regards all this God will bring you to judgment. Ward off grief from your heart and put away trouble from your presence, though the dawn of youth is fleeting.

Ecclesiastes 11:9-10

God our Father, grant me the gift of ageing gracefully by having the grace of being excited and surprised each day while still young. It is said that it is not really time that is passing by if we waste it but us who are passing by because lost time can never be recovered or brought back.

Keep me excited and full of enthusiasm of following my heart, pursuing my vision of a better and beautiful future by celebrating every present.

Let me bear in mind Lord that I am not perfect so that I may always have room for my mistakes and those of others; keep me simple so as not to be demanding and exacting. Just let me enjoy life, trust more in you, worry less among us.

And in all my pursuits in life while still young, be at the center, Lord Jesus.

Let me keep in mind as you reminded your disciples in the gospel today, that I may not be so focused and amazed with great and wondrous deeds but most of all in how you have bore all pains and sufferings to save us.

After all, you saved the world by dying on the Cross, O sweet Jesus, and not with so many activities.

And that is the meaning of ageing gracefully: that towards the end of our lives when we sum up everything, we can always look back to the past, to our youth with pride and joy at how we have followed you Jesus in your Passion and Death while awaiting our glorious resurrection in you like the twin brothers Sts. Cosmas and Damian and others saints. Amen.

The gift of tears

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 22 September 2020
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera of our parish church, August 2020.

Lately I have been watching old movies that I wonder why I still cry even if I have seen them more than twice before at the cinema and cable TV. It seems that my being born with “mababa ang luha” (easy to cry) is getting more “mababa” as I get old.

Tears are a gift from God, the most beautiful prayer we can ever express courtesy of the Holy Spirit because when we run out of words for our pains and sadness or when we are overjoyed, he makes us cry to heal and comfort us or complete our joys, assuring us of his loving presence.

That is the reason why we call “home” in Tagalog as “tahanan”: home is where we “stop crying”, that is, “tahan na” because that is where we find all the support we need in times of crisis. Indeed, home is where the heart is.

True to its function, tears cleanse us physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have read two decades ago that researchers at a university in the US have found the chemical composition of our tears differ if we cry because of pain and sadness or due to joy and laughter.

Is it not wonderful and amazing how we take for granted crying and tears without realizing its chemical process within that can transform our very selves?

Photo from Reuters.com, July 2020.
Tears and crying mark our life's coming to full circle.

When I was five years old, I saw the picture of a newborn baby crying in the Book Section of the Reader’s Digest. I asked my mom why the baby was crying. In her usual motherly way of explaining things, she told me that if the baby cries upon birth, it means he/she is alive; if the baby does not cry, he/she is dead.

Kapag umiyak, buhay; walang iyak, patay.

My young mind easily absorbed her words that would remain to be one of the most profound lessons I had ever learned about life at a very young age. As I grew up watching TV and movies, I would always sigh with relief whenever I heard the sounds “uha-uha” because the story would surely be nice and not tragic.

Imagine the great inverse that happens with crying and tears to signal the coming to the outside world of life of another human, of how we have to cry to be alive from then on until we die when it becomes our family and friends’ turn to cry and shed tears for us when we are gone.

But there is something more deeper than this great inverse on crying in life and death I had learned only in 2013 through my best friend Gil, a classmate in our minor seminary.

It was late February of that year on the 40th day of the death of his youngest sister Claire when he was diagnosed with cancer. We could not believe the news because Gil was the most health conscious in our “band of brothers” from high school who never smoked, rarely ate meat, and was active in sports like golf and badminton. Unlike most of us, he was never overweight, looked so healthy in our mid-40’s.

Imagine the hurt within him that every time we would visit him, he would cry not really in pain but more on the why of getting cancer. We tried visiting him as often as we can to cheer him up and lift his spirits specially after his surgery when his chemotherapy sessions began.

By September on that same year, we all had to rush and visit him at Makati Med one Sunday afternoon when informed by his Ate Lily that doctors have given up on him. His cancer cells were “ferocious” and nothing could be done anymore except to wait for the inevitable.

That was when I noticed the greater inverse about crying when Gil had finally accepted his condition and life direction, that was when he was most joyous and peaceful too while we were the ones so sad and worried, crying. How our roles were reversed with Gil now telling us to stop crying – tahan na – which we used to tell him months earlier! (Gil died peacefully the following Sunday, 22 September 2013.)

“Mater Dolorosa” as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

I noticed it happening so many times with some friends and parishioners I have come to love in my ministry, those I have pastorally cared for some time after being diagnosed with serious conditions like cancer.

Yes, I have cried despite holding my tears for them while administering the Holy Viaticum and Anointing of Oil. The patients in turn would just glance at me, so dignified and calm like Mary our Lady of Sorrows as if trying to comfort me with their sweet thank you.

As I prayed on those experiences, I realized how life comes to full circle through our crying and tears.

I believe that patients cry when they start undergoing treatment of their sickness due to fears and uncertainty of what would happen next to them; later as they come to terms with their condition, they stop crying because they already knew where they were going, of what was coming next.

We who would be left behind cry and begin to shed tears at thoughts of their dying because admittedly, we are actually the ones more uncertain of where we are going to or how our lives would go through when our loved ones are gone.

That is the greatest pain we feel in the death of a beloved when we grapple with the realities of the many uncertainties of life without them.

And that is why we need to love as much as we can our family and friends while still alive. This quarantine period of the pandemic are grace-filled moments to shower them with our love and presence we have taken for granted for so long as we pursued many things in our lives.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Infanta, Quezon, April 2020.
Tears and crying lead us to heaven.

Death and sickness, like life, become a blessing if we are filled with gratitude not regrets because we have truly loved. When a beloved is gone and we begin to cry, the tears wash away our pains of losing them, cleansing us within to leave us with all the beautiful memories and love we have shared. Then, every remembering becomes truly a re-membering, making a lost loved one a member of the present again.

When we cry, tears polish the love we have shared with everybody until later when our time comes, our visions are also cleared of what is going to happen next, of where we are going. Crying becomes wonderful and truly a grace after all not only in sharing and being one with the grief and pain of another in the present but sooner or later, in having a glimpse of the life after.

In the Gospel of John (11:1-44), we find the story of the raising of Lazarus whom Jesus loved so much that he wept – not just cried – at his death. Jesus raised him up back to life, his final miracle – or “seventh sign” according to John – to show he is the Christ before his own Resurrection at Easter after his “final hour” of Crucifixion on Good Friday.

From then on, Christ sanctified crying and tears to enable us to see beyond pains and hurts, even death especially if you have truly loved.

Sometimes in life, it is always good to let those tears flow, like love even if it is painful, to have a good cry and real cleansing inside. A blessed day to you!

Generosity comes from the heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXV-A, Ordinary Time, 20 September 2020
Isaiah 55:6-9   >><)))*>   Philippians 1:20-24, 27   >><)))*>   Matthew 20:1-16
Photo by the author on the way to Petra in Jordan, May 2019.

There was something amusing I realized while praying this Sunday’s gospel of how in our time we no longer hear or use the word “generous” anymore — except when the topic is about food like in the expression “generous servings”!

We all love and enjoy “generous servings” of food and drinks whether in restaurants or at home or at parties because it means something more than what we pay for or come for. And that is the essence of generosity: the giving of more than what is required and just. It is love in the real sense like the prayer for generosity by St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Dearest Lord:
Teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not heed the wounds,
To toil and not seek for rest,
To labor and ask not for reward, except
To know that I am doing your will.  Amen. 
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Generosity bonds every community in Christ

Sorry if I have to start our reflection through the stomach because today is our “Pistang Pasasalamat” (Thanksgiving) in the Parish…

Going back to our reflection, my dear reader, recall how in the past two weeks we have heard Jesus teaching us important lessons how our relationships must be based on mutual love through fraternal correction and forgiving of those who have sinned against us.

This Sunday through another parable, Jesus teaches us the importance of generosity as a wonderful expression of love we forget most in our relationships and dealing with others.

Generosity is the glue that keeps our ties stronger and keeps us filled with joy because it is thinking more of the other person than of self. It is love at its finest – charming and elegant as in suave – but so disarming and revealing when overlooked as we shall see in this parable.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for is vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them… You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them i reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?'”

Matthew 20:1-15

Notice how Jesus again elicited our feelings to drive home his lesson today about love as basis of our relationships. Last week we totally agreed with the king in punishing the merciless servant whose debt he had forgiven but was unmerciful to a fellow servant and debtor.

This Sunday, with whom did we take sides with? Be honest. Did you side with the workers hired in the morning and worked all day only to receive a pay exactly the same with those who worked only for an hour? Did we also feel treated unfairly like them?

But, why are we reacting the same way as those workers who toiled under the sun? What is our complaint? Are we envious because the owner is generous?

Recall our reflections last month about the parable as a simple story conveying deeper truths about life and our selves. From the French parabolein -along the way – Jesus is inviting us to read anew this parable we have heard so many times in the past so we may enter into a dialogue with him to purify and cleanse us to get its whole picture. And hopefully, become generous too.

Nuns bringing goods to the poor during the height of the Luzon-wide lockdown last summer.

Human justice, Divine kindness

The parable is not about social justice and just wages: it is about the immense love of God for us all. Jesus said it at the start, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…” – it is a parable about God and his kingdom.

See the great love of the landowner who went out five times during the day, even at late afternoon so people may have a job to earn some money for the day. We have to keep in mind that the workers were hired because the owner is kind. Period.

The owner is like the good shepherd Jesus described as who would leave the rest of his flock to search for one missing sheep.

How many times have we acted like those early workers, complaining to God when we feel “shortchanged” for our work and efforts, or being better and more good perhaps than others?

It happens so many times when we question him even in the Church and specially in the society and government when we cannot understand how God who is supposed to be just and fair is allowing all injustices and evil to happen like during this time of COVID-19.

The first reading reminds us that to think that way as if we know everything is dangerous because we could be very wrong and mistaken after all. God sees and knows everything that in the end amid all the twists and turns in history and in our personal lives, it is always his will that prevails which proves best for us and mankind. In times like these, we need to have faith in God and trust him more through prayers and reflections.

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near… As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:6, 9
Photo by author, Jaffa in Israel, May 2017.

We keep on saying that one immediate fruit of having a prayer life is the heightening of our sensitivities when we see more of God in others than more of ourselves. The problem with those workers hired earlier in the day that instead of thanking God for his kindness in hiring them, they even wanted more in their pay than what they have agreed upon — so selfish and feeling so entitled like some among us!!!

God as the landowner is teaching us not only to be thankful for the blessings we have received from him but also to rejoice when others aside from us are also blessed. As everyone would say these days, “sana all” are blessed, not only a selected few.

Again we find here a similar situation in the parable of the prodigal son where the father told the elder one that “everything I have is yours” (Lk.15:31) when he refused to come home to celebrate the return of his younger brother, citing how he had obeyed the father all his life without being given a young goat to feast with his friends.

Like that loving father of the prodigal son, God is reminding us this Sunday in this parable to rejoice that others have been blessed, instead of grumbling and complaining, demanding for more than what we have, forgetting everything is out of God’s goodness, never because of our merits.

Looking inside our hearts

My dear friends, this time of the pandemic invites us to be generous by looking deep into our hearts, of seeing God more and others than just our self. At this time when life is so difficult and death is so closest to home with everyone, the best thing we can do is to thank God for his gift of life to us each day and to deepen our faith in him.

Lately I have been praying to God to grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart as we find ourselves in his similar situation of being imprisoned: him for the gospel, us due to COVID-19.

See the faith of St. Paul in God that even in prison with his death approaching each day, he continues to rejoice and experience peace within because he had realized that the success of the gospel is not on human efforts but in Jesus whom we cannot box in our little worlds and beliefs, rites and rituals. In fact, he was so confident that even with his death, the more the gospel would spread.

Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, March 2020.

Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death… conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Philippians 1:20, 27

Last Sunday, Jesus taught us to forgive from the heart, that is, to see one another as a brother and sister in God our Father who forgives us without limits for our many sins.

Today, Jesus is asking us to give from the heart – to be generous – not for anything else but because we are brothers and sisters in God our Father who blesses us without limits despite our sinfulness.

Generosity comes from the heart when in that heart is Jesus whom we find dwelling, giving us peace and joy no matter how much suffering we go through because him alone suffices that we are willing to let go of everything.

Share a generous serving of God’s blessings today to someone in need. Amen.

A blessed Sunday and week to you!

Beauty in our mortality

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 September 2020
1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49     || + ||     Luke 8:4-15
“The Sower” painting by Van Gogh, photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Dearest Lord Jesus,

Today I wish to repeat my prayer to you yesterday: Please grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart in explaining and leading others to faith in you, most especially in believing the resurrection of the dead.

While we all profess faith in the resurrection of the dead, most of us are still puzzled like the Corinthians who could not accept it.

Here I have found St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart at its best when he wrote us the most wonderful and loveliest explanation of death and dying that lead to transformation and new life.

Brothers and sisters: Someone may say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?” You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-44

In this time of the pandemic when death has become so “ordinary” and most of all, “so closest to home”, I pray for the many people now facing death in their hospital beds, in their homes comforted by the loving presence of family, as well as for those left alone to themselves due to so many reasons only you can understand. And forgive.

Bless those with advanced stages of cancer, those awaiting transplants, for those in their terminal stages. Give them the grace of hope, to continue to love even if things are getting worst than better.

Ease their pains, Jesus, and make them feel your loving presence with them on the cross.

Most of all, transform them like the seeds after having died and sown in good soil, grew and produced fruit a hundredfold. Amen.