Following Jesus in lights and darkness by Caravaggio

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 20 September 2021
Detail of Caravaggio’s painting, “Calling of St. Matthew” from en.wikipedia.org.

That beautiful painting by Caravaggio, “The Calling of St. Matthew” completed in 1600 for the French congregation of San Luigi Francesi in Rome is said to be the favorite of Pope Francis among the many other masterpieces found in the eternal city.

It was through the Holy Father that I have started to fall in love with Caravaggio’s works, promising myself to see them if given another chance to return to Rome. His paintings like the meeting of Thomas Didymus with the Risen Lord and his breaking of bread at Emmaus evoke body movements and inner motions among the characters that lead us to continue the beautiful story of his subject.

And that is what I wish to share with you on this Feast of St. Matthew, a reflection on his sitting, arising and standing to follow Jesus who had called him while at work as a tax collector.

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
From shutterstock.com.

Sitting. Many centuries from now, anthropologists and other experts will be studying our generation on how humans have evolved – or retrogressed – with our spending too much time sitting. Doctors warn of the many health risks that result in prolonged sitting like obesity and heart disease. They have recently sounded the alarm anew following a surge in zoom meetings and webinars as well as the new set ups of classes on-line and work from home that entail sitting for long hours.

When the term “couch potato” was coined in the 1980’s, potato growers in the US complained against the association of their beloved crop with those people glued on their seats watching TV, doing nothing at all.

Sitting is an important human movement especially in studying and learning lessons through reading and writing, meeting and discussions. Meals become more satisfying and fulfilling when taken while seated in a leisurely manner whether at the table or even on the ground like picnics in the park or forest. In fact, it is when we are seated at the table for meals we are most peaceful and neutral – nobody eats with weapons laid on the table or while holding a gun or clenching a fist which is the reason why we are not supposed to rest our elbows on the table!

Imagine St. Matthew when he was called by Jesus, while sitting at the customs post: here we find sitting at its worst imagery of being stuck on our seats of comfort and complacency, sins and other vices. Worst is see how in our modern time we have given so much premium on where we sit to insist on our ego trips and sense of territory as well as claims to fame and prominence not realizing that what really matters in life is not where we sit but where we stand (https://lordmychef.com/2019/02/22/it-is-where-we-stand-that-matters-most-not-where-we-sit/).

From en.wikipedia.org.

Following Jesus

Going back to Caravaggio’s painting, we notice everybody seated at the table with St. Matthew dressed in the artist’s period of the 1600’s to show that Jesus continues to come in our own particular time in history.

Most of all, the gospel tells us that St. Matthew was seated at his customs post when called by Jesus but Caravaggio’s painting portrays them to be inside a tavern to tell us that we are also St. Matthew whom Jesus visits and calls daily while we are busy or drunk sitting at our comfort zones, in our vices and sins, in our complacency and mediocrity.

And like St. Matthew, we, too, are invited to rise and follow Jesus right away!


Don't you hear how Jesus is calling you daily, 
asking you, "will the real you please rise up and stand for who you really are"?
See yourself the way Jesus sees you - forgiven and beloved,
precious and loved.  No need for us to look good before Jesus.
Just rise and stand with him!

Standing. Following Jesus demands that we must first rise from our seats to make a stand for Jesus and his teachings of love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, service and self-sacrifice. Notice how St. Matthew, the fat man at the middle with a black hat like a beret pointing to the man bowed down to the table.

See and feel the hesitancy of St. Matthew – like us – always wondering, asking God, “is it I, Lord?” So many times we cannot believe Jesus really looking for us, wanting us, calling us, believing in us!

And in all that beautiful interplay of light and darkness by Caravaggio in his painting, we feel the eyes of Jesus looking at our beloved apostle as if telling him, “yes, you, Matthew; Follow me”.

Cast all your doubts if Jesus were really calling you, believing in you, trusting you – he does! Jesus always comes to each of us in the most personal manner like with all his apostles, telling us, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit” (Jn.15:16).

Don’t you hear how Jesus is calling you daily, asking you, “will the real you please rise up and stand for who you really are”? See yourself the way Jesus sees you – forgiven and beloved, precious and loved. No need for us to look good before Jesus. Just rise and stand with him!


Photo from Facebook of nuns delivering relief goods to people in far-flung areas during the pandemic last year.

Walking. It is not enough for us to remain standing. Making a stand for Jesus means to follow him in his path of justice and love, mercy and forgiveness, being small and the least serving the weak and the poorest of the poor.

To walk in Christ is to be like Christ because Jesus himself is “the way the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6).

Walking in Christ is following the “road less travelled” that leads to the Cross of self-offering and sacrifice, of love and acceptance.

Notice in Caravaggio’s painting how he portrayed Jesus in his own traditional clothes along with Simon Peter – and they are both barefooted!

There seems to be a slight commotion wherein Simon is like warning the man with a sword close to him to be still, to not make any move for they are walking away soon once St. Matthew rises and stands from his seat. Look at the feet of Jesus and Simon; they are all set to walk, as if telling St. Matthew, “come on, let us go!”

But where to?

While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. The Pharisees saw this and said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” He heard this and said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words, I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

Matthew 9:10-13

We all first walk home with Jesus, right into our hearts to reconcile again with him and be healed of many hurts and aches in the past. Then, we walk with Jesus to our fellow sinners so that they too may experience Christ’s love and forgiveness.

Following Jesus, walking on his path of the cross means going to those forgotten by us and the society, walking to meet those who are not like us – in beliefs and way of thinking, in clothing and appearances, in disposition and backgrounds.

It can be a lonely walk filled with pains and sufferings, and yes, disappointments like the two disciples who walked back to Emmaus on Easter without realizing Jesus was the stranger who had joined them along the way. That is the beauty of walking with Jesus, in Jesus, and to Jesus: you never see him nor recognize him right away but he is always with us, walking with us by our side even if we are going the opposite direction in life!

Walking the way of Jesus is tough and rough. It is not easy but it is the only way we must follow. That is why we need to rest in Jesus, with Jesus who asks us to be seated again as he washes our feet to comfort and console us, and prepare us for longer walks in the journey.


Photo by Ms. JJ Jimeno of GMA-7News, Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, UP Diliman, 2019.

Kneeling. Of all the body movements modern man has forgotten is kneeling. Again, look at Caravaggio’s painting, take a peek below the table and notice the robust knees of St. Matthew, look at the soft throw of light on his right leg and the softer tone on his left.

Caravaggio must be telling us something about the healthy lower body of St. Matthew despite his sitting position. See Caravaggio’s genius in throwing that soft light on St. Matthew’s legs and knees that were made strong not only by long hours of standing and walking with Jesus but with longer time of kneeling and praying after the Lord’s Ascension.

Kneeling is one very important gesture and body movement we must regain to truly follow Jesus and regain order in ourselves and in our nation. It is the best praying position for it signifies surrender and humility before God. In fact, for the Hebrews, the knee is the symbol of strength that to bend one’s knees – to kneel – means to submit one’s self to God the all-powerful.

How sad when people refuse to kneel because their knees or expensive pants and clothes might get dirty. Worst of all is when we have refused to kneel and bend our knees because we feel so strong and able to accomplish a lot that we would rather be pursuing our own interests than following Jesus.

Photo by author, 07 September 2021.

Like Caravaggio’s painting of “The Calling of St. Matthew”, our lives and nation are into a great darkness due to the pandemic and the worsening decadence in every aspect of our society.

It is not a time to be a fence-sitter or a bystander; Jesus calls us to arise and make a stand against the pervading evils, asking us whom are we really following in this journey in history and life.

Amid the gloom are streaks of light bringing hope and reason, truth and goodness, inviting us to learn from the call of St. Matthew to…

Sit and learn more of Jesus
Rise and stand with Jesus
Walk and follow Jesus 
Kneeling always at the foot of his cross 
to truly follow him our Lord and Master.
Amen.

Pursuing the most precious

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 17 September 2021
1 Timothy 6:2-12   ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*>   Luke 8:1-3
Photo by Mr. Vigie Ongleo, Singapore, August 2021.

But you, man of God, avoid all this. Instead, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness. Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:11-12
Thank you for the wonderful
reminder today through St. Paul,
O God our loving Father.
It is so true that many times
in our pursuit of you
in worship and service,
in the practice of our faith,
we "suppose religion to be a means
of gain" (1 Timothy 6:5):
in your name we shamelessly
pursue money and fame using
our gifts and talents,
wasting precious time in useless
arguments and discussions.
Let us pursue only you, O God 
in Jesus Christ through the more
precious things that enrich our lives
and those of others leading to
eternal life.
Purify our motivations and intentions
in following you, dear Jesus
like those women you have healed
and decided to accompany you 
sharing their treasures and very selves.
Today,
let me dare confront myself
to examine my following you, Jesus:
has it led me to qualities mentioned
by St. Paul to Timothy or,
has it made me divisive?
What does my way of life
today speak really of who am I?
Give me, dear Jesus,
the clarity of mind
and purity of heart
of the great Jesuit priest
St. Robert Bellarmine.
Amen.

Keep us calm, Lord

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

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

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

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

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

Missing Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 13 July 2021
Exodus 2:1-15   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 11:20-24
Photo by author, St. Agnes Church at Bethsaida, Israel, 2017.
Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds 
had been done, since they had not
repented.  "Woe to you, Chorazin!
Woe to you Bethsaida!  For if 
the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented 
sackcloth and ashes."
(Matthew 11:20-21)
I could hear you, Lord Jesus
crying again the same words
to us in this generation
of not heeding your voice,
of refusing or failing to recognize
God's loving presence among us
in you through the Church.
If our non-Christian brothers and
sisters were given the same 
chance we have been given in
belonging to your Church, 
maybe they have been more 
generous, more kind, and 
more ardent in their faith.
Forgive us, dear Jesus,
for not listening to your words, 
for not meeting you,
for always missing your coming to us
in the Church, in the Sacraments,
and most especially, in the Scriptures.
Sometimes, Lord Jesus
we are like those two Hebrews fighting
pacified by Moses in the first reading
who missed the opportunity of meeting God,
of discovering God among our community
when the culprit dared ask Moses:
"Who has appointed you ruler
and judge over us?
Are you thinking of killing me
as you killed the Egyptian?"
Then Moses became afraid and thought, 
"The affair must certainly be known." 
(cf.Ex.2:11-14)
Teach us, dear Lord
to be like the sister of Moses
who ensured she would not miss
the important opportunity when the Pharaoh's
daughter found baby Moses in a basket among
the reeds while taking a bathe at the river
to find their own mother to nurse the child
you have destined to set free your people from Egypt.
Make us realize every moment a grace of encountering
you Lord, of making your wonderful plans happen.
Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

This was the experience of Matthew in our gospel today:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

From en.wikipedia.org.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have blessed break!

When God acts like one of us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr, 28 June 2021
Genesis 18:16-33   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 8:18-22
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera at Lalakhan, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 02 June 2021.
You are sometimes
so funny and amusing, dear God
when you act like our daddy
as if like dilly dallying
on whether to tell us something 
he is planning
knowing so well
he is the father and the master
that we his children must obey
and abide by his will and order.
How nice of you, O Lord
to act so decent, so good 
full of kindness and consideration
to make us feel important
with what you have in mind
of our role and part in your divine plan
because when you act like one of us
that is when you also want us
to act like you, to think like you
to be holy like you.
The Lord reflected,
"Shall I hide from Abraham
what I am about to do
(to Sodom and Gomorrah),
now that he is to become a great
and populous nation,
and all nations of the earth
are to find blessing in him?
Indeed, I have singled him out
that he may direct his children
and his household after him
to keep the way of the Lord
by doing what is right and just,
so that the Lord may carry into effect
for Abraham the promises he made about him."
(Genesis 18:17-19)
But more than acting
and thinking like you, O God,
is for us to love like you
that is why sometimes
Jesus sounds too harsh and 
difficult to follow, challenging us
to let go of our own desires 
and usual ways of living
in order to love you completely
and selflessly.
Jesus answered him,
"Foxes have dens, birds have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere
to rest his head."
Another of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, let me go first and bury my father."
But Jesus answered him,
"Follow me,
and let the dead bury their dead."
(Matthew 8:20-22)
We pray, O Lord, 
for our leaders in the Church
and in government
to be more committed
in serving your people
than in serving their own interests;
enlighten them of your ways, Lord,
of your kindness and mercy
dispensing justice swiftly
where there is outcry against sin.  Amen.

Ministry. Or gimmickry?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 18 June 2021
2 Corinthians 11:18, 21-30   ><)))'> + <'(((><   Matthew 6:19-23
Photo by author, December 2020.

Forgive us, O Lord, in making ministry a gimmickry, when we forget all about you and your sacrifice on the Cross; when all we see is technology and novelty, pretending to make you a reality amid the changing world when in fact it is us and not you whom we advertise and make known to everyone.

Forgive us, dear Jesus, when so many times we brag in shrouded manners our exploits and achievements, sacrifices and sufferings to proclaim your name without your Cross not realizing that any cross detached from you is all folly and plain publicity.

Teach us to be like St. Paul to boast more of our weaknesses than of our strength for it is only when we are weak that we are truly one with the rest of humanity – weak and sinful, struggling and striving, always at your mercy and forgiveness.

Who is weak, and I am not weak?
Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant?
If I must boast , I will boast of the things
that show my weakness.
(2 Corinthians 11:29-30)

Remind us always, Lord, before we could ever speak of what we have done and achieved, of what we are doing for you and your people, that we first examine what we treasure most in our hearts for it will always be what others experience and see in us.

No matter how lofty are our words nor our visions of you and of your Church, what we treasure most in our hearts always radiate in our lives, in our actions, in our very selves.

If we have not really done that much for you and for others, if we have not truly embraced you on the Cross with all the blood and pains as seen in our lives and relationships, then, nothing will suffice despite our many claims and monuments to our ministry because it is all gimmickry.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"but if your eye is bad,
your whole body will be in darkness.
And if the light in you is darkness,
how great will the darkness be."
(Matthew 6:23)

Lord Jesus Christ, you are our light. Please enlighten us today, restore our sight and vision to find and follow the real treasures and most precious things we all must have in this life — YOU. Amen.

Image from Pinterest, quotation by Josh at his blog “Project: Faith Journey” at wordpress.com, 15 October 2015.

Let Jesus shine in us!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week X in Ordinary Time,  10 June 2021
2 Corinthians 3:15-4:1, 3-6   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 5:20-26
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, Santorini, Greece 2016.

Lord Jesus Christ, please remove the veils that cover our minds that prevent us from truly seeing and meeting you. Let us remove the many veils we have unconsciously put on ourselves like our stubbornness and conservatism, legalism and formalism that have made our prayers and worship empty of you.

Brothers and sisters:
To this day, whenever Moses is read,
a veil lies over their hearts of the children of Israel,
but whenever a person turns to the Lord
the veil is removed.
(2Corinthians 3:15-16)

Teach us to submit ourselves more to the promptings and light of the Holy Spirit so that we may reflect you more, dear Jesus, than ourselves.

So many times we have forgotten that we are just bearers of your light, “slaves for your sake” (2Cor.4:5), dear Jesus task to bring people closer to the glory and brightness of God.

Do not let us fall into the same mistakes of the people of your time when praise and worship of God was focused more on the externals than what is inside our hearts expressed in our genuine concern for one another like people we may have hurt or neglected.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I tell you, unless your righteousness 
surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven."
(Matthew 5:20)

Teach us to go beyond the letters of the Laws.

Enable us to see the deeper and wider meaning of the commandment not to kill by respecting in words and deeds the value of every person, of not maligning any one with nasty talks and through the social media.

Enable us to see the direct link of our celebration of the Eucharist with our behavior and dealing with one another, seeking peace and reconciliation to be truly one in you and with the Father in heaven.

O sweet Jesus, we pray most dearly for those people who have boxed us and refused to give us the chance to show our goodness and goodwill; for those whose frame of mind is so fixed that they would not make the necessary adjustments in this time of crisis to accommodate so many people in great sufferings and trials in their lives.

Let your brightness shine on us, Lord Jesus, in these times of darkness and storms. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera at Bgy. Lalakhan, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, 01 June 2021.

Life in the Spirit

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 08 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:18-22   ><)))'> + <'(((><   Matthew 5:13-16
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

Praise and thanksgiving to you, O God our loving Father, for this brand new day, so blessed and filled with many opportunities for us to change and grow in the Holy Spirit, to test our limits and see your wisdom in calling and sending us to make you known in the world.

How amazing that in every day you give us, you keep qualifying your call so that even if we are not qualified at all, you still call us because you believe in us.

Not that of ourselves
 we are qualified to take credit for anything
as coming from us; rather, our qualification
comes from God, who has indeed qualified us
as ministers of a new covenant, 
not of letter but of spirit; 
for the letter brings death,
but the Spirit gives life.
(2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

Forgive us, dear Father, when so many times we refuse to obey your laws especially when they go against our whims and caprices, claiming them to be archaic and irrelevant but at the same time, when we complain of the Church’s many changes and reforms that do not suit us, when we choose to revert to the pass than embrace the changing world.

Let us understand the gospel today where Jesus declares, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt.5:17).

Let us live in the Holy Spirit to find and rediscover daily the person of Jesus Christ so that we may be gentle and kind like him with one another than being stuck in the rigidity and stagnation of our conservatism that make us harsh and legalistic in our relationships.

Let us live in the Holy Spirit so we may be free and faithful to you always, bubbling with spontaneity and creativity that express your glory, O Lord.

We pray today for those who choose to be sad, who insist on bringing back the past without understanding the true meaning of growing and changing in Christ, of maturing in freedom and love to fully appreciate the beauty of your gift of life. Amen.

Photo by author, 2018.

“Levelling up” in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Cycle B, 16 May 2021
Acts 1:1-11  ><}}}'>  Ephesians 4:1-13  ><}}}'>  Mark 16:15-20  
Photo by author, Egypt 2019.
So then the Lord Jesus,
after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven and 
took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth
and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through
accompanying signs.
(Mark 16:19-20)

Thus we heard the closing of St. Mark’s gospel of Jesus Christ. We deliberately chose the word “closing” than “ending” because the Lord’s Ascension is more than an episode in his life but speaks to us of his mystery as the Christ continuing in our time.

The Lord’s Ascension is neither a location indicating heaven somewhere in outer space where Jesus “took his seat at the right hand of God” that we profess every Sunday in the Apostles’ Creed nor a direction of going up, leaving us all behind below here on earth.

If the Ascension were a location or a direction or both, it would mean separation. Then, how could St. Mark claim in his gospel account “the Lord worked with them” if Jesus had really gone to somewhere else?

There is something deeper with the Lord’s Ascension being a part of the mystery of Jesus as the Christ. It is our relationship with God expressed in our relationships with one another in Jesus, through Jesus, and with Jesus who is the head of the Church with us as his body.

In celebrating the Lord’s Ascension, Jesus is inviting us to “level up” our relationships with God and one another in him, with him, and through him while it continues to happen daily among us characterized by our loving service and kindness to everyone which St. Paul reminds us in the second reading.

Brothers and sisters, I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in 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; one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and one Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Ephesians 4:1-7
Photo from Dr. Yanga’s Colleges, Inc. community pantry in Bocaue, Bulacan called “Paraya”, April 2021.

Christ’s mystery in Ascension revealed among us

See the eloquence and mastery of words by St. Paul in writing his Letter to the Ephesians while imprisoned in Rome with a lot of time to pray and contemplate the mystery of Christ and his gift of salvation to us.

Here we find St. Paul so fatherly in reminding us all of the wealth and richness of our Christian vocation as the Lord’s disciples by living in “humility and gentleness, with patience through love” to preserve our “unity of the spirit through the bond of peace”. This is the application (praxis) of the Lord’s teachings at his last supper we have heard in the last two weeks of his being the true vine and we his branches who must remain in him in love.

As Jesus “entered” into a new level of intimacy in the Father in his Ascension, he invites us to “level up” and deepen our relationships with God through one another to become his presence in the world as a community or a church: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism“.

The mystery of the Ascension, of Jesus joining the Father to seat at his right, is expressed and revealed in our community living as his disciples united in his very virtues mentioned by St. Paul. This was made possible by Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection as St. Paul spoke about ascension so different from our typical concepts of location and direction but more of the mystery of Jesus Christ as “The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph.4:10).


The Ascension presents us 
a clear image of unity in Christ 
that after seven weeks of celebrating Easter, 
we  are confronted today with the question: 
"Is Jesus working with us or, 
are we the only ones working without him at all?"

The very person of Jesus Christ is the measure, the standard we follow, not just norms and code of conducts because he is the only one highly exalted (Phil.2:9-11) for having gone through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection expressed as his one whole mystery in the Ascension until his sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost we celebrate next week.

The Ascension presents us a clear image of unity in Christ that after seven weeks of celebrating Easter, we are confronted today with the question: “Is Jesus working with us or, are we the only ones working without him at all?”

To work with Jesus is to work with others, to work as one community. When there is a community, there is always a mission and vice-versa. This is the meaning of the words spoken by the angels to the disciples after the Lord’s ascension.

“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Acts 1:11

We cannot remain idle while waiting for the return of Jesus.

As a community of believers and followers of Christ, we actively await his “Second Coming” by striving to live in holiness so that we may eventually make this world a little better and more humane like what happened with the recent “community pantry movement” started by Ms. Ana Patricia Non in Maginhawa Street, Quezon City now all over the country helping the poor and hungry.

It is a direct response to Vatican II’s universal call to holiness: “all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society” (Lumen Gentium, #40).

Posted by Jean Palma on Facebook, 18 April 2021 with the caption: “All these community pantries in four days, and counting. What a powerful movement.” #CommunityPantry

55th World Communications Sunday

And speaking of Vatican II, today we are also celebrating the 55th World Communications Sunday with the theme, “Come and see (Jn.1:46). Communicating by Encountering People Where and as They Are.”

The World Communications Sunday is the only feast instituted by Vatican II through the Decree on the Means of Social Communication (Inter Mirifica) issued in December 4, 1963 to remind the faithful of our responsibility to contribute in the social communication ministry of the Church.

In this year’s message, Pope Francis tells us that the Lord’s invitation to his disciples to “come and see” is also the method for all authentic human communication where we personally experience every person to know his true situation in life.

It is in our personal encounter with others that we are able to share with them the redeeming presence and truth of Jesus Christ through our witnessing in faith, hope and love. True communication is the giving of one’s self in love for others, when we try to be humble and gentle and patient as St. Paul reminds us today.

Communicating Jesus Christ cannot happen entirely in mediated forms and methods, through gadgets nor techniques but only through persons through whom Jesus works and confirms his words through accompanying signs of love and mercy, kindness and understanding.

However, as communicators of the Lord, we have to keep in mind that Jesus is the focus, not us. It is the work of the Lord, not ours.

May the Ascension remind us anew to simply do the work of Jesus by focusing on him and his words, not on ourselves. May we priests and other church communicators forget all those aspirations to “trend” or be “viral” with most “likes” and “followers” to become “influencers” or at least popular to whatever degree to be adored and idolized by fans (and paid by sponsors).

It is Jesus Christ who must rise, not us. So, let us be rooted in the Lord as we keep reaching for the stars while keeping our feet on the ground in our community. Amen. A blessed week ahead with everyone!

From Forbes.com via Facebook, 2019.