Love, love, love

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday after the Ascension of the Lord, 03 June 2022
Acts 25:13-21     ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     John 21:15-19
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan 2017.
For today, Lord Jesus,
I pray only for three things:
that there would be more love,
love, and love in the world!
Move us to love like you,
to love people more than things
so that we may look after the weak 
and the young like the lambs (Jn.21:15).
Push us to love more like you,
Jesus by saying "I love you"
more often to our beloved 
so that our relationships and
dealing be filled with tenderness
and care (Jn.21:16).
Insist us to love and never give up
in loving like you, Jesus so that
we may give up our very selves to
others as food to nourish them
like you (Jn.21:17).
So much hate and separations,
selfishness and divisions are going
on today when ironically we have 
all the modern means of communications
meant to bring us closer together.
Let us love, love, love so that
we may follow you and one another
(Jn.21:19).  Amen.

Grace and blessedness of leaving

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday after the Ascension of the Lord, 01 June 2022
Acts 20:28-38     ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     John 17:11-19
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Obando, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
As we begin the first day of
the end of first half of the year,
your words today, O God, are full 
of wisdom worthy for us to keep 
about the blessedness and grace
of every leaving, of every departure;
how ironic when every leaving is
characterized with sadness because
of separation, your words today, O
Lord speak of lavish joy, of your desire
that our joy may be complete in you.
In the first reading, St. Paul is bidding
goodbye to the Ephesians on his way
to Rome for imprisonment and sure death;
there was so much grief among the 
people and yet, there is the pervading 
atmosphere of blessedness and grace.
First is the grace of the gift of person,
of St. Paul and ultimately, of Jesus Christ.

Dear God, may we be like St. Paul truly a
grace to everyone with his sincerity of
love and service, dedication to your
Son Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation;
teach us to imitate St. Paul of being a
blessing ourselves to others as we make
people experience and feel your love 
and care, your concern and goodwill;
evidently, his concern up to the end is you,
O God and your people whom he warned
on guard against those who would come
after his departure in "perverting the truth", 
reminding them how he loved and 
"admonished them with tears" 
(Acts 20:30-31).
And of course, the greatest blessing
and grace of all who have "left" us
physically is your Son Jesus Christ.
How wonderful that at the Last Supper
before his arrest, he prayed for us
all his disciples he would leave behind.

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one… Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

John 17:11, 17-19
Thank you, dear Jesus, for the
gifts of being one like you and the
Father and being consecrated to
the truth - to you yourself!
To be consecrated is to be separated
from the rest in order to be holy for you,
O Lord for the sake of the people;
you alone, Lord Jesus, are the holy one
and thank you in immersing us into you,
making us like you, apart from others in
holiness but united with everyone in
loving service.
Let us not forget this tremendous
blessing and grace you have given
us before returning to the Father,
Lord Jesus.  Keep us one in you with
the Father in loving service of others.
Let us not forget this tremendous
challenge too as part of our mission
that we always leave your marks of 
holiness and truth with everyone 
we serve and meet.  Amen.

When God visits us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 31 May 2022
Zephaniah 3:14-18     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, 2021.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father,
in coming to visit us daily
in your Son Jesus Christ
our Lord!
Thank you for always believing
in us, for who are we worthy to be
visited by you and be given with 
importance?  And that is who we
are, beloved and blessed because
you chose to love us, to believe in
us, and trust us.
Keep us humble like Mary
in Jesus our Lord, that we are
your mere carriers, that whatever
greatness and attributes we have
are all a grace from you; keep us aware
of our nothingness before you.
Let us not be misled by the
ways of the world based on 
value systems of popularity,
personal excellence and superiority;
so many times it happens that
we are merely Christians in
a sleepwalking existence, 
thinking and believing we 
believe and follow you when actually,
we are just dreaming, 
we are just imagining
for we are so far from reality.
Wake us up, Jesus,
from our sleep,
wake us up to the 
realities of life that 
we need to work hard like
Mary walking from afar,
daring to sacrifice everything
so your coming and presence
in the world be felt especially
by those who badly need your 
care and healing, your love and mercy.
Forgive us, O Lord, 
for not believing in you
that you love us, that you
have a plan for us, something
beautiful if we would only believe
like Mary that your words will
be fulfilled.
May we always welcome your
coming, your daily visits to us
like Elizabeth, always open to
receive you and listen to your 
words, and to be blessed.
Amen.
Photo by author, 2021.

Conquering the world in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday after the Ascension of the Lord, 30 May 2022
Acts 19:1-8     ><))))*> + <*((((><     John 26:29-33
Photo by Mr. Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil 2022, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.
On this first working of the week after
the Solemnity of your Ascension, Lord Jesus,
I pray on this last Monday of May for all
people going through a lot of troubles in
life these days especially the children and 
people of Uvalde in Texas, those living
in Ukraine, and everyone trying to make
ends meet, trying to just survive in this
cruel world, those abandoned by family
and friends.  I pray for all of them, lifting
them up to your light and truth, healing and
protection.

“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”

John 26:33
Yes, we believe in you, Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Master but so many times
without truly understanding nor comprehending
the full meaning of faith in you until troubles
come into our lives; many times we abandon 
you and choose the path of sin, being 
scattered and so afraid of sufferings and
trials, trying to escape your Cross.
Yes, we believe you have conquered the world,
Jesus, but many times, we are overpowered
by the temptations of the world
that we turn away from you, believing we
can live on bread alone, that we can overcome
everything with our powers of wealth and
science.
Remind us once in a while, dear Jesus,
of your gift of the Holy Spirit like what
St. Paul told some believers in Ephesus;
even after celebrating Easter and renewing
our Baptismal promises, we remain dormant
as Christians, living separately from other
people in the community; help us deepen 
our commitment in you, dear Jesus, and 
in the way of life you have called us.
Let us be your instruments of peace in
this troubled world today, Lord, by first
conquering our sinfulness.  Amen.

Ascension: a “leveling up” to God 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, 29 May 2022
Acts 1:1-11 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 9:24-28, 10:19-23 ><]]]]'> Luke 24:46-53
Photo by author, Chapel of the Ascension at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, May 2017.

Today’s Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord is a celebration of the mystery of Jesus Christ our Savior. It is not just an episode in his life because it is something about his very person and his personal relationship with us his followers that continues to this day.

In his Ascension into heaven, Jesus had brought us closer to heaven – and God – even while we are still here on earth! It is part of the mystery of his Person whose coming and going, so to speak, closed the wide gap before between heaven and earth which is actually relational than spatial in nature. Hence, the Ascension is not about Christ’s departure to a distant galaxy in the universe where heaven is supposed to be but a new and higher or deeper kind of relationship of humans with God in Jesus.

Ascension is a leveling up as kids would say these days in our relationships with God in Jesus. This we realize in a careful reading of our short gospel account by starting at its ending:

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.

Luke 24:50-53

Did you notice Luke’s description of how the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy”?

Photo by author, inside the Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, 2017.

Normally, we feel sad in every departure of a loved one, be it permanent like in death or temporary like when they move to a new residence or work or when kids go to college. Every parting with loved ones brings sadness in our hearts, rarely a great joy.

So, where did that great joy of the disciples come from after Jesus left them and ascended into heaven?

Recall how these past two Sundays when Jesus insisted on his disciples including us the need to obey his commandment to love, reassuring them not to let their hearts be troubled and disturbed when he leaves them. Loving Jesus is keeping his words of loving one another as he has loved us. Where there is love, there is always the gift of presence and relationships, of peace, of intimacy. Even if we are apart from one another, even if we do not see each other, love transcends the physical distance and presence; hence, heaven is oneness with God while hell is separation from God!

Mystery of Christ, our intimacy with God

The joy of the disciples at the Lord’s Ascension is the continuing intimacy they have with Jesus because of his commandment to love and his gift of peace. He said last Sunday that anyone who keeps his words shall be loved by him and the Father who shall both dwell on that person.

Jesus and the Father dwelling in us is intimacy, a deep and personal relationship that is as close as our breath. This is the whole point of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews in explaining the great difference of the old temple worship and worship in Jesus Christ: “Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself” (Heb.9:24) that enabled us all to reach and enter heaven “by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh” (Heb.10:20).

Heaven is not just a place or location but most of all a state of life, a state of grace made possible by Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ. It is something we already have in our hearts which we feel and experience when we strive to live in communion with Jesus and everyone around us through personal and communal prayers, especially in the Holy Eucharist.

Photo by author, part of the site believed where Jesus stepped on during his Ascension inside the Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, May 2017.

Keep in mind the upward movement of the Ascension which calls for a “leveling up” in our perspectives and way of life, of “witnessing” Jesus Christ to everyone “to the ends of the earth” as he instructed them outside Bethany (Acts 1:8) before “going up” to heaven to be seated at the right hand of God our almighty Father.

But that mystery of Christ is not everything. See how Luke mentioned both in Acts and in his gospel account the disciples as “witnesses” of Jesus.

The Ascension challenges every disciple of Christ to witness his mystery in a life in union with God, a mystery we must nurture and keep, calling us to “approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy” (Heb.10:22-23).

Ascension is therefore a call to holiness, to a life centered in God. But with the recent turn of events both here and abroad, we find we are still too far from the gifts and realities of Christ’s Ascension as life and societies seem to go down to the pit of death and destruction, pains and despair.

May 25: People attend a prayer vigil for the Robb Elementary School students and teachers killed in a mass shooting Tuesday at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde, Texas.
Joshua Lott/The Washington Post via Getty Images

All mystery and tragedy, but no Christ?

We are thousands of kilometers away from Uvalde, Texas but we too were pierced in the hearts by the reports of the killing of 19 school children and their two teachers in a shooting spree by an 18-year old who started his carnage by first shooting his own grandmother at home before going to their local school.

Two weeks earlier, another ten people were also gunned down in Buffalo, New York that has made mass shooting like a persistent plague in the US getting worst each year without any signs of being eradicated at all with the never-ending debates about guns especially by politicians.

See how amid all these decadence in our time, from the mass shootings in the US to the war in Ukraine and the never ending bickering in our local politics show us the exact opposite of the mystery of Christ expressed in this Solemnity of his Ascension, of how we have sank deeper in evil and sin, away from one another and from God.

Everybody is speaking each one’s point of view but never considered God at all and the value of every human life especially at its most vulnerable stage in the womb and old age. Media barrage us with so much statistics but never about the value and importance of virtues like kindness and love and spirituality.

Going back to our gospel this Sunday, Luke leads us to finding and witnessing Christ’s mystery as a person and of his Ascension in its opening when Jesus said to his disciples:

Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Luke 24:46-48

See the flow starting from the Scriptures or words of God that were written leading into its fulfillment in the Pasch of Jesus Christ we are tasked to preach and proclaim in words and in deeds which is what witnessing is all about.

This Sunday, Jesus is leading us out of our homes like his disciples to meet him in our churches where his mystery is celebrated daily in the Holy Eucharist as we listen and pray over his words in the Sacred Scriptures that open us to the many tasks of improving our relationships with one another, in learning to forget ourselves and love like Jesus did, not in attacking each other or defending ourselves from their attacks.

How sad that until now, so many of the faithful are still hesitant of going back to church celebrations due to misplaced priorities in life while some of us in the clergy continue to twist and bend the words of the Lord to suit their own way of thinking, especially in politics.

When we examine the life of Jesus, there has always been the letting go of everything in him, including his very life that when his Ascension came, he was totally light and free to go back to the Father. This in turn left so much imprints on his followers’ hearts including us today that even we have not seen Jesus, we can feel him present in us and with us.

How willing are we to be witnesses of Jesus, of letting go of our personal agendas and plans that prevent us from leveling up or arising to new heights of relationships with God and with others in Christ? Have a blessed and safe week ahead!

Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

True joy

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 27 May 2022
Acts 18:9-18     ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     John 16:20-23
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa at Carigara Market, Leyte, 2018.
Today, Lord Jesus Christ,
you describe true joy in you,
scary yet so wonderful:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy. When a woman is in labor, she is in anguish because her hour has arrived; but when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the pain because of her joy that a child has been born into the world.”

John 16:20-21
Joy is like a woman in labor,
in anguish because her hour has arrived
but after giving birth to a child, she 
remembers no more the pain because
of her joy of bringing forth a child into
the world!
I wonder, dear Lord, in this time
when childbearing has become a major
issue with some women insisting on
their rights, refusing to bear a child,
that less and less people are also 
experiencing true joy; we have come
to trust ourselves more than God that
many are so afraid of having children,
thinking it would lead to more joy when
ironically it had led to fewer joys in 
their lives!
Joy is completely trusting in you, God,
in your providence and protection like 
St. Paul who was so fruitful - and surely, 
joyful - at his stay in Corinth because of his
complete trust in Jesus; no harm really
ever happened to him!  How sad these days
when those in the pro-choice movement
focus more on the minority having problems in
childbearing than on the majority who make it
through all the pains and joys of giving birth.
Joy is more than happiness; it is a complete
trust and confidence in you, dear Jesus 
that even if things turn to worst, 
you will never abandon us until the end 
for you alone is our joy dwelling within us
in our hearts.  Amen.

Joy in the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, Priest, 26 May 2022
Acts 18:1-8     ><))))*> + <*((((><     John 16:16-20
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, Carigara Market in Leyte, 2018.

So, brethren, rejoice in the Lord, not in the world. That is, rejoice in the truth, not in wickedness; rejoice in the hope of eternity, not in the fading flower of vanity. That is the way to rejoice. Wherever you are on earth, however long you remain on earth, the Lord is near, do not be anxious about anything.

From a sermon by Saint Augustine, Office of Readings, Memorial of St. Philip Neri, 26 May
Thank you, dear God our Father
in giving us a joyful saint whose
feast we celebrate today, St. Philip Neri.
Of course, every saint must be a
joyful one but St. Philip exuded with
so much joy in serving you among
the poor and the sick that according
to stories, two of his ribs were found
broken after his death because his
heart grew with so much joy and
love for Jesus Christ among the
people he served!
Whatever that means, we believe
in the great joy you must have given
St. Philip Neri and all the saints in
serving you; as St. Augustine
mentioned in his homily, to rejoice
in you is to rejoice in truth not in lies
and wickedness; and to rejoice in eternal
life not in temporal that is momentary.
Much of the world has remained
the same, meaning we still have a
lot of work to do in your name; like
St. Paul, give us the perseverance, 
and the sense of humor of St. Philip
Neri to keep preaching the gospel of
Jesus Christ most specially in places
and among people we least expect 
to accept it for you yourself, O God is 
filled with humor:  who would have 
thought except you, Lord, that the 
sinful city of Corinth would become
one of the leading cities in the spread 
of Christianity than the sophisticated
Athens?
Keep us faithful to you, dear Jesus,
never to lose your sense of humor
in doing your work for you always write
straight crooked lines!  This is part of
your riddle to your disciples about your
coming Pasch and departure as well as 
our coming situation, "you will weep 
and mourn while the world rejoices, 
you will grieve but your grief will
become joy" (Jn.16:20).
May we always rejoice in you,
Lord Jesus.  Amen.

Prayer when “groping” for God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 25 May 2022
Acts 17:15, 22-18:1     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     John 16:12-15
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.
God our Father,
your words today are so
loving, so caring especially
for us who feel lost or at a loss, 
simply could not find our bearing
and directions in life at the moment
for so many reasons like situations
and peoples so unfavorable to us.
St. Paul in the first reading perfectly
said it, we are groping for you in the
dark, dear God.  Please help us
find our way back to you in Christ!

Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.”

Acts 17:15, 24-27
I know, dear God that you
are always at my side;
and I know very well that 
always, we are the ones
who turn away from you,
we are the ones who get lost
and not you.
Thank you in sending us 
your Son Jesus Christ who always
finds us when we are lost;
so many times in life we feel
it is us who find you, that we are 
the ones searching for you 
and eventually discovers you.
And we are grossly wrong.
It is you, O God in Jesus, 
who finds us always.

Yes, it is true our heart is restless
until it rests on you but it is only you
who can move our hearts to desire you,
to search you, to look for you.
And we always find you because
you found us first!
Today I pray, dear Jesus,
that when life has so many lessons
to teach me and I could not bear it,
please send me quick the Holy Spirit
to enlighten my mind and my heart
to speak to me the things that are coming
while I forge on with life's many trials
until your glory is revealed.  Amen.
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

Prayer to know when to stay and when to go

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 24 May 2022
Acts 16:22-34     ><))))*> + <*((((><     John 16:5-11
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.
Lord Jesus Christ,
today I pray for those in a dilemma 
on whether they should stay 
or they should go; on whether 
they have to remain or leave 
as your words today offer us 
with so many leads when 
we must stay and when
we must go.
In the first reading, it is very
interesting why Paul and Silas
who were both in prison in Philippi
decided to remain inside their cell
than leave and go after a strong 
earthquake shook the city:

When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his word and was about to kill himself, thinking that the prisoners has escaped. But Paul shouted out in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself; we are all here.” He asked for a light and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you and your household will be saved.”

Acts 16:27-31
Lord, teach us to be patient to
always wait for you in joyful prayers
like Paul and Silas to prevent us 
from jumping into hasty conclusions
when opportunities come for us to
leave and go; let us remain especially
in trying and difficult situations where
you may have other plans for others
who need our presence in difficult situations
like the jailer of Paul and Silas.
How ironic that it was the jailer who had to
ask Paul and Silas what he must do
to be saved, to be set free when your
two servants were the ones imprisoned! 
On the other hand,
dear Jesus, teach us when to
go and leave in you and for you
like what you told  your disciples
at the Last  Supper:

But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.

John 16:7
There are times, Lord, 
that we have to go like you
not for our own sake but for others;
we have experienced many times
when parents, friends and loved ones
have to go and leave us for our own good,
so we may grow and mature;
let us know when we must go, Jesus
when it is you to whom we are going,
when it is not for our own good
but for others.
Help us realize,
Lord Jesus that whether
we stay and remain or 
go and leave, may our
primary consideration and
motivation is our love for you
alone and not our selfish motives;
most of all, either staying or leaving 
is always for the good of others
and never for us as you surely
take care of us.  Amen.
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

The joys and pains of every beginning

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 23 May 2022
Acts 16:11-15   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 15:26-16:4
Photo by author, sunrise at Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father in 
giving us each day as a new 
beginning, a fresh start in life
with every grace we need in Christ;
how amazing are your words today,
O Lord, that both speak of the 
joys and perils of every beginning.
In the first reading,
we are inspired by the initial works 
of St. Paul in that great city of Philippi
where he met and baptized Lydia, a gentile
convert in the Lord; it was the first European
city to listen and accept the Christian message,
the beginning of a glorious history that 
transformed the continent not only in religion but
also in arts and culture.  
What a beautiful example of St. Paul 
being a "sower" of the gospel 
so that others may "reap" its fruits
until now!  
Teach us, Lord Jesus, 
to be sowers of your word 
to win more Lydias and most of all, 
so that there would always be something 
to reap in the future.
On the other hand,
your gospel today reassures us,
dear Jesus, of your presence and
defense in the Holy Spirit for the many
dangers we face in every beginning.

“I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.”

John 16:1-4
Our work in you, O God, is never finished.  
Let us continue to welcome each day as a new
beginning to sow your seeds of love and kindness,
mercy and salvation to make known to everyone
of you as our loving Father in Christ Jesus.  Amen.