Fulness in emptiness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Easter Sunday, Cycle A, 09 April 2023
Acts 10:34, 37-43 ><}}}"> Colossians 3:1-4 ><}}}"> John 20:1-9
Photo by author, sunrise at Katmon Nature Sanctuary & Beach Resort, Bgy. Binulusan, Infanta, Quezon, 04 March 2023.

Blessed happy Easter everyone! Rejoice, the Lord is Risen! I know it is very difficult to greet everyone with Happy Easter compared with Merry Christmas primarily due to our weather. Most of all, because Easter is so empty unlike Christmas so filled with many signs and symbols, even with gifts and other things.

But that is the mystery – and joy – of Easter.

Emptiness. Even nothingness.

Because when we are empty, when we have nothing, that is when God fills us with his abundance.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.”

John 20:1-2
Photo from GettyImages/iStockphoto.

How amazing that we Filipinos are so fond of using the expression “wala lang” for nothing or empty. When a man texts a woman with a simple hi or hello plus the words, wala lang, do not believe him because that’s something! There is something in simply texting you out of the blue! Meron yun kasi di ka niya text kung wala talaga.

In the provinces if you come for a lunch or dinner, whether there is an occasion or none, it is common to hear the hosts especially the poorer ones apologizing for not having a lot of food when in fact there are more than two viands like the freshest fish and vegetables we urbanites miss most. They would always say, “wala po kaming nakayanan, mahina po ang ani/huli, pasensiya na po.” Such kind of superb graciousness among us Filipinos in the provinces is so ordinary.

Perhaps, it is a beautiful sign we have imbibed from our deep faith in Jesus Christ who was nowhere to be found inside the empty tomb.

His absence from the empty tomb meant he was present somewhere. That was what Magdalene implied when she said “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him” (Jn.1:2).

Though the tomb was empty, Jesus was not missing at all. He had risen from the dead! In fact later, they would meet him along the way and that very evening too until his ascension into heaven.

Emptiness and nothingness can be positive or negative.

Positive emptiness means nothingness for God who alone suffices. There is an inner feeling of emptiness for something or Someone bigger, greater. That is how a man feels when he texts a woman of his dream with wala lang: he feels empty and nothing without her! The same with God. St. Augustine perfectly said it, “my heart is restless until it rests in you, O Lord.”

Henry Osawa Tanner’s painting, “The Three Marys” (1910), photo from biblicalarchaeology.org.

Easter is positive emptiness: Jesus is no longer in the tomb because he is risen. It is the definitive sign we have been freed from the clutches of evil and sin, of death and decay. Death is not the final statement in life. The gospel at Easter Vigil is more picturesque when Matthew narrated how Magdalene saw an angel seated on the empty tomb of Jesus, a beautiful reminder of how suffering and death have become Christ’s crowing glory. From being a tomb to becoming a Throne!

Every time we experience pains and sufferings, of emptiness and nothingness in life that all we could do is surrender everything to God like Jesus on the Cross, that is positive emptiness. We know for sure and feel it inside us that there is something in this nothingness. That is why never say “walang-wala ako” (I got nothing) because we always have God in us.

Positive emptiness/nothingness is the virtue of hope which is not positive thinking that things would get better. In fact, to have hope in God is to believe and accept that things could get worst like Jesus during the days leading to his arrest and crucifixion because to hope is believe that even if everything is lost, there is always God loving us in the end.

Hope is positive emptiness because it is creating a space within us for God and for others in love. Positive emptiness and nothingness is seeking God right in that emptiness like Peter and John running into the tomb after learning it was empty because we love, we have a relationship that continues after one is gone and not seen.

That ultimately is what positive emptiness/nothingness is all about, love.

It is similar to that feeling at the end of a movie when we refuse to stand and leave the cinema because we believe – we hope – there is still another final scene, there is still a coming sequel to what we have seen. We are not totally saddened with the end of the movie as we strongly feel, there would be a part two, a part three, and a part four which has been the trend all these years of the great movies of our youth! How funny that after exhausting the sequels, there came also the prequels. Why? Because we have all established a relationship, a love among us the fans of a movie franchise like Star Wars or Die Hard and its creators.

Photo by Ms. April Oliveros, Mt. Pulag, 25 March 2023.

That is what Easter is all about. We do not simply give up for life’s many sufferings and pains, trials and tribulations because we feel and know deep inside we have Jesus Christ who have risen from the dead. We are emptied daily in order to be filled with Jesus himself every day too. There is no need to see much things. Enough to feel deep inside like what Peter explained to the people at the first reading. Their very lives proved amid the physical emptiness or absence of Jesus in the world that Jesus was present, was Someone with Something.

This is the great challenge for us these days. More and more people are spending the Holy Week and Easter in the beach or somewhere else to bond as family where they could see more of each other and see more sights than the ordinary we have during this time of the year at home and in the parish that are usually bland and dry. More people prefer to go somewhere here and abroad in the hope of still being able to pray and celebrate the sacraments there because they feel empty here at home. We really hope they have positive emptiness than negative emptiness.

Negative emptiness is feeling empty amid the plethora of things and pleasures in life. Many times these days due to mobility, it is so easy to go hiking to the mountains or to some exotic destinations to fill the emptiness we have inside, to search for our “lost selves” (hanapin ang sarili). But very often, after some time of relief, the same emptiness and nothingness occurs. Nothing happens because what we really have is positive emptiness, our desire for God, the most essential in life who cannot be replaced by anything at all.

Negative emptiness is seeking things, sights and sounds, things of the senses to fill up curiosities, to settle doubts, to find happiness not realizing it is totally different from joy and fulfillment.

Negative emptiness is insisting on holding on to what can be seen, to what is tangible despite the inner directions we have been feeling inside toward God. For some time, we can refuse to follow its directions but there are times, positive emptiness and nothingness impose itself on us like when there is death or serious illness in the family. At first, it can be scary, so frightening but eventually, liberating like in the experiences of the first disciples of Jesus.

May we heed St. Paul’s words this Easter from the second reading, “Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1).

Dearest Lord Jesus,
grant us the grace to seek and find
you in emptiness and nothingness,
even in darkness;
many times, our senses blur 
our sight of you;
how sad that even in our celebrations
we are so fascinated with all the colors
and antics in the rituals and processions 
we keep in our cameras and cellphones
but never in our hearts and memories
that soon enough, they fade, we forget
and see them only as pictures
bereft of meaning because it lacked relationship;
let us see you more beyond 
to have sights and insights
as well as hindsight and foresight
of your loving presence
in emptiness and nothingness
because what we have and keep
is your relationship,
your love and mercy.

Paloob ang Kuwaresma, hindi palabas

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-22 ng Pebrero 2023
Larawan mula sa Google.com.
Paloob ang Kuwaresma
hindi palabas.
Katulad nitong ating buhay
na papaloob at hindi palabas.
Pagmasdan mga tanda
at kilos nitong panahon
habang Panginoon ang tinutunton
hinuhubad ating kapalaluan
upang bihisan ng kababaan,
sinasaid ating kalabisan
upang punan ng Kanyang 
buhay at kabanalan.
Paloob ang Kuwaresma,
hindi palabas.
Simula ay Miercules de Ceniza 
mga noo'y pinapahiran ng
abong binasbasan
paalala ng kamatayan
tungo sa buhay na walang-hanggan
kaya kinakailangan 
taos-pusong pag-amin 
at pagsuko ng mga kasalanan
talikuran at labanan 
gawi ng kasamaan.
Paloob ang Kuwaresma
hindi palabas.
Huwag magpapansin
tuwing mananalangin
hayaan saloobin at hiling
isalamin ng buhay natin;
pag-aayuno ay higit pa sa
di pagkain ng karne
kungdi mawalan ng laman
ating tiyan, magkapuwang
sa Diyos at sino mang 
nagugutom at nahihirapan;
ano mang kaluguran ating
maipagpaliban ay ilalaan
sa nangangailangan
buong katahimikan maglimos
tanda ng kaisahan
kay Hesus nasa mukha
ng mga dukha
at kapus-palad.
Paloob ang Kuwaresma
hindi palabas.
Sa gitna nitong panahon
ng social media na lahat
ay ipinakikita at ibig makita,
lahat ay pabongga
puro palabas;
ipinapaalala ng Kuwaresma
ang mga pinakamahalaga
at makabuluhan
ay hindi nakikita
nitong mga mata
bagkus ay nadarama
dahil sa paningin ng Diyos
ang tunay na mahalaga
ay yaong natatago,
napapaloob katulad Niya
na nananahan
sa ating puso at kalooban.
Larawan mula sa google.com.

When nothingness is fullness: creating a space for God

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Day 4 of Christmas Novena, 19 December 2022
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25     ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>    Luke 1:5-25

As we get closer to Christmas Day, there is this post going around social media that I think is worth sharing this blessed season of getting together like parties and reunions especially after two years of lockdown and isolation in this pandemic.

I totally agree with this list and in fact, still thinking of adding some more to finally end our penchant for insulting others.

A very classic case of being “mema”memasabi lang without thinking and caring for the well-being of other people as well as without realizing how stupid they are whenever they say these “eight things we should stop saying at family reunions for good.”

Notice how most of these are addressed to women.

First to single ladies in the family or circle of friends with the very common query “Kailan ka mag-aasawa/magpapakasal?” to the downright insensitive, “Ang tanda mo na. Bakit single ka pa rin hanggang ngayon?”.

Here we find the wrong notion of everyone that getting married is the most important thing in this life, no matter what!

It is a very rude and senseless comment to any woman, especially a family member or relative. Most guilty of this are moms and aunts.

Can a woman just get married with any man?

Of course, she has to be choosy, she has to think very, very hard about it because marriage is a lifelong commitment.

Married life is a call from God, not a cajole from relatives and crowd. Please, shut up and stop making these comments.

Next on the list are still women which shows how some of our family members and relatives -ironically also women – would not really stop in their insulting spree.

They wrongly believe that relatives and friends have no privacy at all!

Next to single ladies, the married women are the favorite target of these insensitive relatives and colleagues with their question, “Kailan mo balak magka-anak?”

Whoa! For me this is a mortal sin. Something we should not let pass our lips because we will never know how difficult and trying it must be to some couples in working and praying for a child.

Life is a gift from God and only him can truly bless every couple with a baby. It is not magic or power given to humans.

Every couple wants to have a child, a baby, but, of course, like marriage, they have to prepare for it. They need to plan. And save and work to ensure their kids would get good education and comfortable life.

It is a struggle among many couples. Again, shut up and just pray for them to have their own “little bundle of joy”.

Now, we come to the third thing we must stop saying at all.

It is a comment directed to us who comprise more than half of the world population. Imagine if all of us fat people would unite, people would never dare speak these words….

Many times I just keep silent at people who say this.

If ever you tell them you have lost 20 or 30 kilos, the more they will insult you with “pumayat ka pa niyan?”.

See what I mean. They are the worst kind of insensitive people on earth without any knowledge at all about biology and medicine, imbeciles with little brains, asking “malakas ka bang kumain?” Of course! Would you get fat by just deep breathing?

It is the fourth day of our Christmas novena and why do I tell you these, or entertain you with these?

Our readings today show us how two great prophets were conceived and born in miraculous manner. In the first reading we have the story of the conception of Samson in the Old Testament. His mother was barren. Perhaps, she was also a subject of many insults and jokes, of nasty talks and insensitive comments like what most women experience today.

Then we have the story of the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zechariah, himself already old unable to make a baby while his wife Elizabeth was barren. Despite their stature in the society with a pedigree equal to many of the gentry, they never have a child who would continue their lineage.

But here we find God finally answering their prayers in the midst of their nothingness.

Here are couples who have been praying all their lives for a child when God finally answered them.

Sadly, Zechariah doubted it that he was silenced by the angel, indicating the need for us to be silent always, to be empty to let God fill us with his work and grace.

Many times in life, nothingness is actually fullness.

See when a guy texts a lady, saying “hi” just because or “wala lang” or “nothing”.

But, that is something! When we tell people “wala lang”, it is “meron.”

The same in life. In fact, we have to be empty in order to be filled up by God. Zechariah was silenced while Elizabeth on her own decided to “quarantine” herself by going into “seclusion for five months, saying, ‘So has the Lord done for me at a time when has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others'” (Lk.1:24-25).

Many times in life we get impatient. We doubt and sometimes easily give up.

Like St. Joseph yesterday, we just have to accept that we have to set aside our own plans to follow God’s better plans for us. We have to accept everyone because Christ comes in everyone. We have to accept in order to understand life better.

I know it is easier said than done, especially for all single ladies, childless couples and fat people like me praying to God, asking what is most dearest to us like the vocation in life or the right man, a baby, and a good health; God hears and answers all prayers.

Just be patient. In our emptiness and nothingness, God comes. Just be sure to have that space for God always, unlike Zechariah who doubted the power of God.

Sometimes, we hurry God to answer our prayers especially when the insults and comments from others become unbearable. That is fine. God listens and understands it so well. That is why today, we pray for those with urgent prayers before God:

God our loving Father,
we praise and thank you in sending
us Jesus Christ your Son,
our Lord and Savior,
the one whom you raised from 
the root of Jesse;
come now, do not delay any longer!
Come and deliver us, O Lord,
remember your promise to us,
and keep us open always like
Elizabeth to find you still in our
barrenness and nothingness;
help us create and preserve
that sacred space for you within
us always so that even in life's
emptiness, we are fulfilled in you.

Rejoicing amid disappointments

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Advent-A, Gaudete Sunday, 11 December 2022
Isaiah 35:1-6, 10 ><}}}*> James 5:7-10 ><}}}*> Matthew 11:2-11

Photo by author, 2019.

Today our altar bursts in lovely shades of pink in celebration of the third Sunday of Advent also known as Gaudete Sunday from the Latin gaudere that means “to rejoice”. We rejoice this third Sunday because the Lord’s Second Coming is getting nearer each day and so is our awaited celebration of Christmas with the start of Simabang Gabi.

There are still many reasons for us to rejoice but when we reflect deeper in life, our rejoicing in itself is a paradox.

Because rejoicing is more joyful when seen amid darkness and uncertainties, disappointments and failures.

Because joy is more than feeling happy but that certainty within us that no matter what happens in this life, even if things get worst, everything ends according to God’s plans.

Because God loves us so much!

That is why we rejoice this Sunday – and everyday in our lives – that no matter what happens to us, God is with us in Jesus Christ, loving us, saving us.

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?” Jesus said to them in reply, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them. And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

Matthew 11:2-6
Photo by author, 2021.

How fast things happen and change in life, especially when there is a sudden change or reversal, from good to bad, from top of the world to bottom into the unknown like John the Baptist.

Last week, John was on top of the world as people were coming to him for baptism, listening and believing his preaching; today, we heard him in prison!

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod when Christ was born, had him imprisoned after John told him that it was wrong for him to take as wife his brother Philip’s former wife, Herodias. Eventually, John was beheaded in prison upon Herod’s order after making a promise to grant whatever request the daughter of Herodias would ask him after entertaining guests in his birthday party; the daughter asked for John’s head on a platter and immediately, Herod dispatched his executioner.

Now at his lowest point in life awaiting certain death, John was “disappointed” with what he had been hearing about the works and preaching of Jesus Christ whom he had baptized at Jordan. Recall how John preached a message of “fire and brimstone” as he expected the Christ would bring punishment and destruction to those doing evil, warning them that the “ax lies at the root of the trees…ready to cut down those not bearing fruits” while his “winnowing fan in his hand is gathering his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Mt. 3:10, 12).

John was expecting the Christ would immediately make sweeping changes in the world, punishing the evil doers but what he heard and perhaps may have witnessed too was the gentleness of Jesus, always ready to forgive the sinful, heal the sick, and most of all, keeping company with the most sinful people of that time like the tax collectors and the prostitutes!

Many times in life we find ourselves very much in John’s situation – so disappointed with God because what happens in reality are exactly the opposite of what we expected based on what we are taught or what we have read in the Bible! That is why John sought clarification from Jesus himself. We too, when disappointments happen in life along with other pains and sufferings especially after trying our very best to serve God through others, must always have that disposition of humility to seek clarifications from God. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must be open like John in welcoming the Lord in the way he wishes to reveal himself.

Photo by author, November 2022.

How ironic that John who stood preaching the coming of Christ Jesus, of demanding justice and kindness from the people was imprisoned, himself a victim of injustice! Sometimes in life, it is so easy to preach Jesus Christ and his values not until we find ourselves on the distaff side like getting sick or being unjustly accused of something we did not commit. Like John, when we become the very people suffering those things we preach, our expectations even of God may blind us and fail us to see Christ’s coming, becoming so difficult to see God’s mercy and healing acting in other people’s lives but not in our own lives like John who was imprisoned unjustly for telling the truth.

The Season of Advent, especially this third Sunday we call “Rejoice” or “Gaudete” Sunday invites us to examine our own expectations and knowledge of God that may sometimes blind us to his actions and presence in our world.

The key is to have that humility to just let God be God!

Let God do his work and just chill.

Let us allow ourselves to be surprised by God always! It is from those surprises by God when joys burst in our lives even in the most difficult or simplest situations in life.

Photo by author, 2018.

One of my favorite subjects in photography are mosses – lumot – those green clumps or mats found thriving in damp, shady spots and locations. I am no green thumb but I love mosses and ferns because they are very refreshing to the eyes. They evoke hopes and surprises that despite the little sunlight and care they get, they live and thrive so well, teaching us a lot of valuable lessons about darkness and failures in life.

That is what Isaiah and St. James were reminding us in the first two readings, of the need for us to be patient like the farmers in awaiting the sprouting and blooming of crops and plants in the fields, of strengthening each other because the hard times are sure to end. Most of all, the Lord is faithful, always working silently when we are in the most dead situations in life, preparing great surprises for us.

Let us set aside our expectations, even our goals and agenda in life to let God do his work in us, to surprise us with his more wondrous plans because he knows what is best for us.

There are times in life when we are disappointed even frustrated at how things are not going according to our plans even if God had confirmed it in our prayers and in many instances in life – that feeling of suddenly being abandoned by God?

There are times we complain and feel undeserving of the many failures and pains that come our way because we have been so faithful to God, even prayerful that we cry to him, asking him like John for clarifications of whether he is with us or should we still wait more.

Most often in life, we get blinded even by our noble intentions and goodness, of our image and expectations of God that in the process, we are hurt, leaving us with scars and empty spaces within…

Be patient, my friend. Trust God.

The same empty spaces and holes in life would soon be filled with blessings so unimaginable because, remember, God is “greater than our hearts and knows everything” (1 Jn. 3:20). It is only when we are hurt and bruised and emptied, even dried and dead when life and joy burst forth because that is when God can freely work in us in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Have a joyful week ahead!

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, September 2019.

Easter is openness and emptiness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Easter Sunday, 17 April 2022
Acts 10:34, 37-43  ><}}}*>  Colossians 3:1-4  ><}}}*>  John 20:1-9 
Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Villa and Retreat House, Baguio City, January 2019.

Easter is one big event composed of so many stories of openness and emptiness that all started and were prepared at Holy Thursday and Good Friday. In fact, our celebration today is the one we have prepared these past 40 days of Lent and what a tragedy – and a foolishness – when people skip Easter!

Easter is so big an event that beginning today until the Pentecost – all 50 days are counted as one big day for we cannot contain all the joy and mysteries of Christ’s Resurrection in just one day or even one week.

Most of all, the joy of Easter is a reality that continues to happen to us everyday as we join Jesus Christ in our daily passover or pasch by remaining open and empty in him, with him, and through him.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

John 20:1-3
Photo from GettyImages/iStockphoto.

One of the many rituals I began having since turning 50 years old was preparing my daily medicines which I put into those little boxes with labels of the day of the week and time like morning, mid-morning, noon, evening and bed-time. For those of my generation, I’m sure you can relate so well that it is like playing sungka when we were kids!

Last Monday as I prepared my meds and reflections for the Holy Week and Easter, I noticed how it has become more difficult to open bottles, boxes and packets of medicines that all come with a reminder, “Do not accept if seal is broken”. In an instance, I realized how we have been so conscious with our safety and privacy these days that everything now goes so tightly sealed with a lot of other safety features to prevent it from contamination and hacking that include food and drinks, gadgets like cellphones and computers, and smart devices. It is more difficult and frustrating for non-techies and forgetful like me when online bank accounts and various social media accounts require many verifications and updating of passwords due to threat of scams and other cybercrimes.

How ironic that the more we are supposed to be free and mobile, when life is meant to be easier and enjoyable but in reality, the more we are locked up to ourselves for fears of being hurt or disrespected, even killed!

And so, instead of opening, the more we close in, the more we hide, the more we become secretive, worst, the more we are imprisoned by our own devices as the Eagles claimed in their classic hit in the 70’s, Hotel California.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, sunrise at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

Easter is opposite: the grace of this event and season is experienced and received when we open ourselves to the many new possibilities in life Jesus himself had opened for us when he rose from the dead conquering evil and sin.

Like that stone in his empty tomb, Jesus had removed everything that have locked us inside our insecurities and fears, sins and failures, pains and hurts in the past so that we can go out freely each day to face the world with joy in order to grow and mature as persons.

Jesus had removed everything that blocks us and prevents us from seeing the many beauties and wonders life offers us found in the people God sends us to express his love and care, mercy and kindness for us.

But, are we also open to him and to life itself?

In the first reading, Peter spoke to the people of Jerusalem, asking them to open themselves to the truth about Jesus as the Christ sent by God to save us from our sins being his witnesses to “what had happened in Judea that started in Galilee” (Acts 10:34).

Recall last night how Luke in his version of the Resurrection recorded the two Angels telling the women who had come to the empty tomb to stop “seeking the living among the dead” (Lk.24:5).

Being open means breaking the news to others that Jesus is risen with our very lives full of joy and hope. Unlike Mary of Magdala and Simon Peter on that early morning of Easter, we need to be empty first of our suppositions and doubts about Jesus Christ. See how they at first doubted the empty tomb but later especially after Pentecost, they all proclaimed the good news of salvation of Jesus Christ.

Being open to Jesus and being empty of doubts of his Resurrection mean that we have to focus more of the things of above, of the more essential than the superficial and fleeting.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, sunrise at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

Please forgive me but I felt so sad with the people during the celebrations these Holy Thursday and Good Friday: so many of us are trapped in those little cellphone cameras spending more time recording the beautiful rites we have had after two years of lockdown. Experience the moments! Experience Jesus Christ, experience the person next to you! Keep those cellphones during celebration of the Sacraments which is the saving presence of Jesus! Remove the “media” and be actually present.

Maybe you have seen that cartoon of the Resurrection before pandemic when Jesus was surprised coming out of the tomb with people waiting for him with their cellphones; yes, it is funny but the joke is on us. We have been trapped and imprisoned by these gadgets that we have stopped living in reality and more in virtual reality so that many of us are no longer grounded, so out-of-touch, even alienated with self, others and sadly, with God.

Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above… Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

Open yourself to Jesus, empty yourself of all fears and doubts. Be kind and be gentle with yourself. Jesus had forgiven you, forgive yourself for your sins and mistakes in the past if you have confessed these or gone to confessions this Lenten season.

Move on with the present moment, dare to go out and challenge yourself to learn again, to work again, to love again, to dream again! COVID-19 may still be around but Jesus Christ is stronger, so let us rise again from our sickness and diseases! Let us not be afraid of the giant stone covering us for Jesus had removed it so that we can go out and celebrate life in him.

Lord Jesus Christ,
let me celebrate the joy of your
Resurrection not only today but everyday
by being open to your daily coming
 by emptying myself of my pride;
like the disciple whom you love,
let me believe in your rising again
by being contented with the little
signs of life and order you give me,
with the little bursts of joy and light
that assure me that it is you whom
I follow each day.  Amen.

From PPT-Backgrounds.net.

Lent is being filled with God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday after Ash Wednesday, 04 March 2022
Isaiah 58:1-9   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Matthew 9:14-15
Photo by author, Lent 2019.
Thank you for this gift of first Friday
in March, a Friday after Ash Wednesday
as we begin our 40 day journey of Lent;
forgive us, dear God our Father, that
gone are the days when we your children
religiously observed fasting and abstinence; 
we have ceased fasting not only on the 
prescribed days of Ash Wednesday 
and Good Friday but even before receiving 
the Holy Communion in the Sunday Mass, 
making all kinds of excuses with bold claims 
of having sacrificed so much in doing "good deeds" 
that we need not fast from food anymore. 
Make us realize these are the same mistakes 
of the people in the Old Testament 
of having themselves as the focus of fasting 
than you, O God, through others:  
“Why do we fast, and you do not see it?  
Afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?”  
Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, 
and drive all your laborers.  
Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, 
striking with wicked claw.  
Would that today you might fast 
so as to make your voice heard on high!” 
(Isaiah 58:3-4)
In this age of affluence even in the midst
of a pandemic, make us realize, Lord Jesus
your mystery of Incarnation through "kenosis" -
of self-emptying which is what fasting is all about.
Teach us not to be always adequate, not to be
too self-sufficient that we forget the value of 
being empty and in need of others and most 
especially of you; let us rediscover this Lent 
the beauty of denying ourselves of things 
that give us pleasures and comfort 
that we forget you and others; may we realize
that it is only in emptiness through fasting
that you can fill us with yourself, almighty God;
it is only in emptiness through fasting 
we can learn to truly trust and believe
in you, dear Lord, as our only strength
and sustenance.
Surprise us, O Lord, of the many
benefits of self-denial, primary of
which is becoming better persons
without us really knowing it and most
of all, unconsciously becoming your 
very presence among other people:
“Then your light shall break forth 
like the dawn, and your wound 
shall quickly be healed; your vindication 
shall go before you, 
and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.  
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer, 
you shall cry for help, 
and he will say, Here I am!”
(Isaiah 58:9).
How wonderful it is 
when eventually we become 
your presence, O God, 
speaking through us, 
saying, “Here I am”! for it is
only then your Son Jesus
is indeed the groom celebrating
with us.  Amen.