We are God’s handiwork

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXIX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 October 2020
Ephesians 2:1-10     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 12:13-21
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

As we begin our work this Monday, guide us O God our Father to discover anew this great gift of life in you. May we see ourselves the way you see us – beloved and forgiven children made in your own image and likeness — your handiwork as St. Paul beautifully expressed!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

Ephesians 2:8-10

Let us value this unique blessing from you, dear Lord; in your power and supremacy, you could have just let us vanished and be forgotten. Yet, you chose to redeem us in your Son Jesus Christ, giving us countless opportunities to rise again, to bloom, and to be healed.

Make our hearts whole in you, undivided in pride, complacency and selfishness unlike that man in the parable whom we imitate most often, busy storing treasures for ourselves that we forget real wealth is found in what matters to you our God (Lk. 12:21).

Wake us up from this insanity of amassing too much of everything, not realizing that in the process, the more we have, the more we are actually empty and lost because all these things perish.

Only you, O God, suffices. Make us aspire and desire more of you so your glory and majesty may be seen in us. Amen.

Be ready, everything is passing

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXIII, Year II, 09 September 2020
1 Corinthians 7:25-31 /// Luke 6:20-26
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 13 August 2020.

Dearest Jesus:

Now more than ever, the words of St. Paul of your Second Coming or parousia are so true with all the deaths happening around us. Before, we used to take your parousia for granted: believing it will not happen during our lifetime.

And even if we do not care at all with your parousia that nobody knows when except the Father, death has become more real these days, something that has come to hit us closest to home each day; suddenly, we have began taking seriously our way of life, of where we are going to.

Hence, our tendency to shortcut, to find the easier and surest way, wondering what state of life is the best.

But, the question is not really what is the best state of life we must choose for it does not really matter if we are married or celibate. What matters is if we are faithful at all to you!

Photo from dominusest.com, Pandacan Fire, June 2020.

I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not as weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31

Even if your parousia does not happen in our lifetime, we now know fully well due to COVID-19 that our life will end, that we shall stand before your judgment seat, Lord Jesus.

Your beatitudes remind us that to live life as if our life will never end is a folly, a woe to us living the “good life” of the world, of having everything.

Remind us always that true blessedness is to live with the knowledge that our life will definitely end; it is the start of wisdom for that is when we learn to be poor before you, to only rely on you, Lord Jesus.

Let us always trust in you and no matter what is our status in life, may be remain faithful to your and your call. Amen.

Quarantine to heaven

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, 15 August 2020
Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10 >><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 >><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, the Assumption Sabbath Place in Baguio City, 2018.

God our merciful Father, on this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we start the praying of ten Hail Mary’s daily at noon until the 15th of next month for collective “healing” and the end of COVID-19 pandemic.

Through the Blessed Mother of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for firm faith, vibrant hope, and unceasing love for you and for others as we go into the sixth month of our quarantine to help stop the spread of the corona virus.

But it seems, until now, O God, many of us still do not get the full meaning of this quarantine period with most of us pinning our hopes for a magic cure that would come to end these sufferings and resume our previous way of life.

Help us see, O God, the process of quarantine, of purification you want us to go through not as a punishment but as a lesson to learn and remember that will prevent us from all the excesses that have burdened us down lately, preventing us to rise like the Virgin Mary.

On this great feast of Mary’s Assumption into heaven, teach us how we may all rise up to your presence, win over COVID-19 not just with a vaccine or physical remedy and cure to the disease but on how we must change our ways of life, our attitudes and dispositions.

How wonderful, O God, to hear the story anew of Mary and Elizabeth who trusted you so much in the coming of our Savior as they both emerged from their own kind of “quarantine” period in this gospel scene of the Visitation.

May we realize like Elizabeth during this quarantine period that true blessedness is in believing “what was spoken by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45), that we entrust all our hopes in you, O God, not to mere humans who make a lot of promises only to be broken. May we open ourselves like Elizabeth who went into seclusion upon conceiving St. John the Baptist that you always come in the simplest yet wondrous ways of life. Keep within us that sense of wonder and awe, Lord.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

Teach us like Mary to always proclaim your greatness as we rejoice in Jesus our Savior in our very lives of humility and simplicity, obedience and surrender to your will. May our lives be a song of praise to your wondrous deeds, O Lord, like Mary that is centered and focused on you.

Cleanse us of our sins, especially of greed and conceit that have led to this pandemic.

How sad that until now, we still don’t get it.

May this crisis remind us that we are all in a temporary journey here on earth – like in a quarantine – that our final resting place and destination in the end of everything is in you, O God, like Mary whom you gifted with the Assumption of her body and soul into heaven ahead of us all.

May we all strive for the same gift. Amen.

Understanding the parables is giving up everything for Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 26 July 2020
1 Kings 3:5,7-12 >><}}}*> Romans 8:28-30 >><}}}*> Matthew 13:44-52
Photo by author, 2020.

The other Sunday during our Mass, I saw a man wearing a black t-shirt with these signs:

– = +

Of course, it means “Less is more” because a minus (-) is equal (=) to an addition or a plus (+)!

That is also the meaning of the Cross of Jesus Christ wherein it is in giving that we receive, in dying that we live, in losing that we gain more of everything because the cross is a plus sign.

This Sunday, that is essentially the lesson Jesus is telling us on this final installment of his parables wherein we have to lose everything in order to have him, the kingdom of God.

See how the three parables present us with one situation: to get the treasure in a field, its finder has to bury it again, sell all he has to buy the field where he had found the treasure; a trader searching for fine pearls sells everything he has to acquire a pearl of great price he had found; and lastly, not all fish caught in a net thrown in the sea are good to be sold with bad ones that must be thrown.

These parables are reminding us today of the need to exercise our freedom properly by making wise choices in life. Freedom is not the ability to do whatever we want but the ability to choose always what is good.

In every situation in life, we always have to make a choice; it is never true that we have no choice left to make. Choosing not to make a choice is actually choosing what is wrong, what is bad, and what is not good for us and for others.

We are always made by the choices we make in life. And that is why the parables are teaching us to choose wisely like King Solomon in the first reading.

Photo by author, February 2020.

Choosing wisely

The Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night. God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.” Solomon answered: “O Lord, my God, you have made me, your servant, king to succeed my father David; but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act. Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.” The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this — not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right — I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now, and after you there will come no one to equal you.”

1 Kings 3:5,7,9, 11-12

Here we go back again to that basic reality of a parable which is a simple story of every day life filled with profound meanings. It is something we take for granted because it is so ordinary like the seed forgetting its great potentials in the future.

Many times in life we get distracted like today when we have a plethora of products and services available that we cannot focus on what is really essential and important. Our decisions are clouded even erratic because we are so distracted with the wide array of choices to make, from food to eat to clothes to wear, movies or series to watch on Netflix or cable TV as well as music to listen from thousands of titles in our playlists.

And in our distraction, many times we miss our priorities in life, especially God and our loved ones.

Then, we end up sad and miserable, way too far from what God had envisioned for us since the beginning which is to live in joy in him.

For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:29-30

St. Paul is reminding and assuring us in these short passages we heard from his letter today that God called us to be saved and glorified in Jesus Christ not by chance but by purpose. He willed it, he wanted it so because he loves us so much, assuring us all of future glory in him in eternity.

The key to experiencing that joy from God is to always abide in him like King Solomon of choosing what is good, letting go of everything that will separate us from him like sin and evil. For God’s plan and grace to operate and materialize, we need to cooperate with him like being a good soil that produces fruitful wheat.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Our Christian life of joy

Like the Twelve inside the house listening to Jesus explained and narrated more parables, the Lord is also asking us today the same question:

“Do you understand all these things?”

Matthew 13:51

To “understand all these things” is not about human intelligence like being smart or brilliant but of holy wisdom or spiritual intelligence characterized by humility and simplicity before God and others.

To “understand all these things” and be like “every scribe… or the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old” (Mt.13:52) is to be one in Jesus Christ, a person learned in the ways of God, who knows how to prioritize things, always making things relevant in the present even if it is an old lesson.

To be truly joyful in life is to just have Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus.

It is easier said than done but we must try even little by little, slowly by learning more to give of our very selves to others.

It is difficult to imitate the main characters in the parables today – the finder of treasure, the pearl merchant, and the fisherman – when we always think of having more than having what is most valuable and important.

Have we noticed during this pandemic that whenever we would count or take tabs of everything we share, we feel sad and even grouchy because we feel we have lost a lot? And if we get too much in return, we cannot rejoice because we somehow feel guilty?

True joy comes when we are able to be generous, of giving without counting the costs, without thinking of what would be left for me because my only concern is what else can I give the other persons so that my joy can be complete when I see them like me – happy, contented, and peaceful with a simple smile or delighted by a hot bowl of soup or a hearty breakfast.

And that’s that greatest parable of Jesus of all that we need to understand and embrace: the less we have of created things, the more we have of the Creator, of himself who is the kingdom of God.

Then, that is heaven.

A blessed Sunday to everyone!

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos at Infanta, Quezon, July 2020.

With God, everything continues; without God, everything ends

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 10 July 2020
Hosea 14:2-10 <*{{{><< <*{{{><< + >><}}}*> >><}}}*> Matthew 10:16-23
Photo by author, Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Your words today, dear God, hit us hard, very hard especially after we have gravely sinned against you when we have “collapsed through our guilt” (Hosea 14:2). Indeed, without you on our side, everything ends.

And the sad part of this reality is we refuse to listen to you. We have grown so accustomed to our sinful ways, believing more to our selves that we can get away with everything. How foolish, indeed, O Lord that we would not stop until everything collapses and crumbles before us. We have been so drunk with the fleeting pleasures of the world, thinking they are the “real things” we badly need.

Open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts to your love and mercy, Father.

Teach us to be wise to understand your ways and your teachings, your offer of redemption to start anew because with you, everything continues despite some setbacks sometimes.

Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.

Hosea 14:10

Let us take into our hearts the assurance given us by your Son Jesus Christ not to worry about what to speak or say when persecuted because it is the Holy Spirit who shall be speaking for us, fighting our battles.

Most of all, teach us how to be “shrewd as serpents and simple as doves” (Mt. 10:16) especially in this world and time where sin and lies are glorified and seemingly to be having the “upperhand” in everything, whether in our personal lives or life as a community and a nation.

May we see beyond this world where our lives and stories live on, continuing in you through eternity. Amen.

Photo by author, 2020.