We are the Lord’s indwelling

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 06 September 2021
Colossians 1:24-2:3   ><)))*> + ><)))'> + ><)))*>   Luke 6:6-11
Photo by author, December 2020.

But now it has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; it is Christ in you, the hope for your glory.

Colossians 1:27
Praise and glory to you, God
our loving and merciful Father,
in choosing us, calling us despite our
sinfulness and weaknesses
to be the indwelling of your Son
Jesus Christ.
Thank you, dear Father,
in making us all a part of your grand
design since the beginning
that Jesus Christ may dwell in us
so we may participate in your glory.
As the "image of the invisible God"
and the "first-born from the dead",
Christ is our own destiny
who cannot be attained apart
from his Church, his Body.
Keep us united and one, Father,
as your children and brother of Christ
 in the Holy Eucharist that is the summit
 of our Christian life, bearing all pains and
sufferings with joy like St. Paul for the good
of everyone, especially the marginalized;
may in our Eucharistic celebrations
we learn to set things "straight" by doing
 what is good and pleasing to your sight
like what Jesus did in healing the man
with a withered hand at the synagogue
on a sabbath day.
Amen.

“Lord, to whom shall we go?” : Faith in Jesus in time of pandemic

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXI-B in Ordinary Time, 22 August 2021
Joshua 24:1-2, 15-17, 18 ><}}}'> Ephesians 5:21-32 ><}}}'> John 6:60-69
Inquirer’s Friday front page tells us in essence the message of this Sunday’s Gospel – “Lord, to whom shall we go?” in this time of crisis. Photo from inquirer.net.

We conclude our series on the Lord’s discourse on bread of life with the same question he had posed to his disciples more than 2000 years ago at Capernaum, repeatedly asking us the same question daily, especially on Sundays: “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn. 6:67).

This is the first time in John’s gospel that the people have rejected Jesus Christ whom they have always admired and followed to listen to his teachings and most of all, to be healed of their sickness. When they were fed to their satisfaction at the wilderness, they wanted to take Jesus and make him their king but he evaded them, going to Capernaum where he was found the following day. All this time, religious leaders were the only ones against Jesus, challenging his authority especially when he cleansed the temple and healed on a sabbath day.

But today, in a sudden twist, people rejected and abandoned Jesus because they could not accept him as the Bread of Life who came down from heaven who would give his flesh as food and blood as drink for eternal life. Worse, this was led by those supposed to be close to him, his disciples.

Often used as a generic term for a follower or a believer, the word “disciple” is from the Greek word discipulos that literally means “one who comes after or follows the master” (also the root of discipline). In the gospels, disciples were the common followers of Jesus, distinct from the apostles often referred to as “the Twelve”. From another Greek word apostolein meaning “one who is sent forth ahead of a master”, an apostle is one who is close to Jesus, who personally knows him and have also seen him. That is why Paul insisted his being an apostle too.

This distinction between a disciple and an apostle is found in all four gospel accounts. It is important to know this especially in our gospel today which is the first time John had introduced to us the presence of disciples among the crowd with Jesus at Capernaum. They have all been silently listening to his discourse until Jesus said, “Whoever eats my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (Jn.6:54-56).

It was from here where our gospel this Sunday picks up the story:

Many of Jesus’ disciples who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him. Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?”

John 6:60-62, 66-67
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima on the eve of the ECQ, 05 August 2021.

Aversion vs. Conversion

Here we find a painful truth we all experience when following Jesus as our Lord and Master. Sometimes it can happen that those closest to us are the ones who cannot accept and understand us like those disciples of Jesus who have left home and family to listen to his teachings after witnessing many of his healings. Then all of a sudden, they abandoned him because he had said it is his flesh he shall give as food to eat and his blood as drink for eternal life.

They were thinking in the literal sense, more preoccupied with what they knew, with what they have in their minds, without any room for Jesus nor for others. They would rather stick with what they have heard and learned from the Old Testament, of Moses and the manna from heaven.


Refusing Jesus is always a refusal 
to grow and mature not only in faith 
but most of all in life and in our relationships. 
 It is pride and self-centeredness, 
a form of self worship and idolatry 
when one believes more to one's self
 than with God through others.

Refusing Jesus is always a refusal to grow and mature not only in faith but most of all in life and in our relationships. It is pride and self-centeredness, a form of self worship and idolatry when one believes more to one’s self than with God through others.

Jesus came to deepen our faith by experiencing himself, inviting us all to be converted back to God. But instead of conversion or turning back to God in the light of Jesus, we choose aversion, that is, turning away from God, returning to blindness and darkness like those disciples: As a result of this, many of his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him” (Jn.6:66).

They cannot accept and take Jesus personally and wholly as his very words implied the Eucharist where we receive Jesus, Body and Blood under “the perceptible signs of bread and wine” as explained by Vatican II’s Sacrosantum Concilium #7.

Every Sunday when we gather as the Body of Christ in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist prefigured in the time of Moses in the wilderness until their entry into the Promised Land under Joshua’s leadership, we likewise reaffirm and renew our commitment to love and “serve the Lord, for he alone is our God” (Jos. 24:18).

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, March 2020.

Yes, “this saying and teaching of the Lord is hard to accept” (Jn. 6:60) especially in this time of the pandemic when many among us have lost family and friends including sources of income and savings while things are expected to worsen before getting any better at all.

Then there is also the familiarity with the Holy Mass breeding contempt among us these days when all we have are virtual Masses.

It is very sad that many of us these days have “returned to our former way of life and no longer accompanied Jesus” like those disciples at Capernaum; there are some who have stopped believing in Jesus due to the many pains and sufferings of this prolonged pandemic!

We are in a time of severe crisis not only in faith but also in every aspect of life due to the worsening COVID-19 pandemic. As we moved Saturday to lower level of quarantine controls, new records were set in new infections and deaths while ICU’s and hospitals are almost if not at full capacity already.

Lest we forget, there is the severe stress on our medical frontliners and their families too, with some literally passing out of exhaustion.

Some major decisions really have to be made not only by leaders but by everyone. That is the literal meaning of the word “crisis” which is from the Greek krisis that means time for decision-making to prevent (more) disasters from happening.

Disasters are due to poor or wrongful decisions.

One of that is removing God from every equation in life, including in our political and social life, giving rise to a culture of impunity where corruption has become a way of life.

Despite our being a Christian nation, we have chosen to remain in our morally bankrupt style of politics based on popularity, compadrazgo system, and vote selling. No wonder that even while we are in a pandemic with thousands getting sick or dying and millions are suffering, public officials continue to plunder our nation’s coffers blatantly while candidates shamelessly campaign early with their giant tarpaulins and television ads to ensure they all remain in power.

To whom shall we go? With the corrupt officials and trapos who do not care at all for us?

The good news today is that even if we have abandoned Jesus many times in our lives and in our nation’s history, he remains with us, still asking us like the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” (Jn.6:67).

Let us tell Jesus like Peter, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn.6:68-69)?

Remaining in Jesus like Peter

Last Friday, the Inquirer eloquently showed on its front page the sad plight of our nation with a banner story on corruption at the DOH following the recent reports by Commission on Audit as well the arrogant display of powers-that-be in Cebu.

Then, a breath of fresh hopes with this photo by Grig C. Montegrande on how the QC General Hospital had converted its chapel into a COVID-19 ward to accommodate the growing number of patients. The photo summarizes our Sunday readings, that we are in a critical moment not only in our history but also in our lives, calling us to conversion or turning to God instead of aversion which is turning away from God.

From inquirer.net.

Remember the “I AM” declaration by Jesus first used in this bread of life discourse two weeks ago when he said “I am the bread that came down from heaven” (Jn.6:41)?

That must have lingered in Peter. His faith did not deepen right away but it had surely grown and matured while listening to Christ’s discourse on the bread of life which became clearer to him after Easter.

Let us try “to feel at home” in Peter’s company during this pandemic to be led to a similar faith insight and commitment in Jesus no matter how difficult it may be.

Faith is like love: we believe and love not because we are sure of ourselves but because we are sure of the one we believe and love. That is why we commit our lives to our beloved. It is not primarily because of us at the center but of the other. Like Jesus. Or a loved one.

This is Paul’s reminder to us in the second reading of having Jesus as the basis of our relationships: Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21).

It is not a call to dominance over one another but mutual-subordination in Christ by imitating his self-sacrificing love for everyone in the giving of his total self, Body and Blood. This we can do these days by observing health protocols like social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands frequently. Best is to stay home as much as possible by giving ourselves more to our family and loved ones. Amen.

Have a safe and blessed week, everyone!

Knowing, believing, loving Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XIX-B in Ordinary Time, 08 August 2021
1 Kings 19:4-8 ><]]]]'> Ephesians 4:30-5:2 ><]]]]'> John 6:41-51
Photo by Mr. Vigie Ongleo, 04 August 2021, Singapore.
Elijah went a day's journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat 
beneath it.  He prayed for death, 
saying:  "This is enough, O Lord!
Take my life, for I am no better
than my fathers." (2 Kings 19:4)

Many of us can probably identify with the Prophet Elijah in the first reading today: so tired and fed up with all the sufferings and trials that seem unending with another round of lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 infections.

“This is enough, O Lord!”

Elijah was not the only one to cry out to God in that way: there were Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonas who cried in a similar way while bent under the heavy load of responsibilities on their shoulders from God who never failed in coming to their rescue with his comforting and reassuring words of encouragement.

And this time as we have heard from the first reading, God sent Elijah with bread from heaven to sustain his 40 day journey to Mt. Horeb to escape the soldiers of Queen Jezebel out to kill him after a showdown with the priests of baal at Mount Carmel. God nourishes us not only spiritually and emotionally but also physically and materially if we know him, believe him, and love him in Jesus Christ his Son!

This is the context of the continuation of Jesus Christ’s second bread of life discourse at Capernaum, very timely in these two weeks of our fourth Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) as we rely on God’s mercy and protection against COVID-19 and its new Delta variant.

Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos, March 2020.

Knowing Jesus.

When the people finally caught up with Jesus and his disciples last Sunday at Capernaum, the Lord immediately began his bread of life discourse by declaring “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn. 6:35).

That is the first time in the fourth gospel where Jesus introduced himself with the “I AM” declaration very crucial for John in presenting him as the Christ, the Son of God. This would be followed later by similar statements when Jesus said “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the vine”, and “I am the resurrection”.

Recall how God told Moses to say to his people in Egypt that he was sent by “I am who am”; hence, when Jesus says “I AM”, it was a cue of who he is – the One who had come down from heaven!

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?'” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.”

John 6:41-43

Reminiscent of the desert experience when the people murmured against God for lack of food and water, John also begins referring to the crowd as “Jews” to indicate their lack of belief in Jesus, like their forefathers who doubted God in the wilderness. Here we find something so common even to our own time of “knowing” God we so easily claim with everybody even if what we know does not square up with the reality.

Knowing is not purely cerebral. In the Jewish culture, to know is to enter into a relationship. Unlike us Filipinos who are so fond of name dropping when we usually tell everyone how we know somebody’s name and address like on Facebook – even if we are not friends or related at all!


To know anyone especially God by entering 
into a relationship requires an opening of the mind.  
That is why Jesus told the crowd to stop murmuring, 
telling them and us today to stop limiting 
ourselves to what we know who the Lord really is 
because so often, we hardly know him at all! 

To know anyone especially God by entering into a relationship requires an opening of one’s mind. That is why Jesus told the crowd to stop murmuring, telling them and us today to stop limiting ourselves to what we know who the Lord really is because we hardly know him at all!

We keep on receiving him in Holy Communion not as the Person but more as the Bread or Sacred Host; we go to Mass but hardly celebrate it with him; and lastly, we know Jesus more as provider and giver, rarely as companion and friend, most of all as Savior.

The Jews have refused to believe in Jesus at the very start because they have always been closed from knowing him, insisting they know better, that he is the “son of Joseph”. We have seen how last Sunday in their asking of “Rabbi, when did you get here?” in Capernaum was cloaked in suspicion at how was he able to cross the lake at night when winds were strong and waves were huge, unmindful of the signs he had shown in feeding them all at a deserted place.

Their knowing of Jesus as well as of God and the Scriptures have remained superficial, stuck in the material level manifested in their being too legalistic and ritualistic in religion without any regard for the people especially the sick and marginalized. Most of all, they did not seem to really believe in God as they saw more of themselves as God himself who knows everything!

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, March 2020.

Believing, loving Jesus.

All these words and actions by Jesus during his public ministry at Galilee and Jerusalem later would be used by his enemies against him, wrongly accusing him of blasphemy and disregard for the Laws or Torah. Their minds were all closed to God’s coming in Jesus or at least to his heavenly origin.

Jesus tried to clarify it with them by referring to God his Father, citing the prophet Isaiah:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written by the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listen to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

John 6:44-45, 47-48, 50-51

Now here we find Jesus taking off to higher level in his discourse, from knowing to believing that is perfected in loving. As we have said, knowing is relating. It is through our relationship with God that we are taught through Jesus Christ in knowing all about him. Yes, God in the Old Testament revealed himself to the Chosen People through the prophets and his Laws. But now, Jesus is telling the people that God is revealing himself through him, the Son who had come from heaven with the gift of faith.

As a gift, it is not like an ordinary present given to just one or several persons privileged to receive it like the Israelites in the Old Testament; faith as a gift from the Father is freely given to everyone for all time. Jesus is now inviting his audience in Capernaum including us today to open one’s mind, to level up in thinking and understanding because it is above the realm of material world but of spirituality that leads to relating, believing, and loving to be expressed later in the Eucharist, the sign of his self-sacrifice on the Cross.

Recall how last Sunday Jesus stressed that it is a work of God, not of men – that is faith! It is a gift from God freely given to everyone which every individual must “turn on” like a switch and make it operate. In that discourse also, Jesus added that the ultimate fulfillment of this faith in God as work of God is faith in himself, the Son sent by the Father.

In this scene alone, Jesus had mentioned the word “bread” five times, repeating it to the crowd like in a crescendo, rising from a sapiential or cerebral and material meaning into something so profound, higher level inviting us to put on our faith in him as he continues to reveal the Father’s plan for all mankind for all time leading to eternity.

And what is it that remains into eternity? LOVE!

"Love is fully sufficient to itself;
when it enters the heart,
it absorbs all other feelings.
The soul who loves,
loves and knows nothing more."
(St. Bernard of Clairvaux)
Photo from Dr. Yangas Colleges Inc., Bocaue, Bulacan in one of their community pantry called “Paraya”, May 2021.

Jesus is now hinting at his discourse the Eucharist as the meaning of the sign he did at the deserted place when he fed and satisfied the more than 5000 people from just five loaves of bread and two fish. Notice the words “eats” and “flesh” – indications of the elevation of knowing into believing, blossoming in love.

To eat his flesh is to accept Jesus, to be one in him and with him through one another. Knowing Jesus, relating with him means believing him, loving him through one another.

Faith is closely linked with love, they always go hand in hand because whoever believes truly always loves!

St. Paul sums up everything that Jesus had taught this Sunday with his call to us to “live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma” (Eph.5:1-2).

It is very difficult to dissect knowing, believing and loving, of finding the very cause of faith and love except in Jesus Christ who had come to us and continues to come in every Eucharistic celebration. There are times we can be aware of the reasons why we believe and love God and our beloved, even explain what we find so lovable in them but still difficult to locate with precision the starting point of everything. That is why at the end of this discourse two weeks from now, we find everybody leaving Jesus except the Twelve who chose to remain with him.

In this life, we may know so many things but we cannot know everything like God.

Let us stop murmuring, stop all talks and sink into silent prayer, opening our minds and our hearts to Jesus to receive him not only in words but in himself as Body and Blood in the Holy Mass so we can start loving him in one another to make life more bearable in these trying times. Amen.

Have a blessed and safe week ahead!

Photo by author, 2019.

Beyond “when” and “what”

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVIII-B in Ordinary Time, 01 August 2021
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15 ><}}}}'> Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 ><}}}}'> John 6:24-35
Photo by author, Church of Dominus Flevit overlooking Jerusalem, 2017.

Last Sunday we reflected the “where” of Jesus in asking Philip, “Where can we buy enough food” for the crowd who have followed them to a deserted place. We said that “where” of Jesus referred not to any place or location but to himself as the only one who can give “enough food” for everyone.

Today I invite you, my dear readers to join me reflecting on the “when” and “what” of the people who have followed Jesus to the other side of the lake, looking for him to have more food after that miraculous feeding last week. This time, the people are the ones asking Jesus with when and what that reveal their pride before God.

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

John 6:24-35
Photo by author, Capernaum’s shore at Lake Tiberias, 2017.

From a deserted place to Capernaum

To fully appreciate today’s gospel account by John, let us get its whole picture with a little help from Mark who started the story of Jesus and the Twelve crossing the lake to a deserted place to rest the other week. With his usual dash of humor, Mark told us how the people arrived to the place ahead of Jesus who was moved with pity at seeing the crowd “for they were like sheep without a shepherd that he taught them with many things.”

John continued the story last Sunday telling us how Jesus fed the people to their satisfaction with so many leftovers out of just five loaves of bread and two fish. The people were astonished that they tried to get Jesus to make him a king but he “withdrew again to the mountain alone.”

This Sunday, John continued his story telling us how the crowd finally found Jesus at Capernaum with his disciples.

How did he get there?

Photo by author, Lake of Tiberias (aka, Galilee), 2020.

According to Mark 6:45ff., after feeding the people, Jesus told the Twelve to proceed ahead of him to the other side of the lake that evening while he dismissed the crowd. Later that evening while Jesus was praying on the mountain, he saw his disciples’ boat being tossed by big waves due to strong winds. He followed them at the “fourth watch of the night” (about 3AM) by walking on water that terrified the Twelve who thought they have seen a ghost.

Upon identifying himself as the Lord, Peter asked to let him come to him by walking on water too; Peter sank when he doubted due to the strong winds until Jesus saved him and joined them on the boat going to Capernaum.

Mark’s story of Jesus walking on water after the miraculous feeding provides us the context for the people’s question to him today in John’s continuation of the story last week, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (Jn.6:25): it was very difficult, almost impossible for anyone to have crossed the lake at night due to giant waves caused by strong winds. (Any pilgrim to the Holy Land can attest to this fact even today.)

And that was the main issue here: the people refused to see the deeper meanings behind the two events when Jesus fed them and the almost impossible crossing of the lake that night.

That is why Jesus did not answer their question by bluntly addressing their suspicious motive, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

Ironically, while their asking of “when did you get here” implicitly acknowledged the Lord’s miraculous crossing of the lake, they still refused to accept it by downplaying everything like addressing Jesus as “Rabbi” when in fact, they were not interested with him but merely with the food he had given them!


Their question of "when" 
was not really about his time of arrival there 
but more of an inquiry on the person of Jesus....

Their question of when was not really about his time of arrival there but more of an inquiry on the person of Jesus as they wondered how could he made it across the lake that night. They have failed to recognize the deeper meaning of the sign Jesus did in feeding them with enough food which Jesus explained anew.

And the stage is now set for Jesus to reveal himself, of who he really is which his disciples were also asking and contending among themselves all these weeks and months of being with the Lord.

Photo by author(2017), ruins at Capernaum with a church built over the house where Jesus was believed to have stayed.

The need for us to be open to Jesus, our bread of life

Many times in life, our words and attitudes betray us of our inner motives, of our selfish interests to get near some people, to meet and know them not for who they are but for what we can have from them – even with God!

Remember Andrew last Sunday who did not bother to ask the boy’s name who gave the five loaves of bread and two fish from which Jesus performed his miracle? “There is a boy here with five barley loaves and two fish” – no name, just a “there” because the did not matter at all to Andrew except his food.

But there is something deeper being revealed in this attitude of forgetting the other person and being focused on material things: that is our pride, of believing only in ourselves, of playing God!

So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

John 6:28-31

See how the crowd ignored Christ’s promise of giving food that endures for eternal life by following up their question with What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” – another veiled question like their when, insisting on their own achievements and abilities, on what they can.

Worst is how in a twist highlighting pride in themselves as they dared to question Jesus again with What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?“!!! Helloooooo….!

Photo by author at the ruins of the synagogue of Capernaum where Jesus preached his bread of life discourse, 2017.

They have gone so blinded with their pride that suddenly the miraculous feeding they have personally witnessed plus the unimaginable crossing of the lake at night remained lacking, not enough for them to believe in the powers of Jesus that they still asked for another sign.

Their “what” had become a demand from them, an insistence on Jesus the Son of God to give them signs from heaven even if they ironically preferred without them knowing how they were stuck at the lowest level of looking at things.

They have closed their eyes to seeing beyond the ordinary things happening to them since Jesus came teaching and healing. And now after feeding them, they demanded Jesus to follow them instead of them following the Lord.

Is it not the same thing happens with us when we keep on demanding God for proofs of his love and mercy, demanding so many other things from him above while we refuse to rise above ourselves, to “level up” in our lives?

This is the call by St. Paul in the second reading, that we must “be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:23-24).


Once again, we are placed on highest level of quarantine due to a surge in COVID-19 cases with threats from the new Delta variant. Unless we learn to see this pandemic on a higher plane or level that calls for spiritual renewal among us, it will persist to disrupt and destroy lives among us.

It is more than a virus infecting us but an attitude deep within us when we have lost respect for one another and with nature. Pope Francis had long ago sounded this alarm in 2015 with his encyclical Laudato Si calling for each of us to change our lifestyle, each of us contributing for the betterment of the world because it is easiest to join advocacies but difficult to change our ways of life by having less.

With all these pandemic and climate changes going on around us, the signs are getting clearer for us to shift our perspectives, to see things on a higher plane like what Jesus had began at Capernaum declaring himself, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger; and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn.6:35).

Our misunderstandings with others and in life will persist unless we remove the veils and masks that cover so many insincerities of our questions in search of the many answers to the problems we face.

Like the people who have followed Jesus to Capernaum that day who were stuck in the desert experiences of Moses (first reading) that they could not see Jesus himself as the new bread from heaven; in fact, Jesus had to correct them that it was not Moses who gave the manna but God the Father in heaven who now gives Jesus to nourish us in our journey to eternal life.

Let us empty our selves of our pride to let Jesus fill us today with his words and his Body and Blood so we may realize next week the meaning and sweetness of himself as the Bread of life. A blessed week to you. Stay safe and keep praying. Amen.

Photo by author, April 2020.

When “where” and “there” are persons, not locations

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVII-B in Ordinary Time, 25 July 2021
2 Kings 4:42-44 ><]]]]*> Ephesians 4:1-6 ><]]]]*> John 6:1-15
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, Batanes after a storm, 2018.

Beginning today until August 22, 2021, our Sunday gospel will be from the sixth chapter of John who continues last week’s scene of the great crowd following Jesus and his disciples to a deserted place in order to rest after returning from their first mission.

We were told by Mark how Jesus was “moved with pity” upon seeing the people who were “like sheep without a shepherd” that he taught them with so many things (Mk.6:34); after teaching them, Jesus fed them – about 5000 men excluding children and women – from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish with a lot of leftovers gathered that filled 12 wicker baskets!

It is a very beautiful story found in all four gospel accounts but it is only in John’s gospel where we are presented with a more complete and detailed story of the event followed by Jesus Christ’s “bread of life discourse” at Capernaum. Let us focus at the conversations among Jesus, Philip, and Andrew before the miracle where they used the demonstrative pronouns “where” and “there” that indicate deeper meanings.

The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

John 6:4-9
Photo from iStock/Studio-Annika.

When all directions point to Jesus – but we miss!

While praying over today’s gospel, one song kept playing in my mind, the Beatles’ 1966 classic love song by Paul McCartney, Here, There and Everywhere. It is a very lovely music, so unique in many aspects that it is also McCartney’s most favorite as a member of the Fab Four.

What struck me with this Beatles hit are the demonstrative pronouns here, there and everywhere used not to point at directions but to a person, the girlfriend of McCartney at that time he so loved who would also be his Here, There and Everywhere!

To lead a better life, I need my love to be here
Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there

There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking
But she doesn't know he's there

The same is so true with Jesus today asking Philip Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”

Jesus was not asking for a store in that deserted place to buy and get food for the people. John tells us that Jesus said this to test Philip because “he himself knew what he was going to do”. He wanted Philip to look deeper, to see beyond places and things even if his answer was correct, that “two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little bit.”

When odds are against us, when things are beyond us and humanly impossible, where do we go to?

Of course, we go to God!

Where else do we go when we are in deep or great troubles?

We go to prayers, we go to church, we go to the prayer room or Adoration Chapel, or wherever there is peace and silence where we can be with God.

When this pandemic started, where did we go during lockdown? To God with our online Masses at home, daily praying of the Rosary with the whole family. But when the quarantines were eased, we suddenly forgot God, regarding every where as merely a place, a location.

Every where is where God is, where Jesus is!

From Facebook, May 2020.

We now come to that second demonstrative pronoun in the same scene before the miraculous feeding of five thousand said by Simon Peter’s brother Andrew who told Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?”

How unfair that the boy who actually had Jesus working on his miraculous feeding of the crowd with those five barley loaves and two fish he had given was merely referred by Andrew as there or here!

See how Andrew did not bother to ask the boy’s name because during that time, any male kid had no any significance at all except by the time they reached 13 years of age for the bar mitzvah, when boys begin to read the Torah. In fact, John noted in this narrative how the children and women were not even counted to show their grave error at that time of giving importance only to men.

How sad the same thing continues to our own time when we are taken for granted as a person, reduced to mere statistics, to mere numbers, to there and here!

Despite our insistence on the use of inclusive terms for all, it seems that the more we have actually degraded the human person into objects as we personified objects. Listen to commercials and newscasts to realize what I mean: food is described as “masarap siya” while typhoon is referred to as “siya ay lalabas ng Philippine Area of Responsibility” while persons are made into objects like handsome men called “yummy” or “delicious”. No wonder, people have become like food, good only when young and fresh but when old, discarded like trash! Sometimes, people are labelled like ice cream as “flavor of the month” or “all-time favorite” when rich and famous while ordinary folks are called “dirty ice cream”.

There is always a person to be respected and recognized in every here and there!

Let us heed St. Paul in the second reading telling us “to live in a manner worthy of the call” we have received as beloved children of God “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” (cf. Eph. 4:1-3).

How sad that we cannot even look at one another as a brother and a sister, even in our own family circles because we are so focused on the bread, that is, the money and wealth we could get for ourselves. And that is the great irony in this scene: the boy was willing to let go of his five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish yet Andrew did not notice at all the face, the personhood of the boy so kind to share what he had, thinking more of others than himself!

What a tragedy in our time, in our own family and circle of friends, at work and in school, even in our parish community when some people would give more value to things than persons, who would rather maintain or keep their honor and dignity at the expense of others.

Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

When the “where” and “there” of Jesus meet on the Cross

This story of the multiplication of bread occupies an exceptional place in all four gospels. However, it was only John who added a long discourse preached by Jesus at Capernaum after this event to reveal its full meaning.

For John, the multiplication of bread is more than a miracle but a sign, a revelation of supernatural power above the ordinary pointing to Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God who is the bread from heaven who had come down to nourish us in this journey of life to eternity like during the time of Moses in the wilderness. Or like Elisha in the first reading, Jesus multiplied the loaves of bread to satisfy the hunger of not just 100 people but over 5000 with leftovers of 12 wicker baskets.

Photo by author, March 2020.

We are reminded of other instances in the Old Testament like the Jewish feast of Passover as backgrounds of this sign by Jesus in the deserted place as a prelude to the sign of the Holy Eucharist he instituted on Holy Thursday that we celebrate daily especially on Sundays as one body, one family. This in turn will reach its highest point on Good Friday as the ultimate sign Jesus Christ’s loving presence when his being the “where” and “there” of God would be revealed in the final sign of the Crucifixion that many would still miss to recognize.

That is why in the next four weeks, we shall hear John narrating to us the discourse by Jesus to explain the full meaning of this multiplication of bread in that deserted place.

When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him 0ff to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

John 6:14-15

Let us “capture” Jesus in the Holy Communion of the Mass later when the priest holds high the Body of Christ saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world. Blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb.”

Here in the Mass, it is very clear this is where Jesus is, where we get the real food to eat. Tell it to everyone, point unto Jesus, there is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world like John the Baptist. Most of all, it is in the the Holy Mass where Jesus is present here, there, and everywhere – in his words proclaimed, Body and Blood shared, and with everyone celebrating!

Have a blessed week! Keep safe and stay dry. Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Pakanin nagugutom, huwag pakialaman nagluluto

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-14 ng Hulyo, 2021
Larawan mula sa inquirer.net, 11 Hulyo 2021.
Isang katatawanan na hindi malilimutan
sa taong 2021 nang pagdiskitahan ng ilan
pagkain ng bayan
patunay na marami sa pamunuan
hindi ramdam pintig ng mamayan
lalo na ang kalam ng tiyan.
Unang katatawanan 
bunsod ng kayabangan nang 
paratangan na ang lugaw 
ay non-essential
pagkaing hindi mahalaga
kaya buong bayan nag-alma.
Heto na naman
mga henyo sa kalakalan
ibig nama'y magtakda ng batayan
sa pagluluto ng mga paboritong ulam ng bayan;
ngunit anumang paliwanag
kanilang sabihin
walang kabuluhang pakinggan
mga pinag-iisip nila'y walang katuturan
patunay lamang na manhid at mga payaso
 mga tao ngayon sa gobyernong ito.
Maari bang itakda ninuman
mga sangkap na ibig malasap,
sarap at linamnam na ibig namnamin
ng bawat kumakain?
Alalahaning hindi lamang laman ng tiyan
ang pagkain kung ating susuriin
inihahain pa nga lang, lasap na natin
diwa at katauhan nagigising
ng maraming alaala at kuwento
ng pagkaing bumusog sa atin.
Suriin bawat kalinangan
nasasalamin sa lutuin at pagkain
dahil doon sa mesa nagsisimula
 lahat ng ating kapatiran at kaisahan:
walang kumakain kasama ang kaaway,
ano mang kasunduan ay may handaang kasabay,
higit sa lahat, sa pagdulog sa hapag
doon nagaganap tunay na pagdadaop-palad
dahil sa tuwing tayo ay mayroong piging,
sarili ang ibinabahagi natin sa anyo ng pagkain at inumin.
Maging ang Panginoong Hesus natin
pinili ay pagkain at piging
upang gamitin tanda ng kapanatilihan
niya sa atin:  kanyang itinatag 
hapag ng Eukaristiya
doon sa mesa ng Banal na Misa.
Tangi niyang tagubilin
tinapay na walang lebadura gagamitin
sa bawat pagdiriwang ng piging
kung saan pinapaging-ganap natin
pagmamahal niya sa atin
nang ihandog sarili bilang ating pagkain.
Kaya, huwag nang pag-isipan
ng mga nagmamagaling
paano lutuin mga paboritong pagkain
bagkus kanilang isipin
paano mapapakain
mga nagugutom na kapatid natin.

Praying for more conversions

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Third Week of Easter, 23 April 2021
Acts 9:1-20   ><)))'>  ><)))">  ><)))'>   John 6:52-59
Photo by Dr. Yanga’s Colleges, Inc. in their “community pantry” in Bocaue, Bulacan, 21 April 2021.

Praise and glory and thanksgiving to you, God our loving Father in heaven for this amazing movement sweeping our country called “community pantry” started by a young lady in a quiet neighborhood last week in Quezon City.

Your ways, O God, are indeed strange, filled with so many extraordinary turn of events.

Who would have thought how this community pantry will awaken the whole nation to suddenly see one another as brother and sister, sharing according to one’s abilities and taking according to one’s needs that for over a week, we have never ran out of food with a lot of smiles and tenderness that delight the hearts and souls of everyone?!

You are so amazing, O God that I feel like Jesus your Son rejoicing while filled with the Holy Spirit, giving you praise, Father, “for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike” (Lk.10:21).

Full of confidence in your power, I believe you can still win over the hearts of many of our generals and government officials to be converted like St. Paul on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians; how ironic, dear God, are the similarities of that story with how our government and military officials malign the people behind the community pantry movement!

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him for letters to synagogues in Damascus,
that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, 
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do."
(Acts 9:1-7)

Please, Lord, despite the malicious words some government and military officials have said about the people behind the community pantry movement, we still believe they can still be converted like what happened at EDSA in 1986.

Come, Jesus our Lord and Savior, blind us with your light of truth and humility so we may imbibe the true meaning of the Eucharist which is more than the sacramental partaking of your Body and Blood but, most of all, meeting and being one with you always in our daily lives, becoming the very food for others like you.

We pray also most specially for the well-being of Ms. Ana Patricia Non and her followers. Bless them and keep them, O Lord, and may they continue to inspire others in seeing everyone as a brother and sister in you. Amen.

Prayer to keep fellowship in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Easter, 18 April 2021
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19  ><)))*>  1 John 2:1-5  ><)))*>  Luke 24:35-48 
Easter Vigil 2021.
My dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
Today I am celebrating my ordination anniversary.
Twenty-three years of giftedness and grace and mystery, 
until now I wonder why you called and chose me. 
Thank you very much 
for your love and mercy to me.
You know very well my sins and failures,
my weaknesses and limitations
that on many occasions
I have failed you.
There were times 
I was like Cleopas 
traveling back to Emmaus
trying to forget you
feeling at a loss and defeated
when my plans do not happen.
But you would join me,
walk with me even if I go the wrong direction
just to bring me back to Jerusalem,
back to the Cross where your Resurrection is.
So many times, 
my eyes cannot recognize you appearing to me,
but surely always within me
my heart burns while you speak softly
as you tell me our stories
when you never left me. 
In those twenty-three years,
dearest Jesus, what I treasure most 
is when you appear and speak to me unknowingly,
an inner awakening happens in me
opening my mind, purifying my soul
that the more I see my sinfulness before you,
the more I see my worth in you
that is when you are so true!
One thing I ask you, my Lord and my God
keep me in your fellowship of the table
of your new covenant; even if I am not worthy
to receive you under my roof, but only
say the word and I shall be healed.
Be my guest always, dear Jesus,
appearing, speaking, and breaking bread
at your altar, sustaining and nourishing me
with the Blessed Virgin Mary 
in this journey until you come again.  Amen.
Easter Vigil, 2021.

Jesus in our midst

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Easter, 18 April 2021
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19  ><)))*>  1 John 2:1-5  ><)))*>  Luke 24:35-48 

After listening to the accounts of the beloved disciple John, we now reflect on Luke’s story of the Resurrection which is a continuation of the gospel proclaimed in the afternoon of Easter, the Road to Emmaus.

Recall how the two disciples did not recognize the Risen Lord when he joined them on their way back to Emmaus saddened with his death, doubtful of his resurrection. Upon reaching home, they invited the Lord for a meal when after breaking the bread, they recognized it was Jesus who had then vanished from their sights!

Both hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the rest of the disciples of their encounter with the Risen Lord.

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

Luke 24:36-43
Painting by Caravaggio of the Emmaus Meal from commons.wikimedia.org.

Many times in life
 we feel it more "fearful" in the positive sense 
to believe in God than in ghosts 
because God is very real 
when ghosts are not true at all.

Jesus appearing, speaking, and sharing meal

Both evangelists John and Luke consistently tell us in their Easter stories the three manifestations of the Risen Lord to the disciples: appearing, speaking, and sharing meal. All three acts belong together as one to remind the disciples of what transpired during their Last Supper, fulfilled on Good Friday.

But, there is something deeper in the dynamics of these three acts when seen from the perspective of Luke. And we have to look back to the beginning of this story on the road to Emmaus where we find Luke using a pattern of presenting an outward sign of Jesus appearing, speaking and sharing meal with the disciples who were then led to an inner recognition of the Risen Lord.

Notice that outwardly while walking, the disciples did not recognize Jesus as the man walking with them, speaking to them about the scriptures. Inwardly, something was happening with them: Then they said to each other, “Were not our hears burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

This pattern of outward signs and inner recognition becomes strongest when Jesus shared meals with the disciples: And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight (Luke 24:30-31).

Exactly the same thing happened in this manifestation we now have in Jerusalem: the outward signs of the Risen Lord appearing to the disciples, showing them his hands and his feet. The disciples were amazed, could not speak at all upon seeing Jesus Christ alive, speaking to them, reminding them of his teachings before and most especially, shared meal with them by eating a baked fish to prove he is not a ghost.

Then, he spoke again to remind them of his earlier teachings of the scriptures being fulfilled in him through his Passion, Death and Resurrection, leading to the inner recognition by the disciples: Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).

Painting by Frenchman James Tissot “Appearance of Christ at Cenacle Room” from commons.wikimedia.org.

Many times in life we feel it more fearful in the positive sense to believe in God than in ghosts because God is very real when ghosts are not true at all. “Mas nakakatakot maniwala sa Diyos kesa multo kasi ang Diyos ay totoong-totoo habang ang mga multo ay hindi.”

Amid the many outward signs we see unfolding right before our eyes, we could not help but believe as we are overwhelmed with God’s presence, with his love and mercy for us in the most personal way. The German Lutheran theologian Rudolf Otto called it as “mysterium tremendum” and “mysterium fascinans” when we feel so small like a tiny speck of dust in this vast universe yet so special, so loved by the almighty God.

There is that realization of our sinfulness, of our shortcomings before the Lord and yet still loved and forgiven like what Peter taught the people in his teaching after Pentecost at Jerusalem. Four times in four verses Peter spoke to the people with the second person pronoun YOU to stress their complicity in the crucifixion of Jesus, “you handed over and denied (v.13); you denied the Holy (v.14); you put to death (v.15)”; and finally, the saving declaration:

“Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he head announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer.”

Acts 3:17-18

Whenever we commit sins. when we refuse to love others, we become that “YOU” of Peter who hand over and deny Jesus, putting him to death whenever we reduce persons into things or take God’s blessings like food for granted.

From the Facebook page of artist Mr. Dengcoy Miel, 01 April 2021.

The “essential” table fellowship

Aside from proving to his disciples that he is risen, Jesus Christ’s appearance, speaking, and sharing of meals with them continues to our time in the Holy Eucharist where he brings us to a new covenant in the table fellowship with him and the Father in heaven.

In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus gives us a share in his very life, allowing us to participate in his Resurrection through the purifying power of his Passion and Death.

From the days of the Apostles up to our own time, the celebration of the Mass had gone through many changes and reforms but its very essence has always remained as the Real Presence of Jesus Christ among us in outward signs perceptible to our senses like the proclamation of the Word, the sharing in the Lord’s Body and Blood, and the communion of members of the community gathered in every celebration.

Like the disciples of the Lord during that Easter evening, we continue to experience an inner awakening within us of his presence, of his very self.

That is why Vatican II as well as St. John Paul II had always insisted that the Eucharist is the summit of our Christian life, that everything in our lives and in our parish especially must flow from the Eucharist. This is the reason that even with the COVID-19 lockdowns, Masses continue to be celebrated by priests even in private without the congregation because it is our source of nourishment especially in these times of crisis.


These community pantries now sprouting 
are in itself extensions of table fellowship with Jesus as the unseen guest - 
appearing, speaking, sharing meals with us - 
literally giving us food for the stomach, delighting our souls.

  It is another Easter and Pentecost happening in our midst, 
of Jesus coming to us, 
truly alive in the Holy Spirit among people 
gathered in loving service for one another, 
a perfection of the love of God in us!

Photo from Elijah San Fernando, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 April 2021.

See the recent “miracles” happening lately about this “community pantry” that started in Maguinhawa Street in Quezon City now fast spreading to other areas in Metro Manila with some farmers from the provinces giving their share of farm produce.

What a beautiful proof of the fulfillment of John’s words in our second reading today: “But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is perfected in him” (1Jn.2:1-5)!

These community pantries now sprouting are in itself extensions of table fellowship with Jesus the unseen guest – appearing, speaking, sharing meals with us – literally giving us food for the stomach, delighting our souls.

It is another Easter and Pentecost happening in our midst, of Jesus coming to us, truly alive in the Holy Spirit among people gathered in loving service for one another, a perfection of the love of God in us!

Photo by Toots Vergara, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 April 2021.

This Sunday, let us experience Jesus our guest right in our family, in our homes as we gather in our table without our gadgets and prejudices against each other, having only our very presence and fellowship in love and mercy, kindness and care as we feed our bodies as well as our souls. Amen.

*Please say a prayer for me and my six other classmates today as we celebrate our 23rd year of ordination to the priesthood (18 April 1998, Malolos Cathedral by Abp. Rolando J. Tria-Tirona).  Salamuch and God bless you all!  fr nick

Images of COVID-19, Images of Hope, Part 2

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 09 April 2021
Photo by author after celebrating “private Mass” first day of lockdown last year, 18 March 2020.

The reality – and gravity – of the lockdown hit me most that Wednesday morning when I celebrated Mass alone. Without the usual faces and voices of our regular Mass goers who greeted me daily upon opening our church door since I came to my former parish in 2011, I just felt something so unique.

And special.

It was as if Jesus was making some “lambing” (tender moments) with me as his priest.

For so long, I have been celebrating Mass on weekdays with at least five people present that there were times it had become mechanical like a routine, sometimes even like a “show” that it has to be good so that I look good, sound good, and everybody feels good.

But on that first day of the lockdown, as I prepared everything from removing the altar cover to bringing out the books and sacred vessels to celebrating “alone” with some birds keeping me company, I somehow felt Jesus most truly present.

Just him and me, at his altar, in his church.

Photo by author, two birds after my private Mass during the lockdown last year.

That was how I realized deep within me the beauty and sanctity of the Holy Mass not in the external things we see and hear but most of all in my intimacy and union with Jesus Christ as his priest.

With or without the congregation, every Holy Mass is the summit of the priest’s life and very existence because that is where his union in Jesus Christ our Eternal Priest is most true.

The way the priest celebrates the Mass – his disposition, his attitude, the way he looks and keep things in order – all indicate his oneness with Jesus Christ. Liturgy flows from the heart of the priest and from that springs our social action and involvement.

How sad when some priests has made the lockdown an excuse not to celebrate the Mass at all.

In depriving himself of the essential union with the Lord and Master, in effect he has deprived his flock the much needed strength from the Good Shepherd.

Even without the pictures and videos of the priest celebrating the Mass sine populo (without the people), that is the most wonderful and most treasured image of COVID-19 only God sees because it is the most sublime image of his Son Jesus Christ present amid this pandemic.

Every word in the Lectionary and the Sacramentary, every moment of that private Mass during the lockdown was like a “cosmic experience” where the eternal and the temporal converge as if time stands still, with these words echoing in the silence of the universe within me:

"...you never cease  to gather a people to yourself,
so that from the rising of the sun to its setting 
a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name."
(Eucharistic Prayer III)

Images of COVID-19,
Images of Hope,
Images of Christ

Two Sundays after the lockdown last year came the Holy Week ushered in by Palm Sunday when we went around the parish blessing the palms and fronds of people who have gathered on the streets after our announcement in Facebook and online Mass.

Skies were overcast that morning that we decided to visit first the other end of our parish, Purok Gulod, where we experienced rains and saw the beautiful rainbow the other Sunday.

Nobody saw the lockdown coming. Most of the people did not have the ready-made palms and instead had branches of leaves and fronds available in their surroundings which we blessed while on board our borrowed Ford F-150 after the Mass that morning attended by a few parish volunteers.

But the most touching images of COVID-19 that Holy Week last year happened on the Good Friday procession of the Santo Entierro we have mounted on a truck, brought around the parish after the Veneration of the Cross at 3PM.

From images of COVID-19 as images of hope, the sights have transformed into images of Christ suffering and dead among the people who knelt and prayed while others cried on the streets during procession.

Since it was a Good Friday when there was no holy water, I brought the crucifix with which to bless the people not only on the streets but also those in their vehicles passing by during the procession.

It was very edifying.

How I felt Jesus described in the gospel while going around preaching the good news to all towns and villages:

At the sight of the crowds,
his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
(Matthew 9:36)
Passing through Purok Gulod where people lighted candles too.
With Kuya Ver sounding the matraca to alert the people…
With Kuya Leonardo the caretaker of the Santo Entierro. Since I came there in 2011, he always brought along the children from their Purok Gitna to pray the Rosary aloud. After each mystery, we would sing some religious songs with “Kristo” as their favorite, singing in unison, “Kristo, Kristo bakit minsan ka lang nakikilala…”

I can still remember my short homily during that Good Friday’s Veneration of the Cross: I told the people that while we were so sad with what was happening due to the pandemic, Jesus was surely more sad with what was going on in the world, in our parish community.

It was a very meaningful Good Friday after all when as the sun set, God reassured me anew and I think everybody else in our parish that we were not alone. We have him as company, consoling us in this time of the pandemic with the beautiful sights of everyone out in the streets praying.

Yes, they are images of COVID-19 but also images of hope.

Most of all, images of Christ among us, suffering and dying first among us in our community during the pandemic.

Join us again on Monday with more images of COVID-19 as images of hope and images of Christ risen among us!

Have a blessed weekend, everyone!

*Photos by Ms. Ria de Vera and Ms. Anne Ramos.