Praying for those we value

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Twenty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, 12 September 2022
1 Corinthians 11:17-26, 33   ><)))*> + <*(((>< ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 7:1-10
Photo by author, 2018.
On this blessed Monday
after a weekend of heavy rains
and thunderstorms, I pray dear 
Lord Jesus for those dearest to
me, the persons I value for they
have all showed me a glimpse of
your goodness and kindness;
most of all, it was from them that I
have experienced your love and care.

When Jesus had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him.

Luke 7:1-2
How touching,
lovely, and so sweet Luke's 
opening lines for today's gospel:
of how a gentile military officer
valued a slave, asking for
representation to Jesus for a much
needed healing, because "he was
valuable to him."
How lovely as the story went on
when the centurion declared those 
very words we also pray before
receiving you, Jesus, in Holy Communion:
"Lord, I am not worthy that you should
enter under my roof, but only say the word
and I shall be healed" (Lk.7:6).
So true, indeed, when we have deep faith
in you, dear Jesus, like that centurion, we
would surely have great love for others;
it is in this deep faith in you, O Lord
who is most present with us in the Eucharist
that we pray for the healing of our loved ones,
those we value most of their sickness 
not only in body but also in mind, heart and soul; 
deepen and strengthen their faith in you,
keep their hopes alive in you always
despite the pains and fears within them.
O dear Jesus,
may we truly be Eucharistic
in our lives, valuing every person
especially those going through 
sufferings and difficulties these
days so that "as often as we eat this
bread and drink this cup, we may
proclaim your death Lord until 
you come again" (1 Cor.11:26).
Amen.
Photo by Ka Ruben of the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

Finding our proper place

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 28 August 2022
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 ><}}}*> Luke 14:1, 7-14
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan City, 31 December 2021.

Sometimes I feel life in the Philippines is a daily game of musical chair with each of us trying to secure our favorite seats in the bus or jeepney or train, in the classroom, in the church, in the restaurant. Everywhere.

And the favorite seats are always the ones at the back of the room most especially in churches and those nearest the door like in buses and jeepneys.

Most funny of all is when you find our kababayan in airports here and abroad rushing to board the plane as if they would not find a seat already paid for!

All because we put too much premium on our seats that mean power and control, even prestige although no one among us would admit it. In fact, our usual excuse of being seated at the back is due to shyness which is not true at all! More truthful is the fact that too often, we choose our seats for personal convenience that seats are everything for us.

But, unknown to many of us, what truly matters most in life, in being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not where we sit but where we stand which is the gist of our gospel this Sunday.

On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

Luke 14:1,7
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

See how Luke had briefly compressed in his opening lines for this Sunday’s gospel the gravity of Christ’s teachings today about discipleship. Setting was the most important day of the week for the Jews, the Sabbath, celebrated right in the house of a leading Pharisee.

Wow! It must had been a big party with all the “who’s who” that everybody was trying to get a piece of the action with all eyes on Jesus being observed carefully.

But, why?

To impress him? To be closer to him? To test him as most often would happen with him when in a gathering of people?

I find the scene overloaded with meanings that concern us when unconsciously we also “closely observe Jesus” whenever we would pray and celebrate the Sunday Mass in our parishes. There are times we forget God in our prayers as we are so preoccupied with our very selves, so focused and even insistent on what we believe and hold on to whatever we are asking from him. The “me, me, me” and “I, I, I” attitudes of being right, of being good, of being deserving and of course, entitled. Hence, the confiteor and kyrie are merely recited just for the sake of saying we are sorry for our sins even if we do not really mean them because so often, many are either late or do not examine their consciences.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Luke seems to be having some shades of humor when he noted how the “people carefully observed Jesus” at the dinner without them realizing the Lord himself had already and easily unmasked their pretensions and true characters of choosing the places of honor at the dinner that he had to tell them a parable about choosing the lowest seat!

When we come to the Lord most especially at prayer and the Mass, or even to a party and dinner for that matter, our main attitude must be of humility; to be invited to any party is an indication of our special relationship with the host. Multiply this to the highest degree in coming to the Holy Mass and simple prayer because it is God who gives us the grace to come to him, who values so much our relationship as Father and beloved children.

That is the point of Ben Sirach in the first reading, tenderly addressing the reader “My child, conduct your affairs with humility” (Sir.3:17), indicative of a relationship.

Every Sunday Mass is a banquet of the Lord like that Sabbath dinner Jesus attended in the gospel. No need to choose our places of honor because we are already honored by Jesus to celebrate “in him, with him and through him”. It is the very reason why we must celebrate Mass every Sunday as good, practicing Catholics.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Prayer and Mass are moments we strip ourselves naked before God who welcomes us to come near him even before we say sorry for our sins, even if we are not worthy of being in his presence at all. Recall the story of the calling of Nathanael or St. Bartholomew the Apostle last Wednesday; like him, Jesus had already seen and known us with joy long before we have approached him!

Every prayer moment, every Eucharistic celebration like a banquet on a Sabbath Jesus attended in the gospel today is an occasion for us to be truthful and sincere, to be our true selves, to be humble. St. Teresa of Avila said that “humility is walking in truth.” Just be yourself before God.

That is why Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk.14:11). In the end, when we die, we shall all be placed in our proper places before God; hence, the need for us to be humble and sincere with who we really are. Do not try to be somebody else not you because God knows everything, even the hair on our heads.

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14
Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

The first parable was addressed by Jesus to the guests while this second parable was meant for the host; however, both parables are meant for us all who are all guests of God in this big banquet called life that leads to eternity.

First of all, just be our true and best selves in prayers and in life for we are all honored in Jesus Christ as God’s beloved children.

And if we live and act like Jesus our Host making him the most important guest in our hearts, then our hearts become big enough to welcome everyone, especially “the crippled, the lame, the blind”, making us inclusive like Jesus himself and not exclusive as our seating arrangements would often reveal.

The right attitude in being a guest and a host in this life is to imitate God in the responsorial psalm “who made a home for the poor”, of being like Jesus welcoming everyone with love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, care and understanding.

Again, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews beautifully reminds us today in the second reading that the ultimate goal of our Christian life is communion with God that starts here in this life on earth. Every Mass is a “dress rehearsal” of our entrance into heaven because

Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which cold be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy and darkness… No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven… and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Hebrews 12:18, 22, 23, 24
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

My dear fellow journeyers in Christ, the blessedness of this Sunday shows us how fast time flies, that in a few days, it would be September, the beginning of the -ber months, the approaching Christ the King celebration to close our liturgical calendar.

Before thinking of Advent and Christmas, we are reminded today of “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday, June 26, 2022) to face his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Along the way are invitations to join him too in banquets; let us not seek the seats of honor but instead be firm in making our stand for Jesus on the Cross by being loving and merciful like him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

“Where is my new heart, Lord?”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 18 August 2022
Ezekiel 36:23-28   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by author, Makati skyline at dusk from Antipolo, 13 August 2022.
Your words today, O God
are so reassuring,
so comforting and consoling:
"I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place
a new spirit within you, taking from your
bodies your stony hearts and giving you
natural hearts" (Ezekiel 36:25-26).
As I dwell on your words,
including the psalms taken from
my favorite chapter 51 called
"miserere nobis" (have mercy on me),
your Holy Spirit prompted me,
even insisted me to ask, "where is my
new heart, Lord?"
Many of us wonder, Lord, where is my 
new heart of flesh, the new spirit
within me you have promised?
Why do I not feel your clean water
cleansing me of my impurities?
Why do I still feel tired, sometimes
uninspired, even lost and alienated,
losing hope, getting cynical,
feeling so low?
Has the Lord taken back our new hearts
and new spirit within he had promised?
Of course not!
God has given us with new hearts,
new spirit within by cleansing us with
clean water to remove our impurities
in the Passion, Death and Resurrection
of Jesus Christ, his Son and our Savior.
In baptism, we have been cleansed
and we are continually cleansed of our
impurities in the sacraments we celebrate
like the Holy Eucharist.
And there lies the problem
when we do not feel our new hearts,
new spirit:  when we refuse to join your
celebrations, O Lord, like in your parable.
Not only that:  teach us too to rise to
your celebrations, dearest Lord;
let us change our inner selves in more
prayers and introspection and confession
of sins so that we may be transformed to 
better persons as Christians; clothe us with 
more commitment to our baptismal promises,
to live out in our lives and relationships 
what we claim as we believe in.

And so, where is our new hearts,
O Lord?  

It is right here in our very present moment 
whenever we accept your invitation, your call
to turn away from sins, from selfishness, and 
vested interests!
It is right here in our present moment when
we allow our new personhood in Christ 
lead us to pray more, listen more, forgive
more, serve more, and witness his gospel
more.  Amen.

Corpus Christi: Everybody a somebody

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, 19 June 2022
Genesis 14:18-20 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ><}}}}*> Luke 9:11-17
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera in Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, November 2020.

A week after celebrating the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, we celebrate today the reality of this mystery of our personal God who relates with us with the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

This Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ reminds us of the great honor of every person, of everybody as a part of the Body of Christ who became human like us to share his very self so that we too may become food for everyone. It is a very timely and appropriate feast when we are deluged with news here and abroad of how people are treated as nobody.

The recent viral video of an SUV driver bumping a security guard in a busy intersection in Mandaluyong remains a hot trending topic precisely because it is a story of how poor people are disregarded in this nation. Although the suspect had surrendered to authorities after a week of “no-show” to summons, statements especially by his mother ignited only more fire into the blazing topic. Adding insult to injuries to the nation is the press conference called by the police in presenting and speaking for the suspect which is absurd and directly opposite to how they deal with poor people involved in similar offenses.

Over in the United States where one loses count of victims of shootings happening almost every week, lawmakers grandstand for more gun controls for the protection of children when in fact, the same lawmakers refuse to consider the child in the mother’s womb as a person with a right to life that they have legalized abortion. Almost everywhere in the world, see how people take some people as somebody and others as nobody. So contrary to what Jesus is telling us in the gospel today, that everybody is a somebody. Observe how the disciples of Jesus acted in the gospel:

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.

Luke 9:11-14, 17
Photo from istock-studios.com by Getty Images.

We have heard this story so many times and yet, we continue to miss its whole meaning that it continues to happen in our lives minus the miracle of Jesus. See how Luke tells us first that Jesus spoke to the people about the kingdom of God.

We will never experience Jesus in his person, in his Body and Blood unless we listen first to his words, to his teachings of the kingdom of God. That is why in the Mass, the first part is the liturgy of the word to prepare us for the liturgy of the eucharist. So many times in life, we dismiss right away anything that is spiritual in nature like prayers and the sacred scriptures, of faith in God.

Luke does not tell us how Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish; we have to leave it to him how he did it. After all, he is the Son of God. Recall how during his temptation by the devil to turn stones into bread and he answered that “one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt.4:4). Here in this scene, his words were precisely fulfilled when he fed the people after they have opened themselves to God’s words, to God himself.

Miracles happen in our lives when we first open ourselves to God himself. And opening to God means opening to others too by seeing everyone as a brother and sister in Christ whom we must care for.

Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, August 2021.

Too often, we tend to isolate ourselves from others, thinking only of ourselves and own good and comfort like the Twelve who asked Jesus to dismiss the crowds so they would find food and lodging for themselves in the wilderness.

What a sad reality still happening today, of how even parents and couples would proudly say how difficult it is to have another child because it is expensive. We have become so utilitarian in our perspectives in life that we compute everything as a cost, forgetting God except when praying which is precisely for asking for more blessings without even seeing the overflowing abundance of gifts from God.

Notice that despite the affluence of many these days, both as individuals and as nations, many are afflicted with the scarcity mentality, of not having enough, fearful of losing money and other resources like oil that we now have this exorbitant fuel prices.

When Jesus told the Twelve to “give the crowds some food yourselves”, he is telling us to look at God first for he is a God of abundance. Abraham in the first reading gives us the best example of always trusting God, of finding God behind every blessings we have. Abraham had just won a war with several kings in the region by the power of God who sent his priest named Melchizedek to bless him with bread and wine after. But unlike other victors in war, Abraham never had intentions of taking all the wealth and treasures of the kings he had beaten and instead gave Melchizedek the priest of God “a tenth of everything” (Gen.14:20).

Our response to God’s many blessings to us is to “tithe” ourselves like Abraham but not just ten percent as the Old Testament had taught but like Jesus in the New Testament by giving all of our very selves. This is the meaning of Paul’s words in the second reading of “proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes” as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup (1 Cor.11:26).

We have learned and realized (hopefully) during the past Lenten and Easter seasons that death leads to new life in Jesus Christ when we share our very selves like him. God blesses us abundantly daily with his life and other blessings. There is enough for everyone. That is the meaning of the leftovers of twelve wicker baskets, one each for every apostle of the Lord who represented us.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus we receive in the Eucharist reminds us not only of the sublime gifts of God to each of us but also of our ultimate response of dying to ourselves so we may share Christ’s life to the world so dead with ego and selfishness, a world of “I” and “me” and “my” and “mine” totally disregarding everybody as nobody.

As we celebrate today the Body and Blood of Christ honoring him with Masses, vigils and processions, remember how not everybody in the world is considered a somebody unless one has wealth and power. It is the new meaning given by modern man to the golden rule – he who has gold rules, implying that the poor are always taken as a nobody, bearing all the abuses of those in power and authority.

Let us examine ourselves how we have contributed to these abuses still going on, even in our thoughts at the way we perceive others, especially those not like us in status and beliefs and colors.

After receiving Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, silently pray:

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
empty myself of pride and 
fill me with your humility, justice and love;
reign in my heart now and always.
Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author, 2019.

“Sanaol”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in Third Week of Easter, 04 May 2022
Acts 8:1-8   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 6:35-40
Photo by author, ICSB in Malolos City, Summer 2021.
"Sanaol" - a wish and a prayer
that all may be blessed, 
that like the flowers of summer,
everyone may bloom in the Lord.
"Sanaol" was the good news
after that Pentecost when
Jesus Christ's good news of
salvation was proclaimed to all;
despite the persecutions that
began in Jerusalem and "all were
scattered throughout Judea and
Samaria, except the Apostles, 
there were great joy in that
city" (Acts 8:1, 8) because 
everyone was blessed, 
everyone was welcomed,
everyone was accepted.
"Sanaol", Lord Jesus,
would accept you in the 
Eucharist and eventually in
the person of everyone we meet;
it is you, dear Jesus, who brings
joy and fulfillment in everyone
of us whenever we receive and
welcome you in the Eucharist
and in every person we meet.

Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe.

John 6:35-36
What has happened to us,
Lord Jesus?
We have turned away from you 
and from each other, choosing to
believe in thoughts and ideas,
in personalities, and all the 
fancies around them from colors
to cults that have brought us 
divisions and even persecutions.

Let us seek you again, dear Jesus,
and listen more to your voice
than to all the noises barraging us
especially at this crucial time
of the elections.
"Sanaol" will listen to you again,
and find you anew in everyone. 
Amen.

Easter is “re + membering”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday within the Octave of Easter, 21 April 2022
Acts 3:11-26   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 24:35-48
Photo by author, Easter 2018.
Praise and glory to you,
Lord Jesus Christ, for the
most wonderful gift of memory:
more powerful than any memory
card or computer chip, you have
made our memories so powerful
not only in keeping the past alive
within us but most of all, enabling
us to make these memories present
again in every here and now - the gift
of "re + membering".
Thank you dear Jesus for this most
wonderful gift of all that even if 
our memories fail due to age and
sickness, we always re + member
those dearest people to us from
the past:  we make them a member
of today, that is, re-member!

The disciples of Jesus recounted what had taken place along the way, and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of the bread. While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

Luke 24:35-36
Before Easter happened,
during supper on the night you
were betrayed, you commanded 
your disciples to always remember,
to "do this in memory of me":
at Emmaus, the two disciples did
remember and recognized you,
Lord Jesus and from then on, we have
always re-memebered your commandment
and you yourself who becomes present
most especially in the Holy Eucharist and
when we live its essence of love.
Refresh always our memories,
Jesus, so we may keep re-membering you,
making you a member anew in every
present moment in our witnessing to
your very person and your most loving act
of self-giving.  Amen.

Love is going down, not up

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for Holy Thursday by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 14 April 2022
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14  ><}}}}*>  1 Corinthians 11:23-26  ><}}}}*>  John 13:1-15
Photo from aleteia.org, Cathedral of Monreale, Italy.

Tonight we enter the holiest three days of the year, the Triduum of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper that leads us into Easter on Sunday, the mother of all our feasts.

It was during the Lord’s Supper on Thursday evening before he was arrested when he gave us the commandment to “do this in memory of me” referring to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist which is the sacrament of love because on that Supper of the Lord, it was then when Jesus gave himself to us in signs what he would do on Good Friday. It was during that supper known as the Last Supper when Jesus showed His “love in action” for us in all time made present in every celebration of the Eucharist. This is the reason why Holy Thursday is also known as “Maundy Thursday” from the Latin word mandatus, mandatum or commandment/law.

Unlike in the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke along with Paul who mentioned the institution narrative of the Eucharist in our second reading tonight, John opted to tell us what we might describe as a “sidelight” to Holy Thursday, the washing of the feet of the disciples; but for John, the “beloved disciple” of Jesus, the washing of the feet is the core and essence of the Last Supper – not a sidelight – for it shows us and even makes us experience how Jesus “loves us to the end.”

“Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end…He rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and then tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.”

John 13:1, 4-5
The lower we go down, the greater our love is.

True love is always a downward movement. Unlike in our society today when love is equated with selfish interests and materialism that calls for “upward mobility” for more wealth and power, knowledge and freedom and fame measured in likes and followers, true love is actually a “passing over”, a pasch or a passion like that with Jesus Christ.

When we let go of our positions, of our titles, of our very selves to go down with the rest, to go down with our students, with our followers, with our subordinates — that is when we truly love like Jesus Christ. It is what we mentioned last Fifth Sunday in Lent (03 April 2022) when Jesus bended down twice, first before the woman caught committing adultery and second to her accusers who left the scene when Jesus dared the sinless among them to cast the first stone on her. Now at the washing of his disciples’ feet at the last supper, Jesus again bended down reaching his lowest bending tomorrow on the Cross.

In all the bending down by Jesus – to the woman caught committing adultery, to her accusers, to the washing of feet of the Twelve and to his crucifixion – he shows us his immense love and mercy to us sinners, bending down to save our face and uplift those down in shame and pain among us (https://lordmychef.com/2022/04/02/the-joy-of-meeting-god/).

Note the movements by Jesus at the washing of his disciples’ feet were in itself a “passing over”, expressions of his love: “he rose from supper, took off his outer garments, took towel then tied it around his waist, poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.”

In Israel at that time, washing their master’s feet was not part of the servants’ “job description” because it was – and still – demeaning. But for those who truly love, for those who love to the end like Jesus, the most demeaning acts can also be the highest expression of love! When you take care of your sick parent, when you give yourself in service to people you hardly know and would not care for at all, when you try to bear all the pains and hurts in silence – these can be all so demeaning but meaningful to others and to God.

Photo from GettyImages/iStockPhotos.

Imagine the great love of Jesus for us, no matter how sinful we may be like Judas Iscariot whose feet Jesus still washed before betraying him. In its original Greek, “to betray” means to hand over a beloved to extreme pain and suffering, the opposite of Passover when we go down to love; to hand over is to break away, to break ties, to discard, to stop loving.

And this is the good news of this Holy Thursday: we have all been cleansed by Jesus in his pasch, in our baptism, and for those who have gone to confession, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Would we still remain to be in sin, outside of Jesus?

Tonight, there are two persons with supporting roles in the Supper of Jesus Christ: Peter and Judas. The former denied the Lord thrice while the latter betrayed Jesus. Peter repented and thus became the Rock of the Church while Judas grieved and took his own life.

We too can be either Peter or Judas when we deny or betray friends and loved ones or when they deny or betray us. It may have taken some time for Peter to finally stoop down before Jesus at the shore of the Lake of Tiberias to admit his sin of denying the Lord three times. But the fact remains that he bent low before Jesus in repentance that before the flock could be entrusted to him, the Lord asked him thrice if he loves Him. In Peter we have seen that before we could love the Church, the sheep, we must first of all love the Lord. Judas remained high in his pride; though he felt sorry for his sins, he could not go down on his knees before Jesus for he had lost his love for Him that made him decide to take his life instead.


Lord Jesus Christ, you love us so much 
and yet we love you so little;
you have gone so low for us, 
not only emptying yourself 
by taking the form of a slave 
to come in our human likeness 
but even humbled yourself in obedience until death. 
We always try to look so strong and powerful, 
refusing to bend our knees to go down before You and others, 
always trying to save face and honor; 
but, the truth is we are so weak inside, 
so ashamed to admit our faults and sinfulness. 
Give us the grace this Holy Thursday 
to be one with you again, 
to go down in you with our brothers and sisters, 
especially those whom we have denied or betrayed. 
Give us the grace to imitate your love 
and be heralds of your gospel of salvation to others. 
Amen.

Photo by author, 2016.

Holiness is being faithful

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Tuesday, 12 April 2022
Isaiah 49:1-6   +   John 13:21-33, 36-38
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King Procession, 2020.

Maybe so many times you have felt nothing seems to be happening with all your efforts in school or office, in your relationships, and even in your prayers and devotions. Everything seems to be going to nothing at all.

Have a heart. Just be faithful in your studies, in your work, with your family and friends, most especially with God.

Though I thoughts I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.

Isaiah 49:4

When I was still a seminarian, there was a moment after our class when I went straight into our chapel and slouched on a pew, complaining and whining to God for the many problems that never stopped coming my way despite my efforts to be good. With my head bowed down, I had a litany of complaints to God that I felt like packing my things, go home and forget all about the priesthood. But after getting tired with my monologue and as I raised my head, something struck me that I felt so good while looking at our huge image of the Crucifixion at the altar of the chapel. As I looked in silence, I felt myself praying,

"Lord Jesus Christ, 
before all these pains and sufferings came, 
before all these problems happened, 
you were there first on the Cross - 
suffering for me, dying for me first."
Photo by author, ICMAS Chapel (Theology Dept.), 2020.

My dear friends, holiness is being faithful to God in Jesus Christ. St. Mother Teresa perfectly said that, “We are called to be faithful, not successful.” In my 24 years in the priesthood, I have realized that many times, our success are actually failures with God while our failures are what he often considers as success!

Of course, we need to plan and set goals in life and in work but we need to focus more on Jesus Christ as center of our lives, trying to see everything in his light not in our own limited views and perceptions. There so many things in life that cannot be quantified like our spiritual and emotional well-being on which actually depend many of our other aims in our personal and professional life.

Notice how in our gospel today the Apostles were so focused on themselves instead with Jesus that they totally missed what he was telling them about his coming betrayal by “one of them”. Particularly interesting was Simon Peter who asked the beloved disciple, John, to clarify it with Jesus since he was seated closest to him.

He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I had the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.

John 13:25-28

Did you see the comedy, the humor?

Everybody was so focused on everyone and with each self except with Jesus! Were they so dumb not to understand the words of Jesus that to whomever he would give the morsel dipped in wine is the one who would betray him? Not really. Most likely, they were not listening, they were not focused on Jesus but with their very selves.

Being faithful is first of all being focused on God, in Jesus.

How can God fill us with his holiness when our thoughts and our being are always somewhere else or with somebody else? How can God fill us with his holiness when we cannot spend time with him every day in prayer?

Photo by author, Mass by the shore of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

How lovely is the context of Simon Peter’s question that it happened during their Last Supper because that is where our fidelity to God is first nurtured to grow and deepened – at the Holy Eucharist of the Mass.

Remember, the minimum requirement for anyone to be called a good, practicing Catholic is to go Mass every Sunday. That is the most minimum but, have we kept it? It has been more than two months since we returned to alert level 1 in this time of the pandemic with almost everybody going to the malls and many vacation spots but what a shame when many still refuse to go to churches for the Sunday Mass!

Being faithful to Jesus to become holy begins with the Sunday Eucharist where we are nourished by the words of God and by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ himself who enables us to overcome the many trials and difficulties of this life and make it into the Father’s house in eternity.

Have you gone back to your parish church for the Sunday Masses?

Forgive us, Lord Jesus Christ,
for being unfaithful to you, 
for betraying you like Judas Iscariot
right in the context of the Holy Eucharist
when we skip Sunday Masses;
when we come to Mass not for you 
but for our friends to whom we listen more; 
and most especially when we refuse or fail 
to practice the essence of the Eucharist
of sharing the love of Christ to everyone.
Amen.
Photo by author, Parish of St. John the Baptist in Calumpit, Bulacan, 31 March 2022.

Praying for “divine intensity”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week V, Year II in Ordinary Time, 07 February 2022
1 Kings 8: 1-7, 9-13   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   Mark 6:53-56
Photo by author, Garden of Gethsemane outside the Church of All Nations, the Holy Land, 2017.
God our loving Father,
give me the gift of having
an intense attitude and disposition
to experience you in prayer
and the celebration of the
Holy Eucharist.
Let me desire you always,
make me eager to meet you
like the people at Gennesaret
who "scurried about the surrounding
country and began to bring in 
the sick on mats to wherever 
they heard Jesus was" (Mk.6:55).
How I wish, dear Father, we could
have the joy and excitement of the 
people when King Solomon led 
the opening of your Temple in
Jerusalem with the ark of the
covenant being brought there as
your cloud filled the temple.
We do not have any ark of
your covenant, Lord, but we 
have you truly present, Body
and Blood in every Eucharistic
celebration in our churches
which we often take for granted;
most often, nobody cares to visit you, 
dear Jesus truly present at the 
Blessed Sacrament!
If I could just have even half
of the eagerness of the people
of Gennesaret in meeting Jesus
or the intensity of the joy and 
excitement of the people of 
Jerusalem in the opening of their
temple, maybe your divine presence
O God would be more realistic and
more effective among us in Christ.
Amen.

Slave of sin vs. slave of grace

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 20 October 2021
Romans 6:12-18   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 12:39-48
Photo by Ms. Nikki A. Vergara, 2020 in Victoria, Laguna.
We are all slaves, 
born as your servants
O God our Lord and Master;
how sad that the more we refuse
to accept this reality, the more
we are enslaved to sin;
the more we assert our freedom
and decide to choose whatever
we want, the more we become unfree.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the patterns of teaching to which you were entrusted. Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:16-18
Jesus our Lord and Savior,
let us realize this truth applies to us all;
that although you have saved and
justified us with your offering on the Cross
that continues in our Sacraments like
Baptism and the Eucharist that have
brought us closest to you and the Father,
it is not something like a "magic"
that fixes everything, that automatically
brings us to heaven.
Let us be faithful and prudent stewards,
slaves of grace in you like in today's gospel
who faithfully await your return
with good works and deeds.
Let us keep in our minds and hearts that
the more we profess our faith in you, dear Jesus,
as your servants, the more we have to participate
in your grace to produce fruits of
the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Amen.