Remembering, forgiving

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 22 September 2021
Ezra 9:5-9     ><)))*> + ><)))'> + ><)))*>     Luke 9:1-6
Photo by author, 2010.
In this month of September,
help us remember O God our Father
our collective history as a nation
like Ezra your servant:

I said, “My God, I am too ashamed and confounded to raise my face to you, O my God, for our wicked deeds are heaped up above our heads and our guilt reaches up to heaven. From the time of our fathers even to this day great has been our guilt, and for our wicked deeds we have been delivered up, we and our kings and our priests, to the will of the kings of foreign lands, to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to disgrace, as is the case today.”

Ezra 9:6-7
Help us remember our sins not to blame
and deepen the wounds of the past
but to learn from the lessons of the 
mistakes and abuses that have happened;
help us remember our sins 
to understand its roots so we may not 
repeat them again; most of all, 
help us remember our sins 
so we may realize your immense
love and mercy for us 
in never forsaking us.

“For slaves we are, but in our servitude our God has not abandoned us; rather, he has turned the goodwill of kings of Persia toward us. Thus, he has given us new life to raise again the house of our God and restore its ruins, and has granted us a fence in Judah and Jerusalem.”

Ezra 9:9
In your strange providence,
loving God our Father,
you have used the pagan kings
of Persia to set your people free
from the Babylonian captivity;
in the same manner,
you have never left nor abandoned us
through our painful experiences
as a result of our captivity in sin and evil
to see your love and compassion,
enabling us to turn them into
opportunities for personal growth
and maturity in our spirituality
by deepening our sensitivity to
the sufferings of others caused by
evil and sin.
We pray today, O God
that we may be agents of your mercy
like King Cyrus of ancient Persia,
most especially as disciples of your Son
Jesus Christ sent out to proclaim
the coming of good news of salvation.
Amen.

The Holy month of August

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 August 2021
Photo by Fr. John Howard Tarrayo, National Shrine and Parish of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 06 August 2021.

Like the months of November and January, August now suffers the same fate of being more known with pagan rituals and beliefs despite its rich liturgical celebrations and feasts we celebrate – ironically – as the only Christian nation in this part of the world.

Spurred mainly by the social media, more and more Filipinos now believe that August is a “ghost month” with almost everybody even not a Chinoy are posting those “Do’s” and “Don’ts” on Facebook to cast away or avoid the evil spell by ghosts that August is supposed to bring.

What a sad reality in our Catholic Christian country.

Forty or 30 years ago, all we have was “pangangaluluwa” when some people would sing in front of our homes for some donations like in caroling during Christmas season. With the advent of social media and our penchant for anything American, we now have every November those grossly erroneous and pagan Halloween practices of costume party and “trick or treat”. Not far from that is our January tradition borrowed also from pagans of literally welcoming every New Year with a lot of “bang”, wasting precious money that also cost some lives and injuries to so many due to fireworks and firecrackers.

Here we find the kind of religiosity that binds most of us, more on rites and rituals but lacking in roots and spirituality, centered on ourselves to be assured of every kind of blessings, forgetting all about the very object of faith who is God expressed in our concern for one another.


August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year.  
Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one.  
No day nor date nor time is malas because 
when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, 
life has become holy, filled with God, 
debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year. Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one. No day nor date nor time is malas because when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, life has become holy, filled with God, debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

In this regard a text by Saint Gregory Nazianzen is enlightening. He says that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ[2]. This scene, in fact, overturns the world-view of that time, which in a different way has become fashionable once again today. It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. In ancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. Heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love[3].

#5 of Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 30 November 2007
From catholicapostolatecenter.org.

Consider the name of this month August which was borrowed from the Roman Caesar Augustus that signifies reverence or to hold someone in high regard. As an adjective, august means “respected and impressive” like when we say “in this august hall of men and women of science”.

Most of all, consider the great feasts that fall on this month of August: the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ on August 6 and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven on August 15. Both feasts remind us of the promise of glory in heaven as we strive and persevere to lead holy lives in this world filled with pain and sufferings.

(See our blogs on these feasts, https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/06/transfiguration-in-time-of-corona/ and https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/14/mary-mirror-of-gods-greatness/.)

There are also so many saints we celebrate on this month of August like our patron saint as priests, St. John Vianney (August 4); St. Dominic who died 800 years ago on August 8 after serving not only the Church but also the whole world in general when he founded the Order of Preachers (O.P.) also known as the “Dominicans”; St. Clare of Assisi (August 11), a contemporary and friend of St. Francis; St. Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20) who wrote so many beautiful homilies, hymns and prayers like the Memorare; St. Rose of Lima (August 23) who was the first saint from the New World; and of course not to forget the greatest mother and son tandem next maybe to Mary and Jesus, St. Monica (August 27) and St. Augustine (August 28).

August is also the month of two great followers of Jesus, St. Bartholomew the Apostle (August 24) and two former Pharisees who buried our Lord, St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. Nicodemus (August 31). Likewise, it is on August 29 when we celebrate the martyrdom of the Lord’s precursor, St. John the Baptist who was beheaded during the birthday party of Herod who was so afraid to take back his oath to give whatever Salome would ask him after delighting his guests with a dance number.

There are two special saints we celebrate this holy month that according to St. John Paul II are both saints of our modern time, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (August 09) and St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14). Both saints were martyred in the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

St. Teresa Benedicta is the same German philosopher Edith Stein, a former Jew who had become an atheist in her younger years in the university but upon further studies and prayer, converted into Catholicism, becoming a Carmelite nun where she adopted her new name. She wrote in one of her writings that “Those who seek truth seek God, whether they realize it or not“.

Though she had become Catholic, she did not abandon her Judaic roots, even writing the Pope at that time to ask him to speak strongly against the Nazi Germans’ extermination of Jews. Her death on August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz with her younger sister who had become a Catholic too was a fitting testimony to her faith, honoring her Jewish roots by dying among them as a martyr of Christ and one who had “learned to live in God’s hands” according to Sr. Josephine Koeppel, OCD, a translator of much of her works.

Dying ahead of her in Auschwitz on August 14, 1941 was St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who was arrested for his writings against the evil Nazis. It was actually his second time to be arrested.

When a prisoner had escaped from the camp, authorities rounded up ten men to die in exchange of the lone escapee. Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a married man with children. They were all tortured and starved in order to die slowly in pain. A devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Maximilian was injected with carbolic acid on the eve of the Assumption after guards found him along with three other prisoners still alive, without any signs of fear like screaming but silently praying.

Photo of Auschwitz from Google.

We no longer have gas chambers but atrocities against human life continue in our time, hiding in the pretext of science and laws. Until now, men and women, young and old alike including those not yet born in their mother’s womb are hunted and killed to correct what many perceived as excesses and wrongs in the society. Just like what Hitler and his men have thought of the Jews at that time.

The Nazi officers and soldiers of Auschwitz remind us the true “ghosts” or evil spirits of our time sowing hatred and deaths are people who may be well-dressed, even educated in the best schools, and come from devout or “normal” families. They sow evil every day without choosing any particular month, blindly following orders without much thinking and reflections or introspection.

By the lives of the many great saints of August, or of any other month for that matter, we are reminded especially in this time of the pandemic that holiness is not being sinless but simply being filled with God, allowing that holiness to spill over and flow onto others with our lives of authenticity to the truth of God among us in Christ expressed in charity and mercy, kindness and justice, humility and openness with one another.

It is very sad and depressing to watch in the news and social media feeds how some among us continue to display their lack of any concern at all with the suffering people with their lavish lifestyles and display of expensive clothes and food. And worst of all are those men and women, in power or hungry for power, in their excessive display of brute force against the weak and the poor.

Let us make every month holy and blessed with our good deeds to make everyone aware of Christ’s presence among us.

Photo from inquirer.net.

Entering the presence of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 27 July 2021
Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-9, 28   ><]]]]'>><]]]]'>><]]]]'>   Matthew 13:36-43
Photo by author, 2020.
As Moses entered the tent,
the column of cloud would come down
and stand at its entrance while the Lord
spoke with Moses.
The Lord used to speak to Moses
face to face, as one man speaks to another.
(Exodus 33:9, 11)
God our Father,
you never fail to surprise us;
thank you very much for 
our first ever Olympic gold
last night after another usual
frustrating afternoon at the SONA.
Hidilyn's record-breaking
performance last night 
at the Tokyo Olympics
tells us the same thing 
when Moses would enter
your tent to converse with you:
Nothing can replace
hard work and discipline;
there can be no substitute 
to sound mind and sound body
in order to achieve every goal
that we set in life and in public.
He said in reply,
"He who sows good seed
is the Son of Man,
the field is the world,
the good seed are 
the children of the Kingdom.
The weeds are the children
of the Evil One,
and the enemy who sows them
is the devil.  The harvest
is the end of the age, and 
the harvesters are angels."
(Matthew 13:37-39)
Give us the discipline
and perseverance, Lord Jesus
to always enter your presence
in prayer like Moses inside the tent
at the wilderness meeting God,
face to face, to face and fight evil.
Let us desire more silent moments
with the you, O Lord in order to
listen more to your words
that are not only transformative
but most of all, performative
in keeping us steadfast with your laws against sin.
We pray, O God
for our decision-makers and leaders,
for us all to always seek your will
by entering your presence in silent prayers
so we may hear clearly your words
and see your face.  Amen. 

Finding God, not just solutions

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 12 July 2021
Exodus 1:8-14,22  >>> + <<<   Mathew 10:34-11:1
Photo by author, Egypt, 2019.
Your words today, O Lord Jesus,
are so difficult to understand
even puzzling and disturbing 
but that is how it is often in life:
the harder it gets,
the better we become
like the children of Israel
when persecuted in Egypt.
A new king, 
who knew nothing of Joseph,
came to power in Egypt.
Accordingly, taskmasters
were set over the children of Israel
to oppress them with forced labor.
Yet the more they were oppressed,
the more they multiplied and 
spread.
(Exodus 1:8,11, 12)
Sometimes, Lord,
you allow us to go through
hardships and trials in life
so we may realize
that YOU alone are the most
essential in life like when you sent
the children of Israel to Egypt
during the period of great famine.
You sent them there not only to find food
but to rediscover Joseph their brother
and ultimately find YOU, dear God,
still faithful, still loving.
Alas, as time went on with them in Egypt
like with our own experiences,
we stop entering into a relationship with you
dear God, when our needs are fulfilled,
when we have found solutions to our problems,
not realizing that more important
than temporary solutions
to our temporary problems is
the wonderful intimacy with you
here, today, through eternity
where we have God more than
any amount of peace and prosperity. 
Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Do not think that I have come
to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake
will find it."
(Matthew 10:34, 39)
Lord Jesus Christ,
forgive us in being so focused
in solving the many problems of the world
than in finding God and his love; remind us
of our first task of casting away evil
and sins that plague us and the world
so that everything may be restored in you again.
Amen.

We are missionaries of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XV-B in Ordinary Time, 11 July 2021
Amos 7:12-15 ><}}}'> Ephesians 1:3-14 ><}}}'> Mark 6:7-13
Photo from Joint Task Force Sulu via Inquirer.net, 07 July 2021,

Everybody is saying 2020 is a very bad year that had extended its negative vibes into 2021 with the continuing string of disasters and bad news like the recent C-130 plane crash in Sulu where 50 soldiers were killed, mostly were young in the prime of their lives.

Not to mention are the persistent threats of new surge of COVID-19 that continues to mutate into deadlier and more transmissible variants despite the vaccine roll outs.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Julian Arguilla.

But, upon closer look and deeper reflections, we also realize what we are going through is not that totally bad. It is still a very beautiful world, so blessed by God with the people he sends us to bring hope and find meaning amid all the deaths and darkness around us.

In that recent C-130 plane crash is 30 year-old Capt. Dr. Nigel Emeterio who selflessly served our people as a medical frontliner of the Philippine Air Force fighting COVID-19 in far flung areas and as a flight surgeon of troops sent to fight terrorist rebels in Mindanao.

A graduate of the Our Lady of Fatima University’s College of Medicine Batch 2015 here in Valenzuela City, Capt. Dr. Nigel is most of all a faithful husband and loving father to his wife and kids left behind in a life so short but filled with loving service and dedication to others.

Earlier this year, another young woman in Quezon City – Ms. Patricia Non – inspired us to harness the vast powers we have in our hands to see one another as a brother and a sister by setting up a community pantry where the poor may get basic food according to their needs provided by others according to each one’s ability.

The movement soon caught the attention of more people in various parts of the country, even abroad, setting up their own community pantry with support coming in from the rich and poor alike, bringing out the spirit of Christ’s gospel in the most concrete manner.

And lastly, who was not touched by the infectious smiles and fighting spirit of America’s Got Talent contestant called Nightbirde when she courageously admitted to the world the multiple cancers she was afflicted with a 2% chance of survival?

We were all moved to tears when she sang her own composition to assure everyone that “I’m Ok”, that despite all her sufferings, she chooses to be happy due to her strong and deep faith in God?

There are still so many stories of men and women, young and old alike, being sent by God in Christ Jesus to remind us amid all the darkness hovering above us in this time that the world and life he created for us is truly beautiful because he created us meant to be filled with joy and fulfillment, not misery and sufferings.

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.

Mark 6:7-9

Our first mission is to cast out unclean spirits

Photo by author, Jerusalem, 2017.

Life is always beautiful, true and good. Despite all the bad news we hear and see daily, overall we realize that it is always a beautiful world out there waiting to be discovered by us. Everyday God sends us in his Son Jesus Christ to proclaim this reality by fighting the evils that try to destroy life.

For the past Sundays, St. Mark has been presenting to us who is Jesus Christ, telling us the teachings he preached, the miracles he performed, and the setbacks he went through when he went home to Nazareth.

This time, we find Jesus sending his Apostles that include us in this modern time to continue his work and mission of proclaiming the good news of salvation amid the many demons or unclean spirits in our time found not only in dire situations but among evil men and women in their arrogant display of power going unpunished, escaping justice. It is a scenario we have seen throughout history, of natural and man-made disasters happening along with a dash of human inanities and follies in every period everywhere.

But life continues and gets better largely with the prophets sent by God sent to speak his words of justice and truth to bring back order and harmony in our world distorted and marred by evil and sin.

That was the first order of Jesus: authority over unclean spirits, over “demons” who destroy lives.

From the Greek word “daemon”, a demon is someone or anything that destroys life. It refers not only to evil persons but also situations like diseases, afflictions, addictions, economic imbalances, social injustice and systematic evils happening everywhere, even among church people.

Any form of evil and sin is always a lack of order and wholeness, a privation. Too often, evil to us is something interior that is difficult to remove or even diagnose. It has entangled its roots deep within us, creating confusions and doubts. Hence, we feel Jesus very emphatic in his commissioning of the Twelve: he “gave them authority over unclean spirits”.

It is the power of Jesus Christ borne out of our deep faith that leads to boldness and courage tempered with humility and simplicity that enables us to fight evil in this world. As that famous saying tells us, “the only thing needed for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing”.

Fighting evil and sin is not a personal crusade of anyone but a sharing in the power and destiny of our Lord Jesus Christ. The mission of the Twelve that is also our mission is a direct continuation of the mission of Jesus Christ who offered his life on the Cross for our salvation.

We are the first to be affected by Christ’s preaching and actions by being transformed in him. That is why he calls us to be detached from the world and its allurements to be one in him alone.

Like the prophet Amos in the first reading, it is always a call from God, a mission from God. We are mere instruments of the Lord for he is still the one who will effect changes and transformations.

Forget all those myths and illusions of being the savior of the world or “messianic complex” as if we are indispensable and much needed in the world. We might even be surprised that the world might be better off without us!

As missionaries of Christ like the Twelve and Amos in the first reading, we only propose but never impose our message of salvation with conviction. It is not our persuasive arguments and discourses that will cast out the unclean spirits but the Christ in us with our life of witnessing.

It is never easy and can be a thankless task prone to misinterpretations and criticisms. That is why next Sunday upon the return of the Twelve, Jesus will invite them to rest at the other side of the lake that clearly shows us the very essence of being a missionary of Christ – oneness in him.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, June 2021.

Restoring all things in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will…

Ephesians 1:3-5

For many people today, the world is very chaotic, lacking harmony and rhythm with all the bad things happening right in their personal lives and in their homes and places of work. While the pandemic drags on, there is a strong temptation to be negative and even lost hope, of being cynical.

As missionaries of Christ, we are called to imitate the courage and conviction of St. Paul to faithfully reveal God’s plan of peace and harmony in him through Jesus.

Photo by author, 2019.

In his opening benediction that is so beautifully structured and expressed, St. Paul is inviting us to restore all things in Jesus Christ.

Like St. Paul, we missionaries of Christ must be the first to have that conviction that life is beautiful, that God has great plans for each of us despite all the sins and evil going on.

Imagine St. Paul writing the Ephesians while in prison, awaiting trial and certain death that did not deter him in being so upbeat and joyful with life?!

God knows very well the trials and difficulties we are all going through. Others have gone worst than us but never lose that sparkle of hope in Christ, giving their very lives for us to have a better world today.

Let us cast away all doubts and indifference and start living faithfully in Christ to realize the Father’s vision for us today. I pray that God hear your prayers to be filled with all the blessings you need to be a wtiness of his love and mercy. Amen.

When extraordinary is ordinary

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 01 July 2021
Genesis 22:1-19   <*(((><  +  ><)))*>   Matthew 9:1-8
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, M.D., March 2021.
When I look at your beautiful creation
O God our loving Father
I cannot but stop and wonder
be at awe with all the beauty 
and mystery so extraordinary
yet ordinary in your majesty.
Today we have two stories 
so extraordinary but with you
simply ordinary:  when you asked
Abraham to offer to you Isaac, 
off he went faithfully
even blindly:

As the two walked on together,
Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, 
"Father!" he said.
"Yes, son," he replied.
Isaac continued, "Here are the fire
and the wood, but where is the sheep
for the burnt offering?"
"Son," Abraham answered,
"God himself will provide the sheep 
for the burnt offering?"
Then the two continued going forward.
(Genesis 22:7-8)
The faith of Abraham in you, O God,
is so great, so extraordinary;
and so was the faith of Isaac
to his father that it never occurred 
to him he would be the one to be
sacrificed either.
Both Abraham and Isaac showed
extraordinary faith you ordinarily ask from us.
Give us the grace, O God,
to imbibe this ordinariness
of having extraordinary faith in you,
like the harmony and beauty
found ordinarily in nature;
may we realize that any sickness
is a "dis-ease", our lack of harmony
with you and with others due to sin.
Let us not "harbor evil thoughts"
like those scribes present at
Christ's healing of a paralytic
to whom he declared
"your sins are forgiven" (Mt.9:2)
to show that wherever there is
dis-ease, there is a lack of harmony
wanting your mercy and unity.
Amen.

Arise, be whole again in Christ!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 27 June 2021
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 <+> 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 <+> Mark 5:21-24, 35-43
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

Once again, we find Jesus crossing the Lake of Galilee this week with a crowd following him to listen to his teachings and experience his healing. What a beautiful image of life in Jesus, of constantly crossing the sea, sometimes in the darkness of the night amid storms.

It was something like what we had gone through last Thursday on the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist when as a nation we crossed history with the inauguration of the new Archbishop of Manila marked with the passing of former President Noynoy Aquino.

We hope and pray that like our gospel this Sunday, our recent crossing will lead us to new awakenings and realizations leading to national healing and yes, a resurrection, a rising from the dead like that young daughter of Jairus brought back to life by Jesus.

When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, Talitha koum, which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded.

Mark 5:38-42
Photo by author with friends at ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum, 2017.

Examining our faith in Jesus

Notice, my dear reader, how similar is our story of Jesus raising to life the dead daughter of Jairus with that of the calming of the storm while crossing the lake last Sunday. In both instances, we find Mark “exaggerating” some details as if Jesus were somewhat oblivious to what was going on around him.

But again, Mark is not entertaining us with his stories narrating the powers and miracles by Jesus for he is telling us something deeper and very important with those surprising details of his stories. Primary of which is the supremacy of Jesus as the Son of God over nature like the sea and death both symbolizing evil and sin.

Mark affirms this truth today in telling us how Jesus brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus, that Jesus is the Christ who had come launching a new world order where death and sin are overcome in him through his pasch.

Recall last Sunday how Mark ended his story with the disciples asking, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mk.4:41).

That question is finally answered by our story today that clearly shows Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who is life himself when he brought back to life the dead little girl.

Unfortunately, like during the time of Mark until now, many still doubt the powers of Jesus. Then and now, there is still that crisis of faith among us expressed by people from the synagogue official’s house who arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”(Mk.5:35).

If you were in that crowd following Jesus, would you still go with him to enter the house? Would you heed his words like Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk.5:36)?

And while inside the house, knowing the little girl was already dead, would you join the rest in ridiculing Jesus who said, “The child is not dead but asleep” (Mk.5:39)?

These are the questions Mark is asking us today like the Christians of his time going through persecution and crisis in the early Church.

It is easy to “believe”, proclaiming with arms raised that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is the Son of God but it is another thing to be truly convinced, to have faith in him when faced with the stark realities of life persistently attacked by sickness and death, of pains and sufferings that make us wonder why God could allow these to happen!

We have all felt our faith shaken when this pandemic struck us last year that took away those dearest to us so sudden, often without seeing them at all before they were cremated.

Like his story last Sunday, Mark’s narration of the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus is filled with many surprising details we find it so true with our own experiences of struggling to avoid or survive COVID-19, of having a sick child or spouse, of trying to make it to another day, of keeping our jobs to pay for food and rent and other needs of our family.

Do we really have that faith in Jesus, convinced that everything will be “okay” like Nightbirde who can brim with all smiles even if saddled with three kinds of cancer with a 2% chance of survival, claiming it is better than zero?

Today’s gospel is more than the revelation of who Jesus Christ is: the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus dares to invite us in examining our faith in God in the face of unrelenting attacks on life by sickness and death especially in this time of the pandemic.

Death and sickness are realities we face daily, that make us doubt God’s love and concern for us which the first reading clarifies with its declaration that

God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

Wisdom 1:13, 2:23-24
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2019.

Arising and being whole in Jesus

Jesus came not to remove sickness and death, pains and sufferings which did not come from God for God is love. He came to be one with us in sickness and death, in our pains and sufferings so that we may rise with him too in his resurrection and be whole again in him.

Notice the words Jesus used in every healing, “your faith has saved you” to show that healing is not just a cure of the disease but making the person whole again. The words health, healing, wholeness, and holiness are all interrelated if we examine their origins and implications. Hence, we see that whenever Jesus would heal, it is not only an eradication of an illness but restoring harmony and balance in the person – physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects.

It is the same in raising the dead young man in Nain and his friend Lazarus: Jesus or the evangelists used the word “arise” as a foreshadowing of Easter when Jesus himself rose from the dead, an indication of his power over death.

All these people in the gospels Jesus had healed and brought back to life eventually died but the good news is that death and sickness are no longer dark and an ending in itself.

Jesus came to bring salvation to the world, a wholeness in life which disease and physical death can no longer control and hold. That is why we need a firm faith to believe in him in spite of the many sickness and deaths now around us. It is faith that will enable us to grasp the full meaning of this pandemic and other sufferings we are going through in life. It is our deep faith in God that will also enable us to explain and show to others especially our loved ones the true meaning of healings and resurrections performed by Jesus who gives us a share in his victory over sickness and death.

May we dwell on the beautiful exposition of St. Paul today about being poor like Christ “that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2Cor. 8:9).

We can only be whole when we share whatever we have because that is when we allow Jesus to work in us, to be in us, to complete us. This happens when we wholeheartedly celebrate the Holy Eucharist where we become poor like Jesus, emptying ourselves of our sins, sharing with others our wealth through our contributions not only to the church collections but also to other charities where some of us share also time and talent aside from treasures.

The experience of the community pantry recently had taught us the value of St. Paul’s call for us to share and be poor like Christ when we were encouraged to take only what one needs and to give according to one’s ability – “kumuha ayon sa pangangailangan, magbigay ayon sa kakayahan”.

Yes, the realities of poverty and hunger remain with us but people are fed, sufferings are alleviated and most of all, the whole nation is united in believing again there is hope amidst the pandemic worsened by the systematic evil that has plagued us for so long.

Faith in God is deepened and strengthened when we become poor and weak like Jairus because that is only when we can arise and be whole again in Jesus Christ who is himself our Resurrection and Life. Amen.

A blessed new week to you and everyone!

Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2017.

Prayer to not shrink

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Seventh Week of Easter, 18 May 2021
Acts 20:17-27   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 17:1-11
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, 2019.

God our loving Father, we thank you in giving us St. Paul and all the other saints who inspire us in dealing with life’s many troubles and challenges especially in this time of the pandemic. How great are his words – and courage – in telling “the presbyters of Ephesus” of the great trials coming his way that he might never see them again.

"You know how I lived among you
the whole time from the day I first came
to the province of Asia.  I served the Lord
with all humility and with tears and trials 
that came to me because of the plots of the Jews,
and I did not at all shrink from telling you
what was for your benefit, or from teaching
you in public or in your homes."
(Acts 20:18-20)

Twice St. Paul mentioned to them, “I did not at all shrink”: what an amazing gift and grace of courage! He never chickened out in proclaiming Christ’s gospel of salvation, boldly admitting to everyone his repentance to God in persecuting the Christians before while at the same time proudly declaring his deep faith in Jesus in words and in deeds.

Most of all, St. Paul gallantly faced the realities of life like rejection and other hardships most especially of death, telling the Ephesians they would never meet again (v.25) as he bid them goodbye for Jerusalem that led him to his trial in Rome.

Too often, O Lord, we are afraid to seriously discuss or even entertain thoughts of our death, of our finiteness not only because we are afraid of dying but mostly because we are also afraid of facing the harsh realities of our selves — that we have been wasting our time, we have been remiss with our duties and responsibilities.

And yes, we have shrunk from many instances when we should have stood for what is right and good, for what is fair and just.

Worst, we have left you, dear God and failed to do good, choosing to sin than be loving and kind, and forgiving.

May we hold on always to your High Priestly prayer for us, Lord Jesus that like you, may we realize that the path to glory is always the way of the Cross.

We pray most especially for those who are stuck in situations they know so well as not proper and good; give them the grace and chance to correct their lives, to repent for their sins and return to you and their loved ones.

We pray for those we look up to who do not shrink but deep inside are so hard pressed with the many challenges of remaining upright and holy.

Keep us faithful to you, O Lord, now and forever. Amen.

Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

Lent is uncovering our sins

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Fifth Week in Lent, 22 March 2021
Daniel 13:41-62   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   John 8:1-11

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father for the gift of life, for this final week of Lent you are giving us to continue uncovering the sins we hide from you, from others and even from ourselves. And worst, the sins of others we bare to cover our own sins.

How wonderful are your words today, Lord, of two women accused of adultery – one falsely, the other guilty – but, the same story of your justice and mercy.

Susana in the first reading was spared from death when her two accusers who were both elders and judges of the people were convicted of perjury following the courage and wisdom of your prophet Daniel.

As she was being led to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, and he cried aloud, “I will have no part in the death of this woman.” All the people turned and asked him, “What is this you are saying?” He stood in their midst and continued, “Are you such fools, O children of Israel! To condemn a woman of Israel without examination and without clear evidence? Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her.”

Daniel 13:45-48

Stir in us, O God the same Holy Spirit that like Daniel we may have the courage to defend and stand for those wrongly accused of any wrongdoing whether in our homes or community or in the courts.

I pray most especially for women who are often at the receiving end of false accusations, of gossips and of hurtful lies. The victims of rape and molestation and sexual harassment cry in the silence of their deep pains and sufferings just because they are women and sadly, because their accusers are men of stature and position. Send us more Daniels, dear God to defend them.

Let us take into our hearts the challenge of your Son Jesus Christ to let the one who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at anyone guilty of sins (Jn.8:7). It is not that we must be silent with the evil persisting around us but so we may be cautious against hasty pronouncements and judgement against those guilty of any sin.

Worst of all is when we accuse sinners of evil they are guilty of doing only to cover our own sins we have been hiding from you and others, even foolishly from ourselves. Give us some decency, at least like those people, “beginning with the elders (Jn.8:9)” who left guilty of sins without casting any stone to the woman caught in adultery.

Have mercy on us, Jesus, when we act like those Pharisees and scribes who look for sinners, accuse them in public in order to look good and find something against you. Amen.

The joy of Lent

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Lent-B (Laetare Sunday), 14 March 2021
2 Chronicles 36:14-16, 19-23 ><}}}*> Ephesians 2:4-10 ><}}}*> John 3:14-21
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Candaba, Pampanga, February 2021

Today we burst in joyful shades of pink in our liturgy as we rejoice in this Fourth Sunday in Lent known as “Laetare Sunday” when our entrance antiphon calls us to “Rejoice, Jerusalem! Be glad for her, you who love her; rejoice with her…”

This early as we go halfway through in our journey to Easter, we are called to rejoice as we continue to experience God’s immense love for us in Jesus Christ seen in our readings and most especially, if we have truly taken into heart the spirit of Lent through prayer, fasting and abstinence, and alms-giving.

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”

John 3:14-16
Photo by author, 2018.

Path to God opened for us in Christ crucified, our light.

As we have mentioned last week, the fourth gospel is also called “the book of signs” because John refers to the miracles and words of Jesus as “signs” that point to him as the Messiah or Christ, the Anointed One of God.

This Sunday we hear John introducing to us another sign and symbol he uses in his gospel for Jesus: his being LIGHT himself.

This we must first see in the context of his crucifixion which John refers to so many times in his gospel as Jesus being lifted up or raised up on the cross.

It is very meaningful for John because the Crucifixion is Christ’s greatest sign and revelation of his glory when he opened a path for us back to God in his Cross. It is in opening this path to God in his Cross that Jesus had also shone so brightly as our light along the way.


After cleansing the temple last week, John tells us how at the start of the following third chapter of his gospel that “There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” who “came to Jesus at night” (Jn.3:1,2) to discuss things he must have heard and seen about Jesus.

Remember chronemics, the non-verbal communication expressed by time and space? Again we find this employed by John in our gospel scene this Sunday in Nicodemus meeting Jesus at night.

According to biblical scholars, Nicodemus came to see Jesus at night in order to hide in darkness for he was afraid of being publicly associated with Jesus considering his being member of the Sanhedrin, the highest governing body in Israel at that time.

Photo by author, November 2020.

Moreover, his coming at night to Jesus is also symbolic, suggesting that despite his expertise in the Mosaic Law, Nicodemus felt within him a sense of still living in darkness and ignorance. If you read this whole scene, you find many instances of darkness and ignorance in Nicodemus that at one point, there is a tinge of sarcasm from the Lord telling him, “You are a teacher of Israel and you do not understand this?” (Jn.3:10)

Eventually on Good Friday, Nicodemus would come out into the open to join another secret disciple of Jesus named Joseph of Arimathea when they asked Pilate for his body to be buried in a new tomb not far from the site of the crucifixion (Jn.19:38-42).

The fourth gospel teems with many teachings as well as scenes depicting Jesus as the light dispelling the many darkness that envelops the world beginning at its Prologue.

Only John has this scene of Jesus discussing with Nicodemus his coming from heaven to dispel the darkness in our lives.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”

John 3:17-21
Photo by author, Holy Family Chapel, Sacred Heart Center for Spirituality, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Jesus enlightening us, uplifting us

This love of God for us through the coming of Jesus Christ is not only the joy of Lent but the very joy of our lives the Lord had expressed in two ways: in being our light in the many darkness of life as well as in uplifting us all from the quagmire of sins and evil.

But this joy in the Lord needs to be worked for; it does not come in handy as something given out freely in the sense that it calls us to do a Nicodemus too, of making efforts to come out from darkness, to follow the light of Jesus Christ that leads to the Cross.

And this is where it becomes more joyous, how Jesus enlightens us and lifts us up with him to the Father.

Let me explain it this way: when we talk of sin, we always find its logical connection with punishment. We see it everywhere and have always experienced it because rightly so, every sin is punished. Certainly, no one escapes punishment of sins in this life or life after. It is the law of karma that in every action, there is a corresponding reaction (excluded are other concepts like reincarnation we do not accept).

Photo by author, December 2020.

The problem arises in the question who punishes us for our sins?

Unfortunately, in any religion the finger always points at God which is very untrue and unfair!

God does not punish and would never do so because “God is love (1 Jn.4:16)”!

Those passages we find in the Old Testament of God “getting angry, punishing people” are literary devices used to convey to us deeper truths about God as a person relating with us like human. But notice too that the Sacred Scriptures itself declare in so many instances how God is “so gentle and slow to anger, full of mercy always foregoing his wrath” on the sinful.

Jesus clarified this in many instances, in words and in deeds, when he showed mercy and forgiveness to sinners like prostitutes and tax collectors who were then considered the most wretched and hopeless ones in the society. In the healing of the man born blind, Jesus clarified that sickness and disease are not a punishment from God (Jn.9:1-12).

Rest be assured in his words today to Nicodemus, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

St. Paul attests to this truth found in his beautiful reflection in the second reading:

Brothers and sisters: God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved — raised us up with him, and sealed us wit him in the heavens in Christ Jesus…

Ephesians 2:4-6

Such is the great love of God for us. When something bad happens to us due to our sins or somebody else’s sins, it is not from God. It is our self-indictment of refusing to change our sinful ways that we suffer the consequences of our evil deeds: “And this is the verdict, that light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.

Photo by author, Lent 2019.

When we try to reflect deeper, we find that avoiding sins is the most practical thing we can always do in life but, unfortunately, something we refuse to do for so many reasons.

Why we prefer darkness than light is something we have always been struggling with when we know so well it is better to be out in the light.

If we reflect deeply, we realize that God has no need for us; he remains perfect even if we sin, if we do not obey him, if we abandon him. But God chose to love us, even begging us to remain good and holy so we can be fulfilled in this life.

Should something bad happens to us because of our sins or somebody else’s sins, the very good news is that God would always find ways to enlighten us to ensure it will turn out well for our own good, even if he has to use pagans and unbelievers or sinners to bring us back into light as experienced by his people with King Cyrus of Persia.


We all have a Nicodemus in us when we sometimes prefer darkness, of coming to Jesus at night because of fears of what others might say about us in following the path of the Lord, of being good, being just, being kind, and being holy.

Like Nicodemus, we try following and listening to Jesus from afar as we have been so used to staying and living in darkness when light sometimes hurt our eyes, making it difficult for us to really see and accept people and things because truth hurts.

This Sunday, let us examine the many darkness we still have within us. Like the author of the Book of Chronicles we heard in the first reading, let us try to see the religious significance of what is happening in our lives and nation to find where God is leading us.

Jesus had come to save us, not to judge us. Step out from your darkness within and let the light of Jesus enlighten and uplift you high like never before in rejoicing as you see the beauty of life in God its author. Amen. A blessed and joyful week to everyone!

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, September 2020.