“Sleeping” in Christ, trusting in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2022
Acts 12:1-11 ><}}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 ><}}}}*> Matthew 16:13-19
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, August 2021.

Our readings today are a parable of the Church, of what we should and would be as the Body of Christ celebrating the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, the pillars of the Church.

Despite their personalities being poles apart while their social, cultural and religious backgrounds were greatly different, both men were won over by Jesus Christ to proclaim his good news of salvation, eventually dying as martyrs like the Lord. Both apostles displayed deep trust in Jesus Christ whom they have come to know on a personal basis.

Let us reflect first on St. Peter, the “prince of the Apostles” and servant of all. Notice how Peter could sleep soundly inside prison, even between two soldiers as narrated to us by Luke.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.

Acts 12:6-9

It is very amusing, even funny, but facts can truly be stranger than fiction!

How could Peter sleep soundly after being arrested and thrown into prison with two soldiers sandwiching him inside his cell while a host of other guards secured the area outside?

We think again of St. Joseph sleeping soundly in a similar critical situation when he decided to silently leave Mary who was found pregnant with a child before they were married. Too often, we find it difficult to sleep when we have problems because we cannot decide decisively as we lack trust and faith in God. Both Joseph and Peter slept soundly under critical situations because of their complete trust and faith in God.

But, Peter shows us another dimension of his trust in God – his total trust also in the Church, believing that they were all praying for him.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2022.

It is a beautiful imagery of the Church then and now, always in darkness like during night time when Peter was imprisoned. And that is the parable of this scene: it is always a time of Exodus for us in the Church, of passing over from every trials and difficulties, always trusting our leaders, trusting our faithful and most of all, entrusting everything to God!

If there is one thing most needed these days in our Church especially in the Philippines is this attitude of being in an Exodus, of exiting from our excesses from the past, of submitting ourselves more to God than to our own thoughts and plans especially in politics that we have forgotten the more crucial proclamation of the gospel by reaching out to the grassroots level, of witnessing our faith in God instead of lording it over among people, exerting our influences. The recent elections is a dark period of our imprisonment with secular thoughts and dispositions, forgetting our sphere of influence in spiritual matters.

May we, both clergy and laypeople, imitate Peter by abandoning everything to God in deep prayers, following God not our plans as symbolized by his putting on his belt and sandals as commanded by the angel.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

Meanwhile, we find the same kind of total abandonment by Paul of himself to God while in prison where he wrote some of his finest letters like this Second Letter to Timothy, the last of his captivity letters which we heard in the second reading today.

Imagine the stress of being in prison but without any hint of duress on Paul while awaiting death amid all humiliations with his incomparable eloquence:

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:6-7, 17, 18

Very evident in all his letters, Paul had always expressed his total abandonment of self to Christ, of his faith in God. Here in this portion of his second letter to Timothy, we find two important lessons so apt in our celebration of this solemnity.


First is the nature of Christian life lived as a worship: am already being poured out like a libation. That is what I like most with Paul, his mastery of language, always using the most perfect words to express his experiences and ideas. For some, especially first-time readers of Paul, they may find it so “mayabang” as we say in Filipino. But no. For me, Paul is the most sincere and most humble writer in the world of letters then and now.

A libation is a drink offered to gods in ancient Greece and Rome. Here, Paul as he approached death, summarized his entire life as an offering to God that we also see in his other writings.

And that is the challenge of this solemnity to us, that we live our lives as a form of worship to God.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, 15 June 2022.

Our very lives in itself are a prayer, always centered on God, something so foolish when we go by the standards of the world today that is all show – palabas – with nothing substantial inside because only money and fame matter. Paul was very much like Peter who lived their lives as prayers that like Christ in the end, both offered the highest offering of all, martyrdom.

Second thing we find in this short but rich excerpt from Paul’s letter to Timothy is the deeper meaning of death as a passage to heaven, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom”. Like the gospel last Sunday when we heard Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” wherein Jesus freely chose to face his death to fulfill his mission and express his deep love for the Father and for us. To the Philippians Paul declared that “for me life is Christ, death is gain”. Here in his letter to Timothy, Paul freely accepts his death, making it a blessing for others, something we must emulate. Instead of having those bucket lists of things to do before dying, Paul is teaching us death comes in every present moment that we must always prepare for its happening so that the next generation may continue the good things we have started. And that is exactly how until now the Church’s missionary zeal is kept aflame by Paul’s letters and works.


Photo by author, 2019.

In the gospel proclaimed today about the investiture of Peter as the head of the church of Christ, we heard Jesus entrusting to him “the keys to the kingdom of heaven that whatever he binds on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever he loosens on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (cf. Mt.16:19).

As I end this reflection for this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, I wish to use the word “key” in a different sense – the key to unlocking how Peter and Paul achieved so much for God and for the Church lies in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Both apostles who have become the pillars of the Church today truly experienced Jesus in their lives in the most personal and in timate manner that in the process they have mirrored the true Christ himself.

The problems we have in the Church today, notably the declining number of the faithful following an all-time low in credibility is largely due to the many wrong answers we give Jesus to his question “who do people say I am?” Many Christians are losing their faith and interest in the Church because of the mixed signals we give them on what do we say who Jesus is.

The Church grew so wide during the time of Peter and Paul because both apostles shared the true Jesus Christ not only in their words but also in their deeds. May we have the courage to open ourselves to Jesus Christ again so we may know him more clearly, love him dearly, follow him closely and preach him daily. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Won over by Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2022
Acts 12:1-11 ><}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 ><}}}*> Matthew 16:13-19
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.
God our loving Father,
as we celebrate today the
Solemnity of the two pillars
of the Church, St. Peter and St. Paul
who are poles apart in their 
temperament and in their social,
cultural, and religious backgrounds,
help us imitate them in being open
to your grace always, in being open
to your plans so we may set aside
our own agendas in order to be won
over by your Son Jesus Christ. 
Nothing is impossible with you,
dear Father:  
Peter denied Jesus
during the passion while 
Paul persecuted Jesus in
the persons of his disciples;
Peter was impetuous and 
presumptuous but sometimes
hesitant yet solidly loyal to
Christ while Paul was proud 
of his Roman citizenship and of
his being a Pharisee, demanding
his title as Apostle but likewise,
admits his fragility as a "pot of
clay", most unworthy vessel of Christ; 
Peter was attached to his Jewish
roots and convictions but did not resist 
the Holy Spirit in leading him where 
he did not want to go while Paul was 
resolute in being led by the Spirit in
proclaiming Jesus to the gentiles
while deep inside was torn within 
by the resistance and
rejection of his fellow Jews.
Merciful Father,
let your Son Jesus Christ
win over us like what he did
to St. Peter and St. Paul
who both gave their lives as 
a living worship to you,
witnessing your love and mercy,
kindness and majesty;
give us the grace to know Jesus
and love Jesus first so we may
follow him to his Cross 
for your greater glory.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

Meeting God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop & Martyr, 28 June 2022
Amos 3:1-8, 4:11-12   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 8:23-27
Photo by Ms. Danna Hazel de Castro, Kiltepan Peak, Sagada, Mountain Province, 2017.
Disturbing words by Amos in the
first reading and a violent storm in
the gospel while the apostles where
crossing the lake with Jesus asleep
remind us dear God our loving Father
of the inevitable "meeting with you".
Who would not be shaken with the 
words of Amos threatening:

Does a lion roar in the f0rest when it has no prey? Does a young lion cry out from its den unless it has seized something? Is a bird brought to earth by a snare when there is no lure for it? Does a snare spring up from the ground without catching anything? If the trumpet sounds in a city, will the people not be frightened ? If evil befalls a city, has not the Lord caused it? So now I will deal with you in my own way, O Israel! And since I will deal thus with you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel.

Amos 3;4-6, 4:12
Forgive us, Lord, for being complacent
in knowing you, feeling one with you
even if our lives are far from your
teachings that we neither see your
nor are you seen in us or in our live; 
help us realize that because 
you have given us so much, much are
expected from us.
At the other extreme, many times
we are like the apostles in the boat
caught in a violent storm while at the
middle of the sea and even if Jesus were
with us, we act as if he were away.
Many times we do not meet you
because we do not live our faith in you
faithfully, so afraid of what others would
say to us; but, there are also many times
we do not meet you when our fears overtake
us that we do not see you being with us.

The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life… Life in man is the glory of God; the life of man is the vision of God.

St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies
Help us imitate St. Irenaeus who lived
his faith faithfully that he saw you daily
in his life.  Amen.

Free and faithful in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 26 June 2022
1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 ><]]]]'> Galatians 5:1, 13-18 ><]]]]'> Luke 9:51-54
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

“Free and Faithful in Christ” by the late Redemptorist Fr. Bernard Haring is one of my favorite textbooks in the seminary that I have kept all these years not because I love moral theology but due to its title I have found so true especially in life and ministry.

The more we love Jesus and others, the more we become free, the more we become faithful and committed to God and others, the more we become trusting too.

For many people, commitment and freedom do not seem to jibe well because they think freedom is being able to do whatever you want, that freedom is absolute. Of course not! St. John Paul II clarified in Veritatis Splendor that since the beginning, God had limited freedom to choosing only what is good when he told Adam and Eve they were free to eat all fruits in the garden except the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

True freedom is not defying our parents and authorities to insist on what we want, regardless of the well-being of others like driving recklessly that harm those on the streets or posting pictures and statements in social media without respecting other people’s beliefs and sensibilities.

We can only be truly free as a person if we care for other people by seeing them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.

Galatians 5:1, 13
Photo by author, wailing wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Jesus, the one truly free

After two Sundays of celebrating the Solemnities of the Trinity and of the Body and Blood of Jesus, we finally feel the Ordinary Time with our green motif this Sunday that shall continue until November before we end the liturgical calendar with Christ the King to usher in Advent Season and Christmas, which is just six months away from today.

But before thinking of the merry December, we are reminded this Sunday of our journey in life with Jesus guided by Luke who expertly expressed the tempo of Ordinary Time which implies the importance of being free and faithful in Christ:

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

Luke 9:51-56

Here we find the complete freedom of Jesus Christ, his fidelity and commitment to his mission from the Father to be fulfilled in Jerusalem where he would face death to rise again and usher in new life in him, new relationships with God and with others.

Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

I love the way Luke wrote our opening lines of the gospel this Sunday which shows the total freedom of Jesus in fulfilling his mission, his fidelity and love to the Father, “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem”. There was no turning back for Jesus, no second thoughts about going to Jerusalem where he knew so well he would be arrested and killed. Jesus was totally free and faithful in his love for us and to the Father.

It is the same route, the same journey we take daily with Jesus to Jerusalem where we suffer and die with him in our fidelity to our vows and promises, to our loved ones, to our Motherland, and to God our Father. Like Jesus Christ, we must be focused on the mission of love, finding ways to accomplish it instead of entertaining fancy thoughts of display of powers as proposed by the brothers James and John at a Samaritan village they were rejected. To think of getting even with a revenge against bad people is not only a waste of time and energy but most of all means we are not free at all, that we are enslaved by evil and sin, by our emotions. A true disciple of the Lord leaves everything to God, especially the punishment of those who harm and do us wrong. Being resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem like Jesus is having complete faith in him that he would take care of us, that we need not worry at all of petty things like power and wealth, fame and glory.

Being free and faithful, resolutely determined like Christ

Of course, there would always be occasional “stops” for rests in the Lord along the way with some “perks” of serving him though not always in the way the world offers it. Luke would always narrate in his gospel how Jesus would ask his disciples to have some time for themselves in deserted places to rest and pray.

Being free and faithful in Christ, resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem means to go opposite the way of the world which is a folly in the eyes of human wisdom characterized by those ads shouting out to everyone to “Just do it” or “Obey your thirst”, putting premiums on wealth and power, popularity and comfort.

Photo by author, “homeless Christ” at the entrance to Capernaum, the Holy Land, 02 May 2019.

To follow Jesus to Jerusalem is to die daily to our comforts for we are not tourists but pilgrims on earth without fixed or permanent dwelling because our true home is in heaven. This is the first thing Jesus clarifies with anyone wishing to join him in his journey, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Lk.9:58).

That is the reason we priests do not get married, trying to lead simple lives without the trappings of the material world to show everyone what is life in heaven. But, how free and faithful are we in keeping our vows of the priesthood is another topic….


Being free and faithful in Christ is to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ” as St. Benedict would insist to his followers in Rules which is the gist of the shocking reply of Jesus to the second man who asked him permission to bury first his dead father so he could follow him.

When Jesus told the man “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Lk.19:60), he was speaking about the perennial sickness of many religious people who are tied up with their religious laws without realizing its intentions like justice and love. Many times, we practice our faith without really believing in God but believing more in our laws and rituals that we forget the persons we must love. Paul expressed it so well in his letter to the Romans when he wrote, “Owe nothing to anyone except love for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (13:8).


Being and free and faithful in Christ means having Jesus and only Jesus as our priority in life. Notice how the third man came to Jesus wising to follow him but “first let me say farewell to my family at home” (Lk.9:61). It is very clear that for him his priority was his family which is exactly the opposite of what Christ tells us that anyone who loves his father and mother, brother or sister more than him is not worthy to be his disciple.

Jesus is not telling us to disregard our family, especially the fourth Commandment of God; Jesus here is emphasizing the primacy of the gospel, of himself. It is not an issue about morality but keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord we must follow completely like Paul who declared how he had come to consider “everything as a loss” in knowing Christ (Phil.3:8).

It is totally different from the context of Elisha who asked Elijah’s permission to bid goodbye to his family before joining him; see how he slaughtered the oxen he used in farming with his implements as firewood in cooking a meal for Elijah. Elisha literally did what Jesus told the third man trying to join him by burning his plow, indicating his resolute determination to fulfill God’s mission as his prophet by not looking back to his past life.

Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives with a Jewish cemetery at the foreground facing its eastern wall where the Messiah is believed would pass through when he comes. It is the very route Jesus had taken more than 2000 years ago on Palm Sunday before his Passion, Death and Resurrection. Photo by author, 04 May 2019.

When Ordinary Time started in January and was briefly paused until three weeks ago by Lent and Easter Seasons, we have already embarked in the journey of Jesus beginning around the shores of Galilee.

As we resume the Ordinary Time with Jerusalem as destination, Jesus continues to invite us to come and follow him. His call is very simple. Follow me. And, it is sometimes funny that the first time we accepted his invitation, we just followed him without even saying yes. Oh, how free and faithful we were!

But, after many detours and changes of directions along with the many trials and sufferings, we begin to ask questions, seeking clarifications, wondering if we should still continue or just leave and go back to our old ways.

What, who is holding us from being totally free and faithful to Christ?

May the love of Jesus guide us and increase our faith in him so we may also be resolutely determined, free and faithful to continue with him in this journey to fullness of life in him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz in San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Faith is standing up, not dancing

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time, 08 June 2022
1 Kings 18:20-39   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 5:17-19
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2017.
God our loving Father,
as we rejoice into coming to
the halfway month of the year,
we are also wary that it is during 
this month of June when the days
move slowly, exactly just how 
life has been moving on for many
of us; there is the usual grind with
daily living's many woes made worst
by rising prices of goods and
commodities.
For some, it is indeed a new phase in
our journey with you but for many,
an occasion to dilly-dally in our faith,
to dance with the many false gods
of our time offering quick fixes to our
problems.
We have become like the Israelites
of Elijah's time.

Elijah appealed to all the people and said, “How long will you straddle the issue? If the Lord is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him.” The people, however, did not answer him.

1 Kings 18:21
Forgive us, dear Father,
for not making a stand 
for you, with you and in you;
forgive us for dancing,
for straddling as we play safe,
avoiding any commitment as
we wish to please ourselves than
you and others;
forgive us for still searching
as if there is still any other true God 
besides you who would give in to 
all our whims and caprices.
Push us, inspire us in Christ Jesus
to move forward in life, finding new ways
of living out our faith to fulfillment
amid the changing times and situations
not for the sake of change but to make
you present, dear Lord, in our present
time when people turn away from you and
religion, and from each other.  
Amen.

My sweet Lord!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday after the Ascension of the Lord, 02 June 2022
Acts 22:30; 23:6-11     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     John 17:20-26
Photo by author, Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary, SM Grand Central, Caloocan City, 26 May 2022.
Forgive me, Jesus
but my initial reaction upon 
reading today's gospel was to
sing George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord"
because your words are so sweet indeed,
so comforting!

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “I pray notn only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

John 17:20, 24
Who are we,
who am I to be considered
as a gift to you, my Lord and my God?
Are we not the ones supposed to say 
and claim that you are, dear Jesus, 
the Father's gift to us and not the other
way around?
But, great thanks, sweet Lord Jesus
in taking us as the Father's gifts to you;
deepen in us your gift of faith in you
so we may work hard for the unity you
prayed for us, that we may truly enter 
into a communion with the Father
and one another in you and 
through you.
Do not allow us, dear Jesus
to be divided like the Pharisees and
Sadducees who both claimed to be
the followers of God but could not 
agree on anything about him except 
in being your enemies.
Let us be the visible signs
of your loving service and presence
in this world plagued with so much divisions
and violence as many among us continue
to refuse in seeing each one's giftedness  
in God our Father through you, dear Jesus.
Amen.
Photo by author, Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary, SM Grand Central, Caloocan City, 26 May 2022.

Knowing Jesus like the Apostles

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of St. Philip and St. James the Less, Apostles, 03 April 2022
1 Corinthians 15:1-8   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 14:6-14
Jesus teaching his Twelve Apostles, from GettyImages.
Lord Jesus Christ,
on this feast of your apostles 
Philip and James the Younger, 
grant me the grace to discover 
your true identity the way they
got to know you too; draw me
closer to you to be familiar with
you and your ways, to always
"come and see" you in prayers
and experiences in life.
Keep me close to you, dear Jesus,
so that I may truly lead people to you
and not to me nor to my beliefs; 
let me lead seekers of you find you 
both in your glory and in your Cross 
for without your sufferings and death,
everything becomes a novelty and
a fancy, or a philosophy and never 
a life and a union in you.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried; that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures; that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.

1 Corinthians 15:3-5
Like Philip, keep me open in
expressing to you my views
when asked like at the wilderness
when you tested him where to find
food for the crowd; in another instance,
let me be like Philip entertaining requests
from others to see you like those Greeks 
who have come to Jerusalem;
most of all, keep me open to you,
dear Jesus to accept and treasure
your words and teachings even if I
do not understand immediately if that
is the way to know you more clearly
and eventually see and experience
God our Father. 
Like your cousin James the Younger,
let me keep in mind that closeness 
with you does not come  through mere
affiliations nor with names because 
knowing you is a habit that we must strive 
and work for by coming to you daily, 
following you even up to the Cross;
it is only in following you, becoming
like you we truly become your 
disciples like James who taught
and witnessed your love for everyone
by working so hard with Peter to 
intervene in the difficult relations 
between the early Christians of Jewish
origins and those of pagan converts; 
in practice and in his writings, James
showed that faith in you is fulfilled 
in a life lived in love and respect 
for each other:  "As the body apart 
from the spirit is dead, so faith apart 
from works is dead" (James 2:26).
Philip and James were not perfect,
just like me; but in their humility
and obedience, you perfected 
them in their lives of witnessing
that cost their lives; keep me
faithful to you, dear Jesus,
and let others see you in me
in words and in deeds.  Amen.

Easter is being rooted in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Athanasius, Doctor of the Church, 02 May 2022
Acts 6:8-15   ><))))*> + <*((((><   John 6:22-29
Photo by Ms. Jing Rey Henderson in Taroytoy, Aklan, 29 April 2022.
In this Season of Easter,
help us, dear Lord Jesus 
to know you more clearly
so that we may deepen our
faith in you and eventually do
your work of loving service
to one another; so many times 
in life we seek you for selfish 
and personal reasons 
like the people you have fed 
at the wilderness.

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 the signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for 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 6:25-27
Like St. Stephen in the first
reading, fill us with passion 
in "working for God" which is
primarily to believe in you as 
the Christ, the one he sent;
but so many times, even in this
modern age, we doubt you,
O Jesus, as the Son of God:
like those Jews, we ask
"when did you get here" -
from where are you, Jesus,
because we always doubt you
as the Son of God like our separated
brothers and sisters until now
influenced by Arianism.
Hence, it is not enough for us 
to be simply passionate like St. Stephen -
grant us the academic discipline 
of St. Athanasius whose memorial 
we celebrate today;
his sound mental acumen formed by
his deep spirituality based on prayers
made him a pillar of the Church in 
defending your truth as the Son of God.
The more he knew you more clearly,
the more he followed you closely
even if he was banished so many
times from his posts due to his rootedness
in you; most of all, in his knowledge 
and wisdom, the more he loved you dearly, 
Jesus, by serving the flock entrusted to him.  
Amen.

Easter Intensity

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Week of Easter-C or Divine Mercy Sunday, 24 April 2022
Acts 5:12-16 ><]]]]’> Revelation 9:1-11, 12-13, 17-19 ><]]]]’> John 20:19-31
Photo by author at Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

Admittedly, Lent is easier to experience and express than Easter due to its many practicalities. Lent is easier to understand and embrace with the many penitential practices we can undertake like fasting and abstinence, penance, and alms-giving that all came from and directed to our daily living. Remember our expression last season that “life is a daily Lent.”

Easter is different. It is not easily understood especially in our country when it is the hottest season when everything is dried and seems to be dying unlike in Europe and North America where it is springtime with a dazzling display of wonderful colors evoking life everywhere.

Our gospel this Sunday shows us how Easter had confronted the Lord’s disciples with an entirely new reality that was far beyond the limits of their experience, something which continues to our days, in our very lives. Christ’s Resurrection has opened new possibilities in our existence that affects everyone and leads us to a new kind of future so difficult in explaining and expressing but something very true inside us perfectly captured in our Filipino expression of “ah basta!”

See how simple are the accounts of the Lord’s appearances to his disciples without much details and descriptions:

Photo by author, Holy Sepulchre Church, Jerusalem, 2017.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20:19-23

Last Sunday we have mentioned the need for us to be open and empty at the same time to truly experience the joy and grandeur of Easter, exactly what our gospel tells us today. Nothing much is said about the reactions by the disciples of Jesus except that they “rejoiced” upon seeing him breaking through locked doors and windows.

But, if we try to dwell into the scene, we can feel a certain amount of energy bursting forth, an inexpressible intensity found in Jesus and in his disciples as well on that evening of the first day of the week.

John did not tell us how long Jesus stayed with the disciples nor how they rejoiced upon seeing him but we can imagine and feel the intensity both in Jesus and among the disciples on that evening and eventually the following Sunday when Jesus appeared anew in the same manner with Thomas already present.

See in both instances how John simply stated Jesus broke through locked doors and windows that caught the disciples in deep silence and adoration of the Risen Lord, of how their fears were allayed by the the gift of peace, of how sins were forgiven and doubts erased by Christ’s presence that eventually led to their seeing and believing in him.

And what happened? Jesus rose from the dead! He did not merely resuscitate from death but broke out into entirely new form of life, a life no longer subject to death and physical realities paving the way for us to enter into new dimensions in life too.

Like Thomas, Jesus touches us in the most personal and unique manner that deep inside us we also cry with intensity “my Lord and my God” to him especially during consecration at the Mass. In the second reading, we have heard how John who was then a prisoner at Patmos Island off the coast of Greece was also touched by Jesus with his right hand and told not to be afraid (Rev. 1:17) in proclaiming his gospel of salvation.

Though we can enumerate so many reasons and persons who have led us into believing in Jesus, we also admit at the same time that there is no specifically single reason nor person for our faith in God except our very selves, of our personal conviction that transcends all proofs and logic as well. Again, that expression we have of “ah basta!”

Photo by author at Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

The grace of this second Sunday of Easter which is also the eighth day of the octave known recently as “Divine Mercy Sunday” is how God through Jesus Christ comes to us as someone so small and invisible. And so intense in his love for us, breaking all barriers just to be with us especially when we too feel so locked inside with fears like the disciples.

As we have reflected last week by becoming empty and open, we often find our mighty God in little things we usually dismiss or disregard like the mustard seed.

On that evening of Easter, Jesus came in all silence and simplicity, leaving us with not much material proofs except the testimony and works of his witnesses, the disciples.

Such is the mystery of the Resurrection by Jesus that is beyond descriptions and reason because it is of another dimension and world; but, we know it is true because we ourselves have experienced the Risen Lord in so many ways sometimes so plain and simple, even sometimes too funny to mention.

One undeniable fact of the veracity of the Resurrection of Jesus is the shift by the early Christians from the Sabbath day of worship into Sunday, the first day of the week. Remember the first Christians were all Jewish like Jesus; for them to abandon the Sabbath day worship and replaced it with Sunday means something so intense must have happened on that day itself and with them as well.

Because of Christ’s Resurrection, life is forever changed for the best amid all the many problems and chaos we have been through in the past 2000 years, giving us with so much hopes for a better tomorrow despite the many darkness coming our way. The key is to remain intense in our faith in Jesus Christ.


Dearest Jesus,
grant me the intensity to proclaim
you and your gospel of salvation 
in both words and deeds;
use my hands 
to do many signs and wonders
among your people like your Apostles
but never to replace you;
let my mission be an intense
proclamation always that you alone
is my Lord and my God.
Amen.

Video by author at Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

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.