The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Dedication of the Basilicas of Sts. Peter and Paul, 18 November 2020
Acts of the Apostles 28:11-16, 30-31 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Matthew 14:22-33
Today, O Lord, we celebrate anew the Dedication of your two other Major Basilicas in Rome, St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s. Last week, we celebrated the dedication of the Cathedral of Rome, the St. John Lateran and in August, the St. Mary Major.
All these major basilicas remind us of the spiritual nature of the Church signified by these beautiful buildings of stones as community of believers following you, dear Jesus.
Since the beginning, we have always been sailing in rough, stormy seas as you have seen your apostles that night in their boat “being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it” (Mt. 14:24).
As I prayed today on that scene with the recent fierce winds of typhoon Ulysses still so vivid to me, I felt like Peter – so fearful with winds like in the gospel today when you bid him come to you by walking on water too. “But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened” and began to sink in water, crying out to you, “Lord, save me!”(Mt. 14:30).
When the strong winds and heavy rains by typhoonUlysses ravaged our region last week, it was also nighttime, so dark, so cold, and we felt so fearful like Peter. Some people took shelter in our church and hopefully have given them some sense of security in you, Lord.
As I reflected on the many things that have frightened me from the winds, I have realized some beautiful things too about you that reassure me of your perfect love that casts out all fears.
Two things I have found so fearful with the winds, Lord.
First was the howling sound of the winds.
It was scary especially when you are very silent, Lord, because I felt so alone.
No wonder the Apostles thought you were a ghost when they saw you walking on water!
Inside and outside the Church today are so many voices like harsh winds that add to our many confusions that isolate us from you and from one another, making us so afraid that sometimes lead us to doubt your presence and love.
Please give us the courage to grow deeper in your silence, befriending it more when you are most silent so we may heighten our sensitivity of your presence and overcome our fears.
Second thing so frightening with the winds, O Lord, is its relentless force that refuses to stop that it seems to pummel everything on its path.
Sometimes in life, forces around us can be felt so strongly that frighten us but without really hitting us at all!
Yes, it is so scary but unfounded! Sometimes, it is more in our minds than in the winds actually because we are afraid of being bruised and hurt, of being knocked down especially when we do not know where the blows are coming from.
Remind us, Lord, how often our fears are imaginary.
Teach us not to resist the strong winds, to be calm, to hold on, and if ever we are swept away, to await you for you are definitely coming even if you have to walk on water to save us! Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXXII-A in Ordinary Time, 08 November 2020
Wisdom 6:12-16 ><)))*> 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 >><)))*> Matthew 25:1-13
Beginning this Sunday until the Solemnity of Christ the King three weeks from now, we hear from the gospel Jesus speaking of his Second Coming at the end of time to render judgement to everyone.
It is during this time as we come to close the liturgical year and begin the new one with the Advent Season four weeks before Christmas when the Church reminds us in our Sunday Masses the true meaning of Christ’s Second Coming that have disturbed so many people for 2000 years.
Throughout history, it has spawned many doomsday and apocalyptic scenarios among peoples everywhere, particularly religious fanatics and cult followers with disastrous aftermaths like bloodbaths and murders despite their being anchored in a religious belief in God.
Lately there is a growing trend among some people of preparing for the final end of the world without any belief in God but more based on “science” and pop cultures but still with some degree of violence too.
And between these two extremes of awaiting the end of time with and without God, we find a majority who do not seem to care at all!
Everything comes to an end in order to begin anew.
Last Sunday in our reflection on All Saints Day we have mentioned the tension of the here and not yet, of Jesus being here now and still coming again at the end of time we call parousia which we proclaim in every Mass after the consecration.
This tension was a big deal during the time of the early Church with many believers including the Apostles believing they would witness the return of Jesus in their lifetime; but, when many of them started to die without the Second Coming happening, they began to question and reflect on the nature of parousia. They wondered what will happen with those who have died already and those left behind still alive when Christ comes again?
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep… we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep… will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
From St. Paul’s reflections developed what we call escathology, that branch of theology dealing with the end of time and everything related with it like general and particular judgements, death and resurrection, parousia or Second Coming of Christ at the end of time.
It was St. Paul who insisted the centrality of Christ’s resurrection upon which is also hinged the resurrection of the dead and of his parousia (1Cor.15:14) which we call as mystery of our faith. For him, Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of the resurrection of the dead, the beginning of the end time; therefore, the end is something we shall not fear but in fact be excited with because it is the final victory of God over sin and death. Yes, Christ had definitively won over death at the cross but it is on his Second Coming when death and sin are final vanished to give way to new heaven and new earth.
Everything will come to an end not to simply terminate all but in order to bring forth new beginnings! And the key is authentic living in every here and now.
Live in the present, not future; focus on life, not on dates.
It is sad when many among us Catholics specially those who celebrate Mass every Sunday acclaiming “Christ will come again” are the ones so afraid of end time, always asking for the blessing of their candles in the belief that these would save them from days of darkness.
Wrong! What will truly save us on judgement day is our firm faith in Jesus Christ, not blessed candles. Most of all, what will truly save us on judgement day is to live daily as authentic Christians witnessing the gospel values of Jesus Christ our Savior and Judge.
In today’s parable of the ten virgins awaiting the arrival of the groom, the Lord wants to instill among us the need to focus on the present moment of our lives not on any particular time or date because nobody knows when he would come like the groom in a wedding.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
We are all the virgins awaiting the coming of the groom for the wedding. We all came from God and we are designed to return to him in the end for eternal life. Here I find the late Stephen Covey so real in teaching us to always begin with the end in sight which is heaven. In one of his writings, he said “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey; we are spiritual beings on a human journey.”
In 2012, we were shocked when we heard news how he fell from a bicycle in an apparent accident and a few days later, he died. In an instant I have felt how this layman who strongly advocated the infusion of values into business and management is after all a saint, perhaps now in heaven.
His seven habits of highly successful people are all anchored in meaningful, authentic living in the present. That is being wise, of bringing extra oil of charity and kindness and goodness in life while actively waiting the coming of the groom, the coming of our death and end. Habit is something that is good we always do; its opposite is vice. (Stop saying bad habits.)
Life is keeping our lamps burning even if it produces little light than be extinguished and be plunged to total darkness. Nobody is perfect; we all have our lapses in life that is always in darkness. Like those virgins in the parable, wise and foolish alike, we feel drowsy and fall asleep.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
Therefore, all the more we need to be wise, not foolish. Being wise is always seeking and following the will of God who is Wisdom himself.
In the first reading, we are told how Wisdom as the personification of God himself can always be had by anyone sincerely searching for him.
Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
To seek and obtain wisdom is to have pure or clean hearts that try to seek what is good, free of carnal desires and worldly allurements. Again, the need to have even the faintest light than be in total darkness.
So often, many things in our lives are decisively won – or lost – in a spur of the moment, in single crucial moments when everything comes to the fore. Woe not to those caught asleep but not ready or prepared, ill-equipped for the demand of the moment.
At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may be not enough for us and you. /go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.
See how in the parable where everything was similar and the same: ten virgins with lamps becoming drowsy and falling asleep in the night waiting for the groom. Everything changes at midnight with the announcement of the arrival of the groom where the wise virgins were clearly distinguished from the foolish. The wise had extra oil and came into the wedding with the groom, leaving behind the foolish who had to buy for oil in the dead of the night only to return with doors locked, leaving them outside.
This is life in a nutshell: being ready when opportunity strikes is not based on luck but hard work.
And that is the saddest and difficult part we always take for granted: life is often decided on short, instant moments that in a snap of a finger can decide our rising or downfall.
This pandemic is an eye opener for everyone that caught so many of us unprepared.
Any extra oil kept in this time of the corona has proven so wise for some who have adjusted so well in the situation, coping and even managing so well amid the crisis.
What is so disappointing, even appalling are the foolish who chose to wallow in their follies, whining and blaming everyone for the troubles and mess without admitting their own shortcomings.
Let us heed the Lord’s call to “stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt.25;13) by living authentically as his disciples in every here and now. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Memorial of Guardian Angels, 02 October 2020
Exodus 23:20-23 | + | >><)))*> | + | Matthew 18:1-5, 10
Praise and thanksgiving to you, O God our loving Father! In your great love for us, you did not only give us your Son Jesus Christ to redeem us but also sent us guardian angels who guide and protect us in this journey in life.
What an honor in making each one of us truly your favorite child!
May we always heed the guidance and leading of our guardian angels so we may always follow and do your Holy Will, O God.
May we be respectful, devoted and grateful to our guardian angels who function as our protectors, keeping us safe from all harm and dangers.
Lastly, give us the courage and banish our fears, Lord, for we have our guardian angels always beside us, sometimes ahead of us to prepare our paths.
Let us “follow them, stay close to them so we may dwell under the protection of God’s heaven” (St. Bernard). Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVIII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 02 August 2020
Isaiah 55:1-3 >><}}}*> Romans 8:35, 37-39 >><}}}*> Matthew 14:13-21
Remember our reflection last Sunday? Of how parables teach us that “less is always more” because to have the kingdom of God – Jesus Christ himself – we have to learn to appreciate the little things in life?
Beginning this Sunday until August 16, our gospels will start telling us who is Jesus Christ by showing us his powers and abilities that are exactly opposite the way we see and understand them. This new series of stories are so relevant to us in this time of pandemic, giving us wonderful insights into God’s ways of responding to our human situations.
St. Matthew now leads us with Jesus to the wilderness after teaching us in parables to experience his power in transforming us like the five loaves and two fish to feed more than five thousand people.
Multi-layered story of the multiplication of bread
All four evangelists have recorded this story of Jesus Christ’s multiplication of the loaves of bread with their particular focus and stress, showing us that it truly happened and was a major event in the Lord’s ministry.
Very unique with St. Matthew’s version of this miracle story – which has not one but two! – is his economy of words in narrating it like a straight news as if it were a developing story or a “breaking news” unfolding before us, calling us to follow its updates and details due to its multi-layered meanings.
When Jesus heard of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
The consolation of Jesus.
Our situation in this time of the corona pandemic is so similar with that of Jesus. With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, it has finally hit us hard, so close to home with news of those we know getting infected and worst, dying from this disease.
Like Jesus upon hearing the death of John the Baptist, we are all saddened that we wish to withdraw away from everyone.
We want to mourn but there are more people in need of our presence and help in this time of pandemic like the countless medical frontliners and health workers who must be so tired – even sick, physically and emotionally – by now with the growing number of COVID-19 patients and yet have chosen to remain in their posts.
And there are still the other casualties of this pandemic like those who have lost their jobs, those evicted from their rented apartments, those stranded and separated from their loved ones, those begging for food, and those afflicted with other sickness going through dialysis and physical therapy.
Jesus knows so well the “wilderness” we are all going through and he is right here with us, one with us in our sufferings, in our fears and anxieties, and in our exhaustion.
To be one with us is consolation, from the Latin “con” or with + “solare” or alone, to be one with somebody feeling alone.
Jesus did not remove our pains and sufferings, even our death; he joined us to be one with us in these that he can call us to “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give your rest. Take my yoke upon you… For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt.11:28-30, 14th Sunday, 05 Jul 2020).
Compassion of Jesus.
Still with Christ’s reaction of being “moved with pity” at the sight of the crowds who have followed him to the wilderness, we find something more deeper with his being one with us, in consoling us that he had forgotten all about himself, his tired body that he went on to heal the sick among them.
To be moved with pity is more than a feeling of the senses but a response of his total person.
You respond for help, you reply to a call.
Ever wondered why we have the “responsorial psalm” after the first reading in the Mass? Because those words from the Psalms express our total assent and commitment to God, involving our total self like body, mind, heart and soul.
God cannot suffer because he is perfect.
That is why he became human like us in Jesus Christ to be one with our suffering and death so that we would one with him in his glorious Resurrection.
In the wilderness, Jesus stayed with the people, not allowing them to leave as suggested by the Twelve because he was moved with pity with the crowd because he wanted to suffer with them.
That is compassion, literally means to “suffer with” from cum + patior. Here in the wilderness, Jesus showed his compassion for the people which will reach its highest point in giving himself on the Cross on Good Friday.
Have we “responded” to God’s call to serve, to a call of duty, and to a plea for help from the poor? Have we truly given ourselves to somebody without ever thinking our own comfort or rewards? Or, are we running away from his Cross?
What a shame in this time of pandemic there are some among us who rejoice at the losses of others like the Twelve who wanted the crowd to be sent home because they were afraid of responsibilities, of taking care of the suffering people.
Consolation and compassion are the two most needed from each of us in this time of crisis.
Our scarcity mentality, the God of plenty.
We now come to the miracle of the feeding of five thousand. According to the late Fr. Henri Nouwen, this story is an example of our “scarcity mentality” when we think of not having enough, of finding what we have as too little, always looking for more; hence, our tendency to hoard everything.
The Twelve were thinking more of themselves, afraid they could go hungry with the five loaves of bread and two fish they have. They were so afraid of difficulties ahead of them in their situation where to find and how to feed those great number of people.
They were focused on what was lacking than on what they have, and who was with them, Jesus Christ! They were hungry for food in the stomach than for food to the soul unlike the crowds who have followed Jesus.
Worst of all, the Twelve got “mad” upon seeing the crowds who have followed them to the wilderness when in fact, it was Jesus who needed most to rest to mourn John’s death!
But through all these, Jesus patiently bore the people’s woes and the Twelve’s selfishness to teach them all in a very nice way something so essential in our response to every human suffering and extreme situation: opening and entrusting our selves totally to God.
And that was actually the greatest miracle that happened that day.
In doing it, Jesus simply asked the Twelve what they have, never asking how much they have or its condition. Just whatever they have to give everything to Jesus like those five loaves and two fish that he took, and while looking up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the Twelve to distribute to the crowd.
And everyone was satisfied with a lot of left overs too!
Matthew nor any of the other Evangelists ever explained how it happened because it does not really matter at all. What is most important is what are we willing to give up to Jesus so he can transform us into better persons.
That is what we continue to do this day in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist- whatever we have, even not the best or the worst and littlest we have, when given to Jesus becomes holy and multiplied!
The power of God is immense, without doubt. But, in this miracle of the feeding of five thousand, Jesus is showing us that his power is not meant to satisfy our material or bodily needs but our deepest desires that lead to our fulfillment in him as prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading.
Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.
Amid the pandemic worsened by our government officials’ inanities, irresponsibilities, and sheer lack of compassion with us in this wilderness, the Lord assures us today that he is with us for “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” (Second Reading) if we are willing to give him all that we have.
It is our spiritual transformation first that leads us to our material blessings. We can all have it if we are willing to give everything to Jesus and believe in him always. What do you have for miracles to happen?
Lord My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 21 June 2020
A blessed happy Father’s Day to all the great dads of the world, especially those who have gone ahead of us and still watching us, guiding us, inspiring us.
Like David Gates who composed our Sunday Music today “Make It With You” in 1970, how I wish I could “make it to the other side climbing rainbows” to be with my dad even for a while to share him my joys and accomplishments, thanking him for all the love he had showered me with.
Hey have you ever tried
Really reaching out for the other side?
I may be climbing on rainbows
But, baby here goes
According to an interview I have read last year which I can no longer remember where, Gates had admitted that he wrote this song primarily for his late father, of how he wished his dad were still around to see him successful as a composer and a musician.
It was only during its recording when they fine-tuned his composition to make it a love song that eventually became the theme song of so many couples and lovers during the 70’s up to this time that the popular group Ben&Ben made a cover early this year for a movie or a series.
See how the song is not just a flight of fantasy or a dream but something so real within, something those of us who are so close with our dads that even if they are now in eternal rest, we can still feel their presence among us.
Dreams they're for those who sleep
Life is for us to keep
And if you're wond'ring
What this song is leading to
I want to make it with you
I really think that we can make it, girl
In our Sunday Gospel today, we find Jesus telling us not to be afraid in fulfilling our missions in life for he is always with us, ensuring that “we make it through” with him and in him.
That is what makes a dad so special: he is full of courage, facing every fear in life to ensure his family can make it through in this life.
And just maybe, dads are always the first to go to heaven because even in eternal life, they still see to it “we make it through” here on earth and to eternity, but not so soon.
Life can be short or long
Love can be right or wrong
And if I choose the one
I'd like to help me through
I'd like to make it with you
I really think that we can make it, girl
Cheers to all the dads who face all fears, both here and hereafter! Amen.
*Photos of my dad Wilfredo Sr. who died June 17, 2000, the 61st birthday of my mom. He is most happy with my mom with whom he is so faithful.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 21 June 2020
Jeremiah 20:10-13 ><)))*> Romans 5:12-15 ><)))*> Matthew 10:26-33
Finally, today we can truly feel the Ordinary Time as we celebrate Sunday in shades of green with a new sequence of readings from the gospel of St. Matthew who will guide us in our journey with Jesus this year until the Solemnity of Christ the King in November.
Set after the naming of the Twelve Apostles who were sent to search for the “lost sheep of Israel”, the Lord now warns them of persecutions and dangers; hence, today until the next two Sundays, Christ will encourage his disciples including us to take on the challenges of his mission, assuring us of his loving presence and protection.
Notice how the Lord tells us three times to be not afraid of the mission:
Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one… And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna… So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Matthew 10:26, 28, 31
The problem with our fears
Christ’s words today suit us so perfectly in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic made worst by the growing social unrests not only in our country but also elsewhere in the world that proves how the Lord’s mission remains unfulfilled in us.
Almost everywhere we hear reports of continued oppression of peoples in various forms of discrimination, disrespect and injustices.
But we do not need to look far to do our mission. We start with ourselves first — for we are the “lost sheep of Israel” in so many ways. All oppression and injustices going on around us are the reflections of what is within us that often result from our fears.
So often, the many fears within us push us to be selfish, forgetting others in the process. And that is when we start hating each other, creating this vicious circle of sufferings as the Jedi Master Yoda warned Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace.”
We all have fears. It is normal to feel afraid especially when threatened by a grave danger or threat to life.
Being brave, having courage does not mean having no fears; on the contrary, courage is facing one’s fears in life. Cowardice, on the other hand, is refusal to face our fears.
Jesus is asking us today to face our fears with him and in him so we can be free to follow him in his mission.
Facing our fears in Jesus Christ
What are our fears that lead us to anger and hate, that immobilize us to reach out to God and others? Let us examine them in the light of Christ’s reassuring words this Sunday.
“Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
Fear of not being loved and appreciated
One of the things I fear most is not being loved and appreciated, of being neglected and taken for granted.
It is a fear akin with low self-esteem or self-worth that make me afraid of others I deem as better and superior than me.
There are many contributing factors to this fear, mostly not of our own making like growing up in a very strict environment where we are not able to measure up to the expectations of those around us. Sometimes it is due to traumatic experiences that have truly hurt us inside and outside.
As I grew up meeting so many people from various walks of life, including those I looked up and admire including some personalities, I have realized that indeed nobody is perfect. No one has the monopoly of every good thing — looks and intelligence, wealth and health. We all need one another, and we are also needed. And loved as well as appreciated too!
We are all broken and lost, wounded and hurt; no need to fear anyone. What is most important is to always remember God loves us very much — no matter what.
At night before we sleep, do not just count your sins and failures; think also of the good things you have done, people you have helped and made happy. Listen to God thanking you for being so nice with someone. That is what Jesus is telling us to “speak in light” what he said to you in darkness!
Every morning when you wake up, be silent and still, pray and little, listen to God whispering to you the words “I love you… I believe in you” to inspire your for the brand new day. These are the words Jesus is asking you to “proclaim on the housetops”.
Forget those pains inflicted on us by others, in words or in deeds — they must be hurting too, feeling more unloved and unappreciated than us, more fearful than us!
Afraid of getting hurt, physically and emotionally
Another fear I always have is being hurt because I might not be able to take or absorb the pains. Worst, adjust to changes and disturbances that may result.
I was a very sickly child when growing up that I dreaded injections and other medical procedures. Aside from getting hurt, I feared that things could never be the same again, altering or disturbing what I have been used to.
But, as I aged fighting many battles in life, enduring so many pains and hurts with some help from family and friends, I have learned that pain is part of growing up. In fact, growing up becomes nicer with more pains and hurts that make us stronger and wiser with the many lessons we can learn. Most of all, pains and hurts have opened up many doorways to new beginnings that made me grow and mature as a person and as a priest.
Indeed, as the Lord had told us, do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but not the soul. It is what is inside that makes us who we really are. Replace those fears with Jesus and dare to get hurt and bruised that may destroy you outside but stronger inside.
Fear of getting lost, of being alone.
This fear has recurred in me lately during this quarantine period when I am all by myself in my parish with no one to talk to or share whatever may be inside me.
Sometimes it is so tempting to just vanish and die than be lost and alone!
Recently I celebrated a funeral Mass for a young man who committed suicide: he came from the Visayas last February to try his luck here in our barrio to work as a helper in a small candy shop. With the imposition of lockdown in mid-March, he lost his job and had to stay with his cousins who were also laid off from work. The teenager grew homesick, getting depressed later that no amount of alcohol of their nightly drinking sessions could give him a sense of mission that he decided to hang himself on a tree while his drinking companions were all drunk.
Sad that nobody had reminded him of his mission in life that he decided to just end it all. He had forgotten not only his dreams and mission but also his parents and six other siblings in the province looking up to him.
Even if we are in our worst situations in life, for as long as we are alive, still breathing, may we never lose that sense of mission from God because that means we are important, that God believes in us in entrusting us with a mission. Truly, we are worth more than a thousand sparrows that God takes care of.
Experiencing God in the midst of trials
Life is like a rollercoaster: it is something we all fear but we still keep on riding because it is so fulfilling, very liberating, so exciting. It knocks out all the fears in us, making us so aware of life, of being alive.
That was the experience of the Prophet Jeremiah in the first reading: he would always complain to God of his own inadequacies, especially his many fears for the mission and yet, he could not let go of God’s call because he is so in love with him! He could not resist God like a rollercoaster.
I really hoped the lectionary had included the first three verses to the start of our first reading today:
You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.
Jeremiah was a timid man who was also hypersensitive; yet, God called him to an impossible mission. And despite a long process of purifications marked by arrests, imprisonment and public humiliations, Jeremiah remained faithful to his mission to God that later cost his life. Eventually, the more he became great after his death that he is regarded a major prophet in all three major religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
That is the joy of staying in love with God who is like a rollercoaster: he “seduces” us to come to him and then “scares” us, sometimes “hurts” only in the end to surprise us with greater things beyond our imaginations.
We come to experience God most and closest in darkness and trials where he is so real as another person to us. The key is to let go of our fears in Jesus Christ who was no stranger too to fearful situations.
It is nice to know that the greatest and holiest men and women of God were all like us — people so fearful yet brave enough to face their fears in Christ who never fails to provide us with the courage and strength needed in fulfilling our mission.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 15 June 2020
1 Kings 21:1-16 ><)))*> ><)))*> <*(((>< <*(((>< Matthew 5:38-42
So many times in life, O God our Father, we hear so many stories of injustice, of how our neighbors are treated so badly that we feel so disgusted at how it could happen at all.
Like all these stories of people stranded in Metro Manila, of the lowly income earners who have to walk for hours just to get to work because there are not enough public transport system allowed to operate.
Of those made to suffer the strict quarantine rules when police officials and politicians were allowed to get off the hook or, the arrest and incarceration of a poor, elderly jeepney driver who had joined a protest rally while the former First Lady who was convicted of corruption charges two years ago was spared of any jail term because of her age.
So much inequalities happening shamelessly, with much impunity by those in power, O Lord!
Exactly like the evil Queen Jezebel who instructed her people to find two scoundrels to testify against Naboth so she could take his vineyard so desired by her husband King Ahab.
Two scoundrels came in and confronted him with the accusation, “Naboth has cursed God and king.” And they led him out of the city and stoned him to death. When Jezebel learned that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Go on, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite which he refused to sell you, because Naboth is nbot alive, but dead.” On hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
1 Kings 21:13-16
Such stories are so revulsive, O God, not only of their nature but more because partly to be blamed is us — when we have refused to do anything good in fighting evil. Indeed, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Yes, O God, we are ashamed because we have unconsciously sided with the scoundrels when we chose to “see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing” of their lies, their harsh words and vulgarities, and their systematic killing sprees to solve the problems of the society.
We have misread the words of your Son Jesus Christ by becoming passive in the face of evil.
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.”
Matthew 5:38-39, 41
Give us the wisdom and courage to turn our other cheek, to go the extra mile in asserting to evil doers that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ who must treat one another with respect and equal dignity as a person created in your image and likeness, God our Father.
Inspire us, O God, especially our leaders in the Church who have gone so timid and silent except for a very few on how we can be more prophetic in this time of crisis under an unfriendly government. Amen.
And when our quarantine period was extended for the second time before the end of Holy Week last month, I began praying again Psalm 42 every night for that is when I truly long for God so much, most of the time lamenting to him our situation, my condition of being alone in my rectory.
This is the first time I felt like this, so different from those so-called “desolation” or “dryness” because I could feel God present in my prayers but… he is not “fresh”.
Like the deer longing for streams of water, my soul longs for God too.
Not just like the water we buy from a filling station but exactly what the deer yearns for — fresh water that is refreshingly cool not only on your face but deep into your body when sipped amid the burbling sounds of the spring, babbling through rocks and branches of trees with the loamy aroma of earth adding a dash of freshness in you.
Admittedly, sometimes I wonder if I still know how to pray or if I still pray at all!
I can feel God present but he is like someone stacked there in my mind, in my memory, in my ideas shaped by my years of learning and praying.
What I am longing for is a God so alive, so true not only in me but also in another person.
And that is when I realized, most likely, my parishioners must be longing for God too in the same way — the God we all come to meet and celebrate with every Sunday in our little parish, among the people present who are so alive, so vibrant, so true, so touching.
Psalm 42 is believed to have been sang by David when he was prevented from coming to the tent of God either during the reign of King Saul who plotted to kill him or during the revolt of his own son Absalom when he was already the king of Israel.
Like David or the psalmist, I miss celebrating Mass with my parishioners.
And maybe it is safe to assume that two or three of my parishioners are also feeling the same way with me and David, saying these to the Lord:
My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily, “Where is your God?”
Those times I recall as I pour out my soul,
When I went in procession with the crowd, I went with them to the house of God,
Amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival.
If there is one very essential thing this pandemic has brought back to us in our very busy lives, it is most certainly God. And if ever this is one thing people need most in this time of corona virus, it is spiritual guidance and nourishment from God through his priests.
Of course, people can pray and talk to God straight as the Pope had reminded us before Holy Week.
But, human as we are, we always experience God and his love, his kindness, his mercy, his presence among other people who guide us and join us in our spiritual journey. They are special people like friends or relatives or pastors with whom they can be themselves, let off some steam, get some rays of light of hope and encouragement.
And that this is why I try to keep in touch with my parishioners in various ways in this time of corona: even I myself can feel so low and dark despite my prayers and very condition of living right here in the house of God who can still feel alone and desolate, even depressed.
If I – a priest – go through all these uncertainties and doubts this in this time of quarantine, how much more are the people, the beloved sheep of Jesus the Good Shepherd?
Why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me?
Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.
After our Mass this morning when we set out to distribute the Holy Communion, there was a little drizzle. It did not last long that I just wore a hat and left my umbrella in the rectory.
There were about 30 people who waited for us to receive Holy Communion, most of them along the main highway that stretched to about 2 kilometers. Some families gathered with a little altar at their front gate while a waited a couple waited in a gas station along our route.
In less than 20 minutes, we have completed our mission and as we headed back to the parish, the rains fell again, this time stronger than before.
My driver commented, “The weather cooperated with us, Father”1
I just nodded my head to him inside his tricycle but deep inside me, I felt joy because God answered my prayer, my lamentations for he was crying too, – for me and his people.
May this lamentation be an answer to your lamentations during this pandemic of COVID-19.
Continue with your lamentations to God our Father for this very act of crying out to him is the working of the Holy Spirit he had sent us through our Lord Christ Jesus. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Monday, Easter Week-III, 27 April 2020
Acts of the Apostles 6:8-15 <*(((>< 000+000 ><)))*> John 6:22-29
Thank you very much, our loving Father for this very different Monday: it is the last for the month of April, but most of all, so unlike of all the other Mondays of our lives as we continue to stay home under our enhanced community quarantine extended until May 15, 2020.
We have been so used in our entire lives that Monday is always the start of work, the start of everything when in fact, Sunday is the first day of the week.
Due to COVID-19, we have started to lose track of dates and days, thus making us less mechanical and more natural, giving us with enough time to review our selves and our lives, to see the peoples and things we value most, and finally, to make a stand on so many things we have taken for granted and even disregarded in the past.
We have never been like your deacon Stephen in the first reading who at a very young age chose to stand for Jesus Christ and his teachings, never giving into the fear of going against prevailing thoughts and sentiments. Most of all, he never gave into the lies thrown against him by his many detractors.
Enlighten us, dear Jesus, to seek for “food that endures for eternal life so we can accomplish your works, O Lord” (Jn.6:27-28).
Let us believe in you always, Jesus.
Nourish and sustain us with your words of life so that we can remain firm in our faith and conviction in you, always willing to go back to Jerusalem and Galilee to start anew in you like the two disciples you walked with to Emmaus on Easter. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Friday, Easter Week-II, 24 April 2020
Acts of the Apostles 5:34-42 ><)))*> + 0 + <*(((>< John 6:1-15
Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father in heaven!
I have been taught since childhood that you dwell up in the sky and that is why like all the others, I always point up to you whenever we refer to your dwelling place, O God.
And I am certain, too, that you are indeed up there that every time we wake up, every time we feel happy or troubled, we always glance upwards like praying to you, calling to you, and looking for you.
Indeed, Gamaliel was absolutely correct when he cautioned his fellow Pharisees in the first reading to remind us too of this certainty:
“Fellow children of Israel, be careful what you are about to do to these men… But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”
Acts 5:35, 39
Give us the gift of discernment of your Holy Will, Father, that we may always know what to do, that we may always decide according to your plan.
As we look up to you in the sky where believe heaven is, the more we also look down inside ourselves and everyone to find you among us in your Son Jesus Christ.
Yes, loving Father, you have sent us Jesus so that as we look up to you in the heavens, the more we shall search and probe our hearts, our lives, our situations, and our brothers and sisters to find you dwelling among us in Christ like there in the wilderness when he fed more than 5000 people.
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowds was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them?” He said this to test him because he himself knew what he was going to do.
What a lovely scene repeated to us daily, especially in this time of the quarantine!
Jesus raising his eyes, seeing a large crowd hungry, sick, afraid… and then talking to us where to find bread in order to test us — because he always knows what he is going to do….
If we could all be like that little boy who looked into himself, into what he had, no matter how little they may be like the five barley loaves of bread and two pieces of fish….
O Lord, keep us looking for you first within us, into whatever we have, and unto others so we may let you do your work in us to feed and heal the people locked in this quarantine.
Give us the grace, Lord, to always search and find you and follow you not only up in the heavens most especially down deep in our hearts, in the face of the people we meet, in our situation in this time of the corona virus.
It is in finding you in our hearts, on the face of one another, and in the situation we are into when we truly dwell in your house, O Lord. Amen.