Lent is restoring our relationships

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent, 22 March 2022
Daniel 3:25, 34-43   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   Matthew 18:21-35
Image from wallpaperuse.com.
Like your servant Azariah,
I praise and thank you today,
dear God our loving Father,
for delivering us always from many
dangers and trials, enabling us 
to make it through many fires -
still whole, still sane, still blessed.
Yes, like Azariah and his fellow Jews
exiled in Babylon at that time, we have
turned away from you with our many
sins and transgressions:

But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; as though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame. And now we follow you with our whole heart, we fear you you and we pray to you. Do not let us be put to shame, but deal with us in your kindness and great mercy.

Daniel 3:39-42
It is not enough, O God, 
that we be sorry for our sins;
like in the parable and the very
example of your Son Jesus Christ
our Lord, penance and contrition are 
meant to fix and restore our many
broken relationships with you and with
one another, especially those dearest
to us, those closest to us we have hurt or
have hurt us with words and/or deeds.
Like you dear Father,
may we realize that forgiveness is
more than deletion of sins but
most of all, about reconciliation, 
of being one again as brothers and
sisters in Christ.  Amen.

Lent is believing in others

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, First Week of Lent, 09 March 2022
Jonah 3:1-10   <*{{{>< + ><}}}*>   Luke 11:29-32  
Photo by author, April 2021.
God our Father,
so often we are like Jonah
 who doubt and mistrust people 
of the good they could do;
like Jonah, we refuse to follow 
your instructions because we see
others as good for nothing,
hopeless to change and become better.  
Sadly, the very people we doubt of 
their own abilities and goodness 
are the ones closest to us like husband or wife, 
children, brother or sister, and friends! 
How sad in our modern time,
despite our many "achievements",
we continue to refuse in appreciating
our worth as your beloved children 
that we also fail to value others around us,
especially those who truly care and 
love us like family and friends.
Help us see, dear God,
this spirit and challenge of Lent
for us to be trusting first of ourselves,
of our worth, of our identity as your 
beloved children to believe in  others too.
May the words of your Son Jesus awaken 
us to how "This generation 
is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, 
but no sign will be given it, 
except the sign of Jonah" (Luke 11:29). 
Yes, Lord, we keep looking for signs 
from you and others so that we could 
believe in ourselves forgetting that 
we are already your sign of presence
in Jesus Christ who offered us his life
on the Cross to be whole again in you. 
On this season of Lent,
give us dear Jesus,
the grace to rediscover and 
return to the sacrament of reconciliation
to confess our sins, experience your
forgiveness through your priests;
let us return with our whole heart
for you are gracious and merciful,
O God; take away those silent burdens of
guilt feelings that nag and disturb 
our conscience which prevent us from
seeing your light in us and in others.
Amen. 

The ghosts within us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week IV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 04 February 2022
Sirach 47:2-11   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 6:14-29
Photo by author, January 2021.
Thank you so much,
dearest God our Father
for being so kind and merciful
to us, so loving and forgiving
which so often we cannot accept
nor believe; like Herod, we keep on
creating ghosts and monsters
within us as we believe more in
our selves, refusing to listen to your
voice in our conscience that bothers
us whenever we sin and do evil.

King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah;” sill others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”

Mark 6:14-16
Dearest God,
make me realize 
you are not looking for 
an angel or a saint in me;
that all you are asking me 
is to be like David, a repentant
sinner; how beautiful it is to
recall the many sins of David -
some so serious and grave but
despite his weaknesses, he never 
turned away from you completely;
despite his evil deeds, until now
he is considered Israel's greatest king
for he accomplished much not because 
of his brilliance and courage but largely
because of his love and faith in you.

With his every deed he offered thanks to God Most High, in words of praise. With his whole being he loved his Maker and daily had his praises sung. He set singers before the altar and their voices he made sweet melody. He added beauty to the feasts and solemnized the seasons of each year. So that when the Holy Name was praised, before daybreak the sanctuary would resound. The Lord forgave him his sins and exalted his strength forever; he conferred on him the rights of royalty and established his throne in Israel.

Sirach 47:8-11
Wake us up, Lord,
from our nightmares,
to arise today in your warmth
and light, convinced of your
love and promise of new chances
and opportunities to be better
than yesterday.  Amen.

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.

God’s grace is always more than enough

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Cornelius, Pope, and St. Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs, 16 September 2021
1 Timothy 4:12-16   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[>< ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 7:36-50
Photo by author, the Pater Noster Church, Jerusalem, May 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father
for the abundant grace you
bless us daily but many times
we take for granted or 
fail to see and realize;
may we heed the words
of St. Paul to the young Timothy:

Beloved: Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate.

1 Timothy 4:12, 14
Most of all,
may we nurture
every opportunity you 
give us to be holy and 
better persons
like that sinful woman 
who went into Simon
the Pharisee's home 
to wash and anoint the
feet of your Son
Jesus Christ. 
At the same time, 
make us stop having that 
sense of special entitlement
to your grace and salvation 
for you have sent Jesus for everyone
for all time to forgive our sins, 
and therefore, there is no reason 
too for any of us to have contempt 
on the young nor sinners.

Jesus said to Simon: “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Luke 7:47
May we be like St. Cornelius
 when he was the Pope
supported by St. Cyprian
who was the bishop of Carthage
in welcoming back to the Church
 those who have lapsed
 in their faith during the persecution;
like them, may we recognize
that your grace works best
among the weakest and lowly;
may we stop being rigorists,
of being so stiff and harsh
with sinners and others who are weak
 like the Pharisees
 who see more of themselves
 than you in Jesus Christ
who had come
to make us whole again in you
and with one another.
We pray, dear God,
through these two great saints
during the harsh persecution
periods of the second century
that we learn some leniency
towards others,
to be more kind and understanding
in this time of the pandemic
with those who have less in life
because your grace is always
more than enough for each one of us.
Amen.

When negative is positive

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 2021
Numbers 21:4-9 ><]]]]*> Philippians 2:6-11 ><]]]]*> John 3:13-17
Photo by author, statue of the bronze serpent mounted on a pole by Moses overlooking the Promised Land of Israel at the Franciscan Monastery on Mt. Nebo in Jordan (May 2019).
God our loving Father,
in this time of the COVID-19
pandemic when being "negative"
is actually "positive",
help us see the meaning
of celebrating your transformation
of repugnant symbols of suffering
and death into signs of glory
and majesty like the snake
and the cross.

Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Numbers 21:9
How wonderful it is, Father
when you transformed a
dangerous snake into a
healing and saving symbol
at the desert,
prefiguring the crucifixion
of your Son Jesus Christ
who showed us personally
that the path to exaltation
 is through lowliness
or self-emptying.

Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

Philippians 2:6-9
Most amazing of all, dear Father
is how you have transformed in Jesus
the most cruel instrument of suffering
and death which is the cross
into a symbol of salvation.
What a beautiful transformation
you have brought in Christ's Passion,
Death, and Resurrection
when the most negative sign
has become the clearest positive sign of all!

Jesus told Nicodemus: “And 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 that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:14-17
Help us find and celebrate, 
O God, in this Feast 
of the Exaltation of the Cross 
Christ's resurrection and glory
in heaven, instead of mourning
his death for he is Life himself; 
help us focus on healing and salvation
instead of dwelling on pain and
suffering especially in this time
of the pandemic; may his Cross
be our light in guiding us through
the darkness of COVID-19,
transforming us within to see
ourselves and one another clearly
as your beloved children, dear Father,
realizing the depths of your love 
and mercy while looking up to Jesus 
on the Cross.  Amen.
Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

Our splinter and beam, Christ’s Cross

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 10 September 2021
1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Luke 6:39-42
Photo by author, April 2019.

Jesus told his disciples: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooded beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.'”

Luke 6:42
O God our loving Father:
So many times we act so silly
as if we have never learned 
from your prophets and then your
Son Jesus Christ and down to 
his Apostles and saints, notably
Paul.
So true are the words of Jesus
your Son when he told us how 
we would always see the splinter
in our neighbor's eyes without 
ever seeing the wooden beam 
in our own eyes!
But you know, dear Father,
what makes me rejoice this Friday?
Indeed, splinter and wooden beam
we all have right in our eyes that
we cannot see or even refuse to see
and remove; yet, there you are
in your infinite mercy you sent us
Jesus Christ to remove these 
splinter and wooden beam in our eyes
through his wooden Cross!

I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lard has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:13-14
Larger and heavier
was the wooden Cross
willingly carried by Jesus Christ
for our own sake so we may
be cleansed of our sins and
cleared of our blindness
to walk your path of holiness;
loving Father,
teach us to be like St. Paul
to admit our sinfulness,
to voluntarily remove both
the splinter and wooden beam
in our eyes so we may see you
more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more closely
in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

God doing everything for us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 12 August 2021
Joshua 3:7-10, 11, 13-17   ><]]]]'>   Matthew 18:21-19:1
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake of Tiberias (Galilee), the Holy Land, 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father!
How great indeed are your
works that you do everything for 
our own good even long before 
we are born, preparing us
for every great moment of 
trials long before we have seen
them coming or even happening!
You are always there, Father
ahead of us in every step of 
the way in this life like in the 
entrance of your chosen people
to your promised land preceded
by the ark of the covenant,
parting the Jordan River so that
your people may cross on dry land
reminiscent of the Exodus at Red Sea.

No sooner had these priestly bearers of the ark waded into the waters at the edge of the Jordan, which overflows all its banks during the entire season of the harvest, than the waters flowing from upstream halted, backing up in a solid mass for a very great distance indeed… While all Israel crossed over on dry ground, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the Lord remained motionless on dry ground in the bed of the Jordan until the whole nation had completed the passage.

Joshua 3:15-16, 17
Dear God, whenever I review my life
especially those low moments of
failures and disasters, sins and evil,
sickness or wrong decisions when I thought
everything had collapsed and totally gone,
you were always there, bringing me to safer
grounds; you were always there five steps
or more ahead of me, fixing all the problems
and troubles I have fallen into, even trapped inside.
Like in the history of Israel from Abraham to Joshua,
you never stopped surprising me
with your mighty presence and love.
 
But the greatest of all
marvelous things you have done
to me and us all, loving Father,
is sending us your Son Jesus Christ
to save us from all our sins with your mercy
 and forgiveness that is without end.
Like in today's parable, teach us to be
merciful and forgiving to those who have 
sinned against us for we are all 
forgiven sinners you love so much.
You have done so much for us, Father,
but we have done so little for you through others.
Amen.

Easter is turning towards God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday within the Easter Octave, 08 April 2021
Acts 3:11-26   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 24:35-48
From Facebook, 04 April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord.”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem... 
The disciples of Jesus recounted 
what had taken place along the way, 
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.  
While they were still speaking about this, 
he stood in their midst and said to them, 
"Peace be with you."  
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.  
And he said to them, 
"Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer 
and rise from the dead on the third day 
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, 
would be preached in his name to all the nations, 
beginning from Jerusalem.  
You are witnesses of these things."  
(Luke 24:33,35-36,45-48) 

O dearest Jesus, help us find our way back to you! Let us turn around, turn towards you, go back to you in Jerusalem to meet you with the other disciples. Help us to repent and be converted as Peter preached in the first reading so our sins may be wiped away to see and experience you (Acts 3:19).

Cast away our doubts and fears of coming to you, of experiencing you, of seeing you because all you want is for us to be free from the bondage of sins and guilt, of the past pains and hurts so we may experience Easter – which is the fulfillment and fullness of life in you, Lord Jesus.

Strengthen our faith through the words of the scriptures that attest everything written about you is true and are meant for our own good as children of the Father.

May we keep in mind that Easter is not an ending, Lord.

As your “witnesses” to your passion, death, and resurrection, remind us of this great mission to spread your gifts of peace and forgiveness to everyone as we strive to establish your Kingdom here on earth by making life more humane especially in this time of the pandemic.

Give us patience and perseverance to go through the process of daily conversion so that your Easter may continue in us and lead to our genuine reconciliation with everyone to the Father by removing our many divisions, fears and hostilities that prevent us from caring and loving each other. Amen.

Prayer for patience

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Third Week in Lent, 09 March 2021
Daniel 3:25, 34-43   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 18:21-35
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, UST High School, 2019.

Thank you, God our Father in heaven, for the gift of Lent. Now we are into its third week, I could strongly feel its character, its impact, making me realize of the need to pray for more patience. From you. And for me.

Patience from You.

Like Azariah in the first reading, we pray for your patience to bear with us for our many sins that have brought us to our lowest point in life. Teach us to pray for mercy and forgiveness like Azariah, to plea for your patience to our hardness of hearts.

For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with a contrite heart and a humble spirit let us be received; as though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.

Daniel 3:37-40

How wonderful it is, O Lord our God, of your patience — that virtue of enduring suffering and pain — when we are the ones who have turned away from you, we were the ones who have hurt you with our sins and here you are, bearing all the pains for us?

Thank you for bearing with us always.

And forgive us when we lack patience.

Please, grant us patience…now!

But kidding aside, how ironic that we keep on asking for patience from you and from others too when we cannot be patient at all in dealing with our fellow debtors and sinners like that unforgiving servant in the parable today. You have been so patient in forgiving all our debts yet we cannot forgive those who owe us with less.

Methinks maybe we have not suffered that much, we have never been patient at all that we have not truly felt and realized your patience for us.

Like Peter, we would rather be thinking of quantity, of how many times must we forgive those who wrong us that eventually we run out of patience because of the great number of sins against us.

We have never been patient at all if what we do is keep tabs of the wrongs and sins against us. We do not bear any suffering at all but merely count them like Peter.

Teach us to stop counting the sins of others and be like you in being patient with us sinners: you forgive because we are your children, because you love us.

That is perhaps the key to being patient: instead of counting how many times should we forgive, let us see more why we must forgive because we are all forgiven sinners in your Son Jesus Christ. Perhaps if we can keep that in mind, then we can always patient with our fellow sinners. Amen.