Faithful and loving

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. John XXIII, Pope, 11 October 2022
Galatians 5:1-6   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 11:37-41
Photo by author, April 2022.

Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Galatians 5:1, 6
O dearest Jesus,
thank you for coming
to save us, 
in setting us free
from sin
and most especially,
from the yoke of slavery
to externalities of
religion.
Keep us faithful 
to you, Jesus,
by being more loving
to one another;
set our sights on
you and people
not on rules and
regulations,
rituals and traditions
as you have pointed out
in the gospel today.
Through the intercession
of your servant,
St. John XXIII who was
lovingly called as 
"the good Pope"
and father of Vatican II,
give us the courage 
to stand firm
and defend our faith in you
while being open to the winds
of change sweeping
the world today.

Make us free and faithful,
and loving too like him 
who had said on the eve
of the conclave that would
elect him as Pope John XXIII,
"We are not here to guard a museum,
but to cultivate a flourishing garden
of life."  Amen.
St. John XXIII,
Pray for us!
Photo from https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/

Praying for women

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Cornelius, Pope, & St. Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs, 16 September 2022
1 Corinthians 15:12-20     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Luke 8:1-3
Photo by author, Museo Orlina, Tagaytay City, 15 September 2022.
Today I pray, dear Jesus,
for all the women of the world:
our mothers and sisters,
our nieces and aunties,
our grandmothers and girlfriends; 
bless the wives and single-ladies,
the women working inside and outside
in all levels of the corporate world
and the various industries,
the women in the armed forces
and in the police;
bless and guide 
the women who serve the poor
and disadvantaged,
the women who serve in the church,
the women who serve in government,
the women who take care of their
families especially those sick,
the women who are sick;
gladden the hearts and comfort
the women never appreciated
by their own family and the society,
the women who cry in silence
for being taken for granted
and neglected,
the women who hurt inside,
the women imprisoned physically,
emotionally, and mentally;
bless the women in the frontline
of health care especially those in
far-flung areas; special blessings
also O Lord, on those women 
reading and praying this now.

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.

Luke 8:1-3
Dearest Jesus Christ,
grant us the freedom like you
to freely go out with women 
frowned upon by society;
most of all, teach us to always
respect women and everyone
for we are all equal in dignity
before God our Father and Maker;
help us find you among the
misunderstood, the judged,
the boxed and labelled simply
for voicing out their thoughts and
feelings as well as those victims of
social inequalities; free us from our many
biases and prejudices against others,
especially against women.
Amen.

Intimacy and our priestly celibacy

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 18 August 2022
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2018.

Intimacy with God and with others is a journey that is often long and difficult, painstaking but so wonderful. It is a process with highs and lows but something that could come out as a precious gift we must keep and nurture.

Mr. Webster defines intimacy as “close familiarity or friendship” or simply, “closeness”.

But being close does not necessarily mean intimacy. True closeness in intimacy means finding and sharing a “sacred space” with someone that is built on mutual trust and sincerity where we bare our true selves to offer it to the other person. It is in this sacred space where intimacy grows as we become “engaging” with the other person, even with God, like in bantering.

There is one beautiful incident in the gospel I always love relating with the topic of intimacy, the story of the Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter.

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”

Matthew 15:21-23
Photo by author, Caesarea in Israel, May 2017.

Here we find the first difficulty with intimacy which happens often in the most unexpected situations like Jesus going to a foreign territory where we are not most comfortable or most at home, where we are so uncertain with everything and everyone.

Is it not that is when we grow intimate with others and with God, when we were in the most desolate situations, when we were weakest when suddenly somebody came to strengthen us in our journey?

It was not a simple walk in the park though because it was as if like adding salt to our injuries when at our lowest point in our lives we were asked to even go lower, bare our vulnerabilities further until we were stripped naked of our pretensions and defenses, standing naked and true.


"That is intimacy, of still believing, of being sincere, of still being beautiful and good in the worst situations with one's self with the other person.  It is a sacred space where anyone can come and be welcomed, be affirmed, or simply be safe for a moment while the storm is passing through you."

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

Notice how Jesus tested the Canaanite woman to see how engaging she could be in their conversation, of how willing was she to get closer to him and be intimate to gain his healing.

But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Matthew 15:25-28

I like this part; it was more of the woman bantering with Jesus than bargaining. Try situating yourself there as if the woman was already feeling close with Jesus, engaging him in their conversation when he used the colloquial expression “dog” used by Jews at that time to refer to Gentiles or pagans. Of course, there was no any racial or malicious intent on the part of Jesus in using that common expression of his time; in some translations, he used the word “puppies”.

And that is where intimacy kicked in: when the Canaanite woman told him how dogs – or puppies – eat just the scraps from the master’s table. Here is a woman baring everything to Jesus, taking off all her defenses totally accepting the realities of life, of them outside the own circle of Jesus who was a Jew but still believing in him and in herself that she is worthy of attention, of healing for her daughter.

Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias, Israel, May 2017.

That is intimacy, of still believing, of being sincere, of still being beautiful and good in the worst situations with one’s self with the other person. It is a sacred space where anyone can come and be welcomed, be affirmed, or simply be safe for a moment while the storm is passing through you. This is very true for those who had undergone surgery when you were there on the narrow operating table, naked and everything, just praying and hoping everything would go well, without any complications later. That is why I admired doctors more than ever because after a surgery and you visit them for follow up consultations, it is as if he had not seen the worst in you, still friendly and casual. Most of all, trying so hard to keep you well and healthy!


"Intimacy is the reason why everyone says life is a journey."

To be intimate with Jesus is like continuing the journey with him in foreign territories like when a man and a woman get married not knowing what’s really in store for them or a young man getting ordained as priest or a lady taking religious vows without realizing the real weight of Christ’s cross to carry. Many times in life, we just forge on in life with our family and friends, and with God most especially, engaging him in conversations even debates to show him how convinced we are in ourselves, in our cause, in our prayers. We grow intimate only with someone who is willing to accept us.

Intimacy is the reason why everyone says life is a journey – you always have a companion, somebody you break bread with which is the literal meaning of “companion” from the Latin terms cum panis.

The most beautiful part of this journey in intimacy, whether with God or with another person is that as we become one in being intimate with the other, the more we become free, not constricted nor limited because the more we love, the more we trust each other that even when we are not together physically, we can still be intimate — because intimacy is actually a spiritual reality, a gift only God can give for those willing to take the difficult journey.

That is why, we priests remain celibate: our celibacy is the clearest sign of our intimacy not only with Jesus our Eternal Priest but also with you, our flock, the people of God which is the Church.

When parishioners give their pastors a good chance to pray and recreate to nurture their intimacy with Jesus, the more priests value their celibacy, the more they are true and faithful in serving the people, the Body of Christ, the Church.

Anyone who finds true intimacy finds true love who is God alone. That is the essence of our celibacy as priests. And that is why, priests and religious, as well as married couples and singles joyful in their state of life too who have found intimacy would never venture to look for other “loves” because they have already found God, our true intimacy. It would be madness to any priest to break his vow of celibacy or, even to married couples to go on extra-marital affairs when you already have God. Amen.

May you find and experience intimacy in your life journey.

Photo by Ka Ruben, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 04 August 2022.

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.

Choosing the narrow road

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Aloysius Gonzaga, Religious, 21 June 2022
2 Kings  19:9-11, 14-21, 31-35, 36   ><]]]'> + <'[[[><   Matthew 7:6, 12-14
Photo by author, Jerusalem, May 2017.
God our loving Father,
thank you in giving us many 
examples of people who have 
chosen to take the narrow road
like our very young saint today,
Aloysius Gonzaga; despite his 
being born into a wealthy family,
he insisted on becoming a Jesuit
to lead a simple life; most of all,
despite his youth and very poor
health, he chose to care for the
the sick during a plague in Rome
that led to his death in 1591 at a 
young age of 23.
In this age of affluence when everything
is invented to make life so comfortable,
more and more are being lured to take
the wide road of greed and self-
centeredness, lies and deceits,
even violence that have destroyed
so many beautiful lives.

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”

Teach us to focus only on Christ,
to take his narrow and 
difficult road of charity and love,
justice and mercy, truth and freedom,
sacrifice and self-giving; let us be
persevering in having discipline in
choosing the narrow road because 
it is the only one that leads to life
and fulfillment, and redemption as
experienced by Hezekiah, the king
of Judah when you saved them from
the Assyrians.  Amen.

Lent calls us to be free

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 06 April 2022
Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95   <'((((>< + ><))))'>   John 8:31-42
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.
Dear God our Father:
I have heard it so often
from your Son Jesus Christ
that "the truth will set you free"
but I must admit how I feel 
too far from that reality of
being truly free.
So many times in my life, despite
my strong profession of being free
like the Pharisees asserting 
to Jesus they have never been
"enslaved to anyone", that is really
when I am enslaved - to sin, to ego,
to the world, to my past especially
my hurts and pains, and to a lot of
other people expecting a lot from me, 
demanding so much from me 
that, ironically and funnily,  
I work so hard to please and fulfill
without realizing how I am in fact
enslaved!  

Jesus then said to those Jews who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are descendants of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will become free’?”

John 8:31-33
To be free, O God, 
is to belong to you alone, 
our loving and eternal Father;
from the very start, Jesus had
always professed his belonging to
you like when he was found by
his parents in the temple when he
told them "why are you looking for me, 
don't you know I should be in my 
Father's house?"; during his ministry, 
he repeatedly declared his oneness with you;
to be free, therefore, is to owe nothing
to anyone at all but to you alone.
It is when I feel I owe others when I
begin to cheat and lie, when I sin
because I cannot express freely and
truly what is in me - YOU whom I 
disown and betray always.
Give me, O Lord, the courage to be
my true self like Shadrach, Meshach,
and Abednego who boldly declared
to King Nebuchadnezzar they would
rather be thrown into the fiery furnace
than worship false gods; true freedom is
when we are able to accept death gladly
and wholeheartedly because that is when
nothing and no one holds us back;
we are truly free when we are able to 
express our deepest longing and desires
in life which is to finally be one with our
source and end - YOU!
In these remaining days of Lent,
grant us dear Father through Jesus
the grace to shed off the many layers 
of false freedom we convince ourselves
to have so that we may finally be free
to love you and follow you, free to be our
true selves as your beloved children.
Amen.

Life directions and freedom

The Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 10 January 2022
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, 31 December 2021.

It is said that “life is a journey” but I have found through the years that as a journey, life is more of a direction than a destination. It is always easy to plot our life destination but upon reaching them, what do we do next?

If life is a journey that is more on destination, all we will be doing in life is keep on thinking of new places to visit and new goals to achieve until we ran out of destinations and we have nowhere else to go!

That is why life is more of a direction.

It does not mean we stop making plans or setting goals to reach; we just learn to be more open with the directions life is leading us into.

So often it can happen that while pursuing a goal or reaching a destination, we find many things and meet persons along the way who make us change directions in life for something better we never knew existed before.

Sometimes we discover while at the middle of a journey the many directions we have been seeing or noticing earlier that suddenly later make sense, opening new routes for us to take to something more fulfilling or clearer and better.

As we become open for directions in life, the more we become free to be our true selves, free to pursue what is best than be fixated and even held hostage by a previous goal or destination we have set before which we find no longer viable.

It is like using those travel apps Waze and Google Maps that give us the pertinent information like traffic conditions that help us choose the best routes to reach a specific destination.

However, as we travel, we find the apps taking us to longer routes or may even be misleading us because the data available are obsolete or the internet signal is unreliable. And so, we disregard the apps and try to find our way to our destination through directions provided by actual people and signages we check on the streets. Recall how the apps would continue to “speak” and even insist us to turn left or right as it is bent on reaching the destination. Travel apps are concerned merely with the place to reach, totally “unaware” of the person traveling.

That’s the problem with journeying more on destination when we forget persons that we miss the fun and adventures along the way.

When we journey more on directions, we are more concerned with persons and people that we experience fun and adventures, learning new things about peoples we meet or travel with as well as places we pass through on the way to our destination.

Sometimes, we have to scrap everything as the new directions lead us to more interesting places to visit.

In that way, we grow and mature as persons because we have become more free to be ourselves, more free to follow our inner voices within our hearts that lead us to far and exciting new places. In the process, we also discover our true friends and companions in life!

Ultimately, when we are free to follow directions than simply reach destinations, the more we also discover God – the most wonderful journey in life because ultimately he is our only destination and end.

God as a direction demands us a deepening of our faith, hope and love in him whose “invisible hands” guide us to persons and places and situations that seem to be unrelated at first but as we journey, we discover their many linkages, like tiny pieces of a mosaic creating a wonderful picture bigger than us.

God as a direction leads us to more freedom to discover life itself. That is the beauty of every new year: those twelve months of the calendar have no specific destinations but give us directions to follow by being sensitive to where God is leading us. It is totally senseless and useless to consult fortune-tellers for their fearless forecasts of what is going to happen for that will only make you “unfree” to seek and follow new directions in life. Besides, only God knows what will happen and that is why we follow his directions.

Above all, remember that the discovery of God is not the end of a journey but the beginning of a new one in him, with him, and through him. The journey never stops in Christ Jesus to God our Father in heaven. So, have life and be free to follow new directions from God this new year!

Keep traveling in Christ this 2022. Who knows, we might meet once or twice along the way. Amen.

Love and be free

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday After the Epiphany of the Lord, 06 January 2022
1 John 4:19-5:4   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 4:14-22
Photo by Ms. Nikki A. Vergara at Victoria, Laguna, 2020.
Dearest God our Father, 
let us love, love, and love
so that we may be free;
the deeper we love, 
more we become free for 
you and others too!

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

1 John 5:3-4
How funny it is, Father,
when we keep on turning 
away from you, rejecting your
commandments Jesus had 
summarized to loving you and
loving others, thinking we could
be free if we separate from you
and your precepts; but, the opposite
happens every time we turn away
from you and your laws!
The more we become empty
and lost; most of all, burdened
with sin and guilt.
Deepen our love for you
and in you, loving Father
through Jesus Christ; let us
immerse ourselves into your words,
let us masticate your words
to extract its power that liberates
us in every here and now 
to experience true freedom
to love you, O God, and love
others as brothers and sisters
in Christ.  Amen.

Advent is when God comes to free and raise us up to him

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Simbang Gabi 9, 24 December 2021
1 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16   ><]]]*> + <*[[[><   Luke 1:67-79 
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

As we complete today our nine-day novena to Christmas, Zechariah comes to full circle in the gospel when he sings the Benedictus (Latin for “Blessed”) to praise and thank God not only for restoring his speech but for the gift of a son John the Baptist and of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Last Wednesday we have mentioned to you how we priests, monks and the religious along with other dedicated lay people would sing or recite Mary’s Magnificat at the end of our Evening Prayer called Vespers, Zechariah’s Benedictus is what we pray at the end of our Morning Prayer called Lauds (Latin for praises).

It is a wonderful prayer welcoming the new day filled with God’s blessings of life and fulfillment, joy and peace, love and mercy. What a way to start each day already assured of being a blessed one for everyone.

As we prepare for Christmas tonight and tomorrow, it is worth praying the Benedictus today to pause at three important verbs we find at its beginning:

Zechariah his father, filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for he has come to his people and set them free. He has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David.

Luke 1:67-69

For Zechariah, God is blessed because “he has come (or visited) to his people, set them free (or worked redemption), and has raised up for us a mighty Savior from the house of David”. Like Mary’s Magnificat, we notice in Zechariah’s Benedictus the verbs are in the past tense when everything seems to be just starting with John’s birth who would herald the coming of Jesus still be born six months later.

But, Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit when he sang this that he must have perceived that early – like Mary – the many great things God had done to him personally and to them as a nation. Most of all, he had sensed- finally, after months of forced silence – the most unique wonderful things God is doing for him and everyone including us today.

This is the reason why we pray the Benedictus every morning for it affirms and not just awaits the tremendous blessings God has for us each new day.

Photo by author, altar of the Church of St. John the Baptist, the Holy Land, 2019.

Everyday, God comes to us, visiting us with his gift of life. A few months ago, former US Secretary of State and decorated soldier Colin Powell died of complications from COVID-19. An accomplished military officer and manager, one of his leadership lessons is that “It ain’t as bad as you think.”

Powell explains that after every disaster, there is always a solution and a way out of every mess in life. There is no need for us to worsen the situation with overthinking because in the coming of each new day, things get better.

So true! Zechariah had the worst days of his life of not having a child for the longest time then made mute by an angel for challenging the wisdom of God. After being forced into silence for nine months, he realized how each day is filled with blessings with God himself coming to us.

Rejoice every morning you wake up by first praying and connecting to God who comes to us daily before checking on your gadgets for messages and news that often dampen your mood. Like Zechariah, the first thing to come from his mouth and lips when his tongue was loosened was praise and thanksgiving to God.

When God comes, his first blessing is always our liberation from sins and baggages that have overburdened us, enslaving us for so long that we have practically stopped living. To experience God in Jesus Christ is always to experience freedom to do what is true and good. To be free in Jesus means to be free from sins and anxieties and fears brought about by our bondage to evil and darkness.

Zechariah felt so free that he was able to praise and thank God for his gifts of life and a child. And Savior, Jesus Christ who had come to his home when Mary visited Elizabeth earlier.

Everyday is blessed primarily because God raised up for us a mighty Savior in Jesus Christ. This is the most wonderful part of Zechariah’s Benedictus, “God has raised up for us a mighty Savior, born of the house of his servant David”. It was very clear with him the role of his son John, a herald of the coming of the Savior who is the fulfillment of God’s promise of old.

Photo by author, 2019.

Each day in Jesus promises us to make it better than yesterday. If we were sick yesterday, today we can recover our health. If yesterday we have failed, today we shall triumph. If yesterday we have lost, today we shall gain for Jesus has conquered everything even death for his love for us.

Likewise, we are invited to become a John the Baptist everyday not only to prepare the way of the Lord but most of all be the sign of the Lord’s presence.

As John the Baptist, we are challenged first to examine our very lives, our inner selves. So many times we get carried away with the many parties and activities of Christmas like gifts to give or receive as we focus on the wrong aspects of this most joyous feast of the year.

Like his father Zechariah, let us rejoice in the presence of God who became human like us so we may also rejoice in the presence of every person especially our loved ones who make Jesus present among us. Let us make this Christmas a true celebration of the presence of Jesus in us not only today but throughout the coming 2022 as God continues to bless us with lower COVID infections. Amen. May God bless you always, heal you of your sickness, and fulfill your prayers this Simbang Gabi!

The “wages of sin”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 21 October 2021
Romans 6:19-23   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 12:49-53
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But what profit did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit what you have leads to sanctification, and its end is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:21-23
In our modern way of living and
thinking, your words today O God 
our Father are difficult to grasp 
and accept because we are taught 
that any kind of slavery has to be rejected;
but, that is the irony of our time - we keep
on rejecting every form of slavery, 
insisting on our freedom to choose and
decide what we want in life that in the
process the more we are enslaved
to sin and powers of evil that lead
to death.
So many times in this modern way of living
we assert how each one of us is the captain
of my ship, free to determine my course in
life in the hope of finding meaning and fulfillment
that often end up with us getting lost and
alienated.  
How ironic that it is actually in being 
a slave to your grace in Jesus Christ as
St. Paul had asserted that we become 
totally free to offer ourselves unconditionally
to you our loving and merciful God and Father;
it is in surrendering ourselves to you as your
servants and slaves when we are more alive,
more fulfilled, more joyful and most peaceful
because slavery to you dear God and your
goodness bring all the good effects in life!
It is only when we empty ourselves to you, O God
that we are filled with your holiness, becoming
like you who is perfect.  Grant us the grace
to stand for what is true and good always,
standing by your side even if it means death
for it is in losing that we gain and in dying that
we truly live.  Amen.