The basis of our relationships

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 25 October 2022
Ephesians 5:21-33   ><000'> + ><000'> +><000'>   Luke 13:18-21
Photo of my altar in my room taken in 2021.
Praise and glory to you,
O Lord Jesus Christ!
Thank you for coming,
for dying and rising for us,
in being the sole basis of
all of our relationships;
so many times, 
we forget this grace
you have given us,
not realizing this great 
"mystery" of your loving
presence in us and among us.

Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the Church and handed himself over for her… This is a great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Church. In any case, each one of you should love his wife as himself, and the wife should respect her husband.

Ephesians 5:21-22, 25, 32-33
Your words today,
O Lord through St. Paul
are not only meant for
married couples 
but for everyone
who believes in you,
who follows you,
and loves you - 
that to be a Christian
means to see everyone
as a brother and sister
in you, Jesus the Christ.

How sad that some
couples today even try
to disregard and tone down
the real meaning of this
admonitions by St. Paul,
devising their own kind
and meaning of marriage
and relationships that 
disregard its giftedness
and holiness, of being
open to life, literally
and figuratively speaking.
May we keep in mind 
your beautiful lesson of the
Kingdom of God 
that may be compared to
a mustard seed or yeast
mixed with flour, of how
everything in you and about 
you Jesus begins small; 
open our minds and our hearts 
to your divine realities that
always begin and happen
in little things like simple
gestures of kindness and
goodwill to others,
so ordinary, so hidden yet
so wonderful as it could grow 
and blossom into great relationships
if we could just find and
recognize you on the
face of everyone we meet,
especially on the people
you send us always.
Amen.

We are God’s handiwork

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop & Martyr, 17 October 2022
Ephesians 2:1-10   ><)))*> + <*(((>< + ><)))*> + ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 12:13-21
Photo by author, April 2021.
Praise and glory
to you, God our Father,
so "rich in mercy" and love
and "kindness in Jesus Christ"
(Ephesians 2:4,7); sometimes,
I wonder why can't we just be
like the trees and other plants
that keep on blooming with flowers 
and fruits so delightful to sight 
and tastes without any efforts at all
except to simply follow your flow
of seasons unlike us spending
our entire lives earning and
amassing wealth and things
that do not fulfill us but even
rob us of peace and joy!

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from your works, so no one may boast. For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works that God has prepared in advance, that we should live in them.

Ephesians 2:8-12
You have created everything,
everyone so beautiful by nature,
dear God, but here we are,
destroying earth and our selves 
with our own "creations"
that do not last at all.
Forgive us, O God,
that in our pursuits to earn
for ourselves, we fail to learn
that the "bestest" things in life
come only from you - Jesus Christ
and his gifts of faith, hope and love
lived sincerely in our family and
friends and community.
Forgive us, Father,
in coming to you in prayers 
like that "someone in the crowd" 
asking for material favors and 
treasures of this world not realizing
the most important which is to be
"rich in what matters to God"
(Lk.12:21).
May we heed and contemplate
the words of your great Saint,
Ignatius of Antioch,
Bishop and Martyr who 
wrote the Christians in 
ancient Rome:
"Do not talk about Jesus Christ
as long as you love this world."
Help us forget ourselves,
Lord, so we may love you
more through others.
Amen.
St. Ignatius of Antioch,
Pray for us!

That most sweet 4-letter word, “Dear”

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 August 2022
Photo from https://krugsstudio.blogspot.com/2016/07/does-anyone-write-letter-anymore.html

Two amusing anecdotes happened with me recently that reminded me of this four-letter word rarely used these days that is so powerful yet very endearing and lovely, and so touching too. It is the word dear we often use in writing letters, at least for my fellow 57 year-olds and above.

Let’s begin with the more recent incident that happened yesterday when I went walking again after a one week break due to toxic schedules. I felt funny walking yesterday while stretching my arms and moving my head with everyone asking me what have happened that I was absent for so long. When I returned to the parish for a break, I met our Rector Fr. Elmer and told him to write me an “excuse letter” that says, “Dear Everyone: Please excuse Fr. Nick for not being able to walk last week due to pastoral reasons” which I would show whoever would ask me again of my long absence.

Photo by Eva Bronzini on Pexels.com

That was how I remembered – while still walking – something so stupid when I was in grade 3 after I had asked my dad to write me an excuse letter to my teacher after being absent due to a fever. Despite my failing memory at times, I vividly remembered yesterday that scene of how my dad took his yellow pad and removed the blue cap of his Bic Orange FINE BILLE CARBURE ball pen to write my excuse letter in just a minute which he asked me to read aloud.

That’s when problem arose: I protested to my dad why he wrote the word “Dear” in addressing my teacher!

Hindi ko malaman kung anong katangahan o kalokohan pumasok isip ko nung umagang iyon at hindi ko ma-take sinulatan ng daddy ko yung Grade 3 adviser namin ng “Dear Ms. Legaspi”? Kasi, akala ko noon yung “dear” ay para lang sa asawa at kasintahan. Akala ko nanliligaw daddy ko kay ma’am… Gara ano?

My dad, who has always been so cool, simply took off his glasses, grinned at me, impishly smiled and explained that “dear” was the standard salutation in letters. But I was adamantly holding on to my conviction that “dear” had romantic undertones that should not be used in writing excuse letters as I remained seated on our sofa, not touching my excuse letter and making face until my mom came to explain things to me, assuring me that it was ok with her for my dad to write my teacher with “Dear”.

Corny? Weird?

Yes, I am both corny and weird but as I matured – getting more corny and more weird than ever – I have come to keep that love affair with the word “dear” so alive and well with me. I use it to address not only friends and relatives, colleagues and acquaintances, but most especially God in my daily prayer blogs as I have learned that it expresses a special kinship, a special relationship that is so honorable and dignified.

Maybe it is no coincidence that dear is also a synonym for expensive, a direct opposite of cheap. It is very interesting that in Filipino, the words dear and expensive are translated as “mahal”, the opposite of cheap or “mura”. Mahal is love. From mahal comes mahalaga, equivalent to English as valuable and important. Things that are dear and expensive are always valuable.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

The same is true when you address anyone with the salutation “Dear” – he or she is loved and valued with respect and honor.

Maybe, one reason we have lost the art of letter writing is not just due to computers and text messages but because we no longer value persons that much unlike before. There is something so special, so touching inside when one receives a letter or a card or even a postcard that makes you feel so good inside because you were thought of, remembered and cared for.

Gladden the heart of someone today by writing him/her with a short note saying hi or anything by starting with the word “Dear”. Try it. It feels good too to the letter writer.


Now, the very first incident that reminded me of the word “dear” happened the other Monday afternoon when I was called to our hospital for an Anointing of the Sick by the family of a patient who was transferred from the ICU to a regular room. Actually, I have visited the patient that Sunday before at the ICU, anointed him with Holy Oil and even gave communion to his family.

Photo by Daan Stevens on Pexels.com

When I arrived at the hospital room and saw again the wife seated on a wheelchair, crying like when I saw her at the ICU a day earlier, I realized it was not really the patient who needed me but his wife who could not accept the hard truth her husband was dying. So, I asked the other family members to leave the room as I counseled the wife to let go of her husband, to speak to him and tell him how much she loved him, not to worry about her, and most of all, to forgive him and say sorry as well for her sins to him.

The patient was 80 years old, so thin and pale, dependent on life-support system while the wife was 78 years-old who could barely walk except for very short distances. After a while of crying, the wife told me she was ready to speak to her husband to tell him those words we have rehearsed: “I love you”, “I forgive you”, “I am sorry” and “I now give you to Jesus, go and don’t worry about me.”

While assisting her to the bedside of her husband, I asked her how they called each other and, before answering me, she bowed her head, wiped her nose, and softly said, “dear”.

“Ah, dear po pala tawagan ninyo” as I led her closer to him.

Please forgive me… when I heard the woman told me how they called each other as “dear”, I felt the mischievous child in me giggling, so tickled with joy as I heard the woman almost whispering to her husband, “Dear… I love you”, “Dear…I forgive you for your sins against me”, “Dear… I give you back to God. I’m ok now.” What a kilig moment!

I felt like in a movie with two elderly couples together, the husband at the threshold of eternity with his loving wife calling him perhaps for the last time as “dear”. What a precious moment indeed when the patient responded by opening his eyes, making me wonder how he would say the word “dear” to his wife too!

The following day, the patient died peacefully. Most likely, after hearing again that lovely and assuring word, “Dear” by his wife. How I felt so dearly loved and blessed by God in answering his call to counsel the wife and return to anoint the man with Holy Oil for his final journey back home.

Thank you, my dear friends for bearing with me! Have a blessed, dearly loved week!

Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

Jesus as friend and family

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of Sts. Mary, Martha, & Lazarus, 29 July 2022
Jeremiah 26:1-9   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   John 11:19-27
An icon of Jesus visiting his friends, the siblings Sts. Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Photo from crossroadsinitiative.com.
Glory and praise to you,
O Lord Jesus Christ who 
had come to us not just a 
family but most especially
as a friend you have stressed
during the Last Supper 
(cf. Jn.15:14-15).
And even before that evening
of Holy Thursday came, you have
been a friend to the siblings 
Mary, Martha and Lazarus so 
dear to you, visiting them often,
sharing not only in their meals but
in their lives and death, joys and
pains; what a beautiful imagery 
not only of friendship but of the
neglected ties that bind brothers
and sisters in this time when
family is being destroyed 
by new emerging thoughts
and ways of life.
In this time of the pandemic
you know how, dear Jesus,
we have finally come together 
as families free from all excuses 
of work and studies, of being far and away; 
but sadly, many have ignored and missed
the opportunities to bond together
and mend many gaps long festering
among siblings; instead of fighting and 
rivalries, may brothers and sisters
in every family emulate the love and 
respect among Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary. 
We pray for all siblings to gather anew
as one family in prayers before you, Lord, 
like Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary;
help them create a space anew for God in our
lives, the surest bond among us despite 
our many differences as we open our ears 
and hearts like St. Mary to your words,
to heed and fulfill them unlike the people 
of Judah who cursed your prophet Jeremiah 
when he spoke to them
of the truth.
“The Raising of Lazarus”, 1311 painting by Duccio de Buoninsegna from commons.wikimedia.org
Most of all, give us the grace
to be the presence of Jesus Christ
when our siblings are sick and burdened 
with all kinds of sufferings and miseries 
like Martha and Mary present to each other
awaiting Christ’s coming after Lazarus had died:
Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died."  Jesus told her,
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever
believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me
will never die.  Do you believe this?" (John 11:21, 25-26)
Like St. Martha, and most likely
her siblings, too, St. Lazarus
and St. Mary who may not have
understood fully your words and teachings,
keep us open to your coming,
to your visits, sweet Jesus;
make our hearts like theirs
filled with warmth and hospitality
to let you stay and reign inside us;
most of all, like the three holy siblings
let us share with others the gift of kindness,
of being a kin to everyone in you, with you.  Amen.

Friends in Jesus Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 20 May 2022
Acts 15:22-31   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 15:12-17
Photo by Mr. Gelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples,
"I no longer call you slaves,
because a slave does not know 
what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything
I have heard from my Father"
(John 15:15).
Lord Jesus, thank you very much
for this great honor of being called
your friend, for this great status of
being your friend, of having known
everything you have heard from the Father,
that we are loved, we are forgiven,
that we are cared for.
How sad, dear Jesus, so many times
I have not been a friend to you by 
not believing your words, of refusing to
believe that I am loved by the Father,
that I am your friend.
There are times also, dear Jesus,
that I refuse to tell others how they
are cared for, how they are loved
and even looked up to; so unlike the
Apostles and presbyters who affirmed
Barnabas and Paul as co-workers with
the Lord, as his friends too when they 
wrote the believers in Antioch, "we have
with one accord decided to choose 
representatives and to send them along
with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
who have dedicated their lives in the
name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:25-26).
How lovely were the Apostles and
presbyters here in recognizing the
labors of love for you by Barnabas and
Paul!  Here they have shown their
intimate friendship in you, dear Jesus
and with Barnabas and Paul.
To be considered as your friend, Lord Jesus
means to consider others as my friends too,
especially fellow workers in your vineyard,
fellow shepherds of your sheep;
To be considered as your friend, Lord Jesus
means to recognize your friendship with
others not with me alone;
To be considered as your friend, Lord Jesus
means to tell everyone what you have told us
too about the goodness and dedication
of our fellow workers in you.
Teach me Jesus to truly love you
and to love like you, willing to forget
myself, to let go of all recognition and
honor because it is only when you are made
known and glorified that we truly experience
deep joy inside, when we have done your most
holy will.  Amen.

Malapit sa Diyos, naglalapit sa Diyos

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-02 ng Pebrero 2022
Kapistahan ng Paghahandog kay Jesus sa Templo
Malakias 3:1-4 ><}}}}*> Hebreo 2:14-18 ><}}}}*> Lucas 2:22-40
Larawan mula sa crossroadinitiative.com.

Ngayon ang ika-40 araw mula ng Pasko ng Pagsilang ng Panginoong Hesus sa Bethlehem, Kapistahan ng Paghahandog sa Kanya sa Templo ng kanyang mga magulang na sina Maria at Jose.

Bukod tangi lamang itong salaysay na matatagpuan sa ebanghelyo ni San Lucas sapagkat ibig niyang ipakita noon sa kanyang mga mambabasa at mga taga-sunod na pumarito si Hesus para sa lahat ng tao, hindi lamang sa mga Hudyo.

Una itong pinagdiwang ng mga Kristiyano sa Jerusalem at lumaganap sa Silangan noong taong 500 kung saan ito tinawag sa wikang Griyego na “Ypapante” na ibig sabihi’y ang “Pagtatagpo” nina Hesus at ng dalawang matanda sa templo na sina Simeon at Anna.

Mula Silangan, umabot ang pagdiriwang na ito sa Europa na nakilala bilang kapistahan din ng Paglilinis ni Maria o “Purification of Mary”. Sa France, nagkaroon ng seremonyas ang mga Kristiyano ng pagbabasbas at pagsisindi ng mga kandila bago pumasok ng simbahan bilang pagkilala kay Hesus na tanglaw ng mundo ayon sa pahayag ni Simeon sa templo, “Liwanag itong tatanglaw sa mga Hentil, At magbibigay-karangalan sa iyong bayang Israel” (Luc. 2:32).

Kaya nang makarating sa Roma ang tradisyong ito noong taong 800, ito rin ang ginawang seremonya ni Papa Sergio I kaya tinagurian itong Candelaria (kandila). Makalipas ang mahigit isang libong taon noong 1962 sa Vatican II, ibinalik sa tunay na pangalan ito bilang Kapistahan ng Paghahandog sa Templo ngunit pinanatili ng mga obispo ang tradisyon ng pagbabasbas at pagsisindi ng mga kandila upang ipakita na si Hesus ang tunay na liwanag sa mundo sa aakay sa atin pabalik sa Diyos.

Kuha ni G. Cristian Pasion, Pasko ng Pagkabuhay, 2021.

Mahalaga na ating mapagnilayang muli at makita sa panahong ito na si Hesus ang tanging liwanag sa ating buhay na tumatanglaw sa gitna ng maraming artipisyal na mga ilaw, mga ilaw na ang binibigyang liwanag ay mga tao at kung sinu-sinong ibig na maging sikat o ibig kilalanin.

Ito yaong mga artipisyal na ilaw ng mga kamera at media na ang pinakikita o ang tinatampok bilang “highlight” ay mga karangyaan, kapangyarihan, katanyagan at mga kapalaluan sa mundo.

Inaanyayahan tayo ng kapistahang ito na tularan sina Simeon at Anna na inabangan buong buhay nila si Hesus na siyang tunay na liwanag ng ating buhay na dapat din nating hanapin, lapitan at sundan.

May isang tao noon sa Jerusalem, ang pangala’y Simeon. Matapat at malapit sa Diyos ang lalaking ito at naghihintay sa katubusan ng Israel. Sumasakanya ang Espiritu Santo na nagpahayag sa kanya na hindi siya mamamatay hangga’t hindi niya nakikita ang Mesiyas na ipinangako ng Panginoon.

Lucas 2:25-26

Bukod sa tanging si San Lucas lamang ang may kuwento ng tagpong ito, mayroon din siyang ginamit na kataga na hindi ginamit ng sinumang manunulat ng Bagong Tipan o maging ng alin mang aklat sa buong Bibliya.

Ito yung salitang naglalarawan kay Simeon bilang , “malapit sa Diyos” na sa Inggles ay “devout”.

Alam na natin yung salitang “righteous” o “matapat” na ginamit din ni San Mateo upang ilarawan si San Jose bilang taong matuwid o banal na tumutupad sa mga batas at alituntunin ng kanilang relihiyon.

“Simeon’s Moment” ni American illustrator Ron DiCianni mula sa  http://www.tapestryproductions.com.

Ngunit iyong “malapit” o “devout” sa Inggles o “deboto” sa pangkaraniwang pananalita, tanging si San Lucas lamang ang gumamit niyon sa buong Bibliya. Apat na ulit niya itong ginamit: minsan sa ebanghelyo na ating napakinggan at tatlong ulit sa ikalawang aklat niyang sinulat, Gawa ng mga Apostol.

Mas maliwanag ito sa Inggles nang tawagin ni San Lukas ang mga Hudyong pumunta sa Jerusalem noong Pentecostes bilang mga “devout Jews” o “mga taong palasamba sa Diyos” (Gawa 2:5); tinawag din niyang mga “devout men” o “mga taong may takot sa Diyos” yaong mga naglibing sa ating unang Martir na si San Esteban (Gawa 8:2); at sa pagsasalaysay ni San Pablo ng kanyang pagbabalik-loob, ginamit na salita muli ni San Lucas sa kanyang kuwento upang ilarawan si Ananias bilang “a devout observer of the law” o “taong may takot sa Diyos” (Gawa 22:12).

Alalaong-baga, para kay San Lucas, ang isang “devout” na tao, o wika nga natin deboto ay isang taong malapit sa Diyos dahil siya ay mayroong takot sa Diyos kaya tumutupad sa Kanyang mga utos! Hindi lamang sila matapat o faithful kungdi mayroong malinis na puso at laging handang tumupad ng buong tapang sa kalooban ng Diyos.

Kaya nga sa ating mga Pinoy, ang deboto ay taong malapit, yaong mayroong matalik na ugnayan sa Diyos at sa kapwa!

Sila yaong mga kaibigang maaasahan, mayroong sariling kusa at hindi naghihintay na pagsabihan pa kung ano ang gagawain. Mayroong sariling-palo katulad nina Simeon at Anna na kusang naghihintay, lumalapit sa Diyos at Panginoon.

“Presentation at the Temple” painting ng Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna noong 1455; hawak ni Mari ang Banal na Sanggol habang si San Jose naman sa gitna ay nakatingin kay Simeon na mayroong balbas na puti. Larawan buhat sa wikipedia.org.

Nadadalisay ang ating pagiging malapit sa Diyos sa isang buhay-panalangin na kung saan mayroong disiplina sa pagdarasal na hindi lamang mga salitang inuusal ng bibig kungdi sinasapuso.

Masdan paanong sinabi ni San Lucas sina Simeon at Anna na palaging nasa templo nananalangin. Higit sa lahat, ang pananalangin ay kaisahan sa Diyos kaya nabatid kaagad ng dalawang matanda na dumating na si Hesus sa pag-uudyok sa kanila ng Espiritu Santo.

Katulad din yan ng pagkakaroon ng matalik na kaibigan: palagi kayong nag-uusap, nagbabahaginan at nag-uunawaan kaya mayroong kaisahan.

Ang pagiging malapit sa Diyos o deboto ay hindi lamang pagaalaga at pagkolekta ng mga imahen at aklat dasalan kungdi pumapaloob sa kalooban ng Diyos na siyang sinasabi ni propeta Malakias sa unang pagbasa na biglang darating ang Panginoon sa kanyang templo na siyang ating mga sarili.

Gayun din naman, ang taong malapit sa Diyos palaging malapit sa kapwa, lalo na sa mga maliliit at nahihirapan sa buhay gaya ng mga may-sakit at kapansanan. Pagmasdan paanong kinilala ni Simeon mga magulang ni Hesus sina Maria at Jose. Binigyan niya ng halaga kanyang mga kapwa-tao hindi lamang ang Panginoong Hesus.

Ang tunay na kaibigang matalik ay yaong naglalapit sa atin sa Diyos at kabutihan, hindi kasalanan at kapahamakan. Nakakatagpo natin si Hesus sa ating mga kapwa tao gaya ng sinasabi ng may-akda ng sulat sa mga Hebreo na ating napakinggan.

Higit sa lahat, ang taong malapit sa Diyos o isang deboto ay puno ng tuwa at kagalakan. Damang-dama ang tuwa at galak nina Simeon at Anna nang makatagpo at makalong si Hesus na sa sobrang tuwa nila sila’y handa nang mamatay.

Iyon ang tunay na palatandaan ng malapit at nakatagpo sa Diyos: puno ng tuwa na anuman ang sapitin sa buhay, hindi niya alintana ang mga takot at pangamba, maging kamatayan sapagkat ito ang maghahatid sa tunay na paglapit at pagbuklod sa Ama kay Kristo Hesus. Amen.

Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Santo Niño Exhibit sa katedral ng Malolos, Enero 2022.

Jesus in our siblings

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Siblings and Friends of the Lord, 29 July 2021
Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   John 11:19-27
An icon of Jesus visiting his friends, the siblings Sts. Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Photo from crossroadsinitiative.com.
What a tremendous grace from you,
dearest God our Father through
Pope Francis that we now celebrate
the Memorial not only of St. Martha 
but also of her brother St. Lazarus and 
sister St. Mary who were all dear friends 
of Jesus Christ he frequently visited in 
their home at Bethany.  
Finally, a beautiful imagery not only
of friendship in the Lord but most of all,
the oft-neglected and taken for granted
relationships of brothers and sisters.
In this time of the pandemic
you know how, O dear God,
we have finally come together 
as families free from all excuses 
of work and studies, of being far and away; 
but sadly, many have ignored and missed
the opportunities to bond together
and mend many gaps long festering
among siblings; instead of fighting and 
rivalries, may brothers and sisters
in every family emulate the love and 
respect among Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary. 

“The Raising of Lazarus”, 1311 painting by Duccio de Buoninsegna. Photo by commons.wikimedia.org
We pray for all siblings to gather anew
as one family in prayers before you, Lord, 
like Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary;
help them create a space for your Son 
Jesus Christ who is the surest bond among us
despite our many differences; like the children of 
Israel in the wilderness, may all siblings be
animated and moved by your presence, God our Father:
"Whenever the cloud rose from the dwelling,
the children of Israel would set out on their journey.
But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward;
only when it lifted did they go forward." (Exodus 40:36-37)
Most of all, give us the grace
to be the presence of Jesus Christ
when our siblings are sick and burdened 
with all kinds of sufferings and miseries 
like Martha and Mary present to each other
awaiting Christ’s coming after Lazarus had died:
Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died."  Jesus told her,
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever
believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me
will never die.  Do you believe this?" (John 11:21, 25-26)
Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Hills, Baguio City, 2018.
Yes, dearest Lord Jesus,
I believe you are the resurrection and life;
whoever believes in you not only lives
but most of all becomes your very presence
especially among those going through
various forms of darkness in this life;
give me the grace to bring your light
and your life, your joys and your hopes
to those heavily burdened
 so they may believe like St. Martha
that "if you, Lord, had been here,
my brother would have not died."
Like St. Martha, and most likely
her siblings, too, St. Lazarus
 and St. Mary who may not have
  understood fully your words and teachings,
keep me open to your coming,
to your visits, sweet Jesus;
make my heart like theirs
filled with warmth and hospitality
to let you stay and reign in me;
most of all, like the three holy siblings
let me share with others the gift of kindness,
of being a kin to everyone in you, with you.  Amen.

Praying for respect and paying respect

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 07 May 2021
Acts 15:22-31   <'(((><  +  ><)))'>   John 15:12-17
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2020 at Infanta, Quezon.

Today, O Lord, you give us some lessons about respect. And so, I pray first for the grace of respecting others and secondly that I learn to pay respect to the highest order of all, to you our Lord and our God!

Jesus said to his disciples:
"You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves, 
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard 
from the Father."
(John 15:14-15)

Thank you dear Jesus in taking us as your friends, as having a special relationship with you that is deeply personal, for bringing us closer to the Father too.

How I love to think in this part of your teaching the word friend: if you remove the letter “r”, what is left is the word “fiend” or enemy. For me, the letter “r” stands for “respect” that literally means in Latin to “look again” or “re specere” (from specere came spectacles, spectacular).

Whenever we look again at the other person, we remember he/she is a brother/sister; failure to look again is when we disrespect, when we refuse to recognize him/her as a brother or a sister or a loved one. And that is when sins occur: infidelity, betrayal of trust and everything.

Teach me to respect always at all times like you, to always look again, and again and again at the other person as a friend, a beloved with honor and dignity, who must be held with respect and esteem because everyone is an image and likeness of God.

If I cannot look at the other person as a friend or a brother or a sister, then, let me see you, dear Jesus, in him/her so I may be respectful like your Apostles in the first reading when they decided “not to place on the gentile converts any burden beyond what is necessary” (Acts 15:25). The apostles looked again and again to finally see your face, O Lord, among the gentiles being your friends and beloved too!

This is the highest respect we can pay to everyone – to see you dear Lord in their face, in their person so that like the Apostles, we may be respectful to God, especially to the working of the Holy Spirit among us.

How lovely were the apostles to recognize and paid their highest respect to you when they declared “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us” (Acts 15:28).

It is the highest respect to see the hand of God in our every endeavor.

And this I ask and pray from you, Jesus, in the same manner that you have told us everything from the Father. Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2020 at Infanta, Quezon.

Road trip in time of corona, part 1

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 January 2021
The Church of Baras, Rizal first built by the Franciscans in 1595; present church was completed in 1686.

It was a road trip that took us three years of planning. Though it just covered a little more than a hundred kilometers east of Metro Manila done in 12 hours, it was a road trip beyond maps and GPS as it turned out into some sort of a personal journey within.

Sometimes in life, the most wonderful trips are those made at the spur of the moment – “biglaan, nagkaayaan lang” – when an Invisible Hand guides us, sometimes purposely allowing us to get lost along the way with many detours leading to so many discoveries.

That exactly happened with this road trip with my kinakapatid Dindo (Fernando Alberto, Jr.) last January 07, 2021. It was his idea that we go on a road trip so we can share more of our many common interests like Steely Dan music, singing like crazy Kid Charlemagne’s, “Is there gas in the car?” that has become like a password in our conversations as well as in our chats.

And so, two weeks ago with a tankful of “gas in the car”, I left my parish in Bulacan at 5AM and headed south to pick up Dindo almost exactly an hour later reaching the Church of Baras via Sumulong Highway in Antipolo a little past 7AM.


"Reeling in the Years":
the charm and beauty of Baras Church

If you are looking for a good, old church near Metro Manila that has remained faithful to its past, then go to this Church of Baras town that has retained its quaint Spanish period Baroque architecture.

Set on top of a hill still surrounded by forests, its simple facade is “so cool” and very comforting at first sight that gives every pilgrim a sense of serenity and silence, so welcoming especially to those tired and confused in life.

What struck me first were the beautiful patches of mosses and fronds growing right on the steps all the way up to the bell tower made of adobe bricks exposed without plasters. I have always been amazed with mosses and fronds because they remind me of how life continues to thrive even in the most difficult and harsh situations while their luminous green color look like natural carpets ready to absorb whatever shocks and weight you may be carrying.

From afar, the Baras church looks like an oasis tucked in a lovely corner not far from the busy highway outside. Everything is green and so refreshing. Just looking at this church from the patio dotted with yellow spots for social distancing during Masses, one may already conclude upon arrival that it was worth the trip.

Even after we have missed its main entrance after the small bridge in the poblacion, our peg remained chillax after being welcomed by its sacristan mayor named Alvin who right away opened the main door for us so we can pray inside. And, voila!

Inside the Baras Church. Its pastors have done a great job in keeping the church intact all these years unlike other old churches that have fallen prey to disrespect of its heritage and roots.

Upon entering, one’s sights are directed upwards to its exposed wooden trusses supporting the roof. It has no ceiling like most old churches in Ilocos, exuding with that sense of freedom and openness as if the heavens were rent apart by God to assure that He listens to every prayer said by anyone who comes to this church.

One thing I appreciate in this church as a priest is the prevalence of that sense of coherence, of wholeness from which the word holiness came from. So unlike many churches these days that have become more like a hodge-podge of so many things and colors that distract you away from God.

Baras church is a rarity where that old maxim in liturgy is still kept so many priests ignore: noble simplicity. Nothing kitschy or baduy like tarpaulins and what-have-you that inhibit silent meditation and contemplation with enough room for God and His saints. And you.

The adobe bricks without plasters give you an impression of a relaxed life, safely and securely ensconced inside to rest in the Lord, literally and figuratively speaking. Nothing artificial, so natural is the feeling inside without the ubiquitous giant ceiling fans and flatscreen TV’s. Touch the walls and you can still feel the whispered prayers of the faithful long dead still reverberating!

Sauntering to the sanctuary to pray while feasting my eyes with the ancient wood carvings at the side walls, it was only then when I realized how blessed is this road trip, so timely to have happened that day, not earlier or even later.


"We find that after years of struggle 
we do not take a trip;
a trip takes us." 
-John Steinbeck

Lo and behold! When Alvin turned on the lights of the retablo, I felt so blessed when I recognized St. Joseph is the Patron of this church, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus Christ, my personal patron saint since seminary days!

What a tremendous blessing indeed that our first stop in this road trip is a parish dedicated to St. Joseph on the first month of the Year of St. Joseph as declared by Pope Francis last December 8, 2020 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.

Most of all, it was a time in my life I was feeling so afraid, even scared and bothered almost like St. Joseph after finding out Mary was pregnant with a child not his that he decided to silently divorce her until an angel appeared in his dream, explaining everything. In my case, I have just received my new assignment as chaplain of a university and hospital in our diocese. Aside from that fearful feeling going into a new field of ministry, I was wary of the hospital setting in time of COVID-19.

But there before the altar of the Baras Church as I knelt praying, I felt the very same reassurance of God through St. Joseph, as if telling me, “Nick, do not be afraid to take that new assignment for I shall be with you always.”

After saying our prayers, I told Dindo the significance of our first Church that happened to be dedicated to St. Joseph.

And that’s when we realized how along the way we were sharing about our own beloved fathers now both gone to heaven, of their impact on us while growing up in their old-school brand of discipline and parenting that have molded us into who we are today weathering so many storms in life, never giving up, always fighting, always standing for what we firmly believe as true and good.

While there, I prayed to St. Joseph for all the fathers I know, including those priests who have blessed me and nurtured my vocation, deceased and still living. In a special way, I prayed for all dads silently crying in pain because of their great love for their children; dads never understood by their wife, always deferring for them for the sake of balance and peace at home; and, most especially, for dads who are sick after laboring for so long in raising their family.

At the left side of the nave is displayed prominently the original cross used in the church by the Jesuits who administered the parish from 1616 to 1679. Above that is a wood carving of Santiago de Compostela or St. James the Great, patron of Spain and elder brother of St. John the Beloved, the patron of my parish for nine years and seven months. The parish of Baras was originally dedicated to him. Why they changed it to St. Joseph, nobody could tell us.

But, Dindo and I at that time knew, this stop was meant for us both a father and for our own dads who are still cumpadres on a different trip in heaven. We had our light breakfast prepared by Dindo being a great cook himself who was part of the original Mandarin Hotel officers in Beijing three decades ago.

Join us next week at our next stop in Tanay where we met St. Joseph’s wife, Mary.

And along the way, we proved that rock and roll has always been a way of life since the time of Jesus…

Original cross venerated in the Baras Church with a relic from the true Cross of Jesus found in Jerusalem by St. Helena; above that is a woodcarving of St. James the Great, the first patron saint of Baras.

Email me at <lordmychef@gmail.com>.

Advent is renewing friendship with Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, Missionary, 03 December 2020
Isaiah 26:1-6 >><}}}*> >><}}}*> >><}}}*> Matthew 7:21, 24-27
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son while praying in our Parish, November 2019.

Thank you very much, God our loving Father in continuing to keep us, in gathering us together as family, as friends, as a community despite our many sins and failures, most especially in the midst of these trying times.

Like the remnants of Israel thrown into exile in the first reading, you have gathered us in Jesus Christ as our “strong wall and rampart” (Is.26:1), protecting us, blessing us, befriending us.

Let us not make same old mistake again like your chosen people thrown into Babylonian exile who worshipped you only with lips:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven.”

Matthew 7:21

In this Season of Advent, let us rediscover you anew, Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Help us renew our friendship in you by cultivating a prayer life that is consistent because friends always communicate, they always listen and speak to each other.

Sorry, Lord, for ignoring your words for so long, listening more to empty words of media than to your words that are performative or life-changing as Pope emeritus Benedict XVI used to say.

Most of all, friends not only talk and listen — they love each other.

Teach me to be truly wise, dear Jesus, to love more in deeds than in words.

Teach me to have my life founded on you, rooted in your love like St. Francis Xavier whose memorial we celebrate today for having accomplished so much against all odds because of his love for you and for people scattered in the Far East, hungry for your words.

Fill my heart with your love so that like St. Francis Xavier, I may be “stirred to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to me… that I may forget my own desires, my own human affairs and give myself over entirely to God’s will and choice that my heart would cry out: Lord I am here! Send me anywhere you like!” (adapted from a letter by St. Francis Xavier to St. Ignatius).

St. Francis Xavier, pray for us! Amen.