Why old friends are the best

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 16 November 2019

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A friend from the mid-80’s recently invited me for lunch when in the midst of our conversation she asked me how I unwind and take breaks as a priest considering my toxic schedules.

Suddenly, I just felt so light inside being filled with joy when I answered, “good old friends like you”!

We had a hearty laugh together as we remembered those good old days and nights with our other friends, wondering together how far we have all come in life, hurdling all those many struggles of our younger years.

When I was ordained priest in 1998, I promised to “leave behind” my family and relatives as well as friends to give myself totally in serving Jesus Christ among those people entrusted to my care.

I am so glad when I recently found out that I have not really turned away from them when I embraced a lifetime service to God because they have continued to keep me too as friend!

Old friends are always special because they have stood the test of time, standing by our side, believing in us during those many dark nights we have gone through even without us knowing it!

True friends are indeed a treasure especially those we have known and kept over the years because even if we no longer see each other so often or even communicate with them despite the suffocating social media around us, we have remained good friends deep in our hearts.

It is something we mutually feel deep inside for each other because despite our separation from college and from work or residence, we have never grown apart from each other as if there is an invisible thread that links us together.

Photo by Negative Space on Pexels.com

I used to tell young people in my recollections that friends are always a gift from God. Each friend is unique, each with his/her own strengths and limitations. There are no perfect friends but if we can allow our friendships to have spaces for love and kindness, respect and understanding, mercy and forgiveness, friends can truly be the best gifts we can have in life.

Friends are a gift because they are always wrapped in mystery: the moment we receive them, we really do not know what is in store for us. In a similar manner like the lyrics of a song we loved singing in our daily Masses in the Minor Seminary (high school), friends are “gifts of God to me, who come all wrapped so differently: others so tightly, others so loosely, but wrappings are not the gift.”

Our task in every friendship is to uncover a friend’s “giftedness” to us, something which we cannot change. We can nurture and cultivate our friendships but we cannot force our friends into becoming someone they are not meant to be.

Every friend’s giftedness is from God because every friend is a signpost for us to be closer with God: some eventually become partners in life as husband and wife while others become the bestest of friends as “emotional shock absorbers” or a inspirations to another.

That, my friend, is something we cannot and must not dare alter because as the saying goes, people come to our lives for a reason, for a season, and for love.

Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com

Lately I have been seeing – “catching up” – some good old friends. What I like best when we are together is the ability and gift to laugh our hearts out like never before. There is something so deep with old friends laughing together not only with old jokes and anecdotes we cannot forget but also with some new realizations that come with our age.

And we laugh together, we realize we are not alone after all. There is still somebody very much like us, somebody we continue to grow up with, somebody who understands our fears and anxieties because he/she is also going through the same phase in life or have just gone through something similar.

That is why good old friends are the best because despite our long separation, we still find each other traveling, walking through the same path albeit for sometime in parallel manner.

They are the best because good old friends eventually teach us to be more appreciative and grateful with life and with friends who continue to journey with us no matter how slow and cranky we have become.

Cheers to all our old friends! Make time to reach out to them. Your message or text or call could mean so much to them!

Nasaan na mga liham ng ating samahan?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-13 ng Nobyembre 2019

Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com
Nasaan na mga liham
ng ating mga samahan
at pagkakaibigan
na ngayo'y napalitan
ng maramihang balanang
kaisipan at mga larawan
pati katatawanan?
Walang umiiral na ugnayan
bagkus mga palitan
at pasahan na lamang
ng sari-saring nararanasan
at nararamdaman;
mabuti kung iyong masasakyan
maski mga kababawan.
Iba pa rin 
ang karanasang
na higit mapagyayaman
ng sino mang sumusulat
at tumatanggap ng liham
mula kay Mister Postman.
Maraming kabutihan
at mga kagandahan
ginagawa nating usapan
sa pamamagitan ng internet
kagaya ng e-mail,
messenger at viber
na sadya namang super ang bilis.
Photo by Roman Koval on Pexels.com
Ngunit kailanman
hindi kayang palitan
ng mga makabagong
ating kinagawiang
mga liham
na laging kinasasabikan, inaabangan.
Hindi agad binubuksan
mga kamay pinupunasan
at baka marumihan
tinanggap na liham
mula sa kanino man
na turing ay isang kaibigan.
Itong pagsusulat
maging pagtanggap ng liham
maituturing nating
ritwal ng ating pagkakaibigan:
walang minamadali
bawat sandali kinakandili
pilit pinanatili sana'y kapiling kang lagi.
Nakakahinayang itong kaugalian
ng pagliham napalitan,
pati ating pagkakaibigan,
mga ugnayan tila nakalimutan;
balikan mga lumang liham nasaan
hindi ba't nakatago, iniingatan
upang basahin, sariwain, palalimin ating samahan?
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Befriending Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Tuesday, Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, 15 October 2019

Romans 1:16-25 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 11:37-41

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

“If Christ Jesus dwells in a man as his friend and noble leader, that man can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandon us. He is a true friend.

Many, many times I have perceived this through experience. The Lord has told it to me. I have definitely seen that we must enter by this gate if we wish his Sovereign Majesty to reveal to us great and hidden mysteries. A person should desire no other path, even if he is at the summit of contemplation… All blessings come to us through our Lord. He will teach us, for in beholding his life we find that he is the best example.

St. Teresa of Avila, from the Breviary

Many times in our lives we have always believed that holiness is just for a few people you have chosen, O God. We feel excluded from holiness, from being a saint.

Because we refuse to try to get near you, doubting you despite our belief in you as God!

“For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them.

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshipped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

Romans 1:19, 25

Sometimes we have tried befriending you through Jesus Christ your Son.

And like the saints, we have indeed experienced your presence, your reality, your blessedness but unfortunately we stopped striving further as St. Teresa tells us.

O dear Jesus, you always come to me, you always make me experience you but I always try explaining everything, letting my mind work more than my heart and soul that I fail to feel and experience you inside me like those Pharisees bent on finding faults in you.

Give me the grace to be silent and still in you, to wait for you as a friend full of love and trust like St. Teresa of Avila. Amen.

Coming together in the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday,Week XIV, Year I, 10 July 2019
Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7, 17-24 >< )))*> Matthew 10:1-7
Pyramids of Egypt. Photo by author, 09 May 2019.

Thank you very much, our loving Father, for making us all come together as family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances on many occasions you have planned in all eternity in your infinite wisdom.

Like the sons of Israel who have come to Egypt to buy food during a famine and the 12 Apostles summoned by your Son Jesus, our coming together for various reasons in different seasons were all caused by your divine will.

The sons of Israel did not know how their coming into Egypt would reunite them with their lost brother Joseph they have maltreated and sold a long time ago. The 12 Apostles never had an inkling at that time how they would be betrayed by one of their very own that they welcomed each other as disciples of Jesus.

In your time, God, you perfectly know when and where and how we would meet the many people we now have in our lives.

Give us the grace to always seek your holy will, your grand design and plan with the people who come to our lives. Let us take care of them as precious gifts of family and friends you give us, let us shower them with your love and attention while still around us. May we never take them for granted, value them always as they value us too as gifts coming from you.

Let us not take them into someone not meant to be in our lives.

We pray also for people without friends and family around them, for those in far and distant lands working away from their loved ones, for those languishing in jails especially the innocent one that they may soon be reunited with their family.

Most of all, our loving Father, may we always see your face on every person we shall meet this day. Amen.

With our fellow pilgrims at the Sphinx in Egypt, 09 May, 2019.

Friend, or fiend?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Easter Week V, 24 May 2019
Acts 15:22-31 ><}}}*> John 15:12-17
From Google.

What a lovely Friday you calling us friends, Lord Jesus! What an honor for you to regard as your friends even though so many times we disappoint you, even betray you with our sins.

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 my Father.

John 15:14-15

How funny, Lord, that just one letter in the word “friend” can spell the big difference to turn it into its exact opposite, the letter “r”: from friend to fiend or enemy.

So many times, Lord, it is the lack of respect that leads us to sin against you and one another, that we become fiend than friend. Friends always respect, which is from the Latin roots re and specere or to “look again”.

Teach us, like your apostles in the first reading to learn to respect one another, especially those different from us that we may always see them as brothers and sisters despite our differences like backgrounds, culture, and color.

Teach us, O Lord, to see more of you in others to be the very basis of our friendships rather than looking more into our many differences that we always make as excuses in being apart. Amen.

An optical shop in Madaba, Jordan. Photo by author, 02 May 2019.
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Praying for you on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land

The Lord Is My Chef, 28 April 2019
Early morning view of the modern side of Jerusalem taken in April 2017.

My dearest followers, relatives and friends:

Tomorrow early morning we are leaving for the Holy Land. It is the only place here on earth that the Lord had blessed me to visit thrice. It is what I call in my homily today as an “a basta!” experience — there is something deep within me that make me confess like the Apostles that “Jesus is risen! Jesus is alive!” , and, “I have seen the Lord!”.

A basta! is all I can tell people why they have to visit the Holy Land even once in their lifetime. And the biggest surprise I have experienced the second time I went there in April 2017 courtesy of my friends from GMA-7 News, even if you visit again the same places you have seen before, Jesus has always something different for you. Very true.

With my three friends who are not only great news women who turned GMA-7 News to what it is today but great “prayer-warriors” too. Since my ordination to the priesthood in 1998, they have never failed to always ask me for prayers not only for themselves and loved ones but also for everyone in the news — as in everyone even form other news organizations who are sick or going through trying moments in their lives. This photo was taken after praying at the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem.

I am not sure if I could blog from there during these next two weeks as I have to lead a large group of pilgrims mostly from our parish. I have always considered myself as a “dinosaur” when it comes to new technology. But since June last year, I have overcome my fears with new technology that I feel I have grown in learning so many things about life and the world through the amazing internet and computers. As a priest, I have found a new calling from the Lord in blogging to reach out to more people with my prayers and sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ.

I shall be praying for you my dear followers, relatives and friends in a very special way during this pilgrimage. Do pray for me too and for my fellow pilgrims. Will surely share with you our experiences – and blessings – from the Lord in this journey in his Holy Land.

God bless you all!

fr. nick

At the sacristy of the Church of Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept) with a painting of the historic meeting of St. Pope Paul VI and the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem in 1970’s.

Paanyaya ng Semana Santa

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-9 ng Abril 2019
Larawan mula sa Google.
Ano kaya ikaw ay maanyayahan
Pakinggan ngayong mga mahal na araw
Na iyong paunlakan itong panawagan
Ng bagong utos na magmahalan?
Magturingang magkakaibigan
Walang paglalamangan bagkus pagbibigayan
Respeto at dangal ng bawat isa
Lalo na ng mga nakalimutan ng lipunan.
Tulay ng mga “magka-ibigan” at magkasintahan sa Taiwan.
Hilumin mga pusong sugatan
Aliwin mga damdaming nasaktan
Pakinggan mga karaingan
Tulungan mga nabibigatan.
Samahan mga iniwanan
Katandaan ay alalayan
Mga sanggol ipagtanggol
Ngiti sa labi isukli sa hikbi ng mga sawi.
Larawan ay kuha ng aking kaibigan sa Varsitarian ng UST, G. Jim Marpa, 2017.
Marami pang paraan upang sundin
Mga tinuran nitong Panginoon natin
Noong gabi matapos nilang kumain
Aniya maghugasan din ng mga paa natin.
Halina't buksan puso't kalooban 
Upang masundan bagong paraan
Ng pamumuhay sa pagmamahalan
Ilahad banal na kalooban sa kapwa bilang kaibigan.
Larawan mula sa Google.
Maging laan na laging pakinggan
Hinanakit sa kalooban, masakit at di malabanan
Upang kanila ring maramdaman
Ika'y karamay sa kanilang kapighatian.
Doon magsisimula komunyon at kaisahan
Sa kapangyarihan ng Espiritung Banal
Isang panibagong pag-iral
Bukal ng tuwa at kagalakan.
Larawan ay kuha ng aking kaibigan, Dra. Mai Dela Pena sa halaman ng Monasterio ng mga Carmelita sa Israel noong Oktubre 2011.

Friends always talk straight from their hearts

The Lord Is My Chef Quiet Storm, 01 March 2019

I have been dreaming of former classmates lately. Last Tuesday night I dreamt of a classmate in high school seminary now a priest but have not seen in months. Later that day I met another classmate, told him of my dream, and inquired about him. Unfortunately, he has not seen him too for so long though he presumed he must be doing well in the ministry.

Thursday morning upon waking up, I was thinking hard for the possible meaning of another dream I had the night before about my two seatmates in elementary school. Two dreams in a row about three good, old friends very much still alive but have not seen for so long. And how ironic that until now, I have not reached out to them personally or through the many social media platforms available except for a Facebook post that Thursday morning for a possible explanation about my two dreams!

That is the great irony – or, tragedy of our time when we have all modern means of communications that include extensive road networks and yet we could not even get in touch with those people dear to us. See the simplicity of Jesus Christ in calling us his friends: on the night he was betrayed during supper, he told his disciples, “You are my friends if you do what I command you (i.e., love one another). I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father” (Jn.15:14,15).

Jesus does not need to dial numbers, text SMS, compose emails, or send invitations in Facebook to become friends with us. Jesus simply reveals to us in the most personal manner everything the Father wants to tell us and right away, we are already friends! Of course, it would be difficult to enumerate everything that the Father had told Jesus to relay to us but the greatest of these is the fact that God loves us very, very much. Period.

That is the greatest thing Jesus had achieved in his coming to us by bringing God closest to us by speaking straight to us by himself of his love, his mercy, his forgiveness, and his plans for us. That is one of the great joys of friendship when we talk straight, speak our hearts out freely to our friends without any fears of being rejected or misunderstood. There is always that sense of respect for the other person as a subject to be loved and cherished, not an object to be possessed and used like tools and gadgets.

In our mass-mediated culture, expressing our true feelings to our friends have become more complicated as we become less personal in our relationships. How I hate it when some people would always invite me for breakfast or lunch in some expensive restaurants or hotels only to ask some special favors after the meal that I feel like throwing out the food I have ingested! It is not social grace to treat people to fine dining or gift them with expensive or special things only to ask for some favors in the end. That is corruption or bribery. Simply put, it is lack of respect especially if done by people we regard as friends.

Going back to that Last Supper scene with Jesus Christ when he called us his friends, notice the word “friend”: there is only one letter that makes the difference to make it mean exactly the opposite, “fiend”. It is the letter “r” that stands for respect, from two Latin terms that literally mean “to look again”. To respect is to look again at another human as a person with equal dignity as yourself. Respect is the starting point of love that cannot exist in any situation where there is inequality or feelings of superiority over another person.

Our words coming from our hearts are some of the most wonderful things that create true and lasting friendships. The rest are the actions expressed when these words run out.

“Hapag ng Pag-Asa” by the late Joey Velasco.  From Google.

Testing Friends, Testing God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, 01 March 2019, Week VII, Year I
Sirach 6:5-17///Mark 10:1-12

Thank you very much, O God, in giving us this weekend to examine and test our hearts about our relationships and friendships. 

How nice of you to speak about “tests” in our Mass readings today:
In the first reading, you ask us to “first test a friend and be not too ready to trust him” (Sir. 6:7).

It is sad, O Lord, that in this age of Facebook and social media, friends have become numbers and status symbol for our popularity than persons to be loved and cherished as gifts from you.  To test a friend means to see to it that in our relationships, we do not regard each other as  objects to be possessed like things.

Too often, this happens when we disguise as testing you like the Pharisees in the gospel who asked you, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” (Mk.10:2)

How funny, O Lord, that in testing you, we end up being tested about the friendships and relationships we keep!

And so many times, we fail because we have removed you from the many ties that bind us.

Teach us, O Lord, today to always see you in every person we meet, in every relationship we keep.  Guide us in the way of your commands that we live together in love and unity as brothers and sisters, never allowing our selfish interests to separate us from one another.  Amen.

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.