Coming to Jesus, coming to others

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Third Week of Easter, 05 May 2022
Acts 8:26-40   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 6:44-51
Photo by author, 2021.
Praise and thanksgiving
to you, most loving Lord,
Jesus Christ, in making us 
come to you daily!

Jesus said to the crowds: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listen to my Father and learns from him comes to me.”

John 6:44-45
Grant me the courage
and docility of Philip your
Apostle whose feast we
celebrated yesterday to 
always come to you, ready 
to "get up and set out" 
wherever you send us.
May we spend time, 
make time daily to come to you,
Jesus, to put into practice
that grace of the Father to
meet and experience you in
prayers and the sacraments
so we may be filled with your 
presence and mercy.
And wisdom.

Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, “I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.

Acts 8:34-35
First, let us come to you,
Jesus so that we may come
to share you with others.
Amen.

Advent is looking forward

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Advent, 09 December 2021
Isaiah 41:13-20   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 11:11-15
Photo by author, 08 December 2021.
Thank you very much, O God
for all the beautiful memories 
we have in the past, especially 
those moments you have blessed
us with the good life - freedom 
and security, food and clothings,
family and friends, and everything
that is good in between them.
But the problem with our beautiful
and sweet memories of the past is
how often we are fixated to them, 
especially when hard times happen
to us, like with your people Israel who
were exiled to Babylon for so long:
they could not believe their days are
ending when you would set them free
and allow them to come home that they 
kept on harking back to the good old 
days of the past, unable to look forward
to the fulfillment of your wonderful promises
through the prophet Isaiah.
Give us the grace, O Lord,
on this season of Advent to look
forward to a better future, 
to a more blessed present moment
than the past; help us understand
the words of Jesus Christ your Son
about John the Baptist:

Jesus said to the crowds, “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Matthew 11:11
Yes, in the past before
Jesus Christ's coming,
it was such a very great time
to have heard and witnessed
John's ministry; there is no doubt
about his great role in preparing
the way of the Lord; however, 
it was Jesus himself who claimed,
and rightly so, even the least
among us is greater than John 
who never witnessed and experienced
the fruits of Christ's sacrifice on the 
Cross!
It has been two years since
this pandemic altered our
lives and made life so difficult
to many of us; until now, we keep
on going back to the good old days
of the past before the pandemic;
help us to move on, Jesus, and look
forward to better Christmas,
better new year in 2022 if we can
be more open to you.  Amen.

The vessels of God’s grace to us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 08 December 2021
Genesis 3:9-15, 20 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Santuario di Greccio, Rieti, Italy in 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father
in giving us a Mother in Mary
who gave birth to your Son Jesus
in order to save us from our sins!
Indeed, nothing is impossible 
with you, dear God as you willed
Mary to be conceived immaculately
free from any sin to be pure and
clean to receive Jesus in her womb.
Because of that, she is rightly
called as our "advocate of grace"
and "model of holiness" for through
her, your life and blessings overflowed
upon us in Christ's coming.
And so, we pray to you, Father
in the name of Jesus our Lord
for all the people who have been
channels of your grace to us
like Mary:  our beloved mothers and
fathers who brought us forth into this
world and nurtured us in your love,
still patiently bearing all of life's
beatings and sufferings for our own
good and comfort; we pray for our
siblings, especially our elder brothers
and sisters who have faithfully acted as
our parents too after they were gone
who ensured our safety and well-being,
our sources of joy when life is rough;
we pray for our friends who have remained
faithful by our side through thick and 
thin, still believing in us despite our sins
and failures; we pray for our employers
and superiors and colleagues at work
who give us the chance to earn our
living with dignity and honor so we can 
keep ourselves and loved ones warm and
secured specially in this time of the pandemic.
Most of all, we pray for your Holy Spirit,
dear Father, to always enlighten our
minds and our hearts so that like Mary
we may always be open to Christ's
coming not only to share him with 
others but most of all like Mary his Mother,
we too may be conformed in him
our Savior as you have willed since
the beginning.  Amen.

Mary, advocate of grace and model of holiness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 08 December 2021
Genesis 3:9-15, 20 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Palazzo Borromeo, Isola Bella, Stresa, Italia, 2019.

Recently I saw on a Facebook post the photo of American model Kendall Jenner in a swimsuit showing what for many is the “perfect body” in a woman. The photo had reportedly gone viral last year.

What caught my attention was the other photo posted opposite Jenner: that of 19-year-old Alyssa Carson who became the youngest female in history to pass all NASA aerospace tests to train as astronaut for future travel to Mars! The caption said it so well, lamenting the fact how the world gives so much attention to “fashion models” with many going insane imitating their bodies forgetting the more essential like inner beauty and intelligence.

More sad is how we have fixed our human understanding and analogies of a “model” as someone who poses and remains still to be painted or photographed for glossy magazines and giant billboards that people are willing to buy or pay for just to view and let their senses feast on.

It may sound funny but those two photos accompanied me while praying and preparing for our celebration today of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Sorry, I am not going to show you the link to those photos but wha I want to share with you are the two beautiful expressions depicting Mary as “advocate of grace” and “model of holiness” found in the Preface of today’s Mass (that is the prayer before the Holy, Holy leading to the consecration): “She, the most pure Virgin, was to bring forth a Son, the innocent lamb who would wipe away our offenses; you placed her above all others to be for your people an advocate of grace and a model of holiness.”

Photo by Fr. Gerry Pascual at Einsiedeln Abbey, Einsiedeln, Switzerland, 2019.

So often with Marian feasts, many people complain and find it hard to relate with the Blessed Virgin because they find them as celebrations of the privileges of Mary who was so blessed and unique, thinking she’s almost a god, not human anymore whom we cannot imitate and emulate.

That is totally untrue and baseless!

Of course, only she has the distinction of being immaculately conceived, one never stained by sin but, aside from that, Mary is like all of us, so human; and we too can be like her, full of grace and holy!

Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will.

Ephesians 1:3-5

Very clear in this reflection by St. Paul in our second reading that our truest destiny is to be holy and without blemish – that is, immaculate. It is the plan of God since the beginning that we all become his people until sin came and destroyed momentarily that divine plan as we have heard in the first reading.

With the coming of Jesus through his sacrifice on the Cross, we were redeemed from sin to become God’s holy people which the same Preface mentions Mary as the “beginning of the Church”. The same prayer reiterates to us our universal calling from God which is to be holy and blameless before God through Jesus Christ. It is very doable and attainable “for nothing is impossible for God” as the Archangel Gabriel told Mary during the Annunciation (Lk.1:37). And Mary is our proof to that!

Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Santuario di Greccio, Rieti, Italy in 2019.

While it is very true that nothing is impossible for God, today’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception reminds of how God “needs” us to cooperate and participate in his beautiful plans for us like Mary to be his instrument or seedbed for his Divine Word to receive and grow and bloom.

That is the meaning of Mary as “advocate of grace” who became the vessel in the coming of Jesus Christ. See how St. Luke was very clear in narrating Mary’s “supporting” role and place in the plan of God: she remains a human being – not God – like us except she was full of grace, that is, immaculately conceived.

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end… The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Luke 1:31-33, 35

The Church Fathers used to call Mary as the “aquaeductus ecclesiae” or neck of the Church connecting Jesus the caput or head and us the corpus or body. Mary as an advocate of grace is that vessel of all blessings we now have in Jesus Christ because of her obedience and participation in that plan of God of sending Jesus.

Keep in mind that as advocate of grace, Mary brings us all to Jesus as the one Mediator, not away from him. True devotees of Mary bring others to Jesus not away from him for he alone is the Mediator. A true and authentic devotion to Mary always result in deeper knowledge and intimacy with Jesus and his gospel. Notice this in her apparitions especially at Fatima in 1911 where her messages call us to get closer to Jesus, not her.

Mary continues as our advocate of grace telling us the very same words she had told the servers at Cana to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn.2:5).

Do we do the same? Or, mislead others into putting Mary at par or even above Jesus her Son and Lord? In this time of pandemic, are we like Mary as an advocate of grace, a vessel and instrument of blessings to others or do we grab every credit of “charity” and “kindness”, grandstanding for more media mileage of “likes” and “followers” to be viral and trending?

Photo by Fr. Gerry Pascual at the Cathedral of Barcelona, Spain in 2019.

From her being an “advocate of grace”, Mary thus becomes our “model of holiness” too as she reminds us of God’s original plan for us, created in his image and likeness destroyed by sin with the fall of Adam and Eve. See how God immediately promised salvation through the woman fulfilled in Mary as he reprimanded the serpent in tempting Eve:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike you at your head, while you strike at his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

Because of her being the advocate of grace of God by giving birth to Jesus, Mary stands before us as the perfect reminder of Christ’s work of purification and recovery of the image of God in us. Described as the “perfect disciple” and “doer of the Word”, Mary had shown us in her very life which continues to this day in her intercessions and apparitions how discipleship is a life-long process and commitment of holiness. From giving birth to Jesus to his dying on the Cross until his burial, Mary had always been with Jesus that on Easter, it was to her that the Risen Lord first appeared because she was the first to believe totally in him.

At the Pentecost, Mary was with the Apostles awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit that became the coming out party of the Church. In her life, Mary is the model of holiness because she keeps on working with us and in us, guiding us in following Jesus our Lord and Master so that we might be “conformed to his image” (Rom. 8:29).

Photo by author, Christmas 2020.

Holiness is not being sinless but being filled with God who is all-holy, being like Jesus Christ. Mary showed us the way to holiness is being humble before God, seeing herself as the “handmaid” or servant of the Lord.

If there is one thing the world needs now so badly in this time of the pandemic, it is holiness. Before the pandemic came, mankind was so filled with self, so arrogant and proud acting like god, manipulating everything.

How ironic that a microscopic virus with the simplest signs similar to the common colds made the world stood still for some time, reminding us that there is a God all-powerful who is in control of everything.

Through Mary, may this Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception lead us back to God to recover in us his image and likeness, cleansed and purified of our blemishes and wrinkles of sin by having an enlightened devotion to her, the servant of the Lord par excellence. Amen.

A blessed day to everyone!

Our God of abundance

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the First Week of Advent, 01 December 2021
Isaiah 25:6-10   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Matthew 15:29-37
Photo by author, Dampa in Pasay City, 2018.
Praise and glory to you,
our loving God and Father,
for the abundant blessings 
you have bestowed upon us
this 2021 even in the midst of
many sufferings brought by
the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we look back to the past 
eleven months and see how far
we have come to this first day
of the merry month of December,
one thing remains clear:  you are 
a God of abundance, you always
have so many things in store for each
one of us but unfortunately we always
fail to see or even recognize them at all;
worst, with your abundant blessings, 
we are always in need with our mentality
so focused on scarcity.
The problem is with us, dear God;
your promise to Isaiah to feast us 
on "juicy, rich food" and "pure, 
choice wines" have long been fulfilled
in the coming of Jesus Christ your
Son who comes in every here and now
and would surely come again
at the end of time.
Destroy the "veil that veils" us and 
the "web that is woven over" us
so we may find Jesus silently and 
subtly working among us, right in our
midst; let us believe so we may see him
to enjoy your abundant blessings found
in him in the first place!

The disciples said to him, “where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.”

Matthew 15:33-34
Come, Lord Jesus, fill us with
your presence and peace and grace, 
most specially with your pity
and mercy for those in need
so that we may find the abundance
we have always have in you.  
Amen.

When the spirit is willing but flesh is weak…

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. John Paul II, Pope, 22 October 2021
Romans 7:18-25  ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 12:54-59
Photo by author, 2019.
Thank you very much, 
dearest God our Father 
for knowing me so well like
St. Paul, of how I constantly have
to wage that battle against evil 
deep within me.

Brothers and sisters: I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.

Romans 7:18-21
There is an ongoing war deep within
each one of us between what is right
and good and what is wrong and evil;
there is always that inner struggle that
even if we know the right thing to do,
sometimes we choose what is wrong 
and sinful not simply because we are weak
as humans; like St. Paul, we are not 
offering an excuse to you but ask for
your grace for us to be responsible 
to our decisions and actions for it is 
only in admitting our guilt and sinfulness
can we truly see and follow you.
This inner battle between good and
evil within us are in fact the very roots
of the bigger wars and strife we have
among nations and peoples, of the more
pernicious indifference and self-centeredness
we choose daily in the face of widespread
poverty and hunger, corruption and deceptions
not only in our streets but also right in
our own homes and houses of worship.
Send us your Holy Spirit, Lord Jesus
to enlighten our minds and our hearts
to be able to read spiritually the things
happening in us and around us, 
that we may be able to judge for
ourselves what is right.  
Let us grow in the courage and wisdom
of St. John Paul II, your great Pope who
lived and served us with great example of
his life waging war against the many evils of
our time, standing for what is true and good,
your voice in this wilderness, telling us to
"be not afraid" to love like Jesus your Son
with Mary his Mother.  Amen.
From Twitter.com.

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.

Slave of sin vs. slave of grace

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 20 October 2021
Romans 6:12-18   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 12:39-48
Photo by Ms. Nikki A. Vergara, 2020 in Victoria, Laguna.
We are all slaves, 
born as your servants
O God our Lord and Master;
how sad that the more we refuse
to accept this reality, the more
we are enslaved to sin;
the more we assert our freedom
and decide to choose whatever
we want, the more we become unfree.

Do you not know that if you present yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, although you were once slaves of sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the patterns of teaching to which you were entrusted. Freed from sin, you have become slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:16-18
Jesus our Lord and Savior,
let us realize this truth applies to us all;
that although you have saved and
justified us with your offering on the Cross
that continues in our Sacraments like
Baptism and the Eucharist that have
brought us closest to you and the Father,
it is not something like a "magic"
that fixes everything, that automatically
brings us to heaven.
Let us be faithful and prudent stewards,
slaves of grace in you like in today's gospel
who faithfully await your return
with good works and deeds.
Let us keep in our minds and hearts that
the more we profess our faith in you, dear Jesus,
as your servants, the more we have to participate
in your grace to produce fruits of
the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Amen.

Claiming God’s grace

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 October 2021
Romans 5:12, 15, 17-19, 20-21   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 12:35-38
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com
Praise and glory to you,
our loving God and Father
in giving us so much hope today,
inspiring us to be better, to be free
to choose and follow you,
to love and serve you in one another.

Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:20-21
Let us live in your Son
Jesus Christ, in the realm of grace
than live in Adam in the realm of sin
and death, enslaved to our passions
and selfish desires.
Let your Holy Spirit work within us,
dear Jesus, to allow us to live in a way
pleasing to God our Father.
Like the psalmist, enable us to proclaim,
"Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will."
Open our eyes to the reality,
O God, of the two kinds of humanity
pervading:  the sinful humanity and the
redeemed humanity in Christ;
how sad that so often, especially
in the news we read and follow,
it is always the humanity in solidarity
with Adam in sin that seems to prevail.
Let us claim your abounding grace,
"girding our loins and lighting our lamps"
to be focused more on our justification
found in your righteousness in Christ.
Amen.

Sharing the “vision of God”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 14 October 2021
Romans 3:21-30   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Luke 11:47-54
Just a few minutes before the start of our Mass at a remote parish I helped last Sunday, these double rainbows greeted me as if God were smiling at me.
Your words today, O Lord
are difficult to comprehend;
words like "righteousness" and 
"justification" are words we rarely use,
terms our generation have forgotten;
but, we are still deeply grateful
to you in sending us these gems
through the insightful writings 
of your great apostle Paul.

Brothers and sisters: Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faih in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:21-24
Though the language may be strange,
its underlying realities of your grace
which is your righteousness and 
love for us, O God our Father,
remain so true as expressed by your
Son Jesus Christ's self-sacrifice
on the Cross for our salvation (justification).
Let the teachings of St. Paul sink into
our hearts and minds that we are
utterly dependent on you, O God, 
for our salvation; that nothing can we
accomplish apart from your grace.
In a society where the self-made
person is so idolized and economic
status is the benchmark for success, 
help us to echo anew the teachings
of St. Paul on grace and salvation
in Jesus Christ; do not let us become
like the Pharisees and scribes and scholars
of the law who kept people away
from your "vision" of grace and salvation 
for everyone.

“Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.”

Luke 11:52
Lord Jesus, bless us your
priests and ministers to truly
serve the people in leading them
closer to you in our celebrations
and prayers and most especially
in our witnessing to your Gospel;
may we cast away mediocrity and
sloth, always seeking ways like St. Paul
in making known your wonderful plans
and vision for everyone, especially the
weak and the poor among us.
Amen.