The best of the very best

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr, 22 November 2021
Daniel 1:1-6, 8-20  ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>  Luke 21:1-4
Photo from http://www.reddit.com.
Very often in life, we rarely
think of you dear God our Father
when we try to consider the best
we could ever have; if ever we
remember you, you always come
last because we always want 
the finest and most premium as
something tangible, something we
can hold and even possess.
On this final stretch of our 
liturgical calendar before we move
to our "new year" with the First Sunday
of Advent, your words remind us 
very well how we continue that practice
of searching and possessing the best -
food, clothes, vessels, gadgets, 
even minds and talents or persons
like King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon,
the conqueror of Judah who ransacked 
your Temple of its precious vessels and 
threw your people into exile.
When he asked for the brightest and 
best men of Judah be separated to serve
at his court, he gave them the best food
and wine to ensure that they function well
when summoned; how amazing were your
servants led by Daniel who refused to eat
the king's food and wine in your honor; 
despite their simple meals of vegetables 
and water, Daniel and his company emerged 
as the best young men in the king's court.

In any question of wisdom or prudence which the king put to them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom.

Daniel 1:20
Meanwhile at the donation box
of the temple, your Son Jesus
found the widow who gave two
small coins as the best donor
of all because she gave her very self
to God unlike the rich who gave only
a portion of what they no longer needed.
Teach us, dear God, that you are
the very best of the best we can ever
have and offer in this life;
may we aspire to have you more -
your love and kindness,
your mercy and justice,
your wisdom and understanding,
your very life and presence
so that we may also learn to give
our total self to you.
Like St. Cecilia, may we sing
your song, O God in our hearts,
giving our very selves to your
loving service for others.  Amen.

Life is more than #POV

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXXII-B in Ordinary Time, 07 November 2021
1 Kings 17:10-16 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 9:24-28 ><]]]]'> Mark 12:38-44
Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Perspectives and points of view play important roles in our lives, affecting our judgements and conduct; however, we also know by experience that perspectives and points of view are not enough, cannot be entirely reliable that lead us into stereotyping of people.

I just learned recently from the teenaged daughters of a friend that the #POV for “point of view” may be used in two ways: first, to express “this is my personal point of view” to which everyone is entitled that should not be contradicted because “it is how I see things”; the second is to present a “first person point of view”, that is, through the eyes of the one who uploads a video to show exactly how things are like the first steps of a baby.

This Sunday, Jesus is challenging our perspectives, our #POV on wealth and poverty, sharing and grandstanding, on our selves before God and other people.

Since last month we have seen how Jesus refused to get into debates with people on persistent issues humans have always been discussing like divorce (Oct.3), power and positions (Oct. 17), and the most important laws to follow (Oct. 31) because Jesus came to reveal to us the will of the Father so we may level up in our perceptions about self, others, and life itself.

Jesus was still in the temple area; he had silenced his enemies from asking him further with other questions to test him. After going on the offensive attacking the scribes’ hypocrisies, Jesus sat to observe the people dropped their donations into the temple treasury.

He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

Mark 12:41-44
Photo by author, Jerusalem, 2017.

A Tale of Two Widows

Before going into that story of the widow praised by Jesus, let us consider first the story of another widow mentioned earlier in our first reading, the widow of Zarephath, a region governed by Queen Jezebel’s father. Queen Jezebel was the pagan wife of Israel’s King Ahab who had ordered troops to kill Elijah after putting to shame the priests of her pagan god “baal”.

After 40 days of hiding in the mountain fed by birds with a stream providing him fresh water, God instructed Elijah to proceed to Zarephath to meet the widow who would take care of him during the drought that would come as a punishment to Israel.

More than the miracle of living through the year of drought that hit the region at that time, it is a marvelous story of the faith of both Elijah and the pagan widow. We can understand the deep faith and total obedience of Elijah to God who had told him everything that would happen while hiding in enemy territory.

Things were greatly different with the widow of Zarephath who was first of all a pagan, in fact, a worshipper of the false god baal Elijah had openly bashed in every occasion everywhere. Her faith is so admirable that she risked her own life including her son in welcoming into her home an enemy of their king. Most of all, she put her complete faith in the words of God spoken through Elijah whom she hardly knew.

She left and did as Elijah had said. She was able to eat for a year, and he and her son as well; the jar of flour did not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, as the Lord had foretold through Elijah.

1 Kings 17:15-16

In a very similar manner, it was the very nature of faith of the simple and poor widow at the temple treasury that earned praises from Jesus. Keep in mind that money was meant for the upkeep of the Temple, not for the poor; therefore, the very act of donating money into the treasury was in fact an act of faith by the poor widow on God. She was convinced that her offering goes directly to God himself!

It is in this aspect that we must see the whole point of the story which is not about big money and small coins but our personal attitude and faith in giving that is ultimately linked with God. Every amount we offer to church and charities indicates the kind of relationship we have with God.

Jesus had nothing against giving “large sums” of money to the temple collection box; it was not the amount of donation he was raising issue with as he contrasted how the rich “have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.”

It is always easy to honor God – even self – with one’s huge donations while still relying on our false securities of money and wealth unlike the poor widow who offered her very self to God. In a sense, Jesus had seen in the poor widow’s offering his coming total gift of self on the Cross soon to happen at Jerusalem!

The beauty of both women, widow and poor having lived in totally different times – one in Zarephath, a pagan and another in Jerusalem, so pious and religious – is in their total entrusting of themselves to God, forgetting their very selves in the process, unmindful of the dangers and uncertainties ahead in life except that firm faith in a loving and merciful God.

From Facebook, 24 March 2020.

Our many concerns in life

I was recently interviewed for a special program that focuses on our lives as priests. At the end of the interview, I was asked by the hosts: “what legacy do I wish to leave after my term of office in my present assignment”? It was not really a difficult question at all but I was surprised because that such was the frame of mind of my interviewers. Their perspective and POV, so to speak.

After a few seconds, I politely told them that I no longer think such things as legacies to leave behind even in this life, explaining that priesthood is a journey wherein we come and leave to different assignments and tasks with just one purpose which is to make Jesus Christ known and experienced by the people we serve. After every assignment, I tell people to forget me and that is why I never come to visit my previous assignments. For me, it is only Jesus, always Jesus whom people must remember and keep. No one else, nothing else.

That I think is discipleship: a shift in our perspectives and points of view into God’s very own perspectives and POV wherein we present ourselves before God and not before humans.

Discipleship in Christ does not mean doing great things nor achieving heroic feats in life; God knows our limits, our weaknesses. We are all small and poor before him like those two widows in Zarephath and Jerusalem; but, if we can be like them completely trusting and faithful to God, giving our very selves to him, then, the little amount we offer can eventually accomplish the love and mercy God expects from us.

See the many concerns we have in life. The more we address them, the less we actually have in life like those abusive scribes Jesus mentioned: they have everything like status and fame, clothes and money but have lost God and the people while the poor may have nothing material but have everything in Jesus Christ.

That is what the author of the Letter to the Hebrews is telling us in the second reading: in the Priesthood of Christ, he had accomplished everything for us by offering himself on the Cross, forgiving us our sins to lead us to eternal life. Like Jesus, are we willing to give our very selves to him through others so we may gain him and everything?

What have you offered lately to God?

A blessed new week ahead! Amen.

Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

Jonah & Martha in the Divine Mercy of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Sr. Faustina Kowalska, 05 October 2021
Jonah 3:1-10  ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 10:38-42
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.
My Lord and my God, Jesus:
as we celebrate today the memorial
of your modern saint, Sr. Faustina Kowalska
whom you have chosen to deliver 
to the modern world your message 
of Divine Mercy which is as old as eternity, 
I have realized too how I have not
fully grown nor matured in you -
in prayer and in spirituality;
like our readings today, I can see myself
so clearly both in the persons of 
Jonah in the first reading and 
Martha in the gospel.

Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on a sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes.

Jonah 3:4-6
Forgive me, Jesus,
for being like your prophet Jonah
in so many times and occasions:
always running away from you,
always reluctant to proclaim your words,
and always thinking of myself;
like Jonah, I pray but as much as
possible, I cannot let go of myself,
of the things I know and feel so much
that I cannot let you control 
everything in me, including me!

The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:41-42
Forgive me again, Jesus,
for being like your friend Martha
in so many times and occasions:
always busy working for you
without really doing your work,
always looking at the shortcomings
of others without seeing mine,
and always complaining to you
of having my hands filled with 
things I believe you want me to do;
like Martha, I love having you in my life,
always welcoming your coming to me,
but always forgetting the most important
of all, YOU.
Lord Jesus Christ,
help me shed off the Jonah
and Martha in me; let me be like
St. Sr. Faustina to give not from
my wealth but from my want:
too often, I just give you some
of my time, some of my money,
some of my talents, some of myself,
keeping more to maintain my security;
teach, Lord, to give more of my time,
more of my money, more of my talents
 and more of myself so that
I may truly give you the chance
to show me and let me experience
your boundless love, your Divine Mercy.
It is only in totally surrendering
myself to you can I truly pray,
"Jesus, King of Mercy,
I trust in YOU."
Amen. 

When the fault is in us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 18 August 2021
Judges 9:6-15   ><]]]]*> ><)))'> ><]]]]*>   Matthew 20:1-16 
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.
Your words today, O God our Father
brought me back to my elementary days
when we read Aesop's fables and 
memorized lines from Shakespeare,
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our
stars/ But in ourselves that we are
underlings."  And how they both perfectly 
jibe together in your words!

So many times we are like the great
trees in the forest, so proud of our giftedness
and abilities that we cannot give our selves
to you and others to serve; we are so in love 
with our very selves, so proud or insecured 
that most often we uncannily put 
undeserving people to power
while we bear all the sarcasm in the end. 

“Then all the trees said to the buckthorn, ‘Come; you reign over us!’ But the buckthorn replied to the trees, ‘If you wish to anoint me king over you in good faith, come and take refuge in my shadow. Otherwise, let fire come the buckthorn and devour the cedars of Lebanon.'”

Judges 9:14-15
Most of the time, Lord, we know
the fault is in us - not in the stars
nor among others nor from you
who truly loves each of us perfectly
like the vineyard owner, always
giving the same perfect amount of
love and mercy to everyone;
cleanse our hearts and our minds
of selfish thoughts, of insisting on
what we believe, on what we want;
give us the grace of discernment
to see clearly your will so we may
choose wisely the options we have
to put your divine plan in place.
Loving Father,
make me grateful always to what I have;
most of all, let me focus more on what
you have given me, not on what others
have received for in the end,
it could very well happen that
"the last will be first,
and the first will be last." 
(Matthew 20:16)

And that, Lord, 
is something completely
our fault.  Amen.

Praying for the coming of the Kingdom of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 17 June 2021
2 Corinthians 11:1-11   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 6:7-15
Photo by author, Church of the Our Father outside Jerusalem, 2017.

Dear God: Every day we call on you as “Our Father” so many times without truly knowing the meaning of the supplication “your kingdom come” (Mt. 6:10) which is to submit and surrender ourselves to your reign or kingship in Christ Jesus.

More than being called the “Lord’s Prayer” being taught by your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, help us realize that the “Our Father” is also about our proper attitude in praying which is to submit ourselves to you our God and our Father.

What is the use of calling to you “Our Father” if we decide solely on our own without listening to your voice, to your will or if we choose only a few whom to respect and love, forgetting our being one family?

Help us, O God, to consciously pray and work with others to make this world more humane where we all strive despite our sins and weaknesses to establish peace and justice, love and truth, sharing and caring for one another especially the most needy.

Help us imitate St. Paul with his courage and determination as well as clarity of mind with a dash of some wit and humor in witnessing to the gospel we all preach. May our lives be a revelation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we share in him in witnessing his gospel to everyone.

Your kingdom will only come, dear God, when we remain “sincere and committed to Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 11:3)” who is the center of our lives, our fulfillment, and our key to true happiness and joy not only in this life but hereafter. Amen.

When going in is the best way out

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 11 May 2021
Acts 16:22-34   ><)))*> + ><)))'> + ><)))*>   John 16:5-11
“Losing One’s Head to God” by Ms. JJ Jimeno of GMA-7 News at UP Parish of the Risen Lord, 2019.

You continue to amaze us, O Lord, with your wisdom and grace, presenting us again another paradox that is so timely to what we are going through in this time of pandemic and quarantine.

Yesterday, you taught us that the best way to get “in” to you is go “out” of our ordinary and usual ways.

Today, you are showing us another great paradox in life where you prove to us again your ways are so different from ours: in order to get “out” especially of problems and mess in life, sometimes we have to get “in”!

After inflicting many blows on Paul and Silas,
they threw them into prison 
and instructed the jailer to guard them securely,
putting them in the innermost cell 
and secured their feet to a stake.
An earthquake occurred at midnight 
that the foundations of the jail shook;
all the doors flew open, and the chains 
of all were pulled loose.
When the jailer woke up and thought the prisoners
have all escaped, he drew his sword to kill himself.
Paul shouted out in a loud voice,
"Do no harm to yourself; we are all here."
Then he brought them out, took them to his house
then he and all his family were baptized at once.
(Acts 16:23-33)

Lord Jesus, so many times we resist your ways as we insist on what we know but most of all, because we are afraid of what could happen next. We do not trust you that much, Jesus. Unlike Paul and Silas who were beaten up and thrown into jail, they never stopped believing in you, praying and singing hymns to you while in jail until that great earthquake happened.

Give us the courage to give in to your ways, to rely more on you than on what we believe and others say.

Let us come in to you empty, losing our selves to be filled with your Holy Spirit and be one in you and with you as you have promised on your last supper when you told your disciples that you are going to the Father to be one in him.

Today we pray for those dilly-dallying on whether they would seek medical help and attention to their conditions, for those to undergo surgery, for those to go “in” to many procedures to be healed of their sickness.

We pray also for those afraid to get in to their very selves to examine their conscience and be humble to accept and own any sins and mistakes they may have committed so they may find their way out of their many miseries and mess in life.

You know what is best for us, dear Jesus. Just let us in so we may come out alive and better! Amen.

Maturing in Jesus our true vine

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 05 May 2021
Acts 15:1-6  ><)))'> + <'(((><   John 15:1-8
Photo by author, Mount St. Paul Center for Spirituality, La Trinidad, Benguet, January 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father 
is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch 
that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does
he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  
You are already pruned 
because of the word that I spoke to you."
(John 15:1-3)

Thank you very much, Lord Jesus Christ, for finding me, taking me, and making me a branch of you our true vine. Most of all, thank you that I have been “pruned” because of the word you spoke to me.

But, what does it really mean to be pruned?

Yes, it has been a very, very long and tedious journey with you, Lord Jesus. And just maybe, I have grown and been fruitful after all those years in having identified with you closely and with your values and ideals. However, it is not enough.

I know… the pruning never stops until it is only you who is seen in me as I fade from the scene.

I could feel my need for more pruning, Lord, especially at times when I still insist on myself, on what I believe, on what I see as most important for you and for others.

Like those early Jewish converts to Christianity, particularly those who belonged to the party of Pharisees insisting that Gentile converts must be circumcised and observe other prescriptions of the Mosaic law (Acts 15:5).

There are still many things to be pruned in me, a lot of trimmings here and there that need to be cut off and removed until the “me” in me is totally gone, and only you remain.

Preparing for a Mass by the shore of Lake Tiberias in Capernaum, 2017.

Pruning is painful, Lord, but as time goes by, as the Father prunes me unknowingly in daily prayers and striving to be patient and better person, perhaps it is slowly bearing fruit as I begin to see you more clearly in my life.

And all the more the pruning must continue until everything becomes new in me!

Keep me open to you, dear Jesus, like the Apostles and the presbyters who met together to see about the issues raised by the Jewish converts to Christianity in the first reading.

Let me be open to other possibilities of meeting you, of sharing you, of working in you and with you by denying some of my natural appetites and tendencies.

Give me the grace to gladly and willingly give up whatever I hold on and keep that is contrary to you so that in the end, You are are my only joy and consolation, O dear Jesus. Amen.

Easter is letting God do his work in us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Second Week of Easter, 16 April 2021
Acts 5:34-42   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 6:1-15
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Rhode Island, 10 April 2021.

Lord Jesus Christ, help me stop rationalizing, reasoning out so often at how you do things, on how you will change us and the world. Let me just trust you and be open to your works in me and among other people, following the inspired wisdom of Gamaliel in the first reading.

"So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men,
and let them go.  For if this  endeavor
or this activity is of human origin, 
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God,
you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God."
(Acts 5:38-39)

You always know what to do, Lord; so many times in our lives like in the wilderness when crowds followed you, you ask us on what to do just to test us like Philip (Jn.6:5-6).

Teach to always trust you, Jesus. Though we have to be realistic with every situation like Philip and Andrew when they saw the great crowd of people who have followed you, let us submit ourselves to you wholly, to do as you command us.

Take away our narrow-mindedness and self-righteousness that you work only with us and through us.

Take away our pride and arrogance, making us accept the reality that you can work with everyone everywhere just like with Gamaliel of the Sanhedrin and that boy Andrew never bothered to ask his name when he came to offer you his five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish to feed the crowds.

This Easter season, may we learn that it does not matter at all where we are or with whom we are with to do your works, dear Jesus; what really matters is wherever we may be and with whom we may be, we are always in YOU our Lord and God, sharing you Jesus, only Jesus, always Jesus. Amen.

Photo by author, November 2020.

Give, forgive, and forgive.

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, First Week of Lent, 23 February 2021
Isaiah 55:10-11     ><)))*>   +   <*(((><     Matthew 6:7-15
Photo by author, the “Our Father” Church at the Mount of Olives outside Jerusalem where Jesus taught his disciples to pray (2017).

Of the many things you have taught us, Lord Jesus, the “Our Father” remains one of the most enigmatic: on the surface it appears so simple but as we dwell and reflect on it, the more it becomes mysterious and fascinating as well that it is rightly called “the Lord’s Prayer”.

Today, I feel so touched, dear Jesus at how you have arranged the order of the prayer in the part of give and forgive:

Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;

Matthew 6:11-12

Give – forgive – forgive.

How amazing at how you have taught us to ask the Father to “give” us only once but asked to “forgive” twice! First to ask the Father to forgive us for our sins and second, that we may be like him to forgive those who sin against us.

There is also something very interesting with giving and forgiving, something deep in meaning and feeling: to give is so simple, as in to grant or bestow or simply, give. But, to forgive in itself is thought provoking, inviting everyone to an inner journey of meanings. Phonetically, it sounds like “four gives” as against just one “give”.

And this is where it gets so beautiful, Jesus: the word forgive is formed from the prefix fore that means first in order or rank or place or time like foreword, forewarn and forward.

We ask Father once only that he may give us our needs for he knows what is best for us.

But, we have to ask him twice to forgive — first that he forgive us for our sins so that we may also forgive others who sin against us.

Teaching them young how to pray (photo by Mr. Red Santiago, 2019).

There is something so deep in forgiving that inspired Shakespeare to write, “to err is human, to forgive is divine.” From the prefix fore, to forgive means to give something first even before you get anything in exchange for whatever you give. And that is what you have done for us, dear Jesus: giving yourself on the cross for us long before we asked forgiveness, long before we give our selves to you in repentance and conversion!

When we ask your forgiveness, what we actually do is claim that forgiveness you have given us without us asking for it!

Here lies the difficult part of the Our Father that makes us divine like you, Jesus: how do we imitate the Father of giving first forgiveness to those who have wronged us even if they have not come to us asking for forgiveness? It is indeed very difficult to follow for how can we give something first even if we have not received anything like a simple sorry in return?

How easy it is to ask you, Jesus, to give us grace to forgive but I think, what we must ask is for you to forgive us so we can forgive. How wonderful to realize that every time you forgive us, you actually give us something fourfold as in “four gives”.

Open our eyes, open our hearts to see this wonder and beauty of forgiving, of giving first even without receiving anything in exchange like the Father. Amen.

Praying not to be deceived

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs, 24 November 2020
Revelations 14:14-19     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Luke 21:5-11
Photo by author, “wailing wall” of Jerusalem, May 2017.

Your words today, Lord Jesus, are disturbing because they are actually happening: “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name saying ‘I am he’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!” (Lk.21:8).

In our age of instant communications when everything is reduced to bits and pieces of information to be consumed by everyone through various media platforms, we have become so gullible for whatever is fed to us. The more outlandish even unbelievable, the better! Worst, we never bother to check their veracity and even sanity that sometimes, we have become so foolish to accept everything we hear and see and read.

Heighten our sense of reason and most especially our faith in you.

Let us not be deceived in following your impostors as well as focusing more on the coming end that we forget to live in the present moment by making a stand for your gospel truths.

Like St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companion martyrs in Vietnam, they chose to live in the present moment of giving witness to your gospel than arguing or debating if it were the moment of your final coming or not.

Let us not be deceived by focusing on the peripherals of our faith like rites and rituals empty of loving service for others.

May we stand firmly by your side, for what is true and just, so that when judgement day comes, we may remain faithful in you like grapes so ripened, ready for harvesting, and when pressed, produce good wine to uplift the spirits. Amen.