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
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;
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.
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.
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
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.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Clement, Pope and Martyr, 23 November 2020
Revelation 14:1-3, 4-5 >><)))*> >><)))*> >><)))*> Luke 21:1-4
Two things have struck me today, Lord, in your words: first is how St. John could say “No one could learn this hymn except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been ransomed from the earth” (Rev. 14:3) when he heard them singing before you in his vision of heaven; and second, how did you know that the “poor widow put in more than all the rest” (Lk.21:3) into the treasury?
Of course, you are the Son of God, Jesus, who knows everything and can read everything in our hearts but, aside from that fact, one thing that truly best describes you is how you can give up anything even your very self for us, completely trusting the Father like a child.
In the gospel, you must have seen how the poor widow thought more of God, more of the temple, more of those in need than her self that she gave two small coins’ offerings worth a fortune for her. She was willing to let go of everything she has for God because she trusted him so much!
May we keep in our minds and in our hearts that it is when we are able to give up what is most precious in us that we truly love because that is also when we truly have faith in you that whatever we lovingly surrender is never lost but gained in eternal life like the 144,000 souls singing the new hymn for the Lamb in heaven seen by your beloved disciple.
As we close the current liturgical year this week, teach us, Lord Jesus, to learn more of these things from you so we can prepare ourselves for your daily coming especially this coming Season of Advent leading to Christmas.
Like St. Clement, may we entrust everything to God’s providence and care our whole lives. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXXI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 07 November 2020
Philippians 4:10-19 <*(((><< |||+||| >><)))*> Luke 16:9-15
Thank you very much, O God our Father for the ability to still kneel before you on many occasions daily. I have just realized how times have indeed changed these days when we rarely kneel, when the rule of each day is to always rise above, go up higher, to be on top.
We call it “upward mobility” that we try our best to get the best education, best jobs and careers so we could move up the corporate ladder, up the social strata, to be popular, to be looked up upon, be admired and followed.
But, what goes up always goes down if we have no foundation in you, dear God, as St. Paul had learned. How amazing that after going through so much sufferings and hardships in his ministry and now in prison awaiting trial and sure death that he had felt on “highest high” in his life!
I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.
Make us realize like St. Paul that it is in going down like Jesus Christ that we truly rise in you; it is going down, in leaving everything behind and trusting in you that we truly become most effective and fulfilled.
It is in going down when we become fruitful though not necessarily successful which is very relative.
How sad, O Lord, how we have become a clapping generation that even in our churches we always clap our hands for things we see like achievements and material things forgetting those not seen by the naked eyes like character, sensitivity with the poor and hungry and other things of the heart that you look for and always see.
And he said to them, “You justify yourselves in the sight of others, but God knows your hearts; for what is of human esteem is an abomination in the sight of God.”
Teach us, Lord, to go down further by being one with those at the bottom and margins so we may experience you in them. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious, 03 November 2020
Philippians 2:5-11 +++ ||| +++ Luke 14:15-24
Brothers and sisters: Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus. Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.
God our Father, I feel too small, even ashamed before you today as I prayed on your words through St. Paul; it is not just a very tall order but the sad part is the fact that we have all known it all along since our catechism days in school or the parish but rarely put into practice.
We admit it is the fundamental rule of Christian life, to be like Jesus Christ your Son who had come to show us the way back to you is by emptying one’s self for others, to be one with others especially in their pains and sufferings, of being the last, being the servant of all, being like a child.
Unfortunately, we always find it so difficult to learn.
Partly because we lack the very attitude of Jesus Christ we must first imitate according to St. Paul.
And that is the attitude of being small, being the least.
Exactly like St. Martin de Porres:
Such was his humility that he loved them even more than himself and considered them to be better and more righteous that he was. He did not blame others for their shortcomings. Certain that he deserved more severe punishment for his sins than others did, he would overlook their worst offenses. He was tireless in his efforts to reform the criminal, and he would sit up with the sick to bring them comfort. for the poor he would provide food, clothing and medicine.
Homily by St. Pope John XXIII at the Canonization of Saint Martin de Porres in 1962
So often, our attitude is like with those invited by the king to his great dinner: feeling great, feeling so important with themselves that they find no need to be with others that they all turned down the invitation.
Sometimes our arrogance and high regard for ourselves miserably fail us in being like Jesus; hence, we continue to be divided into factions because no one would give way for others that lead to peace and harmony.
Teach us Lord to change that attitude of greatness in us with an attitude of smallness, of leaving a space for others in our lives so we can all work together as one community of believers in you like St. Martin de Porres and all the other saints. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXV-A, Ordinary Time, 20 September 2020
Isaiah 55:6-9 >><)))*> Philippians 1:20-24, 27 >><)))*> Matthew 20:1-16
There was something amusing I realized while praying this Sunday’s gospel of how in our time we no longer hear or use the word “generous” anymore — except when the topic is about food like in the expression “generous servings”!
We all love and enjoy “generous servings” of food and drinks whether in restaurants or at home or at parties because it means something more than what we pay for or come for. And that is the essence of generosity: the giving of more than what is required and just. It is love in the real sense like the prayer for generosity by St. Ignatius of Loyola.
Teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not heed the wounds,
To toil and not seek for rest,
To labor and ask not for reward, except
To know that I am doing your will. Amen.
Generosity bonds every community in Christ
Sorry if I have to start our reflection through the stomach because today is our “Pistang Pasasalamat” (Thanksgiving) in the Parish…
Going back to our reflection, my dear reader, recall how in the past two weeks we have heard Jesus teaching us important lessons how our relationships must be based on mutual love through fraternal correction and forgiving of those who have sinned against us.
This Sunday through another parable, Jesus teaches us the importance of generosity as a wonderful expression of love we forget most in our relationships and dealing with others.
Generosity is the glue that keeps our ties stronger and keeps us filled with joy because it is thinking more of the other person than of self. It is love at its finest – charming and elegant as in suave – but so disarming and revealing when overlooked as we shall see in this parable.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for is vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them… You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them i reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?'”
Notice how Jesus again elicited our feelings to drive home his lesson today about love as basis of our relationships. Last week we totally agreed with the king in punishing the merciless servant whose debt he had forgiven but was unmerciful to a fellow servant and debtor.
This Sunday, with whom did we take sides with? Be honest. Did you side with the workers hired in the morning and worked all day only to receive a pay exactly the same with those who worked only for an hour? Did we also feel treated unfairly like them?
But, why are we reacting the same way as those workers who toiled under the sun? What is our complaint? Are we envious because the owner is generous?
Recall our reflections last month about the parable as a simple story conveying deeper truths about life and our selves. From the French parabolein -along the way – Jesus is inviting us to read anew this parable we have heard so many times in the past so we may enter into a dialogue with him to purify and cleanse us to get its whole picture. And hopefully, become generous too.
Human justice, Divine kindness
The parable is not about social justice and just wages: it is about the immense love of God for us all. Jesus said it at the start, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…” – it is a parable about God and his kingdom.
See the great love of the landowner who went out five times during the day, even at late afternoon so people may have a job to earn some money for the day. We have to keep in mind that the workers were hired because the owner is kind. Period.
The owner is like the good shepherd Jesus described as who would leave the rest of his flock to search for one missing sheep.
How many times have we acted like those early workers, complaining to God when we feel “shortchanged” for our work and efforts, or being better and more good perhaps than others?
It happens so many times when we question him even in the Church and specially in the society and government when we cannot understand how God who is supposed to be just and fair is allowing all injustices and evil to happen like during this time of COVID-19.
The first reading reminds us that to think that way as if we know everything is dangerous because we could be very wrong and mistaken after all. God sees and knows everything that in the end amid all the twists and turns in history and in our personal lives, it is always his will that prevails which proves best for us and mankind. In times like these, we need to have faith in God and trust him more through prayers and reflections.
Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near… As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:6, 9
We keep on saying that one immediate fruit of having a prayer life is the heightening of our sensitivities when we see more of God in others than more of ourselves. The problem with those workers hired earlier in the day that instead of thanking God for his kindness in hiring them, they even wanted more in their pay than what they have agreed upon — so selfish and feeling so entitled like some among us!!!
God as the landowner is teaching us not only to be thankful for the blessings we have received from him but also to rejoice when others aside from us are also blessed. As everyone would say these days, “sana all” are blessed, not only a selected few.
Again we find here a similar situation in the parable of the prodigal son where the father told the elder one that “everything I have is yours” (Lk.15:31) when he refused to come home to celebrate the return of his younger brother, citing how he had obeyed the father all his life without being given a young goat to feast with his friends.
Like that loving father of the prodigal son, God is reminding us this Sunday in this parable to rejoice that others have been blessed, instead of grumbling and complaining, demanding for more than what we have, forgetting everything is out of God’s goodness, never because of our merits.
Looking inside our hearts
My dear friends, this time of the pandemic invites us to be generous by looking deep into our hearts, of seeing God more and others than just our self. At this time when life is so difficult and death is so closest to home with everyone, the best thing we can do is to thank God for his gift of life to us each day and to deepen our faith in him.
Lately I have been praying to God to grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart as we find ourselves in his similar situation of being imprisoned: him for the gospel, us due to COVID-19.
See the faith of St. Paul in God that even in prison with his death approaching each day, he continues to rejoice and experience peace within because he had realized that the success of the gospel is not on human efforts but in Jesus whom we cannot box in our little worlds and beliefs, rites and rituals. In fact, he was so confident that even with his death, the more the gospel would spread.
Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death… conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Philippians 1:20, 27
Last Sunday, Jesus taught us to forgive from the heart, that is, to see one another as a brother and sister in God our Father who forgives us without limits for our many sins.
Today, Jesus is asking us to give from the heart – to be generous – not for anything else but because we are brothers and sisters in God our Father who blesses us without limits despite our sinfulness.
Generosity comes from the heart when in that heart is Jesus whom we find dwelling, giving us peace and joy no matter how much suffering we go through because him alone suffices that we are willing to let go of everything.
Share a generous serving of God’s blessings today to someone in need. Amen.
What a wonderful lesson we have today from St. Paul about your wisdom, O God our Father that is found in the scandal of the Cross of your Son Jesus Christ!
Brothers and sisters: Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this stage, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.
1 Corinthians 3:18-20
This we have realized at the start of this pandemic when everything in the world stopped and forever changed because of microscopic COVID-19 virus, affecting even the most advanced countries of the world.
Most of all, everybody – rich and poor alike – suffered greatly from this virus, teaching us to value persons more when people we took for granted for so long have become our “saviors” during this prolonged quarantine periods like vendors and delivery personnel, our househelpers, and others we used to look down upon who continued to serve us with food and other needs.
Not to be forgotten too are the members of neglected sectors of our society, specially those in the medical and healthcare system and the agriculture who showed us the importance of human and natural resources over imports and technology as well as entertainment.
What a great lesson about wisdom of God and foolishness of man in this modern time!
One thing very clear, O Lord, that to be a fool for you is first of all to let go of our foolish pride and be humble before you and others.
It is the only way we can let you do your work of changing us and the world when we learn to let go of our foolish pride like St. Peter in today’s gospel when he as an experienced fisherman heeded your command to cast his nets into the deep even though you are the carpenter’s son.
When we review the lives of all saints, they are all men and women of exceptional humility before you, Lord; like St. Gregory the Great who focused more on you that he was able to reform our liturgy, set up schools and monasteries, sent missionaries to England, and instill holiness among the clergy in his “Pastoral Instructions.”
Help us to believe more in you than in ourselves so that you may do your work in us and through us. May we value your Cross, Lord Jesus, considered as foolish in this sophisticated age yet has continued to prove that it is the only path to our transformation as persons and nations. Amen.
Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father! Please, keep us open to your coming in Jesus Christ. Surprise us always with your simplicity, silence, and hiddenness.
You know how we are always attracted with people’s credentials and titles, outward appearances, and great talents in speaking and explaining things that we get carried away, leaving you behind.
I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:3-5
Let us come to you and meet you in Jesus by forgetting our self, taking our cross and following him in his passion and death.
Sometimes we forget your simple invitation to come to you with our sinful selves minus our pretensions and masks because all you want is our total selves. You do not ask for our perfections but imperfections, nor for our virtues and talents but for our lacking and sins.
And through this all, Lord, you give us life and freedom, fulfillment in you in our hearing:
Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Come, Lord Jesus, you are most welcomed in me. Amen.
Almighty God and Father, on this Memorial of the Queenship of Mary our Blessed Mother, we join her in that most beautiful song of praise to you, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Lk.1:47).
Remind us always, O Lord, specially in this time when we exaggerate everything that unlike the royalties of the world, Mary is our Queen not because of power and wealth nor of fame and popularity but precisely due to her humility and weakness before you.
In this time when we are so fond of “triumphalism”, when we overdo even our devotions and prayers to praise and glorify you, remind us O Lord it is not your way as shown to us by the Blessed Mother Mary.
Let us keep in our minds and hearts that Mary, along with all the saints, are venerated because of their obedience to you, fulfilling your will at all times, making you present among us in our weaknesses and helplessness.
We pray for more simplicity and humility, above all, sincerity in our devotions to Mary and the saints that lead to more authentic faith in you alone who is our God Most Holy.
Like Mary our Queen, may we always say “yes” to you O God our “King of kings”. Amen.
God our merciful Father, on this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we start the praying of ten Hail Mary’s daily at noon until the 15th of next month for collective “healing” and the end of COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the Blessed Mother of your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray for firm faith, vibrant hope, and unceasing love for you and for others as we go into the sixth month of our quarantine to help stop the spread of the corona virus.
But it seems, until now, O God, many of us still do not get the full meaning of this quarantine period with most of us pinning our hopes for a magic cure that would come to end these sufferings and resume our previous way of life.
Help us see, O God, the process of quarantine, of purification you want us to go through not as a punishment but as a lesson to learn and remember that will prevent us from all the excesses that have burdened us down lately, preventing us to rise like the Virgin Mary.
On this great feast of Mary’s Assumption into heaven, teach us how we may all rise up to your presence, win over COVID-19 not just with a vaccine or physical remedy and cure to the disease but on how we must change our ways of life, our attitudes and dispositions.
How wonderful, O God, to hear the story anew of Mary and Elizabeth who trusted you so much in the coming of our Savior as they both emerged from their own kind of “quarantine” period in this gospel scene of the Visitation.
May we realize like Elizabeth during this quarantine period that true blessedness is in believing “what was spoken by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45), that we entrust all our hopes in you, O God, not to mere humans who make a lot of promises only to be broken. May we open ourselves like Elizabeth who went into seclusion upon conceiving St. John the Baptist that you always come in the simplest yet wondrous ways of life. Keep within us that sense of wonder and awe, Lord.
Teach us like Mary to always proclaim your greatness as we rejoice in Jesus our Savior in our very lives of humility and simplicity, obedience and surrender to your will. May our lives be a song of praise to your wondrous deeds, O Lord, like Mary that is centered and focused on you.
Cleanse us of our sins, especially of greed and conceit that have led to this pandemic.
How sad that until now, we still don’t get it.
May this crisis remind us that we are all in a temporary journey here on earth – like in a quarantine – that our final resting place and destination in the end of everything is in you, O God, like Mary whom you gifted with the Assumption of her body and soul into heaven ahead of us all.