From shadow to image

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 24 January 2023
Hebrews 10:1-10   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><  -  ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Mark 3:31-35
God our loving Father,
help us grow from being 
your shadows into your
image and icon among peoples;
thank you for sending us
your Son Jesus Christ who came
to do your will of offering his
very self as a sacrifice for the
forgiveness of our sins
so that in the process,
we too may learn to
offer ourselves to you, 
surrender ourselves wholly to
you like Jesus to become your mirror.

Brothers and sisters: Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect those those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year. Then he (Jesus) says, Behold, I come to do your will. He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:1, 9-10
There are times, dear Jesus,
that I listen and speak of your words, 
very much "inside" with you
in the church, 
in our community,
among our family and friends;
but sadly, Lord, I am so far
from doing the will of the Father
after listening and preaching
your words.
Teach me to be like your Mother,
Mary:  though she was "outside"
that house where you were staying
teaching the people gathered around you,
she was very much "inside",
in you in her total identification with you
and your mission until the end.
Enable me, Jesus,
like St. Francis de Sales
who used to have a fiery temper
and problem in handling his anger
to surrender myself to you,
to make the Father's will my own,
experience liberation from sin
and sanctification in your Spirit
to become united as one in 
the Father, his mirror
and image.
Amen.

Christmas is recognizing the face of Christ in everyone

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Octave of Christmas, Feast of Holy Innocents, Martyrs, 28 December 2022
1 John 1:5-2:2     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Matthew 2:13-18

Beloved: This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:5-7
God our loving Father,
thank you for sending us your Son
Jesus Christ, the light of the world;
we have experienced many times in life
especially during these three years of pandemic
that no matter how dark our lives may be,
for as long as we walk in Jesus Christ,
there is always light.
Forgive us, Father,
that many times we look for other lights;
we are so tempted and delighted in 
following the lights of the world with its
vast array of colors that blind our eyes
or with klieg lights that put us on spot like stars
yet leave us groping in emptiness after;
forgive us, Father, in following other lights 
that turn us away from one another and you;
until now, many of us act and think like Herod
and the experts of Jerusalem who refuse to
follow the light of Jesus that make us recognize
you on the face of one another.
Let the light of Jesus born on Christmas
enlighten our minds and our hearts to see
and follow you, O God our Father,
found on the face of every child still in the womb,
on the face of every child who must be cared and protected,
on the face of every woman, especially mothers
and grandmothers forgotten after nurturing us,
on the face of every dad especially those working 
away from family and loved ones, rarely seen
crying and rejoicing for their loved ones,
on the face of young people so lost with no one
to listen to them, be with them, assure them of love,
on the face of our health workers considered heroes
yet still taken for granted and even forgotten,
on the face of farmers and fishermen marked with
so many lines of hardships and sufferings under the sun
to feed us yet totally left on their own,
on the face of others in the margins and the disadvantaged,
those forgotten by the society and unfortunately by families:
this Christmas, call us into our own Egypt,
into a retreat and soul-searching for enlightenment
to find your face anew within us
so we may find you on one another.
Amen.

Christmas is when God’s love came down so that our love may rise in him

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Octave of Christmas, Feast of St. John Evangelist, 27 December 2022
1 John 1:1-4     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     John 20:1, 2-8
God our loving Father,
we thank and praise you in 
giving us a great saint in
John the Evangelist, 
the beloved disciple of your Son Jesus Christ
whose feast we celebrate in this
Octave of Christmas;
it was John who declared that
"God is love" (1 Jn. 4:8, 16),
the most sublime assertion about God
not found in any other religion!
John did not merely said "God loves"
nor "love is God"; instead, John expressed
that you, O God, is love, your essence is love
that is why everything you say and do is love!
In his gospel and letters,
John showed us how your love, O God,
came down on us so that our love
may go up in you, with you, through you
in Christ Jesus who is the expression of your
love himself when you sent him to us this Christmas
for "God so loved the world that he gave us
his only Son" (Jn. 3:16);
when Jesus Christ was about to offer himself
on the Cross, his lowest point in life when he
suffered and died, he gave us his new commandment,
"that you love one another; even as I have loved you,
that you also love one another" (Jn.13:34).
How beautiful that John,
the only Apostle to have grown old
without tasting death as a martyr
unlike the others and remained standing
at the foot of the Cross to whom Jesus 
entrusted his Mother,
was able to contemplate all these
wondrous movements of your love, O God,
so that our joy may be complete in Christ.
Open our eyes and our hearts of faith, 
Lord Jesus Christ like John the Beloved
so that we may always believe even when
the tomb is empty, when you seem to be missing
and absent; teach us to love you more dearly
so that we may be true in our love in
loving our brothers and sisters whom we can see
as expression of our love to God whom we cannot see; 
let us keep on loving so that love may be perfected in us
so we may see God in others
and God may be seen in us always.
Amen.

Hold on to God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Andrew Dung-Lac & Companion Martyrs, 24 November 2022
Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 21:20-28
As we get closer to the end
of this liturgical year,
we get more excited with 
Advent and Christmas;
please help us, Lord Jesus,
to see more at the moment 
the meaning of the end of this
calendar, the end of time,
the end of everything that would
be renewed in you.
Many of us are so blessed
with family and friends,
jobs and education
that after two years.
we are looking forward
to a face-to-face
Christmas;
but, keep us aware
and conscious of the many others,
definitely more than most of us
who have lost so much these
past years of the pandemic;
many have lost loved ones,
until now have not moved on yet
with their lives, grieving in pain
made worst with other losses like
jobs, careers, business and livelihood;
many are still facing so many forms
of sufferings and trials in life
as individuals and communities;
we pray for them, Lord Jesus.

But when these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand.

Luke 21:28
Help us, Lord, 
in our lives to witness 
the strength and courage
in you to forge on in life's many trials
and difficulties so that those deep 
in trouble may be encouraged to believe
and trust more in you;
more than our words of encouragement,
help us to show in our actions
and commitment to others
that always in this life,
God and good have the final say.
Amen.

God is the reason

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 31 July 2022
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23 ><}}}*> Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11 ><}}}*> Luke 12:13-21
My former parish, photo by Mr. Gelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020.

Last Friday I officiated at the funeral Mass of a younger first cousin; a week earlier, I had anointed him with Oil for the Sick with general absolution of his sins, commending him to God as he was afflicted with a rare disease that attacks the autoimmune system.

It is one of the difficult part in our lives as priests, when sickness and death come closest at home considering that fact that I officiated his wedding about 20 years ago and baptized his eldest son now grown up. That is why our readings today are so timely for me because my cousin Gilbert was only 49 when he died, being the most silent and “goodest” of my cousins who never got into any trouble nor any sickness while we were growing up together in Bocaue, Bulacan. How I felt like Qoheleth, saying….

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity. Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill and yet another, who has not labored over it, must leave the property. This is also vanity and a great misfortune.

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21
Photo by author, Pangasinan, April 2022.

Qoheleth is what the author calls himself which is not a proper name but a function of a speaker or a preacher to an assembly which is in Latin ecclesia; hence, it is called the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Despite the tone of his message of “vanity of vanities”, the author is not a “kill joy” or KJ who is provoking a culture of pessimism; in fact, he is trying to search for what truly lasts, for the Absolute good who is God. We have seen how in literature and music that poems and songs of despair are often the most beautiful because the anguish we feel can paradoxically be expressions of our burning desire for something, someone more permanent, more lasting and unchanging – who else and nothing else but God who is not vanity!

If we try to own every line of Qoheleth and reflect deeply on it, we somehow feel a strong similarity with our own cries of despair in life when nothing matters anymore especially with the lost of a loved one, or something so precious that deep inside us we felt with certitude that only God could fill that void.

Yes, all is vanity if we are cut off from God, when all our efforts and our very lives are separated from him because he alone is the Reason. Everything, everyone is meaningful because of God. That is why in the second reading, St. Paul is asking us to “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col.3:1).

In this world where everything is measured in popularity, in being viral or trending that are all vanities because of their temporariness, so many have fallen into the trap of empty promises of modern lifestyles. See how despite the affluence we now enjoy, we have become more empty in life, more alienated from each other even from one’s self, lacking in meaning and depth in life and existence. Sometimes, results can be fatal when people realize what they have been seeing and hearing in media are not at all true and so far from reality that death becomes an escape than a direction that leads us to the Absolutely Perfect, God and eternal life.

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell. my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Then he told them a parable.

Luke 12:13-16
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

Like Qoheleth, here we find Jesus acting like a “kill-joy” to the man requesting his help to have his share of the inheritance. His responses seems so abrupt and worst of all, very cold! But, it was not really addressed to the man asking the Lord’s intervention. Notice how Luke tells us Jesus addressing the man as “friend” before turning to the “crowd”.

Jesus is still on his way to Jerusalem and saw another opportunity today to teach the people – the crowd – not just the man asking his help of something of high importance in this life which is of being “rich in what matters to God” (Lk.12:21).

Jesus is just and fair, so loving and merciful, very mindful of our needs; however, in the light of the previous gospel scenes we have reflected, we find that Jesus concerns himself only in what matters to God. He does care about our bodily and material needs that he assures us to not worry so much about these because God will never forsake us.

Jesus had come not to be our judge and arbiter on matters about our material and worldly concerns like getting rich and famous and other vanities in life; Jesus came to teach us about what matters to God like love and mercy, kindness and care, justice and freedom. Jesus came to teach us ways of how we may inherit eternal life!

We do not have to spell out and enumerate one by one these things that matters to God of which Jesus is most concerned with; eventually, as we journey with him in life, as we carry our cross, we realize slowly in life these things that matter to God are for sure not material possessions, most often things that matter after death.

That is the grace we find ironically in every death – when somebody dies, we realize deep inside what truly matters to God. As they say, death is the best equalizer in life. And best teacher.


Last week we have the beautiful series of readings from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, teeming with life and assurances of love and protection from God. We see how the loving hands of God are like of the potter who molds us into fine earthen vessels of his majesty and glory.

Photo by author, March 2019.

Sometimes we sink into so much self-pity when things are not turning out according to our plans in life, forgetting how God loves us so much, of how he uses even the most tragic and painful events in our lives for our own good because he believes in us.

Yes. God believes in you! Everything is vanity without him, without you!

Would you rather spend everything just for a piece of land or some money or level of fame than living in peace, the greatest gift we can all have in life? That is the whole point of God in telling Jeremiah about being a clay in the potter’s hand – many times in our lives we have to be crushed and mashed, even reduced to being grounded for us to emerge finer and refined, better and more beautiful than before.

Recall those trying days of the past when you chose to bear it all, to be silent and patient. Maybe for a while or a few moments our opponents seemed to have won, or have the upper hand but in the long run, we find we are more fruitful, we are more peaceful because everything and everyone has become meaningful in God. That is because we love.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Of all that things that matter with God that we should be rich is love. Love, love, love. As the Beatles said, all you need is love! True. Sometimes it could be foolish to love, to let go of things and insults and pains and hurts.

But, God is greater than our hearts (1 Jn.3:20) and can never be outdone in generosity.

The more we love, the more we are given with more love. That is when we become truly rich in what matters to God. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!

Praying to stop self-pity

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time, 27 July 2022
Jeremiah 15:10, 16-21   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 13:44-46
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan City, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
July is about to end, 
God our Father, 
and while we are surprised
at how fast time flies,
our litanies of complaints 
and self-pities drag us down,
afraid of moving on with our
mission like your prophet
Jeremiah in the first reading.
Forgive us, dear God,
for always forgetting that
fulfilling your mission means 
rejection and persecution for us
even from those people we serve,
from those supposed to be closest to
us and understand us; remind us, 
O Lord like your prophet Jeremiah that 
despite your protection and strength,
we cannot expect to be loved in return
by everyone.
And so, let us stop all our self-pity 
and just keep on with our mission
as you told Jeremiah today.
May we keep in mind that what we
seek in this life is your kingdom,
your will and not the adulation and 
praises of people.
Amen.

God our Daddy

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time, 07 July 2022
Hosea 11:1-4, 8-9   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 10:7-15
Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, 15 June 2022 in San Miguel, Bulacan.
Your words today, O God,
are so touching 
because you are so human, 
so fatherly, to tender, so loving:

Thus says the Lord: When Israel was a child, I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me, sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols.

Hosea 11:1-2
So true, O God:
you have always loved us
despite our unworthiness,
freeing us from sins and other
darkness in life yet,
we turned away from you;
and worst, the more you call us,
the more we turn away from you!
And despite that,
you kept on calling us,
even running after us so we
may return to you through your Son
Jesus Christ but, sadly, the more 
we run away from you.

Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.

Hosea 11:3-4
This part I love so much, God;
so touching, so picturesque
of you, so human, so fatherly
like a daddy teaching us
 how to walk,
tenderly drawing us with
"human cords, with bands of love",
not with with ropes and sticks
used for animals;
most of all, your gentlest
and tenderest image of raising us
to your cheeks like an infant,
stooping to feed us that all show
your intimacy and deep love
we have brushed aside, even spurned.
And that is how ungrateful we are!!!
Yet, you are still here,
loving us, forgiving us
in Jesus Christ who suffered and died
for our sins.

My heart is overwhelmed; my pity stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you; I will not let the flames consume you.

Hosea 11:8-9
Lord Jesus Christ,
thank you for letting us call
your Father "Abba!",
thank you for letting us experience
his touch that heals and cleanses,
his love that forgives and casts out
demons from us; let us be
reminders today that the
Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

God, our true treasure in life

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II for the Baccalaureate Mass
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 17 June 2022
2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20     <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*>   Matthew 6:19-23
Photo by Ms. Jing Rey Henderson in Taroytoy, Aklan, 30 April 2022.

Congratulations, dear graduates of Academic Year 2022! The term “earning your degree” is most appropriate for your batch because it was no easy task and feat to go through college these last two years on line and limited face-to-face classes.

Most difficult for you, Batch 2022 who are all so young and should have been out there exploring the world, learning life beyond the classrooms but due to the COVID-19 pandemic have to be kept inside your homes, denied even of lakwatsa? (I doubt…)

You have not only earned a degree nor would receive a diploma next week; remember, Batch 2022 of Our Lady of Fatima University, you have made it in one of the most difficult moments in modern world history!

The past two years were truly difficult as we navigated through uncharted journeys, making the best of whatever we can and we have to finish our studies and yes, keep our sanity. Let us be grateful to our Administrators and professors, and everyone in Our Lady of Fatima University who ensured our online classes continued so you may graduate this June.

These past two years are so precious that surely in the years to come, we would all look back for the many lessons we have learned about life.


God must be preparing you for something big, something so special like the young King Joash of Judah in our first reading.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Our first reading today is very interesting, a bit like Stranger Things for its bizarre plot and most of all, it tells us something good and beautiful about isolation like what we have experienced in COVID-19 pandemic.

Around the year 387 BC, the King of Judah by the name of Ahaziah died at a very young age of 22. His mother Athalia seized power after his death and to ensure she would keep the throne as queen, she ordered the king’s children – her own grandchildren – killed!

Here now are the stranger things: Athalia’s husband, King Jehoram who was the father of Ahaziah, also killed all his brothers and their sons upon succeeding their father to the throne so that no one among them would seize power from him. To top it all, the brothers of Ahaziah were killed by raiding Arabs that have left their royal lineage from King David almost deleted, except for one infant who survived Athalia’s carnage – his youngest son named Joash. He was saved by his auntie, Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba by hiding him for a year in the maids’ quarter with his yaya or baby sitter. After a year, Joash was brought to the temple to hide him there for six years under the care and protection of the high priest Jehoida who happened to be the husband of Jehosheba.

When Joash turned seven years old, his uncle, the high priest Jehoida staged a coup d’etat against his grandmother Queen Athalia by revealing to the people gathered at the temple the evil deeds of Queen Athalia. Furthermore, he revealed to the people how one of the princes had survived, Joash, who was immediately installed as the new and legitimate king of Judah.

Athalia was arrested and killed outside Jerusalem along with the priests of the pagan idol Baal. King Joash lived long to rule over Judah to eventually continue the Davidic lineage of kings to fulfill God’s promise of sending the coming Messiah from the family of King David.


We are not told what was taught or the kind of formation the little prince Joash had while in isolation and hiding in the temple but that surely prepared him for the great task and mission he would have later in life.

From Facebook, April 2020.

Imagine King Joash had to hide for seven years from his own, wicked Lola and, we are just in our second year of the COVID-19 pandemic with many semblances of normalcy beginning to return; I won’t be surprised at all that many of you have already gone to Baguio City or Boracay or any vacation spot these past months.

My message for you, dear Batch 2022 is simple: following the COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation, never forget its beautiful lesson that God is our only surety in life, that God alone is our true treasure who could never be stolen or destroyed.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

Matthew 6:19-21

God alone is our true treasure whom we must keep and nurture in life, both in good times and in bad.


We have all experienced these past two years that nothing is permanent in life except God alone. Some of us have lost friends and relatives, even family members not only to COVID but to other sickness.

Many of us got sick with COVID and other diseases and ailments.

We experienced tightening our belts, trying to cut down on many expenses as finances went down while others lost their jobs and livelihood. We cannot even rely on our savings and investments as the pandemic brought them down.

Despite the many viral trends that came out these past two years, we have learned too that popularity does not last. In fact, it wanes too fast until the next trending topics or videos.

There is nobody else we can truly rely on except God and his everlasting love. Remain in him in your prayers and communal celebrations like going to Mass on Sundays. Since last year when I came here at the Our Lady of Fatima University, I have been telling you in our Masses and conferences, most especially during Baccalaureate Mass like this, study hard, work harder, and pray hardest.

Bad times like sickness and death, problems and difficulties are like storms that keep us inside our homes so we can reflect more about ourselves, our lives and our goals. Though the clouds may be dark, it is during the storms in life when we are truly enlightened to see the more important things in life, our true treasures.

Remember, it is always after the rains and the storms when the leaves are greenest.

Photo by Peter Fazekas on Pexels.com

Just like you, Batch 2022, who went through severe tests and storms these past two years. Now, you rejoice for the well-deserved recognition of completing your courses, of graduating.

There will be more storms coming your way, even darker and stronger than what you went through while at Our Lady of Fatima University. We are still in a pandemic and nobody knows until when we shall have all these set-ups in life, in work and in school. However, if we have made it this far especially you, Batch 2022, better days are coming ahead for you.

God has special plans for you like King Joash that is why he kept you at home for two years, why he pushed you to be patient and persevering in your online classes despite the many problems you have had like the perennial slow internet.

As you go out to the world with your diploma, with your knowledge and wisdom as you rise to the top, do not forget God. Handle life with prayer, practice well our two mottos, Veritas et Misericordia, Truth and Mercy. Sometimes, go into isolation or retreat with God to find the truth, to examine how merciful you have been and to listen to God’s voice, to discover his plans for you. And to be focused more in him through Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Keep Jesus your light. Even if you are not able to see the entire path, one step is enough because Jesus will never leave you, would always guide you to our true treasure in life, God. Amen.

Congratulations again and God bless you more, OLFU’s Batch 2022!

From Facebook, Our Lady of Fatima University, 15 June 2022.

The Holy Trinity, our Life and Love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, 12 June 2022
Proverbs 8:22-31 ><}}}}*> Romans 5:1-5 ><}}}}*> John 16:12-15
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

Surveys worldwide say that for most Christians, to speak of God as the Blessed Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit does not matter that much at all. They simply believe in God, period.

But sad to say, the same surveys say that many Christians are turning away from the Church, imitating those who refused to belong to any religion at all but simply profess they believe in God or that there is God. Their anthem is John Lennon’s 1971 hit “Imagine” that says, “Imagine there’s no heaven… No hell below us… And no religion too.”

Worst, there are some who regard Jesus Christ as just another great prophet who had lived in the past with unusual wisdom and teachings, not realizing that without the Trinity, Jesus would not be Jesus whom we believe.

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

John 16:12-15
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Mystery of Trinity as gift of God

For most Catholics including priests, discussion of the Blessed Trinity is shunned because it is a “mystery”, the most difficult to explain and understand of all our teachings that many find so apart from daily life. And that is totally wrong and untrue as we fail to realize that the more we understand or have some grasp of something or someone, the more we find their meaning and relation with our very selves, the more we appreciate life!

That is why on this first Sunday as we resume Ordinary Time, we celebrate this Solemnity of the Holy Trinity so we would have some understanding of this highest truth in our faith and thereby appreciate its meaning and relation with our daily living.

First of all, the Blessed Trinity as a mystery can be explained and understood but not fully. Mystery means something hidden that has been revealed. The Trinity was totally unknown among the Israelites in the Old Testament but its concept have been there in its many books beginning with Genesis and today as we have heard from the Book of Proverbs. It was revealed in and by Jesus Christ who cautioned his disciples then and now that indeed, many of his words cannot be fully grasped right away.

A mystery can be explained and understood because it is something that continues to unfold, revealing its many aspects to us in the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit. And the more we become aware of its nature, the more we realize how the Trinity can concretely evoke the unity and beauty of our lives in God!

Let us take our cue from the Lord himself who tells us today that “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” Jesus is not insulting us but simply telling us today that learning and understanding the mystery of God is concretely an action of the Holy Spirit and not simply an effort of human intellect. There has to be a lot of praying and studying at the same time. And the most traditional Catholic gesture and prayer we can use in learning more about the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is the sign of the cross which we sadly take for granted.

Our sign of the cross, mystery life and love of the Trinity

Since becoming a priest, I have always insisted to people especially children and youth to make the sign of the cross properly because it is the very mystery of the Trinity. We sign ourselves in the form of a cross to remind us we are the indwelling of God as Jesus told to us last Sunday that “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn.14:23).

Photo by Sis. Mira Mandal Sibal, August 2021.

What a beautiful image, of being the “indwelling” of God who is a person, not just a being who relates with us as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In the sign of the cross we find and experience the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. It was Jesus Christ who revealed to us, slowly but surely, the mystery of the Triune God in his very life and teachings with its summit on the Cross and later in his sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Notice how every time we are in a tight situation, when we are shocked or surprised at something, we instinctively make the sign of the cross to praise and thank God we are still alive, that we are loved. There is always the unconscious realization of life and love after pulling through a difficult situation and making the sign of the cross.

Life and love are the most common yet most profound and deep mysteries we have as persons. And the more we dwell into its beauty and majesty, the more we are absorbed into the mystery of God as a community of persons relating to us. It is a mystery we are able to grasp little by little of how God fills us with his life and love.

Both the first and second readings show us how God poured out his life (first reading) and his love (second reading) for us. In the Book of Proverbs, we are shown how “at the beginning” God “poured forth” wisdom on his creation and was so “delighted” with man. This wisdom according to Jesus in his teachings is the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God who enlivens us. On the other hand, St. Paul reminds us in the second reading how God’s love was “poured out to us by the Holy Spirit” to be saved in Christ who also promised us with eternal life we all hoper and aspire for.

Like the very mystery of how and why we are alive, why we are loved, these are the very same feelings we have with God as a person we feel and experience as the Father loves us and gives us life, how Jesus our brother forgives us and accepts us, and how the Holy Spirit enlightens and comforts us.

See how these feelings and experience of being alive, of being loved and so in love are difficult to explain and even understand but so very true that we dwell in them and even keep them to relish and enjoy often. If we could just do the same with God as Father and Son and Holy Spirit then we can find our own beauty and unity as a person too. Then we learn to value more our lives, accepting everything good and bad in us as we reach out to others too in kindness and mercy.

Celebrating the mystery of the Trinity

See how we begin and end each Mass with the sign of the cross, a sign of how we entrust in God everything we are and we have not only in the celebration but in our very lives itself.

Photo by author, September 2021.

When we start the Mass with the sign of the cross with the priest greeting us, “May the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”, we are reminded that every Mass is a celebration of God’s invitation for us to be in his presence as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This becomes clearer when we realize that every Mass is not just our celebration but a celebration of God’s gift of Self to us in Jesus Christ whom we receive in Body and Blood so that we may become more perfect members of his Body, the Church, animated by the Holy Spirit.

That is why we have to make the sign of the cross slowly and deliberately at the start of the Mass to get the feel of God in person and ask his help that we be able to surrender our very persons to him in the celebration.

At the end of the Mass, we again close it with a blessing by the priest with the sign of the cross again as we are dismissed and sent forth as God’s presence to the world and people we meet. By making the sign of the cross at the end of the Mass, we commit ourselves to continue in our daily life the love and kindness, the mercy and forgiveness we have celebrated. We promise to go forth and share the peace of Christ to everyone by remaining rooted in God who is Life himself, recreating the world in his Love Jesus Christ by fighting the evil and sins that beset us so that we make God’s glory and holiness present in this fractured world in the Holy Spirit.

As we make the sign of the cross especially at the start and end of the Holy Mass, may we realize this mystery of the Blessed Trinity that we are God’s indwelling and presence, his beauty and unity in the world. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Thoughts on homesickness

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 24 January 2022
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.

I have always taken homesickness lightly, dismissing it as a simple feeling we all go through once in a while when we leave home for various reasons. Maybe that is due to my entering the seminary in high school, aged 13-16, when I left my family for three years.

Everything changed when I went on vacation to the US in 2003. For the first time in my life, I felt so homesick after extending my two-month vacation to almost five months! That was when I realized the painful truth of homesickness: it is not really that you wanted to come home but more of longing for your loved ones from home, wishing they are with you having a great time at Times Square or enjoying the views from Washington’s Monument or devouring those giant oysters at New Orleans.

Homesickness is not really missing home as a place but home as family, as persons. One writer had said it so well that “homesickness is not really about the places but the faces we miss”!

It is having that feeling while in the midst of all those sights and sounds and tastes, you wish your loved ones are with you too, doubling the fun and adventures you are having. It is wanting to go home and take everybody out to your vacation or location.

But, lately I found out there is something else deeper with the faces and company we miss when we feel homesick; it is also the time and moments lost and gone in the past you try to bring back into the present. Not just of other persons but your very self – including all your dreams and pursuits or desires that got sidelined for so many reasons, valid or not. It is not really about having regrets in life but somehow, homesickness is a feeling best described by our Filipino word panghihinayang. Or, sayang.

It is a case of wasted presence, of taking persons and things for granted.

Thanks to the COVID pandemic. Aside from the virus, we are all afflicted with homesickness, of missing our loved ones whom we cannot visit or stay with due to the corona virus. And, whether we had mild or severe symptoms, homesickness was strongest – and strangest – when we were in isolation or quarantine due to infection.

Basta, all we strongly felt was to see our family and friends because we love them.

Photo by author, Sonnen Berg, Davao City, 2019.

Homesickness depends – for better or for worst – on the kind of presence we have spent with our loved ones.

If we have always been intense – and truthful – in our relationships with family and friends, homesickness becomes a soothing balm that relaxes us after a very tiring day or week specially when in isolation or quarantine. You know that kind of feeling within of assured contentment that you love and you are loved by other persons you do not see often or not even communicate with frequently. That is because when you were together, the presence you have spent with each other was so intense and pure that it had created an invisible bond between or among you that you do not seem apart from each other at all.

There is that wonderful feeling of remembering, of suddenly experiencing the warmth and loving face of your beloved. It happens briefly like a blink of an eye that seemed eternal. That’s because of the love you have.

Problem happens when our occasions of being present with one another is superficial or shallow, when we were physically present with another but emotionally and spiritually detached. That is when the hairline difference between homesickness and regrets occurs. We become homesick, trying to go back not only in place but in time to meet the persons including our old self now all gone. Our former rector, Fr. Memeng Salonga used to tell us in high school seminary that it is not really time that is passing by but you who are passing by. One cannot bring back time that had passed, specially the chances and opportunities it had for you if you do not use it wisely.

That’s the painful truth with homesickness when you miss so much how you have missed and let go of the time and moments you have to be truly present with someone and with your very self. And we say sayang.

Photo by author, Israel, 2017.

Recently I was exchanging text messages with a former student. We last met five years ago and both promised to meet again to work on a project and just simply have another great time together over some bottles of beer.

It never happened because we were both busy. Last Friday, he told me how he had COVID last year, the Delta surge. None of his connections could even get him into the ER of any hospital in the city. It was an eye-opener for him, indeed a second life as he survived COVID with a lot of faith and prayers. And love of family.

As I told him of my plans of slowing down in life and retiring early, he texted, “The way I see it po, it can also be wanting to really live. And not function like a machine.” (See why I love talking to him?)

Exactly! Sad, but true.

That has always been the challenge of life, of authentic living – when we become truly free to live and love and be faithful to God expressed in our kindness and service to one another. Of living in the present, in the here and now, in the “today” of Jesus Christ.

Homesickness does not need to be a sickness if we are always “present”.

Then all we have are memories, persons and events we remember and make present again as part of the here and now.

We hope the experts are proven right that the Omicron could be the beginning of the end of the pandemic. And if ever they are wrong, still, may we all be present, be a gift to everyone, and be home in every today God gives us.

From Facebook by Fragments of My Mind, 22 January 2022.