Forgiving from the heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXIV, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 13 September 2020
Sirach 27:30-28:7     >><)))*>   Romans 14:7-9   >><)))*>   Matthew 18:21-35
Photo by author, dusk in our parish, July 2020.

This Sunday we go deeper into the lessons gathered by Matthew from Jesus regarding love as the basis of our relationships. Last week we were told how mutual love is the sole reason why we correct brothers and sisters going stray in life.

But, more sensitive and delicate, not to mention most difficult than fraternal correction is the question of forgiving.

How many times should we forgive?

Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a kind who decided to settle accounts wit his servants. When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before hm who owed him a huge amount. Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all is property, in payment of the debt. At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’ Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.

Matthew 18:21-27

Forgiving is always difficult because it is from God, calling us to be one with him, one in him, and be like him as that saying perfectly summed up, “To err is human, to forgive is divine.” It is beyond human abilities, reserved only for God until he became human like us in Jesus Christ who made us share in his greatest expression of love which is forgiveness. Hence, every time we forgive, we also become like God, divine and holy that unfortunately, we refuse and even hate!

Yes, it is very difficult because like love, forgiving is the nature of God. In fact, any kind of love is best expressed when it is forgiving. The good news is that we now share in this great love of God in forgiving others like him as we shall see in today’s parable, keeping in mind also that it was the Risen Lord’s commission to his disciples when he appeared to them on that Easter evening (John 20:22-23).

Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, January 2018.

Forgiving like God our Father

The beauty of forgiving is that it is always a grace from God freely given to us. It is doable in Jesus Christ. The problem is when we refuse to let God work in us, when we refuse to level up our relationships to that of brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.

There is always that pride in us exhibited by Peter at the start of the gospel today when he asked Jesus how many times he must forgive his brother. Must it be seven times?

Of course, seven being a “perfect number” does not specify a numerical figure of times to forgive except that it gives enough room to let go of a sinner or an offender. However, it still connotes some form of “counting” or taking tabs at how many times must one forgive, implying a limit.

But Jesus pushed it further when he told Peter to forgive “not seven times but seventy-seven times” — that is, twice the perfect number he had cited!

The Lord is telling Peter, and us today, to forget all about keeping tabs, of counting how many times you must forgive because God forgives us without limits which his parable tells us.

The king or master in the parable is God, so wealthy that he could lend sums exceeding the normal level of what one can borrow. Most surprising is like God, the master lent so much amount beyond the debtor’s ability to pay!

That is how rich our God is — so rich in love and mercy, giving us with so much even beyond our ability to pay him back in return. Exactly what we have in the responsorial psalm: “The Lord is kind and merciful; slow to anger and rich in compassion.”

And when that servant prostrated before his master, then the more we see in that religious gesture the deeper meaning of the parable: the rich mercy of God forgiving us for our debts even after we have lost everything like that debtor with nothing enough to pay his loans, not even his wife and children.

See the contrast of the king moved with compassion echoing the same attitude of Jesus so often like in the wilderness where he fed more than 5000 people and that servant so lost with nothing else left but still forgiven.

The parable could have stopped there but Jesus went on to continue what happened next to teach us the deeper truth of forgiving, which is imitating God our Father because we are brothers and sisters in him.

From Google.

When this servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’ Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him… but he refused. Instead, he had the fellow servant put in prison until he paid back the debt. Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’ Then in anger is master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

Matthew 18:28-35

Forgiving from the heart

After hearing the second part of the parable, we all felt like the master, angry and indignant with that merciless servant whose action was very shameless and scandalous. But, more than being like the king who properly judged the conduct of that merciless servant, Jesus is also inviting us to probe deeper into our hearts the realities why we felt like the king in the parable?

How many times have we felt so angry and frustrated during this pandemic period at the many occasions when we heard news of injustices and abuse of powers against the little ones like Mang Dodong or the Marawi verteran shot to death in Quezon City? Of those punished in violating the protocols when its chief implementor got away free after attending a mañanita party?

The list goes on specially in our country where laws favor the abusive rich and powerful, those with connections while ordinary citizens with lesser violations, even without any crimes at all suffer the same fate as the servant with lesser debts.

Photo by author, “patak-dugo”, 2019.

We all feel so angry and very sad because more than the injustices and lack of mercies committed by those in powers, they have forgotten we are brothers and sisters in one God our Father. Parang sila lang ang anak ng Diyos…

We feel like the king in the parable because we felt left out, disregarded, and disrespected despite our kindness and mercy with others.

Forgiving from the heart means to forgive others not because we are fellow servants but most of all as brothers and sisters of a loving and merciful Father who forgives us always from our unpayable debts of sin and evil against each other.

This is the very thing St. Paul is telling us in the second reading, that “None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself” (Rom.14:7). Sometimes we need to be in control of our lives but the truth is, when we try to live St. Paul’s message that our lives belong to one another in Christ, the more we become truly free and happy.

It is the same reminder from Ben Sirach in the first reading telling us how we must avoid anger and resentment specially revenge because it is contrary to our faith in God. Most of all, we also know so well that we need the mercy of God in forgiving our countless sins.

The example of St. John Paul II about forgiving like God

I know what I am telling you are easier said than done. And I confess that I also find it so hard to forgive people who have wronged me, specially those I have loved and helped. Allow me to end this reflection with this beautiful bit of history that happened in our lifetime.

We were in high school seminary when Mehmet Agca shot and almost killed St. John Paul II at St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981. We were shocked, so sad for him and very angry with Agca. But, two years later after Christmas in 1983, we were more shocked in disbelief while at the same time in tears with joy when news came out that St. John Paul II came to visit Agca in his cell to forgive him!

It was a major news that landed on TIME magazine the following year with the cover story so relevant with our gospel today:

From Pinterest.

Those who do not forgive are those who are least capable of changing the circumstances of their lives…

Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business.

Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control. If one does not forgive, then one is controlled by the other’s initiatives and is locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare. “Unless there is a breach with the evil past,” says Donald Shriver, “all we get is this stuttering repetition of evil.”

Lance Morrow, TIME Magazine, 19 January 1984

As I searched for photos of the assassination attempt on him by Agca, I came across this photo below of their meeting with an accompanying report that made me admire and love St. “JP2” more than ever.

It said that while recuperating in the hospital, St. JP2 learned from the news how people hated Agca, prompting him to ask everyone to “pray for my brother (Agca)… whom I have sincerely forgiven.” That is how holy is this great Pope of our time! Long before visiting Agca in 1983, St. JP2 had already forgiven him, calling him a “brother” despite the evil and sin done to him.

What a great Amen!

Have a blessed and wonderful week ahead, brothers and sisters in Christ!

From https://rarehistoricalphotos.com/pope-john-paul-mehmet-agca-1983/.

Mary in the hiddenness of God

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 10 September 2020
Chapel of the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem where the Holy Family hid before fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod’s murder of innocent babies. According to tradition, a drop of milk from the Virgin Mary fell on the floor of the cave that turned color of the stones to white.

We have just celebrated the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the most perfect example of one who had experienced God’s hiddenness in her life, teaching us with some important lessons in rediscovering and keeping God’s hiddenness specially in this age of social media when everything is shown and has to be seen.

We have mentioned in our previous blog that hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”; hiddenness is more than not being seen per se but that feeling with certainty that God is present though hiding because he wants to surprise us. If God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all. And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him too as seen in the life of Mary (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/04/the-hiddenness-of-god/).

The hiddenness of Mary.

Simplicity and humility of Mary as venue for the perfect setting of God’s coming in Jesus Christ. Consider her origins: her town of Nazareth in the province of Galilee was definitely outside the more popular city of Jerusalem that was the place to be at that time. Most of all, it is the only town in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament nor by the prophets for lack of any significance in the coming of the Messiah.

Nazareth was largely unknown with some hint of notoriety as expressed by Nathanael (aka, Apostle Bartholomew) when he expressed disbelief to Philip who told him they have found the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, by saying “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

Photo by author of chapel at the grotto believed where Mary received the good news of bearing Jesus Christ in her womb underneath the Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth, Israel (2019).

But that is how God works in his hiddenness, coming to us in the most ordinary places and circumstances, even least expected like Mary who was definitely not “in” if we go by today’s popular standard of “who’s in and who’s out?”

In fact, she was so “outside” the circle of influence of their time with her being promdi as we say these days, without any illustrious lineage to be proud of like her spouse Joseph who was from the royal Davidic line or her cousin Elizabeth from the priestly branch of Aaron, the brother of Moses whose husband, Zechariah belonged to another priestly clan in Israel.

Yet, God chose Mary to be the Mother of Jesus Christ because of her hiddenness expressed in her simplicity and humility. It is a far cry from our extreme “Marianism” when we almost worship Mary forgetting Jesus Christ her Son and our Savior! Worst still is the growing trend of “triumphalism” in many parishes racing for the so-called “episcopal” and “canonical” coronation of their various images of the Virgin Mary that come in all kinds of names and titles that has come to look more of a fad than authentic Marian devotion.

Without any intentions of denigrating the role and stature of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our faith as well as her proper place in the life of the Church defined by Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, I dare ask the following questions:

Photo by author, a replica of Our Lady of the Poor of Banneux, Belgium at Girlstown, Cavite (2009).

Is her coronation in heaven as Queen of heaven and earth not enough?

Why the need for these lavish spectacles for the coronation of the most simplest and humblest woman to have lived on earth?

It is a clear case of triumphalism – that exaggeration or overdoing our worship and rituals – especially if the Marian image is less than 200 years old without widespread devotions like the ones at Sto. Domingo (Quezon City) and Manaoag (Pangasinan).

I do not think the Blessed Mother would favor this considering her simplicity and solidarity with the poor and marginalized peoples seen in her many apparitions.

See the quaint and charming simplicity of Mary at Fatima in Portugal (1917) and lately at Banneux in Liege, Belgium (1933) where she identified herself as “Lady of the Poor”.

Note how the Virgin Mary reads “the signs of the times” in her apparitions and appearances when during the 1500’s at the height of European royalties and expeditions, she was always portrayed as victorious in regal clothes; but since Fatima in the 20th century as the world sank into the excesses of Industrial Revolution and affluence, Mary appeared simple, always in solidarity with the poor and suffering.

It is a cue we are sorely missing and sad to say, instead of renewing the world as St. Paul had asked us, we have allowed ourselves with the Mother of God to be transformed into the ways of the world by immersing in its showbiz frenzies, focusing on the material aspects like expensive clothes and jewelries.

Second example of Mary’s hiddenness is her oneness with Jesus Christ. She was never on her own, always seen in Jesus, with Jesus her Son and Lord. She believed in him so much, making him the focus at the wedding feast at Cana as well as at the foot of the Cross where she expressed in the most strongest terms her solidarity with the Savior of the world.

This has always been insisted by the Church since Vatican II regarding our devotions to Mary that must always be in relation with Jesus and his mission — never on her own.

Photo by author, 2019.

In all her apparitions, the Blessed Mother has always been consistent with her messages of conversion and return to God through her Son Jesus Christ, the frequent reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession or Reconciliation.

Mary’s Christocentricity is best seen in her oneness with him in pains and sufferings like in the Pieta and the Mater Dolorosa where Jesus is the one standing out, not her. Nor anybody else.

When Mary, or anybody else for that matter goes on one’s own, Jesus is no longer hidden but removed from the scene. Then his Cross disappears and all that is seen is Mary in all her “beauty and glory” that are empty, very secular because these attributes come precisely from her communion in Jesus!

Perhaps, this pandemic is teaching us today to review our Marian devotions and processions that have become more of a show and a spectacle for Instagram than for deepening of our faith.

I pray that the Cofradia that holds the annual December 8 processions at Intramuros would take a rest this year until 2022 to discern their noble efforts before that have degenerated to pomp and pageantry among “devotees” specially camareros and camareras trying to outshine and outclass each other with some participation at the sidelights of their pastors and sacristans.

Keeping the hiddenness of God while we remain hidden in contemplation.

Of all the qualities of Mary we all must imitate to help people rediscover God’s hiddenness is her being hidden in prayer and contemplation.

St. John Paul II noted in Rosarium Virginis Mariae when he launched the Luminous Mysteries in 2002 that although the scriptures are silent about where was Mary during the other significant moments of the life of Jesus, especially at the institution of the Holy Eucharist, it was most likely that Mary was also present deep in prayer.

This we find clearly at the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary while they were praying at the Upper Room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:13-14).

Modern rendition of the Pentecost with Mary among the other disciples of Jesus. From Google.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI shares with us his profound insight in his second Jesus of Nazareth book series (Birth of Jesus) how after the annunciation of the the birth of Christ to Mary, the angel left her totally without ever coming back to warn or instruct her unlike with Joseph. After saying “Yes” to the plan of God to be the Mother of Jesus, Mary immersed herself deep in prayers and contemplation, becoming hidden herself in God.

Since then, she never doubted Jesus her Son as the Christ, nurturing her faith with prayers beautifully expressed by St. Luke in saying how “Mary treasured things in her heart” when facing difficult situations like during his birth and his finding at the temple. It is not surprising that in the contemplation by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Risen Lord must have first appeared to his Mother upon rising from the dead because she was the first to believe totally in him (which became the basis of our tradition of the Salubong).

Mary has always been present in the hiddenness of Christ from his coming in the darkness of the night on a manger in Bethlehem, to his hidden years in Nazareth, to his ministry when he would always retreat to a deserted place to pray, to his Crucifixion and death and burial on Good Friday and finally, in the darkness of Easter.

In this age of social media where everyone and everything has to be seen and shown with nothing hidden anymore even without qualms and shame at all, part of our mission and ministry as priests and religious is to lead people back to God’s hiddenness like the Virgin Mary so they may realize anew that the best things in this life are not always seen.

To fulfill this is for us first of all to imitate God like Mary — be hidden!

How unfortunate that instead of leading the people back to God’s hiddenness, we priests and religious have in fact joined the secular world, imitating the “influencers” like bloggers and vloggers that instead of focusing on God who is hidden, we are concerned with our selves and all the “porma” for the sake of number of “likes” and “followers” we have in our posts.

The more we try so hard to make God visible in our ministry by imitating the styles and gimicks of some media personalities that make our liturgy look like a variety show complete with song and dance numbers with our altars heavily decorated like a studio set with giant tarpaulins like in EDSA, that is when we remove God totally – not only his hiddenness – from the scene and inverse proportionately, the more we priests and pastors become more popular than the Lord himself.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

And that is how cults begin, with or without Jesus. It is very sad, even tragic and ironic because we have removed God himself – even Mary! – by unconsciously making ourselves the center of attention like pop icons and idols.

Mary had shown us the most perfect example of discipleship which is more of Jesus, less of self.

Can we not post without using our own pictures – no matter how profound our thoughts are – so the people may see the hiddenness of God in a photo of a lovely flower or a magnificent sunset? Unless you are a bishop or the Pope himself, having your photo published specially in the news is part of the information process about the person in focus. It is totally different in Church communications which is all about God and his message of love, not us.

The quarantine period invites us in the Church to appreciate and share this wonderful hiddenness of God by first becoming incognito, unknown and hidden from others, preferring to be at the background or “behind the camera” as we follow God in his hiddenness until we go to that great beyond of totally hidden from everybody except God.

Do not worry. We have Mary in every step along the way. Amen.

Being servants and stewards of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Week XXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 04 September 2020
1 Corintians 4:1-5 /// Luke 5:1-11
Photo by author, Lent in our parish 2020.

Dearest Jesus Christ:

Your words today through St. Paul are very edifying but also demanding, even scary and frightening.

But, I would rather have it that way than get them into my head.

Brothers and sisters: Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Yes, it is an honor to be chosen as your servant, Lord, and a steward of the mysteries of God.

It is so pleasant to the ears and so flattering to one’s self to be a steward of the mysteries of God, of his wisdom – of Jesus Christ crucified.

Keep me lowly and humble, Lord. Remind me always that everything is about you and never about me. Keep me faithful to you and your call that whatever others may say about me, let me be concerned solely with your words and with your judgment. At the same time, keep me silent too, never to brag of my mission and most of all, never to judge others for that resides in God alone.

Keep my mind and my heart open to you always, Lord, so I may always be like a fresh wineskin to be poured on with new wine to mature and grow spiritually in you. Amen.

Our foolish pride

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church, 03 September 2020
1 Corinthians 3:18-23 >><)))*> | >><)))*> | >><)))*> | >><)))*> Luke 5:1-11
One of the best ads during the lockdown last summer from Smart.

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.

Photo by author, XVth Station of the Cross, the Resurrection, Mount St. Paul, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

The glory of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 12 August 2020
Ezekiel 9:1-7; 10:18-19, 22 >><)))*> || + || <*(((><< Matthew 18:15-20
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, sunrise at lockdown in our Parish, March 2020.

Almost daily in my prayers I give you praise, O God, without really bothering myself to dwell on what is the meaning of your glory, of that scene from the first reading that says:

Then the glory of the Lord left the threshold of the temple and rested upon the cherubim… They stood at the entrance of the eastern gate of the Lord’s house, and the glory of the God of Israel was up above them. Then the cherubim lifted up their wings, and the wheels went along with them, while up above them was the glory of the God of Israel.

Ezekiel 10:18, 19b-20

It is so difficult to imagine of your glory, O God, when I am in dirt and sin.

Your glory is your purity.

Cleanse us, merciful Father of our many sins and iniquities that have darkened the world and our very lives with evil and sin.

At the same time, teach us to be like you in Christ Jesus, full of mercy and forgiveness for those who sin because every time we are able to bring back a sinner to you, the more we see and experience your glory.

Most of all, keep on purifying us so that our gathering together becomes your indwelling, fulfilling Christ’s words

Photo by author, sunset in our parish church, April 2020.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”

Matthew 18:20

Lord Jesus, more sinister than all the dirt of sin and evil in us and around us today is our refusal to stand against the immoralities going on.

Worst, O Lord, is our attitude of always “moving the lines” when some people cross the boundary between what is right and wrong, good and evil, decent and indecent.

Forgive us and bring us back to your path, Lord, when truth and morality have suddenly become relative for us without realizing how these have muddled our relationships with you and with others, hiding your glory among us. Amen.

Aral ng COVID-19, V: ang dapat dasalin, pagbabago natin

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-06 ng Agosto 2020
Larawan kuha ni Ezra Acayan ng Getty Images, Marso 2020.
Sa ating pananalangin,
turo ng Panginoong Hesus sa atin,
bago pa man kayo humiling,
batid na ito ng Diyos nating mahabagin;
at kung kayo ay mananalangin, wika Niya,
inyong sabihin:  Ama namin...
Gayong batid pala ng Diyos kailangan natin,
tanong ng iba, bakit tayo mananalangin pa sa Kanya?
At ito ang hindi nalalaman ng karamihan
mahalagang katotohanang dapat tandaan:
sa pananalangin ang pinakamahalaga ay
mabatid natin ibig ng Diyos mula sa atin!
Kaya naman sa tagal nitong COVID-19
sa dami ng ating panalangin, tiyak noon pa man din
alam na ng Diyos kailangan upang wakasan
pandemyang malagim na bumabalot sa atin
kumitil at nagpatigil sa takbo ng buhay natin
dulot sa lahat ay hirap maging sa iba ay hilahil.
Marahil kailangan na nating baguhin
ating panalangin sa panahong ito ng COVID-19
sapagkat wala sa gamot at medisina
sa mga botelya at siringgilya ang sa atin magpapagaling
kungdi sa pagpapanibago nitong puso at kalooban natin
na siyang laging ibig naman ng Diyos mula sa atin.
Sa gitna nitong quarantine nabuking
masasamang pag-uugali maging mga gawi natin
na sa gitna ng kagipitan at kahirapan
marami pa rin ang nagsamantala
naging sakim at makasarili
ibig ang lahat ay kamkamin, kabigin at angkinin.
Pandaraya at panggugulang, hindi patas sa mga patakaran
marami sa pamahalaan at katungkulan naghari-harian
mga inaakalang kalaban hinigpitan
malayang pamamahayag pinigilan
mga karapatan at dangal ng mamamayan
niyurakan at tinapakan, lalo na mga walang pinanghahawakan.
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Anne Ramos, Marso 2020.
Kaya aking bayan 
ating pag-isipan at pagnilayan
batid ng Diyos ating pangangailangan
ngunit hindi Niya ito kaagad pagbibigyan
dahil tanging paraan sa pagsugpo sa salot na ito
naroroon sa ating mga puso, wala sa nguso.
Harapin natin hindi ang COVID-19
kungdi ating sarili at pag-uugali na dapat gamutin
sa mga sakit na naglalayo sa Diyos at kapwa natin;
karunungang kinakailangan ibinigay na ng Diyos
noon pa man upang solusyunan virus mula Wuhan
tangi Niyang kahilingan mamuhay tayo sa kabutihan at katuwiran.
Mahigit limang buwan na tayong nagdarasal
ugali at asal nati'y makapal pa rin sa kasamaan
kaya marahil lalo pang magtatagal 
pagdurusa sa pandemyang ito na nag-ugat 
 buhat sa puso ng tao na kung di magbabago
uulit at uulit sa iba't ibang anyo.

Plan of God, our plan

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of the Dedication of St. Mary Major in Rome, 05 August 2020
Jeremiah 31:1-7 <*(((><< | + | >><)))*> Matthew 15:21-28
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, St. Mary Major in Rome, 2018.

O God our almighty Father, in all eternity you have planned what is best for each of us and we thank you so much for that for your great wisdom matched with your immense love for us.

Unfortunately, we always run away from you, discarding your plans for our own personal plans that most often do not work because these are based on what we want, what we like and not of what is really best for us.

Help us to seek your plans for us, Lord, by remaining in you, trusting you because you know what is best for us being our Maker.

Open our selves to you to redeem us from our disgrace and infirmities by seeking your plans in rebuilding our lives like your so-called “remnants of Israel” in the first reading – the few who have remained faithful to you despite the turning away from you of majority of Israelites who chose to worship false gods in the time of Jeremiah.

And ironically, to be like that Canaanite woman at the region of Tyre and Sidon – though a pagan – who remained faithful to you waiting for the Christ to come by holding on to your plans, hoping in your plans, and finally realizing your plans of healing and salvation in Jesus!

Grant us the perseverance and love to seek, believe in your plans for us like the Blessed Virgin Mary as we celebrate today the Memorial of the Dedication of St. Mary Major in Rome, one of our four Major Churches and first Marian shrine in the whole Christendom.

How lovely it is, O God, that you literally laid out your plans for this Basilica when the Virgin Mary appeared in a dream to a faithful Christian couple as well as Pope Liberius in the year 358 to build a church in her honor on the site where snow would fall on the night of August 4-5.

And you did make snow to fall on that night, forcing Pope Liberius to trace the outlines of the church on the snow where the first basilica was built!

But, it was only the beginning of the unfolding of your plans: the Basilica of St. Mary Major was completed a century later after the Council of Ephesus in 431 where Mary was declared the Mother of God, thus clarifying all doubts on the divinity of your Son Jesus Christ who had come to save us.

May we pause for some moments of silence today to pray and seek your plans for us specially in this time of the pandemic. We pray harder for our leaders in government for humility and honesty in seeking you, O God, to draw a specific plan that is clear and workable to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

This we ask in Jesus Christ’s name, in the power of the Holy Spirit with Mary our Mother. Amen.

Photo by author of a pilgrim writing a petition to the Blessed Mother in a Marian shrine in Madaba, Jordan, 2019.

The temple in our hearts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest, 31 July 2020
Jeremiah 26:1-9 >>><)))*> >><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 13:54-58
Photo by author, Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father for another week and month about to close before us. And still here we are, alive and safe, making through the many trials and difficulties as we all continue to bear the sufferings of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you for sending us your Son our Lord Jesus Christ who have made our hearts your indwelling.

Unfortunately, like his neighbors, so many times we fail or even refuse to recognize his coming to us.

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son?” And they took offense at him.

Matthew 13:54-55, 57

So many times, many things run in our minds and in our hearts that we always fail to see and recognize you, sweet Jesus.

Teach us through St. Ignatius your faithful servant who gave us your wonderful gift of discerning the spirits.

Teach us to lay bare ourselves before you, to be true to our thoughts and feelings so that we may sift through all of these to find your holy will, Lord.

Teach us to “omit nothing” as you commanded Jeremiah in the first reading from your words so that we may be able to discern properly what you want from us.

Make our hearts your temple, O Lord, dwell inside and reign over us so that we may understand fully the meaning of “positive indifference” taught us by St. Ignatius:

“We should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. . . . Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.”

Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius

Let our thoughts and actions always begin and happily end in your greater glory, Lord.

Amen.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

Contact

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 27 July 2020
Jeremiah 13:1-11 >><)))*> >>><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 13:31-35
Photo from Google.

What a great way to start our last week of work and studies in July with your sense of humor, O God! Your words are so witty and funny but with a strong punch. Hard-hitting, so biting. And so revealing.

For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so I had made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord; to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty. But they did not listen.

Jeremiah 13:11

You really got me, Lord.

What can I say?

Our underwear, that is, the loincloth of Jeremiah’s time, is our most intimate clothing, always in contact with our very selves, in that part of our body that we always guard and keep to ourselves.

But, what happens when we “dirty” ourselves with sins, when we put on all those filth in ourselves, we also feel the same way inside, no matter how clean and crisp our clothes are but when deep down our loincloth – underwear – is rotted and good for nothing?

We can always hide it from others and they will never know the kind of underwear we have but we cannot deceive ourselves of how dirty we are with sins and evil.

And so far from you, O God.

Forgive us when you are supposed to be the closest to us, the one we are always in contact with but we have totally disregarded because of our many sins, when we thought we can always have our own ways without you, denying the fact it simply cannot be for indeed, you have made us to be that closest to you.

Forgive us in your Son and our Lord Jesus Christ. Renew us inside, cleanse us and refresh us to be in close contact with you again, O God.

Help us to remain good and clean inside like the little mustard seed so we may grow to have leafy branches for birds to come and dwell in us.

In your mercy, cleanse us of our sins and be our yeast to mix with us again to leaven into a dough to make your kingdom come here on earth. Amen.

Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

Renewal in God, with God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XVI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 24 July 2020
Jeremiah 3:14-17 <*(((><< ) + ( >><)))*> Matthew 13:18-23
Photo by author, Sonnen Berg Mountain View, Davao City, August 2018.

It is a Friday and we thank you, O God our loving Father, for your boundless grace and mercy of another week to close and a new one to start. Amid the many struggles we have to go through this week with the staggering number of people infected with COVID-19, you continue to bless us.

Help us return to you, your “rebellious children” (Jer.3:14), so we may be renewed in you and with you.

Keep our sights looking forward to our future with your promises of growth and fulfillment.

Let us forget and learn our lessons from our past mistakes and sins so we may walk uprightly, guided by “shepherds you have appointed after your own heart who will shepherd us wisely and prudently” (Jer.3:15), never again to grow “hardhearted in wickedness” against you and others.

Thank you for sending us your Son Jesus Christ, the Sower who never gets tired sowing seeds into our hearts of all your grace necessary for us to be fruitful in life. May we become good soil who will accept and take care of your seeds. Amen.

Photo by author, ricefields in Pulilan, Bulacan, January 2020.