Getting up to follow Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle, 21 September 2022
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13     <*{{{{><  +  ><}}}}*>     Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, Lake Tiberias from the side of Capernaum where Jesus called Matthew to follow him.
You never fail to amaze me,
Lord Jesus Christ with your
unique manner and ways
of finding us, calling us, 
and loving us.
Of your Twelve Apostles, 
only five were called while
working:  the brothers Simon
and Andrew, James and John
who were fishermen and 
Matthew, a tax collector;
the first four belonged 
to the most ordinary 
and lowliest job of the time, 
fishing, while Matthew did
the most despicable job of
collecting taxes unjustly for
Roman colonizers making him
both a sinner and a traitor.
But, you have your plans
that are so different from our
ways when you told the Pharisees
and scribes that "Those who are well
do not need a physician, 
but the sick do... I did not come
to call the righteous
but sinners" (Mt.9:12, 13).
Thank you, Lord Jesus
for still calling me when
I was at my lowest point in life,
when I was most sinful,
when everyone was rejecting me;
thank you, Jesus,
for believing in me,
in calling me to come,
follow you; help me to rise
from my pit of anger and
bitterness, hopelessness 
and desolation like Matthew,
leaving all evil and sins
to follow you
and share you with 
everyone.
Help me, Jesus,
to write the fifth gospel
according to my life
like Matthew
by "living in a manner
worthy of the call I have
received" (Eph. 4:1).
Amen.

St. Matthew,
pray for us!
Caravaggio’s painting, “Calling of St. Matthew” from en.wikipedia.org.

*You may also want to check our reflection on Caravaggio’s painting “Calling of St. Matthew” by clicking this link:

Following Jesus in lights and darkness by Caravaggio

Praying for kindness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, 19 September 2022
Proverbs 3:27-34     ><]]]'> + <'[[[>< ~ ><]]]'> + <'[[[><     Luke 8:16-18
Photo from Facebook, April 2020.
God our loving Father, 
let me be kind today,
not just be good but be kind
by regarding everyone as my "kin",
someone not different from me, 
someone a family.
Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in you power to do it for him.  Say no to your neighbor, "Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give," when you can give at once.  Plot no evil against your neighbor... Quarrel not with a man without a cause... Envy not the lawless man and choose not his ways.
Proverbs 3:27-29, 30
Bless me 
and let the light of Jesus
shine in me to guide others;
let me not be contented 
with whatever good I have done
nor with who I have become;
grant me the grace to grow
and mature in Christ, 
moving forward,
not backwards,
never stagnate.
Amen.

God never sleeps nor forgets us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Dedication of St. Mary Major in Rome, 05 August 2022
Nahum 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Matthew 16:24-28
Photo by author, September 2021.
Dearest God our loving Father:
You surely know how often we
wonder why you allow bad things 
to continue to happen in our lives,
in our community, even in our country;
so many times we feel you seem to
have forgotten us, of must have fallen
asleep unaware of the sufferings we are
going through.
You know these thoughts and feelings
we often have but today, you assure us
you are always with us, that you never
forget us nor abandon us; sometimes, you
allow our sufferings to happen longer 
because you believe in us, and most of all,
you want us to become stronger and better.

See, upon the mountains there advances the bearer of good news, announcing peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows! For nevermore shall you be invaded by the scoundrel; he is completely destroyed. The Lord will restore the vine of Jacob, the pride of Israel, though ravagers have ravaged them and ruined the tendrils.

Nahum 2:1, 3
Finally, you  have liberated Israel
from the clutches of the "scoundrel", Assyria;
perhaps like us today, the Israelites at that
time of the Assyrian conquest wondered
if it ever would end with all the evils
perpetrated by men and women alike;
but it did!  History teems with many
episodes of great countries and empires
falling, collapsing from their towers of
success and dominance, reduced to
nothingness because evil never lasts,
it is so bad that it has all the factors
contributing to its destruction and end.
Good always triumphs, always prevails.
Storms and dark nights end,
the sun always rises,
shining brightly to gladded our hearts,
drying our tears and giving us
all the chances in life.
Like the good news brought by Nahum,
may we be your messengers of good news,
of peace to those suffering for a long time
from illness and other problems in life,
including the many evils that seem to have
become so endemic in our country;
give us the grace to persevere
in following Jesus Christ your Son,
forgetting our very selves
for what profit would there really be
for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit one's life (Mt.16:25)?
As we celebrate the dedication of 
St. Mary Major in Rome today,
may we imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary
who not only bore your Son Jesus Christ
but continues to lead others to him
by being the messenger of your 
love and salvation. 
Amen.

Good news is when truth hurts

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 01 August 2022
Jeremiah 28:1-17   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 14:13-21
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacias in UP-Diliman, QC, April 2022.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father 
for this gift of the month of
August, of another 31 days
for us to be better and stronger,
firmer in faith, vibrant in hope
and unceasing in charity and love.
On this first day of August when
we celebrate the memorial of 
St. Alphonsus Ligouri, patron
of moral theologians, we pray 
for the grace of accepting and 
embracing, owning the truth,
avoiding lies and falsehoods always.
I have heard and experienced the
veracity of the expression "truth hurts" -
so true and so painful indeed!
Let me not be like Hananiah who
prophesied in the name of the Lord
falsely in today's first reading,
sugarcoating the true situation of
the Israelites held bondage in Babylonia
for its wickedness; instead of telling them
the painful truth of their exile, Hananiah
lied and spoke of "good news", of deliverance
from Nebuchadnezzar and a return of 
the stolen vessels of the Lord's temple.
Give me the courage to tell the painful
truth, to stand by it always even if it is
unpopular like your prophet Jeremiah 
who spoke of your truth during the
Babylonian Captivity: of the need to
reform their lives and ways, to atone for
their sins and go back to you, O God;
let me keep in mind, dear Jesus, that
a good news is only good when it is 
difficult, uncomfortable, and disturbing
like the feeding of the vast crowd in the 
wilderness; a good news is not good at all
when there is no Cross.
Remove me, O Lord, 
from the way of falsehood
and favor me with your law;
take not the word of truth
from my mouth, for in your
ordinances is my hope (Ps.119:
29, 43).  Amen.

Prophetic nursing

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II at the Second Capping and Pinning Ceremony
Our Lady of Fatima University-San Fernando, Pampanga, 20 July 2022
Jeremiah 1:1, 4-10   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Matthew 13:1-9
Photo by author, 16 July 2022, Our Lady of Fatima University-Cabanatuan City.

This is my fourth capping and pinning ceremony of our nursing students in five weeks. And now more than ever, I am so convinced that nursing is like the priesthood – a vocation, a call from God to serve his people.

That is why our first reading on the call of the prophet Jeremiah is so perfect for our Second Capping and Pinning Ceremony of the College of Nursing here at our San Fernando Campus. As a vocation, nursing is a call to prophetic witnessing of Christ’s gospel especially in this age when life and dignity of every person is taken for granted.

Photo by author, 16 July 2022, Our Lady of Fatima University, Cabanatuan City.

Maybe there are some of you who are here had no plans of becoming a nurse before but one thing led to another and here you are, about to take the first major step in becoming a nurse. And despite that reality, maybe by this time you have come to love nursing already that you are feeling nervous for this momentous ceremony that was pout on hold for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yes, thanks too to COVID-19 for it had made it clearer to you that it was God who really called you to become future nurses!

The word of the Lord came to thus: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you… See, I place my words in your mouth! This day I set you over nations and over kingdoms, to root up and to tear, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.”

Jeremiah 1: 4-5, 9-10

How beautiful it is to hear God telling each one of you today, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a NURSE to the nations I appointed you.”

That’s the meaning of your cap.

Photo by author, 10 July 2022 at the RISE Tower, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City.

You must have heard that expression we have “to wear different hats” in life – when you are at home, you wear the hat of an Ate or Kuya, when you are in the classroom you wear the hat of a student before your professors and mentors, when you are out with your barkada, you wear a different hat as a friend.

God is giving you another hat – or cap – to wear in life beginning today.

It is something so distinct and special not everyone can wear. Only a selected few are called and chosen to wear that cap our model Florence of Nightingale wore with pride, honor and dignity when she elevated the status of Nursing as we know and so value today.

In the Jewish culture, the wearing of a hat means to recognize somebody higher or above us – and that is God. That is why men and children wear those tiny “skull caps” called zucchetto when they are inside the ruins of the temple of Jerusalem. Our Pope and Bishops also wear that skull cap to signify God is above them whom they must serve and obey.

Photo by author, 10 July 2022 at the RISE Tower, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City.

My dear nursing students, to be a nurse is to be a servant of God, a prophet or a “prophetic nurse” who witnesses the gospel of Jesus Christ to our patients, especially to the poor and disadvantaged.

Witnessing the gospel of Christ is to speak and act on the word of God. That is why when you take your pledge of Florence Nightingale later, you invoke the name of God “to pass my life in purity and practice my profession faithfully.”

As you have invited God into your lives today as you take this major step in your formation as future nurses, make God a part of your life everyday. Handle your life with prayer. Moreover, as I would remind our students during Baccalaureate Mass, “study hard, work harder, and pray hardest”.

Be open to God.

I assure you, nursing is a very demanding and difficult profession. You have seen it these past two years of pandemic.

From Facebook, November 2020.

Baka mamaya aayaw kayong bigla katulad ng mga butil nahulog sa daanan na tinuka ng mga ibon. HIndi kayo yayaman, hindi kayo magiging milyunaryo o milyunarya sa nursing. Kung yun ang pakay ninyo, mali napuntahan ninyo. Magpulitiko kayo, baka sakali…

Baka naman ngayon, very enthusiastic kayo with all the glamor and attention you get as nursing students, lalo na kapag naging RN na kayo and you start wearing those scrubs with all the gadgets for monitoring patients na talaga naman pogi points – then after a few months, you get burned out like the seeds that fell on rocky ground with little soil.

Pwede rin naman makita ninyo maraming opportunities sa nursing para yumaman o sumikat o maging notorious gaya ng mga nababalitaan natin lalo na sa abroad but, remember to be credible, to elevate the standards of nursing, to never administer harmful drugs for shameful profits like those seeds that sprouted but choked by thorns.

Be like the rich soil in the parable of the sower, listen and act on the word of God so that you mature and bear fruit as nurses.

St. Augustine said “grace builds on nature”; that means, the grace of God will always be there for you to become a good nurse but you have to dispose yourself properly by cultivating habits and virtues through discipline. One of these is punctuality, being on time. Another is obedience which is actually listening attentively to instructions. Of course, do not forget charity and kindness. And many others so that you reflect the goodness of God.

Photo by author, 10 July 2022 at the RISE Tower, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City.

You do not become a good nurse tomorrow or when you graduate or when you pass the board exam nor when you get employed as a nurse.

You become a good nurse today. Now na!

St. Paul said “God’s gift and call are permanent and irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29) tinawag kayo ng Diyos upang maging mahuhusay na nurse at hindi niya iyon babawiin… ibibigay niya ang lahat para sa inyo kung ibibigay din ninyo ang inyong sarili sa kanya sa paglilingkod sa kapwa. At ang iba pa ay susunod na kalakip ang maraming biyaya, “siksik, liglig at umaapaw” (Lk. 6:38).

God bless you, BS Nursing Students of Our Lady of Fatima-Pampanga.

God bless all nurses of the world, especially our very own, Filipino nurses serving everywhere!

Photo by author, 16 July 2022, Our Lady of Fatima University-Cabanatuan City.

Corpus Christi: Everybody a somebody

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, 19 June 2022
Genesis 14:18-20 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ><}}}}*> Luke 9:11-17
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera in Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, November 2020.

A week after celebrating the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, we celebrate today the reality of this mystery of our personal God who relates with us with the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

This Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ reminds us of the great honor of every person, of everybody as a part of the Body of Christ who became human like us to share his very self so that we too may become food for everyone. It is a very timely and appropriate feast when we are deluged with news here and abroad of how people are treated as nobody.

The recent viral video of an SUV driver bumping a security guard in a busy intersection in Mandaluyong remains a hot trending topic precisely because it is a story of how poor people are disregarded in this nation. Although the suspect had surrendered to authorities after a week of “no-show” to summons, statements especially by his mother ignited only more fire into the blazing topic. Adding insult to injuries to the nation is the press conference called by the police in presenting and speaking for the suspect which is absurd and directly opposite to how they deal with poor people involved in similar offenses.

Over in the United States where one loses count of victims of shootings happening almost every week, lawmakers grandstand for more gun controls for the protection of children when in fact, the same lawmakers refuse to consider the child in the mother’s womb as a person with a right to life that they have legalized abortion. Almost everywhere in the world, see how people take some people as somebody and others as nobody. So contrary to what Jesus is telling us in the gospel today, that everybody is a somebody. Observe how the disciples of Jesus acted in the gospel:

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.

Luke 9:11-14, 17
Photo from istock-studios.com by Getty Images.

We have heard this story so many times and yet, we continue to miss its whole meaning that it continues to happen in our lives minus the miracle of Jesus. See how Luke tells us first that Jesus spoke to the people about the kingdom of God.

We will never experience Jesus in his person, in his Body and Blood unless we listen first to his words, to his teachings of the kingdom of God. That is why in the Mass, the first part is the liturgy of the word to prepare us for the liturgy of the eucharist. So many times in life, we dismiss right away anything that is spiritual in nature like prayers and the sacred scriptures, of faith in God.

Luke does not tell us how Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish; we have to leave it to him how he did it. After all, he is the Son of God. Recall how during his temptation by the devil to turn stones into bread and he answered that “one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt.4:4). Here in this scene, his words were precisely fulfilled when he fed the people after they have opened themselves to God’s words, to God himself.

Miracles happen in our lives when we first open ourselves to God himself. And opening to God means opening to others too by seeing everyone as a brother and sister in Christ whom we must care for.

Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, August 2021.

Too often, we tend to isolate ourselves from others, thinking only of ourselves and own good and comfort like the Twelve who asked Jesus to dismiss the crowds so they would find food and lodging for themselves in the wilderness.

What a sad reality still happening today, of how even parents and couples would proudly say how difficult it is to have another child because it is expensive. We have become so utilitarian in our perspectives in life that we compute everything as a cost, forgetting God except when praying which is precisely for asking for more blessings without even seeing the overflowing abundance of gifts from God.

Notice that despite the affluence of many these days, both as individuals and as nations, many are afflicted with the scarcity mentality, of not having enough, fearful of losing money and other resources like oil that we now have this exorbitant fuel prices.

When Jesus told the Twelve to “give the crowds some food yourselves”, he is telling us to look at God first for he is a God of abundance. Abraham in the first reading gives us the best example of always trusting God, of finding God behind every blessings we have. Abraham had just won a war with several kings in the region by the power of God who sent his priest named Melchizedek to bless him with bread and wine after. But unlike other victors in war, Abraham never had intentions of taking all the wealth and treasures of the kings he had beaten and instead gave Melchizedek the priest of God “a tenth of everything” (Gen.14:20).

Our response to God’s many blessings to us is to “tithe” ourselves like Abraham but not just ten percent as the Old Testament had taught but like Jesus in the New Testament by giving all of our very selves. This is the meaning of Paul’s words in the second reading of “proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes” as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup (1 Cor.11:26).

We have learned and realized (hopefully) during the past Lenten and Easter seasons that death leads to new life in Jesus Christ when we share our very selves like him. God blesses us abundantly daily with his life and other blessings. There is enough for everyone. That is the meaning of the leftovers of twelve wicker baskets, one each for every apostle of the Lord who represented us.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus we receive in the Eucharist reminds us not only of the sublime gifts of God to each of us but also of our ultimate response of dying to ourselves so we may share Christ’s life to the world so dead with ego and selfishness, a world of “I” and “me” and “my” and “mine” totally disregarding everybody as nobody.

As we celebrate today the Body and Blood of Christ honoring him with Masses, vigils and processions, remember how not everybody in the world is considered a somebody unless one has wealth and power. It is the new meaning given by modern man to the golden rule – he who has gold rules, implying that the poor are always taken as a nobody, bearing all the abuses of those in power and authority.

Let us examine ourselves how we have contributed to these abuses still going on, even in our thoughts at the way we perceive others, especially those not like us in status and beliefs and colors.

After receiving Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, silently pray:

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
empty myself of pride and 
fill me with your humility, justice and love;
reign in my heart now and always.
Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author, 2019.

The joys and pains of every beginning

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 23 May 2022
Acts 16:11-15   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 15:26-16:4
Photo by author, sunrise at Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father in 
giving us each day as a new 
beginning, a fresh start in life
with every grace we need in Christ;
how amazing are your words today,
O Lord, that both speak of the 
joys and perils of every beginning.
In the first reading,
we are inspired by the initial works 
of St. Paul in that great city of Philippi
where he met and baptized Lydia, a gentile
convert in the Lord; it was the first European
city to listen and accept the Christian message,
the beginning of a glorious history that 
transformed the continent not only in religion but
also in arts and culture.  
What a beautiful example of St. Paul 
being a "sower" of the gospel 
so that others may "reap" its fruits
until now!  
Teach us, Lord Jesus, 
to be sowers of your word 
to win more Lydias and most of all, 
so that there would always be something 
to reap in the future.
On the other hand,
your gospel today reassures us,
dear Jesus, of your presence and
defense in the Holy Spirit for the many
dangers we face in every beginning.

“I have told you this so that you may not fall away. They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact, the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God. They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me. I have told you this so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you.”

John 16:1-4
Our work in you, O God, is never finished.  
Let us continue to welcome each day as a new
beginning to sow your seeds of love and kindness,
mercy and salvation to make known to everyone
of you as our loving Father in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Priests and the elections

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 19 May 2022
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images.

Like many of you, the people I elected lost last May 9. Fact is, I felt the same sense of loss and sadness and disappointment – but not depression nor anxiety – many of you feel today as early as 2016 when not even one opposition made it into the Senate.

It was in the 2016 elections when I realized that our people would continue to be less discerning in electing their leaders, of how it would get worst before getting any better, not even in my lifetime. The following morning after Duterte was elected president in 2016, our kasambahay came to me during breakfast to apologize, saying, “sorry po Father… binoto ko po si Bung (Bong Revilla) kasi baka wala pong bumoto sa kanya.”

You see, I have been trying to educate Manang to be more discerning in choosing candidates since the start of the 2016 elections campaign period but no amount of explanations seemed to have convinced her. Hence, I just told her, “kakaawa mo sa kanya, hayun, naging topnother si Bong Revilla, ngayon kawawa ang bayan natin.” The same thing happened last week that we now have Robin Padilla as Senator of the Republic too.

However, I am still filled with hopes in our future. We are not a hopeless case of going to the dogs if we start learning the lessons of these 2022 elections that were similar with 2016’s if we priests return to our original mission of teaching and sharing Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus. Enough with our political partisanship, of endorsements and campaigns for candidates no matter how worthy they may be.

Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images.

This may sound very simple, even simplistic. As a priest, I feel and fear we have forgotten Jesus in these recent elections. Even a week after, many have not stopped in their “fight”, making all those unChristian comments in social media that prove we have indeed lost Christ lately.

“Oh, men of little faith!” is how Jesus would probably exclaim at some of us priests and bishops in this post-elections period.

Instead of educating the people, some priests and bishops went too far into campaigning even at the pulpit for particular candidates that led to disillusionment than enlightenment. And now, we are into this mess – the second elections in a row since 2016 – when the people resoundingly rejected not only the clergy’s candidates but also the Church we represent as an institution. What is tragic is how we priests still do not get it, even that simple lesson in history that every time priests endorse candidates, they turn out to be kiss of death!

It is so disappointing how most of the priests and bishops were so quiet, not silent, in 2020 when the quarantine period was prolonged more than twice or thrice that kept our churches closed, denying the people much needed spiritual guidance and nourishment during the pandemic. Sadly when the campaign period for the elections started last year, many priests were suddenly out, vocal and filled with courage in joining rallies even on Saturdays and Sundays when they should be celebrating the Mass in their parishes, when they should be praying and reflecting on the gospel to nourish souls but were instead baffling the faithful if their pastors were leading them to heaven or hell.

The double standard cannot be denied: when Leny declared her candidacy last October, some priests and parishes posted on social media pictures of Gaudete and Laudete Sunday’s pink motifs but, when Red Wednesday came in November to honor those persecuted in the Church, the same priests and parishes issued clarifications that the liturgical red motif was not in any way political.

Of course, it has always been non-political until they started it! Unfortunately, the bad taste of insincerity was all over and no one felt ashamed at all. Which brings us to the many sanctimonious “sermons” – not homilies (they are different) – that followed during Lent, filled with self-righteousness and holier-than-thou attitudes as if there are no thieves and liars among us.

Photo by author, Stations of the Cross at the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, March 2022.

The question being asked by the faithful – where is God? – following the results of the recent elections is an indictment of the priests who have abandoned Jesus and so believed in themselves and their candidates, denying Christ the chance to do that much-needed miracle we were all hoping for since the start of the campaign period.

A former student now based in Canada recently narrated how he and his wife told their eight year-old daughter the need to stand and defend the truth. I was impressed and touched that I congratulated him as I recalled those first 12 years of my priesthood teaching them in our diocesan school in Malolos City. I mentioned to him how it pained me that some of our graduates have joined the “dark forces” in politics with one notoriously grandstanding during the proceedings revoking the franchise of ABS-CBN.

We can only do as much but the most important thing is to remain focused in Jesus, in words and in deeds despite our weaknesses and unworthiness. When people experience and get to know Jesus, everything good follows. We called it in my former school assignment “Sanctitas in Sapientia” or “Holiness in Wisdom” – the more we get to know Jesus, the more we grow in wisdom and holiness becoming like him so that we also follow him and love him through others.

That is the challenge to us this post-election period: let us double time, spend our energies in bringing back the people, especially the young inside the churches not to the streets to learn more about Jesus in the Sacraments. Most of all, to reach out to those in the margins, the majority we love to bash in putting into office the same “unworthy” candidates as leaders of the nation.

A few days after the elections, we had the first Confession and first Holy Communion of our Grade III and IV students at the Basic Education Department of Our Lady of Fatima University in Valenzuela City. It was then when I got more convinced how in the past 24 years that priesthood is bringing Jesus to the people first through the meaningful celebrations of the sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist where his words are proclaimed and cracked open to let Jesus touch the hearts of everyone.

Both in the parish and in the school, I have seen that Jesus is the One transforming people, the One who changes people, not us priests nor anyone. We are merely his instruments.

Photo by Mr. Paulo Sillonar, Basic Education Dept., Our Lady of Fatima University, 11 May 2022.

In the beautiful story of the feeding of 5000, we are told that when Jesus saw a large crowd coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do (Jn.6:5-6).

Jesus knows very well what he is going to do in every situation, especially elections. Our job is to listen to Jesus, to make Jesus present to everyone, to share Jesus.

Later after the feeding of 5000 in the wilderness, Jesus gave his bread of life discourse to the people who have followed him to Capernaum but they could not take his words that eventually, they left him along with the other followers of Christ. Only the Twelve remained with him whom he asked, “Do you also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn.6:67-68).

Do we have the same faith and focus of Simon Peter in Jesus? Why worry after we have lost these elections?

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that all our affairs in this life and in this world must always be seen beyond its social and economic, even medical and political implications but always in the light of Christ and his Cross. This reality is perfectly captured by the Inquirer photographer last August 2021 when the chapel of the QC General Hospital was converted into a COVID ward during a surge. The photo speaks loudly and clearly of the one reality we always forget, especially us priests.

Again, my views may be simple, even simplistic, compared to the learned but so many times, that is how God works too. Thank you for taking time to read. Join me in praying:

Lord Jesus Christ, 
so many times we leave you behind, 
following ourselves and others 
instead of you alone who is 
"the way and the truth and the life"
(Jn.14:6). Amen.

Have a blessed weekend!

Front page photo of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 20 August 2021.

Mary in our troubled time

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, 105th Anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 2022
Acts 13:26-33   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 14:1-6
Photo from vaticannews.va, 13 May 2017.

Our gospel this 13th of May is so timely for us in the Philippines when Jesus said to his disciples shortly before his arrest at the Last Supper, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (Jn.14:1).

It is the same message of the Blessed Virgin Mary when she first appeared to the three little children at Cova de Iria in Fatima, Portugal exactly 105 years ago today.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

John 14:1
Photo from vaticannews.va, 13 May 2017.

In the past 200 years, notice how the two most significant apparitions by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes in France (1858) and at Fatima in Portugal (1917) were both calls for us to renew our faith in God through Jesus Christ, something we keep on forgetting and even disregarding in these modern times.

When the Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima, the First World War was still raging with the former Soviet Union spreading its venomous doctrines of atheism and communism. Today, though the USSR has long been gone and dismantled, its ideology still lives on in Russia which had recently invaded its neighbor Ukraine.

And here in our country, the mood since Monday evening when unofficial results of the elections started to come has been like a Good Friday with so many going through some forms of emotional stress and distress.

It is very sad and disheartening when people started saying of moving to other countries abroad, casting doubts on the elections results with all the insults and other moral aspersions against the winners and their supporters.

Where is our faith in God, in Jesus Christ?

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

When Mary appeared in Fatima in 1917, the world was in a great transition like our time with ever increasing discoveries and inventions in the field of science and technology with the new ideas and thoughts being put forth that were so materialistic, disregarding God, spirituality and morality.

Today we are reminded anew of the ever-relevant calls of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima to go back to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in this time characterized by so much modernities in life brought about by new technologies that also spawn more materialistic thoughts that are often relativistic.

How ironic that as we love to hate modern media, we ourselves have relied on them too these past months. We have relied more on numbers than with God, falling into the trappings of social media of all glitz and glamour that were empty and worst, not the reality at all! We have been warned long ago to never rely on what we see in media that are most often human constructs. There is only one reality in this life, in this world: Jesus Christ.

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:5-6

The recent events in the country speak so loud and clear of how we have forgotten Jesus Christ. We have believed so much in ourselves, especially some of us in the clergy who have crossed the lines or, moved the lines, so to speak, forgetting the most essential, the only one Real, the person of Jesus Christ and his universal message of love and salvation to everyone.

In all our efforts and endeavors in this world, especially in those advocacies and causes we passionately work for, may we not forget that ultimately, it is all about persons and not ideals. The ideals we work and stand for are good because of the persons we fight for and ultimately, because of its very roots, the Person of Jesus who called us to do his work or mission in liberating the people, especially the poor.

Jesus had told us that the way, the truth, and the life on this earth is himself, a Person. Our ways can disappear and become totally obsolete but Jesus is always relevant and accessible, most of all, infallible as we have reflected last Sunday in his being the Good Shepherd who gives us eternal life. That is why he is the way as well as the truth and the life for everything hangs together in himself.

This is the basic truth that the Blessed Mother expressed at Fatima that she insisted to the three children of the need for us to enter into an intimate relationship in Jesus Christ her Son through the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.

Going back to Jesus as Mama Mary had taught us is going back to prayers and the sacraments. Of course, they are not everything but what can we live on if we are empty of Jesus? The recent exchanges of insults are proofs enough of whether we have Jesus or not.

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

Life is filled with so many mysteries, with more questions than answers. We have had all these questions long before of actors/actresses getting elected to local posts and to both houses of Congress but until now we have refused to accept the answers that majority of voters are not like us – proof how we especially in the Church have always been detached from the rest of the people. Instead of spending too much time with politics and with social media, we must go out and reach out to those people at the margins, the poorest of the poor we find only in our countless documents but never inside the church.

When Jesus and later his Mother Mary told us the simple answer to our question verbalized by Thomas, that Jesus himself is the way and the truth and the life, we are reassured that there is no other secret path or road to fulfillment in this world and into heaven where he is preparing a room for us to dwell after this life. But for now, we have to focus on Jesus more because as he later stressed to Philip in our gospel today, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9) – which is a call to witnessing the gospel more than ever!

In the first reading, Paul reminds us of the wrong choices made by his countrymen and fellow Jews in crucifying Jesus Christ who rose again from the dead. His Resurrection is proof of how God continues to work for us in our favor despite and in spite of setbacks and even crushing defeats.

Never lose hope in God. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Like in 1917 when Mother Mary first appeared in Fatima, life was so difficult and truly uncertain with so many kinds of wars at all fronts like today. On this feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Mother Mary is assuring us of better days ahead despite trials and difficulties if we choose and remain in her Son Jesus Christ.

May the Blessed Mother of the Rosary, our Lady of Fatima, pray for us always. Amen.

From FB of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center, 06 May 2022.

“Sanaol”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in Third Week of Easter, 04 May 2022
Acts 8:1-8   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 6:35-40
Photo by author, ICSB in Malolos City, Summer 2021.
"Sanaol" - a wish and a prayer
that all may be blessed, 
that like the flowers of summer,
everyone may bloom in the Lord.
"Sanaol" was the good news
after that Pentecost when
Jesus Christ's good news of
salvation was proclaimed to all;
despite the persecutions that
began in Jerusalem and "all were
scattered throughout Judea and
Samaria, except the Apostles, 
there were great joy in that
city" (Acts 8:1, 8) because 
everyone was blessed, 
everyone was welcomed,
everyone was accepted.
"Sanaol", Lord Jesus,
would accept you in the 
Eucharist and eventually in
the person of everyone we meet;
it is you, dear Jesus, who brings
joy and fulfillment in everyone
of us whenever we receive and
welcome you in the Eucharist
and in every person we meet.

Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe.

John 6:35-36
What has happened to us,
Lord Jesus?
We have turned away from you 
and from each other, choosing to
believe in thoughts and ideas,
in personalities, and all the 
fancies around them from colors
to cults that have brought us 
divisions and even persecutions.

Let us seek you again, dear Jesus,
and listen more to your voice
than to all the noises barraging us
especially at this crucial time
of the elections.
"Sanaol" will listen to you again,
and find you anew in everyone. 
Amen.