Christmas is being grateful

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Seventh Day of Christmas Novena, 22 December 2022
1 Samuel 1:24-28     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Luke 1:46-56

Christmas is a call for us to be grateful. Only a grateful heart can truly be emptied and be filled with Jesus Christ. A heart that truly praises God is first of all a grateful heart. Mary’s song, the Magnificat is a both a song of thanksgiving and gratitude to God for all his wondrous blessings to her and to mankind in general.

Yesterday we heard how Mary hastily went to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judea to share with her the Good News she had received, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. After being praised by Elizabeth, Mary responded today not by praising her cousin as we would always do; she instead praised and thanked God.

Again, we hear today wonderful stories of women – not just two like yesterday but three! – who were so blessed by God, thanking and praising God for blessing them with sons: Hannah in the first reading for her son Samuel who became one of Israel’s greatest prophet, Mary pregnant with Jesus Christ while visiting her cousin Elizabeth who was sixth month pregnant with John.

See how Hannah as a sign of her gratitude to God through the priest Eli who promised to pray for her to conceive a son gave Samuel at a very young age to serve in the Lord’s altar. The same is true with Mary in singing the Magnificat when she reaffirmed her fiat to God, of being his ever-faithful handmaid doing his will always.

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”

Luke 1:46-49
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 20 December 2022, Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

Gratitude is a virtue that works great wonders for everyone because it makes us live in the present moment. A grateful person is one who lives in the here and now, not in the past nor in the future. Look at the structure of Mary’s Magnificat that is in the present tense.

When our heart is filled with gratitude, we have no time to complain and nurse old wounds and pains in the past but simply learn from them and move on with life. Living in the present moment means making things happen, working hard on our dreams and aspirations to become a reality, exactly what the Magnificat is telling us! How are we going to continue God’s wondrous works like Mary? By remaining faithful to Jesus Christ all the way to his Cross on Good Friday.

People who refuse to be grateful in life are busy wishful thinking of how things should be or would be, always looking at the future as a fantasy that would just pop out of nowhere instead of working for it in the present moment.

Unknown to many, gratitude is the fount of all good vibes in life, enabling us to be more positive than negative. It helps us accept the reality we are into – whether it is good or bad.

And that is when we start growing and maturing as persons when we learn to accept our present realities.

Most of all, gratitude disposes us to more blessings and grace from God because a thankful heart is always the one that seeks relationships, with God and with others. See that Mary did not sing her Magnificat while with the angel Gabriel after announcing the birth of Christ nor after he had left, right in the comforts of her home. Mary went in haste to Judea to celebrate and thank God’s gifts with her cousin Elizabeth.


People who go out of their way to say thank you, 
to express gratitude are person-oriented. 
They see more the persons 
not just the kind deeds done to them 
and beautiful gifts given them. 

Very often, people thank us priests especially for praying for them, enlightening and guiding them. That is why people lavish us with all kinds of gifts. Every time people thank me, I tell them, “kami po ang dapat magpasalamat sa inyo kasi lumalago kami kay Kristo!” In my 24 years as a priest, I have realized that the more faithful we are in serving God through his people, the more we are blessed and hence, the more we must be grateful!

People who go out of their way to say thank you, to express gratitude are person-oriented. They see more the persons not just the kind deeds done to them and beautiful gifts given them. When we say thank you, when we let others know of how grateful we are, we recognize their personhood that is why we reach out to them, trying to connect with them and befriend them. Or, to keep our ties alive and strong. As the old song says, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Remember the ten lepers healed by Jesus Christ on his way to Jerusalem?

Only one returned – a Samaritan – to thank Jesus. He was the only one who was “saved” when Jesus told him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you” (Lk.17:19).

Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 20 December 2022 in Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

Gratitude is a very practical virtue, “the parent of all virtues” according to the Roman scholar and statesman Cicero. It is the one virtue we need to recapture and reacquire in this time to make through the many challenges and trials this pandemic has brought us. Instead of complaining and being so sorry with the plight we are into due to COVID-19, let us start counting our many blessings in life to see the vast opportunities and lessons this crisis has given us. In fact, the more this pandemic has persisted, the more blessings we can find that we must be thankful too.

Because of the pandemic, we have learned to cherish more one another as we come to value persons and life again more than things. There are so many things we have to be grateful in life during this time of the pandemic, perhaps even more than the sufferings and trials we have gone through as it opened to us new views and perceptions about life itself.

Most of all, it had brought us back to the grounding of our being, to God who is life himself, the source of all good things we have long forgotten and now remember. And rightly praise and thank. That is why I keep on telling everyone, God willed Christmas 2022 falls on a Sunday so we may personally, face-to-face celebrate together. And thank him through the people he has given us! Let us pray:

My soul also proclaims 
your greatness, O Lord Jesus Christ
like Mary your Mother!
Thank you for the gift of life
with all of its pains and hurts
that have strengthened me,
for all the joys that have enriched me.
Most of all, for the call to serve you.
Who am I, O Lord, to be called
and visited by you?
Many times I have failed you
yet you keep on coming, still calling me,
still believing in me, still trusting me.
What else can I say except 
thank you from the bottom of my heart.
As your birthday approaches,
as my gift to you dearest Jesus,
enable me to remain faithful to you
like Mary your Mother and our Mother too
even up to your Cross.  
Here am I, Lord, send me.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 19 December 2022 in Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

Coming to Jesus who comes

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the First Week of Advent, 28 November 2022
Isaiah 4:2-6   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Matthew 8:5-11
Photo by author, 27 November 2022.
Thank you very much,
dear Jesus for the gift of Advent,
for your promise to come again
after you have come
and still come;
let me come rejoicing
to your house, O Lord!

I rejoiced because they said to me, “We will go up to the house of the Lord.” And now have set foot within your gates, O Jerusalem. Because of my relatives and friends I will say, “Peace be within you!” Because of the house of the Lord, our God, I will pray for your good.

Psalm 122: 1-2, 8-9
As I look back to 2022 about to end,
the more I believe in your Second Coming,
Lord Jesus; with grateful heart,
I praise and thank you, Lord,
in letting us survive this year,
in letting us survive this pandemic
as you washed us all clean from our sins
that was long seen by Isaiah
and fulfilled in your coming.
Let me come to you, Lord,
like that centurion,
filled with faith and trust
in his belief in you,
in your powerful coming
even in words.
Amen.

Grateful and challenged

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Twenty-Eighth Week of Ordinary Time, 14 October 2022
Ephesians 1:11-14     ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>     Luke 12:1-7
Photo by author, Sonnen Berg, Davao City, 2018.

In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14
God our loving Father,
I praise and thank you for
another week about to end;
most of all, I am deeply grateful
to you that despite my sins
and weaknesses, 
my nothingness before you
and others, you have chosen me,
you have called me and 
sealed me with your Holy Spirit.
What a loving God and Father
we truly have in you!
As proof of your love,
you have given us your Son
Jesus Christ who shared in our
humanity so we can share 
your divinity; but so many times,
I leave him,
doubting his ways,
fearful of his challenges.
Forgive me, O Lord,
when many times
I doubt your calls
and your gifts to me,
when I fail to be true to you
and others, even to my very self
that I resort to hypocrisy -
that leaven of the Pharisees
Jesus had warned us;
let that truth sink in me
that I am "worth than many
sparrows" (Lk.12:7) 
that I may dare to rise 
and stand firm by your side
on the Cross.
Amen.

Faithful, grateful, and joyful

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 09 October 2022
2 Kings 5:14-27  ><000'>  2 Timothy 2:8-13  ><000'>  Luke 17:11-19
Photo by author, Egypt, May 2019.

Many times in life as we age and look back to our past, we find that our journeys are not geographical at all but more of spiritual ones. No matter how many places we visit or stay, our journeys actually happen within that lead us to our true selves, to others and finally, to God.

This is what St. Luke has been doing every Sunday as he guides us in following Jesus in his itinerary since he “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” last Sunday of June (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday); the path we have been following is not really geographical but theological in nature.

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed.

Luke 17:11-14
Photo by author, Egypt, May 2019.

Again, our gospel this Sunday is so brief with many layers of meanings found only in St. Luke. Imagine Jesus going through pagan districts like Samaria where his fellow Jews never dared to go. That is how immense is God’s love for us – even if we undeserving of his love, he sent Jesus to look for us sinners signified by the ten lepers he had healed.

In fact, some exegetes claim the wording for the “ten lepers” who met Jesus should have been “ten men with leprosy” for a more accurate translation of the Greek leproi andres. According to them, St. Luke was emphasizing here that no matter what weaknesses we are afflicted with, we are still the same persons and human beings loved by God. Very often in life, we categorize and define people by their sin and weakness or crime and worst, by illness and defects as seen in our penchant for bansag (Filipino for name calling) like Kardong mandurugas or si Putol or even tabachoy!

St. Luke wants us to see everyone first as a human being, a person so loved by Jesus; whatever weaknesses we have must come later. This I insist during confessions to penitents to never call one’s self as “thief” if you have stolen something nor “liar” if you have lied because we all remain God’s beloved children even if we have sinned.

Photo by author, 2018.

There is no doubt in God’s love for us despite our being “unworthy servants” and being afflicted with leprosy, or whatever. What matters to him is the fact we are his beloved children. That is why in the first reading, God healed Naaman through his prophet Elisha despite his being a pagan and unbeliever. And worst of all, an enemy of Israel being a Syrian army general! St. Paul beautifully expressed this truth about God’s love and mercy in Christ found in our second reading today:

This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

2 Timothy 2:11-13

What are the other diseases and ailments that make us cry “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us”? These are not literally a disease or sickness like leprosy but may have the same effects of alienation and depression with us like a vice too difficult to kick like drugs and alcohol or may be indifference and racism by others to us or our “self inflicted” ailments of arrogance, self-centeredness, and self-righteousness.

Many times, we hardly notice we are being healed slowly by Jesus of our many infirmities because our faith has never deepened and matured. The Samaritan noticed his healing because of the ten with leprosy, he was the only one truly faithful in awaiting Jesus Christ. He had faith in Jesus and though it was so small or too little, he had that faith nurtured that the moment he saw his skin cleansed, he remembered Jesus right away. As we have reflected last Sunday, faith is a relationship we keep, nurture and strengthen.

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Luke 17:15-19
Photo by author, Caesarea, Israel 2017.

The scene is so lovely because the Samaritan healed of leprosy teaches us that grateful people are also faithful – and joyful ones! Faith is a relationship that is nourished by gratitude wherein we not only thank God and other people who have blessed us but also remain with them and in them; hence, we keep on coming back to thank them.

The more grateful we are to God and other people, the more we are blessed, the more we become joyful, and the more our faith is deepened! As we walk in faith in Jesus, experiencing those daily suffering and dying to self, we become more aware too of our rising to new life in him. That is when miracles happen as we return and stay in Jesus to praise and thank him like that Samaritan man healed of his leprosy. Or Naaman who asked to bring home some soil from Israel so he could worship God and nurture his relationship with him in the process.

Photo by author, 2021.

Faith, gratitude, and joy always come together. We experience them every Sunday in the celebration of the Eucharist that means “thanksgiving” in Greek.

The Eucharist is the expression of our faith in God in Jesus Christ that also expresses our gratitude to him for all the blessings he abundantly pours upon us. As the summit of our Christian life, the Eucharist defines our worship and living because it is the only way we can truly express our faith and gratitude to God who wishes only our salvation in his Son Jesus Christ.

In the Eucharist, it is not only the bread and wine that are changed into Body and Blood of Christ but even us who are made perfect in Jesus as his disciples and members of his Body, the Church.

In the Eucharist we experience the joys of being faithful, thankful and joyful because that is where we are saved as we encounter Christ in the most intimate and personal manner in his Body and Blood who slowly transforms us in him as we receive him.

Let us imitate that Samaritan healed by Jesus to always be grateful to Jesus, to finally go back to the Sunday Mass F2F, so that together we may all grow in faith and be joyful for being saved. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

The vessels of God’s grace to us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 08 December 2021
Genesis 3:9-15, 20 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Santuario di Greccio, Rieti, Italy in 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father
in giving us a Mother in Mary
who gave birth to your Son Jesus
in order to save us from our sins!
Indeed, nothing is impossible 
with you, dear God as you willed
Mary to be conceived immaculately
free from any sin to be pure and
clean to receive Jesus in her womb.
Because of that, she is rightly
called as our "advocate of grace"
and "model of holiness" for through
her, your life and blessings overflowed
upon us in Christ's coming.
And so, we pray to you, Father
in the name of Jesus our Lord
for all the people who have been
channels of your grace to us
like Mary:  our beloved mothers and
fathers who brought us forth into this
world and nurtured us in your love,
still patiently bearing all of life's
beatings and sufferings for our own
good and comfort; we pray for our
siblings, especially our elder brothers
and sisters who have faithfully acted as
our parents too after they were gone
who ensured our safety and well-being,
our sources of joy when life is rough;
we pray for our friends who have remained
faithful by our side through thick and 
thin, still believing in us despite our sins
and failures; we pray for our employers
and superiors and colleagues at work
who give us the chance to earn our
living with dignity and honor so we can 
keep ourselves and loved ones warm and
secured specially in this time of the pandemic.
Most of all, we pray for your Holy Spirit,
dear Father, to always enlighten our
minds and our hearts so that like Mary
we may always be open to Christ's
coming not only to share him with 
others but most of all like Mary his Mother,
we too may be conformed in him
our Savior as you have willed since
the beginning.  Amen.

The wonders of gratitude

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 July 2021
Photo by author, 2019.

Along with the word “please”, saying “thank you” is one of the virtues we have been taught since childhood with hopes the values they impart become part of our lives like a habit or something good we can keep doing for the rest of our lives.

Unfortunately, we only learn but do not necessarily remember our lessons.

Saying thank you and please have long been at the brink of extinction, so endangered in our fast paced and consumeristic society.

Thanks to COVID-19. The pandemic that refuses to end and continues to threaten our well-being and sanity has taught us to recapture and relearn gratitude expressed in the simple words thank you the world has seemed to almost forgotten.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, 2020.

Gratitude is a virtue that works great wonders for everyone because it makes us live in the present moment. A grateful person is one who lives in the here and now, not in the past nor in the future.

When our heart is filled we gratitude, we have no time to complain and nurse old wounds and pains in the past but simply learn from them and move on with life. Living in the present moment means making things happen, working hard on our dreams and aspirations to become a reality. People who refuse to be grateful in life are busy wishful thinking of how things should be or would be, always looking at the future as a fantasy that would just pop out of nowhere instead of working for it in the present moment.

Unknown to many, gratitude is the fount of all good vibes in life, enabling us to be more positive than negative. It helps us accept the reality we are into – whether it is good or bad.

And that is when we start growing and maturing as persons when we learn to accept our present realities.

Most of all, gratitude disposes us to more blessings and grace from God because a thankful heart is always the one that seeks relationships, with God and with others.


   People who go out of their way to say thank you,  
to express gratitude are person-oriented.   
They see more the persons
  not just the kind deeds done to them  
and beautiful gifts given them. 

People who go out of their way to say thank you, to express gratitude are person-oriented. They see more the persons not just the kind deeds done to them and beautiful gifts given them. When we say thank you, when we let others know of how grateful we are, we recognize their personhood that is why we reach out to them, trying to connect with them and befriend them. Or, to keep our ties alive and strong. As the old song of my father’s generation would go, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Remember the ten lepers healed by Jesus Christ on his way to Jerusalem?

Only one returned – a Samaritan – to thank Jesus.

Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Luke 17:17-19

From being cleansed like the nine others, it was only the Samaritan who returned to thank Jesus was healed – or saved – from his sickness. Healing is something more than a cure of one’s disease that refers to total well-being of one who is restored not only to health but into life as whole.

Gratitude is a very practical virtue, “the parent of all virtues” according to the Roman scholar and statesman Cicero. It is the one virtue we need to recapture and reacquire to make through the many challenges and trials this pandemic has brought us.

Instead of complaining and being so sorry with the plight we are into due to COVID-19, let us start counting our many blessings in life to see the vast opportunities and lessons this crisis has given us. In fact, the more this pandemic has persisted, the more blessings we can find that we must be thankful too.

Because of the pandemic, we have learned to cherish more one another as we come to value persons and life more than things again. Aside from learning how to cook and bake during the lockdowns, we learned to value food anew, not to mention the new source of income for many.

There are so many things we have to be grateful in life during this time of the pandemic, perhaps even more than the sufferings and trials we have gone through as it opened to us new views and perceptions about life itself.

Most of all, it had brought us back to the grounding of our being, God who is life himself, the source of all good things we have long forgotten and now remember. And rightly praise and thank. Amen.

From iStockphoto.com.