Heaven our Promised Land

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Solemnity of All Saints, 01 November 2022
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14 ><}}}}*> 1 John 3:1-3 ><}}}}*> Matthew 5:1-12
Glory and praise to you,
O God our loving Father 
in fulfilling your Promised Land
to us all in Jesus Christ
in heaven!

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land.

Matthew 5:5
Thank you for the gift
of All Saints Day as we remember
and emulate those who have gone
ahead us into heaven,
the real Promised Land you
had promised since the beginning;
more than a piece of land nor a country
nor a continent nor a place in this planet,
your Promised Land dear God is heaven -
a sacred space within us where YOU and I,
Father, commune, live together as one in
Jesus Christ.
Heaven is the paradise Jesus
promised the thief on the Cross;
Heaven is when we live in communion
in Jesus Christ not only after we have died
but while we are still here on earth,
when we are meek and humble 
bearing in you and with you
the pains and sufferings
of lovingly serving others,
of working for peace, 
of hoping in eternity.
Inheriting the land, dear Jesus,
means orienting our goals into
striving to let your reign of peace
be a reality despite all the troubles
we have here on earth; after all,
history has shown us how the violent 
and powerful conquerors have come
and go when it is always the humble
and lowly who remain and last longer
just like the Saints now in heaven.
Enable us dear Jesus 
to alway listen and pray,
most of all abide in your words
like the Saints who have truly
lived out the Scriptures that they
have inherited heaven; like all the
Saints now in heaven, may we put
into practice the words of the Sacred
Scriptures no matter how we may 
sound and look foolish like with the experiences
of St. Paul, St. Francis, and St. John Paul II;
the Saints are the best examples 
of being meek to inherit the land
because in living out the Sacred Scriptures,
they have opened so many possibilities 
of good things in life in the future,
not only in heaven but here on earth
as testified by their many works
and teachings still continuing to this day.
As we slowly return
to normal these days, Jesus,
may we humbly return to you
in our Sunday Masses when
you as Prince of Peace reigns
supreme in your words proclaimed, 
in your offering of your Body and Blood,
when we also create a sacred space 
for you in our hearts so that every Eucharistic
celebration becomes a dress
rehearsal of our entry into heaven.

*Photo credits: from en.wikipedia.org painting by Fra Angelico called “The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs”.

Life is “face-to-face” – on earth and in eternity!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, 02 November 2021
Wisdom 3:1-9 ><}}}*> Romans 8:31-35, 37-39 ><}}}*> John 14:1-6
Photo by author, November 2020.
God our loving and merciful
Father in heaven, as we commemorate
today all the faithful departed on
this All Souls' Day, my thoughts are
still with this ongoing COVID-19 
Of how I lament the way authorities
continue to insist religious gatherings
as non-essential that despite the many
deaths since last year due to this pandemic,
our people are still denied of the chance to
pay respects to their departed loved ones
in the cemeteries when malls, restaurants,
and public places like tourist destinations
are opened and allowed to operate 
to revive the economy.
How sad, dear God, it is still the money
and the economy that matter for them
than the soul and spiritual needs of people.
But I am also thankful, Father
for the valuable lessons this pandemic
has taught us most especially the value
of every person seen in the beauty
 of "face-to-face" or F2F encounters
we all so desire these days;
due to the pandemic, we have realized
nothing beats face-to-face meetings,
personal and actual relationships
despite the conveniences of online classes
and work from home set ups or any
of those internet transactions. 
How funny, dear God,
now we realize "life is F2F",
face-to-face both here on earth
and in heaven, your best gift to us
to be present and actual with you
and with one another!
And so, through the assuring words
 of your Son Jesus Christ to "Do not let
your hearts be troubled.
  You have faith in God;
 have faith also in me.
In my Father's house
there are many dwelling places"
 (Jn.14:1), we pray for the souls
 of our departed loved ones
 to finally have that grace of seeing you,
merciful God and Father, face-to-face
in your eternal glory in heaven,
and not that soon, we too may join them
in that ultimate F2F, praising you,
thanking you for making us worthy
in Jesus Christ.
And while still here on earth
as we approach the end of 2021,
we pray most earnestly to you, O God,
that slowly we may have the grace
and joy of experiencing anew one another
face-to-face, celebrating life
more meaningfully as we continue
 to learn the harsh lessons of COVID-19.
Photo by author, November 2020.

Blessed are those who mourn

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of All Saints, 01 November 2021
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-24 ><]]]'> 1 John 3:1-3 ><]]]'> Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, 05 August 2021.

For the second time since last year, all roads do not lead to the cemeteries this November 1-2 due to the pandemic. While there is still that annual exodus to the provinces, the government has preferred to keep cemeteries closed despite the many casualties of COVID-19 while allowing malls and other establishments to operate, including the opening this week of favorite destinations of Baguio and Tagaytay.

Most unkind of all is how thousands of people were allowed including children to visit for several days Manila Bay’s newest attraction, the dolomite beach while cemeteries remain closed and religious gatherings still limited as this government is more concerned in “resurrecting” the economy than considering as “essential” at this time the people’s religious and spiritual needs.

And so, we mourn for the second straight year this November 1 and 2 not only for our departed loved ones but for the benighted souls of this Administration.

But, have a heart as we find solace and comfort in Jesus Christ who encourages us every year on this first day of November with his teachings on the Beatitudes which we hear proclaimed every Solemnity of All Saints. The Beatitudes reveal the mystery of Jesus Christ who invites us to enter into a communion in him by expressing also the meaning of being his disciples. Jesus is in fact every Beatitude – the one who is truly poor in spirit, the first to be persecuted, the one with a clean heart, and the peacemaker.

For this year, let us reflect on the second beatitude which we find very close to our situation under the COVID-19 pandemic as most of us have lost a family member or friends.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:1-4

Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

In a world that thrives and promotes so much fun and merry-making, our second beatitude is difficult to understand or even grasp in this time of the pandemic. What is “blessed” with grieving and mourning when you have lost a loved one so suddenly, without having the chance to even see them before they were cremated?

There are two kinds of mourning that the gospels offer us exemplified by the two most extreme of the Apostles, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and, Simon Peter who denied the Lord thrice (see “Jesus of Nazareth” by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, The Beatitudes, pp.86-89).

The first kind of mourning as shown by Judas Iscariot is when one has lost hope, succumbing to the miseries of losing a beloved and becomes mistrustful of love and of truth that leads to self-destruction. It is the worst kind of mourning that eats away and destroys man within just like Judas Iscariot who hanged himself.

Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:3-5

The second kind of mourning that Jesus must be referring to as “blessed” which leads to salvation is when the mourning is caused by an encounter with the truth that leads to conversion like what happened to Simon Peter who was struck by the gaze of Jesus that he burst into healing tears and cleansed his soul to enable him to begin anew in his life in the Lord.

Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord… He went out and began to weep bitterly.

Luke 22:60-61, 62

This will have its lovely conclusion eight days after Easter before Jesus ascended into heaven when he asked Simon Peter thrice, “Do you love me?” (Jn.21:15ff.) to remind him of that episode that eventually pushed him to follow Christ unreservedly “by taking care of his sheep”.

Blessed are those who weep because first of all, they have love in their hearts. Deaths and bad news that befall our loved ones sadden us, even jolt us with deep pain that move us to console them, to suffer with them, and to be one with them by reconnecting with them and their loved ones like when we go to a funeral or a wake.

This did not happen with Judas Iscariot. The little love he had in his heart when he realized his sin was completely wiped out when he chose to surrender totally to evil, finding no more hope for forgiveness and reconciliation with Jesus. When grief becomes so overpowering and consuming, it totally wipes out the embers of love left in our hearts and like Judas, that is when we choose to die miserably sad and separated from God who is love.

Never lose hope in Jesus. Seek that love in your heart. Seek Jesus in that tiny voice telling you to always come home to him. Do not be shy nor ashamed of your loss and failure. Keep that fire of love in Jesus burning.

Blessed are those who weep because more than the love they have in their hearts, they have been loved first of all. We weep and grieve the death of a beloved family member or relative or friend because of the love they have given us, of the kindness they have shown us, and the care they have lavished us.

Simon Peter did not merely have love in his heart. Luke dramatically described to us how Peter’s eyes met the merciful and loving eyes of Jesus while he was denying the Lord. It must have struck him so hard that immediately he felt contrition for his sin, feeling strongly the need to reform himself and reconnect with the Lord. He could not let the imperfect love he has in his heart to just go to waste that is why when he wept bitterly on that Holy Thursday evening, it was not the end but the beginning of another chapter in his beautiful story of love for Jesus. It was precisely what he meant when he told Jesus at Tiberias, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn.21:17) – that despite his weaknesses and failures, he loves Jesus, he tries so hard to love Jesus in his little ways.

When in the midst of great sufferings and pain specially after we have sinned or we have lost a loved one, we are blessed as we mourn and grieve because that is when we realize strongly our weakness and limitations that we reach out to God, to be nearer to him. To desire God in itself is always a grace and a blessing too!

Photo by author, 2018.

Blessed are those who mourn because that is when we actually stand for what is true and good, for what is just and right.

When we weep, it does not mean we have lost; in fact, even in the face of apparent loss like Jesus on the Cross, mourning is the most firm expression of our belief in what is right and just, and what is true and good.

The best scene for this kind of blessed mourning that leads to salvation is found at the death of Jesus Christ where his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary stood by the foot of his Cross with her cousin Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and the beloved disciple John (Ibid.,p. 87).

By standing at the foot of the Cross and later carrying in her arms the dead body of her Son Jesus Christ called La Pieta, Mary showed us that mourning is blessed because it is the strongest depiction of our solidarity with God, of our going against evil and sin.

In this world when conformity to whatever “everyone is doing” is the rule of the game like corruption, dishonesty, infidelity, lies and manipulation of people, mourning and weeping with the victims of oppression and persecution can be our strongest signs of protest and resistance against the prevailing evils of our time.

When we weep and mourn for victims of violence and evil, that is when we become God’s instruments of his comfort to his people. From the Latin words cum fortis “with strength”, to comfort means to strengthen those persecuted or oppressed or those facing intense sufferings and tests.

When we weep, when we grieve and mourn over a lost beloved or a lost cause, that is when God comforts us, when he makes us stronger in resisting evil and sin.

Ultimately, that is when our mourning leads to salvation, that is why blessed are those who mourn and weep.

What are your griefs today?

What do you mourn?

Blessed are you in your weeping not only in having love in your heart but most of all, for being loved. Dwell in the love of God in Jesus Christ like the saints who have gone ahead of us, resisting all evils and temptations to sin for the Lord comforts us his people always. Amen.

A blessed All Saints’ Day to you!

Prelude to leaving into living

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 31 October 2019

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

As the penultimate month of the year, November for me is something like Thursday – so relaxed when people seem to slow down in anticipation of the coming end of the year or week. It acts like a cushion to prepare us for the “stress” of December or Friday. Or, a prelude to leaving, then living.

Cold winds from Siberia we call amihan intensify during this month while autumn is about to end in the western hemisphere. The climate contributes greatly to this laid-back feeling in November almost everywhere, maybe except Down Under where I haven’t been to.

Photo by hiwa talaei on Pexels.com

Like autumn’s falling leaves, November is marked with three festivals associated with the dead to signal life and eternity.

On its first day, we celebrate All Saints’ Day in recognition of all the departed souls – including our beloved, of course! -now in heaven considered as “saints” aside from those canonized by the Church.

Day after tomorrow, November 2, we celebrate All Souls’ Day to pray for all those departed, especially our loved ones who are still awaiting entrance into heaven in Purgatory.

Then, on November 11, we celebrate St. Martin of Tours’ feast with a “Martinmas” in the old calendar of the Church after which Advent began for the Christmas countdown. Winter also starts in Europe and North America after the Martinmas immortalised in some poems and literature of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Incidentally, St. Martin of Tours (France) used to be a major saint in Europe because he is one of those first saints recognised by the Church as holy people who have died not as martyrs when persecution finally stopped and Christendom started to rise and “flex” her influence.

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

Today, November 11 is celebrated as “Remembrance Day” in Europe along with the Commonwealth nations of Britain and “Veterans Day” in the United States in honor of those who have died in the line of duty during the First World War that ended at the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year” in 1918. Red poppies take the centerstage on this day to signify the blood offered by the fallen soldiers in that first world war, something very similar to the Christian thinker Tertullian’s assertion that “the blood of the martyrs are the seeds of the Church.”

So many deaths, but so many lives too!

And that is why we celebrate these feasts, whether in the Church or in our civil society.

This is the tragedy of our time when despite all the technological advances and affluence we now have, the more we have been saddled with fear and pains of death and dying.

Focus is more on death as a solution, as an end.

Or, as an entertainment like the pagans in ancient Rome’s Colesseum and of many benighted Christians today celebrating spooky Halloween that underscores the debunked dark side of death.

Photo by Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

In the Old Testament, death was a curse to man’s sins but with Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, death has become a blessing because he has made it our passing too into eternal life.

No, there is no gap between this life and life-after. It is a continuum where death is just a prelude to eternity.

November is a wonderful reminder to us all of this truth we seem to have forgotten these days when all we see and even seek is darkness and death.

November is like a door opening us towards the end of the year that leads us to new year. The weather is so lovely, not so cold and not so hot, perfectly reminding of the beauty of life and reality of death that invites us to live fully and authentically.

This long weekend, I strongly recommend you read Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s second encyclical, Spe Salvi that speaks a lot about the beauty of this life and life-after. His reflections are simple yet so profound and so touching like the following.

“Man’s great, true hope which he holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God… Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.

Spe Salvi, number 27.

One of the beautiful movies I have seen while on vacation in November-December 2005 at the US East Coast was “The Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise who was asked by the boy Emperor of Japan at the end, “Tell me, how did my samurai die?” Tom Cruise replied, “I shall not tell you how your samurai died but how he lived!”

Live life, share life, enjoy life in God and with others!

Ang ating kamukha

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-28 ng Oktubre 2019

Mula sa Google.
Todos los Santos na naman
at kay laking kabaligtaran
naka-ugalian ng karamihan
ipagdiwang mga aswang at katatakutan
sa halip na mga banal at kanilang kabutihan.
Dati-rati nama'y hindi laganap
sa ating kapuluan banyagang kaugalian
pagdiriwang ng Halloween na nasira
tunay na kahulugan sa kaisipan ng mga
makamundong taga-kanluran.
Halloween ang taguring na nagmula sa 
pinagsamang "hallowed evening"
na kahuluga'y "gabi ng mga banal"
ngunit pilit binabalikan ng mga hangal
maling paniniwala noon pa napasinungalingan.
Akala ng mga paganong Druids 
ng Scotland at Wales sa Bretanya noong unang-una
lumilitaw sa lupa tuwing katapuasan ng Oktubre
mga impakto at masasamang espiritu
upang makabihag ng mga tao.
Nagdaramit sila at nag-aayos na nakakatakot
parang multo, kamukha ng mga lamang lupa
sa paniniwalang malilito mga impakto na sila'y kasamahan
kampon ng kadiliman at kasamaan
kaya sila iniiwan at hindi sinasaktan.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Maraming Kristiyano hindi ito nalalaman ni nauunawaan
nakalimutan pangunahing katotohanan ating pinananaligan
nang pumarito si Hesu Kristo, kanya nang tinalo
kapangyarihan ng demonyo
nang pumaroon siya sa dako ng mga yumao.
Nang mabuhay mag-uli ang Panginoong Hesu Kristo
napanibago niya buong sangnilikha
higit sa lahat, muli nating nakamukha
Diyos Ama sa ati'y lumikha,
tiniyak ating tahahanan sa piling niya sa kalangitan.
Bakit nga ba ikaw, Kristiyano
ang siya pa ngayong lito at sadyong lilo
mas ibig pag makamukha mga impakto at demonyo
nakukuha pa ninyong matuwa at ikagalak
mga anak ninyong mukhang tiyanak?!
Akala ba ninyo demonyo ang mga nalilito 
sa inyong pagbibihis at pag-aanyong multo?
Hindi ba ninyo batid kayo ang nalilinlang
sa pagdaramit at pag-aayos ng hunghang
at magtataka pa kayo asal ng inyong anak parang animal?
Madalas kay hirap unawain mga gawi natin 
na katakutan kabutihan at katuwaan ang kasamaan;
sadya nga bang atin nakalimutan
dakilang karangalang tayo'y nilalang
katulad at kawangis ng mabuting Maykapal?
Diyos ang kamukha natin
kanyang liwanag sana'y mabanaagan din sa atin
upang maghatid ng kagalakang bumubukal
sa malinis at magandang kalooban
lipos ng kabanguhan ng kabutihan at kadalisayan.