Advent is for building up

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the First Week of Advent, 01 December 2022
Isaiah 26:1-6   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 7:21, 24-27
Thank you, dear God,
our loving Father,
for this month of December,
for the year about to end,
most especially for this new
beginning of Advent!
Make us strong
like your new city of Jerusalem:
"A strong city have we;
he sets up walls and ramparts
to protect us" (Is.26:1) - Jesus Christ
who had come, will come again 
and comes!
Many times your strength
in us, O God, could not be felt
nor experienced because we have
been weak in doing what is good;
many times with closed minds and
hearts believing only in ourselves
than being open to welcome Jesus 
your Son into our lives;
many times, we profess our faith
in you only in words and mouth,
calling out "Lord, Lord"
without conviction
and concrete action
as a disciple;
make us wise, Lord, and return
to you to build up our faith,
to build up our lives,
to build up our ties and
relationships in you through 
others. 
Amen.

Refresh my heart in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope & Doctor of the Church, 10 November 2022
Philemon 7-20   ><]]]'> + <'[[[><  ---+---  ><]]]'> + <'[[[><   Luke 17:20-25
Photo by author, 25 October 2022 in Dau, Mabalacat, Pampanga.
Your words today are so lovely,
dear Jesus, spoken through St. Paul
in his letter to Philemon asking him 
to take back his former slave Onesimus:
"I, Paul, write this in my own hand:  I will pay. 
May I not tell you that you owe me your very self.
Yes, brother, may I profit from you in the Lord.
Refresh my heart in Christ" 
(Philemon 19-20).
So nice of St. Paul to ask Philemon
to "refresh my heart in Christ"...
but, can we refresh one's heart in you, Lord?
Are you not the only one who can refresh our hearts?
Dearest Jesus,
many times in life like St. Paul
when we face so much difficulties,
we seek rest and affirmations 
that you are still with us,
that you have never left us
not because we doubt you
but because we feel tired,
we feel weak,
our spirits sag;
but when we hear people
doing your work,
expressing their faith, hope and love
in you in the most extraordinary ways
like doing the almost impossible,
our hearts are renewed,
our hearts are refreshed in you!
Like Philemon who had been cheated
or placed on the losing end when his slave Onesimus
fled from him; it must be so difficult for him
to take back Onesimus, to forgive and forget
his transgressions, most of all, 
to regard him as a brother without casting 
any doubts on his conversion
and reason for being a Christian.
So many hearts must have also been
refreshed in you, O Jesus Christ,
by the saints like St. Leo the Great
in his great works explaining your 
mystery of Incarnation,
in his touching homilies,
and handling of the barbarians
attacking Rome at that time;
his zeal and faith in you in achieving
so much feats as a pastor and administrator
refreshed many hearts in Christ
in those dark times following the fall of Rome
that until now upon learning his story
others continue to strive to be holy;
The Good Nurse is another notable
disciple you have used to refresh our tired
hearts in setting things right even if the
big bosses could not stand up against
systematic evil in their organizations.
Indeed, Lord Jesus,
"the Kingdom of God is among us"
not outside observable things
as you explained to the Pharisees 
its coming in today's gospel (Lk.17:20-21);
 touch us and fill us with your grace
to do your works, to be more loving and kind,
merciful and forgiving
so that in our witnessing, 
in our apostolate and ministry,
in our daily living of your Gospel
we may refresh the hearts
of those with sagging spirits
and joy in making you present
in the world.
Amen.

When our skin is detached from our soul

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious, 03 November 2022
Philippians 3:3-8   ><]]]'> + <'[[[>< ~~ ><]]]'> + <'[[[><   Luke 15:1-10
Your words today, O Lord,
are so lovely,
so picturesque,
so fitting in our celebration
of the memorial of 
St. Martin de Porres:
right away as I prayed
St. Paul's letter to the Philippians,
I felt your Spirit leading me to examine
my body, my skin, my very self.
Every time I am so absorbed 
with my self, with my body and skin,
with my outward appearance,
of how people see me and
how I project myself to them,
there is that Paul in me,
that attitude of his kin
of feeling so good,
so special,
so worthy
and so entitled
in life and even to God.

…although I myself have grounds for confidence even in flesh, all the more can I. Circumcised on the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrew parentage, in observance of the law a Pharisee, in zeal I persecuted the Church, in righteousness based on the law I was blameless.

Philippians 3:4-6
How funny it is, dear Jesus,
that so often my skin is detached 
from my soul, from my heart, 
from my being and from you, 
my root and essence;
more funny is that as I cling
to my skin color and outside appearances,
the more I turn away from you
just like "the Pharisees and scribes
who distanced themselves from you,
complaining at how tax collectors and sinners
were all drawing near to you" (cf. Lk. 15:1-2)!
Through the example of 
St. Martin de Porres who was
rejected by his own father and
others because of his skin color,
teach me to look more inside
my heart and my soul 
to find you in me and in others;
like St. Paul, open my mind
and my heart, my whole self 
to you Christ Jesus
and "consider everything as a loss
because of the supreme good 
of knowing you my Lord" (Phil.3:8)!
Amen.

Wala lang…

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-17 ng Oktubre 2022
Larawan kuha ni Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Marso 2022.
"Wala lang"...
mga salitang ating
madalas bitiwan at
mapakinggan
harapan man
o text lamang
nagpapagaan
dahil ramdam
bukal sa kalooban
isang nilalang 
naalala, naisip
kahit saglit lamang.
Pero, maniniwala ka bang
"wala lang"
at biglaang sumagi
ka lang sa isipan nang di inaasahan?
Kung talagang "wala lang"
paanong pumasok itong "wala"
sa isipan at bakit kailangan pang
bigkasin at sabihin
sa ano mang paraan
kung "wala" lang naman
sana ay hinayaan na lang
maglaho hanggang malimutan?
Kasi naman ang katotohan
nitong sinasabing "wala lang"
ay malaman at makahulugan
kung nanamnaming lubusan
hindi kaagad maintindihan
nitong puso at kalooban
tunay na nararamdaman
walang ibang alam mausal
kungdi "wala lang" sa pangambang
magkaroon ng ibang kahulugan
at mauwi lang ang lahat
sa kawalan.
Kaya sa susunod
na bitiwan o mapakinggan
mga salitang "wala lang"
huwag paniwalaang wala lang
dahil ito ay malaman
malalim at makahulugan
ikaw ay pinahahalagahan
laging laman ng puso at isipan
hindi sa ano pa man
kungdi sadyang ganyan
bawat tulak ng bibig
ay siyang kabig ng dibdib!

Prayer is emptiness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Bruno, Priest, 06 October 2022
Galatians 3:1-5   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 11:5-13
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 10 September 2022.
Remind us, 
O Lord Jesus Christ,
that "while the world changes,
the cross stands firm",
that you alone, 
Jesus Christ
is our salvation
and way to perfection
as the Carthusians
had held for almost 
a thousand years.
Like St. Bruno
their founder and father,
let us "seek God 
assiduously
to find God promptly
and to possess God
fully."

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks the door, the door will be opened.”

Luke 11:9-10
Stop our foolishness,
our being stupid like the
Galatians as St. Paul
called them in the first reading:
prayer is not an ATM
where we go to get cash
we need nor an apps
when we can just seek,
find and have whatever
we desire and need;
PRAYER IS EMPTINESS.
Teach us Jesus 
to lay ourselves bare,
to strip ourselves
naked before you;
teach us to ask for YOU,
to seek YOU,
and to enter YOU.
How foolish we
have become
that we have been
misleading people
from you because 
we teach wrongly
about prayer that
is centered on us
and our needs and
desires, making God
a Santa Claus
or even a genie.
Make us persevere
in emptying ourselves
of our pride
to be filled with your 
humility and love,
to be an indwelling
of the Holy Spirit
so that we become more
like you, Jesus,
fulfilled and at peace.
Amen.

Finding our proper place

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 28 August 2022
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 ><}}}*> Luke 14:1, 7-14
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan City, 31 December 2021.

Sometimes I feel life in the Philippines is a daily game of musical chair with each of us trying to secure our favorite seats in the bus or jeepney or train, in the classroom, in the church, in the restaurant. Everywhere.

And the favorite seats are always the ones at the back of the room most especially in churches and those nearest the door like in buses and jeepneys.

Most funny of all is when you find our kababayan in airports here and abroad rushing to board the plane as if they would not find a seat already paid for!

All because we put too much premium on our seats that mean power and control, even prestige although no one among us would admit it. In fact, our usual excuse of being seated at the back is due to shyness which is not true at all! More truthful is the fact that too often, we choose our seats for personal convenience that seats are everything for us.

But, unknown to many of us, what truly matters most in life, in being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not where we sit but where we stand which is the gist of our gospel this Sunday.

On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

Luke 14:1,7
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

See how Luke had briefly compressed in his opening lines for this Sunday’s gospel the gravity of Christ’s teachings today about discipleship. Setting was the most important day of the week for the Jews, the Sabbath, celebrated right in the house of a leading Pharisee.

Wow! It must had been a big party with all the “who’s who” that everybody was trying to get a piece of the action with all eyes on Jesus being observed carefully.

But, why?

To impress him? To be closer to him? To test him as most often would happen with him when in a gathering of people?

I find the scene overloaded with meanings that concern us when unconsciously we also “closely observe Jesus” whenever we would pray and celebrate the Sunday Mass in our parishes. There are times we forget God in our prayers as we are so preoccupied with our very selves, so focused and even insistent on what we believe and hold on to whatever we are asking from him. The “me, me, me” and “I, I, I” attitudes of being right, of being good, of being deserving and of course, entitled. Hence, the confiteor and kyrie are merely recited just for the sake of saying we are sorry for our sins even if we do not really mean them because so often, many are either late or do not examine their consciences.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Luke seems to be having some shades of humor when he noted how the “people carefully observed Jesus” at the dinner without them realizing the Lord himself had already and easily unmasked their pretensions and true characters of choosing the places of honor at the dinner that he had to tell them a parable about choosing the lowest seat!

When we come to the Lord most especially at prayer and the Mass, or even to a party and dinner for that matter, our main attitude must be of humility; to be invited to any party is an indication of our special relationship with the host. Multiply this to the highest degree in coming to the Holy Mass and simple prayer because it is God who gives us the grace to come to him, who values so much our relationship as Father and beloved children.

That is the point of Ben Sirach in the first reading, tenderly addressing the reader “My child, conduct your affairs with humility” (Sir.3:17), indicative of a relationship.

Every Sunday Mass is a banquet of the Lord like that Sabbath dinner Jesus attended in the gospel. No need to choose our places of honor because we are already honored by Jesus to celebrate “in him, with him and through him”. It is the very reason why we must celebrate Mass every Sunday as good, practicing Catholics.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Prayer and Mass are moments we strip ourselves naked before God who welcomes us to come near him even before we say sorry for our sins, even if we are not worthy of being in his presence at all. Recall the story of the calling of Nathanael or St. Bartholomew the Apostle last Wednesday; like him, Jesus had already seen and known us with joy long before we have approached him!

Every prayer moment, every Eucharistic celebration like a banquet on a Sabbath Jesus attended in the gospel today is an occasion for us to be truthful and sincere, to be our true selves, to be humble. St. Teresa of Avila said that “humility is walking in truth.” Just be yourself before God.

That is why Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk.14:11). In the end, when we die, we shall all be placed in our proper places before God; hence, the need for us to be humble and sincere with who we really are. Do not try to be somebody else not you because God knows everything, even the hair on our heads.

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14
Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

The first parable was addressed by Jesus to the guests while this second parable was meant for the host; however, both parables are meant for us all who are all guests of God in this big banquet called life that leads to eternity.

First of all, just be our true and best selves in prayers and in life for we are all honored in Jesus Christ as God’s beloved children.

And if we live and act like Jesus our Host making him the most important guest in our hearts, then our hearts become big enough to welcome everyone, especially “the crippled, the lame, the blind”, making us inclusive like Jesus himself and not exclusive as our seating arrangements would often reveal.

The right attitude in being a guest and a host in this life is to imitate God in the responsorial psalm “who made a home for the poor”, of being like Jesus welcoming everyone with love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, care and understanding.

Again, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews beautifully reminds us today in the second reading that the ultimate goal of our Christian life is communion with God that starts here in this life on earth. Every Mass is a “dress rehearsal” of our entrance into heaven because

Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which cold be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy and darkness… No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven… and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Hebrews 12:18, 22, 23, 24
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

My dear fellow journeyers in Christ, the blessedness of this Sunday shows us how fast time flies, that in a few days, it would be September, the beginning of the -ber months, the approaching Christ the King celebration to close our liturgical calendar.

Before thinking of Advent and Christmas, we are reminded today of “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday, June 26, 2022) to face his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Along the way are invitations to join him too in banquets; let us not seek the seats of honor but instead be firm in making our stand for Jesus on the Cross by being loving and merciful like him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

“Where is my new heart, Lord?”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 18 August 2022
Ezekiel 36:23-28   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by author, Makati skyline at dusk from Antipolo, 13 August 2022.
Your words today, O God
are so reassuring,
so comforting and consoling:
"I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place
a new spirit within you, taking from your
bodies your stony hearts and giving you
natural hearts" (Ezekiel 36:25-26).
As I dwell on your words,
including the psalms taken from
my favorite chapter 51 called
"miserere nobis" (have mercy on me),
your Holy Spirit prompted me,
even insisted me to ask, "where is my
new heart, Lord?"
Many of us wonder, Lord, where is my 
new heart of flesh, the new spirit
within me you have promised?
Why do I not feel your clean water
cleansing me of my impurities?
Why do I still feel tired, sometimes
uninspired, even lost and alienated,
losing hope, getting cynical,
feeling so low?
Has the Lord taken back our new hearts
and new spirit within he had promised?
Of course not!
God has given us with new hearts,
new spirit within by cleansing us with
clean water to remove our impurities
in the Passion, Death and Resurrection
of Jesus Christ, his Son and our Savior.
In baptism, we have been cleansed
and we are continually cleansed of our
impurities in the sacraments we celebrate
like the Holy Eucharist.
And there lies the problem
when we do not feel our new hearts,
new spirit:  when we refuse to join your
celebrations, O Lord, like in your parable.
Not only that:  teach us too to rise to
your celebrations, dearest Lord;
let us change our inner selves in more
prayers and introspection and confession
of sins so that we may be transformed to 
better persons as Christians; clothe us with 
more commitment to our baptismal promises,
to live out in our lives and relationships 
what we claim as we believe in.

And so, where is our new hearts,
O Lord?  

It is right here in our very present moment 
whenever we accept your invitation, your call
to turn away from sins, from selfishness, and 
vested interests!
It is right here in our present moment when
we allow our new personhood in Christ 
lead us to pray more, listen more, forgive
more, serve more, and witness his gospel
more.  Amen.

Straight from the heart…

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin, 11 August 2022
Ezekiel 12:1-12   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 18:21-19:1
Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com
"So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives his brother from
his heart" (Matthew 18:35).
Dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
take away my stony heart
and give me a heart of flesh
that beats with firm faith,
fervent hope and unceasing charity
and love for you through others.
Enable me to see with my heart,
let me not be blind to my many sins,
especially in dealing with my fellow sinners
for we are all loved and forgiven sinners of the Father;
incline my heart to your Holy Will,
let me not be rebellious like the people
during the time of the Prophet Ezekiel -
so numb and callous, no sense of sinfulness
at all that they were not bothered at all 
with your efforts to turn back to you
by being contrite to reform
 their lives.
Let me heed the prayer of the psalmist today,
"Do not forget the works of the Lord!"
Let me remember your great sacrifice
for me to forgive my sins,
to wipe me clean and
start anew!
Reign in my heart, Jesus;
dwell in my heart, O Lord,
empty me of my pride
and fill me with your
humility, justice, and love;
grant me the grace of poverty
like St. Clare whose memorial
we celebrate today so that we may
serve you with joy and gladness
coming from a heart so blessed
by you.
Amen.

Create a clean heart in us your priests, O God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of St. John Marie Vianney, Priest, 04 August 2022
Jeremiah 31:1-7   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Matthew 16:13-23
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacias at UP, Diliman, QC, April 2022.
Glory and praise to you,
dear Jesus for the gift of
priesthood!
Thank you for the grace of
St. John Marie Vianney our 
patron who taught us that
"The priesthood is the love
of the heart of Jesus". 
That is why on this day of the
priests, we pray like the psalmist: 
A clean heart create for me, O God, 
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.  
Cast me not out from your presence, 
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.  
Give me back the joy of your salvation, 
and a willing spirit sustain in me.  
I will teach transgressors your ways, 
and sinners shall return to you.  
For you are not pleased with sacrifices; 
should I offer a burnt offering, 
you would not accept it.  
My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; 
a heart contrite and humbled, 
O God, you will not spurn.
(Psalm 51:12-13, 14-15, 18-19)
Indeed, dear Jesus, 
it is the heart of us your
priests that must be cleansed 
and purified for it is where
your new covenant is written
as Jeremiah prophesied 
in the first reading today:  
"I will place my law within them,
and write it upon their hearts; 
I will be their God, 
and they shall be my people.
No longer will they have need to
teach their friends and relatives
how to know the Lord" 
(Jeremiah 31:33-34).

In your many teachings, Jesus,
especially in the Beatitudes,
you have always declared the heart 
as the wholeness of every person 
that must be purified to be open 
and free to see God because 
our intellect is never enough;
like Peter when he confessed "you
are the Christ" at Caesarea Philippi,
let our hearts be silent to listen to
the voice of the Father revealing 
you in our hearts (Matthew 16:16-17).

Most of all, purify and cleanse
the hearts of us your priests, 
dear Jesus so that we may have 
a loving heart that is obedient to you 
in serving your people; a heart that
is one with you, O Lord, on the 
Cross for it is only in humbling 
ourselves, in going down like you 
can we truly be loving to have a heart 
like your Most Sacred Heart.
Amen.

St. John Marie Vianney,
Pray for us priests!
Photo by Ka Ruben, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 24 June 2022.

Blessed are our seniors

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anne, 26 July 2022
Sirach 44:1, 10-15   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 13:36-43
From forbes.com, 2019.
God our Father,
thank you very much in
giving us your Son Jesus Christ
not only to save and redeem us
but among so many other things,
in his becoming human, he had
also brought back the value of old
age, of the seniors among us like
Simeon and Anna who received him
during his presentation at the temple
and most of all, his very human experience
of having grandparents in St. Joachim
and St. Anne we honor today. 
Forgive us Father in refusing
to see old age as the final stage of
human maturity and a sign of your
blessing because we are so concerned
only with human usefulness and 
productivity (St. JP2, Letter to the 
Elderly, October 1999).
These are the weeds the enemy
had planted in today's parable that
prevent us from seeing the grace
and blessings of old age that gives us
a correct perspective on life that is a 
preparation for eternity, the harvest time.
Let us get close with our elderlies,
Lord Jesus, thanking them, praising them
for their many virtues especially their
wisdom of the heart that enables us 
to also consider our own "twilight":

The line separating life and death runs through our communities and moves inexorably nearer to each one of us. If life is a pilgrimage towards our heavenly home, then old age is the most natural time to look towards the threshold of eternity.

St. John Paul II, Letter to the Elderly, 01 October 1999, #14
More than the indulgences
offered by Pope Francis for those
visiting the old people on this feast 
of St. Joachim and St. Anne, grant us
the grace of honoring our grandparents
by welcoming them,
helping them, and
making good use of their qualities.
Amen.