What prompts us…?

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in Week I, Year I of Ordinary Time, 11 January 2022
1 Samuel 1:9-20   ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'>   Mark 1:21-28
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son Caius in January 2020.

“It isn’t that, my lord,” Hannah answered. “I am an unhappy woman. I have had neither wine nor liquor; I was only pouring out my troubles to the Lord. Do not think your handmaid a ne’er-do-well; my prayer has been prompted by my deep sorrow and misery.”

1 Samuel 1:15-16
In the midst of this new surge
in COVID infections, we identify
so well with Hannah, dear God
our loving Father:  we are not happy,
and we are so sorry for this surge
that has affected almost every 
family and household among us.
Listen to our pleadings to you, dear Lord,
heal our family members and friends
afflicted with the virus as well as those
most vulnerable like those bed-ridden
and those going through dialysis and
chemotheraphy and other treatments.
You know, O Lord, our deep longings and 
desires; purify and cleanse us inside, 
especially the sources of our pleadings
and speaking; whatever prompts us to 
say and do may always be rooted in you
not in us nor in our pride and ambitions
like the scribes.  May our promptings be
from the Holy Spirit always so that like
Jesus, we may speak with authority.
Amen.

Love and you shall see

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 05 January 2022
1 John 4:11-18   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Mark 6:45-52
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
Dearest God our Father,
let us love, love, and love
one another so that we may
see you more in each other;
the more we love, the more we
see everyone and everything in
life.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

1 John 4:11-12
Take away our stony hearts
and give us natural hearts
that beat firm faith, vibrant
hope and unceasing charity
and love; perfect our love
to drive away our many fears
especially the fear of getting
hurt because of love.
Soften our hearts, Jesus,
to find you in every good thing
happening in us and around us; 
let our love be genuine and pure 
to find you coming to us amid 
every storm in life; send us your 
Holy Spirit to perfect our love
so we may have the confidence 
and vision of you on judgment day.
Amen.

Advent is for listening to God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Second Week of Advent, 10 December 2021
Isaiah 48:17-19   ><]]]]*>  +  <*[[[[><   Matthew 11:16-19
Photo by author, chapel at the Shepherd’s Field, Israel, 2019.
Yesterday, dear God our Father,
you reminded us not to be stuck
with the past and instead move
on and look forward to a better
future you have for us; thank you
for telling us today how we can
fulfill your promised prosperity and
blessings to come:

Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. If you would hearken to my commandments, your prosperity would be like a river, and your vindication like the waves of the sea.

Isaiah 48:17-18
Forgive us, loving Father,
for being stubborn, for refusing
to listen with our hearts to 
obey your words; so often, we
are like your people Israel who
who were thrown into exile 
long time ago because of the
hardness of their hearts - they
listened to your words with their
ears but never took them to their
hearts which they followed into
sin; we have abused our freedom
and free will insisting what we want,
believing more to our selves than
obeying you, trusting you.
It is so true that we are like
the children "who sit in the 
marketplace and call to one 
another, 'We played the flute 
for you, but you did not dance, 
we sang a dirge but you did not
mourn'" (Mt.11:16-17):  your Son
Jesus Christ had come, always 
comes daily in our lives, and will
still come in the end of time which 
could be now and yet, we have been
deaf and blind to his presence, to his
mercy, and to his love. 
Teach us, O Lord, this Advent
to listen with our hearts to your
words, accepting them truly and
wholly to incorporate them into
our daily lives and be surprised 
with your plans for us specially 
this Christmas!  Amen.

On shedding tears and crying

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 23 November 2021
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I recently attended the 30th anniversary to the priesthood of my classmate from high school seminary who’s dying of a rare kind of cancer. Due to my being “mababa ang luha”, tears easily rolled from my eyes before the Mass started when I saw his mother sobbing as we brought him to his designated “lazy boy” at the altar.

This may sound weird but I must insist, I was not crying during that Mass for Fr. Sammy; just teary-eyed because everything was so touching.

In attendance were five of us classmates from the minor seminary, four priests and one lay, Fr. Sammy’s twin brother, Sannie. Main celebrant was our former prefect of discipline, Msgr. Albert while the homilist was the youngest in our class (1982) now our Vicar-General, Msgr. Pablo who recalled our high school seminary days when we were so young at 13-16 years old, and so thin, except me!

That was when more tears rolled from the corner of my eyes, making me wonder if there was any difference between shedding of tears and crying: my sight was never blurred without any need for me to wipe away my tears so often, and unlike in sobbing or crying, there was no gasping for air nor runny nose. I just felt there was a magical stream at the corner of my eyes overflowing with crystal-clear waters that felt so good as I reminisced our high school days.

But, I knew it was a lull in the storm… and soon, our dams of tears would surely break loose when the inevitable happens. For now, let’s not talk about it and just go back to my real topic, the shedding tears and crying.


Across the city of Jerusalem and way up from the Garden of Gethsemane is the Church of Dominus Flevit (the Lord Wept) whose roof is shaped like tears. It is the site believed to be where Jesus wept over Jerusalem for its coming destruction that eventually happened on the year 70 AD.

Photo by author, 2017, Church of Dominus Flevit, the Holy Land.

Notice that Jesus did not simply cry; he wept!

The Bible tells us that Jesus also wept was at the gravesite of his friend Lazarus whom he later raised to life (Jn.11).

How touching it must have been to see our Lord Jesus weeping, so human and most of all, so loving to his friends and for us all.

And that is what tears express, the deep love within us for one another, an outpouring of our love that look like beads of prayer.

While tears do come from ducts near our eyes that are automatically secreted when something foreign gets into our eyes to cleanse them, tears ultimately come from the soul that are deposited into the heart to cleanse and heal its wounds and scars left when we gave a part of ourselves in love. In the same manner, tears express our inner desires for love and acceptance, understanding and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, and most especially, for God and a loved one.

According to scientists, the chemical composition of tears vary depending on the emotion expressed why we cry; but, whether they are tears of joy or tears of sadness, tears are always a grace from God as they cleanse our eyes, our hearts and souls so we may see clearly everything in life, specially the face of the persons next to us or even far from us, whom to love, whom to trust, whom to believe again.


To be able to cry or to simply shed tears 
means we are still alive, 
that our heart is still beating, 
still aching because we love.  

Is there really a distinction between shedding tears and crying? I really do not know but what I am certain of is that tears are the most unique expressions of our human emotions that come from the deepest core of our being that when they flow in our crying and weeping, our whole body and very selves are fully involved. No wonder, crying can also be the most beautiful and eloquent prayer to God when our heart is overwhelmed with pain and sadness, even grief, or joy and happiness which our mouths cannot say but only our hearts can see.

That must be what Eric Clapton have felt when he wrote Tears in Heaven in 1992 following the tragic death of his four year old son Conor who accidentally fell from the 54th floor of their apartment in New York City.

To be able to cry – or to simply shed tears – means we are still alive, that our heart is still beating, still aching because we love and longing for love.

May our tears pave the way for beautiful smiles and joys in the heart in the days to come! Amen.

Photo by author, 24 October 2021.

Miserere Friday

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXVII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 08 October 2021
Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 11:15-26
Photo by author, Franciscan Monastery on Mt. Nebo, Jordan, 2019.
God our merciful Father,
thank you very much for this
wonderful and blessed Friday!
Everybody loves Friday
primarily because it is the weekend
to work and school leading to
Saturday and Sunday rest.
But for me and my brothers, 
we love this because it is 
"Miserere nobis" Friday
when we pray Psalm 51:
"Have mercy on me, God,
in your kindness.  In your compassion
blot out my offense.  O wash me
more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin."
Help us to cleanse our selves
most especially today in 
memory of your Son's
Good Friday; may we heed
the call of your prophet on a
daily basis to keep ourselves 
clean.

Gird yourselves and weep, O priests! Wail, O ministers of the altar! Come spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! The house of your God is deprived of offering and libation. Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the elders, all who dwell in the land, into the house of the Lord, your God, and cry to the Lord!

Joel 1:13-14
So many are our sins against you,
O God, that people have not only turned
against us priests but most of all, they have
turned away from you largely because
we have misled and abused them.
Cleanse us with your mercy and
forgiveness in Jesus Christ your Son; 
exorcise us of our many demons
possessing us, allowing ourselves
to be overrun by evil and sin.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”

Luke 11:24-26
Let Jesus your Son
reign in our hearts and soul,
let him be the sole power within us
for he is the most powerful of all,
the only power there is;
let us welcome him inside us
to keep us clean
lest we sin more
and become worst
than before.
Amen.

“Out of Touch” by Hall & Oates (1984)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 05 September 2021
Photo by author, 2020.

The “ber” months are finally with us and despite the daily five-digit number of COVID-19 infections, so many of us seem to be so “out-of-touch” with so many who do not seem to care at all for their loved ones nor for the country like our corrupt officials. Or to God at all.

That is why we have picked Daryl Hall and John Oates’ 1984 hit Out of Touch from their album Big Bam Boom. It was the heydays of Hall and Oates who were then called the “dynamic duo” of the music world with so many hits before and after this song.

We were in college when Out of Touch came with a lot of extended and remixed versions due to its great sound that everybody loved this song.

But, behind that danceable groove and beat, Out of Touch lyrics are so in-touch with realities in life that unlike their other compositions, Hall and Oates sounded a bit philosophical here that we find it perfectly attuned with our Sunday gospel where Jesus touched the ears and tongue of a deaf to heal him of his sickness (https://lordmychef.com/2021/09/04/opening-our-ears-and-heart/).

Shake it up is all that we know
Using the bodies up as we go
I’m waking up to fantasy
The shades all around aren’t the colors we used to see
Broken ice still melts in the sun
And times that are broken can often be one again
We’re soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Take a look around

You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around

You’re out of touch
I’m out of time (time)
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around

Oh oh oh oh oh oh

Reaching out for something to hold
Looking for a love where the climate is cold
Manic moves and drowsy dreams
Or living in the middle between the two extremes
Smoking guns hot to the touch
Would cool down if we didn’t use them so much, yeah
We’re soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Too much

Aside from their usual poetry, Hall and Oates say something so deep using many metaphors in narrating how a wonderful romantic relationship had suddenly turned bad because the lovers had been out of touch with each other like with these lines:

I’m waking up to fantasy
The shades all around aren’t the colors we used to see
Broken ice still melts in the sun
And times that are broken can often be one again
We’re soul alone

Notice how in both stanzas they both mentioned the importance of the soul, of the heart and inner self. Or of spirituality, if you may:

Manic moves and drowsy dreams
Or living in the middle between the two extremes
Smoking guns hot to the touch
Would cool down if we didn’t use them so much, yeah
We’re soul alone

We said in our homily today that opening to God involves our whole person, our whole being. Not just our eyes and ears, but most of all our heart. And the first step for us is to take a break from our ordinary life, from our daily routines that have numbed us that we have lost our consciousness of the present moment, even of our very selves. To a certain sense, this is the grace of the pandemic – an opportunity for us all to spend more time with Jesus in prayers at home or in the church and to bond and fix those broken ties in our family. Before the pandemic, couples and children rarely have the chance to be together even at meals due to each one’s busy schedule; but, with COVID-19’s new mode of work and learning “from home”, many were thrown off balance because some have long lost their sense of being with family members.

Beginning this Sunday, let us get in touch with our true selves, with others and with God to pull through this pandemic before it gets us and tell us how out of touch we have been.

*We have no intentions of infringing on the copyrights of this music except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.

Opening our ears and heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIII-B in Ordinary Time, 05 September 2021
Isaiah 35:4-7 ><}}}'> James 2:1-5 ><}}}'> Mark 7:31-37
Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, 08 August 2021.

Since the start of our Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) last month, I have always admired the faithful people who continue to celebrate Mass with us outside our church as well as those in other places like Quiapo.

I have nothing against ECQ but I have always questioned the government decision in prioritizing churches in every lockdown when we have always been very strict in our protocols unlike malls and groceries. Most of all, it is during this time of crisis when we must give people the chance to express their faith in going to houses of worship to pray in silence and celebrate with the community while observing protocols.

It is very touching and inspiring to see people – young and old alike, healthy and sickly going to churches every Sunday, catching up with our Lord Jesus Christ even outside, rain or shine.

And that is why our gospel this Sunday is again very timely at this time we have reached the two-million mark in less than a year in the number of those infected with COVID-19 while those in government corruption are also breaking the billion peso mark in anomalous transactions! That is how evil those people are that while many are suffering in the pandemic, there those in government with gall to steal big time.

Has God forsaken us his people, especially at this time we are celebrating our 500th year of Christianization? Of course not!

Jesus Christ continues to come to us everyday not only to cleanse by washing our hearts of evil and sin as we have seen last Sunday in the gospel; today, Mark tells us how Jesus comes also to open our ears in order to hear and listen to his words that eventually open our hearts to freedom and salvation.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!”

Mark 7:31-34

“Jesus went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into Decapolis

Of the four evangelists, Mark is the only one who portrays Jesus as always on the go without even telling us details of his itinerary nor of the places he visited and people he had met. As the first gospel account written, Mark wrote in straight news style as he felt the urgency of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.

However, when Mark gives even the slightest details of the places and people in the journeys of the Lord, it always means something else. Like in our gospel today.

Photo by author, Sea (Lake) of Galilee, 2017.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.

Mark 7:31

You will recall that in July when Jesus sent his disciples to their first missionary journey, they were told to seek the “lost sheep of Israel”, to not go to pagan and Samaritan lands.

Today, it is the Lord himself who left Tyre and Sidon in northern Israel to go into the pagan territories of Decapolis that literally means “ten cities”.

Here we find the universality of Christ’s mission, not just for his fellow Jews. His love is so encompassing covering all the peoples of all time, then and now.

Jesus seeks us out who are in totally alien territory in life like this pandemic because he loves us.

When we look back and reflect in our lives, we find so many instances in the past how it was in the most foreign and lost situations when we have actually found God, is it not?

Reflecting further in this scene in the Decapolis, Mark is reminding us how we could also be those people who have brought the deaf-mute to Jesus, begging him to heal the man.

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.

Mark 7:32

Those people who have begged Jesus to heal the deaf-mute are the same people who went out of their ways since the start of the pandemic helping others in their many needs and sufferings, those people who sacrificed time, talent and treasures for the less fortunate like the community pantry.

They were also those elder brothers and sisters who have helped their younger siblings to learn and thrive in the new mode of learning online that began last year.

Those people who begged Jesus to heal the deaf-mute were also the same medical health frontliners who have died or still continue to serve us despite our callous government officials led by the health secretary.

Though there were so many abusive people last year -mostly civil servants and police officials who have notoriously made headlines – there were still more generous and kind people who made Jesus present to someone in need during this pandemic.

How wonderful it is to realize – and relish this Sunday as we find ourselves in this unusual and surreal situation of the COVID-19 pandemic that Christ is also with us, staying with us, speaking to us.

But, are we listening to him? Are we not also the same deaf-mute who needs Christ’s healing?

Photo by author, Caeasaria in northern Israel, 2017.

“Ephphata” – Be opened!

Notice another significant detail that Mark has mentioned in this gospel scene. Aside from identifying the Lord’s coming to the pagan territory of Decapolis, Mark surprisingly tells us in details the unique and unusual manner of healing by Jesus there.

There must be something very important in this unique healing by Jesus whereas before, he would just lay his hands on the sick or most usually, he would merely speak. Remember that we could also be this deaf needing Christ’s healing.

He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.

Mark 7:33-35

Opening to God involves our whole person, our whole being. Not just our eyes and ears, but most of all our heart. And the first step for us is to take a break from our ordinary life, from our daily routines that have numbed us that we have lost our consciousness of the present moment, even of our very selves.

This is why Jesus “took him off by himself from the crowd.”

Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, 08 August 2021.

To a certain sense, this is the grace of the pandemic – an opportunity for us all to spend more time with Jesus in prayers at home or in the church and to bond and fix those broken ties in our family. Before the pandemic, couples and children rarely have the chance to be together even at meals due to each one’s busy schedule; but, with COVID-19’s new mode of work and learning “from home”, many were thrown off balance because some have long lost their sense of being with family members.

Prayer in fact is an awareness of our presence that leads us to God’s presence. Unless we learn to separate from others and the usual ordinariness of our lives characterized by madness and toxicity in everything, we can never experience the presence of God in Jesus Christ in us and among us as well as in the sacraments and prayers.

That putting of Jesus of his finger into the man’s ears and touching his tongue with a spit indicate the personal encounter of the Lord with each of us, of how he would reach out to us daily to feel and experience his presence but we are always “out-of-touch”.

It is said that our heart is the shape of two ears put together.

I believe so. Opening to God is opening our ears to Jesus speaking to us daily. He has been trying so hard to converse with us but we hardly notice him around us because of those ubiquitous ear pods and headphones always stuck into our ears. We shut ourselves from the world to be into our own world, separated from everyone including God. We would rather listen to influencers and personal playlists that confirm things we believe as true, no more room for others especially the poor and marginalized as James noted in his Letter we have heard proclaimed in the second reading.

Beginning this Sunday, let us set ourselves apart from the rest to open ourselves to Jesus to see his light and hear his words so we can walk his path of joy and peace because he is “the Way” (Jn.16:6).

Let our hearts be strong, not to fear this crisis because God has fulfilled his promise prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading on Christ’s coming with “vindication and divine recompense to save us” (Is.35:4).

Have a blessed first week of September!

Photo from news.abs-cbn.com, 2020.

Two hands and a heart in-between

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXII-B in Ordinary Time, 29 August 2021
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8 >+< James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27 >+< Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Photo by the author, the Holy Land, 2017.

After an interruption of five weeks, we go back to Mark’s Gospel this Sunday that shall guide us until the end of our liturgical calendar with the Solemnity of Christ the King in November. See the beauty of the Sacred Scriptures that those five weeks from John chapter six did not break the flow of narration that is so seamless!

Returning to Mark’s account today after the feeding of five thousand and the bread of life discourse at Capernaum from John, Jesus crossed the lake and proceeded with the Twelve to Gennesaret where he preached and healed until some of his enemies arrived and found an issue to raise against him.

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed hands. For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites… You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

Mark 7:1-3, 5-8

The Israelites have taken pride in their laws given by Moses from God at Mt. Sinai. Simply referred to as the Law or Torah, it had united them as God’s “chosen people”, making it the very center of their lives that they enlarged its meaning and scope that soon consisted of more than 600 other precepts and practices to observe and keep.

Obeying the laws and traditions became their standard for holiness so that instead of becoming a means to bring them closer to God and others, these became an end in itself that they have forgotten God and others in the process.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

Into our hearts and the heart of Jesus

Once again, our gospel is so timely and relevant to our situation right now we are in the midst of a pandemic when we are told to always wash our hands. And if Jesus were with us in person today, he would surely speak the same things about the hypocrisy we have in our washing of hands!

First of all, let us clarify that Jesus is not against the washing of hands before eating nor of any of their other traditions and laws; what he criticized was the greater importance given by his enemies with the outward signs of their laws and traditions, forgetting its inner dynamics and meaning. Thus, he never failed to clarify with the people that he had “not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them” (Mt.5:17).

Here we find the same problem with the people at Capernaum and in our own time when people fail and refuse to look beyond material things to find the meaning of what is going on around us, of what we believe in and what we practice.

Then and now – right in the midst of this pandemic – Jesus is inviting us to deeper perspectives about our concepts and ways of doing and seeing things, of what is clean and not clean, of what is tradition and modern, of what is good and evil.

Jesus wants us to constantly examine our lives for our need of conversion of our hearts to him. He is inviting us to probe our hearts and see who or what dwells inside us because from the heart, everything flows outside not only to our mouth (cf. Lk.6:45, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”) but also to our hands.

That is why I love that imagery of the heart between two arms and hands: the heart at the center of our being and consciousness that whatever comes out of the heart naturally flows to our arms and hands, even to our entire body. If there is something wrong in the heart, so with the messages it sends out.

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils from within and they defile.”

Mark 7:14-15, 21-23

Here we find the essential question we must ask ourselves always: Do I find Jesus Christ in my heart as the sole basis and foundation of what I believe which I also say and do?

If we cannot find Jesus at the center of the things we do and believe, most likely we do not find others in the picture too! In that case, most likely, it is all about me, mine, my, and I! Like the Pharisees and scribes of his time, washing of hands and other traditions were more of a show than something more essential which is to serve God through one another.


Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, 
of our interior and spiritual motivations, 
of why we are doing the things we are doing, 
of what we really believe in; 
because, too often, many of the things we do and believe 
are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God.  
There are so many times in our lives 
that we simply do things out of habit 
and conventions without really understanding why.  

Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, of our interior and spiritual motivations, of why we are doing the things we are doing, of what we really believe in; because, too often, many of the things we do and believe are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God. There are so many times in our lives that we simply do things out of habit and conventions without really understanding why.

Simon Sinek said it so well in his bestselling book “Start with Why” – people buy products, patronize services, or are moved when they see the why you do things; they are willing to pay more not because of fad or prestige but more of the conviction in a belief espoused by a brand or company or by an individual.

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images in Paranaque City, 09 February 2020.

Washing of hands and eating, our hidden hypocrisies

One of the most frequently asked question by people to me as a priest these days is why despite all our prayers, God has seemed become deaf to our pleas for him to end this pandemic? The answer is simple: unless we see and accept the spiritual realities of this COVID-19 pandemic, it would linger with us longer than projected, even not be solved at all as it gets worst with new variants that have thrown back even some of the most vaccinated nations lately.

We can have all the soaps and alcohol to wash our hands during this pandemic but COVID-19 will persist for as long as we have no regard for the dignity of every person. See all the abuses and corruption going on that is more sickening than the virus itself!

That washing of hands is an imagery full of meanings we have lost since the time of Jesus. Inwardly, the washing of hands means washing of one’s heart, of cleansing ourselves of our sins and self-centeredness and other impurities.

So many times we have become like Pontius Pilate who washed his hands to free himself from any guilt in sentencing Christ to death without realizing the more he had implicated himself to the injustice by refusing to make a stand for what is true and just. Like us today, we keep on washing our hands in the hope that our conscience would be at peace or be not bothered with our indifference for what is true and good.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, 2019.

Washing of hands has always been closely related with eating which is an act of “appropriating something we cannot fully have” like when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. They took something they cannot wholly take or “swallow” that is why all they could do was just take a “bite” that opened their eyes to something they could not fully realize and appreciate. There are so many realities in this life we just cannot fully grasp right away, requiring us to have more faith, more patience in trusting God and those above us.

But, like Adam and Eve, we keep on taking a bite, of eating whatever our limited minds and reason find as “good” to have. And we wash our hands in clear hypocrisies like the Pharisees and scribes in worship and prayer when we lead double lives, when we laugh and cheer at all kinds of lies and filth, when we silently approve attacks against human life like tokhang and abortion.

Every day we wash our hands and keep them clean to avoid contaminating our food and body in hypocrisy as we agree and support in the name of “modernism” these trends of same sex relationships, promiscuity, and divorce. Or of graft and corruption we have resigned to accept as a fact of daily life.

To wash our hands is to wash our hearts clean of all kinds of evil, of mediocrity and indifference, of taking a stand to “pass over” from sin into grace by witnessing God’s goodness in our lives as Moses reminded Israel in the first reading.

The hands and the heart always go together as expressed in the Jewish thought of “mercy of the heart” and “mercy of the hand” when God’s mercy is more than a feeling but an act of righteousness, of justice and love.

Let us heed the reminder of the Apostle in the second reading to be truly clean in our hands and in our hearts: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:22, 27).

Stay safe everyone. Have a blessed week ahead! Amen.

Strengthen our hearts, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 26 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 3:7-13   ><]]]]'> ><)))*> ><]]]]'>   Matthew 24:42-51
From inquirer.net, 20 August 2021.
Strengthen us, O God
in this trying time of the pandemic;
keep our body healthy and strong
to fight the virus and most especially
to take care of the sick among us.
Strengthen our hearts, loving Father
by cleansing it of our sins, taking away
our pride and filling it with your Son
Jesus Christ's humility, justice and love
that always have a space for those 
with less in life, to those most in need
like the sick, the children and elderly.
Strengthen our hearts, O God,
so that as St. Paul had reminded the
Thessalonians, we may "be blameless 
in holiness before you our God and Father
at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ"
(1Thess.3:13) by being "faithful and prudent"
like the wise servant in the parable today.
Strengthen our hearts in Christ Jesus
so we may consistently seek and serve him
among one another at every moment
of our lives.  Amen.

“Pusuan” – higit pa sa “magustuhan”

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-19 ng Agosto 2021
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Jo Villafuerte sa Atok, Benguet, Setyembre 2019.
Ano nga ba ang pagkakaiba ng 
gusto kita at mahal kita?

Ayon kay Buddha:
kapag gusto mo ang bulaklak, 
ito ay iyong pinipitas.

Nguni't kapag mahal mo ang bulaklak,
ito ay iyong dinidiligan araw-araw.

Sino man aniya ang makaunawa nito
ay nakauunawa rin ng buhay.
(Hango sa "The Language Nerds", 28 Hulyo 2021.)
Kuha ni Bb. Jo Villafuerte sa Atok, Benguet, Setyembre 2019.
Sa lahat ng bahagi
ng ating katawan,
pinakamahiwaga
ang puso natin;
mahirap unawain
na tila may sariling
gawi at pag-iisip
nakahiwalay sa atin.
Kapirasong laman
ngunit kapangyarihan
kayang panaigan
maging katuwiran;
mahirap mapakinggan,
 maunawaan nilalaman
gayong tibok at pintig
naroon lang sa dibdib.
Mahirap unawain
 saloobin at damdamin
nitong yaring puso natin
kungdi sisikapin
ng isa pang puso rin
pasukin at damhin
nilalaman at nilalayon
na adhikain.
Higit pa sa mga kuwit
at sari-saring guhit
emoji at giphy ang pusuan
na ang kahulugan higit pa
sa pagkilala at pagkaakit
kungdi mahalin at kalingain
pamumukod-tangi
ng kapwa natin.