Easter is “levelling up” in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Easter, 26 April 2022
Acts 4:32-37   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 3:7-15
Photo by author, Puerto del Dol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.
Praise and glory to you,
my Lord and my God, Jesus Christ!
Your Resurrection remains a mystery
that is so beyond descriptions
and reasons because it is of 
another dimension, of another world;
yet, I am so convinced of its truth
and reality because I have experienced
you so many times in simple occasions
in life that deep inside, I burst with
joy and conviction like Thomas
and the disciple you love.
Grant me the grace, dear Jesus,
to level up in my understanding and
looking at things in myself and around
me; help me to level up, to be "born from 
above" as you have told Nicodemus:

Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

John 3:10-12
By your Resurrection, 
you have paved the way for us
to enter into new levels of 
living, of seeing things like
"the community of believers
who were of one heart and mind,
and no one claiming any of his
possessions as his own as they
had everything in common";
most of all, "there was no needy
person among them" as they
cared for one another (Acts 4:32-34).
Continue to transform me,
dear Jesus, deepen my faith
in you by further going down
in humility and simplicity to
be uplifted in you on your Cross.
Amen.

Holiness is in silence

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Saturday, 16 April 2022
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Nazare, Portugal March 2022.

A blessed Holy Saturday to you.  One of the most unforgettable scenes of COVID-19 pandemic when it started in the summer of 2020 was like what we have every Holy Saturday or, as we aptly call, Black Saturday: empty spaces, empty buildings, with everything and everyone so silent. 

Holiness is being at home with silence, the very language of God.  In the bible, we find that in every revelation and appearance of God to man, it is always preceded by silence.  Before everything was created, according to the Book of Genesis, there was great silence.  In his prologue to the fourth gospel, John said “In the beginning was the word” – clearly, there was only silence – “and the word became flesh” (Jn.1:1, 14)

And when Jesus, the Word who became flesh, came, he was totally silent during his growing up years in Nazareth and when he stared his ministry, he would always go into prayers and silence.

On this Holy Saturday, the whole creation comes to full circle. In the beginning, after completing God’s work of creation, God rested on the seventh day and made it holy (Gen.2:3). On the seventh day after completing his mission here on earth, Jesus Christ was laid to rest.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Lourdes, France, March 2022.

Silence and rest always go together. To be silent is not merely being quiet but listening more to your voice coming from the depths of our being; hence, it is not emptiness but fullness with God, in God. It is in silence where we truly hear ourselves and others better.

On the other hand, to rest is not merely to stop work nor stop from being busy. We rest to reconnect with God to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In Filipino, to rest is magpahinga which means “to be breathed on”.  To rest is therefore to be silent and be breathed on with the breath of God. Like in the creation of the first man who was breathed on by God to be alive; on the evening of Easter, Jesus came to visit his disciples locked in the upper room and after greeting them with peace twice, he breathed on them the Holy Spirit.

Holiness is therefore found in silence and in rest, when we listen more God and allow him to breathe on us that we are filled with him. And that is holiness as we have stated at the start of this series, which is not being sinless but being filled with God.

When we rest, we return to Eden, like the garden where Jesus was buried. 

Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.

John 19:41-42
Photo by author, garden beside Church of St. Agnes in Jerusalem, May 2017.

How beautiful is that image, of God’s rest and silence in Eden and of Jesus laid to rest at a tomb in a garden: to rest in silence is therefore to stop playing God as we return to him as his image and likeness again!

Maybe that is why many of us these days are afraid of silence because it is the realm of trust and of truth. We have always been afraid to trust and be truthful so that we crucify Jesus Christ over and over again.

Let us be like those women who rested on the sabbath when Jesus was laid to rest. That like them, we may trust God more by being true to ourselves even in the midst of this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.

Luke 23:55-56

Silence is the domain of trust; people afraid of silence are afraid to trust.

It is said that the Sony Walkman is the most revolutionary invention in the last 40 years that had changed our way of life.  It is not the computer.  It is the Walkman, the ancestor of that ubiquitous ear pods, earphones and bluetooth everybody is wearing these days, having each one’s own world, unmindful of others. 

Today let us cultivate anew the practice of silence, of listening to the various sounds around us and within us and most of all, trying to listen to the most faint, the softest sound that is often the voice of God, the sound of silence who reassures us always that in the midst of his silence, he never leaves us, that with him we are rising again to new life. 


Help us to be silent today, 
O God our Father 
as we remember your Son Jesus Christ’s 
Great Silence – Magnum Silentium – 
when he was “crucified, died and was buried; 
he descended to the dead and on the third day he rose again.”
Breathe on us your Spirit of life and joy,
O God as we rest in you,
listening to your voice within us
so that we may follow always Jesus Christ's
path to Easter in the Cross.
Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Lourdes, France, March 2022.

The Cross, our door to heaven

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord, 10 April 2022
Isaiah 50:4-7  +++  Philippians 2:6-11  +++  Luke 23:1-49
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, ICS Chapel, 2016; sculpture by National Artist Ed Castrillo.

Officially we begin today the Holy Week leading to the Triduum of the Lord with Easter, the Mother of all feasts in the Church. Today we enter the “innermost room” of the house of God our Father after our 40 day journey in Lent.

We are actually celebrating today two distinct rites merged into one, the procession and blessing of palms to commemorate Jesus Christ’s entry into Jerusalem that led to his arrest and crucifixion on Good Friday which we heard in the gospel proclaimed earlier. As early in the fourth century, Christians in Jerusalem have been commemorating the Lord’s entry to Jerusalem from the city gate while a hundred years later, the Pope ushered in the Holy Week in Rome by proclaiming the long gospel we have heard of the Lord’s crucifixion and death. With the reforms of the liturgy in 1963 at Vatican II, these two celebrations were merged as one with the designation as “Palm Sunday in the Passion of the Lord”.

More than a going back to the past, our celebration today reminds us of the ever-newness of Christ’s saving work and love for us while at the same time assuring us of the future that would bring us into the fullness of life in him with the Father in heaven. This we find in the last three words recorded to us by Luke while Jesus was on the Cross.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

The mercy and forgiveness of God

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Luke 23:34

Very consistent with his theme of the mercy and forgiveness of God to us as shown the other Sunday in the parable of the merciful father, a.k.a. the parable of the prodigal son, Luke presents to us again this most wondrous and touching trait of God in Christ even while crucified.

Again, only Luke has this detail of Jesus praying forgiveness for his enemies while being reviled and mocked by them on the cross.

It is another example of Luke’s artistry in presenting to us God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ in a sort of play of words, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” as we confront our selves with the question, “what do we really know?”

What do we really know at all that we continue to crucify Jesus today, nailing him on the cross with our many sins as we pretend and assume to know so many things in life?

Until now, we still have wars raging in various parts of the world, and more than half of these conflicts according to studies are ironically due to our different religious beliefs! Until now debates continue as everyone would want to have the power to decide for themselves who shall live and who shall die, from abortions to artificial contraceptives to capital punishment. Until now we pretend to know the truth and yet the more we have shown our ignorance as our problems become more complex than ever leading to more deaths, more disillusions, more anxieties and more emptiness in life.

And right there on the cross, Jesus continues to pray to the Father to forgive us for we do not know what we are doing to pave the way for the conversion of more others like Paul who realized he “acted out of ignorance in my unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13). In his other book the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells us how Peter said in a speech to the people how they “acted out of ignorance in putting Jesus to death” (3:17). Here we find Luke driving at the basic truth how so often it is in our sinfulness and “ignorance” that eventually we come to “know” and realize God who is always ready with his unfailing mercy and forgiveness. The key is to emulate Dimas, the good thief crucified at the other side of Jesus on that Good Friday.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

The promise of Paradise

He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Luke 23:43

Imagine the evil that men do portrayed by Luke in Christ’s crucifixion, of the relentless insults and mockery by the people on the ground and even up there on the cross when one of those hanging reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us”(Lk.23:39).

See how we are not contented and satisfied in putting others to shame but would even bury them deeply with insults as we say in Filipino, “baon na baon”. But, all is not lost as there is always a glimmer of hope. especially among the sinners and the ignorant who open themselves to god’s grace like Dimas who rebuked his fellow criminal, reminding him how they deserved the punishment but not Jesus “who has done nothing criminal” (Lk.23:41). It was at that instance when he snatched heaven by telling the Lord, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Lk.23:42).

And we all know the response of Jesus, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

What a great God do we really have in Jesus Christ! Despite the pains and sufferings of being nailed on the cross, he not only begged the Father for our forgiveness because we do not know what we are doing but most of all, readily handed our salvation, promising Paradise to anyone who would humbly surrender one’s self to him like Dimas.

See that Jesus was very precise in assuring Dimas and us with Paradise – right at the very moment we are in him, with him on the Cross of pain and suffering, of truth and righteousness – not later when they die nor on Sunday when he rises from the dead but TODAY, right now!

The very moment we open ourselves to accept Jesus Christ our Savior, that is also precisely the very moment he is very present in us and among us. The other moment Luke used the word TODAY to indicate the very moment of here and now was at the birth of Jesus when the angels told the shepherds “For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord” (Lk.2:11).

What a beautiful reminder to us all of God present among us in every here and now, not yesterday nor tomorrow, but today for indeed our God is “I AM WHO AM”!

Anyone who is always one in Jesus, one with Jesus is assured of Paradise, in fact already entering Paradise, our end and ultimate destination in life. This leads us to the third important words of Jesus on the Cross according to Luke…

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

Coming home to the Father

Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit”; and when he had said this he breathed his last.

Luke 23:46

All four evangelists attest in their respective gospel account that Jesus died on the cross at the ninth hour or about 3:00 PM. Most of all, they tell us that Jesus died while praying.

In Luke’s account, Jesus’ final prayer was from Psalm 31:6, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” As we have mentioned in our previous reflections, Luke presents Jesus always at prayer like during the second Sunday of Lent during his transfiguration; only Luke tells us why Jesus went up that high mountain with his three Apostles in order to pray. Inasmuch as the transfiguration was a prayer moment, the crucifixion is the Lord’s prayer moment par excellence. Recall how we truly learn to “pray” when in deep pain and trials like before a surgery, when we no longer know how to pray or even have forgotten what is prayer all about except that we give ourselves entirely to God and to our doctors.

There on the Cross at his final moments, Jesus never ceased from doing good, always praying, always united and one in his Father in heaven. In commending his spirit into the Father’s hands, Jesus shows us exactly what discipleship is all about: everything we have, all we are are God’s. We have nothing to lay claim as ours in this life and that is the challenge to us daily: to live for God in Jesus through our loving service to others.

In this long passion narrative we heard today is the gospel, the very good news of our salvation as proclaimed by Paul in the second reading of how Jesus gave his total self in love to the Father for us all.

May we keep our eyes and our hearts open to Jesus, relying only in him like the Suffering Servant for he shall never put us to shame. We cannot experience the joy of his Resurrection unless we imitate Simon Cyrene, Dimas, John and the Blessed Virgin Mary in welcoming and following him in our daily life whether in the comforts of Jerusalem or the sorrows of Calvary for that is where we truly enter Paradise with Jesus, in Jesus. On the Cross. Amen.

Tanging panalangin na laging hiling

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-01 ng Nobyembre 2021
Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com
Diyos Ama naming mapagmahal
ngayong Dakilang Kapistahan ng
Lahat ng mga Banal, 
aming dasal ay higit naming maunawaan
kahulugan nitong pagdiriwang:
hindi katatakutan
o mga kababalaghan 
at hiwagang nakamamangha
kungdi ang Iyong dakilang
adhika na kami ay Iyong makasama
at makaisa sa buhay na walang
hanggan.
Madalas aming nalilimutan
ito lang naman lagi din naming
dasal higit pa sa lahat ng mga
pangangailangan at inaasam-asam:
kung sakali mang dumating
oras na aming kinatatakutan
biglang kamatayan sa ano mang
paraan, O Diyos huwag mo kaming
kalilimutan sa hanay ng iyong mga Banal
upang Ika'y makapiling magpakailanman!
Kaya naman sa pagdiriwang
nitong todos los Santos
nawa aming mabatid
kahalagahan ng pamumuhay
na matuwid; ang kabanalan
ay hindi kawalan ng kasalanan
kungdi pagiging puspos
ng Iyong pagka-Diyos, nagsisikap
matupad banal mong kalooban
sa ilalim ng Iyong kaharian.  Amen.

Our secret worries in life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXVIII-B in Ordinary Time, 10 October 2021
Wisdom 7:7-11 ><]]]]*> Hebrews 4:12-13 ><]]]]*> Mark 10:17-30
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

Recently we have seen Jesus answered very well the questions thrown to him by his enemies with evil intentions of entrapping him. But, in his answers we find Jesus so focused to his mission of revealing the will of God our Father which sin had destroyed.

Last Sunday Jesus showed us that more than the unity of husband and wife, God had always willed our entering into communion in our human relationships after a Pharisee asked him about the issue of divorce. Today, two men with good intentions and disposition came forward to ask Jesus important questions we also ask, something we may consider as “secret worries” that disturb us while following him.

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments…” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

Mark 10:17-19, 20-21

Our first secret worry: entering heaven.

How many times have we asked the same question, “what must I do to inherit eternal life”? It is in fact one of the most FAQ’s to us priests, always begging for so many clarifications from every inquirer because it is indeed so important especially during this time of the pandemic.

Photo by author, 2020.

To inquire about eternal life means we are not that far from heaven because to think about it reveals our inner desires to be one with God our Father who is both our origin and destination.

The question in itself is a sign of grace, something we must always ask with the proper disposition coming from deep inside us who know very well that it is not enough to merely follow the commandments, to do what we were taught by our parents and teachers, catechists and religious instructors, and priests.

As we mature in faith or simply go on with life, we realize something is still lacking in all these religious practices we have like prayers and being good with others. There seems to be a “Someone” pulling us closer to do more to gain eternal life.

To be at this stage like that man in the gospel means we are a fertile soil where the word of God has taken root and starting to grow, but surrounded by brambles and other shrubs that need to be cleared with some weeds too that must be removed.

And there lies the painful truth: we have to let go of things like possessions and inclinations that give us false securities and thus prevent us from growing deeper in faith, in being more faithful to God and being more like Jesus Christ in forgetting one’s self.

See how Mark described Jesus looking with love on the man in elaborating the path to heaven, contrasting it with how “his face fell” upon hearing the Lord’s statement.

Today, Jesus reminds us that eternal life is a gift from God, freely given to everyone but we have to make a clear stand and decision to have it. We have to do something and cannot be like Juan Tamad by simply waiting for the fruit to fall from the tree.

While it is very clear in the Lord’s explanation that on our own we cannot do anything about it because “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God” (Mk.10:27); however, after Jesus had accomplished our salvation by dying on the cross when he declared “It is finished” (Jn.19:30), he also signaled the start of doing our part in his saving mission.

How?

By going back to his central teaching he had reiterated twice these two Sundays – be like a child to welcome God’s gift and grace of entering into the kingdom of heaven!

We cannot let go of our possessions to join Jesus on his way of the cross to enter heaven unless we become like children welcoming and trusting God. But, this is something we cannot do on our own; we need the grace of wisdom which we have heard at the first reading.

As the author of the Book of Wisdom tells us, nothing is comparable to wisdom which we must all prefer above all in this world, enabling us to discern and judge things wisely. In his reflection, wisdom is beyond human grasp, a grace from God we must pray for like King Solomon who asked a heart that can distinguish what is good and what is bad.

When we have wisdom, that is when we are able to “sell everything” and empty ourselves of our pride and other impurities to welcome the Holy Spirit to guide and enlighten us in our lives. That is when we begin to allow God to work in us to gain our salvation, our eternal life.

Hence, the need for us to pray daily for wisdom, most especially when Jesus tells us of the many persecutions that come in following him!

Photo by author, 2019.

Our second secret worry: what about us following Jesus?

Let’s admit it: of the Twelve Apostles, we can easily identify with Peter the most often because of his big mouth, of his “damned honesty” in blurting out what is inside us especially when these pertain to things about our faith and relationship with Jesus.

Like Peter, there is always that “secret worry” if what we have done is good enough to be rewarded by God like entry into heaven. We do it so often in prayers and in those unguarded moments when we complain to Jesus about difficulties and trials we encounter that we worry about all our efforts going nowhere.

There is that “secret worry” within some of us who strive to become good persons, feeling “entitled” to something better considering we are less sinful and evil than others.

Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in the present age; houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”

Mark 10:28-30

Here we find the goodness of Jesus who looked with love on the disciples and people without putting Peter to shame with his daring question.

What I like most here is the sense of humor of Jesus after he had assured Peter with all the rewards including eternal life for those who have left everything behind to follow him by adding “persecutions” as perks!

So funny but true! Like with the Pharisee last Sunday, Jesus must have read the mind of Peter in asking that question, assuring him it will not be as easy as a walk in the park to heaven.

There will always be persecutions. There will be a lot of difficulties and trials, pains and sufferings. And it begins when we truly give up our possessions, our false securities in life, our very selves.

When we reflect deeply into our lives and examine everything we have done and given for God, we realize that we have not really given up that much or anything at all. Whatever we give up and share with others, both material and spiritual, are all from God. We do not really give up anything at all because there is nothing here in this life that is purely ours! If we give love and mercy, if we share knowledge and wisdom, time or treasure or talent – they are all from God given to us meant to be shared with others!

Photo by author, 2019.

It is difficult to follow Jesus. The only thing very clear and definitive with us at the moment is the word of God that the Letter to the Hebrews described as “living and effective, sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart” (Heb.4:12).

The more we immerse ourselves in the word of God, the more we gain wisdom and learn to discern his Divine Will so that in turn we are able to follow Jesus on the Cross that leads to eternal life.

In these two Sundays while Jesus journeyed with his disciples towards Jerusalem for his pasch, Jesus had tried to reorient ourselves into the true demands of following him that is so radical in bringing us back to God himself.

Yes, it is not easy but we are in good company with Jesus our Brother, our Lord and Savior.

Are we ready to leave everything to follow him?

Have a blessed week ahead!

Paano pumunta sa langit?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-13 ng Setyembre 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, La Niña Maria sa Pambansang Dambana ng Fatima, Valenzuela, 07 Setyembre 2021.
Bisperas ng kaarawan
ng Mahal na Birheng Maria
matapos manalangin
bumati si Andrei ng
"Happy birthday, Mama Mary!"
sabay sabi sa kanyang mommy:
"Bibili ko sana siya ng cake
pero paano ako mapupunta
sa langit?"
Tunay ang sinabi
ng Panginoon noong dati:
mula sa mga labi ng bata
nahahabi karunungang
walang pagkukunwari;
pawang katotohanan 
kay dali nilang bitiwan
nakakatuwa dahil puno ng karunungan
tila bugtong na palaisipan.
Madali namang malaman
kasagutan sa kanilang mga tanong
ngunit bakit nga ba ganoon
sa pagkakaroon ng gulang ng taon,
kamusmusan nati'y
nawawala, napapalitan
ng pagmamaang-maangan
kunwa'y hindi alam
pangunahing kaalaman sa buhay.
Katulad ng paano nga ba
pumunta sa langit?
Hindi natin masambit
gayong palagi nating
nilulungating masapit
dahil mayroong pagsusulit
at baka tayo sumabit
kaya hangga't maari
sa kasalukuyang buhay kumakapit.
Paano nga ba pumunta
sa langit?
Hindi ka naman mamatay
daglit
Ngunit ang turo ni Hesus
palagi niyang sambit,
limutin ang sarili, pasanin ating krus 
kada araw at sa Kanya'y sumunod -
 papuntang langit!
Larawan mula sa Google.

“Ale, Nasa Langit Na Ba Ako?” by Bodjie Dasig (+)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 15 August 2021
Photo by Mr. Vigie Ongleo, 05 August 2021, Singapore.

We continue this Sunday our Original Pilipino Music (OPM) featuring the genius and warmth of the late Bodjie Dasig in his playful yet meaningful early hit from the 1980’s called “Ale, Nasa Langit Na Ba Ako?” (Ma’am, Am I In Heaven?).

We find it perfectly matched with our celebration today of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary that teaches us at the close of her life here on earth, Mary was taken body and soul to the glory of heaven (https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/14/mary-mirror-of-gods-greatness/). The same glory awaits us all in the end of time if we try to imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary in her faith, charity and unity with Christ Jesus her Son.

It is a very timely celebration giving us hope and inspiration in persevering in faith and charity as we enter our second week of lockdown with COVID-19 infections reaching record levels since the start of this pandemic last year.

And that is why we find Ale, Nasa Langit Na Ba Ako? so perfect on this cloudy and gloomy Sunday to uplift our sagging spirits, reminding us how after all the pains and darkness of life, there awaits us the glory of heaven which starts here on earth.

We were in college in the early 80’s when this song was first played on the airwaves in some select radio stations only.

Written by the late Bodjie Dasig (+2018) who also wrote the popular Sana Dalawa ang Puso Ko (I Wish I Have Two Hearts), Ale narrates the experience of a man who saw a pretty woman while driving in Cubao, causing him to get into an accident that he ended in a hospital. Upon waking up, he saw his nurse so lovely that he thought he was already in heaven!

When he was discharged from the hospital, he asked the nurse to marry him but unfortunately, she turned out to be happily married. The man was so dismayed that he did not notice the flight of stairs and fell, banging his head on the floor that he ended up being confined in the hospital again.

When he woke up in his new hospital room, he saw another lovely nurse but this time before asking if he was in heaven, he first asked if the nurse is married.

We do not know whatever happened to the man in the song but Ale tells us the common notion how a beautiful woman can always signify heaven and bliss in life. Of course, such beauty refers to more than the physical features of a woman for true beauty lies deep within the heart, mind and soul of anyone.

In her life of faith, charity, and communion in her Son Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary is undoubtedly a woman of great beauty mirroring the greatness and goodness of God that she became the first to be assumed into heaven body and soul among humankind.

May we continue to persevere in life’s challenges to share God’s loving presence in this world filled with pains and sufferings, trials and difficulties.

We hope this song brings you some smiles and good vibes!

*We have no intentions of infringing on the copyrights of this song except to share its beauty and joy with others.

From YouTube.

Mary, mirror of God’s greatness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2021
Revelation 11:19-12:1-6,10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, December 2020.

We take a break this Sunday from our readings in the bread of life discourse in John’s gospel to celebrate on this date the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary following Pope Pius XII’s dogma in 1950 that at the close of her earthly life, Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.

Without telling the manner or the circumstances of time and place of the Assumption, its dogma forms part of the deposit of our faith received from the Apostles as attested by its long line of traditions since the Pentecost. It is so important that its celebration supersedes the liturgy of any Sunday because it invites us all to see in Mary raised to heaven the image of the Church and of all the faithful on our way to eternal glory with God.

It is a very timely celebration while we are in the midst of another lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, giving us hope and inspiration to persevere in all these difficulties and trials to become better disciples of Jesus like his beloved Mother.

Photo by author at the Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, 2019.

Mary, a type of the Church

Our first reading today presents us with two images of a woman that seem to contradict each other with scenes that anti-climactic, flowing in the reverse mode. It could have been better as in most cases that the first scene depicting the woman in all glory should have been last instead of the woman in childbirth pains and dangers that comes in second. Is it not the sorrowful always comes first leading to glory?

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.

Revelation 12:1-3

It is easy to see the Blessed Virgin Mary in that woman depicted in John’s vision especially if we continue reading on to find the title and authority attributed to her child as our Savior Jesus Christ. But modern biblical studies go deeper than that simplistic view: the scenes speak more of the birth of Christ among us his disciples. It is “painful” because it takes place amid many evil and sins like persecutions and temptations symbolized by the red dragon; but, amid all these, Jesus remains among us, leading us, protecting us, and blessing us. Hence, the woman in this passage becomes a symbol of the Church in the glory of God following Christ’s Resurrection while at the same time in the midst of many earthly battles.

Of course, no other woman can best fit that image than Mary who gave birth to Jesus, who has always been in the most intimate relationship with her son as disciple among all humankind. And because of her role in relationship to her Son, to us his disciples also his Body as community, Mary is the image or type of the Church still giving painful birth to believers like in this time of the pandemic while we are already assured of glory in heaven as children of God. Vatican II perfectly expressed it in declaring:

“By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.”

Lumen Gentium #63

With that, Mary has also become the mirror of God’s greatness in all time, the very reason we venerate her as first among the saints and angels because it is also the same call of holiness to us all as children of the Father and disciples of Christ. It is in this framework that we celebrate her Assumption, especially when we profess every Sunday: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of body and life everlasting. Amen.”

Photo by author, Nazareth, 2019.

Greatness of God, lowliness of Mary

As we have mentioned at the start, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary does not go into details how it took place. What matters most is the fact of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul. Like with her Immaculate Conception, there are no direct nor explicit biblical references to her Assumption; however, from the collective meditations and contemplations in the Church, we find vast and rich sources in reflecting the beauty and wonder of the Blessed Mother’s unique place in our salvation history.

For the Mass of the day of the Solemnity, we contemplate on Mary’s canticle called Magnificat which she sang after being praised by her cousin Elizabeth during the Visitation.

And Mary said:
"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 generation will call me
blessed:  the Almighty has done 
great things for me, and holy is his Name."
(Luke 1:46-49)

It was the first proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ whom Mary first received and shared first with her cousin Elizabeth in a town in Judah. See how in the Visitation Elizabeth praised and admired Mary, becoming the first to call her “blessed among women” because “she believed the word spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45). Instead of giving back her praise and admiration to Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist at that time despite her old age and being barren, Mary sang praises to God like the other great women in the Old Testament after experiencing God’s extraordinary acts in their personal lives and in Israel’s history.

Though we may never have the same personal experiences of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as members of the Church she represents, we can always look through her Magnificat the extent we have also become the mirror of the greatness of God especially at this time when everybody seems to doubt his loving presence in this time of the pandemic.


 It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat 
during our evening prayers in the Church because 
before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, 
we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

See how the Magnificat sings of the depths of Mary’s soul and her faith, of her perfect obedience to the word of God and the mission entrusted to her. Very clear in its lyrical expression, the focus and center is God, not Mary. It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat during our evening prayers in the Church because before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

Have we truly been God’s lowly servant like Mary, allowing God to work his great wonders through us?

Three things I wish to share with you on Mary’s lowliness that enabled God to work his wonders through her:

First is her openness to the word of God like in the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus. Mary had a prayer life, a discipline of making time with God, setting her self aside for the Lord. Prayer is always the start of every relationship with God. That is when we truly become humble to lose control of ourselves, to forget our selves and let God in the Holy Spirit dwell into us. Even in the darkest moments of our lives, there will always be that glimmer of hope because the Holy Spirit enlightens us in our paths.

Second is Mary’s saying “YES” to God. She does not merely listen to God; she says “be it done unto me according to your word.” From the very start, Mary never doubted God in his wisdom and plans that she always said yes. One most beautiful expression by the evangelists of Mary saying yes to God is whenever Mary would “treasure in her heart” words of Jesus and of others.

But Mary’s greatest yes happened at the Cross, in her sharing in the Paschal Mystery of her Son Jesus Christ, being the only other disciple who remained with the Lord until his death. No wonder, it was to her based on tradition that the Risen Lord first appeared on Easter.

Third is Mary’s fidelity to God, her yes was not just a one-shot deal but an everyday yes to Jesus even after he had ascended into heaven. The Acts of the Apostles tells us explicitly how Mary was among the disciples present inside the upper room at Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Throughout the ages in her numerous apparitions, Mary said yes to God delivering Jesus Christ’s call for us to penance and conversion, to prayers and the Holy Eucharist especially at Fatima in Portugal.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

Mary went through many hardships and difficulties in her life and in the history of Israel, coming from an obscure town that was a butt of jokes of their time like when Nathanael asked Philip who claimed to have found Jesus Christ, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (Jn.1:45)”.

In this time of the pandemic, the vision of John in the first reading becomes more real when people refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of COVID-19, of the need to be converted and to again nurture that relationship with God following decades of affluence and materialism. Like Mary, let us be humble to accept we are not the masters of this world nor of our own life but God almighty.

We are called to persevere with Mary, to be strong in our faith and charity that God will never forsake us so we can be present among the poor and marginalized including those spirits weakened by the prolonged quarantines.

With Mary, let us believe the words of St. Paul how all will come to life again – body and soul like Mary – in the final end of time that begins right now, right here in the midst of all these trials and sufferings. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

The “ins and outs” to the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XVII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 28 July 2021
Exodus 34:29-35   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Matthew 13:44-46
Photo by author, Church of Dominus Flevit overlooking Jerusalem, 2017.
How lovely are your words today,
God our loving Father
leading us the way closer to you
through your Son Jesus Christ!
So many times, you lead us to
many detours in life, to many 
coming and going in order to
savor your loving presence.
How can we not appreciate
and be awed like your people
in the wilderness who witnessed 
your immense majesty 
on the face of Moses you met
frequently inside your tent
putting on and off the veil
that eventually played a role in our faith.
As Moses came down from Mount Sinai
with the two tablets of the commandments
in his hands, he did not know that the skin
of his face had become radiant 
while he conversed with the Lord.
Whenever Moses entered 
the presence of the Lord to converse
with him, he removed the veil until 
he came out again.  On coming out,
he would tell the children of Israel all
that had been commanded.  Then the
children of Israel would see that the skin
of Moses' face was radiant; so he would
put again the veil over his face until
he went in to converse with the Lord.
(Exodus 34:29, 34-35)
In your eternal wisdom, dear Father,
you eventually removed that veil
in the coming of your Son Jesus Christ
so we can go nearer to you than ever
to be one with you in him
through him, and with him
 by going through the same process
of going in and going out.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"The Kingdom of heaven
is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds
and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells
all that he has and buys the field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven
is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has
and buys it."
(Matthew 13:44-46)
We pray, O Lord, we remain focused
in you alone, learning to adapt,
 willing to let go whatever we hold so that
 even if we do not see you face to face
like your beloved disciple in the empty tomb
 that Easter morn, we may still believe
 even if we only see the veil that covered your face,
wrapped neatly into one place. Amen.

“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure (1987)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 16 May 2021
Photo by author at NLEX-Pampanga area, January 2020.

Happy Ascension Sunday!

After so many tries at other songs that speak of “heaven” in relation with our celebration today, I finally settled on The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” as our featured Sunday music because first of all, they are one of my favorite bands.

Secondly, unlike the other songs that speak of heaven, The Cure’s Just Like Heaven is so unique: music is cool and crisp that is soothing and relaxing like most romantic songs. It speaks joyfully of the beautiful love between two people so in love with each other that turned out to be only a dream — because the reality is that they have parted ways!

“Show me, show me, show me how you do that trick
The one that makes me scream” she said
“The one that makes me laugh” she said
And threw her arms around my neck

Show me how you do it
And I promise you I promise that
I’ll run away with you
I’ll run away with you

Spinning on that dizzy edge
I kissed her face and kissed her head
And dreamed of all the different ways I had
To make her glow
Why are you so far away, she said
Why won’t you ever know that I’m in love with you
That I’m in love with you

And so, you ask, where is heaven?

Remember our reflection last week about love that despite the pains and hurts of every break up and “LQ” is always the fact that we still love. The man in the song is still so in love that he keeps on dreaming her.

Here lies the deciding factor in our choosing Just Like Heaven for this Sunday’s music: The Cure’s lead singer and composer Robert Smith claims it is his most favorite song in all their music. He admitted in some interviews that composing Just Like Heaven was so different than the rest that he could not repeat. No wonder, a year after writing and recording this song in 1987, Smith married his girlfriend Mary Poole and since then, have lived together — just like heaven! (Mary is the woman who kissed Smith in this music video before waking up from is dream.)

For me, this song captures the meaning of the Lord’s Ascension: it is entering into a higher level of relationships with God through others in Jesus Christ that we have to work for. Heaven does not come on a silver platter; it is both a grace from God we have to strive for as The Cure imply in “Just Like Heaven” (https://lordmychef.com/2021/05/15/levelling-up-in-jesus/).

Have a blessed week and hope you work to deepen your relationships with more love and kindness, and doubling more of forgiving!