Maturing in Jesus our true vine

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 05 May 2021
Acts 15:1-6  ><)))'> + <'(((><   John 15:1-8
Photo by author, Mount St. Paul Center for Spirituality, La Trinidad, Benguet, January 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father 
is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch 
that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does
he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  
You are already pruned 
because of the word that I spoke to you."
(John 15:1-3)

Thank you very much, Lord Jesus Christ, for finding me, taking me, and making me a branch of you our true vine. Most of all, thank you that I have been “pruned” because of the word you spoke to me.

But, what does it really mean to be pruned?

Yes, it has been a very, very long and tedious journey with you, Lord Jesus. And just maybe, I have grown and been fruitful after all those years in having identified with you closely and with your values and ideals. However, it is not enough.

I know… the pruning never stops until it is only you who is seen in me as I fade from the scene.

I could feel my need for more pruning, Lord, especially at times when I still insist on myself, on what I believe, on what I see as most important for you and for others.

Like those early Jewish converts to Christianity, particularly those who belonged to the party of Pharisees insisting that Gentile converts must be circumcised and observe other prescriptions of the Mosaic law (Acts 15:5).

There are still many things to be pruned in me, a lot of trimmings here and there that need to be cut off and removed until the “me” in me is totally gone, and only you remain.

Preparing for a Mass by the shore of Lake Tiberias in Capernaum, 2017.

Pruning is painful, Lord, but as time goes by, as the Father prunes me unknowingly in daily prayers and striving to be patient and better person, perhaps it is slowly bearing fruit as I begin to see you more clearly in my life.

And all the more the pruning must continue until everything becomes new in me!

Keep me open to you, dear Jesus, like the Apostles and the presbyters who met together to see about the issues raised by the Jewish converts to Christianity in the first reading.

Let me be open to other possibilities of meeting you, of sharing you, of working in you and with you by denying some of my natural appetites and tendencies.

Give me the grace to gladly and willingly give up whatever I hold on and keep that is contrary to you so that in the end, You are are my only joy and consolation, O dear Jesus. Amen.

Holiness is being true

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Wednesday, a.k.a. "Spy Wedneday", 31 March 2021
Isaiah 50:4-9   ><}}}*>   Matthew 26:14-25
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.
The Lord God has given me a well-trained tongue, 
that I might know how to speak to the weary 
a word that will rouse them.
Morning after morning he opens my ear that I may hear;
and I have not rebelled, have not turned back.
(Isaiah 50:4-5)

God our loving Father in heaven, it is now the eve of the Sacred Paschal Triduum called “Spy Wednesday” or “night of traitors” when Judas Iscariot went to the chief priests and offered to “hand Jesus over” to them for thirty pieces of silver.

Bless us, dear Father, to be holy like you by being true to you in Jesus Christ.

Give us the grace to be like your “Suffering Servant” in the first reading to remain true to you by not turning our backs from you.

Let us not rebel against you especially when we insist on our own agenda and plans in life.

So many times in life we are like Judas, and even Peter, when we betray Jesus especially after breaking bread with him in the Holy Mass, when we malign people around us, spread lies about them so we may look good; when we deny knowing you or standing for family and friends because we are afraid for our safety; and, so many times we have been remiss in our responsibilities and obligations at home, in the office, in the school and in the community like the church.

Teach us to be true and holy not only to you but most especially to one another.

May we be like the tall tree that is an image of being true: firm and reliable, dependable, trustworthy, and most of all, deeply rooted in you through people we love and care and serve. Amen.

Holiness is faithfulness

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Tuesday, 30 March 2021 
Isaiah 49:1-6   ><}}}*>   John 13:21-33, 36-38
Photo by author, December 2020
Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the Lord, 
my recompense is with my God.
(Isaiah 49:4)

So many times, dear Father in heaven, I feel like your “Suffering Servant” feeling that nothing is happening with all my efforts, with things I persevere, as if they are all useless until I realize what matters most is my being faithful to you.

Thank you for the sign of the Cross of Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord and Master: when things become so difficult and frustrating for me, I just look at him there on the cross, “dead” like me who had failed in your mission.

But as I contemplate his Cross, I remember how before all my sadness and sufferings, Jesus was there first for me to be good with others, to be kind, to be understanding, to be merciful and forgiving, to be patient, and most of all, first to be holy in being faithful to you and your call, Father.

Remind me the words of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta that we are called to be faithful, not successful.

Let me focus more on you, Lord, instead of wondering how I have been doing, how good I have been.

Let me stop competing with others, asking who is not faithful to you, who is going to betray you like Peter during the last supper when he told the beloved disciple to clarify it with Jesus:

He leaned back against Jesus' chest
and said to him, 
"Master, who is it?"
(John 13:25)

How lovely is the context of that question when what we must contemplate with is whether we have been faithful to Jesus in his Holy Eucharist.

How sad, O dear Father, that we are most unfaithful to you when we betray you right in the Eucharist – when do not listen to your words and message to us, when we do not live and practice the essence of thanksgiving to you by being faithful in witnessing Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross in our daily lives. Amen.

Palm Sunday in the Lord’s palms

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, 28 March 2021
Photo by Ms. Kysia Cruz, 28 March 2021.
Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
Today we started the most holy week
of the year celebrating Palm Sunday 
listening to your Passion story proclaimed;
but, today was so different 
when people were gone
and all we have were palms
and more other fronds.
Photo by Ms. Kysia Cruz, 28 March 2021.
It pained my heart, dear Jesus
when all the people and familiar faces
I see every Sunday morning
were all praying and standing
outside, hoping they could come in
while we are under strict quarantine
as between our glancing, my heart was shrinking
so I raised my hands, and began praying on them.
Photo by Ms. Kysia Cruz, 28 March 2021.
Lord, I cannot understand nor see clearly
things happening except hear people silently crying;
all I know is that you are passing
still on a donkey riding
a king not domineering but serving;
open our eyes of faith to see your indwelling
so we may learn self-emptying
thus, becoming like you, an offering.
Photo by Ms. Kysia Cruz, 28 March 2021.
As we begin this Holy Week journey
in the most unholy time of our history
let us not miss this opportunity
to be filled by you in our being empty 
joining you to the calvary
with the cross that we carry
to rest and trust in your palms fully
serving you in others lovingly and faithfully.
Photo by Ms. Ariane Distor, 27 March 2021.

Lent is acquiring taste for God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Fifth Week in Lent, 23 March 2021
Numbers 21:4-9  ><}}}*> + <*{{{><  John 8:21-30
Photo by author, Franciscan Monastery on Mount Nebo overlooking Israel, 2019.

It has been a year, dear God our Father, since we went into this journey into the wilderness of this COVID-19 pandemic. It has become very similar with the wandering in the desert of your chosen people during the time of Moses that like them, we have become impatient too.

But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!” In punishment the Lord sent among the people seraph serpents, which bit the people so that many of them died.

Numbers 21:4-6

Of course, we know you do not punish for you are love, O God; you even took that occasion to foreshadow the dying on the cross of your Son Jesus Christ for us.

Very much like them, we have been grumbling and complaining with you, forgetting all your goodness to us while we have been remiss with our own duties and responsibilities.

How ironic that the more they spoke of the tastelessness of the food you sent from heaven called manna, the more they revealed their own tastelessness as people.

And that is what is sadly happening with us too — our tastelessness as a people: our tastelessness in choosing our leaders in government, our tastelessness in giving value to your many blessings in life like family and country, our tastelessness in tolerating corruption and all the evils in our society long before this pandemic came.

We have lost our sense of taste, Lord, like being afflicted with COVID-19 — exactly like what your Son Jesus declared to his enemies always seeking ways to entrap him.

He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.”

John 8:23-24

Send us your Holy Spirit, O Lord, to enlighten our minds and our hearts, to be simple and humble like those folks in Jerusalem who came to believe in you because you spoke in such a way (Jn.8:30), unlike the learned Pharisees and scribes who, despite thei education, remained tasteless like many among us.

O dear Jesus, give us some tastes! — a taste for what is decent and good, a taste of heaven and holiness, a taste of true order and beauty found only in you. Amen.

Our good God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the First Week of Lent, 26 February 2021
Ezekiel 18:21-28     ><}}}*>  +  <*{{{><     Matthew 5:20-26
From Google.

O God our Father, you alone are the Holy One, you alone are Good! You alone are the one who wishes and looks only for what is good in us despite our sinfulness. Your words today are very loud and clear:

“Do I indeed derive any pleasure from the death of the wicked,” says the Lord God. “Do I not rather rejoice when he turns from his evil way that he may live?”

Ezekiel 18:23

In this blessed season of Lent, help us to be good by thinking what is good, seeing what is good, saying what is good, and doing what is good.

Let us be good always in every here and now. Help us let go of the past, thinking how sinful we have been. Or, in a similar manner, claiming how good we have been. So often, we always live in the past than in the present where you are always found.

One thing so good with you dear God is your “poor memory” of our past sins! And so, bless us to always make every effort to be good and make good our relationship with you in others in every present moment so we stop harking back into the past.

You say, “The Lord’s way is not fair!” Hear now, house of Israel: Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair? When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies, it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die. But if the wicked, turning from the wickedness he has committed, does what is right and just, he shall preserve his life since he has turned away from all the sins that he committed. He shall surely live, he shall not die.”

Ezekiel 18:25-28

Let me choose you always, dear God, to relate with you in the present moment each day in love and kindness. Let it start right here inside my heart where I choose to be good in thoughts and intentions, words and actions. Through Jesus Christ your Son and our Lord, let me not reject you by turning away from my brothers and sisters for that is not the kind of worship you want; let every good begin right inside me, within my heart and not from the outside that can always be faked just to look good. Amen.

From Google.

Miercules de Ceniza

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-19 ng Pebrero 2021
Larawan mula sa catholic.org.
Miercules de ceniza
simula ng kuwaresma,
Abo sa noo at ulo
tanda na tayo ay kay Kristo;
Nag-aayuno at sakripisyo
lahat ng hilig at tawag ng laman
ano mang nagpapalugod sa katawan
binabawasan, tinatalikuran
lalo na kung nagbubulid sa kasalanan
upang kalooban natin mawalan ng laman
at mapunan ng Diyos
ng Kanyang kabanalan
nang muling mabanaagan
kanyang larawan 
sa ating mukha at katauhan.

Advent is simply being good

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Advent Week-III, 15 December 2020
Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Matthew 21:28-32
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his youngest son, 21 November 2019.

Dearest God our Father: Lately our social media giants were having problems, one by one, had gone down for several hours with glitches that could not be accessed. And everybody is complaining that in less than a week, Messenger, GMail, and YouTube have landed on headlines in the world.

What is happening?

A new religion? A new god everybody is following?

Almost everyone is crazy risking one’s life for the sake of remaining in the web because even children declare, “wifi is life”!

It may be funny but thought-provoking at how we would always want our internet, apps and gadgets perfectly working, doing good all the time.

If we could just be like our internet, apps, and gadgets, Lord, to be simply good as persons, everything would flow smoothly especially our relationships with everybody happy and nobody complaining.

But we are more than internet, apps and gadgets, Lord!

This Season of Advent, teach us to be simply good, to stop all debates and complicated discussions on so many things in life like those people in Jerusalem both during the time of Zephaniah and Jesus Christ.

“Purify our lips” (Zeph.3:9), Lord, that we may “walk our talk” like the first son in the parable: though he said no to his father’s request, he changed his mind and obeyed him (Mt. 21:28-29).

Let us be good brothers and sisters, good neighbors, good classmates, good colleagues, good Christians who reflect more of your presence than what we know or whatever is in our minds that we always insist.

Let us be kind and caring, never judging others, always respecting one another, and trying to find what is good than what is wrong. Amen.

Advent is a two-way street

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday of Advent-B, 06 December 2020
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11   > + <   2 Peter 3:8-14   > + <   Mark1:1-8
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon (March 2020).

Had a most unique experience this week about waiting when I was told by my doctor to take a swab test Wednesday after coming home with a terrible flu Monday afternoon. With no results yet after 24 hours, I felt worried.

It was later that evening when I regained my bearing in the Lord guided by his words during prayer where he proclaimed his coming “a very little while” (Is.29:17, Friday Advent Wk.I), comforting me through the night. The following day after breakfast, I was informed my swab test yielded negative results that I rejoiced and felt Jesus finally coming!

And that is when I realized too that Advent happens on a two-way street: Jesus is always coming to us and we have to come to him too in order to meet him and experience Advent.


Jesus always comes;
we need to also come to meet him!

Advent is a wonderful season that teaches us the beauty and value of waiting that has become so rare in our 24/7 world of instants. Nobody wants to wait, thinking it is a waste of time as they feel empty when waiting for someone or something. We want our hands always full, our bases loaded with something concrete and tangible.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary in Infanta, Quezon (03 December 2020).

But that is what we forget when we wait: we are never empty when waiting. In fact, the very reason we wait is because we always have something already, never empty. We await results of all kinds of tests we have undertaken because we have given our best shots or specimen; we await a loved one because we have a beloved; and, we await the day because it is night time, the best time to believe in the light as we have reflected last week.

Yes, in Advent we await the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time which we do not know when but we are not empty waiting for him; we are filled with him but we hardly notice him because we have filled ourselves with so many other things and people. We need to empty ourselves once in a while, leave our places of comfort to come and meet Jesus in the many desert of life.

Like John the Baptizer.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. a voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

Mark 1:1-8

The gospel of Jesus
begins whenever
we come to meet him.

St. Mark wrote the first gospel account in the Bible that became the pattern for St. Matthew and St. Luke in writing their own gospel versions. Being the first evangelist, St. Mark was also the first to give us a portrait of who is Jesus Christ, the suffering Messiah.

Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, November 2018.

He did not have an infancy narrative of Jesus unlike St. Matthew and St. Luke because St. Mark was in such a hurry to proclaim the good news of salvation of Christ who had to suffer for the forgiveness of our sins.

And that makes him so perfect in this Season of Advent: we need to hurry in order to meet Jesus Christ right here in our own darkness and sufferings as we have mentioned last Sunday.

Advent as a season of new beginnings happens wherever and whenever we become another John, a voice in the wilderness, one who goes out to proclaim that the Lord is coming, that he in fact has come.

To speak of a “beginning” always implies an end like in the beginning of a new day after the end of yesterday.

But with St. Mark telling us “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”, he is not implying something that had ended. When we look at how he ended his gospel, we find it to be “hanging”, not really finished with the discovery of the empty tomb: St. Mark “ended” his gospel abruptly because he wanted his audience and all believers of Jesus to continue telling and living the gospel of Christ!

And that is how the gospel Jesus truly begins: in every heart that is open and empty for his coming, for anyone honest and sincere to admit his sinfulness, his shortcomings, his limitations, his being less than God, his being in darkness longing to be in light.

Here we find that imagery of the desert in John’s preaching to show us the need to retreat, to come to terms with our true selves in our bare essentials — no ifs nor buts, no pretensions, no hypocrisies. Come to Jesus in our sinfulness, in our littleness, in our being his precursor like John.


Beginning does not always mean the end
but sometimes the continuation of
something so beautiful that had already began.

Sometimes in life, we do not see everything so clear right away. There are times even when nothing seems to be so good as if God has abandoned us that we do not know where to begin at all, if ever we could really start again.

Imagine the people of Israel at that time living in exile at Babylon: they have not seen nor heard anything about their country nor their temple in Jerusalem that once stood as their pride being God’s chosen people. No doubt, they could not see anything good at all in their exile as everything must be so bad and dismal — their masters, the food, the water, and life itself.

Suddenly, here comes God, telling them through the prophet:

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.

Isaiah 40:1-2
Photo by author, Advent Week-I in our parish, 29 November 2020.

Last Thursday, while feeling so sick and helpless with my situation, awaiting the results of my swab test coupled with some problems, I cried out to God.

It was like a desert experience when I felt so helpless, so weak before him, lamenting that this should be the season of Advent, of his coming yet I could not see him.

But it was an outpouring of my feelings inside where deep within, I trusted God so much that he would do something wonderful. That there is something beautiful coming like his very Advent. And it did happen! I was found negative of COVID-19 and most of all, all my other problems and worries were solved in a flash.

Sometimes in life, we need to go to our “desert”, to come out of our false securities in life, come to the open in order to meet Jesus who is always coming. This Second Sunday of Advent, we are called to be another John the Baptist, “A voice of one crying out in the desert” expressing our hope in Jesus that he is coming, that he is come, that he is already here.

To go come out to meet Jesus is when we are also comforted in this season of patient waiting for his Second Coming as he strengthens us in our faith and hope in God. To comfort is not just to feel good but to give strength, from the Latin cum + fortis, with strength.

When we do not see someone or anyone, that does not mean he/she does not exist; there are times we need to go out and walk around, even go up a mountain or hill to find Jesus coming. God is always with us and will never abandon us even in our worst and most sinful and darkest moments in life.

That is why every “beginning” does not mean the end of something but the continuation of something that had began so beautiful which is the coming of Jesus, his meeting with us. And the more we continue in these series of new beginning, the more wonderful life becomes.

May we heed this Season of Advent St. Peter’s teaching:

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

2 Peter 3:8-9
Photo by author, Advent Week-I in the parish, 29 November 2020.

God remains faithful to his promise and he will surely come again like a thief at night. This is the very essence of Advent, the other facet of our focus in our four-week preparation for Christmas. May we witness to this hope as disciples of the Lord not with what we say but with how we live, how we try to be holy in life even if we have to begin anew every day. Amen.

Have a blessed Sunday, my dear reader!

Praying not to be deceived

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs, 24 November 2020
Revelations 14:14-19     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Luke 21:5-11
Photo by author, “wailing wall” of Jerusalem, May 2017.

Your words today, Lord Jesus, are disturbing because they are actually happening: “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name saying ‘I am he’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!” (Lk.21:8).

In our age of instant communications when everything is reduced to bits and pieces of information to be consumed by everyone through various media platforms, we have become so gullible for whatever is fed to us. The more outlandish even unbelievable, the better! Worst, we never bother to check their veracity and even sanity that sometimes, we have become so foolish to accept everything we hear and see and read.

Heighten our sense of reason and most especially our faith in you.

Let us not be deceived in following your impostors as well as focusing more on the coming end that we forget to live in the present moment by making a stand for your gospel truths.

Like St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companion martyrs in Vietnam, they chose to live in the present moment of giving witness to your gospel than arguing or debating if it were the moment of your final coming or not.

Let us not be deceived by focusing on the peripherals of our faith like rites and rituals empty of loving service for others.

May we stand firmly by your side, for what is true and just, so that when judgement day comes, we may remain faithful in you like grapes so ripened, ready for harvesting, and when pressed, produce good wine to uplift the spirits. Amen.