We are God’s servant first

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, Martyrs, 22 June 2022
2 Kings 22:8-13, 23:1-3   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Matthew 7:15-20 
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 22 March 2020.
God our loving Father,
we thank you again for the
gift of two great martyrs today,
Saints John Fisher and
Thomas More who stood firm on
your side, offering their very
selves to die than conspire with
their king in allowing his divorce
and break from the Church.
Both Saints John Fisher and
Thomas More proved that we are
first of all your servants, and then
of the king or civil authorities.
They are both so relevant in these days
when people insist on separating 
politics and daily life from faith
and religion, in constricting the 
spiritual life as purely private and personal,
and worst, only on Sundays.
Like in the first reading today,
may we always pray and listen 
to your words O God found in the
sacred scriptures so that we may
never steer away from your path of
truth and righteousness.

The scribe Shaphan also informed the king that the priest Hilkiah had given him a book, and then read it aloud to the king. When the king had heard the contents of the book of the law, he tore his garments and issued this command to Hilkiah the priest, Ahikam, son of Shaphan, Achbor, son of Micaiah, the scribe of Shaphan, and the king’s servant Asaiah: “Go, consult the Lord for me, for the people, for all Judah, about the stipulations of this book that has been found, for the anger of the Lord has been set furiously ablaze against us, because our fathers did not obey the stipulations of this book, nor fulfill our written obligations.”

2 Kings 22:10-13
Help us find our way back
to you, Lord; do not let our
knowledge and technologies
blind our hearts and ideals,
most especially our relationship
with you which is the basis of
our relationships with one 
another. Amen.
St. John Fisher and
St. Thomas More,
Pray for us!

Imitating Jesus, our Eternal Priest

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday after Pentecost, Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest, 09 June 2022
Hebrew 10:11-18     ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>     John 17:1-2, 9, 14-16
Photo by author, 2020.

In a world becoming so callous and impersonal with one another despite the fresh lessons of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our recent celebrations this week after Pentecost are so well-timed for us to recover our lost “loving feeling” and attitude with one another.

Monday after Pentecost we had the Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church to remind us of imitating the beloved disciple in “taking care” the Church signified by Mary as well as the women sent to us by God like our own mother, your wife, our sisters and aunts.

Today, Thursday after the Pentecost, we celebrate the Feast of “Jesus Christ, Our Eternal High Priest” established in 1987 by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to have Jesus as our model as believers and most especially for us priests who act in his person (in persona Christi) in the celebration of the sacraments.

You must have seen that viral video picked up by the news this week of the traffic enforcer bumped and later “intentionally ran over” by an SUV in a busy street corner in Mandaluyong. The video was so disturbing not only because it was so graphic but most of all, the inhumanity and utter lack of respect and mercy by the driver of the SUV who went into hiding after the incident.

Napaka-walang puso (so heartless)!


Our Feast today invites us to become like Jesus Christ, to imitate him in his gentleness and mercy, kindness and love. And the Feast itself shows us it is already in us, the ability to be like Jesus because he is our perfect mediator with God, our Eternal High Priest who became like us so that we become like him.

Photo from flickr.com, 7th-century mosaic from the church of Sant’Apollionare in Classe, near Ravenna, Italy.

This truth is found in the beautiful reflection by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews on the priesthood of Jesus as compared to the Old Testament priesthood at the temple of Jerusalem. For the author of this letter, Jesus is the the one heralded by the high priest Melchizedek mysteriously encountered by Abraham in Genesis out of nowhere. Nothing is mentioned of his origins or his whereabouts after meeting Abraham briefly; hence, Melchizedek is regarded as the type of Christ in the New Testament, “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb.7:17).

Unlike the priesthood of the Old Testament was temporary and imperfect, Christ the Eternal Priest is perfect because he is truly human and truly divine (Heb. 2:17) who intercedes for us with the Father in heaven not just in a temple or sanctuary made by human hands, “able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercessions for them” (Heb.7:25).

Recall how we reflected two Sundays ago that Jesus did not ascend somewhere in the universe up in the heavens but actually entered into a higher level of relationships with us his disciples, making his Ascension more as relational than spatial in nature. In Jesus Christ, we have been one with God and with each other which is being stressed by this Feast of Jesus as our Eternal Priest.

But, what have happened to us lately? Have we forgotten the value of one another and of God and Jesus that the early days of the pandemic’s lockdown had wisely taught us? Where is our compassion and kindness to one another like that of Jesus especially to the poor and elderly, the sick and those others marginalized in our society?

Jesus as our Eternal Priest, so human like us who had gone hungry and thirsty, weakened and abandoned by friends, mocked and jeered by enemies who eventually died for us is the perfect model we must imitate and whom we can become because as priest, he had shared us his divinity. This he showed us not only in his dying on the Cross but even before that happened, he prayed for us.


Photo by author, 2021.

Imagine, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and our Savior, praying for us. Like the “Our Father” he had taught us, his high priestly prayer for his disciples that included us today must be so powerful, one that is surely heard and fulfilled by the Father.

It was my mother who first taught me how to pray personally to God when I was about four or five years old. Every night before she would tucked me in bed, she would ask me to repeat after her by praying for everyone in the family including our relatives and friends by mentioning their names – one by one! As I child, there were times I did not like it especially when I felt so sleepy because it was so long. Later in life, I realized the beauty and value of praying for others by specifically mentioning their names as it gives us a personal link with one another. And that was how I realized as a priest that praying for other people by mentioning their names is as close as doing the simplest kind of deed to anyone that is so personal and so touching too!

Photo by author, Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary, SM Grand Central, Caloocan City, 19 May 2022.

That is what Jesus Christ our Lord and Eternal Priest did for us at the Last Supper when he specifically prayed not only for his apostles but also for us all who would believe them in their teachings (Jn.17:20). In this prayer, Jesus repeatedly mentioned our consecration or sanctification to the Father, of being made holy, of belonging exclusively to God, not to the world.

When Jesus had said this, he raised his eyes to heaven and said this, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him… I gave them your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.”

John 17:1-2, 14-15

One thing we can be sure of is the sincerity of Jesus in praying this for us as well as its fulfillment. We have always been taken cared of and provided with our needs. Today on this Feast, we pray that we do our share, our part in fulfilling that prayer of Jesus by becoming like him, of being in the world but not of the world.

Most special prayer we must pray also on this day is for us your priests, that we may lead lives worthy as priests like Jesus Christ, priests not for ourselves but for others in our life of prayer and witnessing. And like Jesus, that we priests may keep in mind that aspect of victimhood, of offering our very lives, our very selves for the sanctification of others. May we not mislead and drive the Lord’s flock away from him but instead truly remain a mediator, a bridge to God and to one another. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Grace and blessedness of leaving

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday after the Ascension of the Lord, 01 June 2022
Acts 20:28-38     ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     John 17:11-19
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Obando, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
As we begin the first day of
the end of first half of the year,
your words today, O God, are full 
of wisdom worthy for us to keep 
about the blessedness and grace
of every leaving, of every departure;
how ironic when every leaving is
characterized with sadness because
of separation, your words today, O
Lord speak of lavish joy, of your desire
that our joy may be complete in you.
In the first reading, St. Paul is bidding
goodbye to the Ephesians on his way
to Rome for imprisonment and sure death;
there was so much grief among the 
people and yet, there is the pervading 
atmosphere of blessedness and grace.
First is the grace of the gift of person,
of St. Paul and ultimately, of Jesus Christ.

Dear God, may we be like St. Paul truly a
grace to everyone with his sincerity of
love and service, dedication to your
Son Jesus Christ and his gospel of salvation;
teach us to imitate St. Paul of being a
blessing ourselves to others as we make
people experience and feel your love 
and care, your concern and goodwill;
evidently, his concern up to the end is you,
O God and your people whom he warned
on guard against those who would come
after his departure in "perverting the truth", 
reminding them how he loved and 
"admonished them with tears" 
(Acts 20:30-31).
And of course, the greatest blessing
and grace of all who have "left" us
physically is your Son Jesus Christ.
How wonderful that at the Last Supper
before his arrest, he prayed for us
all his disciples he would leave behind.

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are one… Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.

John 17:11, 17-19
Thank you, dear Jesus, for the
gifts of being one like you and the
Father and being consecrated to
the truth - to you yourself!
To be consecrated is to be separated
from the rest in order to be holy for you,
O Lord for the sake of the people;
you alone, Lord Jesus, are the holy one
and thank you in immersing us into you,
making us like you, apart from others in
holiness but united with everyone in
loving service.
Let us not forget this tremendous
blessing and grace you have given
us before returning to the Father,
Lord Jesus.  Keep us one in you with
the Father in loving service of others.
Let us not forget this tremendous
challenge too as part of our mission
that we always leave your marks of 
holiness and truth with everyone 
we serve and meet.  Amen.

Easter is making our lives whole again in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Easter, 28 April 2022
Acts 5:27-33   ><))))*> + <*((((><   John 3:31-36
Photo by author, 20 April 2022.
Lord Jesus Christ,
in this season of Easter,
help me make my fragmented
life whole again in you.
So many times, I feel like 
the many members of the
Sanhedrin in the first reading
today demanding so many things
from myself that I fail to obey God;
grant me the courage like of Peter
and the Apostles who boldly declared,
"We must obey God rather than men"
(Acts 5:29). 
Like Nicodemus in the gospel,
I am still afraid to come to you
in broad daylight, still hiding in the
night because I am afraid of what
people would say and tell about me
in being faithful to you, in being one
with you.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.

John 3:36
To believe in you, dear Jesus,
is to enter into a relationship with
you at the center; to believe in you
is to live and abide in you, Lord.
And that is why our lives are fragmented:
we are so divided and broken because
we follow the world, not you; we are
easily tempted and enticed to the 
many lures of pleasures the world
offers that only leave us more empty,
and more lost.
This season of Easter,
help me go back to you, Lord,
in prayers and silence;
let me focus on you again.
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.

Holiness is in the Cross

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Good Friday, 15 April 2022
Isaiah 52:13-53:12  +  Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9  +  John 18: 1-19:42
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, ICS Chapel, 2016; sculpture by National Artist Ed Castrillo.

Perhaps, today we can truly feel the meaning and gravity of our favorite expression when somebody looks so sad and gloomy, when somebody seems to have been totally lost: “Biyernes Santong Biyernes Santo”.

That is Good Friday for us – so negative in the sense it is so sad and gloomy, so painful and too difficult but, good. 

Good Friday is so negative for us because it means death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Nothing would be more sad than that.

But thanks to this COVID-19 pandemic we have been living inversely or “baligtad” as we say. We would always pray at every swab test for the virus that we be “negative”.

Never has been thinking negative has become so positive, so good, in fact!

And it all began more than 2000 years ago at the calvary when Jesus offered himself for us on the cross.

That is why Good Friday is called “Good”: the cross of Jesus Christ is a sign not of death but of the good news, of the gospel of life, hope, and eternal life.

The cross of Jesus Christ is not a negative sign (-) but a positive sign, a plus sign (+).

We celebrate in the most solemn and unique way because the cross is no longer a sign of condemnation but honor. Before, it was a symbol of death but now a means of salvation. The cross of Christ has been the source of countless blessings for us, illuminating our path with light when our lives are so dark with sins and mistakes, sickness and disappointments. Most of all, the cross of Christ has brought us closer to God again and with one another despite our sins and past, promising us a bright a joyful Easter.

Yes, for some the cross of Christ is so negative: why display the body of the Lord everywhere in our churches and homes, bloodied and defeated, lifeless and dead?

See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted…for those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it.

Isaiah 52:13-15

Many times in life, and we have proven this, God uses many of our “negative” experiences to lead us to more positive outcome and results.

Yes, we may be Biyernes Santong Biyernes Santo in sadness and fear, even anxieties.

But, we continue to pray and forge on with life’s trials and difficulties because we see the cross of Jesus Christ leading us to light and life, joy and celebration of his Resurrection at Easter.

In the Cross is found holiness. It is on the Cross of Christ when we are filled with God when like Jesus we are able to give up ourselves, when we are finished (Jn. 19:30) for God to start his life and work again.

I have not prepared any specific prayer this Good Friday. Just be silent and if you have a cross or crucifix with you now, let us all kneel and thank God in giving us Jesus Christ who brought out so many positive things in our lives out of the many negative experiences we have had lately in life.  Amen.

Photo by author, 2019.

Holiness is companionship in Christ

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Thursday, 14 April 2022
Exodus 12:1-8, 11-14  +  1 Corinthians 11:23-26  +  John13:1-15
Photo from inquirer.net, 20 August 2021.

A blessed Holy Thursday everyone.  Tonight we begin the most holiest days of the year, the Holy Triduum of the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection known as the pasch of the Lord. From the Hebrew word pesach, a pasch is a passing over, the journey of the Hebrew people from Egypt into the promised land of God.

A journey does not necessarily involve physical distance as it can be something within one’s self like an inner journey to God dwelling within us. Journey is a process that leads us to growth and maturity from the many difficulties and trials we experience as we travel in life.

And whatever journey we take outside or within ourselves, we always need a companion to travel with. From the Latin words cum panis that literally mean “someone you break bread with”, a companion is someone who helps us in our journey, a friend who shares life with us, guiding us, protecting us. Like the bread we break and share, a companion sustains and nourishes us in our journey.

That is exactly the companionship of Jesus which is holiness. Having Jesus as our companion in life’s journey is to have him as our daily Bread who fills us with God in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist. I used to tell our students in elementary school that every Mass is a journey into heaven, a dress rehearsal of our entrance into heaven when we have a foretaste of eternal life we all hope for until Christ comes again. That is why last Tuesday we said the first test of our fidelity in found in our celebration of the Sunday Eucharist.

We are all travellers and journeyers on earth; our true home is in heaven with God our Father.  We are merely passing over this planet temporarily.  That is why we always say life is a daily lent, a daily passing over.

By celebrating the Lord’s Supper that Thursday evening with his disciples who represented all peoples of all time, Jesus established for us the everlasting memorial of his loving presence as our companion and our very Bread and Wine in the journey back to the Father that is often dark and difficult.

What he did that Thursday evening foreshadowed what he would do on Good Friday when he did his greatest act of love for us by dying on the Cross. What is most beautiful meaning we can find here is the importance of communion, of oneness as a community, as a family that are expressions of our companionship in Jesus. Every journey becomes wonderful when done in the context of a community, with true companions beginning in our very family.

At the very core of every companionship, of every community is LOVE. To become bread for someone in a journey is to become LOVE – like Jesus Christ at the last supper.

Love can never be defined for it has no limits; love can only be described like how Jesus described to us in his actions on that night of his supper, his kind of love we all must emulate:

So, during supper, fully aware that the Father had put everything into his power and that he had come from God and was returning to God, he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist.

John 13:3-5
Photo from GettyImages/iStockPhotos.

During the time of Christ, restaurants were stops not only for meals but for rest that consisted of soaking their feet on a basin of water. It was therapeutic that gave travelers enough strength to travel far again as there were no other modes of transportation at that time and not everybody could afford an animal to ride on. Any hiker and mountaineer can attest that after so much trekking, one thing you would always hope for is a stream or tiny brook with cool, crisp, running water to dip your feet and rest!

This Holy Thursday, let us be a companion in Jesus Christ with others, beginning with our family members. Do not get tired of being broken and shared like bread, of loving and caring when the journey becomes so tiring like in this time of pandemic that seems to be still far from over.

“Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.”

John 13:12-15

Lord Jesus Christ,
may we never get tired 
walking in love 
as a companion and 
bread to one another like you 
by giving rest to others 
already tired and about to give up. 
Let us all be together in welcoming Easter! 
Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Holiness is being true

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Wednesday, 13 April 2022
Isaiah 50:4-9   +   Matthew 26:14-25
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 31 March 2022.

It’s Holy Wednesday, also known as Spy Wednesday, the night Judas Iscariot agreed to betray Jesus Christ to the chief priests in exchange of 30 pieces of silver (Mt.26:14-15). Tonight is the night of traitors, of betrayers, of those not true to us!

This is the reason why in most parishes after the Mass tonight, there is the ritual of tenebrae or gradual turning off of lights and extinguishing of candles in the church to show how momentarily darkness and evil prevailed in the world when Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.

Photo from saopedroesaopaolo.com.br.

To betray literally means to hand over a loved one to pain and sufferings like when a husband is unfaithful to his wife, when we spill the secrets of our friends, when we answer back our parents or refuse to obey them, when children waste their money on their vices and other non-essential things instead of studying their lessons while their mother or father is toiling day and night abroad as an OFW.

Betrayal is so painful and most unkind because we exchange or “sell” our loved ones like commodities for someone or something less in value; imagine the pain a betrayer inflicts on the someone who gave everything, with all the love and care only to be “traded” for lesser value? It is said that during the time of Jesus, a slave can be bought for 30 pieces of silver; how foolish Judas must have been in exchanging Jesus who loved and cared for him for a slave! And that is what we are too when we betray God and our loved ones – fools to replace someone so precious for anything else!

Betrayal is rebelling against a loving God, a beloved one, turning our back from them who are most true to us. And that is the short of it: betrayal is not being true.

Holiness is being true; holiness and truth always go together.

The word true is from the Anglo-Saxon treowe or tree. For them, truth is like a tree that evokes a sense of firmness, of being rooted in the ground. When our words and actions are not firm, shaky and always changing, flimsy or “pabago-bago” as we say in Filipino, then it must not be true. It must be a lie and not true at all because it is always changing or shifting.


Photo by author, St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2019.

Truth is always firm, does not change and remains true forever. It may be concealed or covered by lies for sometime but sooner or later, truth will always come out. It cannot be deleted. That is why the Greeks referred to truth as aletheia or phusis, the blooming of a flower that cannot be hidden and would always manifest or show. Jesus himself assured us that “nothing that is hidden will not be revealed; nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light” (Lk.8:17).

Closely linked with the word true is trust which also came from treowe: the Anglo-Saxons saw in the tree not only firmness but also rootedness or connectedness. The firmer the tree, the deeper are its roots. And that is what a true person is – always trustworthy, someone who can be trusted, someone who values relationships or ties and links. Traitors betray their loved ones because they do not value their relationships; a true person is always trustworthy because he values his relationships. A true and trustworthy person is one who would always listen to God and others, not insisting on his own plans and agenda like the Suffering Servant of God.

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. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.

Isaiah 50:4-6
Photo from Pinterest.

Remember the scene of the scourging at the pillar in the film The Passion of the Christ (2004)? Biblical experts say that gory scene was very true as it was the most painful aspect of the Lord’s passion next to the crucifixion; every time the knuckles would hit the body of Jesus, a piece of his flesh is torn off. Pilate ordered Jesus to be flogged in the belief that people might pity him when seen so tortured and bruised, perhaps agree to let him go freely.

But it did not happen as the people shouted more for his crucifixion.

And that is what happens when we betray our loved ones, including Jesus: the more we become indecisive in life like Pilate, the more we also betray them because we could not stand for what is true. That is also when we hurt them more and ourselves in the process too.

So often, traitors are not aware of their betrayals, believing in their wrongful and misplaced convictions, forgetting the people who love them most. Many times, we absolutize the truth, forgetting that only God is absolute. Most of all, that truth is a Person, Jesus Christ who said “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn.16:6). Being true, being holy is always directed to a person, not just a conviction.

So be careful by being true always with one’s self, with others and with God.

What makes you forget the truth and be untrue to others?


Lord Jesus Christ,
teach me to be true and holy
not only to you but most especially
to the people you give me,
those who love me truly and dearly;
make me like a tree,
firm and reliable, 
dependable and trustworthy,
most of all, deeply rooted in you
through then people I love and care and serve.
Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, January 2022.

Holiness is being faithful

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Tuesday, 12 April 2022
Isaiah 49:1-6   +   John 13:21-33, 36-38
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King Procession, 2020.

Maybe so many times you have felt nothing seems to be happening with all your efforts in school or office, in your relationships, and even in your prayers and devotions. Everything seems to be going to nothing at all.

Have a heart. Just be faithful in your studies, in your work, with your family and friends, most especially with God.

Though I thoughts 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

When I was still a seminarian, there was a moment after our class when I went straight into our chapel and slouched on a pew, complaining and whining to God for the many problems that never stopped coming my way despite my efforts to be good. With my head bowed down, I had a litany of complaints to God that I felt like packing my things, go home and forget all about the priesthood. But after getting tired with my monologue and as I raised my head, something struck me that I felt so good while looking at our huge image of the Crucifixion at the altar of the chapel. As I looked in silence, I felt myself praying,

"Lord Jesus Christ, 
before all these pains and sufferings came, 
before all these problems happened, 
you were there first on the Cross - 
suffering for me, dying for me first."
Photo by author, ICMAS Chapel (Theology Dept.), 2020.

My dear friends, holiness is being faithful to God in Jesus Christ. St. Mother Teresa perfectly said that, “We are called to be faithful, not successful.” In my 24 years in the priesthood, I have realized that many times, our success are actually failures with God while our failures are what he often considers as success!

Of course, we need to plan and set goals in life and in work but we need to focus more on Jesus Christ as center of our lives, trying to see everything in his light not in our own limited views and perceptions. There so many things in life that cannot be quantified like our spiritual and emotional well-being on which actually depend many of our other aims in our personal and professional life.

Notice how in our gospel today the Apostles were so focused on themselves instead with Jesus that they totally missed what he was telling them about his coming betrayal by “one of them”. Particularly interesting was Simon Peter who asked the beloved disciple, John, to clarify it with Jesus since he was seated closest to him.

He leaned back against Jesus’ chest and said to him, “Master, who is it?” Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I had the morsel after I have dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After Judas took the morsel, Satan entered him. So Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” Now none of those reclining at table realized why he said this to him.

John 13:25-28

Did you see the comedy, the humor?

Everybody was so focused on everyone and with each self except with Jesus! Were they so dumb not to understand the words of Jesus that to whomever he would give the morsel dipped in wine is the one who would betray him? Not really. Most likely, they were not listening, they were not focused on Jesus but with their very selves.

Being faithful is first of all being focused on God, in Jesus.

How can God fill us with his holiness when our thoughts and our being are always somewhere else or with somebody else? How can God fill us with his holiness when we cannot spend time with him every day in prayer?

Photo by author, Mass by the shore of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

How lovely is the context of Simon Peter’s question that it happened during their Last Supper because that is where our fidelity to God is first nurtured to grow and deepened – at the Holy Eucharist of the Mass.

Remember, the minimum requirement for anyone to be called a good, practicing Catholic is to go Mass every Sunday. That is the most minimum but, have we kept it? It has been more than two months since we returned to alert level 1 in this time of the pandemic with almost everybody going to the malls and many vacation spots but what a shame when many still refuse to go to churches for the Sunday Mass!

Being faithful to Jesus to become holy begins with the Sunday Eucharist where we are nourished by the words of God and by the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ himself who enables us to overcome the many trials and difficulties of this life and make it into the Father’s house in eternity.

Have you gone back to your parish church for the Sunday Masses?

Forgive us, Lord Jesus Christ,
for being unfaithful to you, 
for betraying you like Judas Iscariot
right in the context of the Holy Eucharist
when we skip Sunday Masses;
when we come to Mass not for you 
but for our friends to whom we listen more; 
and most especially when we refuse or fail 
to practice the essence of the Eucharist
of sharing the love of Christ to everyone.
Amen.
Photo by author, Parish of St. John the Baptist in Calumpit, Bulacan, 31 March 2022.

Holiness is being gentle

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Monday, 11 April 2022
Isaiah 42:1-7   +   John 12:1-11
Photo from Pinterest.

A blessed Holy Monday to you and your loved ones!

Every year beginning with the Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord until the morning of Holy Thursday, the Church has regarded since the fourth century these days as holy and sacred in commemoration of the Lord’s Passion in Jerusalem.

These days, people frown and withdraw from any discussions about holiness, believing it is just for a selected few like saints and angels, and religious men and women like priests and nuns. For many, holiness is being sinless like God.

Not really.

The word holy came from the Greek holos meaning whole or perfect; holiness is being filled with God who fills in the gaps and broken corners in us, making us whole, a person of integrity and character. Holiness is an ongoing process, never a one-shot deal. That is why Jesus said “be perfect (or holy) as your heavenly Father is perfect (or holy).”

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images.

One beautiful aspect of holiness is being gentle, something that has become so rare in our highly competitive world today. Jesus described himself as being “humble and gentle of heart” in whom we can find rest for his “yoke is easy” and his “burden is light” (cf. Mt. 11:29).

Being gentle means being open to everyone, especially those burdened in life like the poor and the sick, the elderly, the orphans, the widowed, the marginalized.

Being gentle is to be welcoming or hospitable and caring of others instead of threatening and indifferent. Hospitality is from the Latin word hospis which means to welcome like hospital while hostility is from the Latin word hostes which means to hostage.

Just like Jesus who was prefigured as the Suffering Servant in today’s first reading described by God as one who “shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench” (Is.42:1-3).

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

In our world where everyone has all the means to be heard and seen loudly and clearly in high definition, gentleness has become so rare, almost extinct! Lahat na lang “mema” may masabi. What is sad is how we speak and get our messages across in every media platform, from the simple text messages to the giant tarps and screaming stickers on vehicles that are always harsh and laden with insults and sarcasms.

In this world where “size always matters” while power is expressed in force and violence, gentleness is being one with the weak and the suffering, the broken ones like the “bruised reed” that the Suffering Servant “would not break or smoldering wick he shall not quench.”

Wherever there is gentleness, there is always hospitality, there is God; without gentleness, we get hostilities like war and violence.

See the attitude of Jesus in today’s gospel, how he welcomed Mary at a dinner in Bethany who anointed his feet with a liter of costly perfumed oil and later dried them with her hair that the house was filled with fragrance. Notice the hostile attitude of Judas Iscariot pretending to care for the poor when he asked “Why was this oil not sold for three hundred days’ wages and given to the poor?” (Jn.12:5).

Jesus simply told Judas to leave Mary alone with what she was doing that was a preparation for his burial soon to happen, adding, “You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me” (Jn.12:8).

Very loaded words from the Lord, telling us to be gentle with everyone’s devotion and expression of faith and love in God while reminding us all how the poor must always be welcomed and cared for even after he had gone back to the Father.

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

Gentleness is more than offering a seat to an elderly or opening the door for a woman; being gentle is having that disposition to care for everyone, consciously guarding against hurting them physically and emotionally.

Gentleness is holiness because it is an act of loving others, of finding Christ in everyone because whatsoever you do to the least of his brethren, that you do unto him.

There is a beautiful saying I have found from an unknown author who said “if you have love in your heart, you have been blessed by God; if you have been loved, you have been touched by God.” So many among us could not know nor experience God because many of us refuse to be gentle with everyone; many could not understand nor imagine a loving and merciful God when everybody is hostile and violent.

This Holy Monday, let us examine ourselves, our attitude with others, if we have been welcoming, hospitable and caring. It costs us nothing to adjust ourselves, to be more gentle in words and in deeds – and looks, too! It could be your step closer to simple holiness as God fills you with himself in Christ who is humble and gentle of heart.

Lord Jesus Christ,
teach us to be gentle like you;
make us feel more our being human
and stop feeling superior with others,
always analyzing, always thinking
that in the process we have forgotten 
to feel the persons around us.
Make us gentle in our thoughts
and in our words.  Amen.
Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, 2018.