Healing the divisions within and among us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXIX-A in Ordinary Time, 18 October 2020
Isaiah 45:1, 4-6  ><)))*> + <*(((><  1 Thessalonians 1:1-5 ><)))*> + <*(((><  Matthew 22:15-21
Photo by author, the Walls of Jerusalem, May 2019.

People are lonely because they build walls instead of bridges.

“I Like You Just Because” by Albert J. Nimeth, OFM

We live in a world with so many divisions of our own making. Most of the time we are divided on the things we possess not only of things like properties and borders, inheritance, and toys but also of persons like in child custody and “trading” players in sports! So many times these divisions have caused harm and destruction among us as nations and as individuals.

Sad to say, these divisions come from within us in our hearts where we always try to divide our lives between God and our very selves, especially in the realm of religion and civic life.

The Pharisees went off and plotted how they might entrap Jesus in speech. They sent their disciples to him, with the Herodians, saying, “Tell us, then, what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”

Matthew 22:15-16, 17

When our possessions possess us.

Today and next Sunday, Jesus is confronted by his enemies who have increased their efforts in finding faults against him in his speech to charge him with serious cases and get rid of him; but, more than dispatching his enemies with his brilliant answers to their question, Jesus brought to the fore the real score of the great divide within us.

In our gospel scene today, we can see clearly how divided within were the enemies of Jesus like the Pharisees and Herodians who joined forces to put Jesus down despite their being poles apart in their beliefs: the former who were against the Romans taking control in Israel while the latter were members of a faction supportive of the occupying forces.

As they sought the Lord’s opinion on the perceived deep divisions many still believe to exist up to this day between “Caesar” and God, Jesus brought to the open how divided inside were his enemies after all —- just like us today when we have been possessed by our very own possessions!

Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?” They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that he said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”

Matthew 22:18-21

Jesus is not proposing a compromise in his answer but rather trying to heal the false divisions we have created inside us.

Aside from the silly alliance of the Pharisees and Herodians, Jesus bared how divided within they have always been when they gave him a coin used to pay taxes to the Caesar that has an image of the emperor and the inscription that says “son of god” – something that was clearly against the First Commandment of God that in fact, they should have not been carrying at all when in the temple area!

They have been divided inside because they have been possessed by their possessions like money. In telling them, and us today, to “repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar”, Jesus reminds us that what belongs to Caesar are inanimate objects that are external to the heart of things. When a young man asked Jesus one day to tell his brother to give him his share of inheritance, the Lord stressed that he had not come to settle our disputes about money and properties (Lk.12:13). Today, Jesus is telling us that it is our responsibility and not for him to decide for us how to settle our political and other problems.

Our undivided hearts are God’s alone.

Photo by d0n mil0 on Pexels.com

Jesus clearly points out that what belongs to God is our whole selves, our whole hearts undivided by pride, hypocrisy, and selfishness. While we must give back to Caesar what is due them as further taught by St. Paul and St. Peter in their letters to the early Christians, Jesus directly tells us that our duties to God bind all, everywhere and all the time.

Unlike the image of the Caesar found on coins, we are stamped with the image and likeness of God who created us out of his immense love. It is our duty and moral obligation to always ensure that this image of God in us is never destroyed and always upheld.

Here falls the sensitive – and false issue of “separation of Church and state” in our time like the payment of Roman tax raised by the Pharisees and Herodians. Nowhere does the concept forbid us priests nor the Church as an institution not to speak out when the very image of God is destroyed among men and women with injustice, violence and abject poverty.

What the separation of Church and state forbids is the support and endorsement of a state religion; in a sense, it promotes more harmony and unity among government and religions in their exercise of their true freedom among peoples.

Even God himself works within our own settings in this world to fulfill his plans for us. Trust him because everything works best for those who have believe wholly in God.

In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah we find the most amusing bit of history of how God had used a pagan ruler, Cyrus the king of Persia or Iran today to become his anointed savior or messiah of Israel then in their Babylonian exile. Imagine how God used an outsider, an unbeliever to free his chosen people from one of their darkest moments in history to show us that God is the master of history because everything is his.

May we heed St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians and to us today to never doubt it was God in Jesus Christ who called us out of darkness and sin to be his new chosen people. Everything in our lives specially in our ministries and apostolate are the initiatives of God – may our hearts be undivided in giving him back everything through Jesus Christ, our life and meaning. Amen.

A blessed new week to you!

Photo by the author, view of the hills from Jerusalem temple, May 2019.

Being clothed with Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXVIII-A in Ordinary Time, 11 October 2020
Isaiah 25:6-10     ><)))*>     Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20     >><)))*>     Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by author, Our Lady of Mount Carmel of the Holy Family, Guiguinto, Bulacan (2018).

As we end the series of teachings in parables by Jesus directed to the chief priests and elders of the people, St. Paul concludes his Letter to the Philippians in our second reading with words so moving for a man awaiting trial and sure death, giving us a glimpse at how this great Apostle of the Lord looked at the most ordinary things in life.

Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live in abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:12-14

Wow! Here we find St. Paul at his best and finest, with his mastery of language at the service of his innermost thoughts and feelings, indicating his transformation from the many hardships and difficulties he had gone through as an Apostle and suffered as a prisoner.

Like St. Paul, there are times we experience that perfect balance in life called equilibrium when we are able to bridge the distance between our mind and our heart with Jesus at the center amid so many trials and difficulties.

Most of all, we see in this short passage how St. Paul accepted both living in need and in abundance with calmness and composure because of Jesus Christ who strengthened him!

What an encouragement for us all in this time of pandemic to remind us of learning to adjust to situations, that true peace within comes not from abundance or scarcity of material goods but of letting go and letting God in our lives. St. Paul witnessed to us the centrality of the Lord’s teaching of denying ourselves, taking our cross and following Jesus.

Most of all, in St. Paul we find what is to be clothed in Christ or “to put on Jesus Christ” (Rom.13:14) by accepting God’s invitation to salvation through his Son as the parable of the wedding feast tells us in our gospel this Sunday.

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants… Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.

Matthew 22:1-4, 5-7

Do not ignore God’s invitation; carpe diem (seize the moment).


Photo by Angelo N. Carpio, January 2020.

Jesus continues to direct his parables to the chief priests and elders of the people not really to shame them and expose their sinister plots against him but more in the hope of converting them, of giving them the chance of getting into God’s kingdom in heaven.

That is how great is his love for everyone, especially the sinful even if they would not admit it — just like us!

Keep in mind that Christ speaks always in the present and this parable is also meant for us who feel “entitled” in may ways like the chief priests and elders at that time. Interestingly, today’s parable to a large extent has to be taken in the context of the Sunday Mass, the prefiguration of the wedding feast in heaven to which we are all invited.

But how can we get to the wedding feast in heaven if we feel so sure like the chief priests and elders that we refuse to accept God’s invitation?

The Eucharist is the summit of our Christian life where we receive Jesus Christ in words proclaimed, in his Body and Blood, and among the people gathered. Every day Jesus is inviting us to partake in his Sacred Meal to be nourished and get our bearings in life through him like St. Paul.

See how before the pandemic, people refused to celebrate Mass and other Sacraments; but, when quarantine measures were implemented with the suspension of public Masses, everybody wanted to go to churches and receive the Sacraments, specially Holy Communion and Baptism, as well as Confession and Anointing of the Sick!

Photo from Shutterstock/Aleteia.

After seven months of pandemic, many of us have learned to adjust to the new situation but sadly, many have gone back to totally ignoring the Sunday Mass. Worst is at how some have considered online Masses as “video-on-demand” making Jesus Christ a “commodity” anyone can have when most convenient. Pope Francis had reminded us last summer that online Masses are not the norm but a response to the pandemic. Nonetheless, we still have to dispose ourselves properly when celebrating with online Masses like in actual live Mass in a Church and strive to be punctual and avoid doing other things during the online celebration.

In giving us these modern means of communications, God continues to invite us to come to him and gather in his name as a family in our homes for the Sunday online Masses and other liturgical activities that nourish our souls so essential in these trying times. Like the king in the parable today who had to invite guests thrice to his son’s wedding feast, God gives us all the opportunities and chances to celebrate in his gift of salvation through Jesus in the Eucharist which is the summit of Christian life.

May we not miss every opportunity!

When I was assigned to our diocesan schools during my first ten years in priesthood, I used to tell my students that God’s mercy and forgiveness are unlimited but there are acts that can have irreversible consequences like getting involved in a murder, getting pregnant outside marriage, or being caught in a video scam. I would tell them that God will surely forgive you and give you many chances in life while people like your family and friends including those you may have hurt may also forgive and accept you; however, you cannot escape the consequences of those acts that will surely limit your freedom and change forever your situations in life. Bottomline is, do not let yourself be missed out in accepting God’s invitation to his feast of life and salvation by following the path of holiness that beings in the Holy Mass.

The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah directs our attention to “that day” when God would save us and welcome us into heaven symbolized by the feast or banquet with great food and drinks. The good news is we are all invited to his feast, assured with a seat and it would only be our fault to not make it there, either by refusing it or not getting dressed properly.


Being properly dressed is always a sign of maturity.


Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, 09 February 2020, Baclaran Church.

“The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, good and bad alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

As is often the case in his parables, Jesus pulled a surprise when he added another parable to this parable of the wedding feast that could have easily ended in the annihilation of those who rejected the king’s two earlier invitations.

God is the king who was so good that he never tired of inviting guests thrice to the wedding feast of his son, and this time he opened it to everyone! And here lies the clincher: though everyone is invited, guests were expected to come in proper attire.

We have learned at a very young age of getting properly dressed in an occasion. In fact, dressing properly is a sign of maturity. Some people especially in this age always claim what matters is the inside of the person not the outside appearance like clothes; but, they forget that the outside also indicates what is inside of us!

Clothes speak a lot of who we are and what we are that even St. Paul used several times the metaphors of clothes like “putting on the Lord Jesus” or being “clothed in Christ” as we have cited earlier.

See how the king went to meet the guests not just for pleasantries but for inspection that immediately his eyes caught the man not dressed in a wedding garment. The king was even courteous addressing the man as “my friend” when asked why he came not in a wedding garment.

Try to imagine the scene with that man “reduced to silence” meaning, he was guilty of not putting on a wedding garment even if he knew that was the occasion he was going to. He had been remiss of his duties and obligations, just like the wicked tenants last week or the merciless servant last month.


"Many are invited, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14) 

St. Matthew never failed to remind us these past weeks that our faith has no value if not translated into actions, if it does not bear fruits. Today, he reminds us to be properly dressed to become a part of the wedding feast of the Lord, of the need to be clothed in holiness, in charity, and kindness with others.

Moreover, with just barely two months to go before we end the liturgical year to usher in Advent in preparation for Christmas, Jesus tells us today to never feel so sure, even “safely assured” of getting into heaven like the chief priests and elders of his time that even if we celebrate Sunday Masses weekly, online or actual, nothing is final yet in this life until we all get into the hall of the wedding feast in heaven when we are judged for our good deeds.

For the meantime, let us not miss joining the “rehearsals” for that feast – the Sunday Mass we celebrate weekly when he invites everyone to come. Be sure to be properly dressed for the occasion, literally and figuratively speaking. Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

Our dis-ease COVID-19

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 08 October 2020
Pope Francis delivering his “Urbi et Orbi” before an empty St. Peter’s Square in Rome, 27 March 2020 at the height of COVID-19 pandemic. Photo from Vatican Media/AFP via Getty Images.
In the beginning
we were counting
the days of quarantine
but when COVID-19
spread with so many dying
then we realized this is not just passing
but could be staying 
leaving the world in a standstill
shaking our very core and being
bringing us back to God
praying, surrendering everything
to him as our sole grounding.
Finding God 
during this quarantine
is indeed a blessing 
directing us to look within
to examine our being
where every healing must begin;
Any sickness is a dis-ease
a lack of order
when things are not pleasing
because of sin and wrong-doing
exactly what we are now seeing
with COVID-19.
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, May 2020.
Consider the following:
Long before social distancing
we have always been so far away
even from those with whom we stay
foregoing all the loving,
replaced with twitting or texting;
When we were growing
we were taught to keep our hands clean
but we have pushed it to the extreme
refusing to dirty our hands
forgetting to work with honor and dignity
keeping them free from stains of dishonesty;
Of all the most disturbing
during this quarantine
is the mask that cover our face;
but, why be fazed, objections raised
when we have long erased
to see in every face
that tremendous grace
of God's trace?
In the midst of this calamity
when air became pollution-free
we rejoiced at Nature's beauty;
the remedy for every malady
is not found only in the pharmacy
but right in our hearts when we see
everything and everyone in harmony.
Oh how I long when that day shall be
when everyone is free with nothing to worry;
at ease shall we carry within the peace and serenity 
of one big family living cleanly in God's mercy.
Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos, March 2020.

More than words

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle, 24 August 2020
Revelation 21:9-14 >><}}}*> |+| >><}}}*> |+| >><}}}*> John 1:45-51
Photo by author, Subic, 2018.

Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus, the “Word who became flesh and dwelt among us” to reveal the Father’s immense love for us all. He was not contented in just telling the prophets of Old Testament how he loved us that He came and lived with us in you, Lord Jesus!

And that is why we also rejoice on this Feast of St. Bartholomew, a.k.a. Nathanael, who was introduced to you by another Apostle you have called earlier:

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How did you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”

John 1:45-49

O dear Jesus, like St. Peter in the gospel yesterday and now St. Bartholomew, you are telling us anew to never be contented with mere words, with the “what” of who you really are, that we must always “come and see you” in order to experience your very person and truly know you.

I really wonder O Lord what your words meant that before Philip called Nathanael-Batholomew, you have seen him under the fig tree; however, I am so convinced that in your words, Nathanael-Bartholomew must have felt something deep inside him that he threw himself totally to you as your Apostle.

Most of all, teach me to remain simple and hidden in you, Jesus that like St. Bartholomew, despite the scarcity of stories and information about him except this little anecdote from the fourth Gospel, he remained faithful to you until his death by flaying reportedly in India.

May we imitate St. Bartholomew who had shown us that more than words, what matters is our oneness in you, Jesus, without any need for us doing sensational deeds, earning thousands of “likes” and “followers” in social media because only you, Lord, remains extraordinary above all. Amen.

Praying for holiness in the world

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Priest and Martyr, 14 August 2020
Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60, 63 >><)))*> || + || <*(((><< Matthew 19:3-12
From companionsofstanthony.org

“The most resplendent manifestation of God’s glory is the salvation of souls, whom Christ redeemed by shedding his blood. To work for the salvation and sanctification of as many souls as possible, therefore, is the preeminent purpose of the apostolic life.”

From the Letters of Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Office of Readings

Praise and thanksgiving to you our loving Father for a holy saint in our modern time, St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe whose memorial we celebrate today. His offering of his life in place of another prisoner at Auschwitz in 1941 was a fitting cap for his life of dedication in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in words and in deeds.

Though there are no more gas chambers unlike during the time of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, the killing of so many people in various forms and methods continue to this day — right on our streets, in abortion clinics, in prisons, even in our homes and in social media where we spread toxins of lies that mislead and destroy many lives.

Inspire us like St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe to work for the sanctification of the world by sharing more of your love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness to everyone especially the weak and vulnerable to abuses and worldly influences.

Like this modern saint who lived during the harshest conditions of World War II, may we strive to make you present in the world where despite the ease and comforts of modern life, many of us are still lost and alone, feeling angry, empty, and confused.

Through our lives, may we fill the world with your presence and holiness by reminding people to return to your original plan of harmony and unity in your love as Jesus told the Pharisees in the gospel today:

Jesus said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

Matthew 19:8

Most of all, to make the world holy anew, grant us courage to stand for what is true and good, to remain standing at the side of your Son’s Cross for indeed, as St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe had taught us in one of his writings, “The deadliest poison of our time is indifference.” Amen.

Photo of Auschwitz from Google.

Journeying in Christ

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 25 July 2020

Santiago de Compostela in Spain is one of the world’s oldest and most popular pilgrim sites where the body of the Apostle St. James the Greater whose feast we are celebrating today is believed to be buried in its beautiful cathedral.

I have not been there yet and despite COVID-19’s disruption of air travel expected to last until 2022, my hope remains that someday in God’s time I may finally do the “el camino de Santiago de Compostela” (the way of Saint James of Compostela), too.

But, with or without the el camino de Santiago de Compostela, this great Apostle from the very beginning had always been in a journey in himself into the kingdom of God – Jesus Christ – by showing us the way of transformation into a true disciple of the Lord.

He is called the Greater not because he is holier than the other St. James called “the Lesser”, son of Alpheus, but to simply indicate the different importance they received in the writings of the New Testament. In the gospel of Mark, he comes in second in the list after Peter while in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, he is ranked third after the brothers Peter and Andrew; he again comes in third in the Acts of the Apostles after St. Peter and his brother St. John.

It is from this book where we also learn St. James the Greater as the first bishop of the original Christian community in Jerusalem that during the persecution by King Herod Agrippa in 40 AD, he also became the first Apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:1-2).

His martyr’s death thus fulfilled Christ’s words to him that he would indeed “drink from his chalice” to be with him in his Kingdom, a journey that essentially began within this great apostle after leaving everything behind to follow Jesus.

The journey within self to Jesus Christ

St. James the Greater and his brother St. John the Evangelist and believed to be the same beloved disciple came from a middle class family with both parents still alive and most likely, very supportive of them as attested by some little anecdotes in the gospel accounts.

Money was never an issue for them because their father Zebedee could hire workers to work in their fishing business. He must have sighed with a great relief when James and John immediately left him after being called by Jesus to be his disciples.

Marker along the “el camino de Santiago de Compostela”.

Finally, his sons have found some directions in life following Jesus who was getting known then in Galilee as a powerful and credible Teacher unlike the Pharisees and scribes.

Jesus nicknamed James and John as Boanerges for “Sons of thunder” (Mk.3:17) due to their temperament like when they proposed that they send fire to burn a Samaritan town that have refused them passage during their journey to Jerusalem (Lk.9:54).

They have seen and experienced the tremendous powers of Jesus not only in preaching but most especially in calming the storms, walking on sea, exorcising evil spirits, healing all kinds of sickness, and even raising to life some who have died.

Most of all, St. James the Greater was privileged to witness along with his brother and St. Peter the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Mount Tabor, seeing all the glory of Christ conversing with Moses and Elijah. It was after this major event that their most controversial episode would occur when their mother came to ask Jesus that James and John be seated “one at your right and the other at your left, in your Kingdom” (Mt.20:21).

The other ten Apostles “grew indignant” of the brothers James and John for being so ambitious but Jesus summoned them and explained things which all of them would heed except for one:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be also among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give is life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:25-28

This took place shortly before Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem.

A few days later on the evening of Holy Thursday, Jesus again brought St. James the Greater with his brother St. John and St. Peter to accompany him pray at Gethsemane where Judas Iscariot eventually betrayed him to his enemies.

A pilgrim hugging from the back the statue of Santiago de Compostela after completing his el camino.

Here we find St. James the Greater being present to two major stops in Jesus Christ’s journey to the Calvary: first, on Mount Tabor for his Transfiguration and second, at Gethsemane for his agony in the garden. In both events in the life of our Lord, St. James the Greater was a privileged witness, first of his coming glory and then of his passion and death.

It would only be after Easter and the Pentecost when all these major stops in his personal journey with Christ when everything would become clear to him and the other Apostles.

All along their journey from the shores of Galilee to Jerusalem, St. James the Greater remained by the side of Jesus Christ, probably unaware of another journey with the Lord taking place right inside his heart to truly be a part of his Kingdom by sharing in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

For his faithful adherence to Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem, St. James the Greater again had the rare privilege like at Mount Tabor and Gethsemane in being the first to die as a martyr proclaiming the Gospel of Christ which is the meaning of the expression of “drinking from the chalice” of the Lord.

Sometimes in life, we just have to make “sakay” as my generation used to say, “sakay lang ng sakay” or “ride on, man, ride on” without really knowing where our trip would lead us. St. James just made “sakay” without knowing Jesus was already fulfilling his wish of “drinking from his chalice”.

Photo by Fr. Gener Garcia, sculpture of a pilgrim’s feet at Santiago de Compostela museum, 2019.

St. James the Greater was truly great not because of the distances in miles or kilometers he had covered with Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem and all the way to Compostela in Spain; we honor him today because of that great journey he had undertaken within him, in his heart to remain always at the side of Christ even if had to smoothen his many rough edges as a person, and cleanse his heart as a sinner like us.

That is the most important journey we are all taking in this life, the journey within us.

The longest journey in life is the distance between the heart and the mind.

Former UN Sec.Gen Dag Hammarskjold in “Markings”

My friend Fr. Gener Garcia last year went to Santiago de Compostela to follow the el camino with our kababayan Bishop Bart Santos of Iba, Zambales and Fr. Jaypee Avila assigned as a chaplain for OFW’s in Milan, Italy.

He is so generous to share with us his photos of their pilgrimage as well as his experiences and realizations in life. According to him, on the four sides of the sculpture of the pilgrim’s feet in front of the museum of Santiago de Compostela is the following quotation:

Marker along the el camino de Santiago de Compostela.

Camino recto, camino erguido, camino buscando un sentido. Camino porque tengo un objetivo, y no parare hasta alcanzar mi destino.

(I walk straight, I walk upright, I walk looking for meaning. I walk with a purpose and I won’t stop until I meet my destiny.)

The pilgrim’s journey is the same one you and I are on. Know your goals and understand your challenges. Face them head-on, tackle them with intention, and never give up.

Do you know what your purpose in life is? What would you say if someone ask you what your destiny was?

Santiago de Compostela Museum of Pilgrims

Have a blessed Saturday everyone!

*All photos by Fr. Gener Garcia, 2019.

Prayer in a time of “war”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest, 14 July 2020
Isaiah 7:1-9 <*(((><< ] + [ >><)))*> Matthew 11:20-24
Fire at the Pandacan Church, 10 July 2020.

O God our Father, we are in a war.

A war between good and evil, between light and darkness, sanity and insanity.

It is a war long been raging within us that I fear must have reached a stalemate because of our indecision, of our indifference. Some battles may have been won but the war rages on because we have refused to make a gallant stand for you.

Banish our fears, assure us with your same words to King Ahaz of Judah when threatened with simultaneous attacks by his neighboring kingdoms:

Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail before these two stumps of smoldering brands… Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm!

Isaiah 7:4, 9

Sometimes, our faith waver especially at how things are now going on among us like divisions and confusions due to lack of clear leadership in government while many of us in the church are in disarray.

Make us realize that there is a day of reckoning for all our sins, for taking side with the enemies, for refusing to stand for what is true and just when Jesus Christ reproached Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum who refused to recognize his works of salvation when he came.

May we learn from the experience and lessons of St. Camillus de Lellis who was a soldier addicted to gambling but later converted to follow Jesus as a priest taking care of the sick, realizing the need for us to grow in holy charity. Amen.

Aral ng COVID-19, IV: nakakahawang katangahan!

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-09 ng Hulyo, 2020 
Larawan kuha ni G. Jay Javier, 2020.
Kapansin-pansin
mula nang dumating sa atin
itong COVID-19:
pairalin at palaganapin ba naman
kabobohan at katangahan
kaya't karahasan at kasamaan 
unang naranasan at nasaksihan
ng mga mamamayan 
kesa ang karamdaman.
Alalahanin paanong maliitin
ng mga upisyal banta ng COVID-19:
nahiyang patigilin pagdating 
ng mga dayuhan sa atin
patriotism daw ang pairalin
uminom ng maraming vitamin,
resistensiya palakasin,
nagbanta pa ang magaling
kanya raw itong sasampalin?
Nang ang virus ay kumalat
sumambulat kapabayaan at kawalan
ng ano mang plano nitong pamahalaan
datos ng mga bilang ng nahawahan
hanggang ngayon walang kaliwanagan;
halos walang pinatunguhan mahabang lockdown 
ekonomiyang pinahahalagahan
pilit binubuksan habang sarado naman
mga isipan ng mga hunghang, mamamayan nahirapan. 
Social distancing pinagdiriinan
sa atin na parang alipin
hindi nila alintana ang kaba
ng mawalan ng kikitain at pagkain;
kay hirap bang isipin 
face mask ay hubarin
kung ika'y kakain o mayroong iinumin?
Wala silang ibang gustong gawain
kungdi sisihin ng sisihin pati na rin mga dolphin!
Napakaraming pinahihirapan, pinagmamalupitan 
hanggang humantong sa kamatayan ng ilan
pagdiriinan ng mga patakaran
gayong silang nasa kapangyarihan
ang palaging lumalabag
walang kahihiyang nangangatuwiran
upang pagtakpan kanilang kapalaluan
kaya hindi maramdaman kanilang slogan
"we heal as one" na malayo sa katotohanan.
Itong kabobohan at katangahan
uri ng kasamaan, pinagmumulan ng kasalanan
parang isang sakit na asymptomatic:
hindi alam o ayaw malaman 
na mayroong karamdaman kaya nagkakahawahan;
at ang masaklap na katotohanan 
akala ng mga sunud-sunurang karamihan 
karunungan, kahusayan kanilang nasasaksihan
gayong pare-pareho lang silang walang nalalaman!

Magkaiba ang tanga
at mahina ang isipan;
nahahasa, napapatalim 
mapurol na isip ngunit ang katangahan
ay kalagayan na kung saan 
biyaya ng isipan ay sinasayang, pinababayaan
dahil sa katamaran at kasakiman
sariling kaluguran at kapakanan lang pinahahalagahan
walang pakialam kung mayroong masaktan o mahirapan.
Kung ating pagninilayan
ang mga santo at santa ang mga tunay
na marurunong dahil sa kanilang kaisipan
walang nanaig kungdi kabutihan;
wala sa pinag-aralan ang karunungan
kungdi sa busilak ng kalooban
kaya naman huwag nang pagtakhan
itong mga puno ng kasamaan
ay puro katangahan at kahangalan!
Mga larawan kasama na yaong sa itaas ay mga kuha ni G. Raffy Tima ng GMA-7 News, Abril 2020.

His wounds – not his face – make us recognize Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle, 03 July 2020
Ephesians 2:19-22 >><)))*> <*(((><< >><)))*> <*(((><< John 20:24-29

Thank you very much, dearest Jesus, in founding your church upon your Apostles who were all like us: full of flaws and weaknesses, faults and failures, sins and imperfections.

Every time we celebrate their feasts, you remind us of your call to be near you like the Apostles despite our sins and inadequacies, to be sorry and make amends to return to you to be built into a dwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Brothers and sisters: You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone. Through him the whole structure is held together and grows into a temple sacred in the Lord; in him you are also being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:19-22

Help us, Lord Jesus, to be like St. Thomas your Apostle who came but doubted, returned and saw you a week later and believed, declaring “My Lord and my God” upon seeing you.

But what did St. Thomas really see that he believed?

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and out it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:27


Through St. Thomas, you have blessed us and helped us, dear Jesus to believe in you not in seeing your face but more in seeing and feeling your wounds.

How wonderful, O Lord!

It is not your face but your wounds that enable us to recognize you and believe in you.

We will never see your face in this lifetime, Lord, but every day in our trials and sufferings, in our pains and hurts, in our wounds and woundedness, in our brokenness — there you are most present in us and among us.

Heighten our awareness of your presence, to accept pains and sufferings for your love and mercy so we may deepen our faith in you, following you always in your path of the Cross.

Like St. Thomas, may we follow you closely at your Cross, offering ourselves like you to be broken and shared so that in our wounds and woundedness, others may find healing, most especially you, sweet Jesus. Amen.

Let Christ possess us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
XIIIth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 28 June 2020
2 Kings 4:8-11, 14-16 >><)))*> Romans 6:3-4, 8-11 >><)))*> Matthew 10:37-42
Photo by author, Dome of the Chapel of Nativity at Shepherd’s Field, Bethlehem, the Holy Land, May 2019.

Jesus continues his lessons to us his disciples being sent to look for the “lost sheep of Israel”, to be not afraid for he is with us in this journey and mission. But, it is not enough that we have Jesus on our side and be present among us: we have to allow Jesus to take possession of us completely!

From having no fear because Jesus is here, Christ now deepens his presence by inviting us to be possessed by him, to be in communion with him.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:37-39
Photo by author, processional Cross at the altar, 2019.

The Mystery of the Cross

Discipleship in Jesus Christ is more than a total allegiance to him who is neither a demanding nor exacting Lord and Master for he does not arbitrarily impose himself upon us.

Nothing like that of subservience but something more lofty because it is wrapped in a mystery — a mystery of love freely given and shared to us by God even if we do not deserve it all. Remember the mystery of the Blessed Trinity four Sundays ago (June 07)?

Ever since, God has never imposed himself upon us, that we should love him back in return for he does not really need our love. He gave us the gift of freedom so that we may love him freely for he never imposes on us.

And here lies the beauty of discipleship, of this relationship we have with God that is based solely on love expressed to us in the most personal manner by giving us his Son Jesus Christ who suffered and died on the Cross but rose again on Easter. This we were reminded by the Solemnities of the Body and Blood of Jesus and of his Sacred Heart last June 14 and 19 respectively.

Now you see my dear readers the clearer picture of our liturgical celebrations expressing our concrete experiences of being loved by God in Jesus Christ most especially during times of trials and sufferings like in this COVID-19 pandemic.

It is Christ who made the initiative to be one with us in our pains and sufferings; God did not remove our crosses in life but made them holy in his Son Jesus Christ so that every time we go through life’s many difficulties, we share in the Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

That is why, we are invited to take and carry our cross every day for it is through the Cross we are saved. It is not enough to simply believe in the person of Jesus but we need to accept and embrace his Cross because it is through which he had won our salvation by dying on it and rising again.

This is easier said than done. It is so difficult to love Jesus more than our loved ones like family and friends. And it is most difficult to love the Lord more than our selves, when we have to let go of our plans and agenda.

Letting go and letting God in itself is already crucifying — but that is when this mystery of Christ’s love and of his Cross deepens further when we lose ourselves in him!

Celebrating Mass without te congregation during the ECQ, March-April 2020.

Possessed by Christ

To be possessed by Jesus is to receive God and his gift of salvation through the mystery of Christ and his Cross. Like our Christian life, proclaiming the gospel carries with it the sign of the Cross of Christ.

We are not asked to reenact or reproduce his Crucifixion nor is Jesus asking us to be suicidal or go against our natural aspirations and dreams.

To be possessed by Jesus means we continue to take care of ourselves without neglecting the needs of others.

To be possessed by Jesus means being generous to others in the same manner Jesus has always been generous to us.

To be possessed by Jesus means to realize that every act of self-giving is really an act of receiving!

Photo by author, Malagos Park, Davao City, 2018.

That is the paradox of the Cross, of discipleship in Christ: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt.10:40).

And that is also where the mystery of Christ’s love deepens because whatever we give is not really ours but Christ’s.

Every time we give love, it is the love of Jesus.

When we are kind and generous with others, it is the kindness and generosity of Jesus we give and share.

When we are patient and understanding to others, it is still the patience and understanding of Jesus in us.

Even if we give and share material things like money, food, clothing… whatever good we share and give are all from Jesus not from us.

And the more we give, the more we receive!

Have you noticed especially during this pandemic how the generous among us are now more blessed?

Wonder no more because you have allowed yourself to be possessed by Jesus Christ!

This is what the woman at Shumen had realized after welcoming the Prophet Elisha into her home in our first reading. She even gave him a room to stay every time he comes for his mission while the Lord provided all her needs, even rewarded her with a son as promised by Elisha.

When we allow Jesus to take over us, when we enter into communion in him and with him in his very life, we become more free to love, we strengthen our relationships with others, we wander less and worry less in life; most of all, we feel lightened in our burdens with the presence of Jesus giving us fullness of life in him.

This is the grace I hope we have seen from this quarantine period, especially those two months of lockdown when were freed from our usual grind and busyness with more time to be silent and still, to pray and reflect on our relationships with God and with others. It was a difficult and very trying period that had given in return a lot of opportunities to others.

Photo by author, Marcos Highway, 2019.

Dead to sin, alive to God

Brothers and sisters: We know that Christ, raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him. As to his death, he died to sin once and for all; as to his life, he lives for God. Consequently, you too must think of yourselves as dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:9-11

It has been four months since houses of worship were ordered closed to help stop the spread of the corona virus. Somehow, the lockdown had made us realize the importance of receiving the Sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist.

But, sacraments are not everything for we have the bigger roles of putting into practice its reality of being the saving presence of Jesus Christ.

Now that lowly life is beginning to go back to its usual grind especially the traffic, soon we might forget again the more important things in life like God and our relationships in our family and friends that it is hoped we have rediscovered during the quarantine period.

That is why I strongly feel the government must now allow Churches to open so the people may experience again God in the sacraments and in our rites and rituals lest they get busy again with so many things only to miss finding anew the meaning of our lives found in silence and stillness before the Cross of Christ.

It is my hope that in this quarantine period, may we find through the Cross of Jesus that when we learn to submit and surrender to him, that is when we truly become free; and, when we lose and give away our lives to him, that is when we gain fullness of life in him. Amen.

A blessed week and a more abundant July to everyone!