Test all spirits

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday after Epiphay, 04 January 2021
1 John 3:22-4:6     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee from the side of Capernaum in Israel, 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father on this first day of resumption of work and school. Many of us are so eager to go back to work and studies, hoping to make a good start for new year 2021. And your words today are so helpful to us all.

Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God.

1 John 4:1-3

In this age with an overload of information and influences from media, so many of us are led astray Lord because we have always forgotten to test all spirits that compete for our attention.

Give us the wisdom, Lord, as well as the perseverance and discipline to test all spirits, to discern them in silence and prayers that we may not be misled by false teachings and false hopes.

Open our eyes and our hearts in order to find you coming to us even in the most simplest occasions in our lives or in the most difficult situations we are into. Like the magi, may we have that keen sense of interest in observing things from the most usual to the unusual ones.

And let us start this discernment of spirits by first cleansing ourselves of our sins and impurities as we heed your call to “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt.4:17).

As we continue to retell and relive the story of Christmas, may we be like the town of Capernaum ready to welcome Christ’s coming with his light to dispel all darkness caused by our sins, frustrations and disappointments, pains and hurts especially from the past year so we may move forward through personal conversion in our Lord. Amen.

Advent: A parable of our life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Advent-B (Gaudete Sunday), 13 December 2020
Isaiah 62:1-2, 10-11 >><)))*> 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 >><)))*> John 1:6-8, 19-28
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday at the Parish, Advent 2019.

Advent is a parable of our lives. Three months ago we reflected every Sunday the many parables of Jesus and we have learned that a parable is a simple story that contains deep meanings. Just like Advent: a season that comes in our church calendar every year that we take for granted not realizing the deeper meanings it teaches in the four weeks before Christmas or the Second Coming.

On this third Sunday of Advent also known as “Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday”, joy is the motif of all our readings for indeed, we are moving too closely to Christmas – and parousia. The lovely shades of pink remind us that we have to be alert to experience the advent of Jesus. Once again, its precursor John the Baptist guides us this Sunday in grasping the parable of Advent during his time and in our own time.


We are all a John the Baptist -
a reminder of Christ present among us.

All four evangelists mention John the Baptist in their gospel version before telling the ministry of Jesus Christ; but there is something so different with the approach of the author of the fourth gospel in introducing the Lord’s precursor.

In the fourth gospel, he is simply called “John”, omitting his title “the Baptist” for he is the only John in this gospel. The author of the fourth gospel never named himself preferring to be known as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” or simply “beloved disciple”. We learned his name is John through the other three gospel accounts, that he is the brother of another apostle James, both being the sons of Zebedee.

Why the author of the fourth gospel never identified himself with his name John is another topic; what matters to us is that there is only one man named John in his gospel and that is no other than John the Baptist whom he presented in the most unique manner like an official pronouncement, full of solemnity by declaring that this “man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (Jn.1:6-7).

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 20 September 2020.

Here we find John the Baptist clearly being placed by the author of the fourth gospel in relation to the Christ that is essentially the meaning of our being a baptized Christian — we are another John to remind people of Jesus present among us. It is one of life’s parables we always miss, something that can elicit joy in everyone.

And the more we find ourselves like John the Baptist in his mission, the more we experience Jesus closest to us too!


Life is a perpetual Advent
of Jesus who needs a 
John the Baptist in us.

After formally introducing to us John as man sent from God to testify for the Christ, our gospel today skipped the rest of the Prologue and jumped into the mission of John to introduce the ministry of Jesus Christ. See how in a few verses we find transitions from John to Jesus then to us.

Painting by Raphael of John preaching in the wilderness; photo from wikicommons.

John said: “I am the voice of the one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said. I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

John 1:23, 26-27

John is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. But, at the same time, he is the continuation of the Old into the New as he stood present pointing to Jesus Christ who had come and would come again!

This we find in his last reply to the query of the Pharisees: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

This is the parable of Advent: it is a perpetual event, something that keeps on happening even in our time that needs a John the Baptist to remind us that Jesus had come, that he is coming and most of all, he is come!

Aside from preparing others for Jesus Christ’s coming – we need to be like John the Baptist who also prepared himself for his Lord and Master!

In telling us that “there is one among you whom you do not recognize”, John humbly prepared himself to recognize and receive Jesus when he identified the Lord while coming to him for his baptism as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, saying “He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me'” (cf. Jn.1:29-30).

But most of all, we find the most beautiful lesson of John in preparing for the Lord’s coming when like him, we allow Jesus to reveal himself to us, always saying “He must increase; I must decrease” as he taught his disciples asking him about Jesus’ ministry.

“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”

John 3:29-30

Advent is being alert
and open to the Holy Spirit
who always comes with Jesus.

Advent is a parable of life when we hope in joy and humility for the Second Coming of the Lord who also continues to come to us in so many ways we never expect. It is a time of prayer and reflections when we try to become more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

In the first reading we are reminded of the exact words of the Prophet that Jesus proclaimed in their synagogue when he came home to preach that,

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.

Isaiah 61:1-2
Photo by author, Advent 2018.

After proclaiming those beautiful words of the prophet, while people were all eyes on him, Jesus declared “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:21).

That is the power of the word of God, it is always effective and performative as the very sign of his presence among us. That is why Advent is the season when we are encouraged to cultivate that habit of praying the Sacred Scriptures that cleanse our hearts to be empty and ready to receive Christ in his coming. We encounter God first in his words filled with parables that enrich our lives.

To be open for the word of God and to the Holy Spirit means being alert that Jesus is “one among you whom you do not recognize” as John had told us.

Like John, it is finding the “whole” of God’s plan for us from the Old Testament to the New Testament and into our own time in the Church. It is the joy of discovering in this myriad of events and happenings, there is a God personally coming to us, loving us in the most personal way.

Like John, we are sent from God to give testimony to Jesus who had come, will come again and always comes.

That is the parable of Advent: when we realize deep within that we are able to rejoice and be glad to be alive to meet Jesus. May we heed to the words of St. Paul in the second reading:

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Have a blessed and joyful week!

Photo by author, Advent 2018.

Praying for the Spirit of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Advent Week I, 01 December 2020
Isaiah 11:1-10     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 10:21-24
From Google.

Thank you very much, God our Father, for bringing us to this final month of 2020, December, with its chilly morning and resplendent sunrise that seem to promise us with a day filled with warmth and life like your words to the Prophet Isaiah.

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from its roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him…

Isaiah 11:1-2

On this first day of December, we pray dear Father for your Holy Spirit to rest upon us too so our minds and our hearts may be enlightened to always seek and follow your Holy Will like Jesus whose return we eagerly await.

Grant us your Spirit of wisdom and understanding, Father, that we may search for you and the ultimate truths in life, not just the information fed unto us by media that can be misleading and even manipulative sometimes.

Grant us your Spirit of counsel and of strength so we may forge on in this life amid all the problems and sufferings we are facing from the pandemic and calamities plus the personal trials we have to go through. Just keep us moving forward and resist temptations of giving up the struggle, and giving up on our loved ones.

Grant us, most of all, dear Father, your Spirit of fear of the Lord. Please forgive us, merciful Father, for being so bold and daring in the wrong sense that we turn away from you, disregard you and your precepts because many of us feel we know and could know everything in life.

Instead, give us the grace to be bold and daring in faith in you like the children, so humble to believe you and always awed with the wonders of life like shoots and flowers budding forth. Amen.

Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Retreat House, La Trinidad, Benguet, January 2020.

We are all in a struggle

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 29 October 2020
Ephesians 6:10-20     >><)))*> + + + >><)))*>     Luke 13:31-35
Photo by author, 09 October 2020.

There is no doubt, O God, we are in a war with evil as St. Paul tells us in today’s first reading; but, as I prayed more, I dwelled on that one word he had said — “struggle”.

For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.

Ephesians 6:12-13

Almighty and loving Father in heaven, today I pray for each one of us struggling in life — struggling to survive, struggling to be afloat amid the economic crisis, struggling to keep our family and friends together, struggling against an addiction, struggling against sins, struggling in almost everything or anything, maybe even struggling to believe and have faith in you, dear God.

To struggle is an effort to get out of something not meant to be like an imprisonment. To struggle is to exert efforts to resist attacks or be free from any constraints. Like when a fish is out in the sand, it struggles to get onto water which is its natural habitat.

There are many conditions in our lives today we are into but not really meant to be for us like the effects of evil and sin sometimes perpetrated by some among us. We are sure you never wanted us to be put into this situation. And that is why, you have sent us your Son Jesus to help us in our struggles.

Sometimes, life for others has simply been entirely a struggle since childhood.

Have mercy on us, please help us, Lord, in our struggles. Be our armor of truth and righteousness, our shield of faith, our helmet of salvation, and our sword of the Holy Spirit to slay the evil and sins enslaving us.

Thank you, dear Jesus, for standing by our side in our many struggles despite efforts of some like the Pharisees in the gospel today who told you to leave Jerusalem because “Herod wanted to kill you” (Lk.13:31).

Make us realize that in the midst of life’s many struggles, “you are our Rock, O Lord, who trains our hands for battle, our fingers for war” (Ps.144:1) and someday, as you have promised, we shall win in all our struggles to experience your glory and majesty, love and mercy. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, September 2019 in Atok, Benguet.

Sealed with the Holy Spirit

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXVIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 16 October 2020
Ephesians 1:11-14     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Luke 12:1-7
Photo by the author, September 2020.

What a great apostle you have, O Lord God, in St. Paul indeed! Today he tells us something so unique, so understandable and relatable with us regarding our being blessed in Jesus Christ: being sealed in the Holy Spirit.

In him (Christ) you also, who have heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14

I love those two catchphrases by St. Paul: “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” and “first installment of your inheritance”. It is both a stroke of his genius and mastery of language while at the same time, his openness to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In him we find that blessedness in Christ through the Holy Spirit like having peace, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, understanding and things that bind us together in working together for the Lord’s mission.

But at the same time in speaking of the Holy Spirit as the first installment of our redemption, St. Paul had a foretaste of what we shall all experience in its fullness in eternity, an assurance of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of salvation.

Like St. Teresa of Avila whose memorial we celebrated yesterday, St. Paul restored all things in you, Jesus Christ. And so, we pray for the grace of enthusiasm and perseverance of working for the coming of God’s Kingdom like him.

Give us the wisdom to proclaim loud and clear not only in words but also in deeds the Gospel so the world may know Jesus is here to restore everything and everyone back to you, God our Father.

We are not going to say anything new, Lord; we merely have to echo in this modern time your Good News of salvation, of love and mercy and forgiveness for everyone specially in this difficult time of the pandemic.

Likewise, give us the courage to witness the power of the Holy Spirit in this world living in front of all kinds of cameras without solid grounding on the realities of life, living in a make-believe world filled with hypocrisy. Seal us with your Holy Spirit, Lord! Amen.

Photo by author, September 2020.

Faithful living

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXVIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 14 October 2020
Galatians 5:18-25     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Luke 11:42-46
Photo by author, Church of Holy Sepulcher, May 2017.

It was a very enriching week of lessons about faith as reflected by St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians, God our Father. We have learned so much to appreciate this gift from you we rarely recognize and give importance to.

As we end the readings from the Letter to the Galatians today, teach us through Jesus Christ how to live faithfully in your Holy Spirit to reap its fruits in our lives we badly need these days amid the pandemic and follies going on around us especially among our elected officials.

Brothers and sisters: If you are guided by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissension, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

Galatians 5:18-23

Forgive us Lord when we choose to be prisoners of so many rules that govern our lives forgetting the more important things of living faithfully in you like the Pharisees in today’s gospel. We are so concerned with little things that we make so big a fuss; worst, we refuse to “lift one finger to touch them” by passing them on to others, subjecting them to so many things that they miss the beauty of your gift of life.

Make us grow deeper in faith in you and may the Holy Spirit enlighten our minds and our hearts to always seek and follow your most Holy Will. Amen.

Love: the Spirit of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Pius X, Pope, 21 August 2020
Ezekiel 37:1-14 >><)))*> || >><)))*> ||+|| <*(((><< || <*(((><< Matthew 22:34-40
Photo by author, Jewish cemetery outside Old Jerusalem, May 2019.

Together with the psalmist today I sing to you, O God our Father: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his love is everlasting.”

Yes, O Lord, your love is everlasting, your fidelity is so true and whatever that is good for us, there is no stopping you from doing it because of your love for us.

Thank you for fulfilling this promise you made to Ezekiel your prophet in the Old Testament:

Thus says the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the Lord.

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus your Son, you have indeed opened our graves and put your spirit upon us for we have been dead to sin but now raised to life in Christ.

Unfortunately, many of us have turned into spiritual “zombies” by being dead to sin again – lifeless and therefore loveless!

Revive your Spirit in us, O God, the spirit of love that Jesus poured on us.

Let us love you beyond words and letters of your laws but in flesh and blood by being loving to our brothers and sisters, in loving you by loving others.

May we continue the work of St. Pius X whose papal motto was “Renew all things in Christ” by returning to you in Jesus through the Blessed Sacrament and the Holy Eucharist.

St. Pius X came at a crucial stage in Church history in the early 1900’s when the world was experiencing great changes and revolutions not only in many nations but most especially in the thinking and outlook of people of his time — exactly like today, Lord.

May we restore all things in you, Lord Jesus by awakening in us anew the basic spirit of love through kindness and generosity to one another specially in this time of the pandemic.

We also remember today the assassination of Benigno S. Aquino Jr. who had offered us his life because he believed we “Filipinos are worth dying for.”

As our nation slid back to darkness these past decade, help us, O Lord, to rise again, to be filled with life and love for one another, for our nation and our future generation by being selfless and honorable before one’s self, others, and you. Amen.

Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmelite Monastery, Israel, 2014.

The temple in our hearts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest, 31 July 2020
Jeremiah 26:1-9 >>><)))*> >><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 13:54-58
Photo by author, Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father for another week and month about to close before us. And still here we are, alive and safe, making through the many trials and difficulties as we all continue to bear the sufferings of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you for sending us your Son our Lord Jesus Christ who have made our hearts your indwelling.

Unfortunately, like his neighbors, so many times we fail or even refuse to recognize his coming to us.

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son?” And they took offense at him.

Matthew 13:54-55, 57

So many times, many things run in our minds and in our hearts that we always fail to see and recognize you, sweet Jesus.

Teach us through St. Ignatius your faithful servant who gave us your wonderful gift of discerning the spirits.

Teach us to lay bare ourselves before you, to be true to our thoughts and feelings so that we may sift through all of these to find your holy will, Lord.

Teach us to “omit nothing” as you commanded Jeremiah in the first reading from your words so that we may be able to discern properly what you want from us.

Make our hearts your temple, O Lord, dwell inside and reign over us so that we may understand fully the meaning of “positive indifference” taught us by St. Ignatius:

“We should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. . . . Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.”

Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius

Let our thoughts and actions always begin and happily end in your greater glory, Lord.

Amen.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

When evil becomes life

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 01 July 2020
Amos 5:14-15, 21-24 <*(((><< <*(((><< >><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 8:28-34
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7 News, Taal eruption, January 2020.

Praise and glory to you O God our loving Father for this brand new month of July! It is our hope this month will be kinder and more gentle with us than June. It is our hope that this July, we can all come closer to you doing what is good, what is right.

Seek good and not evil, that you may live. Then truly will the Lord, the God of hosts, be with you as you claim! I hate, I spurn your feasts, says the Lord, I take no pleasure in your solemnities… Away with your noisy songs! I will not listen to the melodies of your harps. But if you would offer me burnt offerings, then let justice surge like water, and goodness like an unfailing stream.

Amos 5:14, 21, 23-24

Most of all, through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, it is our hope O merciful Father that beginning today we start to reject and shake off evil from our lives, from our very selves.

We have not only sinned, O sweet Jesus; worst part of our sinfulness is how we have accepted sin and evil as a way of life, as a part of life itself with our usual excuses and arguments “wala nang magagawa, nariyan na yan, hayaan na lang” (there’s nothing that can be done, just accept it).

We have got so used to immoralities and lies that we simply accept them as facts of life.

Like those people at Gadarenes where two demoniacs have terrorized them for some time that “no one could travel by that road” (Mt.8:28).

But when you came, Lord Jesus and drove the demons into entering the herd of swine that jumped and drowned into the sea, the whole town came out to meet you and begged you to leave their district!

Instead of being thankful, they begged you to leave, Lord, because you have disturbed their lives so used to the demons. They have failed to see how two people were finally healed and exorcised. Most of all, they have refused to accept the new order in their place.

What a silly turn of events that continues to happen day when people have grown so used to evil and sin, refusing changes and conversion.

How sad that whenever we make a stand for what is right and good, what is true and just, we are the ones made to suffer, even persecuted for bringing order because we have disturbed the evil that people have been used to.

We pray for those who continue to fight injustice and immoralities in our communities, in our church that they may always be guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.

And we pray for those among us who have lost the sense of sinfulness, of living with sin and evil and yet continue to worship and praise you O God. Amen.

Photo by Gelo Nicolas Carpio, June 2020.

God our foundation

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 25 June 2020
2 Kings 24:8-17 <*(((>< ><)))*> <*(((>< ><)))*> Matthew 7:21-29
Photo by author, the Walls of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Your words today, O Lord, are so graphic and chilling about the nature of sin that unfortunately, we continue to take for granted.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”

Matthew 7:21

Forgive us Jesus when we are so complacent with our prayers and words to you that remain only in our mouths and lips, but never coming from our hearts and most of all far from our actions.

Forgive us Lord for the great divide within us, between our words and our actions, of what we believe and what we live.

Give us the grace to be rooted in you always, to have you as our foundation.

Your words are so true, Lord, that so often our lives collapse like Jerusalem in the Old Testament, like the house built on sand in your parable because we live far from you.

Help us to take these lessons into our hearts, that whatever bad befalls us is never your punishment but the result of our sins, when everything collapses in us and starts to breakdown.

May we hold on fast to your words and examples in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Photo by author, Church of the Holy Family, Taipei, Taiwan, 2019.