Free and faithful in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 26 June 2022
1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 ><]]]]'> Galatians 5:1, 13-18 ><]]]]'> Luke 9:51-54
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

“Free and Faithful in Christ” by the late Redemptorist Fr. Bernard Haring is one of my favorite textbooks in the seminary that I have kept all these years not because I love moral theology but due to its title I have found so true especially in life and ministry.

The more we love Jesus and others, the more we become free, the more we become faithful and committed to God and others, the more we become trusting too.

For many people, commitment and freedom do not seem to jibe well because they think freedom is being able to do whatever you want, that freedom is absolute. Of course not! St. John Paul II clarified in Veritatis Splendor that since the beginning, God had limited freedom to choosing only what is good when he told Adam and Eve they were free to eat all fruits in the garden except the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

True freedom is not defying our parents and authorities to insist on what we want, regardless of the well-being of others like driving recklessly that harm those on the streets or posting pictures and statements in social media without respecting other people’s beliefs and sensibilities.

We can only be truly free as a person if we care for other people by seeing them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.

Galatians 5:1, 13
Photo by author, wailing wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Jesus, the one truly free

After two Sundays of celebrating the Solemnities of the Trinity and of the Body and Blood of Jesus, we finally feel the Ordinary Time with our green motif this Sunday that shall continue until November before we end the liturgical calendar with Christ the King to usher in Advent Season and Christmas, which is just six months away from today.

But before thinking of the merry December, we are reminded this Sunday of our journey in life with Jesus guided by Luke who expertly expressed the tempo of Ordinary Time which implies the importance of being free and faithful in Christ:

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

Luke 9:51-56

Here we find the complete freedom of Jesus Christ, his fidelity and commitment to his mission from the Father to be fulfilled in Jerusalem where he would face death to rise again and usher in new life in him, new relationships with God and with others.

Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

I love the way Luke wrote our opening lines of the gospel this Sunday which shows the total freedom of Jesus in fulfilling his mission, his fidelity and love to the Father, “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem”. There was no turning back for Jesus, no second thoughts about going to Jerusalem where he knew so well he would be arrested and killed. Jesus was totally free and faithful in his love for us and to the Father.

It is the same route, the same journey we take daily with Jesus to Jerusalem where we suffer and die with him in our fidelity to our vows and promises, to our loved ones, to our Motherland, and to God our Father. Like Jesus Christ, we must be focused on the mission of love, finding ways to accomplish it instead of entertaining fancy thoughts of display of powers as proposed by the brothers James and John at a Samaritan village they were rejected. To think of getting even with a revenge against bad people is not only a waste of time and energy but most of all means we are not free at all, that we are enslaved by evil and sin, by our emotions. A true disciple of the Lord leaves everything to God, especially the punishment of those who harm and do us wrong. Being resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem like Jesus is having complete faith in him that he would take care of us, that we need not worry at all of petty things like power and wealth, fame and glory.

Being free and faithful, resolutely determined like Christ

Of course, there would always be occasional “stops” for rests in the Lord along the way with some “perks” of serving him though not always in the way the world offers it. Luke would always narrate in his gospel how Jesus would ask his disciples to have some time for themselves in deserted places to rest and pray.

Being free and faithful in Christ, resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem means to go opposite the way of the world which is a folly in the eyes of human wisdom characterized by those ads shouting out to everyone to “Just do it” or “Obey your thirst”, putting premiums on wealth and power, popularity and comfort.

Photo by author, “homeless Christ” at the entrance to Capernaum, the Holy Land, 02 May 2019.

To follow Jesus to Jerusalem is to die daily to our comforts for we are not tourists but pilgrims on earth without fixed or permanent dwelling because our true home is in heaven. This is the first thing Jesus clarifies with anyone wishing to join him in his journey, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Lk.9:58).

That is the reason we priests do not get married, trying to lead simple lives without the trappings of the material world to show everyone what is life in heaven. But, how free and faithful are we in keeping our vows of the priesthood is another topic….


Being free and faithful in Christ is to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ” as St. Benedict would insist to his followers in Rules which is the gist of the shocking reply of Jesus to the second man who asked him permission to bury first his dead father so he could follow him.

When Jesus told the man “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Lk.19:60), he was speaking about the perennial sickness of many religious people who are tied up with their religious laws without realizing its intentions like justice and love. Many times, we practice our faith without really believing in God but believing more in our laws and rituals that we forget the persons we must love. Paul expressed it so well in his letter to the Romans when he wrote, “Owe nothing to anyone except love for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (13:8).


Being and free and faithful in Christ means having Jesus and only Jesus as our priority in life. Notice how the third man came to Jesus wising to follow him but “first let me say farewell to my family at home” (Lk.9:61). It is very clear that for him his priority was his family which is exactly the opposite of what Christ tells us that anyone who loves his father and mother, brother or sister more than him is not worthy to be his disciple.

Jesus is not telling us to disregard our family, especially the fourth Commandment of God; Jesus here is emphasizing the primacy of the gospel, of himself. It is not an issue about morality but keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord we must follow completely like Paul who declared how he had come to consider “everything as a loss” in knowing Christ (Phil.3:8).

It is totally different from the context of Elisha who asked Elijah’s permission to bid goodbye to his family before joining him; see how he slaughtered the oxen he used in farming with his implements as firewood in cooking a meal for Elijah. Elisha literally did what Jesus told the third man trying to join him by burning his plow, indicating his resolute determination to fulfill God’s mission as his prophet by not looking back to his past life.

Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives with a Jewish cemetery at the foreground facing its eastern wall where the Messiah is believed would pass through when he comes. It is the very route Jesus had taken more than 2000 years ago on Palm Sunday before his Passion, Death and Resurrection. Photo by author, 04 May 2019.

When Ordinary Time started in January and was briefly paused until three weeks ago by Lent and Easter Seasons, we have already embarked in the journey of Jesus beginning around the shores of Galilee.

As we resume the Ordinary Time with Jerusalem as destination, Jesus continues to invite us to come and follow him. His call is very simple. Follow me. And, it is sometimes funny that the first time we accepted his invitation, we just followed him without even saying yes. Oh, how free and faithful we were!

But, after many detours and changes of directions along with the many trials and sufferings, we begin to ask questions, seeking clarifications, wondering if we should still continue or just leave and go back to our old ways.

What, who is holding us from being totally free and faithful to Christ?

May the love of Jesus guide us and increase our faith in him so we may also be resolutely determined, free and faithful to continue with him in this journey to fullness of life in him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz in San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Seeing with the heart of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 24 June 2022
Ezekiel 34;11-16 ><}}}}*> Romans 5:5-11 ><}}}}*> Luke 15:3-7
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate and Spirituality Center, Novaliches, Quezon City, 2017.

The three solemnities we have been celebrating these past three weeks in the resumption of Ordinary Time after the great Season of Easter – the Blessed Trinity, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and now the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus are meant to invite us to share in the mysteries of life and love of God himself.

Two Sundays ago we learned in the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity that God is not just a Being but most of all a Person relating within himself and with us humans despite our weaknesses and limitations, even sinfulness. And there lies the greatness of God who chose to share his life with us and love us even if we worth nothing at all by sending us his Son Jesus Christ who gave us himself, Body and Blood to be shared so that we too may be like him to give ourselves to others.

Today’s Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrates the love of God revealed by Christ who died so that we may have life in him.

Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes: “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy.

Luke 15:3-5
From todayscatholic.org.

The Sacred Heart captures the beautiful imagery of the good shepherd who leaves the “ninety-nine sheep in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it” (Lk.15:4) because he first of all sees with his heart, not with his mind.

It is the image of Jesus Christ’s loving sacrifice for us all by dying on the Cross, offering us forgiveness of sins and redemption as Paul explained in the second reading that we have become beloved children of God, forgiven sinners for each one of us is of great worth in the eyes of God that are actually his very heart.

That is how God sees us. Always with his heart, the Sacred Heart of Jesus that even a single soul, a single sheep getting lost has to be searched and saved because every one is of great worth and value!

Anyone who had searched for a missing loved one or ever a pet had experienced the more difficult and more dangerous situation of searching than actually being lost. When we search for a missing beloved like that shepherd in the parable, it is as if the whole world is on our shoulders with our heart beating so wild while racing in our thoughts are all the dangers and worst scenarios that may happen. There are times that the one searching for the missing person or sheep or any pet is the one put at more risks than the missing person or animal.

But, when the beloved is found or like in the parable of Jesus, instead of punishing the errant sheep, the good shepherd tenderly carries it on his shoulders to bring it home full of joy. That is all because of the love, tenderness, and joy flowing from the Sacred Heart that we celebrate today.

When we see with our hearts, that is when we begin to see the goodness and beauty of everyone that our intellect cannot accomplish. Many times when we use our minds, we see people and the world as so dark and so evil. But, if we have hearts that can see, we are surprised that there are more goodness, more beauty in this world than what we hear and see in the news and social media.

Like God who knows everything about us – our sins, our past, even our thoughts – but he chooses to see with his heart because he is love himself who loves us truly.

Life and love are the most common yet most profound and deep mysteries we have as persons. And the more we dwell into its beauty and majesty, the more we are absorbed into the mystery of God, a mystery we are able to grasp little by little of how God fills us with his life and love (https://lordmychef.com/2022/06/11/the-holy-trinity-our-life-and-love/).

See how these feelings and experience of being alive, of being loved and so in love are difficult to explain and even understand but so very true that we dwell in them and even keep them to relish and enjoy often in our hearts. Let the love of Christ which is the fire that purifies and cleanses our hearts unify our intellect, will and emotion to enables us to see our oneness in ourselves before God; as we see more of our goodness, then we begin to see our oneness with others or those around us that our love is translated concretely into our loving service to others like what Ezekiel had prophesied and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The heart is the wholeness of the person not just concerned with feelings but translating these emotions into actions. Like that prophecy by Ezekiel fulfilled in Christ, God did not merely feel nor long to be one with his people but he did make it happen in Jesus who came to search and rescue us, heal and care for us so that we may be whole again and eventually find fullness of life in him by dying on the Cross.

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 16
Photo by author, 2017.

In this age of “practical atheism” when we live as if there is no God according to St. John Paul II under a “dictatorship of relativism” put forth by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI when there are no more absolute values and morality, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart invites us to allow ourselves to be wrapped in the many mysteries of life and love to see again the wonder and joy of our humanness found in God.

Contrary to what most people believe or perceive, God is not controlling nor competing with us in life. In fact, in Jesus Christ, God is living with us, guiding us and leading us to fullness of life that the world has always tried but failed to give us with its many lures of power, wealth and fame now so intense with the new technologies available that have left us more empty and more lost than ever.

COVID-19 had taught us that it is not the mind but the heart that matters most in life, that we need more of love than reasons and logic, more of giving than receiving, and most of all, more of courage that comes from the heart to go out to the middle of the street to walk with Jesus in loving service and self-giving to his flock than by merely standing idle as bystanders.

Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like thine! Amen.

The “hand of the Lord”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist, 23 June 2022
Isaiah 49:1-6 ><]]]]'> Acts 13:22-26 ><]]]]'> Luke 1:57-66, 80
Photo by author, the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem, Israel, 2019.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:66-67

The term “hand of the Lord” is a description of God’s presence and power in the Old Testament, a vivid way of presenting God “intervening” in the daily lives of his people, saving them from all kinds of dangers like the prophets.

There was Elijah who was hunted by the soldiers of Jezebel and the “hand of the Lord was on Elijah” (1 Kgs. 18:46) that he was spared from their murderous plots. Then there was also Ezekiel who saw “the hand of the Lord” (Ez. 37:1) upon him at the vision of a valley of dry bones coming back to life.

Sometimes, the “hand the Lord” referred to God’s judgment like when King David had sinned against God in not trusting him when he ordered a census of soldiers before a battle. It angered God who asked David to choose which punishment he preferred: natural disaster or victory by his enemies or God’s judgment. David chose the third option, saying, “Let me fall into the hand of the Lord for his mercy is great…” (1 Chr. 21:13).

In narrating to us the events that transpired at the birth and circumcision of John, Luke merged the two meanings of the expression “hand of the Lord” to show that every moment of judgment is also a moment of grace as seen in the life of John the Baptist who “grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Lk.1:80).

If we go back to Luke’s account of the annunciation of John’s birth, we also find the hand of God clearly at him with Elizabeth feeling vindicated with her pregnancy specially when visited by Mary. Most of all, the hand of the Lord was strongly felt at the birth, circumcision and naming of John in the most unique manner not only because no one among their relatives have such name (Lk.1:61) but most of all when Zechariah his father wrote “John is his name” and “Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God” (Lk.1:63).

Photo by author, site of John’s birthplace underneath the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem, Israel, 2019.

What a beautiful scene of Zechariah and Elizabeth wrapped in the arms of God, basking in his tremendous blessings with the people so amazed for evidently God was present among them, working in the most special ways albeit in silence that after looking back to the past and the present moment, they wondered what more good things God has in store for the three.

The same scene happens daily in our lives as individuals, as families and communities and as a nation – of how the hand of God saving us in so many occasions like during this pandemic and recent disasters through generous people coming to our side. There lies the greatness of Zechariah and Elizabeth – through them despite their weaknesses, the hand of the Lord worked wonders not only for them but for everyone including us in this time.

We are invited today to be like John’s parents who, despite their weaknesses and shortcomings, they allowed the hand of God to work in them and manifest in them. The name Zechariah means “God remembers” while Elizabeth means “God promised”, a beautiful combination of names of a couple who tell us how God remembered his promise to them and gave them John which means “graciousness of God.”

Photo by author, 2019.

In this age when we act as though God does not exist with our emphases on the wrong notions of freedom and the “dictatorship of relativism” along with materialism and consumerism, we celebrate this Solemnity of John’s nativity to remember our calling to be prophets and precursors of Jesus like Isaiah in the Old Testament who voiced dissensions to the wrong ways of the people like “a sharp-edged sword” and “polished arrow” (Is. 49:2) even to the point of offering one’s life, truly a precursor of the coming Christ.

John’s testimony still resounds today as proclaimed by Paul in our second reading, urging everyone to repent ones sins to go back to God, always ensuring we are not the Christ but merely his messengers not worthy to unfasten his sandals.

Today is also the eve of another Solemnity, that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as we come to close the first half of 2022. Let us not forget the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, that we must not let our guards down lest all our gains this year go to waste. Are we willing to be used as expressions of the “hand of the Lord”?

May we keep “the hand of the Lord” with us, allowing ourselves to be used by God like Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist in meditating where Jesus is leading us in the second half of 2022. It is enough that we lead others to Jesus. In fact, that is the only joy we have in this mission and once others have met Christ, then, like John the Baptist, we begin to disappear, leaving only the hand of the Lord. Amen.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Corpus Christi: Everybody a somebody

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, 19 June 2022
Genesis 14:18-20 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 ><}}}}*> Luke 9:11-17
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera in Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, November 2020.

A week after celebrating the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, we celebrate today the reality of this mystery of our personal God who relates with us with the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

This Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ reminds us of the great honor of every person, of everybody as a part of the Body of Christ who became human like us to share his very self so that we too may become food for everyone. It is a very timely and appropriate feast when we are deluged with news here and abroad of how people are treated as nobody.

The recent viral video of an SUV driver bumping a security guard in a busy intersection in Mandaluyong remains a hot trending topic precisely because it is a story of how poor people are disregarded in this nation. Although the suspect had surrendered to authorities after a week of “no-show” to summons, statements especially by his mother ignited only more fire into the blazing topic. Adding insult to injuries to the nation is the press conference called by the police in presenting and speaking for the suspect which is absurd and directly opposite to how they deal with poor people involved in similar offenses.

Over in the United States where one loses count of victims of shootings happening almost every week, lawmakers grandstand for more gun controls for the protection of children when in fact, the same lawmakers refuse to consider the child in the mother’s womb as a person with a right to life that they have legalized abortion. Almost everywhere in the world, see how people take some people as somebody and others as nobody. So contrary to what Jesus is telling us in the gospel today, that everybody is a somebody. Observe how the disciples of Jesus acted in the gospel:

Jesus spoke to the crowds about the kingdom of God, and he healed those who needed to be cured. As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, “Dismiss the crowd so that they can go to the surrounding villages and farms and find lodging and provisions; for we are in a deserted place here.” He said to them, “Give them some food yourselves.” They replied, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.” Now the men there numbered about five thousand. Then he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty. They all ate and were satisfied. And when the leftover fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.

Luke 9:11-14, 17
Photo from istock-studios.com by Getty Images.

We have heard this story so many times and yet, we continue to miss its whole meaning that it continues to happen in our lives minus the miracle of Jesus. See how Luke tells us first that Jesus spoke to the people about the kingdom of God.

We will never experience Jesus in his person, in his Body and Blood unless we listen first to his words, to his teachings of the kingdom of God. That is why in the Mass, the first part is the liturgy of the word to prepare us for the liturgy of the eucharist. So many times in life, we dismiss right away anything that is spiritual in nature like prayers and the sacred scriptures, of faith in God.

Luke does not tell us how Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish; we have to leave it to him how he did it. After all, he is the Son of God. Recall how during his temptation by the devil to turn stones into bread and he answered that “one does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt.4:4). Here in this scene, his words were precisely fulfilled when he fed the people after they have opened themselves to God’s words, to God himself.

Miracles happen in our lives when we first open ourselves to God himself. And opening to God means opening to others too by seeing everyone as a brother and sister in Christ whom we must care for.

Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, August 2021.

Too often, we tend to isolate ourselves from others, thinking only of ourselves and own good and comfort like the Twelve who asked Jesus to dismiss the crowds so they would find food and lodging for themselves in the wilderness.

What a sad reality still happening today, of how even parents and couples would proudly say how difficult it is to have another child because it is expensive. We have become so utilitarian in our perspectives in life that we compute everything as a cost, forgetting God except when praying which is precisely for asking for more blessings without even seeing the overflowing abundance of gifts from God.

Notice that despite the affluence of many these days, both as individuals and as nations, many are afflicted with the scarcity mentality, of not having enough, fearful of losing money and other resources like oil that we now have this exorbitant fuel prices.

When Jesus told the Twelve to “give the crowds some food yourselves”, he is telling us to look at God first for he is a God of abundance. Abraham in the first reading gives us the best example of always trusting God, of finding God behind every blessings we have. Abraham had just won a war with several kings in the region by the power of God who sent his priest named Melchizedek to bless him with bread and wine after. But unlike other victors in war, Abraham never had intentions of taking all the wealth and treasures of the kings he had beaten and instead gave Melchizedek the priest of God “a tenth of everything” (Gen.14:20).

Our response to God’s many blessings to us is to “tithe” ourselves like Abraham but not just ten percent as the Old Testament had taught but like Jesus in the New Testament by giving all of our very selves. This is the meaning of Paul’s words in the second reading of “proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes” as often as we eat this bread and drink the cup (1 Cor.11:26).

We have learned and realized (hopefully) during the past Lenten and Easter seasons that death leads to new life in Jesus Christ when we share our very selves like him. God blesses us abundantly daily with his life and other blessings. There is enough for everyone. That is the meaning of the leftovers of twelve wicker baskets, one each for every apostle of the Lord who represented us.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus we receive in the Eucharist reminds us not only of the sublime gifts of God to each of us but also of our ultimate response of dying to ourselves so we may share Christ’s life to the world so dead with ego and selfishness, a world of “I” and “me” and “my” and “mine” totally disregarding everybody as nobody.

As we celebrate today the Body and Blood of Christ honoring him with Masses, vigils and processions, remember how not everybody in the world is considered a somebody unless one has wealth and power. It is the new meaning given by modern man to the golden rule – he who has gold rules, implying that the poor are always taken as a nobody, bearing all the abuses of those in power and authority.

Let us examine ourselves how we have contributed to these abuses still going on, even in our thoughts at the way we perceive others, especially those not like us in status and beliefs and colors.

After receiving Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist, silently pray:

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:
empty myself of pride and 
fill me with your humility, justice and love;
reign in my heart now and always.
Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author, 2019.

God, our true treasure in life

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II for the Baccalaureate Mass
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 17 June 2022
2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20     <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*>   Matthew 6:19-23
Photo by Ms. Jing Rey Henderson in Taroytoy, Aklan, 30 April 2022.

Congratulations, dear graduates of Academic Year 2022! The term “earning your degree” is most appropriate for your batch because it was no easy task and feat to go through college these last two years on line and limited face-to-face classes.

Most difficult for you, Batch 2022 who are all so young and should have been out there exploring the world, learning life beyond the classrooms but due to the COVID-19 pandemic have to be kept inside your homes, denied even of lakwatsa? (I doubt…)

You have not only earned a degree nor would receive a diploma next week; remember, Batch 2022 of Our Lady of Fatima University, you have made it in one of the most difficult moments in modern world history!

The past two years were truly difficult as we navigated through uncharted journeys, making the best of whatever we can and we have to finish our studies and yes, keep our sanity. Let us be grateful to our Administrators and professors, and everyone in Our Lady of Fatima University who ensured our online classes continued so you may graduate this June.

These past two years are so precious that surely in the years to come, we would all look back for the many lessons we have learned about life.


God must be preparing you for something big, something so special like the young King Joash of Judah in our first reading.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Our first reading today is very interesting, a bit like Stranger Things for its bizarre plot and most of all, it tells us something good and beautiful about isolation like what we have experienced in COVID-19 pandemic.

Around the year 387 BC, the King of Judah by the name of Ahaziah died at a very young age of 22. His mother Athalia seized power after his death and to ensure she would keep the throne as queen, she ordered the king’s children – her own grandchildren – killed!

Here now are the stranger things: Athalia’s husband, King Jehoram who was the father of Ahaziah, also killed all his brothers and their sons upon succeeding their father to the throne so that no one among them would seize power from him. To top it all, the brothers of Ahaziah were killed by raiding Arabs that have left their royal lineage from King David almost deleted, except for one infant who survived Athalia’s carnage – his youngest son named Joash. He was saved by his auntie, Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba by hiding him for a year in the maids’ quarter with his yaya or baby sitter. After a year, Joash was brought to the temple to hide him there for six years under the care and protection of the high priest Jehoida who happened to be the husband of Jehosheba.

When Joash turned seven years old, his uncle, the high priest Jehoida staged a coup d’etat against his grandmother Queen Athalia by revealing to the people gathered at the temple the evil deeds of Queen Athalia. Furthermore, he revealed to the people how one of the princes had survived, Joash, who was immediately installed as the new and legitimate king of Judah.

Athalia was arrested and killed outside Jerusalem along with the priests of the pagan idol Baal. King Joash lived long to rule over Judah to eventually continue the Davidic lineage of kings to fulfill God’s promise of sending the coming Messiah from the family of King David.


We are not told what was taught or the kind of formation the little prince Joash had while in isolation and hiding in the temple but that surely prepared him for the great task and mission he would have later in life.

From Facebook, April 2020.

Imagine King Joash had to hide for seven years from his own, wicked Lola and, we are just in our second year of the COVID-19 pandemic with many semblances of normalcy beginning to return; I won’t be surprised at all that many of you have already gone to Baguio City or Boracay or any vacation spot these past months.

My message for you, dear Batch 2022 is simple: following the COVID-19 lockdowns and isolation, never forget its beautiful lesson that God is our only surety in life, that God alone is our true treasure who could never be stolen or destroyed.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

Matthew 6:19-21

God alone is our true treasure whom we must keep and nurture in life, both in good times and in bad.


We have all experienced these past two years that nothing is permanent in life except God alone. Some of us have lost friends and relatives, even family members not only to COVID but to other sickness.

Many of us got sick with COVID and other diseases and ailments.

We experienced tightening our belts, trying to cut down on many expenses as finances went down while others lost their jobs and livelihood. We cannot even rely on our savings and investments as the pandemic brought them down.

Despite the many viral trends that came out these past two years, we have learned too that popularity does not last. In fact, it wanes too fast until the next trending topics or videos.

There is nobody else we can truly rely on except God and his everlasting love. Remain in him in your prayers and communal celebrations like going to Mass on Sundays. Since last year when I came here at the Our Lady of Fatima University, I have been telling you in our Masses and conferences, most especially during Baccalaureate Mass like this, study hard, work harder, and pray hardest.

Bad times like sickness and death, problems and difficulties are like storms that keep us inside our homes so we can reflect more about ourselves, our lives and our goals. Though the clouds may be dark, it is during the storms in life when we are truly enlightened to see the more important things in life, our true treasures.

Remember, it is always after the rains and the storms when the leaves are greenest.

Photo by Peter Fazekas on Pexels.com

Just like you, Batch 2022, who went through severe tests and storms these past two years. Now, you rejoice for the well-deserved recognition of completing your courses, of graduating.

There will be more storms coming your way, even darker and stronger than what you went through while at Our Lady of Fatima University. We are still in a pandemic and nobody knows until when we shall have all these set-ups in life, in work and in school. However, if we have made it this far especially you, Batch 2022, better days are coming ahead for you.

God has special plans for you like King Joash that is why he kept you at home for two years, why he pushed you to be patient and persevering in your online classes despite the many problems you have had like the perennial slow internet.

As you go out to the world with your diploma, with your knowledge and wisdom as you rise to the top, do not forget God. Handle life with prayer, practice well our two mottos, Veritas et Misericordia, Truth and Mercy. Sometimes, go into isolation or retreat with God to find the truth, to examine how merciful you have been and to listen to God’s voice, to discover his plans for you. And to be focused more in him through Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Keep Jesus your light. Even if you are not able to see the entire path, one step is enough because Jesus will never leave you, would always guide you to our true treasure in life, God. Amen.

Congratulations again and God bless you more, OLFU’s Batch 2022!

From Facebook, Our Lady of Fatima University, 15 June 2022.

The Holy Trinity, our Life and Love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, 12 June 2022
Proverbs 8:22-31 ><}}}}*> Romans 5:1-5 ><}}}}*> John 16:12-15
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

Surveys worldwide say that for most Christians, to speak of God as the Blessed Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit does not matter that much at all. They simply believe in God, period.

But sad to say, the same surveys say that many Christians are turning away from the Church, imitating those who refused to belong to any religion at all but simply profess they believe in God or that there is God. Their anthem is John Lennon’s 1971 hit “Imagine” that says, “Imagine there’s no heaven… No hell below us… And no religion too.”

Worst, there are some who regard Jesus Christ as just another great prophet who had lived in the past with unusual wisdom and teachings, not realizing that without the Trinity, Jesus would not be Jesus whom we believe.

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”

John 16:12-15
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Mystery of Trinity as gift of God

For most Catholics including priests, discussion of the Blessed Trinity is shunned because it is a “mystery”, the most difficult to explain and understand of all our teachings that many find so apart from daily life. And that is totally wrong and untrue as we fail to realize that the more we understand or have some grasp of something or someone, the more we find their meaning and relation with our very selves, the more we appreciate life!

That is why on this first Sunday as we resume Ordinary Time, we celebrate this Solemnity of the Holy Trinity so we would have some understanding of this highest truth in our faith and thereby appreciate its meaning and relation with our daily living.

First of all, the Blessed Trinity as a mystery can be explained and understood but not fully. Mystery means something hidden that has been revealed. The Trinity was totally unknown among the Israelites in the Old Testament but its concept have been there in its many books beginning with Genesis and today as we have heard from the Book of Proverbs. It was revealed in and by Jesus Christ who cautioned his disciples then and now that indeed, many of his words cannot be fully grasped right away.

A mystery can be explained and understood because it is something that continues to unfold, revealing its many aspects to us in the light and guidance of the Holy Spirit. And the more we become aware of its nature, the more we realize how the Trinity can concretely evoke the unity and beauty of our lives in God!

Let us take our cue from the Lord himself who tells us today that “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” Jesus is not insulting us but simply telling us today that learning and understanding the mystery of God is concretely an action of the Holy Spirit and not simply an effort of human intellect. There has to be a lot of praying and studying at the same time. And the most traditional Catholic gesture and prayer we can use in learning more about the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is the sign of the cross which we sadly take for granted.

Our sign of the cross, mystery life and love of the Trinity

Since becoming a priest, I have always insisted to people especially children and youth to make the sign of the cross properly because it is the very mystery of the Trinity. We sign ourselves in the form of a cross to remind us we are the indwelling of God as Jesus told to us last Sunday that “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him” (Jn.14:23).

Photo by Sis. Mira Mandal Sibal, August 2021.

What a beautiful image, of being the “indwelling” of God who is a person, not just a being who relates with us as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

In the sign of the cross we find and experience the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection. It was Jesus Christ who revealed to us, slowly but surely, the mystery of the Triune God in his very life and teachings with its summit on the Cross and later in his sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Notice how every time we are in a tight situation, when we are shocked or surprised at something, we instinctively make the sign of the cross to praise and thank God we are still alive, that we are loved. There is always the unconscious realization of life and love after pulling through a difficult situation and making the sign of the cross.

Life and love are the most common yet most profound and deep mysteries we have as persons. And the more we dwell into its beauty and majesty, the more we are absorbed into the mystery of God as a community of persons relating to us. It is a mystery we are able to grasp little by little of how God fills us with his life and love.

Both the first and second readings show us how God poured out his life (first reading) and his love (second reading) for us. In the Book of Proverbs, we are shown how “at the beginning” God “poured forth” wisdom on his creation and was so “delighted” with man. This wisdom according to Jesus in his teachings is the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God who enlivens us. On the other hand, St. Paul reminds us in the second reading how God’s love was “poured out to us by the Holy Spirit” to be saved in Christ who also promised us with eternal life we all hoper and aspire for.

Like the very mystery of how and why we are alive, why we are loved, these are the very same feelings we have with God as a person we feel and experience as the Father loves us and gives us life, how Jesus our brother forgives us and accepts us, and how the Holy Spirit enlightens and comforts us.

See how these feelings and experience of being alive, of being loved and so in love are difficult to explain and even understand but so very true that we dwell in them and even keep them to relish and enjoy often. If we could just do the same with God as Father and Son and Holy Spirit then we can find our own beauty and unity as a person too. Then we learn to value more our lives, accepting everything good and bad in us as we reach out to others too in kindness and mercy.

Celebrating the mystery of the Trinity

See how we begin and end each Mass with the sign of the cross, a sign of how we entrust in God everything we are and we have not only in the celebration but in our very lives itself.

Photo by author, September 2021.

When we start the Mass with the sign of the cross with the priest greeting us, “May the grace of Jesus Christ, the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”, we are reminded that every Mass is a celebration of God’s invitation for us to be in his presence as the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This becomes clearer when we realize that every Mass is not just our celebration but a celebration of God’s gift of Self to us in Jesus Christ whom we receive in Body and Blood so that we may become more perfect members of his Body, the Church, animated by the Holy Spirit.

That is why we have to make the sign of the cross slowly and deliberately at the start of the Mass to get the feel of God in person and ask his help that we be able to surrender our very persons to him in the celebration.

At the end of the Mass, we again close it with a blessing by the priest with the sign of the cross again as we are dismissed and sent forth as God’s presence to the world and people we meet. By making the sign of the cross at the end of the Mass, we commit ourselves to continue in our daily life the love and kindness, the mercy and forgiveness we have celebrated. We promise to go forth and share the peace of Christ to everyone by remaining rooted in God who is Life himself, recreating the world in his Love Jesus Christ by fighting the evil and sins that beset us so that we make God’s glory and holiness present in this fractured world in the Holy Spirit.

As we make the sign of the cross especially at the start and end of the Holy Mass, may we realize this mystery of the Blessed Trinity that we are God’s indwelling and presence, his beauty and unity in the world. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

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.

Pentecost for “top gun” Christians

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Pentecost, 05 June 2022
Acts 2:1-11 ><]]]]'> Romans 8:8-17 ><]]]]'> John 20:19-23
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Today we close the Easter Season with the Solemnity of Pentecost, 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus when he sent the Holy Spirit to his Apostles gathered with his Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

As promised by Jesus at his Last Supper, the Holy Spirit which he called the Advocate in the form of “tongues of fires” came to fill each disciple with wisdom and courage to remember and understand everything he had taught them, moving them from fear to courage to boldly proclaim his good news to everyone from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. It continues to happen in our days wherever the Sacraments are celebrated and every baptized Christian becomes open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is the “schooling” of every Christian to become a “top gun” – the “best of the best” – disciple of Christ. That is why he sent us the Holy Spirit! St. Paul perfectly said it to Timothy to “stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control” (2Tim.1:6-7).

Photo from themoviedb.org.

I know. Some of you might not agree with my using of a very secular term “top gun” but if you have seen this latest Tom Cruise starrer, you will find it has some semblance with the Pentecost.

While it is about fighter pilots who are the best men and women on air with their sophisticated planes, Tom Cruise as their instructor insisted how everyone should be deeply grounded with themselves and with everyone. That is his first lesson to them: it is the pilot, not the plane.

For me, the turning point of the movie is when Tom Cruise realized the need for his pilots to play football at the beach in order to have bonding as a team.

That scene shows us the essential downward movement of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to break all barriers and remove every excess baggage with us and among us so we may rise, go upwards to higher level of relationships and living in Christ and with Christ who ascended last week to the Father. See how at the first reading Luke describes to us the great joy among peoples that despite their differences in language and even in cultural background, they understood each other. There was openness and understanding that led to communion, exact opposite at the Tower of Babel that the builders failed to rise to their desired heights as everyone became a burden to each other.

Pentecost is grounding below to be rooted with one’s self and with others to realize our higher goals in life who is God in heaven which we said last Sunday as intimacy with the Father in Jesus Christ. Pentecost reminds us of God’s belief and trust in each of us, of how much he loves us that he gave us his Son Jesus Christ who now sends as the Holy Spirit to fill us with his life and breath.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:19, 21-22
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Our gospel this Pentecost Sunday may be short but it is so rich in meaning. First of all, it is reminiscent of the story of the creation of the first human when God breathed on him his very life (Gen.2:7) and became alive. But, that life was destroyed with his fall into sin. God then promised to transform human life that had become like dead and dried bones by breathing on them the Holy Spirit (Ez.37:9-10).

That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ at his Resurrection when his first official act upon seeing his disciples was to greet them peace and breathed on them the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, to transform their lives. It is a beautiful imagery of us being filled with God, the literal meaning of the word “enthusiasm” which is from the Greek words en theos.

When we are enthusiastic of something or someone, we feel so energized, even inspired to do and achieve great things (inspired/inspiration literally mean to be filled with spirit of God too). That is why the Pentecost is also considered as the birthday of the Church not because it was established on that day but it was on that event when it came out to the world to transform not only individual lives but the whole world and creation itself.

Recall three Sundays ago when Jesus told his disciples at the Last Supper that whoever loves him and keeps his words, he and the Father will dwell on that person (Jn.14:23). What a beautiful imagery of us being the indwelling of God!

Here at the Pentecost as Jesus breathed on us the Holy Spirit, we have become his very presence in the world – not just his proxy because he is not absent at all.

It has always been said that if you want to change the world into a better place to live in, you must first change yourself. In Jesus Christ’s saving works, from his Incarnation to his Passion, Death and Resurrection and now in his sending of the Holy Spirit, we have no more reasons to be at the pit of life’s basket. We are God’s greatest miracle on earth – he has not only equipped us with a marvelous body so capable of doing many things but had even blessed us abundantly with every spiritual blessings in the world (Eph.1:3), primary of which is the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Everyday is a Pentecost, a coming of the Holy Spirit who enlivens us, inspires us to be the very best disciple of Jesus, truly the presence of God in this world so badly damaged with so much darkness and divisions, pains and sufferings, poverty and injustices happening not merely in individual cases but even on a large-scale basis. That is why the world needs top gun Christians these days to show everyone how wrong and erroneous are the ways that the world has chosen, that despite all the affluence and technology it has, people are more sad and lost, with some rejecting life itself resorting to violence and subtle attacks on life like abortion.

From pinterest.com.

Pentecost is something we have to live out daily as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, of trying to shift our sights and way of life to God, of living in the spirit and not in the flesh as the world would teach these days.

How sad that this past week, the two most trending topics in social media are the separation of popular husband-and-wife music tandem of Jason Hernandez and Moira dela Torre plus the court decision in the multi-million dollar defamation case of former couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. The sad thing about these viral showbiz news items is how people closely followed them as if they are the most vital topics in the world at the moment, forgetting all about human trafficking, peoples displaced by wars, the many people without the basic necessities of life like decent housing and water. Until now, nobody is talking about keeping our population safe from violence especially the children except having more laws and more weapons. And most insane in the country as a result of the Jason-Moira split, people are again clamoring for the passage of the divorce bill as if it would solve all marital woes of infidelities.

Despite the coming of the Holy Spirit trying to level up our lives and existence by grounding us to the more real and essential issues in our person, we choose to ignore them and would rather sink ourselves deeper into the dirt of others.

Here, we really need a lot of enlightenment by the Holy Spirit like what Tom Cruise insisted to his team members in Top Gun: Maverick – it is the pilot not the plane. Yes, it is the person who must first be thought of, giving importance to his/her well being – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I think what makes this Top Gun sequel better than its 1986 original is the aspect of redemption of the characters played by Tom Cruise and Miles Teller who played “Rooster” as the son of his best friend who had died.

That is what the Pentecost is all about: the Holy Spirit was sent and continues to come to uplift us all, to transform us into better persons and disciples of Jesus. Are we ready to do the hard work of letting go of our personal issues and agendas to let the Holy Spirit fill us and lead us to higher heights in Jesus?

Have a blessed week ahead! God bless you all! Amen.

Photo from polygon.com.

The Visitation: Waking up from our “sleepwalking Christian existence”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 31 May 2022
Romans 12:9-16   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Ein-Karem, Israel, May 2017.

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Luke 1:39-43

It always happens with us, too, when we experience great privilege and honor be given us by others, most especially by God when like Elizabeth, we have that sense of awe and wonder to ask “who am I” to be accorded with such great honor. 

Many times we find ourselves asking God, “why me, Lord?” when given a great blessing in life (and also when experiencing extreme suffering and difficulty).  We believe there is somebody better and smarter than us, one who is more capable than us that we always wonder if God really has a plan for us. 

It is good to maintain such a sense of humility before God and others like Elizabeth, but sometimes, it can happen that after seeing clearly our role in the plan of God, we back out or worst, we pretend to be doing our part.  This is what the Orthodox Christian theologian Olivier-Maurice Clement, a friend of St. John Paul II who warned about “sleepwalking existence” wherein we pretend to be real disciples of Christ when we are actually dreaming.

As we come near to the closing of the Easter season with the approaching midyear on this last day of May after our recent elections, this Feast of the Visitation is the time for us to wake up from our sleepwalking existence, to face the discomforting realities of being disciples of Jesus Christ.

During our diocesan celebration of the World Communication Sunday, one of the more than 300 young people who attended our recollection asked our guest speaker Fr. Ilde Dimaano of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Communication how does he see our “failure in the Church in communicating the gospel with results of the recent elections?” I was so glad with Fr. Ilde’s answer when he clarified to the young people that we did not lost in the recent elections because we have all done so well in harnessing various forms of communications in spreading the gospel by educating the people. Without sounding partisan nor political, Fr. Ilde challenged our young parish communicators to review and study our communication efforts to find ways of getting better.

It is about time that we in the Church must accept that the recent elections show how we have disappointed the people again, of how we have been more aligned with the rich and powerful and our claims about “Church of the poor” are just poster signs than reality. 

Photo by author, Chapel of Basic Education Department, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 2021.

We in the Church should never be surprised at all that we are maligned and misunderstood because that was how Christ was treated during His time.  It is time for us clergy to wake up from our sleepwalking existence and get real with our vocation of truly shepherding the Lord’s flock, of finally putting an end to our adventures and forays into partisan politics. Like Mary, we priests must first of all immerse ourselves in the Word, Jesus Christ, which Vatican II has long stipulated us to do. See how Elizabeth called Mary “blessed” because she believed in the words spoken to her would be fulfilled. Instead of continuing to stir into flame the frustrations and disappointments of the people, like Mary we priests must “go in haste to the hill country” to reach out to everyone and inspire them to find God’s plans for us in the next six years.

Whether in good times or in bad, God comes to us in Christ Jesus. Do we truly carry him like Mary or are we just sleepwalking?

This Feast of the Visitation is a good celebration for us to accept the real hard stuffs of Jesus Christ like witnessing to his love and mercy among the poor and the disadvantaged, of bringing him to those forgotten by their families and the society like Mary sang in her Magnificat.

And like Elizabeth, let us doubt no more that despite our nothingness, we are worthy before God, that he has plans for us in bringing Christ Jesus in this world even if our mission may look so different from others yet so closely related in establishing his kingdom here on earth.

May the calls of St. Paul in our first reading awaken us from our “sleepwalking Christian existence” to be like Mary and Elizabeth in nurturing the seeds of God’s kingdom here on earth by truly walking the dusty and difficult roads in this life. 

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good, love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.

Romans 12:9-12

These are the real hard stuff we need these days as we seem to be having some semblance of end of pandemic – it is time for us to visit like Mary the many Elizabeths who have been into “seclusion” during these past two years. So many feel so lost, trying to find directions at this time as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives wrecked by COVID-19.

God is visiting us daily because he loves us, he believes in us. Most of all, he comes to us in Jesus so that we can share him to more people to experience the Father’s love and mercy, kindness and blessings. Amen.

Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Ein-Karem, Israel, May 2017.

Ascension: a “leveling up” to God in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, 29 May 2022
Acts 1:1-11 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 9:24-28, 10:19-23 ><]]]]'> Luke 24:46-53
Photo by author, Chapel of the Ascension at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, May 2017.

Today’s Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord is a celebration of the mystery of Jesus Christ our Savior. It is not just an episode in his life because it is something about his very person and his personal relationship with us his followers that continues to this day.

In his Ascension into heaven, Jesus had brought us closer to heaven – and God – even while we are still here on earth! It is part of the mystery of his Person whose coming and going, so to speak, closed the wide gap before between heaven and earth which is actually relational than spatial in nature. Hence, the Ascension is not about Christ’s departure to a distant galaxy in the universe where heaven is supposed to be but a new and higher or deeper kind of relationship of humans with God in Jesus.

Ascension is a leveling up as kids would say these days in our relationships with God in Jesus. This we realize in a careful reading of our short gospel account by starting at its ending:

Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.

Luke 24:50-53

Did you notice Luke’s description of how the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy”?

Photo by author, inside the Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, 2017.

Normally, we feel sad in every departure of a loved one, be it permanent like in death or temporary like when they move to a new residence or work or when kids go to college. Every parting with loved ones brings sadness in our hearts, rarely a great joy.

So, where did that great joy of the disciples come from after Jesus left them and ascended into heaven?

Recall how these past two Sundays when Jesus insisted on his disciples including us the need to obey his commandment to love, reassuring them not to let their hearts be troubled and disturbed when he leaves them. Loving Jesus is keeping his words of loving one another as he has loved us. Where there is love, there is always the gift of presence and relationships, of peace, of intimacy. Even if we are apart from one another, even if we do not see each other, love transcends the physical distance and presence; hence, heaven is oneness with God while hell is separation from God!

Mystery of Christ, our intimacy with God

The joy of the disciples at the Lord’s Ascension is the continuing intimacy they have with Jesus because of his commandment to love and his gift of peace. He said last Sunday that anyone who keeps his words shall be loved by him and the Father who shall both dwell on that person.

Jesus and the Father dwelling in us is intimacy, a deep and personal relationship that is as close as our breath. This is the whole point of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews in explaining the great difference of the old temple worship and worship in Jesus Christ: “Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself” (Heb.9:24) that enabled us all to reach and enter heaven “by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil, that is, his flesh” (Heb.10:20).

Heaven is not just a place or location but most of all a state of life, a state of grace made possible by Jesus Christ, in Jesus Christ. It is something we already have in our hearts which we feel and experience when we strive to live in communion with Jesus and everyone around us through personal and communal prayers, especially in the Holy Eucharist.

Photo by author, part of the site believed where Jesus stepped on during his Ascension inside the Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, May 2017.

Keep in mind the upward movement of the Ascension which calls for a “leveling up” in our perspectives and way of life, of “witnessing” Jesus Christ to everyone “to the ends of the earth” as he instructed them outside Bethany (Acts 1:8) before “going up” to heaven to be seated at the right hand of God our almighty Father.

But that mystery of Christ is not everything. See how Luke mentioned both in Acts and in his gospel account the disciples as “witnesses” of Jesus.

The Ascension challenges every disciple of Christ to witness his mystery in a life in union with God, a mystery we must nurture and keep, calling us to “approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water. Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives hope, for he who made the promise is trustworthy” (Heb.10:22-23).

Ascension is therefore a call to holiness, to a life centered in God. But with the recent turn of events both here and abroad, we find we are still too far from the gifts and realities of Christ’s Ascension as life and societies seem to go down to the pit of death and destruction, pains and despair.

May 25: People attend a prayer vigil for the Robb Elementary School students and teachers killed in a mass shooting Tuesday at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Uvalde, Texas.
Joshua Lott/The Washington Post via Getty Images

All mystery and tragedy, but no Christ?

We are thousands of kilometers away from Uvalde, Texas but we too were pierced in the hearts by the reports of the killing of 19 school children and their two teachers in a shooting spree by an 18-year old who started his carnage by first shooting his own grandmother at home before going to their local school.

Two weeks earlier, another ten people were also gunned down in Buffalo, New York that has made mass shooting like a persistent plague in the US getting worst each year without any signs of being eradicated at all with the never-ending debates about guns especially by politicians.

See how amid all these decadence in our time, from the mass shootings in the US to the war in Ukraine and the never ending bickering in our local politics show us the exact opposite of the mystery of Christ expressed in this Solemnity of his Ascension, of how we have sank deeper in evil and sin, away from one another and from God.

Everybody is speaking each one’s point of view but never considered God at all and the value of every human life especially at its most vulnerable stage in the womb and old age. Media barrage us with so much statistics but never about the value and importance of virtues like kindness and love and spirituality.

Going back to our gospel this Sunday, Luke leads us to finding and witnessing Christ’s mystery as a person and of his Ascension in its opening when Jesus said to his disciples:

Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”

Luke 24:46-48

See the flow starting from the Scriptures or words of God that were written leading into its fulfillment in the Pasch of Jesus Christ we are tasked to preach and proclaim in words and in deeds which is what witnessing is all about.

This Sunday, Jesus is leading us out of our homes like his disciples to meet him in our churches where his mystery is celebrated daily in the Holy Eucharist as we listen and pray over his words in the Sacred Scriptures that open us to the many tasks of improving our relationships with one another, in learning to forget ourselves and love like Jesus did, not in attacking each other or defending ourselves from their attacks.

How sad that until now, so many of the faithful are still hesitant of going back to church celebrations due to misplaced priorities in life while some of us in the clergy continue to twist and bend the words of the Lord to suit their own way of thinking, especially in politics.

When we examine the life of Jesus, there has always been the letting go of everything in him, including his very life that when his Ascension came, he was totally light and free to go back to the Father. This in turn left so much imprints on his followers’ hearts including us today that even we have not seen Jesus, we can feel him present in us and with us.

How willing are we to be witnesses of Jesus, of letting go of our personal agendas and plans that prevent us from leveling up or arising to new heights of relationships with God and with others in Christ? Have a blessed and safe week ahead!

Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.