Faith, like love, is a relationship

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 02 October 2022
Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4 ><}}}}'> 1 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14 ><}}}}'> Luke 17:5-10
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King Celebration in our former parish assignment, November 2020.

Our gospel this Sunday may be short and brief but so power-packed that can put us into a knock out. In fact, the scene is very disarming that can throw off all our previously held beliefs to give us fresher perspectives on discipleship and faith.

Recall how these past consecutive Sundays that Jesus taught us the importance of God and persons above material wealth like money and possessions. Notice how these lessons were directed by Jesus to the Pharisees and scribes who were known as so obsessed with money. Hardly did we hear any reactions from the Twelve – nor from most of us – until now when they asked Jesus to “increase our faith” (Lk.17:5).

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Luke 17:5-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

When we talk of faith, 
it does not really matter how long 
we have known each other, 
or how much we have given and received, 
or how much we have shared.  
Faith is being one, being together, 
of going the extra mile 
because we believe, we trust, we love. 

What elicited a reaction from the apostles? Or from us? Let’s admit the fact that many of us have felt the parables last two Sundays were not directly meant for us considering our professed “poverty” and “simplicity” in life. But, when Jesus spoke of the need to forgive those who sin against us every time they come saying sorry, the apostles realized that needed a lot of faith.

And rightly so.

When it comes to hurting our pride and ego, something deeper is at play, something so close to our person is involved than when we lose a material thing. Like the apostles, we have felt how much faith in God is demanded from us to forgive especially those who repeatedly offend us, that on our own we cannot do it.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 10 September 2022.

Hence, their request (that is also ours) to “increase our faith” because forgiving requires a lot of faith, a lot of love; however, faith is like love that cannot be quantified nor measured because like love, faith is also a relationship.

Our relationship with God and with one another is seen always in the kind of intensity we have for each other. My generation used to call it as “vibes” or vibrations, of how we are one with the other person, of how we are in communion or aligned and attuned with the other person. When we talk of faith, it does not really matter how long we have known each other, or how much we have given and received, or how much we have shared. Faith is being one, being together, of going the extra mile because we believe, we trust, we love.

This is the reason that Jesus followed up his answer to the Twelve’s request with a parable of the unworthy servants who came home after working from the field and still waited on their master at dinner; then, after fulfilling their tasks, they simply told their master “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do” (Lk. 17:10). There was no real relationship between the master and slaves except their job or task and responsibility. If it were a faith relationship, the servants would have done more than just waiting on their master because they would have believed in him!

When our faith is true, when our faith is burning like the reminder of St. Paul to Timothy in the second reading, it means we are focused with the object of our faith who are God and our loved ones. We need not be reminded of things to do, of our obligations; when there is faith in us, our focus is keeping the relationship alive and well that we go the extra mile in lovingly serving our loved ones which is discipleship is all about.


That is how faith as a relationship
 may be described these days:  
like an online class, an online meeting, 
even online Mass when sometimes 
you really wonder if there is somebody listening
 or paying attention at the other side of the screen
 but you just go on...

Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo, August 2022.

People who are deeply in love are first of all one with their loved ones that they are able to do great things because of their intense and vibrant faith that keep them united. With a burning faith inside us, we are able to love the unloveable, forgive the most despicable, achieve what others claim as impossible.

Just think of the saints like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta or the very young St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Or, the great martyrs of Auschwitz, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and St. Maximilian Kolbe. There is no way of measuring how much faith they have in Jesus Christ and humanity but we can learn from their lives the intensity of their faith and love for God and others that they did the impossible!

Very interesting was the faith too of the late Mother Angelica who founded and started EWTN that is now the largest Catholic media organization in the world. She knew nothing about broadcasting yet, all she had was faith in God and in people that she was able to overcome every obstacle to make what EWTN right now.

Think of the big corporations and enterprises around you; they all started so small in material resources but so intense in faith and conviction that they have all grown to become the leading institutions in whatever field they are into. Sometimes, believers are described as visionaries because people with deep faith see beyond what others can perceive. Remember how Jesus would remind his apostles on different occasions to “believe so that you will see” that runs opposite what the world tells us with “to see is to believe”. People who are faithful, those who believe are the ones who can truly see, not the other way around. Faithful people have vision.

Photo by author, Pangsinan, April 2022.

Prayer is the primary expression of our faith as a relationship that we just keep on doing because we believe it is good even if it is so difficult especially when nothing seems to be happening at all. We just keep on praying, believing and hoping that God is with us, very similar to our online experiences these past two years of the pandemic when many times, we wonder if there is somebody listening or paying attention at the other side of the screen! But, call it faith and relationship that we just went on with our classes and work including prayers and Masses online because we believe someone, especially God, is at the other side, even beside us!

We have not seen God but we have all experienced his love and kindness, his mercy and forgiveness that even if nothing happens like Habakkuk in the first reading, we just keep on praying (and loving) because our relationship remains intact with God who is faithfully by our side.

When our faith is alive and vibrant, we get closer to God and with others, we become more loving and caring and kind, understanding and patient and forgiving, finding ways and means to love and serve God in others.

God knows what is best for us. He has gifted us with enough faith. Let us ask him not just to increase our faith but most of all, to deepen, strengthen, and perfect our faith so that our ties and bonds as family and friends and community of disciples be stronger in Jesus Christ, both in good times and in bad. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2014.

When you say nothing at all

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 25 September 2022
Amos 6:1, 4-7 ><000'> 1 Timothy 6:11-16 ><000'> Luke 16:19-31
Photo by author, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.
It's amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word you can light up the dark
Try as I may I could never explain what I hear when you don't say a thing

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There's a truth in your eyes saying you'll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you'll catch me if ever I fall
You say it best when you say nothing at all

Yes, my dear friends, I am so in love these days; the Lord is doing a lot of things in my heart and soul in my ministry that songs automatically play within me like a jukebox every time I pray and meditate. The other day was Five for Fighting’s 100 Years; this Sunday it is When You Say Nothing At All by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz first recorded by Keith Whitley in 1988 but became popular with Alison Krauss in 1995 that finally became a worldwide hit with Roan Keating’s version used as soundtrack of the 1999 Julia Robert-starrer Notting Hill.

The lyrics are so lovely, so true while the melody is so cool that is so uplifting and even spiritual as the song tells us a lot of the love of God for us expressed in his Son Jesus Christ who does everything, saying nothing at all, just loving us, understanding us, forgiving us. Most of the time, with us saying nothing at all too because he knows everything.

The more I listen to this song, the more I feel it speaking also of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, of how we truly regard each other as a person, as a brother and sister, as disciples of Jesus when we say nothing at all, when our actions speak loudly or, silently of our love for each other.

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.”

Luke 16:19-21
Photo from bloomberg.com of a homeless man in New York City during a fashion week in summer 2019.

Rich Man, Poor Man

Today’s parable is uniquely found only in Luke’s gospel like last Sunday that stresses Christ’s lesson on the wise use of money in the service of God through one another; but, the parable adds an important dimension in how this wise use of money will have a bearing in our judgment before God upon death. Hence, the gravity of the message expressed in great simplicity with beautiful layers of meaning.

First of all, the rich man has no name while the beggar was named Lazarus that means “God has rescued” or El ‘azar in Hebrew. The scene is still from the previous Sundays when the Pharisees and scribes complained why Jesus welcomed tax collectors and sinners. Jesus took it as an occasion to teach through parables the value of everyone before God, including the lost, the sick, the poor, and the sinful. They are the Lazarus who are given with a name because they are special in the eyes of God who rescues them all.


Then follows the juxtaposition of Lazarus
 lying at the door of the rich man's home
 - a very powerful image that punches us hard
 right in our face, of how numb we have become
 with each other!  

On the other hand, the rich man had no name not because he was less important but because he stands for each one of us blessed and loved by God. Notice that Jesus did not say whether the rich man and Lazarus were good or bad because their character would be revealed later as the parable unfolds.

See how Jesus presented the outer appearances of the two: the rich man was dressed in colorful and fine clothes, eating sumptuous food while Lazarus was somewhat naked, covered with sores in his whole body that dogs would lick as he filled himself with scraps falling from the rich man’s table.

Then follows the juxtaposition of Lazarus lying at the door of the rich man’s home – a very powerful image that punches us hard right in our face, of how numb we have become with each other!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, stranded local residents at the airport, June 2020.

Here we find a valuable lesson from this pandemic courtesy of the face mask that finally opened our eyes, including our minds and hearts to look again onto each one’s face, to recognize each person. Before the virus came, we just did not care with everyone we met as we were so cold that we would not even look at each others face, snubbing even those close to us.

There are still other Lazarus around us, living among us, not begging at all from us like this one in the parable who would not say anything at all but silently suffer in pain, hungry and thirsty for recognition and love like parents forgotten and neglected by their grownup children, wives cheated by their spouse, children left alone and misunderstood by their parents, our classmates and colleagues so maligned in the nasty talks going around us and in the social media, the poor and lowly workers exploited by their employers, or just anyone often criticized and judged but never appreciated.

Try thinking of the other Lazarus around us we never bothered to talk to nor even smiled at because we have been preoccupied with our many other worldly pursuits in life. Let us examine ourselves while amid the comforts and luxuries of life may have rightly earned with decent hard work that but may have caused us to have forgotten the “feel” of being human, of being sick and weak that we have forgotten or been totally unaware of those around us.

Death and the urgent call to conversion

See how the parable gets interesting when both characters died and a reversal of situation in the afterlife occurred. The rich man was buried, immediately going down to hell to suffer while Lazarus was carried – not buried – by angels to Abraham in heaven to be comforted. In the two conversations that followed between the rich man and Abraham, we find at the core the primary importance of daily conversion of everyone.

When Abraham told the rich man of the great chasm dividing them that Lazarus could do nothing to alleviate his torment, Jesus is warning us of the exact situation when we die which is eternity, without end. Therefore, while we are still alive, let us be aware and conscious of others too, not just of ourselves. That is essentially conversion, defocusing from our selves to see those around us more.

Remember how the dishonest steward in the parable last week who made friends with the debtors of his master to ensure his good fate after being fired? That finds its application in this Sunday’s parable wherein the rich man should have been like that dishonest steward in befriending Lazarus so he could have made it too in heaven! That is why I love so much that part of the parable of the juxtaposition of Lazarus at the gate of the rich man.

How did the rich man miss and did not see Lazarus right there at his face, hungry and with sores?

From Facebook, 2020.

Let us not be “complacent” as the Prophet Amos warned in the first reading of not being aware of the excesses and sacrilege going on during that time (Am.6:1). It could be happening right now with us when we choose to be silent and uninvolved, even blind and deaf to the suffering people around us because we are like the fool rich man who grew rich for himself instead of “growing rich in what matters to God” (Lk.12:13-21, August 1, 18th Sunday)!

In the second conversation with Abraham by the rich man, we find the pressing need for conversion more urgent, of heeding the calls of the scriptures, of the prophets and of Jesus Christ himself we hear in the gospel proclaimed daily. See also how the rich man had not really changed amid his torments, requesting that Lazarus be sent to warn his brothers living the same way he had lived in order to avoid hell. Imagine while in the afterlife, the rich man was still thinking of those he had left behind on earth!

So ridiculous was his request and yet, we too must be careful because so often, we have such illusion that a clear and irrefutable sign from heaven like what the Pharisees and scribes insisted from Jesus could lead everyone to conversion. It is an illusion because as Jesus had been telling since then, we need to have faith first to see and acknowledge him for us to be converted. It is the same faith that we need to heed St. Paul’s call in the second reading to “Lay hold of eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). It is faith that is vibrant and so alive that enables us to recognize our true wealth is God found among one another with us.

When we have faith, whether we are rich or poor, we always see everyone as a brother and sister in Christ. When we have faith, whether we are rich or poor, we are able to love truly because we also believe. And that is when we do not say anything at all because we just keep on doing what is good to everyone, especially the Lazarus among us.

This Sunday, Jesus reminds us of God’s immense love for each one of us, a love we have to share with everyone especially if we have so much unlike others.

Let us reflect our lives these past days and weeks when we felt like Lazarus unrecognized at all, even forgotten amid our being right in the middle of life and everyone. It must be painful and sad. Jesus knows it so well; hold on to him our Savior who is always doing something for us always, especially when he says nothing at all. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead! God bless you more!

Photo from inquirer.net, Ms. Patricia Non of the Maginhawa Community Pantry, 2021.

True wealth

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 18 September 2022
Amos 8:4-7  ><}}}}*>  1 Timothy 2:1-8  ><}}}}*>  Luke 16:1-13
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias, the Holy Land, May 2019.

Our first reading this Sunday from the Book of Amos sounds like coming from a recent publication denouncing the corruption and social decadence in most countries these days, of the rampant injustice and exploitation of the poor, of how hypocrisies thrive among the rich and powerful and religious too!

Hear this, you who trample upon the needy and destroy the poor of the land! “When will the new moon be over,” you ask, “that we may sell our grain, and the sabbath, that we may display the wheat? We will diminish the ephah, add to the shekel, and fix our scales for cheating! We will buy the lowly for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals; even the refuse of the wheat we will sell!”

Amos 8:4-6

How sad that long before the coming of Jesus Christ and more than 2000 years after his birth with all the civilization and religion all over the world, nothing has really changed at all: greed for power and money continue to divide peoples and nations, causing many losses of lives from crimes and wars that have ensued.

"Everything has a price, 
everything has to be summed up 
that sadly in the process, 
God and people are commodified 
while things are personified! " 
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, April 2022.

Throughout history, we have never learned and perhaps, have continued to refuse to learn from God, beginning from his prophets like Amos down to his own Son Jesus Christ, the important lesson of giving more value to him and to one another. We have always put more premium and value on things that perish than on those of true value that remain even to eternity, none other than God and one another.

“If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth? If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? No servant can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Luke 16:11-13

True wealth vs. dishonest wealth

Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem, intensifying his teachings on discipleship with two parables this Sunday and next week to deepen our knowledge and relationship with him and others as disciples.

We have heard today his parable of the wise steward who reduced the debts of his master’s creditors to ensure he could find employment in them when fired from his job. Jesus did not approve of his wily scheme but praised him and those like him of the world in finding ways to “win hearts” of people with their pakikisama as we call in Pilipino which is often a wrong sense of camaraderie when people help each other even in shenanigans and other corrupt practices.

(Photo by Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images)

If we could just find means in truly helping each other in life with the same ardor, we could probably have a better and more humane society where we value persons more than things. That is the kind of discipleship Jesus is teaching us today with his sayings after narrating this parable — of having God and one another as our true wealth in life, not dishonest wealth of money, power and fame that feed on our pride and ego. Having God and others as our true wealth means valuing them most in our lives through Jesus Christ.

Problem happens when we value things like money and fame more than God and persons like in the time of Amos that continues to this day as we focus more with how much we shall earn, of what’s in store for us in terms of profits and returns without giving the slightest concern for people and God. Everything has a price, everything has to be summed up that sadly in the process, God and people are commodified while things are personified!

Sorry to say this but the clearest example of our commodification of God is this online Mass when we make him like a canned good or a video on-demand like in Netflix we take out to watch and consume when we just have a feel for it. No relationship at all. Just like that, as in ganun lang… in case of an emergency, we take out God like a life vest tucked under the plane seat.

In the same manner, we commodify people when we see them in utilitarian perspectives, in their usefulness for us in attaining our selfish goals. We commodify people when we totally disregard them as “no body”, as if they do not exist that we do not recognize them at all, not caring for them as “some body” like in next Sunday’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus.

Even us in the Church contribute in this commodification of God and of people long before the advent of online Masses in the way we regard parish assignments. How do we priests look at the people and the parish, really?

What a shame at how we priests persist that unChristian frame of mind in distinguishing parishes as “big parish” and “small parish” in reference to their income and collections, never in terms of population or number of souls and their pastoral needs! This results in the tragic mire we are stuck called careerism fueled by the never-ending competition among priests for parish assignments, forgetting altogether our sense of service and mission.

Sad. Very, very sad.

"True wealth and riches are God and people.
We live to love.  
Let us put an end to restrictions on whom to love, 
whom to value for we are all brothers and sisters in Christ..." 
Photo by author, 12 August 2022.

This Sunday, Jesus is blessing us with the grace and challenge of examining deeply in our hearts what and who do we value most?

If we consider material things as riches, then, we have not moved away from the time of Amos; we are still living in ancient time of decadence and immoralities despite the sophistications we now have like hi-tech gadgets we use for cheating others as we hide in our fine clothes and air conditioned homes, offices, and vehicles.

True wealth and riches are God and people. We need more people, more children, more family, more friends to share and celebrate life with. Not more money nor more houses and cars we cannot use at the same time; we do not need more food nor more clothes for we live not to eat.

We live to love. Let us put an end restrictions on whom to love, whom to value for we are all brothers and sisters in Christ as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading today. Most of all, the great apostle tells us to value everyone, from our leaders down to the common tao we meet everywhere, praying for one another for it is God’s design that in the end, we shall all together dwell in him in heaven, the true wealth and riches we must all aspire. Amen. Have a blessed weekend everyone!

Photo by author, 14 September 2022.

Our forgiving God & our lost sense of sinfulness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 11 September 2022
Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 ><}}}}*> 1 Timothy 1:12-17 ><}}}}*> Luke 15:1-10
Photo by author, 2018.

Last Wednesday morning during breakfast, we heard on television news the interview of the undersecretary of agriculture blaming our farmers for the recent oversupply of garlic in Batanes and cabbage in Benguet, saying “they plant crops but they don’t think about the market for their harvests.”

We have been so used to such comments by many heartless government officials ever since; and, they also happen everywhere like in our schools where teachers blame students, at homes with parents blaming children and siblings blaming one another and of course, not to be left out is our church where priests always blame people for whatever problems and mishaps that happen in the parish.

No wonder, we feel more comfortable with God depicted in the Old Testament like in our first reading today when God was so angry and instructed to immediately get down from the mountain to punish the people who have created a golden calf to worship.

We find it so difficult to fully and truly accept despite Christ’s words and assurances that God our Father finds joy in forgiving as depicted today in our gospel. So often, we are like the Pharisees and scribes who could not understand why we have to share in the joy of God when a sinner repents.

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. So to them he addressed this parable.

Luke 15:1-3
Photo by author, 2018.

Jesus reminded us these past two Sundays of the demands of discipleship, of the need for us to conform to his very person and not just with morality and even religiosity. Discipleship is being like Jesus, always having him as our top priority in life.

This progression of Christ’s teaching on discipleship reaches its peak as we move into the 15th chapter of Luke’s gospel account considered as the “heart” of the Gospel in presenting to us three parables showing God full of mercy and forgiveness for sinners. Actually, it does not merely present God as forgiving but in fact as the One who finds joy in forgiving, who is inviting us to share in his joy of forgiving repentant sinners.

There are three parables in Luke chapter 15: the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son known as prodigal son. We have opted to consider the shorter form of the gospel which skips the third parable which we have already reflected in the recent Season of Lent.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Quezon, July 2022.

The first two parables deal with things that are lost, a lamb and a coin; both deal with only one person like “one of you” and “a woman”. On surface, the two parables seem very ordinary but Jesus – and Luke – have a very captivating manner of narrating them, similarly ending each parable with great sense of rejoicing after finding the lost sheep and lost coin.

Simply put, Jesus is appealing to our common experience of how one lost item would surely claim our attention, no matter how small or even insignificant it may be compared with the rest of what we have.

How do you feel when after losing something you were so worried and disturbed searching for it then someone tells you, “para yun lang?”

We feel so mad, like being rubbed with salt on our wounds because such comment “para yun lang?” betrays their lack of concern and love for us, of not knowing at all or at least recognizing how much that missing thing means to us!

How much more with persons like family and friends who have gone wayward in life like the prodigal son and suddenly coming back to us, saying sorry, trying to pick up the broken pieces of our lives to be whole again as friends and family? Would we not also rejoice when they come home, when we finally find them again?

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

In narrating the two parables in such manner so common with us, Jesus now affirms the incomparable value of every repentant sinner. Moreover, Jesus is showing us in these parables the more deeper ties we have with each other that we must rejoice when a sinner is converted. Hence, the demand too on the part of the sinner, of everyone, to recognize our sinfulness first.

Notice how Luke began this new chapter by telling us how “Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, ‘This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.’ So to them he addressed this parable.”

Look at the attitudes of the Pharisees and scribes that are not just snobbish but recriminating against the tax collectors and sinners; for them, those kind of people were hopeless, improbable to change that no one should be socializing with them like Jesus.

But, what really got to their nerves that they were complaining why Jesus was sharing meals with them was the fact that tax collectors and sinners were not turning to the Law but to Jesus himself, following him, and even preferring him more than everything! They felt left out when in fact they were the first to separate themselves from everyone.

That’s what they could not accept, that they were no longer relevant.

And the main stumbling block to that was their lost their sense of sinfulness as they have believed so much with themselves as if they were like God, so pure and so clean. Due to their lost sense of sinfulness, they have been totally detached from God and from others as well because they were playing gods, setting them apart from everyone even from God himself because they believed they were sinless. In that sense, they felt God had nothing to do with them because they were sufficient in themselves.


There is nothing God cannot forgive.  
This is the grace of this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  
Whenever we admit and confess our sins to him, 
it is God who is first of all filled with so much joy
 for he has long been searching 
and waiting for us to return to him.

Photo by author, 2019.

This is the problem we have in this modern time, when we have all kinds of excuses and alibis, reasons and arguments in doing just everything, losing our sense of sin that unconsciously, we feel like God, in fact always playing God when we presume to know everything that we would neither rejoice when people change for the better nor sympathize with those suffering and in misery. Like the Pharisees and scribes and those heartless people in power and authority in government and schools, at home and in the church, they have no time to even see and review why and what have caused people to sin.

In the first reading, Moses is teaching us the attitude of a true disciple, of one who intercedes for the people by confessing the tender mercy and fidelity of God to his promises and to his people; Moses did not bargain with God to relent in punishing the people. Notice his language, his manner of praying to God, appealing to him as “Lord” filled with faith in God’s boundless mercy and forgiveness. We all know how in a twist of humor, it was Moses who was so furious later when he saw the people worshipping the golden calf that he threw on them the two tablets of stone of God’s Ten Commandments.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us through Timothy of God’s boundless love expressed in his mercy and forgiveness to us all sinners. We can never experience this unless we first realize and admit and own our sinfulness like St. Paul who may be considered the worst of sinners for having persecuted the early Christians. There are so many other saints who followed after him with so dark and sinful pasts but became great men and women of faith because they first admitted their sins and sinfulness. As the saying goes, there is no saint without a sinful past and there is no sinner who is denied of a saintly future.

There is nothing God cannot forgive. This is the grace of this 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Whenever we admit and confess our sins to him, it is God who is first of all filled with so much joy for he has long been searching and waiting for us to return to him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Mount Sinai at the Monastery of St. Catherine, Egypt, 2019.

Every birthday a small Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily), 08 September 2022
Romans 8: 28-30   ><}}}*> + <*{{{>< + ><}}}*> + <*{{{>< + ><}}}*>   Matthew 1:18-23
Photo by author, Christmas 2021 at Our Lady of Fatima University Chapel at the Basic Education Dept., Valenzuela City.
"Every birthday is a small Christmas 
because with the birth of every person 
comes Jesus Christ."  

These words by the great St. John Paul II from his 1995 encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” (The Gospel of Life) is most truest today as we celebrate the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ.

It is right and proper that we celebrate her birthday today because of her coming to life and later her becoming a woman of deep faith in God, Christmas became a reality when she bore in her womb Jesus Christ our Savior.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:18

Matthew beautifully tells us in his genealogy of Jesus Christ followed by this brief explanation of the Lord’s birth through the annunciation to Joseph how every birth, every coming of us is part of God’s plan.

Like Jesus Christ, we all came from God ultimately.

No one is an accident, nor a “chamba” as we say in Pilipino for we are not just lucky to have been born and alive but most of all, blessed. This is the gist of that beautiful alternative first reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28, 30
“The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, a 1305 painting by Renaissance artist Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. The two babies are Mary: below is Mary upon birth wrapped in swaddling cloth and washed by attendants and then above being handed to St. Anne her mother. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

It is part of God’s purpose and plan that we were born, from our “election” or calling, to our “justification” or redemption and “glorification” in Jesus Christ — these did not happen by chance but are parts of God’s grand design for each of us.

Every person, every life is a gift of God, so valuable and precious. That is “the good news of life” expressed by St. John Paul II in his 1995 encyclical we have cited earlier. We are all sharing in the very life of God with each one of us a sign of Jesus Christ, the Emmanuel which means “God is with us” (Mt.1:23).

But, are we with God in Jesus Christ – in our trials and sufferings, in our joys and pains, in our victories and defeats, ultimately, in our life and death?

This is something very important we must always examine in our lives, at least during our birthday if we can truly say that it is a small Christmas because Jesus comes through us!

Like Mary, we have to conform ourselves to the image and likeness of her Son Jesus Christ especially in this time when we have reduced life into mere lifestyles and every person into a commodity who can be possessed and used, then discarded just like things.

In this time of Tiktok with everyone vying to be instantly popular, would we trade our dignity as persons just to be trending and viral, doing all those inanities on camera, wearing almost nothing with all kinds of filth and obscenities spewing from our mouths?

How sad that despite the affluence we now enjoy with everything almost within reach of everyone, we have become more lost and more empty these days than before. Everything has become so decadent that the worth of life and every person is being measured in external factors so that everybody wants to be somebody else except their true selves!


Most of all, the best birthday gift we can give Mama Mary
 is to bring out the giftedness of everyone 
so that each one may find in themselves Jesus 
who was born into this world more than 2000 years ago 
by the Blessed Mother herself! 

In celebrating the birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are reminded that we are all good and pleasing in our very selves. We are so good that when Jesus chose to become human like us in everything except sin, he entrusted himself to us as his carriers or bearers so that we may rediscover our giftedness as God’s beloved children.

Photo by author, La Niña Maria at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 07 September 2021.

Now that we are slowly going back to our “normal” ways of life with more “face-to-face” activities, may we keep in mind this great honor from God, of how he trusted us so much to bear his Son into this world like Mary by being his very sign of presence and love especially to those feeling alone and left out. Like Mary, may we bring the joy of Christ and his good news of life and salvation to those in despair, those sick, and dying inside because of bitterness and being so unforgiving not only to others but to their very selves.

It is said that whenever we greet someone with a “happy birthday”, what we really tell them is “I love you and thank you for making me who I am today”. Do we truly feel that way when we greet Mama Mary with happy birthday today?

The best birthday greeting we can give the Blessed Mother Mary today is to be like her, of being conformed in the image and likeness of Jesus Christ so that people may truly feel God is with us, that through our kindness and simplicity minus all those stunts and excitements that exist only on Facebook, people may have a glimpse of the beauty and majesty of God in us.

Most of all, the best birthday gift we can give Mama Mary is to bring out the giftedness of everyone so that each one may find in themselves Jesus who was born into this world more than 2000 years ago by the Blessed Mother herself! Amen.

Photo by author, the patio of the Church of St. Anne in Jerusalem (2017) that was dedicated on September 8 sometime in the sixth century from which originated the celebration of Mary’s birth on this date since then until it spread to Rome and the whole world; the date stuck to become the basis in setting December 8 as the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary which is exactly nine months preceding her birth.

Conviction & Commitment to Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 04 September 2022
Wisdom 9:13-18 ><}}}}*> Philemon 9-10 ><}}}}*> Luke 14:25-33
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, 12 June 2019, Malolos Cathedral Basilica.

One of the most moving parts of the rite of ordination to the priesthood as well at profession of vows by nuns is when they prostrate in front of the church altar to signify their total conviction and commitment to the person of Jesus Christ.

What a beautiful image of the nature and essence of discipleship requiring great sacrifices to faithfully persevere to the end in Jesus who is always the highest priority of our lives, not only of priests and religious but lay people alike for we are all called to a life of holiness.

We find this conviction and commitment to Jesus in Paul’s own experience while in prison when the slave of his friend Philemon named Onesimus fled to seek refuge in him and eventually converted into Christianity.


Conformity and fidelity to the gospel 
is beyond morality 
because it is an adherence 
to the person of Jesus Christ.

It must have been a difficult situation for Paul if found harboring a runaway slave, Onesimus, who in turn could face death as punishment for his act. Remember that slavery was normal during Paul’s time and even if he did not preach directly against its institution, here in this short powerful letter of just 25 verses he planted the seeds for its destruction when he stressed that Onesimus is Philemon’s “brother in the Lord”.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, 29 August 2022.

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

Philemon 15-17

Many times in life, we realize that fidelity to the gospel can be entirely unreasonable like when we have to be like Philemon whom Paul had asked to believe in the sincerity of the conversion of Onesimus his slave when it seemed to be more of convenience or merely circumstantial. Most of all, how could we receive another as a “beloved brother in the Lord” to whom we owe nothing at all when in fact who had hurt us in the first place! Conformity and fidelity to the gospel is beyond morality because it is an adherence to the person of Jesus Christ, of our communion with him and in him as his disciples.

Are we willing to go that far, of leaving everything behind, even our loved ones, our very selves for Jesus like what the gospel asks us today?

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:25-27
Photo by author, Stations of the Cross, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Chapel, SM Grand Central, Caloocan City, June 2022.

It is already September and we have only about 12 weeks to go before closing this liturgical year to prepare for Christmas with the Advent Season. Jesus is fast approaching Jerusalem and great crowds were already following him.

However, Jesus was very much aware too of the mixed crowd following him where many were simply curious, some were interested, still searching for more proofs perhaps while a few of them were already committed.

How about us today?

See how Luke presented Jesus resolutely journeying to Jerusalem when he turned to face the crowd that includes us today to issue two important lessons about discipleship, hating those dearest to us including our very selves and, second, carrying our cross.


There comes a time in our lives 
when the only explanation, 
the only justification, 
and the only reason 
why we do something unthinkable 
even foolish is because of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is not asking us to literally hate our family and friends or even our very selves; the word hate in this passage refers more to action than emotion, of doing something that others would surely hate like when we do not give in to their requests to support them in a lie or something not fair and just, or simply sinful and evil. We have experienced how it is actually more difficult to being good Christians doing God’s will, doing what is right and good that are exactly not what our family and friends are doing and would want us to also do. And that is why, when we do not go with them and their whims and caprices, they think we “hate” them.

Following Jesus means putting him first always, even above our loved ones that they always misinterpret as our lack of love and concern for them.

But more difficult than that is hating our very selves, doing a Philemon for the many Onesimus in our lives. There comes a time in our lives when the only explanation, the only justification, and the only reason why we do something unthinkable even foolish is because of Jesus Christ. And that is when we have to hate our selves like when we forgo vengeance, let go of some debts, forget all about technicalities and legalities because we love Jesus. It is really foolish by world standards that sometimes one comes to hate one’s self too for letting go and letting God.

Photo by author, detail of Seventh Station of the Cross in the Parish of San Ildefonso, Tanay, Rizal with a man wearing shades, January 2021.

Meanwhile, to carry one’s cross is more than patiently accepting our human conditions of suffering and sickness, weakness and trials in life. This understanding of carrying one’s cross implies passivity as if the difficulty we are into is something that just happened and fell on our lap or shoulder that we simply have to accept them in the name of Christ.

That is very good and highly commendable but, Jesus wants a more active participation from us. To carry one’s cross is to voluntarily choose and accept a difficulty in life as a direct consequence of our conviction in and commitment to Jesus Christ our Lord and Teacher!

This is the reason Jesus presented us with two parables after sounding his call to discipleship, that one of building a tower and of a general going to war. The two men in these parables had to calculate the cost of their efforts, of how much they have to sacrifice and give to be successful in their endeavors lest they become laughing stocks in the community. The same is true with each one of us today as disciples of Jesus.

“In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce his possession cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:33

Of course, Jesus gives us the grace to become good disciples but grace builds on nature; how much are we willing to sacrifice, to renounce even our very selves to truly follow Jesus through and through?

Kaya mo ba?

Photo from gettyimages.com.

Discipleship in Christ is being devoted to him in the same manner he is devoted to the Father toward whom he is drawing us. There is no other Way but Jesus alone. Therefore, to be his disciple means to prefer nothing to Christ who is our very life, our being, our end.

There is no room for mediocrity in being his disciple. We have seen in history and in our very lives how superficial discipleship had caused more damages to the Church and to each one of us when we fail to be committed to our calls. Despite our long years of seminary formation, many of us priests miserably fail in our discipleship with the many scandals that plague the Church these days, not to mention the endless complaints by people of how their pastors do not prepare homilies nor celebrate Mass daily and worst, refuse to answer sick calls! On the other hand, many families and most especially children have been destroyed by the separations of many couples who have refused to learn of letting go of themselves to let God work in their relationships. Then, there are the siblings who fight simply because they cannot let go of their principles and egos and wealth that matter most to them than their brother or sister, or even parents!

This Sunday, let us pray for God’s counsels, for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit as expressed in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom so we may not simply know what is good but most of all lead holy lives by experiencing God daily as his disciples. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Finding our proper place

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 28 August 2022
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 ><}}}*> Luke 14:1, 7-14
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan City, 31 December 2021.

Sometimes I feel life in the Philippines is a daily game of musical chair with each of us trying to secure our favorite seats in the bus or jeepney or train, in the classroom, in the church, in the restaurant. Everywhere.

And the favorite seats are always the ones at the back of the room most especially in churches and those nearest the door like in buses and jeepneys.

Most funny of all is when you find our kababayan in airports here and abroad rushing to board the plane as if they would not find a seat already paid for!

All because we put too much premium on our seats that mean power and control, even prestige although no one among us would admit it. In fact, our usual excuse of being seated at the back is due to shyness which is not true at all! More truthful is the fact that too often, we choose our seats for personal convenience that seats are everything for us.

But, unknown to many of us, what truly matters most in life, in being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not where we sit but where we stand which is the gist of our gospel this Sunday.

On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

Luke 14:1,7
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

See how Luke had briefly compressed in his opening lines for this Sunday’s gospel the gravity of Christ’s teachings today about discipleship. Setting was the most important day of the week for the Jews, the Sabbath, celebrated right in the house of a leading Pharisee.

Wow! It must had been a big party with all the “who’s who” that everybody was trying to get a piece of the action with all eyes on Jesus being observed carefully.

But, why?

To impress him? To be closer to him? To test him as most often would happen with him when in a gathering of people?

I find the scene overloaded with meanings that concern us when unconsciously we also “closely observe Jesus” whenever we would pray and celebrate the Sunday Mass in our parishes. There are times we forget God in our prayers as we are so preoccupied with our very selves, so focused and even insistent on what we believe and hold on to whatever we are asking from him. The “me, me, me” and “I, I, I” attitudes of being right, of being good, of being deserving and of course, entitled. Hence, the confiteor and kyrie are merely recited just for the sake of saying we are sorry for our sins even if we do not really mean them because so often, many are either late or do not examine their consciences.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Luke seems to be having some shades of humor when he noted how the “people carefully observed Jesus” at the dinner without them realizing the Lord himself had already and easily unmasked their pretensions and true characters of choosing the places of honor at the dinner that he had to tell them a parable about choosing the lowest seat!

When we come to the Lord most especially at prayer and the Mass, or even to a party and dinner for that matter, our main attitude must be of humility; to be invited to any party is an indication of our special relationship with the host. Multiply this to the highest degree in coming to the Holy Mass and simple prayer because it is God who gives us the grace to come to him, who values so much our relationship as Father and beloved children.

That is the point of Ben Sirach in the first reading, tenderly addressing the reader “My child, conduct your affairs with humility” (Sir.3:17), indicative of a relationship.

Every Sunday Mass is a banquet of the Lord like that Sabbath dinner Jesus attended in the gospel. No need to choose our places of honor because we are already honored by Jesus to celebrate “in him, with him and through him”. It is the very reason why we must celebrate Mass every Sunday as good, practicing Catholics.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Prayer and Mass are moments we strip ourselves naked before God who welcomes us to come near him even before we say sorry for our sins, even if we are not worthy of being in his presence at all. Recall the story of the calling of Nathanael or St. Bartholomew the Apostle last Wednesday; like him, Jesus had already seen and known us with joy long before we have approached him!

Every prayer moment, every Eucharistic celebration like a banquet on a Sabbath Jesus attended in the gospel today is an occasion for us to be truthful and sincere, to be our true selves, to be humble. St. Teresa of Avila said that “humility is walking in truth.” Just be yourself before God.

That is why Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk.14:11). In the end, when we die, we shall all be placed in our proper places before God; hence, the need for us to be humble and sincere with who we really are. Do not try to be somebody else not you because God knows everything, even the hair on our heads.

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14
Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

The first parable was addressed by Jesus to the guests while this second parable was meant for the host; however, both parables are meant for us all who are all guests of God in this big banquet called life that leads to eternity.

First of all, just be our true and best selves in prayers and in life for we are all honored in Jesus Christ as God’s beloved children.

And if we live and act like Jesus our Host making him the most important guest in our hearts, then our hearts become big enough to welcome everyone, especially “the crippled, the lame, the blind”, making us inclusive like Jesus himself and not exclusive as our seating arrangements would often reveal.

The right attitude in being a guest and a host in this life is to imitate God in the responsorial psalm “who made a home for the poor”, of being like Jesus welcoming everyone with love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, care and understanding.

Again, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews beautifully reminds us today in the second reading that the ultimate goal of our Christian life is communion with God that starts here in this life on earth. Every Mass is a “dress rehearsal” of our entrance into heaven because

Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which cold be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy and darkness… No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven… and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Hebrews 12:18, 22, 23, 24
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

My dear fellow journeyers in Christ, the blessedness of this Sunday shows us how fast time flies, that in a few days, it would be September, the beginning of the -ber months, the approaching Christ the King celebration to close our liturgical calendar.

Before thinking of Advent and Christmas, we are reminded today of “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday, June 26, 2022) to face his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Along the way are invitations to join him too in banquets; let us not seek the seats of honor but instead be firm in making our stand for Jesus on the Cross by being loving and merciful like him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

The problem with our greetings

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2022
Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, view of sunrise from Our Lady of Fatima University in Antipolo City, 14 August 2022.

It is very rare to find in the Bible a story of two women together, conversing, blessing each other. And that rarity happens in our gospel scene today of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth in a town in Judah as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.

What kind of greeting did Mary say that when Elizabeth heard her, the child in her womb leaped in joy, filling her with the Holy Spirit to call Mary blessed? This could have not been any ordinary greeting to elicit such a response from Elizabeth, for her to be filled by the Holy Spirit!

Luke does not tell us how Mary greeted Elizabeth who was six months pregnant at that time with John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus who was also in the womb of Mary at that time. Most likely, she must have said something too close or similar with Gabriel’s greeting to her during the Annunciation, “Hail favored one! The Lord is with you” (Lk.1:28).


As we await of that future glory, 
part of the basis for our assumption
 into heaven like Mary someday depends 
 in the way we greet others because 
that is an indication of our generosity 
and selflessness to a great extent.

Perhaps some of you are wondering why the Church is using this story of the Visitation on this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. One reason is of course, there is no written account of the Assumption of Mary into heaven.

However, the Visitation story which includes Mary’s Canticle of the Magnificat that she sang as a response to Elizabeth’s praises reflects the meaning of the Assumption: it is a celebration of the great things that God has done for Mary and for us including which he would also do in the future like our “assumption” into heaven like we profess every Sunday in the Apostles’ Creed, “the resurrection of body and life everlasting.”

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

Mary became the first human to experience fully the salvation by her Son Jesus Christ, from her Immaculate Conception which speaks of our lost glory from the beginning, and unto her Assumption which promises us of the future glory we shall have in heaven.

As we await of that future glory, part of the basis for our assumption into heaven like Mary someday depends in the way we greet others because that is an indication of our generosity and selflessness to a great extent.

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, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:41-42, 45

To greet is to recognize God working in us, among us.  
It is thinking more of the other person and God than one's self.

Have you noticed these past several years of a silly and inane trend especially in many churches of commentators greeting the congregation with “Magandang umaga po sa ating lahat” or “Good morning to us all”?

What kind of a greeting is that?

To greet somebody is to share something with others. In the Visitation, Mary shared Jesus Christ who was in her womb to Elizabeth that even John in her womb felt him, leaping for joy.

To greet means to extend goodwill to someone, to desire blessings and good things to others.

That was the reason Mary went to visit Elizabeth; she was thinking more of her cousin who was old and barren yet pregnant for six months by the grace of God. Mary visited Elizabeth to affirm the goodness and kindness of God, to recognize that God’s plans for Elizabeth and her baby in her womb have direct correlations with God’s plans for her and her baby in the womb, Jesus.

To greet is to recognize God working in us, among us. It is thinking more of the other person and God than one’s self.

Now, how did it happen that we Filipinos have retrogressed especially in our religious gatherings as well as civic activities when those holding the mic would always say, “Magandang gabi sa ating lahat… Pagpalain tayong lahat ng Diyos” (Good evening to us all or May we all be blessed)?

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

Keep in mind the greeter is sharing what he/she has like a “good morning” or a “blessed day”. Then why is it there are so many among us especially commentators who include their very selves when greeting the congregation, saying “good morning to us all” and other inanities?

To greet others where the greeter includes self in the greeting is like giving a sandwich or coffee to everyone yet takes a bite first or sips too! It is very much the same as replying “me too” when someone tells you “I love you”.

If you include yourself in a greeting, it is not a greeting at all but an insult, a clear sign of callous ego and selfishness to the highest degree that one cannot wait for others to be greeted back.

See the humility and wisdom of Mary: after she had greeted Elizabeth who praised her in return by calling her “blessed” – the first to call her as one – Mary praised God. Not Elizabeth.

When we greet anybody with good morning or good evening or whatever, we do not include ourselves in the greeting because the very fact we are greeting others means we have a lot of good and blessings in us. Like Mary and Elizabeth, we feel so blessed by God that we share Jesus freely to others. Like Mary, we believe and trust that God will never forsake us, will never forget us.

If we can’t even greet somebody so well and so freely, how can we be truly Christian like Mary?

Photo by author in Nazareth, Israel, May 2019.

The Solemnity of the Assumption reminds us today of that great and powerful greeting by Mary to her cousin Elizabeth that led to an encounter and revelation to happen between two women, one old and barren to bear a child with the other too young and unmarried virgin yet both bore children in their wombs by the grace of God.

And it was not just an encounter between the two mothers-to-be but also between their two infants still in their wombs!

In their greetings, God’s mighty deeds became evident, truly present and felt through their mutual exchange of believing, of saying “yes” to Jesus.

The blessedness of this celebration today is found in God’s mighty deeds now resounding in the eternal greeting Mary gives her Son Jesus in heaven.

Photo by author, sunset with the Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

Do we hear Mary’s greetings in our own greetings to one another?

Do our greetings elicit responses from others?

Do our greetings lead others to leap for joy?

Or, do our greetings annoy them because we do not greet them at all, we refuse to share Jesus because we have become too conceited?

How can we be assumed into heaven body and soul if we are so filled with our very selves, when we can’t even freely and truly give away greetings to others?

Then, it must be a case of too much presumptions, of assuming everything for us. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead everyone!

Faith in Jesus, perfecter of faith

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 14 August 2022
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:1-4 ><}}}*> Luke 12:49-53
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Following Jesus, being a true and good Christian is always difficult. This I realized on my first month as a priest 24 years ago when I gave a “marriage encounter” (ME) to several married couples from the parish of my former professor in the seminary.

Part of the marriage encounter is the writing of one’s sins on a piece of paper with a symbolic burning before going to confession later in the evening; problem was, as a new priest, I gave a wrong instruction asking the spouses to exchange paper with their partner to see each others sins. That was when a wife collapsed after reading the sins of her husband! Actually, she had long suspected him of infidelities but that afternoon, all her doubts and suspicions were proven very true that her blood pressure shoot up, losing her consciousness in anger and pain.

After she had been revived, she kept on saying, “akala ko ME magpapatatag sa aming samahan; ito na yata maghihiwalay sa aming dalawa ng tuluyan” (I thought the ME will make our marriage stronger but it seems this will finally cause our separation as husband and wife).

I tried explaining things to her, prayed so hard for her and eventually after six months, I met them at a wedding as they thanked me how their marriage had gone stronger after surrendering everything to Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"Every Christian is a prophet...
a sign of contradiction."

Many times in our lives we have experienced that our faithful service in the Lord often leads us to distressing and painful situations, even tragic choices. In the first reading, we have heard how Jeremiah’s own folks threw him into a cistern to die because they could not take his preaching against their sinfulness and prophecies of the impending fall of Jerusalem which eventually happened. He was momentarily rescued from the cistern but later was eventually killed by his own people for speaking against their sinful ways and life.

Every Christian is a prophet like Jeremiah, a sign of contradiction among the people, even in one’s own family and circle of friends. To live against the corrupt and sinful ways of the world, to uphold what is true and just, to stand for what is honorable and good surely earn a lot of criticisms and condemnation from everyone. Even in the Church!

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division

Luke 12:49-51
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

With all of these words, we now wonder what is good with our Good News this Sunday? Remember, Jesus Christ is on his way to Jerusalem to face his suffering and death. Today he tells us three things to remember to remain focused with the End.

First is the fire he had brought into the world. It is not a fire of destruction but fire of heat and light that give life; fire that purifies and cleanses like silver and gold that bring out its beauty and magnificence; and most of all, the fire of God’s presence like in the burning bush of Moses and the pillars of fire/cloud that guided the Chosen People in the wilderness into the Promised Land.

Fire gives light and heat that lead into life; we can survive without food and water for several days but we cannot last even ten minutes without heat! This is the kind of fire we Christians need these days, fire that will lit us up with courage ands joy in Jesus Christ by witnessing his gospel in a world that seems to be dying and lifeless despite the noise and affluence around.

As a purifying fire, it always brings pains that lead into conversion and liberation like what that couple in my first Marriage Encounter have experienced. The fire of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness taught them to forgive each other and enabled them to lead holier lives. The more we get closer to Jesus our light, the more we see our sinfulness and weaknesses, then we change and mature. That is when we are filled with the light of Christ to become his presence in the world.

Second teaching of Jesus today is about his “other baptism” which is his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. This is the reason why he was “resolutely journeying to Jerusalem” – he was so eager, so decided to face his pasch not for the pains it would bring but for its glorious effects for us.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

That is the real meaning of baptism, from the Greek baptizein which is to immerse in water; hence, baptism before was a literal immersion in water. In our immersion into the passion and death of Jesus Christ, we enter into a communion in him and with him so that in his Resurrection, we too rise with him and in him into new life.

Third pronouncement by Jesus this Sunday is perhaps the most baffling, especially when we consider the statistics that more than half of the conflicts going on in the world today are due to religious beliefs.

Jesus never meant to bring people apart; in fact, he came to bring us all together, to gather us again as beloved children of the Father. However, it happens that the moment we stand for Jesus, for what is true and just, inevitably, we will be with odds even with those dearest to us. Jesus himself had said that “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk.14:26).

That is one of the beautiful imageries of the Cross of Jesus Christ: it marks the end of our sinfulness and the beginning of our oneness in God.

It is the difficult aspect of discipleship when our loved ones are into sins and evil, when they are in darkness and injustice. Are we going to side with them or side with Christ?

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us his peace (Jn.14:27) that according to him is not like the peace offered by the world that is often based on compromises; Christ’s peace is the fruit of love, of sacrifices. Love and sacrifice are one, always together; when you love, there is sacrifice, there is pain and suffering. That is why it is love!

Parents and lovers know this very well: many times they suffer and cry in silence because of their great love for their children or beloved. It is no wonder that in the Beatitudes, Jesus called the peacemakers and the persecuted blessed because to work for peace entails persecution and division.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"God is dangerous."
-Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar (+)

Last Sunday we have reflected how Jesus used the setting of night for our vigilance because faith is tested and deepened in the darkness of life like during nighttime. And, the darker the night, the longer the night always.

But, we have so many people who have gone ahead of us in this life who have found light and life amid the darkness in life, emerging victorious in their faith in God, from the patriarchs in the Old Testament and in Jesus himself and his Apostles and saints as well.

Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Wonderful! Jesus is the leader and perfecter of faith. Very often, we hear the gospels and the Bible speaking always of our having faith in Jesus. But, it is only here and in some instances in Paul we find Jesus having faith; how can Jesus, the Son of God have faith when he is the object of faith?

Let us remember that Jesus is truly human, truly divine. Like us, he also had faith as the gospels attest: he had faith in the Father who sent him. He is the best example of having faith, entrusting everything to the Father that he did not feel ashamed of the Cross. In that sense, Jesus is also the perfecter of faith because in him, with him and through him, we are able to walk in faith, sustain our faith in the most difficult and trying moments of life when we felt our relationships, our world falling apart because we have stood by his Cross. As we look back, we have emerged better, stronger, and most of all, joyful, free and faithful after all those trials in life. Thanks to our faith in Christ!

One of the friends of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II was the Swiss theologian and priest named Hans Urs von Balthasar who said in his 1945 book “The Heart of the World” that God is dangerous.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacia trees in UP-Diliman, April 2022.

Indeed, it is very true especially when Fr. Balthasar noted how God “is inviting you to lose your soul in order to gain it. He always thinks in terms of love. He offers us the impossible… He presents his victory over death as an example to be imitated, he draws us beyond our limits, into his adventure, which is inevitably fatal.”

The blessedness of this Sunday is that Jesus had become like us to lead us the way in a life of faith, perfecting our faith in the process so that we may overcome all obstacles and trials in life like him and be with him in eternal glory in heaven in the End.

Let us keep in mind the worthy reminder of the author of the Letter to Hebrews that “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Heb.12:4). Amen.

Have a blessed, fiery week of faithful adherence in Christ!

Believing is living

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 07 August 2022
Wisdom 18:6-9 ><}}}*> Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 ><}}}*> Luke 12:35-40
Photo by author, Liputan Island, Meycauyan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

Everybody believes in something, even if they believe in the emptiness and nothingness of life. But, what or who we believe in makes the difference because that determines how we live.

Those who believe in financial security live in amassing and building their wealth while those who believe in something that transcends what they see and understand live pursuing lofty ideals not necessarily in religious terms like the saints but also in civic and social concerns like national heroes and reformers. There are also extremists in various forms found in different countries and organizations who believe that any lasting change in life can only be achieved by armed struggles and use of violence, destroying everything even human lives they profess to be they are building or protecting.

This Sunday we find in our readings the importance of believing in God, of having faith in him because faith is not just a belief or knowledge as an interior conviction of the intellect but a union, that is, a “communion” in God we believe in.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested.

Hebrews 11:1-2

It is faith that brings us into our final End in God by enabling us to “possess” already what is not yet fulfilled – eternal life! Little by little, as we live out our faith faithfully like the saints and most notably of all, Abraham as mentioned in our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. See how the author of Hebrews reminded us of the three events in Abraham’s life when he exemplified to us his firm faith in God.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age – and Sarah herself was sterile – for he thought that the one who made the promise was trustworthy. By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promise was ready to offer his only son…He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

Hebrews 11:8, 11, 17, 19

Here we find Abraham as the kind of dreamer with eyes wide opened who not only believed in God but cooperated completely to realize all his promises. He dared to journey to an unknown foreign land that he was thrice blessed by God with wealth and land his heirs would inherit. Despite his old age, he held on faith in God that his son Isaac was born who became the father of Jacob also known as Israel from whom came the twelve tribes of Israel. And when Isaac was an early adult, Abraham remained faithful to God, completely surrendering Isaac to him as a sacrifice that turned out be a test that God was so delighted with faith and declared him as the father of faith.

Everyday we hear of many stories not only of highly successful people but even of simple folks we personally know who have moved heaven and earth so to speak to achieve their dreams in life.

Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

Yesterday after our Baccalaureate Mass at the Our Lady of Fatima University, one of the graduates texted me, accepting my invitation as their chaplain to see me at my office in the hospital for some conversations and counseling or even confession. I was so surprised when she came at exactly 2PM and turned out to be one of my former directees in Malolos City more than ten years ago.

She first came to me after delivering her baby on her third year in college in 2006 after shifting from two other courses; as a result, she never finished college and had to work when the father of her child abandoned them. Last time we met was in 2013 when she came to visit me at Radio Veritas after my program for another series of consultations when she met another man who eventually married her and five years ago, allowed her the chance to pursue a college degree in Physical Therapy. She told me how difficult it had been for her especially with the COVID-19 pandemic that she almost gave up all hopes of earning a college degree. What kept her through these years amid having two other children with her husband who joyfully accepted her and her son from her previous relationship is her deep faith in God. And that is why she was doubly happy last Friday during our Mass when she finally found me again, telling me how our spiritual direction during her dark days have made a great impact in her spiritual journey. On Monday, she graduates with her classmates at the PICC, finally earning a college degree after graduating from high school in 2003.

Photo by author, 2017

Many times in life, not all our days are bright and shiny. So often there are thunderstorms and dark clouds and worst, dark nights that are always the longest nights too. This is the meaning of our first reading from the Book of Wisdom that recalled the first passover and exodus from Egypt of God’s chosen people.

Faith is often asserted and tested in the dark, at nighttime when all the uncertainties and dangers are most pronounced when unknown to us, God is also most present in us. And this we shall find also as the setting of the Lord’s two parables for this Sunday.

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

Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem and along the way since last week, he has been teaching us the need to place our trust and security in God than in material possessions, in the importance of having faith more in God than in things.

From Qoheleth we have learned last Sunday that life is vanity if not rooted in God who is our ultimate origin and end in life so that today Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms of the need to keep that in mind through two similar parables.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them… Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Luke 12:35-37, 39-40

It is important for us to note that before this teaching, Jesus addressed the many fears of insecurity and insufficiency of his disciples, telling them to never worry of what to eat or wear, reminding them of how animals and birds as well nature are well taken cared of by God in all its splendor and glory (Lk.12:22-34).

Our main concern is to be faithful servants of God, seeing to it that we become his hands that care for others especially the sick and the needy, striving to be fair and just in our dealings with everyone, remaining focused with the kingdom of God.

That is the meaning of the vigilant servants in the first parable whom the master finds awake and alert upon returning from a wedding feast. It is Jesus Christ himself coming again in an unexpected time and date nobody knows at the end of time; those he shall find like the vigilant servants are assured of heaven where Jesus will be the one serving them!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, June 2022.

Many times in our lives, we feel that God seems to have forgotten us, falling asleep and unaware of the sufferings we are going through. It is okay to feel that way sometimes but never let your guards down: be like the vigilant servants, faithful to God in prayers and in serving others, in trying to be kind and forgiving because Jesus is surely coming again to bring us with him in paradise and end all our pains and sufferings. Do not let your fears of losing, of not having enough paralyze you to make you selfish and conceited. How often Jesus had come to you through friends and strangers or situations offering you exactly what you needed most at the perfect time? That is like the master coming from a wedding who serves his servants who faithfully waited for his return. God can never be outdone in generosity.

On the other hand, the second parable has an interesting detail from the first one: the master of the house guarding his house against the thief of the night. Actually, the thief here is the master of the house, the one who acted as if he owned everything that he is always on guard against the real master who might come to take back everything.

That is sure to happen! We are just mere stewards of God. We own nothing in this world, even our very life. When the Lord comes at the end of time, or when our time comes to die, which attitude would we have, that of the vigilant servants excited for their master returning from a wedding or that master of the house afraid of the thief to take back what he had stolen?

The grace of this Sunday as we focus about the End we shall all face, it likewise reminds us of the end with a small “e” of our little sufferings here on earth, the setbacks and failures, mistakes and sins we have committed. They will all end; what is important is we live our faith faithfully in God through prayers and good deeds. And some dashes of perseverance, patience, courage and a lot of faith in God. Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by Ms. Danna Hazel de Castro, Kiltepan Peak, Sagada, Mountain Province, 2017.