A world without first nor last

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week VIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 01 March 2022
1 Peter 1:10-16   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Mark 10:28-31
Photo by author, pilgrims in the Holy Land preparing to walk, 2019.
Thank you very much, 
dear God our loving Father in heaven
for the gift of this brand new month
of March; tomorrow we start the
blessed Season of Lent with 
Ash Wednesday; today, you remind
us of your gift of salvation through
your Son Jesus Christ long foreseen
by your prophets of Old.
Today, you call us to move into action
by putting all our hope and confidence
on Christ's gift of salvation:

Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I am holy”.

1 Peter 1:13-16
Help us, dear Jesus,
to gird up the loins of our mind -
to be ready for action, especially
if we have to make radical moves
and changes in our lives as witnesses
of your gospel of salvation; help us,
Lord, to overcome our desire to think
only of ourselves, of "what-about-us"
attitude of Peter in the gospel; help us, 
Jesus to be holy like you - filled with 
the Spirit, living in a world without first
nor last but brothers and sisters relating
with each other in mutual love and care.
Amen.

Praying for Ukraine

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week VIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 28 February 2022
1 Peter 1:3-9   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 10:17-27
Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com
Your words today, O Lord,
remind me so much of our 
brothers and sisters in Ukraine
now suffering too much a week 
after Russian forces invaded them;
they are exactly like the early 
Christians being persecuted 
during the time of St. Peter:

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet you believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:6-9
So many times, Lord, the faith of
your people in Ukraine had been tested
in so many instances but this war now 
going on is something not only too difficult
to wage but to grasp even for us from a far
and distant land from them.
Though we do not see each other,
we feel their pains and hurts, their worries
and anxieties, most especially their fears
and uncertainties; I pray, dear God, for more
strength and courage, more unity among 
the people of Ukraine; most of all, 
I pray for deeper hope among them,
that even if things get worst, they too
may rise from the dead like your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord and true hope.
At the same time, dear Jesus,
I pray most fervently for Russian
President Putin - a very rich man 
like the one in today's gospel
who clings so much to wealth and 
power; it is so sad and deplorable
that a man like him in this age would
do the unthinkable and shameful act
of waging a war against a smaller and
peaceful nation that is their neighbor!
Awake the Russians, O Lord, 
from their drunkenness to power
and wealth; awake the Russians, O Lord,
to realize not only the follies of wars
but most especially the precious
value of every human life.  Amen.

Remembering our “fishers of men”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle, 30 November 2021
Romans 10:9-18   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Matthew 4:18-22
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.
On this Feast of your "Protokletos" or
your "first to be called" as Apostle, I pray
Lord Jesus, for the many other St. Andrew
who have led me to you to be your disciple.
How beautiful it is to recall from the 
fourth gospel how St. Andrew was
originally a disciple of St. John the Baptist
but when he met you on your baptism,
he dared asked you where you stayed;
and when you told him to "come and see",
the next thing we are told he called his
elder brother Simon, telling him how he 
had seen the Messiah and brought him to you.
My coming and seeing you, and following
you, dear Jesus, happened through the men 
and women you have earlier called to be fishers 
of men to call me too with their kindness and 
witnessing to your gospel:  my former teachers,
the many priests who have inspired me with
their ministry and friendships, the nuns who 
nurtured my vocation in elementary, the many
other dedicated men and women of faith
whose lives with their encouraging conversations 
and affirmations have inspired me 
to seek and follow you more, Lord.
Hence, on this day, I pray also for deeper faith,
livelier hope and more infectious love from you,
Lord Jesus, that I may also be like St. Andrew,
a fisher of men and women who would bring 
people closer to you in the service of the Church
and for the poor and needy. 

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent?

Romans 10:14-15
Here I am, Lord; send me!
Amen.

Blessed are those who mourn

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of All Saints, 01 November 2021
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-24 ><]]]'> 1 John 3:1-3 ><]]]'> Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, 05 August 2021.

For the second time since last year, all roads do not lead to the cemeteries this November 1-2 due to the pandemic. While there is still that annual exodus to the provinces, the government has preferred to keep cemeteries closed despite the many casualties of COVID-19 while allowing malls and other establishments to operate, including the opening this week of favorite destinations of Baguio and Tagaytay.

Most unkind of all is how thousands of people were allowed including children to visit for several days Manila Bay’s newest attraction, the dolomite beach while cemeteries remain closed and religious gatherings still limited as this government is more concerned in “resurrecting” the economy than considering as “essential” at this time the people’s religious and spiritual needs.

And so, we mourn for the second straight year this November 1 and 2 not only for our departed loved ones but for the benighted souls of this Administration.

But, have a heart as we find solace and comfort in Jesus Christ who encourages us every year on this first day of November with his teachings on the Beatitudes which we hear proclaimed every Solemnity of All Saints. The Beatitudes reveal the mystery of Jesus Christ who invites us to enter into a communion in him by expressing also the meaning of being his disciples. Jesus is in fact every Beatitude – the one who is truly poor in spirit, the first to be persecuted, the one with a clean heart, and the peacemaker.

For this year, let us reflect on the second beatitude which we find very close to our situation under the COVID-19 pandemic as most of us have lost a family member or friends.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:1-4

Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

In a world that thrives and promotes so much fun and merry-making, our second beatitude is difficult to understand or even grasp in this time of the pandemic. What is “blessed” with grieving and mourning when you have lost a loved one so suddenly, without having the chance to even see them before they were cremated?

There are two kinds of mourning that the gospels offer us exemplified by the two most extreme of the Apostles, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and, Simon Peter who denied the Lord thrice (see “Jesus of Nazareth” by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, The Beatitudes, pp.86-89).

The first kind of mourning as shown by Judas Iscariot is when one has lost hope, succumbing to the miseries of losing a beloved and becomes mistrustful of love and of truth that leads to self-destruction. It is the worst kind of mourning that eats away and destroys man within just like Judas Iscariot who hanged himself.

Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:3-5

The second kind of mourning that Jesus must be referring to as “blessed” which leads to salvation is when the mourning is caused by an encounter with the truth that leads to conversion like what happened to Simon Peter who was struck by the gaze of Jesus that he burst into healing tears and cleansed his soul to enable him to begin anew in his life in the Lord.

Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord… He went out and began to weep bitterly.

Luke 22:60-61, 62

This will have its lovely conclusion eight days after Easter before Jesus ascended into heaven when he asked Simon Peter thrice, “Do you love me?” (Jn.21:15ff.) to remind him of that episode that eventually pushed him to follow Christ unreservedly “by taking care of his sheep”.


Blessed are those who weep because first of all, they have love in their hearts. Deaths and bad news that befall our loved ones sadden us, even jolt us with deep pain that move us to console them, to suffer with them, and to be one with them by reconnecting with them and their loved ones like when we go to a funeral or a wake.

This did not happen with Judas Iscariot. The little love he had in his heart when he realized his sin was completely wiped out when he chose to surrender totally to evil, finding no more hope for forgiveness and reconciliation with Jesus. When grief becomes so overpowering and consuming, it totally wipes out the embers of love left in our hearts and like Judas, that is when we choose to die miserably sad and separated from God who is love.

Never lose hope in Jesus. Seek that love in your heart. Seek Jesus in that tiny voice telling you to always come home to him. Do not be shy nor ashamed of your loss and failure. Keep that fire of love in Jesus burning.


Blessed are those who weep because more than the love they have in their hearts, they have been loved first of all. We weep and grieve the death of a beloved family member or relative or friend because of the love they have given us, of the kindness they have shown us, and the care they have lavished us.

Simon Peter did not merely have love in his heart. Luke dramatically described to us how Peter’s eyes met the merciful and loving eyes of Jesus while he was denying the Lord. It must have struck him so hard that immediately he felt contrition for his sin, feeling strongly the need to reform himself and reconnect with the Lord. He could not let the imperfect love he has in his heart to just go to waste that is why when he wept bitterly on that Holy Thursday evening, it was not the end but the beginning of another chapter in his beautiful story of love for Jesus. It was precisely what he meant when he told Jesus at Tiberias, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn.21:17) – that despite his weaknesses and failures, he loves Jesus, he tries so hard to love Jesus in his little ways.

When in the midst of great sufferings and pain specially after we have sinned or we have lost a loved one, we are blessed as we mourn and grieve because that is when we realize strongly our weakness and limitations that we reach out to God, to be nearer to him. To desire God in itself is always a grace and a blessing too!


Photo by author, 2018.

Blessed are those who mourn because that is when we actually stand for what is true and good, for what is just and right.

When we weep, it does not mean we have lost; in fact, even in the face of apparent loss like Jesus on the Cross, mourning is the most firm expression of our belief in what is right and just, and what is true and good.

The best scene for this kind of blessed mourning that leads to salvation is found at the death of Jesus Christ where his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary stood by the foot of his Cross with her cousin Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and the beloved disciple John (Ibid.,p. 87).

By standing at the foot of the Cross and later carrying in her arms the dead body of her Son Jesus Christ called La Pieta, Mary showed us that mourning is blessed because it is the strongest depiction of our solidarity with God, of our going against evil and sin.

In this world when conformity to whatever “everyone is doing” is the rule of the game like corruption, dishonesty, infidelity, lies and manipulation of people, mourning and weeping with the victims of oppression and persecution can be our strongest signs of protest and resistance against the prevailing evils of our time.

When we weep and mourn for victims of violence and evil, that is when we become God’s instruments of his comfort to his people. From the Latin words cum fortis “with strength”, to comfort means to strengthen those persecuted or oppressed or those facing intense sufferings and tests.

When we weep, when we grieve and mourn over a lost beloved or a lost cause, that is when God comforts us, when he makes us stronger in resisting evil and sin.

Ultimately, that is when our mourning leads to salvation, that is why blessed are those who mourn and weep.


What are your griefs today?

What do you mourn?

Blessed are you in your weeping not only in having love in your heart but most of all, for being loved. Dwell in the love of God in Jesus Christ like the saints who have gone ahead of us, resisting all evils and temptations to sin for the Lord comforts us his people always. Amen.

A blessed All Saints’ Day to you!

Surprise us with hope, Lord!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 26 October 2021
Romans 8:18-25   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Luke 13:18-21
From Pinterest.com.
Today we share in St. Paul's
outburst of joy in you, O God
our loving Father when he claimed
"the sufferings of this present time 
are as nothing compared with 
the glory to be revealed for us"
(Rom. 8:18).  Like Pope Emeritus
Benedict XVI, we are absorbed
in the reflection of St. Paul about hope:  

For in hope we were saved. Now hope that see for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance.

Romans 8:24-25
So true, indeed, loving Father:
we hope because while we do not see,
we still believe and we have faith
 in you through Jesus Christ
your Son and our Lord;
teach us to grow deeper in our
hope in you not just as a feeling
or a desire nor a wait-and-see
attitude but more as a conviction
in Christ that when worst comes to worst,
we hold on to you because only
you will remain even in the end,
loving us, believing in us,
transforming us.
Let us persevere in Christ with
our commitments no matter how hard
and even painful specially in this time
of pandemic and in moments of severe
trials and tribulations when people fail us;
like the mustard seed that grows into
a leafy plant providing branches for birds
and yeast that leavens a dough,
let us be surprised with your grace
of hope, Lord, by enabling us to see
light even in darkness,
life even in sickness and death
because to truly hope is to
trust and believe in you alone,
O God, who is our very life.
Amen.

Lead us, remind us, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 25 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>  Matthew 23:27-32
Photo by the author, Capernaum along the shore of Lake of Galilee (Tiberias), 2017.
Times are getting more tough,
more difficult, and most painful
for us these days, God our loving Father.
We ask you only for one thing -
lead us to your Son Jesus Christ our Lord
as we pray:
Lead us, O Lord closer to you
to be like you - loving and caring
merciful and forgiving;
Lead us, O Lord to your words
and actualize them in our lives;
Lead us, O Lord in your Holy Spirit 
to work in us and through us
to bring life and joy, hope and inspiration
to those overshadowed with gloom
due to the pandemic.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing for us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

1 Thessalonians 2:13
Remind us today, dearest Jesus
that the greatest impact we can have
in this life are not just the words we speak
but by the deeds of love and care,
compassion and dedication we show;
Remind us, Lord, that the real test
of our discipleship in you is not found
in what people say how good or holy we are
but that they themselves are led to the Father;
Remind us today, dearest Jesus
not to be hypocrites like the Pharisees
and scribes who only wanted to appear
beautiful outside but rotting inside (Mt.23:27).
Amen.
 

You are loved.

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Rose of Lima, 23 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 1:1-5, 8-10     ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><     Matthew 23:13-22
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Rhode Island, April 2021.
Our loving God and Father,
today I pray only for one thing:
give me the grace to let others know
that you love them
like St. Paul.

We give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our prayers, unceasingly calling to mind your work of faith and labor of love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and Father, knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God how you were chosen.

1 Thessalonians 1:2-4
In times like this with so many
getting sick and dying due to this pandemic
when so many have lost their jobs and
sources of income
when so many are so confused and 
depressed with how things are going on,
everybody seems to be so busy 
surviving and coping,
forgetting the most essential:
"work of faith
labor of love
and endurance in hope
of our Lord Jesus Christ"
as St. Paul wrote us today.
There are times we have become
like the scribes and the Pharisees:
so callous and self-centered, 
hiding in our devotions and 
religiosities when in fact
full of hypocrisies:

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You lock the Kingdom of heaven before men. You do not enter yourselves, nor do you allow entrance to those trying to enter. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides who swear by the temple and by the altar…

Matthew 23:13-16
I know it is not that easy
to make even just one person
realize and feel that he 
or she is loved.

Like St. Rose of Lima,
let my faith in you
bear fruit with good works;
that my hope may not just be
a wishful thinking but confidence
in Jesus and eternal life;
and lastly, that my love be
like that of Jesus and his saints:
willing to suffer and give total self
for another.

Yes, it is not that easy, Lord
especially if we are afraid
to get hurt, to be laughed at,
to be last and to be least.
But with your grace,
let me do it, Lord.
Amen.

The silent works of God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 13 June 2021
Ezequiel 17:22-24 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ><}}}'> Mark 4:26-34
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 03: Yuka Saso of the Philippines hits an approach shot on the 17th hole fairway during the first round of the 76th U.S. Women’s Open Championship at The Olympic Club on June 03, 2021 in San Francisco, California. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Sean M. Haffey / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — Episode 1602 — Pictured: Nightbirde — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Two great women made me cry this week: our very own Yuka Saso who made history as the country’s first major golf tournament winner after she bagged with much finesse and style the 2021 Women’s Open title in San Francisco, California.

And second was Nightbirde, a cancer patient who mesmerized us a few nights ago with her talent – and joyful disposition as a cancer patient competing at “America’s Got Talent”.

What I like with both women is their authenticity – Yuka with her grit at a very young age pursuing her dream, Nightbirde with her radiance appreciating life despite the threats of cancer.

But most of all, both admitted how God has always been behind them, silently working in their lives, fulfilling their dreams!

It is so touching to hear stories of accomplished people like Yuka and Nightbirde who are very talented, so driven yet humbly recognizing God as the very reason for who they are and where they are now.

God at the center stage of life

Yuka and Nightbirde are two modern parables who show us how true are the teachings of Jesus this Sunday as we finally dive into the Ordinary Time with St. Mark as our guide.

After celebrating two major feasts of the Lord these past two consecutive Sundays, we find the mystery of Jesus slowly unfolding among the people who have started following him after hearing him speak and heal many of the sick.

At the same time, St. Mark is slowly introducing us at this part of his gospel the start of the “trial” of Jesus by his enemies who have began to look at him with suspicion and jealousy, accusing him of blasphemy and contempt for the Law.

Caught at the middle of the controversy are the crowds and his disciples – including us today – who have silently followed Jesus. In these coming Sundays, we shall see and hear more stories of the teachings and workings of Jesus, challenging us to take sides, to make a stand like Yuka and Nightbirde that “it is the Lord!” (Jn.21:7) who is at the center stage of our lives, silently working for our own good.

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29
“The Sower” by Van Gogh from Wikipedia commons.org.

God is never absent nor distant from us in life.  
He is always at the center stage of our lives 
especially when we are going through tests, 
just like during an exam in the classroom!

In the two parables that he tells us today, Jesus describes the little beginnings of the kingdom of God like the seed. And in the littleness of this seed is found also the silence of God in transforming us in the same manner seeds grow into plants and crops that bear fruit.

Let us focus on the first parable that is so close to the hearts of the plantitos and plantitas among us. See Jesus vividly telling us how in life God takes all the initiatives, all the “doing” in silence. God is never absent nor distant from us in life. He is always at the center stage of our lives especially when we are going through tests, just like during an exam in the classroom.

Remember how during exams when our classroom is most silent, everybody scratching his/her head, wracking our brains while hurdling the exams while our teachers quietly watch us? They do not give us the answers for the exam for it is part of our learning process but it is during that time when they work hardest, watching over us.

The same with God when we go through tests in life. He is always present and even closest with us as exemplified with Christ’s self-offering on the Cross. That is the meaning of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart we celebrated Friday.

Of course, like that sower or farmer, we still have to do our very best, we have to work hard in cultivating the soil, watering the crops but aside from that, there is nothing else we can do but to patiently wait in silence, trusting in the good quality of seeds we have sown. We do not know how the seed we scattered would sprout and grow but deep inside us, we believe, we know of its good quality that soon enough, it would be harvest time when the grain is ripe.

We may not say it but unconsciously deep in our hearts we know, something good is going to happen for God does everything good. All the more because the seed he had sown in us is his Son, Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh. How could things not turn out good if we have the bestest seed of all, Jesus Christ?!

We just have to believe and be convinced of his love for us.

Photo by author, Pulilan, Bulacan, 2020.

Hope. And be surprised!

Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:6

What a beautiful a reminder from the great Apostle, St. Paul who wrote this letter under severe personal tests and trials from the Corinthians who have resorted to some nasty talks against him instigated in part by some missionaries who sowed confusions about the gospel of Christ.

This is the most personal of all the letters by St. Paul as he bared his very soul after being hurt by the Corinthians who could only see the surface and external things of himself without knowing his great sufferings for them.

That is what we must all try as disciples of the Lord: like St. Paul, we have to believe first in Jesus in order to see him and his glory. We walk by faith, not by sight wherein we live in vibrant hope in God that while everything seems to be too dark and difficult to understand, he is doing something within us that would transform us into better persons after these trials.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Like the power inside the seed being harnessed through time – nobody knows except God almighty what is happening inside. It just happens that one day, we are so amazed at how big and tall a tree has become considering it started from the minute piece of seed like what the Lord had promised Ezekiel in the first reading.

Thus says the Lord God: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on high and lofty mountain… And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.

Ezekiel 17:22, 24

We are journeying in faith without seeing especially in this time of the pandemic. Our time is that of patience and courage. Most of all, of hope.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in Spe Salvi #27, “In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph 2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30).”

Sometimes, even if we try our very best, things do not turn out as we expected, exactly like what most farmers experience after sowing their seeds. When crops fail, they scatter seeds again the following season because they believe in being surprised by God, not by sheer luck.

They choose to believe, to have faith in God who is our present and our future in Jesus Christ who lives in us, whether in good times or in bad.

Going back to Nightbirde, recall how she entered the stage so cool and relaxed, smiling as she answered questions when she confidently declared being a cancer patient. When asked why all the smiles and joy radiating in her, she simply said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

Whoa!

And when she sang until Simon hit the golden buzzer… for a brief moment, I felt God passing by or even stopping by my computer screen, saying hello to me, reminding me about my many complaints in life until I saw Nightbirde. Indeed, the French poet Charles Péguy was right: hope is God’s favorite virtue because it always surprises him.

Like what Nightbirde and Yuka did to us last week.

Let God surprise you this week by doing what you like best. Do not worry. God will do the rest.

A blessed Sunday to everyone! Amen.

When God comes to visit us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 31 May 2021
Romans 12:9-16     ><}}}'> + ><}}}'> + ><}}}'>     Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, bronze statues of Mary and Elizabeth at the patio of the Church of the Visitation at Ein-Karem in Judah, 2017.
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 1:41-43)

In this time of the pandemic with threats of COVID-19 still prevalent, we feel exactly like St. Elizabeth, O God our loving Father, asking, “how does this happen that you O Lord, should come to us?” But that is how great and tender is your mercy for us, Father!

How great indeed is your goodness and mercy for us, Father, that your ways are always so different from our own ways like with the story of the cousins Elizabeth and Mary: ideally, it should have been the elder Elizabeth who visited Mary for she was bearing your Son Jesus Christ. That early, Jesus had shown us the nature of his mission here on earth, that he had come to serve and not to be served.

You know how much we miss one another so much these days, heavenly Father. We are getting tired of being kept at home and not able to visit or even receive visitors from family and friends for fear of getting sick.

Come and send us again Jesus your Son to visit us anew like what you did when Mary visited Elizabeth.

Increase our faith, let us believe like Mary that your words would be fulfilled as you have promised.

Keep our hope aglow like Elizabeth who, despite her old age and barrenness, joyfully received the gift of motherhood to the future John the Baptist.

Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Holy Land, 2017.

Most of all, keep us humble and lowly before you, dear God, like Mary, hungry and thirsty for your words so we may have a space to receive and share Jesus with others, unlike the rich and powerful so filled with their pride and ego who could not welcome Jesus Christ’s coming.

Grant us courage, Lord, so we may heed and live out the words of St. Paul today so that like Mary and Elizabeth we may live in mutual love with one another, making you present among us. How unfortunate that we cannot see your coming to us in this time of crisis because we are so filled with arrogance and pride, of our lack of love and respect for one another.

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.

Romans 12:9-10

We pray for those who dwell on their evil and malicious thoughts in taking advantage of others especially the poor and powerless in this time of crisis. Please visit our political leaders, bring back their shame and sense of patriotism so they may think more of the suffering people than of their selfish motives and interests. Amen.

My unforgettable characters of COVID-19, images of Christ

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 April 2021


While COVID-19 truly provided us with so many images of hope amid the crisis we went through on its first year, the pandemic had also left us with some unforgettable characters that moved us to feel our humanity that unfortunately many of us have lost for so long.

In fact, it was grace-filled moment of this time of the corona virus that we feel our humanity again when we found our true friends with our true colors emerging.

We were moved to tears even by people we hardly knew but felt their pains and their joys, their love and their kindness, their fidelity and courage in the middle of many storms in life especially when most others preferred to be bystanders and be quiet.

Most of all, we found Jesus Christ among them who became our unforgettable characters during COVID-19’s first year.

Leading my list is Mang Dodong of Caloocan City.

Photo by Mr. Vincent Go, 2020.

It was early May last year when we were reeling from successive news of government officials breaking rules of health protocols, abusing their powers and worst of all, getting away with it! Some even got promoted like Police Gen. Sinas who is now the chief of PNP for his shameless mañanita birthday party.

Mang Dodong left their home in Caloocan sometime in early April to buy fish at Navotas he intended to peddle among his neighbors for some much-needed money. That was the last time his wife and adopted child saw him until after almost a month in May 2020. He was detained in Navotas for not having a quarantine pass.

But looking deeper, we see it so common ironically in this administration claiming to champion the masses, we find Mang Dodong’s primary violation was his being poor and most of all, an honorable man unlike the clowns and chimps in the corridors of power.

He was detained for almost a month with his wife said to be a semi-illiterate not knowing where to find him. Had it not for the church volunteers of the Diocese of Caloocan under the Most Rev. Pablo David, Mang Dodong could have stayed longer in detention with the officials having no any qualms at all with his situation.

It has a been a year since then and nothing happened with the case of Mang Dodong. No one was held responsible for his sufferings and hardships because he is poor yet an image of Jesus Christ immortalized in the beautiful hymn by the late Jesuit Father Ed Hontiveros:

Hesus na aking kapatid
Sa bukid Ka nagtatanim
Kung sa palengke din naman
Ikaw ay naghahanap-buhay

Tulutan mo’ng aking mata
Mamulat sa katotohanan
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Sa taong mapagkumbaba


When COVID-19 reached our country in mid-February last year directly from a Chinese tourist who became the pandemic’s first victim to die outside of the virus origin in Wuhan, everybody thought our dry season could flush out the corona.

It did not happen at all. Worst, the dry season even spelled disaster with many fires hitting the metropolis that summer like the one that hit Happyland district in Tondo on April 18, 2020 from where we got our second unforgettable character of COVID-19: a young man carrying his grandfather to escape the fire.

From the Facebook of Marivic Tribiana, April 2020.

So many families were left homeless with scores injured with some fatalities in what was the second or third fire to hit Tondo in Manila.

It was also the octave of Easter, a few days before “Divine Mercy Sunday” when it caught the attention of Fr. Marc Ocariza who was then the parochial vicar of St. Peter Alcantara in Taal, Bocaue, Bulacan.

Fr. Marc was so struck by the photo that he shared it on his Facebook account and that was how I saw it too.

Screenshot by Fr. Marc, April 2020.

Another day day passed, on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, Fr. Marc interpreted Ms. Tribiana’s post into a work of art using the app Digital Art Timelapse and dubbed his creation as “Nag-aalab na Pag-Ibig” which in turn inspired me to write a poem “Bakas ng Habag at Awa ni Jesus” I published in my blog on April 20, 2020 (https://lordmychef.com/2020/04/20/bakas-ng-habag-at-awa-ni-jesus/).

Click the link for our reflection why that young man is our unforgettable character, too.


Three great men of the Church did the same thing to us during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, making Jesus present among us as the Good Shepherd in a time people were looking for true leaders giving us light when darkness enveloped us.

Without doubt, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Dagupan, Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, and Bishop Virgilio David of Caloocan will be among the most unforgettable characters during this pandemic following their bold efforts in alleviating the plight of the people in their respective diocese and most of all, in being the most vocal pastors who insisted for the opening of churches considering that religious activities are essential.

They were the voices in the wilderness who spoke the truth of Christ, bringing hope and enlightenment to everyone, including us priests as they both shared us their insights and encouragement to pray and serve God’s flock in these troubled times.

In those three Bishops we find what everybody else is missing in this pandemic: that it is not just a medical and social issue to be addressed but most of all, something of the spiritual and moral nature calling for our conversion as a nation, as disciples of the Lord.

Thank you very much, Bishops Soc, Pabillo, and David for bringing Christ in this time of the pandemic, providing us the spiritual nourishment and emotional support we all needed during this first year of the pandemic.

Photo by Angie de Silva, licas.news.
Photo from CBCP News.
Photo from UCANews.

And now we come to the most unforgettable characters of COVID-19 who are truly our modern day heroes and saints, who truly served like Jesus Christ forgetting their very selves to save countless men and women stricken with the virus.

Frontline workers in personal protective equipment man the E.R. at the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center in Tondo, Manila, March 24, 2020. Photo by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

Hail to our MEDICAL FRONTLINERS – the doctors and nurses, medical technologists, staff of every hospital, driver and crew members of ambulances who transported the sick day in, day out since the start of the pandemic until now.

They were the ones who kept us alive since day one of the pandemic until now with so many of them among the first casualties when COVID-19 hit the country last year.

Photo from Mobility PH of Phil. Daily Inquirer, 20 August 2020.

Sadly, despite their dedication to work, many of them had to suffer humiliation like one nurse who was evicted by her landlady after being positive with COVID while another nurse biking his way to the hospital died after being hit-and-run by a motorist.

Philippine Red Cross rescued nurse kicked out from her boarding house after testing positive with COVID in Makati last year. Photo by ABS-CBN News.

Words will never be enough to describe their dedication and love for those getting sick.

Every night, I pray so hard for them including their families who must have been so used to sleepless nights praying and worrying about their safety.

One thing I ask the Lord in my prayers for our medical frontliners: that they will all be around when this pandemic is over so we can celebrate with them and meet them, hug them and thank them for keeping us alive since it all began in 2020.

God bless and keep our medical frontliners!

Health workers form hearts with their hands as they show appreciation after the residents of La Verti Residences gave a tribute to frontliners on Easter Sunday last year. Photo by Czar Dancel, ABS-CBN News.

There are still other unforgettable characters who kept us alive and well, even sane, during the pandemic. We continue to pray for them as they work in silence serving us during these critical times like bakers and vendors, teachers, government workers, those in the police and military.

Not to forget, too, are our parents and everybody making our lives bearable even comfortable in these trying times. Do stay safe so we may celebrate with everyone when this virus is gone.