The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 01 November 2020
I have lined up some songs with “heaven” in their titles or lyrics for this Sunday’s celebration of All Saints’ Day and tomorrow’s All Souls’ Day; but, during prayers and reflections, I kept on hearing Sting singing in my head King of Pain which is my most favorite among his long list of great music.
Our celebrations this November first and second are a mixture of joy and mourning, of heaven and sufferings, of life and death. As we remember today those already in heaven and tomorrow pray for those awaiting entrance into heaven, we also remember on these twin dates the death of loved ones.
No matter how much we may extoll the redemptive nature of death not as an end but a beginning of eternal life, we cannot miss the sadness and pain it brings to everyone that is always for a lifetime.
And that is what hope is all about: hope does not remove sadness or pain. When we hope of getting into heaven with our departed loved ones, no matter how blissful heaven may be, we always have to deal with the hurts of losing a parent or a spouse, a sibling or a friend.
To hope means to firmly believe that when things get worst, even unto death, there is Life itself, God remaining in the end, loving us, taking us to his presence in heaven to live life in its fullness in him.
To hope means to face new beginnings in this life amid the pains we have in our hearts from deaths and separations, believing that someday, if not in this life, everything would be whole and perfect again.
That is why I find King of Pain more apt for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
Written by Sting in 1982 at the Goldeneye Estate in Jamaica where Ian Fleming wrote his first James Bond novels, King of Pain expresses the inner torments he was going through as an individual at that time — his recent divorce from his first wife and growing misunderstanding with his other two colleagues, Andrew Summers and Stewart Copeland. They eventually parted ways after the release of the Synchronicity album from which King of Pain came in 1983.
The beat, the music and the lyrics seem to be dark and melancholic at first but as you get the feel of the entire song sung by Sting, then you realize it is actually about a man struggling with sadness or even depression, of a man filled with hopes until you realize it is speaking about you as king of pain.
Aren’t we all the king of pain in one or the other?
And as we bear all the pains, we keep on forging on with life, we never resign but keep hoping even for a piece of heaven, of the sun to celebrate life each day until we make it to the Other Side like our departed loved ones.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 14 October 2020
HOPE. A favorite word among us, used as an expression for things to get better, especially when we express our “hope” God grants what we pray for, or, in ending our letters of request with “hoping for your kind consideration”.
Even Hollywood is fond of this virtue, portraying it as a reserved power to overcome evil when Neo in the 2003 The Matrix Revolutions was summoned into action to defend their city because he was the only one with “hope”.
Or, something like a turbo charger that will boost every leap of faith when Toretto in Fast and Furious 6 handed to his rival Owen Shaw the computer chip they were tasked to retrieve in the “hope” of getting it back even if they have to chase a giant Antonov An-124 plane taking off.
Of course, Neo and Toretto succeeded in their efforts filled with hope, defeating evil.
But, that is not what hope is all about.
To hope is different from optimism, of believing things can get better;
in fact, we hope because things can get worst.
The late Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote in one of his books that to hope means having that firm conviction within that even if things get worst like death, we are certain God will never forsake us for he loves us very much.
Jesus Christ showed us this true meaning of hope when he decided to go to Jerusalem to accomplish his mission by dying on the Cross for our salvation. I love the way Luke narrated in his gospel this attitude of Jesus in showing us the path of hope amid his knowledge things would get worst than before leading to his Passion and Death (and Resurrection):
When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he (Jesus) resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem…
Imagine Jesus “resolutely determined” going to Jerusalem, the very same attitude of saints witnessing the Gospel by facing martyrdom. It is also very true with us when we say our only hope is the Lord when we know of sure death while facing a serious illness.
To hope is to be “resolutely determined” like Jesus and the saints along with our loved ones to follow the arduous path of life, of putting up the good fight against sickness or injustice and evil even if they knew things will lead unto death. At first we wonder, what victory can we claim if in the end we die like the saints and martyrs?
That’s the mystery and paradox of hope: to hope is to completely trust in God that death is not the end of life or any struggle but the highest point of our transformation as we dive to life’s lowest level like defeat, loss, and death when we pray like Jesus on the Cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk.23:46).
Hope is faith severely tested, believing and abandoning everything to God, come what may.
Hope is clearly not positive thinking nor optimism; hope is “faith in God” as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI tells us in his second encyclical, Spe Salvi (2007). According to Pope Benedict, hope gives us the direction towards the future by enabling us to face the challenges of this life leading to salvation and eternal life.
In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hope, is ultimately without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (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” (Jn.13:1 and 19:30)… If we are in a relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.
Spe Salvi, #27
Four weeks ago, a former parishioner had asked me for prayers for her husband with liver cancer. Both are medical doctors; in fact, it was her husband who had actually diagnosed himself while going through radiological lab exam.
It was at that time they “resolutely determined” to go home and face the inevitable by praying together, hoping together in God.
Here lies the mystery and paradox of hope we were talking earlier: why and what do we really hope when we know it is going to end in death?
God. Nothing else and nobody else. God is the reason we hope and what we hope for.
It is only when we have been stripped of everything else when we truly “see” and experience God is all we have in life after all.
Then we become confident God will never abandon us until the end.
That is what my friend and her husband have realized, especially when Dr. Mike died two weeks later after going home.
When I celebrated Mass at his wake, I could not resist telling my friend how the smile of her husband is the sweetest, even most infectious one I have ever seen on the lips of a dead person in my 22 years as a priest!
Truly, the Lord loved Dr. Mike until the end that he died with a smile as the fruit of his hoping in God with his wife.
Indeed, friends have told me that God will give us the grace to face our death when that time comes; and I believe them because I have seen them transformed after accepting their terminal condition that they no longer cry of their situation getting worst while those to be left behind in turn become the ones crying knowing their beloved is passing (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/22/the-gift-of-tears/).
When I was on my second year of seminary formation in theology, I experienced the most severe test of my vocation to the priesthood that I almost left and abandoned all plans of becoming a priest at all.
What sustained me in the seminary were prayers — and some lines from T.S. Eliot’s very long poem “Four Quartets” published in 1941:
I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.
Too bad I have lost the index card on which I wrote this stanza which I posted on my study lamp, reading it daily even until I have become a priest.
To truly hope, one has to get totally lost and empty, stripped naked of our very selves when darkness is our only light and hopelessness is our only hope.
It is when we have totally lost everything except God when we truly hope.
And that is when all the surprises happen, not only with ourselves but with others.
Not only here but definitely even in eternity, the biggest surprise we are all hoping for.
In 1912, the French poet Charles Pierre Péguy (1873-1914) wrote a very long poem ahead of T.S. Eliot about the virtue of hope, claiming it is God’s favorite because it is full of surprises.
Péguy portrayed Hope as a “little girl” who enlivens her older sisters Faith and Love.
I do not want to dilute its magic and power so I leave it that way for you to savor its sweetness, its truth and beauty in Péguy’s poetry:
The faith that I love best, says God, is hope. Faith doesn’t surprise me. It’s not surprising. I am so resplendent in my creation…. That in order not to see me these poor people would have to be blind. Charity, says God, that doesn’t surprise me. It’s not surprising. These poor creatures are so miserable that unless they had a heart of stone, how could they not have love for each other…. But hope, says God, that is something that surprises me. Even me. That is surprising.
Charles Péguy, The Portal of the Mystery of the Second Virtue
Sometimes in life, we have to hit rock bottom in order to truly hope. Keep hoping and you will surely be surprised by God, by others, and by our very selves that we are always blessed! Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXVII-A in Ordinary Time, 04 October 2020
Isaiah 5:1-7 ||+|| Philippians ||+|| Matthew 21:33-43
To all the plantitos and plantitas: happy feast day this Sunday, the fourth of October which is also the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron of those in the green movements.
Part of the grace of this pandemic is the new awareness and interests of many among us for all kinds of plants borne out of the prolonged quarantine periods these past seven months. I remember growing up in our barrio where fences were all plants like santan, San Francisco and gumamelas whose flowers we used to mix with Tide to play bubbles. Who would have thought that after several decades those plants we used to take for granted like the gabi varieties and others along with cactus found almost everywhere would cost a fortune today?
But what I really miss and hope the plantitos and plantitas will be able to revive and bring back are the fruit trees every home used to have even in vacant lots like guava, santol, atis, aratiles, mabolo, achesa, duhat, kamias and of course, mango. Whenever me and my cousin would trek to the mini forest at the back of our compound called “duluhan” near a swampland to shoot birds and everything with our slingshots (tirador), we always had some fruits to munch in our little adventures.
And part of that adventure was to “shake” until we break branches of trees to get fruits and local beetles called salagubang (on mango trees).
Shaking of tree. Exactly the same thing that Jesus did today in his next parable addressed to the chief priests and elders of the people who would soon have him arrested, tried, and crucified: after telling them parable of the wicked tenants who killed the servants and the son of the owner, Jesus shook and shocked his listeners who later realized the parable was about them!
“What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?’ Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”
We are the vineyard of the Lord
Jesus had already entered Jerusalem and was teaching at the temple area. Among his audience were the chief priests and elders of the people trying to gather evidences against him for his arrest and execution. Unknown to them, Jesus knew what was in their hearts.
Last Sunday the parable was directed to them so they may realize how wrong they have been in regarding them so highly above the publicans and prostitutes who repented for their sins and went to receive the baptism by John the Baptist.
Today, Jesus “shook them” with this second parable taken from a well known song and lament of a beloved to his vineyard by the Prophet Isaiah which we have heard at the first reading.
Vineyards are very common in Israel as in the rest of the Mediterranean and Europe where grapes and wine symbolize life. Hence, the vine is always considered as a highly prized plant that biblical authors have taken as the image of the people whom God cultivates and from whom he expects beautiful fruits.
In the first reading, we find God lamenting why after investing his vineyard with the best of everything, the grapes it produced were so bad that it had to be burned. It was a very strong warning against Israel who have gone wayward in its ways of living that aside from worshipping idols, they also killed the prophets sent by God.
Notice the transition by Jesus using the same imagery from the Old Testament of the vineyard as the people of God but this time bearing fruits at harvest time. By that time, the chief priests and the elders of the people felt they were better than their ancestors who had the prophets killed. In fact, they felt proud that they have been faithful to God, and therefore, fruitful — thinking they were a far cry from Isaiah’s lament. Unknown to them, Jesus could read their hearts, how they were all planning to kill him like the son in the parable so they can have the vineyard, the people and lord it over them!
Everything fell into right places at the end of the parable when Jesus asked them:
“What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.”
Try to imagine the scene with Jesus face-to-face with the chief priests and elders of the people – and with us – discussing the present time, not the past.
Here is Jesus Christ shaking us all to find whatever fruits we have, telling us that this parable is about me and you (see v. 45), asking us, why are you trying to remove me from the people? Why are you easing me out, creating all these cults around yourselves like celebrities, getting the people’s money and approval for your own sake?
Sometimes we need to be shaken – even shocked – to bring out our fruits
See again my dear Reader the beauty of the Lord’s parables wherein he invites us to be involved with it to see how we felt with certain situations like in the merciless debtor and early workers at the vineyard; today, Jesus is asking us our opinion on what the vineyard owner must do against the wicked tenants.
He knows what to do and wants us to realize that we could be those tenants too because like the chief priests and elders, we easily see the sins and shortcomings of others, the fruitlessness of others without realizing our own darkness within, even our sinister plans to dominate.
See how the chief priests and elders of the people called the tenants “wretched men” deserving “wretched death”, not realizing that the more we talk of other people, the more we actually talk of ourselves!
Every parable by Jesus is always set in the present moment with sights set to the future, to eternal life.
Sometimes, God has to shaken us, even shock us so we may bring out and give him his share of harvest of fruits like our faith, hope and love that will build the community in him, not take people away from him. Problem with us is like with those tenants and the chief priests and elders: “masyado tayong bumibilib sa ating sarili”, that is, we believe too much on ourselves that unconsciously we feel like God, forgetting we are mere stewards or tenants of his vineyard.
St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that we strive to imitate Jesus, be like Jesus so that people may find in us a model in following Jesus. Very clear with St. Paul: nobody is replacing Jesus Christ whom we must all imitate.
This time of the pandemic is a time of harvesting, of showing others our fruits like love and kindness so we may lead more people to God, not to ourselves or anyone else trying to lord over us.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 11 September 2020
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-27 <*(((><< |+| >><)))*> Luke 6:39-42
Today, we remember, O Lord, 9/11 – more than the date but the people who have perished, those injured, those who risked their lives for others, and countless others whose lives were forever changed by the terror attacks of that day.
Your servant St. Pope John Paul II lamented at that time how year 2001 – the start of the new century – was marked by that unimaginable attack on human life and freedom.
Nineteen years after, we still remember those vivid moments caught on television that stunned us in disbelief. Most of all, we can still feel the pain and fear 9/11 had stirred in us even if we were thousands of miles away from ground zero.
May this occasion remind us too, Lord Jesus, of our task of great efforts that lie ahead to proclaim your gospel of salvation amidst these troubled times.
All the more that we feel the importance of proclaiming the gospel in this time of the pandemic, 19 years after 9/11 as we go through many crises and calamities of biblical proportions. How sad that until now, we have refused to examine our true selves so we can see clearly the path we are taking.
Jesus told his disciples a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”
Luke 6:39, 41
Until now, wars and attacks on life continue everywhere around the world because right inside our hearts, Lord, we have refused to forget ourselves, think more of others so that we can be like St. Paul to “become all things to all” (omnia omnibus) like a slave foregoing our own good and comforts for the sake of more people.
Teach us to discipline ourselves, Lord, for all these crises we are facing today begin inside us.
thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.
1 Corinthians 9:26-27
To remember anyone and anything in the past, Lord, is to always change to make them better. Let it begin in me by first remembering your dying on the Cross for me. Amen.
Immediately after our Mass for the Passion of John the Baptist this morning, Lord, I am leaving for the celebration of funeral Mass for a very kind woman I have known since high school seminary, Dra. Nenita San Diego who succumbed to COVID-19 three weeks ago.
Yesterday after praying the Holy Rosary, another parishioner passed away, more than a month after I have visited her on her birthday to anoint her with oil for the sick and receive the Holy Viaticum. I was told it was a peaceful death, so true to her name which is “Puring”, from “Purita” for “pure”.
I am not complaining, Lord, but, what is with death – with “Christian death” – that we “celebrate” it, be it for the martyrdom of saints or the demise of ordinary mortals like us?
Thank you for the experience, Lord.
In this time of pandemic when death comes easily almost daily, we are not only reminded of our mortality but most of all, our eternity and victory in Jesus Christ, making every death an image of hope in you.
John the Baptist stood and died speaking for what is true because he had hope in Jesus Christ, the truth, the way and the life.
So many people like him are suffering today, refusing to give in to the pressures and whims of modern Herods among us because they believe in you that they stand for what is true.
O good Jesus, we pray for those suffering for truth and for life like John the Baptist in this time of pandemic; bless them and keep them always for they remind us like your precursor that you have come, that you are among us.
Keep our hopes vibrant and alive in you and to a more just tomorrow, Lord, so that we may persevere in speaking your words of truth no matter what others would say. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 08 July 2020
Hosea 10:1-3, 7-8, 12 <*(((><< >><)))*> Matthew 10:1-7
How beautiful are your words today, dearest God our Father. You never fail to surprise me with your deep personal involvement with us all that you can capture exactly what is inside us without any doubt at all.
After praising Israel’s great achievements that have brought them material prosperity, you remain impartial and fair in pronouncing your judgement:
Israel is a luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth. The more abundant his fruit, the more altars he built. The more productive his land, the more sacred pillars he set up. Their heart is false, and now they pay for their guilt. God shall break down their altars and destroy destroy their sacred pillars.
Indeed, only you can read our hearts, our inmost beings.
How many times have we been deceived by outward appearances like material prosperity in life, thinking these are the crowing glory of one’s great efforts in balancing prayer and work only to be rejected by God for their hard headedness and pride?
A heart that is false is also a heart that has turned away from you, O God; sometimes, these are not evident right away because a heart can always fake outside what is inside.
A heart that takes pride in its grand designs and visions is a heart that is false. Most of all, a heart that refuses to look into the pains and hurts of others, their shortcomings and sins, is a heart that is false because it denies humanity, its being a human flesh tormented by love amidst pains and sufferings. A heart that is false is a heart that refuses to see other hearts with many hurts because it believes more with its self than with God’s love and mercy.
A heart that is false is a heart that has refused to grow and outgrow its previously held convictions and beliefs, more intent in looking at its own heart than into Christ’s meek and humble heart, eventually betraying Jesus and loved ones.
Incline our hearts into the Father’s loving heart, dear Jesus, and give us a heart that is both true and humble, accepting our many limitations, full of hope in becoming a better person in you like your Apostles who started out like us all with imperfect hearts. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week VI-A, 17 May 2020
Acts of the Apostle 8:5-8, 14-17 ><)))*> 1 Peter 3:15-18 ><)))*> John 14:15-21
We are about to end two great seasons in our liturgy and still, here we are in our enhanced community quarantine due to COVID-19. Prospects remain dim as experts say the corona virus may never be totally eradicated despite the discovery of vaccines and medicines later this year.
It is in this background we find our readings this Sunday so reassuring, reminding us of how so often in history that tragic or painful events in the lives of individuals and societies have led to happy endings.
In our first reading, we have seen how the persecution of the Church at Jerusalem so tragic but at the same time also helped spread Christianity so fast led by the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus Christ before he was betrayed and arrested on that Holy Thursday evening.
All this is possible if we believe in Jesus, if we love Jesus.
Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
Intimacy with Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit
For the first time, Jesus promised during their Last Supper the sending of the Holy Spirit when he fulfills his mission.
In most translations, the Holy Spirit is referred to as Advocate although some prefer the transliteration Paraclete from its original Greek Parakletos to truly capture its full meaning or context.
Only St. John used the word Parakletos to denote the Holy Spirit. In its Hellenistic context, Parakletos had come to be known as Advocate like a lawyer or a friend who speaks on behalf of the “accused” like Jesus in a hostile world (Jn.16:7-11).
However, St. John also used parakletos in different contexts like in our gospel today.
See how before introducing to us the sending of the Holy Spirit, Jesus speaks more of a grand instruction – in fact, a reality, a truth in the life of his every disciple: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn.14:15).
Without specifying any commandments to keep, Jesus further explained that “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me” (Jn.14:21). He would be speaking of this like a refrain four more times later to stress that loving Jesus is keeping his commandments.
It is a very difficult task to fulfill and most often, more difficult to understand or interpret especially when we are in real life-situations like loving an arrogant president or loving officials who break the rules of quarantine!
This is so because Jesus himself is the law, the commandments which is his very person; therefore, to love him is to be like him and that is always keeping his commandments of love.
And that is why Jesus made sure to inscribe this lesson and reality into his disciples’ memory and hearts during their last supper by promising the Holy Spirit he called as Parakletos who would be acting as his Advocate, Counsellor, and Comforter when he returns to the Father.
It is the Holy Spirit who leads us now into an intimacy with Christ that we are able to love Jesus, love like Jesus, and love in Jesus. This is the same Holy Spirit who binds the Three Persons of the Trinity in love who also makes us one with God and with others.
Making Jesus present in our love
We make Jesus most present when we love because when we love, everything changes for the best, even the most difficult and worst situations in life.
Albert Camus rightly said when he wrote in his 1947 novel The Plague now being reread due to the corona virus, that “A loveless world is a dead world.”
Without love, we would have gone extinct by now.
Because of love, every tragedy, every suffering and problem we go through leads to happy ending primarily because we discover something, someone beyond far more important than any situation or plight we may be into.
Most of all, love has a distinctive characteristic that moves the lover to become like the beloved. This is the reason why we who love strive harder, persevere and forge into every obstacle and fight until we are one with our beloved!
And who is ultimately our very love?
The God revealed to us by Jesus Christ his Son who became human like us to be one with us in everything including death except sin so that we become like him – divine – in his Resurrection.
Jesus Christ whom we “sanctify as Lord in our hearts” (1Pt.3:15) is the one we imitate and follow, the one we see and, most of all, the only one we (must) share when we love, when we serve especially in this time of the corona pandemic.
Sometimes, it is still difficult to believe how these pandemic and quarantine are happening to us when all of a sudden here comes typhoon Ambo that wreaked a path of destruction in the Visayas and Bicolandia the other day, making us wonder what is happening in the world right now?
Making things worst that have stressed us all so much is our government at all levels lacking preparations, with some officials into alleged corruptions while the enforcers of the laws are the ones breaking all the rules of quarantine!
We just keep on hoping things would get better by starting right at our own end.
Sometimes it can be funny although painful when some people forget us or take us for granted, thinking we are fine or doing great without any hint of the sufferings within.
But the grace is always there because Jesus is within each one of us who believes in him and tries hard to keep his commandments.
“In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”
We just have to do our part, to keep on believing in Jesus, loving Jesus, and most of all, keeping his commandments because Jesus is the “explanation to anyone who asks us for a reason for our hope” (1Pt.3:15).
This does not mean the world is lacking the Lord’s presence.
He has not left us indeed and sooner or later, we shall see how he, the God of history, will direct everything according to his greater plan for us.
Today’s gospel reminds us of his assurance to be with us always in the Holy Spirit.
It is now our turn to pick up the pieces and make him more felt, especially in comforting those affected severely by the many storms that hit us in this time of the corona virus.
And when our quarantine period was extended for the second time before the end of Holy Week last month, I began praying again Psalm 42 every night for that is when I truly long for God so much, most of the time lamenting to him our situation, my condition of being alone in my rectory.
This is the first time I felt like this, so different from those so-called “desolation” or “dryness” because I could feel God present in my prayers but… he is not “fresh”.
Like the deer longing for streams of water, my soul longs for God too.
Not just like the water we buy from a filling station but exactly what the deer yearns for — fresh water that is refreshingly cool not only on your face but deep into your body when sipped amid the burbling sounds of the spring, babbling through rocks and branches of trees with the loamy aroma of earth adding a dash of freshness in you.
Admittedly, sometimes I wonder if I still know how to pray or if I still pray at all!
I can feel God present but he is like someone stacked there in my mind, in my memory, in my ideas shaped by my years of learning and praying.
What I am longing for is a God so alive, so true not only in me but also in another person.
And that is when I realized, most likely, my parishioners must be longing for God too in the same way — the God we all come to meet and celebrate with every Sunday in our little parish, among the people present who are so alive, so vibrant, so true, so touching.
Psalm 42 is believed to have been sang by David when he was prevented from coming to the tent of God either during the reign of King Saul who plotted to kill him or during the revolt of his own son Absalom when he was already the king of Israel.
Like David or the psalmist, I miss celebrating Mass with my parishioners.
And maybe it is safe to assume that two or three of my parishioners are also feeling the same way with me and David, saying these to the Lord:
My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily, “Where is your God?”
Those times I recall as I pour out my soul,
When I went in procession with the crowd, I went with them to the house of God,
Amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival.
If there is one very essential thing this pandemic has brought back to us in our very busy lives, it is most certainly God. And if ever this is one thing people need most in this time of corona virus, it is spiritual guidance and nourishment from God through his priests.
Of course, people can pray and talk to God straight as the Pope had reminded us before Holy Week.
But, human as we are, we always experience God and his love, his kindness, his mercy, his presence among other people who guide us and join us in our spiritual journey. They are special people like friends or relatives or pastors with whom they can be themselves, let off some steam, get some rays of light of hope and encouragement.
And that this is why I try to keep in touch with my parishioners in various ways in this time of corona: even I myself can feel so low and dark despite my prayers and very condition of living right here in the house of God who can still feel alone and desolate, even depressed.
If I – a priest – go through all these uncertainties and doubts this in this time of quarantine, how much more are the people, the beloved sheep of Jesus the Good Shepherd?
Why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me?
Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.
After our Mass this morning when we set out to distribute the Holy Communion, there was a little drizzle. It did not last long that I just wore a hat and left my umbrella in the rectory.
There were about 30 people who waited for us to receive Holy Communion, most of them along the main highway that stretched to about 2 kilometers. Some families gathered with a little altar at their front gate while a waited a couple waited in a gas station along our route.
In less than 20 minutes, we have completed our mission and as we headed back to the parish, the rains fell again, this time stronger than before.
My driver commented, “The weather cooperated with us, Father”1
I just nodded my head to him inside his tricycle but deep inside me, I felt joy because God answered my prayer, my lamentations for he was crying too, – for me and his people.
May this lamentation be an answer to your lamentations during this pandemic of COVID-19.
Continue with your lamentations to God our Father for this very act of crying out to him is the working of the Holy Spirit he had sent us through our Lord Christ Jesus. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe, Holy Wednesday, 08 April 2020
Tonight is “Spy Wednesday” – the night traitors and betrayers are put on the spotlight because it was on this night after Palm Sunday when Judas Iscariot struck a deal with the chief priests to hand them over Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 26:14-16).
The “Tenebrae” is celebrated in some churches when candles are gradually extinguished with the beating of drums and sounding of matraca to evoke silence and some fear among people as they leave in total darkness to signal the temporary victory of evil in the world for tomorrow we enter the Paschal Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil of the Lord.
Darkness generally evokes evil and sin, uncertainties and sufferings. But, at the same time, darkness preludes light!
That is why Jesus Christ was born during the darkest night of the year to bring us light of salvation.
Beginning tonight, especially tomorrow at his agony in the garden, we shall see Christ entering through darkness reaching its climax on Friday when he dies on the cross with the whole earth covered in darkness, rising on Easter in all his glory and majesty.
Our present situation in an extended Luzon-wide lockdown offers us this unique experience of darkness within and without where we can learn some important lessons from the Lord’s dark hours beginning tomorrow evening of his Last Supper.
St. John gives us a glimpse into how we must deal with life’s darkness that plagues us almost daily with his unique story of the Lord’s washing of his disciples’ feet on the night he was betrayed.
Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper… he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter…
John 13:1-2, 4-6
It is very interesting to reflect how Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter dealt with their own inner darkness on that night of Holy Thursday when Jesus was arrested.
Though Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter are poles apart in their personalities, they both give us some traits that are so characteristic also of our very selves when we are in darkness. In the end, we shall see how Jesus turned the darkness of Holy Thursday into becoming the very light of Easter.
Getting lost in darkness like Judas Iscariot
Right after explaining the meaning of his washing of their feet and exhorting them to do the same to one another, Jesus begins to speak of Judas Iscariot as his betrayer.
When he had said this, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me …It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I had dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After he took the morsel, Satan entered him… and left at once. And it was night.
John 13:21, 26-27, 30
The scene is very dramatic.
Imagine the darkness outside the streets of Jerusalem in the stillness of the night and the darkness inside the Upper Room where they were staying.
More darker than that was the darkness among the Apostles not understanding what Jesus was saying about his betrayer because they thought when Judas left, he was being told to buy more wine or give money to the poor!
Most of all, imagine the darkness within Judas.
To betray means to hand over to suffering someone dear to you.
That’s one darkness we always have within, of betraying Jesus, betraying our loved ones because we have found somebody else to love more than them. Satan had taken over Judas. The same thing happens to us when we sin, when we love someone more than those who truly love us or those we have vowed to love always.
And the darkest darkness of all is after handing over our loved ones, after dumping them for something or somebody else, we realize deep within the beautiful light of truth and love imprinted in our hearts by our betrayed loved ones – then doubt it too!
The flickering light of truth and love within is short lived that we immediately extinguish it, plunging us into total darkness of destruction like Judas when he hanged himself.
See how Judas went back to the chief priests because “he had sinned”, giving them back the 30 pieces of silver to regain Jesus.
Here we find the glow of Jesus, of his teachings and friendship within Judas still etched in his heart — the light of truth and love flickering within.
Any person along with their kindness and goodness like Jesus, our family and true friends can never be removed from one’s heart and person. They will always be there, sometimes spurting out in our unguarded moments because they are very true.
That is the darkest darkness of Judas – and of some of us – who think we can never be forgiven by God, that we are doomed, that there is no more hope and any chance at all.
See how the evangelist said it: “Judas left at once. And it was night.”
And that is getting lost in darkness permanently, eaten up by darkness within us because we refuse to believe in the reality of a loving and forgiving God who had come to plunge into the darkness of death to be one with us so we can be one in him. What a loss.
Groping in the dark into the light like Peter
Of the Twelve, it is perhaps with Simon Peter we always find ourselves identified with: the eager beaver, almost a “bolero” type who is so good in speaking but many times cannot walk his talk.
“Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”
Here is Peter so typical of us: always assuming of knowing what is right, which is best, as if we have a monopoly of the light when in fact we are in darkness.
See how during the trial of Jesus before the priests, Peter denied him thrice, declaring he never knew Jesus while outside in the dark, completely in contrast with Jesus brilliantly answering every question and false accusation against him inside among his accusers!
Many times in our lives, it is so easy for us to speak on everything when we are in our comfort zones, safe and secured in our lives and career. But when left or thrown out into the harsh realities of life, we grope in the darkness of ignorance and incompetence, trials and difficulties.
How often we are like Peter refusing Jesus to wash our feet because we could not accept the Lord being so humble to do that simply because he is the Lord and Master who must never bow low before anyone.
And that is one darkness we refuse to let go now shaken and shattered by the pandemic lockdown! The people we used to look down upon are mostly now in the frontlines providing us with all the comforts we enjoy in this crisis like electricity, internet, security, food, and other basic services.
We have always thought of the world, of peoples in hierarchy, in certain status where there are clear delineations and levels of importance, totally forgetting the lessons of Jesus of being like a child, of service and humility: “whoever wants to be great must be the least and servant of all.”
According to Matthew and Luke, Peter realized his sins – the darkness within him – of denying Jesus thrice after the cock crowed that he left the scene weeping bitterly, feeling so sorry. Eventually after Easter, Peter would meet Jesus again on the shores of the Lake of Tiberias, asking him thrice, “do you love me?”
Peter realized how dark his world has always been but in that instance when he declared his love that is so limited and weak did he finally see the light of Christ in his love and mercy!
Unlike Judas, Peter moved out of darkness and finally saw the light in the Risen Lord right in the very place where everything started when he was called to be a fisher of men, in his humanity as he was called by his original name, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?”.
Human love is always imperfect and Jesus knows this perfectly well!
The best way to step out of darkness within us is to be like Simon — simply be your imperfect self, accepting one’s sins and weakness for that is when we can truly love Jesus who is the only one who can love us perfectly.
Overcoming darkness in, Jesus, with Jesus, through Jesus
Though the fourth gospel and the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke differ in providing us with the transition from the Upper Room of the Last Supper into the agony in the garden, the four evangelists provide us with one clear message at how Jesus faced darkness: with prayer, of being one in the Father.
Even on the cross of widespread darkness, Jesus spoke only to pray to the Father.
Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.
Before, darkness for man was seen more as a curse falling under the realm of evil and sin; but, with the coming of Jesus, darkness became a blessing, a prelude to the coming of light.
We have mentioned at the start of our reflection that Jesus was born during the darkest night of the year to show us he that is the light of the world, who had come to enlighten us in this widespread darkness, within us and outside us.
As the light of the world, Jesus was no stranger to darkness which he conquered and tamed in many instances like when they were caught in a storm at sea and in fact, when walked on water to join his disciples caught in another storm.
But most of all, Jesus had befriended darkness and made it a prelude to light.
How? By always praying during darkness. By prayer, it is more than reciting some prayers common during his time as a Jew but as a form of submission to the will of the Father. Jesus befriended darkness by setting aside, forgetting his very self to let the Father’s will be done.
This he showed so well in two instances, first on Mount Tabor where he transfigured and second in Gethsemane before his arrest.
In both events, Jesus showed us the path to overcoming darkness is always through prayers, of being one in the Father.
It is in darkness when God is most closest to us because it is then when we get a glimpse of himself, of his love and mercy, of his own sufferings and pains, and of his glory.
This is something the three privileged disciples – Simon Peter, James and his brother John – did not realize while being with Jesus at both instances until after Easter. We are those three who always fall asleep, who could not keep with praying in Jesus, with Jesus, and through Jesus.
It was in the darkness of the night when Jesus spent most of his prayer periods, communing with the Father up in a mountain or a deserted place.
On Mount Tabor, Jesus showed his coming glory while in Gethsemane he showed his coming suffering and death. But whether in Gethsemane or on Mount Tabor, it is always Jesus we meet inviting us to share in his oneness with the Father, in his power in the Holy Spirit to overcome every darkness in life.
And the good news is he had already won for us!
In these extended darker days of quarantine period, let us come to the Lord closer in prayer to. experience more of his Passion and Death, more of his darkness so we may see his coming glory when everything is finally cleared in this corona pandemic.
Prayer does not necessarily change things but primarily changes the person first. And that is when prayer changes everything when we become like Jesus in praying.
Jesus is asking us to leave everything behind, to forget one’s self anew to rediscover him in this darkness when we get out of our comfort zones to see the many sufferings he continues to endure with our brothers and sisters with lesser things in this life, with those in total darkness, with those groping in the dark.
Now more than ever, we have realized the beauty of poverty and simplicity, of persons than things.
And most especially of darkness itself becoming light for us in this tunnel.
May Jesus enlighten us and vanish all darkness in us so that soon, we shall celebrate together the joy of his coming again in this world darkened by sin. Amen.
Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan
Martes, Ika-5 Linggo ng Kuwaresma, 31 Marso 2020
Bilang 21:4-9 ><)))*> +++ <*(((>< Juan 8:21-30
Batay sa salaysay ng aklat ng buhay
nainip mga Israelita sa paglalakbay sa ilang
nang sila ay dumaing, nagreklamo
kay Moises ng ganito:
"Kami ba'y inialis mo sa Egipto
upang patayin na ilang na ito?
Wala kaming makain ni mainom!
Sawa na kami sa walang kwentang pagkaing ito."
Bakit nga ba hindi na naubos
ating mga reklamo
lalo na kapag mayroong krisis
walang mintis yaring mga bibig
walang hanggang daing
tila hindi aabutin, napakamainipin
nakakasakit na ng damdamin
pati Diyos sinusubok, hinahamon natin?
Kung inyong mapapansin
yung talagang walang makain
hindi na makuhang dumaing
tanging isipin saan hahanapin
kanilang isasaing, lakas ay iipunin
sa pagbabaka-sakaling dinggin
dalanging tulong dumating
kanilang hahatiin at titipirin.
Ang masakit na kapansin-pansin
ngayong panahon ng COVID-19
marami sa mga daing ng daing
sa Facebook pinararating!
Akala mo walang makain
bakit nasa harapan ng computer screen?
Katulad nilang nagmamagaling
ibang natulungan may reklamo pa rin!
kaloob nitong COVID-19 sa ating panahon
mabuksan puso at kalooban sa katotohanan
"Hindi lamang sa tinapay nabubuhay ang tao"
na kung uunahin natin si Kristo
makikilala natin bawat kapwa tao
ka-patid at ka-putol na dapat bahaginan
ano man mayroon ako.
Madalas sa maraming reklamo
puso ay sinarahan, pinanlalabuan ang isipan
bibig ang laging binubuksan, hindi mawalan ng laman
pinababayaan kaluluwa at kalooban
tiyan lamang nilalagyan
kaya walang kahulugan ni katuturan
ano mang karanasan hindi mapagyaman
kaunting hirap at tiisin, puro daing at hinaing.