Jesus amid our storms in life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 20 June 2021
Job 38:1, 8-11 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 ><}}}'> Mark 4:35-41
Photo from vaticannews.va.

More than a year ago in March, Pope Francis delivered an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Message before an empty St. Peter’s Square reflecting on the gospel we heard today when COVID-19 began to wreck havoc upon us, claiming about 3.85 million deaths worldwide as per latest data show.

We are still in the same darkness, in the same storm but much have already changed since the pandemic first struck us last year. Jesus had calmed the seas and the storms with some relief offered by vaccines. Our journey continues as we cross this sea of the pandemic to safer shores.

Like the Pope’s Message last year, we must continue to call and trust in the Lord but at the same time, realize the deeper spiritual meaning of this pandemic, of the need to have a more intimate relationship with God through Jesus.

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.

Mark 4:35-37

Life is a constant crossing of the sea in darkness with Jesus.


See that in our journey in life, 
it is when evening comes, 
when there is darkness 
that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea.
When there are problems and crisis in life, 
that is when Jesus calls us 
to get to the other side of life's situation.
On his side.  

I love that imagery painted to us by St. Mark in our gospel today, from a casual preaching last week out in the open field with the warm sun shining, Jesus invited his disciples when it was getting dark to cross to the other side of the Lake of Galilee.

Life is a journey that when evening approaches, our instinct is to find a safe place to spend the night. But, today St. Mark shows us a more appropriate imagery of life as a journey which is like crossing the sea.

See that in our journey in life, it is when evening comes, when there is darkness that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea. When there are problems and crisis in life, that is when Jesus calls us to get to the other side of life’s situation. On his side.

And what a beautiful expression we have in “to cross to the other side”! There is always the cross to carry in this life that is like the sea, the uncertainty from our usual sureties like family and friends, jobs, and the status quo because Jesus wants us to have him alone as our surety in life.

A few years ago a Malaysian Air plane perished at sea; despite all the modern technologies, it has not been found yet. It is a reminder to us all of how vast is our world with so much mysteries impossible for humans to master or even fully understand.

Yet, our gospel and first reading assure us that though the world is awesome with great wonders and occurrences, its Creator – GOD – is more awesome for he alone has complete control over nature, especially the sea which is the most difficult of all!

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Who shut within the doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther; and here shall your proud waves be stilled!

Job 38:1, 8, 10-11
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, off the coast of Catanduanes, 2017.

Our awesome world, more awesome God.

St. Mark’s description of the situation inside the boat with Jesus asleep in the middle of a violent storm at sea is very surprising that seems to be exaggerated like in the movies for dramatic effects not to entertain us but to remind us of that basic reality found in his entire gospel account that Christ came to usher in a new world where never again shall sin and death prevail over us.

Recall the other scenes he would later show Jesus exercising total control over the sea like when he walked on water amid a storm (Mk.6:45ff) and ordered a legion of demons to enter a herd of swine that drowned into the sea (Mk.5:13).

As the Son of God, Jesus has total sovereignty over the sea that symbolized the realm of evil, exorcising it to free us from its clutches when he finally died on the cross.

In the first reading, we heard the fictional story of Job being assured by God who got everything under control, even the mighty sea, putting a limit by stilling its proud waves.

In our gospel, we see the reality of God in Jesus Christ calming the storm at sea.

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Mark 4:38-40
Photo by author, crossing the Sea (Lake) of Galilee, May 2019.

Notice Jesus was sleeping soundly, not disturbed at all neither by the storm with its giant waves that tossed their boat nor the commotion and yelling of his disciples. He was so composed and serene.

The same scene we shall see again when St. Mark tells us how on the night of Holy Thursday when Jesus was betrayed and arrested to be tried by members of the Sanhedrin. It was all dark with Christ so composed and relaxed answering the questions of his enemies while outside was Peter so afraid, denying the Lord thrice while the rest of the apostles went hiding out of fear for their lives.

What a beautiful imagery of our Lord and of us!

Here is Jesus so composed and serene as always while us on panic mode, so terrified, even reproaching God – “do you not care that we are perishing?” – when our lives are threatened as if God does not care at all.

When we look back to last year, it was very frightening like that situation the disciples were into: nobody knew exactly the nature of COVID-19, without any known cure and method of treatment, people were dying daily, and life was at a standstill due to the lockdown.

But, with faith in God, we have moved on. Some weddings finally pushed through, students went back to school while others dared to venture into new businesses and other endeavors, crossing the sea so to speak amid the darkness. Those who got married last year now have their first born while students who enrolled last year have graduated and we who risked to move on are now better off than before.

Had we waited for the pandemic to end before deciding to enroll back in school or find a job or get married, we would surely be into great losses for there is still the pandemic that will most likely remain until 2022 or beyond.

As we have reflected last week, Jesus continues to work in silence in us, with us and for us, making us grow like the tiny seed. He never abandons us especially in times of great trials. This we have proven when we dared to venture in life during this pandemic.

Let us entrust to him our very lives for he alone has total sovereignty in this world and in this life for he himself is life – more powerful than any storm who has the whole world, especially the seas, in his hand.

A life centered in Jesus


We cannot wait for things to get better, 
for the pandemic to end, 
for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially.  
It is right in the middle of a storm 
when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, 
to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us.

After Jesus had pacified the storm and the sea, St. Mark briefly ended our gospel story by telling us how the disciples “were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?'”(Mk.4:41).

More than the stories of the Lord’s teachings and miracles, St. Mark wants us to make a stand for Jesus, to center our lives in him as we journey in this life, whether in the ordinariness of parables, the safety of the open field and high mountains, or the dangers and perils of the sea at night, with or without storms.

Remember Nightbirde last week who said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” We cannot wait for things to get better, for the pandemic to end, for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially. It is right in the middle of a storm when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us as St. Paul tells us in the second reading.

Brothers and sisters: The love of Christ impels us… So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:14, 17

Now more than ever in our modern history that the whole world needs a lot of healing and reconciliation. But unlike the proposals of experts, it is not merely a reconciliation of peoples with one another. We do not need a “new normal” which is a misnomer because a norm does not change. What is true and good and fair would always be true and good and fair at all times.

That is what we need, to bring back the true normal in life which is a reconciliation of every person with God so that we may see our world in a more wholistic sense that we become more just and humane.

There can be no true reconciliation among peoples unless there is first of all our reconciliation with God in Jesus Christ so that we become in him a new creation, new persons filled with his love and mercy, justice and kindness. Of course, there will still be many storms as we cross the many seas of our lives but they will be less frightening if we have Christ on board, even if he is soundly asleep. Amen.

Have a bright and sunny week ahead!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

Ministry. Or gimmickry?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 18 June 2021
2 Corinthians 11:18, 21-30   ><)))'> + <'(((><   Matthew 6:19-23
Photo by author, December 2020.

Forgive us, O Lord, in making ministry a gimmickry, when we forget all about you and your sacrifice on the Cross; when all we see is technology and novelty, pretending to make you a reality amid the changing world when in fact it is us and not you whom we advertise and make known to everyone.

Forgive us, dear Jesus, when so many times we brag in shrouded manners our exploits and achievements, sacrifices and sufferings to proclaim your name without your Cross not realizing that any cross detached from you is all folly and plain publicity.

Teach us to be like St. Paul to boast more of our weaknesses than of our strength for it is only when we are weak that we are truly one with the rest of humanity – weak and sinful, struggling and striving, always at your mercy and forgiveness.

Who is weak, and I am not weak?
Who is led to sin, and I am not indignant?
If I must boast , I will boast of the things
that show my weakness.
(2 Corinthians 11:29-30)

Remind us always, Lord, before we could ever speak of what we have done and achieved, of what we are doing for you and your people, that we first examine what we treasure most in our hearts for it will always be what others experience and see in us.

No matter how lofty are our words nor our visions of you and of your Church, what we treasure most in our hearts always radiate in our lives, in our actions, in our very selves.

If we have not really done that much for you and for others, if we have not truly embraced you on the Cross with all the blood and pains as seen in our lives and relationships, then, nothing will suffice despite our many claims and monuments to our ministry because it is all gimmickry.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"but if your eye is bad,
your whole body will be in darkness.
And if the light in you is darkness,
how great will the darkness be."
(Matthew 6:23)

Lord Jesus Christ, you are our light. Please enlighten us today, restore our sight and vision to find and follow the real treasures and most precious things we all must have in this life — YOU. Amen.

Image from Pinterest, quotation by Josh at his blog “Project: Faith Journey” at wordpress.com, 15 October 2015.

Praying for the coming of the Kingdom of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 17 June 2021
2 Corinthians 11:1-11   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 6:7-15
Photo by author, Church of the Our Father outside Jerusalem, 2017.

Dear God: Every day we call on you as “Our Father” so many times without truly knowing the meaning of the supplication “your kingdom come” (Mt. 6:10) which is to submit and surrender ourselves to your reign or kingship in Christ Jesus.

More than being called the “Lord’s Prayer” being taught by your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, help us realize that the “Our Father” is also about our proper attitude in praying which is to submit ourselves to you our God and our Father.

What is the use of calling to you “Our Father” if we decide solely on our own without listening to your voice, to your will or if we choose only a few whom to respect and love, forgetting our being one family?

Help us, O God, to consciously pray and work with others to make this world more humane where we all strive despite our sins and weaknesses to establish peace and justice, love and truth, sharing and caring for one another especially the most needy.

Help us imitate St. Paul with his courage and determination as well as clarity of mind with a dash of some wit and humor in witnessing to the gospel we all preach. May our lives be a revelation of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we share in him in witnessing his gospel to everyone.

Your kingdom will only come, dear God, when we remain “sincere and committed to Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 11:3)” who is the center of our lives, our fulfillment, and our key to true happiness and joy not only in this life but hereafter. Amen.

Praying to be true in prayers

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XI in Ordinary Time, Year I, 14 June 2021
2 Corinthians 6:1-10   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 5:38-42
Photo by author, May 2016.

Thank you very much, O God, for the daily gift of prayers, of being able to pray to you which is a pure grace from you. On our own we cannot pray because we do not have the courage and wisdom to speak to you, to listen to you. Most of all, we are afraid to enter into union with you especially with the example set to us by Jesus Christ your Son.

Give us the grace to be slowly true in our prayers, Lord, like letting go of revenge and vengeance.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well."
(Matthew 5:38-39)

What is most difficult in praying is imitating you, sweet Jesus, in devoting our lives to you and your gospel by forgetting ourselves, carrying our crosses and following you closely.

So many times, we receive the grace of God in vain, wasting these gifts because we are so afraid of giving ourselves totally to others like you Lord Jesus on the cross.

Teach us how to be a sign of contradiction, a paradox in ourselves like St. Paul who truly imitated you by first of all trying to reconcile with the Corinthians who have turned against him when he failed to keep his promise of visiting them. Like you Lord Jesus, St. Paul bore all the personal attacks against him by the Corinthians, choosing to be conciliatory and gentle in his attitude in addressing them.

We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
so dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
so sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many; 
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.
(2 Corinthians 6:8-10)

In the midst of pain and suffering, rejection and persecution, St. Paul found joy and peace in you, dear Jesus. He was so convinced of your love and presence even in the midst of his darkest moments in life. So unlike us who easily give up your cross, Lord, when we are criticized because the sad truth is we always seek recognition and praise for our works in you.

Help us to be like St. Paul in his unshakeable faith in you, so true in his prayers of becoming like you, a sign of contradiction to the world, a person of Christ-like paradoxes. Amen.

Photo by author, May 2016.

“Caritas Christi urget nos”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 12 June 2021
2 Corithians 5:14-21   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   Luke 2:41-51

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father for your immense love for us. Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus your Son who revealed to us the boundless love you have for us all as your beloved children.

But, such great is your love for us, God our Father, that today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of your Son Jesus Christ who gave her to us to be our Mother too!

All for your love for us!

What a wonderful twin celebrations of your love for us which must also be the main reason, the very essence of everything in our existence. St. Paul expressed it so well in today’s first reading, “The love of Christ urges us” (Caritas Christi urget nos, 2Cor.5:14).

Love is the very reason, the only reason why you have created us, why you have saved us, why you have given us your Son, why he had given himself for us.

Forgive us when we refuse to accept and recognize, and most of all, when we refuse to share your great love for us with others.

Teach us to be like the Blessed Virgin Mary whose heart is so inflamed with great love to you and her Son Jesus Christ.

Open our hearts to welcome you always, Lord.

Dwell in our hearts, reign in our hearts, dear Jesus, so that we may work for peace, for reconciliation in ourselves with the Father, with our family and friends, and with our countrymen. Help us to heed these beautiful words of St. Paul today:

So we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake
 he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
(2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

Like Mary, along with Joseph, may we always find our way back to God our Father when they decided to go back to Jerusalem to look for the missing child Jesus. And once found, may we imitate Mary who “kept all these things in her heart” (Lk.2:51). Surely, you must have told her many other things, Lord, but most of all, it was YOU whom she must have kept and treasured in her heart!

And that is why on this most crucial part of our history as the only Christian nation for 500 years in this part of the world deeply caught in all kinds of crises especially moral decadence in governance despite our celebration of 123 years of Independence from foreign rule, help us to consecrate our nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of the Blessed Virgin Mary so that your love Jesus Christ may impel us to never waver in our efforts for true reconciliation, for real transformation to be truly a people dedicated to God our Father. Amen.

Let Jesus shine in us!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week X in Ordinary Time,  10 June 2021
2 Corinthians 3:15-4:1, 3-6   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 5:20-26
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, Santorini, Greece 2016.

Lord Jesus Christ, please remove the veils that cover our minds that prevent us from truly seeing and meeting you. Let us remove the many veils we have unconsciously put on ourselves like our stubbornness and conservatism, legalism and formalism that have made our prayers and worship empty of you.

Brothers and sisters:
To this day, whenever Moses is read,
a veil lies over their hearts of the children of Israel,
but whenever a person turns to the Lord
the veil is removed.
(2Corinthians 3:15-16)

Teach us to submit ourselves more to the promptings and light of the Holy Spirit so that we may reflect you more, dear Jesus, than ourselves.

So many times we have forgotten that we are just bearers of your light, “slaves for your sake” (2Cor.4:5), dear Jesus task to bring people closer to the glory and brightness of God.

Do not let us fall into the same mistakes of the people of your time when praise and worship of God was focused more on the externals than what is inside our hearts expressed in our genuine concern for one another like people we may have hurt or neglected.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I tell you, unless your righteousness 
surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you will not enter into the Kingdom of heaven."
(Matthew 5:20)

Teach us to go beyond the letters of the Laws.

Enable us to see the deeper and wider meaning of the commandment not to kill by respecting in words and deeds the value of every person, of not maligning any one with nasty talks and through the social media.

Enable us to see the direct link of our celebration of the Eucharist with our behavior and dealing with one another, seeking peace and reconciliation to be truly one in you and with the Father in heaven.

O sweet Jesus, we pray most dearly for those people who have boxed us and refused to give us the chance to show our goodness and goodwill; for those whose frame of mind is so fixed that they would not make the necessary adjustments in this time of crisis to accommodate so many people in great sufferings and trials in their lives.

Let your brightness shine on us, Lord Jesus, in these times of darkness and storms. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera at Bgy. Lalakhan, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, 01 June 2021.

God. Simply present, always here.

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, 06 June 2021
Exodus 24:3-8  ><}}}'>  Hebrews 9:11-15  ><}}}'>  Mark 14:12-16, 22-26 
Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

The one most important thing this pandemic has cost us for over a year now is the simple joy of presence of our loved ones. For more than a year, we have stopped or limited our visits and celebrations with relatives and friends for fears of spreading the virus especially to our older folks.

It has become so insane for many of us, most especially with those health protocols when even couples were prevented from riding together in bikes!

But at least, the pandemic had taught us the value and importance of presence of everyone, of being present to those we love who, unfortunately, many have also died this year due to the virus and other sickness without us even seeing them at all.

This is the gist of our celebration today, of the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ: the simplicity of God and his simple presence among us.

For the second Sunday in a row after the Pentecost, we celebrate another major feast of the Lord in Ordinary Time to show us that our God is a reality, not just a mystery of the Trinity that we cannot fully understand nor explain.


When Jesus Christ said 
"this is my body" and "this is my blood of the covenant", 
he brought to new significance 
the insignificant gestures of hosting a meal 
and the insignificant food of bread and wine 
so common among peoples in every nation and culture. 

Photo by author, 2018.

The simplicity of God.

Last Sunday we celebrated and reflected on the central mystery of our one God in three Persons called the Holy Trinity. Today we celebrate his meaning and reality as a person, a God who relates with us in the most personal manner with his presence.

Recall our basic catechism of God being perfect – all knowing, all powerful, and always present because of his main attribute: his simplicity.

In our world that has become so complicated like our Facebook relationships or with all those gadgets and apps we have including our “intelligent” cars and homes, God remains so true, so real, so present with us because he is simple. No fuss, no nothing. Just pure presence among those who are willing to be still and simple. And present in the moment.

The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. While they were eating, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many.”

Mark 14:16, 22-24

See the simplicity of the story, the simplicity of Jesus Christ who took the initiative to prepare everything for their Passover meal that his disciples “found it just as he had told them”.

When Jesus Christ said “this is my body” and “this is my blood of the covenant”, he brought to new significance the insignificant gestures of hosting a meal and the insignificant food of bread and wine so common among peoples in every nation and culture.

During their supper, Jesus gave a new meaning not only to their Passover meal but even to our most basic and common act of having a meal, of eating together to become a celebration of life, not just to feed one’s body but also one’s soul!

In becoming human like us, sharing in all of our experiences except sin, Jesus leveled up our very being and lives at his Last Supper when he established the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist to be the everlasting sign of his loving presence among us and thus, revealed to us the deeper meaning of the common meal we used to take with everybody as a giving and sharing of our very selves with others.

Brothers and sisters: When Christ came as high priest of the good things that have come to be, passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made by human hands… he entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with his won blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption… cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.

Hebrews 9:11, 12, 14

Like Jesus Christ, it is not really the food and drinks that we share whenever we eat together and dine with others but our very selves. No wonder, in every celebration and milestone of our lives, from a simple date of a young man and woman trying to get to know each other to weddings, birthdays, and other significant occasions, there is always a meal we host to share our joys, our triumphs, our lives with others.

And the most beautiful part of these meals we share with everyone is the deeper meaning we convey that it is essentially a thanksgiving to God for all of his abounding love and grace poured upon us which is the meaning of the Greek word “eucharistia”.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Our presence in the Lord with others

The word present, of being here now, is the other word we use to refer to “gift” like when we say birthday present or Christmas present. And that is the meaning of this Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood: God as the gift and the giver in Jesus Christ.

In the Holy Eucharist, we receive Jesus Christ wholly, nourishing us, blessing us, and most of all, enabling us to offer also ourselves to him through others.

But, are we present to him?

Are we willing to give ourselves to him?

From the very start since God entered into a covenant with his chosen people, he had shown his simple presence demanding nothing except our simple presence too to him and with others. This is the meaning of the offering of blood which symbolizes life, our sharing in the life of God.

But unlike the pagans, we offer our selves to God not to lose but to transformed our lives in him. With Christ’s self-sacrifice on the Cross on Good Friday foreshadowed by his Last Supper on Holy Thursday, we discover how life given to God is not lost but saved which is the meaning of the ratification by Moses of the covenant in the wilderness with the Israelites:

Taking the book of the covenant, Moses read it aloud to the people, who answered, “All that the Lord has said, we will heed and do.” Then he took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words of life.”

Exodus 24:7-8

Every time we celebrate the Holy Mass, we ratify the new covenant of Christ with us, when we give our great “Amen” to him like the Israelites at the desert, vowing to “heed and do” whatever he told us. That is also the meaning of attending a party or a dinner hosted by a relative or a friend: we renew our ties with them, promising to be there to give ourselves to them especially in times of need and danger.

But, how willing are we to remain true and faithful, always present to God, our family and friends especially in this time of the pandemic?

What a tragedy that while celebrating the Sunday Eucharist, we turn away from God in our sins in the same manner we turn against those people we share meal with and attended parties they hosted.


Let us be still 
in the calming presence of God 
in Jesus Christ's Body and Blood.  
He is more than enough 
to suffice all our needs and longing in this life.  
Like the bread and wine, 
we can all be transformed 
into his Body and Blood 
to be a present to others.

In celebrating this Solemnity of the Lord’s Body and Blood on this second Sunday of Ordinary Time, we are challenged in our faith and conviction of truly being present like Jesus before him and with others in our daily life especially in this time of the pandemic with so many in great need of basic necessities.

Like the Lord Jesus Christ, do we take the time and effort to prepare for every Sunday Mass celebration as he prepared their Passover meal?

Jesus is not asking us to be particular with the details. All we need is the essential: our very presence with the Lord. Simply be our selves: no need to fake anything, to be somebody else because Jesus loves us as we are.

It is good to remember on this Solemnity too how take simplicity for granted as being bare, without much fanfare and even spectacle as we always want something to feast our eyes on like what we have done to many of our rites and rituals. We are never contented that less is always more that many times, our religious celebrations have become banal in nature with all the pomp and pageantry we have added like to our processions. Instead of turning to God, our attentions had turned into our very selves, clearly a case of “triumphalism” when we “exaggerate” even spiritual activities.

Let us be still in the calming presence of God in Jesus Christ’s Body and Blood. He is more than enough to suffice all our needs and longing in this life. Like the bread and wine, we can all be transformed into his Body and Blood to be a present to others. Amen.

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz at Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

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.

Jesus our Eternal Priest, our “at-one-ment” with God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday after Pentecost, Memorial of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest
Hebrews 10:11-18     ><}}}'>  +  <'{{{><     Mark 14:22-25
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2016.

O God our loving and merciful Father, as we move on to the Ordinary time, we celebrate on this Thursday after Pentecost Sunday the new Feast of your Son called, “Jesus Christ, the Eternal High Priest”.

What a beautiful reminder to us of how lovely and beautiful are your plans for us since the beginning, of how you have willed to create everything so there may always be that covenant, that special relationship with us your people as the crown of all your creations through your Son Jesus Christ.

How wonderful how Jesus Christ had brought to perfection that old temple worship in Jerusalem at the celebration of the Day of Atonement called Yom ha-Kippurim led by the high priest who employed the bloody offering of animals to cleanse everyone of their sins so that your people may be holy and be united with you again.

Gone were those bloody sacrifices, gone were those rites and rituals that have always remained external and empty because of the very weaknesses and sins of the high priests and people when Jesus Christ fulfilled the temple worship in his self-offering on the Cross, both as the Priest and the Victim he had enunciated so well during the last supper.

While they were eating, he took bread, 
said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them,
and said, "Take it; this is my body."
Then he took a cup, gave thanks, 
and gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
He said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant,
which will be shed for many."
(Mark 14:22-24)

Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh, replaced those bloody sacrifices with his very words of the last supper that consecrated us all to you as your holy people when he died on the Cross the following day on Good Friday. This perfect offering is what we celebrate, what we remember and make present daily in the Holy Eucharist with Jesus both the gift and the giver, the priest and the victim, the offering and the altar.

Every priest stands daily at his ministry,
offering frequently those same sacrifices 
that can never take away sins.
But this one offered one sacrifice for sins,
and took his seat forever at the right hand of God.
For by one offering he has made perfect forever
those who are being consecrated.
(Hebrews 10:11-12,14)

Now we have been consecrated to you as your holy people, O God, by Jesus Christ our High Priest and Victim, teach us to faithfully keep this new covenant, we ordained priests and laity alike. Especially us priests you have called to act in persona Christi!

Forgive us, O God, when it seems we have become more like priests in the old temple so concerned with our pride and positions, popularity and other perks that have come because we have demanded them. Forgive us when we look and act and speak more like managers or financiers or matinee idols than pastors of souls. Forgive us, O God, when we pursue more the limelight on the pretext of using modern social media platforms without truly spending time with you in daily prayers and meditations.

Photo by author, Dominus Flevit, the Holy Land, 2017.

Teach us your priests to be more like you, O Lord Jesus by being compassionate and trustworthy, of being one with the people in their pains and sufferings: “Because he himself was tested through what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested” (Heb.2:18).

Teach us your priests to be like you, dear Jesus, ever-living to intercede by being a bridge not a wall or a stumbling block to lead people to the Father (Heb. 7:25), not away from him!

We pray also for our lay people to keep in mind that in sharing with the Priestly ministry of Christ we have all received during our Baptism, they may have the same dispositions of Jesus of being humble in mind and in heart, offering adoration, honor, praise, praise and thanksgiving to your supreme majesty, O God while at the same time, as humanly as possible, they try to live the Gospel values of victimhood and self denial, of being one with Christ on his Cross.

Through this new Feast, may we your ordained priests and the laity who share in Christ’s universal priesthood appreciate the inner joys of our Church he had rightly established on that night of his last supper to be the visible sign of your very presence in the world, “so that from the rising of the sun to its setting, from east to west, a perfect offering may be made for you” and thus truly become our “at-one-ment” in you, our loving God and Father in Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Fatima in time of COVID-19

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 2021
Acts 1:12-14   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 1:39-47

While this Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima was approaching, I was asking myself – consciously or unconsciously – “how many more Rosaries do we have to pray before this pandemic ends”?

Like you, I have been praying the Rosary primarily for the ending of this pandemic since it started last year. And it is not far-fetched that even before the Blessed Virgin Mary first appeared 104 years ago today at Fatima in Portugal, the people were most likely asking God in countless prayers and Rosaries too, to end the First World War that had started in 1914.

See some of the similarities of our time with that time 104 years ago when Mother Mary appeared to the three children of Fatima, asking them to remind the whole world to pray and be converted in her Son Jesus Christ:

  • 1917 was in the first two decades of the new century (20th), just like ours (21st) when COVID-19 was first detected in 2019.
  • In 1917, the world witnessed the fiercest and bloodiest large-scale war to ever happened in human history, World War I until it was followed shortly by World War II; at the start of the 21st century, we witnessed the a different kind of deadly war that is “faceless” and “borderless” with the 9/11 attacks as we continue to live daily under threats by another wide scale war and ongoing pocket wars in various parts of the globe.
  • In 1917, Communist Russia was threatening the world of “spreading its errors”; since 2010 or even earlier, the only remaining “Communist” country of China has been flexing its muscles in Asia and Africa to assert its power and dominance in the world.
The sanctuary of the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima seen through its glass door at night during the lockdown last year due to COVID-19.

The Relevance of Fatima

Both in 1917 and 2021, God’s response to our cries and pleas is still the Our Lady of Fatima because then and now, mankind had never heeded Jesus Christ’s calls to return to him and be converted: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1:15).

It does not matter how many Rosaries we pray or how many Masses we celebrate or how often we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The problem is not with God but with us who until now refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of this pandemic.

Whatever solution we eventually find in ending COVID-19, most likely another pandemic or worldwide problem could occur if we continue to refuse in respecting life and every person as an image and likeness of God. Recall that when World War I ended in 1918 as promised by our Lady of Fatima, that same year started the Spanish flu pandemic that claimed about 50-M lives worldwide. Then in 1939, World War II started.

The Spanish flu and the World War II were not punishments from God; he does not punish because “God is love”, nothing evil and bad can come from him. Those things happened after the Fatima apparitions because of man’s refusal to heed Mary’s calls for prayers and conversion of peoples which is happening again in our own time.

Our Lady of Fatima consistently reminds us since 1917 her Son Jesus Christ’s teaching of the centrality of God in our lives through prayers and our daily conversion through humility and being like a child, trusting God completely like her.

More than a century ago, the Lord through his Mother, has been telling us the key to lasting peace in the world and in our very lives lies in our daily conversion, in our conformity to his life intimately united in the Father like the Blessed Virgin Mary.

It is a life of daily fiat – of faith in God, of letting his will be done in us! The Holy Rosary and the Sacraments are the means so we may bear fruits of love and holiness in our faith in God like Mary.

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? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:41-45
Our Lady of Fatima at the National Shrine in Valenzuela, the first locally carved image of Fatima done in circa 50’s to 60’s.

True blessedness

For better and for worst, COVID-19 had truly changed our lives, teaching us that true blessedness is not found in money and things, nor in popularity and influence or other things that have become the benchmarks of everything that is good in this life.

In less than a year when everything stood still as COVID-19 ravaged earth with so many deaths, the pandemic had shown us what our Lady of Fatima has always been telling us since 1917: go back to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Mary believed and lived her faith in God. She was the first to receive the Good News of Jesus Christ by setting aside all her plans in life, her wedding to St. Joseph, of what people would say if found pregnant before they were actually married, and many other things to consider.

She abandoned herself to God completely that immediately after Gabriel had left her, she went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the hills of Judea not to help her nor verify her being pregnant but to share with her the Good News she had received (Jesus Christ) to show that God’s plan for them are closely linked even with their sons to be born with John being the forerunner of Jesus.

Thus, Mary became the perfect image and model of discipleship in Christ that at the start of his public ministry, she was the first to believe in his saving work when she interceded at a wedding in Cana.

Mary was also the first to believe in Christ’s Resurrection that she remained standing at the foot of his Cross on Good Friday. Last but not least as we have heard in our first reading today, Mary was the first to believe in the coming of the Holy Spirit that she accompanied the Apostles praying at Jerusalem on Pentecost day.

Our Lady of Fatima procession at the Fatima Shrine in Portugal, 2017. Photo from vaticannews.va.

The Challenge of Fatima in our time

Like Mary who appeared at Fatima in Portugal 104 years ago today, may we grow deeper in our faith in God by believing more in him than believing in the world or with our very selves.

In this time of COVID-19, may we bring unity to our family and community, church and nation, so that like the Blessed Mother we may help in strengthening the faith of one another, in believing in God by submitting ourselves to his holy will.

May we not waste time to avert another catastrophe – not as a punishment from God who does not punish – that when rooted can always be traced back to our selfishness and pride, lack of concern for others, and for playing gods who claim to know everything.

These were some of the reasons Mary appeared at Fatima in 1917 to bring us back to God through his Son Jesus Christ. After all the pains and losses we have gone through in this time of COVID-19, have we not still learned the need to be simple and humble?

Like Mary, let us believe more in God by being kind and charitable with one another so that sooner, we may finally end this pandemic. Amen.