Praying to be bridges, not walls

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin, 11 August 2021
Deuteronomy 34:1-12   ><)))*> >><)))*> ><)))*>   Matthew 18:15-20
The Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco during the wildfires across California last year. Photo from MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images; 10 September 2020.
God our loving Father,
today we pray that we become
bridges among people, bringing 
them together, closing their gaps
instead of becoming a wall who
prevent unity and harmony.
As we end our readings from 
the Book of Deuteronomy with
the death of Moses by recalling
his greatness in the history of Israel
and of the story of our salvation,
we remember his great role
of reconciling people with you,
O God our merciful Father;
Moses was indeed another prefiguration
of your Son Jesus Christ who came 
to unite and reconcile in you mankind
separated by sin and evil. 
"Amen, I say to you,
whatever you bind on earth
shall be bound in heaven, 
and whatever you loose on earth
shall be loosed in heaven.  Again,
amen, I say to you, if two of you
agree on earth about anything
for which they are to pray, it shall
be granted to them by my heavenly Father."
(Matthew 18:18-19)
As we remember today
St. Clare who was a collaborator
of the great St. Francis of Assisi
and foundress of the Poor Clares,
she is most remembered too
in reconciling warring families and
kingdoms in Italy during her time;
in her life of prayer and austerity,
she had lived bridging people
with one another and with God,
exactly what we need these days
of the pandemic and social distancing.
We pray, dear God
with the intercession of St. Clare,
may we take this time of quarantine
to bridge our gaps with one another
especially with our family and friends
so that at the end of this pandemic,
we may start afresh anew
in Jesus Christ, working together
for a better world where we can live
in peace and harmony,
justice and freedom in the spirit
of humility and reconciliation.  Amen.

When people malign us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 03 August 2021
Numbers 12:1-13   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 14:22-36
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, Batanes, September 2018.
Dearest God our Father,
you are just, always demanding 
us to be fair and just like you,
to never malign and bear false
witness against one another
especially those serving you.
We pray, loving Father
for those among us buffeted
with nasty talks, malicious
stories and gossips especially 
fake news that besmirch one's name
just to make them or their masters look good.
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses
on the pretext of the marriage he had
contracted with Cushite woman.
Now, Moses himself was by far
 the meekest man on the face of the earth.
So at once the Lord said to Moses and 
Aaron and Miriam, "Come out,
you three, to the meeting tent."
Then the Lord came down
in the column of cloud,
and standing at the entrance of the tent,
called Aaron and Miriam.
When both came forward, he said,
"Now listen to the words of the Lord:
Why, then, did you not fear to speak
against my servant Moses?"
So angry was the Lord against them
that when he departed, and the cloud
withdrew from the tent, there was
Miriam, a snow-white leper!
(Numbers 12:1, 3-6, 8-9)
Please, Lord, keep us
 and those being maligned
 to be meek like Moses,
 remaining kind to those
who speak ill about us, especially those
supposed to be closest or dear to us.
Jesus said, "Come."
Peter got out of the boat
and began to walk on the water
toward Jesus.  But when he saw
how strong the wind was
he became frightened; and,
beginning to sink, he cried out,
"Lord, save me!"
(Matthew 14:29-30)
Give us, O God, the courage
and strength to withstand the fierce
winds of criticisms and lies hurled
by our detractors, unlike Peter
let us never doubt the love and mercy
and protection of your Son Jesus we follow.  
Amen.

When God acts like one of us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr, 28 June 2021
Genesis 18:16-33   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 8:18-22
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera at Lalakhan, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 02 June 2021.
You are sometimes
so funny and amusing, dear God
when you act like our daddy
as if like dilly dallying
on whether to tell us something 
he is planning
knowing so well
he is the father and the master
that we his children must obey
and abide by his will and order.
How nice of you, O Lord
to act so decent, so good 
full of kindness and consideration
to make us feel important
with what you have in mind
of our role and part in your divine plan
because when you act like one of us
that is when you also want us
to act like you, to think like you
to be holy like you.
The Lord reflected,
"Shall I hide from Abraham
what I am about to do
(to Sodom and Gomorrah),
now that he is to become a great
and populous nation,
and all nations of the earth
are to find blessing in him?
Indeed, I have singled him out
that he may direct his children
and his household after him
to keep the way of the Lord
by doing what is right and just,
so that the Lord may carry into effect
for Abraham the promises he made about him."
(Genesis 18:17-19)
But more than acting
and thinking like you, O God,
is for us to love like you
that is why sometimes
Jesus sounds too harsh and 
difficult to follow, challenging us
to let go of our own desires 
and usual ways of living
in order to love you completely
and selflessly.
Jesus answered him,
"Foxes have dens, birds have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere
to rest his head."
Another of his disciples said to him,
"Lord, let me go first and bury my father."
But Jesus answered him,
"Follow me,
and let the dead bury their dead."
(Matthew 8:20-22)
We pray, O Lord, 
for our leaders in the Church
and in government
to be more committed
in serving your people
than in serving their own interests;
enlighten them of your ways, Lord,
of your kindness and mercy
dispensing justice swiftly
where there is outcry against sin.  Amen.

Entering the narrow gate

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, Martyrs, 22 June 2021
Genesis 13:2, 5-18   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 7:6,12-14
Photo by author, the narrow door to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, 2019.

It is now getting clearer, God our loving Father, why we have to see ourselves in the way you see us as beloved and blessed: our strong selfish inclinations make us think more of ourselves, of what would give us most benefits with the least efforts as much as possible that make us forget others.

Like Abram’s nephew Lot who “chose for himself the whole Jordan Plain” settling near the city of Sodom because the whole region was well watered and prosperous, not knowing its inhabitants were very wicked in their sins whom God would punish later (Gen.13:10-11).

Teach us to be like Abram who thought more of others than himself: So Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land at your disposal? Please separate from me. If you prefer the left, I will go the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left” (Gen.13:8-9).

Help us to follow your Son Jesus Christ’s teaching that we “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Mt.7:13-14).

May we learn from the lessons of history how powerful men like King Henry VIII of England ended miserable in life when he chose the path of the wider gate that led to his destruction when he ordered in 1535 the beheading of Cardinal John Fisher and Chancellor Thomas More for their refusal to sign his Act of Succession paving the way for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn. Five more divorces later, Henry VIII never had a male successor except Edward VI who ruled England very briefly.

Grant us the courage and wisdom of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More who chose the more difficult and painful “narrow gate” of martyrdom to serve you, God, first and above all.

Choosing the narrow gate is always the best because it is choosing Jesus Christ your Son who chose the way of the Cross for our salvation and eternal life.

We pray for those trying to make shortcuts in everything in life, avoiding the way of the Cross to gain more wealth and fame without any regard for the value of other persons. We pray for those who have been blinded by power and money who could no longer see one another as a brother and sister, failing to be just and fair in their relationships and dealings. Amen.

A “Monday exam” prayer

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in Third Week of Easter, 19 April 2021
Acts 6:8-15   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   John 6:22-29
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2015.

Your words in the first reading today sound like an exam, a personal quiz for each of us your follower and student, Lord Jesus.

Are we like "Stephen, filled with grace and power, 
working great wonders among the people?" (Acts 6:8)
Are we like Stephen who spoke with wisdom
and the Spirit? (Acts 6:10)
Are we like Stephen accused falsely
for echoing your teachings, Lord Jesus Christ? (Acts 6:13)

Forgive us Lord when lately we have been lacking in courage and vigor and enthusiasm in teaching and speaking what is true, what is just, what is good.

Sorry when we are no longer bothered by the many inconvenient truths prevailing these days, from the rampant disrespect for life and of the environment to our silence to injustices happening around us.

Fill us with your Holy Spirit, dear Jesus, to be bold enough like Stephen in following your life by witnessing your stance for what is right and true, just and holy. Enable us to perceive the deeper meaning of things happening in us and around us that are signs of your presence, indicating your will and mission for us.

May we work for “the food that endures for eternal life” (Jn.6:27) by first believing wholly in you as the Son of God to whom we must pledge our total and unconditional commitment.

More than receiving you as the Bread of Life in the Holy Communion, may we realize that to believe in you dear Jesus is to be like you – a bread who nourishes others with one’s total self giving in loving service founded on justice and respect for one another. Amen.

From Be Like Francis page at Facebook, 14 April 2021.

Imitating the priesthood of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, Second Week in Ordinary Time, 20 January 2021
Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17     >><)))*>   +++   <*(((><<     Mark 3:1-6

O God our Father, we praise and thank you in making us share in the priesthood of your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and eternal Priest. So many times we forget – priests and lay people alike – the meaning of our priesthood which is to communicate your love to others, to become a bridge of men and women with God.

So many times we have become legalistic, paying more attention to the letters of the laws, to forms and to rituals forgetting the very essence of loving service for others. We always enter the church but never the community of believers.

Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on then sabbath that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent.

Mark 3:1-4

What a shame, dear God when such moments happen when we refuse to look at the persons with their sufferings and pains, choosing to look at things around us like rules and conventions. That more sad part is as we have turned blind to others around us, we have also chosen to be deaf to their cries as well.

Forgive us, Father, when we fail to enter into oneness with others made possible to us in the coming of Jesus Christ who has become our “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb.7:17).

Help us discard those old understanding of priesthood with emphasis on the mystery of being a priest, of the distinction and honor, forgetting the more important aspects of working for justice and righteousness, and most of all, for peace. Both can only be earned if we strive to be men and women of love and commitment to what is good. Amen.

Hesus, tunay nga ba nating Hari?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-20 ng Nobyembre 2020
“Ecce Homo” ni Murillo, mula sa wikipediacommons.com.
"Utos ng hari
hindi mababali!"
Iyan ang kasabihang
ating kinalakhan
tumutukoy sa kapangyarihan
ng sino mang naghahari 
o naghahari-harian
sa lansangan o tahanan
tanggapan at paaralan
maging sa simbahan
kung saan ang pari ---
O kay laking sawi!---
para ding hari...
Bawat utos,
ano man magustuhan
hindi maaring ipagpaliban,
ipagpipilitan upang makamtan;
parurusahan sino man
lumiban sa utos
na batas ang katumbas!
Nguni't
ito nga ba ang tamang gawi
ng sino mang hari
na ituring kanyang pag-aari
parang mga aliping nagapi
kanyang nasasakupan
at pinaghaharian?
Masdan
 mga salitang binitiwan
ng Hari ng mga hari
at ating Dakilang Pari:
"Ito ang dahilan
kung bakit ako ipinanganak
at naparito sa sanlibutan:
upang magsalita
ng katotohanan"
na "ang Diyos ay pag-ibig"
naparito "upang maglingkod
hindi upang paglingkuran".
Iyan sana ating tandaan
katangian
ni Kristo Hesus
Hari ng sanlibutan
SINUSUNOD
hindi NASUSUNOD,
 sinusundan, tinutularan
sa kanyang kabutihan.
Kaya kung si Hesus
nga ang ating Hari
Siya ang ating tularan 
sa pagmamahal at kabutihan
huwag sirain yaring kaisahan sa sangkatauhan
dahil ano man gawin o ipagkait sa maliliit
siyang Kanyang pagsusulit sa pagbabalik!
Larawan kuha ng may akda, 2019.

Panalangin sa mga ginigipit

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Paggunita sa Pagpapakasakit ni San Juan Bautista, Ika-29 ng Agosto 2020
Ama naming mahabagin,
ngayong ginugunita namin 
pagpapakasakit ni San Juan Bautista, 
Inyo sanang dinggin aming panalangin
para sa maraming kapatid namin na ginigipit, iniipit;
ang iba sa kanila ay nakapiit
marami ang lugmok sa pait at sakit na sinapit
mula sa mga makabagong Herodes at Herodias
na prinsipyo at pagkatao, ipinagpalit sa ginto.
Inyong patatagin paninindigan sa katotohanan 
katulad ni San Juan Bautista
upang ipagpatuloy pakikipaglaban 
nasaid man ang kabuhayan
at tanging pinanghahawakan 
dangal ng katauhan.
Ikaw lamang Panginoon
ang nakaaalam ng higit na mainam
kami ay Iyong turuan at tulungan
katulad ni San Juan loob mo ay masundan
kami ma'y maging palatandaan
ng Iyong kapanatilihan sa gitna ng mga 
pag-uusig at kahirapan.
Amen.

*Mga larawan sa itaas: una ang painting ni Caravaggio ng pagpupugot sa ulo ni Juan Bautista mula sa wikimedia.org; biktima ng tokhang mula sa Philippine Daily Inquirer; umiiyak na empleyado ng ABS-CBN mula sa Reuters.org; at mga locally stranded individuals sa ilalim ng flyover malapit sa NAIA kuha ni G. Raffy Tima ng GMA-7 News.

Pitumpung alagad… nino?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-15 ng Hulyo 2020
Sa gitna nitong mga balita
sa garapal at walang kahihiyang
ginawa ng pitumpung mambabatas
na nagkait ng prangkisa sa Kapamilya
aking naalala sa Banal na Bibliya
kuwento ni San Lucas na ebanghelista
nang ang Panginoong Hesus humirang noon 
pitumpung alagad o pitumput-dalawa 
na sinugo Niya ng dala-dalawa 
sa bawat pook at bayan na patutunguhan Niya.
Sinabi Niya sa kanila
"Sagana ang aanihin, ngunit kakaunti
ang mga manggagawa... Humayo kayo!
Sinusugo ko kayong parang mga kordero
sa gitna ng mga asong-gubat.
Huwag na kayong magdala ng lukbutan,
supot, o panyapak.  Huwag na kayong titigil
sa daan upang makipagbatian kaninuman.
Pagpasok ninyo sa alinmang bahay,
batiin ninyo ng kapayapaan;
Manatili kayo sa inyong tinutuluyan, 
huwag kayong magpalipat-lipat ng bahay.
Pagalingin ang mga may karamdaman
sa bawat bayan na inyong pupuntahan 
mga taumbayan ay sabihang nalalapit na 
ang paghahari ng Diyos sa tanan." 
Inyong tingnan sa Banal na Kasulatan
ito ay malalaman, matatagpuan sa Lucas 10:1-12
kahanga-hangang misyon ng pitumpung alagad
ng ating Panginoon noong unang panahon
hatid sa tao pag-asa at pag-ahon;
inyong tingnan ngayon mga pahayagan
pakinggan mga balita ng labis na kasamaan
kawalan ng kahihiyan ni pakundangan
nitong pitumpung nilalang 
turing sa sarili at mga kasamahan "kagalang-galang"?
Sila ma'y pinahayo, sinugo
ng pinapanginoon nilang Poncio Pilato
asal nila masahol pa sa asong-gubat
kaayusan at kapayapaan tinapakan
at niyurakan ng kanilang kapalaluan;
sa bawat halalan pangako paglilingkuran
nasasakupan agad namang tinatalikuran
palipat-lipat ng kakampihan kung saan makikinabang 
sa sama-samang pagsamsam sa kaban ng bayan;
kunwari'y mabuti ang kalooban 
kaban-kabang bigas pinamimigay
milyung-milyong kapalit naman ang dinudugas;
kunwari'y malasakit para sa may-sakit
pakilala sa lahat ay kuya na tila kapamilya
pati turo ng Diyos sinasalaula
manang mana sa kanyang ama.
Sa pagsusugo ni Hesus sa pitumpung alagad Niya
binigay din Kanyang babala 
Araw ng Paghuhukom malapit na;
kaya sana itong pitumpung kongresista 
pati na kanilang mga kasama
mabatid ang usapin ay hindi lang prangkisa
kungdi kanilang pagmamalabis;
huwag ninyong punuin ang salop
dahil ang Diyos Siyang kakalos
at baka sapitin ninyo ay kalunus-lunos.

Scoundrels are we?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 15 June 2020
1 Kings 21:1-16 ><)))*> ><)))*> <*(((>< <*(((>< Matthew 5:38-42
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, stranded people staying at the underpass near the NAIA after waiting for so long to catch their flights back to their provinces since March.

So many times in life, O God our Father, we hear so many stories of injustice, of how our neighbors are treated so badly that we feel so disgusted at how it could happen at all.

Like all these stories of people stranded in Metro Manila, of the lowly income earners who have to walk for hours just to get to work because there are not enough public transport system allowed to operate.

Of those made to suffer the strict quarantine rules when police officials and politicians were allowed to get off the hook or, the arrest and incarceration of a poor, elderly jeepney driver who had joined a protest rally while the former First Lady who was convicted of corruption charges two years ago was spared of any jail term because of her age.

So much inequalities happening shamelessly, with much impunity by those in power, O Lord!

Exactly like the evil Queen Jezebel who instructed her people to find two scoundrels to testify against Naboth so she could take his vineyard so desired by her husband King Ahab.

Two scoundrels came in and confronted him with the accusation, “Naboth has cursed God and king.” And they led him out of the city and stoned him to death. When Jezebel learned that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Go on, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite which he refused to sell you, because Naboth is nbot alive, but dead.” On hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

1 Kings 21:13-16

Such stories are so revulsive, O God, not only of their nature but more because partly to be blamed is us — when we have refused to do anything good in fighting evil. Indeed, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Yes, O God, we are ashamed because we have unconsciously sided with the scoundrels when we chose to “see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing” of their lies, their harsh words and vulgarities, and their systematic killing sprees to solve the problems of the society.

We have misread the words of your Son Jesus Christ by becoming passive in the face of evil.

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.”

Matthew 5:38-39, 41

Give us the wisdom and courage to turn our other cheek, to go the extra mile in asserting to evil doers that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ who must treat one another with respect and equal dignity as a person created in your image and likeness, God our Father.

Inspire us, O God, especially our leaders in the Church who have gone so timid and silent except for a very few on how we can be more prophetic in this time of crisis under an unfriendly government. Amen.

A view from Tagaytay by the author, October 2019.