Praying to recover “lost humanity”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church, 13 June 2022
1 Kings 21:1-16   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 5:38-42   
The Church of St. Anthony called Igreja de Santo António de Lisboa built at the site of his birthplace in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Mr. Jilson Tio taken in his 2018 pilgrimage.
Today as we celebrate the
Memorial of your beloved Saint
Anthony of Padua famous for
interceding in the recovery of 
things lost, we pray to you O God
our loving Father also for the recovery
of something so precious becoming
so rare these days - decency and honor,
love and kindness, respect and justice.
Through the intercession of St. Anthony,
Lord, please help us recover our 
"lost humanity" so vividly exposed
last week in that viral video of an
SUV hitting and running over a traffic
aide in Mandaluyong City.
How sad, even tragic, dear God
in this modern time of too much
sophistication in science and technology,
we have lagged behind in our humanity;
aside from the war at Ukraine, how could
violent shootings continue in the States
at the loss of so many children?
What is so tragic is how politicians there
talk about protecting children when the
same politicians push so hard for abortions,
in killing the most innocent persons of all!
Have we become like Jezebel, the pagan wife
and queen of Ahab who have no regard at all
for humans, creating fake news and gossips
against people, promoting corruption among
people for material gains?

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and, having sealed them with his seal, sent them to the elders and to the nobles who lived in the same city with Naboth. This is what she wrote in the letters: “Proclaim a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. Next, get two scoundrels to face him and accuse him of having cursed God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” On hearing Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

1 Kings 21:8-10, 16
Your Son Jesus Christ
taught us the ways to recover our
lost humanity more than 2000 years
ago but until now, we have not recovered
it yet because of our refusal to let go 
of our pride and attachment with wealth
and other things of the world.
Like St. Anthony, help us to let go of
our possessions and comforts, "to give
to the one who asks of us, and to not
turn our back on one who wants 
to borrow" (Matthew 5:42).
St. Anthony of the World, 
Pray for us!
The room where St. Anthony was born in the year 1195 preserved in the church built at the former site of their home in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Mr. Jilson Tio, 2018.
The Portuguese people have always referred to St. Anthony of Lisbon than of Padua where his body is buried in Italy; in 1982, St. John Paul II visited his birthplace, and told the crowd their native saint was not St. Anthony of Padua to which the crowd cheered. Then, the Pope said he is neither St. Anthony of Lisbon and the people fell silent. But when the great Pope said their native saint is St. Anthony of the World, they cheered loudly! (Anecdote and photo courtesy of Mr. Jilson Tio)
Praying at the birthplace of St. Anthony protected by iron grills. Photo by Mr. Jilson Tio, 2018.
Mr. Jilson Tio (third from left) with fellow pilgrims outside the room where St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 2018.

He touches me

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 26 April 2022
From Google.

The word “touch” is a very touching one, connoting so many meanings while at the same time gives us a “feel” of what it really is. Its literal and figurative senses always go together with the most touching reaching deep down inside us that are also the gentlest and simplest.

We are touched by words and gestures, by sights and sounds, and literally speaking, we are touched most when touched by another person. Experts claim that a five second touch is equivalent to about 300 words of encouragement so that for us to be emotionally well, we need at least three hugs a day.

Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Villa and Retreat House, Baguio City, January 2019.

Reflecting on the very few stories of the Easter appearances by Jesus to his disciples, we find how the gospel writers did not need to write so much details to convince us that the Lord had risen for it is not the number nor length of his appearances that matter but its inexpressible intensity. Especially in the fourth gospel, we notice – and we are touched, too like the disciples – the deep intensity of Christ’s appearances that resulted only in silence and adoration among them.

And that is one very true characteristic of Jesus – he touches us. Always. Even if we can not touch him nor see him. There is always that joy of Easter bursting forth within us in moments of prayers, of intimate conversations with loved ones and friends, or upon seeing a beautiful sight or experiencing nature.

It is Jesus Christ who touches us most that is why we believe in him even if we cannot explain how it all happened. It has always been like that since he rose from the dead. In fact, I doubt Thomas really touched Jesus when they met on the eighth day because he was so “touched” upon seeing the Risen Lord that he said, “My Lord and my God”, the most intense expression of faith in the bible!

See that nothing is said if Thomas indeed touched the wounds of Jesus for he was caught up in the experience and sight of the Risen Lord.

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:27-28
“The Incredulity of Saint Thomas”, a painting by Caravaggio from commons.wikimedia.org.

Like Thomas, Jesus touches us in the most personal and unique manner that deep inside us we also cry with intensity “my Lord and my God” to him. Though we can enumerate many reasons and persons who have led us into believing in Jesus, we also admit at the same time that there is no specifically single reason nor person for our faith in God except our very selves, of our personal conviction that transcends all proofs and logic because, we were so touched.

The gospels teem with so many stories of Jesus touching especially the sick when healing them and surprisingly, as we reflect on these stories, we too are touched, even by the Lord. And our perspectives and lives eventually change because we have experienced Jesus.

The same is very true with the many people we have known and met, the few perhaps we have befriended and loved: so many things in our lives have turned for the best simply because we were touched, literally and figuratively speaking.

When I was still teaching in our all-girls’ school in Malolos City, I used to remind my students in high school to never be fooled by a man’s looks and “porma”, to always look for a man who really loves you, respects you, and touches you as a person, as a woman. And they would always ask me how can they determine that? My usual response was they would “feel” that because a man or any person with integrity would always “touch” you.

Then I would play to them Lisa Stansfield’s 2004 He Touches Me:

He don’t bring me anything but love
He don’t bring me anything but love
If you offered me the stars I would decline
I don’t need ’em I got mine
I don’t know where to start
But I know what’s in my heart
So keep your silver and your gold 
’cause I got my man to have and hold

As our lives gradually return to some semblance of normalcy following the decrease in cases of COVID-19, it would be nice that we try to remember and recall those many experiences we have had since the start of the pandemic in 2020, the people who touched us.

One beautiful lesson this pandemic had taught us is that even if we practice social distancing, we can still be emotionally close with one another in so many ways and means. And even if we still have to maintain that social distance as minimum health protocol in this pandemic, there are so many occasions for us to touch one another to express our love and concern, our gratitude and apologies to any one who have touched us.

From QuotesGram.com.

It is about time that we touch base with them again, and this time, let us get in touch with one another in the most meaningful and loving way, with intensity, so that no matter what happens next, we may have that deep sense of joy and fulfillment of being truly human, of having experienced “the warmth of a loving face” as Camus expressed in The Plague.

Everyone is drained and exhausted by COVID-19, with many still out of touch following their many losses during the pandemic – loved ones, career, studies, goals and plans in life that were disrupted, permanently or temporarily.

Let us help each other to regain composure and directions in life by being kind with everyone. Most of all, let us touch one another with our simplest gestures of a smile or a wave of hand that here is another person – also struggling, also trying to pick up the pieces of life, moving on to start anew. Many times, the simplest things have the most lasting impact on us because they are also the most touching. And that is because, with our kindness, that is also when people feel being touched and loved by God most.

I hope you were touched… a blessed day ahead of you!

Photo by author, Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

The joy of meeting God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-C, 03 April 2022
Isaiah 43:16-21 ><}}}*> Philippians 3:8-14 ><}}}*> John 8:1-11
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, 20 February 2022.

From the joy of coming home to the Father last Sunday in the parable of the merciful father, we now celebrate the joy of meeting God in Jesus Christ in the story of the woman caught in adultery.

We are now into the final week of Lent, getting closer to the innermost room of the Father’s house but this time with John as our guide as we skip Luke’s gospel. The shift is hardly noticeable as the story of the woman caught in adultery seamlessly jibe with Luke’s parable last Sunday. The Pharisees and scribes are again present but this time more bold in their opposition to Jesus.

From pinterest.com.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

John 8:3-6

Only John records this story of the woman caught in adultery but one can clearly recognize its similar tone and perspective with the parable last Sunday that only Luke had, the parable of the merciful father, more known as parable of the prodigal son. Both stories tell us the gospel of God’s mercy proclaimed in words and in deeds by our Lord Jesus Christ.

But what makes this story of the woman caught in adultery a stand out is its simplicity amidst the profound texts by John often identified as the beloved disciple. He was able to compact in few words and simple gestures the many realities in life we forget and take for granted.

As I prayed over this scene, one word persisted in my reflections: kindness.

Photo by author, 2018, Davao City.
The kindness of God.

The word “kind” is from kin or kindred as in family or tribe. When we say a person is kind, we mean that person treats us as one of his family, of his same kind, that he deals with us like we are not “others” or iba as we say in Filipino (hindi ka naman iba).

How sad that at the start of this pandemic in 2020, that was when all news and stories spread of how we have become so unkind with each other especially the poor, the sick and the old, children and women treated unkindly like Mang Dodong of Caloocan.

How sad that in our country, it has become a sin, an error or a failure to be poor and disadvantaged that even the poor and disadvantaged look down at each other, too! There is always that feeling among us that we are different, that we are not of the same kind that it has become so difficult to find kindness among everybody. We have forgotten we are all human, imperfect and sinful but also beloved children of God.

This is what the Sunday gospel is telling us: the woman caught in adultery is not the only sinner in this scene. John described her as “caught in adultery”, not merely an “adulteress” to show that she was in fact caught into adultery. It is a serious sin but there’s more to be caught in that act than meets the eyes. Here, there is no mention about the woman’s “lover”.

Like in our gospel last Sunday, we have the Pharisees and scribes present again, forgetting their very roles in the story itself. Recall that Jesus told the parable of the merciful father for them last Sunday to remind them that they were both the prodigal son and elder son. And that included us today, of course. Today, they are back and we wonder what were the evidence they have against that woman. Where were they while the woman was committing the sin of adultery? Were they peeping toms? Or worst, have they had some trysts with her too in the past?

Both the woman caught in adultery and her accusers, the Pharisees and the scribes stand for us all – we are sinners. We have all sinned and how dare are we to act like the Pharisees and scribes pretending to be different from others, to be so clean and pure when deep inside us are also rotten with sins that could even be worst than the people we accuse.

This is the reason why Jesus bent twice to show everyone how God had chosen to go down to us, to be like us in everything except sin so we can see again everyone as our kin, our same kind as children of the Father.

But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.

John 8:7-9
Photo by news.ag.org, Jesus writing on the sand in the story of the woman caught in adultery.
Bending to washing of feet to dying on Cross.

In bending down twice, Jesus showed everyone – the accused and the accusers – the kindness of God, his being our kin, his being one of us even if he is Divine. To bend down is to go down, like Jesus coming down from heaven, being born as a child to show us that the path back to God is in being human which is underscored by Matthew in his genealogy of Jesus Christ at the start of his Gospel which is proclaimed every December 17 and December 24 Christmas Eve.

Here in this scene we are reminded by his bending as an imagery of the mystery of Incarnation just like his coming down to Jordan River at his baptism by John.

This bending of Jesus will happen again on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of his apostles where he gave his commandment to love (hence, it is called as Maundy Thursday, from Latin mandatum for commandment). It will reach its highest point when he bent lowest on Good Friday by offering himself on the Cross for us all out of his immense love and mercy. And kindness.

That is the greatest expression of God’s love and mercy, in his kindness, in his becoming one of us in Jesus Christ who took upon himself our sins so we may be clean again and be able to rise and stand with dignity and honor as beloved children of the Father.

This is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words in the first reading that God is doing something new for us.

Jesus is not telling us to stop fighting sin and evil, to cease from pursuing criminals and people who have committed crimes and grave sins against us and others. The fight goes on but should always be tempered with being humane.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The beautiful story of how Jesus resolved the case against the woman caught committing adultery assures us of the endless mercies of God to us sinners, not a passport to sin. See how Jesus recognized the sinfulness of the woman when he told her, go and sin no more – the most humane reprimand perhaps in history.

It is only in our being kind like Jesus that we become truly human and humane.

According to John, the first to leave the site after Jesus challenged them to cast the first stone were the elders that may stand for having wisdom, not necessarily being aged. The first to leave the site were the wise, those who must have realized their own sinfulness and saw how gravely wrong they were in being so harsh with the woman.

Many times in life, it is difficult to be kind in this unkind world because we have stopped seeing our commonality, our shared humanity, our links with one another, our relationships. We have become so competitive that we always want to be distinct from everyone to the point that we have ceased becoming humans, playing gods most of the time.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 2019.

The grace of this final week of Lent is the kindness of God that remains with everyone, even with the most harsh among us, the most sinful. Jesus is inviting us to bend down with him, see him even down below when we are in sins. He is not condemning us nor hurting us with words nor actions. Ever the most humble and gentle of all, our most kind Lord Jesus is telling us today to take up his yoke and learn from him, always kind with everyone.

And that begins with our very selves. Many times, we cannot be kind with others because in the first place we are so unkind with our very selves. We cannot see our true selves that we compete within ourselves, that we should be somebody else.

What a wonderful gift to be our true selves again and still loved by God.

Let us heed Paul’s call in the second reading: “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead. I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Have a blessed week ahead, be kind to yourself first of all. Amen.

Fluidity in life

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop, 11 November 2021
Wisdom 7:22-8:1   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 17:20-25
Photo by author, La Union, 2018.
Today O God I am so struck
by your words from the first reading:
"For Wisdom is mobile beyond all
motion, and she penetrates and 
pervades all things by reason of 
her purity.  For she is an aura of 
the might of God and a pure effusion
of the glory of the Almighty; 
therefore, nought that is sullied
enters into her... Indeed, she reaches
from end to end mightily and
governs all things well" 
(Wisdom 7:24-25, 8:1).
What a beautiful description
of Wisdom, of you, dear God!
Someone so fluid, so natural 
like water:  everything flowing
naturally in order - so subtle yet
powerful, hidden but evident and 
felt that so often for those with 
closed minds and closed hearts,
you seem to be so far, even 
unrecognizable.

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is’. For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

Luke 17:20-21
Teach me to be fluid, Jesus,
like St. Martin of Tours who
naturally cut his tunic into two
to share it with a poor beggar
one cold evening; his kindness was
instinctively filled with Wisdom, fluidly
finding you among the least of our
brethren; may we have the same grace
of  St. Martin to find you among the needy
and most specially to look up to heaven
for our soul's journey back to you.
Amen.
St. Martin of Tours, Patron of my hometown Bocaue, Bulacan; photo from the Parish Commission on Social Communication.

Lest we forget or miss others…

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Week XXXI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 05 November 2021
Romans 15:14-21   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 16:1-8
Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 2020.
On this First Friday of November,
I thank you dear God our Father
for the enriching and comforting words
of St. Paul these recent weeks as we
come to the penultimate installment of his
beautiful Letter to the Romans:

I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another. But I have written to you rather boldly in some respects to remind you, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service of the Gospel of God, so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:14-16
You have reminded us these past weeks
through St. Paul not only of the need to
have sound doctrine on what we believe
but most of all to have much love in our
faith and hope in you.
As he begins to close his letter to the
Romans, may we imitate his great love
and concern for the Gentiles and those 
others to whom the Gospel has not been
proclaimed yet; many times in our lives,
we only remember those with us, those like
us, forgetting and missing out those not
with us, those living in the margins, those in
the fringes of the society and Church.
Give us, dear Father, such attention 
of St. Paul in seeking those not yet in our fold,
those neglected and taken for granted; how sad
that we only remember others when we are already
in dire need and extreme situations like that wise
steward in the gospel today:  at the height of his
power and influence, he never thought of the
creditors of his master, milking them dry of their
resources; but when he was in danger of being
terminated, he suddenly remembered them.
Most of all, he dealt with them with charity and
leniency to win their favors and sympathies.
Before any calamity or storm befall us,
when unfavorable circumstances happen 
to us or anyone, remind us, loving Father, 
to think of others,
to search for the lost 
and little ones
lest we miss them totally 
as if they do not exist.
Amen.

God’s grace is always more than enough

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Cornelius, Pope, and St. Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs, 16 September 2021
1 Timothy 4:12-16   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[>< ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 7:36-50
Photo by author, the Pater Noster Church, Jerusalem, May 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father
for the abundant grace you
bless us daily but many times
we take for granted or 
fail to see and realize;
may we heed the words
of St. Paul to the young Timothy:

Beloved: Let no one have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe, in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was conferred on you through the prophetic word with the imposition of hands of the presbyterate.

1 Timothy 4:12, 14
Most of all,
may we nurture
every opportunity you 
give us to be holy and 
better persons
like that sinful woman 
who went into Simon
the Pharisee's home 
to wash and anoint the
feet of your Son
Jesus Christ. 
At the same time, 
make us stop having that 
sense of special entitlement
to your grace and salvation 
for you have sent Jesus for everyone
for all time to forgive our sins, 
and therefore, there is no reason 
too for any of us to have contempt 
on the young nor sinners.

Jesus said to Simon: “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”

Luke 7:47
May we be like St. Cornelius
 when he was the Pope
supported by St. Cyprian
who was the bishop of Carthage
in welcoming back to the Church
 those who have lapsed
 in their faith during the persecution;
like them, may we recognize
that your grace works best
among the weakest and lowly;
may we stop being rigorists,
of being so stiff and harsh
with sinners and others who are weak
 like the Pharisees
 who see more of themselves
 than you in Jesus Christ
who had come
to make us whole again in you
and with one another.
We pray, dear God,
through these two great saints
during the harsh persecution
periods of the second century
that we learn some leniency
towards others,
to be more kind and understanding
in this time of the pandemic
with those who have less in life
because your grace is always
more than enough for each one of us.
Amen.

Looking intently

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 30 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18   ><]]]]*> ><)))'> ><]]]]*>   Luke 4:16-30
From Forbes.com
"Rolling up the scroll,
Jesus handed it back to the attendant
and sat down, and the eyes of all in the
synagogue looked intently at him."
(Luke 4:20)
So many times in life, Lord,
we are like your townsfolk in Nazareth
who looked intently at you after
proclaiming the scriptures,
after saying or doing something
so beautiful.
But, what do we "looked intently at" you, Jesus?

Is it really you whom we look at?
Is it the Father whom we try to look and find
in you, his mercy and love?
Or, it is still our very selves
 with all our personal interests,
 of what we can have from you,
that we look intently at you?
"Then we who are alive,
who are left, will be caught up
together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, console one another 
with these words."
(1 Thessalonians 4:17-18)
How funny, O God our Father,
how the early Christians also looked intently
for the Second Coming of your Son Jesus
while us in this time no longer look forward
for that great day of "new heaven, new earth";
people hardly looked intently to you these days
and if ever they do so, most often
because with our personal interests.
Give us the grace, dear God,
to start looking intently again to you
and for you in Christ Jesus,
in his coming to "bring glad tidings to the poor,
to claim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to you"
(Luke 4:18-19).
In this time of the pandemic
when so many are suffering
and getting sick
and dying,
let us look intently anew
to everyone with love and respect,
kindness and compassion
as if we are looking at you
in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

St. Lawrence: the saint we need during this pandemic

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Lawrence, Deacon and Martyr, 10 August 2021
2 Corinthians 9:6-10   ><}}}}'> + ><}}}}'> + ><}}}}'>   John 12:24-26
“Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, Deacon” by Hipolito de Rioja (16th c.) from commons.wikimedia.org
God our loving Father,
give us the grace in this time
of pandemic the zeal and fervor,
kindness and humor of Saint Lawrence,
deacon and martyr of the second century.
You must have loved him so much,
lavishing him with your grace to 
witness the gospel of Jesus Christ
for St. Paul said:  "God loves a 
cheerful giver" (2 Cor. 9:7).
Saint Lawrence was so cheerful
in his dedication and fidelity to his
office as deacon, serving the Pope
and the people by distributing alms 
and other help to the poor and suffering.
In this time of the pandemic 
when so many people lack
food and money and other essentials,
give us the courage to trust in you
Lord to share whatever we have. 
Most especially, in this time of lockdowns
when so many of us are emotionally drained
with spirits sagging due to quarantine fatigue, 
gift us with the wit and humor of Saint Lawrence
who asked his executioners to turn his body
to make his roasting even on all sides!
Above all dear Father,
like Saint Lawrence may we realize
that to see your Son Jesus 
is not only with one's eyes but 
with one's total self, willing to lose 
one's life like a grain of wheat that dies 
and produces much fruit in Christ (Jn.12:24).
Amen.

Jesus in our siblings

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Siblings and Friends of the Lord, 29 July 2021
Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   John 11:19-27
An icon of Jesus visiting his friends, the siblings Sts. Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Photo from crossroadsinitiative.com.
What a tremendous grace from you,
dearest God our Father through
Pope Francis that we now celebrate
the Memorial not only of St. Martha 
but also of her brother St. Lazarus and 
sister St. Mary who were all dear friends 
of Jesus Christ he frequently visited in 
their home at Bethany.  
Finally, a beautiful imagery not only
of friendship in the Lord but most of all,
the oft-neglected and taken for granted
relationships of brothers and sisters.
In this time of the pandemic
you know how, O dear God,
we have finally come together 
as families free from all excuses 
of work and studies, of being far and away; 
but sadly, many have ignored and missed
the opportunities to bond together
and mend many gaps long festering
among siblings; instead of fighting and 
rivalries, may brothers and sisters
in every family emulate the love and 
respect among Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary. 

“The Raising of Lazarus”, 1311 painting by Duccio de Buoninsegna. Photo by commons.wikimedia.org
We pray for all siblings to gather anew
as one family in prayers before you, Lord, 
like Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary;
help them create a space for your Son 
Jesus Christ who is the surest bond among us
despite our many differences; like the children of 
Israel in the wilderness, may all siblings be
animated and moved by your presence, God our Father:
"Whenever the cloud rose from the dwelling,
the children of Israel would set out on their journey.
But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward;
only when it lifted did they go forward." (Exodus 40:36-37)
Most of all, give us the grace
to be the presence of Jesus Christ
when our siblings are sick and burdened 
with all kinds of sufferings and miseries 
like Martha and Mary present to each other
awaiting Christ’s coming after Lazarus had died:
Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died."  Jesus told her,
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever
believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me
will never die.  Do you believe this?" (John 11:21, 25-26)
Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Hills, Baguio City, 2018.
Yes, dearest Lord Jesus,
I believe you are the resurrection and life;
whoever believes in you not only lives
but most of all becomes your very presence
especially among those going through
various forms of darkness in this life;
give me the grace to bring your light
and your life, your joys and your hopes
to those heavily burdened
 so they may believe like St. Martha
that "if you, Lord, had been here,
my brother would have not died."
Like St. Martha, and most likely
her siblings, too, St. Lazarus
 and St. Mary who may not have
  understood fully your words and teachings,
keep me open to your coming,
to your visits, sweet Jesus;
make my heart like theirs
filled with warmth and hospitality
to let you stay and reign in me;
most of all, like the three holy siblings
let me share with others the gift of kindness,
of being a kin to everyone in you, with you.  Amen.

Life in the Spirit

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 08 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:18-22   ><)))'> + <'(((><   Matthew 5:13-16
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

Praise and thanksgiving to you, O God our loving Father, for this brand new day, so blessed and filled with many opportunities for us to change and grow in the Holy Spirit, to test our limits and see your wisdom in calling and sending us to make you known in the world.

How amazing that in every day you give us, you keep qualifying your call so that even if we are not qualified at all, you still call us because you believe in us.

Not that of ourselves
 we are qualified to take credit for anything
as coming from us; rather, our qualification
comes from God, who has indeed qualified us
as ministers of a new covenant, 
not of letter but of spirit; 
for the letter brings death,
but the Spirit gives life.
(2 Corinthians 3:5-6)

Forgive us, dear Father, when so many times we refuse to obey your laws especially when they go against our whims and caprices, claiming them to be archaic and irrelevant but at the same time, when we complain of the Church’s many changes and reforms that do not suit us, when we choose to revert to the pass than embrace the changing world.

Let us understand the gospel today where Jesus declares, “Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill” (Mt.5:17).

Let us live in the Holy Spirit to find and rediscover daily the person of Jesus Christ so that we may be gentle and kind like him with one another than being stuck in the rigidity and stagnation of our conservatism that make us harsh and legalistic in our relationships.

Let us live in the Holy Spirit so we may be free and faithful to you always, bubbling with spontaneity and creativity that express your glory, O Lord.

We pray today for those who choose to be sad, who insist on bringing back the past without understanding the true meaning of growing and changing in Christ, of maturing in freedom and love to fully appreciate the beauty of your gift of life. Amen.

Photo by author, 2018.