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.

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.

Imitating the attitude of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Martin de Porres, Religious, 03 November 2020
Philippians 2:5-11  +++ ||| +++   Luke 14:15-24
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Center for Spirituality, Novaliches, 2018.

Brothers and sisters: Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus. Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.

Philippians 2:5-6

God our Father, I feel too small, even ashamed before you today as I prayed on your words through St. Paul; it is not just a very tall order but the sad part is the fact that we have all known it all along since our catechism days in school or the parish but rarely put into practice.

We admit it is the fundamental rule of Christian life, to be like Jesus Christ your Son who had come to show us the way back to you is by emptying one’s self for others, to be one with others especially in their pains and sufferings, of being the last, being the servant of all, being like a child.

Unfortunately, we always find it so difficult to learn.

Partly because we lack the very attitude of Jesus Christ we must first imitate according to St. Paul.

And that is the attitude of being small, being the least.

Exactly like St. Martin de Porres:

From Pinterest.com

Such was his humility that he loved them even more than himself and considered them to be better and more righteous that he was. He did not blame others for their shortcomings. Certain that he deserved more severe punishment for his sins than others did, he would overlook their worst offenses. He was tireless in his efforts to reform the criminal, and he would sit up with the sick to bring them comfort. for the poor he would provide food, clothing and medicine.

Homily by St. Pope John XXIII at the Canonization of Saint Martin de Porres in 1962

So often, our attitude is like with those invited by the king to his great dinner: feeling great, feeling so important with themselves that they find no need to be with others that they all turned down the invitation.

Sometimes our arrogance and high regard for ourselves miserably fail us in being like Jesus; hence, we continue to be divided into factions because no one would give way for others that lead to peace and harmony.

Teach us Lord to change that attitude of greatness in us with an attitude of smallness, of leaving a space for others in our lives so we can all work together as one community of believers in you like St. Martin de Porres and all the other saints. Amen.

On being kind and loving during COVID-19

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 October 2020
Photo by author, resthouse in Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.
Methinks the saddest thing of this pandemic
is not in the restrictions it had imposed on us
from social distancing to other methods of quarantine
but more on the restrictions we have within
when we can be more loving and kind with others
then still choose to be harsh and brash.
We wash our hands to be clean
but the virus of sin clings deeper than skin
when forgiving or apologizing
can wash away that sting
of any guilty feeling within.
Even if we have to maintain social distancing
it does not mean we have to be apart;
it would be wonderful and most amazing
to everyone's part if we can let our hearts
sing the feelings deep inside like
"I love you, I miss you, I care for you"
than wring all the aching 
and sufferings we are enduring.
Lastly, always put on your masks
for everyone's safety
but let us trust and bask
in the warmth of our humanity
to keep our sanity.
In this time of COVID-19
when death is no longer lurking
but closing into our very being, 
let us be more of feeling than of thinking,
loving and caring, affirming each other
enjoying life together.
Photo by author, antique door of a resthouse in Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

Only in God is everything new

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 24 September 2020
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11     >><)))*>  +  +  +  <*(((><<     Luke 9:7-9
Photo by author, Shambala in Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity! What has been, that will be; what has been done, that will be done. Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, “See, this is new!” has already existed in the ages that preceded us.

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 9-10

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father for this brand new day that offers us with fresh opportunities to become better and the best. Most of all, a call to be more loving, more gentle, and more kind like you.

Yes, it is true that “Nothing is new under the sun. Even the thing of which we say, ‘See, this is new!’ has already existed in the ages that preceded us.” Everything in life becomes a vanity if lived without you.

In the beginning at Genesis, you have made everything beautiful, entrusting it all to us with the sacred task of keeping that beauty making us your co-workers in the world. But, alas! We have turned away from you in sins that we have disfigured ourselves and destroyed nature in the process.

The temptation to be like you, O God, that tempted Adam and Eve continues to this day and the more we pretend to be all-knowing and all-powerful like you, the more everything becomes a vanity.

Like Herod in the gospel, the more we try to set the new order of things in life, the more we are disturbed of the past because it is only in you O God our Father through Jesus Christ your Son has everything been made new again. You were the one who have designed everything in this life and had ordered it all to one definite direction of ending in you because everything is yours after all.

Forgive us for playing gods, manipulating not only ourselves but even others and nature.

Teach us through Jesus to be humble, to welcome the good news of salvation into our lives for it is only in our hearts full of contrition for our sins where everything becomes new again in this world as we begin seeing everything and everyone in your light. Amen.

Photo by author, sunset at Shambala in Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

Presence and Love of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXIII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 06 September 2020
Ezekiel 33:7-9 /// Romans 13:8-10 /// Matthew 18:15-20
Photo by Mr. Gelo N. Carpio, January 2020.

For the next three Sundays beginning today, our liturgy directs our gaze to the nature of the Church as the mystical Body of Jesus Christ. For today we hear from Matthew how we as a church or a community of believers are signs of the presence and love of Jesus Christ.

Recall how two weeks ago at Caesarea Philippi Jesus called Simon as “Peter” (“Rock”) to head his “church”, giving him the keys to the kingdom of heaven that whatever he binds on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever he looses on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mt.16:17-19).

Matthew is the only evangelist so particular in using the term “church” that he devoted chapter 18 of his gospel on its nature, collecting and giving some of the Lord’s teachings about community life to his own group of disciples or early church.

And off he went to start with the most important part of community life:

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you… If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector… 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 them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Matthew 18:15-16, 17, 19-20
Photo by author, dome of the Malolos Cathedral, 2019.

Presence of Jesus in the love and unity of community

In a very short teaching taking a step by step method, Jesus tells us today how our mutual love shall always take precedence above all in our community life as his disciples and sign of presence.

Though we do not find in our gospel this Sunday the word “love”, it is clearly the Lord’s lesson for today: it is mutual love for one another that must guide everyone specially in the delicate matter of fraternal correction when one is going wayward in his/her path of life.

This explains why Jesus spelled out step by step how we correct others primarily because we love, not because we are better than them or that we have such authority or task and duty. Paul beautifully says it in our second reading:

Brothers and sisters: Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 13:8, 10

But of course, we need to clarify that all these lessons of love from the Lord and Paul are based on the love of Jesus Christ who clearly mandated us during his last supper how we must love:

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34-35

What makes this loving one another a “new commandment” is loving like Jesus Christ, unlike the pagans in ancient times that are still imitated to this day even by many among us who are also Christians. So often we find specially in media how love is portrayed as mere feelings like physical attraction that always leads up to sex, devoid of any sanctity and inner beauty at all.

St. Augustine called it “disordered love” when we become self-centered and selfish, directing our love solely to attaining what pleases us that we use persons and love things like money.

Love is not just a feeling but a decision, a choice we make and affirm every day specially when times are very rough and tough for us like when we are not loved in return.

Most of all, love is when we find somebody else we can love more than ourselves (Thomas Merton). This is the kind of love that Jesus and Paul as well as all the other saints speak of: the self-sacrificing love Christ showed us when he offered himself on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Monastery of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem where the Holy Family hid before fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod’s order to massacre the Holy Innocents, May 2019.

Love of Jesus builds, not destroys

Applying the law of love to our community is the most severe test of our being disciples of Jesus when we are challenged to be sincere in our love by hating what is evil and holding on to what is good like blessing those who persecute us, foregoing vengeance against those who have wronged us along with other expressions of mutual love in our community that Paul tells us in Romans 12:9-21.

In teaching us mutual love for one another in a step by step manner, it may seem to be a duty that one must follow in the church. It may even sound as contradictory that Jesus seems to be commanding us to strictly follow his law of command because no law can ever impose love.

However, when we try to reflect the ending of his teachings today – “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” – we find Jesus not ordering us to love but asking us our love because he loves us. He comes to us, grants our prayers because he loves us; therefore, when we love, when we gather as his disciples, we become his presence. And that is when our prayers are most effective because Jesus is in our midst!

Jesus and his love always build people and community; without him and his love, all we have is destruction and divisions. Hence, love is the only debt we owe to anyone. Love as a debt and “duty” is never paid back because the more we love, the more we have love, the more we are indebted to Jesus. It is the only debt that is never burdensome; in fact, the opposite happens when we refuse to love – we are burdened, life becomes heavy and so difficult.

This is what Ezekiel is telling us in the first reading: we are a “watchman”, a brother’s keeper of everyone. St. Pope Gregory the Great wrote a beautiful homily on being a watchman:

Note that a man whom the Lord sends forth as a preacher is called a watchman. A watchman always stands on a height so that he can see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a watchman for the people must stand on a height for all his life to help them by his foresight.

Office of Readings, Memorial of St. Pope Gregory the Great, 03 September
Photo by author, sunset inside our parish, 25 August 2020.

In the Church, those designated as watchman of the flock of Jesus is the Bishop or episkopos in Greek that means watcher or overseer. It is the bishop’s duty to always be above others in the loving service of the Church that sometimes out of love for Christ, he has to discipline those going astray as instructed in our gospel today, “If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector”, that is, excommunication or suspensions and other measures not meant to punish but to convert and correct the sinner.

Next Sunday, Matthew deepens our lesson on mutual love when he presents us the teachings of Jesus on how often we must forgive our brother or sister who repeatedly sins against us.

See my dear reader, how after presenting to us who is Jesus Christ last month, in how much he loves us and seeks us, these following Sundays we are challenged by the Lord to be like him – loving and merciful – to truly keep our relationship with him.

It is the first Sunday of September, the -ber months that tell us Christmas is around the corner. But, it seems we are still in a long haul in this pandemic. Having a vaccine will not totally eradicate COVID-19 nor guarantee us this won’t happen again in the future because the disease that is truly plaguing us until now is our refusal to love and live as brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us give it a try. Slowly. Jesus is not rushing us. All he is asking us is be open to his words expressed earlier in our responsorial psalm: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Have a heart and have a blessed, lovely week, everyone!