The “ins and outs” to the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XVII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 28 July 2021
Exodus 34:29-35   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Matthew 13:44-46
Photo by author, Church of Dominus Flevit overlooking Jerusalem, 2017.
How lovely are your words today,
God our loving Father
leading us the way closer to you
through your Son Jesus Christ!
So many times, you lead us to
many detours in life, to many 
coming and going in order to
savor your loving presence.
How can we not appreciate
and be awed like your people
in the wilderness who witnessed 
your immense majesty 
on the face of Moses you met
frequently inside your tent
putting on and off the veil
that eventually played a role in our faith.
As Moses came down from Mount Sinai
with the two tablets of the commandments
in his hands, he did not know that the skin
of his face had become radiant 
while he conversed with the Lord.
Whenever Moses entered 
the presence of the Lord to converse
with him, he removed the veil until 
he came out again.  On coming out,
he would tell the children of Israel all
that had been commanded.  Then the
children of Israel would see that the skin
of Moses' face was radiant; so he would
put again the veil over his face until
he went in to converse with the Lord.
(Exodus 34:29, 34-35)
In your eternal wisdom, dear Father,
you eventually removed that veil
in the coming of your Son Jesus Christ
so we can go nearer to you than ever
to be one with you in him
through him, and with him
 by going through the same process
of going in and going out.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"The Kingdom of heaven
is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds
and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells
all that he has and buys the field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven
is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has
and buys it."
(Matthew 13:44-46)
We pray, O Lord, we remain focused
in you alone, learning to adapt,
 willing to let go whatever we hold so that
 even if we do not see you face to face
like your beloved disciple in the empty tomb
 that Easter morn, we may still believe
 even if we only see the veil that covered your face,
wrapped neatly into one place. Amen.

Finding God, not just solutions

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 12 July 2021
Exodus 1:8-14,22  >>> + <<<   Mathew 10:34-11:1
Photo by author, Egypt, 2019.
Your words today, O Lord Jesus,
are so difficult to understand
even puzzling and disturbing 
but that is how it is often in life:
the harder it gets,
the better we become
like the children of Israel
when persecuted in Egypt.
A new king, 
who knew nothing of Joseph,
came to power in Egypt.
Accordingly, taskmasters
were set over the children of Israel
to oppress them with forced labor.
Yet the more they were oppressed,
the more they multiplied and 
spread.
(Exodus 1:8,11, 12)
Sometimes, Lord,
you allow us to go through
hardships and trials in life
so we may realize
that YOU alone are the most
essential in life like when you sent
the children of Israel to Egypt
during the period of great famine.
You sent them there not only to find food
but to rediscover Joseph their brother
and ultimately find YOU, dear God,
still faithful, still loving.
Alas, as time went on with them in Egypt
like with our own experiences,
we stop entering into a relationship with you
dear God, when our needs are fulfilled,
when we have found solutions to our problems,
not realizing that more important
than temporary solutions
to our temporary problems is
the wonderful intimacy with you
here, today, through eternity
where we have God more than
any amount of peace and prosperity. 
Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Do not think that I have come
to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake
will find it."
(Matthew 10:34, 39)
Lord Jesus Christ,
forgive us in being so focused
in solving the many problems of the world
than in finding God and his love; remind us
of our first task of casting away evil
and sins that plague us and the world
so that everything may be restored in you again.
Amen.

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.

The silent works of God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 13 June 2021
Ezequiel 17:22-24 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ><}}}'> Mark 4:26-34
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 03: Yuka Saso of the Philippines hits an approach shot on the 17th hole fairway during the first round of the 76th U.S. Women’s Open Championship at The Olympic Club on June 03, 2021 in San Francisco, California. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Sean M. Haffey / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — Episode 1602 — Pictured: Nightbirde — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Two great women made me cry this week: our very own Yuka Saso who made history as the country’s first major golf tournament winner after she bagged with much finesse and style the 2021 Women’s Open title in San Francisco, California.

And second was Nightbirde, a cancer patient who mesmerized us a few nights ago with her talent – and joyful disposition as a cancer patient competing at “America’s Got Talent”.

What I like with both women is their authenticity – Yuka with her grit at a very young age pursuing her dream, Nightbirde with her radiance appreciating life despite the threats of cancer.

But most of all, both admitted how God has always been behind them, silently working in their lives, fulfilling their dreams!

It is so touching to hear stories of accomplished people like Yuka and Nightbirde who are very talented, so driven yet humbly recognizing God as the very reason for who they are and where they are now.

God at the center stage of life

Yuka and Nightbirde are two modern parables who show us how true are the teachings of Jesus this Sunday as we finally dive into the Ordinary Time with St. Mark as our guide.

After celebrating two major feasts of the Lord these past two consecutive Sundays, we find the mystery of Jesus slowly unfolding among the people who have started following him after hearing him speak and heal many of the sick.

At the same time, St. Mark is slowly introducing us at this part of his gospel the start of the “trial” of Jesus by his enemies who have began to look at him with suspicion and jealousy, accusing him of blasphemy and contempt for the Law.

Caught at the middle of the controversy are the crowds and his disciples – including us today – who have silently followed Jesus. In these coming Sundays, we shall see and hear more stories of the teachings and workings of Jesus, challenging us to take sides, to make a stand like Yuka and Nightbirde that “it is the Lord!” (Jn.21:7) who is at the center stage of our lives, silently working for our own good.

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29
“The Sower” by Van Gogh from Wikipedia commons.org.

God is never absent nor distant from us in life.  
He is always at the center stage of our lives 
especially when we are going through tests, 
just like during an exam in the classroom!

In the two parables that he tells us today, Jesus describes the little beginnings of the kingdom of God like the seed. And in the littleness of this seed is found also the silence of God in transforming us in the same manner seeds grow into plants and crops that bear fruit.

Let us focus on the first parable that is so close to the hearts of the plantitos and plantitas among us. See Jesus vividly telling us how in life God takes all the initiatives, all the “doing” in silence. God is never absent nor distant from us in life. He is always at the center stage of our lives especially when we are going through tests, just like during an exam in the classroom.

Remember how during exams when our classroom is most silent, everybody scratching his/her head, wracking our brains while hurdling the exams while our teachers quietly watch us? They do not give us the answers for the exam for it is part of our learning process but it is during that time when they work hardest, watching over us.

The same with God when we go through tests in life. He is always present and even closest with us as exemplified with Christ’s self-offering on the Cross. That is the meaning of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart we celebrated Friday.

Of course, like that sower or farmer, we still have to do our very best, we have to work hard in cultivating the soil, watering the crops but aside from that, there is nothing else we can do but to patiently wait in silence, trusting in the good quality of seeds we have sown. We do not know how the seed we scattered would sprout and grow but deep inside us, we believe, we know of its good quality that soon enough, it would be harvest time when the grain is ripe.

We may not say it but unconsciously deep in our hearts we know, something good is going to happen for God does everything good. All the more because the seed he had sown in us is his Son, Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh. How could things not turn out good if we have the bestest seed of all, Jesus Christ?!

We just have to believe and be convinced of his love for us.

Photo by author, Pulilan, Bulacan, 2020.

Hope. And be surprised!

Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:6

What a beautiful a reminder from the great Apostle, St. Paul who wrote this letter under severe personal tests and trials from the Corinthians who have resorted to some nasty talks against him instigated in part by some missionaries who sowed confusions about the gospel of Christ.

This is the most personal of all the letters by St. Paul as he bared his very soul after being hurt by the Corinthians who could only see the surface and external things of himself without knowing his great sufferings for them.

That is what we must all try as disciples of the Lord: like St. Paul, we have to believe first in Jesus in order to see him and his glory. We walk by faith, not by sight wherein we live in vibrant hope in God that while everything seems to be too dark and difficult to understand, he is doing something within us that would transform us into better persons after these trials.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Like the power inside the seed being harnessed through time – nobody knows except God almighty what is happening inside. It just happens that one day, we are so amazed at how big and tall a tree has become considering it started from the minute piece of seed like what the Lord had promised Ezekiel in the first reading.

Thus says the Lord God: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on high and lofty mountain… And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.

Ezekiel 17:22, 24

We are journeying in faith without seeing especially in this time of the pandemic. Our time is that of patience and courage. Most of all, of hope.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in Spe Salvi #27, “In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph 2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30).”

Sometimes, even if we try our very best, things do not turn out as we expected, exactly like what most farmers experience after sowing their seeds. When crops fail, they scatter seeds again the following season because they believe in being surprised by God, not by sheer luck.

They choose to believe, to have faith in God who is our present and our future in Jesus Christ who lives in us, whether in good times or in bad.

Going back to Nightbirde, recall how she entered the stage so cool and relaxed, smiling as she answered questions when she confidently declared being a cancer patient. When asked why all the smiles and joy radiating in her, she simply said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

Whoa!

And when she sang until Simon hit the golden buzzer… for a brief moment, I felt God passing by or even stopping by my computer screen, saying hello to me, reminding me about my many complaints in life until I saw Nightbirde. Indeed, the French poet Charles Péguy was right: hope is God’s favorite virtue because it always surprises him.

Like what Nightbirde and Yuka did to us last week.

Let God surprise you this week by doing what you like best. Do not worry. God will do the rest.

A blessed Sunday to everyone! Amen.

Getting nearer the Kingdom of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companions, 03 June 2021
Tobit 6:10-11; 7:1, 9-17; 8:4-9   ><)))'>+<'(((><   Mark 12:38-34
Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

At last! Finally! Something very positive in your words today, O God almighty Father. Asmodeus the demon was finally conquered with Sarah consummating her marriage to Tobiah while in the gospel, a scribe asked Jesus a question without any strings attached.

Like the rains brought by the typhoon yesterday, your words soothed our dried lives these days scorched with so many problems and struggles. How we wish your Son Jesus Christ would also tell us today his very words to that scribe who asked him which is the first of all the commandments:

"You are not far
from the Kingdom of God."
(Mark 12:34)

Cleanse our hearts, dear Jesus, and make us pure and simple in our search for God in our prayers like that scribe. Or better, teach us to be like Tobiah, the kind and faithful son of Tobit who beautifully expressed in a prayer his clean heart in marrying Sarah:

"Now, Lord, you know that I take
this wife of mine not because of lust,
but for a noble purpose.
Call down your mercy on me and on her,
and allow us to live together 
to a happy old age."
They said together, "Amen, amen,"
and went to bed for the night.
(Tobit 8:7-9)

Enable us to learn and practice faithfully your teaching to “Love God with with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our strength” by “loving our neighbor like our selves” (Mk.12:30-31).

Thank you in continuing to send us modern witnesses of faith like St. Charles Lwanga and his 21 companion martyrs of Uganda who chose to remain pure and chaste than give in to the immoralities and idolatry of their king.

Through their intercession, we pray for those among us who have succumbed to the lures of the world, those addicted with social media and those into the continued degradation of the human person with sexual abuses.

O God, bring back our senses of what is right and good, our adherence to values and decency with a deep love for you and your Kingdom. Amen.

Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, January 2019.

Lent is for dreaming again

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday of March, Second Week in Lent, 05 March 2021
Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28   ><}}}*> <*{{{><   Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Lately O Lord you have been consoling me with the shades and hues of Lent, providing much needed inspiration and enthusiasm to forge on amid the many trials I have been going through along with some loved ones hurdling great obstacles in life these days.

As we close another week, you have never stopped showering us with your immense love, dear Father, by inviting us to come to you to be forgiven and enlightened to set all things right again in our lives. No matter how dark or light are the various contrasts of daily life, there is always your Son Jesus Christ journeying with us.

On this first Friday of March, you invite us to dream again of great, good things in life: to dream again of being close to you, of being good, of being loving and loved, of being saved from our sins as we heard the story of Joseph in the first reading and the parable of the wicked tenants in the gospel referring to Jesus. Both were dreamers that someday, we shall be with you in your glory, O God.

But unlike other dreamers, Joseph and Jesus dreamt of salvation in you with “eyes wide open” by working hard on their dreams by remaining faithful and true to you even if others despised them, plotting their deaths.

And so, loving Father, I pray that we dream anew beginning today — of being with you, of doing your work, of making you present in this world where nobody dreams big anymore except of being rich and famous. For those who refuse to dream or cannot dream again for any reason, give them the grace to dream with other dreamers instead of blocking or hindering our dreams like the brothers of Joseph and the wicked tenants of the parable.

Israel loved Joseph best of all his sons, for he was the child of his old age; and he made him a long tunic. when his brothers saw that their father loved him best of allo his sons, they hated him so much that they would not even greet him… They sold Joseph to the Ishmaelite for twenty pieces of silver.

Genesis 37:3-4, 28

Lastly, Lord Jesus, I pray for the dreamers among us that like Joseph and you, may we hold on to our dreams, to keep dreaming until they come true, in you and through you. Amen.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, make my heart like thine.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son praying in our previous Parish, March 2019.

From the Ear to the Heart

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, Third Week in Ordinary Time, 27 January 2021
Hebrews 10:11-18     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Mark 4:1-20

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for being deaf, for refusing to listen to you, for not having the ears to hear your calls. Twice you called out on the crowd gathered before you in the gospel today, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow… Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear” (Mk. 4:3, 9).

So many times in life, we have forgotten the essential use of our ears which is to hear and listen so we may understand. Most of the time, our ears have been reduced to mere decorations of our head to hold eyeglasses as well as be stuffed with ear plugs or covered with headsets to be deadened by sounds we prefer to hear and listen to.

Make us realize anew that our ears were shaped in such a way to look like our heart when put together so that the more we hear and listen to you and others, the more we love.

So many things begin with our ears.

And so often, from the ears, they go to our hearts to be processed.

From hearing to listening to loving.

It is only with a listening heart that we can truly see you passing by everyday in our lives like the Sower sowing to us the seeds of love, the seeds of the kingdom of heaven.

Moreover, cleanse our hearts, remove so many other things not supposed to be there that distort our perceptions of you and of others.

May we realize too that in our refusal to listen to you, so many people have also stopped listening to us, your disciples, especially when we speak more of our words, more of our thoughts, than of your Word and Holy Will.

As you open our ears and hearts to your Word, dear Jesus, teach us to be patient too like our Father, the Sower, to never give up sowing your seeds of the kingdom of God even if nobody listens to us. Amen.

Van Gogh painting of “The Sower” from wikimediacommons.org.