40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday after Ash Wednesday, 18 February 2021
Deuteronomy 30:15-20 ><)))*> + <*(((>< Luke 9:22-25
Thank you very much, O dear God our Father, in giving us a most unique Season of Lent this 2021in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, disturbing us and forcing us to finally examine something we have taken for granted so long: our refusal to make final choices in life.
So many times, we would want to “have our cake and eat it too” wherein we keep on postponing major decisions in life in the hope things would take care of itself, that everything would be better without realizing that the longer we refuse to make a definite choice in life, the more we actually choose something wrong and even wasteful.
Moses said to the people: “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom… I call heaven heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.”
Deuteronomy 30:15, 19-20
Teach us to finally take into our hearts this Lent, O Lord, that to choose life means taking the difficult path of life, your route of the Passion and Death and Resurrection. Life is not about pleasures and comforts, nor lack of responsibilities nor absence of pain and sufferings.
Too often, we are afraid to choose life because we are afraid of responsibilities, of getting hurt, of letting go, and of forgetting one’ s self; hence, we postpone making any choices at all!
Life is lent, a daily choosing of the cross of Jesus Christ in love and respect, humility and justice through others by denying one’s self, taking one’s cross daily to follow the Lord everywhere. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021
It is Lent again, Lord;
forty days of prayer
forty days of sacrifices
forty days of good works
forty days of silence and self-control
forty days of preparations for Easter.
Forgive us that we always forget our daily life
is essentially a daily Lent:
a daily exodus of going to the wilderness
filled with temptations
and calls for fidelity
to your love and person.
In this time of COVID-19
when so many of us are suffering,
help me, O Lord
not to be carried by feelings
and emotions of the Lenten Season;
give me the courage to see
beyond ordinary things,
to care more and share
even with the least that I have,
to find more reasons
to forgive and understand
most of all, to be fair and just with everyone.
Let me find my way back to you, Lord
in this time when everything and everyone I have
is quickly disappearing or have been gone or lost;
despite the face masks we wear,
let me look more into the eyes
of others to see your image and likeness;
let me wash my hands clean of evil and deceit
as I keep distance from occasions of sins
and most of all, let me empty myself of pride
to realize and experience again
my one and only, first true love is you,
alone, O dearest God. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021
Joel 2:12-18 >><)))*> 2Corinthians 5:20-6:2 >><)))*> Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Today we begin our annual Lenten pilgrimage with Ash Wednesday in the very different situation and conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic now in its first full year. Although this may be the most unusual, both unreal and surreal Lent since the end of Second World War, this could also be our most real Lent so far.
Being real means getting into the very core of our very selves, focusing on the more essential that are invisible to the eyes. Since the popularity of social media and smart phones, life has become more of a big show than of living that we care more of lifestyles than life itself.
All three readings today invite us to get real, to confront our true selves, stop all pretensions by letting go of our many excuses and alibis. No more ifs and buts. Just our bare selves before God for tomorrow or later may be too late. St. Paul’s words perfectly express the challenge and beauty of Lent 2021:
Brothers and sisters: We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:20, 6:2
Lent is a journey into inner self
to reach out to God through others.
The forty days of Lent are a journey characterized by three important acts so central not only to Christianity but also to the other two great faiths of the world, Judaism and Islam. These are fasting, prayer and alms giving. Through these acts, we journey back into our very selves in order to reach out to God through others.
And we start by cleansing our very selves through the putting of dry ashes on the crown of our head instead of the more usual imposition on forehead to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The use of ashes as an outward sign of our inner cleansing beautifully tells us of its being natural cleansing agents long before the invention of chemical solutions. As such, being closest to earth, ashes remind us so well of our mortality, “for dust thou art and unto dust shall you return”!
However, though we are all marked for death as the ashes signify, they are blessed at the start of today’s Mass to remind us too that we die in Jesus Christ because ultimately, we return to God who is our true origin and end.
Hence, the need to cleanse our very selves by emptying ourselves of all the dirt and filth of sin inside that have marred our image and likeness in God. More than the outward appearance of putting ashes on our heads to signify cleansing is its internal significance of cleansing within by self- emptying through fasting.
In fasting, we cleanse our inner selves by denying ourselves not only of food but also of the usual things that fill us especially in this age of affluence and consumerism. Not only of material things but anything that make us forget God and others, that make us forget that we are mere mortals, weak and imperfect.
By fasting, we empty ourselves of our pride to be filled with Christ’s humility, justice, and love so we realize the world does not revolve around us. That we do not need so many “likes” and “followers” like in social media that inflate our ego but still leave us empty and lost.
And now is the perfect time, as St. Paul reminds us.
When we look back in this past year, so many of our relatives and friends have died, some alone, due to COVID-19 and other illnesses. The pandemic had grimly reminded us of life’s fragility and the need to be more loving always because we’ll never know if we can still be with everyone.
Fasting reminds us who and what are most essential in this life like God, life, and loved ones. Not likes or followers, luxuries, money, fame, or food.
In Tagalog, the word for meat is “laman”; to fast and go without meat literally means “walang laman” which also means “empty”!
When we fast and become empty, then we create space for God and for others.
That is why it is easier to pray and be one with God in meditation and contemplation when our stomach and senses are empty because we become more sensitive to his presence in Jesus. Silence in itself is a kind of fasting, the very key to any form of prayer.
Who needs to look gloomy when fasting when we are filled with the most wonderful and essential in this life who is God as Jesus tells us in the gospel, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites” (Mt.6:16).
In the same manner, whatever we save in our fasting, whatever we deny ourselves, we give and share with others in alms giving. Try opening your Facebook. What fills up your page? Your selfies? Your me-time? Your work and errands? Whatever fills your FB page, most often it always gratifies you for better and for worse. And yes, of course, they all indicate how glamorous and fabulous is your life.
This Lent 2021, so many people have lost their jobs. So many are struggling to make ends meet. Others’ sufferings have become more unbearable not only with financial difficulties but simply due to difficult conditions traveling to undergo chemotherapy or dialysis.
Life has been so unreal, even surreal for all of us since last year. And God is the one most sad of all in what we have been going through in this pandemic. But he cannot do anything for us because we still rely so much with our very selves, with our science and technology that all feed on to our pride and selfishness. Every day we hear of news of all kinds of abuses and lack of kindness going on, even among states and governments in the allocation of vaccines.
The pandemic is not purely medical and biological in nature but something spiritual.
Now, more than ever, is the Prophet Joel’s call more true:
Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart, with fasting, and weeping, and mourning. Rend your hearts, not your garments, and return to the Lord, your God. For gracious and merciful is he, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment.
If there is anyone who wishes this pandemic to end so we can see and be near with each other without any fear of getting sick, of dying, that must be God. Like St. Paul, let us implore everyone to be reconciled with God right in our hearts by taking our fasting, praying, and alms giving seriously. Amen.
From the rising to setting of the sun
My heart sings of the many blessings God brings in
every beginning and
ending of each day.
And so daily I pray
God will stay
so I may share
his light, his life, his love
to everyone I pray.
40 Shades of Lent, Wednesday, Week-V, 01 April 2020
Daniel 3:14-20, 91-92, 95 ><)))*> +++ <*(((>< John 8:31-42
O God our loving Father, thank you very much for this brand new day you have given us. Thank you for another day to be better, to be safer, and most of all, to be more faithful , truthful, and loving to you.
Grant us the same courage you have given the three young men cast into the hot furnace after refusing to worship the pagan idol of their pagan captors.
King Nebuchadnezzar said: “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you will not serve my god, or worship the golden statue that I set up? Who is the God that can deliver you out of my hands?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar, “There is no need for us to defend ourselves before you in this matter… But even if our God will not save us from the white-hot furnace, know, O king, that we will not serve your god or worship your golden statue which you set up.”
Daniel 3:14, 16, 18
O dear Lord, people are wondering why we still pray, why we celebrate the Mass even our churches are closed, and why or what are we doing when we bring the Blessed Sacrament around our parish.
Many are asking where is our God in all these sickness and deaths caused by COVID-19.
Many are like King Nebuchadnezzar trying to put down the Church founded by your Son Jesus Christ, wondering what we are doing in the midst of this pandemic.
Merciful Father, you know us very well as your children.
Give us the perseverance and fidelity to keep on doing what we have always been doing in hiddenness without much pomp and pageantry and other public relation stunts.
Let our silent works for you and in you continue so that people may know you truly exist, you are among us even if you do not give tangible signs of your presence or proofs of your power.
Let us remain in your Son Jesus Christ so we may always know and follow and most of all, stand by him who is Truth himself because “the truth will set us free” (Jn.8:32).Amen.
Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan
Martes, Ika-5 Linggo ng Kuwaresma, 31 Marso 2020
Bilang 21:4-9 ><)))*> +++ <*(((>< Juan 8:21-30
Batay sa salaysay ng aklat ng buhay
nainip mga Israelita sa paglalakbay sa ilang
nang sila ay dumaing, nagreklamo
kay Moises ng ganito:
"Kami ba'y inialis mo sa Egipto
upang patayin na ilang na ito?
Wala kaming makain ni mainom!
Sawa na kami sa walang kwentang pagkaing ito."
Bakit nga ba hindi na naubos
ating mga reklamo
lalo na kapag mayroong krisis
walang mintis yaring mga bibig
walang hanggang daing
tila hindi aabutin, napakamainipin
nakakasakit na ng damdamin
pati Diyos sinusubok, hinahamon natin?
Kung inyong mapapansin
yung talagang walang makain
hindi na makuhang dumaing
tanging isipin saan hahanapin
kanilang isasaing, lakas ay iipunin
sa pagbabaka-sakaling dinggin
dalanging tulong dumating
kanilang hahatiin at titipirin.
Ang masakit na kapansin-pansin
ngayong panahon ng COVID-19
marami sa mga daing ng daing
sa Facebook pinararating!
Akala mo walang makain
bakit nasa harapan ng computer screen?
Katulad nilang nagmamagaling
ibang natulungan may reklamo pa rin!
kaloob nitong COVID-19 sa ating panahon
mabuksan puso at kalooban sa katotohanan
"Hindi lamang sa tinapay nabubuhay ang tao"
na kung uunahin natin si Kristo
makikilala natin bawat kapwa tao
ka-patid at ka-putol na dapat bahaginan
ano man mayroon ako.
Madalas sa maraming reklamo
puso ay sinarahan, pinanlalabuan ang isipan
bibig ang laging binubuksan, hindi mawalan ng laman
pinababayaan kaluluwa at kalooban
tiyan lamang nilalagyan
kaya walang kahulugan ni katuturan
ano mang karanasan hindi mapagyaman
kaunting hirap at tiisin, puro daing at hinaing.
Daniel 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62 ><)))*> + <*(((>< John 8:1-11
Our loving Father, today I pray in a very special way for all people who have been maligned, especially for those whose reputation have been destroyed in public by false accusations, those put to shame in our family and community by harsh words.
Like those two women in our readings today, Susana in the Book of Daniel and the woman caught in adultery in John’s gospel, these people unjustly accused in public or “in their face” are surely suffering so much in the loneliness of their homes, of their room in this period of lockdown.
Most especially, Lord, I pray for those languishing in jail especially those for crimes they did not commit.
But Susan cried aloud: “O eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be; you know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things with which these wicked men have charged me.” The Lord heard her prayer.
Comfort, O God, those crying for justice.
Give them patience and perseverance, trust and confidence in Jesus Christ your Son who have come “to proclaim liberty to captives” (Lk.4:18b).
Grant them a healing of memories.
Most especially, I pray O God, that Jesus may touch them today with the same gentleness and love, mercy and forgiveness without any condemnation except to go and “sin no more” (Jn.8:11). Amen.
40 Shades of Lent, Sunday Week-V, Year-A, 29 March 2020
Ezekiel 37:12-14 +++ Romans 8:8-11 +++ John 11:1-45
Once again as we near the closing of our Lenten journey, Jesus does another “sign” or miracle — his last and grandest in anticipation of his coming Passion, Death, and Resurrection: the raising from death of his friend Lazarus.
What is so beautiful in this story is how the evangelist involves us his readers and hearers into a conversation with Jesus unlike last Sunday at the healing of a man born blind where the characters conversed only among themselves.
The raising of Lazarus to life is more engaging because it is deeply personal and intimate as it involves friends dearest to Jesus — exactly like each one of us! And that is why it is also very timely as we go through the ongoing lockdown due to COVID-19.
When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
My dear family and friends, Jesus assures us today of the Father’s love and healing, that he would save us from the deadly corona virus. Come and let us converse with him with the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.
Presence of Jesus
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
Twice do we hear this line in this very long story of the raising of Lazarus when Mary repeated it upon meeting Jesus later at the entrance of their town of Bethany.
And like Martha and Mary, we always say it to Jesus too as if he ever leaves us alone!
“Lord, if you had been here…”
Jesus is always with us.
We are the ones who always leave Jesus behind.
We always have so many other things to do, so many other people to meet that we have no time to truly pray and most of all, celebrate the Sunday Mass every week.
It is my hope that following the suspension of the “public Masses” due to lockdown, people now realize the value of the Holy Eucharist which is the “summit” of our Christian life where we are nourished by the words of God and strengthened by the Body and Blood of Christ.
Long before we were told to observe “social distancing” in this time of pandemic, we have long been distant from one another and from God.
How ironic that these modern means of communications were invented to bring us closer but have actually brought us farther apart! Most often, we are close enough with someone miles across the seas but too distant and cold to persons physically near us, even seated beside us.
Let us spend more time with our family and most especially with God in prayer during this enhanced quarantine period to be the presence of Christ with one another. Let us remember Fr. Patrick Peyton’s expression, “The family that prays together, stays together; a world at prayer is a world at peace”.
Remember: the most wonderful and enriching relationships we can have are those rooted in Jesus Christ who is always present in us.
Jesus is perturbed and deeply troubled
While praying over this long gospel, this photo by Raffy Lerma kept on flashing in my mind, showing me how Jesus must have reacted upon seeing Mary weeping over the death of her brother Lazarus.
He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept.
Like our gospel today, Lerma’s photo of a mother crying over her son lost to “tokhang” at the height of this administration’s war against drug in July 2016 is very conversant, so moving like the Pieta by Michaelangelo in Rome. In fact, the government doubted the veracity of the photo, claiming through its trolls it was merely “staged” or “drawing” as we say in journalism. The photo is authentic because the event truly happened. And continued to happen before this lockdown.
What I like most with this photo is the composure of the mother. You can feel she was deeply sad and troubled, weeping without the hysterical theatrics or palahaw in Tagalog that we see in many instances like funerals.
Multiply that to the highest degree and we get the image of Jesus “perturbed and deeply troubled, weeping” at the death of his friend Lazarus.
There is the gentle yet firm mastery by Jesus of the situation, of the loss and tragedy.
No hysterics nor theatrics. Pure and all-encompassing presence.
It would be the same mastery and composure Jesus would exhibit at his coming Passion and Death, reaching its highest point on Easter.
Here we find Jesus Christ truly human, truly Divine. Yes, he was perturbed and deeply troubled; he cried and wept not because of weakness but rather more of strength, of being true and determined in overcoming not only his coming Passion but most of all, our own setbacks and losses.
Have faith, my dear reader. Jesus is surely “perturbed and deeply troubled, weeping” again with us in this time of the corona pandemic. Step back and let him be himself in being one with us; then, wait and see what he is going to do next for us.
Jesus joins us in death so we can rise to life in him
Today is not a beautiful day to die, especially for victims of COVID-19. No wakes. No Masses. Just simple blessings after cremation. If ever possible.
The scenes from Italy are deeply disturbing that has become the new epicenter of corona pandemic. According to a report last Monday, the obituary page of a local newspaper had increased tenfold in a week, listing up to 150 deaths daily! More disturbing is the fact that “death and mourning happen in isolation”.
Our readings this Sunday speak a lot about death symbolized by graves.
But not on a morbid sense like a defeat or a loss; rather, as a victory, a raising to new life!
Thus says the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live.
Ezekiel proclaimed these words of the Lord to the Israelites during their Babylonian Exile when they lost everything and everyone, including God as they thought have forsaken them for their sinfulness. This prophecy is finally fulfilled in Christ’s coming and victory over death on Easter.
In calling back Lazarus to life, Jesus shows us in this scene his tremendous power over death and defeat, agony and pain, sin and evil. It is a prefiguration to a grander scale of his own Resurrection on Easter after the Good Friday.
And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”
Do you believe this?
Jesus is calling us to have faith in him, to believe in him especially in this time of COVID-19 pandemic. And like his question to Martha which he repeated twice, the Lord is asking us the same question today:
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?
Do you believe in him, Jesus the Christ?
Good things have also been happening lately in this two-week old lockdown.
Families are again getting together, staying together. Finally we now have more time than ever to converse once again as husband and wife, children and parents, brothers and sisters.
Some people have rediscovered God and are back to praying again, to believing again.
Even Mother Nature is said to have taken a big break during this lockdown, giving us spectacular views never seen before due to cleaner air, less pollution and congestion in the cities.
These are all conversations going on – thanks to COVID-19!
Let us join the conversations with our loved ones, with nature, with our self, and with God.
Below is one of my favorite photos this week taken by GMA-7 reporter Mr. Raffy Tima. Again, another photo conversing with us, like Jesus in the story of the raising to life of Lazarus.
See the Memorial Cross on Mt. Samat in Bataan?
The raising of Lazarus is the “sign” or miracle as the other evangelists would say, that prefigures the definitive victory of Jesus on the cross.
Like the sisters of Lazarus, believe in Jesus who is awakening us today amid the threats or crosses of corona virus to bear all these sufferings, to passover like him to the life that bodily death cannot touch “through his Spirit dwelling in us” (Rom. 8:11). Amen.
Wisdom 2:1, 12-22 ><)))*> +++ <*(((>< John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves. Many are the troubles of the just man but out of them all, the Lord delivers him.”
God our heavenly Father, we come to you today, begging you for more strength, more courage, more faith in you as the pressures and stress increase and worsen due this COVID-19 pandemic the whole world is suffering with.
Like your Son Jesus Christ in today’s gospel, we can feel so strongly the tremendous pressure he was going through from his enemies in the weeks leading to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection that he could not openly go to Jerusalem.
But, still he went there in secret to continue his mission of proclaiming the good news, trusting in you, our Father in heaven, who alone designates each one’s “hour”.
So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come.
Give us the grace, Lord, to withstand all the pressures and stress going on within us, in our family and community as we enter the second week of lockdown.
Most especially, we pray for our frontliners in health and medicine who are subjected to intense pressures by the pandemic. Some of them have lost their lives fulfilling their mission. Bless their souls, bless their loved ones left behind.
We pray, Lord, for those who have to work today so we can have food on our table, electricity and communication lines, water, and also security we have seem to take for granted these days.
May this lockdown provide us with the much needed rest to fight all the stresses and pressures we have been carrying on our shoulders for a long time.
May this lockdown be a Sabbath for us like you have envisioned in the beginning when you created everything. Amen.
Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-26 ng Marso 2020
Tinuturing ng mga Hudyo
ang pagsamba ng kanilang ninuno
sa guyang ginto
ang pinaka-nakakahiyang yugto
sa kanilang kasaysayan
nang talikuran nila sa ilang
butihing Diyos hanap katapatan lamang.
Mula noon hanggang ngayon
guyang ginto ang naging larawan
na siyang kumakatawan sa ating
mga sinasambang diyos-diyusan:
salapi at kayamanan,
kapangyarihan at katanyagan,
lahat iiwan, tatalikuran makamit lamang.
Hindi ako kumibo noong una
kahit napupuno ng nag-aalimpuyo
na galit at ngitngit sa mga balitang sumisingit
mga VIP para sa kakaunting testing kit;
ngunit nang itong si Koko Pimentel
hindi nagpigil, di napasupil
ako ma'y kumulo ang dugo sa gigil.
Di niya inalintana mahawahan
mga karamihan ng sakit na di pa maunawaan
siya pa ngayon ang nangangatuwiran
sa kanyang kapabayaan at kapalaluan
pakiwari siya ay tama at kawawa
kaya sa kanya ang madla
nagalit halos siya ay isumpa.
Ito ang malungkot na katotohanan
nalantad sa isang iglap ng kapabayaan,
kahangalan at kayabangan
silang mga halal at makapangyarihan
sa taumbayan walang pakialam
sila na mismo ang guyang ginto
na ibig sila ang sambahin at paglingkuran!
Kaya nga aking mga kababayan
huwag kalilimutan mga taksil ng bayan
huwag nang ibalik sa luklukan
dahil ngayon pa lamang ay nagkasubukan
sa oras ng kagipitan tayo ay kanilang iniwan
hindi dapat pagkatiwalaan
sapagkat sila'y mga propetang bulaan.