Tasting and seeing God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor, 29 April 2022
Acts 5:34-42   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 6:1-15
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.
On this feast of the first
woman doctor of the Church,
St. Catherine of Siena,
let me borrow her beautiful words
as my prayer to you, 
O God our loving Father:

Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you.

From the Office of Readings, “On Divine Providence” by St. Catherine of Siena
Very often you send us
men and women you use to change
the course of history with their 
practicality and spirituality like
Gamaliel the Pharisee - through him,
the Apostles were finally set free
to go with their mission after
convincing the Sanhedrin that 
"if this endeavor or this activity 
is of human origin, it will destroy
itself.  But if it comes from God,
you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting
against God" (Acts 5:38-39).
You are indeed a mystery as deep 
as the sea using even enemies to
work in our favor so that the more 
I search you, the more I find you, 
and the more I find you, the more 
I search you as you slowly reveal
yourself in every unfolding of your works;
if others would only allow your grace 
for them to desire you, dear God, 
then they would realize this wondrous
gift and joy of living in you in Christ.

I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you.

From the Office of Readings, “On Divine Providence” by St. Catherine of Siena
In your Son Jesus Christ's most
precious gift of his presence in the
Holy Eucharist, like the people at the
wilderness with him, we have felt 
how you work in our midst, most of 
all how we must cooperate with Jesus
to accomplish your work.
Despite her being illiterate and lack of
so much worldly credentials, 
St. Catherine eventually succeeded in 
bringing back the Papacy to Rome
even long after her death while her
writings and reflections have 
become a treasury of testament
to how you work among us despite
our many limitations.  May we have
the courage to allow you to do your
work in us, in Christ.  Amen.

Easter is making our lives whole again in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Easter, 28 April 2022
Acts 5:27-33   ><))))*> + <*((((><   John 3:31-36
Photo by author, 20 April 2022.
Lord Jesus Christ,
in this season of Easter,
help me make my fragmented
life whole again in you.
So many times, I feel like 
the many members of the
Sanhedrin in the first reading
today demanding so many things
from myself that I fail to obey God;
grant me the courage like of Peter
and the Apostles who boldly declared,
"We must obey God rather than men"
(Acts 5:29). 
Like Nicodemus in the gospel,
I am still afraid to come to you
in broad daylight, still hiding in the
night because I am afraid of what
people would say and tell about me
in being faithful to you, in being one
with you.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.

John 3:36
To believe in you, dear Jesus,
is to enter into a relationship with
you at the center; to believe in you
is to live and abide in you, Lord.
And that is why our lives are fragmented:
we are so divided and broken because
we follow the world, not you; we are
easily tempted and enticed to the 
many lures of pleasures the world
offers that only leave us more empty,
and more lost.
This season of Easter,
help me go back to you, Lord,
in prayers and silence;
let me focus on you again.
Amen.

“Are we there yet?”

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 05 April 2022
Numbers 21:4-9   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   John 8:21-30
Photo by author, Memorial of the Bronze Serpent on Mt. Nebo, Jordan, 2019.

From Mount Hor the children of Israel set out on the Red Sea road, to bypass the land of Edom. But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”

Numbers 21:4-5
O God our Father,
I must admit like the Israelites,
I feel impatient, I feel so tired
already in this five weeks of Lent;
like a child with all sarcasm and
insults, I feel like asking "are we
there yet?"
Help me O God in this long journey
of Lent, of life itself, especially during 
these two years of the pandemic;
many among us have been worn out
of staying home, of being told to quarantine,
of having those vaccines, of those sitting 
all day before the computer screen for
our on line classes and work from home.
Forgive us, O God, when we get impatient
in the journey of life, when we rationalize
everything like the Pharisees when Jesus 
told them, "I am going away and you will
look for me... where I am going you cannot 
come" (John 8:21); forgive us, dear God, 
when we can't wait for our own "hour", 
in rushing everything that we miss Christ
passing by in this journey of life as
our companion.
Open our minds and our hearts,
our eyes and our arms to believe in
Jesus your Son who had come to
lead us back to you, our true home,
our "Promised Land"; remind us that
you O Lord is not a concept to be
understood but a Person - the I AM
WHO AM - to be accepted and loved.
Amen.

The Annunciation: the reality of God, the reality of our humanity

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, 25 March 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10 ><}}}*> Hebrews 10:4-10 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by author, chapel beneath the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel, May 2019.

Beneath the huge and magnificent Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is a beautiful chapel where one may find a small cave converted into another little chapel with iron grills to keep off people from approaching the brightly lit altar believed to be the site where the Archangel Gabriel announced the good news of Christ’s birth to Mary.

At the base of the altar are the words, Verbum caro hic factum est, “The Word was made flesh here.”

Borrowed from John’s gospel who declared Verbum caro factum est – The Word was made flesh – the one who have thought of adding the demonstrative pronoun here to declare it as the site of the Annunciation – Verbum caro hic factum est – was definitely divinely inspired to remind us that the reality of God is something deeply ingrained in our own realities of here and now, in our very selves.

Photo by author, site of the Annunciation, May 2019.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”

Luke 1:26-28

Only Luke has this account of the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary. And true to his prologue to his gospel of “investigating everything accurately anew” about the life and teachings of Jesus, Luke tells us how the Annunciation happened with all the details like the five w’s in a news report, the who-what-where-when-why as we have heard proclaimed today.

This is very important because it tells us the factuality of the great spiritual reality that changed world history and the whole humanity when God became human, when eternity entered the temporal.

It is a beautiful presentation of this great event so profound and so touching that continues to happen within each one of us every day of our lives, of God coming to us, filling us with his grace because each of us is a beloved, a highly favored one chosen to be the indwelling of his Son, Jesus Christ like Mary.

This is the grace of this solemnity we celebrate nine months before Christmas, that God comes to us in our very humanity, always inviting us like Mary to receive Jesus, to be the vessel and instrument in fulfilling God’s great plans. We are like Mary in everything except in her being immaculately conceived – we are all poor and lowly, mostly a nobody in the society, but so loved by God!

Photo by author, flowers outside the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth 2019.

God comes to us precisely where we are, in our every here and now even when we are most lowly and down, when we are deep in sin and despair, in trials and sufferings, in pains and in hurts because like Mary, even before the angel came, God had already silently started working on many things to save us.

There is always God’s perfect timing when we would meet the right people who would guide and help us.

There is always an Elizabeth that God would point us to as a signpost and proof of his reality, of his wonderful plan starting to uncover right in our very lives if we would stop like Mary to listen further to his words.

Speaking of Elizabeth, recall in Luke’s account that the angel mentioned her to Mary to allay her of her fears upon receiving the good news of Christ’s coming.

So often when God comes to us, fear naturally follows. In the Bible, it is described as “reverential fear” which comes upon an experience of the Holy; it is a feeling of being so small before the almighty God (mysterium fascinans) yet deep in this fear is a joy within about to burst because of the great honor and privilege of being loved and recognized by God. There is that normal feeling of doubts of whether we can do God’s mission or not as well as the feeling of checking the reality if it is really happening at all! Once we have verified we are not dreaming, that indeed we are called by God despite our smallness, that is when we suddenly remember our fellow mortals doing the work of God.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God… And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:36-38
Photo by author, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, 2019.

By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:10

Last week I underwent a surgery. It was my first time to be hospitalized and to go under the knife. Though it was a very simple procedure, I was nervous. Very nervous in fact although I tried to keep my sense of humor especially with my doctors and nurses.

The experience had taught me so many valuable lessons that I am still “masticating” them, trying to find words on how to express those learnings and realizations.

One of those is the discovery of my humanity, of my mortality. I feel I have become more human with that experience when I finally accepted my body, when slowly I have learned to look closely at my body parts I took for granted even so ashamed to look at, with all the blood and abscess and wounds.

Hindi pala puwede na hindi tayo magkakasakit, na mahina tayo, at walang perpekto sa atin na hindi kakailanganin ang tulong ng iba.

As I learned to accept my mortal body, slowly it dawned upon me how it is the true path to letting go and let God with my spiritual and emotional woundedness for it is in our humanity when God’s reality is most felt, most true. It is only when we are faced with the real threat of “harm” or being hurt, of possibly being extinct and gone from this earth when we realize what is to be afraid and finally entrust our total self to God for whatever will happen next.

That is the gift of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ that formally began in the annunciation of his birth to Mary. It is in accepting our very humanity and mortality when God truly comes, when we become one in him through Jesus Christ on the Cross. Amen.

Repenting, remaining in God present in us, with us in Christ

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Lent-C, 20 March 2022
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 ><}}}*> Luke 13:1-9
Photo by author, July 2020 in Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

As I have told you at the start of this 40-day journey, Lent is like a coming home to God with Ash Wednesday until Saturday after as the porch and each Sunday a door leading us into the inner rooms closer to God.

At each door these past two Sundays, we were opened to God’s majesty and wonder, love and mercy in Jesus Christ who had come to help us triumph over many temptations in life, to be transformed and transfigured in him.

With Luke as our guide this year, he had opened to us each Sunday a very unique door to experience God’s majesty and mystery, his love and mercy offered in Jesus Christ.

This becomes most pronounced this Third and Fourth Sundays when we find his gospel stories as exclusively his alone: Christ’s call to repentance following the news of Pilate’s massacre of 18 Galileans during a temple worship and the parable of the Merciful Father more known as parable of the Prodigal Son.

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

Luke 13:1-5
Photo by author, parish Via Crucis, 11 March 2022.

Our “blaming game”

At first hearing, our gospel today sounds like a news broadcast of brutalities and mishaps, trials and sufferings happening almost daily around the world. So many times, they happen closest to us personally or within our own circles of family and friends.

Only Luke has this account of teaching by Jesus; nowhere would you find in the gospels any account of Pilate ordering this massacre of Galileans but the Jewish historian Josephus had recorded many instances of the Roman governor’s ruthless reign.

And here we find the artistry of Luke in inserting this scene in his gospel the Church has chosen as part of our Lenten itinerary. So often in life, we keep on blaming somebody else except our very selves for every negative things happening to us and around us, even considering it as “divine chastisements” or karma to those people we consider as evil.

It is true that evil begets evil, but the seeming dominion of sin and evil in the world is so wide for us to attribute blame only to certain persons as if others, including ourselves, had no part in it. It always takes two to tango!

Worst case of this “blaming game” of ours is to even link our sufferings and trials with God.

Nothing bad can ever come from God like disasters and catastrophes, sickness and turmoils because God is love. God offers only life, never death nor destruction for he does only what is good. It is very wrong to think at all that God has something to do with any of these problems happening in the world like the pandemic or in our personal lives.

Photo by author, Sinai Mountain Range in Egypt, May 2019.

This is the gist of the Lord’s response to the people bringing him the bad news of the 18 Galileans ordered massacred by Pilate, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means!”. God does not punish at all! Bad things happen because of sins and that is what we always have to look inside us, how have we contributed to the evil happening.

And to make it clearer that God has nothing to do whatsoever with all these bad things happening to us, Jesus added, “Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means!”.

However, Jesus is not telling us to be resigned to the absurdities of the world and of humankind. We can all do something to greatly prevent and reduce all these misfortunes and sufferings around us and that is the way of repentance, of conversion – the very calls of the prophets in the Old Testament and by John the Baptist.

Now, Jesus our Savior, the Son of God, is voicing out this call of repentance with urgency and new authority not only because it is the only way back to God but precisely due to his very nature of being loving and patient, merciful and forgiving.

The kind of God we have, the only one there is

The grace of this third Sunday of Lent is the revelation of the kind of God we have, the only one there is: a very loving and patient, merciful and forgiving God who is also perfectly present among us in Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, site of the burning bush in Sinai now inside St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.

In the first reading, we are told of that unforgettable scene of Moses at the burning bush where God revealed himself as “I AM WHO AM” – the One who is always present with us in the past, in the future, and most especially in every here and now, the present moment.

When we think of God, what comes to our mind, what do we say about him?

God told Moses “Thus you say to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you” (Ex. 3:15) to remind them that this God has always been present with his people.

With Abraham, God first made the promise of being the father of all nations (last Sunday’s first reading), to Isaac he revealed himself in the stairway to heaven, and to Jacob that he would bring them to Egypt and liberate them after. Now in Moses, everything is coming into fulfillment of this great nation to be set free by God, a prefiguration Christ and his saving mission.

Throughout history, God never left his people, working great marvels in the past to deliver them from slavery, a passing over and exodus, assuring us of his presence and salvation in the future by remaining at our side.

History is cyclic, everything seems to be happening again but with an upward trajectory towards God; in every repetition of history, the question is where are we standing with God, are we still the same the first time we encountered him, descending to vice and sins or have we grown in virtues and holiness?

Salvation history and secular history continue to unfold for both are one in God; hence, we must not waste every moment to return to God, to repent and be converted. Beware of Paul’s warning, “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor. 10:12)! Remember those Galileans massacred by Pilate or those 18 people at Siloam crushed to death by tower that had fallen – anything can happen with us, so be ready. Never leave God who is always with us, assuring us with salvation in Jesus.

Beginning this Sunday, continuing to next week with the parable of the prodigal son and finally on the fifth Sunday of Lent when we skip Luke’s gospel to borrow from John for the story of the woman caught in adultery, we are being immersed into the deeper mystery of this God we call Father made known to us by Jesus Christ through his own passion, death and resurrection.

The more we enter God’s mystery every Sunday of Lent, the more his “height, breath and depth” (Eph. 3:18) appear to us, making us realize he is real, very true like another person we can feel and hear, always with us, patiently waiting for us to bear fruit like the owner of the fig tree in the parable.

How have you experienced God’s presence this past week?

What else do we need to be convinced of his love and mercy that we still refuse to repent and be converted in Jesus Christ?

The time is now, not yesterday or tomorrow for God is I AM WHO AM, one who is in the present. Amen. Have a blessed week.

Thank you for the prayers; I am home trying to recuperate from my surgery.

Photo by author, inside St. Catherine Monastery with Mt. Sinai at the background in Egypt, May 2019.

What preoccupies you?

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent, 16 March 2022
Jeremiah 18:18-20   <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 20:17-28
Photo by author, Pater Noster Church outside Jerusalem, 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
O Lord our God, our loving
Father!  Thank you very much
for every blessing you send me
even in the midst of sickness,
trials and blessings.  Indeed,
everything is pure grace from you.
Cleanse my mind and my heart
of my sins and negative thoughts;
may you be alone the first and
the last in my mind and in my heart.
Like Jeremiah:

Heed me, O Lord, and listen to what my adversaries say. Must good be repaid with evil that they should dig a pit to take my life? Remember that I stood before you to speak in their behalf, to turn away your wrath from them.

Jeremiah 18:19-20
How inspiring is your prophet Jeremiah,
Lord!  Amid grave dangers as he heard
the words of his enemies whom he had
pleaded before you, the only thing he had
in his mind and his heart was you - just
to remember him. 
In the same manner, 
give me such courage and 
lucidity to remain faithful to
you even in grave dangers!
Please, purify me in the same 
manner you cleansed the brothers
James and John along with their
mother who pleaded to your Son
for power and position when he
was nearing his passion, death
and resurrection.  Turn away our 
minds and hearts from things of
the world, of selfish interests
most especially in moments of 
trials and difficulties.  Amen.

Talinghaga ng Kuwaresma

Lawswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-07 ng Marso, 2022
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 2019
Kuwaresma:
nagsisimula Miercules de Ceniza
mga noo'y pinapahiran ng abo
sa anyo ng Krus ni Kristo, paalala
tayo ay markado na yayao -
"Alalahanin sa alabok ika'y nanggaling,
at sa alabok karin babalik" - ngunit,
tinitiyak din ng Krus na hindi magwawakas 
pagkaagnas at pagkabulok nitong 
ating katawan dahil sa kahuli-hulihan 
si Kristo ay babalik upang ibangon tayo 
at mabuo mga buto at laman ng kasu-kasuan
mabubuhay magpakailanman
pati katawan kaisa ng kaluluwa.
Sa panahon ng Kuwaresma,
hinihikayat tayong mag-ayuno
at mag-abstinensiya, ipagpaliban 
kaginhawahan sa katawan
hindi upang pahirapan ni parusahan
kungdi upang maranasan kapanatilihan 
ng Diyos nating banal; tinitiis kagutuman 
layaw pinipigilan upang tanging
panaligan at asahan Poong Maykapal;
katawan ay sinasaid upang mawalan 
ng laman upang mapunan, mapalitan
ng Espiritung Banal, magkaroon ng puwang
at pitak para sa Diyos at kapwa tao 
na ating tinatalikuran at nakakalimutan.
Pagmasdan kabalintunaan 
sa gitna ng kasaganaan di lamang 
ng pagkain at kagamitan pati ng
mga gawain at maraming kaisipan
hindi maitatanggi ating pagkalugami 
sa kadiliman ng kawalan ng kahulugan;
itong ating buhay, araw-araw na Kuwaresma 
sa tuwina ipinapaalala pananalangin at
pagtitika, pag-aayuno at paglilimos
sana ating matalos na siyang landas 
pabalik sa Diyos na ating hantungan
at pinagmulan, ating kaganapan na
natatagpuan, nararanasan kapag ating
pinapasan Krus ni Hesus na ating kaligtasan.
Larawan mula sa ravenscov.org

Ash Wednesday: rising from the ruins of life

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 02 March 2022
Joel 2:12-18 ><}}}}*> 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:2 ><}}}}*> Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
Image from Google.

For the third straight year, we enter the Season of Lent in the most unusual conditions in the world. Perhaps, even surreal. We had in 2020 the start of the COVID-19 pandemic persisting through 2021 up to the present that has altered the way we live and how we look at life.

Just when we felt like “Easter” coming in 2021, there came the stronger Delta variant at around this time that claimed so many lives among us.

Now in 2022 after we have all the vaccines available to put COVID-19 in control with a “tamer” variant Omicron, we have a more serious concern with Russia invading Ukraine.

To a certain degree, it is “good” this had happened at this time when we are starting the Lenten Season with Ash Wednesday that reminds us the question we should be asking is not “where is God” but “where are we, his people”?

It has always been the same question ever since – of “where are we in relation to God” every time there are man-made and natural disasters like wars and famine, epidemics and plagues, or earthquakes, drought and floods.

It is easier to blame God for all of our troubles because he is always silent, never answering us back; but, it is in his silence when we also realize the truth that we are the ones who have drifted apart from God, who have gone lost away from him who is always looking for us, waiting for us to come back.

It is in the silence of God that he is most present especially when we are deep in sin and sufferings.

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. Why should they say among the peoples, “Where is their God?” Then the Lord was stirred to concern for his land and took pity on his people.

Joel 2:12-13, 17b-18
From istockphoto.com by Getty Images.

Lent: A coming home to God for us mortals, sinners, and ruined

Lent is a “coming home” to God with Ash Wednesday serving like a porch that leads us inside the “house of God” with each of its five Sundays acting like a door opening us closer and closer into the innermost room where God is.

In the shadows of the war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic and the heated national elections in our country, let us focus on the practice of giving of ashes every Ash Wednesday which is a gesture often mentioned in the Bible.


Ashes remind us first of all, of our mortality, that we shall all die one day. This is the reason why we priests say “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen.2:7) while imposing ashes on your foreheads in the form of a cross.

And there lies the good news too of Ash Wednesday: we do not just die, rot and return to ash because at the end of time, we shall all rise again to become whole – body and soul – like Jesus Christ!

From ravenscov.org.

Though we are marked for death, Ash Wednesday reassures us of our resurrection and salvation in Christ signified by the ash in the form of a cross on our foreheads.

Ashes signal our readiness for repentance as expressed in the new formula in the imposition of ashes, “Turn from sin and believe in the Gospel”.

Recall how in the Book of Jonah when the king of Nineveh removed his royal robe, covered himself in sackcloth, and sat in ashes upon hearing Jonah’s preaching as he ordered too his people to do the same that averted the wrath of God.

In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we find how Jesus lambasted the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida for not repenting upon seeing his mighty deeds, so unlike the pagans at Tyre and Sidon who would have “repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Mt. 11:21 & Lk.10:13).

Ashes also signify ruin, destruction and devastation in life like Job who had lost all precious to him when he said, “(God) He has cast me into the mire; I am leveled with the dust and ashes” (Job 30:19).

It is the most applicable signification of ashes to us today in this time of prolonged pandemic with its deep emotional and psychological impact on everyone trying to grapple with life’s many challenges as we try to start anew almost daily.

The feeling is best described by the Book of Lamentations in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem: “Those accustomed to dainty food perish in the streets; those brought up in purple now cling to the ash heaps” (Lam. 4:5).

Indeed, that ash on our foreheads reminds us of the ruin we are into as an individual, as a nation, as citizens of the world.

How often did we have to shelve and postpone our many plans in life since 2020 due to this pandemic with its recurring surges now worsened by this war at Ukraine launched by Russian president Putin?

We were already sighing in great relief the past weeks with declining cases of COVID when suddenly – to our great disbelief and dismay that this can still happen in the 21st century when Putin invaded Ukraine, casting the world into another grave danger of unimagined proportion.

And lastly, who does not feel ruined after all these years of the pandemic worsened by decadent politics that has gone into an abyss of filth and insanity?

Now more than ever we could feel and experience the “ash heap” we are into with only God who can raise us up and cleanse us again.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

Lent is a joyful season!

Contrary to what most people believe, Lent is not all that drab and dry. While its prevailing mood is of sobriety and seriousness in the light of its call for penance, fasting and almsgiving, Lent is a joyful season preparing us to Easter.

St. Paul tells us in the second reading that “now is the day of salvation”:

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 the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 5:20, 6:2

To be reconciled with God who is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and relenting in punishment” begins right inside our hearts when we open it – rend – so it may be cleansed of sins for Jesus to dwell inside again.

Like our reflection last Sunday, it is the truth of the heart that must be expressed on this Ash Wednesday, that must be cleansed and “repaired” after so many beatings and ruins especially these past years (https://lordmychef.com/2022/02/26/taking-jesus-to-the-heart/).

It is the heart that must be strengthened and converted by our lenten practices because its purity is revealed by our very lives, the kind of life we lead, the aura we project even if half of our face is covered by the face mask.

This is the very essence of the Lord’s calls in the gospel to do these practices “in secret”, not be seen by others that it becomes more of a show. It is God whom we must please, not the people; to enter into one’s room is to enter into one’s self to meet God with our true selves, without our usual alibis, of ifs and buts.

From Google.

This is the grace of Lent that begins on this Ash Wednesday: it is God who actually comes to us, to meet us, to work in us in his “mercy and graciousness” so we may experience his loving presence again despite all our sins and troubles.

Life is a daily Lent, a cleansing of our hearts, a repairing of our hearts ruined especially when we have truly loved and ended up being misunderstood and persecuted.

Do not worry, human love is always imperfect; only God can love us perfectly. That is what Ash Wednesday is reminding us, that we are finite and sinful, ruined most of the time but always open to God who never leaves nor forsakes us his children.

In this spirit, let us also not forget that Lent is a journey we take with others, a daily exodus from darkness to light, from sickness to healing, from ruins to newness, from sin to forgiveness and grace.

Photo by author, Lent 2019.

We come home to God together as a people, as a family, as brothers and sisters in Christ.

May our gathering together on this Ash Wednesday be an occasion to free ourselves from the ever-growing threats of individualism that has marked our age with everyone feeling a celebrity, even playing God.

Please don’t forget to practice fasting and abstinence today to create a space for God and for others in your heart.

Have a blessed and safe Lenten season, everyone!

A world without first nor last

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week VIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 01 March 2022
1 Peter 1:10-16   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Mark 10:28-31
Photo by author, pilgrims in the Holy Land preparing to walk, 2019.
Thank you very much, 
dear God our loving Father in heaven
for the gift of this brand new month
of March; tomorrow we start the
blessed Season of Lent with 
Ash Wednesday; today, you remind
us of your gift of salvation through
your Son Jesus Christ long foreseen
by your prophets of Old.
Today, you call us to move into action
by putting all our hope and confidence
on Christ's gift of salvation:

Therefore, gird up the loins of your mind, live soberly, and set your hopes completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Like obedient children, do not act in compliance with the desires of your former ignorance but, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, “Be holy because I am holy”.

1 Peter 1:13-16
Help us, dear Jesus,
to gird up the loins of our mind -
to be ready for action, especially
if we have to make radical moves
and changes in our lives as witnesses
of your gospel of salvation; help us,
Lord, to overcome our desire to think
only of ourselves, of "what-about-us"
attitude of Peter in the gospel; help us, 
Jesus to be holy like you - filled with 
the Spirit, living in a world without first
nor last but brothers and sisters relating
with each other in mutual love and care.
Amen.

Prayer to be “durable” like salt

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week VII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 24 February 2022
James 5:1-6   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 9:41-50
Photo by author, salt at the shore of the Dead Sea, Israel, May 2017.
Lord Jesus, 
as I prayed your words
today, I remembered our
dear Pope emeritus, 
Benedict XVI telling us 
in his book "Jesus of
Nazareth, Holy Week"
how Luke strangely recorded 
that you "ate salt" with your 
disciples in Acts 1:4;
according to this most holy
and learned Pope of modern
time, "Salt is regarded as a 
guarantee of durability.  It is a
remedy against putrefaction,
against the corruption that
pertains to the nature of death...
of preserving life" (page 271).
I have always loved that piece of 
information and deep reflection by 
Pope Benedict XVI that when you,
O Lord, mentioned this most common
commodity in the gospel, I just felt
joy and assurance from you:

Everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if salt becomes insipid, with what will you restore its flavor? Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.

Mark 9:49-50
"Rub" us with your salt,
Jesus, to purify us and make us
durable in being faithful to you
always, never becoming a scandal
for others to commit sin.
Keep us salted, Lord, 
always flavorful and tasty,
so alive filled with zest for life
with your presence, with your
love and mercy for others 
that truly lead us to peace
and harmony; do not let us be
"corroded" by the world as
St. James warned in the first
reading.  Amen.
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com