“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland (1939)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 20 June 2021
Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos, a rainbow appeared during our Blessed Sacrament procession at the start of the lockdown, 22 March 2020, in our former parish at Bagbabuin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

Movies are great sources of good music. We cite two movies today for our featured Sunday music in relation with our Gospel when Jesus pacified a violent storm while they were crossing the Lake of Galilee in the middle of the night (https://lordmychef.com/2021/06/19/jesus-amid-our-storms-in-life/).

From the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz sang by Ms. Judy Garland which also became her signature song, Over the Rainbow that was also featured by Hong Kong film director John Woo in the 1997 action movie Face/Off starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage.

While praying over the gospel this past week, I remembered Woo explaining why he inserted the music Over the Rainbow in the violent gunfight scene of Face/Off between Travolta and Cage where Nicolas placed a headset on “his” son as they shoot out with the FBI:

“When I was young my life was very difficult — almost like a living hell. But when I heard Judy Garland sing this in The Wizard Of Oz, I suddenly felt as if I was on the other side of the rainbow, in heaven, in a place full of hope. When I used it in Face/Off, it was to say thanks for showing me that the world is still full of beauty.”

John Woo, 24 April 2014, https://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/john-woo-personal-playlist/

Woo is such a great director that aside from his beautiful choices of music for his movies, he always used symbolisms like white doves in trying to show the good side of life no matter how violent and bad is the scene or story.

And that is the meaning of our gospel this Sunday: there will always be a lot of darkness and storms in our lives that sometimes we feel and think God does not seem to care like when Jesus was sleeping soundly at the stern of their boat during a squall in the middle of the night as they cross the lake. His silence does not mean he does not care; moreover, he is silent because he had won over a long time ago at his Cross every evil and suffering in this life!

He was the first one to pass “over the rainbow” who now assures us of reaching the shores of safety and peace, joy and fulfillment with him and in him. Hence, this Sunday let us cultivate an intimacy in Christ to be reconciled with God our Father who alone is our surety in this life who had promised Noah with a sign of the rainbow as an assurance he shall never destroy earth.

In the movie Face/Off, Woo masterfully sequenced the song playing at the high point of the gunfight when Nicolas Cage’s “son” was caught in the cross fires:

 Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Try watching Face/Off this Father’s Day and reflect on Judy’s music to find faith in God anew that after all these storms in life during the pandemic, there is a beautiful rainbow to delight us.

*We have no intentions of infringing the copyrights of the music except to share its beautiful message. Thank you.

Jesus amid our storms in life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 20 June 2021
Job 38:1, 8-11 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 ><}}}'> Mark 4:35-41
Photo from vaticannews.va.

More than a year ago in March, Pope Francis delivered an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Message before an empty St. Peter’s Square reflecting on the gospel we heard today when COVID-19 began to wreck havoc upon us, claiming about 3.85 million deaths worldwide as per latest data show.

We are still in the same darkness, in the same storm but much have already changed since the pandemic first struck us last year. Jesus had calmed the seas and the storms with some relief offered by vaccines. Our journey continues as we cross this sea of the pandemic to safer shores.

Like the Pope’s Message last year, we must continue to call and trust in the Lord but at the same time, realize the deeper spiritual meaning of this pandemic, of the need to have a more intimate relationship with God through Jesus.

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.

Mark 4:35-37

Life is a constant crossing of the sea in darkness with Jesus.


See that in our journey in life, 
it is when evening comes, 
when there is darkness 
that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea.
When there are problems and crisis in life, 
that is when Jesus calls us 
to get to the other side of life's situation.
On his side.  

I love that imagery painted to us by St. Mark in our gospel today, from a casual preaching last week out in the open field with the warm sun shining, Jesus invited his disciples when it was getting dark to cross to the other side of the Lake of Galilee.

Life is a journey that when evening approaches, our instinct is to find a safe place to spend the night. But, today St. Mark shows us a more appropriate imagery of life as a journey which is like crossing the sea.

See that in our journey in life, it is when evening comes, when there is darkness that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea. When there are problems and crisis in life, that is when Jesus calls us to get to the other side of life’s situation. On his side.

And what a beautiful expression we have in “to cross to the other side”! There is always the cross to carry in this life that is like the sea, the uncertainty from our usual sureties like family and friends, jobs, and the status quo because Jesus wants us to have him alone as our surety in life.

A few years ago a Malaysian Air plane perished at sea; despite all the modern technologies, it has not been found yet. It is a reminder to us all of how vast is our world with so much mysteries impossible for humans to master or even fully understand.

Yet, our gospel and first reading assure us that though the world is awesome with great wonders and occurrences, its Creator – GOD – is more awesome for he alone has complete control over nature, especially the sea which is the most difficult of all!

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Who shut within the doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther; and here shall your proud waves be stilled!

Job 38:1, 8, 10-11
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, off the coast of Catanduanes, 2017.

Our awesome world, more awesome God.

St. Mark’s description of the situation inside the boat with Jesus asleep in the middle of a violent storm at sea is very surprising that seems to be exaggerated like in the movies for dramatic effects not to entertain us but to remind us of that basic reality found in his entire gospel account that Christ came to usher in a new world where never again shall sin and death prevail over us.

Recall the other scenes he would later show Jesus exercising total control over the sea like when he walked on water amid a storm (Mk.6:45ff) and ordered a legion of demons to enter a herd of swine that drowned into the sea (Mk.5:13).

As the Son of God, Jesus has total sovereignty over the sea that symbolized the realm of evil, exorcising it to free us from its clutches when he finally died on the cross.

In the first reading, we heard the fictional story of Job being assured by God who got everything under control, even the mighty sea, putting a limit by stilling its proud waves.

In our gospel, we see the reality of God in Jesus Christ calming the storm at sea.

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Mark 4:38-40
Photo by author, crossing the Sea (Lake) of Galilee, May 2019.

Notice Jesus was sleeping soundly, not disturbed at all neither by the storm with its giant waves that tossed their boat nor the commotion and yelling of his disciples. He was so composed and serene.

The same scene we shall see again when St. Mark tells us how on the night of Holy Thursday when Jesus was betrayed and arrested to be tried by members of the Sanhedrin. It was all dark with Christ so composed and relaxed answering the questions of his enemies while outside was Peter so afraid, denying the Lord thrice while the rest of the apostles went hiding out of fear for their lives.

What a beautiful imagery of our Lord and of us!

Here is Jesus so composed and serene as always while us on panic mode, so terrified, even reproaching God – “do you not care that we are perishing?” – when our lives are threatened as if God does not care at all.

When we look back to last year, it was very frightening like that situation the disciples were into: nobody knew exactly the nature of COVID-19, without any known cure and method of treatment, people were dying daily, and life was at a standstill due to the lockdown.

But, with faith in God, we have moved on. Some weddings finally pushed through, students went back to school while others dared to venture into new businesses and other endeavors, crossing the sea so to speak amid the darkness. Those who got married last year now have their first born while students who enrolled last year have graduated and we who risked to move on are now better off than before.

Had we waited for the pandemic to end before deciding to enroll back in school or find a job or get married, we would surely be into great losses for there is still the pandemic that will most likely remain until 2022 or beyond.

As we have reflected last week, Jesus continues to work in silence in us, with us and for us, making us grow like the tiny seed. He never abandons us especially in times of great trials. This we have proven when we dared to venture in life during this pandemic.

Let us entrust to him our very lives for he alone has total sovereignty in this world and in this life for he himself is life – more powerful than any storm who has the whole world, especially the seas, in his hand.

A life centered in Jesus


We cannot wait for things to get better, 
for the pandemic to end, 
for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially.  
It is right in the middle of a storm 
when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, 
to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us.

After Jesus had pacified the storm and the sea, St. Mark briefly ended our gospel story by telling us how the disciples “were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?'”(Mk.4:41).

More than the stories of the Lord’s teachings and miracles, St. Mark wants us to make a stand for Jesus, to center our lives in him as we journey in this life, whether in the ordinariness of parables, the safety of the open field and high mountains, or the dangers and perils of the sea at night, with or without storms.

Remember Nightbirde last week who said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” We cannot wait for things to get better, for the pandemic to end, for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially. It is right in the middle of a storm when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us as St. Paul tells us in the second reading.

Brothers and sisters: The love of Christ impels us… So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:14, 17

Now more than ever in our modern history that the whole world needs a lot of healing and reconciliation. But unlike the proposals of experts, it is not merely a reconciliation of peoples with one another. We do not need a “new normal” which is a misnomer because a norm does not change. What is true and good and fair would always be true and good and fair at all times.

That is what we need, to bring back the true normal in life which is a reconciliation of every person with God so that we may see our world in a more wholistic sense that we become more just and humane.

There can be no true reconciliation among peoples unless there is first of all our reconciliation with God in Jesus Christ so that we become in him a new creation, new persons filled with his love and mercy, justice and kindness. Of course, there will still be many storms as we cross the many seas of our lives but they will be less frightening if we have Christ on board, even if he is soundly asleep. Amen.

Have a bright and sunny week ahead!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

Learning in time of COVID-19

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Baccalaureate Mass, Basic Education Department
Our Lady of Fatima University, 16 June 2021
From IgnitedToInspire.com

Congratulations! Today, everyone deserves a warm round of applause, a pat on the shoulder and perhaps, a little treat after our Mass for making it through the Academic Year of the pandemic, 2020-2021.

Most likely while you were chilln’ after your final exams last Wednesday evening, you have seen and heard this great woman of America’s Got Talent, Nightbirde who mesmerized us not only with her voice but most of all with her infectious joy and presence on the stage.

Her words last week are the most quoted in social media even in our Masses last Sunday: “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

She connected so well with us because there is a little Nightbirde in each one of us when we look back to this past academic year when the pandemic happened before we ended classes last year and did not have any Baccalaureate Mass in our University.

Despite the uncertainties and fears and apprehensions due to COVID-19 , we decided to be happy.

We did not wait “until life isn’t hard anymore” to go back to school despite the enormous challenges and adjustments we all have to go through: parents, teachers and faculty, University admin, and most especially you, our dear students.

And if there is one most important lesson we have learned in this past academic year of the pandemic, it is GOD.

Yes!

Like Nightbirde, we have realized how God never abandoned us, always with us, loving us, silently working for us even with just 2% chance of surviving cancer or COVID or passing an exam.

St. Paul said it so well in our first reading:

Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. You are being enriched in every way for all generosity, which through us produces thanksgiving to God.

2 Corinthians 9:8, 11

The Lord never failed in providing us with all that we need, even during this pandemic.

Let us be open to more of his grace by trusting him more, and sharing his blessings with others.

Dare to “rise to the top” amid the pandemic and other challenges in life!



We did not wait 
"until life isn't hard anymore" 
to go back to school 
despite the enormous challenges 
and adjustments we all have to go through:  
parents, teachers and faculty, 
University admin, and most especially you, 
our dear students.  

From Our Lady of Fatima University/FB.

God never abandoned us this year. We are still alive and we are now moving up, advancing in our pursuit for education. Some of us may have lost a loved one, others were left behind due to many reasons but we celebrate today our achievements made possible by God.

He is the most important lesson we have learned this year of COVID-19: only God suffices. Without God, we are nothing.

What would our lives be today if we all waited last year for the pandemic to be over to resume classes?

And the good news is, God is assuring us today in this Baccalaureate Mass that he shall be blessing you more this coming academic year 2021-2022.

There will surely be a lot of challenges awaiting us, even more difficult but rest assured that if you were able to complete your Prep or Kindergarten, Elementary or Junior High and Senior High stage, there is nothing you cannot do now!

Lahat kakayanin ninyo huwag lang kayong bibitiw sa Diyos!

God has beautiful plans for you despite this pandemic. Persevere and remain in him.

Study hard, work harder, pray hardest!

I have one assignment to give you my dear students as you go on your academic break this June: continue studying, continue praying.

Try to get a copy of a book called “Imitatio Christi” or the Imitation of Christ written around the years 1418-1427 by the German-Dutch monk named Thomas á Kempis.

Don’t worry… it is available in the internet and it is an excellent devotional book. You won’t regret reading it. In fact, next to the Bible, the Imitatio Christi is the other leading devotional book in Christianity.

His reflections are very timely and relevant especially in this time of COVID when he said that what matters most is that we love the Giver – God – and not the gift because God is the source of all good things in life.

A wise lover values not so much the gift of the lover, as the love of the giver. He esteems the affection above the gift, and values every gift far below the Beloved. A noble lover is not content with a gift, but desires Myself above all gifts. 

Imitation of Christ, Book III, Part VI, “Of the proving of the true lover” by Thomas á Kempis (d. 1471)

Study hard, 
work harder, 
pray hardest!

From Pinterest.com

Do not forget amid the many gifts we have received this year of pandemic is the giver of these gifts, God.

When you have God, you have everything. And you can do everything.

Fall in love with God.

So many times in our lives especially when we are still young and strong, we forget God, wasting our lives and precious time with less important things.

We do not realize that God alone is the one whom we must always seek and have in life because he alone loves us truly to whom alone we must always turn to.

To fall in love with God is to cultivate a prayer life, to be a man or woman of prayer.

When you love somebody, you always talk to that person.

If you love God, then you will always pray.

God loves you very much. He believes in you. He knows what you need even before you ask him.

What we do not know is what God wants from us. That is why we have to pray in order to learn what are the plans of God for us this coming academic year 2021-2022.

“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. Your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

Matthew 6:5-6

God is the best and most loving teacher of all. His lessons are always practical and personal. That is the meaning of “entering your inner room” – go into your heart and there you shall meet God, always waiting for you, eager to listen to you and speak to you about his love and plans for you.

He only has one lesson plan: love, love, love.

See how during the pandemic even the most powerful nations were crippled by COVID-19. Even until now these vaccines we have are not an assurance of being safe from the virus. We do not even know its other side effects.

We still have to hurdle so many problems this year.

Problem is we refuse to see that this pandemic is also spiritual in nature, not just medical and social.

Let us learn our lesson very well – God.

And so, I ask you again, my dear students to work hard, study harder and pray hardest this coming Academic Year 2021-2022 to achieve your dreams and realize God’s great plans for you in the future, now. Amen.

God bless you all!

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son praying in our former parish at Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, 2019.

Desiring God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XI in Ordinary Time, Year I, 15 June 2021
2 Corinthians 8:1-9   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   Matthew 5:43-48
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 01 June 2021 at Bgy. Lalakhan, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

Thank you very much again, O God our loving Father for the grace of prayer, most especially in the grace of desiring you which is what prayer is all about. Keep us steady in our desire for you, to be with you, to be like you – holy and loving.

Enrich us today with your holiness and love by being poor of our selves like Jesus Christ your Son as experienced by St. Paul.

For you know the gracious act
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that for our sake he became poor 
although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:9)

Being poor like Jesus and St. Paul is thinking less of myself, more of others. How ironic that in our world of today where there is a surplus of everything, the more we have become worried of having less because we remain unconvinced of your love and blessings as we live detached from you. Hence, our constant feeling of being impoverished, needing to be filled and satisfied.

Teach us to be poor by being intimate with you, O God our Father so that we worry less of ourselves because we already have you, disposed to being like you, able to love freely.

"So be perfect,
just as your heavenly Father
is perfect."
(Matthew 5:48)

Make us realize that in this life, it is only you whom we must desire first of all in order to be sufficient and enriched that we are able to love everyone, even our enemies because we are confident in ourselves of your love and intimacy. 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.

God our tender, loving Dad

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 11 June 2021
Hosea 11:1, 3-4, 8c-9  ><)))'>  Ephesians 3:8-12, 14-19  ><)))'>  John 19:31-37
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2018.

So many times in life, we think we have loved so much, that we are a good and loving person when it is all an illusion because in reality, we have actually failed in truly loving the people and institutions we profess to love so much.

It is always easy to say in so many words, even to brag to our very selves and others of how much we love our family and friends, our country, our Church, and our company. But, when a little discomfort happens that result from misunderstanding or miscommunications, or a few mistakes and shortcomings, we flare up in anger expressing it in harsh words and deeds, hurting the people we supposedly love.

Not only that. Long after an unloving incident, we later hold grudges that we cannot forgive and forget, hurting us most in the process when sanity returns and see how we have broken a beautiful relationship.

But, it is not all that bad.

We all have our low moments in not showing how much we truly love like Simon Peter denied knowing the Lord three times on Holy Thursday evening while being tried by members of the Sanhedrin after their last supper. And very much like him too at the shore of Lake Tiberias eight days after Easter, we profess to Jesus and our loved ones that “you know everything; you know I love you” (Jn.21:17).

Our imperfect human love in God’s perfect love

We celebrate today the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart to be reminded of God’s immense love for us despite our failures and fears in expressing that love he continues to pour upon us through his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

It is the third major feast of the Lord since we have resumed the Ordinary Time after Pentecost to instill in us God’s deep, personal love for us through Jesus Christ with whom we have become brothers and sisters, beloved children of the Father in heaven.

Thus says the Lord: When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer.

Hosea 11:1, 3-4

See how God had always loved us like a loving father to his son or daughter.

Try to feel God speaking through Hosea in the first reading reminding us of his great love for us, doing everything to free us from the bondage and slavery of every form of evil.

But, like our own experiences with our parents as we grow older, the more we distance ourselves away from them and from God who always come to get nearer and intimate with us: “A child I loved you, I called you my son; and the more I called you, the farther you went away from me” (cf. Hos.11:1-2).

What have happened to us as we matured?

We have become so cerebral, thinking more, and feeling less, always trying to assert our independence, our strength, and self-reliance when the sad truth is we are all weak inside who cannot accept and believe the fact that we are truly loved by God and by others!

Imagine this lovely scene of God reminding us of his great love for us just like our Dad: “I took you in my arms with hands of love; I fostered you like one who raises an infant to his cheeks yet though I stooped to feed my child, you did not know I was your healer” (cf. Hos.11:4).

Here lies the problem with all our praying and loving that are detached from God, something like an echo of the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son!

When our love for God is superficial, our love to our family and friends, to our institutions and other relationships become skin deep too. Our many love experiences are forgotten as we give more emphasis on others’ shortcomings and to our expectations from them.


We find it so hard and difficult 
to truly love God and those dearest to us 
not because we are bad and evil 
but primarily we ourselves are not convinced we are loved.  
Today's readings remind us 
that human love is imperfect, 
only God can love us perfectly. 

We find it difficult to truly love unconditionally because deep inside us is a festering anger or hatred for our parents or siblings or friends who have hurt us a long time ago but we are so afraid to bring out in the open or just simply cast away or transcend so we can move forward to deeper and matured love in Christ.

Of course, there is that love remaining in our hearts but inert because we cannot accept nor be convinced that we are truly loved by God and by others.

We find it so hard and difficult to truly love God and those dearest to us not because we are bad and evil but primarily we ourselves are not convinced we are loved. Today’s readings remind us that human love is imperfect, only God can love us perfectly.

Thus says the Lord: My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the Holy One present among you. I will not let the flames consume you.

Hosea 11:8-9

Just keep on loving no matter how imperfect we may be for God perfectly knows us so well as humans with so many weaknesses and limitations.

God’s universal and personal love for us in Christ


We can never truly experience 
God's personal love for us in Jesus Christ 
unless we are first convinced of his great love for us 
despite our sinfulness and weaknesses.  
The more we doubt the love of Jesus, 
the more we hurt him, 
the more we hurt others, 
and the more we hurt our selves.

Photo by author, St. Joseph Parish, Baras, Rizal, January 2021.

This personal and fatherly love of God is what St. Paul had always shared and elaborated in his many writings and teachings. See how he humbly introduced himself in our second reading as “the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ” (Eph.3:8).

More sinful compared to Simon Peter, Saul as he was called before his conversion persecuted the first Christians, having a direct hand in the stoning to death of our first martyr St. Stephen (Acts 8:1). Yet, in God’s fatherly love and mercy, Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus that led to his conversion. He would later insist in his letters how he had experienced both the universal and personal love of God through Jesus Christ.

St. Paul was so good and effective as an apostle because he was so convinced that while Jesus had died and rose for all, he also died personally for him (St. Paul) as an individual! He was the first to elaborate the universality of God’s love through Jesus Christ’s dying on the Cross and the subjectivity of his death and love for each one of us.

From being a sinner to becoming a believer, from a persecutor to an apostle, St. Paul tells us in the second reading today how he had experienced this love of Christ in himself which we can all personally experience too, praying that we may “be strengthened with the Holy Spirit to comprehend the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that we may be filled all the fullness of God” (Eph.3:16, 18-19).

We can never truly experience God’s personal love for us in Jesus Christ unless we are first convinced of his great love for us despite our sinfulness and weaknesses. The more we doubt the love of Jesus, the more we hurt him, the more we hurt others, and the more we hurt our selves.

Thank goodness God knows us so well that despite our doubts in him, his mercy is always stirred, not allowing his anger to consume or destroy us. On the contrary, the more we hurt God, the more he loves us until we are convinced that we are truly loved by him!

So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and then of the other one who was crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus and saw he was already dead, they did not break his legs, but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out.

John 19:32-34

It was from this scene that we find the meaning of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that was pierced after offering himself on the Cross as the sign and symbol of God’s unique love for us all. For the evangelist, that flowing of blood and water from the pierced side of Jesus was a special “sign” pointing to the work and mission of Christ which is our own salvation.

But aside from linking the blood and water that flowed out from the Lord’s pierced side with the two prominent sacraments known by then early Christians, namely, Baptism and Eucharist, St. John as a witness to the event showed us how two natural elements that are so personal to everyone as signs of God’s intimacy with us.

On this Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, God is reminding us of his immense love for us expressed most personally in the self-sacrifice of his Son our Lord Jesus Christ in whom we have all become the Father’s beloved children.

Despite our ingratitude to his Fatherly love for us, God cannot let himself be angry to chastise us as we deserve. Instead, he kept on forgiving us for our sins, sending us his Son Jesus Christ to redeem us.

Today Jesus is inviting us to go back to our Father – our Dad who watched and guided us through life without our knowing – to be convinced of his personal love for each of us. Outside of him, we can never find peace nor joy nor fulfillment. That is why the human heart of Jesus is always here with us as the revelation of the Father’s boundless love for us.

Let us experience anew his tenderness and forgiveness so that we may grow too in our love for God through one another despite our many sins and weaknesses.

Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like yours! 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.

To be encouraged to encourage

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 07 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:1-7   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by author, Nazareth in Israel, 2019.

Your words today, O Lord, from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians are so encouraging, so comforting as they are truly meant for us, too, in this time of trials and difficulties due to the pandemic.

In greeting the Corinthians as well as other Christians in the region who were facing tremendous tests and sufferings, St. Paul prayed fervently for them by introducing the virtue of “encouragement” – mentioning it ten times that we can feel his deep concern not only for the Corinthians but with anyone in any period of time like us going through severe tests like in this time of COVID-19.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement,  
who encourages us in our every affliction,  
so that we may be able to encourage those
 who are in any affliction with the encouragement 
with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. 
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Encouragement or comfort is what we really need at this time, Lord Jesus, in order to strengthen us “in enduring the sufferings” (2Cor.1:6) we are going through. It can only come from you for it is a grace that enables us to live out true blessedness found in your Beatitudes we heard in the gospel today.

So many among us are getting weak not only physically but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually in this prolonged quarantine periods when our mobility is so limited.

So many among us have lost their jobs and livelihood, with still many others so limited in their earning abilities while financial obligations are piling up.

So many among us feel so uncertain about the future, finding it so hard to focus on whatever we have at the moment so we can make the most out of every opportunity that comes out from this pandemic.

Worst of all, there are some of us who are in deep emotional traumas at this time when problems arise in their marriage and family life.

O God, you know the situation we are into, even the mess some of us have got involved with due to our own sinfulness and carelessness.

Send us the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Comforter and Encourager par excellence for us to be encouraged to persevere and to strive, to remain blessed so that we may encourage others too. 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.

Prayer in celebration of life

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Marcellinus and St. Peter, Martyrs, 02 June 2021
Tobit 13:1-11, 16-17     ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>     Mark 12:18-27
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com
Jesus said to them,
"He is not God of the dead
but of the living.
You are greatly misled."
(Mark 12:27)

Forgive us, O God our Father, for always crying out to you when life is so tough and difficult, so unbearable that we beg you for death to end our sufferings. Despite our deep faith as we strive to be holy in our prayer life and charity, sometimes like Tobit and Sarah in the first reading we get the wrong impression death is the only way out of our miseries, forgetting that you are the God of the living.

We forget to widen our horizons, to see beyond what is tangible that we get stuck with everything that is wrong, with our failures and mistakes, and with our sins.

We forget the people who love us, our family and friends who love us so much, trying their very best to console us, to help us, and to care for us like in this time of pandemic.

We forget that when life is full of tests, it is always silent and even dark but it does not mean you have left us – on the contrary, that is when you are most closest to us, even carrying us in your loving arms, dying for us like Jesus Christ your Son.

Instead of asking for death when in misery, teach to pray to find a way out of it alive with you! Teach us, O Lord, to pray to celebrate life because it is always good to be alive. Knock us off to our senses like Sarah to rediscover the value and beauty of life even when things are not going according to our plans.

"Blessed are you, O Lord, 
merciful God and blessed 
is your holy and honorable name.
Blessed are you in all your works forever!"
(Tobit 3:11)

Life is so difficult these days, Lord, taking its toll even to our emotional and psychological well-being that so many among us are already losing hope and meaning in life.

Give us the grace like that of your martyrs St. Marcellinus and St. Peter who looked for opportunities to give witness to you with their faith and courage during their time of persecution in Rome that they were able to convert their jailer and his entire family.

We pray for those those wishing death these days like those who are sick, those who have lost loved ones during this pandemic, those without money and work, and those so stressed out. Let us bring your light and smiles to others feeling desperate these days, Lord. Amen.

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz at Binuangan Island, off the coast of Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.