Prayer is emptiness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Bruno, Priest, 06 October 2022
Galatians 3:1-5   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 11:5-13
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 10 September 2022.
Remind us, 
O Lord Jesus Christ,
that "while the world changes,
the cross stands firm",
that you alone, 
Jesus Christ
is our salvation
and way to perfection
as the Carthusians
had held for almost 
a thousand years.
Like St. Bruno
their founder and father,
let us "seek God 
assiduously
to find God promptly
and to possess God
fully."

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks the door, the door will be opened.”

Luke 11:9-10
Stop our foolishness,
our being stupid like the
Galatians as St. Paul
called them in the first reading:
prayer is not an ATM
where we go to get cash
we need nor an apps
when we can just seek,
find and have whatever
we desire and need;
PRAYER IS EMPTINESS.
Teach us Jesus 
to lay ourselves bare,
to strip ourselves
naked before you;
teach us to ask for YOU,
to seek YOU,
and to enter YOU.
How foolish we
have become
that we have been
misleading people
from you because 
we teach wrongly
about prayer that
is centered on us
and our needs and
desires, making God
a Santa Claus
or even a genie.
Make us persevere
in emptying ourselves
of our pride
to be filled with your 
humility and love,
to be an indwelling
of the Holy Spirit
so that we become more
like you, Jesus,
fulfilled and at peace.
Amen.

Faith, like love, is a relationship

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 02 October 2022
Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4 ><}}}}'> 1 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14 ><}}}}'> Luke 17:5-10
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King Celebration in our former parish assignment, November 2020.

Our gospel this Sunday may be short and brief but so power-packed that can put us into a knock out. In fact, the scene is very disarming that can throw off all our previously held beliefs to give us fresher perspectives on discipleship and faith.

Recall how these past consecutive Sundays that Jesus taught us the importance of God and persons above material wealth like money and possessions. Notice how these lessons were directed by Jesus to the Pharisees and scribes who were known as so obsessed with money. Hardly did we hear any reactions from the Twelve – nor from most of us – until now when they asked Jesus to “increase our faith” (Lk.17:5).

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Luke 17:5-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

When we talk of faith, 
it does not really matter how long 
we have known each other, 
or how much we have given and received, 
or how much we have shared.  
Faith is being one, being together, 
of going the extra mile 
because we believe, we trust, we love. 

What elicited a reaction from the apostles? Or from us? Let’s admit the fact that many of us have felt the parables last two Sundays were not directly meant for us considering our professed “poverty” and “simplicity” in life. But, when Jesus spoke of the need to forgive those who sin against us every time they come saying sorry, the apostles realized that needed a lot of faith.

And rightly so.

When it comes to hurting our pride and ego, something deeper is at play, something so close to our person is involved than when we lose a material thing. Like the apostles, we have felt how much faith in God is demanded from us to forgive especially those who repeatedly offend us, that on our own we cannot do it.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 10 September 2022.

Hence, their request (that is also ours) to “increase our faith” because forgiving requires a lot of faith, a lot of love; however, faith is like love that cannot be quantified nor measured because like love, faith is also a relationship.

Our relationship with God and with one another is seen always in the kind of intensity we have for each other. My generation used to call it as “vibes” or vibrations, of how we are one with the other person, of how we are in communion or aligned and attuned with the other person. When we talk of faith, it does not really matter how long we have known each other, or how much we have given and received, or how much we have shared. Faith is being one, being together, of going the extra mile because we believe, we trust, we love.

This is the reason that Jesus followed up his answer to the Twelve’s request with a parable of the unworthy servants who came home after working from the field and still waited on their master at dinner; then, after fulfilling their tasks, they simply told their master “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do” (Lk. 17:10). There was no real relationship between the master and slaves except their job or task and responsibility. If it were a faith relationship, the servants would have done more than just waiting on their master because they would have believed in him!

When our faith is true, when our faith is burning like the reminder of St. Paul to Timothy in the second reading, it means we are focused with the object of our faith who are God and our loved ones. We need not be reminded of things to do, of our obligations; when there is faith in us, our focus is keeping the relationship alive and well that we go the extra mile in lovingly serving our loved ones which is discipleship is all about.


That is how faith as a relationship
 may be described these days:  
like an online class, an online meeting, 
even online Mass when sometimes 
you really wonder if there is somebody listening
 or paying attention at the other side of the screen
 but you just go on...

Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo, August 2022.

People who are deeply in love are first of all one with their loved ones that they are able to do great things because of their intense and vibrant faith that keep them united. With a burning faith inside us, we are able to love the unloveable, forgive the most despicable, achieve what others claim as impossible.

Just think of the saints like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta or the very young St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Or, the great martyrs of Auschwitz, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and St. Maximilian Kolbe. There is no way of measuring how much faith they have in Jesus Christ and humanity but we can learn from their lives the intensity of their faith and love for God and others that they did the impossible!

Very interesting was the faith too of the late Mother Angelica who founded and started EWTN that is now the largest Catholic media organization in the world. She knew nothing about broadcasting yet, all she had was faith in God and in people that she was able to overcome every obstacle to make what EWTN right now.

Think of the big corporations and enterprises around you; they all started so small in material resources but so intense in faith and conviction that they have all grown to become the leading institutions in whatever field they are into. Sometimes, believers are described as visionaries because people with deep faith see beyond what others can perceive. Remember how Jesus would remind his apostles on different occasions to “believe so that you will see” that runs opposite what the world tells us with “to see is to believe”. People who are faithful, those who believe are the ones who can truly see, not the other way around. Faithful people have vision.

Photo by author, Pangsinan, April 2022.

Prayer is the primary expression of our faith as a relationship that we just keep on doing because we believe it is good even if it is so difficult especially when nothing seems to be happening at all. We just keep on praying, believing and hoping that God is with us, very similar to our online experiences these past two years of the pandemic when many times, we wonder if there is somebody listening or paying attention at the other side of the screen! But, call it faith and relationship that we just went on with our classes and work including prayers and Masses online because we believe someone, especially God, is at the other side, even beside us!

We have not seen God but we have all experienced his love and kindness, his mercy and forgiveness that even if nothing happens like Habakkuk in the first reading, we just keep on praying (and loving) because our relationship remains intact with God who is faithfully by our side.

When our faith is alive and vibrant, we get closer to God and with others, we become more loving and caring and kind, understanding and patient and forgiving, finding ways and means to love and serve God in others.

God knows what is best for us. He has gifted us with enough faith. Let us ask him not just to increase our faith but most of all, to deepen, strengthen, and perfect our faith so that our ties and bonds as family and friends and community of disciples be stronger in Jesus Christ, both in good times and in bad. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2014.

Ang Diyos at ang kulay ng hangin

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-30 ng Setyembre 2022
Larawan kuha ng may akda, bukang liwayway sa Lawa ng Tiberias, Israel, Mayo 2019.
Kay sarap namnamin,
kaninang pagkagising
Iyong tugon Panginoon namin
sa mga tanong ni Job
na amin ding dinaraing
sa gitna ng maraming hirap at tiisin:

"Job, 
nakalikha ka ba
kahit isang bukang liwayway?
Ang daigdig ba ay ang iyong
naigawa ng tanglaw?
Napunta ka na ba sa
pinagmumulan ng bukal?
Nakalakad ka na ba sa 
pusod ng karagatan?
Alam mo ba kung saan nanggaling
ang liwanag, o and kadiliman,
kung saan nagbubuhat?
Ang mga ulap ba iyong mauutusan
sa lupa ay magbuhos ng malakas na ulan?"
(Aklat ni Job 38:12-13, 16, 19, 34)
Inyong ipagpaumanhin
Panginoong namin
kapangahasan Ikaw ay tanungin, 
usisain kapag mabigat aming pasanin
 kami ay patawarin
katulad ni Job iyong dinggin:

"Narito, ako'y hamak, 
walang kabuluhan,
walang maisasagot, 
bibig ay tatakpan
hindi na kikibo, 
mga nasabi'y di na uulitin"
(Aklat ni Job 40:4-5).
Hinding hindi namin
makakayang sagutin
ni arukin kalaliman 
nitong maraming lihim 
ng buhay lalo't kung madilim;
sana'y Iyong dalisayin, Panginoon
aking mga paningin, upang Ikaw ay
malasin tulad ng kulay ng hangin!
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Jo Villafuerte, pagbubukang liwayway sa Atok, Benguet, Setyembre 2019.

The majesty of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 30 September 2022
Job 38:1, 12-21, 40:3-5   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 10:13-16
Photo by Greg on Pexels.com
God our loving Father,
open my eyes
open my mind
open my heart and soul
to your majesty
to experience your
immense mystery
so profoundly
unthinkable
unexplainable
yet so true
that it can be felt
and experienced
because we live
in you though we
are not aware.

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Have you ever in your lifetime commanded the morning and shown the dawn its place for taking hold of the ends of the earth, till the wicked are shaken from its surface? The earth is changed as is clay by the seal, and dyed as though it were a garment. Have you entered the sources of the sea, or walked about in the depths of the abyss? Have the gates of death been shown to you, or have you seen the gates of darkness? Have you comprehended the breadth of the earth?

Job 38:1, 12-14, 16-18
Dearest Father,
many times I have asked you
so many questions 
and would still have more to
follow you up with but,
when I contemplate
your love and presence
in my life,
among the people you
have surrounded me with,
then I realize 
you are all questions 
that in itself more than enough
for me to see, even imagine you!

Like Job,
let me remain silent
and be wrapped by
your majesty
and glory!

Then job answered the Lord and said: Behold, I am of little account; what can I answer you? I put my hand over my mouth. Though I have spoken once, I will not do so again; though twice, I will do so no more.

Job 40:3-5
Open my eyes
in Jesus your Son
to appreciate more
your coming
your loving presence
your healing
O God our Father;
let me listen
and be more attentive
to Jesus,
your Word who became
flesh to dwell
among us;
like St. Jerome,
give me the grace
to read and study
especially to pray
your Sacred Scriptures
each day of my life
to be still
and remain
in you always.
Amen.
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 2019.

God-is-with-us but, are we-with- God?

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, & Raphael, Archangels, 29 September 2022
Revelation 12:7-12     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     John 1:47-51
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus answered and said to him (Nathanael), “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

John 1:50-51
O dearest Jesus,
my Lord and my God,
I have believed like Nathanael
but until now, 
I have not lived totally
in you and with you!
It was in your coming, Jesus,
the angels have become 
most truest when you opened 
the heavens for us, 
when you the Son of God
came to dwell among us
so that through you God comes
to us and we through you go to him.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. They conquered him the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them.”

Revelation 12:10, 11-12a
Archangels Michael,
Gabriel and Raphael,
enable us,
lead us to be like you:
always listening to God's 
voice, making his words
our very lives as we come 
to him in faith and complete
surrender so that life and healing,
good news and power
from him 
may flow
to mankind 
through us.
Amen.

Finding God, following Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz & Companion Martyrs, 28 September 2022
Job 9:1-12, 14-16     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Luke 9:57-62
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, of a Philippine Serpent Eagle at
the Sierra Madre, Quezon Province, July 2022.
Life is truly a mystery,
O God our loving Father!
Filled with so many twists
and turns, bends and
corners that lead 
and open us to 
new vistas, 
new situations,
new sceneries
that make us closer
to finding you and 
experiencing you.

Job answered his friend and said: God is wise in heart and mighty in strength; who has withstood him and remained unscathed? He made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south; He does great things past finding out, marvelous things beyond reckoning. Should he come near me, I see him not; should he pass by, I am not aware of him.

Job 9:1, 4, 9-11
Like Job
and St. Lorenzo Ruiz,
many times our hearts cry
out to you unable to understand
at how and why so many bad things
are happening to us, sometimes we
feel overburdened almost giving up
but still in the end, we persevere 
because we believe in you,
we cannot go without you
for we would rather go in darkness
assured of your presence than in
light without you on our side.

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

Luke 9:57-58
Grant us, dear Jesus,
the grace of true freedom to
choose you always freely,
to be free from any attachments
with the world and worldly
except you whom we follow
wholeheartedly like St. Lorenzo Ruiz
and companion martyrs..

And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:59-60
Grant us too, dear Jesus,
the grace to live in the present,
to be always in every here and now,
learning from the past,
forging ahead onto the future
to preach the good news of
salvation urgently,
joyfully!

And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:61-62
Lastly like St. Lorenzo,
teach us dear Jesus to be firm
in our decision in following you,
to stop entertaining thoughts
of turning back from your mission,
thoughts of seeking comforts
and other personal benefits
 except of doing and fulfilling
 your most Holy Will
unto death.
Amen.

Imitating Job

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest, 27 September 2022
Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 9:51-56
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo, August 2022.
Thank you again,
dear God our loving Father
in keeping us safe from the 
powerful super typhoon that
hit us Sunday evening;
most of all, thank you in giving
us that faith within us like Job
when we go through storms in
life, sometimes so violent and
devastating like the real ones.
Bless us, O God, to be like Job:
to have that grace of crying out
our hearts, of venting out our pains
and even anger when like him,
we curse the day but never you:

Job opened his mouth and cursed his day. Job spoke out and said: Perish the day on which I was born, the night when they said, “The child is a boy!” Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?

Job 3:1-2, 3
Help us realize, dear Father,
these little "deaths" we go through
daily in life like sickness and loss of
loved ones are the realities of life
itself that prepare us for our eternal
union in you that would surely come
on our Death with a big D;
we are indeed "being-towards-death"
beginning on the day of our birth when
we have to cry out loud and kick hard
to be alive! 
It is through our pains and sufferings
that we become truly human,
when we feel with others in 
empathy and sympathy,
when we stay with others
in consolation,
when we strive to be like
Jesus in raising up others
by being "resolutely determined
to journey to Jerusalem" (Lk.9:51)
to face death that have inspired saints
like your servant Vincent de Paul
who worked so hard for the sick, 
the abandoned, and the poor,
inspiring other saints in the 
process!
We pray for everyone 
going through darkness,
battered by storms in life
to keep their faith,
that it is okay to cry and
complain because it is really
difficult; most of all, 
remind us, Jesus, that
without pains and 
sufferings in this world,
then this life would be
so dull, even meaningless
because that is when we
are totally by ourselves,
utterly selfish because we can
only find life's meaning in others,
never in our selves.
Amen.

Getting up to follow Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle, 21 September 2022
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13     <*{{{{><  +  ><}}}}*>     Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, Lake Tiberias from the side of Capernaum where Jesus called Matthew to follow him.
You never fail to amaze me,
Lord Jesus Christ with your
unique manner and ways
of finding us, calling us, 
and loving us.
Of your Twelve Apostles, 
only five were called while
working:  the brothers Simon
and Andrew, James and John
who were fishermen and 
Matthew, a tax collector;
the first four belonged 
to the most ordinary 
and lowliest job of the time, 
fishing, while Matthew did
the most despicable job of
collecting taxes unjustly for
Roman colonizers making him
both a sinner and a traitor.
But, you have your plans
that are so different from our
ways when you told the Pharisees
and scribes that "Those who are well
do not need a physician, 
but the sick do... I did not come
to call the righteous
but sinners" (Mt.9:12, 13).
Thank you, Lord Jesus
for still calling me when
I was at my lowest point in life,
when I was most sinful,
when everyone was rejecting me;
thank you, Jesus,
for believing in me,
in calling me to come,
follow you; help me to rise
from my pit of anger and
bitterness, hopelessness 
and desolation like Matthew,
leaving all evil and sins
to follow you
and share you with 
everyone.
Help me, Jesus,
to write the fifth gospel
according to my life
like Matthew
by "living in a manner
worthy of the call I have
received" (Eph. 4:1).
Amen.

St. Matthew,
pray for us!
Caravaggio’s painting, “Calling of St. Matthew” from en.wikipedia.org.

*You may also want to check our reflection on Caravaggio’s painting “Calling of St. Matthew” by clicking this link:

Following Jesus in lights and darkness by Caravaggio

The gospel according to Five for Fighting on living & leaving

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 20 September 2022
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
I'm 15 for a moment
Caught in between ten and 20
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

I'm 22 for a moment
And she feels better than ever
And we're on fire
Making our way back from Mars

The piano, the voice and the lyrics were unmistakably Five for Fighting when I heard it played again after a very long time at the 40th day of the death of a young college student in our parish recently.

It was only then when I truly appreciated this 2003 hit “100 Years” after realizing its deeper implications about life and death leading to eternity. Besides, there were some interesting things about the song and the deceased young man who was also a talented pianist like Five for Fighting himself – Vladimir John Ondasik III. Most of all, the deceased young man I have celebrated Mass for was aged 22 like the character depicted in the song 100 Years.

Celebrating Mass at the funeral of a child, whether an infant or a grown-up is the most difficult one for me. Normally, we children bury our parents but, it is so different when children die ahead of their parents and even grandparents. As a priest, I could feel the pain of the grieving parents in losing their son or daughter even if I totally do not know them at all. Yet, it is a grace of the priesthood that while we are emotionally affected by grieving parents we hardly know that we are likewise uplifted in identifying with Jesus who had brought back to life a dead young man at Nain after being moved with pity for the man’s widowed mother (Lk.7:11-15).

Photo by author, Pangasinan, April 2022.

Notice that Jesus brought back to life the dead young man because of pity for his mother, not because he pitied the dead son. God tells us in the Old Testament that he is saddened with the death of even just one of us but the event at Nain shows us how the eyes of the Lord are always with those left behind especially mothers because they are indeed the most pitiable in losing a child who would always be a part of them. Moreover, life is most difficult for those left behind who have to continue to bear all pains and sufferings while their departed loved ones rest in peace in eternity. And here lies the call of Jesus for us all to help those grieving to rise again and move on with life after the death of a beloved, especially of a child.

We shall talk about this later and let us just remain a little more with the reality of death.

Although 100 Years is a soft-rock ballad about a love relationship, it is very philosophical, in fact a Martin Heidegger, in calling for “authentic living” because we are all “being-towards-death”. While the song is generally a “feel good” piece, it reminds us of that reality we refuse to accept that coming to terms with death is coming to terms with life. It is when we are faced with the “existential” possibility of death that we begin to see the beauty of life and the joy of living.

15, there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose yourself within a morning star
15, I'm alright with you
15, there's never a wish better than this
When you've only got a hundred years to live

Half time goes by, suddenly you're wise
Another blink of an eye, 67 is gone
The sun is getting high
We're moving on

Truly, as the song tells us, our life is precious – whether you are 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 – because it could all be gone in a moment or a blink! Like Heidegger, Five for Fighting is calling us in his song to cherish each one’s presence with more love and kindness, care and understanding, with a lot of mercy and forgiveness because we live only for a period of time like 100 Years.

St. Paul also spoke of this constant awareness of death, of how “the world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31) that we should live authentically as Christians. This pandemic has taught us in the most strongest terms this truth, not only with actually dying but also of being prevented from spending precious moments with our dead’s remains! May we not forget this pandemic’s lesson of living in the present moment as if it is also your final moment in life, of cherishing each other always because true riches are found only in God through one another as Jesus reminded us in last Sunday’s gospel (Lk.16:11).

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, September 2019.

To live is to love. What we need are more people, more children, more friends to celebrate life with. Like God, friends and family do not perish; they live on even if we do not see them because they just move on to higher level of existence. Unlike money and wealth, power and fame, and other material things that perish and become obsolete after a year.

Our weekday readings these past week teemed with so many beautiful nuggets of wisdom about people and relationships learned at the heels of death: the centurion who sent for Jesus for the healing of his slave who “was valuable to him” (Lk.7:2) on Monday; praying for those who grieve like that widowed mother in Nain (Lk.7:13) on Tuesday; and last Wednesday at the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross we were reminded of our transformation through life’s sufferings or little deaths in life; and, finally on Thursday at the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, of how we are invited to imitate Mary who remained at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday with her dying Son Jesus Christ. Here we find how death has become a blessing when seen in the light of Jesus and his Cross as witnessed by the Blessed Mother and preached by St. Paul.

This positive aspect of death as a blessing is wonderfully portrayed in the music video of 100 Years set in an isolated place in soft shades of dark blue and green, with some hues of grey evoking a deep sense of peace and tranquility minus the morbidity. Laid-back and relaxed, perhaps. Of course, Five for Fighting’s trademark piano makes the music video so lovely, so appealing, giving a joyful note on death’s certainty leading to eternity.

I'm 99 for a moment
And dying for just another moment
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

15, there's still time for you
22, I feel her too
33, you're on your way
Every day's a new day

At the start of the music video of 100 Years, we find a younger man playing the piano before Five for Fighting appears singing. That shifting of the younger and older Ondasik would happen about six times maybe interspersed with other characters coming to play the piano too until in the end he leaves to walk toward a big tree to meet his older self. Or God maybe.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, “Acacias”, UP Diliman, QC, April 2022.

That big tree seems to convey something like paradise, a gateway to eternity where time is totally held in completeness with everything at the present moment shown by Five for Fighting’s repeated returns to climb the big tree to look at his younger self kissing his first girlfriend until toward the end, he fell from the tree as if he had died only to be seen singing while playing the piano again. It was reminiscent of one of the final scenes in the 1990 movie Flatliners with Kiefer Sutherland trying to amend his childhood sin and crime in pushing to death his playmate from a similar big tree; Sutherland was eventually forgiven when during an induced “flatline” he was able to go back to his past to apologize to his dead playmate with a reversal of role, of him as an adult in the present moment falling from the big tree.

It was after that scene of falling from the big tree when Five for Fighting had awakened singing and playing the piano again when he finally stood to walk back to the big tree to meet his older self, or maybe God — something like Easter.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken by Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.

John 20: 1, 11-14
“Noli me tangere” (touch me not) fresco in the Lower Basilica of St. Francis Assisi Church in Italy painted by Giotto de Bondone in the 13th century from commons.wikimedia.org.

Like on that Easter morning, there will always be the darkness of death but only for a moment if we keep our eyes and our hearts open to Jesus who had risen. Many times we are like Mary Magdalene grieving and weeping that we fail to see the light of Jesus and of our deceased staying with us right in the darkness of grief and death that envelop us. And like Mary, we keep on insisting in relating with them in our old, physical level, forgetting the fact they have risen with Jesus to new life, to new realm of existence.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary of Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.

John 20:16-18

“Stop holding on to me” or “noli me tangere – touch me not” are the words also meant for us today who continue to cling and hold to our departed loved ones like Mary Magdalene, still hoping to hug and kiss them again, to touch and tell them how much we loved them or perhaps say sorry for our sins and lapses when they were still around. It is time to level up in our relationships with them as Five for Fighting reminds us in the last stanza that “every day is a new day”.

It does not really matter if we, or they our departed, are just 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 — what is most important is we value each moment of our lives here and now where in the present we meet them once or twice if we are living fully and not blinded by our grief and wishful thinking. Have faith in God. Someday, we shall all be together. For the moment, here is Five for Fighting with his100 Years. May the Lord console you and raise you up to move forward again in life. Amen.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.

Living in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon & Korean Martyrs, 20 September 2022
Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13     <*((((>< + ><))))*>     Luke 8:19-21
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, Santorini, Greece, 2014.
God our loving Father,
today I offer myself to you,
everything I have,
all my plans and undertakings
because everything is ultimately
in your hands!

Like a stream is the king’s heart in the hand of the Lord; wherever it pleases him, he directs it. All the ways of a man may be right in his own eyes, but it is the Lord who proves hearts. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Proverbs 21:1-3
Slow me down,
caution me,
and if necessary,
stop me to yield to
your Holy Will and
better plans especially
when I am overwhelmed
by my many preparations,
when I feel stressed and
compelled by people and
situations; remind me, Lord,
people and their welfare
are better than programs
and things; open my heart
and my ears to listen to your
words, to your voice always the
faintest one deep in my heart
covered by the noises of the world
and of my many confusions and 
selfish ambitions.
Like the first martyrs of Korea
whom we remember today,
grant me courage and perseverance
to hold on to what is true and good,
to remain steadfast in faith
in the face of persecutions
and trials,
ready to sacrifice and
let go of my pleasures and
comforts, so inspire others
to find and follow you, dear Jesus.

St. Andrew Kim Taegon and
companion Martyrs, 
Pray for Us!
Amen. 
St. Andrew Kim Taegon, first Korean priest with his lay associate St. Paul Chong Hasan with 113 other Koreans died as martyrs between 1839 and 1867. There are now about four million Korean Catholics, one of the most vibrant in the world, ranking fourth with the most number of saints.