And the winner is…

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday after the Epiphany, 08 January 2021
1 John 5:5-13     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Luke 5:12-16
Photo by author, December 2020.

Beloved: Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood. The Spirit is the one who testifies, and the Spirit is truth.

1 John 5:5-6

If we could all be aware of this wonderful declaration by your Son’s beloved disciple, O God our Father, surely there would be fewer disappointments and frustrations among us in this life, especially from that “rat race” where there are no victors but only losers.

As we advance in science and technology supposedly making life better and easier for us, making us more affluent to some degree, what a tragedy that we still do not feel contented as life has become more competitive in quantitative terms than qualitative aspects like love and understanding, closer ties and cooperation.

Life may be easier but, unfortunately we cannot see its great value that even on the personal level, there is still so much self-hate and self-rejection going on among us.

Help us, dear Jesus, to keep in our minds and our hearts how you wish only the best for us, our healing and our fulfillment in life like that leper you have healed in the gospel today.

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately.

Luke 5:12-13

Lord Jesus, let us believe in you wholeheartedly by embracing your Cross where you won the world for us with “the Spirit, the water, and the blood” that all testify to you as the Christ, the Anointed One of God who saved and redeemed us. Amen.

Photo by author, Chapel of Theology Dept., ICMAS, 12 November 2020.

Thank you, 2020!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Thursday, Seventh Day in the Christmas Octave, 31 December 2020
1 John 2:18-21     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     John 1:1-18
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, sunrise in our Parish amid the summer lockdown of 2020.

O God our Father, on this last day of 2020, we thank you so much for all the blessings you have given us these past 365 days. Yes, we shall always remember this year as the most difficult and most life-changing we ever had but we are grateful to you.

No matter how much people would ridicule and play jokes on 2020, despite its being so heavy for many of us who have lost loved ones, lost jobs and livelihood, and forced us to change plans and directions in life, we still thank you Lord for letting us make it through.

The problem, Lord, is not the year 2020 which means “perfect vision”; the problem is us who have lost all our vision for moral and upright living, decency, and good governance. We have lost vision, of the ability to see beyond the surface of things we have gone through this year.

How sad when many of us have seen only the year, the days and the months without realizing the deeper meaning of the events that resulted from our poor and wrong decisions, inactions and indifference to the calumnies and lies dished out daily by those in power.

Open our minds and our hearts that the presence of so many antichrists in our midst who lie and speak without thinking so well what they say signal the final hour of Christ’s coming and judgment as well as the final hour for us to do something concrete to end the reign of evil.

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour.

1 John 2:18

Let us claim, dear Jesus, on this last day of 2020 and into the coming new year the two great gifts you have given us in your coming — light and life (Jn.1:4).

Your light has always been there present among us. Give us the courage to bring out your light, sweet Jesus so there may be more truth, goodness, justice, love, beauty, compassion, kindness, freedom, and peace in this world that have ironically reached great new heights in science and technology but has remained inside the caves of evil and malice.

May we rediscover anew the value of every life, that one life being lost is too many, whether due to the pandemic or the war on drugs.

On this last day of the year, may we do something so good, so kind, so true as if today were also our last day on earth. Amen.

Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday (13 December 2020).

Christmas in COVID-19

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas 2020 Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
“The Adoration of the Shepherds”, a painting of the Nativity scene by Italian artist Giorgione before his death at a very young age of 30 in 1510. From wikipediacommons.org.

A blessed Merry Christmas to you, my dear Reader! As I have been telling you these past weeks, this Christmas may be the bleakest and saddest we have in our lifetime due to the pandemic but at the same time it may be our most meaningful of all. Consider the following:

We may have less material things this Christmas, but we have more spiritual values
like faith, hope, and love along with kindness, compassion, and tenderness;
We may have less of ourselves but finally, we have more of others,
especially family;
 Most of all, we may have less of all the trimmings of the season 
to have more of the Reason, Jesus Christ our everything!

Last Holy Week and Easter, I have told you that while we were so sad in the midst of a strict lockdown when COVID-19 hit us so bad, Jesus must be more sad than us with what we were going through at that time.

However, while many of us may still be sad this Christmas, Jesus must be happy not for our misery but because finally, He can have us completely as we continue to learn the many lessons of the pandemic, of finding the more important and essential and valuable in life.

But, can He finally have us completely this Christmas 2020 and hereafter?

How sad and alarming that after nine months in the pandemic, many of us have gone back to our old ways of not praying, not celebrating Sunday Mass, and worst, still emotionally distant from God and others.

Photo by author, Christmas 2019.

Christmas is Jesus reminding
us life is precious because it is fragile;
He came to us an infant born in precarious
situations like us.

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-7

If Luke were to write the gospel today, he would have surely mentioned the COVID-19 pandemic that has greatly altered our lives in less than a year. And that is the good news of Christmas: Jesus comes to us in the most trying time of our lives like 2000 years ago when He was born in Bethlehem.

See the beautiful contrast presented by Luke: the powerful Caesar Augustus of the Roman empire and the true King of kings being born like any infant in a manger for there was no room for them in the inn.

Yes, in our time there are so many women delivering their babies in difficult situations even worst like those fleeing their own countries due to wars and persecution. Here we find the Son of God from the moment of his birth had experienced the uncertainty and insecurity we ourselves are into. I have always told in my funeral Masses how easy it is these days to just die and pass away: recall the people we knew who simply died from COVID-19 and other sickness this year alone. Everybody says the difficulty of seeking medical attention due to the corona virus.

But that is how life is truly is: it is most precious because it is fragile, precarious, so delicate like an infant and a child.

That is what Jesus is showing us in coming to us born as an infant, in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloth: the all-powerful and mighty God and King asking us to be tender and kind with Him born among everyone of us.

I love Zechariah’s description of God’s mercy in his Benedictus or canticle to God after he regained his speech when he confirmed the name of his son John:

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Luke 1:78-79

And that is perhaps one of the things we sorely miss so much these days from everyone, tender compassion. The tender compassion, tender mercy of Jesus. Recall how during His ministry all four evangelists would narrate how Jesus was moved with pity and compassion to the people who were lost, tired and sick “like sheep without a shepherd” that no matter how tired He may be, He would always find time to teach them, heal their sick, and even feed them.

Like courage, tenderness or mercy is a movement in the heart called misericordia in Spanish from the Latin mittere, meaning to be moved, to be stirred that is why it is soft. It is something dynamic, not static. It is a deep feeling that moves toward someone in pain and suffering — an identification of Jesus right at the moment of His birth with every person going through so much hardships and sufferings in life.

Let God stir your hearts this Christmas, especially for the poor and the weak, for those closest to us we have taken for granted. Share the joy of the newborn Jesus by considering always the fragility of this life we have, of being kind, not hurting others physically or verbally. Enough with all the violence and brutality around us.


Christmas is Jesus coming to us
to affirm our very first love:  God.

Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, 06 December 2020.

At the time of Jesus, rabbis used to teach that God had intervened in the history of the world during “four great nights”: the first night is the beginning of creation (Gen. 1); the second was when God made a covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15); the third night was the liberation of Israel from Egypt or Exodus.

The fourth is the future one, the night when God will break all chains to put an end to all kinds of misery, to create a new world and begin His kingdom here on earth. For us Christians, Christmas is that fourth night when Jesus was born in Bethlehem as well as when He rose from the dead.

December 24 is always believed to be the darkest night of the year, the perfect setting of the coming of our Savior Jesus Christ so vividly presented to us by Luke in his Christmas story when he juxtaposed the misery of humanity (darkness) and the glory from high of angels announcing His birth.

What a mysterious exchange, an eternal presence of the Son of God entering into our history as a human like us in everything except sin.

See the paradox of his birth: poverty and glory when Jesus was born into destittion under the decree of the pagan emperor, childbirth far from home without any help to His Mother, and then honored by the lowest kind of people of his time , the shepherds yet glorified by the angels of heaven!

All of these to affirm to us humans that we are God’s first love!

We may be living in the darkness of the night with no clear sight yet of the end of this pandemic despite the discovery of a vaccine. Both the government and big businesses do not give a damn on the people, not even provide the basic services like good internet or efficient toll system. Violence and vile becoming a daily staple among those in power.

It is so dark indeed but the love of Christ Jesus can brighten and illumine even the darkest corners of our lives if we come to Him in firm and consistent faith like Mary His Mother. Christmas reminds us that the night has been overcome and conquered by the love of Jesus Christ, our Savior.

Take note that Luke is the only evangelist who calls Jesus so often as “Savior”: 14 times in his gospel and at least 40 times in the Acts of the Apostles. Likewise, Luke insists in his Christmas story using the word “today” to show that God’s salvation continues to happen at this very moment because He loves us so much!

Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2020.

Let me end these reflections with a prayer as I tried to silence myself these past nine days of Simbang Gabi:

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

Thank you for still coming, not only today but every day, in good times and in bad times.
Thank you for loving us in spite and despite our sinfulness, especially when we have no time for you, when we are so busy with so many other things we claim for our loved ones and sometimes, for you.

Despite the clouds of darkness above us, you continue to come to us, bringing light to dispel the many darkness especially in our hearts, in our relationships.  So many times, we have lacked tenderness and mercy with one another despite our profession of faith and love for you.

In this time of COVID-19, help us go back to the basic truths and realities your birth and coming teach us:  the value of our family, of simplicity, of humility, of smallness or littleness, of love and mercy, kindness and sincerity.

O dear sweet child Jesus, move our hearts to be kind and loving to others; to always be careful not to hurt you in every person we meet so they may realize despite the miseries of this world, there is always your glory, your salvation to anyone who trusts in you.

Bless us with your grace and truth, Jesus, so that through us, through our lives of witnessing, God may dwell upon us and be made known to everyone not only this Christmas but all year through.
Amen.
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2020.

The hand of the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-8 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Advent Week IV, 23 December 2020
Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 1:57-66
Photo by author of the entrance to the site believed to be where the Lord’s Precursor was born below the side altar of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Ein Karen, Israel (2019).

We are almost into the completion of our nine-day novena for Christmas as we heard today the story of the birth of the Lord’s Precursor, John the Baptist. It is a story narrated so simple by Luke but filled with beautiful meanings specially for us today in this time of the pandemic.

First thing we see is how Zechariah’s speech was restored upon declaring the name of his son is “John”:

He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name,” and all were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God.

Luke 1:63-64

Luke did not tell us what kind of praise did Zechariah speak about God when his speech was restored but here we find that basic truth in our lives that for every blessing we receive from the Lord, right away – immediately! – we must praise and thank God first.

Moreover, this scene shows us the good effect of the “imposed quarantine” on Zechariah when he was made deaf and speechless after doubting God’s gift of a child to him and his wife Elizabeth during the annunciation by the angel while incensing the Holy of holies in Jerusalem.

God restored the power of Zechariah to speak again and greatly renewed him that this time, he had become obedient to the Father to his plan. In a sense, Zechariah was not merely freed to speak again but most of all, he was freed to believe and trust in God again!

As we have reflected last Saturday morning, Advent is quarantine. So many times in life, we have to step backwards, be silent to listen to God and just let Him do His work in us! Sometimes we think of so many things that are not really necessary and has nothing to do with God’s plans or work. With Zechariah able to speak now, he shows us that in the exercise of our powers we must first get in touch with God how to use His gifts to us.

This we shall see in our second point: allowing God to use us as His hand.

Photo by author, dome of the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein-Karen, 2019.

Then fear came upon all their neighbors, and all these matters were discussed throughout the hill country of Judea. All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:65-66

From rejoicing at the birth of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son, their neighbors now moved to being amazed when the child is named “John” that coincided with the restoration of his father’s ability to speak.

Luke tells us how it was such a big thing, maybe so “viral” and “trending” like today that everybody was discussing it. They must have felt God so near, almost there that Luke used an Old Testament expression, “For surely the hand of the Lord was with him”.

It is a beautiful expression indicating power too, just like the ability to speak.

Our hands are so powerful that we are able to move and do so many things because of these.

To say “the hand of the Lord was with him” is to portray the image of God’s immense power, His omnipotence, of being able to do whatever He deems needed to life on earth.

In the Old Testament when Elijah was being pursued by the soldiers of Queen Jezebel after he had shamed the priests of baal for failing to light a pile of firewood for worship, the prophet escaped by running beyond human ability considering his old age because “the hand of the Lord was on Elijah” (1 Kgs. 18:46).

Sometimes, the “hand of the Lord” can be scary as it means judgment or punishment from God like when King David disobeyed God when he ordered a census of Israel to find out how many men can fight in their wars, doubting the power of the Lord. David was given with three options for his punishment by the seer Gad: a natural disaster or a victory by his enemies, or a time of God’s judgment. David chose the third option, saying “I am i dire straits. But I prefer to fall into the hand of the Lord, whose mercy is very great, than into the hands of men” (1Chronicles 13:21).

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC (2014).

The late Jaime Cardinal Sin of Manila used to tell of the story about the hand of God: he said sometimes, the hand of God would “spank” or hit us with pains and trials in life to discipline us and make us strong; sometimes, the same hand of God would caress and soothe our tired bodies or give us that proverbial pat on the shoulder to affirm us. But what is most important to remember according to Cardinal Sin is the fact that whether we are being disciplined or touched by the hand of God, it is always loving and merciful, most of all grace filled.

The recent news of that trigger happy cop who brutally shot and killed Sonia and her son Antonio in Tarlac recently is a reminder to us all most especially this Christmas in the time of pandemic, of the need for us to let the hand of God take control of our lives, guide us to life through more patience, love, kindness, and understanding.

It seems that so often, whenever we let our hands do everything, they always go out of control like our mouth and lips that lead us to more disasters and even deaths.

Beginning this Christmas, may the hand of God lead us back to Him and with each other.

Let us imitate the praying hands, of two hands touching each other but always creating a space between. That space is for Jesus born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, asking us everyday to take Him into our hands to care for Him, to protect Him through one another.

Amen.

Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels.com

Advent: A parable of our life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Advent-B (Gaudete Sunday), 13 December 2020
Isaiah 62:1-2, 10-11 >><)))*> 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 >><)))*> John 1:6-8, 19-28
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday at the Parish, Advent 2019.

Advent is a parable of our lives. Three months ago we reflected every Sunday the many parables of Jesus and we have learned that a parable is a simple story that contains deep meanings. Just like Advent: a season that comes in our church calendar every year that we take for granted not realizing the deeper meanings it teaches in the four weeks before Christmas or the Second Coming.

On this third Sunday of Advent also known as “Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday”, joy is the motif of all our readings for indeed, we are moving too closely to Christmas – and parousia. The lovely shades of pink remind us that we have to be alert to experience the advent of Jesus. Once again, its precursor John the Baptist guides us this Sunday in grasping the parable of Advent during his time and in our own time.


We are all a John the Baptist -
a reminder of Christ present among us.

All four evangelists mention John the Baptist in their gospel version before telling the ministry of Jesus Christ; but there is something so different with the approach of the author of the fourth gospel in introducing the Lord’s precursor.

In the fourth gospel, he is simply called “John”, omitting his title “the Baptist” for he is the only John in this gospel. The author of the fourth gospel never named himself preferring to be known as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” or simply “beloved disciple”. We learned his name is John through the other three gospel accounts, that he is the brother of another apostle James, both being the sons of Zebedee.

Why the author of the fourth gospel never identified himself with his name John is another topic; what matters to us is that there is only one man named John in his gospel and that is no other than John the Baptist whom he presented in the most unique manner like an official pronouncement, full of solemnity by declaring that this “man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (Jn.1:6-7).

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 20 September 2020.

Here we find John the Baptist clearly being placed by the author of the fourth gospel in relation to the Christ that is essentially the meaning of our being a baptized Christian — we are another John to remind people of Jesus present among us. It is one of life’s parables we always miss, something that can elicit joy in everyone.

And the more we find ourselves like John the Baptist in his mission, the more we experience Jesus closest to us too!


Life is a perpetual Advent
of Jesus who needs a 
John the Baptist in us.

After formally introducing to us John as man sent from God to testify for the Christ, our gospel today skipped the rest of the Prologue and jumped into the mission of John to introduce the ministry of Jesus Christ. See how in a few verses we find transitions from John to Jesus then to us.

Painting by Raphael of John preaching in the wilderness; photo from wikicommons.

John said: “I am the voice of the one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said. I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

John 1:23, 26-27

John is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. But, at the same time, he is the continuation of the Old into the New as he stood present pointing to Jesus Christ who had come and would come again!

This we find in his last reply to the query of the Pharisees: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

This is the parable of Advent: it is a perpetual event, something that keeps on happening even in our time that needs a John the Baptist to remind us that Jesus had come, that he is coming and most of all, he is come!

Aside from preparing others for Jesus Christ’s coming – we need to be like John the Baptist who also prepared himself for his Lord and Master!

In telling us that “there is one among you whom you do not recognize”, John humbly prepared himself to recognize and receive Jesus when he identified the Lord while coming to him for his baptism as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, saying “He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me'” (cf. Jn.1:29-30).

But most of all, we find the most beautiful lesson of John in preparing for the Lord’s coming when like him, we allow Jesus to reveal himself to us, always saying “He must increase; I must decrease” as he taught his disciples asking him about Jesus’ ministry.

“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”

John 3:29-30

Advent is being alert
and open to the Holy Spirit
who always comes with Jesus.

Advent is a parable of life when we hope in joy and humility for the Second Coming of the Lord who also continues to come to us in so many ways we never expect. It is a time of prayer and reflections when we try to become more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

In the first reading we are reminded of the exact words of the Prophet that Jesus proclaimed in their synagogue when he came home to preach that,

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.

Isaiah 61:1-2
Photo by author, Advent 2018.

After proclaiming those beautiful words of the prophet, while people were all eyes on him, Jesus declared “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:21).

That is the power of the word of God, it is always effective and performative as the very sign of his presence among us. That is why Advent is the season when we are encouraged to cultivate that habit of praying the Sacred Scriptures that cleanse our hearts to be empty and ready to receive Christ in his coming. We encounter God first in his words filled with parables that enrich our lives.

To be open for the word of God and to the Holy Spirit means being alert that Jesus is “one among you whom you do not recognize” as John had told us.

Like John, it is finding the “whole” of God’s plan for us from the Old Testament to the New Testament and into our own time in the Church. It is the joy of discovering in this myriad of events and happenings, there is a God personally coming to us, loving us in the most personal way.

Like John, we are sent from God to give testimony to Jesus who had come, will come again and always comes.

That is the parable of Advent: when we realize deep within that we are able to rejoice and be glad to be alive to meet Jesus. May we heed to the words of St. Paul in the second reading:

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Have a blessed and joyful week!

Photo by author, Advent 2018.

Advent, a prelude to Easter

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Advent Week-II, 07 December 2020
Isaiah 35:1-10     >><)))*>  >><)))*>  >><)))*>     Luke 5:17-26
Photo by author, sacristy altar, 05 December 2020.

Your words today, O God are so uplifting, evoking in us springtime when everything is bursting into new life making this Season of Advent a prelude to Easter. And rightly so!

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.

Isaiah 35:1-2, 5-7

But for us to see life bursting forth around us, let us in our selves first desire life, persevere our healing, and keep your gifts of mercy and forgiveness like the men who lowered through the roof a paralyzed man on a stretcher before Jesus while preaching inside a packed house.

Strengthen us to go out and find ways in meeting you, Jesus, like those men.

Forgive us for the many occasions of cynicisms and indifference, as well as arrogance and pride like the scribes and Pharisees who questioned your authority to forgive sins.

As we have reflected yesterday, Advent is a two-way street: you always come, Lord Jesus but we must also come to meet you. So many times you have come to our lives but we never met you, never experienced you nor even felt you because we have always been full of ourselves, of our sins, and of so many other people and things.

Keep us one with you always, Jesus – in your cross, in your humility, in your love.

Like St. Ambrose your great Bishop of Milan, may we lead more souls discover you, Jesus, and experience life anew like St. Augustine, his famous convert. Amen.

Life in the dead of the night

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B, 29 November 2020
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7  +  1 Corinthians 1:3-9  +  Mark 13:33-37
Photo by Atty. Polaris Grace Rivas-Beron at the summit of Mt. Sinai, May 2019.

A blessed happy new year to everyone as we begin today the new liturgical year of our Church calendar with the first Sunday of Advent. From the Latin word adventus for “coming”, Advent is a time meant to prepare us spiritually for Christmas.

And with all the problems and sufferings we have been going through this 2020 with the pandemic still around us in this joyous season of Christ’s coming, we hope that we make this Advent Season more serious so we may have a more meaningful Christmas, prepared for 2021 (see our recent blog, https://lordmychef.com/2020/11/23/surely-there-will-be-christmas-2020/)!

Like Lent, though in a less penitential mode, Advent is a time to pray and reflect on our lives and if possible, go to confessions to cleanse our hearts so Jesus may come and rest there like when he was born on a manger in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.

Our first reading today beautifully sets the mood for Advent 2020 in the midst of COVID-19 with a prayer so true with each one of us:

You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you…

Isaiah 63:16-17, 19
Photo by author, Advent 2019.

Advent is for new beginnings, for coming again.

Year 2020 is without doubt very difficult for everyone but it teaches us in the most unique way the essentials in life like God, family, friends, true self, and things like kindness, respect, thoughtfulness, simplicity, presence, and other niceties we have taken for granted for so long. It is about time that we recover these specially in Advent which is the season of new beginnings when we start anew in life.

And where do we start?

Right where we are, here in our darkness in the pandemic and within our hearts, far from God by beginning to pray anew to him so he may finally come and return to us!

The words by Prophet Isaiah in the first reading are so perfect at this time as if these were written only recently, expressing our true sentiments within: that we are sorry for having drifted far from Jesus and from others all these years, so focused with things and gadgets than with God and persons.

Our hearts have been too hard, distant from God and each other, so cold and so dark that we have become so insensitive, callous and numb or even without any conscience at all that in the midst of a pandemic, there are some who can still utter lies and malice with their hands also tainted with blood and corruption.

It is so sickening but, the more we pray and listen to our inner selves, we also find how this darkness has slowly encroached on us too, happening at different levels right in our own family circles, in our community, and even in our church maybe!

On bended knees, we humbly admit our need for God to intervene now – to rend the heavens – and bring us back to our senses and unto him, so we may finally find rays of hope, even a glimmer of light in this darkness we are into.

As we pray for the Lord’s advent or coming, we need to strive to be vigilant on our part as we patiently await him right in our hearts in this night of the pandemic and chaos going on.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

Mark 13:33, 35-37
Photo by author, Red Wednesday, 25 November 2020.

Though we live in darkness, we belong to Christ who is light himself!

Everywhere in the world, except Down Under perhaps, the Season of Advent always falls in that time of the year when the nights are longer and most of all, darkest as in winter experienced in the western hemisphere, including Europe.

In fact, Christmas Eve is the darkest night of the year, the date Christ was born to bring light and be the light of the world.

See how Jesus used the night as the time of the return of the “lord of the house” (who is himself, too) when everything is dark and difficult.

For the young generation today, it may mean nothing at all as they have grown accustomed to our 24/7 world where work continues into the night like during the day with offices and stores opened and public transportation readily available.

During the time of Jesus and even 30 years ago, we rarely travelled nor even went out past six in the evening because of the many dangers at night like criminal elements lurking for their preys and simply the difficult situation of seeing clearly the roads ahead. In the bible, darkness is the realm of evil and sin like Jesus being betrayed by Judas after their last supper while in Genesis, we find how in darkness was nothing but chaos until God created everything.

And there lies the good news of the night, of darkness, and of Advent: Jesus Christ as the light himself of the world comes to save us at night! It was before dawn when Jesus walked the waters of the Sea of Galilee to save his apostles while being tossed by giant waves in their small boat. It was also in the darkness of the night when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.

Yes, we all live in the night when darkness envelops us, even our hearts and very lives with so many problems and crises happening but we never lose hope, we never lose sight of that glimmer of light for we do not belong to the night but to Jesus Christ, the light of the world.

Photo by author, Red Wednesday, 25 November 2020.

Advent is patient waiting for the Lord’s coming.

Night is the time when it is best to believe in the light. As one poet had said, “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” But, another unknown poet had also said that “Only the brave who dare to walk the darkest of nights shall see the brightness of the stars above.”

Our lives may be in darkness or even dark itself these days but we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist today even if the the Lord’s coming may be delayed because we know deep in our hearts that “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor.1:9).

One thing we need to pray for this season are patience and vigilance in awaiting his return during this darkness.

Patience is a virtue becoming so rare these days when everything is rushed as we live in a world of “instants” like instant gratification and, yes! — even instant vaccine against COVID-19 without us realizing its deep implications of calls for changes in the way of living and doing things in the world as individuals and as nations. From the Latin “patior” which is to bear all pains, patience is also believing that something better will happen in every sufferings we patiently endure.

Likewise, vigilance is more than being awake and prepared for any eventuality but an active waiting for someone or something by taking risks due also to a firm belief something better will come out of trying situations.

Patience and vigilance go together for both are fruits of real and hard prayer, expressions of deep faith in God.

Photo by author, Advent 2019.

On this first Sunday of Advent with clouds still turning dark with rains that have never stopped drenching us these past weeks, we continue to celebrate the Eucharist thanking God for our long-term faith in Christ’s Second Coming.

When we look back to those past nine months of darkness in this pandemic worsened by recent calamities and a clueless government since January, we actually gone far than we have expected.

Why? Because we have never lost hope from the little glimmers of lights God has sent us since the lockdown in March! We have survived and slowly, many of us are finding life’s deeper meanings and realities in God our Father.

Notice how in every patient waiting for Christ’s Second Coming in the midst of the many darkness in life, the Lord actually comes nearer to us, albeit slowly and unnoticeably?

That’s the beauty of Advent, new beginnings always happening for those patiently waiting in the Lord.

Let us be on guard during these long nights of darkness when temptations are strongest and so appealing. Like at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wants us to “watch” with him by praying to the Father so we may remain faithful and focused on him alone to soon find life in the dead of the night. Amen.

A blessed Sunday to you!

Hesus, tunay nga ba nating Hari?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-20 ng Nobyembre 2020
“Ecce Homo” ni Murillo, mula sa wikipediacommons.com.
"Utos ng hari
hindi mababali!"
Iyan ang kasabihang
ating kinalakhan
tumutukoy sa kapangyarihan
ng sino mang naghahari 
o naghahari-harian
sa lansangan o tahanan
tanggapan at paaralan
maging sa simbahan
kung saan ang pari ---
O kay laking sawi!---
para ding hari...
Bawat utos,
ano man magustuhan
hindi maaring ipagpaliban,
ipagpipilitan upang makamtan;
parurusahan sino man
lumiban sa utos
na batas ang katumbas!
Nguni't
ito nga ba ang tamang gawi
ng sino mang hari
na ituring kanyang pag-aari
parang mga aliping nagapi
kanyang nasasakupan
at pinaghaharian?
Masdan
 mga salitang binitiwan
ng Hari ng mga hari
at ating Dakilang Pari:
"Ito ang dahilan
kung bakit ako ipinanganak
at naparito sa sanlibutan:
upang magsalita
ng katotohanan"
na "ang Diyos ay pag-ibig"
naparito "upang maglingkod
hindi upang paglingkuran".
Iyan sana ating tandaan
katangian
ni Kristo Hesus
Hari ng sanlibutan
SINUSUNOD
hindi NASUSUNOD,
 sinusundan, tinutularan
sa kanyang kabutihan.
Kaya kung si Hesus
nga ang ating Hari
Siya ang ating tularan 
sa pagmamahal at kabutihan
huwag sirain yaring kaisahan sa sangkatauhan
dahil ano man gawin o ipagkait sa maliliit
siyang Kanyang pagsusulit sa pagbabalik!
Larawan kuha ng may akda, 2019.

Walang walang kuwenta

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-18 ng Nobyembre 2020
Larawan kuha ni G. Jim Marpa, 2019.
"Walang kuwenta"
madalas masambit ng matatanda
sa maraming bagay noong araw
panahon pa ni Kopong-Kopong
kung sino man iyon...
"Walang kuwenta"
ay walang suma,
walang halaga,
walang kabuluhan
kaya hindi na binibilang.
Nguni't kung ating 
tutuusin 
lahat sa buhay natin
ay mahalaga kaya
mayroong kuwenta ang bawat isa.
Walang
walang kuwenta
sa mundong ito
dahil sa kahuli-hulihan
ang lahat ay kukuwentahin
upang tingnan
kung tayo ay sapat o
kulang sa timbang
batay sa ipinagkatiwala
ng Diyos na biyaya sa atin.
Hindi mahalaga kung
marami o kakaunti
 binigay Niya sa atin
dahil iisa pa rin
ang pagsusuma
 na Kanyang gagawin:
naging tapat ba tayo
sa atas Niyang gampanin
palaguin, pagyamanin
kaloob Niyang bigay sa atin?
Mapalad
ang aliping tapat,
pinagyaman, pinalago
kanyang buhay at talento
sa langit kanyang makakapiling
itong Panginoon natin!
Ngunit sa aba
na sinayang ang lahat
sa paghuhukom
siya ay titimbangin
at kung kukulangin
magngangalit mga ngipin
sa walang hanggang apoy
siya susunugin.
Pagyamanin
biyaya sa atin
ng Panginoong butihin
na siyang puhunan
din natin 
sa buhay pang darating!

Leave the sidewalk, join Jesus on the street to see more

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXXIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 16 November 2020
Revelation 1:1-4; 2:1-5     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Luke 18:35-43
From Facebook, nuns bringing relief goods during the COVID lockdown last summer.

God our Father… I cannot find the words to tell you what is in my heart as I saw the images of devastations and sufferings of your people these past days. Part of me feels thankful for my lesser worries like not having running water and other things but my heart goes out to those people still trapped in floods with little or no food and water at all.

Sufferings are all around us, dear Father. Hear our pleas, especially the cries of children, of mothers, and of elderlies.

It is true that we are partly to be blamed for these sufferings as we have refused to alter our lifestyles that destroy the environment. Worst of all, of our refusal to take an active part in choosing and electing credible leaders in government.

Like the people of Ephesus, we are good at speaking out against wickedness but have merely remained at the sides, preferring to stay in our comfort zones.

Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Revelation 2:4-5

Fill us with your Holy Spirit, Father, to courageously follow your Son Jesus Christ on the street as he passes by like that blind man sitting by the roadside begging; but, upon hearing Jesus was passing by, he left the roadside to come to Jesus on the street.

Like him, we pray, “Lord, please let me see” (Lk.18:41). Amen.

Image from pinterest.com.