When Advent is also a Sabbath

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent-A, 27 November 2022
Isaiah 2:1-5  ><}}}}*>  Romans 13:11-14  ><}}}}*>  Matthew 24:37-44
Photo by author, November 2022.

A blessed happy new year to everyone!

Yes, our new year in the Church begins this Saturday evening as we usher Advent Season, the four Sundays before Christmas which also falls on a Sunday this year. What a truly blessed Christmas we are having this year since COVID-19 came in 2020. For the first time in two years, we are celebrating Christmas face-to-face which is the essence of the event when the Son of God became human like us in everything except sin so we may experience God in person!

Like a light piercing through the darkness of the night – here and today – we experience Jesus Christ’s coming to us this Christmas 2022 most true that his call in the gospel is so appropriate especially at this time.

Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your day will come.

Matthew 24:37, 39-42
Photo by author, November 2022.

“Therefore, stay awake!”

Staying awake does not mean not going to sleep. In fact, for us to be awake, we have to sleep and be fully rested always to be awake and alert whether at night or at day.

That is why Advent is a sabbath, a day of the Lord when we pause to rest and allow God to fill us with his breath and spirit so we may be more attuned with Christ’s coming.

To rest in Filipino is “magpahinga” that literally means to be breathed on. Sabbath as a day of rest is to be breathed on by God, “magpahinga sa Diyos, mahingahan ng Diyos”. Unless we are filled with the breath of God, with his spirit, we will never experience Christ’s coming to us this Advent nor this Christmas nor at any time.

This is the whole point of Christ’s teaching today. Advent is an invitation for us to examine and review our attitudes to life, to God, and to others. Like in the gospel, Jesus reminds us how we conduct ourselves in this life, of being attuned to the Holy Spirit, lest “one is taken and the other one will be left”.

Life has been so difficult for everyone these past two years. Some of us have lost a loved one or relatives and friends to COVID. Many have lost their businesses or career and many other opportunities in life. And sadly, there are others who have lost or wounded and bruised relationships too.

But, have we also lost ourselves that in the process lost God too that we have lost all sense of decency and kindness with one another?

Photo by author, November 2022.

The other day, a former classmate suddenly texted me, saying hi and asking when she and her husband may visit me. Such messages coming out of the blue from anyone – especially her – make me wonder what’s wrong? What’s her problem this time?

She said she just wanted to keep in touch, reminding me how she has always been grateful for my help and prayers. However, she insisted that if we can’t meet, can I send her a prayer via text message because according to her, my prayers and blessings have “magic” as they always come true considering her prospering business and finally, her youngest child about to finish medicine.

I did not answer her until afternoon by sending her a prayer she had requested. And a reminder to her that my prayers have no magic powers nor lucky charms. I told her, “you are blessed abundantly by God because he loves you very much. Because he knows how well you pray hard and strive to be good and fair in your dealings with others. Most of all, because you are grateful. Keep serving the Lord.”

Many times even in our faith and spiritual life, we believe more in luck or swerte than in God as a person loving us, blessing us. That is why our faith has no communal dimension at all because we remain self-centered even in our worship and faith without even finding and experiencing God himself in Jesus Christ who had come to us more than 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.

On this first Sunday of Advent, we are reminded to rekindle in our hearts that ardent desire for God and his kingdom, for the return or Second Coming of Jesus Christ who had come and remains with us, and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to keep us awake in finding God always in us and in others.

This first Sunday of Advent is calling us to fine tune our attitudes to God anew, to recall the beautiful lessons of this COVID-19 pandemic we now seem to have forgotten totally like importance of God and prayers, of one another, and value of life.

Like the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading, we find ourselves today in the same situation of many wars going on not only in Ukraine or Mindanao but also in our families and communities yet, we continue to march forward to God’s final fulfillment of his promises. Imagine and feel the prophecy of Isaiah:

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may in his paths. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Isaiah 2:3, 4-5
Photo by author, November 2022.

What a lovely imagery of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks as we walk in the light of the Lord that is happening NOW!

That is one of the challenges of our Advent preparation which is to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts (and arms too!) to find and welcome Jesus Christ already present with us, right here and right now!

That can only happen if we can rest this Advent in the Lord through prayers and meditations of his words that are so rich these days; of having silent moments to find ourselves anew instead of going back to our old ways of crazy Christmas rush shopping and the many external preparations that have become more of a show or a palabas.

Advent is a sabbath calling us to come home to God, to find him in Jesus Christ who had come and comes daily inside us, in our family and friends, in everyone and in various occasions and event in our lives. When we find God, that is also when we find our true selves. And that is Christmas – the coming together of man and God.

Advent is a sabbath when we go back to paradise which last Sunday we find also on the Cross with Jesus Christ as he promised Dimas with “today you shall be with me in Paradise” when God takes charge of everything and we just follow him.

Advent is a sabbath when we recover that original attitudes of man and woman to obey God always, to find more of our goodness and of others and nature, and to live in God’s presence.

Let us heed the call of St. Paul to struggle not only to be morally upright in life but most of all to share the light of Christ when he asked us “to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom.13;14) so that we become his very presence in this world.

Let us rest in Jesus so we may be awake in his coming in every here and now. Amen. Have a blessed and restful week, everyone!

Photo by author, Advent 1, 2021.

Living for others

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Thirty-First Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 31 October 2022
Philippinas 2:1-4   ><}}}*> + <*{{{>< ~~ ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Luke 14:12-14
Dearest Lord Jesus,
in this time of calamities
when so many people have died
and many others are still suffering
while we celebrate the lives of
All the Saints and those of our
dearly departed, teach me to be
like them in bringing joy and light
in the lives of others; teach me
to live in love for others as
St. Paul beautifully tells us today:

Brothers and sisters: If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interest, but also everyone for those of others.

Philippians 2:1-4
Many times, 
quarrels and misunderstandings
cannot be avoided in our circles of
family and friends; there are times
others can be either so sensitive or
insensitive, always feeling the world
revolves around them; there are times 
when people are simply not matured enough,
so selfish and self-centered;
in times like these,
teach me Jesus to think less of myself
and more of others, especially those
affected when the sensitive and insensitive
along with those not matured enough are
casting their spells of darkness;
let me brighten the lives of others
with your joy and kindness,
love and care.
Amen.

Faith in Jesus, perfecter of faith

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 14 August 2022
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:1-4 ><}}}*> Luke 12:49-53
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Following Jesus, being a true and good Christian is always difficult. This I realized on my first month as a priest 24 years ago when I gave a “marriage encounter” (ME) to several married couples from the parish of my former professor in the seminary.

Part of the marriage encounter is the writing of one’s sins on a piece of paper with a symbolic burning before going to confession later in the evening; problem was, as a new priest, I gave a wrong instruction asking the spouses to exchange paper with their partner to see each others sins. That was when a wife collapsed after reading the sins of her husband! Actually, she had long suspected him of infidelities but that afternoon, all her doubts and suspicions were proven very true that her blood pressure shoot up, losing her consciousness in anger and pain.

After she had been revived, she kept on saying, “akala ko ME magpapatatag sa aming samahan; ito na yata maghihiwalay sa aming dalawa ng tuluyan” (I thought the ME will make our marriage stronger but it seems this will finally cause our separation as husband and wife).

I tried explaining things to her, prayed so hard for her and eventually after six months, I met them at a wedding as they thanked me how their marriage had gone stronger after surrendering everything to Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"Every Christian is a prophet...
a sign of contradiction."

Many times in our lives we have experienced that our faithful service in the Lord often leads us to distressing and painful situations, even tragic choices. In the first reading, we have heard how Jeremiah’s own folks threw him into a cistern to die because they could not take his preaching against their sinfulness and prophecies of the impending fall of Jerusalem which eventually happened. He was momentarily rescued from the cistern but later was eventually killed by his own people for speaking against their sinful ways and life.

Every Christian is a prophet like Jeremiah, a sign of contradiction among the people, even in one’s own family and circle of friends. To live against the corrupt and sinful ways of the world, to uphold what is true and just, to stand for what is honorable and good surely earn a lot of criticisms and condemnation from everyone. Even in the Church!

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division

Luke 12:49-51
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

With all of these words, we now wonder what is good with our Good News this Sunday? Remember, Jesus Christ is on his way to Jerusalem to face his suffering and death. Today he tells us three things to remember to remain focused with the End.

First is the fire he had brought into the world. It is not a fire of destruction but fire of heat and light that give life; fire that purifies and cleanses like silver and gold that bring out its beauty and magnificence; and most of all, the fire of God’s presence like in the burning bush of Moses and the pillars of fire/cloud that guided the Chosen People in the wilderness into the Promised Land.

Fire gives light and heat that lead into life; we can survive without food and water for several days but we cannot last even ten minutes without heat! This is the kind of fire we Christians need these days, fire that will lit us up with courage ands joy in Jesus Christ by witnessing his gospel in a world that seems to be dying and lifeless despite the noise and affluence around.

As a purifying fire, it always brings pains that lead into conversion and liberation like what that couple in my first Marriage Encounter have experienced. The fire of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness taught them to forgive each other and enabled them to lead holier lives. The more we get closer to Jesus our light, the more we see our sinfulness and weaknesses, then we change and mature. That is when we are filled with the light of Christ to become his presence in the world.

Second teaching of Jesus today is about his “other baptism” which is his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. This is the reason why he was “resolutely journeying to Jerusalem” – he was so eager, so decided to face his pasch not for the pains it would bring but for its glorious effects for us.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

That is the real meaning of baptism, from the Greek baptizein which is to immerse in water; hence, baptism before was a literal immersion in water. In our immersion into the passion and death of Jesus Christ, we enter into a communion in him and with him so that in his Resurrection, we too rise with him and in him into new life.

Third pronouncement by Jesus this Sunday is perhaps the most baffling, especially when we consider the statistics that more than half of the conflicts going on in the world today are due to religious beliefs.

Jesus never meant to bring people apart; in fact, he came to bring us all together, to gather us again as beloved children of the Father. However, it happens that the moment we stand for Jesus, for what is true and just, inevitably, we will be with odds even with those dearest to us. Jesus himself had said that “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk.14:26).

That is one of the beautiful imageries of the Cross of Jesus Christ: it marks the end of our sinfulness and the beginning of our oneness in God.

It is the difficult aspect of discipleship when our loved ones are into sins and evil, when they are in darkness and injustice. Are we going to side with them or side with Christ?

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us his peace (Jn.14:27) that according to him is not like the peace offered by the world that is often based on compromises; Christ’s peace is the fruit of love, of sacrifices. Love and sacrifice are one, always together; when you love, there is sacrifice, there is pain and suffering. That is why it is love!

Parents and lovers know this very well: many times they suffer and cry in silence because of their great love for their children or beloved. It is no wonder that in the Beatitudes, Jesus called the peacemakers and the persecuted blessed because to work for peace entails persecution and division.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"God is dangerous."
-Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar (+)

Last Sunday we have reflected how Jesus used the setting of night for our vigilance because faith is tested and deepened in the darkness of life like during nighttime. And, the darker the night, the longer the night always.

But, we have so many people who have gone ahead of us in this life who have found light and life amid the darkness in life, emerging victorious in their faith in God, from the patriarchs in the Old Testament and in Jesus himself and his Apostles and saints as well.

Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Wonderful! Jesus is the leader and perfecter of faith. Very often, we hear the gospels and the Bible speaking always of our having faith in Jesus. But, it is only here and in some instances in Paul we find Jesus having faith; how can Jesus, the Son of God have faith when he is the object of faith?

Let us remember that Jesus is truly human, truly divine. Like us, he also had faith as the gospels attest: he had faith in the Father who sent him. He is the best example of having faith, entrusting everything to the Father that he did not feel ashamed of the Cross. In that sense, Jesus is also the perfecter of faith because in him, with him and through him, we are able to walk in faith, sustain our faith in the most difficult and trying moments of life when we felt our relationships, our world falling apart because we have stood by his Cross. As we look back, we have emerged better, stronger, and most of all, joyful, free and faithful after all those trials in life. Thanks to our faith in Christ!

One of the friends of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II was the Swiss theologian and priest named Hans Urs von Balthasar who said in his 1945 book “The Heart of the World” that God is dangerous.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacia trees in UP-Diliman, April 2022.

Indeed, it is very true especially when Fr. Balthasar noted how God “is inviting you to lose your soul in order to gain it. He always thinks in terms of love. He offers us the impossible… He presents his victory over death as an example to be imitated, he draws us beyond our limits, into his adventure, which is inevitably fatal.”

The blessedness of this Sunday is that Jesus had become like us to lead us the way in a life of faith, perfecting our faith in the process so that we may overcome all obstacles and trials in life like him and be with him in eternal glory in heaven in the End.

Let us keep in mind the worthy reminder of the author of the Letter to Hebrews that “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Heb.12:4). Amen.

Have a blessed, fiery week of faithful adherence in Christ!

Light amid darkness: the grace of grieving in Mary Magdalene

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, 22 July 2022
Song of Songs 3:1-4   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   John 20:1-2. 11-18
Photo from GettyImages/iStockphoto.com
Praise and glory to you,
O Lord Jesus Christ in giving
us today this Feast of St. Mary
Magdalene, the "apostle of the
apostles" who proclaimed to Peter
and company that you have risen
on that Easter morning!
Thank you most especially in 
showing us through St. Mary Magdalene
the grace in that state many of us find
ourselves so often especially these days
of the pandemic - that of grieving.

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
Dearest Lord Jesus,
I pray for those weeping, 
for those grieving for the lost
of a beloved wife or husband,
a son or a daughter, a brother or
a sister, a friend or a colleague;
I also pray, Jesus, for those 
who are weeping in silence,
fighting their tears, hiding when
they cry as they attend and care 
for a dying loved one at home or
in the hospital.
Like St. Mary Magdalene, death
from its approach and coming
always has that dark presence in
us; mourning and weeping become
more difficult when nights become
longer we could hardly know morning
is coming or has broken.
And many times in those dark moments
we do not recognize you, Jesus, 
present among us in our weeping,
right in our grieving for our loved ones.
Open our eyes, open our hearts,
enkindle our faith and hopes in you, Lord
in these long, dark hours of our grieving.
You know very well how difficult it is
to let go of a loved one like St. Mary Magdalene
when you have died; like her, we continue
to "cling" and "hold" to our beloved 
in our old ways of relating with them 
in the hope of again hugging them,
touching them, and perhaps telling them 
how we love them and if given a chance,
to say sorry too for our sins and lapses.
“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.

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
Call us with our name again,
dear Jesus; call us anew with your
reassuring voice of love and kindness,
of mercy and forgiveness no matter
who we really are 
for you are the only one sent by the Father 
to assure us we are accepted despite and
in spite of our sins and weaknesses.
Let us exclaim again "Rabbouni" like
St. Mary Magdalene, filled with joy in
finding you amidst the darkness 
in our lives as we learn to stop "holding"
on to our departed and dying loved ones
as we recall and realize your teaching 
that every death is a sharing in your pasch,
a passing over into eternal life,
of leveling up our ties with them 
in you, Christ Jesus
to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, November 2018.

Light but not easy

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, 14 July 2022
Isaiah 26:7-9, 11, 16-19   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Matthew 11:28-30
From argusleader.com
God our loving Father,
thank you for sending us 
your Son Jesus Christ to clarify
to us what is really to be "light" 
in this age when we always want
to have our cake and eat it too!
When we are so obsessed in being "light",
with everything that is "light" especially
food and drinks that would give us
the satisfaction minus the guilt
feelings of calories and sugar, fats and carbs.
For the world, being "light" means
being easy but Jesus tells us it is 
not true at all.

Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

Matthew 11:28-30
Help us realize,
please enlighten our minds
and hearts that being "light"
still means carrying our 
cross but this time with you;
being "light" does not mean 
doing everything and anything
lightly without any sense of 
responsibilities like what the light
food and drinks try to portray 
that resulted to nothing as 
Israel had experienced when they
turned away from you, Lord.

As a woman about to give birth writhes and cries out in her pains, so were we in your presence, O Lord. We conceived and writhed in pain, giving birth to wind; salvation we have not achieved for the earth, the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth.

Isaiah 26:17-18
May we continue to learn from you,
Jesus our Lord and Teacher,
how to be a light leading others
to you by seeing you in us
through our love and sacrifices
the world sees as burdens
but in fact very light when done
in your most holy Name.
Amen.

Praying for enlightenment

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Eleventh Week in Ordinary Time, 17 June 2022
2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-18, 20   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 6:19-23
Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz in San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.
God our loving Father,
today I pray for the grace of
enlightenment of my mind
and of my heart to fill my life
with the light of your Son 
Jesus Christ.

Jesus said to his disciples: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness. And if the light in you is darkness, how great will the darkness be.”

Matthew 6:22-23
So true are your words, 
Lord Jesus:  when we live in
darkness, then we value the
wrong things that have no value 
at all; and worst, the basis of our
security becomes so precarious,
so uncertain.
Enlighten us with your Holy Spirit,
Lord, that our security is based solely
in God alone who is everlasting love;
many times, we think and feel our basis
of security are our money and property,
success and popularity, as well as loved
ones and friends; but, slowly when we
lose these and them one by one, 
we feel so anxious, we lose our peace, 
we lose even our very selves because we 
find our security are not secured at all.
Likewise, sooner or later, we find what we 
treasure are not treasures at all but simply 
passing.
Teach us, Jesus, to store up treasures 
in heaven like good deeds, fidelity, kindness,
charity and mercy for others.
Teach us, Jesus, to learn contentment,
to know our places in life and not to desire
anything not meant for us by God.
Teach us, Jesus, to be detached from all other
people and created things, though important,
so that we may only value God above all always
and find true peace and 
security only in him alone.  
Amen.

Easter is going out, not coming in

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter, 27 April 2022
Acts 5:17-26   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 3:16-21
Photo by Cristian Palteng, 16 April 2022, Easter Vigil at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.
Praise and glory to you,
Lord Jesus Christ for making 
this Easter Season so special:
our first major celebration since 
the pandemic began in 2020 with
our church gatherings always the
target of lockdowns and restrictions;
but this Easter, we have risen with you, 
dear Jesus, when we were finally allowed 
to gather and celebrate the Eucharist
without much restrictions.
Make us realize this fundamental truth
of your Resurrection, Lord Jesus:  that Easter
is more of coming out than getting in.

The high priest rose up and all his companions, that is, the party of Sadducees, and, filled with jealousy, laid hands upon the Apostles and put them in public jail. But during the night, the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, and led them out, and said, “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life.”

Acts 5:17-20
So many times, you have come
to set us free, Jesus, from our prison
cells of self-doubts, cynicisms, 
hopelessness, pains and hurts, 
guilt and sins but we refuse to 
believe you are risen, that you
have conquered evil and sin, darkness
and death; open our minds and our
hearts, Lord Jesus, to believe and accept
the love you have freely given us.
Let us go out to you, sweet Jesus,
to bask in the warmth of your light 
and truth that we are loved.  Amen.

Sharing Jesus our Light

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night, 16 April 2022
Easter Vigil 2021 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Every summer when we were growing up with all our cousins home for the vacation, we would always play bahay-bahayan underneath the many fruit-trees at our Lola’s garden. We would use palm leaves and whatever pieces of wood we had for our playhouses where we used to have our merienda and lunch.

One major concern we always had was making the “night scene” when we were supposed to “sleep” and the inside of the playhouse must be really, really dark by covering its walls with thick blankets. But, no matter how hard we tried to keep the lights out of our playhouses, there would always be a streak of light bursting forth inside, thus, teaching me an important lesson that has guided me through adulthood and priesthood: no matter how dark life may be, nothing can stop nor prevent even the smallest amount of light in penetrating every space and corner. And once light had burst through any darkness, all we have to do is just to spread that light until the whole place is basked in pure joy and glory like this Easter Vigil!

After three days of darkness when Jesus suffered and died and was buried, tonight we celebrate his Resurrection, his being our Light who has conquered the darkness of sin and evil that have enveloped the world for so long.

Easter Vigil 2021 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, symbolized by the Paschal Candle we have blessed earlier outside the church. Jesus is the Light who dispels all darkness in this life, the Light who clarifies everything to mankind that we are so loved by God our Father.

Our many readings tonight remind us of God’s fidelity to his promise to save us. When we try to look back especially in these past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic is our new exodus. And thought we are still in the wilderness wandering like the chosen people, we are now more certain of God’s presence with us in the present and the future because right now, we have felt the salvation of Jesus Christ.

Yes, we may have loss many of our loved ones but we are still alive continuing the journey of life. Some of us may have lost our jobs but the light of Christ had led many of us to new careers and business opportunities. Students are finally looking forward to their F2F classes to resume while many of those who kept their lights burning through the darkness of online classes have finally graduated with this year’s batch becoming the first to have F2F commencement exercises.

The light of Jesus Christ was never extinguished during these dark moments of pandemic. And tonight we are challenged to share Christ our Light amid the darkness we are still into like this pandemic and the coming elections.

Easter Vigil 2021 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Let us recall the beautiful rites we have just celebrated tonight. May I invite you to recall the gradual lighting of our own candles from the Paschal Candle after it was blessed outside. First to light from it were us your priests, then as we entered the church, one by one, everybody was able to light from the Paschal Candle, passing on the light to others until we illumined our church.

That gradual lighting of candles at the altar after the singing of the Exsultet and later the turning on of all lights after the Gloria evoke so many wonderful truths about God always present in our lives especially when there are darkness of sin and evil, failures and disappointments, sickness and sufferings, life and death.

Tonight we are asked to share and spread Jesus Christ, his light to others especially those in the darkness of sins and sufferings, of ignorance and blindness to truth, and other forms of darkness that prevent us experiencing the joy of being free in the Lord.

The most beautiful sight of all when all the lights in the church were turned on while our own candles were extinguished is the Paschal Candle still burning, prominently placed near the ambo, reassuring us of Jesus Christ remaining with us throughout the year as our light present in every celebration of the Sacraments in this church especially when we are nourished in his Word and Body and Blood in the Sunday Eucharist, in welcoming every new Christian during baptism and accompanying our departed ones in their journey to eternal life in him.

Easter Vigil 2021 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Beginning tonight, every time we see the Paschal Candle, may we remember the challenge of Jesus to share his light with others, to be open to welcome him who has risen.

While they were puzzling over this (the empty tomb), behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces on the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.”

Luke 24:4-7

Stop seeking the living among the dead! Perfectly said by the angels as they reminded the women looking for Jesus at the empty tomb on that Easter morning. And these are the words they are telling us still since that Easter!

Sharing the light of Jesus Christ is reminding ourselves too and others the same words of the angels to stop seeking the living among the dead.

Be kind and be gentle with yourself. Jesus had forgiven you, forgive yourself for your sins and mistakes in the past if you have confessed these or gone to confessions this Lenten season.

Move on with the present moment, dare to go out and challenge yourself to learn again, to work again, to love again, to dream again! COVID-19 may still be around but Jesus Christ is stronger, so let us rise again from our sickness and diseases! Let us not be afraid of the dark anymore for the Light can never be dimmed anymore.


May the light of our Risen Lord 
illumine your dark corners in life, 
enable you to empty yourself of sins 
and pains of the past to bask 
in the warmth and brightness 
of each new day in Christ!  
Amen.

Easter 2021 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

That sin called “adultery”

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 04 April 2022
Daniel 13:41-62   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   John 8:12-20
Photo by author, 2019.
For the second straight day,
we hear the story of adultery:
yesterday the woman was guilty,
today the woman is accused wrongly
but in both instances, your justice
and kindness prevailed, O God our Father!
But what is really with adultery 
that it is a favorite sin and topic in
your Sacred Scriptures, dear Lord?
More than its nature of infidelity, 
adultery also speaks deeply of our 
broken relationships with women:
like those two old men accusing Susana
wrongly of having a tryst with another man,
so often we have forgotten, even refused
to recognize adultery involves another man,
not just the woman.
Open our eyes, Father, especially the
"chauvinist pigs" and misogynists among us;
may the light of Jesus Christ your Son
enlighten the darkness within us and
enable us to see "where we came from" 
and "where we are going" so that we 
stop accusing and judging each other
of sins we ourselves are guilty too.

“You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me. Even in your law it is written that the testimony of two men can be verified. I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me.”

John 8:15-18
How funny, dear God,
that the root of this word
adultery means to pollute
or defile when in fact, that is
also the root of our sinfulness
when we defile others because
we have defiled our very selves
first when we turn away from you
as our origin and destination.
Amen.

Parol ating pastol

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-16 ng Nobyembre 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 11 Nobyembre 2021.
Hindi ko maiwasang umindak
sa awiting "kumukuti-kutitap,
bumubusi-busilak" tuwing 
makakakita ng mga parol 
nakasabit sa mga binatana,
binebenta sa kalsada
kahit malayo pa ang Pasko.
Ang mga parol ay tulad ng pastol
umaakay sa atin sa gitna ng dilim
hatid ay liwanag at galak
upang matunton at marating
Sanggol na sumilang sa sabsaban
habang mundo ay balot sa kasamaan
upang tayo ay tubusin sa ating mga kasalanan.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 11 Nobyembre 2021.
Makukulay, puno ng sigla
alalaong-baga, buhay na buhay
itong mga parol at iba pang mga palamuti
hatid ay hindi lamang ngiti sa labi
kungdi tuwa at kagalakan sa puso at kalooban
isang taon na naman matatagpusan
kahit COVID-19 kayang lampasan!
Katulad ng mga bituin at tala
mga parol at palamuti ng Kapaskuhan
matutunghayan lamang sa gitna
ng malaking kadiliman kagaya sa ating buhay
kung kailan mayroong kapighatian 
at lahat ay nalalabuan, doon naman
nagiging maliwanag at makulay ang lahat!
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 11 Nobyembre 2021.
Isang kabalintunaang tunay
ganda at busilak ng mga parol
sa atin nagpapastol tungo sa
liwanag ng kinabukasan;
sana manatiling nagningning 
liwanag ni Kristo sa puso at 
kalooban natin. 
Aking dasal at hiling
ngayong Paskong darating
sana matapos na itong COVID-19;
matularan sana natin mga parol
magpastol sa kawan, huwag silang maligaw
sa kadiliman  ng mga mapanlinlang 
tanging Diyos ang maging sandigan.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 11 Nobyembre 2021.