Lent is for softening the heart

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Third Week in Lent, 11 March 2021
Jeremiah 7:23-28   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Luke 11:14-23
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, March 2020.

O God our loving Father in heaven, how great indeed is your love and patience with us your children. Despite our sinfulness that hardened our hearts, you never stopped sending us prophets even your Son Jesus Christ to call us and return to you.

Why still be bothered with us so afflicted with a hardness of the heart and stiffened necks?

But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed. They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me… Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed; they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers… Say to them: This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God, or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech.

Jeremiah 7:24, 26, 28

Thank you, dear God, for never getting tired with us that we join the psalmist in praying, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Please do not allow our hearts to remain hardened because that is when it leaves no room nor space to listen nor repent and turn back to you again.

Soften our hearts or better, take away our stony hearts as you have promised your other prophet Ezekiel, so we may open ourselves to Jesus and listen to his good news of salvation instead of always seeing evil and Satan in everything, even in Christ like in the gospel today!

In this season of Lent, let us be persevering like you in exhausting all means to listen and discern every voice we hear. Soften our hearts, Lord, so we may choose you always no matter how difficult it may be for truly, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Lk.11:23).

Amen.

Photo by author, Mt.St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

Opening to God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, 12 February 2021
Genesis 3:1-8     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Mark 7:31-37
Photo by author, Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, 07 January 2021.

Listening to your words as the day unfolds, dearest Lord, I have realized that not all “opening” is good after all. Sometimes we want to open so many things in ourselves that only lead to opening to sin and evil, instead of opening to truth and peace and justice found only in you.

Teach us, O God our loving Father, to open only to you and completely trust you in your opening to us because it is when we start opening other possibilities like gaining more knowledge, more life, more of ourselves that we actually start closing out from you like in the story of the fall of man.

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked. When they heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:6-7, 8
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

So many times in life, dear God, we cannot accept other’s openness because we are so closed to ourselves. There are times that instead of going out into the open, we hide from you as if we can conceal what is exposed and open.

Open our eyes to see you in ourselves, to see ourselves in you and in others too.

How funny that in the gospel today, your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, healed a deaf man by opening his ears. And in doing so, he first “took him off by himself away from the crowd” (Mk.7:33), then healed him by looking up to heaven, groaning with the word “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”).

Ultimately, Lord, it is always easy to open our eyes and see or, open our ears and hear without really opening ourselves, opening our hearts that connect all senses into our whole being.

What matters most which we all pray today is to open us, O God, to you completely so that we may see and listen with our hearts inclined to you. Amen.

From the Ear to the Heart

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, Third Week in Ordinary Time, 27 January 2021
Hebrews 10:11-18     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Mark 4:1-20

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for being deaf, for refusing to listen to you, for not having the ears to hear your calls. Twice you called out on the crowd gathered before you in the gospel today, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow… Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear” (Mk. 4:3, 9).

So many times in life, we have forgotten the essential use of our ears which is to hear and listen so we may understand. Most of the time, our ears have been reduced to mere decorations of our head to hold eyeglasses as well as be stuffed with ear plugs or covered with headsets to be deadened by sounds we prefer to hear and listen to.

Make us realize anew that our ears were shaped in such a way to look like our heart when put together so that the more we hear and listen to you and others, the more we love.

So many things begin with our ears.

And so often, from the ears, they go to our hearts to be processed.

From hearing to listening to loving.

It is only with a listening heart that we can truly see you passing by everyday in our lives like the Sower sowing to us the seeds of love, the seeds of the kingdom of heaven.

Moreover, cleanse our hearts, remove so many other things not supposed to be there that distort our perceptions of you and of others.

May we realize too that in our refusal to listen to you, so many people have also stopped listening to us, your disciples, especially when we speak more of our words, more of our thoughts, than of your Word and Holy Will.

As you open our ears and hearts to your Word, dear Jesus, teach us to be patient too like our Father, the Sower, to never give up sowing your seeds of the kingdom of God even if nobody listens to us. Amen.

Van Gogh painting of “The Sower” from wikimediacommons.org.

True blessedness this Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-6 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Advent Week IV, 21 December 2020
Zephaniah 3:14-18     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 1:39-45
Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, the Holy Land, May 2017.

The Bible rarely tells us conversations between women, except for the Book of Ruth which records to us the story of two women, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth who became the grandmother of King David, and therefore, a kin of our Lord Jesus Christ.

But more rare in the Bible are conversations between two pregnant women, mostly conversations even fights among pregnant mothers and their midwives or rival wives found in the Old Testament. It is therefore so unique is Luke’s account of the Visitation when Mary meets Elizabeth. There must be something so significant for Luke – and for us most especially – in this encounter and exchange.

Mary set out in those days and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:39-45

Women as vessels of God’s blessings

Recall Matthew’s genealogy dominated by the male figures as it was the prevailing culture at that time when women were not really given much attention. But to show the immense power and freedom of God, Matthew mentioned five women who made the coming of Jesus Christ possible.

Most of the women were not really that good whom we would rather describe as a problematique: Tamar pretended to be a prostitute to entice her father-in-law Judah to get her pregnant while Rahab was a real prostitute (a mamasan in fact) at Jericho who helped the spies sent by Joshua before attacking that ancient city; Ruth was a foreigner, not purely Jewish while Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah whom David had killed after she got pregnant with Solomon. And Mary, the wife of Joseph, was found pregnant while still a virgin! (That is what I like most with God – he has a great sense of humor all the time!)

Very interesting with the gospel by Luke is that he got a lot of stories not found in the three other gospels but we find him unique in having a special place for women. He was one of the earliest champions of women in the Church by mentioning many females in his stories to show their important roles in God’s plan for mankind.

Photo by author, frescoes at the Church of the Visitation depicting the Visitation and then the infamous Holy Innocents Day of how an angel helped save the child John the Baptist from Herod’s executioners (2019).

In this story of the Visitation, we find a totally different presentation of women even in today’s world. What do I mean? Recall how during the lockdown the memes of pictures of women meeting with a caption “mga nagbabagang balita” (today’s news headlines) portraying women as rumor mongers or chismosas. Later when classes resumed, another meme circulated of women gathered together exchanging class modules of their children as if to show they are stage mothers.

Luke always presented women so dignified in stature like in the Visitation, so blessed by God.

First thing we notice in the story is how Luke never mentioned Mary and Elizabeth were pregnant. He merely indicated their situation by saying “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb” at 1:41 while at the following verse 1:42, Elizabeth proclaims to Mary, “Most blessed are you among women, blessed is the fruit of your womb”. Biblical scholars say that perhaps, Luke wanted to assure his readers that God’s powerful blessings marked both women, over each of whom the Holy Spirit overshadowed them with a child: Elizabeth in her barrenness and old age, Mary in her being a virgin before living with her husband Joseph.

What a display of the power of God so simple, so unassuming!

But the most beautiful part in this conversations by these two great women is the meaning of being blessed. So often when we think of being blessed, especially us Filipinos, it is something more of being “lucky” or “swerte” that means having money to spend and buy things. Sometimes being blessed for us is having achieved something that makes us and our loved ones famous.

The Visitation story tells us something entirely different: to be blessed means to believe in God, that His words would be fulfilled in us like with Mary, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45).

True blessings

Luke’s Gospel teems with so many occasions of blessings beginning in the infancy narratives up to the Presentation to the temple and then of Jesus pronouncing His blessings especially to those who listen and act on God’s words or those who accept Him as the Christ.

It is at the Visitation where Luke shows us the true meaning of blessedness through Mary because of her faith and trust in God’s word spoken to her by the angel at the annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ. Her faith makes her a model disciple to be imitated by all followers and believers of her Son Jesus Christ.

And here we find again the artistry of Luke because it is not only Mary who is blessed in the Visitation, but also Elizabeth as another model disciple like the Blessed Mother. Elizabeth was the first to call and recognize Jesus Christ as Lord, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk.1:43).

Photo by author, Advent Week IV, 2020.

See that when Elizabeth heard the greeting by Mary, like when Mary heard the greeting by the angel at the annunciation, it signaled the coming of the messianic age. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI even claims the annunciation is the beginning of the New Testament.

Elizabeth is the first person as far as Luke is concerned to call Jesus “Lord” and the first to call Mary “blessed” whom she will confirm later in her Magnificat, “all generations will call me blessed” (Lk.1:48).

Two women so blessed by God because they both believed in His words, both believed in the Christ still in the womb. Mary and Elizabeth are in fact the first two Christian disciples who showed us the essential task of every disciple: after hearing the word of God and accepting it, we must share it with others not only by repeating it but interpreting it in our very lives that everyone would see it as the good news.

With barely a week left on this final week of Advent, let us ask ourselves how are we going to show to others what we believe happens in Christmas in this time of the pandemic, that true blessedness is not being rich with material wealth but being enriched by a deep and animated faith in Jesus Christ who is Christmas Himself.

A blessed Monday to everyone!

Advent is a quarantine

The Lord is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-4 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Advent Week III, 19 December 2020
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Luke 1:5-25
Photo by author of our altar after a “private Mass” at the height of the lockdown last summer when public Masses were suspended.

I just realized the other day how fast really time flies after seeing photos of some of the couples I have married early this year now happily cuddling their babies… It did hit me hard that we have been in quarantine for nine months already, enough time to conceive and deliver a baby!

It sounds funny but it is the reality showing us how the birth of every child is a milestone not only to the parents but even to everyone and to history in general. We shall wait until next year to find out if there was a big increase in babies born this 2020 due to the long imposition of lockdowns and the quarantine we are into.

It is interesting to know that “quarantine” was actually borrowed from our Catholic practice of Lent, the 40 days of preparation for Easter called Quadragesima or Quaresma, from the Spanish word for forty.

When plagues became so common in Europe with devastating effects even before the middle ages, officials in the port of Venice in Italy ordered all incoming ships to spend “quaranta giorni” or 40 days of being moored first before entry to ensure they carry no plagues. Quarantine had always meant a period of time until lately it had also referred to a place or holding area as in “quaratnine area” to cleanse and disinfect people, animals, plants and things.

Advent 2019.

Its concept of spending days for purification had always been in our Judaeo-Christian traditions dating back to the Old Testament when the prophets of God would go to mountains and desert to meet Him who were later emulated by holy people including John the Baptist, Jesus, monks and hermits.

The Church imitated that practice that led to our Seasons of Lent and Advent. In fact, Advent used to be as long as Lent in duration, starting a day after the Martin Mass, the feast of St. Martin of Tours on November 11 but was later reduced to four Sundays to distinguish it from Lent that is meant to be more serious in preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

Now you see, my dear Reader, how interesting it is this year 2020 when we actually went back to our old practices of Lent, and now Advent in truly preparing for the Lord’s coming going through the quarantine.

Going back now to our gospel which is from Luke, we have heard how Zechariah doubted the good news he and Elizabeth would finally have a son after so many years of praying to God. For that, the angel Gabriel chastised Zechariah and made him speechless that people waiting outside the temple were amazed when he emerged from the Holy of holies unable to speak.

Then, when his (Zechariah) days of ministry were completed, he went home. After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.”

Luke 1:23-25
Photo by author, Church of the Visitation at Ein Karem (2017) where Elizabeth and Zechariah had a summer residence where they stayed when Elizabeth went into seclusion after getting pregnant with John.

Opening our selves to God and others

I find our gospel today so timely: Zechariah went home while his wife Elizabeth went into seclusion. They went into an Advent preparation for their son John the Baptist. They both went into a quarantine but not for the same reason: it was imposed on Zechariah while Elizabeth went into it voluntarily.

To lose one’s voice is to lose power and ability to lead. Zechariah was forced into silence in order to meditate and reflect more on the good news he had received from the angel. He was forced to go into silence to listen more to his true self, to others and to God to find new perspectives in life. As a priest, he must have been much sought after in their town for his wisdom and intelligence. Now that he is speechless, Zechariah was confined inside his home, to his very self to listen and most of all, to renew himself in God.

On the other hand, Luke shows us how Elizabeth seem to know better than her husband in dealing with their unusual situation by going into seclusion for five months. Observe how Elizabeth right away prayed to thank God as she meditated His mystery in “taking away her disgrace before others”. Remember that during that time, the only reason why a woman marries was to bear a child; failure to have a baby was seen as an embarrassment, almost like a curse or punishment from God.

In the first reading, we have seen this reality too but unlike Zechariah, the wife of Manoah believed the angel from God who told her she would bear a child despite her old age and being a barren. She was also instructed to go through a quarantine during her pregnancy when she was instructed to “be careful to take no wine or strong drink and to eat nothing unclean” (Judges 13:4). Furthermore, she was told not to cut the hair of her son to be born and named Samson “for this boy is to be consecrated to God… who will begin the deliverance of Israel from the power of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5).

Here we find the concept of quarantine, of separation from the usual things and people because of a special mission from God. If we can just truly appreciate the rich lessons we can learn from this pandemic, how wonderful to see that we are being quarantined like Elizabeth and wife of Manoah because God is preparing us for something greater.

From these stories of two old, barren women bearing a child we find Advent as the season that reminds us God comes to us hidden in our very time and space when we need to go to quarantine to create a space within us where we can be silent and be transformed as we listen more to ourselves, to others, and to God.

How sad that in our 24/7 world where we have made nighttime like daytime earning money to have everything, we have become more empty, more alienated, more sad and incomplete. Quarantine is essentially a sabbath when we are supposed to rest and be breathed on by the Lord with His Spirit, exactly what we like Zechariah needed so much

Photo by Ms. Jonna S. De Guzman, 06 December 2020.

Christmas negativity or Nativity?

One of the blogs I have been following for the past one and a half years is by a young Catholic lady in New York who is so full of enthusiasm in sharing Jesus in her writings as well as in the tasty recipes she dishes out weekly. Last week I found her blog so interesting, titled: “Christmas — negativity or Nativity?” (https://beautybeyondbones.com/2020/12/10/christmas-negativity-or-nativity/).

How sad that we are missing a very rare opportunity today during this pandemic not only to spiritually prepare for Christmas but to truly understand the things going on around us and in our very lives amid this pandemic. I have always believed COVID-19 has a spiritual dimension that we must face and address lest it happens all over again despite the discovery of a vaccine.

And what is that spiritual ailment? Too much negativities like Zechariah!

Imagine the very rare opportunity to incense the Holy of holies of the Jerusalem temple once a year with many other priests present and Zechariah was “chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord to burn incense” (Lk.1:9)? That in itself could have been a great sign for him that something good may be happening.

Then, while inside the sanctuary of the Lord, an angel appeared to him with the good news, his news of a lifetime, something he and Elizabeth must have been praying all their lives: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth shall bear you a son, and you shall name him John (Lk.1:13).”

And we really wonder why did he doubt the angel’s good news? Did he not see it coming or at least, was it not the only thing he was always wishing for?

It is really so unthinkable. “Wow, ang labo naman” as teenagers would say.

What happened to Zechariah could also be going on to many among us these days that even if we have been praying and celebrating the Mass weekly or even daily with all of our professed faith, hope and love in God, we have also grown accustomed to the darkness of this pandemic with all its fears that unconsciously, we sully ourselves with many negativities, even cynicism and pessimism as if we would never make into better days.

Photo by Ms. Jonna S. De Guzman, 06 December 2020.

Sometimes it happens in our lives that our prayers have become mechanical and worst, our hearts have grown apart from God that we have become so resigned to our plight or predicament that we just pray and believe in God because we have to.

Here we need the creative courage of St. Joseph we reflected yesterday by keeping our love alive.

In telling us the story of the coming of John first before Jesus Christ, Luke is telling us to be ready for greater things about to happen with us if we become silent, take a few steps backwards and rest in the Lord to experience his presence in us and among us.

Whenever I feel low with my life, I just think of my other brother priests striving in the Lord’s vineyard or think of the cops and soldiers and simple folks who work so hard because they believe there is meaning in this life.

Let us drive away all negativities and focus more on the Nativity! Believe always in God and most of all, remain in love with Him, that He has plans for us and mission to make Him known into the world that has forgotten Him.

The fact that after almost a year of pandemic there are still so many women anywhere in the world delivering a baby every second, every minute means this planet is filled with life, is suffused in life that comes only from Life Himself, Jesus Christ.

Each one of us is a “John” – a grace of God, a reminder that Jesus Christ had come, will come again, most of all, is come! Cheer up, energize the sagging spirits of our many brothers and sisters who have become so negative this Christmas. Let them see the Nativity in our enthusiasm to live and to celebrate Christmas meaningfully despite the pandemic.

A blessed Saturday to everyone! Amen.

Silent listening

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM, 08 December 2020
Genesis 3:9-15, 20   >><)))*>   Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12   >><)))*>   Luke 1:26-38 
Photo by author, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Malolos City, 08 December 2019.

Glory and praise to you, O God our loving Father! In your eternal love you have desired to restore us to our original state in you as pure and holy by sending us Jesus Christ our Savior who was born by his immaculately conceived Mother, Mary of Nazareth.

Brothers and sisters: Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.

Ephesians 1:3-4

On this most joyous day of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, I pray only for one thing: that like the Blessed Virgin Mary we may recover the value of silent listening in our world that has become so noisy. In the streets, in vehicles, in homes and everywhere including houses of worship, people are always plugged into something they only want to listen to. Worst, many people have come to refuse and even fear unconsciously silent listening.

How amazing, O Lord, that “silent” and “listen” are both an anagram of exactly same letters for these words perfectly go together: we need to be silent in order to be able to listen. And when we learn to listen in silence, then we become trusting and obedient too like Mary, something we need so badly these days of too much materialism and individualism.

How unfortunate and tragic, O Lord, that in our world today, we care to listen not only to the loudest sounds we can hear but ultimately to voices that would please and massage our ego like in the story of the fall of man.

Silent listening is heeding your call to enter into a communion in you when we have to lose ourselves and trust you entirely like Mary. She was willing to make time for you, to leave everything behind in order to silently listen to the angel announcing the birth of Jesus.

Forgive us when we refuse to “make” time of silent listening for you and even our neighbors because we are afraid of silence in the first place; we are so afraid to hear our true selves speaking, that we are all your servants, that we are mortals, that we are limited, that we need you inasmuch as we need others too. We prefer the noises of the world that make us feel we are in control of everything, even of our very selves when we are not.

We think that silence is like waiting when we have to be empty, not realizing that silence is a fullness when we are able to listen to so many voices and sounds, even the most faintest we disregard but often most valuable like your voice deep within our hearts that asks us to do what is good and avoid what is evil; the feeble voice of our true selves desiring meaning; and, the silent cries of the voiceless among us, of those living in the margins, the poor, the sick, the old, and the children.

In silent listening, Mary was able to grasp so much in your fullness that she gave her fiat after listening to the good news from the Archangel Gabriel:

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

Luke 1:38

As we prepare for your Second Coming, dear Jesus in this season of Advent, give us the grace of silent listening like Mary so we become more sensitive of your presence within us and especially among the poor and suffering. Amen.

Photo by author, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Malolos City, 08 December 2019.

Advent is renewing friendship with Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, Missionary, 03 December 2020
Isaiah 26:1-6 >><}}}*> >><}}}*> >><}}}*> Matthew 7:21, 24-27
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son while praying in our Parish, November 2019.

Thank you very much, God our loving Father in continuing to keep us, in gathering us together as family, as friends, as a community despite our many sins and failures, most especially in the midst of these trying times.

Like the remnants of Israel thrown into exile in the first reading, you have gathered us in Jesus Christ as our “strong wall and rampart” (Is.26:1), protecting us, blessing us, befriending us.

Let us not make same old mistake again like your chosen people thrown into Babylonian exile who worshipped you only with lips:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my father in heaven.”

Matthew 7:21

In this Season of Advent, let us rediscover you anew, Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Help us renew our friendship in you by cultivating a prayer life that is consistent because friends always communicate, they always listen and speak to each other.

Sorry, Lord, for ignoring your words for so long, listening more to empty words of media than to your words that are performative or life-changing as Pope emeritus Benedict XVI used to say.

Most of all, friends not only talk and listen — they love each other.

Teach me to be truly wise, dear Jesus, to love more in deeds than in words.

Teach me to have my life founded on you, rooted in your love like St. Francis Xavier whose memorial we celebrate today for having accomplished so much against all odds because of his love for you and for people scattered in the Far East, hungry for your words.

Fill my heart with your love so that like St. Francis Xavier, I may be “stirred to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to me… that I may forget my own desires, my own human affairs and give myself over entirely to God’s will and choice that my heart would cry out: Lord I am here! Send me anywhere you like!” (adapted from a letter by St. Francis Xavier to St. Ignatius).

St. Francis Xavier, pray for us! Amen.

Sitting beside at the feet of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Bruno, Priest and Founder of Carthusians, 06 October 2020
Galatians 1:13-24     >><)))*>   |+|   <*(((><<     Luke 10:38-42
Photo by author, antique door of a resthouse in Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

What a wonderful story from St. Paul today of his conversion, Lord Jesus Christ! How lovely to read his story without any airs or pride but full of humility, focused on the mystery of your call for him to be your Apostle to the Gentiles.

Clearly, the fruit of long years of prayers, of sitting beside you at your feet.

Brothers and sisters: You heard of my former way of life Judaism, how I persecuted the Church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it… And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; they only kept hearing that “the one who once was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” So they glorified God because of me.

Galatians 1:13, 22-24

Lord Jesus, keep me simple and humble like St. Paul in telling my story of your call that is always both a mystery and a gift, something so special known only to you. Purify me and my story of vocation in spending silent moments at your feet contemplating, meditating on your words.

Sometimes, some people complain how their lives are not as colorful as somebody else’s life like St. Paul with a lot of dramatic twists and turns.

We do not need those things, Lord. You call each of us in the most unique and personal way. Every encounter with you Jesus is always personal, always special.

What we really need is a listening heart: no matter how colorful and dramatic our lives may be but if we do not spend time with you listening and praying like Mary in the gospel, everything will always be bland and dry.

Let us reflect more, to treasure every encounter with you by being silent and still, less distracted with the ways of the world that make us forget you to turn our very selves as the center of attention even unconsciously demanding you to focus on us like Martha!

Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him (Jesus) and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:40-42

Teach us to follow the examples of St. Paul and Mary, of St. Bruno whose memorial we celebrate today so we may we strive “to seek God assiduously, to find God promptly, and to possess God fully.” After all, as his Carthusian monks motto profess, “while the world changes, the cross stands firm.”

Yes, dear Jesus, nothing is most worthy in this life than to be always at your side, doing your work, speaking your words, living your life. Amen.

Rebellious people, merciful God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus, Martyrs, 13 August 2020
Ezekiel 12:1-12 >><)))*> |+| >><)))*> |+| >><)))*> Matthew 18:21-19:1
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2018.

Praise and glory to you, our merciful Father always waiting for us to come home to you. Thank you for being patient with us who always rebel against you, turning away from you to be on our own.

Sadly, whenever we rebel, it is not you whom we hurt and inflict pain with but those dearest to us like our family and friends who truly love us. We are like the people of Jerusalem who have become callous and indifferent, cold and distant from you, O God, who truly cared for them.

The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house; they have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious house.

Ezekiel 12:1-12

So many times, loving Father, we have become like that debtor in Christ’s parable whose debts were written off by his master and yet could not do the same to a fellow debtor who owed him with a lesser amount.

Both that debtor in the gospel and the rebellious house of Israel in the first reading share the same sin and evil attitude of refusing to recognize your goodness and mercy you have given them that we are equally guilty of today.

So many times in our lives, Lord, this same attitude of being rebellious and unmerciful are the main reasons that destroy our many relationships because we have separated ourselves from others.

Teach us through Jesus Christ to always live grateful to your abounding love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness to us, Father, so we may always share these same blessings with others.

Touch our hearts like you have moved the first anti-pope, St. Hippolytus who sought forgiveness from the Pope he had earlier rebelled against, St. Pontian after they were both sent to hard labor on the island of Sardinia during the persecution by Maximus Thrax.

What a beautiful twist of fate that you still brought them together, Lord to share in witnessing to your truth and mercy.

We pray today for those who have rebelled against you, O God, uttering all kinds of blasphemies against your most Holy Name not realizing that the more they rebel against you, the more they have become distant from us the people they are supposed to serve.

Open their eyes and their ears so they may see and hear the sufferings of the people in this time of pandemic. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, May 2020.

When we are the weeds among the wheat….

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 28 July 2020
Jeremiah 14:17-22 >>><)))*> >><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 13:36-43

God our merciful Father, today we pray for our countrymen blinded by the many evils happening in our land today. For those who continue to defend the cycle of murders and killings to weed us out of criminals and addicts, for those who defend the blasphemies uttered against you and jokes against everyone, for those who continue to deny something is terribly wrong among our leaders.

We pray for them all, Lord. Open their eyes and their ears to the many sufferings around us: the cries of mothers losing a child, the pains of fathers losing their jobs, the frustrations of young people in finding a job, and the alienation of a nation lost in a circus where clowns are running the government.

Like your Prophet Jeremiah whom you have asked to tell your people in Judah and Israel how their sins have caused all their miseries and sufferings, enlighten us more to wake up our nation to the truth we have turned away from you.

Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound. If I walk into the field, look! Those slain by the sword; if I enter the city, look! Those consumed by hunger. Why have you struck us a blow that cannot be healed? We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead. We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you. Is it not you alone, O Lord, our God, to whom we look?

Jeremiah 14:17-18, 19-20, 22

Show us the way, the path back to you, O Lord.

We have become the weeds among the wheat, trying to ruin everything.

We have become callous and numb with our sins, too, that others cannot believe our calls for conversion and renewal.

Renew us, O Lord, so we may listen more to your words that will guide us to recovery and conversion. Amen.

Photo by author, Sonnen Berg Mountain View, Davao City, August 2018.