When we are lost, then found

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 17 April 2023
Photo by author, 08 February 2023, Taal Vista Hotel, Tagaytay City.
We all know 
that feeling happening
more often lately
a foreboding of senility?
when we go like crazy
why can't we see suddenly
some things we have
held or kept momentarily
until we sound the alarm
and call everyone
to join in the search
but still nowhere to be found.
It could be the key
or the glasses or the phone
that in exasperation
we say begone
only to make us
forlorn figures
in our own home
or tiny room
but sometimes too soon
other times would take
too long, our lost 
things are suddenly found!
Is it part of the riddle
of that black hole they call
when missing things
suddenly appear
without being sought
much less thought?
But here is the thrill:
when things even persons
are missing,
are we not the ones
who are lost
and waiting to be found?
More than the
naked shouts of eureka
is our profound joy
when missing things
even persons suddenly
appear because the truth
is, we were the ones lost
and could not be found
in our cluttered minds
and hearts shut and closed
by our fears and doubts, 
anxieties and insecurities.
In this life
far wider than the world
where planes still go missing
amid modern technologies
and endless searching,
could it be that we are 
missing our bearings
as beings, forgetting 
God and others when we are
lost to our own beliefs or
locked in our small world
of lies and prejudice?
To find those missing 
persons or things dear to us
it might help if we first lose
whatever is holding us
for the world is so wide
for anyone or anything 
to just disappear 
they surely must be here
awaiting for our hearts 
to be clear until we hear
that sweet voice
giving us peace within. 

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 

John 20:19-20
Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

Ultimate joy of Easter: the Divine Mercy of God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Divine Mercy Sunday in the Octave of Easter, 16 April 2023
Acts 2:42-47 ><}}}*> 1 Peter 1:3-9 ><}}}*> John 20:19-31
Photo by author, 08 February 2023.

The ultimate joy of Easter is God’s Divine Mercy, of how his Son Jesus Christ became human like us in everything except sin, searching and finding us to bring us back to the Father by dying on the Cross. Now he is risen, Jesus overflows us with his Divine Mercy right here, right now.

Unlike other religions, Christianity is so unique because it is about God looking for us humans by becoming like us so that we may become like him in Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have come to know and experience God as a person, relating with us in all tenderness and love because he himself had gone through all our pains and hurts, betrayals and disappointments, even death! Read the Bible and you shall see from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we find series of stories of God searching for man, beginning with Adam and Eve who hid after eating the forbidden fruit reaching its highest point in the coming of Jesus Christ who on this second Sunday in Easter came looking again for us represented by the disciples who have gone hiding in a locked room for fears of their leaders who have threatened to arrest them following reports of the empty tomb.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:19-20, 24-28
“The Incredulity of St. Thomas”, painting by Caravaggio (1601-02) from commons.wikimedia.org.

“The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” But we wonder, what kind of rejoicing was it? It must have been more than the rejoicing of passing the Bar or any board exam. There was something else in their rejoicing if we try to imagine being there on that Sunday evening of the third day.

What do I mean? Have you ever felt being the one actually lost when some friends or loved ones as well valuable things have gone “missing”?

That feeling of being the one actually lost because the “missing” persons and things have never left us entirely but just there waiting to be found and rediscovered like when things get hidden underneath the car seat or misplaced somewhere else and forgotten. Once “found” again, there is that deep sense of joy coupled with a sense of wonder and astonishment because the truth is, it was not us who have found the lost person or thing but they were the ones who actually found us too! Here is a case more profound than the “eureka” experience for we were the ones who were lost and finally found again.

And that’s the rejoicing of the disciples in seeing Jesus again that evening of Easter Sunday! They were the ones who were actually lost and found by Jesus!

Just like us today in many instances in life when we have been running away from God, locking ourselves inside our very selves because of fears, insecurities and false securities, pride and sinfulness, as well as doubts and incredulity, unbelief and disbelief in God and in one another. Like Thomas, many times we have been so unreasonable in our demands for proofs of God and everything, insisting that “to see is to believe” without realizing that it is when we believe that we actually see.

Recall during the ministry of Jesus in Galilee how he kept telling his disciples to search for the “lost sheep” of Israel first and later everyone who have sinned and been away from God. That was Divine Mercy in action. Consider these other concrete expressions of Divine Mercy by Jesus:

At the Last Supper, John told us that Jesus “loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end” (Jn.13:1); this he proved by washing the feet of the Twelve! He further proved his love the following Good Friday by dying on the Cross and immediately at Easter, to prove his love again, he looked for Mary Magdalene to break the news of his resurrection to his disciples.

Jesus is the one who finds us unaware of his presence like on this second Sunday after Easter when he appeared to Thomas who was so shocked and surprised that all he could tell Jesus was “my Lord and my God”! I doubt if ever had the chance to examine the Lord’s wounds at all!

Next Sunday we shall hear in the gospel how it is always Jesus who searches and finds us when we least expect him like in the opposite directions in life when he walked with the two disciples to Emmaus Easter evening, only to be recognized by them at his breaking of bread.

Last Friday we have heard in the gospel how Jesus again for the third time appeared after finding them in a fruitless night of fishing in Lake Tiberias by telling them to cast their net to the right side of the boat; their nets almost teared with the bountiful catch of fish!

“The Road to Emmaus” painting by American Daniel Bonnell from fineartamerica.com.

In life, it is always Jesus who searches and finds us. We are the ones always getting lost. Many times in life we cry, asking where is God but the fact is he never leaves us, he is always with us, coming to us everyday, especially on Sundays in the Holy Mass where Jesus leads our celebrations.

On Tuesday, I will celebrate my 25th year of ordination to the priesthood. How I got ordained was a long story of getting lost for nine years when I was sent out of the high school seminary after graduation in 1982. I went to college in UST and finished AB Journalism in 1986, working as a writer then a reporter for GMA Channel 7 News until 1991 when I gave my vocation a second chance by entering the seminary again.

All those years from 1982 to 1991, I felt lost and empty despite a promising career with good pay and all the perks that went with it and a sense of security but, deep inside me was a big hole of being incomplete. That was how I went back to God in prayers, then slowly to the Mass and Confessions, and the more I moved closer to God, the more I felt empty yet eager for him that I finally consulted some priests. After a few years of discernment, I decided to leave everything and started anew in God in the seminary in 1991.

It was not easy going back to the seminary but God had such wonderful ways of finding me, even at the nick of time, to save my vocation. My turning point happened during our Ignatian retreat of 30 days when I finally committed myself to God as I felt his love and presence so irresistible, even himself so true. In 1998 with six other classmates, we were ordained priests at the Malolos Cathedral. Again, it was not an easy 25 years with so many times I often felt lost and empty mostly by my own making when I sin. But like before, Jesus in his Divine Mercy has always been the One searching and finding me even in the opposite directions when I hid amid rejections, failures, fears, sadness and weeping.

Like the early Christians in our first reading, I have found God most present in those 25 years as a priest and as an individual in the communal celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, aka, the breaking of bread as I realized too that priestly celibacy is lived in a community not only of priests but with you the laity.

With the responsorial psalm this Sunday as our prayer, “let us give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting” because as Peter tells us in the second reading, God our Father “in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pt. 1:3). Let us rejoice in him who finds us always when we are lost. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead. Say a prayer for me this Tuesday. Thank you.

Prayer I have composed after our 30-day retreat in 1995 that until now, I still pray because it is so personally true. That is Divine Mercy for me. And hope with you too!

Stop hiding from God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, World Day of the Sick, 11 February 2023
Genesis 3:9-24   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Mark 8:1-10
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago in Lourdes, France, 2018.

The Lord God called to Adam and asked him, “Where are you?”

Genesis 3:9
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father!
Until now, you never stop from
calling us,
asking us
like Adam after the Fall,
"Where are you?"
On this Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes
which is also the World Day of the Sick
we come to you,
presenting ourselves before you,
sinful and sorrowful,
weak and very sick,
hurt and aching inside,
lost and searching for meaning
in this life.
Have mercy on us,
dear God our Father;
your Son Jesus Christ
came to look for us
to bring us closer to you
by giving us his very self as
food and drink
in this journey of life.
Make us stop from
hiding from you,
from running away from you;
let us stop
to be with you,
to be healed,
to be consoled,
and most of all,
to be restored in you
in Christ Jesus
with Mary our Mother,
the Immaculate Conception.
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago in Lourdes, France, 2018.

Losing one’s self in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 20 November 2022
Ephesians 3:14-21   ><000'> + <'000>< = ><000'> + <'000><   Luke 12:49-53
Photo by author, 2018.
Dearest Jesus,
Help me imitate St. Paul's
beautiful prayer for the Ephesians:
may the Holy Spirit strengthen my 
"inner self" so that you may dwell
in my heart that is "rooted in faith"
and "grounded in love";
grant me the "strength to comprehend" -
not just understand but embrace totally
"the breadth and length and height and depth"
of your love that "surpasses knowledge"
by entering into a communion in you,
an intimacy "with all the fullness of God"
(Ephesians 3:16-19).
This can only happen to me,
Lord Jesus Christ,
if I allow myself to lose my soul to you
in order to gain it by allowing
your fire to purify me of my sins
and self-centeredness
(Luke 12:49-51).
Set me on fire, Jesus,
as you have declared in the gospel:
lit me with courage and joy in witnessing
your Cross in this time of darkness
when everybody follows the artificial lights
of the world that lead to emptiness;
let me be immersed into your paschal mystery
of Passion, Death and Resurrection,
of bearing all the pains that lead to conversion
and to true peace as you have promised
at the Last Supper that is the fruit of
love and sacrifices, not of compromises
as the peace of the world offers.
Dearest Lord,
let me see everything in your love
even if it seems so impossible
like your victory over death;
seduce me, O Lord,
dupe me like Jeremiah
to join you in your adventure,
to go beyond my limits
even if it may be fatal
for that is the only way 
to lose myself
in order to gain you,
Jesus Christ our Lord!
"Now to him 
who is able to accomplish
far more than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church
and in Christ Jesus to all generations,
forever and ever.  Amen."
(Ephesians 3:20-21)
Photo by author, 2018.

When we fall, feeling down…

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 October 2022
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It was a Monday morning when rains started falling as I was about to complete my first round of walks when I saw an old lady with a cane tripped on the inclined pavement. I ran to help her but in her frantic efforts to rise, she had dragged down her caregiver too.

Upon reaching the old lady, I asked her to keep herself down and take deep breaths while I checked her for possible injuries. Thank God there was none except a broken cane and perhaps a bruised amor propio as tears were rolling from her eyes while telling me, “nakakahiya naman sa inyo, Father.” I told her not to worry as I invited her to have a seat near our gate but, she seemed so embarrassed and left.

When I resumed my walking in the rains, the scene kept flashing in my mind and had me musing…

When we fall,
when we are down,
just be still
to feel the earth beneath
then roll your eyes to see
the skies above everything
When we fall,
when we are down,
do not rush to rise up
do not be ashamed 
you slipped
or tripped
there is no trick.
When we fall,
when we are down,
it is better to cry
to shed some tears
surely there are pains
and aches deep within
we have not yet seen.
When we fall,
when we are down,
people standing on ground
would always offer a hand
to help us stand
shake off dirt from us
even clean our hands.
When we fall,
when we are down,
everyone will understand that
no one, nothing remains up
all must go down; 
it is time for us to be calm
Jesus is coming, our Good Samaritan.
Photo from cbcpnews.net, May 2020.

Praying to recover “lost humanity”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church, 13 June 2022
1 Kings 21:1-16   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 5:38-42   
The Church of St. Anthony called Igreja de Santo António de Lisboa built at the site of his birthplace in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Mr. Jilson Tio taken in his 2018 pilgrimage.
Today as we celebrate the
Memorial of your beloved Saint
Anthony of Padua famous for
interceding in the recovery of 
things lost, we pray to you O God
our loving Father also for the recovery
of something so precious becoming
so rare these days - decency and honor,
love and kindness, respect and justice.
Through the intercession of St. Anthony,
Lord, please help us recover our 
"lost humanity" so vividly exposed
last week in that viral video of an
SUV hitting and running over a traffic
aide in Mandaluyong City.
How sad, even tragic, dear God
in this modern time of too much
sophistication in science and technology,
we have lagged behind in our humanity;
aside from the war at Ukraine, how could
violent shootings continue in the States
at the loss of so many children?
What is so tragic is how politicians there
talk about protecting children when the
same politicians push so hard for abortions,
in killing the most innocent persons of all!
Have we become like Jezebel, the pagan wife
and queen of Ahab who have no regard at all
for humans, creating fake news and gossips
against people, promoting corruption among
people for material gains?

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and, having sealed them with his seal, sent them to the elders and to the nobles who lived in the same city with Naboth. This is what she wrote in the letters: “Proclaim a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. Next, get two scoundrels to face him and accuse him of having cursed God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” On hearing Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

1 Kings 21:8-10, 16
Your Son Jesus Christ
taught us the ways to recover our
lost humanity more than 2000 years
ago but until now, we have not recovered
it yet because of our refusal to let go 
of our pride and attachment with wealth
and other things of the world.
Like St. Anthony, help us to let go of
our possessions and comforts, "to give
to the one who asks of us, and to not
turn our back on one who wants 
to borrow" (Matthew 5:42).
St. Anthony of the World, 
Pray for us!
The room where St. Anthony was born in the year 1195 preserved in the church built at the former site of their home in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo by Mr. Jilson Tio, 2018.
The Portuguese people have always referred to St. Anthony of Lisbon than of Padua where his body is buried in Italy; in 1982, St. John Paul II visited his birthplace, and told the crowd their native saint was not St. Anthony of Padua to which the crowd cheered. Then, the Pope said he is neither St. Anthony of Lisbon and the people fell silent. But when the great Pope said their native saint is St. Anthony of the World, they cheered loudly! (Anecdote and photo courtesy of Mr. Jilson Tio)
Praying at the birthplace of St. Anthony protected by iron grills. Photo by Mr. Jilson Tio, 2018.
Mr. Jilson Tio (third from left) with fellow pilgrims outside the room where St. Anthony was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 2018.

Prayer when “groping” for God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 25 May 2022
Acts 17:15, 22-18:1     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     John 16:12-15
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.
God our Father,
your words today are so
loving, so caring especially
for us who feel lost or at a loss, 
simply could not find our bearing
and directions in life at the moment
for so many reasons like situations
and peoples so unfavorable to us.
St. Paul in the first reading perfectly
said it, we are groping for you in the
dark, dear God.  Please help us
find our way back to you in Christ!

Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.”

Acts 17:15, 24-27
I know, dear God that you
are always at my side;
and I know very well that 
always, we are the ones
who turn away from you,
we are the ones who get lost
and not you.
Thank you in sending us 
your Son Jesus Christ who always
finds us when we are lost;
so many times in life we feel
it is us who find you, that we are 
the ones searching for you 
and eventually discovers you.
And we are grossly wrong.
It is you, O God in Jesus, 
who finds us always.

Yes, it is true our heart is restless
until it rests on you but it is only you
who can move our hearts to desire you,
to search you, to look for you.
And we always find you because
you found us first!
Today I pray, dear Jesus,
that when life has so many lessons
to teach me and I could not bear it,
please send me quick the Holy Spirit
to enlighten my mind and my heart
to speak to me the things that are coming
while I forge on with life's many trials
until your glory is revealed.  Amen.
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.