“Try Again” by Champaign (1983)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 07 March 2021
Photo from turbosquid.com.

The Season of Lent is like a refresh or reset button of the computer: it is a time when we “reboot” ourselves with prayers, fasting and abstinence, and alms giving to be connected anew with God and with one another. It gives us another chance to make things better in our lives marred by sins and many pains and hurts in the past.

And that is why for this Sunday we have chosen American R&B group Champaign’s 1983 single “Try Again” from their album Modern Heart. It peaked at number 23 on the Billboard Hot100 of that year.

I find the song very lenten in character. The music is sober but not bland. In fact, the cool instrumentation especially at the start kept ringing in my ears as I prayed over the readings this whole week, kind of convinced me of how truly sorry was Pauli Carman to his beloved in failing to be more loving, more intimate, and more personal to her.

I been starin’ at your photograph
Wondering where you’re at today
And I’ve been hanging by the telephone
Hopin’ that you’d call home and stay
You told me you needed
More walks, more talks
More feelin’ close to me
I want to be close to you
I didn’t know you needed
Some roses, some romance
A little candlelight and slow dance
That’s not how it’s been
But maybe we can try again
Try, try, maybe we can try again

Sometimes in life, we take people around us for granted, we always presume everything is given, everything is well and good, that our loved ones know or assured that we love them so much. Worst is how we sometimes forget that in our love for our family and friends, we have been so focused in our other pursuits purportedly for them that in the process we actually forget them. Things can never replace persons who need to be loved and cherished.

I always tell couples that after years of living together with the coming of kids and career and problems, always remember, first there was your wife or husband for you. No matter what happens, God first called you to each other. Continue the courtship, keep surprising each other with expressions of your love for each other. Watch movies, have romantic dinners together.

The same with us priests: before all the demands of the ministry and apostolate came, there was first Jesus Christ who had come to call us, loving us that every day we have to pray, make time for him.

Try Again exactly tells us what the readings this Sunday teach us: of how we must cleanse ourselves to find our first love again, the person dearest to us. And the good news from God is that we can always try again and make up for our past sins and shortcomings to him and to one another.

Refresh, reset or reboot your self this Lent by making time for your loved ones for intimate and personal moments.

Have a blessed and refreshing week ahead!

Music video by Champaign performing Try Again. (C) 1981 Sony Music Entertainment

A Lenten Prayer in COVID-19

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 17 February 2021
It is Lent again, Lord;
forty days of prayer
forty days of sacrifices
forty days of good works
forty days of silence and self-control
forty days of preparations for Easter.
Forgive us that we always forget our daily life
is essentially a daily Lent:
a daily exodus of going to the wilderness
filled with temptations 
and calls for fidelity 
to your love and person.
In this time of COVID-19
when so many of us are suffering,
help me, O Lord
not to be carried by feelings
and emotions of the Lenten Season;
give me the courage to see
beyond ordinary things,
to care more and share
even with the least that I have,
to find more reasons
to forgive and understand
most of all, to be fair and just with everyone.
Let me find my way back to you, Lord
in this time when everything and everyone I have
is quickly disappearing or have been gone or lost;
despite the face masks we wear,
let me look more into the eyes
of others to see your image and likeness;
let me wash my hands clean of evil and deceit
as I keep distance from occasions of sins
and most of all, let me empty myself of pride
to realize and experience again
my one and only, first true love is you,
alone, O dearest God.  Amen.
Photo by author, Pulilan bypass road in Bulacan, February 2020.

“You Make Me Feel Brand New” by Simply Red (2003)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 14 February 2021
Photo by author, 2019.

A blessed happy Valentine’s to everyone! Strictly speaking, every Sunday celebration of the Holy Mass is a celebration of God’s great love for each of us. This Sunday is so special not only because it falls on the day of the hearts but most of all because of that lovely and touching story of the healing of a leper by Jesus.

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

Mark 1:40-42

This is a very unique story because lepers were forbidden at that time to get near people not only for fear of contagion but because of the terrible meaning of their disease that evoked sins of the Egyptians before the Exodus of the Hebrew people (https://lordmychef.com/2021/02/13/to-be-loved-is-to-be-touched-by-god/).

It is so touching because Jesus welcomed the leper, touched him and healed him, making him a totally “brand new” person, exactly like the one mentioned in the 1974 hit by the Stylistics You Make Me Feel Brand New. It was the first love song I had learned to memorize its lyrics after finally saving enough money to buy a song hits while in grade five.

The song elegantly speaks in simple beauty and sincerity the great relationship of true love experienced by a man with a wonderful woman who loved him so much, who must have touched him so much that made him feel brand new.

My love
I’ll never find the words, my love
To tell you how I feel, my love
Mere words could not explain
Precious love
You held my life within your hands
Created everything I am
Taught me how to live again
Only you
Cared when I needed a friend
Believed in me through thick and thin
This song is for you, filled with gratitude and love

And what I like most with this song is how it thanked God for this wonderful gift of love who is after all, love himself!

God bless you
You make me feel brand new
For God blessed me with you
You make me feel brand new
I sing this song ’cause you
Make me feel brand new

It is now a classic covered by so many great artists through the years. We have chosen Simply Red’s version recorded at the Sydney Opera House in 2010 with Mick Hucknall’s moving interpretation, full of emotion and passion. They first released You Make Me Feel Brand New in 2003 as part of their album Home, reaching the #7 spot in the UK hit list.

You Make Me Feel Brand New is one song that had really touched so many of us, reminding us of the power of love to transform us, to change us, to make us better persons like that leper in the gospel. An anonymous writer had said that “If you have love in your heart, you have been blessed by God; if you have been loved, you have been touched by God.”

As you relive your most touching and loving moments while listening to this classic covered by Hucknall, think also of concrete ways to touch somebody with God’s love this Valentine’s — not just with flowers or chocolates.

A blessed and lovely Sunday everyone!

#SimplyRed#YouMakeMeFeelBrandNew#Vevo

To be loved is to be touched by God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Year B, 14 February 2021
Leviticus 13:1-2, 44-46  >><)))*>  1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1  >><)))*>  Mark 1:40-45

The word “touch” is a very touchy one…

It can either be literal or figurative but can mean both at the same time like when we experience that proverbial “pat on the shoulder” – we feel it literally speaking but deeply within we feel so touched that we feel so good, we feel affirmed.

We say “we are touched” by words, by gestures and sights, by acts of kindness and love, by persons, by music, by poems, by so many things that touch both our senses and innermost being.

Touch can be fleeting, sometimes so brief but its impact can last a lifetime. Experts say that 30 seconds of touch is equivalent to more than 300 words of encouragement. That is why in our liturgy and sacraments, we employ the sense of touch extensively in imitation of Jesus in his many healings and interactions with everyone during his time.

And even up to our time, Jesus continues to touch us with his words, with his Body and Blood in the Holy Mass and through our family and friends, even strangers he sends us so we may experience his love through his healing touch, his merciful touch, his tender, loving touch.

Today we hear a very touching story on this Valentine’s day of how Jesus touched a leper and touched his life forever!

A leper came to Jesus and kneeling down begged him and said, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand, touched him, and said to him, “I do will it. Be made clean.” The leprosy left him immediately, and he was made clean.

Mark 1:40-42
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, May 2019.

Leprosy: a terrible disease, an image of sin

After healing Simon’s mother-in-law and those who were sick last Sunday, Mark told us how before dawn the following day Jesus went to a deserted place to pray then left Capernaum with his four disciples to preach and heal throughout the whole of Galilee.

As they were walking, a leper came to meet Jesus and begged him to be healed. This scene is very unusual for lepers were not supposed to get near anybody during that time. They have to warn people of their presence so they can be avoided lest others get infected.

But more than the fear of contagion, the first reading tells us why people were not supposed to interact with lepers because leprosy was seen so terrible as an image of sin that anyone afflicted must see the priest first, short of saying a leper was also a sinner. See how Moses described the wounds that evoked memories of those festering boils and lesions that afflicted the Egyptians and their cattle before the Exodus. Such was the gravity and seriousness of this sickness that those afflicted were totally separated from the rest of the populace, literally and figuratively speaking.

In this scene, we find not only a glimpse of another typical day in the life of Jesus but most of all, we see his very person filled with love and compassion for the least in the society like the leper. Here again is the Lord going to unknown territories to find and heal – to touch – the poorest of the poor.

And that is precisely the good news Mark is telling us this Sunday: Jesus wills our well-being, wants to touch us to be cleansed and healed from all our infirmities whether physical or spiritual or emotional.

Like the crowds following Jesus at that time, we also have to follow the Lord in his preaching to be healed from our sickness and be cleansed from sins. Anyone who believes in his power to heal like that leper must rely in his kindness and mercy because Jesus had removed all barriers that prevent us from meeting him, touching him.

See how Mark described Jesus being “moved with pity” which is more than an emotion or feeling but a stirring within called “miserecordia” in Latin and Spanish that means to move (miseor) the heart (cor) or do something with what he had seen and felt.

Do not be afraid or shy to come to Jesus; he is very approachable, no need for appointments like us humans as he welcomes us all, very open to us all, so willing to meet and be with us in our joys and sorrows, victories and defeats, triumphs and miseries.

Then, warning him sternly, he dismissed him at once. He said to him, “See that you tell no one anything, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses prescribed; that will be proof for them.”

Mark 1:43-44
Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com

Jesus is our Savior.

More than a healer, an exorcist, and a doer of miracles, Mark presents to us for the third consecutive Sunday the very person of Jesus Christ as our Savior. One thing we shall notice in Mark’s gospel is his extensive use of the so-called “Messianic secret” wherein he reports Jesus warning those he had healed and exorcised not to tell it to anyone, to keep it a secret lest people regard him as a miracle worker or provider of every human needs.

And that is because who Jesus Christ is really is — our Savior who gave himself up for us all to be healed by sin symbolized by leprosy. His touching and healing of that leper vividly shows us that this Jesus is the Christ who came to renew and bring us back to God as his beloved children. It is the most touching image of God becoming human like us, getting so close to us to touch us and be one with us so we can be cleansed from all dirt of sin and evil because that is how much he loves us.

To be touched by Jesus is to be loved by God. And anyone touched and loved by God becomes a brand new person who finds himself whole and one anew with others around him, sharing with them his newfound love and joy and meaning in life. That is the surest sign of being touched and being loved; hence, the command by Jesus to the leper to present himself to the priests to be reintegrated to the community and eventually commune again with others.

But the leper could not contain his joy that according to Mark, “The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter, spread the report abroad so that it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly, remaining outside in deserted places as people kept coming to him from everywhere” (Mk.1:45).

By his very life, the healed leper gave glory to God as admonished by Paul in our second reading today. For Paul, to glorify God in whatever we do is to imitate Jesus Christ (1Cor. 10:31) by dealing with or resolving conflicts and issues among us in the most personal manner instead of theoretical principles.

During that time, the early Christians in Corinth and elsewhere for that matter were confused if the consumption of animals offered by pagans to their idols and later sold in the market constituted their participation to idolatry.

Paul explained that idols are nothing and therefore, the sacrifice of animals in the sanctuaries does not give the meat sold in the markets any particular qualification. Those who can understand this can it eat without scruple but— if it can cause scandal among those weak in faith and understanding, they must renounce this freedom.

For Paul, morality and propriety must have their origin and motivation in God, not just any precepts or standards that sometimes difficult to accept. Again, here we have to consider sensitivity – the touchiness of certain acts and things so that when we give glory to God, even the weakest among us may be encouraged to do the same.

There is no “middle ground” as the wokes are implying these days in the US especially in that recent Super Bowl Jeep commercial with Bruce Springsteen, implying America can only be a ReUnited States through “compromises”.

Love is not like politics or diplomacy that seek detente among different parties of people as Jesus warned us to “Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’. Anything apart from this is from the evil one” (Mt.5:37).

To love is to be touched by someone, especially by God. When we love, when we touch, there are no ifs nor buts, no middle grounds nor compromises because it is either you love or do not love. That is what Jesus showed us when he touched and healed the leper who came to him along the road.

That is also what Jesus showed us later by dying on the Cross for us so we may be cleansed from our sins and be new again so we can reach out to touch others with his immense love that is full of joy.

On this most joyous day of hearts we call Valentine’s, get real with our love by touching someone with the love of Jesus in the most concrete way of kindness and care, mercy and forgiveness. Not with flowers and chocolates that are very temporary. A blessed week to you!

Photo by author, 07 February 2021.

Where are you?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul 
Saturday, Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, 13 February 2021
Genesis 3:9-24    +++  >><)))*> + <*(((><<  +++     Mark 8:1-10
Photos by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon (2020).

Our dear, loving Father, bless all those people and things we have lost, and are about to lose. Bless us too that we may dare to confront ourselves truly the meaning of the question “where”.

In your words today, we heard twice the adverb “where” was mentioned: in the first reading when you were looking for man after the fall, “Where are you?” (Gen.3:9) and in the gospel when the disciples answered Jesus who was thinking of giving food to the crowds who have followed them in the wilderness, “Where can anyone get enough bread to satisfy them here in this deserted place?” (Mk.8:4).

Most of the time, we dread hearing and asking the question “where” because it implies somebody or something is missing or lost. Or worst, when someone is hiding like us!

Sorry, dear Father, that you have to continue asking even to this day after the fall “where are you?” because we always hide from you, we always turn away from you in sins.

Worst, when we refuse to see others as our brothers and sisters in Christ, we ask “where?” can we find or get food and other needs to share when we simply refuse to give whatever we have.

We are so sorry, Lord. Please give us the courage to confront the many questions that begin with “where” like “where is the love?” and “where am I really?” in relation with all the love you have poured on us in the loving presence of your Son Jesus Christ.

May we finally find in him the many “where” of this life. Amen.

“What Can I Do” by The Corrs (1998)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 07 February 2021
Photo by author, Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, 07 January 2021.

If I were to make a video on today’s gospel presenting to us a typical sabbath day with Jesus Christ, I would surely use this 1998 hit by The Corrs What Can I Do. So Irish and yes, for me, so Catholic, so Christian.

The music is cool and refreshingly crisp especially with its slow doo-wop style at the start, increasing in tempo interspersed with orchestral strings that soothe your mind and soul with repetitive chorus that seem like a prayer mantra inducing you into deeper reflections and meditation.

What can I do to make you love me
What can I do to make you care
What can I say to make you feel this
What can I do to get you there

In our gospel today, Mark shows us a glimpse into the life and person of Jesus who is first of all centered in God his Father, devoutly going to the synagogue every sabbath day to worship and rising early before dawn to go to a deserted place to pray by himself.

But it was not all prayer and worship for Jesus; coming from the synagogue, he came home with Simon to heal his mother-in-law then with fever by grasping her hand and raising her up from bed. That is what Jesus does to us every time we come to join him in the Sunday Masses we celebrate, touching us, holding our hands and lifting up our sagging spirits, enabling and empowering us to fulfill our mission in this life.

After sabbath that evening, crowds of sick people and those possessed by evil spirits also came to see Jesus for their healing; the Lord did not mind their number and the darkness because that is how he really is, always coming to us to heal us, to comfort us, to simply be with us to experience his love and mercy from the Father.

But, are we there to meet Jesus passing by? Do we have the discipline also of prayer life, not just uttering prayers but truly entering into union with him in silent prayers?

Imagine it is Jesus singing this song, asking us what else must he do to make us love him, love others? What else must Jesus do so we might come to him, be one with him when it is only him who can quench our innermost thirsts in life, the only one who can fulfill us?

Have a blessed Sunday and remember, you are loved.

Provided to YouTube by Atlantic Records

Imitating the priesthood of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, Second Week in Ordinary Time, 20 January 2021
Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17     >><)))*>   +++   <*(((><<     Mark 3:1-6

O God our Father, we praise and thank you in making us share in the priesthood of your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and eternal Priest. So many times we forget – priests and lay people alike – the meaning of our priesthood which is to communicate your love to others, to become a bridge of men and women with God.

So many times we have become legalistic, paying more attention to the letters of the laws, to forms and to rituals forgetting the very essence of loving service for others. We always enter the church but never the community of believers.

Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on then sabbath that they might accuse him. He said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up here before us.” Then he said to the Pharisees, “Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?” But they remained silent.

Mark 3:1-4

What a shame, dear God when such moments happen when we refuse to look at the persons with their sufferings and pains, choosing to look at things around us like rules and conventions. That more sad part is as we have turned blind to others around us, we have also chosen to be deaf to their cries as well.

Forgive us, Father, when we fail to enter into oneness with others made possible to us in the coming of Jesus Christ who has become our “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb.7:17).

Help us discard those old understanding of priesthood with emphasis on the mystery of being a priest, of the distinction and honor, forgetting the more important aspects of working for justice and righteousness, and most of all, for peace. Both can only be earned if we strive to be men and women of love and commitment to what is good. Amen.

A prayer for those feeling low

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Second Week in Ordinary Time, 19 January 2021
Hebrews 6:10-20     <*(((><<   +++   >><)))*>     Mark 2:23-28
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, October 2019.

Dear God our Father:

Today I pray for those feeling low, for those having the blues lately when everything seems to be going wrong in their lives, feeling they have been forgotten, not cared for and not loved.

Please touch their hearts, enkindle the flames within them in continuing to serve you because You do love them.

Teach me Lord how I can let them know or feel and experience your encouraging words in today’s first reading:

Brothers and sisters: God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones. We earnestly desire each of you to demonstrate the same eagerness for the fulfillment of hope until the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises.

Hebrews 6:10-12

Increase, O God, the inspiration and zeal of those serving you by continuing to be open to Your Son Jesus Christ our eternal High Priest who had gone to your presence to bring us closer to You more than ever, especially when our skies are dark and gloomy.

I pray, dear Father, in the most special way for all of our medical frontliners in the fight against COVID-19 to never lose hope despite the dismal way how things are going on in our country in this time of the pandemic; touch the hearts of those losing hope in fighting for what is true and just, for those striving to contribute to make this world a better place to live in with their contributions in the sciences and to the society.

Assure them, O Lord, that all your promises of salvation and healing will be fulfilled soon by experiencing your loving presence in the celebrations of the Holy Eucharist.

Like the apostles in the gospel today, may those working for improving human life in various sectors of the society experience Jesus Christ’s love and defense for them against those trying to discredit them. May their love for others, for the country, for the Church, and for You, Lord, mature according to Your will. Amen.

Hardened hearts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 06 January 2021
1 John 4:11-18     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Mark 6:45-52
Photo by author, St. Anne’s Catholic Church inside the old Jerusalem, May 2017.

He got into the boat with them and the wind died down. They were completely astounded. They had not understood the incident of the loaves. On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.

Mark 6:51-52

So many times, Lord, our hearts are hardened like your Apostles’: hardened by so many fears and anxieties due to our lack or weak faith in you; hardened by anger and disappointments and failures in the past we cannot let go, festering our hearts and everything we have inside our very selves.

Our hearts are hardened too by our disbelief and doubts, even mistrust in you, dear Lord Jesus. Most of the time, our hearts are hardened when like the Apostles we see only the surface of things that happened, failing to see their deeper meaning, of your immense love and care for us.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us and his love is brought to perfection in us. This is how we know that we remain in him and he in us, that he has given us of his Spirit.

1 John 4:11-13

Our hearts are hardened, dear Jesus, because we have refused to love, love truly from within without the need to always hug and kiss one another or give gifts that eventually add up to the clatter inside our house, office or school.

Sometimes all we need is just a break from the daily grind so we may see and appreciate our loved ones too by opening our hearts to them, caring for those lost, for those having difficulties in life these days.

How wonderful was the beloved disciple to have constructed his sentence in such a holy arrangement, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.”

Instead of loving You, O God who so loved us, he beautifully declared, we also must love one another. To love You, dear God, is to love the person next to me. And the more we love, the more we see Your coming to us, dispelling all our fears in the darkness and storm.

Let our hearts be softened today with your love, Lord, a love that is free and not afraid to reach out to others. Amen.

Photo by author, December 2020.

Love, love, love….

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 05 January 2021
1 John 4:7-10     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Mark 6:34-44
Photo by author, 12 December 2020.

Dearest God our Father:

Today my heart has only two things to say:

First is, “Thank you for being love, for loving me!”

Beloved, let us love one another; because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.

1 John 4:7-8

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote in his first encyclical Deus caritas est which was taken from this letter of the beloved disciple, that, what makes Christianity so unique of all other faith is the statement, God is love.

Indeed, in all the stories told about you in the Bible, in all our experiences in life, there is only one thing you have shown and given us from the very beginning that shall continue in eternity — LOVE.

The very coming of your Son Jesus Christ is all because of LOVE. Christmas is a story of love. Epiphany is also love.

It is all love, love, love… dear God! Please open our hearts, our senses to experience this love of yours you continue to pour upon us. Touch our hearts, open our minds, let us stop denying this truth that we are loved by You.

And so, my second prayer to you today is this: as a sign of thanksgiving, let me to share your love. Let me love like Jesus your Son, thinking more of others than myself – so unlike his apostles who wanted to send home the crowd hungry, worried at where to find food for them:

By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

Mark 6:35-36

Just for me to start thinking and feeling and acting like you when you saw the crowd like sheep without a shepherd (Mk.6:34, 37), worried for their spiritual and material hunger that you taught them so many things and then fed them with food is a good lesson to start loving like you.

O dear Jesus, fill me with your warmth and enthusiasm whenever I would look at you on the Cross so I may pass on the love you have given me to others. Amen.

Photo by author, 12 December 2020.