40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 22 March 2023 Isaiah 49:8-15 >>> + <<< John 5:17-30
Loving God our Father,
Your words say it all today,
Thus says the Lord: In a time of favor I answer you, in the day of salvation I help you; and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people… Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.
Isaiah 49:8, 15
The Lord is gracious and merciful.
Responsorial Psalm, Ps. 145:8
More than words, dear Father,
I praise and thank you
for your boundless love
and kindness to me all these
You have always been present with me,
in me, for me, and through me in Jesus Your Son.
And so, I pray this to you:
you have given me with so much,
I have given you so little;
teach me to give more
of my time and talents,
to give more of my self
so I can give Christ Jesus to others,
especially his love and mercy,
kindness and forgiveness;
empty me of my pride, Lord,
and fill me with your humility,
justice and love.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 19 March 2023
Monday, Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of Blessed Virgin Mary
2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 + Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 + Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24
Praise and thanksgiving to you, God our Father
for the gift of calling me like St. Joseph
to bring your Son Jesus into the world
despite my many fears and doubts,
you entrusted me
with the same task you gave St. Joseph
of making known your Son
as “God Saves” - Jesus.
…the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home… She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:20, 21
Remind me always, dear God,
of this first task you gave us
your beloved children
to make known to everyone
that Jesus came to die on the Cross
to show us “God saves” -
that we are so wrong to think
you are domineering and ruthless God,
that you are not a God hungry of power,
that you are not insistent, and demanding God,
most of all, you are not a God who competes
with us your mere creatures like everyone thinks
from Adam and Eve down to us today.
Teach me to be silent,
trustful of you, O Father,
like St. Joseph not bothered at all
of how things would turn out
with my task to make people realize and
experience Jesus Christ;
give me the courage and obedience
of St. Joseph to do as you have
tasked me to witness this great mystery
and wonder of your love
because “God saves”.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Third Week of Lent, 17 March 2023
Hosea 14:2-10 >>> + <<< Mark 12:28-34
More than any other prophet, O Lord,
Hosea is the one who tells us most
of your immense love for us all;
his writing moves like a beautiful
love story so unbelievable
yet exists, so true.
After so many harsh words
against us your people for our
infidelity like prostitutes,
here at the last part of his book,
Hosea tells us to never lose hope
because you love us so much.
Moreover, dear God our Father,
what I like most in Hosea's writings
is how you yourself reveals to us
how we must approach you
like a teacher coaching us
for the best answers so we may pass
your final exam.
Thus says the Lord: Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God, say to him, “Forgive us all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls
Hosea 14:2, 3
Please Lord, help us experience
your promises of "healing our defections,
loving us freely, becoming like dew
so we shall blossom like the lily,
our splendor be like the olive tree
and fragrance like the Lebanon cedar,
allowing us to dwell in your shade again
and raise grain, blossom like the vine,
and our fame be like the wine of Lebanon"
(cf. Hosea 14: 5-8).
Cast away our doubts of your love
and mercy for us, Father for as your Son
Jesus Christ had revealed, all the commandments
is summed in LOVE, your great love for us
as the very reason why we must love you
not because you need our love but
so that we can have more of your love
when we love.
May we love,
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent, 15 March 2023
Deuteronomy 4:1, 5-9 >> + << Matthew 5:17-19
Thank you very much, O God
our loving Father for being
so close with us in a very personal manner,
giving us laws meant to lead us closer
to living with one another in peace
and harmony, and eventually
discover the beauty of love.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”
This season of Lent,
help us realize and discover
that the laws as expressions of justice
are the minimum requirements of love;
the fulfillment of laws is love
which is more than a special way of living
but itself the perfection of life
because when we truly love,
we go beyond the letters of the laws
and do more than what is required
that slowly we become a new person
in Jesus Christ.
Enable us, O Lord,
in fulfilling the laws
into love where we become more alive,
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Lent-A, 12 March 2023
Exodus 17:3-7 + Romans 5:1-2, 5-8 + John 4:5-15, 39, 40-42
Thirst for water is something more intense for us humans than hunger for food. Thirst is something too strong we could feel affecting us deep down to the most remote and minutest parts of our body unlike hunger that is localized in the stomach area. Thirst moves us to search for water, even sending us to scamper even for droplets of water to quench our thirst unlike hunger we often dismiss by sleeping in the hopes of forgetting it, even overcoming it.
But not our thirst for water, something we would always quench by all means.
That is why, thirst would always mean more than physical but also something deeper that concerns our very soul and being. This is the beautiful meaning of our gospel this Sunday – from the wilderness of temptations to the summit of a high mountain of his transfiguration – we now join Jesus into a Samaritan town for some water after a very tiring journey on his way to Jerusalem to fulfill his mission. Here we also find Jesus thirsting for us humans, sinners as we are, like on the Cross at Good Friday.
Jesus came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon. A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” – For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans. – Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
There are a lot of interesting details in this opening lines of this long story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman. Very notable is Jesus coming into a Samaritan town and talking to a woman that are both a big no, no for Jews at that time as the evangelist explained in verse 9, – For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans.
It is very clear that what we have here is more than a geographical setting but a revelation of God’s immense love (and thirst) sending Jesus for us all especially the sinners and those neglected by the society, living in the margins like women and children, the poor and the elderly.
That Samaritan woman symbolizes us whom Jesus searches to return home to the Father.
Notice that Jesus comes to the well at the hottest time of the day, at noon when the Samaritan woman would come to draw water. Why? Because as we have seen in the story, the woman was a sinner, living with her sixth “husband” as pointed out to her by Jesus himself. She drew water at that time when no one was at the well to avoid the Marites of the town who would always feast with gossips about her scandalous lifestyle!
Is it not the same with us too? Jesus comes to us right in the heat of our sinfulness, of our infidelities, of our cheating, of our unkindness and unforgiving? It is when we are hot in sin when Jesus comes thirsting for us, inviting us to return to him. And too often, he works wonders to win us over, even sometimes allowing us to feel like the Samaritan as so special in doing him a favor.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?”
Here we find Jesus working subtly, even playing by our games while we are in the heat of our sins and other pursuits in life when he would ask us favors, namely, asking for a drink.
In response, the Samaritan woman opens herself to a dialogue with Jesus rather than outrightly dismissing him as a nuisance. She felt that in giving Jesus a drink, she would do him a favor when in fact, as we have seen later, it was the Lord who did her the most favor as we shall see too on the Cross at Good Friday especially with Dimas.
Are we not like this Samaritan woman when we are in the heat of our sinfulness with our bloated ego that we even dare think of doing God a favor by entering into a dialogue until suddenly, for good reasons, we are swept off in our feet, finding ourselves in his merciful and loving arms?
Like the Samaritan woman, in opening to Jesus to a dialogue when we are in the noontime of our sinfulness or simple ordinariness, that is also when we allow the Lord to do us a great favor.
That is why I always tell people to give us priests a chance to do something good, never to compensate our services and ministry with remunerations. Very often, people say they feel so blessed with our ministry and presence but the truth is, we priests are the ones more blessed when we are able to selflessly serve you our flock!
This I have always felt in hearing confessions and anointing the sick especially since last year as a chaplain at the Fatima University Medical Center here in Valenzuela City. I have instructed our nurses to always insist to the family of patients to never give me anything after visiting their sick. They do not realize the tremendous grace and blessings I experience when I visit the sick, hear their confessions and anoint them with oil. Even when patients die, because as my former Parish Priest Fr. Ersando used to tell me as a young priest 24 years ago, confessing and absolving the sins of the dying and anointing them with holy oil are the most meritorious acts of a priest in preparing the faithful in meeting God our Father. This I have experienced so true in the recent death of Msgr. Teng Manlapig whom I have shared last week.
Many times in our lives, it is through the many “inconveniences” we experience that Jesus comes to invite us to open ourselves to receive his abundant graces and blessings not necessarily material in nature. God is never outdone in generosity and everything is pure grace in him because we are always blessed with more than we give when we offer him the gift of our self to do his will.
Remember always Jesus Christ’s words to the Samaritan woman at the well which are the same words he tells us especially when we are hot in our personal pursuits in life, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
In the first reading we have heard how “In those days, in their thirst for water, the people grumbled against Moses” (Ex. 17:3), quarreling among themselves and testing God.
How sad that until now, we grumble and quarrel and test God because of our many thirsts for things and pleasures we thought would complete us. Sometimes we feel as if God owes us so much that we feel so entitled in this life, deserving all the good things without realizing how God knows us so well, even the sins we hide most. We keep on thirsting and desiring so many other things when it is only God whom we must desire first of all, actually desire and thirst most all like the deer that yearns for streams of running water (Ps. 42:2).
One of my favorite churches of all time is the Sta. Cruz in Manila. It is one of the most beautiful churches that has remained unchanged, never altered. As a child more than 50 years ago until now, I am still fascinated by its sanctuary of a painting or a mosaic of Jesus Christ the lamb slain and offered as sacrifice whose blood is like the waters of a spring flowing into us through the Blessed Sacrament.
Notice that this story of Jesus with the Samaritan woman comes after his meeting with the Pharisee named Nicodemus at night where the Lord first discussed the symbolism and importance of being born again in water of Baptism and the Spirit to become a new person in him. This time at Jacob’s well Jesus promised the Samaritan woman water that becomes in the one who drinks it a source springing up into eternal life so that whoever drinks it will never be thirsty again.
This has become possible because Jesus “died for us while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8) on the Cross when he said again, “I thirst” (Jn. 19:28-29)!
May we continue to thirst for God by entering into dialogue with Jesus especially when he comes to us, also thirsty, asking us for some small favors from us in order to gift us with his bigger favors we have never imagined. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the First Week of Lent, 28 February 2023
Isaiah 55:10-11 <'[[[[>< +++ ><]]]]'> Matthew 6:7-15
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father!
Thank you for this wonderful
gift of Lent, of being so close
to us, consoling us in our
pains and disappointments,
assuring us of your love and
most especially of your plans
for us! Help us to be more open
to your coming, to your presence,
to your words.
Thus says the Lord: Just as from the heavens the rain and the snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
Your Son Jesus Christ taught us
to call you Father, Abba,
for indeed, you are a Father to us
who taught us how to walk
and stand and fight in this life;
as a Father, you are so loving
and caring, ready to rescue us
in times of distress; let us come
to you, call you, and to listen to you;
let us rediscover the beauty
and value of silence this Lent
so we would hear and learn
your plans for us because
there is no need for us to speak to you
as you know very well our thoughts;
what matters is that we hear
and learn your plans for us!
May we "look to you, O Lord,
so we may be radiant with joy
in the midst of our brokenness
and rise from our crushed spirits"
(Ps. 34:6, 19) in order to bring
your loving assurance
to those burdened
and lost like us.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the First Week of Lent, 27 February 2023
Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18 ><)))*> + <*(((>< Matthew 25:31-46
We hear you speaking to us,
Lord God our Father,
telling us, "Be holy,
for I, the Lord your God,
am holy" (Lev. 19: 1-2);
we hear your voice daily
right in our hearts
as we feel your nearness
to us in your gift of life,
in your love,
in your holiness
that all fill us.
when we refuse
to see your face
in everyone we meet
especially the poor,
our own family
Forgive us, Lord,
in being so exclusive
than being inclusive
like you for your holiness
encompasses us all;
teach us to love without
boundaries nor barriers,
to stop our evil ways
against one another;
let us embrace your law,
Lord, which is perfect,
refreshing the soul,
rejoicing the heart
set our sights to
Christ's Second Coming
which is happening now,
the acceptable time
and day of salvation;
may we love,
and still love more
even those we do not
know who may be
hungry and thirsty,
a stranger or naked,
sick or in prison.
O God, how great
and loving you are
that you chose us
to be your dwelling
and most of all,
be the reflection of your
holiness despite our
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Seventh Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 19 February 2023
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 ><}}}*> Matthew 5:38-48
Jesus continues his Sermon on the Mount this Sunday, reminding his listeners that include us today that more is expected of us as his disciples in putting into practice the Commandments of God. Last Sunday he brought us into the heart of the commandments which is love; today, he gives us the concrete demands of this love like offering no resistance to one who is evil, loving our enemies, and praying for those who persecute us (Mt.5:39, 44).
For us to have a fuller grasp and appreciation of these two very difficult teachings by Jesus, it is best to see them in the context of holiness which is not being sinless but being filled with God, being like God himself. See how the opening line of today’s first reading and the last line of the gospel express very similar commandments:
The Lord God said to Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”
In the gospel, Jesus concluded his teachings with these words of admonition:
“So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
A lot often, people are allergic in hearing the word “holiness”. Many think holiness is something not for them, something exclusively for us priests and religious, and worst, that it is just a thing of the past that no longer exists! Vatican II clarified that the universal call to holiness falls on everyone. We are all called to be holy by God and holiness is actually close to us as a reality and experience because God is closest with us!
Imagine God the all-powerful, all-encompassing who is beyond our comprehension yet telling us to be like him? Is it not so beautiful and amazing that this God we find so far from us, so different from us, is the one who made the moves to be close to us by living with us and among us in Jesus Christ, the Emmanuel or God-is-with-us? He later sent the Holy Spirit on Pentecost so that he may be most closest to us as our breath, dwelling in us, making us his very temple as St. Paul explained in the second reading today.
The whole Bible shows us this nearness of God with us. He is a personal God, Someone who relates with us, directing the world and history not from afar but by getting involved in them himself, even with our very lives! It is in this aspect that Jesus is now asking us to show concretely the demands of discipleship by being holy. It is a very difficult task we cannot do on our own but through the grace of God. And here lies the great wonder – we the sinful ones becoming the image of God’s holiness when we learn to let go of retaliation or revenge and vengeance, when we love and pray for those who persecute us.
Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well… You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 5:38-39, 43-44
See how our gospel this final Sunday so apt as we begin our Lenten journey this Ash Wednesday.
In giving us these concrete demands of love, Jesus is inviting us to “detox” ourselves of the many toxins in our souls that prevent us from being holy, from being the presence of God in this world. Everyday we find on Facebook many posts about toxic people, of how to detect them and the need to avoid them, even cut ties with them. Problem is, everybody is suspecting everyone as a toxic person with nobody ever admitting he/she is a toxic one needing detoxification.
Jesus is reminding us this Sunday to check on the many toxins of hatred and violence, resentment and bitterness that poison us as a person that also poison our many relationships. Last week, he asked us to look into our hearts, today we move into our souls. What fills us as a person, as a disciple of Jesus? The spirit of the world or the Spirit of God?
When Jesus asked us “to offer no resistance to one who is evil” by foregoing retaliation or even revenge and vengeance, he is not asking us to behave with naivete or yield to injustice and violence. To offer our other cheek when slapped on the right, to give our cloak not just tunic, to walk for two miles instead of just one mile, and never to turn our back on those who borrow is actually to be peace-maker like Jesus in his beatitudes.
Jesus is not asking us to be passive to evil doers but is in fact telling us to show them the wrongness, the evil of what they are doing. To continue to be good to those who do evil means to actively teach them of what is proper, what is right. It is not weakness but actually a sign of inner strength, courage, and security like Jesus before the Sanhedrin on Holy Thursday night and his enemies while on the Cross on Good Friday. Retaliation makes us no different from evil men and even further escalates the troubles instead of solving them. World history and daily news prove to us daily the foolishness of men and wisdom of God in Jesus Christ’s path of non-violence. A long time ago I have read an article about the never-ending clashes in Israel where a father told a reporter that war does not solve anything but only makes people bury more of their children and parents.
Very true. And yes, it is easier said than done but we have great men like Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela who have showed us that the path of non-violence preached by Christ is always the best way to end war and killings. The Rev. King Jr. used to say that love is more powerful than guns and bullets. We have shown that in EDSA 1986 and we have seen it at the fall of Berlin Wall as well as in the triumph of democracy in South Africa.
This Sunday, let us flush out those toxins of festering anger within us, of the desire to get even with those who have hurt us. However, let it also be clear that Jesus is not asking us to have warm feelings of affection towards people who do us evil. When Jesus told us to love our enemies, the context of the word “to love” here means to “wish their well-being” which is a unilateral, unconditional desire for the deepest well-being of another person.
Again, Jesus is not asking us to be in love with people who do evil especially against us; he is not even asking us to have warm feelings for someone doing us serious harm and injuries. That would be ridiculous and insane. All Jesus wants us to do is to strongly show them how wrong they are in what they are doing. In a sense, by our strong actions of non-violence, of still wishing their well-being, we are actually teaching them hard lessons of truth and justice, and of holiness itself. We do not have to be friends with terrorists or kidnap men and murderers but we have to sincerely wish their well-being that they may finally stop their evil deeds not only for their own good but for everyone. In fact, all the more we should pray for their conversion, that they may stop from hating and hurting others and begin to learn to love and care for others. English poet Lord Alfred Tennyson said it so well, “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.”
These past weeks we have seen since his sermon on the mount how Jesus has consistently taught us to go beyond the letters of the law, to go against the ways of the world, and to imitate his way of love and mercy, service and kindness that spring from the goodness of his heart. Through his words and actions, Jesus had taught us very concretely the fulfillment of the Law in love.
On our own we cannot achieve it but only through the grace of God. It is a process that requires constant detoxification of our selves, of our sins and other negativities inside us that prevent us from being holy like God. And likewise, we must keep watch on ourselves too that Christ’s call is never meant for us to outdo each other in doing what is good, what is right. One major toxins we need to flush from ourselves is the spirit of competition, of outdoing others in holiness and goodness. What must animate us always is to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect – not being better than anybody else that often leads to our vicious circles of hatred and violence. Amen.
Have a blessed week ahead as you prepare for the holy season of Lent.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 February 2023
It has been 24 hours since
and I wonder what happened
with all the flowers
not sold yesterday;
do the lovers still stay
and remain true with
all that they say
to love and behold each
other every day?
The flowers declare
what the hearts convey
but too often they are so
lovely beyond compare
when love is not that easy
because in reality,
love is difficult, even painful
that most likely I would
dare say that a loving heart
is more of thorns than of blooms.
A loving heart is first of all
a listening heart;
a heart that listens in silence,
a heart that hears and feels
the silent screams and cries
of a beloved;
many times in life,
when our hearts are tired and weary,
saddled with burdens so heavy,
the most lovely company to have
is a listening heart
where words do not matter
because what we bear are too painful
to bare; just a warm, loving heart
that listens and cares is more than enough.
A loving heart is a heart that sings.
Have you noticed
the loveliest love songs
are those that speak
of a love lost,
of a love that did not end
happily ever after,
a love hoping against hope
that someday would be
redeemed , if not here, even beyond?
A loving heart is able to sing
only when that heart is scarred
for not being loved in return,
of being disappointed,
because a heart that continues to love
in darkness and pains
is the one that truly loves,
creating harmony and melodies,
a song or a poem
that ease and soothe
the many hearts hurting.
When a heart listens in silence
and sings amidst the pain,
then the heart celebrates
in finding love in what is true
and in what is good,
in self-sacrifice and
only the ones who dare
to love even in pain of losing
one's self can celebrate
because in the end,
that is why we have
Valentine's day -
a celebration of
how lovers of God and
lovers of fellowmen
in giving their hearts,
their very selves.
Not just flowers
The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of Sts. Cyril, Monk & Methodius, Bishop, 14 February 2023
Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10 ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> Mark 8:14-21
On this most joyous day of hearts,
dear God our Father,
I pray for us all with a heart
to have a natural heart
not hardened by sin and bitterness,
not a heart lacking in understanding
nor a heart so caught up with selfish
and personal agenda.
When the Lord saw how great was man’s wickedness on earth, and how no desire that his heart conceived was ever anything but evil, he regretted that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was grieved.
Give us a heart
inclined to you, O Lord,
a heart that listens in silence,
a heart that rejoices in truth,
a heart that celebrates what is good,
a heart that sings amid the many scars
and pains of infidelity and betrayal,
unkindness and unfriendliness,
a heart that is whole and undivided
in courage and freedom to do what
is most loving, most self-sacrificing
and self-giving like that of Jesus Christ.
Let us not be carried away
and worst, give rise to the commercialization
of Valentine's Day that we forget the
true meaning of loving which is
forgetting one's self and thinking more of
the other person; how lovely it is to read how
you, O God, directed Noah to build an ark
to save his family from the great flood:
Everyone inside the ark was in pair -
Noah and his wife,
his three sons and each one's wife
as well as the animals with one male
and one female each to show us that
love is never alone,
always with another person
with a community of believers!
Many times, O Lord,
we miss your point because we are so
caught up with our own thoughts and ideas
that our eyes cannot see,
and ears cannot hear.
Teach like our brother saints today,
St. Cyril and St. Methodius
to seek your holy will
so we may love truly
like Jesus Christ who
died on the Cross