That most sweet 4-letter word, “Dear”

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 August 2022
Photo from https://krugsstudio.blogspot.com/2016/07/does-anyone-write-letter-anymore.html

Two amusing anecdotes happened with me recently that reminded me of this four-letter word rarely used these days that is so powerful yet very endearing and lovely, and so touching too. It is the word dear we often use in writing letters, at least for my fellow 57 year-olds and above.

Let’s begin with the more recent incident that happened yesterday when I went walking again after a one week break due to toxic schedules. I felt funny walking yesterday while stretching my arms and moving my head with everyone asking me what have happened that I was absent for so long. When I returned to the parish for a break, I met our Rector Fr. Elmer and told him to write me an “excuse letter” that says, “Dear Everyone: Please excuse Fr. Nick for not being able to walk last week due to pastoral reasons” which I would show whoever would ask me again of my long absence.

Photo by Eva Bronzini on Pexels.com

That was how I remembered – while still walking – something so stupid when I was in grade 3 after I had asked my dad to write me an excuse letter to my teacher after being absent due to a fever. Despite my failing memory at times, I vividly remembered yesterday that scene of how my dad took his yellow pad and removed the blue cap of his Bic Orange FINE BILLE CARBURE ball pen to write my excuse letter in just a minute which he asked me to read aloud.

That’s when problem arose: I protested to my dad why he wrote the word “Dear” in addressing my teacher!

Hindi ko malaman kung anong katangahan o kalokohan pumasok isip ko nung umagang iyon at hindi ko ma-take sinulatan ng daddy ko yung Grade 3 adviser namin ng “Dear Ms. Legaspi”? Kasi, akala ko noon yung “dear” ay para lang sa asawa at kasintahan. Akala ko nanliligaw daddy ko kay ma’am… Gara ano?

My dad, who has always been so cool, simply took off his glasses, grinned at me, impishly smiled and explained that “dear” was the standard salutation in letters. But I was adamantly holding on to my conviction that “dear” had romantic undertones that should not be used in writing excuse letters as I remained seated on our sofa, not touching my excuse letter and making face until my mom came to explain things to me, assuring me that it was ok with her for my dad to write my teacher with “Dear”.

Corny? Weird?

Yes, I am both corny and weird but as I matured – getting more corny and more weird than ever – I have come to keep that love affair with the word “dear” so alive and well with me. I use it to address not only friends and relatives, colleagues and acquaintances, but most especially God in my daily prayer blogs as I have learned that it expresses a special kinship, a special relationship that is so honorable and dignified.

Maybe it is no coincidence that dear is also a synonym for expensive, a direct opposite of cheap. It is very interesting that in Filipino, the words dear and expensive are translated as “mahal”, the opposite of cheap or “mura”. Mahal is love. From mahal comes mahalaga, equivalent to English as valuable and important. Things that are dear and expensive are always valuable.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

The same is true when you address anyone with the salutation “Dear” – he or she is loved and valued with respect and honor.

Maybe, one reason we have lost the art of letter writing is not just due to computers and text messages but because we no longer value persons that much unlike before. There is something so special, so touching inside when one receives a letter or a card or even a postcard that makes you feel so good inside because you were thought of, remembered and cared for.

Gladden the heart of someone today by writing him/her with a short note saying hi or anything by starting with the word “Dear”. Try it. It feels good too to the letter writer.


Now, the very first incident that reminded me of the word “dear” happened the other Monday afternoon when I was called to our hospital for an Anointing of the Sick by the family of a patient who was transferred from the ICU to a regular room. Actually, I have visited the patient that Sunday before at the ICU, anointed him with Holy Oil and even gave communion to his family.

Photo by Daan Stevens on Pexels.com

When I arrived at the hospital room and saw again the wife seated on a wheelchair, crying like when I saw her at the ICU a day earlier, I realized it was not really the patient who needed me but his wife who could not accept the hard truth her husband was dying. So, I asked the other family members to leave the room as I counseled the wife to let go of her husband, to speak to him and tell him how much she loved him, not to worry about her, and most of all, to forgive him and say sorry as well for her sins to him.

The patient was 80 years old, so thin and pale, dependent on life-support system while the wife was 78 years-old who could barely walk except for very short distances. After a while of crying, the wife told me she was ready to speak to her husband to tell him those words we have rehearsed: “I love you”, “I forgive you”, “I am sorry” and “I now give you to Jesus, go and don’t worry about me.”

While assisting her to the bedside of her husband, I asked her how they called each other and, before answering me, she bowed her head, wiped her nose, and softly said, “dear”.

“Ah, dear po pala tawagan ninyo” as I led her closer to him.

Please forgive me… when I heard the woman told me how they called each other as “dear”, I felt the mischievous child in me giggling, so tickled with joy as I heard the woman almost whispering to her husband, “Dear… I love you”, “Dear…I forgive you for your sins against me”, “Dear… I give you back to God. I’m ok now.” What a kilig moment!

I felt like in a movie with two elderly couples together, the husband at the threshold of eternity with his loving wife calling him perhaps for the last time as “dear”. What a precious moment indeed when the patient responded by opening his eyes, making me wonder how he would say the word “dear” to his wife too!

The following day, the patient died peacefully. Most likely, after hearing again that lovely and assuring word, “Dear” by his wife. How I felt so dearly loved and blessed by God in answering his call to counsel the wife and return to anoint the man with Holy Oil for his final journey back home.

Thank you, my dear friends for bearing with me! Have a blessed, dearly loved week!

Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

Faithful, and most loving!

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
A Wedding Homily for Cristopher T. San Pedro & Fatima Macam
National Shrine of St. Jude, Manila, 22 February 2022
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

You must have heard the saying that “God writes straight crooked lines”. And today that proves so true not only with how God wrote so crooked his straight lines in your life, Cris and Tim, but even wrote in circles to make this date your wedding day – 22 February 2022!

Cris and Tim, God has always been so sure in calling you before his altar on this date, which will similarly happen again in 200 years – 22 February 2222!

God writes straight crooked lines because everything in him is perfect, like numbers. Precise and exact.

Like this date you never chose, 02-22-2022.

When you consulted me last month when priests here offered you this date due to their recent lockdown, right away I told you it is the most wonderful date for your wedding being the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair… St. Peter as in San Pedro like Cristopher Tabafunda San Pedro and later, Mrs. Fatima Macam San Pedro!

It was God who willed in all eternity that you, Cris and Tim, be married today — not last year, not the other week nor next week because today is the day that the Lord has made!

From Facebook of couple.

You are both good with numbers like God, a mathematician who is very precise and exact like an economist and stock trader (Cris) and a marketing and sales executive (Tim) who used to do a lot of chemical research before.

But God has better and deeper plans for you that numbers cannot count nor quantify.

God wants you to always go back to basic numbers, not to those found in equations only you two can understand or multiple digits only you can count.

Jesus said it so well in the gospel today: two is equal to one, just like 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 of the Trinity.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

Matthew 19:5-6

Life is not about having the most but the least. That is where faith grows and deepens.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

When we have so much in life, when we feel so sufficient, when we are so filled with things, we forget God. We stop believing in him, we believe more in ourselves.

And when we stop believing in God, we lose our faith and then, we stop loving, too. Sooner or later, we become empty and miserable.

So, be simple, Cris and Tim.

Reduce everything to the barest and simplest. Simplify, simplify, simplify as Henry David Thoreau said: “let your affairs be two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.”

When we get complicated like our Facebook, life becomes difficult as we can’t find right away who and what matters most to us.

Kaya nga isa lang ang asawa, Cris at Tim, kasi hindi puwede marami. Hindi lang magulo. Magastos pa. Imagine kung dalawa o tatlo wedding rings? Pag isa lang, kita agad at alam na this – married na ang mamang ito na may cute na dimple o itong girl na ito na naka glasses at dalawa pa ang dimples! Hayaan ninyo sabihin ng mga makakita singsing ninyo na sayang at taken na pala siya!

You see, the lower the number, the simpler, the better. Madaling tumaya at manampalataya.

That’s faith. Parang PBA game kung saan kayo nagkakilala. And you have both experienced, walang tatalo sa faith in God ninyong dalawa!

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

God is greater and more than the numbers the wizkids and supercomputers of the world can calculate and predict. His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor his ways. He first created just one man and one woman – just two – to be one with each other in him, and to be faithful to him and each other.

Because the more we become faithful, the more we become loving.

That is the message of this Feast of the Chair of St. Peter which is the “Primacy of Rome” or of the Pope: it is the primacy of faith and the primacy of love together which cannot be separated.

Forget all those numbers Cris and Tim, focus only in the One – God in Jesus Christ. Just focus on Jesus, always Jesus.

Love is not about counting or keeping tabs and tallies, like how many “likes” and “followers” we get in our posts.

The true measure of love is when we love without measure, when we simply love, love, love. And love.

That is why we only have one heart so we can love with all our heart. Forget Sana Dalawa ang Puso Ko. It is just a song.

When you have LQ (lover’s quarrel), who should blink first, or smile? Who should take the first move to reconcile, the first to offer the hand of peace?

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

Whenever lovers and couples or even friends quarrel, I always say, whoever has more love to give must be the first one to initiate reconciliation, the first to blink, or smile, the first to offer the hand of peace.

To have the most love to give and share does not mean to be better or superior than the other; to have the most love to give and share is to have more faith, to have a deeper faith the he/she is ready and willing to lose everything for the sake of the loved one.

Like Jesus Christ who gave everything for us on that Cross because of love.

God bless you more, Cris and Tim.

Amen.

We are One

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week XXVII-B in Ordinary Time, 03 October 2021
Genesis 2:18-24 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 2:9-11 ><]]]]'> Mark 10:2-16
Photo by Ms. Isa Avendaño-Umali at UP-Diliman via reddit.com.

Part of my fond memory of traveling to old Baguio will always be that long stretch of road in Tarlac with the colorful caballeros or “fire trees” abloom every summer, their vibrant shades of hot orange and tangerine serving like a canopy to a magical tunnel.

Making the scene lovelier were the branches and treetops arching over the road as if trying to “connect” with the other trees at the opposite side to remind us of nature’s design that we are all created one.

This is the gist of this Sunday’s readings from Genesis as cited by Jesus in the gospel.

The Lord God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with a flesh. The Lord God built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man.

Genesis 1:25

Sometimes the Bible presents to us God acting so naive as if not knowing something at all like in this creation story when he said “it is not good for man to be alone”. Did he not know in his infinite knowledge and wisdom that man will only be happy with another human being like him “who is flesh of my flesh and bones of my bones”?

Of course, God knows everything but he wants us to realize ourselves – firsthand, that we can never be complete without another person, a fellow human being. There are times we learn our lessons best through our own experiences, the more painful and difficult, the better! Like this pandemic that has made us realize the value of persons, of family and friends over things like money and gadgets or any material possession.

Note that the creation account could have ended very well in man’s “discovery” of the woman but the author continued on with an explanation “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) to show not only the reality of marriage as a creation by God but also to remind us it is a part of our nature to reach out to the other person to enter into a communion. The “I-Thou” relationship put forth by philosopher Martin Buber has always been part of human nature until sin came and hardened the human heart, misleading us often by impulses of carnal and selfish instincts towards others.

The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation… Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

Mark 10:2-6, 9
Wedding of my former student Lery with Micah in January 2020, Malolos City.

God made all things good and beautiful

Jesus and his disciples were still in Capernaum when some Pharisees approached him to test him about their legal debates on the issue of divorce. And though he was fully aware of their evil plans against him, Jesus answered their question so well without going down to their level of discussions based on petty quarrels and differences with each other.

See how Jesus was clearly focused to his mission by asserting to everyone that he had come to reveal the will of the Father, that God created everything good and beautiful with man and woman as the crowning glory of his creation that he had to cite to them the Book of Genesis. There was no need for him to involve into the legal debates of his time about divorce that unfortunately continues to this day.

For Jesus, divorce is clearly a result of man’s sins, of human weakness due to the “hardness of your hearts” which Moses tried to remedy.

And now that he has come as our Christ and Savior, Jesus assures everyone of his grace and help in overcoming our weaknesses and sins especially in upholding the purity of marriage and the Creator’s intention when he declared, “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk.10:9).

In bringing back to God as the starting point of the man and woman relationship, Jesus elevated marriage to a higher status than ever, making it a “sacrament” or a sign of his saving presence among us.


In the process, Jesus reminded his disciples and us today
 of the nature of human relationships as reflection of God's beauty and holiness.  
Every human relationship is always a gift from God, a grace and a blessing 
that must be nurtured with love and care.  
More than the unity of husband and wife, 
Jesus reminds us in today's gospel of our unity as humanity, 
as children of the Father who loves us so much.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

But the beauty of Jesus Christ’s lesson on marriage continued as they went “in the house” in Capernaum, when his disciples asked him to explain to them what he had told the Pharisees.

In the process, Jesus reminded his disciples and us of the nature of human relationships as reflection of God’s beauty and holiness. Every human relationship is always a gift from God, a grace and a blessing that must be nurtured with love and care. More than the unity of husband and wife, Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel of our unity as humanity, as children of the Father who loves us so much.

How sad when we destroy, disfigure or alter this image of God in us and in our relationships that harm human life and nature that have led to endless cycles of disorder and imbalance like wars and conflicts in various forms as nations and peoples compete for supremacy.

This is the reason why Jesus reiterates today his central message of becoming like children to enter into the kingdom of God.

And people were bringing children to him that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

Mark 10:13-16

It was a fitting way to cap his lessons that day about marriage and unity of men and women with creation. Becoming “indignant” with the disciples who have “rebuked” their parents in bringing them to Jesus, he stressed anew the nature of the kingdom of God being open to those who are small and weak, those with the attitude like that of children who trust, depend and rely on the powers of those above them most especially God.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, 2019.

It is deeply sad when couples separate or divorce, hurting the children most in the process. And indeed, it is the most tragic of all when priests and bishops abuse children when they are tasked by Jesus himself to care for the children as we have heard on many occasions in the gospel.

But, God has never stopped calling men and women to the sacred vocations of married life and priesthood even if he perfectly knows our weaknesses, including hardness of our hearts sometimes, or most of the time.

As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews had reflected, the more we must strive to be one in Jesus Christ who calls us all “brothers” and “sisters” having been consecrated to God as our origin and final end.

Last Sunday, Jesus told us “sky’s the limit in doing good” regardless of our religious affiliations “For whoever is not against us is for us” (Mk.9:40); sin is the only obstacle we must avoid, striving hard to stop its occasions when he metaphorically said it is better to enter heaven with just one hand or foot or eye than lose the body to the fires of hell.

This Sunday, Jesus is inviting us back to the very root of our relationships – God, the Supreme Good of all. Let us pray for the softening of our hearts to be more loving and forgiving, kind and understanding. Like at the beginning when he created everything, God trusts us and believes in us for we are all good like him, that his grand design of communion is very possible in Christ Jesus. Amen. Have a blessed week!