Reset/Refresh in the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 11 May 2022
Acts 12:24-13:5   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 12:44-50
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.
God our loving Father,
give us the stamina to continue
in this life's journey, most especially
to fulfill your mission; do not let us
to be sidetracked by failures and
disappointments; most of all,
"reset" our buttons to refresh us
in your Son Jesus Christ 
so that we may do your work anew
than insist on doing our work for you.
We have been working so hard for you
without truly asking you what work you
want us to do for you; we have forgotten
to await your mission task in true prayers
and discernment, relying mostly in our
good intentions when all mission is yours.

Now there were in the Church at Antioch prophets and teachers… Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on Barnabas and Saul and sent them off. So they, sent forth by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and from there sailed to Cyprus.

Acts 13:1, 3-4
Enlighten our minds and our hearts, 
Lord Jesus; shout or cry out again
so we may listen and believe in you
that we may do your work as teachers
and prophets among your people.

Let us return to you, dear Jesus,
and be rooted in you so we may have
a deeper insight into where you are
calling us to serve as your prophets,
following you to find new ways in
proclaiming your gospel in these times.

Let us be converted in you, dear Jesus,
to remain rooted in you, giving only you,
teaching you solely to the people,
conserving and handing on to them
your teachings, not ours.
Let us come to your words, Lord Jesus,
to be led anew in doing your work,
fulfilling your mission.  Amen.
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

Easter Intensity

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Week of Easter-C or Divine Mercy Sunday, 24 April 2022
Acts 5:12-16 ><]]]]’> Revelation 9:1-11, 12-13, 17-19 ><]]]]’> John 20:19-31
Photo by author at Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

Admittedly, Lent is easier to experience and express than Easter due to its many practicalities. Lent is easier to understand and embrace with the many penitential practices we can undertake like fasting and abstinence, penance, and alms-giving that all came from and directed to our daily living. Remember our expression last season that “life is a daily Lent.”

Easter is different. It is not easily understood especially in our country when it is the hottest season when everything is dried and seems to be dying unlike in Europe and North America where it is springtime with a dazzling display of wonderful colors evoking life everywhere.

Our gospel this Sunday shows us how Easter had confronted the Lord’s disciples with an entirely new reality that was far beyond the limits of their experience, something which continues to our days, in our very lives. Christ’s Resurrection has opened new possibilities in our existence that affects everyone and leads us to a new kind of future so difficult in explaining and expressing but something very true inside us perfectly captured in our Filipino expression of “ah basta!”

See how simple are the accounts of the Lord’s appearances to his disciples without much details and descriptions:

Photo by author, Holy Sepulchre Church, Jerusalem, 2017.

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. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20:19-23

Last Sunday we have mentioned the need for us to be open and empty at the same time to truly experience the joy and grandeur of Easter, exactly what our gospel tells us today. Nothing much is said about the reactions by the disciples of Jesus except that they “rejoiced” upon seeing him breaking through locked doors and windows.

But, if we try to dwell into the scene, we can feel a certain amount of energy bursting forth, an inexpressible intensity found in Jesus and in his disciples as well on that evening of the first day of the week.

John did not tell us how long Jesus stayed with the disciples nor how they rejoiced upon seeing him but we can imagine and feel the intensity both in Jesus and among the disciples on that evening and eventually the following Sunday when Jesus appeared anew in the same manner with Thomas already present.

See in both instances how John simply stated Jesus broke through locked doors and windows that caught the disciples in deep silence and adoration of the Risen Lord, of how their fears were allayed by the the gift of peace, of how sins were forgiven and doubts erased by Christ’s presence that eventually led to their seeing and believing in him.

And what happened? Jesus rose from the dead! He did not merely resuscitate from death but broke out into entirely new form of life, a life no longer subject to death and physical realities paving the way for us to enter into new dimensions in life too.

Like Thomas, Jesus touches us in the most personal and unique manner that deep inside us we also cry with intensity “my Lord and my God” to him especially during consecration at the Mass. In the second reading, we have heard how John who was then a prisoner at Patmos Island off the coast of Greece was also touched by Jesus with his right hand and told not to be afraid (Rev. 1:17) in proclaiming his gospel of salvation.

Though we can enumerate so many reasons and persons who have led us into believing in Jesus, we also admit at the same time that there is no specifically single reason nor person for our faith in God except our very selves, of our personal conviction that transcends all proofs and logic as well. Again, that expression we have of “ah basta!”

Photo by author at Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

The grace of this second Sunday of Easter which is also the eighth day of the octave known recently as “Divine Mercy Sunday” is how God through Jesus Christ comes to us as someone so small and invisible. And so intense in his love for us, breaking all barriers just to be with us especially when we too feel so locked inside with fears like the disciples.

As we have reflected last week by becoming empty and open, we often find our mighty God in little things we usually dismiss or disregard like the mustard seed.

On that evening of Easter, Jesus came in all silence and simplicity, leaving us with not much material proofs except the testimony and works of his witnesses, the disciples.

Such is the mystery of the Resurrection by Jesus that is beyond descriptions and reason because it is of another dimension and world; but, we know it is true because we ourselves have experienced the Risen Lord in so many ways sometimes so plain and simple, even sometimes too funny to mention.

One undeniable fact of the veracity of the Resurrection of Jesus is the shift by the early Christians from the Sabbath day of worship into Sunday, the first day of the week. Remember the first Christians were all Jewish like Jesus; for them to abandon the Sabbath day worship and replaced it with Sunday means something so intense must have happened on that day itself and with them as well.

Because of Christ’s Resurrection, life is forever changed for the best amid all the many problems and chaos we have been through in the past 2000 years, giving us with so much hopes for a better tomorrow despite the many darkness coming our way. The key is to remain intense in our faith in Jesus Christ.


Dearest Jesus,
grant me the intensity to proclaim
you and your gospel of salvation 
in both words and deeds;
use my hands 
to do many signs and wonders
among your people like your Apostles
but never to replace you;
let my mission be an intense
proclamation always that you alone
is my Lord and my God.
Amen.

Video by author at Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

Catching Jesus, catching for Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week V-C in Ordinary Time, 06 February 2022
Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 ><}}}}*> Luke 5:1-11
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

The word catch is a very catchy one, like when we catch our breath. Or, when we catch a train or bus or catch a ball. Recently, we have been catching colds and have also started catching movies. But the most beautiful of all is catching a glimpse of someone special until we catch a person, like a bride or a groom.

To catch means “to have”. It may be something. Or someone. Wholly or partially.

There is always that sense of possession in catching. This Sunday, Jesus wants to catch us all by making us catch others for him, too!

After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.” When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”

Luke 5:4-6, 8-10

From their synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus came to the nearby shore of Galilee Lake at Capernaum preaching his good news of salvation. A large crowd of people followed him, listening to his teachings as he sat on the boat of Simon he had borrowed.

Simon and company were washing their nets, on their way home after a fruitless night of fishing when Jesus came. Simon Peter must have heard – “caught” – the words of Jesus while teaching and soon enough, he was caught with fear with their miraculous catch.

Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2017.

Again, we have Jesus with his powerful words making such impact on the people, being fulfilled in their hearing most especially to Simon: After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”

The fish has always been there in the lake but what made the big difference that morning was Jesus – he was not only with them but most of all, Simon believed in the words of the Lord!

Here we find again the words of Jesus being fulfilled because somebody listened and believed.

Last week we heard how Jesus was driven out of the synagogue by his own folks who doubted him and his words despite their amazement at the start; today, here at the shore of Capernaum, the people came to Jesus to listen to his words again.

But, the most beautiful part of our story this Sunday is how Jesus came at the most ordinary time and circumstances of the lives of the people. Too often, many people think Jesus comes only in dramatic and miraculous ways to invite us to come and follow him.

Not really. In fact, he comes when we least expect him like in this scene when Simon must have been feeling so down, coming home empty with nothing to feed his family after a fruitless night of fishing.

The good news of our Gospel this Sunday is how Jesus makes us all his worthy followers when we allow him to catch us. That is how the Gospel works – let yourself be caught by the Lord first and soon you shall find yourself being caught up in so many wonderful surprises: When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him.

Photo by author, statue of Simon Peter after the miraculous catch of fish,asking the Lord to depart from him at the shore of Galilee in Capernaum, 2017.

Jesus does not ask us for great things and deeds; he knows us very well and loves us so much, believing in us that he simply invites us to respond to his calls, to his words in the little everyday things of our lives like being faithful to your husband or wife, being obedient to our parents, being true to our friends, being honest in our work and studies, being kind and open to others. When bad things happen to us, all Jesus asks us is to go deeper in him in faith by being more patient or even uncomplaining to our pains and difficulties.

Of course, these are all easier said than done but this is what we always tell Jesus just before receiving him in the Holy Communion like that Roman official who said, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and I shall be healed”.

Nobody is truly worthy before the Lord but that is why Jesus came to invite us personally to let ourselves be caught by him like Simon and his brother Andrew along with their fishing partners, the sons of Zebedee, James and John, who left everything to follow him.

Every encounter with Jesus and his words always result in a self-discovery of our unworthiness and sinfulness like Simon Peter and Isaiah in the first reading. But, the good news is that every time God comes to call us, he also gives us the strength and gifts necessary to accomplish his mission for us. What is important is our willingness to follow, like Isaiah who said, “Here I am, send me” (Is.6:8) and be ready to leave everything behind like the first four disciples.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

At the center of every call and mission is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master, the Word who became flesh and dwelled among us by being one with us in our pains and sufferings, even in death, so that we may become like him, holy and blessed.

To be holy like God is to share in his work of gathering his people into the Body of Christ which St. Paul had reflected these past three Sundays to remind us of the preeminence of love in fulfilling our mission from Jesus.

Every day, Jesus comes, trying to catch us, asking us to cast our nets, inviting us to catch others for him so we may all be one in him in his love.

Let us all be caught by Jesus, be totally his and experience his amazing love and mercy. Amen.

Have a blessed and COVID-free week ahead!

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Praying to be simple

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop & Martyr, 03 February 2022
1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   Mark 6:7-13
Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels.com
God our Father,
as we celebrate today
the memorial of St. Blaise,
a Bishop and Martyr so loved
by people for the many miracles
attributed to him, I pray only for 
one thing:  to be simply simple
like him.
His life was clearly a life of simplicity
anchored in deep faith in you, in just
having you in through prayers and
examples of life; St. Blaise took to
heart Jesus Christ's instructions to 
the Twelve "to take nothing for the 
journey but a walking stick - no food,
no sack, no money in their belts" as
"they proclaimed repentance, driving
off many demons, and healing the
sick" (Mark 6:8, 12).
Famous for healing those with 
afflictions of the throat and neck,
St. Blaise's life of simplicity reminds
us how too much things of the world
like wealth and fame could "choke" us,
preventing us from bridging what is
in our hearts and what is in our minds. 
Like King David in the first reading,
let us realize that someday, we are 
"going the way of all flesh" that 
for us to be truly rich and fruitful 
in life, it is best to keep the mandate
of the Lord always for he alone is our
life and meaning.  Amen.

Lest we forget or miss others…

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Week XXXI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 05 November 2021
Romans 15:14-21   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 16:1-8
Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 2020.
On this First Friday of November,
I thank you dear God our Father
for the enriching and comforting words
of St. Paul these recent weeks as we
come to the penultimate installment of his
beautiful Letter to the Romans:

I myself am convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another. But I have written to you rather boldly in some respects to remind you, because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service of the Gospel of God, so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:14-16
You have reminded us these past weeks
through St. Paul not only of the need to
have sound doctrine on what we believe
but most of all to have much love in our
faith and hope in you.
As he begins to close his letter to the
Romans, may we imitate his great love
and concern for the Gentiles and those 
others to whom the Gospel has not been
proclaimed yet; many times in our lives,
we only remember those with us, those like
us, forgetting and missing out those not
with us, those living in the margins, those in
the fringes of the society and Church.
Give us, dear Father, such attention 
of St. Paul in seeking those not yet in our fold,
those neglected and taken for granted; how sad
that we only remember others when we are already
in dire need and extreme situations like that wise
steward in the gospel today:  at the height of his
power and influence, he never thought of the
creditors of his master, milking them dry of their
resources; but when he was in danger of being
terminated, he suddenly remembered them.
Most of all, he dealt with them with charity and
leniency to win their favors and sympathies.
Before any calamity or storm befall us,
when unfavorable circumstances happen 
to us or anyone, remind us, loving Father, 
to think of others,
to search for the lost 
and little ones
lest we miss them totally 
as if they do not exist.
Amen.

Called without exception

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of Sts. Jude and Simon, Apostles, 28 October 2021
Ephesians 2:19-22   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 6:12-16
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, the 12 Apostles at the facade of the Basilica Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey in Barcelona, Spain, 2019.
Glory and praise to you,
O God our Father in sending
us your Son Jesus Christ who 
calls us to be his disciples and 
collaborators without exception, 
regardless of our backgrounds;
how wonderful it is to ponder on 
this feast of his two Apostles, 
St. Simon and St. Jude that it has 
always been people who interested
him, not social classes or labels!

Jesus went up the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.

Luke 6:12-13
Simon who was called the Zealot 
came in tenth place according to
Luke's narration of their order of
calling followed by Judas the son
of James also known as Jude to
distinguish him from Judas Iscariot
the betrayer.  How wonderful it is 
to meditate on the call of Simon
the Zealot - if he was really a member
of those nationalist Jews against
Roman rule in Israel, that puts him
directly opposite, a world apart from
Matthew the tax collector who was
a collaborator of the Romans!
It is so amazing, Lord Jesus that you
have united these men together despite
their varied backgrounds and marked
differences!
And so, we pray, too,
that we may transcend our
differences with our other co-
workers in your vineyard, 
that despite our individualities,
we come into unity in your name,
in your mission, in your call,
Lord Jesus Christ.
Transform the "zeal" burning in us
in our previous preoccupations and
advocacies to become a "burning zeal"
for you and your gospel of salvation;
may we see more of you, Jesus, our Caller
than your call to unite us in the mission
you have entrusted us.  Amen.

Keep us calm, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 17 August 2021
Judges 6:11-24   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 19:23-30
Photo from Facebook, April 2020.
You know so well the hardships
we are all into these past months,
God our Father.
And you must have heard all our 
complaints to you, even those we
have kept in our hearts for you also 
know how we feel like Gideon.

Gideon said to him, “My lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers told us when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ For now the Lord has abandoned us and has delivered us into the power of Midian.”

Judges 6:13
You are so kind, dear God
in allowing us to bring out to you
what we feel which after all, we cannot
hide from you; and here lies your blessing:
after allowing us to recognize before you 
the problems and misery we are into, 
you send us to work on its solution.

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian. It is I who send you… Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.” So Gideon built there an altar to the Lord and called it Yahweh-shalom.

Judges 6:14, 23-24
We all want peace,
we all desire a world with less
pains and sufferings like an end
to this pandemic but no one among us
would dare to follow your instructions,
your commands to do our part in finding
solutions to our many problems in life,
in doing our part in alleviating the pains
and sufferings of the sick and dying
for until now we have refused to give up
and surrender our selves to you, Lord.
We are afraid of detaching from whatever
or whomever attachments we have,
so we can be truly free for you and for others.
Most of all, we are afraid to get hurt,
to lose and to get lost in order to have you
and find life and fulfillment.
Give us the grace to realize
and keep in mind always
your Son's words today:
"For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible."
(Matthew 19:26)
Keep us calm, Lord, amid
the darkness and uncertainties
around us these days of the pandemic.
Amen.

Being lost, Getting lost in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVI-B in Ordinary Time, 18 July 2021
Jeremiah 23:1-6 ><}}}'> Ephesians 2:13-18 ><}}}'> Mark 6:30-34
Photo by author, Sonnen Berg Mountain View, Davao del Sur, 2018.

Being lost or getting lost is sometimes not totally bad – or a loss – like in traveling when new routes and destinations are discovered along the way. Our readings this Sunday are about being lost, getting lost – both in the good sense and in the bad sense.

Let us reflect first on what we mean by getting lost in the good sense, that is, of getting lost in Jesus which is resting in the Lord.

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.

Mark 6:30-32
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias, the Holy Land, 2019.

Getting lost in Jesus, with Jesus

Our gospel today is the conclusion of last Sunday’s topic about the mission of the apostles that includes us in this time which is to proclaim the good news of salvation by preaching repentance and casting away evil spirits that destroy life’s beauty.

Mark now presents to us the other two essential elements of our being missionaries of Christ: of getting lost in Jesus, that is, resting in him and last but not least, seeking and comforting those who are lost in this life.

To rest in the Lord is to make time, spend time with him in disciplined prayer, of having a prayer life that is the most essential component of one’s life because without Jesus, we die.

As missionaries of Christ, we can never share and preach him to others unless we first have him in ourselves. Hence, right upon the return of the apostles amid their joys of reporting how they have accomplished their mission so well, Jesus asked them to cross the lake anew to a deserted place to be with him alone to show them that without him, they cannot do anything.

Here we find the great wonder of prayer life, of the discipline of making time for Jesus every day in prayerful meditations and contemplation: the more we spend time with Jesus, the more we can see and feel the people we serve, their needs and aspirations. As we enter into communion and intimacy with Jesus, the more we become one with others.

No apostolate, no ministry, no service will be fruitful without Christ at the center found only in prayer. The late Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote in one of his reflections that the more we become active in the ministry, the more we must be contemplative; while, the more we become contemplative, the more we become active.

Photo by Ms. JJJimeno of GMA7-News, June 2019.

It is in getting lost in Christ when we are absorbed to him in prayer where much of our mission and ministry truly happens because that is when we are most purified, when we lose ourselves to let Jesus take over us in directing our lives.

Getting lost in Jesus is entering the true sabbath, a return in Eden where we stop playing God and simply be his image and likeness again as the crowning glory of his creation.

It was after creating human when God saw everything he did as good and completed when he rested and blessed the sabbath day. He rested because he had accomplished his works; on the other hand, we rest in order to accomplish further our work in him through Jesus Christ.

To rest in the Lord is not to stop working and do nothing – resting in the Lord is getting lost and finding him in ever new circumstances and conditions that unfold before us, deepening our intimacy with him that we are eventually recreated and transformed in him.

That is the loss we must go through like St. Paul in order to gain Christ (Phil. 3:8-10) because that is when we truly find our very selves and one another as one in belonging in Jesus and the Father, that we are all indeed, one like him and the Father.

This will get clearer when we enter the third essential element of being missionaries of Christ:

Finding and comforting those lost

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark gives us a very brief account of the return of the apostles to Jesus with a dash of humor when the people saw them leaving to rest at a deserted place and arrived at the place even before them! There is really not much time at all to rest for the missionaries of the Lord!

Imagine how the apostles must have felt when they saw the crowd who have arrived ahead of them at the deserted place.

They must have been so disappointed, even disgusted.

But, Mark tells us a completely different picture of Jesus:

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Mark 6:34
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

The more time we rest in Jesus, the more we become like him – sensitive to the needs of the flock. To be moved with pity is not just a feeling mixed with some disdain or condescension for those in misery that we have heard and read a lot during this time of the pandemic wherein the poor are being blamed for being stubborn and everything that caused the spread of COVID.

Pity characterizes God like when we appeal to him when we are in deep trouble and suffering like the blind and lepers begging Jesus, “have pity on me”. Pity is a deep feeling that moves us to do something to relieve the pain and suffering of others.

It is oneness with those suffering, of “making sakay” as we say in Filipino or “riding on” or being on their same shoes. It is empathy and sympathy in action.

Notice the words of Mark: Jesus was moved with pity for they were like sheep without a shepherd. This is something deeply rooted among the people of Israel and elsewhere shepherding is largely a part of life and culture.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

A sheep getting lost without a shepherd is the worst thing that can happen to any member of the flock.

A lost sheep is surely a prey to wild animals without any defense nor defender at all.

Likewise, a sheep is a very communal animal that when lost, it bleats so miserably wandering in the desert or the open field, feeling so “kawawa” or miserable.

Did we not feel so the same the first time we went to the big city to study or work? Imagine our own feelings when we were lost, trying to find our ways into school or work or life in general when moved residence here or abroad? There was that feeling of being alone, with nobody to turn to in case of emergencies or dangers.

It is also the most common feeling we have since the start of the pandemic, of being locked down, of not knowing where to go as a result or who to trust.

No wonder, so many among us have suffered some forms of depression or emotional turmoil, from young children who could not process what they were going through to the elderly who are refused entry to almost every establishment. There is that feeling of being lost as to what have happened or why are things going like these!

This is then usual bad case of being lost, of being alone with nobody to rely on, to trust. That is the image of a sheep without a shepherd, almost facing certain death.

It is a very scary and traumatizing situation in life that Jesus felt so much with the crowd who followed them that despite his being tired, he gathered them and preached to them (next Sunday, he would feed them).

This is the context of the prophecy by Jeremiah in the first reading that God was so angry with the unfaithful shepherds of Israel who have misled and scattered his flock, promising to “raise up a righteous shoot to David” (Jer.23:5) fulfilled in Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Ephesians 2:13, 17-18

Jesus came to gather those who are lost as he specifically told the Twelve to “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt.10:6, Wednesday, Wk. 14).

This is the problem, ironically, in our age of instant mobility and accessibility when feelings of being lost is hardly noticed nor even recognized especially during this time of the pandemic. So many people, young and old alike, feel so lost. Many of them are shouting inside in desperation for their many other losses in life like losing a loved one, losing a business, losing so many chances in life.

Let us join Jesus in crossing the lakes of this life, getting lost in him in prayers, to find those who are lost and reach out to them. A smile, a simple gesture of kindness like a short text or a phone call could surely bring relief to them to find themselves again and discover new directions in life in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima, locally stranded people near NAIA, June 2020.

Finding God and our mission

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest, 14 July 2021
Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 11:25-27
Photo by author, site of burning bush inside St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt, 2019.
Your words today, Lord,
speak of being surprised,
of how wonder can lead us
to you, dear God, the biggest
and most beautiful surprise of all
in this life.
There an angel of the Lord appeared
to him in a fire flaming out of a bush.
As he looked on, he was surprised to see
that the bush, though on fire was not consumed.
So Moses decided, "I must go over 
to look at this remarkable sight, 
and see why the bush is not burned."
(Exodus 3:2-3)
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
"I give praise to you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden
these things from the wise and the learned,
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been
your gracious will."
(Matthew 11:25-26)
Like Jacob at Bethel 
upon waking up from a dream,
Moses was surprised and wondered
what was with the burning bush
only to find out it was you, Lord,
calling him, sending him to a mission.
The same is true with Jesus our Lord
who exclaimed after being surprised
with the faith of the little ones in him;
what a beautiful flow of things in
every sense of wonder and surprise
when first we find and meet you, then you send us.
We pray, dear God,
you continue to surprise us
in this time of pandemic and trials;
may we take off our sandals like Moses
to realize the whole earth is sacred
because of your divine presence.
Like St. Camillus de Lellis,
open our eyes to find and see you
in various forms of the "burning bush"
like pains and suffering, failures and losses,
or victories and gains where you are always present
calling and sending us to our specific mission in life.
Amen.

We are missionaries of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XV-B in Ordinary Time, 11 July 2021
Amos 7:12-15 ><}}}'> Ephesians 1:3-14 ><}}}'> Mark 6:7-13
Photo from Joint Task Force Sulu via Inquirer.net, 07 July 2021,

Everybody is saying 2020 is a very bad year that had extended its negative vibes into 2021 with the continuing string of disasters and bad news like the recent C-130 plane crash in Sulu where 50 soldiers were killed, mostly were young in the prime of their lives.

Not to mention are the persistent threats of new surge of COVID-19 that continues to mutate into deadlier and more transmissible variants despite the vaccine roll outs.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Julian Arguilla.

But, upon closer look and deeper reflections, we also realize what we are going through is not that totally bad. It is still a very beautiful world, so blessed by God with the people he sends us to bring hope and find meaning amid all the deaths and darkness around us.

In that recent C-130 plane crash is 30 year-old Capt. Dr. Nigel Emeterio who selflessly served our people as a medical frontliner of the Philippine Air Force fighting COVID-19 in far flung areas and as a flight surgeon of troops sent to fight terrorist rebels in Mindanao.

A graduate of the Our Lady of Fatima University’s College of Medicine Batch 2015 here in Valenzuela City, Capt. Dr. Nigel is most of all a faithful husband and loving father to his wife and kids left behind in a life so short but filled with loving service and dedication to others.

Earlier this year, another young woman in Quezon City – Ms. Patricia Non – inspired us to harness the vast powers we have in our hands to see one another as a brother and a sister by setting up a community pantry where the poor may get basic food according to their needs provided by others according to each one’s ability.

The movement soon caught the attention of more people in various parts of the country, even abroad, setting up their own community pantry with support coming in from the rich and poor alike, bringing out the spirit of Christ’s gospel in the most concrete manner.

And lastly, who was not touched by the infectious smiles and fighting spirit of America’s Got Talent contestant called Nightbirde when she courageously admitted to the world the multiple cancers she was afflicted with a 2% chance of survival?

We were all moved to tears when she sang her own composition to assure everyone that “I’m Ok”, that despite all her sufferings, she chooses to be happy due to her strong and deep faith in God?

There are still so many stories of men and women, young and old alike, being sent by God in Christ Jesus to remind us amid all the darkness hovering above us in this time that the world and life he created for us is truly beautiful because he created us meant to be filled with joy and fulfillment, not misery and sufferings.

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.

Mark 6:7-9

Our first mission is to cast out unclean spirits

Photo by author, Jerusalem, 2017.

Life is always beautiful, true and good. Despite all the bad news we hear and see daily, overall we realize that it is always a beautiful world out there waiting to be discovered by us. Everyday God sends us in his Son Jesus Christ to proclaim this reality by fighting the evils that try to destroy life.

For the past Sundays, St. Mark has been presenting to us who is Jesus Christ, telling us the teachings he preached, the miracles he performed, and the setbacks he went through when he went home to Nazareth.

This time, we find Jesus sending his Apostles that include us in this modern time to continue his work and mission of proclaiming the good news of salvation amid the many demons or unclean spirits in our time found not only in dire situations but among evil men and women in their arrogant display of power going unpunished, escaping justice. It is a scenario we have seen throughout history, of natural and man-made disasters happening along with a dash of human inanities and follies in every period everywhere.

But life continues and gets better largely with the prophets sent by God sent to speak his words of justice and truth to bring back order and harmony in our world distorted and marred by evil and sin.

That was the first order of Jesus: authority over unclean spirits, over “demons” who destroy lives.

From the Greek word “daemon”, a demon is someone or anything that destroys life. It refers not only to evil persons but also situations like diseases, afflictions, addictions, economic imbalances, social injustice and systematic evils happening everywhere, even among church people.

Any form of evil and sin is always a lack of order and wholeness, a privation. Too often, evil to us is something interior that is difficult to remove or even diagnose. It has entangled its roots deep within us, creating confusions and doubts. Hence, we feel Jesus very emphatic in his commissioning of the Twelve: he “gave them authority over unclean spirits”.

It is the power of Jesus Christ borne out of our deep faith that leads to boldness and courage tempered with humility and simplicity that enables us to fight evil in this world. As that famous saying tells us, “the only thing needed for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing”.

Fighting evil and sin is not a personal crusade of anyone but a sharing in the power and destiny of our Lord Jesus Christ. The mission of the Twelve that is also our mission is a direct continuation of the mission of Jesus Christ who offered his life on the Cross for our salvation.

We are the first to be affected by Christ’s preaching and actions by being transformed in him. That is why he calls us to be detached from the world and its allurements to be one in him alone.

Like the prophet Amos in the first reading, it is always a call from God, a mission from God. We are mere instruments of the Lord for he is still the one who will effect changes and transformations.

Forget all those myths and illusions of being the savior of the world or “messianic complex” as if we are indispensable and much needed in the world. We might even be surprised that the world might be better off without us!

As missionaries of Christ like the Twelve and Amos in the first reading, we only propose but never impose our message of salvation with conviction. It is not our persuasive arguments and discourses that will cast out the unclean spirits but the Christ in us with our life of witnessing.

It is never easy and can be a thankless task prone to misinterpretations and criticisms. That is why next Sunday upon the return of the Twelve, Jesus will invite them to rest at the other side of the lake that clearly shows us the very essence of being a missionary of Christ – oneness in him.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, June 2021.

Restoring all things in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will…

Ephesians 1:3-5

For many people today, the world is very chaotic, lacking harmony and rhythm with all the bad things happening right in their personal lives and in their homes and places of work. While the pandemic drags on, there is a strong temptation to be negative and even lost hope, of being cynical.

As missionaries of Christ, we are called to imitate the courage and conviction of St. Paul to faithfully reveal God’s plan of peace and harmony in him through Jesus.

Photo by author, 2019.

In his opening benediction that is so beautifully structured and expressed, St. Paul is inviting us to restore all things in Jesus Christ.

Like St. Paul, we missionaries of Christ must be the first to have that conviction that life is beautiful, that God has great plans for each of us despite all the sins and evil going on.

Imagine St. Paul writing the Ephesians while in prison, awaiting trial and certain death that did not deter him in being so upbeat and joyful with life?!

God knows very well the trials and difficulties we are all going through. Others have gone worst than us but never lose that sparkle of hope in Christ, giving their very lives for us to have a better world today.

Let us cast away all doubts and indifference and start living faithfully in Christ to realize the Father’s vision for us today. I pray that God hear your prayers to be filled with all the blessings you need to be a wtiness of his love and mercy. Amen.