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.

Praying for integrity

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 08 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:18-22   ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'>   Matthew 5:13-16
Photo by Ray Piedra on Pexels.com
Jesus said to his disciples:
"You are the salt of the earth.  
But if salt loses its taste,
with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
(Matthew 5:13)

Thank you very much for calling us “blessed”, Lord Jesus Christ; but, of what use is our being filled with the spirit of your Beatitudes if we cannot live it out, if we cannot show it and make it work in our lives? Then we are nothing but tasteless salt!

Give us, O Lord, the grace of integration, of wholeness or holiness of putting into practice the grace and virtues you have given us.

Enable us to activate your Spirit in us, not just filling us, not just a feeling of being with you but most of all, reaching out to others, touching lives, leaving your marks of loving service and mercy.

We do not have to be a stand out, we do not have to be known and even noticed by everyone.

It is enough for us to be like the salt, Lord: just a pinch or a dash enough to give taste, to blend with everyone and with everything we do, changing and transforming people and situations in your favor without being seen or known for that is true blessedness – making you known, not us.

Like St. Paul, let our “yes” to your call and mission remain firm and steadfast even if situations and circumstances would sometimes delay us in fulfilling our promise but never neglect our mission and fidelity to you.

When things do not happen according to our plans and schedules, keep us more faithful to you, dear Jesus; for although outside factors may change beyond our control, what matters most is the inside of us, within our very hearts, there you are reigning supreme, giving us security in your in fulfilling and completing your work.

We pray, dear God for our co-workers in you, our co-journeyers in this life of commitment who are feeling weak and saddened by the many criticisms from detractors when their mission is delayed or temporarily shelved for unforeseen circumstances. Do not let them lose sight of the goals and mission you have entrusted for our main challenge in life is being faithful to you than successful. Amen.

Praying to be in the world, not of the world

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Seventh Week of Easter, 19 May 2021
Acts 20:28-38   ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'>   John 17:11-19
From Facebook, 04 April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord.”
Lifting up his eyes to heaven,
Jesus prayed, saying:
"I do not ask that you take them out 
of the world but that you keep them
from the evil one.
They do not belong to the world
any more than I belong to the world.
Consecrate them in the truth.
Your word is truth.
As you sent me into the world, 
so I sent them into the world.
And I consecrate myself for them, 
so that they also may be consecrated in truth."
(John 17:11, 15-19)

Oh what a feeling, Lord Jesus Christ for us to be prayed for by you! What an honor and a great privilege for us all to be prayed for and consecrated by you, the Son of God to the almighty Father in heaven.

Thank you very much, Lord, for putting us in the world and consecrating us to you to be not of the world! Help us to keep this in our minds and in our hearts, that we are in the world but not of the world.

Help us remember your beautiful prayer when things are getting so difficult, when troubles bombard us daily, when our burdens get heavier that the temptations to follow the ways of the world by escaping pains and sufferings become so strong and even so enticing.

Make us remember this beautiful prayer you said for us all during your Last Supper so we may remain one in you as brothers and sisters, one as husband and wife, one as a family, one as a community, one in our places of work and studies, one as a nation.

May your prayer, sweet Jesus, prepare us in facing every kind of hostility and indifference of the world as we witness your gospel of salvation in the world through love and mercy, joy and kindness especially to those losing hope, those tired and exhausted, and those in the margins of the society.

Photo by author, November 2020.

Give us the grace to be like St. Paul who faithfully completed his mission at Ephesus that as he bid goodbye to the people there, “they were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship” (Acts20:37-38).

We are all “overseers” of your people and wealth entrusted to our care, Lord; keep us true and faithful, honest and sincere in taking care of them. It is you, O Lord Jesus, whom they must experience and love, not us.

We pray today for those holding positions in government and in the Church, in the private sector specially in our places of work and studies that they may always keep in mind all powers are from God that must be exercised for the good of the people they serve. Keep all authorities aware of their great responsibilities in the world and be careful not to fall into the traps and evil of the world. Amen.

God sets us apart to bring us together

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 28 April 2021
Acts 12:24-13:5   ><)))"> ><)))"> ><)))">   John 12:44-50
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, 2019.

Your words again, O God our Father today speak of separation – but this time not because of persecution or by any human design whether good or bad. Today you are teaching us a different kind of being separated for you and your mission in order to be one with you and your people.

How amazing, indeed, are your works, Lord, because when you set us apart from family and friends to be with you, to fulfill your mission, you actually bring us together with our loved ones in you!

Just like what you did with Barnabas and Saul.

After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission,
they returned to Jerusalem, taking with them John, who is called Mark.
While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting,
the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul
for the work to which I have called them."
Then, completing their fasting and prayer, 
they laid hands on them and sent them off.
(Acts 12:25, 13:2-4)

Come to us, Lord Jesus!

Be our light in the many darkness of our lives, in the many “separations” we have had in our lives not as you have planned for us.

Enlighten our minds and our hearts to see distinctly when we have to be set apart as you plan, not according to our own ideas and agenda.

Sometimes it happens too that we refuse to be set apart from others and from situations simply because we cannot let go.

Be the one to set us apart from others and from work and routines to do your work and mission.

Make us realize your words, dear Jesus that though you and the Father who sent you are apart and distinct from each other, you are both one in perfect unity.

And that is the beauty when it is you who set us apart in order to be one with you and with others. Amen.

Easter is “taking your place”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter, 14 April 2021
Acts 5:17-26   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 3:16-21
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago, 2019.
But during the night, 
the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, 
led the Apostles out and said, 
"Go and take your place in the temple area, 
and tell the people everything about this life."  
When they heard this, they went to the temple area 
early in the morning and taught.  
(Acts 5:19-21)

Your words today, O Lord Jesus are so encouraging: “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life.”

Oh yes, dearest Jesus, give us the courage and zest to go and take our place where you have designated us to proclaim your good news about this life especially in this time of the pandemic.

Take away our fears and doubts, our complacencies and laziness in stopping and putting on hold our mission from you, your plans for us because of this pandemic. Let us focus on you, Jesus, and forget all about fame and rewards nor faintest recognition in “taking our place” to do your work.

During your mortal life here on earth, Lord, you could not proclaim the kingdom of God beyond the Holy Land. Now you have risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father, those bonds and barriers have been broken through your apostles down to us your modern disciples. Keep us faithful in telling the people everything about this life which is so beautiful, so precious, so worth saving!

Like you who have faithfully took your place to tell us everything about this life, may we share you to everyone we lovingly serve.

God so loved the world 
that he gave his only-begotten Son, 
so that everyone who believes in him 
might not perish but might have eternal life.  
(John 3:16)
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, 2016.

Dearest Lord, please bless and keep safe those who continue to take their place the Father has reserved for them like you our Savior. We pray for their well-being and safety, for their fulfillment in you our Lord and God.

Bless first of all our medical frontliners, everybody working in the hospitals who continue to take their place and tell people everything about this life despite the great dangers and risks of getting sick.

Bless all Dads and Moms, couples and their children who remain faithful to you, avoiding sins, seeking you in prayers daily amid the great difficulties of balancing economics and well-being.

Bless all teachers and students in this difficult period of on-line classes as well as those in their limited face-to-face classes that all their efforts will someday bear fruit in their professional lives and earn them eternal rewards too.

Bless your priests, Lord Jesus, especially those faithfully serving your flock, celebrating the Holy Mass even without your people, giving the sacraments and praying for those lost and weak souls due to this pandemic. Wake up your tepid priests, awaken the moral fiber of your unfaithful priests.

Bless those in news and social communications that despite the dangers of this pandemic they continue to search and report the truth. Encourage those being harassed and threatened like your Apostles before in telling the truth, in exposing and unmasking evils in government and the society.

Bless everyone of us, Lord Jesus Christ, that we may be faithful to your call, that we may always have the courage to take our place amid this pandemic and continue to lovingly serve one another, especially the weak and the poor. Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, March 2021.

Be surprised this Lent

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week I, 24 February 2021
Jonah 3:1-10     <*(((><   +   ><)))*>     Luke 11:29-32
Photo by author, 26 February 2020.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father, in making Lent a season of surprises just like in our readings today. Continue to surprise us with your love and mercy, with your movements in our lives and in our time. Open our hearts and minds at the many possibilities of good things happening even in the midst of great evil and sufferings.

Forgive us when we lose hope, when we refuse to be surprised with our pessimism and cynicism like Jonah who refused to obey you in going to Nineveh to warn the pagans and sinners there of your coming wrath lest they repent and change their ways.

Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.

Jonah 3:4, 10

It is about time that we reflect and examine also this Lent our attitudes with other people, especially those different from us not only in ways and looks but also in beliefs, that there is always hope in everyone to change and become a better person.

Even your Son Jesus Christ had told us how we would be surprised someday with the kinds of people entering your kingdom in heaven. Let us not be surprised in the end in the wrong sense like that warning by Jesus:

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater that Jonah here.”

Luke 11:29-32

Cleanse us of our prejudices and biases, Lord, and open our sense of wonder and awe to continue to be surprised of your presence and coming, of your love and mercy in us and among others. Amen.

Sealed with the Holy Spirit

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXVIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 16 October 2020
Ephesians 1:11-14     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Luke 12:1-7
Photo by the author, September 2020.

What a great apostle you have, O Lord God, in St. Paul indeed! Today he tells us something so unique, so understandable and relatable with us regarding our being blessed in Jesus Christ: being sealed in the Holy Spirit.

In him (Christ) you also, who have heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14

I love those two catchphrases by St. Paul: “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” and “first installment of your inheritance”. It is both a stroke of his genius and mastery of language while at the same time, his openness to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

In him we find that blessedness in Christ through the Holy Spirit like having peace, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, understanding and things that bind us together in working together for the Lord’s mission.

But at the same time in speaking of the Holy Spirit as the first installment of our redemption, St. Paul had a foretaste of what we shall all experience in its fullness in eternity, an assurance of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise of salvation.

Like St. Teresa of Avila whose memorial we celebrated yesterday, St. Paul restored all things in you, Jesus Christ. And so, we pray for the grace of enthusiasm and perseverance of working for the coming of God’s Kingdom like him.

Give us the wisdom to proclaim loud and clear not only in words but also in deeds the Gospel so the world may know Jesus is here to restore everything and everyone back to you, God our Father.

We are not going to say anything new, Lord; we merely have to echo in this modern time your Good News of salvation, of love and mercy and forgiveness for everyone specially in this difficult time of the pandemic.

Likewise, give us the courage to witness the power of the Holy Spirit in this world living in front of all kinds of cameras without solid grounding on the realities of life, living in a make-believe world filled with hypocrisy. Seal us with your Holy Spirit, Lord! Amen.

Photo by author, September 2020.

Maturity in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 02 September 2020
1 Corinthians 3:1-9 <*(((><< || + || >><)))*> Luke 4:38-44
Van Gogh’s “The Sower” from wikimediacommons.org.

Thank you very much, Lord Jesus Christ for the words by St. Paul today that remind us of something hidden among us, something we take for granted that prevents us from maturing fully in you as disciples which is our tendency towards factionalism.

While there is jealousy and rivalry among you, are you not of the flesh, and walking according to the manner of man? Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. For we are God’s co-workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:3-6, 9

So many times, we remain “infants” in our spirituality as we continue to see more of ourselves and of other persons than YOU, O Lord, in our mission and ministry. Instead of being united as one, we move towards being on our own, towards factions so we can choose whom to follow among us.

There are times we forget we are your stewards, that we are all co-workers in your field that we try to “own” everything, specially people and God himself. We idolize people, setting you aside from the whole picture.

We cannot let go of our labels and tags for each other, forgetting the more essential name of being Christians, of just belonging to YOU alone.

Lord Jesus Christ, forgive us also when we try so hard to always “keep you” or “box” you like the people of Capernaum who tried to prevent you from leaving their town for selfish interests like healing of the sick.

Let us grow deeper in your mind, Lord Jesus Christ by reaching out to more people to proclaim your good news of salvation meant for everyone. Amen.