Life directions and freedom

The Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 10 January 2022
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, 31 December 2021.

It is said that “life is a journey” but I have found through the years that as a journey, life is more of a direction than a destination. It is always easy to plot our life destination but upon reaching them, what do we do next?

If life is a journey that is more on destination, all we will be doing in life is keep on thinking of new places to visit and new goals to achieve until we ran out of destinations and we have nowhere else to go!

That is why life is more of a direction.

It does not mean we stop making plans or setting goals to reach; we just learn to be more open with the directions life is leading us into.

So often it can happen that while pursuing a goal or reaching a destination, we find many things and meet persons along the way who make us change directions in life for something better we never knew existed before.

Sometimes we discover while at the middle of a journey the many directions we have been seeing or noticing earlier that suddenly later make sense, opening new routes for us to take to something more fulfilling or clearer and better.

As we become open for directions in life, the more we become free to be our true selves, free to pursue what is best than be fixated and even held hostage by a previous goal or destination we have set before which we find no longer viable.

It is like using those travel apps Waze and Google Maps that give us the pertinent information like traffic conditions that help us choose the best routes to reach a specific destination.

However, as we travel, we find the apps taking us to longer routes or may even be misleading us because the data available are obsolete or the internet signal is unreliable. And so, we disregard the apps and try to find our way to our destination through directions provided by actual people and signages we check on the streets. Recall how the apps would continue to “speak” and even insist us to turn left or right as it is bent on reaching the destination. Travel apps are concerned merely with the place to reach, totally “unaware” of the person traveling.

That’s the problem with journeying more on destination when we forget persons that we miss the fun and adventures along the way.

When we journey more on directions, we are more concerned with persons and people that we experience fun and adventures, learning new things about peoples we meet or travel with as well as places we pass through on the way to our destination.

Sometimes, we have to scrap everything as the new directions lead us to more interesting places to visit.

In that way, we grow and mature as persons because we have become more free to be ourselves, more free to follow our inner voices within our hearts that lead us to far and exciting new places. In the process, we also discover our true friends and companions in life!

Ultimately, when we are free to follow directions than simply reach destinations, the more we also discover God – the most wonderful journey in life because ultimately he is our only destination and end.

God as a direction demands us a deepening of our faith, hope and love in him whose “invisible hands” guide us to persons and places and situations that seem to be unrelated at first but as we journey, we discover their many linkages, like tiny pieces of a mosaic creating a wonderful picture bigger than us.

God as a direction leads us to more freedom to discover life itself. That is the beauty of every new year: those twelve months of the calendar have no specific destinations but give us directions to follow by being sensitive to where God is leading us. It is totally senseless and useless to consult fortune-tellers for their fearless forecasts of what is going to happen for that will only make you “unfree” to seek and follow new directions in life. Besides, only God knows what will happen and that is why we follow his directions.

Above all, remember that the discovery of God is not the end of a journey but the beginning of a new one in him, with him, and through him. The journey never stops in Christ Jesus to God our Father in heaven. So, have life and be free to follow new directions from God this new year!

Keep traveling in Christ this 2022. Who knows, we might meet once or twice along the way. Amen.

Welcoming the New Year with Mary

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 01 January 2022
Numbers 6:22-27 ><]]]'> Galatians 4:4-7 ><]]]'> Luke 2:16-21
Photo by author, sunset at Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

If there is any Christian and Catholic way of welcoming every new year, the liturgy teaches us today a very valuable lesson often overlooked by many through the years especially in our country where it is so difficult to eradicate totally the use of fireworks and firecrackers that are not only fatal and dangerous but also dirty and so pagan.

Recall that the Masses on the evening of the 31st of December and the first day of January are not for the new year – so, please stop those parish announcements “Mass for the New Year”! What we celebrate every evening of December 31 and January 1 is the “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God” which is the Eighth Day of the Christmas octave. The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is part of the Christmas season that is why I insist we keep on greeting each other with “Merry Christmas” until its closing day on the Baptism of the Lord (January 09, 2021).

Why do we spend so much time counting the days until Christmas when right away we stop greeting Merry Christmas on December 26 and replace it with Happy New Year? Is it not crazy and insane? We had our new year on the first Sunday of Advent; let us continue the “romance” of this most wonderful day of the year with our “Merry Christmas” greetings. In fact, in the old calendar, there are 12 days of Christmas (yeah, the song!) until the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord that used to be fixed every January 6.

But that is another topic we shall discuss in another piece… for now, let us meditate on how Mary welcomed the new year, the new phase in her life as Mother of God, Jesus Christ.

“The Adoration of the Shepherds”, a painting of the Nativity scene by Italian artist Giorgione before his death in 1510. Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.

Luke 2:16-17

Mary went in haste for the Lord

We are familiar with the popular proverb that “haste makes waste” because doing things too quickly leads to mistakes that result in greater losses in time, effort, and materials. Even the saints have always cautioned us that haste is the biggest enemy of growth in spirituality.

However, during Christmas season, we find something so good with making haste – when it pertains to the things of God like when Mary went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judah and when shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem after being told by the angels of the birth of Christ as we have heard in the gospel today.

Haste is not totally that bad at all.

If there is one thing that merits haste in us, it must be the things of God. Why, when we pray and say, “O God come to my assistance”, we respond with “O Lord make haste to help me”? Because God always hasten to come to us even before we have called him! But, who among us these days make haste where the things of God are concerned?

How sad that we rush to everything and everyone except to Jesus our Lord and God! In less than a week, we have gone back to over 1000 infections of COVID as people rushed to the malls and places of interests, forgetting all about the pandemic! More sad is the fact so many people have been in making haste to these days for the more mundane things without even spending some quality time in the church to pray.

This 2022, let us be quick to God and prayers, be cautious with things of the world. That is the lesson of COVid-19: all these years we have been in haste to get rich and famous, to produce so much but we have neglected going to God, to feeding our souls, to spending time with our loved ones. For so long we have kept many people waiting until COVID-19 came and quickly took them without warning at all.

Before the shepherds went in haste to see the newborn Jesus, there was Mary in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Let us go in haste always in the Lord for he has so many things in store for us as the shepherds and Elizabeth realized.

From forwarded cartoon at Facebook, December 2019.

All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Luke 2:18-19

Mary meditating in silence

It is very interesting that Luke had told us how people were amazed at what the shepherds spoke about that night on the birth of the Christ, the Infant Jesus they have found on a manger with his Mother Mary and her husband Joseph. Keep in mind that the shepherds were among the least trusted people of that time but their story went “viral” and “trending” so to speak.

And amid all these talks was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, silently meditating everything in her heart!

That is the most Christian and Catholic way of welcoming the new year – silent prayer like adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the evening Mass on December 31. We look back for the blessing of the past year as we silently listen to God’s instructions and divine plans for us this new year. We are his children, not slaves as St. Paul reminded us in the second reading.

This first day of 2022, let us have some silent moments with the Lord Jesus. Simply listen and wait for his words. He always have something to tell us but we always go in haste somewhere else or to somebody else. Jesus is right there in our hearts, the faintest voice you always dismiss and take for granted.

This 2022, let us cultivate to have a prayer life like Mary who always kept in her heart the words and experiences she had with Jesus. Let us not be like the shepherds who were there only at Christmas, never came back to Jesus specially when he was preaching in Galilee and when crucified on Good Friday wherein his constant companion in silence was Mary his Mother.

Photo by author, 24 December 2019.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:21

The faith of Mary

Like us when Mary gave birth to Jesus on that first Christmas, she was totally unaware of what was in store for her, of what would happen to her Son. She was totally unaware of what would happen in the future. The only thing she was certain was the name to be given to her child, Jesus which means “God is my Savior”.

As I have told, ushering the new year with all those loud firecrackers and fireworks are pagan practices.

All blessings come only from God, not from any other spirits.

We drive all the malas and bad spirits and negative vibes of the past year not with noises and blasts of trumpets or fireworks but with silence that is rooted in deep faith in Christ Jesus.

Such was the attitude of Mary on that first Christmas until her glorious Assumption into heaven: she never knew Jesus would be betrayed by one of his trusted friends and apostles. She was never told by the angel how after Jesus would feed and heal so many people that he would later be arrested and crucified like a criminal but believed in him until the end, remaining with Christ at the foot of the Cross.

All Mary had was a deep faith in Jesus as told her by the angel as the name to be given to her child is also the child of the Most High.

There is no need for us to consult fortune tellers nor feng-shui masters to look into the future and tell us how it is going to be this 2022. No matter how easy or difficult this new year may be, only one thing is certain – Jesus Christ is with us and will remain with us even if we abandon him or turn away from him for he is the only Lord and Savior of mankind. Let us keep our faith in him alone – and not to round fruits nor stones nor other stuffs peddled to us to bring luck this new year.

Let us imitate Mary, the Mother of God, so human like us except in sin who was always in haste with things of God, silently meditating his words and workings, and most of all, trusting wholly in her Son Jesus. Amen.

Photo by author, sunset at Liputan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

Keeping the Christmas story alive

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, 01 January 2021
Number 6:22-27  >><)))*>  Galatians  >><)))*>  Luke 2:16-21
Photo by Mr. Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, Christmas 2020.

A blessed Merry Christmas to you all!

Please, continue greeting one another with a “Merry Christmas” than with “Happy New Year” because Christmas is not over yet; besides, we Catholics celebrated our new year last November 29, the first Sunday of Advent. Most of all, it is so unfair to Jesus that we easily forget Him and think more of the new year! What happened to those Christmas countdowns that began in September only to stop greeting “Merry Christmas” after eight days?

Most of all, contrary to what most priests are erroneously saying today, our Mass is not for the new year but for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Although the sacramentary (our book for the celebration of Mass) has prayers for the Mass on new year, it also says – written in red ink to stress this point – that one cannot celebrate the Mass for new year on January first because the proper celebration on this date is the Motherhood of Mary.

The “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God” used to be celebrated on October 11 but during the Second Vatican Council, the Fathers deemed it more right and proper to celebrate every January first which is the eighth day called octave of Christmas. This solemnity also abolished the feasts of the Circumcision of Our Lord (January 1) and the Holy Name of Jesus (Sunday between January 1 and 8, or January 2).

Nonetheless, as a further background to our liturgy, today’s celebration is also the oldest feast in honor of Mary, dating back to year 431 after the Council of Ephesus when the Church declared Mary as the Mother of God following heresies claiming Jesus was not born divine but only human, that he assumed his divinity later in life as he matured. It was during that Council of Ephesus when the Church Fathers insisted that when Mary conceived Jesus in her womb, His divinity was not diminished nor lost. Hence, Mary shall be called the Mother of God Jesus Christ who is true God and true human, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.

While the whole world is celebrating in revelry with all the pagan practices of fireworks and noise that sadly include many Christians, we Catholics on this first day of the new year celebrate Mary the Mother of God as our model disciple in journeying through life this 2021 in Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, Mary in our Nativity scene, 25 December 2020.

Beginning anew in Jesus like Mary

It has been more than 24 hours since my iPhone “crashed” that I now merely rely on Messenger for communications. But, it is a wonderful feeling too! Nothing bothering me so I can rest fully today.

Yes, I am a “dinosaur” when it comes to these tech things and gadgets. When I got this phone in 2018, I never bothered to check its “storage capacity”, thinking since it is a high-end phone, it must be very, very good.

Then came the pandemic last year when I had to use it for our daily online Mass until it showed signs of problems two weeks ago when I found out we have used all its 32 GB capacity.

But, as I learned all those things about storage capacity of cellphones and computers, I remembered the Blessed Virgin Mary in our gospel today.

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Luke 2:16-19

How beautiful to hear those words of the evangelist, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”

Yes, better than any cellphone and computer is the human heart with unlimited storage capacities for all memories, data and images of life! How sad we have been keeping all those wonderful events in our lives inside this tiny gadgets that eventually would be corrupted by bugs or even hacked.

But we have this heart – the core of our very being where we process all those memories and images of everything we are going through and have gone through.

We celebrate today this Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God to remind us in keeping the Christmas story alive through the new year by imitating the Blessed Mother in treasuring and reflecting all our experiences – good and bad – in 2020!

Imagine that image of Jesus born in a manger: it must be so dark, even filthy and smelly – maybe like how our lives have been last year. But, do not forget, there was Jesus present with us in the darkness and dirt and foul smell of 2020.

If life has been so good and kind to you last year, reflect on those memories, find Jesus in those joy like the shepherds and share the good news and blessings you have received!

I love that part Mary “treasured” – as something precious – all those things said by the shepherds, reflecting them in her heart. Luke would always present Mary keeping everything in her heart to reflect them especially when things and events were beyond her understanding.

Photo by author, Mary at the foot of the Cross.

The same is true with life. Sometimes, we just cannot comprehend the many things that have happened in 2020.

Instead of blaming the year 2020 for all the negative things that have have happened, Mary shows us the way by looking into our selves, into our hearts to “process” all those experiences, find their meaning, and most of all, what God is trying to tell us. That is Christmas – Jesus became human like us to be with us specially in our sufferings and trials in life. Problem is, we are so filled with ourselves as our cellphones and other gadgets would show – selfies and so many posts most often done for the sake of “likes” and “followers”.

Do we still have memories? Do we still remember? Or, should the question be, do we still feel at all?

Whenever I see people with arms stretched looking through their cellphones in so many events, I pity them because they fail to feel and savor the moment, living in a “mediated” world, not grounded and detached from the realities of life. This is perhaps the reason why despite the affluence of life today, more people are lost, alone, alienated, and empty.

There are two local commercials that I have always loved and they both featured grandparents having Alzheimer’s.

First is McDonald’s about ten or 15 years ago of a lolo slicing into half his cheeseburger, saying, “ito para sa paborito kong apo, si Karen” (this is for my favorite grandchild, Karen).

Second is the Ayala Malls’ “Wishing Tree” in 2019 where the grandmother, so sad and haggard looking suddenly smiled again with her face lighting up in joy when she saw the old CCTV footages of her trips to the Mall with her apo in the past.

Both commercials show how big is the storage capacity of our hearts to keep our beautiful memories with loved ones even if the memories in our brain “crash”.

How amazing that the heart remains intact with its stored memories of events and persons who have loved us – and even hurt us. That is how big is our heart as a storage of memories that must be treasured, processed, and reflected upon like what Mary did to deepen our faith, widen our perspectives and most of all, find Jesus Christ.

See my dear Reader how at the end of the gospel on the eighth day Mary’s child was given with the name “Jesus” – the only thing she and Joseph were certain of about their child. The same is so true with us on this day as we begin 2021: we do not know what will happen to us. Nothing is really so certain, not even having that COVID-19 vaccine, legally speaking.

Like Mary and Joseph, all we have for sure is Jesus, the only One we must trust and follow, the only One we must nurture and share so that His face may shine upon us (Num.6:25) and lead us to eternal life as heirs to the kingdom of heaven as children of the Father (Gal.4:7).

Have a blessed Merry Christmas this new year, and may the Lord bless you and keep you! Amen.

Photo by Mr. Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, 25 December 2020.

Tapos na ang Pasko?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-03 ng Enero 2020

Belen sa Pambansang Dambana ng Birhen ng Carmel, Lungsod Quezon, 30 Disyembre 2019.

Ikalawa ng Enero
binati ko ng “Maligayang Pasko”
magandang kahera ng paradahan sa Trinoma.

Ngumiti at bumati
sabi ng binibini, “Happy New Year!
Tapos na po ang Pasko”
kanyang nawika mula sa munti niyang bintana.

Nagpaliwanag ako
habang binibilang niya aking bayad:
“Miss hindi pa tapos ang Pasko;
kaya may bagong taon sinilang kasi si Kristo.”

Bakita nga ba tayo ganito
turing sa Pasko isang petsa sa kalendaryo
kaya pagsapit na Enero a-primero
akala’y tapos na ito?

Sana’y ating mapagtanto
na isang kuwentong nagpapatuloy
sa pamumuhay nating mga Kristiyano
itong Pasko nang ang Diyos ay maging tao.

Kapag ang Pasko ay tinuring nating
isang bilang lamang ng mga araw at buwan
maski ilang libong taon pa iyan –
pagsusuma at pagtutuos lamang hahantungan.

Magkano napamaskuhan o
mayroon bang Christmas bonus diyan
mga katanungan pumapailanlang
pagsapit ng Kapaskuhan sa karamihan.

Diwa at kahulugan ng pagsilang
ni Hesus tiyak malilimutan
kapag sarili lamang ating tiningnan
kaya ating minamadali pati pagbati ng happy new year muli.

Hanaping muli si Kristo sa Pasko
at tiyak ating matatanto
di natatapos pagdiriwang na ito
na kailangan nating ihatid palagi si Kristo sa ating mundo!

This 2019, Handle Life with Prayer

baptismjesus
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 13 January 2019
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-10///Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7///Luke 3:15-16, 21-22

            Today is the last Sunday of the Christmas season that closes with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.  But that does not mean we stop celebrating the coming of Jesus Christ.  In fact, this feast of His baptism reminds us of the great importance of praying daily to celebrate His coming the whole year through.

            The people were filled with expectation… After all the people had been baptized and Jesus had also been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Lk.3:15, 21-22).

            One thing we shall notice this year when St. Luke guides us in our gospel every Sunday is how he always presents Jesus Christ at prayer like here at His baptism.  Only St. Luke records this detail that Jesus was praying after His baptism when the “heaven was opened.”  That is the meaning of Christmas, the opening of heaven for us through Christ’s coming after it was closed when Adam and Eve were banished following their Fall.  See how St. Luke situated the Lord’s baptism like his Christmas story to show us that Jesus lived at a specific time and period in history, that He had really come!  “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas” (Lk.3:1-2).

            The same is very true today in our own time.  In this specific period when everything seems to be so dark and in disarray, when we are filled with expectation after a long period when God had seemed forgotten us, suddenly there comes a voice in the wilderness, not in the desert of Jordan but right here inside our hearts of new hope, new beginnings this 2019!  Jesus had opened heaven with His coming to us more than 2000 years ago and He continues to call us to come to Him, to be one with Him and be in Him.  He is here inside our hearts inviting us to open up with Him, to converse with Him, to speak to Him and to hear Him in the context of prayer.  This feast of the Baptism of the Lord reminds us of that invitation from God for us to open up to Him too because He is now more accessible to us than ever in Christ.  In becoming human like us in everything except in sin, Jesus brought God nearer to us that we can converse with Him to air our concerns and innermost feelings to Him.  Most of all, experience in prayer God’s great love for us when we listen to His voice and heed His calls to discover far more great things in this life than we have ever imagined!  Why waste this great grace in Him?

               Second reason why we need to handle life with prayer is because it purifies us, cleanses us like the waters of the river.  Jesus need not be baptized because He has no sins; but, He chose to be baptized by John to show His solidarity with us sinners.  This is the main point of the prophecy by Isaiah in the first reading as well as the letter of St. Paul to Titus:  Jesus is the mercy of the Father to us sinners who had come to expiate our sins by taking upon Himself – the sinless one – our sins.  It is very sad that fewer people are now praying in the real sense because many of us have lost that sense of sinfulness.  Everything has become relative especially morality as if everything is now acceptable and therefore, nothing is sinful.  When people refuse to see and accept their sinfulness, when they feel being sinless, then they start acting like God, even claiming to be the Messiah and stop praying altogether.  We pray because we are sinful, because we have failed in doing what is right and what is good.  We pray to be cleansed of our sinfulness so we can be with Jesus to follow and imitate Him.  Real prayer happens when we admit before God our sins to be purified in Him.

                   Most of all, we have to pray always because life is difficult.  After the scene of the baptism of Jesus at Jordan, the next chapter tells us about His temptation by the devil in the wilderness.  After the long Christmas vacation, almost everybody had gone back to “reality of life”, of work and studies, of constant struggles and sufferings as well as sacrifices.  Jesus came to the world to help us in this life, calling us to come to Him for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  That is the beautiful symbolism of Jesus plunging into Jordan.  For the Jewish thought, bodies of water like the sea, the lake and the river are symbols of the nether world, of the powers of darkness and evil.  When Jesus plunged into Jordan River and when He walked on water, they both mean the power of Jesus over darkness and sins.  That is why we pray to be purified, to be cleansed from our sins.  Now, flowing river is symbolic of life in the Old Testament as attested by the Nile in Egypt, the Tigris-Euphrates in Babylonia, and the Jordan in Israel.  There is always the danger of losing one’s life in the river especially when it is swollen but at the same time, there is also the abundance of life from its waters that nourish plants and teem with marine life.  Jesus choosing to be baptized at Jordan River tells us His coming to us in our lives marked with many dangers as well as with opportunities.  In fact, right in His baptism at Jordan, Jesus was already giving us a hint at the inauguration of His ministry about His coming Passion, Death and Resurrection symbolized by the river.  We all know this too for sure that great opportunities await us this 2019 but we all know we can attain these all if we are willing to take the plunge and meet head on the many challenges that would entail sacrifices and pains on our part.  Life is very much like a river and the good news is Jesus is here with us to help us and assure us of being fruitful if we can open to God in prayer.

            Every morning when we wake up, the heavens open with the Father telling us that due to the oneness of Christ with us, we too are His beloved children with whom He is well pleased.  Noteworthy in this part how St. Luke inserted after Christ’s baptism his version of the genealogy of Jesus, starting it backwards to end up with Adam, “the son of God” (Lk.3:38).  Aside from showing us the humanity of Jesus, St. Luke fittingly closed his baptism account of reminding us how in the Lord we have become God’s children too.  And that is enough reason for us to always pray not only because God converses with us and we need to be purified of our sins but most of all because we are the children of the Father in Christ Jesus.  With that in our minds and in our hearts, 2019 looks so promising indeed!  AMEN.  Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

*Photos from Google.

fultonsheen

Love is Being a Food for Others

people-at-table-with-food
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday after Epiphany of the Lord, 08 January 2019
1 John 4:7-10///Mark 6:34-44

            “In this is love:  not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10).

             Today as we move on to new directions and new beginnings this 2019 on this first full week of work and school – when we claim to be back to “normal” in life – you remind us also Lord Jesus Christ of the nature of love:  that everything is because of you because “God is love.”

            As we return to the usual grind of life, teach us always Lord to feel with the people like you when you were moved with pity upon seeing the vast crowd following you.  Most of all, teach us Lord that love is being a food myself for others to receive, to share with.  Yes, this is precisely what you meant when you told your disciples in the wilderness to “give the crowd some food yourselves” (Mk.6:37).  Whenever we share food and drinks to others, when we offer them to partake of our meals, we actually share ourselves with them.  That is the meaning of your sacred meal, the Eucharist.  And that is why such meal is also called agape, the highest form of love when nothing is expected in return.

             Give us the grace O Lord this New Year to be more loving, more caring with others by giving more of ourselves to others. AMEN. Fr.Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

*Photos from Google.

lovequotesfoodcooking3

 

Back to Normal is Back to You, Lord

49343012_2024145807682044_4537657116004974592_n
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 07 January 2019
1 John 3:22-4:6///Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25

            Almost everybody is feeling heavy today, Lord Jesus Christ:  students, workers, employees are complaining Christmas break is over, it is back to normal.  Many are so wary of today’s traffic and other woes when everything returns to normal.

           And what is normal for us Lord?  The daily grind of waking up early, working for a living, pursuing our goals, keeping up with our obligations and responsibilities in life.  It is as if we have not met you this Christmas which is after all, just a break from our normal, ordinary routine.

          Give us the grace of integration Lord.  Give us the grace to “test the spirits to see whether they belong to God because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 Jn. 4:1).  Fill us with your Holy Spirit Lord to always live with the spirit of truth, the spirit of life.

            Make us realize Lord that going back to normal is our life being with you, leaving our comfort zone of Nazareth to retreat to “Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Napthali” (Mt. 4:13).  Going back to normal is staying in Galilee, the province where you did most of your preaching and miracles, where you first proclaimed the coming of the Kingdom of heaven, where your first lesson is to repent.

             There will always be trials and tribulations in our lives like in the arrest of John the Baptist (Mt.4:12) but let us remain in you, following you, believing in you, always cleansing ourselves of our impurities and imperfections so that you may dwell in us to make your kingdom come here on earth as it is in heaven.  AMEN.  Fr.Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

*Photo of a painting by Bulakenyo artist Aris Bagtas of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the sufferings of the people in her mind, perhaps a normal slice in her daily life with Jesus.  Used with permission.

Epiphany: New Beginnings in Christ

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, 06 January 2019
Isaiah 60:1-6///Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6///Matthew 2:1-12

            Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare is called EDSA for Epifanio delos Santos Avenue.  Its namesake is a famous scholar from the province of Rizal whose name means “manifestation” or “appearance” from the Greek epiphanes.  EDSA today may be considered as the epiphany of everything that is wrong in the country, from government inefficiency to people lacking in discipline and patriotism.  Mention the word EDSA and you feel sad and gloomy all of a sudden. On the other hand, the Epiphany we celebrate today brings joy and jubilation because it is the manifestation of the universal kingdom of Jesus Christ to the pagans symbolized by the magi from the East.  After the octave of Christmas, it is celebrated within this joyous season to remind us that while deep within each one of us is a natural search or inclination for God, it is actually God who looks for us and eventually finds us.  Though it is God who appears to us or “epiphanies” to us, we have to be like the magi who must look and find Him as well as lead others to Him too!

            When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Mt. 2:1-2)

            It takes a wise person to search for Jesus – and a wiser person to lead others to Him!  How sad that so many people today feel so lost and could not find the right directions to Jesus because as we have reflected last Christmas, there are so many of us who pretend to be the Christ.  When somebody comes to us, seeking comfort or counsel or simply company, do they find the newborn King in us?  When people come to our homes, do they experience Jesus in our family?  When people come to pray and celebrate the sacraments in our parish or chapel, do they find Christ present there among the people and the place itself?  How sad that so many churches are desecrated in the name of finding Christ among the people that we have allowed everything and everyone to disregard their sanctity with so much pomp and pageantry that tend to manifest more the pride and ego, or insecurities of those in charge of these sacred places.  People continue to search for that Bethlehem where they could find rest and comfort, solace and consolation in the newborn king Jesus Christ. The Epiphany of the Lord reminds us that Christ came to the world to be the fulfillment of everyone and He had become human like us in everything except sin so we can find Him easily.  There are many symbolisms that may be gleaned from these wise men representing us today.

            They are sometimes called as kings as attested from our first reading, “Rise up in splendor!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you… Nations shall walk by your light; kings by your shining radiance.  Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord” (Is.60:1, 4, 6).  From this part of Isaiah’s prophecy we also got that picture of the three wise men travelling as kings from the farthest parts of the world of that time riding on camels to show that even the most powerful men of the world recognize Jesus as the King of Kings.  In our responsorial psalm today, we heard ancient places that extend from the extreme west like Tarshish which is in Tartessos, Spain up to the isles off the coast of Africa and the Middle East which is part of Asia to represent rulers of the world who would come to worship Christ.  Notice how these places mentioned in Isaiah and Psalms refer to the three continents known during that time, namely, Africa, Asia, and Europe symbolizing the whole world coming to Christ.  Some Church Fathers even preached that the three kings symbolize the three stages of our life where Christ leads and guides us:  youth, maturity and old age.  In whatever state or stage of life we are, true wisdom and peace can only be found in Christ Jesus regardless of our differences.

            But above all of these we find that with the wise men coming from the East where the sun rises is that they show us the Epiphany as a new beginning in our lives.  The magi represent our inner journey in life to find and follow Jesus Christ.  Last year, I have dwelt a lot in that realization that life is more of a directional than a destination.  What matters most in life is that we keep on following Jesus Christ our light, our star.  That is direction, where He is leading us.  It never stops.  We just keep on following Him until we reach our final destination in heaven for we are all “coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).  This direction we have to follow in life never stops for the discovery of God is not the end but the beginning of a journey.  And in this journey in Jesus Christ, we do not simply go as followers but are expected to eventually become believers too.  Matthew noted at the end of the gospel today how the magi“departed for their country by another way” (Mt. 2: 12), meaning they have become believers eventually of Christ.  Their lives have changed and must have never been the same as before after finding Jesus because they have believed.  That is their big advantage and difference with Herod and the experts of Jerusalem who knew everything about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem but refused to believe Him.  This is the danger with us today:  many Christians today are mere followers but not wise enough to be believers of Christ.

            Like those young people aspiring to follow their stars at GMA-7’s talent search program “StarStruck”, we also need to dream, believe,and survive.  We all dream to be fulfilled in life.  And every lofty dream is always from above, from God as Matthew told us this Christmas the dreams of Joseph and now the dream of the magi.  It is said that those who dream with their eyes wide open are the real dreamers, the trailblazers who change the world.  That is because they did not only believe in their dreams and with themselves but most of all, they believed in God.  On this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, He is inviting us to dream and believe so that we may live fully in Him.  Every day is a new beginning to search and follow and believe Jesus Christ our light.  Today we are given with over 350 days to begin anew in Jesus.  Be wise.  Search Him.  Follow Him.  Believe Him.  Happy Epiphany of the Lord! AMEN. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

*Photos from Google.

starstruck

Let the Light of Christ Shine In You

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Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 02 January 2019

            I come from the fireworks capital of the country, Bocaue in Bulacan about 25 kms. north of Manila.  Unlike most of my town mates, I have always advocated for the total ban of manufacture and sale of fireworks and firecrackers long before I became a priest.  My first reason is because I have seen firsthand how many lives were lost in the manufacture and use of these products meant to bring good luck and more life.  My second reason is simply because it is a pagan practice.  What an irony it is so widespread in our country considered to be the only Christian nation in this part of the world!  The best way to welcome every New Year is to pray in silence to thank God for all the graces of the past year and to ask Him to keep us anew and to guide us through 2019.

             My third reason why fireworks and firecrackers must be banned is the fact these destroy and damage our already fragile environment.  While many are rejoicing that firecracker injuries are down by 68% this New Year celebrations, air quality almost everywhere remained dismal and even hazardous especially for the sick and elderly people.  Coming home to my parish after midnight of January 01, I thought my staff members have forgotten to turn on the lights outside the church or worst, there was a brownout because our whole neighborhood was so dark.  It turned out that thick smokes from the fireworks and firecrackers lit earlier to brighten our lives this 2019 have actually darkened our whole surroundings!  The scene was very surreal that spoke a lot of our inconsistencies and stupidity as a nation and most of all, as Christians.  How crazy that we as Christians are not only imitating the pagans in welcoming the New Year in the hope to better our lives when in fact we are destroying life itself in damaging the environment!

             Jesus Christ was born more than 2000 years ago during the darkest night of the year at winter primarily to be our light.  This is what Christmas reminds us at the end of each year as we usher in the new one that we have no other light but Christ alone.  And the light of Christ shines not from any bright star or comet up in the sky but right from the faces and hearts of every believer to whom Jesus is born within.  This is the daily challenge we all face that we must let the light of Christ shine in us so that people are illumined by His light not by our selfish, bloated ego projected by our supposed to be bright ideas.  How sad that even in the Church and among us priests, what we really project is our own light not Christ’s.  We cannot have the humility of John the Baptizer to admit that we are not the Christ because like during the first Christmas, so many modern day Caesars and Herods continue to claim these days that they are the Messiah or Savior of the world, even in the name of Jesus.

            To be a light of Christ in the world requires us His disciples to first withdraw from the limelight and go back to Jesus in prayer and meditations.  We are now living our faith in a mass-mediated culture but it does not mean we have to immerse into social media and other modern forms of communication.  We in the Church, both the clergy and the lay people have to realize and understand that while these modern communications are a gift from God, we do not have to allow it to overwhelm us that eventually, unknown to us, become our guide replacing Jesus Christ.  What a pity that many churches today look like conference halls with giant TV screens everywhere, tarpaulins covering every wall even the altar that people could no longer feel the sense of the sacred.  See how some priests have become as entertainers even clowns with all the jokes and antics without delivering any homily at all.  Or act like marketing agents using power points to deliver homilies without any point at all.  There are churches that have become ballrooms in total disregard of the sanctity of the place complete with all kinds of lights for dramatic effects with giant ceiling fans hovering above that do not necessarily complement the interiors.  People are rightly complaining of the commercialization of some churches that have become to look like a giant birthday cake than a house of worship due to so many decorations that are mostly cheap and kitschy.  Worst of all are those churches that have become like a perya (fair) with all gimmicks and publicity stunts that fool people by heightening their feeling levels only to get more collections but never to share Jesus Christ.   

                What a shame!  People come to church for Jesus, only Jesus and always Jesus.  And they would always come because that is something natural within each of us, even unbelievers.  The Church does not need public relations as advertisements for media mileage because we offer only Jesus Christ alive within each one of us.  I have always believed that there are only two essential things needed to share Jesus Christ and let His light shine in a parish:  meaningful liturgy and true charity and service to everyone.  Our dignified worship and celebrations of the sacraments along with our loving service and kindness to everyone who comes to our parish are more than enough to be the presence of Christ, to beam His light.  Stop making the church and everything in it a spectacle or a show we call palabas because Christ came in silent simplicity of the darkness of the night to be felt more deep inside by the heart not to be feasted on by the eyes.  The late German-born thinker Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy who converted into Christianity from the Jewish faith after World War II said that “A Christian is a person to whom Christ speaks.  The body of Christ is those who listen to him.”  How beautiful!  All we really need is Jesus Christ alone, not so much of things and gadgets, gimmicks and publicity stunts for He alone is our light who gives life.  The beloved disciple said it so well last Christmas Day, “through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (Jn.1:4-5).  Bring out that light of Christ in you this New Year!

*Photo by Dra. Mai Dela Pena, from a church in Sydney, Australia many Christmas ago.  Used with permission.

 

“Bagong Taon, Bagong Panahon”

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ika-01 ng Enero 2019

 

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Maraming pong salamat
Mga ginigiliw kong tagatangkilik
Nitong dati kong panaginip
Maisatula aking mga tilamsik ng pag-iisip.

Madalas tuwing bagong taon
Sa pagharap natin sa mga paghamon
Lagi nating tugon ay new year’s resolution
Na kalauna’y mga pangakong nababaon.

Hindi tayo makakasulong taun-taon
Kung parati mayroon tayong mga rason
Alibi at mga dahilan para bigyang katwiran
Iba’t ibang sitwasyon kaya tayo hindi makaahon.

 

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Bagong taon, bagong panahon
Bawat pagkakataon ay isang paghamon
Ng pagpapakatotoo sa ating pagkatao
Kung ibig nating lumago, iwanan nakaraan,
Mamuhay sa kasalukuyan, pag-aralan mga dating kamalian;
Mga sugat nating kinasaktan, huwag nang takpan
Bagkus pahanginan sa kasalukuyan upang tuluyang gumaling
Para ating maibaling mga paningin sa mga dapat gawin at ayusin.

Bagong taon, bagong panahon
Pumalaot sa mga dakong di nasusubukan o napupuntahan
Magsagwan kung kinakailangan
Sa gitna nitong ilog ng buhay na walang katiyakan
Maliban sa tahakin landas ng kabutihan at kababaan
Tulad ng pananalangin sa awa at habag ng Maykapal;
Hindi magtatagal lahat ng ating pagpapagal
Sa ati’y dadatal mga dasal nating inuusal.
*Larawan ay obra ng Bulakenyong pintor na si Aris Bagtas; pinili ko ang larawang ito upang maipakita ang pakikibaka ng may tuwa sa bagong taon ng 2019.  Ginamit ng may kapahintulutan.