Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 26 April 2021
Patring the lovely lady
behind this community pantry
said it so well "this is not a charity"
but "like a mutual aid of helping each other in need".
All she did was make us see
those in need as a person like you and me
who lives and breathes
but worries and cries alone
creating the spark unknown
that we started to believe
we can feed the hungry
with whatever we have
if everyone tries to live simply
by seeing everyone's dignity
of not taking anything
more than what is necessary.
The beauty of every community pantry
more than the food aplenty
is the overflowing of the spirit of humanity;
kindness and tenderness again caressed
everyone who has been stressed
and depressed not only by the distress
caused by COVID-19 but mostly
the lack of interest for persons
blinded by personal interests
who thought money as ayuda
will solve the plight and misery
of the many going sick and hungry.
The humility and simplicity
of every community pantry
are the key to its mystery
when everyone begins to see
the needy as another person with dignity
a brother and a sister, a kin and family
thinking of everybody not just self entirely;
everybody is suffering
but at the community pantry
generosity is overflowing
because everybody is thinking
somebody can be in deeper misery.
There is something holy about the pantry
where everyone goes when hungry
that Patricia has brought out in the community
to remind us we are one big family
a normalcy replaced with greed and apathy
with everybody wanting so many
using manipulation to control even the nation;
pray thee may this community pantry
be the start of a beautiful journey
to a brighter future for our country
where everyone lives simply and responsibly
not taking what is more than necessary!
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 22 April 2021
The beauty of this community pantry
that have sprouted all over the country
in just a week exactly
is not found only in the wide variety
of food to the needy but most of all
for food that enrich so many souls:
kindness and tenderness are aplenty
with everyone considered a family.
It was the Lord Himself
who gave us the first community pantry
intended for soul when he said:
"All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost,
drink wine and milk!
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life."
What is so amazing now happening in the country
is how those with least to offer
are always the ones with most to share
like that widow praised by Jesus in her poverty
gave her all in the temple treasury:
for the community pantry
there was so much camote
coming from hard pressed farmers
from Paniqui and another load from Mindoro
shared by the child of a Mangyan aged nine
while an elderly man peddling chicharon for a living
asked for two cans of sardines
leaving the pantry with a precious smile of gratitude
with a plenitude of goodwill,
donating two packs of his precious chicharon.
Like manna in the wilderness
the community pantries were heaven-sent;
like the feeding of five-thousand in the wilderness
the community pantries of sharing was the miracle;
like Jesus Christ at the Last Supper,
the community pantries have taught us
to be the bread ourselves, broken and shared
if only to prove there is enough for everyone's needs.
Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-21 ng Abril 2021
Tila magpapasko, presko at mahangin ang panahon noong Lunes ng umaga dito sa Pambansang Dambana ng Birhen ng Fatima sa Valenzuela.
Natutuwa ako noon sa napakabuting balita ng paglaganap nitong tinaguriang mga “community pantry” na nagsimula sa kalye Maginhawa sa Quezon City noong a-kinse lang ng Abril. Wala pang isang linggo ay kumalat na sa buong kapuluan ang kilusan na kung isasalin sa ating sariling wika ay “paminggalang pampamayanan”.
Sa mga kagaya ko na inabot ang singko sentimos na de bote ng Cosmos, bago dumating ang pridyider ay paminggalan ang puntahan ng lahat lalo na sa bahay na matanda kung saan nakatira ang mga impo at lola.
At ang turo sa aming mga bata noon, maaring kumuha ng pagkain sa paminggalan pero huwag uubusan ang ibang kasama sa tahanan.
Higit sa lahat, magsabi lagi upang mapalitan o mapunan sakaling mauubusan lalo na ng kape at asukal.
Kaya naman napakagandang makitang muli itong mga paminggalan hindi na sa tahanan kungdi sa lansangan na tila baga bawat pamayanan naging isang malaking pamilya pinamamayanihan ng pagkakapatiran.
Iyon ang pinaka-buod at kahulugan nitong mga paminggalang pampamayanan na siya rin namang ipinahayag ni Bb. Ana Patricia Non: hindi aniya ito pagkakawanggawa o “charity” kungdi pakikipagkapwa-tao o mutual aid upang matulungan ang bawat isang nangangailangan.
Sa Banal na Kasulatan ay ating natunghayan kamakailan paglalarawan ng pamumuhay ng mga unang Kristiyano:
At nagsasama-sama ang lahat ng sumasampalataya at para sa lahat ang kanilang ari-arian. Ipinagbibili nila ito at ang pinagbilhan ay ipinamamahagi sa lahat ayon sa pangangailangan ng bawat isa.
Mga Gawa ng Apostol 2:44-45
Isinaysay sa atin ni San Lucas ang naturang bahagi sa buhay ng mga unang Kristiyano upang muling mahimok sa atin ang pagkakapatiran, ang magising ating mga kaisipan at kamulatan na sa buhay hindi pinag-uusapan at batayan ang ano mang kakayahang gawin kungdi ang pagkakakilala sa bawat isa bilang ka-patid, ka-dugtong, at ka-putol. Alisin mo ang unlaping “ka”, ika’y patid at putol. Hiwalay at nag-iisa, walang karugtong.
Kapatiran, samahan ng magkakapatid, hindi ng mga gawain.
Kung babalikan natin yung tagpo matapos mag-ayuno at manalangin ang Panginoong Hesus sa ilang, ang unang panunukso sa kanya ng demonyo ay gawin niyang tinapay ang mga bato.
Ganyang-ganyan pa rin ginagawa ng diyablo at kanyang kampon sa ating panahon na ang palaging tanong ay “ano ba ang nagawa mo?” o “mayroon ka bang naambag?”: para sa kanila, pinakamahalaga yung nagagawa kesa makipag-kapwa.
Hindi nila batid na ang sino mang tunay sa pakikipag-kapwa, laging kasabay ang gumawa ng mabuti.
Kaya hindi rin kataka-taka sa kanila na ang mga addict at kriminal ay patayin dahil para sa kanila walang nagagawang mabuti mga ito sa lipunan.
Isang magandang pagkakataon itong pag-usbong
ng maraming paminggalang pampamayanan
na muli nating mapagtanto dangal ng bawat tao
na dapat mahalin at igalang bilang larawan
at wangis ng Diyos na lumikha sa tanan.
Isang magandang pagkakataon itong pag-usbong ng maraming paminggalang pampamayanan na muli nating mapagtanto dangal ng bawat tao na dapat mahalin at igalang bilang larawan at wangis ng Diyos na lumikha sa tanan.
Inyong pagmasdan, madalas mga taong mapagbilang at mapaghanap ng mga nagawa ay siya ring mga mapanaghili, binibilang mga gawain na tila lahat dapat tumbasan o mayroong kapalit.
At ang pinaka-masaklap, sila din yaong mga wala ring ginagawa, puro salita kaya sila’y katawa-tawa parang sirang plaka katulad ng kanilang pamumula at “red tagging” sa mga nasa likod ng paminggalang pampamayanan o community pantry.
Ayaw nila sa paminggalang pampamayanan dahil doon ang batayan ay pagtuturingan bilang magkakapatid; walang ganid at sakim, nasa isip palagi ang kapwa na maaring mas kawawa kaysa sarili.
Kaya heto ang aking awit na handog sa mga nagpasimuno at nagpapalaganap nitong community pantry.
Kasama na rin ang mga hindi naniniwala, namumula.
Humuhuni ang ibon
Nagsasayaw sa hangin
At laging masaya
Bakit kaya ang tao may isip at talino
Nalulungkot pa siya
Matutuhan lang ng bawat nilikha
Ang umibig sa tao't daigdig
Lungkot nila'y mapapawi ligaya'y ngingiti
Pagibig at pag-asa
Ang damdaming gigising sa taong mahimbing
Ang tunay na ligaya sa ating puso
Ikaw at ako
Hindi man magkalahi
Ay dapat matutong magmahal
Ituring mong tayong lahat ay magkakapatid
(New Minstrels, 1980)
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Third Week of Easter, 20 April 2021
Acts 7:51-8:1 <*(((>< + ><)))*> John 6:30-35
Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father in heaven! Thank you in sending us your Son Jesus Christ our Bread of life who taught and showed us how to be a food ourselves to one another by giving and sharing our very selves in loving service especially in times of crisis like this pandemic.
Thank you very much for the grace and inspiration by the Holy Spirit for the people behind this movement fast spreading called “Community Pantry” teaching us to see one another as a brother and a sister who needs to be helped, that each can be of help to anyone in need.
So many times, in our search for food that perishes like wealth and power, we get more focused on “doing” than “being” and “becoming” like those people who have followed Jesus in Capernaum after being fed with bread and fish at the wilderness last week.
The crowd said to Jesus:
"What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?
What can you do?"
Forgive us, Father, when until now we still ask the very same question to you and one another, “What can you do?” like the devil’s first temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” (Lk.4:3).
Make us aware of this ploy of the devil to keep us doing everything, to claim everything as our work in order to forget you or even discredit you.
How sad that we are so concerned with doing than with being and becoming, forgetting the value of every person, asking more of “what you can do” than “who are you?” which is more essential because we are all from you, O God our Father, our image and likeness.
No wonder, we have become like the members of the Sanhedrin addressed by Christ’s first martyr, St. Stephen during his trial:
"You stiff-necked people,
uncircumcised in heart and ears,
you always oppose the Holy Spirit;
you are just like your ancestors."
We have never grown and matured in our relationships because we have refused to see each one’s worth as a person, measuring our value in what we can do than in who we really are as your beloved children. As a result, we continue to refuse surrendering ourselves to the Holy Spirit for you to do your work in us. Unfortunately, as we keep on doing everything, the results are always miserable. And the more we get into bigger mess in life.
Teach us, especially our leaders in government, to open their minds and their hearts to what your prophets are saying from the various sectors of the society, especially the masses involved in the Community Pantry movement.
May our government officials led by the President realize that ever since this pandemic started, what we have been saying has always been for the good of one another as brothers and sisters, valuing life above all, and not for any achievement nor fame at all that they are so intent on having.
How sad that the more government officials dare and insult people with what they can do, the more it becomes truer that they cannot do anything good at all. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 19 April 2021
The beauty of this movement
sweeping our country
called "Community Pantry"
is its essential Christianity:
"The community of believers
was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any
of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common."
Earlier in our Church history
the esteemed theologian Tertullian
was so delighted to see
how the early Christians
loved one another
and how they were ready
to die for each other
exactly the same scenery
we are having in our country this 21st century.
It all started simply
when in the street translated loosely
as living comfortably (Maginhawa)
somebody suddenly see
"any body" as a "some body"
can help alleviate our poverty
when we start to see "every body"
as a brother and a sister living simply
with one community pantry so "no body" goes hungry.
And the rest was history
as the story of good deeds inspired many
putting up their community pantry
and the best part of the mystery
there is no talk of money and popularity
plain and simple spirit of humanity
in the spirit of fraternity and equality
fulfilling the minimum requirement of charity
that is justice and mutuality.
There is a saying that
"Necessity is the mother of invention"
but this community pantry that I see
is more than an invention or an innovation
but an extension of the fellowship of the table
where Jesus Christ is the invisible guest
appearing, speaking, and sharing a meal
that fills our stomach and delights our soul
animating our hopes for a better future.
This community pantry
is a bright ray of hope,
a silver lining in the storm
that hit our nation last year
when this administration
not only belittled but was also
unprepared for the pandemic.
Is it a new kind of people power revolution?
Then, by all means, let it bloom!
*All photos used are from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 April 2021.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 April 2021
While COVID-19 truly provided us with so many images of hope amid the crisis we went through on its first year, the pandemic had also left us with some unforgettable characters that moved us to feel our humanity that unfortunately many of us have lost for so long.
In fact, it was grace-filled moment of this time of the corona virus that we feel our humanity again when we found our true friends with our true colors emerging.
We were moved to tears even by people we hardly knew but felt their pains and their joys, their love and their kindness, their fidelity and courage in the middle of many storms in life especially when most others preferred to be bystanders and be quiet.
Most of all, we found Jesus Christ among them who became our unforgettable characters during COVID-19’s first year.
Leading my list is Mang Dodong of Caloocan City.
It was early May last year when we were reeling from successive news of government officials breaking rules of health protocols, abusing their powers and worst of all, getting away with it! Some even got promoted like Police Gen. Sinas who is now the chief of PNP for his shameless mañanita birthday party.
Mang Dodong left their home in Caloocan sometime in early April to buy fish at Navotas he intended to peddle among his neighbors for some much-needed money. That was the last time his wife and adopted child saw him until after almost a month in May 2020. He was detained in Navotas for not having a quarantine pass.
But looking deeper, we see it so common ironically in this administration claiming to champion the masses, we find Mang Dodong’s primary violation was his being poor and most of all, an honorable man unlike the clowns and chimps in the corridors of power.
He was detained for almost a month with his wife said to be a semi-illiterate not knowing where to find him. Had it not for the church volunteers of the Diocese of Caloocan under the Most Rev. Pablo David, Mang Dodong could have stayed longer in detention with the officials having no any qualms at all with his situation.
It has a been a year since then and nothing happened with the case of Mang Dodong. No one was held responsible for his sufferings and hardships because he is poor yet an image of Jesus Christ immortalized in the beautiful hymn by the late Jesuit Father Ed Hontiveros:
Hesus na aking kapatid Sa bukid Ka nagtatanim Kung sa palengke din naman Ikaw ay naghahanap-buhay
Tulutan mo’ng aking mata Mamulat sa katotohanan Ikaw, Poon makikilala Ikaw, Poon makikilala Ikaw, Poon makikilala Sa taong mapagkumbaba
When COVID-19 reached our country in mid-February last year directly from a Chinese tourist who became the pandemic’s first victim to die outside of the virus origin in Wuhan, everybody thought our dry season could flush out the corona.
It did not happen at all. Worst, the dry season even spelled disaster with many fires hitting the metropolis that summer like the one that hit Happyland district in Tondo on April 18, 2020 from where we got our second unforgettable character of COVID-19: a young man carrying his grandfather to escape the fire.
So many families were left homeless with scores injured with some fatalities in what was the second or third fire to hit Tondo in Manila.
It was also the octave of Easter, a few days before “Divine Mercy Sunday” when it caught the attention of Fr. Marc Ocariza who was then the parochial vicar of St. Peter Alcantara in Taal, Bocaue, Bulacan.
Fr. Marc was so struck by the photo that he shared it on his Facebook account and that was how I saw it too.
Another day day passed, on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, Fr. Marc interpreted Ms. Tribiana’s post into a work of art using the app Digital Art Timelapse and dubbed his creation as “Nag-aalab na Pag-Ibig” which in turn inspired me to write a poem “Bakas ng Habag at Awa ni Jesus” I published in my blog on April 20, 2020 (https://lordmychef.com/2020/04/20/bakas-ng-habag-at-awa-ni-jesus/).
Click the link for our reflection why that young man is our unforgettable character, too.
Three great men of the Church did the same thing to us during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, making Jesus present among us as the Good Shepherd in a time people were looking for true leaders giving us light when darkness enveloped us.
Without doubt, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Dagupan, Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, and Bishop Virgilio David of Caloocan will be among the most unforgettable characters during this pandemic following their bold efforts in alleviating the plight of the people in their respective diocese and most of all, in being the most vocal pastors who insisted for the opening of churches considering that religious activities are essential.
They were the voices in the wilderness who spoke the truth of Christ, bringing hope and enlightenment to everyone, including us priests as they both shared us their insights and encouragement to pray and serve God’s flock in these troubled times.
In those three Bishops we find what everybody else is missing in this pandemic: that it is not just a medical and social issue to be addressed but most of all, something of the spiritual and moral nature calling for our conversion as a nation, as disciples of the Lord.
Thank you very much, Bishops Soc, Pabillo, and David for bringing Christ in this time of the pandemic, providing us the spiritual nourishment and emotional support we all needed during this first year of the pandemic.
And now we come to the most unforgettable characters of COVID-19 who are truly our modern day heroes and saints, who truly served like Jesus Christ forgetting their very selves to save countless men and women stricken with the virus.
Hail to our MEDICAL FRONTLINERS – the doctors and nurses, medical technologists, staff of every hospital, driver and crew members of ambulances who transported the sick day in, day out since the start of the pandemic until now.
They were the ones who kept us alive since day one of the pandemic until now with so many of them among the first casualties when COVID-19 hit the country last year.
Sadly, despite their dedication to work, many of them had to suffer humiliation like one nurse who was evicted by her landlady after being positive with COVID while another nurse biking his way to the hospital died after being hit-and-run by a motorist.
Words will never be enough to describe their dedication and love for those getting sick.
Every night, I pray so hard for them including their families who must have been so used to sleepless nights praying and worrying about their safety.
One thing I ask the Lord in my prayers for our medical frontliners: that they will all be around when this pandemic is over so we can celebrate with them and meet them, hug them and thank them for keeping us alive since it all began in 2020.
God bless and keep our medical frontliners!
There are still other unforgettable characters who kept us alive and well, even sane, during the pandemic. We continue to pray for them as they work in silence serving us during these critical times like bakers and vendors, teachers, government workers, those in the police and military.
Not to forget, too, are our parents and everybody making our lives bearable even comfortable in these trying times. Do stay safe so we may celebrate with everyone when this virus is gone.
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
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.
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.
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.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 12 April 202
We had a blessed happy Easter last year in 2020 despite the pandemic following the support of our parishioners to our activities since the start of the lockdown like the motorized processions of Palm Sunday and Good Friday as well as the online Masses.
Though we have to start our Easter Vigil while the sun was still up following the protocol rules, it was clearly an image of hope for us all especially when I carried the Paschal Candle into our church for the celebrations: Jesus the Light of world, illuminating us in the darkness of the pandemic.
It was the simplest Easter Vigil in my entire 22 years in the priesthood but most meaningful.
Very early the following Sunday before dawn in lieu of the traditional salubong, we went around our parish with the beautiful image of the Risen Lord generously lent to us since 2011 by Mrs. Baby Halili in hopes that the people would at least feel again the presence of Jesus Christ.
It was still dark but some people were already awake awaiting the passing of our libot before celebrating our Mass.
Most of the people, though, missed the libot of the Risen Lord that dawn that we did it again in the afternoon with the usual sights of people waiting on the streets for the blessing.
It was an amusing and unforgettable sight and image of COVID-19 last year,
an image of hope, and most of all,
an image of Christ Risen among us in the pandemic,
answering our prayers, never abandoning us even in the dark.
At the last leg of our libot of the Risen Lord with still an hour before the curfew, a soldier in fatigue uniform at a gas station saw us and left his motorbike, walking towards us with both hands up in the air.
I thought we were being told to stop. And worst, being arrested!
Immediately, I prayed to Jesus to not let it happen, that we were just less than 500 meters from the parish and soon it would be over.
I acted disregarding the soldier as in “dead malice” (patay malisya) by blessing him with Holy Water until we heard him closer, asking for blessings indeed!
It was an amusing and unforgettable sight and image of COVID-19 last year, an image of hope, and most of all, an image of Christ Risen among us in the pandemic, answering our prayers, never abandoning us even in the dark.
More unforgettable images of COVID-19, images of hope and images of Christ during the extensions of the lockdown last year unfolded before us after Easter. That was when I began to feel the emotional drag of the pandemic and lockdown as I lived alone in our parish rectory that was a mere oversized room at the second floor of the church.
It was the second extension of the lockdown when I felt during prayers that Jesus seemed to be getting “tired” with our “libot” of his Blessed Sacrament.
Most of all, I realized that if I felt dried and zapped despite my regimented lifestyle of prayers, studies, exercises and recreation during the pandemic right inside our parish church, how much more were my parishioners?
I just felt they must be worst affected than me!
It was very clear for me that prayers and online Masses cannot suffice for them as their spiritual nourishment.
That was when I decided to go out and bring Holy Communion to my parishioners after our Sunday morning Mass: I would announce in our online Masses the route we shall take so that people would wait for me on the main roads while observing the necessary health protocols.
We called it “walk-in Holy Communion” because after each stop of our tricycle, I would walk giving Communion to everyone waiting to receive finally and not just see, Jesus Christ, Body and Blood!
On the third Sunday of our “walk-through” Holy Communion, a family on board their van arrived just before we left the parish, asking if they could receive the Holy Communion after attending our online Mass. They wanted to get inside the church for the Communion when suddenly, a spark of inspiration came upon me — I told them to remain in their van as I gave them Communion through the windows!
And thus started our “drive-thru” Holy Communion for families and individuals who attended our online Sunday Mass and then proceeded to our parish where I would wait for them at the gate of our church from 8-830AM to give their Holy Communion.
Rain or shine, I would just put on my hat with my reliable volunteer Kuya Oliver driving his tricycle or assisting in the traffic flow of cars, vans, tricycles and even bicycles, we gave Holy Communion during those difficult months of the first year of pandemic and quarantine.
Sometimes, like the couple above, some people would chase us along the way, asking to receive the Holy Communion as they assured us that they have attended our online Mass earlier.
I was so glad other parishes did the same for our people so hungry and thirsty for Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
Did I ever get afraid?
Of course! Even terrified. But it was pure grace from the Lord we were able to do all those things in his glorious name.
Those images of COVID-19 have truly become images of hope and images of Christ that helped me forge on with my life and ministry through these difficult times in our history. They are forever imprinted in my heart and memory along with the people who made me experienced God.
Like the “beloved disciple” John – the patron saint of my former parish where these took place – who was with Peter in the boat gone fishing at Lake Tiberias before the ascension of Jesus, every time I remember those images of last year or see similar ones, I silently exclaim like him “It is the Lord!” (John 22:7).
Come April 13, 2021, I will log my 365-day streak at http://www.lordmychef.com publishing prayers, reflections, homilies, poems, and essays since Easter Monday last year when I thought of helping the spiritual nourishment of people unable to come to celebrate the Mass.
When I was assigned to my new assignment as chaplain of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center last February 15, I felt the same thing in my prayers: help in enriching the spiritual lives of the flock Jesus entrusted to me at this time of the pandemic by learning all these new technologies like Zoom and webinars as well as Facebook live and this daily blog. From still pictures as images of hope and of Christ, we now have moving images of hope and of Jesus Christ!
But, with or without modern technology, and even after this pandemic, the challenge of Easter remains that we continue to proclaim the joy and saving presence of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ among peoples, “in season and out of season” like St. Paul (2Timothy 4:2).
That is something we all have to work for even now, being images of hope and of Christ to the world. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 09 April 2021
The reality – and gravity – of the lockdown hit me most that Wednesday morning when I celebrated Mass alone. Without the usual faces and voices of our regular Mass goers who greeted me daily upon opening our church door since I came to my former parish in 2011, I just felt something so unique.
It was as if Jesus was making some “lambing” (tender moments) with me as his priest.
For so long, I have been celebrating Mass on weekdays with at least five people present that there were times it had become mechanical like a routine, sometimes even like a “show” that it has to be good so that I look good, sound good, and everybody feels good.
But on that first day of the lockdown, as I prepared everything from removing the altar cover to bringing out the books and sacred vessels to celebrating “alone” with some birds keeping me company, I somehow felt Jesus most truly present.
Just him and me, at his altar, in his church.
That was how I realized deep within me the beauty and sanctity of the Holy Mass not in the external things we see and hear but most of all in my intimacy and union with Jesus Christ as his priest.
With or without the congregation, every Holy Mass is the summit of the priest’s life and very existence because that is where his union in Jesus Christ our Eternal Priest is most true.
The way the priest celebrates the Mass – his disposition, his attitude, the way he looks and keep things in order – all indicate his oneness with Jesus Christ. Liturgy flows from the heart of the priest and from that springs our social action and involvement.
How sad when some priests has made the lockdown an excuse not to celebrate the Mass at all.
In depriving himself of the essential union with the Lord and Master, in effect he has deprived his flock the much needed strength from the Good Shepherd.
Even without the pictures and videos of the priest celebrating the Mass sine populo (without the people), that is the most wonderful and most treasured image of COVID-19 only God sees because it is the most sublime image of his Son Jesus Christ present amid this pandemic.
Every word in the Lectionary and the Sacramentary, every moment of that private Mass during the lockdown was like a “cosmic experience” where the eternal and the temporal converge as if time stands still, with these words echoing in the silence of the universe within me:
"...you never cease to gather a people to yourself,
so that from the rising of the sun to its setting
a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name."
(Eucharistic Prayer III)
Images of COVID-19,
Images of Hope,
Images of Christ
Two Sundays after the lockdown last year came the Holy Week ushered in by Palm Sunday when we went around the parish blessing the palms and fronds of people who have gathered on the streets after our announcement in Facebook and online Mass.
Skies were overcast that morning that we decided to visit first the other end of our parish, Purok Gulod, where we experienced rains and saw the beautiful rainbow the other Sunday.
Nobody saw the lockdown coming. Most of the people did not have the ready-made palms and instead had branches of leaves and fronds available in their surroundings which we blessed while on board our borrowed Ford F-150 after the Mass that morning attended by a few parish volunteers.
But the most touching images of COVID-19 that Holy Week last year happened on the Good Friday procession of the Santo Entierro we have mounted on a truck, brought around the parish after the Veneration of the Cross at 3PM.
From images of COVID-19 as images of hope, the sights have transformed into images of Christ suffering and dead among the people who knelt and prayed while others cried on the streets during procession.
Since it was a Good Friday when there was no holy water, I brought the crucifix with which to bless the people not only on the streets but also those in their vehicles passing by during the procession.
It was very edifying.
How I felt Jesus described in the gospel while going around preaching the good news to all towns and villages:
At the sight of the crowds,
his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
I can still remember my short homily during that Good Friday’s Veneration of the Cross: I told the people that while we were so sad with what was happening due to the pandemic, Jesus was surely more sad with what was going on in the world, in our parish community.
It was a very meaningful Good Friday after all when as the sun set, God reassured me anew and I think everybody else in our parish that we were not alone. We have him as company, consoling us in this time of the pandemic with the beautiful sights of everyone out in the streets praying.
Yes, they are images of COVID-19 but also images of hope.
Most of all, images of Christ among us, suffering and dying first among us in our community during the pandemic.
Join us again on Monday with more images of COVID-19 as images of hope and images of Christ risen among us!
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 05 April 2021
It was a Holy Wednesday when the incident went viral as picked up by network news that evening when the previous night some barangay officials in Muzon, San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan insisted that lugaw is “not essential”, that man can live even without lugaw.
The timing was so perfect being a “Spy Wednesday” or the night of traitors when Judas Iscariot struck a deal with the chief priests to hand them over Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Mt.26:15).
And so, there were the three barangay officials handing over to their power trip the common lugaw not knowing they have in fact betrayed us Filipinos in their arrogant insistence that lugaw is a non essential food.
The following Holy Thursday, another Judas Iscariot not only betrayed but crucified si lugaw as non-essential without knowing his remark was a self-indictment of this government’s preoccupation with politics, disregard for the people and lack of any definitive plan regarding the year-old pandemic. Trying to sound a smart aleck and clown rolled into one this administration has too much of, his explanations only made him look like the lowest kind of lugaw – rice leftovers boiled in water.
The benighted souls who have denigrated our favorite food have just proven that this pandemic is something we have to see in the light of spirituality and morality, not just a medical and social issue to be addressed.
Any food is always essential because every food signifies a person, has life and sustains life.
Recall that during his Last Supper on the night before he was betrayed, Jesus had chosen the most ordinary but very essential food to be the sign of his loving presence among us until the end of time – the bread. An unleavened bread, to be exact, which was the food taken by the Jews during their exodus from Egypt at the time of Moses.
The bible teems with so many references to the lowly food of bread as something divine with deeper meaning as a sign.
Consider that Jesus was born on a manger which is an open box or a trough for animals like horses and cattle to eat from to signify his being our very food in this life journey. He was born in Bethlehem that literally means “house of bread”; thus, at his last supper, Jesus gave himself to us under the sign of a bread.
In establishing the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist which St. John Paul II emphasized in 2002 by adding the Mysteries of Light in praying the Rosary, Jesus elevated the meal into the most sublime human activity making our food divine and holy. As a result, the table had become one of the most intimate places in our lives that every time there is a meeting or any gathering, there is always the meal to be shared. I used to tell my students before that every first date is always in a restaurant – if possible a fine dining one – because what matters most is the moment to be shared together by you and your date.
It is always easy to know when couples and parents are not in good terms with each other: they never eat together or during meals, they do not talk or speak to each other. The same is true when people decline our invitations for dinner or party or simple meal: they do not want to be with us. Period. That is why Judas Iscariot had to leave and not finish the Lord’s supper!
See that we never call people as “enemies”: like Jesus Christ, as much as possible we welcome everyone to our table to share meal with us and it is only then when we realize who is our enemy when like Judas, some people stab us in our backs while sharing meal.
When we eat and share food and drinks, we actually share our very selves to our guests and friends. We host parties because we want to share our very selves with our family and friends, to share and be a part of our lives, of our achievements, of our important stages in life. Their coming signify the same willingness to share us their lives too.
The food we share are signs of our bonding, of our relationships, of how we care and respect for one another. It does not really matter what food we share. More often, the most simple and ordinary food are the ones that truly delight us like tuyo. Or lugaw!
How I wish parents today would bring back those days of old when nobody is supposed to waste not even a single grain of rice or any food for that matter because it is from God.
When we were growing up, every meal was the most awaited family time not because of the food but more of the bonding and exchanging of stories. As we age, it has become more truer than ever! That is why we all wish this pandemic would end so we could all eat together as families and friends, is it not?
Any food is always essential because every food signifies a person who has life and sustains life of others.
Every one of us is a companion to each other. From the two Latin words “cum panis” that mean someone you break bread with, a companion is a friend, a fellow traveler who sustains and nourishes you like food in your journey!
In that beautiful story of the road to Emmaus when Jesus appeared to two disciples disappointed with his death and news of his empty tomb on Easter, they recognized him only after he had broken bread but simultaneously disappeared because at the table of the Lord, we also become his Body meant to be shared with everybody.
The recent issue that went viral on whether lugaw is a non-essential or not is a tragic indication of the kind of people we are, of how we categorize persons like food.
There seems to be a direct correlation
between food and humans:
when there are plenty of food,
that is when people are taken for granted,
while where there is scarcity of food, people are valued.
Take the case of ice cream. When somebody is rich and young and beautiful or handsome, they are the “flavor of the month” or the “all-time favorite” and “classic” or “premium”.
And how do we call our ordinary ice cream peddled by Mamang Sorbetero? “Dirty ice cream” – dirty because ordinary and cheap like the street kids, the poor, the “wa-class” and opposite of the more expensive sosyal ice cream.
Worse, with so much food available these days unlike before when we valued every food so much because we can only have apples (and softdrinks) when sick or chocolates when relatives from the States sent packages or some rich neighbors brought you as pasalubong from Dau’s PX stores outside Clark Air Base in Pampanga, things today have also changed in the way we relate with one another.
There seems to be a direct correlation between food and humans: when there are plenty of food, that is when people are taken for granted while where there is scarcity of food, people are valued.
As more food are readily available these days, the more we have become choosy, the more we categorize food as essential and non-essential that at the same time, the more we denigrate humans.
Such was the plan of Satan with his first temptation to Jesus – turn stones into bread after fasting for 40 days in the wilderness.
For Satan, let us have more food and things to satisfy our body so we forget God and one another, and everything of higher value. When food is retained in the stomach and becomes an end in itself, it then becomes an occasion for sin like gluttony, exactly what Satan was pushing for so that we just keep on filling our stomachs with food, satisfying the cravings and desires of the body until we destroy ourselves and our image as likeness of God.
Jesus put food into the right perspective that God is our real and true food that in two instances at least, he fed vast crowds of people in the wilderness after seeing them rightly disposed for material food.
Call it as generation gap but I am shocked when I hear some people especially the young describing handsome men and pretty women as “yummy” and “delicious” like food. Problem with that kind of mentality is how it shows we have come to regard everybody like food that if we are no longer “fresh” or “new”, becoming “old” and stacked in the cold fridge, later to be discarded or thrown out like old people being sent to retirement homes totally unknown to us 40 years ago.
Worst of all is how this administration launched its bloody campaign against drugs when addicts and other criminals were considered as non-essentials to be eliminated or killed like animals – exactly the deeper implication of what that government official kept saying last Holy Thursday that “non essential si lugaw”!
Since last year’s Holy Week when we first went into this lockdown, I have been telling friends to avoid as much as possible posting their lavish food on Facebook as a sensitivity to others with almost nothing to eat. And I maintain it is still valid to this time of this worsening crisis.
Let us be food to everyone as source of strength and nourishment, of inspiration. We do not have to make extraordinary efforts. Simply be human as yourself. Be present with a text or a phone call to those suffering. Pray for them and let them know you care for them.
Be a lugaw who could warm someone’s cold body freezing in fear and anxiety, offering quick relief from whatever suffering others may be going through.
Most of all like a hot, steamy lugaw, giving hope that Jesus is with us, his salvation is coming soon.