“Sleeping” in Christ, trusting in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2022
Acts 12:1-11 ><}}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 ><}}}}*> Matthew 16:13-19
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, August 2021.

Our readings today are a parable of the Church, of what we should and would be as the Body of Christ celebrating the Solemnity of St. Peter and St. Paul, the pillars of the Church.

Despite their personalities being poles apart while their social, cultural and religious backgrounds were greatly different, both men were won over by Jesus Christ to proclaim his good news of salvation, eventually dying as martyrs like the Lord. Both apostles displayed deep trust in Jesus Christ whom they have come to know on a personal basis.

Let us reflect first on St. Peter, the “prince of the Apostles” and servant of all. Notice how Peter could sleep soundly inside prison, even between two soldiers as narrated to us by Luke.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

On the very night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter, secured by double chains, was sleeping between two soldiers, while outside the door guards kept watch on the prison. Suddenly the angel of the Lord stood by him and a light shone in the cell. He tapped Peter on the side and awakened him, saying, “Get up quickly.” The chains fell from his wrists. The angel said to him, “Put on your belt and your sandals.” He did so. Then he said to him, “Put on your cloak and follow me.” So he followed him out, not realizing that what was happening through the angel was real; he thought he was seeing a vision.

Acts 12:6-9

It is very amusing, even funny, but facts can truly be stranger than fiction!

How could Peter sleep soundly after being arrested and thrown into prison with two soldiers sandwiching him inside his cell while a host of other guards secured the area outside?

We think again of St. Joseph sleeping soundly in a similar critical situation when he decided to silently leave Mary who was found pregnant with a child before they were married. Too often, we find it difficult to sleep when we have problems because we cannot decide decisively as we lack trust and faith in God. Both Joseph and Peter slept soundly under critical situations because of their complete trust and faith in God.

But, Peter shows us another dimension of his trust in God – his total trust also in the Church, believing that they were all praying for him.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2022.

It is a beautiful imagery of the Church then and now, always in darkness like during night time when Peter was imprisoned. And that is the parable of this scene: it is always a time of Exodus for us in the Church, of passing over from every trials and difficulties, always trusting our leaders, trusting our faithful and most of all, entrusting everything to God!

If there is one thing most needed these days in our Church especially in the Philippines is this attitude of being in an Exodus, of exiting from our excesses from the past, of submitting ourselves more to God than to our own thoughts and plans especially in politics that we have forgotten the more crucial proclamation of the gospel by reaching out to the grassroots level, of witnessing our faith in God instead of lording it over among people, exerting our influences. The recent elections is a dark period of our imprisonment with secular thoughts and dispositions, forgetting our sphere of influence in spiritual matters.

May we, both clergy and laypeople, imitate Peter by abandoning everything to God in deep prayers, following God not our plans as symbolized by his putting on his belt and sandals as commanded by the angel.

Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil, National Shrine of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 2021.

Meanwhile, we find the same kind of total abandonment by Paul of himself to God while in prison where he wrote some of his finest letters like this Second Letter to Timothy, the last of his captivity letters which we heard in the second reading today.

Imagine the stress of being in prison but without any hint of duress on Paul while awaiting death amid all humiliations with his incomparable eloquence:

I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. The Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the proclamation might be completed and all the Gentiles might hear it. The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:6-7, 17, 18

Very evident in all his letters, Paul had always expressed his total abandonment of self to Christ, of his faith in God. Here in this portion of his second letter to Timothy, we find two important lessons so apt in our celebration of this solemnity.


First is the nature of Christian life lived as a worship: am already being poured out like a libation. That is what I like most with Paul, his mastery of language, always using the most perfect words to express his experiences and ideas. For some, especially first-time readers of Paul, they may find it so “mayabang” as we say in Filipino. But no. For me, Paul is the most sincere and most humble writer in the world of letters then and now.

A libation is a drink offered to gods in ancient Greece and Rome. Here, Paul as he approached death, summarized his entire life as an offering to God that we also see in his other writings.

And that is the challenge of this solemnity to us, that we live our lives as a form of worship to God.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, 15 June 2022.

Our very lives in itself are a prayer, always centered on God, something so foolish when we go by the standards of the world today that is all show – palabas – with nothing substantial inside because only money and fame matter. Paul was very much like Peter who lived their lives as prayers that like Christ in the end, both offered the highest offering of all, martyrdom.

Second thing we find in this short but rich excerpt from Paul’s letter to Timothy is the deeper meaning of death as a passage to heaven, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil threat and will bring me safe to his heavenly kingdom”. Like the gospel last Sunday when we heard Jesus “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” wherein Jesus freely chose to face his death to fulfill his mission and express his deep love for the Father and for us. To the Philippians Paul declared that “for me life is Christ, death is gain”. Here in his letter to Timothy, Paul freely accepts his death, making it a blessing for others, something we must emulate. Instead of having those bucket lists of things to do before dying, Paul is teaching us death comes in every present moment that we must always prepare for its happening so that the next generation may continue the good things we have started. And that is exactly how until now the Church’s missionary zeal is kept aflame by Paul’s letters and works.


Photo by author, 2019.

In the gospel proclaimed today about the investiture of Peter as the head of the church of Christ, we heard Jesus entrusting to him “the keys to the kingdom of heaven that whatever he binds on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever he loosens on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (cf. Mt.16:19).

As I end this reflection for this Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, I wish to use the word “key” in a different sense – the key to unlocking how Peter and Paul achieved so much for God and for the Church lies in their personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Both apostles who have become the pillars of the Church today truly experienced Jesus in their lives in the most personal and in timate manner that in the process they have mirrored the true Christ himself.

The problems we have in the Church today, notably the declining number of the faithful following an all-time low in credibility is largely due to the many wrong answers we give Jesus to his question “who do people say I am?” Many Christians are losing their faith and interest in the Church because of the mixed signals we give them on what do we say who Jesus is.

The Church grew so wide during the time of Peter and Paul because both apostles shared the true Jesus Christ not only in their words but also in their deeds. May we have the courage to open ourselves to Jesus Christ again so we may know him more clearly, love him dearly, follow him closely and preach him daily. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Won over by Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of Sts. Peter & Paul, Apostles, 29 June 2022
Acts 12:1-11 ><}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 17-18 ><}}}*> Matthew 16:13-19
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.
God our loving Father,
as we celebrate today the
Solemnity of the two pillars
of the Church, St. Peter and St. Paul
who are poles apart in their 
temperament and in their social,
cultural, and religious backgrounds,
help us imitate them in being open
to your grace always, in being open
to your plans so we may set aside
our own agendas in order to be won
over by your Son Jesus Christ. 
Nothing is impossible with you,
dear Father:  
Peter denied Jesus
during the passion while 
Paul persecuted Jesus in
the persons of his disciples;
Peter was impetuous and 
presumptuous but sometimes
hesitant yet solidly loyal to
Christ while Paul was proud 
of his Roman citizenship and of
his being a Pharisee, demanding
his title as Apostle but likewise,
admits his fragility as a "pot of
clay", most unworthy vessel of Christ; 
Peter was attached to his Jewish
roots and convictions but did not resist 
the Holy Spirit in leading him where 
he did not want to go while Paul was 
resolute in being led by the Spirit in
proclaiming Jesus to the gentiles
while deep inside was torn within 
by the resistance and
rejection of his fellow Jews.
Merciful Father,
let your Son Jesus Christ
win over us like what he did
to St. Peter and St. Paul
who both gave their lives as 
a living worship to you,
witnessing your love and mercy,
kindness and majesty;
give us the grace to know Jesus
and love Jesus first so we may
follow him to his Cross 
for your greater glory.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

Seeing with the heart of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 24 June 2022
Ezekiel 34;11-16 ><}}}}*> Romans 5:5-11 ><}}}}*> Luke 15:3-7
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate and Spirituality Center, Novaliches, Quezon City, 2017.

The three solemnities we have been celebrating these past three weeks in the resumption of Ordinary Time after the great Season of Easter – the Blessed Trinity, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and now the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus are meant to invite us to share in the mysteries of life and love of God himself.

Two Sundays ago we learned in the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity that God is not just a Being but most of all a Person relating within himself and with us humans despite our weaknesses and limitations, even sinfulness. And there lies the greatness of God who chose to share his life with us and love us even if we worth nothing at all by sending us his Son Jesus Christ who gave us himself, Body and Blood to be shared so that we too may be like him to give ourselves to others.

Today’s Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrates the love of God revealed by Christ who died so that we may have life in him.

Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes: “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy.

Luke 15:3-5
From todayscatholic.org.

The Sacred Heart captures the beautiful imagery of the good shepherd who leaves the “ninety-nine sheep in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it” (Lk.15:4) because he first of all sees with his heart, not with his mind.

It is the image of Jesus Christ’s loving sacrifice for us all by dying on the Cross, offering us forgiveness of sins and redemption as Paul explained in the second reading that we have become beloved children of God, forgiven sinners for each one of us is of great worth in the eyes of God that are actually his very heart.

That is how God sees us. Always with his heart, the Sacred Heart of Jesus that even a single soul, a single sheep getting lost has to be searched and saved because every one is of great worth and value!

Anyone who had searched for a missing loved one or ever a pet had experienced the more difficult and more dangerous situation of searching than actually being lost. When we search for a missing beloved like that shepherd in the parable, it is as if the whole world is on our shoulders with our heart beating so wild while racing in our thoughts are all the dangers and worst scenarios that may happen. There are times that the one searching for the missing person or sheep or any pet is the one put at more risks than the missing person or animal.

But, when the beloved is found or like in the parable of Jesus, instead of punishing the errant sheep, the good shepherd tenderly carries it on his shoulders to bring it home full of joy. That is all because of the love, tenderness, and joy flowing from the Sacred Heart that we celebrate today.

When we see with our hearts, that is when we begin to see the goodness and beauty of everyone that our intellect cannot accomplish. Many times when we use our minds, we see people and the world as so dark and so evil. But, if we have hearts that can see, we are surprised that there are more goodness, more beauty in this world than what we hear and see in the news and social media.

Like God who knows everything about us – our sins, our past, even our thoughts – but he chooses to see with his heart because he is love himself who loves us truly.

Life and love are the most common yet most profound and deep mysteries we have as persons. And the more we dwell into its beauty and majesty, the more we are absorbed into the mystery of God, a mystery we are able to grasp little by little of how God fills us with his life and love (https://lordmychef.com/2022/06/11/the-holy-trinity-our-life-and-love/).

See how these feelings and experience of being alive, of being loved and so in love are difficult to explain and even understand but so very true that we dwell in them and even keep them to relish and enjoy often in our hearts. Let the love of Christ which is the fire that purifies and cleanses our hearts unify our intellect, will and emotion to enables us to see our oneness in ourselves before God; as we see more of our goodness, then we begin to see our oneness with others or those around us that our love is translated concretely into our loving service to others like what Ezekiel had prophesied and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The heart is the wholeness of the person not just concerned with feelings but translating these emotions into actions. Like that prophecy by Ezekiel fulfilled in Christ, God did not merely feel nor long to be one with his people but he did make it happen in Jesus who came to search and rescue us, heal and care for us so that we may be whole again and eventually find fullness of life in him by dying on the Cross.

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 16
Photo by author, 2017.

In this age of “practical atheism” when we live as if there is no God according to St. John Paul II under a “dictatorship of relativism” put forth by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI when there are no more absolute values and morality, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart invites us to allow ourselves to be wrapped in the many mysteries of life and love to see again the wonder and joy of our humanness found in God.

Contrary to what most people believe or perceive, God is not controlling nor competing with us in life. In fact, in Jesus Christ, God is living with us, guiding us and leading us to fullness of life that the world has always tried but failed to give us with its many lures of power, wealth and fame now so intense with the new technologies available that have left us more empty and more lost than ever.

COVID-19 had taught us that it is not the mind but the heart that matters most in life, that we need more of love than reasons and logic, more of giving than receiving, and most of all, more of courage that comes from the heart to go out to the middle of the street to walk with Jesus in loving service and self-giving to his flock than by merely standing idle as bystanders.

Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like thine! Amen.

The “hand of the Lord”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist, 23 June 2022
Isaiah 49:1-6 ><]]]]'> Acts 13:22-26 ><]]]]'> Luke 1:57-66, 80
Photo by author, the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem, Israel, 2019.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:66-67

The term “hand of the Lord” is a description of God’s presence and power in the Old Testament, a vivid way of presenting God “intervening” in the daily lives of his people, saving them from all kinds of dangers like the prophets.

There was Elijah who was hunted by the soldiers of Jezebel and the “hand of the Lord was on Elijah” (1 Kgs. 18:46) that he was spared from their murderous plots. Then there was also Ezekiel who saw “the hand of the Lord” (Ez. 37:1) upon him at the vision of a valley of dry bones coming back to life.

Sometimes, the “hand the Lord” referred to God’s judgment like when King David had sinned against God in not trusting him when he ordered a census of soldiers before a battle. It angered God who asked David to choose which punishment he preferred: natural disaster or victory by his enemies or God’s judgment. David chose the third option, saying, “Let me fall into the hand of the Lord for his mercy is great…” (1 Chr. 21:13).

In narrating to us the events that transpired at the birth and circumcision of John, Luke merged the two meanings of the expression “hand of the Lord” to show that every moment of judgment is also a moment of grace as seen in the life of John the Baptist who “grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Lk.1:80).

If we go back to Luke’s account of the annunciation of John’s birth, we also find the hand of God clearly at him with Elizabeth feeling vindicated with her pregnancy specially when visited by Mary. Most of all, the hand of the Lord was strongly felt at the birth, circumcision and naming of John in the most unique manner not only because no one among their relatives have such name (Lk.1:61) but most of all when Zechariah his father wrote “John is his name” and “Immediately his mouth was opened, his tongue freed, and he spoke blessing God” (Lk.1:63).

Photo by author, site of John’s birthplace underneath the Church of St. John the Baptist at Ein Karem, Israel, 2019.

What a beautiful scene of Zechariah and Elizabeth wrapped in the arms of God, basking in his tremendous blessings with the people so amazed for evidently God was present among them, working in the most special ways albeit in silence that after looking back to the past and the present moment, they wondered what more good things God has in store for the three.

The same scene happens daily in our lives as individuals, as families and communities and as a nation – of how the hand of God saving us in so many occasions like during this pandemic and recent disasters through generous people coming to our side. There lies the greatness of Zechariah and Elizabeth – through them despite their weaknesses, the hand of the Lord worked wonders not only for them but for everyone including us in this time.

We are invited today to be like John’s parents who, despite their weaknesses and shortcomings, they allowed the hand of God to work in them and manifest in them. The name Zechariah means “God remembers” while Elizabeth means “God promised”, a beautiful combination of names of a couple who tell us how God remembered his promise to them and gave them John which means “graciousness of God.”

Photo by author, 2019.

In this age when we act as though God does not exist with our emphases on the wrong notions of freedom and the “dictatorship of relativism” along with materialism and consumerism, we celebrate this Solemnity of John’s nativity to remember our calling to be prophets and precursors of Jesus like Isaiah in the Old Testament who voiced dissensions to the wrong ways of the people like “a sharp-edged sword” and “polished arrow” (Is. 49:2) even to the point of offering one’s life, truly a precursor of the coming Christ.

John’s testimony still resounds today as proclaimed by Paul in our second reading, urging everyone to repent ones sins to go back to God, always ensuring we are not the Christ but merely his messengers not worthy to unfasten his sandals.

Today is also the eve of another Solemnity, that of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as we come to close the first half of 2022. Let us not forget the COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, that we must not let our guards down lest all our gains this year go to waste. Are we willing to be used as expressions of the “hand of the Lord”?

May we keep “the hand of the Lord” with us, allowing ourselves to be used by God like Zechariah, Elizabeth, and John the Baptist in meditating where Jesus is leading us in the second half of 2022. It is enough that we lead others to Jesus. In fact, that is the only joy we have in this mission and once others have met Christ, then, like John the Baptist, we begin to disappear, leaving only the hand of the Lord. Amen.

Photo by Fr. Pop dela Cruz, San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Praying for a holy attitude

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time, 16 June 2022
Sirach 48:1-14   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 6:7-15
Photo by author, October 2020.
God our loving Father,
today I pray for the grace of
having not just the right or 
positive attitude in life but 
most of all, an attitude
that is is holy and blessed.
It is not enough, Lord,
that we have a positive attitude
in life; that attitude or disposition
must always be holy and blessed,
inclined into your heart and will,
dear Father because so often,
the right attitudes of the world do
not agree with your ways, O Lord.
It is not enough we are happy and 
positive; there are times we have
to stand for what is right and true,
just and fair like Elija and Elisha.

Like a fire there appeared the prophet Elijah whose words were as a flaming furnace. How awesome are you, Elijah! Whose glory is equal to yours? You sent kings down to destruction, and nobles, from their beds of sickness. You heard threats at Sinai, at Horeb avenging judgments. You anointed kings who should inflict vengeance, and a prophet as your successor… O Elijah, enveloped in the whirlwind! Then Elisha, filled with a twofold portion of his spirit, wrought many marvels by his mere word. During his lifetime he feared no one, nor was any man able to intimidate his will. In life he performed wonders, after death, many marvelous deeds.

Sirach 48:1, 4, 6-8, 12, 14
What a blessed attitude you
have bestowed on Elijah and
Elisha you have bestowed upon us
too in Jesus Christ's coming
and sending of the Holy Spirit.
In Jesus Christ, we have
become your beloved children,
dear God our Father but too 
often, we lack the blessed attitude
we must have before you as shown
to us in the Our Father, our most
common prayer recited but taken
for granted.  Help us, dear Jesus, 
to acquire and imitate this holy
attitude you have taught us in how
to pray by always addressing God
"our Father", recognizing his holiness,
praying to make his kingdom come
by doing his will always and 
forgiving those who have sinned
against us.
Amen.

Pentecost for “top gun” Christians

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Pentecost, 05 June 2022
Acts 2:1-11 ><]]]]'> Romans 8:8-17 ><]]]]'> John 20:19-23
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Today we close the Easter Season with the Solemnity of Pentecost, 50 days after the Resurrection of Jesus when he sent the Holy Spirit to his Apostles gathered with his Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

As promised by Jesus at his Last Supper, the Holy Spirit which he called the Advocate in the form of “tongues of fires” came to fill each disciple with wisdom and courage to remember and understand everything he had taught them, moving them from fear to courage to boldly proclaim his good news to everyone from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. It continues to happen in our days wherever the Sacraments are celebrated and every baptized Christian becomes open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost is the “schooling” of every Christian to become a “top gun” – the “best of the best” – disciple of Christ. That is why he sent us the Holy Spirit! St. Paul perfectly said it to Timothy to “stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control” (2Tim.1:6-7).

Photo from themoviedb.org.

I know. Some of you might not agree with my using of a very secular term “top gun” but if you have seen this latest Tom Cruise starrer, you will find it has some semblance with the Pentecost.

While it is about fighter pilots who are the best men and women on air with their sophisticated planes, Tom Cruise as their instructor insisted how everyone should be deeply grounded with themselves and with everyone. That is his first lesson to them: it is the pilot, not the plane.

For me, the turning point of the movie is when Tom Cruise realized the need for his pilots to play football at the beach in order to have bonding as a team.

That scene shows us the essential downward movement of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost to break all barriers and remove every excess baggage with us and among us so we may rise, go upwards to higher level of relationships and living in Christ and with Christ who ascended last week to the Father. See how at the first reading Luke describes to us the great joy among peoples that despite their differences in language and even in cultural background, they understood each other. There was openness and understanding that led to communion, exact opposite at the Tower of Babel that the builders failed to rise to their desired heights as everyone became a burden to each other.

Pentecost is grounding below to be rooted with one’s self and with others to realize our higher goals in life who is God in heaven which we said last Sunday as intimacy with the Father in Jesus Christ. Pentecost reminds us of God’s belief and trust in each of us, of how much he loves us that he gave us his Son Jesus Christ who now sends as the Holy Spirit to fill us with his life and breath.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:19, 21-22
Photo by author, St. John the Baptist Parish, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Our gospel this Pentecost Sunday may be short but it is so rich in meaning. First of all, it is reminiscent of the story of the creation of the first human when God breathed on him his very life (Gen.2:7) and became alive. But, that life was destroyed with his fall into sin. God then promised to transform human life that had become like dead and dried bones by breathing on them the Holy Spirit (Ez.37:9-10).

That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ at his Resurrection when his first official act upon seeing his disciples was to greet them peace and breathed on them the Holy Spirit, the breath of God, to transform their lives. It is a beautiful imagery of us being filled with God, the literal meaning of the word “enthusiasm” which is from the Greek words en theos.

When we are enthusiastic of something or someone, we feel so energized, even inspired to do and achieve great things (inspired/inspiration literally mean to be filled with spirit of God too). That is why the Pentecost is also considered as the birthday of the Church not because it was established on that day but it was on that event when it came out to the world to transform not only individual lives but the whole world and creation itself.

Recall three Sundays ago when Jesus told his disciples at the Last Supper that whoever loves him and keeps his words, he and the Father will dwell on that person (Jn.14:23). What a beautiful imagery of us being the indwelling of God!

Here at the Pentecost as Jesus breathed on us the Holy Spirit, we have become his very presence in the world – not just his proxy because he is not absent at all.

It has always been said that if you want to change the world into a better place to live in, you must first change yourself. In Jesus Christ’s saving works, from his Incarnation to his Passion, Death and Resurrection and now in his sending of the Holy Spirit, we have no more reasons to be at the pit of life’s basket. We are God’s greatest miracle on earth – he has not only equipped us with a marvelous body so capable of doing many things but had even blessed us abundantly with every spiritual blessings in the world (Eph.1:3), primary of which is the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

Everyday is a Pentecost, a coming of the Holy Spirit who enlivens us, inspires us to be the very best disciple of Jesus, truly the presence of God in this world so badly damaged with so much darkness and divisions, pains and sufferings, poverty and injustices happening not merely in individual cases but even on a large-scale basis. That is why the world needs top gun Christians these days to show everyone how wrong and erroneous are the ways that the world has chosen, that despite all the affluence and technology it has, people are more sad and lost, with some rejecting life itself resorting to violence and subtle attacks on life like abortion.

From pinterest.com.

Pentecost is something we have to live out daily as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading, of trying to shift our sights and way of life to God, of living in the spirit and not in the flesh as the world would teach these days.

How sad that this past week, the two most trending topics in social media are the separation of popular husband-and-wife music tandem of Jason Hernandez and Moira dela Torre plus the court decision in the multi-million dollar defamation case of former couple Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. The sad thing about these viral showbiz news items is how people closely followed them as if they are the most vital topics in the world at the moment, forgetting all about human trafficking, peoples displaced by wars, the many people without the basic necessities of life like decent housing and water. Until now, nobody is talking about keeping our population safe from violence especially the children except having more laws and more weapons. And most insane in the country as a result of the Jason-Moira split, people are again clamoring for the passage of the divorce bill as if it would solve all marital woes of infidelities.

Despite the coming of the Holy Spirit trying to level up our lives and existence by grounding us to the more real and essential issues in our person, we choose to ignore them and would rather sink ourselves deeper into the dirt of others.

Here, we really need a lot of enlightenment by the Holy Spirit like what Tom Cruise insisted to his team members in Top Gun: Maverick – it is the pilot not the plane. Yes, it is the person who must first be thought of, giving importance to his/her well being – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I think what makes this Top Gun sequel better than its 1986 original is the aspect of redemption of the characters played by Tom Cruise and Miles Teller who played “Rooster” as the son of his best friend who had died.

That is what the Pentecost is all about: the Holy Spirit was sent and continues to come to uplift us all, to transform us into better persons and disciples of Jesus. Are we ready to do the hard work of letting go of our personal issues and agendas to let the Holy Spirit fill us and lead us to higher heights in Jesus?

Have a blessed week ahead! God bless you all! Amen.

Photo from polygon.com.

When God visits us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 31 May 2022
Zephaniah 3:14-18     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, 2021.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father,
in coming to visit us daily
in your Son Jesus Christ
our Lord!
Thank you for always believing
in us, for who are we worthy to be
visited by you and be given with 
importance?  And that is who we
are, beloved and blessed because
you chose to love us, to believe in
us, and trust us.
Keep us humble like Mary
in Jesus our Lord, that we are
your mere carriers, that whatever
greatness and attributes we have
are all a grace from you; keep us aware
of our nothingness before you.
Let us not be misled by the
ways of the world based on 
value systems of popularity,
personal excellence and superiority;
so many times it happens that
we are merely Christians in
a sleepwalking existence, 
thinking and believing we 
believe and follow you when actually,
we are just dreaming, 
we are just imagining
for we are so far from reality.
Wake us up, Jesus,
from our sleep,
wake us up to the 
realities of life that 
we need to work hard like
Mary walking from afar,
daring to sacrifice everything
so your coming and presence
in the world be felt especially
by those who badly need your 
care and healing, your love and mercy.
Forgive us, O Lord, 
for not believing in you
that you love us, that you
have a plan for us, something
beautiful if we would only believe
like Mary that your words will
be fulfilled.
May we always welcome your
coming, your daily visits to us
like Elizabeth, always open to
receive you and listen to your 
words, and to be blessed.
Amen.
Photo by author, 2021.

Tasting and seeing God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor, 29 April 2022
Acts 5:34-42   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 6:1-15
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.
On this feast of the first
woman doctor of the Church,
St. Catherine of Siena,
let me borrow her beautiful words
as my prayer to you, 
O God our loving Father:

Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you.

From the Office of Readings, “On Divine Providence” by St. Catherine of Siena
Very often you send us
men and women you use to change
the course of history with their 
practicality and spirituality like
Gamaliel the Pharisee - through him,
the Apostles were finally set free
to go with their mission after
convincing the Sanhedrin that 
"if this endeavor or this activity 
is of human origin, it will destroy
itself.  But if it comes from God,
you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting
against God" (Acts 5:38-39).
You are indeed a mystery as deep 
as the sea using even enemies to
work in our favor so that the more 
I search you, the more I find you, 
and the more I find you, the more 
I search you as you slowly reveal
yourself in every unfolding of your works;
if others would only allow your grace 
for them to desire you, dear God, 
then they would realize this wondrous
gift and joy of living in you in Christ.

I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you.

From the Office of Readings, “On Divine Providence” by St. Catherine of Siena
In your Son Jesus Christ's most
precious gift of his presence in the
Holy Eucharist, like the people at the
wilderness with him, we have felt 
how you work in our midst, most of 
all how we must cooperate with Jesus
to accomplish your work.
Despite her being illiterate and lack of
so much worldly credentials, 
St. Catherine eventually succeeded in 
bringing back the Papacy to Rome
even long after her death while her
writings and reflections have 
become a treasury of testament
to how you work among us despite
our many limitations.  May we have
the courage to allow you to do your
work in us, in Christ.  Amen.

Easter is openness and emptiness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Easter Sunday, 17 April 2022
Acts 10:34, 37-43  ><}}}*>  Colossians 3:1-4  ><}}}*>  John 20:1-9 
Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Villa and Retreat House, Baguio City, January 2019.

Easter is one big event composed of so many stories of openness and emptiness that all started and were prepared at Holy Thursday and Good Friday. In fact, our celebration today is the one we have prepared these past 40 days of Lent and what a tragedy – and a foolishness – when people skip Easter!

Easter is so big an event that beginning today until the Pentecost – all 50 days are counted as one big day for we cannot contain all the joy and mysteries of Christ’s Resurrection in just one day or even one week.

Most of all, the joy of Easter is a reality that continues to happen to us everyday as we join Jesus Christ in our daily passover or pasch by remaining open and empty in him, with him, and through him.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.

John 20:1-3
Photo from GettyImages/iStockphoto.

One of the many rituals I began having since turning 50 years old was preparing my daily medicines which I put into those little boxes with labels of the day of the week and time like morning, mid-morning, noon, evening and bed-time. For those of my generation, I’m sure you can relate so well that it is like playing sungka when we were kids!

Last Monday as I prepared my meds and reflections for the Holy Week and Easter, I noticed how it has become more difficult to open bottles, boxes and packets of medicines that all come with a reminder, “Do not accept if seal is broken”. In an instance, I realized how we have been so conscious with our safety and privacy these days that everything now goes so tightly sealed with a lot of other safety features to prevent it from contamination and hacking that include food and drinks, gadgets like cellphones and computers, and smart devices. It is more difficult and frustrating for non-techies and forgetful like me when online bank accounts and various social media accounts require many verifications and updating of passwords due to threat of scams and other cybercrimes.

How ironic that the more we are supposed to be free and mobile, when life is meant to be easier and enjoyable but in reality, the more we are locked up to ourselves for fears of being hurt or disrespected, even killed!

And so, instead of opening, the more we close in, the more we hide, the more we become secretive, worst, the more we are imprisoned by our own devices as the Eagles claimed in their classic hit in the 70’s, Hotel California.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, sunrise at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

Easter is opposite: the grace of this event and season is experienced and received when we open ourselves to the many new possibilities in life Jesus himself had opened for us when he rose from the dead conquering evil and sin.

Like that stone in his empty tomb, Jesus had removed everything that have locked us inside our insecurities and fears, sins and failures, pains and hurts in the past so that we can go out freely each day to face the world with joy in order to grow and mature as persons.

Jesus had removed everything that blocks us and prevents us from seeing the many beauties and wonders life offers us found in the people God sends us to express his love and care, mercy and kindness for us.

But, are we also open to him and to life itself?

In the first reading, Peter spoke to the people of Jerusalem, asking them to open themselves to the truth about Jesus as the Christ sent by God to save us from our sins being his witnesses to “what had happened in Judea that started in Galilee” (Acts 10:34).

Recall last night how Luke in his version of the Resurrection recorded the two Angels telling the women who had come to the empty tomb to stop “seeking the living among the dead” (Lk.24:5).

Being open means breaking the news to others that Jesus is risen with our very lives full of joy and hope. Unlike Mary of Magdala and Simon Peter on that early morning of Easter, we need to be empty first of our suppositions and doubts about Jesus Christ. See how they at first doubted the empty tomb but later especially after Pentecost, they all proclaimed the good news of salvation of Jesus Christ.

Being open to Jesus and being empty of doubts of his Resurrection mean that we have to focus more of the things of above, of the more essential than the superficial and fleeting.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, sunrise at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

Please forgive me but I felt so sad with the people during the celebrations these Holy Thursday and Good Friday: so many of us are trapped in those little cellphone cameras spending more time recording the beautiful rites we have had after two years of lockdown. Experience the moments! Experience Jesus Christ, experience the person next to you! Keep those cellphones during celebration of the Sacraments which is the saving presence of Jesus! Remove the “media” and be actually present.

Maybe you have seen that cartoon of the Resurrection before pandemic when Jesus was surprised coming out of the tomb with people waiting for him with their cellphones; yes, it is funny but the joke is on us. We have been trapped and imprisoned by these gadgets that we have stopped living in reality and more in virtual reality so that many of us are no longer grounded, so out-of-touch, even alienated with self, others and sadly, with God.

Brothers and sisters: If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above… Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:1-4

Open yourself to Jesus, empty yourself of all fears and doubts. Be kind and be gentle with yourself. Jesus had forgiven you, forgive yourself for your sins and mistakes in the past if you have confessed these or gone to confessions this Lenten season.

Move on with the present moment, dare to go out and challenge yourself to learn again, to work again, to love again, to dream again! COVID-19 may still be around but Jesus Christ is stronger, so let us rise again from our sickness and diseases! Let us not be afraid of the giant stone covering us for Jesus had removed it so that we can go out and celebrate life in him.


Lord Jesus Christ,
let me celebrate the joy of your
Resurrection not only today but everyday
by being open to your daily coming
 by emptying myself of my pride;
like the disciple whom you love,
let me believe in your rising again
by being contented with the little
signs of life and order you give me,
with the little bursts of joy and light
that assure me that it is you whom
I follow each day.  Amen.

From PPT-Backgrounds.net.

The Annunciation: the reality of God, the reality of our humanity

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, 25 March 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10 ><}}}*> Hebrews 10:4-10 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by author, chapel beneath the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel, May 2019.

Beneath the huge and magnificent Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is a beautiful chapel where one may find a small cave converted into another little chapel with iron grills to keep off people from approaching the brightly lit altar believed to be the site where the Archangel Gabriel announced the good news of Christ’s birth to Mary.

At the base of the altar are the words, Verbum caro hic factum est, “The Word was made flesh here.”

Borrowed from John’s gospel who declared Verbum caro factum est – The Word was made flesh – the one who have thought of adding the demonstrative pronoun here to declare it as the site of the Annunciation – Verbum caro hic factum est – was definitely divinely inspired to remind us that the reality of God is something deeply ingrained in our own realities of here and now, in our very selves.

Photo by author, site of the Annunciation, May 2019.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”

Luke 1:26-28

Only Luke has this account of the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary. And true to his prologue to his gospel of “investigating everything accurately anew” about the life and teachings of Jesus, Luke tells us how the Annunciation happened with all the details like the five w’s in a news report, the who-what-where-when-why as we have heard proclaimed today.

This is very important because it tells us the factuality of the great spiritual reality that changed world history and the whole humanity when God became human, when eternity entered the temporal.

It is a beautiful presentation of this great event so profound and so touching that continues to happen within each one of us every day of our lives, of God coming to us, filling us with his grace because each of us is a beloved, a highly favored one chosen to be the indwelling of his Son, Jesus Christ like Mary.

This is the grace of this solemnity we celebrate nine months before Christmas, that God comes to us in our very humanity, always inviting us like Mary to receive Jesus, to be the vessel and instrument in fulfilling God’s great plans. We are like Mary in everything except in her being immaculately conceived – we are all poor and lowly, mostly a nobody in the society, but so loved by God!

Photo by author, flowers outside the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth 2019.

God comes to us precisely where we are, in our every here and now even when we are most lowly and down, when we are deep in sin and despair, in trials and sufferings, in pains and in hurts because like Mary, even before the angel came, God had already silently started working on many things to save us.

There is always God’s perfect timing when we would meet the right people who would guide and help us.

There is always an Elizabeth that God would point us to as a signpost and proof of his reality, of his wonderful plan starting to uncover right in our very lives if we would stop like Mary to listen further to his words.

Speaking of Elizabeth, recall in Luke’s account that the angel mentioned her to Mary to allay her of her fears upon receiving the good news of Christ’s coming.

So often when God comes to us, fear naturally follows. In the Bible, it is described as “reverential fear” which comes upon an experience of the Holy; it is a feeling of being so small before the almighty God (mysterium fascinans) yet deep in this fear is a joy within about to burst because of the great honor and privilege of being loved and recognized by God. There is that normal feeling of doubts of whether we can do God’s mission or not as well as the feeling of checking the reality if it is really happening at all! Once we have verified we are not dreaming, that indeed we are called by God despite our smallness, that is when we suddenly remember our fellow mortals doing the work of God.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God… And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:36-38
Photo by author, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, 2019.

By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:10

Last week I underwent a surgery. It was my first time to be hospitalized and to go under the knife. Though it was a very simple procedure, I was nervous. Very nervous in fact although I tried to keep my sense of humor especially with my doctors and nurses.

The experience had taught me so many valuable lessons that I am still “masticating” them, trying to find words on how to express those learnings and realizations.

One of those is the discovery of my humanity, of my mortality. I feel I have become more human with that experience when I finally accepted my body, when slowly I have learned to look closely at my body parts I took for granted even so ashamed to look at, with all the blood and abscess and wounds.

Hindi pala puwede na hindi tayo magkakasakit, na mahina tayo, at walang perpekto sa atin na hindi kakailanganin ang tulong ng iba.

As I learned to accept my mortal body, slowly it dawned upon me how it is the true path to letting go and let God with my spiritual and emotional woundedness for it is in our humanity when God’s reality is most felt, most true. It is only when we are faced with the real threat of “harm” or being hurt, of possibly being extinct and gone from this earth when we realize what is to be afraid and finally entrust our total self to God for whatever will happen next.

That is the gift of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ that formally began in the annunciation of his birth to Mary. It is in accepting our very humanity and mortality when God truly comes, when we become one in him through Jesus Christ on the Cross. Amen.