The joy of coming home in the Father

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Lent-C a.k.a. "Laetare Sunday", 27 March 2022
Joshua 5:9, 10-12 ><}}}*> 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ><}}}*> Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Lourdes, France, 20 March 2022.

Life is a daily Lent, a coming home to the Father. As I have been telling you, the 40-days of Lent is a journey back home to God in Jesus Christ with each Sunday like a door leading us closer to Him. We rejoice this Fourth Sunday – Laetare Sunday – as we near God’s inner room, knowing Him more than ever as we experience His immense love and mercy for us like a Father welcoming his children to “enter” and celebrate home in Him.

But, are we really in the journey?

Or, are we just like the two selfish, self-centered brothers in the parable who took their father for granted by pursuing for their own very selves?

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them Jesus addressed this parable: “A man had two sons…”

Luke 15:1, 3, 11
Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019 in my former parish.

Acting like the sons…

Once again, we hear another story from Luke that is uniquely his. It is more known as the parable of the prodigal son when in fact the center of the story is the loving and merciful father giving everything including his very self to his two sons.

There are two preceding parables before this third one, that of the lost sheep and of the lost coin that are in chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel. See how Jesus developed into a rising crescendo his series of parables starting with a lost sheep, a lost coin, and finally, lost sons. The common thread running through the three parables was the great joy of the shepherd, woman and father upon having their lost ones again. Clearly, God is the shepherd, the woman, and the father looking for the lost sheep, lost coin and lost sons. And here lies the very essence of the parables, especially in this third one about the loving and merciful father: “the Pharisees and scribes who began to complain why Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

We are those Pharisees and scribes who doubt and refuse to believe, even run away from our loving God in the belief there must be somebody else there who could love us truly by giving us what we need.

Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019 in my former parish.

Exactly like the younger son in the parable who sees God merely as a provider, an ATM or a Western Union counter who gives the cash we need to buy things we believe would complete us without realizing God is our life, our identity and root of being. This we find at what prompted the younger son to return home (return home, not come home which happens only when home is a person, not a place nor thing).

When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”

Luke 15:14-19

Sometimes we are like the younger son who returns home just to preserve one’s self – to have a roof and to have food so as not to starve, never go hungry. It is the first temptation of the devil, teasing Jesus and us to turn stones into bread because man lives to eat! That is why we keep on asserting our own power so we can do everything because we have forgotten our being-ness in God. We hate having nothing, being empty and would rather fill our bellies with whatever we can stuff our mouth with that in the process even swallow our pride and dignity to have, to possess everything, even everybody except God.

Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019.

On the other hand, we are like the Pharisees and scribes “complaining why Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them” so personified by the elder son who refused to enter their house to join the celebrations at the return of his prodigal brother because his manipulative schemes have been unmasked. For him, serving his father was just a show because he was only an actor, everything was a movie or a teleserye playing one’s roles in exchange of a fee and fame.

He said to his father in reply, “Look all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.”

Luke 15:29-30

Again, we find here some semblance of the second and third temptations to Jesus and to us by the devil: worship him and you will be popular and powerful! We all want having the best for us to be the very best among our peers and neighbors. We are willing to buy time, even buy people just to be known and popular. We would not mind being patient over a long period of time believing in the end, we could end up having all.

When we think of our needs to be secured and safe, popular and powerful, the first that comes to our minds and consciousness are things that money can buy, food that fill stomach, and drinks that refresh the body. Like the two brothers, they were all concerned with material and physical, nothing spiritual nor emotional or even mental. A life without any depth like Alfie played by Michael Caine with music by Burt Bacharach asking, “What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?”

That’s the tragedy of our lives, of being like the Pharisees and scribes personified by the two brothers who were so lost in their own selves, refusing to see beyond to find others and God, now and eternity, earth and heaven.

Photo by author, view from the Old Jerusalem, May 2019.

…becoming like the Father

This is the grace of this fourth Sunday, its greatest joy and cause for celebration: our being home in God, being whole again in Him after realizing and accepting our broken and sinful selves.

Make no mistake that it was us who have found God; no, it is the other way around.

God is the Father always awaiting for us that He sent Jesus Christ to lead us home again in Him. In this parable, the late Fr. Henri Nouwen rightly said Jesus is the “prodigal son” who left heaven not out of rebellion but because of obedience and submission to lead us all back to the Father, the only One who loves us truly, our very “first love” for He is the one who loves us first and still loves us no matter what.

Stop seeking for the world’s basic staples of food and wealth, fame and power because the most basic truth in this life is we are loved by God who is love Himself because He is life. See Luke’s sense of humor: the prodigal son wanted only food and shelter but the father gave him back his status as son with the ring, fine clothes and slippers, and feast while the elder son was longing for a mere young goat without realizing it has long been his for everything the father has was his too! Like us in many occasions in life, we fail to see how much we already have in God that we turn away from Him to settle for lesser things.

See our foolishness in desiring the world when it has always been ours if we remain in God. That is why we need to celebrate because finally we have found what is truly basic and valuable, God who gave us his Son Jesus Christ so we can find our way back home to Him and learn what is most valuable in life.

In this parable, Jesus is asking us to “level up” our existence, to rise above our very selves and be who we really are as beloved children of the Father who is merciful and rich in kindness.

Like in the first reading, no more manna for we have entered the Promised Land where we can have real food and real drink – Jesus Christ who sustains us to eternal life. Let us keep in mind and heart Paul’s reminder and call in the second reading that “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation… so, let us be reconciled in God” (2 Cor. 5:17, 20). Only those who are reconciled in God in Jesus can experience true joy… so, stop complaining and whining of others getting close with God. Join us and celebrate! Amen.

Have a joyuful week ahead.

Who is my neighbor vs. am I a neighbor?

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, 04 October 2021
Jonah 1:1-2:1-2, 11   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 10:25-37
Painting by Giotto of St. Francis preaching to birds from integratedcatholiclife.org.
Glory and praise to you,
O God our loving Father
on this wonderful Monday
as we celebrate the Memorial
of your well-loved St. Francis of Assisi;
thank you in giving us a great
saint in him for us to emulate
especially in this time when we
are so alienated from Mother Nature
and most especially from each other;
Give us the grace, dear God,
of true devotion than of just mere
novelty and fad in appreciating
St. Francis of Assisi.
Let your words today guide us
in following the footsteps of 
St. Francis in the same manner
your very words inspired him to
leave everything behind and
totally dedicate himself to your service.
Let us be open and obedient
to your words, O Lord,
 unlike Jonah in the first reading
 who tried to escape you when
told to preach in Nineveh;
you know, Lord, how so many times we
label each other to "box" them
into stereotypes especially when
they are so unlike us in many ways.
And that is one of the beautiful lessons
 you have taught us through St. Francis:
  that we are all one,
brothers and sisters
in Jesus Christ who had come to
suffer and die for our sins.
Help us realize that it is not a question
of who is my neighbor but more of
a question if I act as a neighbor to everyone.

“Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:36-37
Dearest Jesus,
you so loved St. Francis that 
you shared with him your wounds
at the crucifixion, enable us like him
to be more kind and loving to everyone
and most of all be simple and humble 
in our lives so we can always have room
for you among the sick and the poor.  Amen.
Photo from zazzle.com.

Making room for God, finding our home in God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XVI, Year I, 23 July 2021
Exodus 20:1-17   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 13:18-23
“The Sower” by Van Gogh from commons.wikimedia.org
It has been raining for a week,
loving God and Father.
Farmers and sowers must be so
delighted to come out in the fields
to sow their seeds while we stay home
trying to keep ourselves dry and warm.
Help us to make room for you, dear Father,
to open up ourselves to the seeds 
of your presence that come to us daily
in your words in the Sacred Scriptures.
Let us be like the fertile soil in the parable
by Jesus "who hears the word and 
understands it, who indeed  bears fruit
and yields a hundred or sixty or 
thirtyfold."  (Matthew 13:23)
Your seed is always good
springing into life wherever it falls
for you alone, O God, is good!
How lovely it is to imagine
that all Ten Commandments sprang up
from just one seed that is YOU, dear Father -
You are the seed we always reject
when You are the seed we all need.
Whenever we choose to commit sin,
we take on other strange gods
and idols besides You that
we worship and follow.
May we open ourselves to You, God
welcoming you like a seed into our little room
so we may find home in You when it blooms.
Amen.

The silent works of God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 13 June 2021
Ezequiel 17:22-24 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 ><}}}'> Mark 4:26-34
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 03: Yuka Saso of the Philippines hits an approach shot on the 17th hole fairway during the first round of the 76th U.S. Women’s Open Championship at The Olympic Club on June 03, 2021 in San Francisco, California. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Sean M. Haffey / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)
AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — Episode 1602 — Pictured: Nightbirde — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Two great women made me cry this week: our very own Yuka Saso who made history as the country’s first major golf tournament winner after she bagged with much finesse and style the 2021 Women’s Open title in San Francisco, California.

And second was Nightbirde, a cancer patient who mesmerized us a few nights ago with her talent – and joyful disposition as a cancer patient competing at “America’s Got Talent”.

What I like with both women is their authenticity – Yuka with her grit at a very young age pursuing her dream, Nightbirde with her radiance appreciating life despite the threats of cancer.

But most of all, both admitted how God has always been behind them, silently working in their lives, fulfilling their dreams!

It is so touching to hear stories of accomplished people like Yuka and Nightbirde who are very talented, so driven yet humbly recognizing God as the very reason for who they are and where they are now.

God at the center stage of life

Yuka and Nightbirde are two modern parables who show us how true are the teachings of Jesus this Sunday as we finally dive into the Ordinary Time with St. Mark as our guide.

After celebrating two major feasts of the Lord these past two consecutive Sundays, we find the mystery of Jesus slowly unfolding among the people who have started following him after hearing him speak and heal many of the sick.

At the same time, St. Mark is slowly introducing us at this part of his gospel the start of the “trial” of Jesus by his enemies who have began to look at him with suspicion and jealousy, accusing him of blasphemy and contempt for the Law.

Caught at the middle of the controversy are the crowds and his disciples – including us today – who have silently followed Jesus. In these coming Sundays, we shall see and hear more stories of the teachings and workings of Jesus, challenging us to take sides, to make a stand like Yuka and Nightbirde that “it is the Lord!” (Jn.21:7) who is at the center stage of our lives, silently working for our own good.

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”

Mark 4:26-29
“The Sower” by Van Gogh from Wikipedia commons.org.

God is never absent nor distant from us in life.  
He is always at the center stage of our lives 
especially when we are going through tests, 
just like during an exam in the classroom!

In the two parables that he tells us today, Jesus describes the little beginnings of the kingdom of God like the seed. And in the littleness of this seed is found also the silence of God in transforming us in the same manner seeds grow into plants and crops that bear fruit.

Let us focus on the first parable that is so close to the hearts of the plantitos and plantitas among us. See Jesus vividly telling us how in life God takes all the initiatives, all the “doing” in silence. God is never absent nor distant from us in life. He is always at the center stage of our lives especially when we are going through tests, just like during an exam in the classroom.

Remember how during exams when our classroom is most silent, everybody scratching his/her head, wracking our brains while hurdling the exams while our teachers quietly watch us? They do not give us the answers for the exam for it is part of our learning process but it is during that time when they work hardest, watching over us.

The same with God when we go through tests in life. He is always present and even closest with us as exemplified with Christ’s self-offering on the Cross. That is the meaning of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart we celebrated Friday.

Of course, like that sower or farmer, we still have to do our very best, we have to work hard in cultivating the soil, watering the crops but aside from that, there is nothing else we can do but to patiently wait in silence, trusting in the good quality of seeds we have sown. We do not know how the seed we scattered would sprout and grow but deep inside us, we believe, we know of its good quality that soon enough, it would be harvest time when the grain is ripe.

We may not say it but unconsciously deep in our hearts we know, something good is going to happen for God does everything good. All the more because the seed he had sown in us is his Son, Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh. How could things not turn out good if we have the bestest seed of all, Jesus Christ?!

We just have to believe and be convinced of his love for us.

Photo by author, Pulilan, Bulacan, 2020.

Hope. And be surprised!

Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:6

What a beautiful a reminder from the great Apostle, St. Paul who wrote this letter under severe personal tests and trials from the Corinthians who have resorted to some nasty talks against him instigated in part by some missionaries who sowed confusions about the gospel of Christ.

This is the most personal of all the letters by St. Paul as he bared his very soul after being hurt by the Corinthians who could only see the surface and external things of himself without knowing his great sufferings for them.

That is what we must all try as disciples of the Lord: like St. Paul, we have to believe first in Jesus in order to see him and his glory. We walk by faith, not by sight wherein we live in vibrant hope in God that while everything seems to be too dark and difficult to understand, he is doing something within us that would transform us into better persons after these trials.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Like the power inside the seed being harnessed through time – nobody knows except God almighty what is happening inside. It just happens that one day, we are so amazed at how big and tall a tree has become considering it started from the minute piece of seed like what the Lord had promised Ezekiel in the first reading.

Thus says the Lord God: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on high and lofty mountain… And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.

Ezekiel 17:22, 24

We are journeying in faith without seeing especially in this time of the pandemic. Our time is that of patience and courage. Most of all, of hope.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said in Spe Salvi #27, “In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hopes, is ultimately without hope, without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (cf. Eph 2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God—God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (cf. Jn 13:1 and 19:30).”

Sometimes, even if we try our very best, things do not turn out as we expected, exactly like what most farmers experience after sowing their seeds. When crops fail, they scatter seeds again the following season because they believe in being surprised by God, not by sheer luck.

They choose to believe, to have faith in God who is our present and our future in Jesus Christ who lives in us, whether in good times or in bad.

Going back to Nightbirde, recall how she entered the stage so cool and relaxed, smiling as she answered questions when she confidently declared being a cancer patient. When asked why all the smiles and joy radiating in her, she simply said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.”

Whoa!

And when she sang until Simon hit the golden buzzer… for a brief moment, I felt God passing by or even stopping by my computer screen, saying hello to me, reminding me about my many complaints in life until I saw Nightbirde. Indeed, the French poet Charles Péguy was right: hope is God’s favorite virtue because it always surprises him.

Like what Nightbirde and Yuka did to us last week.

Let God surprise you this week by doing what you like best. Do not worry. God will do the rest.

A blessed Sunday to everyone! Amen.

From the Ear to the Heart

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Wednesday, Third Week in Ordinary Time, 27 January 2021
Hebrews 10:11-18     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Mark 4:1-20

Forgive me, Lord Jesus, for being deaf, for refusing to listen to you, for not having the ears to hear your calls. Twice you called out on the crowd gathered before you in the gospel today, “Hear this! A sower went out to sow… Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear” (Mk. 4:3, 9).

So many times in life, we have forgotten the essential use of our ears which is to hear and listen so we may understand. Most of the time, our ears have been reduced to mere decorations of our head to hold eyeglasses as well as be stuffed with ear plugs or covered with headsets to be deadened by sounds we prefer to hear and listen to.

Make us realize anew that our ears were shaped in such a way to look like our heart when put together so that the more we hear and listen to you and others, the more we love.

So many things begin with our ears.

And so often, from the ears, they go to our hearts to be processed.

From hearing to listening to loving.

It is only with a listening heart that we can truly see you passing by everyday in our lives like the Sower sowing to us the seeds of love, the seeds of the kingdom of heaven.

Moreover, cleanse our hearts, remove so many other things not supposed to be there that distort our perceptions of you and of others.

May we realize too that in our refusal to listen to you, so many people have also stopped listening to us, your disciples, especially when we speak more of our words, more of our thoughts, than of your Word and Holy Will.

As you open our ears and hearts to your Word, dear Jesus, teach us to be patient too like our Father, the Sower, to never give up sowing your seeds of the kingdom of God even if nobody listens to us. Amen.

Van Gogh painting of “The Sower” from wikimediacommons.org.

Advent: A parable of our life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Advent-B (Gaudete Sunday), 13 December 2020
Isaiah 62:1-2, 10-11 >><)))*> 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 >><)))*> John 1:6-8, 19-28
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday at the Parish, Advent 2019.

Advent is a parable of our lives. Three months ago we reflected every Sunday the many parables of Jesus and we have learned that a parable is a simple story that contains deep meanings. Just like Advent: a season that comes in our church calendar every year that we take for granted not realizing the deeper meanings it teaches in the four weeks before Christmas or the Second Coming.

On this third Sunday of Advent also known as “Gaudete (Rejoice) Sunday”, joy is the motif of all our readings for indeed, we are moving too closely to Christmas – and parousia. The lovely shades of pink remind us that we have to be alert to experience the advent of Jesus. Once again, its precursor John the Baptist guides us this Sunday in grasping the parable of Advent during his time and in our own time.


We are all a John the Baptist -
a reminder of Christ present among us.

All four evangelists mention John the Baptist in their gospel version before telling the ministry of Jesus Christ; but there is something so different with the approach of the author of the fourth gospel in introducing the Lord’s precursor.

In the fourth gospel, he is simply called “John”, omitting his title “the Baptist” for he is the only John in this gospel. The author of the fourth gospel never named himself preferring to be known as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” or simply “beloved disciple”. We learned his name is John through the other three gospel accounts, that he is the brother of another apostle James, both being the sons of Zebedee.

Why the author of the fourth gospel never identified himself with his name John is another topic; what matters to us is that there is only one man named John in his gospel and that is no other than John the Baptist whom he presented in the most unique manner like an official pronouncement, full of solemnity by declaring that this “man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (Jn.1:6-7).

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 20 September 2020.

Here we find John the Baptist clearly being placed by the author of the fourth gospel in relation to the Christ that is essentially the meaning of our being a baptized Christian — we are another John to remind people of Jesus present among us. It is one of life’s parables we always miss, something that can elicit joy in everyone.

And the more we find ourselves like John the Baptist in his mission, the more we experience Jesus closest to us too!


Life is a perpetual Advent
of Jesus who needs a 
John the Baptist in us.

After formally introducing to us John as man sent from God to testify for the Christ, our gospel today skipped the rest of the Prologue and jumped into the mission of John to introduce the ministry of Jesus Christ. See how in a few verses we find transitions from John to Jesus then to us.

Painting by Raphael of John preaching in the wilderness; photo from wikicommons.

John said: “I am the voice of the one crying out in the desert, make straight the way of the Lord, as Isaiah the prophet said. I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

John 1:23, 26-27

John is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. But, at the same time, he is the continuation of the Old into the New as he stood present pointing to Jesus Christ who had come and would come again!

This we find in his last reply to the query of the Pharisees: “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

This is the parable of Advent: it is a perpetual event, something that keeps on happening even in our time that needs a John the Baptist to remind us that Jesus had come, that he is coming and most of all, he is come!

Aside from preparing others for Jesus Christ’s coming – we need to be like John the Baptist who also prepared himself for his Lord and Master!

In telling us that “there is one among you whom you do not recognize”, John humbly prepared himself to recognize and receive Jesus when he identified the Lord while coming to him for his baptism as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”, saying “He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me'” (cf. Jn.1:29-30).

But most of all, we find the most beautiful lesson of John in preparing for the Lord’s coming when like him, we allow Jesus to reveal himself to us, always saying “He must increase; I must decrease” as he taught his disciples asking him about Jesus’ ministry.

“The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. He must increase; I must decrease.”

John 3:29-30

Advent is being alert
and open to the Holy Spirit
who always comes with Jesus.

Advent is a parable of life when we hope in joy and humility for the Second Coming of the Lord who also continues to come to us in so many ways we never expect. It is a time of prayer and reflections when we try to become more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

In the first reading we are reminded of the exact words of the Prophet that Jesus proclaimed in their synagogue when he came home to preach that,

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God.

Isaiah 61:1-2
Photo by author, Advent 2018.

After proclaiming those beautiful words of the prophet, while people were all eyes on him, Jesus declared “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:21).

That is the power of the word of God, it is always effective and performative as the very sign of his presence among us. That is why Advent is the season when we are encouraged to cultivate that habit of praying the Sacred Scriptures that cleanse our hearts to be empty and ready to receive Christ in his coming. We encounter God first in his words filled with parables that enrich our lives.

To be open for the word of God and to the Holy Spirit means being alert that Jesus is “one among you whom you do not recognize” as John had told us.

Like John, it is finding the “whole” of God’s plan for us from the Old Testament to the New Testament and into our own time in the Church. It is the joy of discovering in this myriad of events and happenings, there is a God personally coming to us, loving us in the most personal way.

Like John, we are sent from God to give testimony to Jesus who had come, will come again and always comes.

That is the parable of Advent: when we realize deep within that we are able to rejoice and be glad to be alive to meet Jesus. May we heed to the words of St. Paul in the second reading:

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophetic utterances. Test everything; retain what is good. Refrain from every kind of evil.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-22

Have a blessed and joyful week!

Photo by author, Advent 2018.

Being clothed with Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXVIII-A in Ordinary Time, 11 October 2020
Isaiah 25:6-10     ><)))*>     Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20     >><)))*>     Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by author, Our Lady of Mount Carmel of the Holy Family, Guiguinto, Bulacan (2018).

As we end the series of teachings in parables by Jesus directed to the chief priests and elders of the people, St. Paul concludes his Letter to the Philippians in our second reading with words so moving for a man awaiting trial and sure death, giving us a glimpse at how this great Apostle of the Lord looked at the most ordinary things in life.

Brothers and sisters: I know how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live in abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I can do all things in him who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:12-14

Wow! Here we find St. Paul at his best and finest, with his mastery of language at the service of his innermost thoughts and feelings, indicating his transformation from the many hardships and difficulties he had gone through as an Apostle and suffered as a prisoner.

Like St. Paul, there are times we experience that perfect balance in life called equilibrium when we are able to bridge the distance between our mind and our heart with Jesus at the center amid so many trials and difficulties.

Most of all, we see in this short passage how St. Paul accepted both living in need and in abundance with calmness and composure because of Jesus Christ who strengthened him!

What an encouragement for us all in this time of pandemic to remind us of learning to adjust to situations, that true peace within comes not from abundance or scarcity of material goods but of letting go and letting God in our lives. St. Paul witnessed to us the centrality of the Lord’s teaching of denying ourselves, taking our cross and following Jesus.

Most of all, in St. Paul we find what is to be clothed in Christ or “to put on Jesus Christ” (Rom.13:14) by accepting God’s invitation to salvation through his Son as the parable of the wedding feast tells us in our gospel this Sunday.

Jesus again in reply spoke to the chief priests and elders of the people in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He dispatched his servants to summon the invited guests to the feast, but they refused to come. A second time he sent other servants… Some ignored the invitation and went away, one to his farm, another to his business. The rest laid hold of his servants, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged and sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city.

Matthew 22:1-4, 5-7

Do not ignore God’s invitation; carpe diem (seize the moment).


Photo by Angelo N. Carpio, January 2020.

Jesus continues to direct his parables to the chief priests and elders of the people not really to shame them and expose their sinister plots against him but more in the hope of converting them, of giving them the chance of getting into God’s kingdom in heaven.

That is how great is his love for everyone, especially the sinful even if they would not admit it — just like us!

Keep in mind that Christ speaks always in the present and this parable is also meant for us who feel “entitled” in may ways like the chief priests and elders at that time. Interestingly, today’s parable to a large extent has to be taken in the context of the Sunday Mass, the prefiguration of the wedding feast in heaven to which we are all invited.

But how can we get to the wedding feast in heaven if we feel so sure like the chief priests and elders that we refuse to accept God’s invitation?

The Eucharist is the summit of our Christian life where we receive Jesus Christ in words proclaimed, in his Body and Blood, and among the people gathered. Every day Jesus is inviting us to partake in his Sacred Meal to be nourished and get our bearings in life through him like St. Paul.

See how before the pandemic, people refused to celebrate Mass and other Sacraments; but, when quarantine measures were implemented with the suspension of public Masses, everybody wanted to go to churches and receive the Sacraments, specially Holy Communion and Baptism, as well as Confession and Anointing of the Sick!

Photo from Shutterstock/Aleteia.

After seven months of pandemic, many of us have learned to adjust to the new situation but sadly, many have gone back to totally ignoring the Sunday Mass. Worst is at how some have considered online Masses as “video-on-demand” making Jesus Christ a “commodity” anyone can have when most convenient. Pope Francis had reminded us last summer that online Masses are not the norm but a response to the pandemic. Nonetheless, we still have to dispose ourselves properly when celebrating with online Masses like in actual live Mass in a Church and strive to be punctual and avoid doing other things during the online celebration.

In giving us these modern means of communications, God continues to invite us to come to him and gather in his name as a family in our homes for the Sunday online Masses and other liturgical activities that nourish our souls so essential in these trying times. Like the king in the parable today who had to invite guests thrice to his son’s wedding feast, God gives us all the opportunities and chances to celebrate in his gift of salvation through Jesus in the Eucharist which is the summit of Christian life.

May we not miss every opportunity!

When I was assigned to our diocesan schools during my first ten years in priesthood, I used to tell my students that God’s mercy and forgiveness are unlimited but there are acts that can have irreversible consequences like getting involved in a murder, getting pregnant outside marriage, or being caught in a video scam. I would tell them that God will surely forgive you and give you many chances in life while people like your family and friends including those you may have hurt may also forgive and accept you; however, you cannot escape the consequences of those acts that will surely limit your freedom and change forever your situations in life. Bottomline is, do not let yourself be missed out in accepting God’s invitation to his feast of life and salvation by following the path of holiness that beings in the Holy Mass.

The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah directs our attention to “that day” when God would save us and welcome us into heaven symbolized by the feast or banquet with great food and drinks. The good news is we are all invited to his feast, assured with a seat and it would only be our fault to not make it there, either by refusing it or not getting dressed properly.


Being properly dressed is always a sign of maturity.


Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, 09 February 2020, Baclaran Church.

“The servants went out into the streets and gathered all they found, good and bad alike, and the hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to meet the guests he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment. The king said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence. Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

As is often the case in his parables, Jesus pulled a surprise when he added another parable to this parable of the wedding feast that could have easily ended in the annihilation of those who rejected the king’s two earlier invitations.

God is the king who was so good that he never tired of inviting guests thrice to the wedding feast of his son, and this time he opened it to everyone! And here lies the clincher: though everyone is invited, guests were expected to come in proper attire.

We have learned at a very young age of getting properly dressed in an occasion. In fact, dressing properly is a sign of maturity. Some people especially in this age always claim what matters is the inside of the person not the outside appearance like clothes; but, they forget that the outside also indicates what is inside of us!

Clothes speak a lot of who we are and what we are that even St. Paul used several times the metaphors of clothes like “putting on the Lord Jesus” or being “clothed in Christ” as we have cited earlier.

See how the king went to meet the guests not just for pleasantries but for inspection that immediately his eyes caught the man not dressed in a wedding garment. The king was even courteous addressing the man as “my friend” when asked why he came not in a wedding garment.

Try to imagine the scene with that man “reduced to silence” meaning, he was guilty of not putting on a wedding garment even if he knew that was the occasion he was going to. He had been remiss of his duties and obligations, just like the wicked tenants last week or the merciless servant last month.


"Many are invited, but few are chosen" (Matthew 22:14) 

St. Matthew never failed to remind us these past weeks that our faith has no value if not translated into actions, if it does not bear fruits. Today, he reminds us to be properly dressed to become a part of the wedding feast of the Lord, of the need to be clothed in holiness, in charity, and kindness with others.

Moreover, with just barely two months to go before we end the liturgical year to usher in Advent in preparation for Christmas, Jesus tells us today to never feel so sure, even “safely assured” of getting into heaven like the chief priests and elders of his time that even if we celebrate Sunday Masses weekly, online or actual, nothing is final yet in this life until we all get into the hall of the wedding feast in heaven when we are judged for our good deeds.

For the meantime, let us not miss joining the “rehearsals” for that feast – the Sunday Mass we celebrate weekly when he invites everyone to come. Be sure to be properly dressed for the occasion, literally and figuratively speaking. Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

Trees are “shaken” to get its fruits

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXVII-A in Ordinary Time, 04 October 2020
Isaiah 5:1-7     ||+||     Philippians     ||+||     Matthew 21:33-43
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

To all the plantitos and plantitas: happy feast day this Sunday, the fourth of October which is also the feast of St. Francis of Assisi, patron of those in the green movements.

Part of the grace of this pandemic is the new awareness and interests of many among us for all kinds of plants borne out of the prolonged quarantine periods these past seven months. I remember growing up in our barrio where fences were all plants like santan, San Francisco and gumamelas whose flowers we used to mix with Tide to play bubbles. Who would have thought that after several decades those plants we used to take for granted like the gabi varieties and others along with cactus found almost everywhere would cost a fortune today?

But what I really miss and hope the plantitos and plantitas will be able to revive and bring back are the fruit trees every home used to have even in vacant lots like guava, santol, atis, aratiles, mabolo, achesa, duhat, kamias and of course, mango. Whenever me and my cousin would trek to the mini forest at the back of our compound called “duluhan” near a swampland to shoot birds and everything with our slingshots (tirador), we always had some fruits to munch in our little adventures.

And part of that adventure was to “shake” until we break branches of trees to get fruits and local beetles called salagubang (on mango trees).

Shaking of tree. Exactly the same thing that Jesus did today in his next parable addressed to the chief priests and elders of the people who would soon have him arrested, tried, and crucified: after telling them parable of the wicked tenants who killed the servants and the son of the owner, Jesus shook and shocked his listeners who later realized the parable was about them!

“What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.” Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes?’ Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.”

Matthew 21:40-43

We are the vineyard of the Lord


From Google.

Jesus had already entered Jerusalem and was teaching at the temple area. Among his audience were the chief priests and elders of the people trying to gather evidences against him for his arrest and execution. Unknown to them, Jesus knew what was in their hearts.

Last Sunday the parable was directed to them so they may realize how wrong they have been in regarding them so highly above the publicans and prostitutes who repented for their sins and went to receive the baptism by John the Baptist.

Today, Jesus “shook them” with this second parable taken from a well known song and lament of a beloved to his vineyard by the Prophet Isaiah which we have heard at the first reading.

Vineyards are very common in Israel as in the rest of the Mediterranean and Europe where grapes and wine symbolize life. Hence, the vine is always considered as a highly prized plant that biblical authors have taken as the image of the people whom God cultivates and from whom he expects beautiful fruits.

In the first reading, we find God lamenting why after investing his vineyard with the best of everything, the grapes it produced were so bad that it had to be burned. It was a very strong warning against Israel who have gone wayward in its ways of living that aside from worshipping idols, they also killed the prophets sent by God.

Notice the transition by Jesus using the same imagery from the Old Testament of the vineyard as the people of God but this time bearing fruits at harvest time. By that time, the chief priests and the elders of the people felt they were better than their ancestors who had the prophets killed. In fact, they felt proud that they have been faithful to God, and therefore, fruitful — thinking they were a far cry from Isaiah’s lament. Unknown to them, Jesus could read their hearts, how they were all planning to kill him like the son in the parable so they can have the vineyard, the people and lord it over them!

Everything fell into right places at the end of the parable when Jesus asked them:

“What will the owner of the vineyard do to those tenants when he comes?” They answered him, “He will put those wretched men to a wretched death and lease his vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the proper times.”

Matthew 21:40-41

Try to imagine the scene with Jesus face-to-face with the chief priests and elders of the people – and with us – discussing the present time, not the past.

Here is Jesus Christ shaking us all to find whatever fruits we have, telling us that this parable is about me and you (see v. 45), asking us, why are you trying to remove me from the people? Why are you easing me out, creating all these cults around yourselves like celebrities, getting the people’s money and approval for your own sake?


Sometimes we need to be shaken – even shocked – to bring out our fruits


Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

See again my dear Reader the beauty of the Lord’s parables wherein he invites us to be involved with it to see how we felt with certain situations like in the merciless debtor and early workers at the vineyard; today, Jesus is asking us our opinion on what the vineyard owner must do against the wicked tenants.

He knows what to do and wants us to realize that we could be those tenants too because like the chief priests and elders, we easily see the sins and shortcomings of others, the fruitlessness of others without realizing our own darkness within, even our sinister plans to dominate.

See how the chief priests and elders of the people called the tenants “wretched men” deserving “wretched death”, not realizing that the more we talk of other people, the more we actually talk of ourselves!

Every parable by Jesus is always set in the present moment with sights set to the future, to eternal life.

Sometimes, God has to shaken us, even shock us so we may bring out and give him his share of harvest of fruits like our faith, hope and love that will build the community in him, not take people away from him. Problem with us is like with those tenants and the chief priests and elders: “masyado tayong bumibilib sa ating sarili”, that is, we believe too much on ourselves that unconsciously we feel like God, forgetting we are mere stewards or tenants of his vineyard.

St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that we strive to imitate Jesus, be like Jesus so that people may find in us a model in following Jesus. Very clear with St. Paul: nobody is replacing Jesus Christ whom we must all imitate.

This time of the pandemic is a time of harvesting, of showing others our fruits like love and kindness so we may lead more people to God, not to ourselves or anyone else trying to lord over us.

This is the time we are asked to feel more than think more like those tenants, a time to lead people back to God who truly owns us, his vineyard (see https://lordmychef.com/2020/10/02/on-being-kind-and-loving-during-covid-19/).

When shaken by the Lord, will there be fruits found in us to share with others?

Have a blessed Sunday and brand-new week ahead! Amen.

New heart, new person in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church, 20 August 2020
Ezekiel 36:23-28 >><)))*> || + + + || <*(((><< Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by author, an oasis at the Dead Sea area, May 2017.

Thank you very much, dear God our Father in bringing us closer to you more than ever through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Thank you for “taking away our stony hearts and giving us natural hearts” (Ez.36:26) as you have promised your prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament.

Thank you for inviting us always into your “wedding banquet”, revealing to us your wonderful plan of being with you in eternity.

Forgive us, too, O merciful Father when despite our new and natural heart in Christ, we refuse to follow your Spirit within us to totally change our ways, when we forget to realize that for every gift from you is our responsibility to nurture and make this bear fruits in our lives.

Like the man who came to the wedding banquet not dressed for the occasion in the parable by Jesus, we always miss the chance of being truly one with you in loving charity when we fail to seek knowledge to serve you in others.

May we keep in our hearts these beautiful teachings by St. Bernard whose memorial we celebrate today that like him, may we nurture your gifts through constant studies and prayers:

There are those who seek knowledge for the sake of knowledge: that is curiosity.

There are those who seek knowledge to be known by others: that is vanity.

There are those who seek knowledge in order to serve: that is LOVE.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153)

Lord Jesus, please take away our stony hearts and give us natural hearts that beat with firm faith, fervent hope, and unceasing charity and love. Amen.

A clay- and fish – worthy in the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, 30 July 2020
Jeremiah 18:1-6 ><)))*> >><)))*> >>><)))*> Matthew 13:47-53
Photo by author, Third Sunday of Lent, 15 March 2020.

How amazing O God on this day as we celebrate the Memorial of St. Peter Chrysologus who spoke eloquently of the Incarnation of your Son in one of his homilies, your Prophet Jeremiah today also spoke something of our being clay in the potter’s hand.

He who made man without generation from pure clay made man again and was born from a pure body. The hand that assumed clay to make our flesh deigned to assume a body for our salvation. That the Creator is in his creature and God is in the flesh brings dignity to man without dishonor to him who made him.

Why then, man, are you so worthless in your own eyes and yet so precious to God? Why render yourself such dishonor when you are honored by him? Why do you ask how you were created and do not seek to know why you were made?

St. Peter Chrysologus in his sermon on the sacrament of Christ’s incarnation, Office of Readings

Thank you, dear God, for this enlightenment from St. Peter Chrysologus also known as the “man of golden speech” for reminding us the great honor of being created by you… from worthless clay!

Help us to reflect more on why you have created us than ask how we were created, and transformed like in the potter’s hand.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do to you, house of Israel, as this potter has done? says the Lord. Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, house of Israel.

Jeremiah 18:5-6

Teach us, sweet Jesus, to be pliant and docile to the Father who continues to form us like clay in the potter’s hand — that no matter how painful life can sometimes be, even difficult, may we also see and appreciate the Father’s wonderful plans for our transformation in the future.

Help us to go through the pains of growing up and maturity so that when judgment day comes, may we all turn out to be good fish to be collected than bad ones that are thrown according to your parable of the net. Amen.

Photo by author, 2018.