Praying, working for peace

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 18 January 2023
Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17   ><)))*> + <*(((>< - ><)))*> + <*(((><   Mark 3:1-6
Photo by author, Ubihan Is., Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
Beginning today 
until next Wednesday,
Mother Church invites us 
to observe the Week of Prayer
for Christian Unity especially
for the evangelization of peoples
and for the persecuted Christians
around the world; may our prayers
lead us to work for peace
most especially in our home,
in our parish and community,
and in our country.
May we stop and
put an end to those cliches
of wishing for peace like in 
most beauty contests that 
make a mockery of peace;
may we realize that peace is
God's greatest gift to us which
we have often taken for granted,
something God freely gives 
if we are willing to give up and
sacrifice our very selves
for the sake of peace like
Abraham in the Old Testament.

Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, met Abraham as he returned from his defeat of the kings and blessed him. And Abraham apportioned to him a tenth of everything. His name means righteous king, and he was also “king of Salem,” that is, king of peace.

Hebrews 7:1-2
Peace finally came to us
in Christ Jesus who is likened
to Melchizedek, God's high priest
in the Old Testament; like Melchizedek,
Jesus is our High Priest for he is
"without father, mother, or ancestry,
without beginning of days or 
end of life" (Heb.7:3); but,
unlike Melchizedek, Jesus is our
High Priest because he is 
the Son of God who offered himself
for us as a sacrifice, dying on the
Cross but rose to life on the 
third day!  On the evening of that
Easter, Jesus appeared to his
disciples, greeting them with
"peace" as his precious gift of
his resurrection.
Loving Father,
give us the grace to
value this immense gift 
of peace by Jesus Christ
won through his Cross;
like Jesus, may we choose
the path of peace by doing
what is good not evil;
of choosing persons not 
things and rituals and laws;
of choosing God above all
than selfish interests.
As we close our hands to pray
for peace and unity, may we learn
to let go of whatever we are holding,
of being empty handed like Jesus;
like that man with withered hand
Jesus healed in the temple on a sabbath,
may we stretch out our hands to reach
out to those in need,
to those persecuted,
to those sick and dying,
to those forgotten.
Let your peace, O God,
begin within me,
right in my heart empty of
pride, filled with the humility,
justice, and love of Jesus.
Amen.

Yakapin pagwawakas, salubungin pagsisimula

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-22 ng Nobyembre 2022
Larawan kuha ng may akda, 16 Nobyembre 2022 sa Pulilan, Bulacan.
Nakakatawang isipin
na palagi nating nararanasan
mga pagwawakas at katapusan
nguni't bakit lagi nating kinatatakutan?
Sa dapithapon naroon ang takipsilim,
ang lahat mababalot ng dilim
na kinasasabikan natin dahil
tapos na rin mga gawain at aralin;
batid natin, ano mang kuwento
maski Ang Probinsiyano
magwawakas din;
mahirap isipin, maski tanggapin
kapag mayroong mga gusali na gigibain
lalo't higit mga ugnayan at kapatiran
na puputulin at papatirin
dahil sa alitan at, kamatayan.
Mismo ang Panginoong Hesus
tumiyak sa atin lahat ay magwawakas
hindi upang tapusin kungdi
muling buuin buhay at mundo natin
na mas mainam kaysa dati.
Kaya huwag isandig sarili natin 
sa mga bagay ng daigdig na maglalaho rin
katulad ng dapithapon at takipsilim
bagkus ay ating yakapin 
bawat wakas na tiyak darating
upang salubungin pagbubukang-liwayway
ng bagong araw ng buhay, pag-asa
at pagpapanibago kay Hesu-Kristo
na sariling buhay man ay nagwakas din 
doon sa Krus upang muling mabuhay
at mabuksan Paraiso para sa atin --
ang tunay na katiyakang nakalaan sa atin!
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Danna Hazel de Castro, Sagada, Mt. Province, 2017.

Christ our King & our overcoming of sin

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Christ the King, Cycle C, 20 November 2022
2 Samuel 5:1-3 ><000'> Colossians 1:12-20 ><000'> Luke 23:35-43
Painting of Christ’s Crucifixion by Tintoretto in 1565 portraying Jesus so “kingly”; interesting too were the people dressed as Venetians of his time as reminder that the evils that crucified Jesus continue in our own time. Photo from wikiart.org.

We now come to the final Sunday of our liturgical calendar called the Solemnity of Christ the King with a scene from his crucifixion on Good Friday. All these Sundays since June “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51), Luke had been showing us that Christ’s crucifixion and glory are one just like John in his gospel account.

But the most beautiful part of our gospel on this solemn celebration is the fact that inasmuch as Jesus had clearly showed in all eternity his kingship while dying on the Cross, it is also right on the cross of sufferings as we strive to resist temptations of turning away from God that we proclaim Christ’s kingship. Please bear with me, my friends in reflecting Luke’s artistic presentation of Christ’s crucifixion as the expression of his kingship.

Notice how Jesus was “sneered, jeered, and reviled” at the cross, reminding us of the devil’s three temptations in the wilderness after his baptism at Jordan by John. After failing to tempt Jesus at the wilderness, Luke said the devil “departed from him for a time” (Lk.4:13), returning at his crucifixion as the most opportune time to test him.

In the wilderness, the temptations by the devil to Jesus applied very well with us too but, here on the cross, it was totally different. The devil himself was nowhere to be found because he was in the person of the rulers, the soldiers, and the thief! And that is how evil and sin have become so “powerful” in a pernicious manner among us when many times we are the devil in fact.

Here, we are reminded to be aware always of that opportune time when the devil attacks us when we see or face many sufferings in life by reflecting the last three temptations of Jesus on the Cross.

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

The rulers sneered at Jesus and said, “He saved others, let him save himself if he is the chosen one, the Christ of God” (Lk.23:35).

Just like at the wilderness when the devil tempted Jesus with what he can do as the Son of God by changing stone into bread, at the Cross it was the same temptation hurled on him by the rulers of Israel, the priests and the scribes.

How sad that amid the many sufferings in the world today we contemptuously mock others like the poor for not working so hard to liberate themselves from poverty and hunger. There is the tendency among us blessed with better living conditions to look down at others without considering how they never have the same opportunities in life like us in having good education or a caring family or worse, not having the right connections.

The tragic part of this “sneering” by the rulers on Jesus is when we look at others as if they are not humans and persons like us who play gods knowing everything even who should live and who should die like in the systematic approach by state rulers to come up with what St. John Paul II called as “culture of death” in solving poverty and crime with abortions and capital punishments.

Let us examine our attitudes at the way we look at those going through sufferings and pains like sickness, poverty and other social ills we do not go through. Let us stop the mockeries of blaming them for their plight because many times like Jesus Christ, they were betrayed by loved ones like us, by the society, or even by the institutions meant to uplift them.

Photo by author, 2017.

Even the soldiers jeered at him. As they approached to offer him wine they called out, “If you are King of the Jews, save yourself.” Above him there was an inscription that read, “This is the King of the Jews” (Lk.23:36-38).

Sneering and jeering are both contemptuous mocking or insulting of others; they are both employed by those in vantage positions of power and control like the rulers of Israel. Going “higher” than the priests, the Roman soldiers sneered Jesus by rudely mocking him in loud voice. Sneering is a superfluous display of might, of superiority, of power. It is a kind of vanity that is why in the wilderness, the devil tempted Jesus to have all the kingdoms in the world for him to be famous and popular in exchange of worshipping him.

Sneering is something so prevalent these days in our use of the social media where we practically scream and insist on everyone to notice and recognize us, that we have “arrived” in having the latest and most expensive clothes, food, gadgets and everything. There is so much wild attitude among us like the soldiers at the cross when we use social media in too much talks, even of spewing foul languages and invectives as well as lies. Fake news and lies spread so fast and are sadly taken as true to the detriment of its victims because we have been so gullible for gossips and rumors too.

But the worst part of our imitation of the soldiers jeering at Jesus is when many of us are afflicted with this perversion called exhibitionism – from those salacious posts in TikTok to those “food porns” and too much display of everything about ourselves and of our loved ones. When do we get tired of all these selfies that have become so sickening that we do not realize of how we make known to everyone of our emptiness and lack of the more essential things like love and self-respect? Like the soldiers, the more we promote ourselves, the more we affirm the obvious that Jesus indeed is the King we needed most.

Photo by author, 2017.

Now one of the criminal hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us” (Lk.23:39).

Reviling is also kind of of mocking others like sneering and jeering; however, to revile is the lowest kind because it is to insult somebody you are with in a same situation. To revile is the lack of recognition of one’s faults and sins that he would rather insult others like this thief traditionally identified as Hestas. In reviling Jesus while also hanging on the cross, Hestas went down deeper his lowest point as a convicted criminal when he had the gall to insult Jesus!

And that is the most unkind evil of all when we become so numb, so dense and stupid to even mock others we are with us in a similar situation. It happens daily when even we are in deep shit, we still see ourselves cleaner and better than others! Just read or watch the news about our politicians.

In the wilderness, the final temptation of the devil to Jesus was to jump from the top of the temple because his angels would not let him fall and even touch ground; here at the cross, Hestas saw himself no different from Jesus, feeling so entitled to be liberated. Many times, this is the problem why evil continues among us: when people from below are promoted to higher positions, they forget their roots that they also forget to fix the problems of inequalities and injustices down below where they came from. The key is to always remember. Like Dimas, the good thief.

Photo by author, 2017.

The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, “Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk.23:40-4).

See how Luke inserted here the fourth verb “to rebuke” to break the series of sneering, jeering, and reviling of Jesus. Like Dimas, we have to strive in breaking the cycle and series of evil especially in this time.

To rebuke means to express sharp disapproval. Imagine Dimas contradicting Hestas and even the rulers and soldiers as well by defending Jesus Christ while hanging there on the cross.

How sad when we remain silent, when we just walk away from people sneering, jeering and reviling Jesus in those who suffer in life because we are afraid to make a stand for what is true and good, what is right and just. How ironic that another thief hanging on the cross was the only one who made a stand for Jesus on that Good Friday along with the Mary and the beloved disciple below.

Every time we make a stand for life and dignity of every person, when we stand for what is true, right and just, that is when we imitate the tribes of Israel in the first reading coming to David to pledge their loyalty and allegiance to him as their king.

When we submit ourselves to Jesus Christ as our only King to be obeyed and followed, that is when our celebration today becomes a daily reality.

That is when we also earn heaven right on the Cross of our sufferings like Dimas when we “remember” Jesus.

Normally in the whole Bible, it is God who remembers. People always forget. When we sin, we forget consciously and unconsciously God and all the good things he had done to us. We forget others too.

There on the Cross, see the reversals of roles Luke has presented so beautifully, from the devil replaced by the rulers, the soldiers and the other thief; and now Dimas sort of assuming God’s role who remembered everything and everyone, especially Jesus our Savior. Dimas remembered what St. Paul expressed to the Colossians that Jesus is Lord in whom, with whom and through whom everything was created and renewed because he is the Christ!

From Google.

The word “remember” literally means to make member or part again, that is, “re” + “member”.

When we remember somebody, we make that person present with us again.

In asking Jesus to remember him when he comes into his kingdom, Dimas was assured that right now as he remembered everything including his sins, he already becomes a member, a part of his kingdom.

May we not forget and always remember Jesus and others always to experience Paradise even when we are on the cross. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

Silence: the sound of the end, the sound of new beginning

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 13 November 2022
Malachi 3:19-20 ><}}}}'> 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 ><}}}}'> Luke 21:5-19
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.

Silence is perhaps the most rare thing in this life that everybody is avoiding. See how that ubiquitous cell phone and ear phone/ear plugs on everyone, always speaking/texting to somebody or listening to something by one’s self.

Nobody appreciates the beautiful sound of silence anymore especially in the privacy of our homes with 24-hour television and unlimited streaming of movies. We are so at home with noise, from our talking gadgets to talking cars and talking elevators. Even jeepneys in my province speak Japanese when it stops!

But, no matter how hard we try to avoid silence, it imposes itself on us silently, telling us so many things for a more meaningful living like the need for us to slow down because the end is near.

In fact, it is right in silence when the end is already happening inasmuch as every beginning happens too!

Our readings today invite us to put some order in our lives because the end of everything is so real which happens not in the future but right in our present moment, in every here and now.

St. Paul in the second reading used the word “disorderly” twice to describe the kind of disorderly living some Thessalonians at that time were leading: “In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others” (2 Thess. 3:10-11).

So relevant to our time too!

Let us be wary of the devil’s greatest temptation to everyone, that there is still time – there is enough time to change, to be better, to say “I am sorry”, to say “I love you”, to be kind, to be loving and forgiving.

There is not enough time because when we waste time, it is us who pass by not time! We could not bring back time and most of all, everything ends. Period.

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here — the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”

Luke 21:5-6
Photo by author, Jerusalem, May 2019.

Everything ends to begin anew

Jesus is still in the temple area of Jerusalem giving his final teachings to his disciples and the crowd. And what a great topic he had chosen before his life ends on Good Friday outside Jerusalem in order to rise again on Easter – the destruction of the Jerusalem temple!

For the Jews, Jerusalem is not just their capital city but in fact the center of the world, even of the universe because that is where God is – signified by the temple. Imagine Jesus telling us Catholics how the Vatican City with the magnificent St. Peter’s Basilica being destroyed and reduced to rubbles like the wailing wall of Jerusalem? Of course, it will happen but we do not know when as we have seen with other great churches that have collapsed due to earthquakes and fires like the famed Notre Dame Cathedral in France last year. Very often, we find the end unthinkable especially when we think of great buildings and structures like the World Trade Center in New York that collapsed following a terrorist attack on 9/11.

On the other hand, we try as much as possible to preserve in time great moments in our lives that we wish would never end like our first kiss or the significant events of triumphs and achievements we have had.

Jesus assures us today that everything ends.

But, every ending is also a beginning.

While everything ends even his life and mission here on earth as we shall see next Sunday in Christ the King, Jesus tells us that endings are not bad at all especially when seen in his light and life.

Despite his own warnings of many upheavals like wars among nations, natural calamities and disasters, and most of all, of our persecutions even by our own family members and friends, Jesus assures us these would not immediately be the end. Yes, it means there would be longer time and periods of sufferings and pains from the trials that would come our way as individuals and as a nation, most of all as a community of believers but Jesus will give us all the grace and help we need in giving testimony to him as the Christ.

“You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Luke 21:16-19
Photo by author, Jerusalem, May 2017.

Everything Jesus had foretold have come true, especially the fall of Jerusalem in the year 70 AD, including those wars and calamities as well as all kinds of disasters that continue to happen to our days.

But, hey! Here we are all, still alive and well. Recall how in March 2020 when we were placed under quarantine, worldwide!

The world seemed to have stood still due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At first, we thought it would only be momentary like a few days or weeks but it dragged onto weeks and months! Until now, there is still the pandemic but a lot of great things have happened to us since 2020, for better and for worst.

That is the meaning of our brief first reading from the prophet Malachi reminding us that while the day of the Lord is the “day of judgment”, it is also the “day of salvation, day of redemption”.

And here lies the good news and challenge of this Sunday: while the end is not really an end in itself much to be feared as it is also a new beginning of a better life both here and in eternity, we have to strive harder each day in being more responsible disciples of the Lord, giving testimony to his loving service and mercy to everyone especially those in the margins like the poor and the sick.

I love the words of St. Paul in the second reading “instructing and urging us in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly” (2 Thess.3:12).

What a lovely reminder from the great Apostle who tirelessly – and silently – worked proclaiming the gospel and being an example to his people.

His call for us to work “quietly” in the Lord is an invitation to rediscover the beauty of silence in this noisy world of ours.

It is said that modern man is afraid of silence because he is afraid of confronting the truth of himself, that is he is finite, that everything will end. When we practice silence especially in prayer and in life generally, we come to terms with our very selves, with our life, and with death. That is when we start living authentically.

When we become silent, we learn to trust, we become faithful. No wonder, saints (along with monks and every religious including us priests ideally) are connoisseurs of silence.

Because, the truth is, God works silently in human history. Then and now, we have seen and experienced God working in silence in our lives and in the world, ensuring that history would end according to his Divine plan, not just according to fate or freak accident or human folly.

In the silence of our hearts, we are certain of these things, of God never ceasing in his love and care for us. Even without the prophets proclaiming, right within each of us, we can be sure that every day is a day of the Lord, a day of his judgement and a day of his salvation. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.

The real big deal & call to be real

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 06 November 2022
2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14 ><]]]]'> 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5 ><]]]]'> Luke 20:27-38

We are now in the penultimate month of the year and the last two Sundays before the Solemnity of Christ the King when we close our current liturgical calendar to usher in Advent, the four Sundays before Christmas.

That is why every year on these two consecutive Sundays before Christ the King, the Church rightly orients us through the readings into our ultimate end in heaven – the real big deal in life calling us all to get real because it is the eternity.

But, do we really care at all? Or, are we just like the Sadducees in the time of Jesus Christ who are so concerned with the realities of this passing world than with that of eternal life?

We may not be exactly like the Sadducees who totally rejected the resurrection as well as the existence of angels and spirits but like them, we also fall into the trap of believing that the concerns of this world are ends in themselves that we spend so much time and energies pursuing wealth and fame that in the process we destroy our selves, our loved ones and relationships.

Some Sadducees, those who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward. Jesus said to them, “The children of this stage marry and remarry, but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage. They can no longer die, for they are like angels; and they are the children of God because they are the ones who will rise. The dead will rise even Moses made known in the passage about the bush, when he called ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’; and he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Luke 20:27, 34-38

Jesus had entered Jerusalem and it is very interesting that this conversation about the resurrection of the dead and heaven happened there where he himself would suffer and die and rise again on the third day. Both Matthew and Mark recorded this conversation of Jesus with the Sadducees but for Luke, this is the only time Jesus met them face-to-face before his arrest.

According to Luke, the Sadducees were the most responsible for the death of Jesus because from their ranks came the high priests like Caiaphas. The Sadducees were the ones who also persecuted the Apostles after the Ascension of Jesus, ordering the arrests of Peter and John. Most of all, the Sadducees were also enemies with Pharisees whom they also opposed and persecuted. They were the fundamentalists of Judaism who only accepted the first five books or Pentateuch collectively known as the Torah (the Laws) as the only inspired books by God. For them, all revelations from God stopped with Moses; hence, their rejection of resurrection and of anything of spirits.

In this scene, we find Jesus just chillin’ with the Sadducees; he was not even debating with them because he was not bothered at all with their analogy about marriage and afterlife. See how Jesus was not even trying to prove anything but simply asking, inviting them including us today to focus on him as the one revealed by the Scriptures and the Laws whom Moses called as “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob” because “Amen, Amen I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM” (Jn.8:58).

Right there in the heart of Jerusalem at the temple area, Jesus was already revealing to everyone his being the Christ, that if all were not “alive for him, with him, through him and in him” – that is, if he were not resurrected – then he would not only be a God of the dead but a dead God! Then everything would be a mockery, a fake as St. Paul would always say in his letters. And if that were the case, then, we forget all about morality and virtues and we just keep on pursuing money and wealth, fame and glory, food and pleasures for nothing will come after this life.

But, deep inside us we know that is not true at all.

Deep inside us springs an eternal hope of something and someone more lasting than this life, God. It is what we experience so often in life especially when we are going through severe tests and trials like getting sick or losing a loved one. Many times, we feel this too when we are going through emptiness, when we feel after having everything, there is that great “something” that we are missing like Bono and U2 singing “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”.

And that is God. Jesus Christ. Eternal life.

The only real deal in this world, in this life. It is a grace embedded in each of us by God that enables us to face and choose death eventually like the seven brothers in the first reading: When he was near death, he said, “It is my choice to die at the hands of men with the hope God gives of being raised up by him” (2 Mc.9:14).

This is what we confess and proclaim every Sunday and in every Mass we celebrate, the mystery of our faith. It is something so difficult to explain or express because it is too deep for words.

Last September my youngest sister Bing was diagnosed with cancer. It was only then when I realized the gravity and seriousness of the big “C”. It was like hearing the cocking of a gun which I have experienced covering the December coup of 1989: everything stops in eery silence, awaiting sure death.

When she told me about it one night while studying, I just felt nothing, could not even think well, doubting if I really knew how to pray. I just imagined myself like a “worm” curling before God in prayers, not saying much, just making him know what was deeply in my heart.

Bing underwent surgery last month to remove her cancer and three weeks ago came the results of her lab tests: it is cancer stage 2 that did not require chemotherapy nor radiation except close monitoring. Of course, we all rejoiced for the good news which we also knew could be temporary as we are still awaiting the results of another test to gauge her cancer’s severity.

Maybe because I was also scared that I did not talk to her much as I also wanted her to have more time and space for herself. And God. It was only two days after she had texted me her diagnosis of stage 2 cancer when I asked her how was she, really? That’s when I felt God so close to me when she replied, “Kuya, I am thankful to God; I did not ask him for anything except the grace to accept my sickness. So glad it was detected very early.” Hallelujah!

Faith in the resurrection is not just belief in the afterlife like reincarnation of which many Christians follow as real and true. Ancient peoples believed in the afterlife but not necessarily with resurrection that is why they always have to contend with the issues of the relationships among the living and those who have died. From there came their ideas of karma as well as those offerings being made to the dead to beg their favors or appease them to ward off their destructive powers.

Faith in God, faith in Jesus Christ, faith in his Resurrection is a revelation we experience deep inside us in the most personal manner that does not require us with so much thinking and reflections just to convince unbelievers. It comes from an encounter with the living God our Father in Jesus Christ “who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace” (2Thess.2:16). Like my sister Bing simply telling me her prayers, of how thankful she is for the results of her surgery.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI beautifully wrote in 2007 in Spe Salvi #27 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 him 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).”

People who truly believe in the resurrection in Christ are men and women who live for God here and now, people who witness Christ on the Cross in daily living of loving service and kindness to everyone, living in the presence of God striving to do his Holy Will even if it may be difficult and painful sometimes because our true home is in heaven with him. That is the grace of this Sunday assuring us of our own resurrection in the end, of our union with God in eternity that begins NOW, right HERE in this life. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo credits:
Topmost photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Portugal, October 2022;
Second (Ascension Chapel of Jesus) and third (wall of Jerusalem) by the author, May 2019;
Fourth by Ms. Meg Lalog-Bringas, 03 November 2022.

Making things happen in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop, 04 November 2022
Philippians 3:17-4:1   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 16:1-8
Praise and thanksgiving,
God our loving Father
for the grace of your Son
Jesus Christ 
who had come 
to make us closer to you
more than ever, 
making us "citizens of heaven"
(Philippinas 3:20).
Teach us, dear Jesus,
to be imitators of St. Paul
witnessing your Cross, 
the only path to salvation
because it is our liberation from sin;
do not allow us to be
"enemies of the cross"
whose "God is their stomach;
their glory is in their shame.  
Their minds occupied with earthly
things" (Philippians 3:18-19);
keep us faithful to your teachings 
and example, Lord Jesus Christ
by living your paschal mystery.
Like St. Charles Borromeo
whose memorial we celebrate today,
give us the grace of determination
and perseverance in keeping us
true and faithful to you
by making things happen 
like making Christ present
no matter how difficult and 
unpopular it may be especially 
when others especially our pastors 
have forgotten to live in your footsteps,
when too much time and emphasis
are spent with outward appearances
forgetting internal reformation;
let us stop wishful thinking that
things may get better by being just idle,
simply awaiting for events to happen.
Like that shrewd steward in the gospel,
let us find ways, O Lord, in making
justice and mercy,
love and kindness
become realities
by making them happen
by standing firm in you
Jesus Christ.
Amen.

Hope in heaven is hope for others

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, 02 November 2022
Wisdom 3:1-9 ><}}}}*> Romans 6:3-4, 8-9 ><}}}}*> John 6:37-40
Praise and thanksgiving
to you our loving God and Father
for the grace of life
for the grace of death
for the grace of judgment:
in the end, your love prevails.
Our hope lies in your judgement,
O God and Father because it is
both justice and grace:
justice because you render fairly
to everyone what is due including 
everything we have done but
it is also grace because you know
our weaknesses, our sinfulness:
"The souls of the just are in the hands of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish,
to be dead; and their passing away was thought
an affliction and their going forth from us,
utter destruction.  But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet it is their hope of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them and found them
worthy of himself" (Wisdom 3:1-5).
Thank you, dear Father in sending us your Son
Jesus Christ who had closely linked
your justice and grace in his Passion,
Death and Resurrection we now share
in the hope of being with you in heaven;
as we remember today our faithful departed,
including those who have been forgotten,
we not only hope for ourselves but also
hope for others because we have realized
all the more these November 1 and 2
that no man is an island:  
we are all linked together in Jesus, 
no one lives alone
no one sins alone
no one is saved alone!
On this All Souls' Day
we express to you not only 
our own hope for salvation
but also our hope for other's salvation:
remember those who have died ahead of us,
purify them in the love of Christ
who assured us that "I came down from heaven 
not to do my own will but the will 
of the one who sent me.  And this is 
the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything
of what he gave me, but that I should 
raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son
and believes in him may have
eternal life, and I shall raise him
on the last day" (John 6:38-40). 
O most holy Virgin Mary,
our Mother who is the "Star of the Sea"
in this journey of life,
lead us safely to Jesus in eternity
especially at the hour of our death.
Amen.
Photo credits:  Top photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD in Portugal, October 2022.
Last photo by author, 2019. 

Roadtrip, vroom, vroom with Jesus & Zacchaeus, to the Moon!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 30 October 2022
Wisdom 11:22-12:2 ><000'> 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 ><000'> Luke 19:1-10

You must have heard so many times that rap music called Moon used as background music in almost every video posted on social media. The lyrics and its beat are simply amusing, easy to follow so fitted on everything including this Sunday’s gospel!

Sa'n ka punta?  To the moon
Road trip, vroom, vroom
Skrr, skrr, zoom, zoom
So fake, no room, mga mata namumula
Asan ang trees, nadala mo ba?
Bawal ang tus at peke sa byahe
Kung isa ka d'yan, ika'y bumaba...

Written and performed by a certain Nik Makino, Moon speaks of a young man’s ambition of getting rich through rap music; he is also aware of the fact that his dream is so “high like the sky” with everyone’s eyes prying on him as he strives so hard in working while still young.

I gotta mission, pumunta sa top
Buhay mahirap, gawing masarap
Gawa ng milyon, gamit ang rap 
Iwanan kasama na puro panggap
'Di mo 'ko magets, pangarap ay highs
Singtaas ng jets, tingala sa sky...

I have been asking some young people about the rap and mostly are stunned why I listen and so interested with it especially when I rap it too, saying how they find it so baduy (crass), meaningless or “walang kuwenta” with some calling it as ugly or “pangit”.

And that is how I realized this rap music Moon is so related with this Sunday’s gospel about Zacchaeus the tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus while passing by the city of Jericho.

At that time, Jesus came to Jericho and intended to pass through the town. Now a man there named Zacchaeus, who was a chief tax collector and also a wealthy man, was seeking to see who Jesus was; but he could not see him because of the crowd, for he was short in stature. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way. When he reached the place, Jesus looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house.” And he came down quickly and received him with joy.

Luke 19:1-6

Again, only Luke has this story about Zacchaeus met by Jesus in Jericho, his final stop before entering the city of Jerusalem for his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

Keep in mind that Luke’s narration of the Lord’s journey to Jerusalem is more of an inner journey into ourselves than found in maps. What happened in Jericho shows the importance of the events that would take place at Jerusalem when Jesus offered himself for our salvation and how we can participate in his pasch through the example of Zacchaeus who reformed his life.

Unlike the parable last Sunday, here we have a real tax collector named Zacchaeus described by Luke as a “wealthy man”. Notice how Luke described Zacchaeus was “short in stature” which is not only literal but most of all figurative in meaning. Like the publican in last week’s parable by Jesus, tax collectors were despised by Jews at that time who were seen along the ranks of prostitutes as the worst of all sinners because they were not only thieves but also traitors who collaborated with their Roman colonizers.

Calling Zacchaeus as “short in stature” was really something else, that he was nothing at all. That is why he had to exert so much to see Jesus by climbing a sycamore tree. And there lies the beauty of the story, of how God had come in Jesus to meet us and save us.

When they all saw this, they began to grumble, saying, “He has gone to stay at the house of a sinner.” But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.”

Luke 19:7-10

This is the most startling move by Jesus in this event at Jericho that is repeated in many instances in Luke’s gospel account to show God’s loving mercy to all sinners who humbly make the efforts to come to him, to see him, and experience his healing and forgiveness.

Luke had repeatedly shown us this unexpected and even shocking gesture of Jesus to everyone – then and now – at how he would favor sinners and bad people like that sinful woman who poured oil on his feet while dining at the home of a Pharisee (Lk. 7:36-50) and Dimas, the “good thief” on the cross to whom he promised paradise (Lk.23:39-43).

Jesus always comes to meet us but are we willing to meet him too like Zacchaeus? How far are we willing to truly embrace and welcome Jesus by letting go of ourselves, of our sins and other possessions?

If we could just have that sense of sinfulness again, we would realize that in this world, we are all small in stature before God. All these titles and wealth that seem to give prestige to us are all temporary and nothing. What God looks in us is our admission of our being small in stature before him, of being powerless like the persistent widow the other Sunday and the publican last week begging his mercy for we are all sinful.

Imagine that beautiful image of Jesus passing through Jericho, coming to our daily lives, making a stop over right in our hearts to stay and dwell. Most of all, see at how Jesus looks up to find us!

I love that gesture of Jesus looking up to us so much. Normally, we are the ones who look up to God up in the sky, heavenwards when asking for his mercy and favors. But there are many times that it is Jesus our Lord and God who looks up to us mere mortals who are so small in stature before him! What happened at Jericho under that sycamore tree was a prefiguration of what would take place at the Last Supper when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, of how he bowed down before them and looked up while wiping their feet dry. So wonderful! And that happens every day when we go back to him, when we do everything to get out of our way just to go to Mass, most especially to Confessions.

In the first reading, we are reminded how we are nothing before God but he chose to preserve us, to save us because he loves us so much:

“Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance, or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth. But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things; and you overlook the sins of men that they may repent. But you spare all things, because they are yours, O Lord and lover of souls.

Wisdom 11:22-23, 25

There is no doubt about the love of God for us, of his mercy and forgiveness expressed to us in his Son Jesus Christ who comes to us everyday in various events in our lives, in the people we meet and most especially in our individual and communal prayers like the Mass and Sacraments.

Jesus is always passing by and would surely come again as St. Paul assured us in the second reading.

The grace of this final Sunday of October as we go to the last stretch of the Church calendar this coming November is that God gives us freely the grace daily to make the efforts in meeting his Son Jesus. Every day.

Our desire to rise above our present state and status is an expression of that grace within us to become better although many times due to other factors, we misconstrue this in aspiring for material things like wealth and money as the rap Moon tells us. But on a deeper reflection as we continue in our journey in this life, we realize sooner or later that more than the things we can physically have, there are always more precious than these.

Like going to the moon, of being high up there in the sky, being one with God, enjoying his peace and salvation.

Like Zacchaeus and, Nik Makino, let us continue our roadtrip to the Moon in Jesus Christ by being true to ourselves – vroom, vroom, skrr, skrr, zoom, zoom – that we are beloved sinners and children of God.

Tara bumyahe pa-ulap
Sakto 'yung auto ko full tank
Pero kahit maubusan, paangat tayo tutulak
Bawal na muna ang pabigat
Lalo sa byahe na palipad
Kailangan kong makatiyak
Bago magka-edad, 'di na 'ko taghirap
Alam kong marami ang nakamasid
Dama ko marami ang naka-abang
Kung ano 'yung mga kaya kong gawin
Malamang ay 'di nila nagagawa
Kaya siguro lagi nakatingin
Kasi 'yon na lamang magagawa
Inaabangan ako na mawala
Kaso lang ang malala nadapa kakatingala.

Stay safe everyone and dry during these storms. Have a blessed week! Amen.

*Photo credits: Moon over the city by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News (2022); second and third by the author at Jericho, Israel (2019); fourth and fifth also by author in Tanay and Pililla in Rizal (2021).

Losing one’s self in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 20 November 2022
Ephesians 3:14-21   ><000'> + <'000>< = ><000'> + <'000><   Luke 12:49-53
Photo by author, 2018.
Dearest Jesus,
Help me imitate St. Paul's
beautiful prayer for the Ephesians:
may the Holy Spirit strengthen my 
"inner self" so that you may dwell
in my heart that is "rooted in faith"
and "grounded in love";
grant me the "strength to comprehend" -
not just understand but embrace totally
"the breadth and length and height and depth"
of your love that "surpasses knowledge"
by entering into a communion in you,
an intimacy "with all the fullness of God"
(Ephesians 3:16-19).
This can only happen to me,
Lord Jesus Christ,
if I allow myself to lose my soul to you
in order to gain it by allowing
your fire to purify me of my sins
and self-centeredness
(Luke 12:49-51).
Set me on fire, Jesus,
as you have declared in the gospel:
lit me with courage and joy in witnessing
your Cross in this time of darkness
when everybody follows the artificial lights
of the world that lead to emptiness;
let me be immersed into your paschal mystery
of Passion, Death and Resurrection,
of bearing all the pains that lead to conversion
and to true peace as you have promised
at the Last Supper that is the fruit of
love and sacrifices, not of compromises
as the peace of the world offers.
Dearest Lord,
let me see everything in your love
even if it seems so impossible
like your victory over death;
seduce me, O Lord,
dupe me like Jeremiah
to join you in your adventure,
to go beyond my limits
even if it may be fatal
for that is the only way 
to lose myself
in order to gain you,
Jesus Christ our Lord!
"Now to him 
who is able to accomplish
far more than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church
and in Christ Jesus to all generations,
forever and ever.  Amen."
(Ephesians 3:20-21)
Photo by author, 2018.

Passion, not efficiency

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 03 October 2022
Galatians 1:6-12   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 10:25-37
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 10 September 2022.
Praise and glory
to you, O God our loving Father!
Thank you for this great
Monday, the first working
day of October!
Stir into flame your gift
to me, dear God, (2 Tim. 1:6),
fill me with zest 
fill me with passion
fill me with life
to forge on amid all
the difficulties and trials
this day
this week
may bring to me.
Like the zeal 
and enthusiasm
of St. Paul,
let me be firm
in asserting your 
Good News of salvation
in Christ Jesus:
"If I were still trying 
to please people, 
I would not be a slave
of Christ" (Galatians 1:10c).
Keep me faithful to you,
Lord, and stop me from
pretending somebody
else, impressing people
by claiming to be your
disciple in all of its outward
signs without your Cross.

Keep me faithful to you,
Lord and stop me from 
seeking attention,
perks and privileges
to be famous by claiming
to be your disciple but
afraid to suffer, afraid of 
losing, afraid of failures.

Keep me faithful to you,
Lord, not to the cultic 
signs and symbols we have
developed in deepening our
faith in you but, like the
priest and the Levite in 
your parable today, 
have totally disregarded 
the wounded and sick, 
the abandoned and
lost, the sinful and poor.
Deepen my faith,
strengthen my faith
to have passion in doing
your works, Lord; 
forgive me, Jesus,
when I think and see more
of efficiency and programs
without meeting and
experiencing persons,
building relationships
in you, with you, and
through you.
Amen.