Being transformed in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 2022
Number 21:4-9 ><}}}*> Philippians ><}}}*> John 3:13-17
Photo by Mr. Gelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020.
With their patience worn out by the journey,
the people complained against God and Moses
(Numbers 21:4).
God our loving Father,
grant us patience and
perseverance in this journey
of life, to never complain against
you when things get difficult
and dark, or uncertain sometimes; 
open our minds and 
our hearts to find you,
to see you in Christ Jesus
who had come to accompany us
in this journey of life so we may be
transformed into better persons
who are more loving,
more kind, 
and more like you, 
our dear Father.
Teach us, dear God,
to imitate Jesus in emptying
ourselves in order to be filled
with your Spirit so that we may 
realize that the path to true
greatness, to exaltation is 
opposite the direction of the world
of adulations and affirmations,
ease and comforts  
but through the Cross to 
encounter Christ deep down
inside in all my weaknesses
and sins and vulnerabilities
because transformation happens
only from within. 

Teach us, dear God,
to imitate Jesus in emptying
ourselves to have a space for others
who are like us, weak and lost,
needing you and one another 
to rise as better persons by 
forming a community, of establishing
relationships that acknowledge you
truly as the Emmanuel, God-with-us;
how can we be raised up, O Lord, 
if we are all "up" in our false selves,
false relationships and false securities?
Jesus said to Nicodemus,
"No one has gone up to heaven
except the one who has come down 
from heaven, the Son of Man.
For God so loved the world
that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him
might not perish but might have
eternal life" (John 3:13,16).
Empty us. dear Jesus,
of our pride and fill us
with your humility, justice
and love by joyfully 
taking our cross
and being one 
with you in your people.
Amen.

“Are we there yet?”

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 05 April 2022
Numbers 21:4-9   <*[[[[>< + ><]]]]*>   John 8:21-30
Photo by author, Memorial of the Bronze Serpent on Mt. Nebo, Jordan, 2019.

From Mount Hor the children of Israel set out on the Red Sea road, to bypass the land of Edom. But with their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!”

Numbers 21:4-5
O God our Father,
I must admit like the Israelites,
I feel impatient, I feel so tired
already in this five weeks of Lent;
like a child with all sarcasm and
insults, I feel like asking "are we
there yet?"
Help me O God in this long journey
of Lent, of life itself, especially during 
these two years of the pandemic;
many among us have been worn out
of staying home, of being told to quarantine,
of having those vaccines, of those sitting 
all day before the computer screen for
our on line classes and work from home.
Forgive us, O God, when we get impatient
in the journey of life, when we rationalize
everything like the Pharisees when Jesus 
told them, "I am going away and you will
look for me... where I am going you cannot 
come" (John 8:21); forgive us, dear God, 
when we can't wait for our own "hour", 
in rushing everything that we miss Christ
passing by in this journey of life as
our companion.
Open our minds and our hearts,
our eyes and our arms to believe in
Jesus your Son who had come to
lead us back to you, our true home,
our "Promised Land"; remind us that
you O Lord is not a concept to be
understood but a Person - the I AM
WHO AM - to be accepted and loved.
Amen.

Praying with Pope Francis this Lent 2022

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Ash Wednesday, 02 March 2022
Prayer based on Papal Message for Lent 2022
Photo by author, an oasis near the Dead Sea, May 2017.
For the third straight year
since 2020, we enter the season
of Lent, O Lord, in the most realistic
or surreal manner as our lives were thrown 
off-balance, altered in so many ways,
and some ruined by this COVID-19 
pandemic made worst recently by
Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
As we begin our 40-day journey
back to you, loving God our Father,
we pray to you on this Ash Wednesday
to raise us up "from the ash heap, 
to make us sit with princes and 
inherit a seat of honor" (Ps.113:7-8) because
"now is the acceptable time" (2 Cor. 6:2)
of salvation in Jesus Christ.
Together with Pope Francis,
help us "not to grow tired of 
doing good, while we have the
opportunity to do good to all"
(Galatians 6:9-10) despite the
great difficulties especially 
in this time of the pandemic, 
elections fever, and war in Ukraine.
Let us not grow tired of praying
because in these times of trials,
the more we need you, dear God;
help us remember the lesson of this
pandemic that we are fragile
as individuals and as a society,
that without you, O Lord, we cannot
stand firm and make it to this Lent again.
Let us not grow tired of uprooting
evil in our lives through our lenten practice
of fasting to fortify our spirit in the fight
against sin; let us not grow tired of
fighting against all forms of addictions
that drive us to selfishness and all
kinds of evil like too much social media that
has made us forget to cultivate authentic
human communications based in
"authentic encounters", face-to-face,
and personal.
Let us not grow tired of doing good
in active charity towards our neighbors
especially the poor and needy,
the marginalized and abandoned
in whom Jesus is most present.
Give us the patient perseverance
of a farmer who awaits the fruits
of the earth (James 5:7), always
persevering in doing good, 
one step at a time; may we realize
that in cultivating fraternal love to
one another, we become united to Christ
who gave his life for our sake and enabled us
to have a foretaste of the joy of heaven
when you, O God, 
will be "all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).
Amen.

*For the full text of Pope Francis’ Lenten Message 2022, see https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/lent/documents/20211111-messaggio-quaresima2022.html

Schooling in time of COVID-19

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II 
Mass of the Holy Spirit for the College Department
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City
06 September 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2021.
"Those who seek truth seek God,
whether they realize it or not."
- St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Last August 9 we celebrated the memorial of a modern saint who died at the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Second World War. She was a German Jew named Edith Stein who became an atheist but later regained her faith as she pursued higher learning in the field of philosophy that was so rare for women at that time.

As she progressed into her philosophical studies working as an assistant to Prof. Edmund Husserl known as the “father of phenomenology”, she converted into Catholicism, eventually leaving her teaching post at a university to become a Carmelite contemplative nun, adopting the name Teresa Benedicta dela Cruz.


Congratulations, our dear students in college who dare to learn and seek the truth by enrolling in this Academic Year 2021-2022.

Students and teachers are both seekers of truth. As St. Teresa Benedicta had experienced, every search for truth leads us to God, the ultimate Truth.

This is a very difficult and trying year for us all but like St. Teresa Benedicta and all the other saints as well as great men and women of history, they all sought for the truth in the most troubled time in history. Trials and hardships in life make learning more “fun” – and an imperative at the same time. In fact, the more we must study and search the truth during critical moments in history and in our lives in order to learn more lessons that are valuable not only to us in dealing with our problems but also with the succeeding generations.

Two important virtues we need to cultivate in seeking the truth, in learning our lessons in this time of the pandemic that I hope you, teachers and students will rediscover this Academic Year: patience and humility.


This pandemic may be considered as another Pentecost, 
teaching us the value of patience, 
of patient waiting for everything, 
reminding us that the beauty of life is best experienced 
by allowing nature to take its course, 
without shortcuts nor rush, to enjoy its beauty as it unfolds before us.

Photo by author, 2019.

Patience is from the Latin “patior” that means “to suffer, to bear with.”

Learning is a process. We cannot know everything right away. It requires a lot of patience on every student and teacher.

This is the reason why Jesus assured his disciples at the Last Supper that he would send them the Holy Spirit he referred to as the Advocate.

“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning… I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.

John 15:26-27, 16:12

In the last 20 years, so much have changed in our lives brought about by modern means of communication.

Great volumes of information have become so readily accessible at great speed, that many in the younger generation have seemed to have lost the virtue of patience. At the snap of your fingers, you can easily have almost everything you need aside from information and music – including food and groceries, clothes and appliances, plants and pets, even medicines and dates!

But life, most especially learning, takes time, requiring a lot of patience in waiting and searching.

Like the Apostles of Jesus who had to wait for the descent of the Holy Spirit at the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

This pandemic may be considered as another Pentecost, teaching us the value of patience, of patient waiting for everything, reminding us that the beauty of life is best experienced by allowing nature to take its course, without shortcuts, to enjoy its beauty as it unfolds before us.

Let our Lord Jesus Christ be our example in following in the path of patience, of suffering; every trial becomes a blessing, a moment of transformation when seen in the light of Jesus Christ who suffered and died for us on the Cross. His very life tells us that there can be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday.

This pandemic period is an extended Good Friday but in between those moments of sufferings, we experience little Easter if we try to be patient like what some of you have experienced when you graduated in this time of the pandemic.


Photo by author, January 2020.

The second virtue I wish to invite you to rediscover, teachers and students alike, is humility which is again from the Latin word humus that literally means “soil”.

From humus came the words human and humor.

Man was created from clay, a kind of soil. A person with a sense of humor is one who can laugh at things because he or she is rooted on the ground. We call a person with sense of humor in Filipino as “mababaw” or shallow – not empty but close to the ground or deeply rooted.

It is very difficult to learn anything nor discover the truth unless we first become humble. Pride and ego are the greatest stumbling blocks to any kind of learning. You will find in history, even in our personal lives how many opportunities in the past were lost simply because of our pride or “ego trip”.

Pride was the very sin of Adam and Eve that led to their fall. That is why when Jesus came to save us from effects of that Fall, humility became his central teaching when he demanded us to forget ourselves and, most of all, to become like that of a child so we shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

This humility Jesus himself showed us the path by being born like us – small and helpless.

And that has always been the way of God ever since: the small and little ones, those taken for granted, the unknown and rejected are always the ones used as God’s instruments, the ones always effecting the most far-reaching changes in history and our personal lives.

Even in the story of the Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, we find the centrality of becoming small to become a part of the whole.

It is the exact opposite of the story at Babel when people in the Old Testament dared to build a tower reaching to the skies; because of their pride, God confused them by making them speak different languages that led to the collapse of their tower and ambitions. During the Pentecost, the people were all united as one despite the different languages they speak because everybody was willing to listen, to become small in themselves to give way to others.

Like during the Pentecost, let us allow the “tongues of fire” and the “strong, driving wind” of the Holy Spirit part us of our fears and indifference, pride and ego during this Academic year 2021-2022 to fully realize and learn the important lessons and truth this pandemic is teaching us.

Photo from vaticannews,va, 13 May 2017.

Whenever, and wherever there is a search for truth that leads to the discovery of God through our patience and humility, there springs simultaneously the growth of a community. It is no wonder that wherever there is prayer and worship, there is always learning leading to bonding, or communing.

The first universities – from the Latin term universitas or “community of teachers and scholars” – where all offshoots of the efforts of the monks in their monastery as they evangelized peoples, teaching them not only prayers but also the basics of learning like reading and writing. Eventually monasteries had annex buildings as schools and universities that led to the establishment of towns and cities in Europe that spawned the growth of commerce and trade following the great many interactions among peoples.

Here we find the beautiful interplay of the search for truth that leads to discovery of God that bears fruit into mercy and love among people.

Another learned Saint who sought the Truth, Thomas Aquinas said that the more we learn the truth, the more we become intelligent, the more we must become holy.

How lovely it is, my dear students and teachers of Our Lady of Fatima University that wherever there is Truth which is Veritas, there is also Misericordia, the two mottos of our beloved University.

Amid the threats of COVID-19, amid the difficulties of online learning, let us continue to seek the truth, be patient and humble with one another as we try to build a community of “achievers” by “improving man as man”, “rising to the top” not to be conceited and proud but to be able to offer ourselves in the service of the country and of the world, for the praise and glory of God.

May our Patroness, the Our Lady of Fatima, lead us closer to Jesus Christ who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Amen.

From Facebook.com/fatima.university.

Prayer for patience

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Third Week in Lent, 09 March 2021
Daniel 3:25, 34-43   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 18:21-35
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, UST High School, 2019.

Thank you, God our Father in heaven, for the gift of Lent. Now we are into its third week, I could strongly feel its character, its impact, making me realize of the need to pray for more patience. From you. And for me.

Patience from You.

Like Azariah in the first reading, we pray for your patience to bear with us for our many sins that have brought us to our lowest point in life. Teach us to pray for mercy and forgiveness like Azariah, to plea for your patience to our hardness of hearts.

For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins. We have in our day no prince, prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. But with a contrite heart and a humble spirit let us be received; as though it were burnt offerings of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.

Daniel 3:37-40

How wonderful it is, O Lord our God, of your patience — that virtue of enduring suffering and pain — when we are the ones who have turned away from you, we were the ones who have hurt you with our sins and here you are, bearing all the pains for us?

Thank you for bearing with us always.

And forgive us when we lack patience.

Please, grant us patience…now!

But kidding aside, how ironic that we keep on asking for patience from you and from others too when we cannot be patient at all in dealing with our fellow debtors and sinners like that unforgiving servant in the parable today. You have been so patient in forgiving all our debts yet we cannot forgive those who owe us with less.

Methinks maybe we have not suffered that much, we have never been patient at all that we have not truly felt and realized your patience for us.

Like Peter, we would rather be thinking of quantity, of how many times must we forgive those who wrong us that eventually we run out of patience because of the great number of sins against us.

We have never been patient at all if what we do is keep tabs of the wrongs and sins against us. We do not bear any suffering at all but merely count them like Peter.

Teach us to stop counting the sins of others and be like you in being patient with us sinners: you forgive because we are your children, because you love us.

That is perhaps the key to being patient: instead of counting how many times should we forgive, let us see more why we must forgive because we are all forgiven sinners in your Son Jesus Christ. Perhaps if we can keep that in mind, then we can always patient with our fellow sinners. Amen.

Persevering in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Third Week in Ordinary Time, 29 January 2021
Hebrews 10:32-39   +++  >><)))*> + <*(((><<  +++   Mark 4:26-34
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, Batanes 2018.

Our loving Father in heaven, thank you very much for another weekend, for another day of rest approaching, for the grace of making it this far despite the many difficulties we have gone through: the chemotherapy and dialysis, surgery or physical therapy; death of a loved one, including a beloved pet for some; losing a job, giving up a business, calling it quits for a dream or endeavor.

So many trials, some we have hurdled, some we have overcome, some we have lost.

But here we are, Lord God, though wounded and bruised but still alive, still dreaming, still hoping, still fighting. All persevering in Jesus Christ our Eternal Priest and Master.

Your words today, O Lord, are so comforting for many of us. Help us to never give up, to persevere despite our sins and failures. Be patient with us, sweet Jesus. Most of all, let us be patient too in waiting for you, in your coming, in your comfort, in your solace, in bearing fruits. Help us realize that the more we are enlightened in you, the more we are purified, the more we are tested.

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised. We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.

Hebrews 10:32, 36, 39

Like the farmer who sows seeds in his farm, may we confidently wait, never giving up until they sprout into new plants, have blades, have flowers and bear fruits.

Like the mustard seed, may we persevere to find deep within our hearts your gift of faith that someday, we shall grow and be fruitful. Amen.

Photo by author, flower of a mustard seed at Ein-Karen, Israel, 2017.

Advent is a two-way street

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday of Advent-B, 06 December 2020
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11   > + <   2 Peter 3:8-14   > + <   Mark1:1-8
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon (March 2020).

Had a most unique experience this week about waiting when I was told by my doctor to take a swab test Wednesday after coming home with a terrible flu Monday afternoon. With no results yet after 24 hours, I felt worried.

It was later that evening when I regained my bearing in the Lord guided by his words during prayer where he proclaimed his coming “a very little while” (Is.29:17, Friday Advent Wk.I), comforting me through the night. The following day after breakfast, I was informed my swab test yielded negative results that I rejoiced and felt Jesus finally coming!

And that is when I realized too that Advent happens on a two-way street: Jesus is always coming to us and we have to come to him too in order to meet him and experience Advent.


Jesus always comes;
we need to also come to meet him!

Advent is a wonderful season that teaches us the beauty and value of waiting that has become so rare in our 24/7 world of instants. Nobody wants to wait, thinking it is a waste of time as they feel empty when waiting for someone or something. We want our hands always full, our bases loaded with something concrete and tangible.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary in Infanta, Quezon (03 December 2020).

But that is what we forget when we wait: we are never empty when waiting. In fact, the very reason we wait is because we always have something already, never empty. We await results of all kinds of tests we have undertaken because we have given our best shots or specimen; we await a loved one because we have a beloved; and, we await the day because it is night time, the best time to believe in the light as we have reflected last week.

Yes, in Advent we await the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the end of time which we do not know when but we are not empty waiting for him; we are filled with him but we hardly notice him because we have filled ourselves with so many other things and people. We need to empty ourselves once in a while, leave our places of comfort to come and meet Jesus in the many desert of life.

Like John the Baptizer.

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet: Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare your way. a voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

Mark 1:1-8

The gospel of Jesus
begins whenever
we come to meet him.

St. Mark wrote the first gospel account in the Bible that became the pattern for St. Matthew and St. Luke in writing their own gospel versions. Being the first evangelist, St. Mark was also the first to give us a portrait of who is Jesus Christ, the suffering Messiah.

Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, November 2018.

He did not have an infancy narrative of Jesus unlike St. Matthew and St. Luke because St. Mark was in such a hurry to proclaim the good news of salvation of Christ who had to suffer for the forgiveness of our sins.

And that makes him so perfect in this Season of Advent: we need to hurry in order to meet Jesus Christ right here in our own darkness and sufferings as we have mentioned last Sunday.

Advent as a season of new beginnings happens wherever and whenever we become another John, a voice in the wilderness, one who goes out to proclaim that the Lord is coming, that he in fact has come.

To speak of a “beginning” always implies an end like in the beginning of a new day after the end of yesterday.

But with St. Mark telling us “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ”, he is not implying something that had ended. When we look at how he ended his gospel, we find it to be “hanging”, not really finished with the discovery of the empty tomb: St. Mark “ended” his gospel abruptly because he wanted his audience and all believers of Jesus to continue telling and living the gospel of Christ!

And that is how the gospel Jesus truly begins: in every heart that is open and empty for his coming, for anyone honest and sincere to admit his sinfulness, his shortcomings, his limitations, his being less than God, his being in darkness longing to be in light.

Here we find that imagery of the desert in John’s preaching to show us the need to retreat, to come to terms with our true selves in our bare essentials — no ifs nor buts, no pretensions, no hypocrisies. Come to Jesus in our sinfulness, in our littleness, in our being his precursor like John.


Beginning does not always mean the end
but sometimes the continuation of
something so beautiful that had already began.

Sometimes in life, we do not see everything so clear right away. There are times even when nothing seems to be so good as if God has abandoned us that we do not know where to begin at all, if ever we could really start again.

Imagine the people of Israel at that time living in exile at Babylon: they have not seen nor heard anything about their country nor their temple in Jerusalem that once stood as their pride being God’s chosen people. No doubt, they could not see anything good at all in their exile as everything must be so bad and dismal — their masters, the food, the water, and life itself.

Suddenly, here comes God, telling them through the prophet:

Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated; indeed, she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.

Isaiah 40:1-2
Photo by author, Advent Week-I in our parish, 29 November 2020.

Last Thursday, while feeling so sick and helpless with my situation, awaiting the results of my swab test coupled with some problems, I cried out to God.

It was like a desert experience when I felt so helpless, so weak before him, lamenting that this should be the season of Advent, of his coming yet I could not see him.

But it was an outpouring of my feelings inside where deep within, I trusted God so much that he would do something wonderful. That there is something beautiful coming like his very Advent. And it did happen! I was found negative of COVID-19 and most of all, all my other problems and worries were solved in a flash.

Sometimes in life, we need to go to our “desert”, to come out of our false securities in life, come to the open in order to meet Jesus who is always coming. This Second Sunday of Advent, we are called to be another John the Baptist, “A voice of one crying out in the desert” expressing our hope in Jesus that he is coming, that he is come, that he is already here.

To go come out to meet Jesus is when we are also comforted in this season of patient waiting for his Second Coming as he strengthens us in our faith and hope in God. To comfort is not just to feel good but to give strength, from the Latin cum + fortis, with strength.

When we do not see someone or anyone, that does not mean he/she does not exist; there are times we need to go out and walk around, even go up a mountain or hill to find Jesus coming. God is always with us and will never abandon us even in our worst and most sinful and darkest moments in life.

That is why every “beginning” does not mean the end of something but the continuation of something that had began so beautiful which is the coming of Jesus, his meeting with us. And the more we continue in these series of new beginning, the more wonderful life becomes.

May we heed this Season of Advent St. Peter’s teaching:

Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

2 Peter 3:8-9
Photo by author, Advent Week-I in the parish, 29 November 2020.

God remains faithful to his promise and he will surely come again like a thief at night. This is the very essence of Advent, the other facet of our focus in our four-week preparation for Christmas. May we witness to this hope as disciples of the Lord not with what we say but with how we live, how we try to be holy in life even if we have to begin anew every day. Amen.

Have a blessed Sunday, my dear reader!

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.

Holding on to God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, 16 July 2020
Isaiah 26:7-9, 11, 16-19 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Matthew 11:28-30
Photo by author, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel of the Holy Family, Guiguinto, Bulacan, 08 December 2019.

Your words today, O God our Father, are very comforting and consoling, so reassuring of your love and mercy for us sinners, giving us new life in you as we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Like the Israelites living in exile because of their own making when they turned away from you in sins worshiping false gods, we also admit our sinfulness and failures in standing up for what is true and just, in being faithful to you.

Help us to rise again, heavenly Father, breathe into us your life-giving Spirit specially at this time we feel so down and crushed not only by COVID-19 pandemic but by public officials concerned only with their well-being and whims forgetting the people they are supposed to serve.

We conceived and writhed in pain, giving birth to wind. Salvation we have not achieved for the earth, the inhabitants of the world cannot bring it forth. But your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise; awake and sing, you who lie in the dust. For your dew is a dew of light, and the land of shades gives birth.

Isaiah 26:18-19

If there is anything we would want to have these days, it is rest, O Lord.

A lightening of our load and burdens.

But why another yoke, Jesus?

Forgive us Jesus when we feel negative with yoke because they always portray to us images of slavery and oppression. Open our eyes, Lord, as we come closer to you to take your yoke because you not only help us carry our burdens but most of all, your yoke gives us direction in our path back to the Father.

May your Blessed Mother of Mount Carmel help us to hold on to God in this hour of darkness in our lives as individuals and as a nation. Amen.

Photo by author, Our Lady of Mount Carmel of the Holy Family, Guiguinto, Bulacan, November 2019.

Jesus is both the Sower and the seed – and so must we!


The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XV, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 12 July 2020
Isaiah 55:10-11 >><}}}*> Romans 8:18-23 >><}}}*> Matthew 13:1-23
“The Sower” painting by Van Gogh, photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Parables constitute the heart of Jesus Christ’s preaching. From the French para bolein which means “along the path”, parables are simple stories with deep realities that must be cracked open through prayers and reflections to uncover its meaning.

In fact, every parable by Jesus is a word of God that is like a seed that must be received, planted, and nurtured so we may eventually see and experience what is within it who is God himself!

On that day, Jesus went out of the house and sat down by the sea. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd stood along the shore. And he spoke to them at length in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

Matthew 13:1-9
Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

Jesus, the mysterious seed

Beginning today until the last Sunday of this month of July we shall hear different parables by Jesus taken from this 13th chapter of the gospel according to St. Matthew.

It is very interesting that as Jesus now begins to preach in parables, we also notice his usual usage of this image of the seed, especially of the mustard seed to stress to us what we have mentioned earlier about the significance of parables as simple things with deeper realities. Every seed is so small, easy to overlook and taken for granted. Yet, we all know how every seed is also the presence of what is to come in the future, of something so big and huge that we can never imagine.

That is how Jesus would always portray the Kingdom of God, which is himself, his very person who is always taken for granted but full of mysteries that later in the fourth gospel he would reveal a deeper reality of this seed akin his Cross:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

John 12:24

That is the mystery of the seed, the mystery of Christ: something so ordinary we take for granted with immense possibilities when given up, when it dies. In this parable of the sower, Jesus shows us a hint of this profound truth about himself as a mysterious seed, someone who must be broken to die in order to grow and bear fruit.

If we read the full text of today’s gospel, we find Jesus explaining the meaning of this parable and we discover that he himself is both the sower and the seed: he goes out everyday to bring us the good news of salvation, providing us with seeds we must plant so we can have food in the future.

Every seed Jesus sows in us is always good as the first reading assures us.

Thus says the Lord: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful… so shall my word; my word shall not return to me void.”

Isaiah 55:10-11

Most of the time, we reflect on this parable on the importance of the soil on which the seed is sown.

This Sunday, let us reflect on what kind of a seed are we, of how we waste or put into good the enormous potentials packed in each of us by God.

Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

“A sower went out to sow. As he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up.

Jesus the sower does not make distinctions on different kinds of soil; he just scatters the seeds freely. His words concern everyone.

Unfortunately, there are some of us who do not care at all, as hardened as the path or pavement.

These are the people who has no plans in life, no directions, spending their lives watching days pass without knowing that they are really the ones passing by.

Sometimes, they just go wherever the winds would lead them while once in a while, they step out of themselves a little to join friends or peers wherever they may be going. Eventually they leave when the journey gets farther.

They are literally wasting their lives.

Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots.

They are the “spur of the moment” type who eventually end up as what we call ningas-cogon (a kind of local grass when dried is highly combustible; quick to start fire but quick to extinguish too).

Beware of them who are at the beginning very enthusiastic in every project and endeavor but when the goings get tough and difficult, they are the first to leave.

No roots, no foundations in life. Easy to give up. Just as hard as those seeds on the pavement.

Photo by author at Petra, Jordan, May 2019.

“Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it.”

These are the people who thrived a little but eventually the “thorns of the world” choked them that they eventually dried and died.

They are the kind of people we lament and sometimes grieve, wondering what have happened within them that their hearts have suddenly turned away from God and others with their noble causes we used to share with them at the beginning.

Oh, they are well represented in Congress, especially the party-list representatives of various advocacies for the marginalized and less privileged who eventually come out with their true colors and ugly features. Some of them simply stopped thinking and feeling the other persons, blinded with power and wealth selling off their souls completely to any golden calf willing to pay them.

The modern Judas Iscariots.

But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, flower farm at Atok, Benguet, 2019.

We now come to the better seeds (because all are good seeds, remember?).

They are the ones who fell on rich soil and produced fruit because they were the ones who willingly gave themselves up to the Sower. They are the ones who let go and let God, those who let themselves “die” and fell on the ground to give way to new life.

They are fruitful, not successful; the former relied on the powers of God, patiently bearing all pains and sufferings while the latter relied on their own powers, own intelligence and even connections that on the surface may seem to have the upper hand but totally empty inside.

The fruitful seeds are those willing to fall and be broken by God according to his divine plan. Many times, what is fruitful to God may be failures to us humans. Being fruitful is not about results and accumulations we have made but what have we become.

Fruitful people are focused on with the future glory to revealed by God through our pains and sufferings as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading today.

Let us not put into waste this good seed sown in us by Jesus Christ, allow it to be cracked open and broken to let the new life within us spring forth and lead us to becoming fruitful. Amen.

A blessed week ahead to everyone!