My unforgettable characters of COVID-19, images of Christ

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 April 2021


While COVID-19 truly provided us with so many images of hope amid the crisis we went through on its first year, the pandemic had also left us with some unforgettable characters that moved us to feel our humanity that unfortunately many of us have lost for so long.

In fact, it was grace-filled moment of this time of the corona virus that we feel our humanity again when we found our true friends with our true colors emerging.

We were moved to tears even by people we hardly knew but felt their pains and their joys, their love and their kindness, their fidelity and courage in the middle of many storms in life especially when most others preferred to be bystanders and be quiet.

Most of all, we found Jesus Christ among them who became our unforgettable characters during COVID-19’s first year.

Leading my list is Mang Dodong of Caloocan City.

Photo by Mr. Vincent Go, 2020.

It was early May last year when we were reeling from successive news of government officials breaking rules of health protocols, abusing their powers and worst of all, getting away with it! Some even got promoted like Police Gen. Sinas who is now the chief of PNP for his shameless mañanita birthday party.

Mang Dodong left their home in Caloocan sometime in early April to buy fish at Navotas he intended to peddle among his neighbors for some much-needed money. That was the last time his wife and adopted child saw him until after almost a month in May 2020. He was detained in Navotas for not having a quarantine pass.

But looking deeper, we see it so common ironically in this administration claiming to champion the masses, we find Mang Dodong’s primary violation was his being poor and most of all, an honorable man unlike the clowns and chimps in the corridors of power.

He was detained for almost a month with his wife said to be a semi-illiterate not knowing where to find him. Had it not for the church volunteers of the Diocese of Caloocan under the Most Rev. Pablo David, Mang Dodong could have stayed longer in detention with the officials having no any qualms at all with his situation.

It has a been a year since then and nothing happened with the case of Mang Dodong. No one was held responsible for his sufferings and hardships because he is poor yet an image of Jesus Christ immortalized in the beautiful hymn by the late Jesuit Father Ed Hontiveros:

Hesus na aking kapatid
Sa bukid Ka nagtatanim
Kung sa palengke din naman
Ikaw ay naghahanap-buhay

Tulutan mo’ng aking mata
Mamulat sa katotohanan
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Ikaw, Poon makikilala
Sa taong mapagkumbaba


When COVID-19 reached our country in mid-February last year directly from a Chinese tourist who became the pandemic’s first victim to die outside of the virus origin in Wuhan, everybody thought our dry season could flush out the corona.

It did not happen at all. Worst, the dry season even spelled disaster with many fires hitting the metropolis that summer like the one that hit Happyland district in Tondo on April 18, 2020 from where we got our second unforgettable character of COVID-19: a young man carrying his grandfather to escape the fire.

From the Facebook of Marivic Tribiana, April 2020.

So many families were left homeless with scores injured with some fatalities in what was the second or third fire to hit Tondo in Manila.

It was also the octave of Easter, a few days before “Divine Mercy Sunday” when it caught the attention of Fr. Marc Ocariza who was then the parochial vicar of St. Peter Alcantara in Taal, Bocaue, Bulacan.

Fr. Marc was so struck by the photo that he shared it on his Facebook account and that was how I saw it too.

Screenshot by Fr. Marc, April 2020.

Another day day passed, on the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday, Fr. Marc interpreted Ms. Tribiana’s post into a work of art using the app Digital Art Timelapse and dubbed his creation as “Nag-aalab na Pag-Ibig” which in turn inspired me to write a poem “Bakas ng Habag at Awa ni Jesus” I published in my blog on April 20, 2020 (https://lordmychef.com/2020/04/20/bakas-ng-habag-at-awa-ni-jesus/).

Click the link for our reflection why that young man is our unforgettable character, too.


Three great men of the Church did the same thing to us during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine, making Jesus present among us as the Good Shepherd in a time people were looking for true leaders giving us light when darkness enveloped us.

Without doubt, Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Dagupan, Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Manila, and Bishop Virgilio David of Caloocan will be among the most unforgettable characters during this pandemic following their bold efforts in alleviating the plight of the people in their respective diocese and most of all, in being the most vocal pastors who insisted for the opening of churches considering that religious activities are essential.

They were the voices in the wilderness who spoke the truth of Christ, bringing hope and enlightenment to everyone, including us priests as they both shared us their insights and encouragement to pray and serve God’s flock in these troubled times.

In those three Bishops we find what everybody else is missing in this pandemic: that it is not just a medical and social issue to be addressed but most of all, something of the spiritual and moral nature calling for our conversion as a nation, as disciples of the Lord.

Thank you very much, Bishops Soc, Pabillo, and David for bringing Christ in this time of the pandemic, providing us the spiritual nourishment and emotional support we all needed during this first year of the pandemic.

Photo by Angie de Silva, licas.news.
Photo from CBCP News.
Photo from UCANews.

And now we come to the most unforgettable characters of COVID-19 who are truly our modern day heroes and saints, who truly served like Jesus Christ forgetting their very selves to save countless men and women stricken with the virus.

Frontline workers in personal protective equipment man the E.R. at the Gat Andres Bonifacio Memorial Medical Center in Tondo, Manila, March 24, 2020. Photo by George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

Hail to our MEDICAL FRONTLINERS – the doctors and nurses, medical technologists, staff of every hospital, driver and crew members of ambulances who transported the sick day in, day out since the start of the pandemic until now.

They were the ones who kept us alive since day one of the pandemic until now with so many of them among the first casualties when COVID-19 hit the country last year.

Photo from Mobility PH of Phil. Daily Inquirer, 20 August 2020.

Sadly, despite their dedication to work, many of them had to suffer humiliation like one nurse who was evicted by her landlady after being positive with COVID while another nurse biking his way to the hospital died after being hit-and-run by a motorist.

Philippine Red Cross rescued nurse kicked out from her boarding house after testing positive with COVID in Makati last year. Photo by ABS-CBN News.

Words will never be enough to describe their dedication and love for those getting sick.

Every night, I pray so hard for them including their families who must have been so used to sleepless nights praying and worrying about their safety.

One thing I ask the Lord in my prayers for our medical frontliners: that they will all be around when this pandemic is over so we can celebrate with them and meet them, hug them and thank them for keeping us alive since it all began in 2020.

God bless and keep our medical frontliners!

Health workers form hearts with their hands as they show appreciation after the residents of La Verti Residences gave a tribute to frontliners on Easter Sunday last year. Photo by Czar Dancel, ABS-CBN News.

There are still other unforgettable characters who kept us alive and well, even sane, during the pandemic. We continue to pray for them as they work in silence serving us during these critical times like bakers and vendors, teachers, government workers, those in the police and military.

Not to forget, too, are our parents and everybody making our lives bearable even comfortable in these trying times. Do stay safe so we may celebrate with everyone when this virus is gone.

“Every Kinda People” (1978) by Robert Palmer

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 13 September 2020
Entering through the narrow door of the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, the Holy Land, May 2019.

Above is a photo I have taken of some pilgrims entering through the small door of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem last year. I have always loved the story why this entrance door is so small as it leads to a huge and very important church where the site of Jesus Christ’s birth is located.

According to tradition, pilgrims used to bring even their animals inside the church whenever they would come to worship at the site of the Lord’s birth. The priests and monks were so kind that they could not tell them to leave their horses outside to keep the church clean; and so, they built another entrance into the church with a door so small that even pilgrims have to bow in order to get inside.

Eventually, the small door taught everyone especially pilgrims the important lesson that to experience the coming of the Son of God to the world, one must learn to be humble, to bow or get low to get inside the Church of Nativity.

I know Christmas is still four months away but that is one reality we always forget, the we are all brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. That is the meaning of Christ’s call in today’s gospel to “forgive from one’s heart” son we can forgive without limits because we are all brothers and sisters in God the Father who loves and forgives us all (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/12/forgiving-from-the-heart-2/).

It is for this reason that we have chosen for our Sunday music “Every Kinda People” by the late English singer-songwriter Robert Palmer. It was his first top 40 hit released in 1978 that was rereleased in 1992 climbing the charts again for its beautiful music and superb lyrics that convey love and respect for every person.

Though the word forgiveness is nowhere to be found in the lyrics, it is implied because after all, the best expression of any love as shown to us by Jesus Christ is also the ability to forgive others and forego any revenge.

There’s no profit in deceit
Honest men know that
Revenge do not taste sweet
Whether yellow, black or white
Each and every man’s the same inside

What really hurts us most that we find it difficult to forgive those who have sinned against us is not only the injustice done to us but our being disrespected as a person who is a family like a spouse or a wife, a brother or a sister, a son or a daughter, a father or a mother, a kin or a friend, a confidant.

Our offenders thought only of themselves and forgot all about us, our love and kindness to them. Our oneness with them.

That is the unkindest cut of all, my brothers and sisters.

Have a blessed Sunday and a week ahead, keep loving and forgiving even if others do not. At least we remind them of that basic reality of every kinda people…

Music video by Robert Palmer performing Every Kinda People. (C) 1978 Universal Island Records Ltd. A Universal Music Company.

Of wages and gifts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorials of St. John Eudes & St. Ezechiel Moreno, Priests, 19 August 2020
Ezekiel 34:1-11 >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> ||| >><)))*> Matthew 20:1-16
Photo by author, Pulilan, Bulacan, February 2020.

As we go through more difficulties and sufferings during this time of pandemic, your words today dear God speak so well of what we need most – a true shepherd who will care for the lost and injured sheep.

Yes, you have fulfilled, O God, your promise a long time ago to Ezekiel that you yourself will come by sending us your Son Jesus Christ to look after and tend your sheep after the shepherds of Israel have miserably failed in their duties and responsibilities.

Unfortunately, there are still so many shepherds today in government even in Church who continue to pasture themselves!

Woe to the shepherds of Israel who has been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep? You have fed off their milk, worn their wool, and slaughtered the fatlings, but the sheep you have not pastured. You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally. As I live, says the Lord God, because my sheep have been given over to pillage, and because my sheep have become food for every wild beast, for lack of a shepherd; I swear I am coming against these shepherds.

Ezekiel 34:2-4, 8, 10

Teach us, O Lord, through the examples of two great shepherds of souls whose feast we celebrate today: St. John Eudes who was one of the early pioneers in propagating devotion to your most Sacred Heart and St. Ezechiel Moreno who served for 15 years in the Philippines and later in South America where innumerable cancer cures were attributed to him.

St. John Eudes and St. Ezechiel Moreno showed in their lives of faithful and loving apostolate for the poor that shepherding is always a gift, never to be counted or equated nor even be seen in terms of wages and pay like in the gospel.

Remind us sweet Jesus in the midst of this pandemic when we are called to be good shepherds like you, may we always see your call and mission to us as gifts freely given not as tasks or work to be compensated by material things because you believe in us.

May we always go the extra mile in answering your call, O Lord, which is in itself a tremendous gift we must cherish for we are not even worthy at all to receive. Amen.

From Google.

Rebellious people, merciful God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of Sts. Pontian and Hippolytus, Martyrs, 13 August 2020
Ezekiel 12:1-12 >><)))*> |+| >><)))*> |+| >><)))*> Matthew 18:21-19:1
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2018.

Praise and glory to you, our merciful Father always waiting for us to come home to you. Thank you for being patient with us who always rebel against you, turning away from you to be on our own.

Sadly, whenever we rebel, it is not you whom we hurt and inflict pain with but those dearest to us like our family and friends who truly love us. We are like the people of Jerusalem who have become callous and indifferent, cold and distant from you, O God, who truly cared for them.

The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house; they have eyes to see but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear, for they are a rebellious house.

Ezekiel 12:1-12

So many times, loving Father, we have become like that debtor in Christ’s parable whose debts were written off by his master and yet could not do the same to a fellow debtor who owed him with a lesser amount.

Both that debtor in the gospel and the rebellious house of Israel in the first reading share the same sin and evil attitude of refusing to recognize your goodness and mercy you have given them that we are equally guilty of today.

So many times in our lives, Lord, this same attitude of being rebellious and unmerciful are the main reasons that destroy our many relationships because we have separated ourselves from others.

Teach us through Jesus Christ to always live grateful to your abounding love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness to us, Father, so we may always share these same blessings with others.

Touch our hearts like you have moved the first anti-pope, St. Hippolytus who sought forgiveness from the Pope he had earlier rebelled against, St. Pontian after they were both sent to hard labor on the island of Sardinia during the persecution by Maximus Thrax.

What a beautiful twist of fate that you still brought them together, Lord to share in witnessing to your truth and mercy.

We pray today for those who have rebelled against you, O God, uttering all kinds of blasphemies against your most Holy Name not realizing that the more they rebel against you, the more they have become distant from us the people they are supposed to serve.

Open their eyes and their ears so they may see and hear the sufferings of the people in this time of pandemic. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, May 2020.

Human situation, Divine response: multiplying our blessings

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVIII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 02 August 2020
Isaiah 55:1-3 >><}}}*> Romans 8:35, 37-39 >><}}}*> Matthew 14:13-21

Remember our reflection last Sunday? Of how parables teach us that “less is always more” because to have the kingdom of God – Jesus Christ himself – we have to learn to appreciate the little things in life?

Beginning this Sunday until August 16, our gospels will start telling us who is Jesus Christ by showing us his powers and abilities that are exactly opposite the way we see and understand them. This new series of stories are so relevant to us in this time of pandemic, giving us wonderful insights into God’s ways of responding to our human situations.

St. Matthew now leads us with Jesus to the wilderness after teaching us in parables to experience his power in transforming us like the five loaves and two fish to feed more than five thousand people.

Multi-layered story of the multiplication of bread

All four evangelists have recorded this story of Jesus Christ’s multiplication of the loaves of bread with their particular focus and stress, showing us that it truly happened and was a major event in the Lord’s ministry.

Very unique with St. Matthew’s version of this miracle story – which has not one but two! – is his economy of words in narrating it like a straight news as if it were a developing story or a “breaking news” unfolding before us, calling us to follow its updates and details due to its multi-layered meanings.

When Jesus heard of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

Matthew 14:13-21
Photo from iStock/Studio-Annika.

The consolation of Jesus.

Our situation in this time of the corona pandemic is so similar with that of Jesus. With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, it has finally hit us hard, so close to home with news of those we know getting infected and worst, dying from this disease.

Like Jesus upon hearing the death of John the Baptist, we are all saddened that we wish to withdraw away from everyone.

We want to mourn but there are more people in need of our presence and help in this time of pandemic like the countless medical frontliners and health workers who must be so tired – even sick, physically and emotionally – by now with the growing number of COVID-19 patients and yet have chosen to remain in their posts.

And there are still the other casualties of this pandemic like those who have lost their jobs, those evicted from their rented apartments, those stranded and separated from their loved ones, those begging for food, and those afflicted with other sickness going through dialysis and physical therapy.

Jesus knows so well the “wilderness” we are all going through and he is right here with us, one with us in our sufferings, in our fears and anxieties, and in our exhaustion.

To be one with us is consolation, from the Latin “con” or with + “solare” or alone, to be one with somebody feeling alone.

Jesus did not remove our pains and sufferings, even our death; he joined us to be one with us in these that he can call us to “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give your rest. Take my yoke upon you… For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt.11:28-30, 14th Sunday, 05 Jul 2020).

Compassion of Jesus.

Still with Christ’s reaction of being “moved with pity” at the sight of the crowds who have followed him to the wilderness, we find something more deeper with his being one with us, in consoling us that he had forgotten all about himself, his tired body that he went on to heal the sick among them.

To be moved with pity is more than a feeling of the senses but a response of his total person.

You respond for help, you reply to a call.

Ever wondered why we have the “responsorial psalm” after the first reading in the Mass? Because those words from the Psalms express our total assent and commitment to God, involving our total self like body, mind, heart and soul.

Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmel Monastery, Israel, 2016.

God cannot suffer because he is perfect.

That is why he became human like us in Jesus Christ to be one with our suffering and death so that we would one with him in his glorious Resurrection.

In the wilderness, Jesus stayed with the people, not allowing them to leave as suggested by the Twelve because he was moved with pity with the crowd because he wanted to suffer with them.

That is compassion, literally means to “suffer with” from cum + patior. Here in the wilderness, Jesus showed his compassion for the people which will reach its highest point in giving himself on the Cross on Good Friday.

Have we “responded” to God’s call to serve, to a call of duty, and to a plea for help from the poor? Have we truly given ourselves to somebody without ever thinking our own comfort or rewards? Or, are we running away from his Cross?

What a shame in this time of pandemic there are some among us who rejoice at the losses of others like the Twelve who wanted the crowd to be sent home because they were afraid of responsibilities, of taking care of the suffering people.

Consolation and compassion are the two most needed from each of us in this time of crisis.

Our scarcity mentality, the God of plenty.

We now come to the miracle of the feeding of five thousand. According to the late Fr. Henri Nouwen, this story is an example of our “scarcity mentality” when we think of not having enough, of finding what we have as too little, always looking for more; hence, our tendency to hoard everything.

The Twelve were thinking more of themselves, afraid they could go hungry with the five loaves of bread and two fish they have. They were so afraid of difficulties ahead of them in their situation where to find and how to feed those great number of people.

They were focused on what was lacking than on what they have, and who was with them, Jesus Christ! They were hungry for food in the stomach than for food to the soul unlike the crowds who have followed Jesus.

Worst of all, the Twelve got “mad” upon seeing the crowds who have followed them to the wilderness when in fact, it was Jesus who needed most to rest to mourn John’s death!

But through all these, Jesus patiently bore the people’s woes and the Twelve’s selfishness to teach them all in a very nice way something so essential in our response to every human suffering and extreme situation: opening and entrusting our selves totally to God.

And that was actually the greatest miracle that happened that day.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In doing it, Jesus simply asked the Twelve what they have, never asking how much they have or its condition. Just whatever they have to give everything to Jesus like those five loaves and two fish that he took, and while looking up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the Twelve to distribute to the crowd.

And everyone was satisfied with a lot of left overs too!

Matthew nor any of the other Evangelists ever explained how it happened because it does not really matter at all. What is most important is what are we willing to give up to Jesus so he can transform us into better persons.

That is what we continue to do this day in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist- whatever we have, even not the best or the worst and littlest we have, when given to Jesus becomes holy and multiplied!

The power of God is immense, without doubt. But, in this miracle of the feeding of five thousand, Jesus is showing us that his power is not meant to satisfy our material or bodily needs but our deepest desires that lead to our fulfillment in him as prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading.

Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.

Isaiah 55:2-3

Amid the pandemic worsened by our government officials’ inanities, irresponsibilities, and sheer lack of compassion with us in this wilderness, the Lord assures us today that he is with us for “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” (Second Reading) if we are willing to give him all that we have.

It is our spiritual transformation first that leads us to our material blessings. We can all have it if we are willing to give everything to Jesus and believe in him always. What do you have for miracles to happen?

A blessed August ahead for you! Amen.

Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmel, Israel, 2016.

Pitumpung alagad… nino?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-15 ng Hulyo 2020
Sa gitna nitong mga balita
sa garapal at walang kahihiyang
ginawa ng pitumpung mambabatas
na nagkait ng prangkisa sa Kapamilya
aking naalala sa Banal na Bibliya
kuwento ni San Lucas na ebanghelista
nang ang Panginoong Hesus humirang noon 
pitumpung alagad o pitumput-dalawa 
na sinugo Niya ng dala-dalawa 
sa bawat pook at bayan na patutunguhan Niya.
Sinabi Niya sa kanila
"Sagana ang aanihin, ngunit kakaunti
ang mga manggagawa... Humayo kayo!
Sinusugo ko kayong parang mga kordero
sa gitna ng mga asong-gubat.
Huwag na kayong magdala ng lukbutan,
supot, o panyapak.  Huwag na kayong titigil
sa daan upang makipagbatian kaninuman.
Pagpasok ninyo sa alinmang bahay,
batiin ninyo ng kapayapaan;
Manatili kayo sa inyong tinutuluyan, 
huwag kayong magpalipat-lipat ng bahay.
Pagalingin ang mga may karamdaman
sa bawat bayan na inyong pupuntahan 
mga taumbayan ay sabihang nalalapit na 
ang paghahari ng Diyos sa tanan." 
Inyong tingnan sa Banal na Kasulatan
ito ay malalaman, matatagpuan sa Lucas 10:1-12
kahanga-hangang misyon ng pitumpung alagad
ng ating Panginoon noong unang panahon
hatid sa tao pag-asa at pag-ahon;
inyong tingnan ngayon mga pahayagan
pakinggan mga balita ng labis na kasamaan
kawalan ng kahihiyan ni pakundangan
nitong pitumpung nilalang 
turing sa sarili at mga kasamahan "kagalang-galang"?
Sila ma'y pinahayo, sinugo
ng pinapanginoon nilang Poncio Pilato
asal nila masahol pa sa asong-gubat
kaayusan at kapayapaan tinapakan
at niyurakan ng kanilang kapalaluan;
sa bawat halalan pangako paglilingkuran
nasasakupan agad namang tinatalikuran
palipat-lipat ng kakampihan kung saan makikinabang 
sa sama-samang pagsamsam sa kaban ng bayan;
kunwari'y mabuti ang kalooban 
kaban-kabang bigas pinamimigay
milyung-milyong kapalit naman ang dinudugas;
kunwari'y malasakit para sa may-sakit
pakilala sa lahat ay kuya na tila kapamilya
pati turo ng Diyos sinasalaula
manang mana sa kanyang ama.
Sa pagsusugo ni Hesus sa pitumpung alagad Niya
binigay din Kanyang babala 
Araw ng Paghuhukom malapit na;
kaya sana itong pitumpung kongresista 
pati na kanilang mga kasama
mabatid ang usapin ay hindi lang prangkisa
kungdi kanilang pagmamalabis;
huwag ninyong punuin ang salop
dahil ang Diyos Siyang kakalos
at baka sapitin ninyo ay kalunus-lunos.

When we humans know so much

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 07 July 2020
Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13 >><)))*> <*(((><< Matthew 9:32-38
Photo by author, 2019.

Forgive us, O Lord, for the many times we have played gods, knowing too much when in fact we know nothing at all. So often, we never consult you and rely more in our limited understanding and perception of things that in the end lead to more woes and problems for us.

Thus says the Lord: They make kings in Israel, but not by my authority; they established princes, but without my approval. With their silver and gold they made idols for themselves, to their own destruction. Cast away your calf, O Samaria! my wrath is kindled against them. How long will they be unable to attain innocence in Israel? The work of an artisan no god at all; destined for the flames — such is the calf of Samaria! When they sow the wind, they shall reap the whirlwind; the stalk of grain that forms no ear can yield no flour; even if it could, strangers would swallow it.

Hosea 8:4-7

When will we ever learn, Lord?

We always have our own golden calf to worship, turning away from you, the only true God, fount of all life and meaning, grace and fulfillment. We keep doing things according to our plans, each of us desiring to outdo each other, turning away from you.

How sad that whenever you try to intervene and save us or bring us back into the right course of life, we see you more as coming from the devil. Forgive us, Lord, in making it so difficult even for you to be in the right place in our lives for we are so full of ourselves.

And that is really how it is with us: we always feel so troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd but would never admit it, replacing persons with material things not realizing that life is meant to be lived with people not with things.

Create in us an awareness of your presence, of your love so we may be more attuned with you and the people around us. Amen.

Photo by author of plants growing on rocks at the Holy Land, 2019.

When words are not enough

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XIX in Ordinary Time, Year II, 04 June 2020
2 Timothy 2:8-15 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 12:28-34
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, 02 June 2020

Remind people of these things and charge them before God to stop disputing about words. This serves no useful purpose since it harms those who listen.

2 Timothy 2:14

Dear God:

For today I just wanted to be silent before you in prayer.

But, you spoke a lot in that silence. Or, did I?

You know very well, Lord, how we have been silent since the start of this quarantine period due to COVID-19 pandemic. We bore everything in silence as much as possible, giving our government officials and lawmakers a chance to redeem themselves.

After all, we are in this mess because of their refusal to listen what others have been saying for the safety of the country, speaking of diplomacy and friendships among the originators of COVID-19, not knowing two of them have been infected with corona while here visiting. One eventually became the first fatality of COVID-19 outside China.

Photo by author, our altar decor with a snake on first week of Lent, 2020.

Those in government have always been doing all the talking that has always been non-sense and rubbish. They thought that the more words they used, the more things get clearer.

That is the problem, Lord: those in government like many of us your people are not aware that your silence always precedes your speaking; that your words are full of power, full of life, the fullness of meaning because every word comes from silence.

We humans, especially our elected officials, are all speaking out of noise and void, not from silence which is fullness.

We keep on talking in the hope and belief that the more we talk, the more our words become meaningful.

Lately, it is the opposite that is happening: the more our government officials speak, the more their words become empty while their tongues get sharper like swords, inflicting more pain and causing more shame.

They speak of lies after lies after lies hoping they become true if repeatedly said but the more they are lost.

They speak so tough, complete with warning against violators of quarantine rules but they are the ones who fall into their own pit, becoming like dogs eating what they have spit.

They speak of opening shops and offices, but they are closed to the plight of the commuters.

Worst and most unkind of all, they speak shamelessly of blaming the people for all their woes in this time of pandemic quarantine while they were busy silencing us the people, closing ABS-CBN and just this week, surreptitiously passing the anti-terror bill that silences all critics of this administration mired in profanities, lies, and insincerity.

They make so many laws, using so many words, and yet not a single word proved to be good like the scribe who asked Jesus:

“Which is the first of all the commandments?”

Mark 12:28
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, commuters at start of lockdown, March 2020.

Lord God of power and might, you are the only we have always count on for our protection and salvation.

You know what is in our hearts and you know very well what we are willing to do if you just say so.

For the sake of peace in our country, let our leaders eat their words or at least, keep their mouths shut to stop all their shows and start to listen, accept and love.

Thank you, Lord.

Will be more silent next time as you speak more.

Amen.

Lamenting in time of quarantine

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 03 May 2020
Photo by author, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan. April 2020.

Against the advice of good friends, I went out to distribute Holy Communion in the streets to some parishioners who have participated in our Sunday Mass early this morning at Facebook Live.

I know the risks involved despite our best efforts in having all the precautionary measures but, what convinced me to go on with it is a beautiful Psalm so appropriate during this quarantine period.

As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God.

My being thirsts for God, the living God. When can I go and see the face of God?

Psalm 42:2-3
Photo from Reddit.

Sometime in March, I had some blues when I came across a reflection in one of the blogs I follow that soothed me like a gentle caress from God himself that I began praying Psalm 42 again (https://prodigalthought.net/2020/03/02/lament-in-silence/#comments).

And when our quarantine period was extended for the second time before the end of Holy Week last month, I began praying again Psalm 42 every night for that is when I truly long for God so much, most of the time lamenting to him our situation, my condition of being alone in my rectory.

This is the first time I felt like this, so different from those so-called “desolation” or “dryness” because I could feel God present in my prayers but… he is not “fresh”.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Like the deer longing for streams of water, my soul longs for God too.

Not just like the water we buy from a filling station but exactly what the deer yearns for — fresh water that is refreshingly cool not only on your face but deep into your body when sipped amid the burbling sounds of the spring, babbling through rocks and branches of trees with the loamy aroma of earth adding a dash of freshness in you.

Admittedly, sometimes I wonder if I still know how to pray or if I still pray at all!

I can feel God present but he is like someone stacked there in my mind, in my memory, in my ideas shaped by my years of learning and praying.

What I am longing for is a God so alive, so true not only in me but also in another person.

And that is when I realized, most likely, my parishioners must be longing for God too in the same way — the God we all come to meet and celebrate with every Sunday in our little parish, among the people present who are so alive, so vibrant, so true, so touching.

Our empty church since March due to COVID-19.

Psalm 42 is believed to have been sang by David when he was prevented from coming to the tent of God either during the reign of King Saul who plotted to kill him or during the revolt of his own son Absalom when he was already the king of Israel.

Like David or the psalmist, I miss celebrating Mass with my parishioners.

And maybe it is safe to assume that two or three of my parishioners are also feeling the same way with me and David, saying these to the Lord:

My tears have been my food day and night, as they ask daily, “Where is your God?”

Those times I recall as I pour out my soul,

When I went in procession with the crowd, I went with them to the house of God,

Amid loud cries of thanksgiving, with the multitude keeping festival.

Psalm 42:4-5

If there is one very essential thing this pandemic has brought back to us in our very busy lives, it is most certainly God. And if ever this is one thing people need most in this time of corona virus, it is spiritual guidance and nourishment from God through his priests.

Of course, people can pray and talk to God straight as the Pope had reminded us before Holy Week.

But, human as we are, we always experience God and his love, his kindness, his mercy, his presence among other people who guide us and join us in our spiritual journey. They are special people like friends or relatives or pastors with whom they can be themselves, let off some steam, get some rays of light of hope and encouragement.

And that this is why I try to keep in touch with my parishioners in various ways in this time of corona: even I myself can feel so low and dark despite my prayers and very condition of living right here in the house of God who can still feel alone and desolate, even depressed.

If I – a priest – go through all these uncertainties and doubts this in this time of quarantine, how much more are the people, the beloved sheep of Jesus the Good Shepherd?

Why are you downcast, my soul; why do you groan within me?

Wait for God, whom I shall praise again, my savior and my God.

Psalm 42:6
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 10 April 2020.

After our Mass this morning when we set out to distribute the Holy Communion, there was a little drizzle. It did not last long that I just wore a hat and left my umbrella in the rectory.

There were about 30 people who waited for us to receive Holy Communion, most of them along the main highway that stretched to about 2 kilometers. Some families gathered with a little altar at their front gate while a waited a couple waited in a gas station along our route.

In less than 20 minutes, we have completed our mission and as we headed back to the parish, the rains fell again, this time stronger than before.

My driver commented, “The weather cooperated with us, Father”1

I just nodded my head to him inside his tricycle but deep inside me, I felt joy because God answered my prayer, my lamentations for he was crying too, – for me and his people.

May this lamentation be an answer to your lamentations during this pandemic of COVID-19.

Continue with your lamentations to God our Father for this very act of crying out to him is the working of the Holy Spirit he had sent us through our Lord Christ Jesus. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 26 April 2020.

Looking up to heaven, looking down within us for God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Friday, Easter Week-II, 24 April 2020

Acts of the Apostles 5:34-42 ><)))*> + 0 + <*(((>< John 6:1-15

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

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father in heaven!

I have been taught since childhood that you dwell up in the sky and that is why like all the others, I always point up to you whenever we refer to your dwelling place, O God.

And I am certain, too, that you are indeed up there that every time we wake up, every time we feel happy or troubled, we always glance upwards like praying to you, calling to you, and looking for you.

Indeed, Gamaliel was absolutely correct when he cautioned his fellow Pharisees in the first reading to remind us too of this certainty:

“Fellow children of Israel, be careful what you are about to do to these men… But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”

Acts 5:35, 39

Give us the gift of discernment of your Holy Will, Father, that we may always know what to do, that we may always decide according to your plan.

As we look up to you in the sky where believe heaven is, the more we also look down inside ourselves and everyone to find you among us in your Son Jesus Christ.

Yes, loving Father, you have sent us Jesus so that as we look up to you in the heavens, the more we shall search and probe our hearts, our lives, our situations, and our brothers and sisters to find you dwelling among us in Christ like there in the wilderness when he fed more than 5000 people.

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowds was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them?” He said this to test him because he himself knew what he was going to do.

John 6:1-6

What a lovely scene repeated to us daily, especially in this time of the quarantine!

Jesus raising his eyes, seeing a large crowd hungry, sick, afraid… and then talking to us where to find bread in order to test us — because he always knows what he is going to do….

If we could all be like that little boy who looked into himself, into what he had, no matter how little they may be like the five barley loaves of bread and two pieces of fish….

O Lord, keep us looking for you first within us, into whatever we have, and unto others so we may let you do your work in us to feed and heal the people locked in this quarantine.

Give us the grace, Lord, to always search and find you and follow you not only up in the heavens most especially down deep in our hearts, in the face of the people we meet, in our situation in this time of the corona virus.

It is in finding you in our hearts, on the face of one another, and in the situation we are into when we truly dwell in your house, O Lord. Amen.

Sunrise at the Sea of Galilee, Israel. Photo by author, May 2017.