Knowing is belonging

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Easter-C, 08 May 2022
Acts 13:14, 43-52 ><}}}}*> Revelation 7:9, 14-17 ><}}}}*> John 10:27-30
Photo from https://aleteia.org/2019/05/12/three-of-the-oldest-images-of-jesus-portrays-him-as-the-good-shepherd/.

The Good Shepherd is the earliest portrayal of our Lord Jesus Christ in art. Mostly done in paintings in the catacombs of Rome, Jesus the Good Shepherd is shown as a young, muscular man to signify his eternity carrying on his shoulders a lost sheep.

But that imagery of a shepherd taking care of the lost sheep and flock was an original thought among peoples in the ancient Near East that included Israel. Kings in Babylonia and Assyria regarded themselves as shepherds tasked by their gods to care especially for the weak. This concept we also find in the Old Testament like in the Books of Psalms and of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel where God promised to send true “shepherds after his own heart” (Jer. 3:15) who shall lead his flock Israel with justice back to him.

That prophecy is fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is not just a shepherd but “the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn.10:11) because he is one with his flock.

Oneness is an inner sense of belongingness in personhood and experiences, a common union or communion of selves and experiences like in Jesus becoming human like us to be one in our pains and sufferings and death so that we may be like him in his glorious resurrection and eternal life.

Jesus said: “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand. The Father and I are one.”

John 10:27-28, 30
Photo from Pinterest.com.

Jesus knows us, gives us eternal life; we hear and follow him.

To know in Jewish thought is not merely an intellectual activity of having information and details especially when used in relation with persons. To know somebody means to have a relationship. Knowing is belonging.

Jesus as the Good Shepherd knows us his sheep because we belong to him, and whether we like it or not, we know him precisely because we are his! Recall that during his trial before Pilate, Jesus declared “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (Jn.18:37).

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

From the very start, we have always belonged to God so that out of his great love for us he sent us his Son Jesus Christ so we can find our way back home to him. We are all God’s children created in his “image and likeness” who have become in many instances prodigal sons and daughters living like lost and injured sheep who need all the care and redemption to gain our status again as the Father’s beloved.

Our “belonging” to God is different from “possessing” in the same manner we belong to our parents or spouses to their partner. Human belongingness is way different from things as belongings, although so many times, it happens that people treat persons as things and objects to be possessed than subjects to be loved and cherished.

What do we mean? Children belong to parents and spouses belong to their partner but they can never be considered as possessions or property to be used and manipulated. People belong to one another like children to parents, husband to wife, and wife to husband as most cherished possessions in the sense that they are gifts from God, so unique in one’s self, free to grow and mature as a person. We belong to one another in mutual responsibility not as property; hence, the need for us to accept and support each other in love which leads to deeper communion and oneness through intimacy that extends to eternity!

Now we see why Jesus said he knows his sheep and gives them eternal life. Here we find the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd is in fact the image of Christ the King of the universe which sheds light on his very kingship as seen by John in his vision in our second reading today “of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands” (Rev. 7:9) which is reminiscent of his triumphal entry to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

In the first reading we have also heard how from the very beginning, it has been God’s plan to lead all men to salvation in Jesus Christ. Despite the setbacks encountered by Paul and Barnabas in Antioch when they were rejected by their fellow Jews, their decision to turn to the gentiles to proclaim the Gospel was in fulfillment of of the Lord’s will that “have made them a light to the Gentiles to be instruments of salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47).

The mark of a true shepherd is like a light who leads us to Jesus Christ and his values of prayer, life, persons, family, and justice among others. Here is the distinction between the true shepherd and a thief – a robber does not pass through Jesus, the gate of the sheep (Jn.10:1ff). A thief like many politicians and dictators including their handlers see the flock as things and properties they own and possess who can be bought and be forgotten, even disregarded, until the next elections. (So, vote wisely by listening more to Jesus than to anyone like the candidates’ endorsers.)

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, QC, 2018.

Belonging and mutuality

Human belongingness calls for mutuality for it to truly lead to oneness and communion. Jesus said he knows us and gives us eternal life because according to him, we his sheep hear his voice and follow him (v.27).

Do we listen to him and follow him?

Today we are also celebrating Mother’s Day. What a wonderful tribute to mothers who are indeed one of the truest good shepherdess in the world – the one to whom we all belong to, having cared for us from the very beginning in their womb.

Mothers are the most loving, most merciful, and most forgiving of all persons in the world, just like Jesus our Good Shepherd but sad to say, the one we most hurt when we disrespect her, from answering her back to swearing and sadly, when we disobey her. Ironically, when things go wrong with us and our lives, the first person we go to and accepts us is our mother too!

So many times, mothers bear all pains and hardships in life just to see their children fulfilled in life, choosing to suffer and cry in silence to hide the great difficulties they face daily, both physically and emotionally. That is how loving mothers are that in the Old Testament, God introduced himself as a mother, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you” (Is.49:15).

It is so easy to say “we love our mom” like claiming “Jesus is our Good Shepherd” but it is entirely another thing to live as a mother’s child or Christ’s sheep.

The grace of this Good Shepherd Sunday is Christ’s coming to us not only to lead us to greener pastures but to renew our relationships, our belonging to him and the Father to experience fulfillment in life. Whether at home or in our nation, may we listen more to Jesus by being mutual in our respect and love for one another and to our Motherland too!

May we have a peaceful and matured elections this Monday! Amen.

Lent: a return to our first love

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Lent-C, 06 March 2022
Deuteronomy 26:4-10 ><}}}*> Romans 10:8-13 ><}}}*> Luke 4:1-13
Photo by author, view of Israel from Mount Nebo in Jordan, May 2019.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI used to say that the imagery of the desert during the season of Lent is an invitation for us to remember, to revisit and to return to our very “first love” of all – God.

Yes! God is our first love for he is the first to love us, always calling us to come to him to have more of his love. Pope Benedict wrote in his first encyclical in 2005, Deus Caritas Est, that “Love can be commanded (by God) because it has first been given by him”, and that “love grows through love”.

And that is why every first Sunday of Lent, we hear the story of the temptation of Jesus by the devil in the desert as he invites us to go back to our first love, God our Father, teaching us and giving us the grace to overcome temptations that have brought us apart from God and everyone.

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.

Luke 4:1-2
Photo by author, view of Israel from Mount Nebo in Jordan, May 2019.

Let your love flow.

Of the three evangelists who recorded the temptation of Jesus in the desert by the devil, only Luke gives us a more detailed and sober version that you could feel Christ’s docility to the Holy Spirit; Matthew and Mark were both abrupt, as if Jesus was hurriedly led by the Spirit into the desert after his baptism at Jordan.

Luke’s version gives us a sense of peace and tranquility in Jesus who obeyed the Holy Spirit spontaneously which he would always do throughout his ministry; this his disciples would imitate as we shall see in Luke’s second book, the Acts of the Apostles.

This short introduction by Luke to the temptation of the Lord in the desert teaches us the first step in every Lent and ultimately in life: our docility to the Holy Spirit like Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, Mount Nebo, Jordan, May 2019.

And there lies the problem with us as we refuse to love God, when we refuse to mature in love as we keep on looking even inventing our own loves that in the end leaves us empty and alienated.

In this age of too much gadgets and instants plus emphasis on freedom and independence, we have forgotten to be docile and submissive in the good sense as we keep on asserting our very selves, always trying to be in command of everything.

Experience tells us that the key to truly experiencing love – to love and be loved – is to let yourself be led by your beloved, by a loved one. To simply let your love flow.

The three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and alms-giving rest on our willingness to submit ourselves to God, to trust him and rely only in him.

To be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with love that we first search God to love him and have more of his love to share with others.

The three “faces” of power that ruin love

Too often, we resist God by subduing our inner call to love, preferring to control everything and everyone. We prefer power than love, thinking wrongly that we can force or impose love on others.

Remember the movie “Bruce Almighty” about 20 years ago?

The turning point of the movie happened when Jennifer Aniston left her boyfriend Jim Carrey who could not submit himself and follow his heart to propose to her; Jim could not understand why can’t just God played by Morgan Freeman impose love on his girlfriend Jennifer to save him all the efforts and time in proving his love and proposing to her. Freeman as God simply told Bruce he cannot force love because that’s the way it is, so free that is why love is so wonderful!

Love and power cannot go together. Love is ruined when power and control come in any relationship. Adam and Eve desired the powers of God that led them into sin and be banished from Paradise.

This we see in the three temptations of Jesus Christ by the devil which is centered on power; notice how Jesus resisted temptation by choosing the path of love of God which is the path of powerlessness.

Photo from commons.wikipedia.org, Basilica di San Marco, Venice, Italy.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live by bread alone.”

Luke 4:3-4

The first temptation of power is the ability to do everything. Every suitor is guilty of this when he tries to do everything just to win the heart of the woman of his dreams which often ends sadly, even miserably or tragic.

Too often, we feel and believe that it is love when we try to do everything just for the beloved.

No! We are not God. We cannot do everything. Love is not about doing but being.

Jesus could have turned that stone into bread but he did not do it because it is not the proof of his being the Son of God. His docility to the Father, his fidelity to his words and will expressed by his self-sacrifice at the Cross proved that he is indeed the Christ.

At the same time, his love for people is not in doing everything, especially in giving us the quick-fixes to our many problems and sufferings. In the wilderness, Jesus fed more than 5000 people from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish after he had found the people ready to love, ready to accept him and one anther.

The problem with power to do everything is we cease from becoming a person who “feels” and experiences pain and hunger, sadness and failures that eventually make us stronger and deeper in love and convictions. When we keep on doing everything believing in our powers, then we get burned in the process, becoming resentful and bitter later after skipping the normal courses of life.

We are loved not by what we can do nor achieve but what we could become – a nicer, kinder, forgiving and understanding and loving person.


Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant. The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and their glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours, if you worship me.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written: You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

Luke 4: 5-8

The second temptation of power is to dominate others. If you cannot do everything, subjugate others who can do things for you. Entice them with everything and whatever you have; buy their souls like our politicians who shamelessly forget history and values of freedom and democracy for the sake of winning an office.

Photo by author, 2019.

Love begets love. Jesus had no need to be popular, to be viral and liked by everyone. He loves us so much and the love he offers us is a love that is willing to die in one’s self, a love that goes for the Cross because that is true love. Never convenient nor comforting. Love is always difficult because it is a decision we keep and stand for every day.

This is the gist of the first reading when Moses reminded the people to always remember and review their history to be aware of how God had never left them, loving them despite their sinfulness. Remembering keeps our love alive because it always reminds us of the persons behind every events in our lives, keeping us united to the person in love even up to the present moment. Recall those time you have “lover’s quarrel” or LQ: what is usually the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it not your love story, of how you met and dreamt together, of how you love each other?

Love is about persons, not about things like wealth and fame. The Beatles said it so well in the 60’s, All You Need is Love.


Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and : With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

Luke 4:9-12

The third temptation of power is to manipulate, even God, the all-powerful. This is the most insidious temptation that hides its sinister plans in a lot of “loving” and “caring” facades of fakeries.

It is the worst of the three as it enters one’s psyche, the highest degree of brainwashing. See how the devil had chosen the site of the temple, citing the scriptures in tempting the Lord.

The devil does the same with us, especially those toxic people who would try to massage our egos, trying to win us over unto them only to manipulate us and when worst comes to worst, play victims to us.

Love is never manipulative; the more you love, the more you become free to be your true self, your better self. Love is always a desire to become like the one you love, a movement to becoming like the beloved, not imposing one’s self to another. Love is always an invitation to journey, to be a companion, to come and follow without hidden agendas and plans.

Love is self-emptying, of giving, of baring one’s self to another to share life, never to take advantage or pull-off a big gain or profit from another. That is why St. Paul reminds us in the second reading that God is never far from us for his word is “near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (Rom.10:8).

The grace of this First Sunday of Lent is Jesus taking the first step by coming to us out of his great love for us so that we can begin the journey back to the Father, our first love, helping us overcome the many temptations not to love. May we follow his path of powerlessness, of docility to the Holy Spirit to truly experience God’s abounding love for us. Amen.

A blessed week ahead to everyone.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

Lent is choosing life

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday after Ash Wednesday, 03 March 2022
Deuteronomy 30:15-20   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 9:22-25
Photo by author, Sonia’s Garden, Tagaytay City, 15 February 2022.
Thank you very much,
dear God our loving Father
for the gift of prayer today:
to pray to you, to remember you
is already a choice for life,
a rejection of death.

Moses said to the people: “I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him. For that will mean life for you, a long life for you to live on the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Deuteronomy 30:19-20
Thank you for the gift of these
40 days of Lent for us to be 
conscious again of our decision
to choose life, to choose you;
but, Lord, what is to choose life,
what is to choose YOU?

Then Jesus said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”

Luke 9:23-25
Choosing life, choosing YOU
dear God means choosing to love
myself, you, and others;
choosing life, choosing YOU
dear God means choosing the
Cross of Jesus Christ your Son;
how ironic that with love being
the best we can have in life, 
it is what we always reject too
as we find it hard to love our very
selves and in the process, love you
and others.
Choosing to love myself is to accept my 
giftedness, to see myself as you
see me despite my sins and flaws
yet still loved and forgiven;
to love you, O Lord, means to
enter into a personal relationship
with you, to love whom you love,
to simply love; and to love others is 
to love as myself, to find you in them
especially the sick and the poor.
Oh God!  How easy it is to say these
because it is indeed a cross - sometimes
too heavy when I love myself more than
I love you or others;  while we always 
choose life and love, in reality we choose
death because we refuse to love like
Jesus who gave his life for our sake
so that we may also love like him.
Send me the Holy Spirit to enlighten
my mind and my heart always so that
in every choice I make beginning
this Lent, may I be more focused with
the "who" or person than the "what" or thing
because it is only in YOU found within me
and in every person I meet that there can
truly be life, love and blessings.  Amen.

Discipleship is loving like God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week VII-C in Ordinary Time, 20 February 2022
1 Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 ><}}}*> Luke 6:27-38
Photo by author, 15 February 2022.

Jesus continues with his sermon on the plains, going into the details of his main lesson, the Beatitudes which is about love. But not just love as we know and practice: twice Jesus tells us to “Love your enemies” (Lk.6:27, 35).

His instruction to “love your enemies” captures all the other moral injunctions in his lessons this Sunday meant to teach us to love like God as revealed by Jesus Christ. Recall how these past three Sundays we have been assured of the grace of God of the paradoxical happiness in life’s many contradictions we as disciples of Christ are invited to adopt by being poor, hungry, weeping and persecuted.

Jesus is teaching us his disciples to trust in him always, to look at everything in his perspective so that we may live and act like God our Father who loves everyone without measure. And to love without measure even one’s enemies begins in foregoing revenge as shown by David in the first reading.

In those day, Saul went down to the desert of Ziph with three thousand picked men of Israel, to search for David. So David and Abishai went among Saul’s soldiers by night and found Saul lying asleep within the barricade, with his spear thrust into the ground at his head and Abner and his men sleeping around him. Going across to an opposite slope, David stood on a remote hilltop at a great distance from Abner and the troops. He said: “Here is the king’s spear. Let an attendant come over to get it. The Lord will reward each man for his justice and faithfulness. Today, the Lord delivered you into my grasp, I would not harm the Lord’s anointed.”

1 Samuel 26:2, 7, 13, 22-23
Photo by author, Dead Sea desert, 2017.

Imitating Christ in his love

David is a type of Jesus Christ, a prefiguration of his coming, of someone who completely trusts in God and his words promised to him. If we read on further, this scene beautifully ends with Saul blessing David for sparing his life as they parted ways while David tells the king, “As I valued your life highly today, so may the Lord value my life highly and deliver me from all difficulties” (1 Sam. 26:24).

To avenge one’s self on an evil doer is a “fairly” spontaneous reaction, something so automatic with our human nature. But to renounce punishment, to not retaliate like the Bishop of Belgium who was recently attacked and mocked by half-naked women recently for his stand against homosexual lifestyles is something so different and unusual. That is why the Bible teems with so many stories of similar accounts how men of God patiently bore all humiliations and pains to educate and form our conscience, forego vengeance and retaliations by trusting in the Lord always who will render to each one his and her due.

One of the most unforgettable story in modern time of such trust in God is by St. John Paul II who went to forgive assassin Mehmet Agca a year after seriously shooting him at the Vatican Square in 1981. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI shows the same confidence in God as his Savior in his latest pronouncements following recent attacks by some people regarding his handling of a sexual abuse case in Germany, not to mention his old age and sickness.

Photo by author, Tagaytay City, 15 February 2022.

Love begins with respect, seeing the worth of a person

Jesus is not asking us to be passive nor resigned in the face of injustice and violence happening around us; very clear at the inauguration of his ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth how Jesus declared he had come to heal our sickness and liberate those oppressed.

In asking us to return good for evil, to love one’s enemies is above all to love like God like he had shown us in its highest expression at the Cross. It is not something reserved only for Jesus as the Son of God nor for the saints or holy men like St. John Paul II, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI or that Bishop in Belgium.

God does not love only those who do good or finds worthy; God loves everyone because of our very existence.

This is what Jesus is telling us to always look at, to find and see in everyone. We are persons to be loved, not things and objects to be owned and possessed that when no longer useful nor “good” who can be simply dismissed or thrown away.

An important component of love is respect which literally means “to look again” from the Latin words “re” for again and “specere” to look or see. From specere came the words spectacle/s, spectator, and spectacular.

It is when we fail or refuse to look and see an individual as a person – somebody like us with feelings and dreams, someone who cannot be simply defined by history or background, color or creed but another being with life who is from God alone – that is when we sin, that is when we fight and quarrel, making enemies.

When there is no respect, when we refuse to look and see the other as another person with a face reminding us of our very selves and God as our common Source and End, that is when hate and revenge get out of bounds because we have judged the other as somebody not like us or less than us.

It is from respect for the other person where all other virtues like justice and kindness, love and forgiveness spring form because it puts us at the same level despite the wrongs done to us. Respect is recognizing and affirming the personhood of each one of us in God that must guide us in relating.

Now that COVID seems to be waning in the country, may we keep the lessons of the face mask and social distancing which is the value of every person, to always reach out to others, and most of all, to look into the eyes, to find and feel the warmth of every person’s face as image and likeness of God.

To love is to find Jesus in everyone

All the teachings and moral instructions in the Bible – from the prophets to Jesus Christ – are not only doctrines and precepts to be followed but actually the self-revelations of our personal God who relates with each of us in every person. This is why at the end of his teachings this Sunday, Jesus reminds us that the “measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you” (Lk.6:38).

Let us not look beyond for any other basis for our love and respect. Jesus alone is the One why we love without measure, even our enemies because in him we find the new Adam, the spiritual One according to St. Paul presents in the second reading whom we find in everyone as well as in our very selves. Amen.

You are loved. Have a blessed week ahead.

Photo by Mr. Vincent Go, 2020, Mang Dodong of Caloocan City who was forcibly quarantined in Navotas for a month after being caught without an ID while buying some fish to peddle in his neighborhood while a police general got free of any punishments celebrating his birthday mañanita.

Each of us an “Emmanuel” too!

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Day 3, 18 December 2021
Jeremiah 23:5-8   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 1:18-25
Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, January 2018.

We have just concluded the “Year of St. Joseph” last December 8 but it seems due to the pandemic, we have not celebrated truly enough to realize the virtues and person of the most silent character in the New Testament, St. Joseph.

We find no story in the gospels with St. Joseph either speaking or conversing with anyone at all. At least the Blessed Virgin Mary conversed with the angel during the Annunciation and spoke to Jesus her Son upon finding him at the Temple and at the wedding feast at Cana. St. Joseph was totally silent and most of all, could sleep soundly despite the tremendous stress he must have gone through! Truly a man of great faith and trust in God!

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.”

Matthew 1:18-20
Photo from vaticannews.va, December 2020.

Notice how Matthew presented the climax of his genealogy not only with the coming of Jesus Christ at the end but also in his lineage to St. Joseph he described as “a righteous man” and addressed by the angel in a dream as “son of David”.

In him we find that expression “silent water runs deep” so very true. Imagine the maturity and deep spirituality of St. Joseph being called as a righteous man or a holy man which for the Jews is one who obeys the Laws of Israel.

But in this scene of the Annunciation of Christ’s birth to him in a dream, Matthew goes deeper into what is to be holy as more than obeying the the Laws but most of all, abiding by the will of God always as described in many instances in the Old Testament like the Book of Psalms. If holiness were simply an adherence to the Laws, St. Joseph would have not decided to silently leave Mary found pregnant with a child not his; in their laws, she would have been shamed in public which St. Joseph avoided in trying to leave her silently. For him, higher than the letters of the law was the welfare and well-being of Mary and her Child that until then he did not know was the Christ.

At the same time, here we find the deep spirituality of St. Joseph: compared with Mary to whom the angel appeared and spoke in person while with St. Joseph, the angel appeared only in a dream. He had a more difficult situation discerning whether his dream was real or not, which we all experience upon waking up from a dream so real!

Only a man with deep spirituality, so attuned with God like St. Joseph could perceive the divine in fact while at the same time discern it as very true the will of God that “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus” (Mt.1:24-25).

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, mosaic of the Annunciation to Joseph at the Shrine of St. Padre Pio in San Giovanni di Rotondo, Italy, 2017.

In a very concise manner – like our very silent saint and foster father of Jesus – Matthew presents to us in this short story of the Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus to St. Joseph all the critical and essential elements about the mystery of the Incarnation.

As we have reflected yesterday at the genealogy, Matthew now goes deeper into the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of God. This he beautifully presented also through the person of St. Joseph, a reminder of the need for us to be vessels of God’s graces and instruments of God’s works.

St. Joseph showed in this brief scene the true meaning of holiness, of being whole by seeking to find ways to bring into unity their laws and love and persons, something which Jesus Christ would keep on elaborating in his entire ministry, like his favorite expression “Sabbath was created for man, not man for sabbath.”

See how he tried to give more importance to Mary whom he loved so much that he was intent in not putting her to shame and harm. And upon listening and discerning the angel’s message to him in a dream, he obeyed everything, showing us the unity of the laws in love long before Jesus came to show it on the Cross himself. In accepting God and Jesus, St. Joseph had to take Mary; and in taking Mary, Jesus came into the world.

Here we are challenged by the example of St. Joseph that we too become an Emmanuel in the sense that in our lives, we become the sign that God-is-with-us specially in this time of the pandemic and with coming elections next year. We need to pray more deeply and be attuned with God for his divine will that always takes unexpected turns, so different from our own ways and methods.

Photo by author, 15 December 2021.

To be an Emmanuel like Jesus and St. Joseph, one has to be definitely pro-life, one who values life and every person, regardless of his/her status in life.

Like St. Joseph, let us learn to be silent for God and be louder with our actions, always choosing and standing for life and for every person’s dignity.

Like St. Joseph, he chose from the very start the value of Mary as a person which is the hallmark of Jesus as Emmanuel, the God who became human to be with us because it is good to be human. Amen.

Man is a mystery

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Day 2, 17 December 2021
Genesis 49: 2, 8-10   ><]]]]'>  +  <'[[[[><   Matthew 1:1-17
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2019.

Today we officially start our countdown to Christmas as we enter the second phase of Advent when all readings and prayers beginning this December 17 to 24 will focus on the first coming of Jesus Christ more than 2000 years ago.

And what a way to start this every year with Matthew’s gospel that begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ!

All four evangelists have their own style in addressing the two most important questions about Jesus, then and now: Who is Jesus? Where is he from? Both questions are inseparably linked that in the final analysis, they also apply very much with each one of us too!

Every person is a continuum – a work-in-progress who cannot be chopped or sliced like a sausage. Every person is a one whole made up of every minute and second and years from the very start of his existence in his/her mother’s womb. In fact, even before that when we see life in its entirety in the plan of God.

That is the meaning of the genealogy of Jesus Christ that speaks so well of our origins too, of who we are. Matthew uniquely started his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus not only to present the roots of Jesus in the past but also to tell us about him in the present and in the future.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar. Perez became the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, Ram the father of Amminadab. Amminadab became the father of Nashon, Nashon the father of Salmon, Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz became the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth. Obed became the father of Jesse, Jesse the father of David the king. David became the father of Solomon, whose mother had been the wife of Uriah.

Matthew 1:1-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2019.

The genealogy of Jesus by Matthew tells us the beauty of every person, of each one a mystery, a gift of God wrapped in so many stories involving people and events who have shaped us, for better or for worse, always precious and valuable, never to be taken in parts but always as a whole.

Ever noticed that the more we get to know another person – whether as family member or friend – the more we realize we do not really know that much about him/her?

I always tell couples during their wedding how they must continue to get to know each other after marriage, to be always surprised by new things about each other as they mature in their love.

We cannot have a full grasp of every person in just one scoop or one flash. Every person is made up of years and years even before his existence with great probabilities and possibilities of what he/she can be in the future!

See how the Son of God is so much like every one of us with a not so perfect background. Though he is from the lineage of Abraham and David, the two most prominent figures in Israel’s history, we find so many kinks and quirks behind each name mentioned in his genealogy. It was on Abraham God fulfilled his promise to make him the “father of all nations” while it was on David’s line came the King of kings, Jesus Christ.

But, as we go into details of the genealogy, we find bizarre things like how Jacob stole the birthright of his elder brother Esau from their father Isaac to become the ancestor of Jesus. Jacob in turn had 12 sons but instead of passing on the “scepter” we heard in the first reading to Joseph who was most qualified of his sons, Judah was chosen to be the leader of his sons from whom the Christ would later come from.

Judah was not that good at all being a part of the sinister plot of his brothers in selling their youngest brother at that time, Joseph, to Egypt; then, he got his daughter-in-law Tamar pregnant after she pretended to be a prostitute when her husband died without leaving her a son. Judah was already old and could not give her a son to her husband to have a child; hence, Tamar devised a plan of pretending as a prostitute to lure Judah into her. And it worked – much to the shame of Judah and family!

If Tamar pretended to be a prostitute, one of the five women mentioned in the genealogy was actually a whore, Rahab. When Joshua sent spies into Jericho led by Salmon, they hid inside a “red house” ran by Rahab. She offered them help in exchange for the safety of her entire family should they succeed in conquering Jericho and they did by just going around the city and blew their trumpets! Jericho fell and so did the heart of Salmon for Rahab and they had a child named Boaz.

A further twist into the genealogy of Jesus came with Boaz who married a pagan foreigner named Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi who went back to Israel when her husband and two sons died. Ruth insisted in coming with her and while picking grains at the field of Boaz, the two were introduced to each other and love blossomed between them who were blessed with a son they named Obed who became the father of Jesse who was the father of the future King David.

Now, David was not that totally faithful to God at all: he sinned big time against the Lord!

First, in having an illicit relationship with the wife of his army officer Uriah named Bathsheba. When their forbidden love led to Bathsheba having a “love child”, David tried all means to avoid fatherhood but failed. So, he ordered Uriah positioned in a battle where he would surely get killed and it worked so well, giving David the free hand to take Bathsheba as his wife and their love child became his successor, King Solomon. King David suffered greatly from the grave consequences of his sins agains the Lord who forgave him and never took back the promise that from him would come the Christ.

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

As we read on further in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ, the plot thickens as the drama unfolds further revealing to us the many colorful as well as controversial relatives and ancestors of the Lord who did not just appear as an isolated human being.

His genealogy shows us the important aspect of his Incarnation of not only coming from God but also intimately and crucially linked with the history of his own people, just like each one of us.

Notice how Matthew did not attempt to sanitize or “photoshop” the genealogy of Jesus to paint his better picture or that of his relatives. There was no shortage of “skeletons in the Lord’s closet” and yet, it was to Jesus Christ that the “scepter” of power ultimately belongs, the fulfillment of God’s promised salvation who also comes to us everyday among persons we meet, in our family, in the most unusual instances and peoples too.

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Child Jesus in Bethlehem, today’s gospel reminds us how we too was the natural development of the long process of God’s relationships with people. In becoming truly human like us who had come from God, Christ’s birth reminds us that it is good to be human.

Most of all, for us to go back to God, to be closer to God, we have to be first truly a human person with no ifs nor buts because God loves us so much as he sees us. God believes in us that no matter how dark or painful or sinful our past may be, we can still have a brighter future in his Son Jesus Christ in whom we have our rootedness in the Father in faith.

This Christmas, let us remember our being a mystery in God and share this joy, this wonder with others. Like Jesus who became human to show us our blessedness in God, let us share with others too. Have a blessed Friday!

Advent is rejoicing in God within us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday of Advent-C, 12 December 2021
Zephaniah 3:14-18 ><}}}*> Philippians 4:4-7 ><}}}*> Luke 3:10-18
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2019.

Our liturgy bursts in colorful hues of pink this Third Sunday of Advent known as “Gaudete Sunday” or “Rejoice Sunday” following the calls of our readings to rejoice in God’s coming and nearness among us.

Brothers and sisters: Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again – rejoice!

Philippians 4:4

We rejoice because of a person. Always. Gadgets and material things can never bring joy to us; joy is something deeper, touching one’s heart and soul.

Joy brings assurance of presence and of love; hence, joy comes only from another person for what he or she brings or for what happens to him or to her. And too often, it can happen that we share in another’s joy.

Now, imagine if the joy is coming from the Second Person, Jesus Christ the Son of God – it is “joy to the max!” as young people would say these days. Jesus, the Emmanuel or God-with-us who had come more than 2000 years ago, who always comes to us, and who will come again in the end of time.

To rejoice in the Lord as St. Paul puts it in our second reading today means to be one with Christ who is the source of “every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Eph.1:3) in whom “nothing can ever separate us from the love of God, not even death nor any creature” (Rom. 8:38-39).

And that is the essence of joy: the firm assurance that when worst comes to worst in life, there is always Jesus Christ remaining faithful to us when our chips are down, when we are alone and abandoned by family and friends, even in death.

Joy is a result of salvation, of being free in Jesus

Joy is when the heart and soul smile even when we are in the midst of suffering. It is unlike happiness expressed by laughter or smiles that depend on external factors that trigger happiness. Joy bursts from within us, something automatic because of a deeper feeling of right there in our heart, deep in our soul dwells Jesus Christ, assuring us we shall never be alone. That is why we can rejoice while in the midst of pains and sufferings, unlike happiness.

In the first reading we heard four imperative verbs that call us to rejoice, each evoking God’s coming to save his people which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ:

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem! The Lord has removed the judgment against you, he has turned away your enemies; the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst, you have no further misfortune to fear.

Zephaniah 3:14-15

Here we find joy synonymous with salvation, with freedom.

The people of God at that time were in exile, feeling so low and so sad as they saw their plight as punishment for their sins.

Recall how when the angel announced to Mary the coming birth of Jesus, he told her to “Do not fear” (Lk.1:30) while Jesus himself told the same words – “Do not fear” – to the women at the tomb on Easter morning and later to his disciples (Mt. 28:10). Every time the disciples and the people were in danger and overcome with fear, Jesus always comes saying to everyone the same thing, “Do not be afraid…it is I”.

That is the most wondrous thing about joy – one experiences not only assurance of love and support, presence and security but one also becomes free specially from all sins and fears!

Such was the mood of the people when John the Baptist preached repentance and baptized people at Jordan. Even the most hopeless among them like sinners and marginalized people at that time felt joy within with John’s proclamation of the good news, of Jesus himself.

Now the people were filled with expectation, and all were asking in their hearts whether John might be the Christ. John answered them all, saying, “I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming. I am not worthy to loosen the thongs of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Exhorting them in many other ways, he preached good news to the people.

Luke 3:15-18

Luke beautifully summarized the mission of John the Baptist by saying “he preached good news to the people” (Lk.3:18). This is the grace of the third Sunday of Advent: that the Lord is with us, that he had set us free from our sins and from all our fears. Let us go out of our toxic relationships and toxic mindset to claim this salvation in Christ!

Like John, let us experience Jesus in our selves, in our lives in order to bring hope and joy to others by proclaiming not only the coming but the very presence of Jesus Christ among us.

See how John told the crowds to live simply so that others may simply leave while at the same time, he never asked the tax collectors and soldiers to leave their jobs by them to be fair and just with everyone.

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

So many times in life, we desire so many material things in life because of our wrong belief we can only be joyful in life with whatever money can buy that in the process, we miserably forget to love and care for the other persons, especially those nearest to us.

We sadly realize later in life that what truly prevent us from experiencing joy are these things like wealth and fame we have tried accumulating in our entire lives!

As we have said earlier, joy can only come from persons, not things. Those people in the gospel felt joy upon listening to John’s preaching and experiencing his baptism of water.

In our time, we are called to be another John the Baptist but this time to baptize people “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” as commanded by Jesus on his Ascension. Moreover, this third Sunday of Advent calls us to emulate John in telling people to be vigilant for the final judgment when Jesus comes again at the end of time which is NOW for “His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” These we do with our lives of witnessing to the gospel values of Christ seen in the joy we have in our lives.

How sad that even Pope Francis had noticed early in his pontificate how many of us Christians lack joy in our lives, in our attitudes and in our faces specially when celebrating the Holy Eucharist.

Joy is the mark of every true Christian who rejoices always in the salvation and freedom Jesus had brought us. Let us share the joy of life in Christ not only today but everyday for Jesus comes to us in every person filled with joy, free from sin and worries! Amen.

Have a joyful week ahead!

Photo by author, San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

Touching Jesus among us

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXXI-B in Ordinary Time, 31 October 2021
Deuteronomy 6:2-6 ><]]]]*> Hebrews 7:23-28 ><]]]]*> Mark12:28-34
Photo by Jenna Hamra on Pexels.com

Since the start of this pandemic last year, I have always have that strange feeling of COVID-19 chasing me like a mad dog that would not stop until I am dead. Even after I have had the jabs, practicing all health protocols and best efforts of being “positive” to be negative of the virus, that morbid feeling keeps on creeping.

It is depressing but, it is not that bad as the pandemic has slowly become a grace-filled moment for me like to many of you (I hope so) to discover anew and realize that GOD is absolutely the one thing most important in this life, that GOD is not just the first among all things in life but essentially the very reason of everything in life!

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

Mark 12:28-30

Maturing and growing from fear to love.

From Jericho last Sunday, Jesus had finally reached Jerusalem, teaching in the temple area of the many valuable lessons on growing and maturing in our faith, in nurturing a personal relationship with God through him by moving from fear to love, from knowing to experiencing persons.

Like us in this time of the pandemic thrown into confusion, the scribe approached Jesus to be clarified with the many laws and precepts they were tasked to follow to lead a holy life and enter eternity. Like Bartimaeus last week, the scribe sincerely asked Jesus for enlightenment from the many darkness and blindness afflicting him.

And he was not disappointed when Jesus answered his question so differently by quoting verbatim from the most ancient prayer known by every devout Jew called the Shema Israel which we heard proclaimed at the first reading. By directly quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Jesus showed that more than the question of being the “first commandment” in the list of things to follow that is always binding on all, loving God with one’s total person is actually the source of all other commandments – even of those not listed!

In his answer to the scribe’s question, Jesus perfectly showed what holiness is all about – an integration (wholeness) of one’s faith and prayer and life from which flows the very essential fact of our lives that there is no other God than our God who alone is the One.

And the good news is that this great and powerful God had chosen to be one with us in the most personal manner by residing in our hearts!

We have a beautiful expression in Tagalog, “nakialam ang Diyos” – God “intervened” in our very lives by sending us his own Son Jesus Christ, unmindful of our nothingness, because he chose to love us, to be with us, to redeem us. What an amazing and loving God is he indeed who is perfect and most holy seeking an intimate and personal relationship with the broken and imperfect, sinful humans through our Lord Jesus Christ who embraced everything in us except sin.

Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal.

In this scene, Jesus is inviting us to move away from our usual “impersonal” relationship with God that is based on laws to follow, resulting in fears to the punishments due when failed to obey them. It is not even a relationship to speak of but more like a deal or transaction wherein we look at him as God our Lord and Master who takes care of our needs as his subjects and servants. Very feudal, so far from God’s will.

Making matters worst is our Filipino psyche of “sapagkat ako ay tao lamang” where we capitalize on our being weak as humans, therefore lowly but not necessarily humble using it as an excuse for failing to “love” him accordingly, and thus, an expression of our pride and insubordination to God.

Like Bartimaeus before his healing, we prefer to stay at the roadside than join Jesus on the way, avoiding relationships that call for a commitment to love.

Jesus wants us to be involved with God through him personally for it is only through him and in him can we experience God’s immense love and mercy by letting go our selfish selves. And the more we let go our selves in love, experiencing pains and sufferings like Jesus, the more we mature and grow better as persons, realizing the need to nurture this wonderful relationship with God who is love, who is the very core of our being.

That is when we move closer to the kingdom of God which is the very person of Jesus Christ found in everyone!

“The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all the burn offerings and sacrifices.”

Mark 12:31-33

Maturing and growing, loving personally

Jesus continued his answer to the scribe by explaining the evolution of commandments from God as its very source, telling us that as we appreciate his majesty and grandeur, we naturally and progressively flow to our discovery and loving too of the other persons around us.

Christ reminds us that whenever we find there is no other God than our God, we likewise discover that everyone is our neighbor, not just those like us in belief and color. The more God reveals himself to us in his grandeur and majesty, the more he also reveals himself to us in every person. Thus, it was in this moment in that encounter with the scribe that Jesus reintroduced his teaching on the universality of salvation, not just for Jews but for everyone!

In a similar manner when Bartimaeus was healed of his blindness last Sunday, today’s gospel is a wonderful story of enlightenment of the scribe who also regained his sight and vision in realizing that the love of God is also the love of one another! That is why he too cannot deny in himself the very truth that the highest form of worship, of “burnt offering and sacrifices” at the temple is personally loving God through everyone around us.

This is one of the important lessons this COVID-19 pandemic has taught us: it is always easy to say or even assume most of the time that we love, that we are loved, taking for granted the expression of our love and concern for others. We now feel so sorry how we have let days and weeks, months and years to have passed without seeing or calling family and friends or at least saying “hi” in whatever platform of social media until COVID-19 came.

Photo from inquirer.net.

While this pandemic has taught us the value of many ordinary things we have taken for granted like simple washing of hands and basic practices of cleanliness that matter so much to remain virus free and healthy, it has painfully taught us too the value of every person dear to us when one by one they were getting infected with COVID-19, some never recovered from the dreaded disease and now gone forever.

So many deaths have occurred in our circles of family and friends since last year in this pandemic; and, the saddest part is how swiftly they have left without any warning at all, denying us the chance of even a few seconds to see them and tell them how much we loved and cared for them.

It is always easy to know and say there is only One God, that he loves us so much, and that we also love him in turn. But, to move from fear to real loving, from formal knowledge to personal relationship, it is different. How true is that saying of us seeing the forest but missing the trees!

This Sunday, Jesus tells us to grow and mature in our relationships with him in prayer that must flow progressively and naturally to the people around us. It is only in finding this close link of loving God and loving neighbors that we get nearer to Jesus, who is the kingdom of God.

Tomorrow we celebrate All Saints Day in honor of all the departed already in heaven and on November 2, the All Souls Day for those awaiting in purgatory. Two great feasts that coincide with our Sunday gospel preparing us for the final destination, of being in the kingdom of God fully which is heaven.

While still here on earth not from the kingdom of God, Jesus is giving us the grace to experience heaven in our personal love in him to the Father through each other. Amen.

Have a blessed November!

My screen this quarantine – when trolls and bullies rule the earth

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 September 2021
Image from Pinterest.

Instead of being sick with the government’s new experiment that begins today of designating letters and numerals to our quarantine level, stay home if there is nothing really necessary for you to do outside and keep your sanity as you enjoy some series at Netflix that has become our bestest friend since this pandemic began.

Topping our recommendations are Clickbait and Blackspace that tackle relevant issues of our time, reminding us for the need to recover our sense of morals, values and virtues now becoming so rare.

What we like best with both series is its packaging into short installments of eight episodes with each running less than 50 minutes. Each episode is quick-paced, so impactful that you would be forced to finish the series in one whole day, especially if you happen to be in quarantine due to COVID-19.

Communicating responsibly

The term “clickbait” was coined by blogger Jay Geiger in December 2006 by combining the words “click” of the computer mouse and “bait” that literally means to lure the user to something in the internet. Google defines clickbait is an internet content that aims to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.

The term has become notorious in its meaning and usage which the Netflix series Clickbait presents and explores so well that in the process every episode had in fact been a clickbait – luring you to click on the next episode to finish the series.


Clickbait is one series that may be used in computer literacy programs
 that reminds us of the Church's teaching at Vatican II that  
"Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion.  
At its most profound level, it is the giving of self in love" 
(Communio et Progressio, #11). 

Photo from webseriescast.com.

Australian Tony Ayres did an excellent job creating the series with its story line that kept us “clickbaiting” too to find out if Nick Brewer really “abused women” and finally, who really killed him.

And that indeed is a good question to ask as the series unfolds with so many twists and turns happening, exactly like in real life when we are so quick to jump into conclusions “whodunnit” just because everything seems to fit with what we think, with what we know, or what we believe.

In the end, we realize like Dustin Hoffman in the 1997 movie Mad City that we killed” a totally innocent man because of how we have allowed ourselves to fall into bait in abusing and mishandling the great powers of communication.

Clickbait teems with so many instances reminding us to be careful with this gift of communication which is a power God only shared with us humans. Recall how in the creation account that God spoke only with words and everything came into being; such is the power of communication. Hence, another movie, Spiderman reminds us too that with “great powers come great responsibilities”.

From Facebook, February 2020.

The series Clickbait presents so well how our pride and ego come into interplay for our dreams of greatness, of being somebody else who is famous, well-liked by everybody, building our own tower of Babel, only to crash and crumble in death and destruction because of the web of lies we have succumbed to and could no longer be stopped just like those nasty things we find trending and viral in the internet or simple rumors and gossips going out of proportion.

At the same time, Clickbait teaches us with so many values, primarily the importance of family relationships (first and foremost), fidelity, respect to elders and love among siblings, the value of life as against suicide, and most of all, the value of every person – that we in our very selves are good without any need to be famous and be liked by everybody.

It also focuses on the need for more trust among couples and siblings in this age of modern and instant communications that can never fully express who we are and what we feel deep inside us.

Clickbait is one series that may be used in computer literacy programs that reminds us of the Church’s teaching at Vatican II that “Communication is more than the expression of ideas and the indication of emotion. At its most profound level, it is the giving of self in love” (Communio et Progressio, #11).

Don’t miss this series. See it with your loved ones because Clickbait is one good mirror of who we are these days of the internet and smartphones, of how sincere and honest are we with one another and with our true selves.


Respect for each one’s dignity

One very good thing with Netflix is our being exposed to foreign movies and series we never had the chances before. It is very educating and enriching like this Israeli series Blackspace that is so bold and daring to discuss the dignity of every human person through prevailing issues not only there but in the whole world.

The series begins with a caution to viewers of the violent and disturbing scenes in its first episode that opens with a mass shooting inside a school during a memorial program.

As we have said, the series is bold to present how the Israeli police attempted to twist their investigation by coercing some workers found hiding on the school’s roof deck as primary suspects to the crime just because some were from the West Bank and non-Jewish.

But what is so entertaining and thought-provoking in Blackspace is how the chief investigator Rami Davidi played by Guri Alfi solved the case by proving himself right that it was an inside job by some students who were all victims of bullying – just like him!

Photo from netflix.fandom.com.

It was in fact a homecoming of sorts for Davidi to his old high school still with the same principal who was the assistant principal when he was bullied while a student that cost him his right eye.

Though the series is a bit slow in its pacing, it is still an excellent one where the creators have woven seamlessly various topics into a beautiful tapestry that present to us the many problems we adults and the young people are dealing with without getting into its very roots.

First is the value of respect for every person with equal rights and dignity that begins at home, at how parents treat their children and accept/reject them when their inclinations are different from theirs or when they have homosexual tendencies. It is very surprising how this series is able to weave into its storyline issues about fatherhood and single-parenthood, about suicide and drugs, and yes, the abuse and misuse of the internet and computer technologies!

“Blackspace” is supposed to be a meeting room of the students in the dark internet.

Everything is summarized towards the end like a scene between Pontius Pilate and Jesus (no pun intended) when Davidi finally solved the crime that involved a school official who told him, “There is no truth. Only consequences.”


It is amazing that 85 years ago today, Pope Pius XI wrote “good motion pictures are capable of exercising a profoundly moral influence upon those who see them. In addition to affording recreation, they are able to arouse noble ideals of life, to communicate valuable conceptions, to impart a better knowledge of the history and of the beauties of the Fatherland and of other countries, to present truth and virtue under attractive forms, to create, or at least, to favor understanding among nations, social classes and races, to champion the cause of justice, to give new life to the claims of virtue and to contribute positively to the genesis of aa just social order in the world” (Vigilanti Cura, #25).

Clickbait and Blackspace just did what the Holy Father wrote in 1936.

See you in the next flick. Have a blessed day!

Beyond “when” and “what”

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVIII-B in Ordinary Time, 01 August 2021
Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15 ><}}}}'> Ephesians 4:17, 20-24 ><}}}}'> John 6:24-35
Photo by author, Church of Dominus Flevit overlooking Jerusalem, 2017.

Last Sunday we reflected the “where” of Jesus in asking Philip, “Where can we buy enough food” for the crowd who have followed them to a deserted place. We said that “where” of Jesus referred not to any place or location but to himself as the only one who can give “enough food” for everyone.

Today I invite you, my dear readers to join me reflecting on the “when” and “what” of the people who have followed Jesus to the other side of the lake, looking for him to have more food after that miraculous feeding last week. This time, the people are the ones asking Jesus with when and what that reveal their pride before God.

When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. And when they found him across the sea they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” Jesus answered them and said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

John 6:24-35
Photo by author, Capernaum’s shore at Lake Tiberias, 2017.

From a deserted place to Capernaum

To fully appreciate today’s gospel account by John, let us get its whole picture with a little help from Mark who started the story of Jesus and the Twelve crossing the lake to a deserted place to rest the other week. With his usual dash of humor, Mark told us how the people arrived to the place ahead of Jesus who was moved with pity at seeing the crowd “for they were like sheep without a shepherd that he taught them with many things.”

John continued the story last Sunday telling us how Jesus fed the people to their satisfaction with so many leftovers out of just five loaves of bread and two fish. The people were astonished that they tried to get Jesus to make him a king but he “withdrew again to the mountain alone.”

This Sunday, John continued his story telling us how the crowd finally found Jesus at Capernaum with his disciples.

How did he get there?

Photo by author, Lake of Tiberias (aka, Galilee), 2020.

According to Mark 6:45ff., after feeding the people, Jesus told the Twelve to proceed ahead of him to the other side of the lake that evening while he dismissed the crowd. Later that evening while Jesus was praying on the mountain, he saw his disciples’ boat being tossed by big waves due to strong winds. He followed them at the “fourth watch of the night” (about 3AM) by walking on water that terrified the Twelve who thought they have seen a ghost.

Upon identifying himself as the Lord, Peter asked to let him come to him by walking on water too; Peter sank when he doubted due to the strong winds until Jesus saved him and joined them on the boat going to Capernaum.

Mark’s story of Jesus walking on water after the miraculous feeding provides us the context for the people’s question to him today in John’s continuation of the story last week, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” (Jn.6:25): it was very difficult, almost impossible for anyone to have crossed the lake at night due to giant waves caused by strong winds. (Any pilgrim to the Holy Land can attest to this fact even today.)

And that was the main issue here: the people refused to see the deeper meanings behind the two events when Jesus fed them and the almost impossible crossing of the lake that night.

That is why Jesus did not answer their question by bluntly addressing their suspicious motive, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

Ironically, while their asking of “when did you get here” implicitly acknowledged the Lord’s miraculous crossing of the lake, they still refused to accept it by downplaying everything like addressing Jesus as “Rabbi” when in fact, they were not interested with him but merely with the food he had given them!


Their question of "when" 
was not really about his time of arrival there 
but more of an inquiry on the person of Jesus....

Their question of when was not really about his time of arrival there but more of an inquiry on the person of Jesus as they wondered how could he made it across the lake that night. They have failed to recognize the deeper meaning of the sign Jesus did in feeding them with enough food which Jesus explained anew.

And the stage is now set for Jesus to reveal himself, of who he really is which his disciples were also asking and contending among themselves all these weeks and months of being with the Lord.

Photo by author(2017), ruins at Capernaum with a church built over the house where Jesus was believed to have stayed.

The need for us to be open to Jesus, our bread of life

Many times in life, our words and attitudes betray us of our inner motives, of our selfish interests to get near some people, to meet and know them not for who they are but for what we can have from them – even with God!

Remember Andrew last Sunday who did not bother to ask the boy’s name who gave the five loaves of bread and two fish from which Jesus performed his miracle? “There is a boy here with five barley loaves and two fish” – no name, just a “there” because the did not matter at all to Andrew except his food.

But there is something deeper being revealed in this attitude of forgetting the other person and being focused on material things: that is our pride, of believing only in ourselves, of playing God!

So they said to him, “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” So they said to him, “What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you? What can you do? Our ancestors ate manna in the desert, as it is written: He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

John 6:28-31

See how the crowd ignored Christ’s promise of giving food that endures for eternal life by following up their question with What can we do to accomplish the works of God?” – another veiled question like their when, insisting on their own achievements and abilities, on what they can.

Worst is how in a twist highlighting pride in themselves as they dared to question Jesus again with What sign can you do, that we may see and believe in you?“!!! Helloooooo….!

Photo by author at the ruins of the synagogue of Capernaum where Jesus preached his bread of life discourse, 2017.

They have gone so blinded with their pride that suddenly the miraculous feeding they have personally witnessed plus the unimaginable crossing of the lake at night remained lacking, not enough for them to believe in the powers of Jesus that they still asked for another sign.

Their “what” had become a demand from them, an insistence on Jesus the Son of God to give them signs from heaven even if they ironically preferred without them knowing how they were stuck at the lowest level of looking at things.

They have closed their eyes to seeing beyond the ordinary things happening to them since Jesus came teaching and healing. And now after feeding them, they demanded Jesus to follow them instead of them following the Lord.

Is it not the same thing happens with us when we keep on demanding God for proofs of his love and mercy, demanding so many other things from him above while we refuse to rise above ourselves, to “level up” in our lives?

This is the call by St. Paul in the second reading, that we must “be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:23-24).


Once again, we are placed on highest level of quarantine due to a surge in COVID-19 cases with threats from the new Delta variant. Unless we learn to see this pandemic on a higher plane or level that calls for spiritual renewal among us, it will persist to disrupt and destroy lives among us.

It is more than a virus infecting us but an attitude deep within us when we have lost respect for one another and with nature. Pope Francis had long ago sounded this alarm in 2015 with his encyclical Laudato Si calling for each of us to change our lifestyle, each of us contributing for the betterment of the world because it is easiest to join advocacies but difficult to change our ways of life by having less.

With all these pandemic and climate changes going on around us, the signs are getting clearer for us to shift our perspectives, to see things on a higher plane like what Jesus had began at Capernaum declaring himself, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger; and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn.6:35).

Our misunderstandings with others and in life will persist unless we remove the veils and masks that cover so many insincerities of our questions in search of the many answers to the problems we face.

Like the people who have followed Jesus to Capernaum that day who were stuck in the desert experiences of Moses (first reading) that they could not see Jesus himself as the new bread from heaven; in fact, Jesus had to correct them that it was not Moses who gave the manna but God the Father in heaven who now gives Jesus to nourish us in our journey to eternal life.

Let us empty our selves of our pride to let Jesus fill us today with his words and his Body and Blood so we may realize next week the meaning and sweetness of himself as the Bread of life. A blessed week to you. Stay safe and keep praying. Amen.

Photo by author, April 2020.