Standing before God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 23 October 2022
Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18 ><}}}}*> 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18 ><}}}}*> Luke 18:9-14
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Standing is a very powerful posture. It expresses our stance or – stand – on everything. Where we stand tells who we are, both positively and negatively. It is always good to make a stand on our beliefs, defending them, making a “gallant stand” on whatever or whomever we hold so dearly. However, no matter how hard we make a stand on just about everything and everyone, we cannot fake our stand because people could surely recognize if it is just mere “grandstanding” or self-serving like what politicians always do.

That is what Jesus is telling us today in his second series of teaching about prayer, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, of how two men stood before God in prayer at the temple.

Painting by French artist James Tissot, “The Pharisee and the Tax Collector” (1886-1894) from commons.wikimedia.org.

Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else. “Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity – greedy, dishonest, adulterous – or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14

Our lost sense of sinfulness

Right at the start, Luke tells us the purpose of this parable, “Jesus addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.” But, we have to be careful in reading this parable lest we end up like the Pharisee of not seeing ourselves being addressed too by the Lord!

While the Pharisee is clearly in the bad light in his kind of prayer that revealed his self-centeredness, feeling so self-satisfied with his holiness that in fact he felt no need for God, his character invites us to guard against this temptation within us that we are not sinners. That is the sin of the Pharisee, the reason his prayer was not heard unlike that of the tax collector: the Pharisee saw himself as clean and spotless like God! And that is what we have to keep guard of ourselves in this time when we have lost our sense of sinfulness.

Photo by author, Jerusalem 2017.

We may not have the kind of self-righteousness of the Pharisee in public or in private, of claiming to be not like other people who are sinful and corrupt; but, still deep inside us is the temptation of forgetting that even a true saint remains a sinner who must constantly pray deep in his/her heart, “O God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Such attitude is the deeper meaning of why we must be powerless before God in praying like the persistent widow last Sunday. It is not that only God is capable of giving us whatever we need but most of all, we have to accept and own by embracing wholeheartedly the fact we are all sinners. Recall how in 2013 after being elected as Pope, on his first interview Pope Francis was asked to describe himself as a person and he simply said, “I am a sinner.” Beautiful!

Holiness is not being sinless but being filled with God. Anyone who is filled with God is one who is always aware of his/her sinfulness. The more we get nearer to God, the more we see our sinfulness, our being dirty and weak. Hence, the more we pray to become better persons, to be one with God; we cannot be one in him and with him unless we realize our sinfulness. That Pharisee in the parable comes so strongly, so proud to God as if he were God himself too! Worst, he wanted God to commend him, to reward him for being so good. Why prayed at all if he did not need God?

We pray because we need God and that is the prayer that “pierces the clouds; that does not rest till it reaches its goal” – God – as Ben Sirach tells us in the first reading. That is the reason we begin our Holy Mass first with admission of our sins, of being sorry for them. We come to Mass because we need God first of all to cleanse us of our sins.

How true are we in admitting our sinfulness before God?

Consistency and humility in prayer

On the surface, the Pharisee in the parable was really commendable as he tried to be a good person, avoiding all kinds of sins, piously observing the demands of his faith like fasting and tithing. However, he lacked consistency and humility.

Consistency in prayer means our lives become a prayer itself. The prayers we recite and say to God expressed in so many ways should make us become more like God – loving and caring, kind and understanding, merciful and forgiving of others, not judgmental like the Pharisee.

St. Paul in the second reading offers us an example of how he had considered his life his prayer, an offering of himself to God like a “libation”.

Beloved: I am already being poured out like a libation, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:6-7
Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, 2021.

Sometimes, people comment how they find St. Paul as too proud especially when he speaks of his virtues and works like when he wrote “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). But, reading all his letters, one finds his powerlessness before God like the persistent widow last Sunday as well as his being powerful in God like the unjust judge who was converted like him and channelled all his talents and energies in proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles!

Most of all, in today’s parable, we find St. Paul who referred to himself as “the very least of the holy ones” (Eph.3:8) so much like the tax collector, sinful yet sorrowful for his sins. In short, not just consistent but most of all, filled with humility.

It will always be difficult to be consistent in life as every saint had proven to us. That is why we should never forget that reality – even the saints are sinful, needing God’s mercy and forgiveness. Nobody is perfect. When there is inconsistency in our lives and prayers, surely there is sin. But, are we humble enough to accept that fact like the saints?

That is why humility is so important as exemplified by the tax collector at the temple. He could not look up to heaven because he was so humbled by his sin, looking more into himself, into his heart, of how he had strayed so far from God that he longed to be near him again.

It is only in humility when we can realize also the sad truth that when we sin, we actually offend ourselves, not God! That is why our conscience bother us, we feel untidy. God remains God and perfect even if we sin. The Pharisee wrongly thought he was not offending God as he believed he was clean and sinless that is why he felt so entitled too. Unknown to him, the more he had sank deeper in misery in his lack of sense of sinfulness.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, January 2020.

When we lost our sense of sinfulness, that is when we are most inconsistent, when we are most lost. Without humility, we live in our false selves, wrongly believing we can do everything, including earning our own salvation which only God had done in Jesus Christ.

This Sunday, let us pray for the grace and virtue of humility that St. Teresa of Avila described as “walking in truth.”

Being humble is not putting ourselves down but actually the path to true greatness, exaltation. When we humbly accept our sins and sinfulness, that is when we are forgiven by God and we are able to rise to greater heights as we lose ourselves in God and in his wonderful plans for us.

This Sunday, let us stand before God admitting our sins like the tax collector, our being poor and lowly, insufficient and weak as in the first reading needing his grace so that like St. Paul, we may compete well in this life to finish this race by keeping the faith in Jesus Christ. Amen. A blessed and fruitful week ahead for all of us!

When you say nothing at all

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 25 September 2022
Amos 6:1, 4-7 ><000'> 1 Timothy 6:11-16 ><000'> Luke 16:19-31
Photo by author, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.
It's amazing how you can speak right to my heart
Without saying a word you can light up the dark
Try as I may I could never explain what I hear when you don't say a thing

The smile on your face lets me know that you need me
There's a truth in your eyes saying you'll never leave me
The touch of your hand says you'll catch me if ever I fall
You say it best when you say nothing at all

Yes, my dear friends, I am so in love these days; the Lord is doing a lot of things in my heart and soul in my ministry that songs automatically play within me like a jukebox every time I pray and meditate. The other day was Five for Fighting’s 100 Years; this Sunday it is When You Say Nothing At All by Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz first recorded by Keith Whitley in 1988 but became popular with Alison Krauss in 1995 that finally became a worldwide hit with Roan Keating’s version used as soundtrack of the 1999 Julia Robert-starrer Notting Hill.

The lyrics are so lovely, so true while the melody is so cool that is so uplifting and even spiritual as the song tells us a lot of the love of God for us expressed in his Son Jesus Christ who does everything, saying nothing at all, just loving us, understanding us, forgiving us. Most of the time, with us saying nothing at all too because he knows everything.

The more I listen to this song, the more I feel it speaking also of the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, of how we truly regard each other as a person, as a brother and sister, as disciples of Jesus when we say nothing at all, when our actions speak loudly or, silently of our love for each other.

Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.”

Luke 16:19-21
Photo from bloomberg.com of a homeless man in New York City during a fashion week in summer 2019.

Rich Man, Poor Man

Today’s parable is uniquely found only in Luke’s gospel like last Sunday that stresses Christ’s lesson on the wise use of money in the service of God through one another; but, the parable adds an important dimension in how this wise use of money will have a bearing in our judgment before God upon death. Hence, the gravity of the message expressed in great simplicity with beautiful layers of meaning.

First of all, the rich man has no name while the beggar was named Lazarus that means “God has rescued” or El ‘azar in Hebrew. The scene is still from the previous Sundays when the Pharisees and scribes complained why Jesus welcomed tax collectors and sinners. Jesus took it as an occasion to teach through parables the value of everyone before God, including the lost, the sick, the poor, and the sinful. They are the Lazarus who are given with a name because they are special in the eyes of God who rescues them all.


Then follows the juxtaposition of Lazarus
 lying at the door of the rich man's home
 - a very powerful image that punches us hard
 right in our face, of how numb we have become
 with each other!  

On the other hand, the rich man had no name not because he was less important but because he stands for each one of us blessed and loved by God. Notice that Jesus did not say whether the rich man and Lazarus were good or bad because their character would be revealed later as the parable unfolds.

See how Jesus presented the outer appearances of the two: the rich man was dressed in colorful and fine clothes, eating sumptuous food while Lazarus was somewhat naked, covered with sores in his whole body that dogs would lick as he filled himself with scraps falling from the rich man’s table.

Then follows the juxtaposition of Lazarus lying at the door of the rich man’s home – a very powerful image that punches us hard right in our face, of how numb we have become with each other!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, stranded local residents at the airport, June 2020.

Here we find a valuable lesson from this pandemic courtesy of the face mask that finally opened our eyes, including our minds and hearts to look again onto each one’s face, to recognize each person. Before the virus came, we just did not care with everyone we met as we were so cold that we would not even look at each others face, snubbing even those close to us.

There are still other Lazarus around us, living among us, not begging at all from us like this one in the parable who would not say anything at all but silently suffer in pain, hungry and thirsty for recognition and love like parents forgotten and neglected by their grownup children, wives cheated by their spouse, children left alone and misunderstood by their parents, our classmates and colleagues so maligned in the nasty talks going around us and in the social media, the poor and lowly workers exploited by their employers, or just anyone often criticized and judged but never appreciated.

Try thinking of the other Lazarus around us we never bothered to talk to nor even smiled at because we have been preoccupied with our many other worldly pursuits in life. Let us examine ourselves while amid the comforts and luxuries of life may have rightly earned with decent hard work that but may have caused us to have forgotten the “feel” of being human, of being sick and weak that we have forgotten or been totally unaware of those around us.

Death and the urgent call to conversion

See how the parable gets interesting when both characters died and a reversal of situation in the afterlife occurred. The rich man was buried, immediately going down to hell to suffer while Lazarus was carried – not buried – by angels to Abraham in heaven to be comforted. In the two conversations that followed between the rich man and Abraham, we find at the core the primary importance of daily conversion of everyone.

When Abraham told the rich man of the great chasm dividing them that Lazarus could do nothing to alleviate his torment, Jesus is warning us of the exact situation when we die which is eternity, without end. Therefore, while we are still alive, let us be aware and conscious of others too, not just of ourselves. That is essentially conversion, defocusing from our selves to see those around us more.

Remember how the dishonest steward in the parable last week who made friends with the debtors of his master to ensure his good fate after being fired? That finds its application in this Sunday’s parable wherein the rich man should have been like that dishonest steward in befriending Lazarus so he could have made it too in heaven! That is why I love so much that part of the parable of the juxtaposition of Lazarus at the gate of the rich man.

How did the rich man miss and did not see Lazarus right there at his face, hungry and with sores?

From Facebook, 2020.

Let us not be “complacent” as the Prophet Amos warned in the first reading of not being aware of the excesses and sacrilege going on during that time (Am.6:1). It could be happening right now with us when we choose to be silent and uninvolved, even blind and deaf to the suffering people around us because we are like the fool rich man who grew rich for himself instead of “growing rich in what matters to God” (Lk.12:13-21, August 1, 18th Sunday)!

In the second conversation with Abraham by the rich man, we find the pressing need for conversion more urgent, of heeding the calls of the scriptures, of the prophets and of Jesus Christ himself we hear in the gospel proclaimed daily. See also how the rich man had not really changed amid his torments, requesting that Lazarus be sent to warn his brothers living the same way he had lived in order to avoid hell. Imagine while in the afterlife, the rich man was still thinking of those he had left behind on earth!

So ridiculous was his request and yet, we too must be careful because so often, we have such illusion that a clear and irrefutable sign from heaven like what the Pharisees and scribes insisted from Jesus could lead everyone to conversion. It is an illusion because as Jesus had been telling since then, we need to have faith first to see and acknowledge him for us to be converted. It is the same faith that we need to heed St. Paul’s call in the second reading to “Lay hold of eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12). It is faith that is vibrant and so alive that enables us to recognize our true wealth is God found among one another with us.

When we have faith, whether we are rich or poor, we always see everyone as a brother and sister in Christ. When we have faith, whether we are rich or poor, we are able to love truly because we also believe. And that is when we do not say anything at all because we just keep on doing what is good to everyone, especially the Lazarus among us.

This Sunday, Jesus reminds us of God’s immense love for each one of us, a love we have to share with everyone especially if we have so much unlike others.

Let us reflect our lives these past days and weeks when we felt like Lazarus unrecognized at all, even forgotten amid our being right in the middle of life and everyone. It must be painful and sad. Jesus knows it so well; hold on to him our Savior who is always doing something for us always, especially when he says nothing at all. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead! God bless you more!

Photo from inquirer.net, Ms. Patricia Non of the Maginhawa Community Pantry, 2021.

The world is passing away

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 07 September 2022
1 Corinthians 7:25-31   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 6:20-26
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo, 12 August 2022.
Thank you, 
God our loving Father,
for this brand-new day;
in a few days, the week will
be over again as we move 
closer to another week,
to another month,
and on to another year!
There is no denying that the world
indeed is passing away as St. Paul
reminds us today in the first reading:

I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it. For the world in its present form is passing away.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Like what the psalmist
says today, let me listen to you,
dear God, let me see and bend 
my ear to experience and realize
that far more better than this life is
heaven awaiting us where we shall
enjoy your presence eternally!
Let us be on guard against that
great temptation that there is still time,
that we have plenty of time to spare,
not realizing that it is not really time that
passes by but us who are passing by
when we live in lavish wealth and luxury,
when we eat and drink without satiety,
when we laugh unmindful of the miseries 
around us, and when we relish and enjoy
the accolades and praises of others.

Grant us the grace and courage 
to choose you always in Jesus Christ 
who had come to us as poor and hungry, 
weeping and hated by everyone,
insulted and denounced for standing for 
what is true and good.
Lord, let us see in every
beginning the end of our lives
in you. Amen.

Poverty in priesthood

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 01 September 2022
Photo by author, Dominus Flevit Church overlooking Old Jerusalem, 2017.

Along with the vow of celibacy, the vow of poverty has become very contentious even among us priests these days which is very sad that one wonders why they got ordained in the first place if they were not totally sold out to being celibate and poor.

For most people especially Filipinos, how their priests practice poverty weighs more than their fidelity to celibacy, claiming they could understand and forgive priests getting into relationships with women than priests becoming “mukhang pera” (money-faced). For them, a priest falling in love with a woman is natural and therefore, understandable and “forgiveable”; but, a priest who worships money to the point of making his ministry a business endeavor even stealing from the church funds and donation boxes is what people detest most. In some parts of Bulacan and Cavite, they have a saying which is so vulgar to stress this point, “hindi bale madapa and pari sa puki kesa sa piso” (better for a priest to fall on a vagina than peso).

Photo by Ka Ruben, 24 June 2022.

Of course, it is always wrong to break any of these two important vows priests have made along with the third one which is obedience to his bishop because celibacy and poverty are closely related with each other for they both lead us priests to intimacy with God, our Caller. That is why, most often, when a priest has become “mukhang pera”, falling into the trap of money and luxuries, most likely he also has problems with celibacy. Even St. Ignatius had warned in his Spiritual Exercises that money is the first temptation the devil uses against every priest.

Like celibacy, poverty is a spiritual reality that is lived and felt by everyone in the material sense. More than being poor or having less in life, poverty is a choice we make for it to be real.  It is our attitude with material things in life: there are priests with so much and yet still feel poor like in advanced countries where cars and appliances are very common and ordinary while there are those with almost nothing and yet so attached with the little they have or wish to have and possess! One priest may have a brand-new car extensively using it to reach and serve his parishioners while another may have a second-hand car or owner-type jeep he tinkers daily, possessing him in the process. 

In our previous blog, we have mentioned that people should rejoice when their priest gives away their gifts because that means Father is not selfish, acting as the vessel or conduit of God’s graces and blessings to the poor and needy (https://lordmychef.com/2022/08/08/prayerful-requests-of-a-priest-to-parishioners/). 

Photo from inquirer.net, 2021.

Poverty is not a question of how much do we have but more of the question of how much do we share. See that very often, we are preoccupied thinking what we already and must still have without ever thinking how much do we share.

It is in sharing when we truly experience poverty; a priest who hoards everything – even people like benefactors and friends – is a priest in trouble. Here we find the direct relationship of poverty and celibacy: we renounce marriage which is a wonderful kind of wealth in the spiritual sense for something higher and better which is to be solely for Jesus Christ. That is the essence of our poverty, our being poor and empty so that we are wholly for Christ alone and his Church. It is being poor, materially and spiritually do we find our true wealth as priests, Jesus Christ and his Church or “people of God” as Vatican II rightly called.

Like everyone else, no priest can have everything in life; nobody is perfect but it is always the truth that we evade, priests and lay alike. Many people including priests often convince themselves of being self-sufficient, that we are the greatest, the most powerful so that we never ran out of construction projects in the church.  This is the mentality of the “dream-teams” or the “powerhouses” who claim to have everything and yet in reality, they rarely last long nor achieve much.  When everybody feels like a “heavyweight” – literally and figuratively speaking, always throwing their weight around, soon enough, he/she would surely sink. The Greeks call it hubris, another common ailment among us priests.

Photo by author, Capernaum, Israel, May 2017.

In my 24 years in the ministry, I have found and experienced that the key in any community and organization including family, profession and vocation like the priesthood is not in having everything, materially and non-materially speaking like talents and abilities that always end up into a mere show, a “palabas” even if it may be spectacular.  Life is not about dazzling others with our gifts and abilities but finding our limits and poverty. When we focus on what we do not have like our weaknesses and other limitations, our poverty becomes a wealth because that is when we are most creative and productive, achieving more in life.  Why is it when we do not have much on the table that there is always a leftover with everyone feeling satisfied? But when there is a plethora of food, we just feel satiated, filled up but not satisfied? 

Look at how many of our churches have become like birthday cakes that are so kitschy or baduy, tastelessly overdecorated looking like dirty old men (DOMs) and their counterparts, the matronix afflicted with hepatitis with all their gold trimmings. Many parishes are afflicted with a different virus more contagious than COVID without a vaccine where priests go “imeldific” in church decorations and renovations including liturgies that even the Blessed Virgin Mary is turned into a Miss Universe being “crowned” amid all pomp and pageantry. It is the virus of triumphalism with its ugly face of priests have too much of everything except God. The best priest, the holiest priest is often the poorest one, the one with less because that is when we have more of God. It is in poverty – and celibacy – we priests witness Christ’s lesson that “whoever saves his life loses it and whoever loses his life gains it” (Mk. 8:37-38). 

The problem of the priesthood for me is among other things a problem of poverty. I know that not all priests are necessarily committed, by their priesthood, to absolute poverty. But for my own part it seems to me that the two are connected.

To be a priest means, at least in my particular case, to have nothing, desire nothing, and be nothing but to belong to Christ. Mihi vivere Christus est et mori lucrum. In order to have everything, desire to have nothing.

Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas, page 191.
Photo by Fr. Howard Tarrayo, August 2021.

Poverty is blessedness because in our weak and fragile humanity, God chose to be one with us so that we can share in his divinity and thereby share in his life.  When we see each other’s wealth, the more we feel so poor and helpless; but when we see each other’s poverty, the more we see each one’s value. And we start enriching each one’s life.  This is the beauty of our poverty as priests when being poor is not to be destitute but be available to God and everyone. No wonder, poverty is the first of all beatitudes taught by Christ, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Mt. 5:3).

When we try to have less and become poor, that is when we discover the value of life, of every person created in the image and likeness of God. Then, we begin to share and give, to sacrifice and let go, truly loving one another by being forgiving and merciful and kind like Jesus Christ, “who, though he is God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at but rather emptied himself by being born in the likeness of men” (Phil.2:6-7).

Again, help us your priests live simple lives, to be poor so it would not be difficult for you to support us too. Thank you and God bless! 

Disturb us, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week VI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 17 February 2022
James 2:1-9   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Mark 8:27-33
Photo by author at Jaffa, Israel 2017.
Your words today, Lord Jesus,
are disturbing, even shocking,
jolting us to our very core of 
being because they are very 
true, and happening among us.

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the Kingdom that he promised to those who love him? but you dishonored the poor. Are not the rich oppressing you? And do they themselves not haul you off to court? Is it not they who blaspheme the noble name that was invoked over you?

James 2:5-7
Lord Jesus,
what is most disturbing
in James' letter is not his
indictment of the rich for
their greed and other sins;
what is very shocking is how
most of the people who have 
shown partiality to the rich,
allowing them to oppress
the poor. 
This sad reality continues
among us, dear Jesus when
we are shocked and refuse to
accept, when we prefer to be
blind than to see your true 
person as a suffering Messiah,
when we insist in recognizing you
as a royalty of the world who must
be served and honored, not 
realizing that true wealth is
being poor before God, trusting
only in him.  Amen.

Desiring God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XI in Ordinary Time, Year I, 15 June 2021
2 Corinthians 8:1-9   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   Matthew 5:43-48
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 01 June 2021 at Bgy. Lalakhan, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

Thank you very much again, O God our loving Father for the grace of prayer, most especially in the grace of desiring you which is what prayer is all about. Keep us steady in our desire for you, to be with you, to be like you – holy and loving.

Enrich us today with your holiness and love by being poor of our selves like Jesus Christ your Son as experienced by St. Paul.

For you know the gracious act
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that for our sake he became poor 
although he was rich,
so that by his poverty you might become rich.
(2 Corinthians 8:9)

Being poor like Jesus and St. Paul is thinking less of myself, more of others. How ironic that in our world of today where there is a surplus of everything, the more we have become worried of having less because we remain unconvinced of your love and blessings as we live detached from you. Hence, our constant feeling of being impoverished, needing to be filled and satisfied.

Teach us to be poor by being intimate with you, O God our Father so that we worry less of ourselves because we already have you, disposed to being like you, able to love freely.

"So be perfect,
just as your heavenly Father
is perfect."
(Matthew 5:48)

Make us realize that in this life, it is only you whom we must desire first of all in order to be sufficient and enriched that we are able to love everyone, even our enemies because we are confident in ourselves of your love and intimacy. Amen.

In praise of the Community Pantry

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 19 April 2021
The beauty of this movement 
sweeping our country
called "Community Pantry"
is its essential Christianity:
"The community of believers
was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any
of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common."
(Acts 4:32)
Earlier in our Church history
the esteemed theologian Tertullian
was so delighted to see
how the early Christians 
loved one another
and how they were ready
to die for each other
exactly the same scenery
we are having in our country this 21st century.
It all started simply
when in the street translated loosely
as living comfortably (Maginhawa)
somebody suddenly see
"any body" as a "some body"
can help alleviate our poverty
when we start to see "every body"
as a brother and a sister living simply
with one community pantry so "no body" goes hungry.
And the rest was history
as the story of good deeds inspired many
putting up their community pantry
and the best part of the mystery
there is no talk of money and popularity
plain and simple spirit of humanity
in the spirit of fraternity and equality
fulfilling the minimum requirement of charity
that is justice and mutuality.
There is a saying that
"Necessity is the mother of invention"
but this community pantry that I see 
is more than an invention or an innovation
but an extension of the fellowship of the table
where Jesus Christ is the invisible guest
appearing, speaking, and sharing a meal 
that fills our stomach and delights our soul
animating our hopes for a better future.
This community pantry
is a bright ray of hope,
a silver lining in the storm
that hit our nation last year
when this administration 
not only belittled but was also 
unprepared for the pandemic.
Is it a new kind of people power revolution?
Then, by all means, let it bloom!
Posted by Jean Palma on Facebook, 18 April 2021 with the caption: “All these community pantries in four days, and counting. What a powerful movement.” #CommunityPantry

*All photos used are from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 17 April 2021.

Sharing the light of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Memorial of St. Teresa of Calcutta, 05 September 2020
1 Corinthians 4:6-15 /// Luke 6:1-5
Photo by author, 25 August 2020.

By blood, I am Albanian. By citizenship, an Indian. By faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.

St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta (26 August 1910-05 September 1997)

One of the great joys I have come to treasure lately, O Lord, is the grace to have lived in these interesting part of history among some of the great modern saints of our time like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta whose Memorial we celebrate today.

I practically grew up during her time when she was called a “living saint”, a very small woman in stature clad in her usual white and blue-striped habit, always wearing a smile, radiating with your light, sweet Jesus Christ.

Yet, deep in her fragile-looking body was a rock-solid faith in you, Lord, that enabled her to accomplish so much to alleviate the sufferings of so many people!

She knew so well our time marked with material affluence amid spiritual and moral bankruptcies that she went to serve the “poorest of the poor” not only in India but in the entire world. She was a soul filled with your light, Lord, burning with love for you with the sole desire to be your love and compassion to the poor.

Thank you, dear Jesus for being present with us through saints like St. Mother Teresa.

Like her, I pray that I may remain faithful to you than be successful by becoming your light to the world plunged in darkness of sin.

Like St. Paul before her, use me, Jesus, to heal the world of its wounds and divisions by remaining faithful and true to your words that you are the “Son of Man, the lord of the sabbath.”

Like St. Mother Teresa, may I share you Jesus, only Jesus, and always Jesus. Amen.

A statue of St. Mother Teresa in their Mother House in Calcutta, India. From devdiscourse.com.

The hiddenness of God

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 September 2020
Photo by author, sunset at the Lake of Galilee (Tiberias) in Israel, May 2017.

August has always been a “ghost month” for me since elementary school. Long before I have heard these stories and words of caution against many things in the month of August, I have always dreaded this month when days are grindingly slow.

Specially this year 2020 when the whole month of August felt like the season of Lent when everything was dry and empty, even literally speaking in our churches when the five Sundays of August were like five Good Fridays.

But, for the first time in many years during this pandemic, amid the dryness and emptiness of August 2020, I felt and “found” God anew in his most unique and wonderful characteristic — his hiddenness.

Hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”.

Hiddenness is something both simple and complicated but beautiful and wonderful when we find God in his hiddenness.

Hiddenness of God means more than not being seen per se; it is that feeling with certainty that he is present but, just hiding somewhere. In fact, if God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all!

And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him!

Photo by author, April 2020.

Remember when we were kids and could not find the things that our mother had asked us to get from somewhere in the sala or kitchen or her tocador? She would threaten us with the classic line my generation have all heard and memorized, “Pag hindi mo nakita yan, makikita mo sa akin!”

It is one of our funniest memories of childhood! I am sorry for my English-speaking readers but there is no appropriate translation for this because it is very cultural and even spiritual in nature. Literally translated, it says that if you do not find what you are looking for, you would find it with me. Crazy and insane, is it not?!

I told you, hiddenness of God is both simple and complex but whenever we remember those “sweet, maternal threats”, we laugh and shrug off the experience as we were dead serious then searching for whatever thing mom had asked us because deep in us we knew too well, it must be somewhere there. Sabi kasi ni Inay! (Mom said so!)

That is how it is with God too! We know for sure he is around, he is present. But in hiding because that is how loving God is, like moms and some lovers with surprises for us his beloved.

The Prophet Jeremiah experienced it so well when he wrote:

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter, everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding itin, I cannot endure it.

Jeremiah 20:7-9

No one can understand this without having experienced such intense kind of love of God or of another person that even if we are pained, we just cannot walk away or leave. More so with God, the most intense lover of all!

At the very center of Jeremiah’s torment is the invincible power of attraction of God. This is also the reason human love – whether for another a friend or a spouse, for the Church or any institution – must always be based on the love of Christ who told us to “love one another as I have loved you.” If our love remains in the human level, it can never go deeper or higher making it so sublime, so true, so pure.

That is how God is in his hiddenness who is like a lover who never stops looking for us, calling us, luring us, even seducing us to come to him, search him and once found, we may dwell in his great love; hence, even if we do not “see” him, we keep on following him as we also find him in his hiddenness!

Hiddenness of God, mystery and gift of Easter

This hiddenness of God is both the gift and mystery of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. It is a gift because in his hiddenness, God has become closest to us more than ever while at the same time, a mystery because it is in his very hiddenness that we truly find and discover God.

Remember the two disciples going home to Emmaus on Easter afternoon who was accompanied by Jesus while traveling? They did not recognize him but as they talked, their “hearts were burning” as he explained the Scriptures. Then joining them at their meal at sundown upon reaching Emmaus, Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it — and the disciples’ eyes were opened, recognizing him as the Lord who immediately disappeared! The two then rushed back to Jerusalem to announce to the other disciples that Jesus had indeed risen.

That is the beauty of hiddenness, its giftedness and mystery that we find God even our beloved who had died or not physically present with us but deep within, we are certain of their presence as being so true and so real.

Hiddenness is a deeper level of relationship coming from one’s heart and soul not dependent on physical presence. This is the reason why upon appearing to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, Jesus asked her not to touch him because from then on, knowing and relating with the Lord need not be physical and corporeal as he used to relate with them before his Death and Resurrection.

All these we must have experienced like when after a friend or a relative had died, that is when we felt growing closer with the person than when he/she was still alive and physically present with us. Or, when we were feeling low and down, we experienced sometimes so amazed at how we have felt the presence even the scent of our deceased loved ones comforting us, assuring us that all would be better.

This quarantine period invites us to experience and discover God anew in his hiddenness through prayers and silence so we can reflect on the many lessons this pandemic is teaching us today. In the darkness and emptiness of this pandemic are grace-filled moments with God hidden in our poverty and sadness, sickness and even deaths around us.

Photo by author, Christmas 2018.

Some people have already asked me about what or how would our Simbang Gabi and Christmas celebrations be. They are sad and worried that it must be a very bleak Christmas for everyone with so many out of work.

But, despite this gloom, I tell them that Christmas 2020 would be one – if not the most meaningful Christmas we shall ever have despite forecasts that there would be less of everything, materially speaking.

So often in life, when we have so much material things, that is when we fail to find and experience God.

Recall that in Bethlehem more that 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was born, God came to us hidden in a stable, on a manger in the darkness of the night.

And do not forget, too, that Christmas is not a date but an event, the very person of Jesus Christ, the all-powerful God who came to us hidden in a child, who upon becoming an adult, was crucified and died. These are sad and down moments for us but for God, it is his hiddenness, his presence. Let us go and find him again for he continues to come to us in hiddenness. Amen.

Republikula ng Pilipinas

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-24 ng Agosto 2020
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Pulilan, Bulacan, Enero 2020.
Ang sabi nila
buhay ay parang isang pelikula
tayong lahat ang bida at artista;
kaya lalo nang malaking pelikula
at tiyak patok sa takilya
pelikula ng ating republika!
Siyempre, lahat ay pabida
gusto umeksena
hindi lang sa Palasyo at Kongreso
pati na rin sa mga paseo basta matao.
Ang nakakatawa pero bumebenta
lalo na sa mga tanga 
mga artista nagpipilit sa pulitika
mga pulitiko umaarte, nagpapabebe!
Dating pelikula ng ating republika
makasaysayan at makahulugan
maituturing na isang sining
nababanaagan maningning na liwanag
 katulad din ng pinilakang tabing
kapupulutan ng mga ginintuang aral
mga talastasan at eksena 
mula sa mga aninong gumagalaw;
nang magdeklara ng Martial Law
nagsimula rin ang kasalaulaan
ng pamahalaan maging sa sinehan
kung saan mga hubad na katawan 
 pinagpipistahan, kunwari'y film festival
ang totoo ay karnabal.
Nagwakas din at nagsara ang tabing
ng malagim na yugto ng kasaysayan natin
bagong simula ang dokyu ng EDSA
kinalaunan naging trahedya
pelikula ng republika, naging telenovela at komedya
nang maupo tunay na artista ng masa, 
nagreyna sa media at chika
puro artista, kaya dumagsa na rin sila
naging zarzuela pelikula ng ating republika
naglabo-labo at moro-moro, gumulo nang gumulo
kaya heto tayo horror na nakakatakot 
nakapangingilabot kadiliman 
at kasamaang bumabalot parang bangungot
hugot sa isang eksena ng pelikula na sana'y matapos na.
Ngunit kung titingnan
mga pelikulang horror walang laman
puro kabobohan at katangahan
dinaraan lang sa gulatan 
hanggang maging katatawanan.
Hindi ba't ganyang-ganyan 
ating lipunan at pamahalaan
isang malaking pelikulang katatakutan
na puro kabalastugan at kahangalan?
Kaya aking payong kaibigan, 
sa susunod na halalan
tanggihan, huwag nang pagbigyan 
mga artista sa pulitika, 
mga pulitiko na payaso!
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com