The authority of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 31 January 2021
Deuteronomy 18:15-20  +  1 Corinthians 7:32-35  +  Mark 1:21-28
Photo by author, ruins of the old Capernaum where Jesus lived, May 2017.

As Jesus began his public ministry last week by the shores of the Lake of Galilee calling his first disciples, Mark presents us beginning today some glimpses into the life and person of the Lord in Capernaum where he grew up and would temporarily base himself.

Then they came to Capernaum, and on the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. The people were astonished at his teaching, for taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit… All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.

Mark 1:21-23, 27-28

First thing we notice with Jesus is his devotion to Judaism, his going to the synagogue at sabbath to worship God his Father; later we find how during major feasts he would also come to the temple at Jerusalem. What a beautiful reminder that personal faith and relationship with God has to be expressed and lived in a community like in our parishes.

In this glimpse into a typical sabbath day in the life of Jesus, we also find the reason why he launched his ministry from the province of Galilee and not at the center of Israel which is Jerusalem: and that is to serve the poor and marginalized, those neglected with nothing in life who always felt left out and forgotten by everyone.

That is no longer true as we heard him declared last Sunday, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1:15).

The author with friends and former colleagues at the ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum where Jesus preached on sabbath (May 2017).

A new teaching, proclaimed with authority

Mark tells us twice in our short gospel this Sunday how the people experienced Christ’s having authority in the way he spoke that was so unlike their scribes. Most of all, the people were amazed at his authority and power of words that expelled an “unclean spirit” from a man at their synagogue.

It was definitely something totally new and different that they wondered if it were a new kind of teaching, not knowing it was already God right in their midst in Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh!

Today Jesus is teaching us the real meaning of power, his power of authority that actualizes persons and communities. Like the first disciples he had called last week, the people at the synagogue felt his words affecting them within. Their hearts must have been stirred and moved that they felt so good, moving them to share it with everyone that they all shared in the joy of hearing something new, something fresh and uplifting.

And it did not stop there.

The people then witnessed Jesus how drove away with his words an unclean spirit from a possessed man. They were amazed more upon seeing the possessed man freed from unclean spirit that “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee.”

Such was the impact Jesus made on that day of sabbath at Capernaum that continues to our day especially when we gather for the Sunday Eucharist if we can only share in his authority.

Authority as power is always a service that sets people free.

Photo by author, a column among the ruins of the Capernaum synagogue in Galilee, May 2017.

The word authority came from the Latin verb augere, augeribus meaning “to make something increase” or become better. Akin to the word authority is also the word “author” as in the writer of a book or of a document whose words are regarded as true and correct, worth listening and following.

Therefore, real authority is not just having the power over the people to rule and subjugate them as most of us would always think.

Authority in the real sense is service, the power to enable and empower people so that they may become better persons, that they may mature and transcend themselves to grow as persons with so much potentials for change and development.

True authority always leads people to freedom from darkness and sins, sickness and evil that brings out their giftedness as beloved children of God.

That is the authority of Jesus who declared that he had come to serve and not to be served by giving his life as a ransom for many (Mt.20:28) so that we may all have life in him as our good shepherd, a life in abundance (Jn.10:10).

Jesus is the prophet promised by God to Moses in the first reading who shall come to his people to speak to them his very words of life. And by tracing our being prophets with authority to Moses, the first reading gives us too the only criterion for recognizing the true spokesperson of God: he must always speak the word of God that is always actualizing when spoken with humility and sincerity.

Notice how in our language and culture the close linkages of words and authority are so clearly pronounced and recognized: we call people with authority as “mga taong may sinasabi” because people who wield power always have a say in everything.

But what are they saying? What words would always come out of their mouths? Are they life-giving or inducing death, glorifying evil?

So many times, people say so many things that are nothing and senseless. Ang dami-daming sinasabi wala namang sinabi! That is how we call people without impact and true authority: walang sinabi.

Photo by author before celebrating a Mass at the back of Capernaum near the shore of the Lake of Galilee, May 2017.

How sad these recent years, we priests and bishops complain so often how people would no longer listen to us in the Church.

Could it be that this is due to the fact we have stopped speaking the words of God, when all we care to speak of is what we know, what we think of so we would be powerful and famous specially in the various social media platforms? (See https://lordmychef.com/2021/01/27/from-the-ear-to-the-heart/)

We say so many things but fall on deaf ears, no impact, no life at all because they are not the words of Christ whom we have long forgotten.

Worst, how tragic when we impose our own words, insisting our authority on the people that most often is self-serving, far from true and loving service of Jesus Christ.

Whatever happened to that ideal of lay-empowerment when we would not let people speak or at least listen to their voices and thoughts in running their parish?

Before we can make people listen to the words of God, we in the Church must be the first to listen to his words that come to us in a life of prayer and devotion to the Eucharist. What a hypocrisy on our part when we who are supposed to be unmarried and celibate who are “anxious about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord” (1Cor.7:32) would not even spend time to pray and listen to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament daily.

Every day especially in every celebration of the Mass, Jesus comes to us in his authority to set us free from our fears and anxieties, sickness and sins, anger and resentments, compulsions and addictions among other things that hinder us from truly experiencing the beauty of this life.

Let us all pray today for us to have a share in the authority of Jesus Christ to set us free from our being deaf and dumb, blind and lame in the Church that is also his Body. Amen.

The old and charming Church at Baras, Rizal.

When feeling helpless

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 31 October 2020
Philippians 1:18-26     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Luke 14:1, 7-11
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

It is the end of another month, of another week as we brace ourselves for a super typhoon directly hitting our region. And yes, God our loving Father, we are scared, we are worried, we feel helpless most specially for our little brothers and sisters, those who have always been suffering in life like the poor, the elderly, the sick, the marginalized.

But if there is one thing we have learned from COVID-19 these past eight months is to wholly entrust everything to you, O God, to completely surrender and rely on you alone.

Let us grow deeper in faith, more fervent in hope and be unceasing in our charity and love for others so that the Gospel of Jesus your Son may always be proclaimed.

Help us imitate St. Paul, though imprisoned and almost certain of facing death, no trace of helplessness is found in him; on the contrary, he was so full of power coming from his deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

My eager expectation and hope is that I shall not be put to shame in any way, but that with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.

Philippians 1:20-21

Enable us in the power of the Holy Spirit to humbly submit ourselves to you, dear God, confident that you always have a specific place and seat, a role to play for us — if we can learn to first stand up for you like in today’s parable by Jesus.

May the coming typhoon be an opportunity for us to let our faith be expressed in words and in deeds. Amen.

In the presence of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of Archangels St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael, 29 September 2020
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14     >><)))*>   +   >><)))*>   +   >><)))*>     John 1:47-51
Photo by author, dome of the chapel at Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem, the Holy Land, May 2019.

Thank you Lord Jesus Christ for opening the heaven for us to be in the presence of God the Father anew and most especially, to become like him again in his image and likeness.

As we celebrate today the Feast of your Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, we remember God’s original plan for us to be with him like his angels and Archangels, of being like him not to compete but to reflect his image and likeness.

And so today, we pray that we may have the grace to be like St. Michael whose name means “who is like unto God?” that we may be like God not to compete with him but to be holy and merciful like him, fighting evil and sins with justice and truth.

Make us strong, Lord Jesus, like St. Gabriel whose name means “God is my strength” so we may deliver always your good news of salvation to the world now numb to bad news of wars and murders, injustice and inhumanity, poverty and starvation as well as the excesses of the first world with more than half the world starving and barely surviving with bare essentials.

Lastly, we beg you Lord in this time of the pandemic to grant us the gift of healing for those sick not only with COVID-19 but with other sickness. May St. Raphael who name means “God has healed” come and guide us in this journey like he did to Tobias, providing him the medications to heal not only bodily sickness but also emotional and spiritual maladies.

These we present to God our Father through you our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

Mary is Queen because Jesus is the King

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Queenship of Mary, 22 August 2020
Isaiah 9:1-6 >><)))*> >><)))*> | + | <*(((><< <*(((><< Luke 1:39-47
Photo from Google.

Almighty God and Father, on this Memorial of the Queenship of Mary our Blessed Mother, we join her in that most beautiful song of praise to you, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior” (Lk.1:47).

Remind us always, O Lord, specially in this time when we exaggerate everything that unlike the royalties of the world, Mary is our Queen not because of power and wealth nor of fame and popularity but precisely due to her humility and weakness before you.

In this time when we are so fond of “triumphalism”, when we overdo even our devotions and prayers to praise and glorify you, remind us O Lord it is not your way as shown to us by the Blessed Mother Mary.

Let us keep in our minds and hearts that Mary, along with all the saints, are venerated because of their obedience to you, fulfilling your will at all times, making you present among us in our weaknesses and helplessness.

We pray for more simplicity and humility, above all, sincerity in our devotions to Mary and the saints that lead to more authentic faith in you alone who is our God Most Holy.

Like Mary our Queen, may we always say “yes” to you O God our “King of kings”. Amen.

Human situation, Divine response: multiplying our blessings

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

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

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

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

Multi-layered story of the multiplication of bread

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

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

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

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

The consolation of Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compassion of Jesus.

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

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

You respond for help, you reply to a call.

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

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

God cannot suffer because he is perfect.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our scarcity mentality, the God of plenty.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isaiah 55:2-3

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

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

A blessed August ahead for you! Amen.

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

St. Paul in time of Covid-19: need to be focused more on Jesus

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 05 June 2020
Ceiling of the main altar and dome of the Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019. Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the most severe test the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines has ever faced, striking on the final year of her preparations for the quincentenary of the coming of Christianity in the country.

Making things worst is the “unfriendly” Administration whose policies contradict almost every known Church teaching, from the most basic GMRC and decency to the sanctity of human life.

In this three-part series of reflections, I wish to share with you my brother priests and lay partners in our ministry some lessons I have found in the life and teachings of St. Paul the Apostle that is centered on the person of Jesus Christ.

He never gave specific instructions and answers in dealing with the many issues and problems that confronted the early Church that may help us in the present generation; but, he had taught us to be always centered on Christ, measuring everything in him and his Cross.

Now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you… Through it you are also being saved… For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: the Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.

1 Corinthians 15:1-3
A sculpture of St. Paul the Apostle upon the entrance to the Malolos Cathedral by the renowned ecclesiastical artist Mr. Willy Layug. Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, 12 June 2019.

The gospel thrives most in hostile environment

St. Paul lived in a time very similar with ours when great developments and changes were overtaking the world with the usual problems of poverty and inequalities due to growing materialism, and persecution of the Church.

Instead of seeing them as problems, St. Paul saw them as opportunities to spread the Gospel because his sole focus was the Lord Jesus himself and his Cross.

In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But wicked people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. But you remain faithful to what you have learned and believed…

2 Timothy 3:12-14

When the former Mayor of Davao City assumed the presidency and started lashing out us priests and bishops with his profanities and vitriol including blasphemies against God and Pope Francis, we all expressed our indignation and opposition.

And rightly so! – even in fighting for Kian and those fallen by tokhang as well as the victims of injustice and fake news.

As days moved into months and years, with more vulgarities and lies dished out by the man at Malacañang, there also appeared some silver linings over Pasig River but many of us in the clergy have refused to see and admit— that some of his accusations are true. Although these are more of the exception than the rule, there are indeed some priests leading inauthentic lives far from their vows of poverty and celibacy with others pretending to be shepherds of souls who do not smell like their sheep because they are more keen in amassing wealth and gaining fame and popularity.

Worst of all are those who have sold their souls to politicians for some petty favors and a taste of power, of being seen with the rich and famous.

I am not putting down our priests. There are more good and holy priests working faithfully and silently not only in our country but everywhere in the world.

What I am trying to say since our “persecution” by the present Administration began, this is a wake-up call for us priests to shape up and regain our bearings in Christ.

Actually, it had been coming since the previous Administration, too. For the longest time we have been lording it over the people with our abuses and excesses hiding in the excuse as “alter Christus” but, now the changing times have finally caught on us, demanding more transparency and honesty on our part.

Like with the experience of St. Paul, these situations of “persecution” with a pandemic are calls for our conversion in Christ anew, something that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has been insisting that we priests go back to Jesus, especially in the Blessed Sacrament.

Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, ordination to the diaconate at the Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

Like St.Paul, priests are first a witness of Jesus Christ

This time of crisis due to COVID-19 and the continued “persecution” by an unfriendly administration that has continued to keep our churches closed for no sane reason at all can be a grace-filled moment for us if we allow Jesus Christ to shine in us by bringing hope and inspiration to our people saddled with so much burdens due to COVID-19 and the government’s inconsistencies in managing the pandemic.

It is here where we are most expected by the people to be at the forefront but – unfortunately – we have been silent in asserting our religious freedom to worship within the rules and protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Only Bishop Pabillo of Manila had spoken against the “laughable policy” of allowing only five and ten people inside the church in areas under ECQ and GCQ, respectively.

Making matters worst was how the CBCP issued its statement reminding us priests and bishops to follow the directives and guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases regarding the celebration of the Mass! Instead of supporting the lone voice championing our rights to celebrate Mass in public, the CBCP just repeated the same situation when Jesus saw the crowd who have followed him to the wilderness, “sheep confused and lost without a shepherd” (Mt.9:36).

How sad we have given up the fight so easily to have our churches opened in the transition from ECQ to GCQ.

More sad now are the bishops and priests again in the news – filled with fire and courage – speaking out loudly against the anti-terror bill recently passed by Congress.

No problem fighting oppressive measures by any administration but to miss out that same fervor and zeal for our own rights and duties to provide the essential spiritual nourishment of our people at this time is something disturbing, something St. Paul would not allow to happen.

Yes, it is part of our priesthood to fight for people’s rights but always in the light of Jesus Christ.

St. John Paul II had shown us in recent history what it is when while still a priest and later as bishop in Poland, he spoke only of the words of God in the scriptures and fruits of his prayer that he was able to tore down the Iron Curtain his homeland and eventually throughout Europe.

St. Paul never played partisan politics like our Lord Jesus Christ, considering how they have lived at a time rife with occasions to be politicized. He never missed addressing social issues in the light of the gospel as he wrote one of his friends – presumably rich and influential – regarding a slave named Onesimus:

To Philemon, our beloved and co-worker… Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord.

Philemon 1, 15-16

How sad when we priests speak of so many things like current events and other trends without giving the people the Word of God.

It is even a scandal when we priests are more busy with social advocacies forgetting we are first of all a “man of the Word” according to Vatican II.

Let us not forget St. Paul’s reminder that though we are in the world, we are not of the world:

Do not conform yourself to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2

The gospel of Christ thrives most in hostile environment and situations but that does not mean going out like activists with clenched fists and raised voices walking the streets. We are not going to change the world; Jesus will — if we can proclaim him in words and in deeds.

The other week as we neared the conclusion of the Easter Season, one of the first readings on weekdays touched me so much, wondering if we priests can also say with all sincerity St. Paul’s words at Miletus when he spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus before sailing to Jerusalem for his trial:

So be vigilant and remember that for three years, night and day, I unceasingly admonished each of you with tears… I have never wanted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You know well that these very hands have served my needs and my companions. In every way I have shown you that by hard work of that sort we must help the weak, and keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus…

Acts of the Apostles 20:31, 33-35

According to St. Luke, after those words, the people wept loudly as they threw their arms around St. Paul and kissed him. He was so loved by the people because of Jesus Christ, not of his very self.

Surely, like Jesus, St. Paul stretched out his arms and hands more to pray over people after hearing their confessions and problems, spent longer hours praying in silence or writing his letters to the various churches he founded, strengthening and inspiring them in Christ than be out on the streets seething with anger against any despot and regime.

On Monday our second part in the series, Fighting our detractors like St. Paul in time of COVID-19.

St. Paul saying goodbye to Ephesians at Miletus on his way to Jerusalem to face trial.

Timely reminders from St. Paul in this time of pandemic

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companion Martyrs, 03 June 2020
2 Timothy 1:1-3, 6-12 ><)))*> + <*(((>< Mark 12:18-27
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, April 2020.

We thank you, most loving God our Father, for the grace of perseverance and patience in this time of the pandemic. We thank you for the gift of trusting in your love and mercy despite all the sufferings and hardships our people have been going through amid the callousness and insensitivity of our leaders in government who have allowed to open offices, factories, and malls without providing adequate transportation while keeping all houses of worship closed.

May they heed, O Lord, the reminders of St. Paul to Timothy:

“I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:6-7

We pray for more courage for our leaders in government so they may not cower in fear to the threats of COVID-19 when there are so many measures to control its spread which they should have taken long time ago but have failed to do so for reasons only they know.

Give them courage to stand up to their superiors, to admit their faults and failures instead of being so concerned in building their image as strong and capable that deceive no one.

Remind us all, O Lord, that we own nothing in this life. Everything is yours even the power and authority we have that must be tempered with genuine love and concern for the people and most especially with self-control.

How sad, O Lord, that until now, there are people who insist on possessing persons like the Sadducees who cannot accept resurrection of the dead because they are stuck into the belief couples “own” each other:

“At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her.”

Matthew 12:23
From ShareCatholic.com

One of those who thought of owning people was the pedophile King Mwanga of Uganda who persecuted the Christians in 1885-1887.

Inspire us, Lord, with the examples of St. Charles Lwanga and companion martyrs who remained pure and chaste, choosing tortures and death than to give in to the sexual perversions and immoralities of King Mwanga.

Their martyrdom became the seeds for the growth of Christianity in Uganda.

Help us to lead holy lives, Lord, amid the many sufferings we have to endure especially at this time of pandemic worsened by those who do not seem to care at all about you and spirituality, of the elderly and the sick, of the poor and needy among us.

Keep us all strong and let us not be perverted by the corrupt among us, always bearing our share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from you, O God. Amen.

Call of the COVID-19 quarantine: a return to our contemplative spirit

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 29 April 2020

Photo by author, 2010.

This is again for my brother priests and fellow workers in Church communication: our extended “enhanced community quarantine” is a call for us to rediscover the contemplative spirit so essential in our communication apostolate. It is best that before we go in front of the camera, before we post anything at all, or even before we go out doing our social action, let us first have Jesus Christ in us.

After all, it is always Jesus and only Jesus we bring as priests in everything we say and do. Jesus is our life as priests and without him, our works mean nothing. Worst, it may be happening that it is not Jesus whom we are following when we fail to spend time with him in serious prayers that unknown to us, we are already replacing him by creating our own ministry apart from him.

Incidentally, we are celebrating today the Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena who is considered as one of the patron saints for those working in telecommunications and TV stations.

In one of her numerous “ecstatic” visions, it is said that when she was so sick in her room, she begged the Lord to give her a glimpse of the celebration of the Mass in their chapel. The Lord heard her prayer and thus, she became the first person in history to have celebrated Mass by “remote telecast”!

From Google.

Faith and technology

We have mentioned in our previous reflection that we now live our faith in a mass-mediated culture. Media is all around us. And there is always that intense temptation by the devil to put us on TV and the internet to be popular.

So, how do we interact with technology on a daily basis?

What are we posting on Facebook? Are we like the rest who are also hooked into TikTok with all the inanities that go with it?

How much time do we spend for social media and Netflix these days?

And how many hours do we spend before the Blessed Sacrament, excluding our Liturgy of the Hours and praying of the Holy Rosary?

From Google.

We are familiar with Marshall McLuhan’s dictum “the medium is the message”.

This we have seen in the past very evident in our ministry when some priests have transformed the South American telenovelas and later Koreanovelas into a gospel too that people felt like listening to reviews during the homily. And it had given some people the idea that every homily of the priest must say something about television shows! In fact, about three years ago, some priests have to be reminded by the CBCP during the Simbang Gabi to focus only on the Word of God and not on TV shows and jokes to get the attention of their congregation during Mass.

But let us not forget that later in his life, McLuhan added to his dictum that “the medium is the massage” to warn us that sooner or later, we can be eaten up by media that everything is reduced into a show – or a palabas in Filipino that means outward.

That is what a show is, a palabas which is empty or walang laman.

And shallow, mababaw.

That is the sorry state of our many social communication efforts in the Church when we have Masses that have become like entertainment shows, priests becoming entertainers, church buildings and decors that look like videoke bars evoking none of the sacred, and tarps and posters that are all hype without any evangelical meaning.

Observe also how our presentations and shows in our Catholic schools and parish halls have become mere repetitions of what are on television that have left many of us now stuck in Emmaus who could no longer find the way back to Jerusalem, even to Jesus because all we see are the fun and excitement, the glitz and the glamor of media.

And of our massaged ego.

Road to Emmaus from clarusonline.it

Keeping technology in its place in the Church

We are not saying modern communications is evil; the Church has always been clear that these modern means of communications are in fact a gift from God. Vatican II asserts that it is Church’s “birthright” to use and own these modern means of communication for evangelization (Inter Mirifica, 3)

Our challenge in the Church is to keep these modern technologies in its proper place.

A technological culture is not the most hospitable environment for religious belief, but neither is it necessarily hostile. If we are to find a way of expressing our faith in this technological culture and of speaking to and with the people formed by this culture we need to take time to consider how we, as individuals and as a faith community, interact with technology on a daily basis.

James Mcdonnell, Communicating the Gospel in a Technological Age: Rediscovering the Contemplative Spirit (1989)

In a story posted by the CBCP News two days ago, it reported the experience of Filipino priest Fr. Jun Villanueva who contracted the dreaded COVID-19 disease in New York City last March shortly after he had arrived to study there.

Assigned in a parish in the heart of the Big Apple, Fr. Villanueva tells how he spent his days of being “alone literally and emotionally” as “moments with God”. But, his turning point came after recovering from the corona virus when he began celebrating Mass alone:

“I really cried when I first celebrated Mass without churchgoers. There’s no one in the Church except Jesus,” he recalled. “Then I realized that the Mass is not a show but our union with Jesus, whether there are people or none,” he said. “I started to look at the situation from that perspective”.

Fr. Jun Villanueva, CBCP News, 27 April 2020

That is the first step needed to put technology in its proper place in the Church: that we bring back Jesus Christ whom we have banished in the name of our ministry and vocation. The more we think of putting so much “art” and other things to “enhance” our liturgies, then we banish Jesus Christ.

This is the other pandemic we have refused to stop in the Church: triumphalism, the overdoing of things for God that in the process we actually put more of ourselves in the ministry and liturgy than of the Holy.

Is there anyone or anything greater than the Lord?

Remember St. Theresa of Avila: Solo dios basta!

And, like our saints who guide us closer to God, the only way to have Jesus and bring him back in our lives and ministry, in the church as institution and building is through the contemplative spirit of the priests.

It is a good thing that the catch call these days is that the “return to normal” is actually a “return to basics” like washing of hands, covering of mouths when sneezing, and most of all, a return to God.

From Google.

The spirits of modernity characterized by constant changes and technological efficiency do not jibe so well with the demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who have always reminded us of guarding against the temptations of the material world.

Jesus tells us to practice poverty but the world tells us to be wealthy.

Jesus asks us to forget ourselves and follow him but the world tells us to be popular and follow the limelight.

Jesus tells us to go down and be humble but the world tells us to rise up and go higher!

The other day, Jesus reminded us in the gospel:

“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

John 6:27

Most of the time in the Church and in our lives as priests, we have to be “inefficient” like “waste time” doing nothing in front of the Blessed Sacrament; have less of everything like food, money and clothing; be silent to listen more than to speak and talk more.

The contemplative spirit is about poverty and going down while the world tells us to be wealthy and to rise and go upwards.

The contemplative spirit is to be silent and trusting always in the Lord rather than relying on our own powers and abilities.

Here is James McDonnell again on the need to rediscover the contemplative spirit in communicating the gospel in this modern time.

“The contemplative spirit is an attitude of mind and heart that enables us to focus on the essential, important things. It refuses to be hurried or rushed into premature rejection or acceptance of technology. If we Christians allow it to inform our use of communication technologies we shall learn to be realistic, but always hopeful, able to love and reverence our culture even as we strive, with God’s help, to transform it.”

Communicating the Gospel in a Technological Age: Rediscovering the Contemplative Spirit (1989)

Take heart, my dear brother priests: we are representatives of Jesus Christ, our Eternal Priest. We are not entertainers and pleasers of anyone but of God alone. We do not need followers and likers. And we have so many other things to do than TikTok and Facebook or Instagram.

Let us go back to Nazareth to be silent and hidden so we can return to Jerusalem to await for further instructions from the Lord. Amen.

“Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio. From Google.

Mga guyang ginto sa piling natin

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-26 ng Marso 2020

Eksena hango sa pelikulang “The Ten Commandments” noong 1956.
Tinuturing ng mga Hudyo
ang pagsamba ng kanilang ninuno 
sa guyang ginto 
ang pinaka-nakakahiyang yugto
sa kanilang kasaysayan 
nang talikuran nila sa ilang
butihing Diyos hanap katapatan lamang.
Mula noon hanggang ngayon
guyang ginto ang naging larawan
na siyang kumakatawan sa ating 
mga sinasambang diyos-diyusan:
salapi at kayamanan, 
kapangyarihan at katanyagan,
lahat iiwan, tatalikuran makamit lamang.
Hindi ako kumibo noong una
kahit napupuno ng nag-aalimpuyo
na galit at ngitngit sa mga balitang sumisingit 
mga VIP para sa kakaunting testing kit;
ngunit nang itong si Koko Pimentel
hindi nagpigil, di napasupil
ako ma'y kumulo ang dugo sa gigil.
Di niya inalintana mahawahan
mga karamihan ng sakit na di pa maunawaan
siya pa ngayon ang nangangatuwiran 
sa kanyang kapabayaan at kapalaluan
pakiwari siya ay tama at kawawa
kaya sa kanya ang madla
nagalit halos siya ay isumpa.
Ito ang malungkot na katotohanan
nalantad sa isang iglap ng kapabayaan, 
kahangalan at kayabangan
silang mga halal at makapangyarihan
sa taumbayan walang pakialam
sila na mismo ang guyang ginto
na ibig sila ang sambahin at paglingkuran!
Kaya nga aking mga kababayan
huwag kalilimutan mga taksil ng bayan
huwag nang ibalik sa luklukan
dahil ngayon pa lamang ay nagkasubukan
sa oras ng kagipitan tayo ay kanilang iniwan
hindi dapat pagkatiwalaan
sapagkat sila'y mga propetang bulaan.
Larawan mula sa Chabad.org