How do we look at each other?

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week II, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 January 2022
1 Samuel 17:32-33, 37, 40-51   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Mark 3:1-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.
Your words today, O Lord, 
invite me to examine and reflect
sincerely how do I look at others, 
what do I think, what do I search
on others I meet or encounter?

With his shield bearer marching before him, the Philistine advanced closer and closer to David. When he had sized David up, and seen that he was youthful, and ruddy, and handsome in appearance, he held David in contempt.

1 Samuel 17:41-42
Forgive us, dear God our Father
when so often we "size" up everyone
we meet, when we always try competing
with everyone, examining their outward
appearances to compare them with our
very selves, with our competencies and 
abilities, or records and backgrounds.

Jesus entered the synagogue. There was a man there who had a withered hand. They watched Jesus closely to see if he would cure him on the sabbath so that they might accuse him.

Mark 3:1-2
But the most unkindest look we make
at others is when we condition ourselves
at finding faults and sins and slightest malice
against others for whatever they do;  what
a shame when our hearts and minds "see"
evil when what our eyes truly "see" is all good.
How difficult it must be for you, merciful Jesus,
to experience it happening even among us who 
claim to be your disciples and followers, that until
now you are "filled with anger and grieving 
for our hardness of heart" (Mk.3:5).
Cleanse our minds and our hearts to find your
image and likeness in everyone we meet,
purify our biases with others so we start
to mean what we keep on hearing
and saying to one another, 
"may the Lord be with you".
Amen.

The problem with our insistence

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week I, Year II in Ordinary Time, 14 January 2022
1 Samuel 8:4-7, 10-22   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Mark 2:1-12
Photo by author, ruins at Capernaum where Jesus healed the paralytic, May 2017.
Today, O Lord, I remember
those days when I insisted on
what I wanted, without giving any
moment to dwell on your plans
and suggestions.
Today, dear God our Father,
your words clearly show us how 
so apart are our thoughts and 
your thoughts, of how wide and
encompassing at how you see
everything and everyone
compared to our very limited
and shallow perceptions that 
are too little, hence, easier to insist on.

The people however, refused to listen to Samuel’s warning and said, “Not so! There must be a king over us. We, too, must be like other nations, with a king to rule us and to lead us in warfare and fight our battles.” When Samuel had listened to all the people had to say, he repeated it to the Lord, who then said to him, “Grant their request and appoint a king to rule them.”

1 Samuel 8:19-22
Widen our horizons to see
how you have made us in fact
different from others, so special and
beloved to be close to you and yet,
like those people to Samuel, we would
always insist to be just like others.
And the saddest part of belittling our
stature is how we also try to bring you
down to our own level:

Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth.” He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”

Mark 2:6-11
Raise up our thoughts
and understanding, Lord Jesus!
Let us "level up" and "shift" to
your thoughts and the way you see
persons and situations that lead us
to claim our freedom from sins and 
evil that have trapped us for so long
despite your victory since your rising
from the dead; open our eyes and our
hearts, Jesus, to see the new realities,
our restored dignity as beloved children
of the Father in you so that we stop 
insisting with our little and unworthy
causes and demands.  Amen.

Fighting life’s battles

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week I, Year II in Ordinary Time, 13 January 2022
1 Samuel 4:1-11   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Mark 1:40-45
Photo by author, Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, January 2021.
As we go into another year
with a new surge in COVID-19, 
teach me, dear Lord,
how to fight life's many battles;
just when we thought we are almost
done with the pandemic, recent 
events indicate more battles are
still coming our way for sure.
May we learn from the lessons of the
past two years to equip us better
this 2022 by deepening our faith in
you and stop manipulating you.

So the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the Lord of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were with the ark of God. When the ark of the Lord arrived in the camp, all Israel shouted so loudly that the earth resounded. The Philistines fought and Israel was defeated; every man fled to his own tent. It was a disastrous defeat, in which Israel lost thirty thousand foot soldiers. The ark of God was captured, and Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, were among the dead.

1 Samuel 4:4-5, 10-11
Forgive us, God our Father,
whenever we remember you most
when we are losing life's battles; 
and worst, when we manipulate
you to turn the tide in our favor!
Forgive us, God our Father,
when we behave and act like
pagans, believing more in our
images and signs of your presence
than in your very Person.
How foolish like lately in an
accident in Brazil, many among us
even questioned why you have allowed
a boat named "Jesus" crushed by a 
falling rock that killed ten people on
board including a child?!*
Teach me, O Jesus, to have the same
attitude of that leper who approached
you and humbly pleaded for healing,
"If you wish, you can make me clean."
And you were so moved with pity that
you stretched out your hand and touched
the leper, telling him, "I do will it.  
Be made clean" (Mk.1:40-41).
You have come to join us in our battles,
Lord Jesus; let us then fight with you, 
and give us the courage
to approach you and humbly beg you,
trusting you which is in itself a way of
fighting our life's battles.  Amen.  

* For the article, click https://aleteia.org/2022/01/11/boat-named-jesus-crushed-by-falling-rock-in-brazil-why-did-god-allow-it/

Praying when to speak

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Week I of Ordinary Time, 12 January 2022
1 Samuel 3:1-10, 19-20   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Mark 1:29-39
Photo by author at St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba, Jordan, May 2019.
Teach me, O Lord, when to speak -
not only how and what to speak;
Teach me, O Lord, to speak only 
when you want me to speak,
only after you have spoken and 
I have listened.

When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the Lord came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not permitting any word of his to be without effect.

1 Samuel 3:10, 19
So many times my words are
without effect because they are
empty of you, Jesus, the Word who
became flesh; many times my words
are without effect because they are
empty of truth and sincerity, no love 
nor mercy, without any kindness and
care or concern.
Sad to say, many times, my words
are filled with evil and malice and lies; 
like the demons you have driven out
in the gospel, never allow me to speak
when my words are not coming from you.
O Lord open my lips,
cleanse my heart of every evil 
and worthless thoughts
so that my mouth shall 
declare your praise.  Amen.

What prompts us…?

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in Week I, Year I of Ordinary Time, 11 January 2022
1 Samuel 1:9-20   ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'>   Mark 1:21-28
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son Caius in January 2020.

“It isn’t that, my lord,” Hannah answered. “I am an unhappy woman. I have had neither wine nor liquor; I was only pouring out my troubles to the Lord. Do not think your handmaid a ne’er-do-well; my prayer has been prompted by my deep sorrow and misery.”

1 Samuel 1:15-16
In the midst of this new surge
in COVID infections, we identify
so well with Hannah, dear God
our loving Father:  we are not happy,
and we are so sorry for this surge
that has affected almost every 
family and household among us.
Listen to our pleadings to you, dear Lord,
heal our family members and friends
afflicted with the virus as well as those
most vulnerable like those bed-ridden
and those going through dialysis and
chemotheraphy and other treatments.
You know, O Lord, our deep longings and 
desires; purify and cleanse us inside, 
especially the sources of our pleadings
and speaking; whatever prompts us to 
say and do may always be rooted in you
not in us nor in our pride and ambitions
like the scribes.  May our promptings be
from the Holy Spirit always so that like
Jesus, we may speak with authority.
Amen.

When “ordinary” is “extraordinary”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in Week 1 of Ordinary Time, Year II, 10 January 2022
1 Samuel 1:1-8   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Mark 1:14-20
Photo by author, 2019.
Glory and praise
and thanksgiving to you,
God our loving Father for 
bringing us to this Monday,
the beginning of our Ordinary
Time in the Church calendar.
Send us your Holy Spirit 
to enlighten our minds and our
hearts not to look down upon 
what we consider as "ordinary" -
ordinary people, ordinary days,
ordinary food, ordinary tasks,
ordinary as same usual fare,
ordinary as less than grand and
special things.
Help us rediscover the true meaning
of "ordinary" which connotes orderliness
from the Latin roots ordo, ordinis for
order and ordinarius for orderly.
Let us live up to our faith in you
during this ordinary days when 
many of life's challenges happen 
like your servant Hannah, the mother 
of your prophet Samuel:

Her rival, to upset her, turned it into a constant reproach to her that the Lord had left her barren. This went on year after year; each time they made their pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Lord, Peninnah would approach her, and Hannah would weep and refuse to eat. Her husband Elkanah used to ask her: “Hannah, why do you weep, and why do you refuse to eat? Why do you grieve? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

1 Samuel 1:6-8
Keep our eyes and our hearts
open like the brothers Simon and 
Andrew, James and John for your
Son Jesus Christ who comes to us
in the most ordinary days, in the 
most ordinary circumstances like 
casting nets and mending nets.
Let us be on guard, dear God, during
ordinary days and time for these are 
extraordinary moments because you
have made everything and everyone
so special.  Amen.

Becoming an adult Jesus Nazareno at Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday, Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 09 January 2022
Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 ><}}}*> Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7 ><}}}*> Luke 3:15-16,21-22
Photo from flickr.com by Mark S. Abeln, Resurrection Cemetery in Affton, Missouri, USA, 16 November 2010.

Today’s Feast of the Baptism of the Lord closes the Christmas Season in the most unique way as we are again in another surge of COVID-19 while for the first time, not even during these past two years of pandemic, people are totally barred from celebrating the Mass outside the Quiapo church for the feast of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno or the Black Nazarene.

It is the second consecutive year due to pandemic that there is no Traslacion of the Poon Nazareno but whereas before despite COVID-19 all roads led to Quiapo every January 09, all devotees today are directed to the website of the Minor Basilica of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno to celebrate the hourly online Masses from dawn until late night tonight.

Police and Church officials have appealed to the public to stay home with the Archbishop of Manila assuring devotees of the grace and blessings still being granted to them by the SeƱor Nazareno through the “modern means of communications”.

Here we find a most wonderful grace of God for us to mature into an “adult Jesus” in this time still in the Christmas Season when we are invited to put some spirituality to our devotions that are both amazing but baffling even to us. How can we so devoutly Catholic as a nation be blind to all the corruption and disrespect for life going on in our country that we cannot progress like other Asian nations made worst by our choices of leaders in government?

As we close the Christmas Season before going into Ordinary Time tomorrow, let us not remain children but become adults like Jesus Christ when baptized at Jordan by John.

After all the people had been baptized and Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Luke 3:21-22
Photo by author, Ubihan River, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

Jesus as “one of us”, present among us

All four evangelists have their particular emphasis in narrating the baptism of Jesus at Jordan by John. For this year, we look into Luke’s version that celebrates the anointing and royal investiture of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

Though there is no need for him to be baptized, Christ’s baptism at Jordan signified his solidarity with us sinners making us share in the gift of the Spirit he had received on that day, making each of us a “beloved child” of God with whom he is well pleased!

First thing we notice with Luke’s baptism account is the Lord being incognito during the baptism by John. There were no conversations or “debate” with John as Jesus was readily presented as among the crowd. It is a beautiful imagery by Luke of the Christ always present but unknown among us.

Jesus being with the people in Jordan River reminds us that Christmas does not mean only of him remaining a child lying in a manger because part of this season’s story is how he grew up and matured in wisdom and spirit in Nazareth, Galilee before embarking on his ministry and mission.

Imagine the Lord joining the sinners like tax collectors, soldiers, and perhaps with some prostitutes going to John for baptism without any special treatment whatsoever. From the very start, Jesus had been eating and conversing, interacting and living with sinners that include us today.

Photo by author of sisters posing along the Israeli border near Al-Maghtas in Jordan, the site where Jesus was baptized, May 2019.

His being immersed in Jordan River (that has always been dirty according to our pilgrimage guide) with the sinful people was a testament of his love and kindness for us without any hints of being judgmental to anyone. Whether we are in dire situations or in the midst of sins and evil or darkness and sufferings, we can always find Jesus standing with us, one with us, even reaching out to us. All we need is to be matured enough to open our eyes and our hearts like the people around him to admit we need conversion, we need God.

Second thing we immediately notice with Luke’s baptism account is Jesus at prayer when the heaven opened and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove descended upon him with a voice declaring, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”.

One distinct characteristic of Luke’s gospel is presenting Jesus always at prayer. In fact, all major events in his life in Luke’s gospel are always preceded by prayer, part of his artistry in teaching us about the importance of prayer.

Here in the baptism of Jesus at Jordan, we are reminded that prayer always precedes every divine revelation. Recall also during the Feast of the Holy Family a day after Christmas last year when we heard Luke’s account of the finding of Jesus at the temple when he told Mary how he must be at his “Father’s house” – of being one and united with the Father especially through prayer! The Christmas story is an everyday reality that happens with those who mature in their faith in Christ in prayers.

Prayer is more than the recitation of prayers and novenas nor of keeping a devotion; prayer is oneness with God. See that after narrating to us the baptism of Jesus at Jordan, Luke tells us the Lord’s genealogy traced back to “Adam the son of God”(Lk.3:38). Unlike Matthew who began his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Luke puts his version of the Lord’s genealogy in the context of baptism at Jordan to show us Christ’s eternal birth in God. And this we all share in our Baptism, in our faith we nurture and celebrate daily in our prayer life.

The sad thing with our Christmas celebrations, along with that of the Holy Week, is how we immediately lose sight of the meanings of our feasts and devotions meant to make our lives centered on God. It is good to be led and carried by the signs of our liturgy but these were meant to inculcate in us, to deepen in us our relationship with God expressed through our relations with others which is what spirituality is all about.

This invites us today on this Feast of the Lord’s Baptism along with that of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo to examine our level of maturity in Jesus Christ whom we religiously and devoutly remember and celebrate during Christmas and Good Friday, the two most prominent dates of the Lord’s feasts tied up in this month of January.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, 09 January 2020.

Like Jesus Nazareno, we are consecrated to God

As we have mentioned at the start of our reflection, this is a most unique Sunday when we celebrate together two Christ feasts – the Lord’s Baptism and the Traslacion in Quiapo – with the former signaling the closing of Christmas and the latter as the most popular Christ devotion in the country.

Both feasts show us an adult Jesus in Christmas, especially the Black Nazarene of Quiapo.

When Matthew spoke of the Holy Family residing in Nazareth so that what the prophets spoke might be fulfilled that “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Mt.2:23), the evangelist was not referring to the Lord’s place of origin.

Nazareth is the only town in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament to be of significance unlike Bethlehem. The word “Nazoraios” or Nazarene mentioned by Matthew refers to the overall designation of Jesus by the prophets as the hope and fulfillment of God’s promise that there shall come forth a “shoot from the stump of Jesse” (Is. 11:1). Shoot in Hebrew is from the word nezer which is also the context used by Isaiah in chapters 7 and 9 found in Isaiah 11:1 cited by Matthew.

If we add that in the inscription above the Cross, Jesus is called ho Nazoraios (cf. Jn.19:19), then the title acquires its full resonance: what at first sight refers simply to his origin, actually points to his essence: he is the “shoot,” he is the one completely consecrated to God, from his mother’s womb to the day of his death.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, pp. 117-118.

Now we get a complete picture of an adult Jesus Christ at the closing of Christmas Season.

Truly an Emmanuel, God-with-us, whom we so often fail to recognize journeying with us in life specially at its most difficult moments because we continue to refuse to grow and deepen in our spiritual maturity in him in prayers.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the first reading telling us “Here is your God! Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care” (Is.40:9, 11).

Let us heed the calls by St. Paul in the second reading that we “reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and our savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13).

Have a blessed and safe week ahead, everyone! Amen.

Photo from Google.com.

Loved and touched by God

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 07 January 2022
1 John 5:5-13   ><}}}'> + ><}}}'> + ><}}}'>   Luke 5:12-16
Photo by Mr. Howie Severino of GMA-7 News, 2018, Taal, Batangas.

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately.

Luke 5:12-13
Dearest Lord Jesus,
today I pray for the many other
people living "full of leprosy" 
among us - people separated from 
the rest of us because of so many 
reasons like the poor and homeless 
and others living in the margins 
of the society, people we have 
ostracized because of afflictions we
are ignorant of like those with AIDS/HIV,
the drug dependents, the ex-convicts who 
could not reintegrate in the society and 
others we simply do not want to deal with
because they are different from us in color 
and beliefs.  Worst, even in our own circles
of family and friends, there are some people
we treat like lepers - persons supposed to
be dear to us yet we always hurt, betrayed
and unkind to.  
So many people these days
are living like those people "full of leprosy"
during your time who are not welcomed at all
in the society and in their family.
Use us, Jesus, use our hands,
our arms, our limbs, our total selves
to "touch" them, to make them experience
your love not just an a concept or an
idea up in the air but a reality one could
really feel like touching.
Let us be more loving, Lord Jesus, like you
who would love sincerely so that the lepers
among us may feel your touch and embrace;
so many people are totally unaware of what
is to be touched by God because so many
of us you have blessed have become so
selfish and self-centered, many among us
are turning away from you, refusing 
to believe in you, denying your reality 
as truly divine and truly human, 
a God detached from 
humanity.
Touch us again, Jesus,
awaken our senses to
overcome all the indifferences
and cynicisms afflicting us 
so we begin touching others
too with your love and kindness.
Amen.

Love and be free

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday After the Epiphany of the Lord, 06 January 2022
1 John 4:19-5:4   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 4:14-22
Photo by Ms. Nikki A. Vergara at Victoria, Laguna, 2020.
Dearest God our Father, 
let us love, love, and love
so that we may be free;
the deeper we love, 
more we become free for 
you and others too!

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

1 John 5:3-4
How funny it is, Father,
when we keep on turning 
away from you, rejecting your
commandments Jesus had 
summarized to loving you and
loving others, thinking we could
be free if we separate from you
and your precepts; but, the opposite
happens every time we turn away
from you and your laws!
The more we become empty
and lost; most of all, burdened
with sin and guilt.
Deepen our love for you
and in you, loving Father
through Jesus Christ; let us
immerse ourselves into your words,
let us masticate your words
to extract its power that liberates
us in every here and now 
to experience true freedom
to love you, O God, and love
others as brothers and sisters
in Christ.  Amen.

Love and you shall see

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 05 January 2022
1 John 4:11-18   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Mark 6:45-52
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
Dearest God our Father,
let us love, love, and love
one another so that we may
see you more in each other;
the more we love, the more we
see everyone and everything in
life.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

1 John 4:11-12
Take away our stony hearts
and give us natural hearts
that beat firm faith, vibrant
hope and unceasing charity
and love; perfect our love
to drive away our many fears
especially the fear of getting
hurt because of love.
Soften our hearts, Jesus,
to find you in every good thing
happening in us and around us; 
let our love be genuine and pure 
to find you coming to us amid 
every storm in life; send us your 
Holy Spirit to perfect our love
so we may have the confidence 
and vision of you on judgment day.
Amen.