40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 28 March 2023
Number 21:4-9 >>> +++ <<< John 8:21-30
Dearest God our Father,
help me to level up in Jesus,
let me shift_ my being in Christ
to see things in Your perspectives
unlike the Israelites who complained
against You and Moses
while in the wilderness
when their "patience (was) worn out
by the journey" (Num. 21:4)
that they failed to see You and
Your blessings pouring upon them.
Let me be like the poor people
in the crowd listening to Jesus
who came to believe in Him
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.”
How funny and ironic
that the Pharisees could not
understand Jesus when speaking
in literal and figurative senses
because they have boxed Him in their minds,
constricting the very person of Christ
in their own understanding.
Many times, Father,
we are like them.
So true are the words of Jesus
"You belong to what is below,
I belong to what is above.
You belong to this world,
but I do not belong to this world"
On many occasions,
You have expressed how we
your disciples must be in the world
but never of the world.
Enable us to level up in You
so that in the same manner
lead others up to you.
Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-27 ng Marso 2023
Ang unang atas nating gawain
bilang mga alagad ni Kristong Panginoon natin
ay katulad din ng gampaning hinabilin
kay San Jose na butihin:
pangalanang "Jesus" isisilang ng Birhen
kahuluga'y ang Diyos Tagapagligtas natin!
O butihing San Jose
tulungan mo kami mapalalim
katauhan at kabanalan namin
upang nahihimbing man o gising
Banal na Kalooban ng Diyos
manaig palagi sa amin
gaya nang iyong sundin
mga habilin ng anghel
sa loob ng iyong panaginip:
tuluyang pakasalan si Maria
at ibigay ang pangalang Jesus
sa Sanggol niyang isisilang
na ang kahuluga'y
ang Diyos ang Tagapagligtas natin.
Ito ang ipinahayag ni Jesus
nang ipako sa Krus:
Diyos ating Tagapagligtas
hindi kaagaw sa kapangyarihan
na akala ng karamihan;
pinipigilan tayo sa kasalanan
upang di tayo masaktan
para sa ating sariling kapakanan;
doon sa Krus pinatunayan
Diyos ating Tagapagligtas
sariling buhay inalay ni Jesus
upang huwag tayong mawalan
bagkus magkaroon ng
buhay na walang hanggan.
Atin gampanan unang atas
na ipakilala ang Diyos Tagapagligtas,
tularan katahimikan at katapatan ni San Jose
na kailanma'y hindi iniwan bagkus iningatan si Jesus
kaya sa kanyang pagpanaw nang di na magising,
katabi at kapiling Diyos Tagapagligtas natin!
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 27 March 2023
Daniel 13:41-62 >>> +++ <<< John 8:1-11
God our merciful Father
for the gift of Lent,
for the chance for us to
slow down and examine
our sinfulness, not just our sins
but the mechanics of our
sinning as exemplified today
in our two readings.
we have our favorite sin
at the spotlight, adultery;
it is our favorite not
because it is what we are so fond
of committing but something we relish
in accusing women of committing
without examining our very selves.
In the first reading, Susana was wrongly
accused of adultery by two liars
while in the gospel, a woman was caught
committing adultery, truly guilty of the sin;
in the first reading, a young boy named
Daniel dared to examine Susana's accusers
and eventually saved her from death after
proving the two elders of perjury while
in the gospel, Jesus Christ saved the
adulterous woman from being stoned
by standing by her side.
The problem with adultery,
is how we forget
our role in making it
happen at all!
And the worst part,
is when we do nothing
to defend women, both those
wrongly accused and guilty of;
teach me to be like Daniel
and Jesus Christ,
standing for women,
caring for women,
making peace with women.
The problem with adultery
happens when a few good men
would not stand for what is true
and just and human before others
out of shame or courtesy or favors;
the problem with adultery
is when men and women
think of themselves as less of a sinner,
feeling entitled to accuse and judge
others, rightly or wrongly,
and forget to love more,
to be more merciful,
yet firm and truthful.
Bless us on this final
stretch before entering
the Holy Week
to be more aware
of our sinfulness,
especially of our sins
of omission that happen
when we join the mob
in accusing others of
not just adultery.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-A, 26 March 2023
Ezekiel 37:12-14 + Romans 8:8-11 + John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45
We conclude this Sunday the three Johannine readings during this Lenten season with the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. More powerful than the healing of the man born blind last Sunday, St. John shows in this raising of Lazarus who had been dead for four days that Jesus is truly the Christ, the awaited Messiah. Most of all, it is in this raising of Lazarus that Jesus also made his greatest “I AM” statement of all, “I am the resurrection and the life”.
Like the two previous long stories from St. John, let us focus on the opening paragraph of this long narrative that right away gives us a hint of something very striking, of why Jesus delayed his coming to Lazarus supposed to be his friend, someone so dear to him.
The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
Don’t you find it striking that after asserting that “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus”, then, “he remained for two days in the place where he was” (vv.5-6)? How could Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus yet delayed his coming in visiting them, especially Lazarus who was sick? His love for Lazarus as his friend should have made him proceeded to visit him right away and had he gone soon enough, Lazarus would have not died at all!
Many times we are also baffled with God who claims to love us so much but too often, delays his coming to us, in answering our prayers, and even seems to allow us to suffer so much before finally coming to our rescue!
The key, my dear friends, is found in verse 4 when Jesus said “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Like in the healing of the man born blind last Sunday when Jesus told his disciples that “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him” (Jn.9:3), St. John is reminding us in this raising of Lazarus from the dead that the love of Jesus Christ for us is manifested in works that show the glory of God by which we his disciples come to deeper faith.
When bad things happen to us making us feel in dire need of help and deliverance from God immediately, we tend to focus on what’s wrong, what’s broken and what needs help, expecting God to do something quick about it. But Jesus is teaching us this Sunday to approach situations of tragedy and deep crises like when somebody is too sick, even death by first seeking means how we can be an instrument who manifest God’s glory in this moment of great danger and need. Jesus is governed by something greater than human affection and expectations but by the Father’s will.
See at a very young age after Jesus was lost and then found in the temple when he clarified to his parents that he had to be in his Father’s home?! As he matured and later with his disciples, he would always insist on the need to seek, follow, and stand by the truths of the Father for he does and says nothing not known by the Father. When it seems to take time so long in receiving God’s assistance, never think he loves us less. In fact, he loves us so much that he finds something else so beautiful in such situations that he opts to delay in answering our prayer requests immediately.
Remember how the Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land after their exodus from Egypt when they could have accomplished that in less than a month maybe or even a year. But in their wandering in the desert for 40 years, they were purified and bonded as a nation. It was during those years they developed their language and culture and most especially, the composition of the first five books of the bible! Many times, God delays his coming to us so as to make us stronger and deeper in our faith like Martha and Mary. Just because God does not act quickly to our needs does not mean he loves us less that we begin doubting his love for us.
The love of Jesus for everyone, especially his friends, Lazarus, Martha and Mary is best expressed in giving glory to the Father by helping them come into deeper faith. That is the greatest gift we can also give our family and friends – deepened faith through a life that points to God and not us.
There are times we feel like being grounded and even pulverized by God – dinudurog – not because he does not love us but primarily to transform us into better persons. In the first reading, God assured Ezekiel which was fulfilled in Christ that he would make us rise not only at the end of time but even in our little deaths daily in life by breathing into us his Spirt. This is the goal of every Lenten journey that leads to Easter, that amid all the sufferings and pains, even deaths we experience in life, we always emerge better, living more in the Spirit of God (second reading) than in flesh.
Hindi lang tayo mahal ng Diyos. Mahal na mahal na mahal tayo ng Diyos kay Jesus!
After each darkness in life, there is always new life in each new day with Jesus calling us to “come out” like Lazarus as a better disciple. Amen. Have a blessed week!
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 24 March 2023
Wisdom 2:1, 12-22 >>> + <<< John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
Yes, dear God our Father,
man is a mystery,
for better and for worst.
For better when we live up
to your call for us to be holy
like you and for worst when we
live so far from your ways.
Your mystery is always beautiful
and good to ponder upon but
there are times when we succumb
to evil and sins, our mystery
becomes so dull without any
sparkle at all, often shameful
even detestable like the ways
of the wicked in the first reading.
The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.
Wisdom 2:1, 12, 17, 20
Keep us strong, dear Father
like your Son Jesus Christ
in the face of wicked men
who laugh and scorn us,
daring to test you;
in this age of social media
when everything is flaunted
for all to see including
what is evil and not right,
including the excesses
of worldly things,
teach us to be simple,
to keep something
in us hidden,
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 23 March 2023 Exodus 32:7-14 >>> + <<< John 5:31-47
God our merciful Father
for our forgetfulness and
thanklessness; more than
being forgetful, we are also
ungrateful like the Israelites at Sinai.
Many times in life,
we rarely appreciate what we have,
especially the little ones.
How unfortunate we recognize only
big things as important that we forget
everything in life which is the sum of
the littlest things put together -
the single steps of every journey,
the minute cells of our body,
the little efforts put together
by the little, ordinary people
who give us our meals, our daily needs,
the small acts of kindness like smiles,
hi’s and hellos we don’t even mind at all;
the little children who play or cry
to remind us of our beginnings…
So many other tiny,
little things and moments,
ordinary people we disregard
that prevent us from remembering and
thanking you and everyone
for the many joys and comforts
we enjoy in every moment.
Forgive us also,
of how we forget
and hence could not appreciate
to be grateful with the little
gifts we have within like
this life we have versus the
great moments of victory and fame we
choose to remember; the family and
friends you surround us daily
but take for granted as we prefer
big people like the rich and famous;
those little giftedness of ours like
simplicity, sense of humor,
even rich appetite to savor
and enjoy ordinary food shared
with common folks we forget
and become thankless for our gifts
of selves and uniqueness.
dear God to remember
and be reminded of the many
gifts we have but unaware
that make us thankless and forgetful,
tempting us to create our own idols
and golden calves to worship;
open our eyes to see your works
and majesty in Jesus who became like
us in everything except sin
so that we experience you more
in flesh in us and one another;
help us feel and enjoy life’s little joys
and blessings so we may remember
and never forget all good things
come from you, often in little
packages to be more appreciative
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 22 March 2023 Isaiah 49:8-15 >>> + <<< John 5:17-30
Loving God our Father,
Your words say it all today,
Thus says the Lord: In a time of favor I answer you, in the day of salvation I help you; and I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people… Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.
Isaiah 49:8, 15
The Lord is gracious and merciful.
Responsorial Psalm, Ps. 145:8
More than words, dear Father,
I praise and thank you
for your boundless love
and kindness to me all these
You have always been present with me,
in me, for me, and through me in Jesus Your Son.
And so, I pray this to you:
you have given me with so much,
I have given you so little;
teach me to give more
of my time and talents,
to give more of my self
so I can give Christ Jesus to others,
especially his love and mercy,
kindness and forgiveness;
empty me of my pride, Lord,
and fill me with your humility,
justice and love.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 March 2023
Thank you for your birthday greetings. I have been on a silent retreat since Monday until Wednesday, my 58th birthday, at the Jesuits’ Sacred Heart Novitiate (SHN) in Quezon City. I usually go on retreats in June when my loads were lighter, when I feel so tired and exhausted, even burned out. Or when I have to make a major decision that I have to discern well.
For the first time, I went on this personal retreat not out of dire needs or even expediencies except that I miss God so much. This is the first time I went on a retreat without problems or issues to resolve. Most of all, without any complaints to God as I told my spiritual director, Fr. Danny Gozar, one of the Jesuits who facilitated our 30-Day Retreat in Cebu in 1995.
Sharing with you some of God’s consolations to me since Monday.
It was the feast of St. Joseph last Monday because March 19 fell on the Fourth Sunday in Lent. Right away, God consoled me upon arrival here when the daily Mass was starting. The priest, the Australian novice master of the Jesuits said in his homily that St. Joseph’s mission to give the name “Jesus” to the Child to be born by the Blessed Virgin Mary is also our first task in life which is to witness that “God saves” which is the meaning of the name “Jesus”.
That is when I realized the silence of St. Joseph which is not just being quiet by shutting out all the noise; silence is fulness, trying to listen and discern the sounds within, the sounds that speak of love and kindness, of mercy and forgiveness, of the voice of God also the softest and faintest, telling us to trust him alone and not be bothered with what would happen next.
To be silent like St. Joseph is ultimately to be silent like Jesus on the Cross, wholly trusting the Father, loving us until the end.
After lunch, I caught sight of the beautiful statue of Our Lady of Banneux (Our Lady of the Poor) at the side garden. It is one of my favorite prayer spots in this 23-hectare spirituality center in Quezon City. It was a nice spot to think of the many things I am thankful for since 2020 in preparation for my actual prayer blocks later that afternoon. And I had so many things to thank God since the pandemic started. First is the gift of life, that I have survived COVID-19!
The beauty of prayer is how it opens us to so many things about us we were totally unaware of like the gifts God has given us, the blessings he has showered us, the immense love he has for us. I discovered 20 things to be thankful for which I never thought I had and had never even thanked God for them!
That is the giftedness also of the Blessed Virgin Mary as she sang her Magnificat that while all generations shall call her blessed, she remains God’s lowly handmaid (Lk.1:48), remaining poor, an anawim who relies only in the Lord.
Being poor like Mary is being simple and empty for God. May we always be poor in need of God!
Fr. Danny directed me to just pray that afternoon until evening Psalm 139:1-18, asking for the specific grace of Mystery, of God himself. And God answered me! I felt his presence and generally, there was the feeling of joy within as I prayed before the Blessed Sacrament.
“You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, so wonderfully you made me; wonderful are your works! My very self you knew; my bones were not hidden from you, When I was being made in secret…
God confirmed my earlier reflections, the things I am thankful to him since 2020.
God designed me personally, he had a purpose in creating me and creating me this way which for so long I have not totally appreciated and liked, wishing I were somebody else, or endowed with so many other talents I so admire in others.
God made each of us so specially, not mass-produced.
He made us so well, almost perfect to reflect his glory. And along this is the need to take care of ourselves.
How can I be a sign of God's glory and majesty even though I am sinner?
After supper, I felt longing for God that I went back to the chapel for another hour of prayer. I was a bit distracted, even restless at the start. Indeed, the most difficult prayer is always the most meritorious as I felt a deep intensity in the following passage:
Lord, you have probed me, you know me; you understand my thoughts from afar. My travels and my rest you mark; with all my ways you are familiar. Even before a word is on my tongue, Lord, you know it all.
Psalm 139:1, 2-4
God knows everything about us! There is no hiding from him. But, even if he knows us so well, he does not impose himself on us. Many times, God allows us to open up to him in our own time. Not just in his time. Like when we go astray, when we turn away from him in sins.
"you understand my thoughts from afar."
Even if I am far from God in sin, he still loves me, he still relates with me, understanding me. Waiting for me. Because he knows too that even if we sin, we still long for him. No one among us is happy being in sin. God knows that we know he is our life, that we cannot stay far from him for long.
"My travels and my rest you mark."
Where are you leading me, Lord? Sometimes I wonder if I am the one following God or is it God following me, watching over me that I always find my way back to him?
I have realized in almost 25 years being a priest, priesthood is more of a direction than a destination. From the school in Malolos to UST and UP for sometime then to Radio Veritas and nine years in a parish, now I am a chaplain in a big university with six campuses and two hospitals. Really, we were not prepared for this, especially myself! But, you are always there, God, leading me, always surprising me that even if you ask me to go anywhere else, I would go even if I have to learn a new language or whatever.
Here I found one thing I have always been remiss with – the need for me to rest in the Lord. To stop like this retreat not only when I have problems or overburdened.
At the end of my first day, my main realizations were -in Filipino as they dawned on me – were, first,
"Mahal na mahal ako ng Diyos.
Hindi lang basta mahal.
Kungdi mahal na mahal."
Secondly, as I prepared to sleep that night with all the lights out, I realized
"Mas nakakatakot maniwala sa Diyos
kesa sa multo kase
ang Diyos ay totoo,
ang multo ay hindi totoo!"
Thank you for your bearing with me. May God touch you, bless you, and heal you! Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 19 March 2023
Monday, Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of Blessed Virgin Mary
2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 + Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 + Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24
Praise and thanksgiving to you, God our Father
for the gift of calling me like St. Joseph
to bring your Son Jesus into the world
despite my many fears and doubts,
you entrusted me
with the same task you gave St. Joseph
of making known your Son
as “God Saves” - Jesus.
…the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home… She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Matthew 1:20, 21
Remind me always, dear God,
of this first task you gave us
your beloved children
to make known to everyone
that Jesus came to die on the Cross
to show us “God saves” -
that we are so wrong to think
you are domineering and ruthless God,
that you are not a God hungry of power,
that you are not insistent, and demanding God,
most of all, you are not a God who competes
with us your mere creatures like everyone thinks
from Adam and Eve down to us today.
Teach me to be silent,
trustful of you, O Father,
like St. Joseph not bothered at all
of how things would turn out
with my task to make people realize and
experience Jesus Christ;
give me the courage and obedience
of St. Joseph to do as you have
tasked me to witness this great mystery
and wonder of your love
because “God saves”.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Third Week of Lent, 17 March 2023
Hosea 14:2-10 >>> + <<< Mark 12:28-34
More than any other prophet, O Lord,
Hosea is the one who tells us most
of your immense love for us all;
his writing moves like a beautiful
love story so unbelievable
yet exists, so true.
After so many harsh words
against us your people for our
infidelity like prostitutes,
here at the last part of his book,
Hosea tells us to never lose hope
because you love us so much.
Moreover, dear God our Father,
what I like most in Hosea's writings
is how you yourself reveals to us
how we must approach you
like a teacher coaching us
for the best answers so we may pass
your final exam.
Thus says the Lord: Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God, say to him, “Forgive us all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls
Hosea 14:2, 3
Please Lord, help us experience
your promises of "healing our defections,
loving us freely, becoming like dew
so we shall blossom like the lily,
our splendor be like the olive tree
and fragrance like the Lebanon cedar,
allowing us to dwell in your shade again
and raise grain, blossom like the vine,
and our fame be like the wine of Lebanon"
(cf. Hosea 14: 5-8).
Cast away our doubts of your love
and mercy for us, Father for as your Son
Jesus Christ had revealed, all the commandments
is summed in LOVE, your great love for us
as the very reason why we must love you
not because you need our love but
so that we can have more of your love
when we love.
May we love,