Participating in God’s choices

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle, 14 May 2021
Acts 1:15-17, 20-26   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   John 15:9-17
Photo by author, Pulilan Bypass Road, Bulacan, 2020.

If there is one thing we dread most in life, dear God our Father, it is making choices. You know it so well because day in, day out it is one thing we pray to you, that you guide us in making the right decision, in choosing the best and perfect choices in this life.

How beautiful to realize and learn from your words in Jesus Christ as we celebrate today the Feast of St. Matthias who replaced Judas Iscariot that it is not really us who make choices but you!

Most of all, you never went wrong in your choices, even with Judas Iscariot. He did not remain in Jesus and that is why he made the wrong and sinful choice of betraying the Lord.

And so first we pray to you today, our loving Father, through Jesus Christ, give us the grace to cooperate and participate in your choices for us so we may remain faithful in you and be fruitful too.

"It was not you who chose me,
but I who chose you and appointed you
to go and bear fruit that will remain,
so that whatever you ask the Father
in my name he may give you."
(John 15:16)

Nothing much is known about St. Matthias but all accounts of his missionary works indicate he nourished and enriched your choice of him in his whole life that he died witnessing the gospel. Like him, may we remain in you to keep our choices according to your holy will always.

At the same time, when given the task to make choices, in choosing people and course of actions to take, help us to be prayerful in discerning your will and choices too like St. Peter and his brother Apostles in finding Judas Iscariot’s replacement.

How wonderful is their prayer that indicated it was you, O Lord, who still made the choice and not them!

So they proposed two, 
Joseph called Barsabbas, 
who was also known as Justus,
and Matthias.  Then they prayed,
"You, Lord, who know the hearts of all,
show which one of these two you have chosen
to take the place in this...."
(Acts 1:23-24)

We pray today for people having a hard time praying to finally realize your choices for them; for those afraid to accept your choices; for those who keep on looking for other options despite your clear choice for them. Enlighten their minds and fill them with courage and trust in you. Amen.

The lure of “Athens”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs, 12 May 2021
Acts 17:15, 22-18:1   ><)))'> + ><)))*> + ><)))'>   John 16:12-15
Photo by author, Dominican Hills, Baguio City, 2019.
After Paul's escorts had taken him to Athens,
they came away with instructions for Silas and Timothy
to join him as soon as possible.  Then Paul stood up at the
Areopagus..... When they heard about resurrection of
the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, 
"We should like to hear you on this some other time."
And so Paul left them.  
But some did join him, 
and became believers.
(Acts 17:15, 22, 32-34)

How amazing and different indeed are your ways, O Lord Jesus Christ! You have brought Paul to Athens that was the cultural capital of the world at that time and center of learning but, alas, it never became a hub for the proclamation of your Gospel.

Cities of lesser importance like the decadent Corinth would in fact be better off than Athens for Paul’s missionary endeavors that this is the only time he had gone to this famous city. Despite his best efforts at preaching, the people of Athens who were considered “bright and learned” did not accept your Gospel.

They could not accept your dying on the Cross and your Resurrection because for them God is never defeated, God is never put down, God is never humiliated.

They have great ideas of what is a God that speak so well of who they are – forgetting that in this this life, the most important is to know who you are, O Lord, so we may know what are we here in this life.

In this world described as highly competitive and so modern, we are easily lured into the glow of greatness and sophistications, of human intelligence and mastery of technology but so empty of our souls, of the inside not knowing you our Lord and God.

As you have promised during your last supper in our gospel today, send us the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and our hearts to believe in you, to believe in the folly of your Cross, to believe and accept your very person so we may enter into a relationship with you that is personal and intimate like Saints Nereus and Achilleus who were both Roman soldiers but after experiencing your love and mercy, they turned away from Rome and chose to fight for you in their lives of witnessing.

We pray today for those having a hard time believing in your loving presence, Lord Jesus Christ because of this pandemic. Those who have lost their jobs, those who could not make ends meet due to their very limited income, those who have take care of their sick family members.

Too often, O Lord, it is when your Cross is so heavy that many of us begin to doubt you, not realizing that it is on the Cross precisely where we meet and experience you truly, changing our person, changing our views as you make us realize the path to Easter is through the Cross. Amen.

When going in is the best way out

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 11 May 2021
Acts 16:22-34   ><)))*> + ><)))'> + ><)))*>   John 16:5-11
“Losing One’s Head to God” by Ms. JJ Jimeno of GMA-7 News at UP Parish of the Risen Lord, 2019.

You continue to amaze us, O Lord, with your wisdom and grace, presenting us again another paradox that is so timely to what we are going through in this time of pandemic and quarantine.

Yesterday, you taught us that the best way to get “in” to you is go “out” of our ordinary and usual ways.

Today, you are showing us another great paradox in life where you prove to us again your ways are so different from ours: in order to get “out” especially of problems and mess in life, sometimes we have to get “in”!

After inflicting many blows on Paul and Silas,
they threw them into prison 
and instructed the jailer to guard them securely,
putting them in the innermost cell 
and secured their feet to a stake.
An earthquake occurred at midnight 
that the foundations of the jail shook;
all the doors flew open, and the chains 
of all were pulled loose.
When the jailer woke up and thought the prisoners
have all escaped, he drew his sword to kill himself.
Paul shouted out in a loud voice,
"Do no harm to yourself; we are all here."
Then he brought them out, took them to his house
then he and all his family were baptized at once.
(Acts 16:23-33)

Lord Jesus, so many times we resist your ways as we insist on what we know but most of all, because we are afraid of what could happen next. We do not trust you that much, Jesus. Unlike Paul and Silas who were beaten up and thrown into jail, they never stopped believing in you, praying and singing hymns to you while in jail until that great earthquake happened.

Give us the courage to give in to your ways, to rely more on you than on what we believe and others say.

Let us come in to you empty, losing our selves to be filled with your Holy Spirit and be one in you and with you as you have promised on your last supper when you told your disciples that you are going to the Father to be one in him.

Today we pray for those dilly-dallying on whether they would seek medical help and attention to their conditions, for those to undergo surgery, for those to go “in” to many procedures to be healed of their sickness.

We pray also for those afraid to get in to their very selves to examine their conscience and be humble to accept and own any sins and mistakes they may have committed so they may find their way out of their many miseries and mess in life.

You know what is best for us, dear Jesus. Just let us in so we may come out alive and better! Amen.

When going out is the way in

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 10 May 2021
Acts 16:11-15   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 15:26-16:4
Photo by author, Caesarea in Israel, May 2019.

How wonderful are your words today, Lord, found in our readings. How amazing is your loving presence, your concern for each of us especially in this trying time of the pandemic. Give us the grace to make the necessary efforts to meet you halfway when going out is the way for us to get in.

On the sabbath we went outside the city gate
along the river where we thought there would be 
a place of prayer.
We sat and spoke with the women
who had gathered there.
(Acts 16:13)

This struck me, dear Jesus because it proves that every prayer is answered, every prayer is always a grace and gift from you. How nice it is for St. Paul and company to go out of the city gate to find a place to pray but you gave them a fertile ground of doing their ministry among some women who were not only baptized and converted but even befriended to become collaborators in the mission.

Give us the grace to always find ways of seeking you in prayers, in being faithful to our prayer life even if sometimes we feel nothing is happening, when you seem to be far and even not interested with us.

Let us go out of our selves, out of our many excuses and conveniences to get into you in prayer, Lord.

Keep us open to the coming of the Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and our hearts so that when occasions come that we are expelled and driven out from our comfort zones and usual way of life, we may follow the Spirit’s direction to keep us from “falling away” from you, dear Jesus (Jn.16:1-4).

May in every going out that we do in life, may we get inside you to meet you, to love and serve you our Lord and our God. Amen.

Praying for respect and paying respect

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 07 May 2021
Acts 15:22-31   <'(((><  +  ><)))'>   John 15:12-17
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2020 at Infanta, Quezon.

Today, O Lord, you give us some lessons about respect. And so, I pray first for the grace of respecting others and secondly that I learn to pay respect to the highest order of all, to you our Lord and our God!

Jesus said to his disciples:
"You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I no longer call you slaves, 
because a slave does not know what his master is doing.
I have called you friends,
because I have told you everything I have heard 
from the Father."
(John 15:14-15)

Thank you dear Jesus in taking us as your friends, as having a special relationship with you that is deeply personal, for bringing us closer to the Father too.

How I love to think in this part of your teaching the word friend: if you remove the letter “r”, what is left is the word “fiend” or enemy. For me, the letter “r” stands for “respect” that literally means in Latin to “look again” or “re specere” (from specere came spectacles, spectacular).

Whenever we look again at the other person, we remember he/she is a brother/sister; failure to look again is when we disrespect, when we refuse to recognize him/her as a brother or a sister or a loved one. And that is when sins occur: infidelity, betrayal of trust and everything.

Teach me to respect always at all times like you, to always look again, and again and again at the other person as a friend, a beloved with honor and dignity, who must be held with respect and esteem because everyone is an image and likeness of God.

If I cannot look at the other person as a friend or a brother or a sister, then, let me see you, dear Jesus, in him/her so I may be respectful like your Apostles in the first reading when they decided “not to place on the gentile converts any burden beyond what is necessary” (Acts 15:25). The apostles looked again and again to finally see your face, O Lord, among the gentiles being your friends and beloved too!

This is the highest respect we can pay to everyone – to see you dear Lord in their face, in their person so that like the Apostles, we may be respectful to God, especially to the working of the Holy Spirit among us.

How lovely were the apostles to recognize and paid their highest respect to you when they declared “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us” (Acts 15:28).

It is the highest respect to see the hand of God in our every endeavor.

And this I ask and pray from you, Jesus, in the same manner that you have told us everything from the Father. Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2020 at Infanta, Quezon.

Praying to rediscover JOY

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 06 May 2021
Acts 15:7-21   ><)))*>  ><)))'>  ><)))*>   John 15:9-11
Photo by author, Mount St. Paul Center for Spirituality, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

Lord Jesus Christ, teach me to rediscover joy. Teach me to be joyful again. Most of all, complete my joy in you, sweet Jesus as you have promised us before you were betrayed.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"If you keep my commandments,
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's  commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy may be complete."
(John 15:10-11)

You know very well, Lord, how hard our lives have been since this pandemic happened last year. Aside from the difficulties and sufferings of getting sick, of avoiding COVID-19 came the many days and nights of loneliness and depression, of feelings of being alone and not cared for. Even forgotten.

Indeed, as experts claim, 2021 is the time when we are all “languishing” – not really depressed but not having zest in life, unproductive, and yes, lacking in joy.

And if we lack joy, it means only one thing: we do not have you because we do not love truly. Or at all.

Teach us to love again, Lord. To continue loving others without distinction, especially those who are not like us. Open our eyes to see the way you see everyone, that no matter what is one’s color or gender or belief or background in life is blessed and saved in you alone.

Saint Peter is absolutely right at the opening of the Council of Jerusalem in our first reading today.

"On the contrary,
we believe that we are saved 
through the grace of the Lord Jesus,
in the same way as they."
(Acts 15:11)

Only you, O Lord Jesus and no one else or nothing else can ever complete our joy for it is only in truly loving you through others, especially those difficult to love, that we truly love and thus become truly joyful.

And that is when our joy becomes complete. Amen.

Maturing in Jesus our true vine

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 05 May 2021
Acts 15:1-6  ><)))'> + <'(((><   John 15:1-8
Photo by author, Mount St. Paul Center for Spirituality, La Trinidad, Benguet, January 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father 
is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch 
that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does
he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  
You are already pruned 
because of the word that I spoke to you."
(John 15:1-3)

Thank you very much, Lord Jesus Christ, for finding me, taking me, and making me a branch of you our true vine. Most of all, thank you that I have been “pruned” because of the word you spoke to me.

But, what does it really mean to be pruned?

Yes, it has been a very, very long and tedious journey with you, Lord Jesus. And just maybe, I have grown and been fruitful after all those years in having identified with you closely and with your values and ideals. However, it is not enough.

I know… the pruning never stops until it is only you who is seen in me as I fade from the scene.

I could feel my need for more pruning, Lord, especially at times when I still insist on myself, on what I believe, on what I see as most important for you and for others.

Like those early Jewish converts to Christianity, particularly those who belonged to the party of Pharisees insisting that Gentile converts must be circumcised and observe other prescriptions of the Mosaic law (Acts 15:5).

There are still many things to be pruned in me, a lot of trimmings here and there that need to be cut off and removed until the “me” in me is totally gone, and only you remain.

Preparing for a Mass by the shore of Lake Tiberias in Capernaum, 2017.

Pruning is painful, Lord, but as time goes by, as the Father prunes me unknowingly in daily prayers and striving to be patient and better person, perhaps it is slowly bearing fruit as I begin to see you more clearly in my life.

And all the more the pruning must continue until everything becomes new in me!

Keep me open to you, dear Jesus, like the Apostles and the presbyters who met together to see about the issues raised by the Jewish converts to Christianity in the first reading.

Let me be open to other possibilities of meeting you, of sharing you, of working in you and with you by denying some of my natural appetites and tendencies.

Give me the grace to gladly and willingly give up whatever I hold on and keep that is contrary to you so that in the end, You are are my only joy and consolation, O dear Jesus. Amen.

Manatili

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-04 ng Mayo 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, takip-silim sa Pampanga, Enero 2021.
Sinabi mo sa amin Panginoon
huwag kaming mabalisa,
manalig sa Diyos 
at manalig din sa Iyo
dahil ikaw ang tunay na puno
at kami ang iyong mga sanga; 
kung kami'y mananatili
kami'y mamumunga ng sagana
kaya naman sa tuwina 
aming hiling at dasal 
sa Iyo huwag kaming bibitiw 
manatiling nakakapit 
kahit masakit 
hanggang aming masapit
inaasam naming langit.
Patuloy nawa kaming sa Iyo lumapit
 ano mang sakit aming ipagwalang kibit
upang manatili sa Iyong piling
lalo na't kapag dumarating
pag-aalinlangan aming mga hiling
at daing tila hindi Mo pinapansin
kahit mga ito sa Iyo ay makarating;
ipaunawa Mo sa amin
ang pananatili sa Iyong piling
ay pagsuko ng aming mga mithiin
at hangarin, baguhin
aming mga landasin
upang tuntunin at malasin
Iyong banal na kalooban
sa amin Iyong inilaan noon pa man.
Maraming pagkakataon
simula ng pandemya noong isang taon
nagkapatong-patong, suson-suson
mga problema at hirap aming sinuong
hanggang ngayon hindi kami makaahon 
tila nilalamon ng mga dambuhalang alon;
sa aming mahigpit na pagkapit
nagiging napaka-sakit
hindi namin lubos maisip itong sinapit 
kaya sana sa amin daglian kang lumapit
ibsan aming mga hapis at sakit
manatili at magsumakit
Iyong kalooban ay masaliksik
upang Iyong kapangyarihan maranasan
sa gitna ng aming kahinaan at kawalan. 

Are we proud of our love for God?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 04 May 2021
Acts 14:19-28   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 14:27-31
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King, 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"but the world must know that 
I love the Father and that I do 
just as the Father has commanded me."
(John 14:31)

Your words today, dear Jesus are so striking. It was your “last supper” with your disciples before you were betrayed and then crucified. You were reassuring your disciples, telling them – and us – not to let our hearts be troubled or afraid as you give as your peace (Jn.14:27).

Those last words you have said struck me deep inside as a person and as your disciple. It is a wonderful feeling to be in a loving relationship with God our Father through you, in you, and with you. But, it made me feel so ashamed too at the same time of how I take for granted this relationship with the Father.

Am I also proud like you, dear Jesus, in making “the world must know that I love the Father”?

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to be willing to carry my cross and be crucified for what is true and just, for what is faithful and loving.

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to keep on praying even if nothing good seems to be happening in our lives.

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to let me surrender myself to your will and power, to let go and let God by setting aside my own plans and agenda in life so that his will is done not mine.

Making the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is letting myself decrease so that you may increase in me!

Grant me, O Lord, the zeal and courage of St. Paul in the first reading who continued preaching your good news despite his being stoned and rejected by the people in the cities they have visited. How amazing of all that after being driven out from the city, St. Paul even came back to preach your gospel of peace and mercy!

 They strengthened the spirits of the disciples
and exhorted them to persevere in faith, saying,
"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the kingdom of God."
(Acts 14:22)

Shame on me, O Lord! Please forgive me for never thinking like you that “the world must know that I love the Father” through my life of witnessing, of sacrifices, and of loving service to others.

Forgive me, sweet Jesus, in backing out from the mission and work you have entrusted me when I face some discomforts and pains, when rejected and unaccepted or even disliked by people I try serving.

Grant me the gift of perseverance like St. Paul and St. Barnabas in proclaiming your good news in words and in deeds, in season and out of season. Make me proud of you and the Father always, dear Jesus, by being more loving and humble with others. Amen.

From a Facebook post.

Prayer to deal with life’s many questions

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Feast of St. Philip and St. James the Less, Apostles, 03 May 2021
1 Corinthians 15:1-8   ><)))*> + <*(((><   John 14:6-14 
Photo by author, Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, January 2021.

Lord Jesus Christ, you have taught me in my many experiences in life that a man is known by the questions he asks, not by the answers he gives. So often, the answers we have are always wrong or simply not true at all.

But, if we ask the right questions, even if there are no immediate answers or if we do not fully grasp and understand especially your answer, it is always more than enough than everything we need to know and realize in life.

So many times, we are afraid to ask you because we think more of our selves than of the truth that would set us free. Help us imitate your apostle St. Philip who dared to ask you again something you have been teaching them – and us! – yet have not fully understood yet. It is even doubtful if he really got what you meant when you answered him during the last supper which is exactly the same thing with us until now who forget and could not master the things you have been teaching us.

Philip said to Jesus, 
"Master, show us the Father, 
and that will be enough for us."
Jesus said to him,
"Have I been with you for so long a time 
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, 'show us the Father'?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father
and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works."
(John 14:8-10) 

Give us, Lord, that same courage and humility of St. Philip to keep on asking things we cannot understand, things we cannot dismiss, things that keep on bugging us because that in itself is a grace from you so that we may know you more, so we can love you more, and most of all, follow you more closely.

If St. Philip had not asked you that question – even if you seem to have sighed in exasperation, did you, Lord? – even us until know would have not realized that you are indeed the em-bodi-ment and the in-carna-tion of the Father in human form.

On the other hand, there is another question that we most of the time avoid confronting: the need to address difficult situations in our lives that affect our interpersonal relationships and the way we live out your gospel, Lord Jesus Christ.

In writing to us a “pastoral letter”, St. James the Lesser tried answering the many questions about our practice of faith that boils down to the most essential which is to “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves” (James 1:22).

Likewise, it was St. James with St. Peter (Acts 12:17) who tried to face and resolve the questions about the difficult relations between the Christians of Jewish origin and those of pagan origin regarding the integration of Jewish practices and beliefs into Christianity during the Council of Jerusalem:

After they had fallen silent, 
James responded,
"It is my judgment, therefore,
that we ought to stop troubling the Gentiles
who turn to God, but tell them by letter
to avoid pollution from idols, unlawful marriage,
the meat of strangled animals, and blood.
For Moses, for generations now,
has had those who proclaim him in every town, 
as he has been read in the synagogues every sabbath."
(Acts 15:13, 19-21) 

As we celebrate their feasts today, we ask for their intercessions, Saints Philip and James the Lesser that like them, we may also dare to ask and address questions especially when they blur our relationships and proper understanding of you and the Father so that your light, dear Jesus, may shine more than ever in our lives. Amen.

Photo by author, ICMAS-Theologate Chapel, 2020.