Listening attentively, selectively

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 21 July 2021
Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15   ><]]]]'>  +  <'[[[[><   Matthew 13:1-9
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.
Every day God, 
we pray to you
"Our Father in heaven
hallowed be thy name...
Give us each day
our daily bread"
without realizing the daily bread 
you give us that truly nourishes us:
your words of truth and of life
that became flesh in Jesus Christ.
On that day, Jesus went out of the house
and sat down by the sea.
Such large crowds gathered around him
that he got into a boat and sat down,
and the whole crowd stood along the shore.
And he spoke to them at length in parables.
(Matthew 13:1-3)
Thank you very much, dear God
for listening to our prayers,
in giving us the food we need
to nourish our bodies
and your words that sustain us
especially in these trying times.
May we hunger more
for this daily bread from heaven,
listening attentively,
fulfilling your words as you willed them so.
Then the Lord said to Moses,
"I will now rain down bread 
from heaven for you.
Each day the people are to go out
and gather their daily portion;
thus will I test them,
to see whether they follow
my instructions or not."
(Exodus 16:4)
But most of all, O God
teach us to be like you: to be more
selective in our listening,
to be more circumspect with what
to hear and process wherein 
we listen more on essential things 
that matter most than on trivial
and mundane words that are
divisive, preventing our growth
and maturity in our relationships.
If you would listen and act
on everything we say, especially 
our grumblings and complaints, 
no one among us would still be alive;
but you are kind and understanding,
unlike us who listen more on petty
than essential things said by others.
May we be like the good soil
that is open to listen and nurture
words that build and give life.  Amen.

To stretch or not to stretch our hands

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 20 July 2021
Exodus 14:21-15:1   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Matthew 12:46-50
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.
For the second straight day,
you have amazed me, dear loving God
and Father when your words
speak of previous topics I have prayed
and heard from you: yesterday was about
getting lost that continued our Sunday reflection;
today is the same scene last Friday
on the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
when your Son Jesus Christ stretched his hand
to point at his disciples as his family:
And stretching out his hand
toward his disciples, he said,
"Here are my mother and brothers.
For whoever does the will of my
heavenly Father is my brother,
and sister, and mother."
(Matthew 12:49-50)
Today I wonder, if you would allow
me to be funny and a little naughty
or even dare to ask you like Abraham 
before you burned Sodom and Gomorrah:
What if Moses did not obey you
and refused to stretch out his hand
over the Red Sea?
Would you still part it so the children of Israel
would be able to cross to safety?
Would you still save them, God?
Would you still part the sea
to let the people go?
Please forgive me, Lord
for my silly questions
that sincerely came to me
as I prayed over your words today,
convincing me more than ever 
that even if Moses did not stretch out his hand
 over the sea, dear God,
you would have still saved them
because whether we obey you or not,
you would still love us,
reaching out to us in loving mercy,
even giving us your Son Jesus Christ.
That is your nature, O God:
you are love, you are the perfect Being
always existing, always reaching out;
despite the evil in the world
despite our choosing sin instead of you,
you continue to love us,
forgiving us,
blessing us
because you will forever be
our Father. 
Take away our pride,
fill us with the humility of Christ
who stretched out his hands on the Cross
to restore our relationships
with you and one another, 
forever reminding us
 we are yours,
always loved and cared for
since the beginning
for we are all interconnected
in you our God, our Creator.  Amen.
.
Photo from en.wikipedia.org

Blessed are those lost

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 July 2021
Exodus 14:5-18   ><]]]'> ><]]]*> ><]]]'>   Matthew 12:38-42
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, June 2020.
What a beautiful day to reflect
on your very unusual ways, O God our Father;
once again, there is that issue of 
being lost in our readings today:
your people have to take a long and 
circuitous route out of Egypt
going to your Promised Land only to be
caught up near the Red Sea by
their former masters pursuing them
to take them back to slavery.
But Moses answered the people,
"Fear not!  Stand your ground,
and you will see the victory 
the Lord will win for you today."
Then the Lord said to Moses,
"Why are you crying out to me?
Tell the children of Israel to go forward.
And you, lift up your staff and,
with hand outstretched over the sea,
split the sea in two, that the children
of Israel may pass through it
on dry land." (Exodus 14:13,15-16)
Yes, dearest God our Father,
sometimes we need to get lost
in order to find you and one's self;
we have to be led to unfamiliar routes
and places and situations in life for indeed,
complacency breeds contempt.
Set us free from our routines and
own ways of thinking and doing
 that have unconsciously enslaved us
that we no longer trust you.
Teach us to "stand our ground"
like when Moses answered his
people amid their many complaints
that we may be consistent with our
desires to be truly free and fulfilled.
Teach us to "go forward"
as you commanded your people
to cross the Red Sea and believe in you,
follow your lead to experience
your great power and wonders.
He said to them in reply,
"An evil and unfaithful generation
seeks a sign, but no sign 
will be given it except
the sign of Jonah the prophet."
(Matthew 12:39)
Forgive us, dear Jesus
in seeking so many signs from you,
doubting you, mistrusting you 
despite all the love and mercy 
and blessings you have showered us.
When we are lost in the many 
trappings of this world,
help us find our way back
home to you, to rest anew 
in your gentle mercy and love.  Amen. 

Being lost, Getting lost in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XVI-B in Ordinary Time, 18 July 2021
Jeremiah 23:1-6 ><}}}'> Ephesians 2:13-18 ><}}}'> Mark 6:30-34
Photo by author, Sonnen Berg Mountain View, Davao del Sur, 2018.

Being lost or getting lost is sometimes not totally bad – or a loss – like in traveling when new routes and destinations are discovered along the way. Our readings this Sunday are about being lost, getting lost – both in the good sense and in the bad sense.

Let us reflect first on what we mean by getting lost in the good sense, that is, of getting lost in Jesus which is resting in the Lord.

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.

Mark 6:30-32
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias, the Holy Land, 2019.

Getting lost in Jesus, with Jesus

Our gospel today is the conclusion of last Sunday’s topic about the mission of the apostles that includes us in this time which is to proclaim the good news of salvation by preaching repentance and casting away evil spirits that destroy life’s beauty.

Mark now presents to us the other two essential elements of our being missionaries of Christ: of getting lost in Jesus, that is, resting in him and last but not least, seeking and comforting those who are lost in this life.

To rest in the Lord is to make time, spend time with him in disciplined prayer, of having a prayer life that is the most essential component of one’s life because without Jesus, we die.

As missionaries of Christ, we can never share and preach him to others unless we first have him in ourselves. Hence, right upon the return of the apostles amid their joys of reporting how they have accomplished their mission so well, Jesus asked them to cross the lake anew to a deserted place to be with him alone to show them that without him, they cannot do anything.

Here we find the great wonder of prayer life, of the discipline of making time for Jesus every day in prayerful meditations and contemplation: the more we spend time with Jesus, the more we can see and feel the people we serve, their needs and aspirations. As we enter into communion and intimacy with Jesus, the more we become one with others.

No apostolate, no ministry, no service will be fruitful without Christ at the center found only in prayer. The late Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote in one of his reflections that the more we become active in the ministry, the more we must be contemplative; while, the more we become contemplative, the more we become active.

Photo by Ms. JJJimeno of GMA7-News, June 2019.

It is in getting lost in Christ when we are absorbed to him in prayer where much of our mission and ministry truly happens because that is when we are most purified, when we lose ourselves to let Jesus take over us in directing our lives.

Getting lost in Jesus is entering the true sabbath, a return in Eden where we stop playing God and simply be his image and likeness again as the crowning glory of his creation.

It was after creating human when God saw everything he did as good and completed when he rested and blessed the sabbath day. He rested because he had accomplished his works; on the other hand, we rest in order to accomplish further our work in him through Jesus Christ.

To rest in the Lord is not to stop working and do nothing – resting in the Lord is getting lost and finding him in ever new circumstances and conditions that unfold before us, deepening our intimacy with him that we are eventually recreated and transformed in him.

That is the loss we must go through like St. Paul in order to gain Christ (Phil. 3:8-10) because that is when we truly find our very selves and one another as one in belonging in Jesus and the Father, that we are all indeed, one like him and the Father.

This will get clearer when we enter the third essential element of being missionaries of Christ:

Finding and comforting those lost

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark gives us a very brief account of the return of the apostles to Jesus with a dash of humor when the people saw them leaving to rest at a deserted place and arrived at the place even before them! There is really not much time at all to rest for the missionaries of the Lord!

Imagine how the apostles must have felt when they saw the crowd who have arrived ahead of them at the deserted place.

They must have been so disappointed, even disgusted.

But, Mark tells us a completely different picture of Jesus:

When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Mark 6:34
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

The more time we rest in Jesus, the more we become like him – sensitive to the needs of the flock. To be moved with pity is not just a feeling mixed with some disdain or condescension for those in misery that we have heard and read a lot during this time of the pandemic wherein the poor are being blamed for being stubborn and everything that caused the spread of COVID.

Pity characterizes God like when we appeal to him when we are in deep trouble and suffering like the blind and lepers begging Jesus, “have pity on me”. Pity is a deep feeling that moves us to do something to relieve the pain and suffering of others.

It is oneness with those suffering, of “making sakay” as we say in Filipino or “riding on” or being on their same shoes. It is empathy and sympathy in action.

Notice the words of Mark: Jesus was moved with pity for they were like sheep without a shepherd. This is something deeply rooted among the people of Israel and elsewhere shepherding is largely a part of life and culture.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

A sheep getting lost without a shepherd is the worst thing that can happen to any member of the flock.

A lost sheep is surely a prey to wild animals without any defense nor defender at all.

Likewise, a sheep is a very communal animal that when lost, it bleats so miserably wandering in the desert or the open field, feeling so “kawawa” or miserable.

Did we not feel so the same the first time we went to the big city to study or work? Imagine our own feelings when we were lost, trying to find our ways into school or work or life in general when moved residence here or abroad? There was that feeling of being alone, with nobody to turn to in case of emergencies or dangers.

It is also the most common feeling we have since the start of the pandemic, of being locked down, of not knowing where to go as a result or who to trust.

No wonder, so many among us have suffered some forms of depression or emotional turmoil, from young children who could not process what they were going through to the elderly who are refused entry to almost every establishment. There is that feeling of being lost as to what have happened or why are things going like these!

This is then usual bad case of being lost, of being alone with nobody to rely on, to trust. That is the image of a sheep without a shepherd, almost facing certain death.

It is a very scary and traumatizing situation in life that Jesus felt so much with the crowd who followed them that despite his being tired, he gathered them and preached to them (next Sunday, he would feed them).

This is the context of the prophecy by Jeremiah in the first reading that God was so angry with the unfaithful shepherds of Israel who have misled and scattered his flock, promising to “raise up a righteous shoot to David” (Jer.23:5) fulfilled in Jesus the Good Shepherd.

Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Ephesians 2:13, 17-18

Jesus came to gather those who are lost as he specifically told the Twelve to “Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt.10:6, Wednesday, Wk. 14).

This is the problem, ironically, in our age of instant mobility and accessibility when feelings of being lost is hardly noticed nor even recognized especially during this time of the pandemic. So many people, young and old alike, feel so lost. Many of them are shouting inside in desperation for their many other losses in life like losing a loved one, losing a business, losing so many chances in life.

Let us join Jesus in crossing the lakes of this life, getting lost in him in prayers, to find those who are lost and reach out to them. A smile, a simple gesture of kindness like a short text or a phone call could surely bring relief to them to find themselves again and discover new directions in life in Jesus Christ. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima, locally stranded people near NAIA, June 2020.

Reaching out

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, 16 July 2021
Zechariah 2:14-17   >><}}}'> M <'{{{><<   Matthew 12:46-50
Photo by author, Carmelite Monastery of the Holy Family, Guiguinto, Bulacan 2018.
And stretching out his hand
toward his disciples, he said,
"Here are my mother and brothers.
For whoever does the will of my
heavenly Father is my
brother, and sister, and mother."
(Matthew 12:49-50)
Praise and glory to you,
our dear God and Father in heaven
for always reaching out to us
your sinful children.
Since the Fall of Adam and Eve,
you have never failed to be the
first to reach out to us 
who always flee and hide from you.
In the fullness of time,
you reached out to us in the most 
unique way by sending us your Son
Jesus Christ who was born of the
Blessed Virgin Mary, our dear
patroness of the beautiful Mt. Carmel
where many hermits have sought refuge 
as they intensely reached out to you in prayers.
How wonderful it is, O Lord,
that when the Carmelites led by
St. Simon Stock asked for a sign
so they may continue with their mission,
the Blessed Mother appeared to him,
stretching her hand, reaching out 
to give him the scapular as a sign
of divine protection in this life to eternity.
When your Son Jesus Christ
offered himself for us on the Cross,
he stretched out his hands, too
reaching out to you, Father,
for us your beloved children;
when his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary
appeared to us on many occasions
she also stretched out her hands to us.
What a beautiful gesture,
dear God our Father,
by your Son Jesus Christ and his Mother
to always stretch their hands
reaching out to us who keep on
turning away from you to sins;
teach us, O Lord through Mary
to stretch out our hands too to you
in praise and thanksgiving
and most especially to others
in our loving service and care for the needy
as a sign of our reaching out to you, O God,
who wants us all to reach you in heaven.
Amen.

God knows what is best

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, 15 July 2021
Exodus 3:13-20     ><)))*> + <*(((><     Matthew 11:28-30
Photo by author, Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, January 2019.
Your words today, O Lord,
are very encouraging,
so reassuring in these days
when many are languishing
of having that feeling something 
is not right, unable to move
and make progress in life
and in one's self due to this pandemic.
Like your people in Egypt during 
the time of Moses,
we feel alone and abandoned,
trapped and imprisoned.
Therefore, we pray dear God,
that you awaken in us that courage
and deep trust in you
fill us with your very self
or "enthusiasm" from "en-theos"
to forge on in this life amid 
the many darkness and difficulties
we encounter right now
whether at home or at school,
in our office and community
in our country where we have so 
many pharaohs lording over us!
"Yet I know
that the king of Egypt will not
allow you to go unless he is forced.
I will stretch out my hand,
therefore,
and smite Egypt by doing all kinds
of wondrous deed there.
After that he will send you away."
(Exodus 3:19-20)
You really know what is best
for us, O God our loving Father!
Even before any problem happens
or trial comes to each of us,
you have already prepared us
a long time ago how we can handle
or deal with any crisis, even sending us
the right persons who can help us
to overcome every obstacle 
and difficulties that come our way.
Problem is we always turn away from you,
we always forget you.
Jesus said:
"Come to me,
all you who labor
and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you
and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble
of heart; and you will find rest
for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden light."
(Matthew 11:28-30)
Let us come to you,
dear Jesus, in all humility;
like St. Bonaventure whose 
memorial we celebrate today,
may we learn to balance
what we know and what we feel,
of what is in our mind and 
of what is in our heart
so we may follow the path 
to your mysteries of wisdom and love.
Amen.

Finding God and our mission

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest, 14 July 2021
Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 11:25-27
Photo by author, site of burning bush inside St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt, 2019.
Your words today, Lord,
speak of being surprised,
of how wonder can lead us
to you, dear God, the biggest
and most beautiful surprise of all
in this life.
There an angel of the Lord appeared
to him in a fire flaming out of a bush.
As he looked on, he was surprised to see
that the bush, though on fire was not consumed.
So Moses decided, "I must go over 
to look at this remarkable sight, 
and see why the bush is not burned."
(Exodus 3:2-3)
At that time Jesus exclaimed:
"I give praise to you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden
these things from the wise and the learned,
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been
your gracious will."
(Matthew 11:25-26)
Like Jacob at Bethel 
upon waking up from a dream,
Moses was surprised and wondered
what was with the burning bush
only to find out it was you, Lord,
calling him, sending him to a mission.
The same is true with Jesus our Lord
who exclaimed after being surprised
with the faith of the little ones in him;
what a beautiful flow of things in
every sense of wonder and surprise
when first we find and meet you, then you send us.
We pray, dear God,
you continue to surprise us
in this time of pandemic and trials;
may we take off our sandals like Moses
to realize the whole earth is sacred
because of your divine presence.
Like St. Camillus de Lellis,
open our eyes to find and see you
in various forms of the "burning bush"
like pains and suffering, failures and losses,
or victories and gains where you are always present
calling and sending us to our specific mission in life.
Amen.

Missing Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 13 July 2021
Exodus 2:1-15   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 11:20-24
Photo by author, St. Agnes Church at Bethsaida, Israel, 2017.
Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds 
had been done, since they had not
repented.  "Woe to you, Chorazin!
Woe to you Bethsaida!  For if 
the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented 
sackcloth and ashes."
(Matthew 11:20-21)
I could hear you, Lord Jesus
crying again the same words
to us in this generation
of not heeding your voice,
of refusing or failing to recognize
God's loving presence among us
in you through the Church.
If our non-Christian brothers and
sisters were given the same 
chance we have been given in
belonging to your Church, 
maybe they have been more 
generous, more kind, and 
more ardent in their faith.
Forgive us, dear Jesus,
for not listening to your words, 
for not meeting you,
for always missing your coming to us
in the Church, in the Sacraments,
and most especially, in the Scriptures.
Sometimes, Lord Jesus
we are like those two Hebrews fighting
pacified by Moses in the first reading
who missed the opportunity of meeting God,
of discovering God among our community
when the culprit dared ask Moses:
"Who has appointed you ruler
and judge over us?
Are you thinking of killing me
as you killed the Egyptian?"
Then Moses became afraid and thought, 
"The affair must certainly be known." 
(cf.Ex.2:11-14)
Teach us, dear Lord
to be like the sister of Moses
who ensured she would not miss
the important opportunity when the Pharaoh's
daughter found baby Moses in a basket among
the reeds while taking a bathe at the river
to find their own mother to nurse the child
you have destined to set free your people from Egypt.
Make us realize every moment a grace of encountering
you Lord, of making your wonderful plans happen.
Amen.

Finding God, not just solutions

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 12 July 2021
Exodus 1:8-14,22  >>> + <<<   Mathew 10:34-11:1
Photo by author, Egypt, 2019.
Your words today, O Lord Jesus,
are so difficult to understand
even puzzling and disturbing 
but that is how it is often in life:
the harder it gets,
the better we become
like the children of Israel
when persecuted in Egypt.
A new king, 
who knew nothing of Joseph,
came to power in Egypt.
Accordingly, taskmasters
were set over the children of Israel
to oppress them with forced labor.
Yet the more they were oppressed,
the more they multiplied and 
spread.
(Exodus 1:8,11, 12)
Sometimes, Lord,
you allow us to go through
hardships and trials in life
so we may realize
that YOU alone are the most
essential in life like when you sent
the children of Israel to Egypt
during the period of great famine.
You sent them there not only to find food
but to rediscover Joseph their brother
and ultimately find YOU, dear God,
still faithful, still loving.
Alas, as time went on with them in Egypt
like with our own experiences,
we stop entering into a relationship with you
dear God, when our needs are fulfilled,
when we have found solutions to our problems,
not realizing that more important
than temporary solutions
to our temporary problems is
the wonderful intimacy with you
here, today, through eternity
where we have God more than
any amount of peace and prosperity. 
Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Do not think that I have come
to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake
will find it."
(Matthew 10:34, 39)
Lord Jesus Christ,
forgive us in being so focused
in solving the many problems of the world
than in finding God and his love; remind us
of our first task of casting away evil
and sins that plague us and the world
so that everything may be restored in you again.
Amen.

Agere contra (acting against)

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 09 July 2021
Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 10:16-23
Photo by author, Malagos Garden Resort, Davao City, 2018.
Praise and glory to you, 
God our loving Father;
thank you for another week
thank you for this brand new day
thank you for this gift of life
and thank you for 
reassuring us of your love 
and saving presence.
Then he said:
"I am God, 
The God of your father.
Do not be afraid
to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you 
a great nation.
Not only will I go down to Egypt
with you; I will also bring you back here,
after Joseph has closed your eyes."
(Genesis 46:3-4)
Many among us, dear Lord
are like Jacob moving to Egypt:
lives are disrupted
routines are broken
due to sickness and other trials in life;
assure them too of your presence
and please, bring them back home
 safe and well.
Keep us faithful to you, Father.
When trials and difficulties come,
we are always shaken
and tempted to find the easy way out;
worst is when things become unbearable,
we plead to you for an end of sufferings
without realizing that is when you are closest
to us in your Son Jesus Christ. 
Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Behold, I am sending you 
like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents
and simple as doves.
You will be hated by all
because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end
will be saved."
Please grant us the wisdom
and humility to live our lives 
in true freedom to you, dear God;
to let go of our false securities and 
comfort zones, the "agere contra"
according to St. Ignatius of Loyola
so we may grow truly in you 
who has the final say on everything.  Amen.