The problem with our greetings

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2022
Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, view of sunrise from Our Lady of Fatima University in Antipolo City, 14 August 2022.

It is very rare to find in the Bible a story of two women together, conversing, blessing each other. And that rarity happens in our gospel scene today of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth in a town in Judah as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.

What kind of greeting did Mary say that when Elizabeth heard her, the child in her womb leaped in joy, filling her with the Holy Spirit to call Mary blessed? This could have not been any ordinary greeting to elicit such a response from Elizabeth, for her to be filled by the Holy Spirit!

Luke does not tell us how Mary greeted Elizabeth who was six months pregnant at that time with John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus who was also in the womb of Mary at that time. Most likely, she must have said something too close or similar with Gabriel’s greeting to her during the Annunciation, “Hail favored one! The Lord is with you” (Lk.1:28).


As we await of that future glory, 
part of the basis for our assumption
 into heaven like Mary someday depends 
 in the way we greet others because 
that is an indication of our generosity 
and selflessness to a great extent.

Perhaps some of you are wondering why the Church is using this story of the Visitation on this Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. One reason is of course, there is no written account of the Assumption of Mary into heaven.

However, the Visitation story which includes Mary’s Canticle of the Magnificat that she sang as a response to Elizabeth’s praises reflects the meaning of the Assumption: it is a celebration of the great things that God has done for Mary and for us including which he would also do in the future like our “assumption” into heaven like we profess every Sunday in the Apostles’ Creed, “the resurrection of body and life everlasting.”

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

Mary became the first human to experience fully the salvation by her Son Jesus Christ, from her Immaculate Conception which speaks of our lost glory from the beginning, and unto her Assumption which promises us of the future glory we shall have in heaven.

As we await of that future glory, part of the basis for our assumption into heaven like Mary someday depends in the way we greet others because that is an indication of our generosity and selflessness to a great extent.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:41-42, 45

To greet is to recognize God working in us, among us.  
It is thinking more of the other person and God than one's self.

Have you noticed these past several years of a silly and inane trend especially in many churches of commentators greeting the congregation with “Magandang umaga po sa ating lahat” or “Good morning to us all”?

What kind of a greeting is that?

To greet somebody is to share something with others. In the Visitation, Mary shared Jesus Christ who was in her womb to Elizabeth that even John in her womb felt him, leaping for joy.

To greet means to extend goodwill to someone, to desire blessings and good things to others.

That was the reason Mary went to visit Elizabeth; she was thinking more of her cousin who was old and barren yet pregnant for six months by the grace of God. Mary visited Elizabeth to affirm the goodness and kindness of God, to recognize that God’s plans for Elizabeth and her baby in her womb have direct correlations with God’s plans for her and her baby in the womb, Jesus.

To greet is to recognize God working in us, among us. It is thinking more of the other person and God than one’s self.

Now, how did it happen that we Filipinos have retrogressed especially in our religious gatherings as well as civic activities when those holding the mic would always say, “Magandang gabi sa ating lahat… Pagpalain tayong lahat ng Diyos” (Good evening to us all or May we all be blessed)?

Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Ein-Karem, Holy Land, May 2017.

Keep in mind the greeter is sharing what he/she has like a “good morning” or a “blessed day”. Then why is it there are so many among us especially commentators who include their very selves when greeting the congregation, saying “good morning to us all” and other inanities?

To greet others where the greeter includes self in the greeting is like giving a sandwich or coffee to everyone yet takes a bite first or sips too! It is very much the same as replying “me too” when someone tells you “I love you”.

If you include yourself in a greeting, it is not a greeting at all but an insult, a clear sign of callous ego and selfishness to the highest degree that one cannot wait for others to be greeted back.

See the humility and wisdom of Mary: after she had greeted Elizabeth who praised her in return by calling her “blessed” – the first to call her as one – Mary praised God. Not Elizabeth.

When we greet anybody with good morning or good evening or whatever, we do not include ourselves in the greeting because the very fact we are greeting others means we have a lot of good and blessings in us. Like Mary and Elizabeth, we feel so blessed by God that we share Jesus freely to others. Like Mary, we believe and trust that God will never forsake us, will never forget us.

If we can’t even greet somebody so well and so freely, how can we be truly Christian like Mary?

Photo by author in Nazareth, Israel, May 2019.

The Solemnity of the Assumption reminds us today of that great and powerful greeting by Mary to her cousin Elizabeth that led to an encounter and revelation to happen between two women, one old and barren to bear a child with the other too young and unmarried virgin yet both bore children in their wombs by the grace of God.

And it was not just an encounter between the two mothers-to-be but also between their two infants still in their wombs!

In their greetings, God’s mighty deeds became evident, truly present and felt through their mutual exchange of believing, of saying “yes” to Jesus.

The blessedness of this celebration today is found in God’s mighty deeds now resounding in the eternal greeting Mary gives her Son Jesus in heaven.

Photo by author, sunset with the Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

Do we hear Mary’s greetings in our own greetings to one another?

Do our greetings elicit responses from others?

Do our greetings lead others to leap for joy?

Or, do our greetings annoy them because we do not greet them at all, we refuse to share Jesus because we have become too conceited?

How can we be assumed into heaven body and soul if we are so filled with our very selves, when we can’t even freely and truly give away greetings to others?

Then, it must be a case of too much presumptions, of assuming everything for us. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead everyone!

Faith in Jesus, perfecter of faith

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 14 August 2022
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:1-4 ><}}}*> Luke 12:49-53
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Following Jesus, being a true and good Christian is always difficult. This I realized on my first month as a priest 24 years ago when I gave a “marriage encounter” (ME) to several married couples from the parish of my former professor in the seminary.

Part of the marriage encounter is the writing of one’s sins on a piece of paper with a symbolic burning before going to confession later in the evening; problem was, as a new priest, I gave a wrong instruction asking the spouses to exchange paper with their partner to see each others sins. That was when a wife collapsed after reading the sins of her husband! Actually, she had long suspected him of infidelities but that afternoon, all her doubts and suspicions were proven very true that her blood pressure shoot up, losing her consciousness in anger and pain.

After she had been revived, she kept on saying, “akala ko ME magpapatatag sa aming samahan; ito na yata maghihiwalay sa aming dalawa ng tuluyan” (I thought the ME will make our marriage stronger but it seems this will finally cause our separation as husband and wife).

I tried explaining things to her, prayed so hard for her and eventually after six months, I met them at a wedding as they thanked me how their marriage had gone stronger after surrendering everything to Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"Every Christian is a prophet...
a sign of contradiction."

Many times in our lives we have experienced that our faithful service in the Lord often leads us to distressing and painful situations, even tragic choices. In the first reading, we have heard how Jeremiah’s own folks threw him into a cistern to die because they could not take his preaching against their sinfulness and prophecies of the impending fall of Jerusalem which eventually happened. He was momentarily rescued from the cistern but later was eventually killed by his own people for speaking against their sinful ways and life.

Every Christian is a prophet like Jeremiah, a sign of contradiction among the people, even in one’s own family and circle of friends. To live against the corrupt and sinful ways of the world, to uphold what is true and just, to stand for what is honorable and good surely earn a lot of criticisms and condemnation from everyone. Even in the Church!

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division

Luke 12:49-51
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

With all of these words, we now wonder what is good with our Good News this Sunday? Remember, Jesus Christ is on his way to Jerusalem to face his suffering and death. Today he tells us three things to remember to remain focused with the End.

First is the fire he had brought into the world. It is not a fire of destruction but fire of heat and light that give life; fire that purifies and cleanses like silver and gold that bring out its beauty and magnificence; and most of all, the fire of God’s presence like in the burning bush of Moses and the pillars of fire/cloud that guided the Chosen People in the wilderness into the Promised Land.

Fire gives light and heat that lead into life; we can survive without food and water for several days but we cannot last even ten minutes without heat! This is the kind of fire we Christians need these days, fire that will lit us up with courage ands joy in Jesus Christ by witnessing his gospel in a world that seems to be dying and lifeless despite the noise and affluence around.

As a purifying fire, it always brings pains that lead into conversion and liberation like what that couple in my first Marriage Encounter have experienced. The fire of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness taught them to forgive each other and enabled them to lead holier lives. The more we get closer to Jesus our light, the more we see our sinfulness and weaknesses, then we change and mature. That is when we are filled with the light of Christ to become his presence in the world.

Second teaching of Jesus today is about his “other baptism” which is his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. This is the reason why he was “resolutely journeying to Jerusalem” – he was so eager, so decided to face his pasch not for the pains it would bring but for its glorious effects for us.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

That is the real meaning of baptism, from the Greek baptizein which is to immerse in water; hence, baptism before was a literal immersion in water. In our immersion into the passion and death of Jesus Christ, we enter into a communion in him and with him so that in his Resurrection, we too rise with him and in him into new life.

Third pronouncement by Jesus this Sunday is perhaps the most baffling, especially when we consider the statistics that more than half of the conflicts going on in the world today are due to religious beliefs.

Jesus never meant to bring people apart; in fact, he came to bring us all together, to gather us again as beloved children of the Father. However, it happens that the moment we stand for Jesus, for what is true and just, inevitably, we will be with odds even with those dearest to us. Jesus himself had said that “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk.14:26).

That is one of the beautiful imageries of the Cross of Jesus Christ: it marks the end of our sinfulness and the beginning of our oneness in God.

It is the difficult aspect of discipleship when our loved ones are into sins and evil, when they are in darkness and injustice. Are we going to side with them or side with Christ?

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us his peace (Jn.14:27) that according to him is not like the peace offered by the world that is often based on compromises; Christ’s peace is the fruit of love, of sacrifices. Love and sacrifice are one, always together; when you love, there is sacrifice, there is pain and suffering. That is why it is love!

Parents and lovers know this very well: many times they suffer and cry in silence because of their great love for their children or beloved. It is no wonder that in the Beatitudes, Jesus called the peacemakers and the persecuted blessed because to work for peace entails persecution and division.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"God is dangerous."
-Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar (+)

Last Sunday we have reflected how Jesus used the setting of night for our vigilance because faith is tested and deepened in the darkness of life like during nighttime. And, the darker the night, the longer the night always.

But, we have so many people who have gone ahead of us in this life who have found light and life amid the darkness in life, emerging victorious in their faith in God, from the patriarchs in the Old Testament and in Jesus himself and his Apostles and saints as well.

Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Wonderful! Jesus is the leader and perfecter of faith. Very often, we hear the gospels and the Bible speaking always of our having faith in Jesus. But, it is only here and in some instances in Paul we find Jesus having faith; how can Jesus, the Son of God have faith when he is the object of faith?

Let us remember that Jesus is truly human, truly divine. Like us, he also had faith as the gospels attest: he had faith in the Father who sent him. He is the best example of having faith, entrusting everything to the Father that he did not feel ashamed of the Cross. In that sense, Jesus is also the perfecter of faith because in him, with him and through him, we are able to walk in faith, sustain our faith in the most difficult and trying moments of life when we felt our relationships, our world falling apart because we have stood by his Cross. As we look back, we have emerged better, stronger, and most of all, joyful, free and faithful after all those trials in life. Thanks to our faith in Christ!

One of the friends of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II was the Swiss theologian and priest named Hans Urs von Balthasar who said in his 1945 book “The Heart of the World” that God is dangerous.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacia trees in UP-Diliman, April 2022.

Indeed, it is very true especially when Fr. Balthasar noted how God “is inviting you to lose your soul in order to gain it. He always thinks in terms of love. He offers us the impossible… He presents his victory over death as an example to be imitated, he draws us beyond our limits, into his adventure, which is inevitably fatal.”

The blessedness of this Sunday is that Jesus had become like us to lead us the way in a life of faith, perfecting our faith in the process so that we may overcome all obstacles and trials in life like him and be with him in eternal glory in heaven in the End.

Let us keep in mind the worthy reminder of the author of the Letter to Hebrews that “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Heb.12:4). Amen.

Have a blessed, fiery week of faithful adherence in Christ!

Praying to remember, to never forget

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 12 August 2022
Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60, 63   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 19:3-12
Forget-me-nots photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Now, more than ever, 
I am convinced dear God
that we are indeed "beings of forgetfulness";
we easily forget, and sadly, we enjoy,
we choose and we "love" so much 
forgetting the past, 
forgetting people,
forgetting our roots, 
and worst, forgetting you
our loving Father.
How striking are your words
to the Prophet Ezekiel today,
"making known to Jerusalem
her abominations", of how as a 
nation like a newborn child left 
in the dirt with her umbilical cord
still uncut, wrapped in her blood
and all until you O God took her, 
bathed and dressed her with
finest clothes, fed with good food,
bestowed with your dignity 
that nations loved her (Ezekiel 16:3-14) 
only to forget you, O God... 
just like us today.

But you were captivated by your own beauty; you used your renown to make yourself a harlot, and you lavished your harlotry on every passer-by, whose own you became. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl, and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you, that you may remember and be covered with confusion, and that you may be utterly silenced for shame when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord God.

Ezekiel 16:15, 60, 63
Let us remember you
Lord always;
teach us to make you a 
"member", a "part"
 of each present moment,
thus, "re" + "member"!
Let us enter into communion
in you, with you in Christ Jesus,
remembering, honoring
your divine plans since
the beginning like marriage;
forgive us for the "hardness
of our hearts" that we have relished
in forgetting and disregarding you
 and your plans in the past,
your blessings and plans for the future.
Let us stop "separating"
not only husbands and wives
but most especially our lives,
our selves from you, dear God,
 for you are our life, our being,
our origin and end.
Amen.

Seeing Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Lawrence, Deacon & Martyr, 10 August 2022
2 Corinthians 9:6-10   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   John 12:24-26
Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com
God our loving Father,
just this Monday I have prayed,
telling you how I sometimes wished
to find you in strange visions like
your prophet Ezekiel; today, as we
celebrate the Memorial of your
great Saint, Lawrence, the gospel
speaks so well of finding you
when some Greeks approached Philip,
asking him to help them see Jesus
while in Jerusalem:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

John 12:24
Lord Jesus, so much have changed
in this world in terms of freely worshipping you
 unlike during the early centuries of Christianity
 when your followers shed blood witnessing you;
today, there are no more lions to devour us
nor executioners to crucify or decapitate us
or roast us on gridiron like St. Lawrence;
but your call for martyrdom remains.
Give us the courage to "let go and let God"
in our lives which is to become fruitful
like the grain of wheat to see you
by allowing you dear Jesus to make us become
 everything you want us to be, that is,
a bread produced by grains of wheat
grounded and disintegrated to become
food for others.

“Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

John 12:25
Help us realize, dear Jesus,
that to see you means to think more
of eternal life than of this present life
that is passing; that we own nothing at all
in this world, not even our very lives;
like St. Lawrence who faithfully served
 the poor and disadvantaged the world refuses
to recognize until now as your presence
and "life" because "life" has always been
seen in glitz and glamor revolving around one's self
as the center of everything;
help us realize that we cannot find meaning of life
in ourselves, by being self-centered;
it is in finding you in others, in valuing them too
 that we find life and its meaning!

“Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.”

John 12:26
Finally, finding you dear Jesus
and the Father is entering into your very person,
getting into a communion that "it is no longer I 
who live but you, O Christ, lives in me"
(Gal.2:20);
let me welcome you, Jesus into myself,
let me embrace you and your Cross,
join you in your Passion and Death to be 
one in you more than ever in your Resurrection.

Pray for us, most blessed
St. Lawrence that like you,
we may generously offer our lives
to God and inspire others
to experience and see Jesus Christ
present in this world so blinded
by vanities and fantasies.
Amen.
“Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, Deacon” by Hipolito de Rioja (16th c.) from commons.wikimedia.org

True greatness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Virgin & Martyr, 09 August 2022
Ezekiel 2:8-3:4   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 18:1-5, 10, 12-14
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.
I just find it so amusing,
dear God our loving Father,
how we have always been
fascinated since the earliest
times in knowing who is the
greatest?

The disciples approached Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” He called a child over, placed it in their midst and said, “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 18:1-3
How sad, O God,
that in our constant search
for who is the greatest, it had
led us to more animosities,
more destruction, and worst,
more deaths like when Hitler caused
the death of millions of people during
the Second World War following his 
obsession in being the greatest.
But, in a kind of poetic justice, 
it was during those dark years of
Hitler's Holocaust when we had 
our great modern saints, St. Teresa 
Benedicta dela Cruz whose 
memorial we celebrate today and 
later next week St. Maximilian
Kolbe who both died in the gas
chambers of Auschwitz.
True greatness is in being like
a little child who is open to listening
and learning new things in you, O God;
very malleable and teachable
ready to become like what you would 
want us to become;
like St. Benedicta who was born and raised 
as a Jew who later became an atheist
in the process of her intellectual pursuits while
a young woman but eventually converted as a
Catholic by saying that
"Those who seek truth seek God,
whether they realize it or not."
True greatness is in being like
a child who is docile and trusting in you,
O God, very open and willing to "eat"
your words that are "sweet like honey"
as the Prophet Ezekiel tasted in the first reading.
Let me proclaim your Word, O Lord, 
even if it hurts those closest to me like 
St. Benedicta:  her mother was deeply saddened
with her conversion to Catholicism while she also
wrote a strongly worded letter to Pope Pius XI
asking him to denounce Hitler's Nazi regime.
True greatness, O God,
is to be small and weak,
powerless like Jesus Christ on the Cross,
suffering and dying with your people
like St. Benedicta who chose to join her
people at the gas chambers lovingly described
later by a survivor who said, "Every time
I think of her sitting in the barracks,
the same picture comes to mind:
a Pieta without the Christ."
Loving Father,
there is no need for us ask who is
the greatest among us 
because that is YOU alone; 
yet, in your majesty and power,
you have chosen us to be
the greatest in your eyes,
in your heart that you sent Jesus
to die for us on the Cross.
May we always keep that in mind
so we may be like him and your
saints.

We pray also, God our Father, 
for the victims of violence and 
exploitation these days especially in 
war-torn countries and impoverished
sectors of our society that their plight 
be finally stopped, never to happen again 
in whatever form in the future.  
Amen.
St. Teresa Beneidcta dela Cruz
(née Edith Stein),
Pray for us!

Finding God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Dominic de Guzman, Priest, 08 August 2022
Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28   ><))))*> + <*((((><   Matthew 17:22-27
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.
Once in a while, 
I imagine dear God
our Father what would
it be like to have a vision
of you, to find you and
your dwelling place?
Would I have the
courage and composure
of your prophet Ezekiel?

As I looked, a storm wind came from the North, a huge cloud with flashing fire enveloped its brightness, from the midst of which (the midst of fire) something gleamed like spectrum. Within it there were figures resembling four living creatures that looked like this: Their form was human… Like the bow that appears in the clouds on a rainy day, was the splendor that surrounded him. Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

Ezekiel 1:4-5, 28
You are always with us,
dear God, revealing your 
truth, goodness, and beauty;
you cannot be kept in any 
particular place for you are
all-powerful and in fact, 
the sole legitimate power
for everything belongs to
you as implied by Jesus to Simon
in today's gospel (Mt.17:22-27).
There is no need for me to have
the apocalyptic vision of Ezekiel
to find and see your dazzling 
majesty; just give me the humility
like of St. Dominic to passionately
seek you in prayers and studies,
following his footsteps in simplicity
of life and self-denial so that upon
finding your light and your truth, 
I may share you in Jesus Christ 
with everyone.
Amen.
St. Dominic from a detail of a fresco painted by Fra Angelico in 1441 in Convento di San Marcos in Florence, Italy; photo from commons.wikimedia.org.

Believing is living

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 07 August 2022
Wisdom 18:6-9 ><}}}*> Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 ><}}}*> Luke 12:35-40
Photo by author, Liputan Island, Meycauyan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

Everybody believes in something, even if they believe in the emptiness and nothingness of life. But, what or who we believe in makes the difference because that determines how we live.

Those who believe in financial security live in amassing and building their wealth while those who believe in something that transcends what they see and understand live pursuing lofty ideals not necessarily in religious terms like the saints but also in civic and social concerns like national heroes and reformers. There are also extremists in various forms found in different countries and organizations who believe that any lasting change in life can only be achieved by armed struggles and use of violence, destroying everything even human lives they profess to be they are building or protecting.

This Sunday we find in our readings the importance of believing in God, of having faith in him because faith is not just a belief or knowledge as an interior conviction of the intellect but a union, that is, a “communion” in God we believe in.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested.

Hebrews 11:1-2

It is faith that brings us into our final End in God by enabling us to “possess” already what is not yet fulfilled – eternal life! Little by little, as we live out our faith faithfully like the saints and most notably of all, Abraham as mentioned in our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. See how the author of Hebrews reminded us of the three events in Abraham’s life when he exemplified to us his firm faith in God.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age – and Sarah herself was sterile – for he thought that the one who made the promise was trustworthy. By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promise was ready to offer his only son…He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

Hebrews 11:8, 11, 17, 19

Here we find Abraham as the kind of dreamer with eyes wide opened who not only believed in God but cooperated completely to realize all his promises. He dared to journey to an unknown foreign land that he was thrice blessed by God with wealth and land his heirs would inherit. Despite his old age, he held on faith in God that his son Isaac was born who became the father of Jacob also known as Israel from whom came the twelve tribes of Israel. And when Isaac was an early adult, Abraham remained faithful to God, completely surrendering Isaac to him as a sacrifice that turned out be a test that God was so delighted with faith and declared him as the father of faith.

Everyday we hear of many stories not only of highly successful people but even of simple folks we personally know who have moved heaven and earth so to speak to achieve their dreams in life.

Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

Yesterday after our Baccalaureate Mass at the Our Lady of Fatima University, one of the graduates texted me, accepting my invitation as their chaplain to see me at my office in the hospital for some conversations and counseling or even confession. I was so surprised when she came at exactly 2PM and turned out to be one of my former directees in Malolos City more than ten years ago.

She first came to me after delivering her baby on her third year in college in 2006 after shifting from two other courses; as a result, she never finished college and had to work when the father of her child abandoned them. Last time we met was in 2013 when she came to visit me at Radio Veritas after my program for another series of consultations when she met another man who eventually married her and five years ago, allowed her the chance to pursue a college degree in Physical Therapy. She told me how difficult it had been for her especially with the COVID-19 pandemic that she almost gave up all hopes of earning a college degree. What kept her through these years amid having two other children with her husband who joyfully accepted her and her son from her previous relationship is her deep faith in God. And that is why she was doubly happy last Friday during our Mass when she finally found me again, telling me how our spiritual direction during her dark days have made a great impact in her spiritual journey. On Monday, she graduates with her classmates at the PICC, finally earning a college degree after graduating from high school in 2003.

Photo by author, 2017

Many times in life, not all our days are bright and shiny. So often there are thunderstorms and dark clouds and worst, dark nights that are always the longest nights too. This is the meaning of our first reading from the Book of Wisdom that recalled the first passover and exodus from Egypt of God’s chosen people.

Faith is often asserted and tested in the dark, at nighttime when all the uncertainties and dangers are most pronounced when unknown to us, God is also most present in us. And this we shall find also as the setting of the Lord’s two parables for this Sunday.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, January 2022.

Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem and along the way since last week, he has been teaching us the need to place our trust and security in God than in material possessions, in the importance of having faith more in God than in things.

From Qoheleth we have learned last Sunday that life is vanity if not rooted in God who is our ultimate origin and end in life so that today Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms of the need to keep that in mind through two similar parables.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them… Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Luke 12:35-37, 39-40

It is important for us to note that before this teaching, Jesus addressed the many fears of insecurity and insufficiency of his disciples, telling them to never worry of what to eat or wear, reminding them of how animals and birds as well nature are well taken cared of by God in all its splendor and glory (Lk.12:22-34).

Our main concern is to be faithful servants of God, seeing to it that we become his hands that care for others especially the sick and the needy, striving to be fair and just in our dealings with everyone, remaining focused with the kingdom of God.

That is the meaning of the vigilant servants in the first parable whom the master finds awake and alert upon returning from a wedding feast. It is Jesus Christ himself coming again in an unexpected time and date nobody knows at the end of time; those he shall find like the vigilant servants are assured of heaven where Jesus will be the one serving them!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, June 2022.

Many times in our lives, we feel that God seems to have forgotten us, falling asleep and unaware of the sufferings we are going through. It is okay to feel that way sometimes but never let your guards down: be like the vigilant servants, faithful to God in prayers and in serving others, in trying to be kind and forgiving because Jesus is surely coming again to bring us with him in paradise and end all our pains and sufferings. Do not let your fears of losing, of not having enough paralyze you to make you selfish and conceited. How often Jesus had come to you through friends and strangers or situations offering you exactly what you needed most at the perfect time? That is like the master coming from a wedding who serves his servants who faithfully waited for his return. God can never be outdone in generosity.

On the other hand, the second parable has an interesting detail from the first one: the master of the house guarding his house against the thief of the night. Actually, the thief here is the master of the house, the one who acted as if he owned everything that he is always on guard against the real master who might come to take back everything.

That is sure to happen! We are just mere stewards of God. We own nothing in this world, even our very life. When the Lord comes at the end of time, or when our time comes to die, which attitude would we have, that of the vigilant servants excited for their master returning from a wedding or that master of the house afraid of the thief to take back what he had stolen?

The grace of this Sunday as we focus about the End we shall all face, it likewise reminds us of the end with a small “e” of our little sufferings here on earth, the setbacks and failures, mistakes and sins we have committed. They will all end; what is important is we live our faith faithfully in God through prayers and good deeds. And some dashes of perseverance, patience, courage and a lot of faith in God. Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by Ms. Danna Hazel de Castro, Kiltepan Peak, Sagada, Mountain Province, 2017.

God never sleeps nor forgets us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Dedication of St. Mary Major in Rome, 05 August 2022
Nahum 2:1, 3; 3:1-3, 6-7   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Matthew 16:24-28
Photo by author, September 2021.
Dearest God our loving Father:
You surely know how often we
wonder why you allow bad things 
to continue to happen in our lives,
in our community, even in our country;
so many times we feel you seem to
have forgotten us, of must have fallen
asleep unaware of the sufferings we are
going through.
You know these thoughts and feelings
we often have but today, you assure us
you are always with us, that you never
forget us nor abandon us; sometimes, you
allow our sufferings to happen longer 
because you believe in us, and most of all,
you want us to become stronger and better.

See, upon the mountains there advances the bearer of good news, announcing peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah; fulfill your vows! For nevermore shall you be invaded by the scoundrel; he is completely destroyed. The Lord will restore the vine of Jacob, the pride of Israel, though ravagers have ravaged them and ruined the tendrils.

Nahum 2:1, 3
Finally, you  have liberated Israel
from the clutches of the "scoundrel", Assyria;
perhaps like us today, the Israelites at that
time of the Assyrian conquest wondered
if it ever would end with all the evils
perpetrated by men and women alike;
but it did!  History teems with many
episodes of great countries and empires
falling, collapsing from their towers of
success and dominance, reduced to
nothingness because evil never lasts,
it is so bad that it has all the factors
contributing to its destruction and end.
Good always triumphs, always prevails.
Storms and dark nights end,
the sun always rises,
shining brightly to gladded our hearts,
drying our tears and giving us
all the chances in life.
Like the good news brought by Nahum,
may we be your messengers of good news,
of peace to those suffering for a long time
from illness and other problems in life,
including the many evils that seem to have
become so endemic in our country;
give us the grace to persevere
in following Jesus Christ your Son,
forgetting our very selves
for what profit would there really be
for one to gain the whole world
and forfeit one's life (Mt.16:25)?
As we celebrate the dedication of 
St. Mary Major in Rome today,
may we imitate the Blessed Virgin Mary
who not only bore your Son Jesus Christ
but continues to lead others to him
by being the messenger of your 
love and salvation. 
Amen.

The difficulty and beauty of intimacy

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time, 03 August 2022
Jeremiah 31:1-7   ><)))*> + + + <*(((><   Matthew 15:21-28
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.
Many times I have felt you,
dear Jesus coming to me in unfamiliar
grounds and situations
like when you came to the pagan
district of Tyre and Sidon;
for what, Jesus?
To test us?
Why do you come to me
when I am weakest,
when I am sinful,
when I am in doubt,
when I am unfaithful?
Why did you go to a pagan region but
would not even pay attention to the
Canaanite woman begging for your help
to free her daughter from evil possession?

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her.

Matthew 15:21-23
O dear Jesus!
Teach me to be more engaging with you,
arguing, debating, "fighting" like
in close contact karate in order to be intimate;
intimacy is more than being close with you
but also involves personal contact and
engagement with you that best happens
in unfamiliar territories
like Tyre and Sidon where we have
no one else to turn to except you,
when we have to bare to you our vulnerabilities
and weaknesses, our skin until we are stripped
naked before you like that Canaanite woman
admitting her being referred to as "dogs"
and be clothed only with your very self,
with your love and company.
That is INTIMACY,
dear Jesus!  A most beautiful status
and gift but most difficult because it is
a journey into foreign territories
requiring our complete trust and
faith in God who loves us so much.

Thus says the Lord: The people that escaped the sword have found favor in the desert. As Israel comes forward to be given his rest, the Lord appears to him from afar: with age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you.

Jeremiah 31:2-3
O God, loving Father,
keep me faithful,
keep me close to you,
especially when the path
is difficult,
when the journey is
exhausting.
Amen.

Problem with overconfidence

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 02 August 2022
Jeremiah 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Matthew 14:22-36
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier in Taal, Batangas, 15 February 2014.
I like your words today,
God our loving Father;
they are so true, and yes,
so hurting. They are a 
bull's eye or "sapul" as
we say in Filipino.
Many times, I feel so
confident with myself,
with my goodness, or
holiness; many times I
feel I am so equipped 
to hurdle everything in
life; and many times, I feel
so sure I have done nothing
wrong and sinful like Peter
in the gospel who asked
Jesus to make him walk
on water.

Thus says the Lord: Incurable is your wound, grievous your bruise; there is none to plead your cause, no remedy for your running sore, no healing for you. All your lovers have forgotten you; they do not seek you. I struck you as an enemy would strike, punished you cruelly; why cry out over your wound? Your pain is without relief. Because of your great guilt, your numerous sins, I have done this to you. Thus says the Lord: See! I will restore the tents of Jacob, his dwellings I will pity; city shall be rebuilt upon hill, and palace restored as it was.

Jeremiah 30:1-2, 12-15, 18
Give me courage, O Lord,
to look inside myself and
confront my true self;
build me up anew, Lord,
as your people and you
our God.

Forgive us, O God, 
for the many times we
have misread your coming
in Jesus Christ as like a ghost 
in the dark sea; so many times
we are so sure of our swimming
skills like Peter, confident we 
would not drown, unaware 
of the strong winds that can beat
and pummel us into pieces.

When overconfidence
drown us, let us shout like
the disciples in the boat,
"Truly, you are the Son of
God, Lord Jesus!"
Amen.