Katulad ni Job

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-28 ng Setyembre 2022
Larawan mula sa commons.wikimedia.org ng painting na “Job on the Dunghill” ni Gonzalo Carrasco ng Mexico noong 1881.
O Panginoong ko,
turuan mo ako na tularan
si Job na iyong lingkod,
tapat at walang pasubali
pananampalataya sa iyo;
katulad ni Job
ako man ay makadaing sa Iyo 
ng buong giliw at pagtitiwala 
sa dinaranas na hirap at hilahil;
katulad ni Job
ako man ay magsuri at magnilay
sa Iyong kadakilaang taglay,
magtanong at makinig,
manahimik at namnamin
kaysa Ikaw ay usisain;
katulad ni Job
mapagtanto ko mga
katanungan sa buhay ay
hindi tulad ng mga tanong sa paaralan
mga sagot ay kaagad matatagpuan
sa Google o sa computer 
o sa pormula ng matematika;
katulad ni Job
hayaan mo po ako na mabalot
ng Iyong hiwaga Panginoon
patuloy na tumugon sa 
maraming paghamon
na sa tamang panahon,
ako man ay makaaahon
matatag at dalisay
aking katauhan
matalik ang ugnayan
sa Iyo at sa kapwa nahihirapan;
katulad ni Job
mas nanaisin ko rin
na lumakad sa gitna ng dilim
hindi ka man tanaw ng aking paningin
basta Ikaw ang kapiling
kaysa tumahak sa huwad na liwanag
ng mundo, lugod at bisyo ang gusto! 

Liham ni Lazaro sa mayaman

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-28 ng Setyembre, 2022
Larawan mula sa https://krugsstudio.blogspot.com/2016/07/does-anyone-write-letter-anymore.html

Hitik sa mga kahulugan ang talinghaga ng mayaman at ni Lazaro noong araw ng Linggo (Lukas 16:19-31). Kaya namang aking napag-isipan ano nga kaya at sumulat si Lazaro doon sa mayaman? Ano kaya kanyang sasabihin?

Isang kathang-isip lamang ang liham na ito katulad na rin ng talinghaga ng Panginoong Jesu-Kristo. Gayon pa man, batay ito sa mga kuwento na aking pinakinggan at pinagnilayan mula sa mga tao na aking nakadaupang-palad sa mahabang panahon bilang pari. Sinikap ko na mahabi kanilang mga istorya ng buhay na parang hibla ng sinulid upang maging isang telon na maglalarawan ng iba’t-ibang mukha ni Lazaro at ng mayaman.

Wala akong pinatatamaan maliban sa maihatid mahalagang mga aral ng naturang talinghaga ukol sa buhay at kamatayan na tila nalilimutan na ng maraming pamilya at mag-anak kung saan maraming mayaman at Lazaro na nakalupasay, pinababayaan at tinalikdan.

Sinabi ni Jesus sa mga Pariseo, “May isang mayamang nagdaramit nang mamahalin at saganang-sagana sa pagkain araw-araw. At may isang pulubing nagngangalang Lazaro, tadtad ng sugat, na nakalupasay sa may pintuan ng mayaman upang mamulot kahit mumong nahuhulog mula sa hapag ng mayaman. At doo’y nilalapitan siya ng aso at dinidilaan ang kanyang mga sugat.

Lukas 16:19-21
Larawan ng painting ni Bonifacio de Pitati noong 1540 ng “Dives and Lazarus” mula sa commons.wikimedia.org.
Minamahal kong mayaman,

Ako nga si Lazaro at sumusulat ako sa iyo na manhid at ayaw pumansin sa akin dahil ako ay tadtad ng sugat sa buong katawan, nakakadiring tingnan sa aking karumihan at kawalan ng kagandahang mabanaagan dahil ako ay naiiba sa iyo na kinikilala at maraming kaibigan, malakas at malinis.  Kung tingnan.

Mabuti pa ang aso, napapansin ako, dinidilaan aking mga sugat na kailanma'y hindi niya mauunawaan pinagmulan at naging mga sanhi, na pawang mga tao ang may kagagawan.

Isang bagay lang ibig kong ipahayag sa iyo, kapatid ko na mayaman:  sapat na bang dahilan na ako ay iyong talikuran at kalimutan dahil lamang sa ilang halaga ng salapi, mga gamit at ari-arian gaya ng kapirasong lupa na higit pa ang sukat sa ating libingan?

Dahil lamang sa magkakaiba nating paniniwala at sa iyong sariling katuwiran na hindi mabitiw-bitiwan ay ipagpapalit mo ako na kapwa tao gaya ng iyong ina o ama, at kapatid? 

Madalas, ako si Lazaro yung magulang na kung ituring ng mga anak ay kontra-bida sa buhay nila.  

Ikaw iyon, kapatid kong mayaman.

Ikaw iyong bata, yung anak na sadyang mayaman sa kaalaman at kahusayan sa maraming bagay ngunit hindi kailanman sasapat ang mga iyan upang tayo ay mabuhay; mahalaga ang mga kapwa, lalo na mga magulang na nagpalaki at nag-aruga sa atin, mga kapatid na kasabay nating lumaki at lumago, nagkamalay sa mundo, kasama at kasalo sa maraming pagkakataon ng buhay.

Walang perfect love maliban sa pag-ibig ng Diyos; ano man mga nakaraan ikaw ay nasaktan kung maari ay lampasan, pag-usapan, at magpatawaran.

Saan mang tahanan, maraming mga desisyon ang mga magulang na hindi nagugustuhan at marahil hindi rin naunawaan hanggang ngayon; sakaling nagkamali man mga magulang, hindi ba ang mga iyon din ang nagpatibay at nagpatatag upang mga anak ay maging mayaman?  Bakit sila ngayon ang iniiwan, mga Lazaro na nakalupasay sa pintuan na hindi pinapansin, ipinagpalit sa ego at prinsipyo?

Hindi ito drama dahil ang totoo, darating ang panahon tayong lahat mamamatay.

Huwag nating hintayin tulad sa talinghaga ng Panginoon na malibing at mabaon ang mayaman doon sa Hades; ibig mo ba talaga na tayo ay magkahiwalay hindi lamang sa daigdig kungdi hanggang sa kabilang buhay?

Huwag mo nang hintayin, kapatid ko na mayaman na matanawan ako, si Lazaro kapiling ni Abraham, walang dusa at sakit sa kabilang buhay habang ika'y hirap na hirap, kumakaway, tumatawag gayong kakilala mo naman pala ako.  Gayun din naman, kakilala mo rin pala si Amang Abraham --- kung gayon, ikaw ay Kristiyano katulad ko, kilala si Kristo, sumasamba sa Diyos nating Ama!  Bakit hindi mo ako nakilala noong tayo ay nabubuhay pa?

Bahala ka kung ayaw mo pa rin akong pansinin; ito na lamang iiwanan ko sa iyo, higit sa lahat:  huwag kang umasa at maniwala sa ilusyon na makapagbabago ka pa sa tamang panahon lalo na kung kapani-paniwala ang magsasabi na mayroon nga buhay sa kabila!  Ilusyon lang yan na may oras pa upang magbagong-buhay....

Habang maaga pa, magbalik-loob sa Diyos upang siya ay matagpuan at makilala sa mukha ng bawat kapwa, lalo na sa mga Lazaro na tadtad ng sugat ang katawan, nakalupasay sa iyong harapan. 


Lubos na gumagalang,

Lazaro
(Mula sa salitang Hebreo
"El 'azar", ibig sabihi'y
"sinagip ng Diyos".)
Larawan kuha ni G. Jay Javier sa Taal, Batangas, 15 Pebrero 2014.

Talinghaga ng ugnayan natin

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-26 ng Setyembre 2022
Larawan mula sa bloomberg.com ng isang homeless sa New York habang dinaraos noon ang fashion week, 2019.

Sinabi ni Jesus sa mga Pariseo, “May isang mayamang nagdaramit nang mamahalin at saganang-sagana sa pagkain araw-araw. At may isang pulubing nagngangalang Lazaro, tadtad ng sugat, na nakalupasay sa may pintuan ng mayaman upang mamulot kahit mumong nahuhulog mula sa hapag ng mayaman. At doo’y nilalapitan siya ng aso at dinidilaan ang kanyang mga sugat.

Lukas 16:19-21
Alam na alam natin 
ang talinghagang ito
na marahil isasaysay muli 
sa atin ni Kristo
upang magising ating pagkatao, 
makilala sinu-sino
mga tinutukoy 
nitong kuwento
na walang iba kungdi tayo.
Tayo ang mayaman
sagana sa pagpapala di lamang
ng magagarang damit at gamit,
pagkain at inumin
kungdi ng biyaya ng buhay
handog ng Maykapal
na sawimpalad ay ating 
sinasarili, manhid sa kapwa
sarili ang sa tuwina ay tama.
Mayaman tayo 
sa mga pagpapala
ngunit hindi mabanaagan
ni masilayan aliwalas
nitong mukha, ipinagkakait
mga ngiti sa labi, hindi mabati
nakakasalubong upang mahawi
lambong ng kalungkutan,
mapawi pati mga sakbibi.
Ang tunay na mayaman
Diyos ang kayamanan
kanyang nababanaagan 
sa mukha ng bawat kapwa 
na kanyang pinahahalagahan
kesa sa gamit o kasangkapan;
hindi siya kailangang lapitan
ni daingan sapagkat dama niya
hirap at kapighatian ng nahihirapan.
Huwag tayong pakasigurado
na tayo ay mabuting tao
hindi tulad ng mayaman
sa talinghaga ni Kristo
sapagkat si Lazaro
ang taong pinakamalapit
sa iyo, nakalupasay,
nariyan lang sa tabi mo
nilalapitan ng aso maliban sa iyo.
Si Lazaro ang nanay
at ginang ng tahanan
tadtad sa sugat ang katawan
mula sa paglapastangan
ng mga anak at panloloko
ng sariling esposo;
ang mga lola at lolo rin
si Lazaro na namumulot ng mumo
ng pansin at kalinga mula sa mga apo.
Kung minsan si Lazaro
yaong nagtatrabaho sa barko
o malayong dako ng mundo
gaya ni tatay o nanay, ate o kuya
nasaan man sila, tanging pamilya
ang nasa puso nila
 hindi alintana kanilang
pagtitiis at pagpapagal
winawalwal ng kanilang minamahal.
Sino nga ba ako
sa talinghagang ito?
Ang mayaman na manhid
walang pakialam sa kapatid
o si Lazaro nagtitiis ng tahimik
walang imik sa kanyang sinapit
tanging sa Diyos nakakapit
nananalig sa Kanyang pagsagip
upang langit ay masapit!

The gospel according to Five for Fighting on living & leaving

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 20 September 2022
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
I'm 15 for a moment
Caught in between ten and 20
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

I'm 22 for a moment
And she feels better than ever
And we're on fire
Making our way back from Mars

The piano, the voice and the lyrics were unmistakably Five for Fighting when I heard it played again after a very long time at the 40th day of the death of a young college student in our parish recently.

It was only then when I truly appreciated this 2003 hit “100 Years” after realizing its deeper implications about life and death leading to eternity. Besides, there were some interesting things about the song and the deceased young man who was also a talented pianist like Five for Fighting himself – Vladimir John Ondasik III. Most of all, the deceased young man I have celebrated Mass for was aged 22 like the character depicted in the song 100 Years.

Celebrating Mass at the funeral of a child, whether an infant or a grown-up is the most difficult one for me. Normally, we children bury our parents but, it is so different when children die ahead of their parents and even grandparents. As a priest, I could feel the pain of the grieving parents in losing their son or daughter even if I totally do not know them at all. Yet, it is a grace of the priesthood that while we are emotionally affected by grieving parents we hardly know that we are likewise uplifted in identifying with Jesus who had brought back to life a dead young man at Nain after being moved with pity for the man’s widowed mother (Lk.7:11-15).

Photo by author, Pangasinan, April 2022.

Notice that Jesus brought back to life the dead young man because of pity for his mother, not because he pitied the dead son. God tells us in the Old Testament that he is saddened with the death of even just one of us but the event at Nain shows us how the eyes of the Lord are always with those left behind especially mothers because they are indeed the most pitiable in losing a child who would always be a part of them. Moreover, life is most difficult for those left behind who have to continue to bear all pains and sufferings while their departed loved ones rest in peace in eternity. And here lies the call of Jesus for us all to help those grieving to rise again and move on with life after the death of a beloved, especially of a child.

We shall talk about this later and let us just remain a little more with the reality of death.

Although 100 Years is a soft-rock ballad about a love relationship, it is very philosophical, in fact a Martin Heidegger, in calling for “authentic living” because we are all “being-towards-death”. While the song is generally a “feel good” piece, it reminds us of that reality we refuse to accept that coming to terms with death is coming to terms with life. It is when we are faced with the “existential” possibility of death that we begin to see the beauty of life and the joy of living.

15, there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose yourself within a morning star
15, I'm alright with you
15, there's never a wish better than this
When you've only got a hundred years to live

Half time goes by, suddenly you're wise
Another blink of an eye, 67 is gone
The sun is getting high
We're moving on

Truly, as the song tells us, our life is precious – whether you are 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 – because it could all be gone in a moment or a blink! Like Heidegger, Five for Fighting is calling us in his song to cherish each one’s presence with more love and kindness, care and understanding, with a lot of mercy and forgiveness because we live only for a period of time like 100 Years.

St. Paul also spoke of this constant awareness of death, of how “the world in its present form is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31) that we should live authentically as Christians. This pandemic has taught us in the most strongest terms this truth, not only with actually dying but also of being prevented from spending precious moments with our dead’s remains! May we not forget this pandemic’s lesson of living in the present moment as if it is also your final moment in life, of cherishing each other always because true riches are found only in God through one another as Jesus reminded us in last Sunday’s gospel (Lk.16:11).

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, September 2019.

To live is to love. What we need are more people, more children, more friends to celebrate life with. Like God, friends and family do not perish; they live on even if we do not see them because they just move on to higher level of existence. Unlike money and wealth, power and fame, and other material things that perish and become obsolete after a year.

Our weekday readings these past week teemed with so many beautiful nuggets of wisdom about people and relationships learned at the heels of death: the centurion who sent for Jesus for the healing of his slave who “was valuable to him” (Lk.7:2) on Monday; praying for those who grieve like that widowed mother in Nain (Lk.7:13) on Tuesday; and last Wednesday at the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross we were reminded of our transformation through life’s sufferings or little deaths in life; and, finally on Thursday at the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, of how we are invited to imitate Mary who remained at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday with her dying Son Jesus Christ. Here we find how death has become a blessing when seen in the light of Jesus and his Cross as witnessed by the Blessed Mother and preached by St. Paul.

This positive aspect of death as a blessing is wonderfully portrayed in the music video of 100 Years set in an isolated place in soft shades of dark blue and green, with some hues of grey evoking a deep sense of peace and tranquility minus the morbidity. Laid-back and relaxed, perhaps. Of course, Five for Fighting’s trademark piano makes the music video so lovely, so appealing, giving a joyful note on death’s certainty leading to eternity.

I'm 99 for a moment
And dying for just another moment
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

15, there's still time for you
22, I feel her too
33, you're on your way
Every day's a new day

At the start of the music video of 100 Years, we find a younger man playing the piano before Five for Fighting appears singing. That shifting of the younger and older Ondasik would happen about six times maybe interspersed with other characters coming to play the piano too until in the end he leaves to walk toward a big tree to meet his older self. Or God maybe.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, “Acacias”, UP Diliman, QC, April 2022.

That big tree seems to convey something like paradise, a gateway to eternity where time is totally held in completeness with everything at the present moment shown by Five for Fighting’s repeated returns to climb the big tree to look at his younger self kissing his first girlfriend until toward the end, he fell from the tree as if he had died only to be seen singing while playing the piano again. It was reminiscent of one of the final scenes in the 1990 movie Flatliners with Kiefer Sutherland trying to amend his childhood sin and crime in pushing to death his playmate from a similar big tree; Sutherland was eventually forgiven when during an induced “flatline” he was able to go back to his past to apologize to his dead playmate with a reversal of role, of him as an adult in the present moment falling from the big tree.

It was after that scene of falling from the big tree when Five for Fighting had awakened singing and playing the piano again when he finally stood to walk back to the big tree to meet his older self, or maybe God — something like Easter.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken by Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.

John 20: 1, 11-14
“Noli me tangere” (touch me not) fresco in the Lower Basilica of St. Francis Assisi Church in Italy painted by Giotto de Bondone in the 13th century from commons.wikimedia.org.

Like on that Easter morning, there will always be the darkness of death but only for a moment if we keep our eyes and our hearts open to Jesus who had risen. Many times we are like Mary Magdalene grieving and weeping that we fail to see the light of Jesus and of our deceased staying with us right in the darkness of grief and death that envelop us. And like Mary, we keep on insisting in relating with them in our old, physical level, forgetting the fact they have risen with Jesus to new life, to new realm of existence.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary of Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.

John 20:16-18

“Stop holding on to me” or “noli me tangere – touch me not” are the words also meant for us today who continue to cling and hold to our departed loved ones like Mary Magdalene, still hoping to hug and kiss them again, to touch and tell them how much we loved them or perhaps say sorry for our sins and lapses when they were still around. It is time to level up in our relationships with them as Five for Fighting reminds us in the last stanza that “every day is a new day”.

It does not really matter if we, or they our departed, are just 15 or 22 or 33 or 45 or 67 or 99 — what is most important is we value each moment of our lives here and now where in the present we meet them once or twice if we are living fully and not blinded by our grief and wishful thinking. Have faith in God. Someday, we shall all be together. For the moment, here is Five for Fighting with his100 Years. May the Lord console you and raise you up to move forward again in life. Amen.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.

Praying for kindness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, 19 September 2022
Proverbs 3:27-34     ><]]]'> + <'[[[>< ~ ><]]]'> + <'[[[><     Luke 8:16-18
Photo from Facebook, April 2020.
God our loving Father, 
let me be kind today,
not just be good but be kind
by regarding everyone as my "kin",
someone not different from me, 
someone a family.
Refuse no one the good on which he has a claim when it is in you power to do it for him.  Say no to your neighbor, "Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give," when you can give at once.  Plot no evil against your neighbor... Quarrel not with a man without a cause... Envy not the lawless man and choose not his ways.
Proverbs 3:27-29, 30
Bless me 
and let the light of Jesus
shine in me to guide others;
let me not be contented 
with whatever good I have done
nor with who I have become;
grant me the grace to grow
and mature in Christ, 
moving forward,
not backwards,
never stagnate.
Amen.

Praying for women

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Cornelius, Pope, & St. Cyprian, Bishop, Martyrs, 16 September 2022
1 Corinthians 15:12-20     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Luke 8:1-3
Photo by author, Museo Orlina, Tagaytay City, 15 September 2022.
Today I pray, dear Jesus,
for all the women of the world:
our mothers and sisters,
our nieces and aunties,
our grandmothers and girlfriends; 
bless the wives and single-ladies,
the women working inside and outside
in all levels of the corporate world
and the various industries,
the women in the armed forces
and in the police;
bless and guide 
the women who serve the poor
and disadvantaged,
the women who serve in the church,
the women who serve in government,
the women who take care of their
families especially those sick,
the women who are sick;
gladden the hearts and comfort
the women never appreciated
by their own family and the society,
the women who cry in silence
for being taken for granted
and neglected,
the women who hurt inside,
the women imprisoned physically,
emotionally, and mentally;
bless the women in the frontline
of health care especially those in
far-flung areas; special blessings
also O Lord, on those women 
reading and praying this now.

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.

Luke 8:1-3
Dearest Jesus Christ,
grant us the freedom like you
to freely go out with women 
frowned upon by society;
most of all, teach us to always
respect women and everyone
for we are all equal in dignity
before God our Father and Maker;
help us find you among the
misunderstood, the judged,
the boxed and labelled simply
for voicing out their thoughts and
feelings as well as those victims of
social inequalities; free us from our many
biases and prejudices against others,
especially against women.
Amen.

Poverty in priesthood

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 01 September 2022
Photo by author, Dominus Flevit Church overlooking Old Jerusalem, 2017.

Along with the vow of celibacy, the vow of poverty has become very contentious even among us priests these days which is very sad that one wonders why they got ordained in the first place if they were not totally sold out to being celibate and poor.

For most people especially Filipinos, how their priests practice poverty weighs more than their fidelity to celibacy, claiming they could understand and forgive priests getting into relationships with women than priests becoming “mukhang pera” (money-faced). For them, a priest falling in love with a woman is natural and therefore, understandable and “forgiveable”; but, a priest who worships money to the point of making his ministry a business endeavor even stealing from the church funds and donation boxes is what people detest most. In some parts of Bulacan and Cavite, they have a saying which is so vulgar to stress this point, “hindi bale madapa and pari sa puki kesa sa piso” (better for a priest to fall on a vagina than peso).

Photo by Ka Ruben, 24 June 2022.

Of course, it is always wrong to break any of these two important vows priests have made along with the third one which is obedience to his bishop because celibacy and poverty are closely related with each other for they both lead us priests to intimacy with God, our Caller. That is why, most often, when a priest has become “mukhang pera”, falling into the trap of money and luxuries, most likely he also has problems with celibacy. Even St. Ignatius had warned in his Spiritual Exercises that money is the first temptation the devil uses against every priest.

Like celibacy, poverty is a spiritual reality that is lived and felt by everyone in the material sense. More than being poor or having less in life, poverty is a choice we make for it to be real.  It is our attitude with material things in life: there are priests with so much and yet still feel poor like in advanced countries where cars and appliances are very common and ordinary while there are those with almost nothing and yet so attached with the little they have or wish to have and possess! One priest may have a brand-new car extensively using it to reach and serve his parishioners while another may have a second-hand car or owner-type jeep he tinkers daily, possessing him in the process. 

In our previous blog, we have mentioned that people should rejoice when their priest gives away their gifts because that means Father is not selfish, acting as the vessel or conduit of God’s graces and blessings to the poor and needy (https://lordmychef.com/2022/08/08/prayerful-requests-of-a-priest-to-parishioners/). 

Photo from inquirer.net, 2021.

Poverty is not a question of how much do we have but more of the question of how much do we share. See that very often, we are preoccupied thinking what we already and must still have without ever thinking how much do we share.

It is in sharing when we truly experience poverty; a priest who hoards everything – even people like benefactors and friends – is a priest in trouble. Here we find the direct relationship of poverty and celibacy: we renounce marriage which is a wonderful kind of wealth in the spiritual sense for something higher and better which is to be solely for Jesus Christ. That is the essence of our poverty, our being poor and empty so that we are wholly for Christ alone and his Church. It is being poor, materially and spiritually do we find our true wealth as priests, Jesus Christ and his Church or “people of God” as Vatican II rightly called.

Like everyone else, no priest can have everything in life; nobody is perfect but it is always the truth that we evade, priests and lay alike. Many people including priests often convince themselves of being self-sufficient, that we are the greatest, the most powerful so that we never ran out of construction projects in the church.  This is the mentality of the “dream-teams” or the “powerhouses” who claim to have everything and yet in reality, they rarely last long nor achieve much.  When everybody feels like a “heavyweight” – literally and figuratively speaking, always throwing their weight around, soon enough, he/she would surely sink. The Greeks call it hubris, another common ailment among us priests.

Photo by author, Capernaum, Israel, May 2017.

In my 24 years in the ministry, I have found and experienced that the key in any community and organization including family, profession and vocation like the priesthood is not in having everything, materially and non-materially speaking like talents and abilities that always end up into a mere show, a “palabas” even if it may be spectacular.  Life is not about dazzling others with our gifts and abilities but finding our limits and poverty. When we focus on what we do not have like our weaknesses and other limitations, our poverty becomes a wealth because that is when we are most creative and productive, achieving more in life.  Why is it when we do not have much on the table that there is always a leftover with everyone feeling satisfied? But when there is a plethora of food, we just feel satiated, filled up but not satisfied? 

Look at how many of our churches have become like birthday cakes that are so kitschy or baduy, tastelessly overdecorated looking like dirty old men (DOMs) and their counterparts, the matronix afflicted with hepatitis with all their gold trimmings. Many parishes are afflicted with a different virus more contagious than COVID without a vaccine where priests go “imeldific” in church decorations and renovations including liturgies that even the Blessed Virgin Mary is turned into a Miss Universe being “crowned” amid all pomp and pageantry. It is the virus of triumphalism with its ugly face of priests have too much of everything except God. The best priest, the holiest priest is often the poorest one, the one with less because that is when we have more of God. It is in poverty – and celibacy – we priests witness Christ’s lesson that “whoever saves his life loses it and whoever loses his life gains it” (Mk. 8:37-38). 

The problem of the priesthood for me is among other things a problem of poverty. I know that not all priests are necessarily committed, by their priesthood, to absolute poverty. But for my own part it seems to me that the two are connected.

To be a priest means, at least in my particular case, to have nothing, desire nothing, and be nothing but to belong to Christ. Mihi vivere Christus est et mori lucrum. In order to have everything, desire to have nothing.

Thomas Merton, The Sign of Jonas, page 191.
Photo by Fr. Howard Tarrayo, August 2021.

Poverty is blessedness because in our weak and fragile humanity, God chose to be one with us so that we can share in his divinity and thereby share in his life.  When we see each other’s wealth, the more we feel so poor and helpless; but when we see each other’s poverty, the more we see each one’s value. And we start enriching each one’s life.  This is the beauty of our poverty as priests when being poor is not to be destitute but be available to God and everyone. No wonder, poverty is the first of all beatitudes taught by Christ, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Mt. 5:3).

When we try to have less and become poor, that is when we discover the value of life, of every person created in the image and likeness of God. Then, we begin to share and give, to sacrifice and let go, truly loving one another by being forgiving and merciful and kind like Jesus Christ, “who, though he is God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at but rather emptied himself by being born in the likeness of men” (Phil.2:6-7).

Again, help us your priests live simple lives, to be poor so it would not be difficult for you to support us too. Thank you and God bless! 

Finding our proper place

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 28 August 2022
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 ><}}}*> Luke 14:1, 7-14
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan City, 31 December 2021.

Sometimes I feel life in the Philippines is a daily game of musical chair with each of us trying to secure our favorite seats in the bus or jeepney or train, in the classroom, in the church, in the restaurant. Everywhere.

And the favorite seats are always the ones at the back of the room most especially in churches and those nearest the door like in buses and jeepneys.

Most funny of all is when you find our kababayan in airports here and abroad rushing to board the plane as if they would not find a seat already paid for!

All because we put too much premium on our seats that mean power and control, even prestige although no one among us would admit it. In fact, our usual excuse of being seated at the back is due to shyness which is not true at all! More truthful is the fact that too often, we choose our seats for personal convenience that seats are everything for us.

But, unknown to many of us, what truly matters most in life, in being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not where we sit but where we stand which is the gist of our gospel this Sunday.

On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

Luke 14:1,7
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

See how Luke had briefly compressed in his opening lines for this Sunday’s gospel the gravity of Christ’s teachings today about discipleship. Setting was the most important day of the week for the Jews, the Sabbath, celebrated right in the house of a leading Pharisee.

Wow! It must had been a big party with all the “who’s who” that everybody was trying to get a piece of the action with all eyes on Jesus being observed carefully.

But, why?

To impress him? To be closer to him? To test him as most often would happen with him when in a gathering of people?

I find the scene overloaded with meanings that concern us when unconsciously we also “closely observe Jesus” whenever we would pray and celebrate the Sunday Mass in our parishes. There are times we forget God in our prayers as we are so preoccupied with our very selves, so focused and even insistent on what we believe and hold on to whatever we are asking from him. The “me, me, me” and “I, I, I” attitudes of being right, of being good, of being deserving and of course, entitled. Hence, the confiteor and kyrie are merely recited just for the sake of saying we are sorry for our sins even if we do not really mean them because so often, many are either late or do not examine their consciences.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Luke seems to be having some shades of humor when he noted how the “people carefully observed Jesus” at the dinner without them realizing the Lord himself had already and easily unmasked their pretensions and true characters of choosing the places of honor at the dinner that he had to tell them a parable about choosing the lowest seat!

When we come to the Lord most especially at prayer and the Mass, or even to a party and dinner for that matter, our main attitude must be of humility; to be invited to any party is an indication of our special relationship with the host. Multiply this to the highest degree in coming to the Holy Mass and simple prayer because it is God who gives us the grace to come to him, who values so much our relationship as Father and beloved children.

That is the point of Ben Sirach in the first reading, tenderly addressing the reader “My child, conduct your affairs with humility” (Sir.3:17), indicative of a relationship.

Every Sunday Mass is a banquet of the Lord like that Sabbath dinner Jesus attended in the gospel. No need to choose our places of honor because we are already honored by Jesus to celebrate “in him, with him and through him”. It is the very reason why we must celebrate Mass every Sunday as good, practicing Catholics.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Prayer and Mass are moments we strip ourselves naked before God who welcomes us to come near him even before we say sorry for our sins, even if we are not worthy of being in his presence at all. Recall the story of the calling of Nathanael or St. Bartholomew the Apostle last Wednesday; like him, Jesus had already seen and known us with joy long before we have approached him!

Every prayer moment, every Eucharistic celebration like a banquet on a Sabbath Jesus attended in the gospel today is an occasion for us to be truthful and sincere, to be our true selves, to be humble. St. Teresa of Avila said that “humility is walking in truth.” Just be yourself before God.

That is why Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk.14:11). In the end, when we die, we shall all be placed in our proper places before God; hence, the need for us to be humble and sincere with who we really are. Do not try to be somebody else not you because God knows everything, even the hair on our heads.

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14
Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

The first parable was addressed by Jesus to the guests while this second parable was meant for the host; however, both parables are meant for us all who are all guests of God in this big banquet called life that leads to eternity.

First of all, just be our true and best selves in prayers and in life for we are all honored in Jesus Christ as God’s beloved children.

And if we live and act like Jesus our Host making him the most important guest in our hearts, then our hearts become big enough to welcome everyone, especially “the crippled, the lame, the blind”, making us inclusive like Jesus himself and not exclusive as our seating arrangements would often reveal.

The right attitude in being a guest and a host in this life is to imitate God in the responsorial psalm “who made a home for the poor”, of being like Jesus welcoming everyone with love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, care and understanding.

Again, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews beautifully reminds us today in the second reading that the ultimate goal of our Christian life is communion with God that starts here in this life on earth. Every Mass is a “dress rehearsal” of our entrance into heaven because

Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which cold be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy and darkness… No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven… and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Hebrews 12:18, 22, 23, 24
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

My dear fellow journeyers in Christ, the blessedness of this Sunday shows us how fast time flies, that in a few days, it would be September, the beginning of the -ber months, the approaching Christ the King celebration to close our liturgical calendar.

Before thinking of Advent and Christmas, we are reminded today of “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday, June 26, 2022) to face his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Along the way are invitations to join him too in banquets; let us not seek the seats of honor but instead be firm in making our stand for Jesus on the Cross by being loving and merciful like him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Of skin and saints and layers of faith

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle, 24 August 2022
Revelation 21:9-14   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   John 1:45-51
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2018.
Everywhere we find
layers of everything:
layers of clothing,
layers of skin,
layers of meaning;
thank you, dear God
our Father in inviting me
today as we celebrate
the feast of St. Bartholomew
to examine the different
"layers" of my faith and
knowledge of you in
Jesus Christ.
First is the layer of my
self-knowledge:  how true
am I with myself?  How free
am I in being myself, in
expressing freely my thoughts
and feelings?

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.”

John 1:45-47
Dear Jesus,
grant me that kind of
sincerity and honesty
of Nathanael/St. Bartholomew:  
you were not disgusted with his words 
for they were very true;
most of all, you even praised
him for being a true Israelite
without any guile!
What a revelation of the true
layer of St. Bartholomew
bared for everyone to see
unlike us in many occasions when
we hide our identity in many layers
often not true, so unreal of who
we are; teach us to come and see
you in your deepest layer, Jesus,
so we may be at home too with
who we really are.

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

John 1:48-49
Grant me also the grace,
Lord  Jesus like Nathanael/
St. Bartholomew to perceive deeply
your true identity as "Son of God"
and "king of Israel"; two different layers
of your person that can only be perceived
by a deep faith, to see you who you really are,
the Son of God, and also the fulfillment
of our aspirations here in this life,
in this world as our Christ the King!
How interesting,
O God that St. Bartholomew
died a martyr after being skinned
alive and crucified upside down
like St. Peter; it must have
been his most glorious achievement
that after being skinned alive,
his persecutors must have seen
and realized too his faith was not that
skin-deep after all, that layers upon layers
of skin, they have found only you, Jesus
deeply ingrained in his very person.
Amen.
St. Bartholomew depicted by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel holding in one hand a large knife said to have been used in skinning him alive with his own skin held by his other hand. Photo from Pinterest.

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!