God remembers… don’t quit!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 17 January 2023
Hebrews 6:10-20     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Mark 2:23-28
This prayer I offer 
for those losing hope,
wanting to quit and leave,
losing patience and sense
in all their efforts for the
betterment of others and the world,
for those disappointed or frustrated,
for those always on the distaff side,
always seen as odd and weird
because of their firm stand for
their beliefs and values:
remind them, Father, 
that you are aware of all their
noble efforts for the uplifting
of lives of many,
for their fight for justice
and truth.

Brothers and sisters: God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.

Hebrews 6:10
Dearest Jesus,
you know so well
how difficult and even
painful to remind people 
of their giftedness,
of their dignity,
of their honor;
many times, we feel tired
and sad at how others see us
and all our efforts for their good;
we are not asking for quick fixes
nor shortcuts for we know that indeed,
doing your work is never easy,
it is always a process;
all we are asking is rest,
a break perhaps
like your apostles one sabbath
who picked the heads of grain;
many times like the Pharisees
people give more emphasis and
importance to rites and rituals,
to rules and laws without any regard
for persons.
Lord Jesus,
remind us always that when
people fail to see our personhood,
our self-dedication to you and
your works,
remind us to never sag in spirits,
to never be sluggish
but instead be filled with more
fire and ardor in doing your work
until they realize that "The sabbath
was made for man, not man for 
sabbath.  That is why the Son of Man
is lord even of the sabbath"
(Mark 2:27-28).
Amen.

The gift of “rest”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the First Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 13 January 2023
Hebrews 4:1-5, 11     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Mark 2:1-12
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, April 2022.
O God our loving Father!
You are so wonderful and amazing,
so marvelous that you lavish us
daily with love and mercy.
What else can I ask you except 
that I "enter your rest" which 
the author of the Letter to the
Hebrews had enunciated so well
in the first reading today.
In fact, I have counted six times 
he had used in six verses that 
little yet powerful word "rest"  we 
often take for granted especially in
this restless world.

Let us be on our guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed… Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:1, 11
How ironic, O God
that while we all desire 
to enter your eternal rest
in heaven, no one really cares
to value your day of rest
in this life as we busy ourselves
with everything except you
and our loved ones;
make us realize that rest is
primarily about you, 
being with you,
returning to you
just like when you
rested after creating everything.
Make us realize that to rest 
is to be one in you and with you
in Christ Jesus; to rest is to let
your will be done again like in
paradise before the fall;
to rest is enter you in Jesus.
That is why 
I love our Filipino word
for rest which is "pahinga" -
to be breathed on.  
By whom?
By you, O God!
Let us rest 
and be breathed on 
through your words
and sacraments,
through our private 
and communal prayers,
through our personal experiences
and through one another.
Dear Jesus,
help us imitate 
those courageous men who
opened up the roof above you
to lower their paralytic friend
because to rest is of God,
from above; enable us, Jesus,
to rest in you always
in every here and now
so we may finally rest 
in eternity.  Amen.

Christmas, a return to Paradise

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Third Week of Advent, Day 1 of Christmas Novena, 16 December 2022
Isaiah 56:1-3, 6-8     ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>     John 5:33-36
Photo by author, 08 December 2022.

All roads lead to the church early today for the start of our traditional Christmas novena known as Missa de Aguinaldo or simply, Simbang Gabi. And this year, we are having a truly blessed Christmas because after two years in COVID pandemic, we are celebrating Christ’s birth face-to-face while still keeping basic health protocols like the wearing of face masks inside churches.

Christmas is essentially face-to-face. The Son of God became human like us in everything except sin so we may experience and meet God personally, face-to-face in Jesus Christ.

Everything in Christmas is face-to-face, from the Annunciation to Mary of Christ’s birth to the Visitation, the Nativity itself when shepherds and magi visited Jesus face-to-face until the presentation at the temple of Jesus when Simeon and Anna saw and carried him while a child.

According to Pope emeritus Benedict VI, what Jesus really did in his coming was to bring God closest to us humans. In that sense, Christmas is then a return to Paradise, to Eden — of the Son of God fetching us back to the Father.

That is why on the first week of Advent, we claimed this season is a Sabbath when we go back to God to rest in him, to be breathed on by him and be filled with his life and spirit.

Photo by author, 2021.

Christmas is a return to paradise which we have lost after the Fall when Adam and Eve turned away from God. And that is why we find the word sabbath twice in our first reading on this first day of our Christmas novena.

Thus says the Lord: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed. Blessed is the man who does this, the son of man who holds to it; who keeps the sabbath free from profanation, and his hand from any evil doing… all who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offering and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Isaiah 56:1-2, 6-7

This Christmas 2022 when God willed that we celebrate his Son’s birth on a Sunday is very special because he wants us to go back to him, to stop playing God. On this Simbang Gabi, we are invited to return to Eden to be the image of God once again – loving and kind, beautiful and free as his children doing what is right.

Christmas as a sabbath is rediscovering the rhythm of time like the time of creation, the time of birth, the time of everything centered on God. On this Simbang Gabi as we go back to God, it is hoped that we discover anew our own rhythm of time too! How sad that the more we get so centered with ourselves, pursuing everything in life with so many excuses and alibis of not being able to celebrate Masses or even pray, the more we get lost. And the more we get sick physically and most of all, emotionally drained and practically empty, no matter how much money and gadgets we may have. There is always that feeling of emptiness within. A kind of discontentment, of someone of something so great missing in our lives.

That is God who comes to us through our family and friends.

God reminds us through Isaiah to go back to him, to be rooted in him again which means simply being good and holy. Being holy is not being sinless – being holy is being filled with God. Being aware we are his children, he is our Father to whom we must always go home to, touch base with. Just like in the family, we are never complete without one another. Though we are separated by great distances, we still try to get connected once in a while not only to express our love for them but because deep inside, we miss them, we long them. We know we are not complete without our mom and dad, brothers and sisters – no matter how much pains they may have done to us. They are a part of our very selves and we can never be complete without them.

No wonder, it is during this time of the year when we have all kinds of get together and reunions as families and friends, classmates and colleagues in work. Let us not forget the lessons of 2020 when COVID first came and forced us to separate from one another physically. Now we have realized that the meaning of life can only be found in another person, not in one’s self. Let us seek and follow Jesus this Christmas in one another, especially our family and church.

From Facebook 2019.
Our dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
as we prepare for your birthday,
let us seek you in our hearts,
in the sacraments especially
the Eucharist and Confession,
let us recognize you on the face
of every person we meet,
on those we miss so much,
and on those we have hurt
or have caused us pains;
help us go back to the Father
and may his face shine on us;
most of all, dear Jesus,
let us not be stuck with all those 
glitters and lights of this season:
let us rest in you,
feel you
and experience you
in those great and little things
you have been doing for us
especially when we are lost
and empty.  Amen.

When Advent is also a Sabbath

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent-A, 27 November 2022
Isaiah 2:1-5  ><}}}}*>  Romans 13:11-14  ><}}}}*>  Matthew 24:37-44
Photo by author, November 2022.

A blessed happy new year to everyone!

Yes, our new year in the Church begins this Saturday evening as we usher Advent Season, the four Sundays before Christmas which also falls on a Sunday this year. What a truly blessed Christmas we are having this year since COVID-19 came in 2020. For the first time in two years, we are celebrating Christmas face-to-face which is the essence of the event when the Son of God became human like us in everything except sin so we may experience God in person!

Like a light piercing through the darkness of the night – here and today – we experience Jesus Christ’s coming to us this Christmas 2022 most true that his call in the gospel is so appropriate especially at this time.

Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your day will come.

Matthew 24:37, 39-42
Photo by author, November 2022.

“Therefore, stay awake!”

Staying awake does not mean not going to sleep. In fact, for us to be awake, we have to sleep and be fully rested always to be awake and alert whether at night or at day.

That is why Advent is a sabbath, a day of the Lord when we pause to rest and allow God to fill us with his breath and spirit so we may be more attuned with Christ’s coming.

To rest in Filipino is “magpahinga” that literally means to be breathed on. Sabbath as a day of rest is to be breathed on by God, “magpahinga sa Diyos, mahingahan ng Diyos”. Unless we are filled with the breath of God, with his spirit, we will never experience Christ’s coming to us this Advent nor this Christmas nor at any time.

This is the whole point of Christ’s teaching today. Advent is an invitation for us to examine and review our attitudes to life, to God, and to others. Like in the gospel, Jesus reminds us how we conduct ourselves in this life, of being attuned to the Holy Spirit, lest “one is taken and the other one will be left”.

Life has been so difficult for everyone these past two years. Some of us have lost a loved one or relatives and friends to COVID. Many have lost their businesses or career and many other opportunities in life. And sadly, there are others who have lost or wounded and bruised relationships too.

But, have we also lost ourselves that in the process lost God too that we have lost all sense of decency and kindness with one another?

Photo by author, November 2022.

The other day, a former classmate suddenly texted me, saying hi and asking when she and her husband may visit me. Such messages coming out of the blue from anyone – especially her – make me wonder what’s wrong? What’s her problem this time?

She said she just wanted to keep in touch, reminding me how she has always been grateful for my help and prayers. However, she insisted that if we can’t meet, can I send her a prayer via text message because according to her, my prayers and blessings have “magic” as they always come true considering her prospering business and finally, her youngest child about to finish medicine.

I did not answer her until afternoon by sending her a prayer she had requested. And a reminder to her that my prayers have no magic powers nor lucky charms. I told her, “you are blessed abundantly by God because he loves you very much. Because he knows how well you pray hard and strive to be good and fair in your dealings with others. Most of all, because you are grateful. Keep serving the Lord.”

Many times even in our faith and spiritual life, we believe more in luck or swerte than in God as a person loving us, blessing us. That is why our faith has no communal dimension at all because we remain self-centered even in our worship and faith without even finding and experiencing God himself in Jesus Christ who had come to us more than 2000 years ago in Bethlehem.

On this first Sunday of Advent, we are reminded to rekindle in our hearts that ardent desire for God and his kingdom, for the return or Second Coming of Jesus Christ who had come and remains with us, and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit to keep us awake in finding God always in us and in others.

This first Sunday of Advent is calling us to fine tune our attitudes to God anew, to recall the beautiful lessons of this COVID-19 pandemic we now seem to have forgotten totally like importance of God and prayers, of one another, and value of life.

Like the prophecy of Isaiah in the first reading, we find ourselves today in the same situation of many wars going on not only in Ukraine or Mindanao but also in our families and communities yet, we continue to march forward to God’s final fulfillment of his promises. Imagine and feel the prophecy of Isaiah:

“Come, let us climb the Lord’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may in his paths. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Isaiah 2:3, 4-5
Photo by author, November 2022.

What a lovely imagery of beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks as we walk in the light of the Lord that is happening NOW!

That is one of the challenges of our Advent preparation which is to open our eyes, our minds and our hearts (and arms too!) to find and welcome Jesus Christ already present with us, right here and right now!

That can only happen if we can rest this Advent in the Lord through prayers and meditations of his words that are so rich these days; of having silent moments to find ourselves anew instead of going back to our old ways of crazy Christmas rush shopping and the many external preparations that have become more of a show or a palabas.

Advent is a sabbath calling us to come home to God, to find him in Jesus Christ who had come and comes daily inside us, in our family and friends, in everyone and in various occasions and event in our lives. When we find God, that is also when we find our true selves. And that is Christmas – the coming together of man and God.

Advent is a sabbath when we go back to paradise which last Sunday we find also on the Cross with Jesus Christ as he promised Dimas with “today you shall be with me in Paradise” when God takes charge of everything and we just follow him.

Advent is a sabbath when we recover that original attitudes of man and woman to obey God always, to find more of our goodness and of others and nature, and to live in God’s presence.

Let us heed the call of St. Paul to struggle not only to be morally upright in life but most of all to share the light of Christ when he asked us “to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh” (Rom.13;14) so that we become his very presence in this world.

Let us rest in Jesus so we may be awake in his coming in every here and now. Amen. Have a blessed and restful week, everyone!

Photo by author, Advent 1, 2021.

Holiness is in silence

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Saturday, 16 April 2022
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Nazare, Portugal March 2022.

A blessed Holy Saturday to you.  One of the most unforgettable scenes of COVID-19 pandemic when it started in the summer of 2020 was like what we have every Holy Saturday or, as we aptly call, Black Saturday: empty spaces, empty buildings, with everything and everyone so silent. 

Holiness is being at home with silence, the very language of God.  In the bible, we find that in every revelation and appearance of God to man, it is always preceded by silence.  Before everything was created, according to the Book of Genesis, there was great silence.  In his prologue to the fourth gospel, John said “In the beginning was the word” – clearly, there was only silence – “and the word became flesh” (Jn.1:1, 14)

And when Jesus, the Word who became flesh, came, he was totally silent during his growing up years in Nazareth and when he stared his ministry, he would always go into prayers and silence.

On this Holy Saturday, the whole creation comes to full circle. In the beginning, after completing God’s work of creation, God rested on the seventh day and made it holy (Gen.2:3). On the seventh day after completing his mission here on earth, Jesus Christ was laid to rest.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Lourdes, France, March 2022.

Silence and rest always go together. To be silent is not merely being quiet but listening more to your voice coming from the depths of our being; hence, it is not emptiness but fullness with God, in God. It is in silence where we truly hear ourselves and others better.

On the other hand, to rest is not merely to stop work nor stop from being busy. We rest to reconnect with God to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In Filipino, to rest is magpahinga which means “to be breathed on”.  To rest is therefore to be silent and be breathed on with the breath of God. Like in the creation of the first man who was breathed on by God to be alive; on the evening of Easter, Jesus came to visit his disciples locked in the upper room and after greeting them with peace twice, he breathed on them the Holy Spirit.

Holiness is therefore found in silence and in rest, when we listen more God and allow him to breathe on us that we are filled with him. And that is holiness as we have stated at the start of this series, which is not being sinless but being filled with God.

When we rest, we return to Eden, like the garden where Jesus was buried. 

Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by.

John 19:41-42
Photo by author, garden beside Church of St. Agnes in Jerusalem, May 2017.

How beautiful is that image, of God’s rest and silence in Eden and of Jesus laid to rest at a tomb in a garden: to rest in silence is therefore to stop playing God as we return to him as his image and likeness again!

Maybe that is why many of us these days are afraid of silence because it is the realm of trust and of truth. We have always been afraid to trust and be truthful so that we crucify Jesus Christ over and over again.

Let us be like those women who rested on the sabbath when Jesus was laid to rest. That like them, we may trust God more by being true to ourselves even in the midst of this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.

Luke 23:55-56

Silence is the domain of trust; people afraid of silence are afraid to trust.

It is said that the Sony Walkman is the most revolutionary invention in the last 40 years that had changed our way of life.  It is not the computer.  It is the Walkman, the ancestor of that ubiquitous ear pods, earphones and bluetooth everybody is wearing these days, having each one’s own world, unmindful of others. 

Today let us cultivate anew the practice of silence, of listening to the various sounds around us and within us and most of all, trying to listen to the most faint, the softest sound that is often the voice of God, the sound of silence who reassures us always that in the midst of his silence, he never leaves us, that with him we are rising again to new life. 


Help us to be silent today, 
O God our Father 
as we remember your Son Jesus Christ’s 
Great Silence – Magnum Silentium – 
when he was “crucified, died and was buried; 
he descended to the dead and on the third day he rose again.”
Breathe on us your Spirit of life and joy,
O God as we rest in you,
listening to your voice within us
so that we may follow always Jesus Christ's
path to Easter in the Cross.
Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Lourdes, France, March 2022.

To rest – magpahinga -is to be filled with God

The Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 19 January 2022
Photo by author, 31 December 2021 Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan.

It is my fifth day in home quarantine after contracting COVID-19 with mild symptoms of colds and coughs last Saturday. From the bottom of my heart, thank you everyone for your love and concern, prayers and gifts like food and fruits you have been sending.

But, no thanks at all to those who told me that God simply wanted me to have much needed rest that is why I got sick.

Whoa!!!

And to those planning to tell me or anyone else afflicted with Omicron, please STOP!

With another week to spend in home quarantine, I feel compelled asking everyone to PLEASE DO NOT EVER SAY GOD WANTS US SICK SO THAT WE CAN HAVE OUR MUCH-NEEDED REST.

It is not true.

It is not uplifting because it is simply stupid and insane. Nothing bad can ever come from God, like sickness or accidents or disasters. Or pandemic. Always remember 1 John 4:16, “God is love”.

However, God continues to work in silence even in the midst of our troubles, doing his very best that even the worst scenarios in our lives would still turn out well and good in the end to proclaim his love and mercy for us.

Photo by author, 31 December 2021 Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan.

A few years ago I concelebrated in the funeral Mass for the two brothers of a priest shot multiple times by a neighbor with an Armalite right at the gate of their home. How I wanted to walk out from the Mass to tore my garments when the homilist said with his matching “drama” of tears and breaking voice that it was the will of God: “Ipagpasa-Diyos natin ang lahat… kalooban niya ang pangyayaring ito ngunit siya ang nakaaalam ng higit na mabuti”!

OMG!

So kawawa our God…. and most kawawa are we!

How can a priest claim God willed the brutal slaying of those two brothers?

When Ondoy flooded vast areas of Metro Manila and nearby provinces in 2009, “acts of God” became the most notorious phrase to simply describe a disaster never imagined.

It is neither spirituality nor even Christianity when God is always made the reason and – scapegoat – for anything that happens to our lives. May the Good Lord have mercy on us!

Photo by author, Singapore, 2018.

Now with another surge in COVID due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the “spiritualists” and “pseudo-theologians” among us are busy spinning those blasphemous threads of God simply wanting the sick to have much needed rest and “me-time” too.

Totally untrue.

God could have just sent us with tickets to Boracay or El Nido or anywhere to go on vacation to rest, instead of sending us the COVID pandemic!

When we are sick, that is when we have a dis-ease. We are not at ease, there is dis-order in our body functions. And we remedy that with medications and a lot of rest which is part of recovery and healing.

But we do not need to be sick in order to rest.

In fact, we need to always rest so that we do not get sick.

That is the lesson of this pandemic. What we can do is to continue praying and help those who are sick instead of “theologizing” or “spiritualizing” them with such insane ideas.


In the Old Testament, God gave the third commandment to “Keep holy the sabbath day” (Ex.20:8 and Dt. 5:12), instructing us for all time to always rest – in God.

Here we find the beauty of our Filipino language: to rest is “magpahinga” from the root “hinga/hininga” or breathe/breath. Literally speaking, to rest in Filipino which is “magpa-hinga” is to be “breathed on by God”.

Photo by author, November 2021.

In the story of creation, we find how the “Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being” (Ge. 2:7).

In our Filipino Bible, it is translated as “hiningahan”. This beautiful scene was repeated by Jesus on the evening of Easter when he came to visit his disciples at the Upper Room in Jerusalem, “And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (Jn.20:22).

In its simplest sense, to rest essentially means to reconnect with God, to be breathed on by God to be one with him again who is our source and final end.

To rest – magpahinga – is to be filled with God anew. A rested person is always a renewed creation!

This is one of the many important lessons this pandemic has taught us, of the need for us to go back to God and be one with him again in Jesus Christ through one another along with Mother Nature. This we do by taking a rest, a pause and conscious stop from the daily grinds of life so we can see clearly again ourselves and one another in God and in his creation.


This COVID came because we have not only abused Earth but also our very selves. This pandemic is definitely not from God but he is using it to remind us of his loving presence. And most especially of his healing that can truly last and end this pandemic if go back to him.

Experts say the Omicron variant is the beginning of the end of COVID.

But, just before it finally ends, may this also be the start of our renewed relationships with God and with our very selves as we rediscover the essence and meaning of rest.

So, take a rest and stop saying God makes us fall sick in order to rest; God created rest so we do not get sick.

Have a restful moment with the Lord and your loved ones to be well and healthy!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, 18 January 2022.

Being lost, Getting lost in Christ

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

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

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

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

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

Getting lost in Jesus, with Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding and comforting those lost

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

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

They must have been so disappointed, even disgusted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ephesians 2:13, 17-18

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

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

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

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

Magnum Silentium

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for Holy Saturday, 03 April 2021
Photo by author, sunrise at the Dead Sea, the Holy Land, 2019.

Help us to be silent today, O God our Father as we remember your Son Jesus Christ’s Great Silence – Magnum Silentium – when he was “crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead and on the third day he rose again.”

On this Holy Saturday, your whole creation comes to full circle. In the beginning, after completing your work of creation, you rested on the seventh day and made it holy (Gen.2:3). On the seventh day after completing his mission here on earth, Jesus Christ was laid to rest.

Silence and rest always go together.

To be silent is not merely being quiet but listening more to your voice coming from the depths of our being; hence, it is not emptiness but fullness with you, dear God. It is in silence where we truly discover our selves and others too.

On the other hand, to rest is not merely to stop work nor stop from being busy. We rest to reconnect with you to be filled with your Holy Spirit. You do not actually rest, O God, because you never get tired; it is us who need to rest so we may continue your work of creation and, now of redemption and renewal by Jesus Christ.

When we rest, we return to Eden, like the garden where Jesus was buried: “Now in the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had yet been buried. So they laid Jesus there because of the Jewish preparation day; for the tomb was close by” (Jn. 19:41-42).

How beautiful is that image, O dear Father, of your rest and silence in Eden and of Jesus laid to rest at a tomb in a garden: to rest in silence is therefore when we stop playing God as we return to you as your image and likeness again!

Maybe that is why many of us these days are afraid of silence because it is the realm of trust and of truth. We have always been afraid to trust you and be truthful to you and ourselves that have caused the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

Teach us to be like those women who rested on the sabbath when Jesus was laid to rest. That like them, we may trust you more by being true to ourselves even in the midst of a raging second wave of COVID-19 this Holy Saturday.

May your silence and rest reassure us that we shall rise with you again. Amen.

The women who had come from Galilee with him followed behind, and when they had seen the tomb and the way in which his body was laid in it, they returned and prepared spices and perfumed oils. Then they rested on the sabbath according to the commandment.

Luke 23:55-56

Prayer to enter God’s rest

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Week-I, Year -I in Ordinary Time, 15 January 2021
Hebrews 4:1-5, 11  >><)))*> >><)))*> + <*(((><< <*(((><<  Mark 2:1-12
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee in Israel, 2017.

Let us be on guard while the promise of entering into his rest remains, that none of you seem to have failed… Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience.

Hebrews 4:1, 11

Thank you, dear God this Friday with Your words reminding us of “entering Your rest”, Your Sabbath!

But what is Your “rest”, God our Father?

More than a particular day of the week, it is first of all Your very presence like in paradise that our first parents have lost due to their pride and disobedience to You.

May we heed and learn from the reflections of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews of how Your chosen people, the Israelites, disobeyed you, dear God, while in the wilderness that prevented them from entering Your rest in the Promised Land of Israel, spending 40 years wandering in the desert.

Sadly, all these continue to happen in our own time when we are supposed to be disciples of Your Son Jesus Christ.

Help us O God to resist the temptations and strive hard to see you, feel you, and experience you.

Help us to be like those men carrying the paralytic who sought ways and means to see Jesus Christ, our only true hope and inspiration and consolation in times like these. It is in Jesus Christ’s coming that we are able to enter Your rest freely and truly, dear God, to experience Your love and mercy, kindness and compassion we have all taken for granted.

But, more than a place and a day, Your rest, O Lord, is heaven, Your very presence, that very moment when Jesus healed and forgave the sins of the paralytic, astounding everyone, glorifying You, saying, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mk.2:12).

Let us “rest” in You, dear God by returning to You, of being renewed in You with Your whole creation in Jesus. Amen.

Photo by author, sunset somewhere in Pampanga, 13 January 2021.

We are disciples of a meek and humble Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
XIVth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 05 July 2020
Zechariah 9:9-10 >><)))*> Romans 8:9, 11-13 >><)))*> Matthew 11:25-30
From Google.

We now come to the conclusion of our series of teachings of Jesus about discipleship that began two Sundays ago when he asked us not to be afraid and to be “possessed” or overtaken by him to fulfill our mission of proclaiming his good news of salvation.

And so, we now ask, “Why should we follow Jesus and be his disciples, forgetting our very selves and still carry our cross? Have we not suffered enough especially in this pandemic?”

His answer: because unlike other lord and master, Jesus is the only one who is meek and humble of heart, full of compassion to everyone!

He is the only one truly with us in our pains and cries because before all these trials have come to us, Jesus was there first to suffer and die for us on the Cross so we can share in the grace and peace of his Resurrection, calling us with these comforting words….

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Our desire for everything “lite” and easy

If there is anything that we all want at this time is a rest, a break from the heavy burdens 2020 has brought upon us all as individuals and as a nation, not only in the country but the whole world.

We all want things to be “light” and easy like before COVID-19.

The world has long been offering us everything that is “light” (also spelled as “lite”), claiming it to be the key to a healthy and fulfilling life that many products are labelled as lite — from cooking oil to mayonnaise, cheese and ice cream, soda and even brandy, beer, and cigarettes!

But they are all lies!

We still get fat and even sickly with those lite products because being light does not necessarily mean removing or taking away things that are heavy and “toxic” or difficult. Being light does not mean free from responsibilities and duties, or not having a cross and sufferings in life.

Life is difficult as M. Scott Peck insists in The Road Less Travelled, telling us that the sooner we accept this reality, the better we are in life.

It is the truth Jesus Christ has long been telling us, so timely to be reminded again this first Sunday of the second half of 2020 as we continue to hurdle more difficulties ahead in fighting COVID-19 as well as in dealing with a hosts of other problems it had created in the many aspects of our lives.

Today, the Lord is telling us that to be light in life, we have to come to him, be his disciple by taking his yoke and learning from him.

We all know from experience that anything becomes light, especially a burden and a problem, when shared with someone who loves us, someone who cares for us, someone who believes in us. Many times, our problems and burdens need not be solved at all; they simply have to be shared with any one willing to accompany us.

Being light in life is having a companion to share with our burdens and woes because having these all by ourselves is indeed so difficult and impossible. That is the literal meaning of the Latin origin of the word companion – cum panis – someone you break bread with in a journey.

Jesus Christ is that only companion par excellence we can have for he is meek and humble of heart

Photo by Ezra Acayan of Getty Images, Baclaran Church, February 2020.

The gentle mastery of Jesus Christ

In the past two Sundays, Jesus spoke about ourselves and our dispositions to become his disciples. This Sunday, he speaks about himself as our Lord and Master, describing himself as “meek and humble of heart”.

Earlier at the start of his preaching in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke of true blessedness in the Beatitudes that actually gave us an image of himself as the Blessed One. Each beatitude speaks of Jesus Christ being poor in spirit, being meek, being merciful, being clean of heart, being a peacemaker, and being persecuted.

See that the third beatitude is how he also described himself today in the gospel, “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land” (Mt. 5:5).

Very interesting is the fact that in his Sermon on the Mount when he preached the Beatitudes, Jesus was presenting himself to the people as the “new Moses” who gave them the Ten Commandments of God at Mount Sinai. As the most towering figure among the Jews, Moses is also described as “very meek, more than all men that were on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3)!

Meekness of Jesus: focusing more on persons than letters of the law

In calling us to come to him to take his yoke and learn from him for he is meek and humble of heart, Jesus is telling us that indeed, he is the new Moses in whom pure goodness is found. And even more surpassing than Moses because Jesus himself is the Law and its fulfillment. Unlike in Moses wherein the people focused more on the letters of the laws, Jesus our Lord insists more on the person, always reminding us that “Sabbath was created for man, not man for sabbath.”

But the most beautiful key in understanding the meekness of Jesus is found in our first reading which we also hear proclaimed on Palm Sunday:

Thus says the Lord: Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem.

Zechariah 9:9-10a
Photo from Google of an ass considered as the dumbest creature on earth.

Unlike the proud masters and rulers of the world, Jesus our Lord and King entered Jerusalem riding on an ass in fulfillment of this part of the Old Testament.

Here we find Jesus as the exact opposite of the kings and rulers of the world whose kingship does not depend on political and military might, no exercise of brute force and power characterized by the chariots and horses of his time.

Meekness of Jesus: oneness with us his people

In this beautiful imagery of Jesus riding an ass considered as the dumbest creature on earth we find Christ’s inmost being of humility and meekness before God and men. No display of arrogance and shameless feelings of entitlements like our officials in the government and military. Most of all, Jesus riding on an ass illustrates his oneness with us all because the ass is the means of transportation of the poor, of the common tao.

Here is the meekness and humility of Jesus Christ — his being one with us in our brokenness and poverty, pains and hurts. You can really experience him especially in this time of the corona when everything seems to be getting worst than better, when everybody is trying to make ends meet amid the economic crisis with Jesus never abandoning us in our darkest moments of uncertainties, fears, hunger, and sadness.

At the rate things are going, we have nobody else to turn to at this time but Jesus our Lord. We have to muster all our faith in him, deepen ourselves in prayer because we cannot rely on our officials who cannot even get a clear data on COVID-19 infections nor even a sound plan in addressing this pandemic despite the longest days of lockdown in the world and loans from abroad.

And we all feel so hopeless, disgruntled and so disgusted especially with the public officials and those from congress and the police who are oblivious to our sufferings and hardships in this time of the corona as they shamelessly flaunt their privileges and exception to the rules.

How can we heal as one when in the first place they are not one with us?

Discipleship in Christ is life in the Holy Spirit

Despite all the irresponsibilities and inanities of the government, we choose to be like our Lord and Master Jesus Christ in bearing all pains and hardships in his holy name, always hoping that this experience can lead us to more meaningful lives as citizens of the republic.

We choose the path of non-violence despite the government’s militaristic response to the crisis aggravated by the legislative’s dangerous foray into more draconian measures to silence critics of the administration.

It is so tempting to fight back and forget all about meekness and humility but that is not the way of Jesus Christ.

In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us of the fundamental choice that lies before every disciple of the Lord: to live in solidarity with Christ empowered by his Spirit, or to live in solidarity with the old humanity enslaved to sin.

May we choose Jesus because he alone is meek and humble of heart, in him alone can we find rest because his yoke is easy and his burden light. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Angelo Nicolas Carpio, 2020.