Mary in our troubled time

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, 105th Anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 2022
Acts 13:26-33   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 14:1-6
Photo from vaticannews.va, 13 May 2017.

Our gospel this 13th of May is so timely for us in the Philippines when Jesus said to his disciples shortly before his arrest at the Last Supper, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (Jn.14:1).

It is the same message of the Blessed Virgin Mary when she first appeared to the three little children at Cova de Iria in Fatima, Portugal exactly 105 years ago today.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

John 14:1
Photo from vaticannews.va, 13 May 2017.

In the past 200 years, notice how the two most significant apparitions by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes in France (1858) and at Fatima in Portugal (1917) were both calls for us to renew our faith in God through Jesus Christ, something we keep on forgetting and even disregarding in these modern times.

When the Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima, the First World War was still raging with the former Soviet Union spreading its venomous doctrines of atheism and communism. Today, though the USSR has long been gone and dismantled, its ideology still lives on in Russia which had recently invaded its neighbor Ukraine.

And here in our country, the mood since Monday evening when unofficial results of the elections started to come has been like a Good Friday with so many going through some forms of emotional stress and distress.

It is very sad and disheartening when people started saying of moving to other countries abroad, casting doubts on the elections results with all the insults and other moral aspersions against the winners and their supporters.

Where is our faith in God, in Jesus Christ?

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

When Mary appeared in Fatima in 1917, the world was in a great transition like our time with ever increasing discoveries and inventions in the field of science and technology with the new ideas and thoughts being put forth that were so materialistic, disregarding God, spirituality and morality.

Today we are reminded anew of the ever-relevant calls of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima to go back to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in this time characterized by so much modernities in life brought about by new technologies that also spawn more materialistic thoughts that are often relativistic.

How ironic that as we love to hate modern media, we ourselves have relied on them too these past months. We have relied more on numbers than with God, falling into the trappings of social media of all glitz and glamour that were empty and worst, not the reality at all! We have been warned long ago to never rely on what we see in media that are most often human constructs. There is only one reality in this life, in this world: Jesus Christ.

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:5-6

The recent events in the country speak so loud and clear of how we have forgotten Jesus Christ. We have believed so much in ourselves, especially some of us in the clergy who have crossed the lines or, moved the lines, so to speak, forgetting the most essential, the only one Real, the person of Jesus Christ and his universal message of love and salvation to everyone.

In all our efforts and endeavors in this world, especially in those advocacies and causes we passionately work for, may we not forget that ultimately, it is all about persons and not ideals. The ideals we work and stand for are good because of the persons we fight for and ultimately, because of its very roots, the Person of Jesus who called us to do his work or mission in liberating the people, especially the poor.

Jesus had told us that the way, the truth, and the life on this earth is himself, a Person. Our ways can disappear and become totally obsolete but Jesus is always relevant and accessible, most of all, infallible as we have reflected last Sunday in his being the Good Shepherd who gives us eternal life. That is why he is the way as well as the truth and the life for everything hangs together in himself.

This is the basic truth that the Blessed Mother expressed at Fatima that she insisted to the three children of the need for us to enter into an intimate relationship in Jesus Christ her Son through the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.

Going back to Jesus as Mama Mary had taught us is going back to prayers and the sacraments. Of course, they are not everything but what can we live on if we are empty of Jesus? The recent exchanges of insults are proofs enough of whether we have Jesus or not.

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

Life is filled with so many mysteries, with more questions than answers. We have had all these questions long before of actors/actresses getting elected to local posts and to both houses of Congress but until now we have refused to accept the answers that majority of voters are not like us – proof how we especially in the Church have always been detached from the rest of the people. Instead of spending too much time with politics and with social media, we must go out and reach out to those people at the margins, the poorest of the poor we find only in our countless documents but never inside the church.

When Jesus and later his Mother Mary told us the simple answer to our question verbalized by Thomas, that Jesus himself is the way and the truth and the life, we are reassured that there is no other secret path or road to fulfillment in this world and into heaven where he is preparing a room for us to dwell after this life. But for now, we have to focus on Jesus more because as he later stressed to Philip in our gospel today, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9) – which is a call to witnessing the gospel more than ever!

In the first reading, Paul reminds us of the wrong choices made by his countrymen and fellow Jews in crucifying Jesus Christ who rose again from the dead. His Resurrection is proof of how God continues to work for us in our favor despite and in spite of setbacks and even crushing defeats.

Never lose hope in God. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Like in 1917 when Mother Mary first appeared in Fatima, life was so difficult and truly uncertain with so many kinds of wars at all fronts like today. On this feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Mother Mary is assuring us of better days ahead despite trials and difficulties if we choose and remain in her Son Jesus Christ.

May the Blessed Mother of the Rosary, our Lady of Fatima, pray for us always. Amen.

From FB of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center, 06 May 2022.

Jesus in our blessedness, and sinfulness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Easter-C, 01 May 2022
Acts 5:27-32, 40-41 ><]]]]'> Revelation 5:11-14 ><]]]]'> John 21:1-19
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Tiberias, Israel, 2017.

This is the last Sunday in this Easter Season when we shall hear a story of the Risen Lord appearing to his disciples; starting next Sunday, our gospels will be from his Last Supper discourse that were his final instructions before his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

This is the third appearance by Jesus to his disciples that happened at the shore of Lake Tiberias (aka, Galilee) one early morning after Simon Peter and six other disciples went fishing the night before and caught nothing. The story is quite long but very remarkable with how Jesus was recognized in the blessedness of John the beloved and in the sinfulness of Peter.

Such is the beauty and power of Easter, of Jesus breaking all barriers to come to us so we may experience his love and mercy and forgiveness. As we have reflected last week, it is not the number nor length of our Risen Lord’s appearances that matter but its inexpressible intensity demanding our intense response to him which we find today in John and Simon Peter.

Photo by author, November 2018.

“It is the Lord!”

The disciples were still at a loss three weeks after the Lord had risen. Despite his twice appearances to them, they could not yet grasp Easter’s meaning; it would still be a long way to go before they understand everything when the Holy Spirit comes on Pentecost as Jesus had promised them.

Trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, the seven disciples led by Simon Peter went fishing one night but caught nothing until Jesus appeared to them unrecognized.

When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.

John 21:4-7

What a beautiful story reminding us of the need to be always in the state of grace, of being in love first with Jesus to see and recognize him in the bountiful blessings he pours upon us daily!

See how it was the disciple whom Jesus loved who first recognized the Lord upon seeing the plentiful catch of fish with a wonderful interplay of catching many fish and recognizing Jesus.

Photo by author, Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

For people truly in love with Jesus, everyday is a miracle, a day of his coming, of his loving presence among us.

Being in love with Jesus is having a prayer life in him that makes us attuned with him, becoming automatic with us to find Christ present in the various events happening in our lives, whether they are good or bad as both count as blessings to anyone who truly believes in him.

John must have been so in love with Jesus, remembering so well the first time he met the Lord with his brother James and their partners Peter and brother Andrew after a similar incident when they have caught nothing the previous night and Jesus invited them to “cast their net into the deep.” It must have been a “love at first sight” for him with the Lord that they eventually left everything including their father to follow Jesus as “fishers of men” (Lk.5:1-11, Fifth Sunday Ordinary Time, 06 February 2022).

When we love, our senses and our memories are heightened of our beloved’s words and actions that we can see and feel them around us even after they are gone. When we love, we find newness in life every day with Jesus standing at the shore every dawn waiting for us to wake up and lead us to a bountiful catch of fish daily. Of course, the fish is found only in the sea or lake but for us to catch them, we need to find Jesus first.

That is why it is necessary that we begin and end each day in Jesus praying. When we love someone, we always talk and listen, always communicating in various ways with our beloved.

Problem is when we do not pray, we get preoccupied with what we do not have – of not catching anything – of looking more into the dark or murky waters of life not seeing the light in the horizon, of Jesus at the shore.

Photo by author (2017), the shore of Lake Tiberias where Jesus asked Simon Peter thrice “Do you love me?”

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

After bringing in their haul of “one hundred fifty-three large fish” to the shore for breakfast with Jesus, our story reaches its climax with Jesus asking Peter thrice, using his original name Simon with the question, “Do you love me?”.

Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep… And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

John 21:17, 19

Peter understood fully well (gets niya, as the young would say) why Jesus asked him thrice with “do you love me?” to signify the three occasions he denied knowing him while being arraigned by the Sanhedrin on the night of Holy Thursday.

This time, there was no denying on Peter’s part that he had truly sinned that night in denying Jesus three times! And he was distressed because he was deeply sorry, telling Jesus, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” See the humility and sincerity of Peter in responding to the Lord’s question as he admitted his guilt of denying Jesus; but at the same time, his love and faith in the Lord despite his sinfulness and weaknesses. In telling Jesus “Lord you know everything; you know that I love you”, Peter was declaring his deep conviction that Jesus knows very well all our sins but at the same time knows too as well how much we love him in all of our imperfections.

Sin is not really that bad at all, so to speak, in the sense that even in our sinfulness, Jesus comes to meet us, assuring us of his love, of his mercy and forgiveness.

Photo by author, September 2021.

Just like his first words when nailed on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk.23:34), Jesus comes to us quickly in our moments of sin, inviting us to come back to him. Every time we feel that guilt after committing a sin, when we feel that shame within, that is the moment too when Jesus calls us personally like Simon, not only asking us if we love him but assuring us most of all that he loves us in spite and despite our sins.

Here we find a different interplay: the more Jesus directed Simon unto himself – do you love me?– the more Simon saw his sinfulness but at the same time experienced Christ’s forgiveness and love for him because like John the beloved, he had always loved Jesus from the start despite his many flaws and weaknesses that would later be smoothened by the Lord.

Remain in love with Jesus. This is the grace of this third Sunday in Easter. We cannot follow nor meet Jesus whether in our blessedness or sinfulness unless we love him first of all. Jesus perfectly knows human love is imperfect; only he can love us perfectly. We do not have to pretend to be perfect before him; just be our true selves, sinful yet sorrowful, to surely meet him who never leaves our side.


Dearest Lord Jesus,
open my heart to love you more
so that my eyes may always see you
in life's many blessings and trials 
that come my way daily;
let me love you more so that
I obey God rather than men and women
who keep on demanding so many things
from me, enslaving me with their many
offers that pretend to make me perfect;
when things become difficult,
open my eyes like your Apostles
who found themselves worthy
to suffer dishonor for your sake (Acts 5:29, 31)
who alone is "worthy to receive power 
and riches, wisdom and strength,
honor and glory and blessing" (Rev.5:12).
Amen.

Photo by author, Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

“Cut to the heart”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday within the Octave the Easter, 19 April 2022
Acts 2:36-41   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 20:11-18
This photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son Caden praying in my former parish shortly before the pandemic in March 2020 always “cuts me to the heart”, an image of child-like faith in God.
Praise and glory to you,
Lord Jesus Christ for you are
truly alive that whenever your
Resurrection is proclaimed in
words and in deeds, we are still
"cut to the heart", so moved to
act on on your good news!

On the day of the Pentecost, Peter said to the Jewish people, “Let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and they asked Peter and the other Apostles, “What are we to do, my brothers?”

Acts 2:36-37
What a beautiful expression,
"cut to the heart":
You know what cuts me 
to the heart, Lord?
It is when I am so aware of my
sinfulness, of having betrayed
you or denied you, Jesus, I
feel so anxious and worried
you might leave me; like Mary
Magdalene in the gospel today,
I feel so cut to the heart, almost
weeping when I could not find you,
when I feel I have lost you because 
in this new life in you, the most
painful cut to the heart is to lose you.

And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken my 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 20:13-14
So many times, dear Lord
and Teacher, I fear of losing you,
of not finding you especially
when life has become dark due
to my sins and failures, trials
and sufferings, sickness and 
confusions; but, you are always there,
Jesus, always calling me by name,
still loving me, still forgiving, still
present.  Teach me to be more 
persevering, to be more open in
recognizing you especially when 
life is dark and gloomy.  Amen.

Sharing Jesus our Light

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
The Easter Vigil in the Holy Night, 16 April 2022
Easter Vigil 2021 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Every summer when we were growing up with all our cousins home for the vacation, we would always play bahay-bahayan underneath the many fruit-trees at our Lola’s garden. We would use palm leaves and whatever pieces of wood we had for our playhouses where we used to have our merienda and lunch.

One major concern we always had was making the “night scene” when we were supposed to “sleep” and the inside of the playhouse must be really, really dark by covering its walls with thick blankets. But, no matter how hard we tried to keep the lights out of our playhouses, there would always be a streak of light bursting forth inside, thus, teaching me an important lesson that has guided me through adulthood and priesthood: no matter how dark life may be, nothing can stop nor prevent even the smallest amount of light in penetrating every space and corner. And once light had burst through any darkness, all we have to do is just to spread that light until the whole place is basked in pure joy and glory like this Easter Vigil!

After three days of darkness when Jesus suffered and died and was buried, tonight we celebrate his Resurrection, his being our Light who has conquered the darkness of sin and evil that have enveloped the world for so long.

Easter Vigil 2021 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, symbolized by the Paschal Candle we have blessed earlier outside the church. Jesus is the Light who dispels all darkness in this life, the Light who clarifies everything to mankind that we are so loved by God our Father.

Our many readings tonight remind us of God’s fidelity to his promise to save us. When we try to look back especially in these past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic is our new exodus. And thought we are still in the wilderness wandering like the chosen people, we are now more certain of God’s presence with us in the present and the future because right now, we have felt the salvation of Jesus Christ.

Yes, we may have loss many of our loved ones but we are still alive continuing the journey of life. Some of us may have lost our jobs but the light of Christ had led many of us to new careers and business opportunities. Students are finally looking forward to their F2F classes to resume while many of those who kept their lights burning through the darkness of online classes have finally graduated with this year’s batch becoming the first to have F2F commencement exercises.

The light of Jesus Christ was never extinguished during these dark moments of pandemic. And tonight we are challenged to share Christ our Light amid the darkness we are still into like this pandemic and the coming elections.

Easter Vigil 2021 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Let us recall the beautiful rites we have just celebrated tonight. May I invite you to recall the gradual lighting of our own candles from the Paschal Candle after it was blessed outside. First to light from it were us your priests, then as we entered the church, one by one, everybody was able to light from the Paschal Candle, passing on the light to others until we illumined our church.

That gradual lighting of candles at the altar after the singing of the Exsultet and later the turning on of all lights after the Gloria evoke so many wonderful truths about God always present in our lives especially when there are darkness of sin and evil, failures and disappointments, sickness and sufferings, life and death.

Tonight we are asked to share and spread Jesus Christ, his light to others especially those in the darkness of sins and sufferings, of ignorance and blindness to truth, and other forms of darkness that prevent us experiencing the joy of being free in the Lord.

The most beautiful sight of all when all the lights in the church were turned on while our own candles were extinguished is the Paschal Candle still burning, prominently placed near the ambo, reassuring us of Jesus Christ remaining with us throughout the year as our light present in every celebration of the Sacraments in this church especially when we are nourished in his Word and Body and Blood in the Sunday Eucharist, in welcoming every new Christian during baptism and accompanying our departed ones in their journey to eternal life in him.

Easter Vigil 2021 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Beginning tonight, every time we see the Paschal Candle, may we remember the challenge of Jesus to share his light with others, to be open to welcome him who has risen.

While they were puzzling over this (the empty tomb), behold, two men in dazzling garments appeared to them. They were terrified and bowed their faces on the ground. They said to them, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners and be crucified, and rise on the third day.”

Luke 24:4-7

Stop seeking the living among the dead! Perfectly said by the angels as they reminded the women looking for Jesus at the empty tomb on that Easter morning. And these are the words they are telling us still since that Easter!

Sharing the light of Jesus Christ is reminding ourselves too and others the same words of the angels to stop seeking the living among the dead.

Be kind and be gentle with yourself. Jesus had forgiven you, forgive yourself for your sins and mistakes in the past if you have confessed these or gone to confessions this Lenten season.

Move on with the present moment, dare to go out and challenge yourself to learn again, to work again, to love again, to dream again! COVID-19 may still be around but Jesus Christ is stronger, so let us rise again from our sickness and diseases! Let us not be afraid of the dark anymore for the Light can never be dimmed anymore.


May the light of our Risen Lord 
illumine your dark corners in life, 
enable you to empty yourself of sins 
and pains of the past to bask 
in the warmth and brightness 
of each new day in Christ!  
Amen.

Easter 2021 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

Kung narito ka Panginoon…

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-29 ng Hulyo 2021
“Ang Pagbuhay kay Lazaro”, isang painting ni Duccio de Buoninsegna noong 1311. Larawan mula sa commons.wikimedia.org
Sinabi ni Marta kay Jesus,
"Panginoon, kung narito kayo
hindi sana namatay
ang aking kapatid." (Juan 11:21)
Maraming pagkakataon, Panginoon
ganyan din aming sinasabi
kapag kami ay sakbibi ng dalamhati,
tulad ni Santa Marta sa pagpanaw
ng kapatid nilang si San Lazaro:
Kung narito ka, Panginoon.....
...hindi sana nagkaroon ng pandemic,
...hindi sana kami nagipit,
...hindi sana kami nagkasakit,
...hindi sana kami nagkamali,
...hindi sana kami kinakapos,
...hindi sana kami nagugutom,
...hindi sana kami naghikahos,
...hindi sana kami nalinlang,
...hindi sana kami nasaktan,
...hindi sana kami nawalan,
...hindi sana kami nagkahiwalay,
...hindi sana kami napaalis,
...hindi sana kami natalo,
...hindi sana kami napahiya,
...hindi sana kami sumuko,
...hindi sana kami napatigil sa pag-aaral,
...hindi sana kami naulila,
...hindi sana kami naligaw,
...hindi sana kami nabigo,
...hindi sana kami nagkaganito.
 
Tiyak na marami pa kaming
masasambit na sana ay hindi
nangyari kung narito ka,
Panginoong Jesu-Kristo
katulad ni Santa Marta nang
pumanaw kapatid niya at
kaibigan ninyo na si San Lazaro;
ngunit hayaan din ninyo na aming
mapagtanto kalooban at layon ninyo
kaya kayo naparito upang kami 
ang maging kapanatilihan mo
at sumaklolo sa mga nasa peligro.
Itulot po ninyo, Panginoon
aming tularan bunsong kapatid 
nina Santa Marta at San Lazaro,
si Santa Maria ng Betanya:
manatili sa iyong paanan, 
magnilay at madalisay ang buhay 
sa pananalangin upang sa pagdamay
namin sa mga nahihirapan at nabibigatan
ikaw bilang Buhay at Muling Pagkabuhay
ay kanilang panaligan sa aming 
pagkakapatiran at pagtutulungan
maramdaman nila, narito ka, Panginoon!
Icon ni Jesus dumalaw sa magkakapatid na San Lazaro, Santa Maria, at Santa Marta sa kanilang tahanan sa Betanya. Larawan mula sa http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com.

Jesus in our siblings

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of Sts. Martha, Mary and Lazarus, Siblings and Friends of the Lord, 29 July 2021
Exodus 40:16-21, 34-38   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   John 11:19-27
An icon of Jesus visiting his friends, the siblings Sts. Lazarus, Mary and Martha. Photo from crossroadsinitiative.com.
What a tremendous grace from you,
dearest God our Father through
Pope Francis that we now celebrate
the Memorial not only of St. Martha 
but also of her brother St. Lazarus and 
sister St. Mary who were all dear friends 
of Jesus Christ he frequently visited in 
their home at Bethany.  
Finally, a beautiful imagery not only
of friendship in the Lord but most of all,
the oft-neglected and taken for granted
relationships of brothers and sisters.
In this time of the pandemic
you know how, O dear God,
we have finally come together 
as families free from all excuses 
of work and studies, of being far and away; 
but sadly, many have ignored and missed
the opportunities to bond together
and mend many gaps long festering
among siblings; instead of fighting and 
rivalries, may brothers and sisters
in every family emulate the love and 
respect among Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary. 

“The Raising of Lazarus”, 1311 painting by Duccio de Buoninsegna. Photo by commons.wikimedia.org
We pray for all siblings to gather anew
as one family in prayers before you, Lord, 
like Saints Martha, Lazarus and Mary;
help them create a space for your Son 
Jesus Christ who is the surest bond among us
despite our many differences; like the children of 
Israel in the wilderness, may all siblings be
animated and moved by your presence, God our Father:
"Whenever the cloud rose from the dwelling,
the children of Israel would set out on their journey.
But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward;
only when it lifted did they go forward." (Exodus 40:36-37)
Most of all, give us the grace
to be the presence of Jesus Christ
when our siblings are sick and burdened 
with all kinds of sufferings and miseries 
like Martha and Mary present to each other
awaiting Christ’s coming after Lazarus had died:
Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died."  Jesus told her,
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever
believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me
will never die.  Do you believe this?" (John 11:21, 25-26)
Photo by author, Mirador Jesuit Hills, Baguio City, 2018.
Yes, dearest Lord Jesus,
I believe you are the resurrection and life;
whoever believes in you not only lives
but most of all becomes your very presence
especially among those going through
various forms of darkness in this life;
give me the grace to bring your light
and your life, your joys and your hopes
to those heavily burdened
 so they may believe like St. Martha
that "if you, Lord, had been here,
my brother would have not died."
Like St. Martha, and most likely
her siblings, too, St. Lazarus
 and St. Mary who may not have
  understood fully your words and teachings,
keep me open to your coming,
to your visits, sweet Jesus;
make my heart like theirs
filled with warmth and hospitality
to let you stay and reign in me;
most of all, like the three holy siblings
let me share with others the gift of kindness,
of being a kin to everyone in you, with you.  Amen.

The “ins and outs” to the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XVII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 28 July 2021
Exodus 34:29-35   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Matthew 13:44-46
Photo by author, Church of Dominus Flevit overlooking Jerusalem, 2017.
How lovely are your words today,
God our loving Father
leading us the way closer to you
through your Son Jesus Christ!
So many times, you lead us to
many detours in life, to many 
coming and going in order to
savor your loving presence.
How can we not appreciate
and be awed like your people
in the wilderness who witnessed 
your immense majesty 
on the face of Moses you met
frequently inside your tent
putting on and off the veil
that eventually played a role in our faith.
As Moses came down from Mount Sinai
with the two tablets of the commandments
in his hands, he did not know that the skin
of his face had become radiant 
while he conversed with the Lord.
Whenever Moses entered 
the presence of the Lord to converse
with him, he removed the veil until 
he came out again.  On coming out,
he would tell the children of Israel all
that had been commanded.  Then the
children of Israel would see that the skin
of Moses' face was radiant; so he would
put again the veil over his face until
he went in to converse with the Lord.
(Exodus 34:29, 34-35)
In your eternal wisdom, dear Father,
you eventually removed that veil
in the coming of your Son Jesus Christ
so we can go nearer to you than ever
to be one with you in him
through him, and with him
 by going through the same process
of going in and going out.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"The Kingdom of heaven
is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds
and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells
all that he has and buys the field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven
is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has
and buys it."
(Matthew 13:44-46)
We pray, O Lord, we remain focused
in you alone, learning to adapt,
 willing to let go whatever we hold so that
 even if we do not see you face to face
like your beloved disciple in the empty tomb
 that Easter morn, we may still believe
 even if we only see the veil that covered your face,
wrapped neatly into one place. Amen.

Seeking, awaiting the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Disciple of Jesus, 22 July 2021
Song of Songs 3:1-4   ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'>   John 20:1-2, 11-18
 
Painting by Giotto of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene from commons.wikimedia.org.
I wonder, dearest Lord Jesus,
why did you appear to Mary Magdalene
on that Easter morning
but not to Peter and John
who also rushed to the scene?
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.
(John 20:11-12)
It was the second time 
Mary Magdalene had come 
to your tomb that early morning;
when she found it empty,
she rushed to Peter;
when they found it still empty,
John believed and left with Peter
but Mary remained and stayed,
weeping, hoping to find 
your body, dearest Lord. 
And the angels said to her,
"Woman, why are you weeping?"
She said to them,
"they have taken my Lord,
and I don't know whey they laid him."
When she had said this,
she turned around
and saw Jesus there, 
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, "Woman,
why are you weeping? 
Whom are you looking for?"
She thought it was the gardener
and said to him, "Sir, if you carried him
away, tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him."  Jesus said to her,
"Mary!"  She turned and said to him
in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means
Teacher.  (John 20:13-16)
O sweet Jesus,
forgive us 
when we fail to see you,
when we miss you coming
as we never stay long
to await you in the empty tombs
of our sadness and failures,
broken dreams and 
disappointments and sickness;
teach us to stay longer,
to grieve in you, pour out in you
our hurts and aches,
pains and sorrows;
like that Bride in the
Song of Songs
let us be intense in seeking you
by patiently awaiting you,
remaining in you that we may also say,
"I had hardly left them when I found him
whom my heart loves." (Song of Songs 3:4)
When love among friends
and one another is real,
surely our beloved would appear
only on a higher, different level
of recognition unlike before;
this is the lesson we can glean
from St. Mary Magdalene
when Jesus called her by name,
asking her to touch him not
because at Easter
we have been raised higher
in Christ, much beloved than before.
Let us answer your call,
dear Lord, to proclaim your gospel to all
despite the troubles we have had before.
Grant us the courage
to change our ways and follow you
like St. Mary Magdalene
who had remained pristine and clean
assuring every sinner with a saintly future.  Amen.


Arise, be whole again in Christ!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 27 June 2021
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 <+> 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 <+> Mark 5:21-24, 35-43
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

Once again, we find Jesus crossing the Lake of Galilee this week with a crowd following him to listen to his teachings and experience his healing. What a beautiful image of life in Jesus, of constantly crossing the sea, sometimes in the darkness of the night amid storms.

It was something like what we had gone through last Thursday on the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist when as a nation we crossed history with the inauguration of the new Archbishop of Manila marked with the passing of former President Noynoy Aquino.

We hope and pray that like our gospel this Sunday, our recent crossing will lead us to new awakenings and realizations leading to national healing and yes, a resurrection, a rising from the dead like that young daughter of Jairus brought back to life by Jesus.

When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, Talitha koum, which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded.

Mark 5:38-42
Photo by author with friends at ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum, 2017.

Examining our faith in Jesus

Notice, my dear reader, how similar is our story of Jesus raising to life the dead daughter of Jairus with that of the calming of the storm while crossing the lake last Sunday. In both instances, we find Mark “exaggerating” some details as if Jesus were somewhat oblivious to what was going on around him.

But again, Mark is not entertaining us with his stories narrating the powers and miracles by Jesus for he is telling us something deeper and very important with those surprising details of his stories. Primary of which is the supremacy of Jesus as the Son of God over nature like the sea and death both symbolizing evil and sin.

Mark affirms this truth today in telling us how Jesus brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus, that Jesus is the Christ who had come launching a new world order where death and sin are overcome in him through his pasch.

Recall last Sunday how Mark ended his story with the disciples asking, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mk.4:41).

That question is finally answered by our story today that clearly shows Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who is life himself when he brought back to life the dead little girl.

Unfortunately, like during the time of Mark until now, many still doubt the powers of Jesus. Then and now, there is still that crisis of faith among us expressed by people from the synagogue official’s house who arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”(Mk.5:35).

If you were in that crowd following Jesus, would you still go with him to enter the house? Would you heed his words like Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk.5:36)?

And while inside the house, knowing the little girl was already dead, would you join the rest in ridiculing Jesus who said, “The child is not dead but asleep” (Mk.5:39)?

These are the questions Mark is asking us today like the Christians of his time going through persecution and crisis in the early Church.

It is easy to “believe”, proclaiming with arms raised that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is the Son of God but it is another thing to be truly convinced, to have faith in him when faced with the stark realities of life persistently attacked by sickness and death, of pains and sufferings that make us wonder why God could allow these to happen!

We have all felt our faith shaken when this pandemic struck us last year that took away those dearest to us so sudden, often without seeing them at all before they were cremated.

Like his story last Sunday, Mark’s narration of the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus is filled with many surprising details we find it so true with our own experiences of struggling to avoid or survive COVID-19, of having a sick child or spouse, of trying to make it to another day, of keeping our jobs to pay for food and rent and other needs of our family.

Do we really have that faith in Jesus, convinced that everything will be “okay” like Nightbirde who can brim with all smiles even if saddled with three kinds of cancer with a 2% chance of survival, claiming it is better than zero?

Today’s gospel is more than the revelation of who Jesus Christ is: the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus dares to invite us in examining our faith in God in the face of unrelenting attacks on life by sickness and death especially in this time of the pandemic.

Death and sickness are realities we face daily, that make us doubt God’s love and concern for us which the first reading clarifies with its declaration that

God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

Wisdom 1:13, 2:23-24
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2019.

Arising and being whole in Jesus

Jesus came not to remove sickness and death, pains and sufferings which did not come from God for God is love. He came to be one with us in sickness and death, in our pains and sufferings so that we may rise with him too in his resurrection and be whole again in him.

Notice the words Jesus used in every healing, “your faith has saved you” to show that healing is not just a cure of the disease but making the person whole again. The words health, healing, wholeness, and holiness are all interrelated if we examine their origins and implications. Hence, we see that whenever Jesus would heal, it is not only an eradication of an illness but restoring harmony and balance in the person – physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects.

It is the same in raising the dead young man in Nain and his friend Lazarus: Jesus or the evangelists used the word “arise” as a foreshadowing of Easter when Jesus himself rose from the dead, an indication of his power over death.

All these people in the gospels Jesus had healed and brought back to life eventually died but the good news is that death and sickness are no longer dark and an ending in itself.

Jesus came to bring salvation to the world, a wholeness in life which disease and physical death can no longer control and hold. That is why we need a firm faith to believe in him in spite of the many sickness and deaths now around us. It is faith that will enable us to grasp the full meaning of this pandemic and other sufferings we are going through in life. It is our deep faith in God that will also enable us to explain and show to others especially our loved ones the true meaning of healings and resurrections performed by Jesus who gives us a share in his victory over sickness and death.

May we dwell on the beautiful exposition of St. Paul today about being poor like Christ “that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2Cor. 8:9).

We can only be whole when we share whatever we have because that is when we allow Jesus to work in us, to be in us, to complete us. This happens when we wholeheartedly celebrate the Holy Eucharist where we become poor like Jesus, emptying ourselves of our sins, sharing with others our wealth through our contributions not only to the church collections but also to other charities where some of us share also time and talent aside from treasures.

The experience of the community pantry recently had taught us the value of St. Paul’s call for us to share and be poor like Christ when we were encouraged to take only what one needs and to give according to one’s ability – “kumuha ayon sa pangangailangan, magbigay ayon sa kakayahan”.

Yes, the realities of poverty and hunger remain with us but people are fed, sufferings are alleviated and most of all, the whole nation is united in believing again there is hope amidst the pandemic worsened by the systematic evil that has plagued us for so long.

Faith in God is deepened and strengthened when we become poor and weak like Jairus because that is only when we can arise and be whole again in Jesus Christ who is himself our Resurrection and Life. Amen.

A blessed new week to you and everyone!

Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2017.

A lamentation prayer on Divine Mercy Sunday

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday in Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), 11 April 2021
 Acts 4:32-35  >><)))*>  1John 5:1-6  >><)))*>  John 20:19-31
Caravaggio’s “Doubting Thomas” from en.wikipedia.org.

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father in heaven! Despite the recent surge in the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still here today celebrating the Easter Octave which is also the Divine Mercy Sunday of your Son Jesus Christ.

Thank you for the gift of life.

Thank your for the tears we have been shedding lately for those whom we have lost.

Thank you for the gift of faith in you, for the grace to still pray amid all the pains and sufferings coming our way.

Thank you so much for our medical frontliners who are so exhausted and drained serving us for over a year now since this pandemic started. Keep them strong in body, mind and soul. Take care of their families and loved ones. We want to see them and celebrate with them when this is all over so we may thank them personally for being our rays of hope and life in these times.

Thank you also for those who have been working tirelessly especially at night so we can have bread and other food in the morning, those who keep our industries and utilities running, those people we hardly know and remember but so essential not only in keeping us alive and comfortable but most of all sane in this crazy period in history.

You know very well our cries, our complaints and our pleadings, dear Father.

Forgive us when we forget those living in the margins, suffering and crying in silence, those who have stopped going to school, those who have lost jobs, those to be evicted from their homes for lack of money to pay their rentals, for those who could not make their ends meet.

Dear Father in heaven… we do not know what else to do. Show us the way in Jesus, the object of our faith, the guarantee of our hope and future glory in you.

And for those now in your presence, those who have gone ahead of us, we pray for their eternal rest, O Lord. We pray also for those they have left behind. One death is too many, Lord.

Rekindle our faith, direct our gaze onto your Son Jesus Christ who had conquered death and sin, sickness and darkness in his Resurrection.

Like Thomas his apostle, make us realize that we can only recognize him in his wounds from the cross.

And like Thomas called Didymus or Twin, help us strike balance and harmony in the many twins in our lives like our faith and doubts, joys and sadness, victory and defeats, glory and sorrows, as well as life and death, rejoicing and mournings.

Oh God… help us in this time that is so Dickensenian in every sense!

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times; 
it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness; 
it is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity;
 it is the season of Light, it is the season of Darkness;
 it is the spring of hope, it is the winter of despair;
 we have everything before us, we have nothing before us;
we are all going direct to Heaven, 
we are all going direct the other way—
(adapted from "A Tale of Two Cities"
by Charles Dickens)

Help us learn the lessons of this pandemic and make us turn back to you in Jesus Christ your Son, who is our Lord and our God as we pray with conviction, “Jesus, King of Mercy, we trust in you!” Amen.