The hiddenness of God

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 September 2020
Photo by author, sunset at the Lake of Galilee (Tiberias) in Israel, May 2017.

August has always been a “ghost month” for me since elementary school. Long before I have heard these stories and words of caution against many things in the month of August, I have always dreaded this month when days are grindingly slow.

Specially this year 2020 when the whole month of August felt like the season of Lent when everything was dry and empty, even literally speaking in our churches when the five Sundays of August were like five Good Fridays.

But, for the first time in many years during this pandemic, amid the dryness and emptiness of August 2020, I felt and “found” God anew in his most unique and wonderful characteristic — his hiddenness.

Hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”.

Hiddenness is something both simple and complicated but beautiful and wonderful when we find God in his hiddenness.

Hiddenness of God means more than not being seen per se; it is that feeling with certainty that he is present but, just hiding somewhere. In fact, if God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all!

And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him!

Photo by author, April 2020.

Remember when we were kids and could not find the things that our mother had asked us to get from somewhere in the sala or kitchen or her tocador? She would threaten us with the classic line my generation have all heard and memorized, “Pag hindi mo nakita yan, makikita mo sa akin!”

It is one of our funniest memories of childhood! I am sorry for my English-speaking readers but there is no appropriate translation for this because it is very cultural and even spiritual in nature. Literally translated, it says that if you do not find what you are looking for, you would find it with me. Crazy and insane, is it not?!

I told you, hiddenness of God is both simple and complex but whenever we remember those “sweet, maternal threats”, we laugh and shrug off the experience as we were dead serious then searching for whatever thing mom had asked us because deep in us we knew too well, it must be somewhere there. Sabi kasi ni Inay! (Mom said so!)

That is how it is with God too! We know for sure he is around, he is present. But in hiding because that is how loving God is, like moms and some lovers with surprises for us his beloved.

The Prophet Jeremiah experienced it so well when he wrote:

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter, everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding itin, I cannot endure it.

Jeremiah 20:7-9

No one can understand this without having experienced such intense kind of love of God or of another person that even if we are pained, we just cannot walk away or leave. More so with God, the most intense lover of all!

At the very center of Jeremiah’s torment is the invincible power of attraction of God. This is also the reason human love – whether for another a friend or a spouse, for the Church or any institution – must always be based on the love of Christ who told us to “love one another as I have loved you.” If our love remains in the human level, it can never go deeper or higher making it so sublime, so true, so pure.

That is how God is in his hiddenness who is like a lover who never stops looking for us, calling us, luring us, even seducing us to come to him, search him and once found, we may dwell in his great love; hence, even if we do not “see” him, we keep on following him as we also find him in his hiddenness!

Hiddenness of God, mystery and gift of Easter

This hiddenness of God is both the gift and mystery of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. It is a gift because in his hiddenness, God has become closest to us more than ever while at the same time, a mystery because it is in his very hiddenness that we truly find and discover God.

Remember the two disciples going home to Emmaus on Easter afternoon who was accompanied by Jesus while traveling? They did not recognize him but as they talked, their “hearts were burning” as he explained the Scriptures. Then joining them at their meal at sundown upon reaching Emmaus, Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it — and the disciples’ eyes were opened, recognizing him as the Lord who immediately disappeared! The two then rushed back to Jerusalem to announce to the other disciples that Jesus had indeed risen.

That is the beauty of hiddenness, its giftedness and mystery that we find God even our beloved who had died or not physically present with us but deep within, we are certain of their presence as being so true and so real.

Hiddenness is a deeper level of relationship coming from one’s heart and soul not dependent on physical presence. This is the reason why upon appearing to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, Jesus asked her not to touch him because from then on, knowing and relating with the Lord need not be physical and corporeal as he used to relate with them before his Death and Resurrection.

All these we must have experienced like when after a friend or a relative had died, that is when we felt growing closer with the person than when he/she was still alive and physically present with us. Or, when we were feeling low and down, we experienced sometimes so amazed at how we have felt the presence even the scent of our deceased loved ones comforting us, assuring us that all would be better.

This quarantine period invites us to experience and discover God anew in his hiddenness through prayers and silence so we can reflect on the many lessons this pandemic is teaching us today. In the darkness and emptiness of this pandemic are grace-filled moments with God hidden in our poverty and sadness, sickness and even deaths around us.

Photo by author, Christmas 2018.

Some people have already asked me about what or how would our Simbang Gabi and Christmas celebrations be. They are sad and worried that it must be a very bleak Christmas for everyone with so many out of work.

But, despite this gloom, I tell them that Christmas 2020 would be one – if not the most meaningful Christmas we shall ever have despite forecasts that there would be less of everything, materially speaking.

So often in life, when we have so much material things, that is when we fail to find and experience God.

Recall that in Bethlehem more that 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was born, God came to us hidden in a stable, on a manger in the darkness of the night.

And do not forget, too, that Christmas is not a date but an event, the very person of Jesus Christ, the all-powerful God who came to us hidden in a child, who upon becoming an adult, was crucified and died. These are sad and down moments for us but for God, it is his hiddenness, his presence. Let us go and find him again for he continues to come to us in hiddenness. Amen.

“What do I still lack?”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 17 August 2020
Ezekiel 24:15-23 >><)))*> || + || <*(((><< Matthew 19:16-22
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2017.

The young man said to him (Jesus), “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Matthew 19:20-22

The young man’s question to you, Jesus, still echoes in me: “What do I still lack?” A question that reverberates in me on many occasions for different reasons. So many times, Lord, I felt the answer lies on something that my hands can simply grab or hold to take and be not lacking anymore.

What do I still lack? A question I automatically ask because I have always felt I have the answers, I can always work for it and have whatever I lack.

When tragedy and failures strike, I ask the same question, what do I still lack? What have I missed? What went wrong?

It is a question I have always felt as a problem needing solutions, of something missing that must be filled to be no more lacking.

But today, Lord, I felt the emptiness of the young man too.

It is not just lacking of something but more of a longing for you. It is an emptiness of the heart and soul that nothing can ever fill because “What do I lack” is not a problem to be solved but a situation, a condition to be with you always, Lord.

That is why, sometimes, you have to “take away the delight of our eyes” (Ez.24:16), Lord, so we may see what we lack ––YOU! Amen.

Photo by author, Palm Sunday 2020.

Meeting Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XIX, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 09 August 2020
1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 >><}}}*> Romans 9:1-5 >><}}}*> Matthew 14:22-33
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, Batanes, 2018.

I have always loved the sea and lately my thoughts have always been about the beach as I miss it so much after COVID-19 had robbed us of our summer vacation.

In ancient time, the sea evoked fear because it was largely unknown that even in the bible, it is the symbol of evil and its powers over man. That is why our gospel today is very significant when Jesus walked on water to show God’s greater power over evil and sin.

And like our gospel last week, our story today tells us a lot more about Jesus walking on water in the midst of a storm to reveal himself and most of all, his desire to meet us his disciples.

Place and location as non-verbal communication of one’s presence

Every meeting and encounter presupposes locations or places, a locus; but, everything is “levelled up” or elevated in Jesus in whom things do not remain in the physical level.

Proxemics is the non-verbal communication that refers to places and location, its nearness and orientation. How we arrange our furnitures, designate the rooms and sections in our homes, offices, schools and every building we stay and gather communicate and reveal who we are.

For example, Catholic homes are easily identified in having a grotto at the garden, an altar of the Sacred Heart or any saint at the sala, and the Last Supper painting in the dining hall.

But for Jesus, a place or a location is more than the physical site because in him, proxemics takes on a deeper dimension and higher meaning when we meet him in situations and places. That is why after feeding the more than five thousand people last week, he ordered the Twelve to cross the Sea of Galilee (which is actually a lake) ahead of him while he dismissed the crowds.

After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. during the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Matthew 14:23-27
Photo by author, Sea of Galilee at Capernaum where Jesus used to preach, May 2019.

Crossing to Jesus, crossing with Jesus

I love that scene very much, of Jesus getting his disciples into the boat to precede him to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. Again, St. Matthew never bothered to tell us why Jesus sent the Twelve ahead of him as he stayed behind, dismissing the crowds and later praying alone at night atop the mountain.

Let us now reflect the proxemics or non-verbal communication of our gospel scene this Sunday.

We need to cross to the other side to meet Jesus.

To meet Jesus Christ, we always have to “cross to the other side” by leaving our “comfort zones”.

More than going to the other side of the lake physically, we have to move over to unchartered areas of life, be bold and daring to try new things, new situations in order to mature and find fulfillment by meeting Jesus Christ.

And sometimes, we really have to literally cross the sea or get to the other side of the country or the world to find our self and meet Christ.

Fifteen years ago I went on vacation to Toronto for some soul-searching as I went through a burn-out. While serving at St. Clement Parish, I met many Filipinos serving as lectors, choir members, catechists and volunteers.

Graph shared by sugarindustryfoundationinc.org.ph.

They would always confess to me with both a sense of pride and little shame that they never went to Mass regularly when in the Philippines and now in Canada, they were amazed at how God had brought them there to be involved in parish activities and be closer to Jesus than ever!

As I listened to their stories, I realized the many sacrifices and hardships they have to endure in that vast and cold country with no one to turn to except God. If given the chance, many of them admitted they would return to the Philippines for there is no place like home!

Though I have found so many things I have been searching for in my initial three months of stay there on top of other opportunities given me, I still felt empty. That raging storm within continued. As I prayed and reflected guided by an old, Polish priest who claimed to have been the student of St. John Paul II, I saw myself more, eventually leading me to God anew who refreshed my vocation that I finally decided to go back home after six months of my supposed to be one year leave.

Sometimes in life, we need to get away from our comfort zone, cross to the other side, especially when life becomes so artificial. Jesus invites us to go ahead and cross to the other side of the lake or sea to experience life at its “raw” so we can feel again our souls within and desire him anew until we finally meet him wherever we may be in the world.

It is when we are at the other side of the sea in the midst of a storm when Jesus comes, immediately answering our cries for help – At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage; it is I” – because when we are reduced to emptiness and nothingness, then our faith kickstarts again. Faith, like love, is always an encounter with God.

Try going to the other side, leave your comfort zone to meet Jesus and finally have meaning and direction in life!

Silence is the presence of God.

In the first reading we have heard that beautiful story of Elijah meeting God at the mouth of a cave — not in the strong and heavy wind nor earthquake nor fire like Moses before him.

After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

1 Kings 19:12-13

Silence is the place of the presence of God because silence is his language too. Wherever there is silence, we can surely find and meet God there.

That is why Jesus wants us to cross to the other side, to be silent and listen to him.

Photo by author, crossing the Lake of Galilee, May 2019.

In his silence, God teaches us that except for sin, he never considers everything as being finished; everything is a “work-in-progress” even if he seems to be silent that some think he must be absent or even dead.

The world thrives in noise, loud talks, and screams with each voice trying to dominate another resulting in cacophony of sounds. Shakespeare’s Hamlet said it well when he told Polonius what he was reading were “Words, words, words” — nonsense!

Some people like those in power think that the more words they say, the more meaningful their thoughts and ideas become. Worst, they thought that using foul and filthy language make them so natural and credible, not realizing the more they look stupid with their crazy thoughts and ideas not even clowns and comedians would ever attempt to imitate.

But when our words come from deep silence, they come with power and meaning, touching everyone’s heart and inner core.

That is when silence becomes fullness, not emptiness or mere lack of noise and sound.

Like when our medical frontliners and medical experts spoke with one voice last week airing their thoughts about the pandemic — we were all moved and reawakened to realize how we have been going about with our lives almost forgetting them these past five months!

What a tragedy at how our officials in government and Congress reacted negatively, feeling hurt deep inside with the painful truth of how they have been irresponsible from the beginning. Sapul!

Pico Iyer wrote in a TIME magazine essay 30 years ago that “silence is the domain of trust”.

True. The most trustful people are the most silent; those who speak a lot trust no one and most likely, cannot be trusted too.

Jesus invites us to cross to the other side to be silent and learn to trust him. It is only then when we can meet him. In silence.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, Manila Bay with Mt. Samat’s Cross at the background, April 2020.

Jesus meets us in darkness.

Jesus asks us to cross to the other side of the lake or sea like his disciples in order to meet us in darkness. This is a paradox because Jesus is the light of the world.

But, note the most notable moments in his life happened in darkness: he was born on the darkest night of the year, he died when darkness covered the whole city of Jerusalem, and he rose from the dead when it was still dark on the first day of the week.

Jesus had overcome darkness! So, what happened to Peter in this episode after being called by Jesus to walk on water too?

Jesus said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Matthew 14:29-30

Imagine how everything was going so well with Peter doing another crossing while crossing the lake! But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus calls us into the dark so that we only look for him and upon finding him, focus on him alone. Peter saw the strong wind, not the stronger and powerful Jesus walking on water, that fear overtook him.

That’s the whole point of St. Paul in our second reading today: he was telling the Romans how some people in Israel trusted more in their physical descent from Abraham than in God’s promise of salvation fulfilled in Jesus they have refused to see and recognize as the Christ (Rom.9:1-5).

When in the dark, be silent and still for Jesus is near! Keep your sights at him, not on anything else. Problem in darkness is not God but us who follow other lights or have become delusional.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

That is the tragedy we are into as a nation while crossing to the other side of the sea of pandemic in just one boat when our officials see only themselves as always being right. Worst, they all want to be on the stage with all the lights on them as they speak and sing in cacophony like psychopaths.

All the more we must hold on tight, trust and focus in Jesus who is “now here”, not “nowhere” for he will never allow us to perish.

Let us trust Jesus overcoming all these evil, leading us to the shore. Amen.

A blessed rainy Sunday to you and your loved ones!

Plan of God, our plan

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of the Dedication of St. Mary Major in Rome, 05 August 2020
Jeremiah 31:1-7 <*(((><< | + | >><)))*> Matthew 15:21-28
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, St. Mary Major in Rome, 2018.

O God our almighty Father, in all eternity you have planned what is best for each of us and we thank you so much for that for your great wisdom matched with your immense love for us.

Unfortunately, we always run away from you, discarding your plans for our own personal plans that most often do not work because these are based on what we want, what we like and not of what is really best for us.

Help us to seek your plans for us, Lord, by remaining in you, trusting you because you know what is best for us being our Maker.

Open our selves to you to redeem us from our disgrace and infirmities by seeking your plans in rebuilding our lives like your so-called “remnants of Israel” in the first reading – the few who have remained faithful to you despite the turning away from you of majority of Israelites who chose to worship false gods in the time of Jeremiah.

And ironically, to be like that Canaanite woman at the region of Tyre and Sidon – though a pagan – who remained faithful to you waiting for the Christ to come by holding on to your plans, hoping in your plans, and finally realizing your plans of healing and salvation in Jesus!

Grant us the perseverance and love to seek, believe in your plans for us like the Blessed Virgin Mary as we celebrate today the Memorial of the Dedication of St. Mary Major in Rome, one of our four Major Churches and first Marian shrine in the whole Christendom.

How lovely it is, O God, that you literally laid out your plans for this Basilica when the Virgin Mary appeared in a dream to a faithful Christian couple as well as Pope Liberius in the year 358 to build a church in her honor on the site where snow would fall on the night of August 4-5.

And you did make snow to fall on that night, forcing Pope Liberius to trace the outlines of the church on the snow where the first basilica was built!

But, it was only the beginning of the unfolding of your plans: the Basilica of St. Mary Major was completed a century later after the Council of Ephesus in 431 where Mary was declared the Mother of God, thus clarifying all doubts on the divinity of your Son Jesus Christ who had come to save us.

May we pause for some moments of silence today to pray and seek your plans for us specially in this time of the pandemic. We pray harder for our leaders in government for humility and honesty in seeking you, O God, to draw a specific plan that is clear and workable to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

This we ask in Jesus Christ’s name, in the power of the Holy Spirit with Mary our Mother. Amen.

Photo by author of a pilgrim writing a petition to the Blessed Mother in a Marian shrine in Madaba, Jordan, 2019.

Human situation, Divine response: multiplying our blessings

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVIII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 02 August 2020
Isaiah 55:1-3 >><}}}*> Romans 8:35, 37-39 >><}}}*> Matthew 14:13-21

Remember our reflection last Sunday? Of how parables teach us that “less is always more” because to have the kingdom of God – Jesus Christ himself – we have to learn to appreciate the little things in life?

Beginning this Sunday until August 16, our gospels will start telling us who is Jesus Christ by showing us his powers and abilities that are exactly opposite the way we see and understand them. This new series of stories are so relevant to us in this time of pandemic, giving us wonderful insights into God’s ways of responding to our human situations.

St. Matthew now leads us with Jesus to the wilderness after teaching us in parables to experience his power in transforming us like the five loaves and two fish to feed more than five thousand people.

Multi-layered story of the multiplication of bread

All four evangelists have recorded this story of Jesus Christ’s multiplication of the loaves of bread with their particular focus and stress, showing us that it truly happened and was a major event in the Lord’s ministry.

Very unique with St. Matthew’s version of this miracle story – which has not one but two! – is his economy of words in narrating it like a straight news as if it were a developing story or a “breaking news” unfolding before us, calling us to follow its updates and details due to its multi-layered meanings.

When Jesus heard of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

Matthew 14:13-21
Photo from iStock/Studio-Annika.

The consolation of Jesus.

Our situation in this time of the corona pandemic is so similar with that of Jesus. With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, it has finally hit us hard, so close to home with news of those we know getting infected and worst, dying from this disease.

Like Jesus upon hearing the death of John the Baptist, we are all saddened that we wish to withdraw away from everyone.

We want to mourn but there are more people in need of our presence and help in this time of pandemic like the countless medical frontliners and health workers who must be so tired – even sick, physically and emotionally – by now with the growing number of COVID-19 patients and yet have chosen to remain in their posts.

And there are still the other casualties of this pandemic like those who have lost their jobs, those evicted from their rented apartments, those stranded and separated from their loved ones, those begging for food, and those afflicted with other sickness going through dialysis and physical therapy.

Jesus knows so well the “wilderness” we are all going through and he is right here with us, one with us in our sufferings, in our fears and anxieties, and in our exhaustion.

To be one with us is consolation, from the Latin “con” or with + “solare” or alone, to be one with somebody feeling alone.

Jesus did not remove our pains and sufferings, even our death; he joined us to be one with us in these that he can call us to “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give your rest. Take my yoke upon you… For my yoke is easy and my burden light” (Mt.11:28-30, 14th Sunday, 05 Jul 2020).

Compassion of Jesus.

Still with Christ’s reaction of being “moved with pity” at the sight of the crowds who have followed him to the wilderness, we find something more deeper with his being one with us, in consoling us that he had forgotten all about himself, his tired body that he went on to heal the sick among them.

To be moved with pity is more than a feeling of the senses but a response of his total person.

You respond for help, you reply to a call.

Ever wondered why we have the “responsorial psalm” after the first reading in the Mass? Because those words from the Psalms express our total assent and commitment to God, involving our total self like body, mind, heart and soul.

Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmel Monastery, Israel, 2016.

God cannot suffer because he is perfect.

That is why he became human like us in Jesus Christ to be one with our suffering and death so that we would one with him in his glorious Resurrection.

In the wilderness, Jesus stayed with the people, not allowing them to leave as suggested by the Twelve because he was moved with pity with the crowd because he wanted to suffer with them.

That is compassion, literally means to “suffer with” from cum + patior. Here in the wilderness, Jesus showed his compassion for the people which will reach its highest point in giving himself on the Cross on Good Friday.

Have we “responded” to God’s call to serve, to a call of duty, and to a plea for help from the poor? Have we truly given ourselves to somebody without ever thinking our own comfort or rewards? Or, are we running away from his Cross?

What a shame in this time of pandemic there are some among us who rejoice at the losses of others like the Twelve who wanted the crowd to be sent home because they were afraid of responsibilities, of taking care of the suffering people.

Consolation and compassion are the two most needed from each of us in this time of crisis.

Our scarcity mentality, the God of plenty.

We now come to the miracle of the feeding of five thousand. According to the late Fr. Henri Nouwen, this story is an example of our “scarcity mentality” when we think of not having enough, of finding what we have as too little, always looking for more; hence, our tendency to hoard everything.

The Twelve were thinking more of themselves, afraid they could go hungry with the five loaves of bread and two fish they have. They were so afraid of difficulties ahead of them in their situation where to find and how to feed those great number of people.

They were focused on what was lacking than on what they have, and who was with them, Jesus Christ! They were hungry for food in the stomach than for food to the soul unlike the crowds who have followed Jesus.

Worst of all, the Twelve got “mad” upon seeing the crowds who have followed them to the wilderness when in fact, it was Jesus who needed most to rest to mourn John’s death!

But through all these, Jesus patiently bore the people’s woes and the Twelve’s selfishness to teach them all in a very nice way something so essential in our response to every human suffering and extreme situation: opening and entrusting our selves totally to God.

And that was actually the greatest miracle that happened that day.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

In doing it, Jesus simply asked the Twelve what they have, never asking how much they have or its condition. Just whatever they have to give everything to Jesus like those five loaves and two fish that he took, and while looking up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the Twelve to distribute to the crowd.

And everyone was satisfied with a lot of left overs too!

Matthew nor any of the other Evangelists ever explained how it happened because it does not really matter at all. What is most important is what are we willing to give up to Jesus so he can transform us into better persons.

That is what we continue to do this day in every celebration of the Holy Eucharist- whatever we have, even not the best or the worst and littlest we have, when given to Jesus becomes holy and multiplied!

The power of God is immense, without doubt. But, in this miracle of the feeding of five thousand, Jesus is showing us that his power is not meant to satisfy our material or bodily needs but our deepest desires that lead to our fulfillment in him as prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading.

Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.

Isaiah 55:2-3

Amid the pandemic worsened by our government officials’ inanities, irresponsibilities, and sheer lack of compassion with us in this wilderness, the Lord assures us today that he is with us for “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” (Second Reading) if we are willing to give him all that we have.

It is our spiritual transformation first that leads us to our material blessings. We can all have it if we are willing to give everything to Jesus and believe in him always. What do you have for miracles to happen?

A blessed August ahead for you! Amen.

Photo by Dra. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmel, Israel, 2016.

Kindness of Jesus Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Feast of St. James the Greater, Apostle, 25 July 2020
2 Corinthians 4:7-15 ><}}}*> >><}}}*> >>><}}}*> Matthew 20:20-28
Facade of “Santiago de Compostela” in Spain in honor of St. James the Greater. Photo courtesy of Fr. Gener Garcia during their “El Camino de Santiago de Compostela”, May 09 to June 05, 2019.

Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ who had called and given us the Apostles as foundations of your Holy Church as we celebrate today the feast of St. James the Greater, the first bishop of Jerusalem and the first among the Twelve to die a martyr.

In him, O Lord, you gave us an image of hope in you, of how we can grow in holiness in you.

Through St. James the Greater, you have shown us your kindness in joining us in our earthly pilgrimage, slowly making us realize how we must adhere to you more closely to finally make it to our final destination in your kingdom in heaven.

Jesus said in reply, “You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” They said to him, “We can.” He replied, “My chalice you will indeed drink, but to sit at my right and at my left, this is not mine to give but is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

Matthew 20:22-23

Your kindness is very evident, sweet Jesus.

I really wonder how you felt when the mother of James and John asked you that her sons be seated “one at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom” (Mt.20:21).

You were so kind to simply tell her and her sons, “You do not know what you are asking.”

Photo by Fr. Gener Garcia, image of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, 2019.

So many times, Lord, like St. James, we ask so many things from you, even demanding from you in exchange of what we believe as too great we have given you. You perfectly know so well that we do not know what we are asking at all. You know how we are blinded by fame and honor, power and wealth – things that do not matter at all in your kingdom.

You are so gentle in reminding us about the deeper realities of life, of discipleship by simplifying your demands, “Can you drink the chalice that I am going to drink?” to which we are often so naive, even oblivious for good reasons. Primarily because, we really do not know what we are asking.

And that’s when you are kindest of all, sweet Jesus: like with St. James and his brother St. John, you invite us “to drink the chalice you are drinking” by assuring us it can be done, that it is very possible, that in fact, that is the greatest honor of being with you, to drink from your chalice – without letting us know right away what it meant! St. John eventually realized and wholly accepted what you meant of drinking in your chalice when he became the first to share in your passion and death during the persecution by King Herod Agrippa (Acts 12:1-1).

Slowly, you make us realize too what is to drink in your chalice as we continue life’s journey with you, most especially into our inner self where we eventually find and rest in you when the goings get tough and rough.

It is total kindness on your part Lord to show us the beauty of sharing a meal with you, of sharing in your mission, of sharing in your life and most especially of sharing in your death that we make it with you to your kingdom.

Like St. James the Greater, continue to be kind with us, Lord, accompanying us in this journey.

In the same manner, make us kind to one another too like St. James the Greater who offered his life for the early church, for being the first to drink from your chalice. Amen.

Photo by Fr. Gener Garcia, marker along the “El Camino de Santiago de Compostela”, 2019.

Familiarity need not breed contempt

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XVI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 23 July 2020
Jeremiah 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13 >><)))*> + 0 + <*(((><< Matthew 13:10-17
Photo by author of the new bypass road that cuts through vast ricefields from Baliwag to Pulilan, January 2020. And we ask anew, what price of development and, for whom?

We are all familiar with the expression that “familiarity breeds contempt” and sad to say, it has always been true to us even with our relationship with you, God our loving and merciful Father in heaven.

Day in, day out we pray, or simply mumble prayers.

We pray more of security latch, just in case something bad happens to us.

But to be one with one, nah….

Besides, even if we do not pray, there is always somebody praying for us. We believe so.

Everywhere we see churches and your images to remind us of your presence and existence, of your love and goodness to us.

But, we take you for granted. You have become so ordinary to us that sometimes, we look for something extraordinary.

Unknown to us, that is when we stop believing in you and when we also stop living in you.

Be amazed at this, O heavens, and shudder with sheer horror, says the Lord. Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters; they have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:12-13

Through your Son Jesus Christ who preached using parables, open our eyes and our ears, our hearts and our very being to begin seeing anew from the ordinary and usual things the deeper realities of your presence and love.

Familiarity need not breed contempt among us and in you.

Let familiarity remind us of your consistency in relating with us, Lord.

Let familiarity lead us to the natural flow of life rooted in you, God, so that we may discover daily the many wonders and beauty of this life; that, despite the seeming cycle and repetition even routine, we may find its deeper meaning right in our hearts where you dwell. Amen.

Van Gogh’s “The Sower” from commons.wikimedia.org.

Separations, good and bad…

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Maria Goretti, Virgin and Martyr, 06 July 2020
Hosea 2:16, 17-18, 21-22 >><)))*> >><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 9:18-26
Photo by author, procession cross, 2019.

Today, O God our loving Father, your words have invited me to reflect about “separations” — something we are always afraid of, sometimes beyond our control, but one thing for sure, many times needed in life.

Usually, we dread separations because it means being detached, being away from people we love or, situations we are familiar with.

Like with death, the ultimate separation in this life.

While Jesus was speaking, an official came forward, knelt down before him, and said, “My daughter has just died. But come, lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Jesus rose and followed him, and so did his disciples.

Matthew 9:18-19

Death as a separation is most painful when committed in cold blood, like the martyrdom of the young St. Maria Goretti who was only 12 years old when an older neighbor stabbed her to death in their home near Ancona, Italy after she had refused to give in to his sexual advances in 1902.

Death as a separation is painful and sad because it is “the end” in our running story, when we lose somebody so special, so close to us with whom we have special plans and dreams to be together but suddenly gone.

Sickness and diseases also separate us from others.

Often, people regard sickness as a kind of slow death. And here lies its agonizing pain when due to some medical conditions we are separated from others, unable to fully interact and relate with them even if they are near us. Its worst part is how we can only look from afar at the activities and things going on among our brothers and sisters because we are bedridden, stuck on a wheelchair, disabled, or sometimes deep inside us cannot fully integrate because of the sickness within like bleeding or some form of cancer or deafness.

A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel on his cloak. She said to herself, “If only I can touch his cloak, I shall be cured.”

Matthew 9:20-21

Thank you for sending us your Son Jesus Christ who have not only come to lead us to life eternal but also to heal our sickness and mediate in bridging the gaps among us and within us.

By giving himself on the Cross, Jesus has made us whole again, brought us together in unity both in time and eternity for nothing can now separate us from you and from others through his immense love poured upon his death.

Photo by author, Petra in Jordan, 2019.

Give us the grace, O Lord of heaven and earth, to seek and follow your voice always, that sometimes, we on our own separate from our daily routines, from others to be one with you in the desert so we may know you more, love you more and follow you more.

Thus says the Lord: I will allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak to her heart. She shall respond there as in the days of her youth, when she came up from the land of Egypt. I will espouse you in fidelity, and you shall know the Lord.

Hosea 2:16, 17, 22

There are still other forms of separations we experience in life, both good and bad.

Grant us the grace of courage, dear God our Father, to face every separation in life we experience, whether good or bad, permanent or temporary, our choice or imposed upon us — always trusting in the uniting power of your Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bakit ka narito?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-16 ng Hunyo 2020
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Pulilan, Bulacan, Enero 2020.
Minsan aking napanaginipan
matalik kong kaibigan
aming binalikan
mga bukid aming nilakaran
noong aming kabataan;
nagtungo rin kami sa simbahan
doon sa kabayanan
at umistambay pagkaraan
para magkuwentuhan sa Krus na Daan.
Hiniling ko sa kanya
ako'y isama sa kanyang bahay-pahingahan
doon sa bukid ngunit tinanggihan
pinauwi at binilinan tulungan
maraming nangangailangan
lalo na aming mga kaibigan.
Sa aking pagtayo at paghayo
siyang gising ko naman
at natanto
matagal nang yumao 
kaibigan ko.

Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, Enero 2018.
Maliwanag sa akin
kahulugan ng napanaginipan
dahil kung minsan
ako ay nahihirapan at nabibigatan
sa mga pasan-pasan
at tila naman walang ibang maasahan
bukod sa wala ring pakialam
kaya di maiwasan mag-asam
na mawala na lamang
at sumakabilang buhay.
Ngunit hindi iyon ang solusyon
hindi rin kalooban ng Panginoon
na mayroong nilalayon
dapat nating bigyan ng tuon;
mga hirap at pagod
konsumisyon at ilusyon
bahagi ng ating misyon
bigay at dinadalisay ng Panginoon
kaya't magtiyaga, Siya ay ating abangan
at tiyak matatagpuan, Kanyang tutulungan.

“Screenshot” ng palad ng isang mag-aaral sa Dr. Yanga’s Colleges Inc. na nagsulat ng mga aral napakinggan niya kay G. Michael Yanga, Pangulo ng naturang paaralan, 2019.
Madalas tayo ang nagtatanong 
sa Panginoon ng direksiyon
ngunit paano kung Siya mismo
sa atin naman ang magtanong
sa kalagitnaan ng ating misyon
"Bakit ka narito?" gaya noong
paghintayin Niya si Elias sa yungib ng Horeb
matapos Siyang mangusap 
sa banayad na tinig ng hangin;
kay sarap namnamin at damhin
dahil tuwing tayo tatanungin
nitong Panginoon natin,
ibig sabihin Siya ay ating kapiling!
Ano man iyong gampanin 
ngayong quarantine ay pagyamanin
palaging unahin na ang Diyos ay hintayin
dahil tiyak na Siya ay darating
hanggang matapos itong COVID-19
pangako Niyang kaligtasan at kaganapan
Kanyang tutuparin!

Aral at turo ng bundok

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-09 ng Hunyo 2020
Ang banal na Bundok ng Sinai sa Ehipto kung saan nakipagtagpo at usap ang Diyos kay Moises. Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Mayo 2019.
Mula 
 kamusmusan 
hanggang kabataan 
maging sa katandaan, palagi 
kong pinag-iisipan ano kaya pakiramdam 
at karanasan maakyat ang kabundukan at mula
doon durungawin nasa ibabang mga lansangan at kapatagan o kaya naman
mula sa gayong kataasan kung mayroong kaibahan kung ako'y tumingala sa kalangitan.
Hindi 
nagtagal aking 
naranasang maakyat ilang 
kabundukan at doon ko natutunan 
pangunahing aral at katotohanan na ang bundok 
ay buhay, isang paglalakbay mga daana'y di tiyak, puno ng mga 
dawag at panganib, hindi lahat ay paahon minsa'y palusong kaya mahalaga 
sa bawat pagkakataon, tuon ay matunton nililingon na taluktok sa dako pa roon.
Iwaksi 
pagmamadali 
gaya ng ating buhay, damhin
paglalakbay sa bundok, tingnan kalikasan
pakinggan sari-saring tunog at huni sa kapaligiran
iyong mararanasan kaluguran at kabutihan, hindi kahirapan;
iwasan o lampasan at iwanan mga hindi kagandahan, panatilihan 
saan man ika'y puno ng kagalakan at kaganapan, sa buhay madalas nating malimutan.
Huwag
kalilimutan tanging
mahalaga lamang ang dalhin
ano mang hindi kailangan ay iwanan
upang huwag mabigatan, mapagaan at mapaluwag
di lamang katawan kungdi pati kalooban dahil ang malaking 
katotohanan, itong bundok ay larawan ng Diyos na sa ati'y umaakit 
sa kanya tayo ay lumapit upang kariktan niya at kabanalan atin ding makamit.
Ang
hiwaga ng
kabundukan katulad 
nitong atin buhay matatagpuan 
sa ating kakayanang iwanan ang lahat,
Diyos ay pagkatiwalaan na Siya ring nagbigay
sa atin ng bugtong Niyang Anak nag-alay ng buhay sa krus 
upang mabuksan pintuan ng kalangitan na ating tunay na tahanan 
madalas nating tinitingnan sa kaulapan halos kalapit ng mataas na kabundukan.

Ang mga bantog na Swiss Alps sa Switzerland. Kuha ni Rdo. P. Gerry Pascual, 2019.