Hope. And be surprised!

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 24 September 2020
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Tiberias, the Holy Land, May 2019.

HOPE. A favorite word among us, used as an expression for things to get better, especially when we express our “hope” God grants what we pray for, or, in ending our letters of request with “hoping for your kind consideration”.

Even Hollywood is fond of this virtue, portraying it as a reserved power to overcome evil when Neo in the 2003 The Matrix Revolutions was summoned into action to defend their city because he was the only one with “hope”.

Or, something like a turbo charger that will boost every leap of faith when Toretto in Fast and Furious 6 handed to his rival Owen Shaw the computer chip they were tasked to retrieve in the “hope” of getting it back even if they have to chase a giant Antonov An-124 plane taking off.

Of course, Neo and Toretto succeeded in their efforts filled with hope, defeating evil.

But, that is not what hope is all about.

To hope is different from optimism, of believing things can get better;
in fact, we hope because things can get worst.

The late Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote in one of his books that to hope means having that firm conviction within that even if things get worst like death, we are certain God will never forsake us for he loves us very much.

Jesus Christ showed us this true meaning of hope when he decided to go to Jerusalem to accomplish his mission by dying on the Cross for our salvation. I love the way Luke narrated in his gospel this attitude of Jesus in showing us the path of hope amid his knowledge things would get worst than before leading to his Passion and Death (and Resurrection):

When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he (Jesus) resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem…

Luke 9:51

Imagine Jesus “resolutely determined” going to Jerusalem, the very same attitude of saints witnessing the Gospel by facing martyrdom. It is also very true with us when we say our only hope is the Lord when we know of sure death while facing a serious illness.

To hope is to be “resolutely determined” like Jesus and the saints along with our loved ones to follow the arduous path of life, of putting up the good fight against sickness or injustice and evil even if they knew things will lead unto death. At first we wonder, what victory can we claim if in the end we die like the saints and martyrs?

That’s the mystery and paradox of hope: to hope is to completely trust in God that death is not the end of life or any struggle but the highest point of our transformation as we dive to life’s lowest level like defeat, loss, and death when we pray like Jesus on the Cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk.23:46).

Hope is faith severely tested, believing and abandoning everything to God, come what may.

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Fatima, Portugal, 2016.

Hope is clearly not positive thinking nor optimism; hope is “faith in God” as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI tells us in his second encyclical, Spe Salvi (2007). According to Pope Benedict, hope gives us the direction towards the future by enabling us to face the challenges of this life leading to salvation and eternal life.

In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hope, is ultimately without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (Eph.2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God — God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (Jn.13:1 and 19:30)… If we are in a relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.

Spe Salvi, #27

Four weeks ago, a former parishioner had asked me for prayers for her husband with liver cancer. Both are medical doctors; in fact, it was her husband who had actually diagnosed himself while going through radiological lab exam.

It was at that time they “resolutely determined” to go home and face the inevitable by praying together, hoping together in God.

Here lies the mystery and paradox of hope we were talking earlier: why and what do we really hope when we know it is going to end in death?

God. Nothing else and nobody else. God is the reason we hope and what we hope for.

It is only when we have been stripped of everything else when we truly “see” and experience God is all we have in life after all.

Then we become confident God will never abandon us until the end.

That is what my friend and her husband have realized, especially when Dr. Mike died two weeks later after going home.

When I celebrated Mass at his wake, I could not resist telling my friend how the smile of her husband is the sweetest, even most infectious one I have ever seen on the lips of a dead person in my 22 years as a priest!

Truly, the Lord loved Dr. Mike until the end that he died with a smile as the fruit of his hoping in God with his wife.

Indeed, friends have told me that God will give us the grace to face our death when that time comes; and I believe them because I have seen them transformed after accepting their terminal condition that they no longer cry of their situation getting worst while those to be left behind in turn become the ones crying knowing their beloved is passing (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/22/the-gift-of-tears/).

Hope surprises.
Even God.

Photo by author, 2019.

When I was on my second year of seminary formation in theology, I experienced the most severe test of my vocation to the priesthood that I almost left and abandoned all plans of becoming a priest at all.

What sustained me in the seminary were prayers — and some lines from T.S. Eliot’s very long poem “Four Quartets” published in 1941:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Too bad I have lost the index card on which I wrote this stanza which I posted on my study lamp, reading it daily even until I have become a priest.

To truly hope, one has to get totally lost and empty, stripped naked of our very selves when darkness is our only light and hopelessness is our only hope.

It is when we have totally lost everything except God when we truly hope.

And that is when all the surprises happen, not only with ourselves but with others.

Not only here but definitely even in eternity, the biggest surprise we are all hoping for.

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

In 1912, the French poet Charles Pierre Péguy (1873-1914) wrote a very long poem ahead of T.S. Eliot about the virtue of hope, claiming it is God’s favorite because it is full of surprises.

Péguy portrayed Hope as a “little girl” who enlivens her older sisters Faith and Love.

I do not want to dilute its magic and power so I leave it that way for you to savor its sweetness, its truth and beauty in Péguy’s poetry:

The faith that I love best, says God, is hope. Faith doesn’t surprise me. It’s not surprising. I am so resplendent in my creation…. That in order not to see me these poor people would have to be blind. Charity, says God, that doesn’t surprise me. It’s not surprising. These poor creatures are so miserable that unless they had a heart of stone, how could they not have love for each other…. But hope, says God, that is something that surprises me. Even me. That is surprising.

Charles Péguy, The Portal of the Mystery of the Second Virtue

Sometimes in life, we have to hit rock bottom in order to truly hope. Keep hoping and you will surely be surprised by God, by others, and by our very selves that we are always blessed! Amen.

The gift of tears

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 22 September 2020
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera of our parish church, August 2020.

Lately I have been watching old movies that I wonder why I still cry even if I have seen them more than twice before at the cinema and cable TV. It seems that my being born with “mababa ang luha” (easy to cry) is getting more “mababa” as I get old.

Tears are a gift from God, the most beautiful prayer we can ever express courtesy of the Holy Spirit because when we run out of words for our pains and sadness or when we are overjoyed, he makes us cry to heal and comfort us or complete our joys, assuring us of his loving presence.

That is the reason why we call “home” in Tagalog as “tahanan”: home is where we “stop crying”, that is, “tahan na” because that is where we find all the support we need in times of crisis. Indeed, home is where the heart is.

True to its function, tears cleanse us physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have read two decades ago that researchers at a university in the US have found the chemical composition of our tears differ if we cry because of pain and sadness or due to joy and laughter.

Is it not wonderful and amazing how we take for granted crying and tears without realizing its chemical process within that can transform our very selves?

Photo from Reuters.com, July 2020.
Tears and crying mark our life's coming to full circle.

When I was five years old, I saw the picture of a newborn baby crying in the Book Section of the Reader’s Digest. I asked my mom why the baby was crying. In her usual motherly way of explaining things, she told me that if the baby cries upon birth, it means he/she is alive; if the baby does not cry, he/she is dead.

Kapag umiyak, buhay; walang iyak, patay.

My young mind easily absorbed her words that would remain to be one of the most profound lessons I had ever learned about life at a very young age. As I grew up watching TV and movies, I would always sigh with relief whenever I heard the sounds “uha-uha” because the story would surely be nice and not tragic.

Imagine the great inverse that happens with crying and tears to signal the coming to the outside world of life of another human, of how we have to cry to be alive from then on until we die when it becomes our family and friends’ turn to cry and shed tears for us when we are gone.

But there is something more deeper than this great inverse on crying in life and death I had learned only in 2013 through my best friend Gil, a classmate in our minor seminary.

It was late February of that year on the 40th day of the death of his youngest sister Claire when he was diagnosed with cancer. We could not believe the news because Gil was the most health conscious in our “band of brothers” from high school who never smoked, rarely ate meat, and was active in sports like golf and badminton. Unlike most of us, he was never overweight, looked so healthy in our mid-40’s.

Imagine the hurt within him that every time we would visit him, he would cry not really in pain but more on the why of getting cancer. We tried visiting him as often as we can to cheer him up and lift his spirits specially after his surgery when his chemotherapy sessions began.

By September on that same year, we all had to rush and visit him at Makati Med one Sunday afternoon when informed by his Ate Lily that doctors have given up on him. His cancer cells were “ferocious” and nothing could be done anymore except to wait for the inevitable.

That was when I noticed the greater inverse about crying when Gil had finally accepted his condition and life direction, that was when he was most joyous and peaceful too while we were the ones so sad and worried, crying. How our roles were reversed with Gil now telling us to stop crying – tahan na – which we used to tell him months earlier! (Gil died peacefully the following Sunday, 22 September 2013.)

“Mater Dolorosa” as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

I noticed it happening so many times with some friends and parishioners I have come to love in my ministry, those I have pastorally cared for some time after being diagnosed with serious conditions like cancer.

Yes, I have cried despite holding my tears for them while administering the Holy Viaticum and Anointing of Oil. The patients in turn would just glance at me, so dignified and calm like Mary our Lady of Sorrows as if trying to comfort me with their sweet thank you.

As I prayed on those experiences, I realized how life comes to full circle through our crying and tears.

I believe that patients cry when they start undergoing treatment of their sickness due to fears and uncertainty of what would happen next to them; later as they come to terms with their condition, they stop crying because they already knew where they were going, of what was coming next.

We who would be left behind cry and begin to shed tears at thoughts of their dying because admittedly, we are actually the ones more uncertain of where we are going to or how our lives would go through when our loved ones are gone.

That is the greatest pain we feel in the death of a beloved when we grapple with the realities of the many uncertainties of life without them.

And that is why we need to love as much as we can our family and friends while still alive. This quarantine period of the pandemic are grace-filled moments to shower them with our love and presence we have taken for granted for so long as we pursued many things in our lives.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Infanta, Quezon, April 2020.
Tears and crying lead us to heaven.

Death and sickness, like life, become a blessing if we are filled with gratitude not regrets because we have truly loved. When a beloved is gone and we begin to cry, the tears wash away our pains of losing them, cleansing us within to leave us with all the beautiful memories and love we have shared. Then, every remembering becomes truly a re-membering, making a lost loved one a member of the present again.

When we cry, tears polish the love we have shared with everybody until later when our time comes, our visions are also cleared of what is going to happen next, of where we are going. Crying becomes wonderful and truly a grace after all not only in sharing and being one with the grief and pain of another in the present but sooner or later, in having a glimpse of the life after.

In the Gospel of John (11:1-44), we find the story of the raising of Lazarus whom Jesus loved so much that he wept – not just cried – at his death. Jesus raised him up back to life, his final miracle – or “seventh sign” according to John – to show he is the Christ before his own Resurrection at Easter after his “final hour” of Crucifixion on Good Friday.

From then on, Christ sanctified crying and tears to enable us to see beyond pains and hurts, even death especially if you have truly loved.

Sometimes in life, it is always good to let those tears flow, like love even if it is painful, to have a good cry and real cleansing inside. A blessed day to you!

Beauty in our mortality

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 September 2020
1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49     || + ||     Luke 8:4-15
“The Sower” painting by Van Gogh, photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Dearest Lord Jesus,

Today I wish to repeat my prayer to you yesterday: Please grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart in explaining and leading others to faith in you, most especially in believing the resurrection of the dead.

While we all profess faith in the resurrection of the dead, most of us are still puzzled like the Corinthians who could not accept it.

Here I have found St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart at its best when he wrote us the most wonderful and loveliest explanation of death and dying that lead to transformation and new life.

Brothers and sisters: Someone may say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?” You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-44

In this time of the pandemic when death has become so “ordinary” and most of all, “so closest to home”, I pray for the many people now facing death in their hospital beds, in their homes comforted by the loving presence of family, as well as for those left alone to themselves due to so many reasons only you can understand. And forgive.

Bless those with advanced stages of cancer, those awaiting transplants, for those in their terminal stages. Give them the grace of hope, to continue to love even if things are getting worst than better.

Ease their pains, Jesus, and make them feel your loving presence with them on the cross.

Most of all, transform them like the seeds after having died and sown in good soil, grew and produced fruit a hundredfold. Amen.

Healed by God’s mercy

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 17 July 2020
Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8 >><)))*> >><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 12:1-8
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News at the start of COVID-19 lockdown, March 2020.

Our loving and merciful Father, every time I hear the siren of an ambulance or stories of people I know getting sick, I grapple with words in praying for them and those who take care of them.

I could not find the words what to pray for them except to beg for your mercy that whomever inside a rushing ambulance or my parishioner or friend or relative may get well soon, may be healed totally in their mind, body and soul.

There are just too much sickness and death going on these days, Lord, and the truth is, deep inside me you know very well my own prayer even if it does not pass through my lips – spare me of any sickness at least during this pandemic.

Thank you for your loving mercy, Father, that have sustained me since March, especially when I feel low and sad, even depressed thinking if I would ever survive this COVID-19 pandemic.

Your words today are very consoling and reassuring: you are more than willing to heal us of our sickness, Lord.

Like your servant King Hezekiah, I turn to you merciful Father on behalf of those stricken with COVID-19 and other illnesses in this time of the corona to give them a chance to recover their health to serve you and their families too.

I pray also for their loved ones looking after them to keep them faithful and filled with hope hurdling this sickness.

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord: “O Lord, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you!” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go, tell Hezekiah: thus says the Lord, the God of your Father David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you…”

Isaiah 38:2-5

Unlike Hezekiah who must have been so extraordinary before you, we are not asking any signs from you. Just heal us, strengthen our medical frontliners and caregivers. Most of all, spare us of any sickness in this time of the pandemic.

Father, we beg you in this most trying time of our history as a nation, that we may be filled with your mercy so that we in turn may share this same mercy to those living in the margins, that we may be more compassionate and kind to people so hard-pressed with life these days.

Yes, indeed, your Son’s reminder to the Pharisees are also meant for us today when we are so concerned with laws than with persons:

Jesus said to them: “If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

Matthew 12:7-8


Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

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.

Pagiging pagkain at gamot sa kapwa

Lawiswis ng Salita, Martes, Kuwaresma-IV, 24 Marso 2020

Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12 ><)))*> + <*(((>< Juan 5:1-16

Natuwa ako sa nakita kong post na ito ng isang kaibigang reporter. Na-interview pala ang lalakeng ito ng isa pang reporter na bumili ng tinda niyang saging; nagtaka yung bumibili na reporter bakit ang mura ng tinda niyang saging at iyan ang kanyang sagot.

Kay buti ng kanyang paliwanag, akmang-akma sa nakita ni Propeta Ezekiel sa kanyang pangitain nang ilibot siya ng anghel ng Panginoon sa kanyang templo na napapaligiran ng ilog kung saan lahat ng halaman at punong kahoy malapit sa pampang ay sagana ang mga bunga at luntian mga dahon.

Hindi malalanta ang mga dahon nito ni mawawalan ng bunga pagkat ang didilig dito ay ang tubig na umaagos sa buong taon. Ang bunga nito ay pagkain, at gamot naman ang mga dahon.

Ezekiel 47:12

Tubig, tanda ng buhay at ng Diyos

Tanda ng buhay ang tubig. Kaya naman maraming pagkakataon sa bibliya ito rin ang kumakatawan sa Diyos, lalo na sa ebanghelyo ayon kay San Juan sa Bagong Tipan.

Altar ng Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Kuwaresma 2020.

Pagmasdan mula pa noong kamakalawang Linggo, palaging mayroong tubig sa kuwento sa atin ni San Juan: ang babaeng Samaritana na kinausap ni Hesus sa may balon ni Jacob at noong Linggo, ang pagpapagaling niya sa lalaking ipinanganak na bulag na kanyang pinaghilamos sa deposito ng tubig sa Siloe.

Ngayon naman ay sa malaking deposito ng tubig sa Betesda (ibig sabihin sa Hudyo ay “habag ng Diyos”) ang tagpo ng pagpapagaling ng Panginoon.

Para kay San Juan, si Hesus na ang tubig na titighaw sa ating pagkauhaw, lilinis sa ating mga kasalanan, magpapagaling sa ating mga sakit at kapansanan dahil siya mismo ang buhay!

Sinasabi na upang makaiwas sa COVID-19, makabubuti ang pag-inom palagi ng tubig o kaya ang pagmumumog ng maligamgam na tubig na may asin.

Gayon kabisa at kahalaga ang tubig na kapag nawala, tayo’y manghihina, magkakasakit, durumi, at higit sa lahat, mamamatay. Alalaong baga sa ating mga pagbasa ngayong Martes, ang manatili sa Diyos na kinakatawan ng tubig ang ating siguradong kaligtasan.

At iyon naman ang katotohanan: tanging ang Diyos lamang ang makapagliligtas sa atin mula sa epidemiyang ito. Subalit hindi sapat ang basta manalangin lamang o magpost sa Facebook ng mga sari-saring sitas at panawagang magdasal.

Hamon ng ebanghelyo: maging pagkain at gamot sa kapwa

Sino man sa atin ang tunay na nabubuhay sa Diyos na siyang tubig na lumilinis at nagpapagaling sa atin ang dapat rin namang maging bunga na bumubusog at dahon na nagpapagaling sa kapwa!

Sa gitna ng ating krisis ngayon, ng umiiral na lockdown sanhi ng banta ng COVID-19, makabubuti na suriing muli ang ating pananampalataya: kung totoo nga na tanging sa Diyos lamang tayo nananalig bilang ating buhay at tubig, tayo ba ay nakakapamunga ng mabubuting gawa di lamang salita para sa iba?

Naalala ba natin yung kapwa nating nagugutom?

Nakapagbibigay lunas ba tayo sa agam-agam at takot ng marami sa COVID-19 at lockdown?

Baka naman tayo ay wala nang pakialam sa iba o kaya tayo pa ang problema ng marami sa ating pagwawalang-bahala gaya ng pagtambay sa lansangan o pag-iinuman at iba pang mga gawa na bumabale-wala sa “social distancing” na pangunahing sanhi ng paglaganap ng COVID-19?

Pagnilayan natin iyong tindero ng saging na hindi nagtaas ng presyo ng kanyang tinda para huwag magutom ang kapwa: marahil mas mainam ang katayuan mo sa buhay dahil nababasa mo ito sa Facebook kesa kanya…

Manalangin tayo:

Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Baliwag, 25 Pebrero 2020.

O Diyos Ama naming mapagmahal, salamat po sa buhay na inyong kaloob sa amin lalo na po sa araw na ito. Ipinapanalangin po namin ang mga may sakit at nag-aalaga sa kanila ngayon, pati na mga duktor at nars na aming frontliner sa COVID-19.

Dugtungan pa po ninyo ang buhay ng mga may-sakit at pangalagaan ang kalusugan ng mga nag-aalaga sa kanila lalo na rin ang aming mga health frontliners.

Bigyan po ninyo kami ng biyaya na maging mabunga itong aming buhay sa pagbabahagi ng aming kayamanan tulad ng pagkain at tulong pinansiyal sa mga nangangailangan katulad ng mga aba, mga nag-iisa sa buhay, mga matatanda.

Makapagdulot nawa kami ng kagaanan sa kalooban, kagalingan sa isipan ng mga naguguluhan, nalilito, at natatakot sa pandemiyang ito na COVID-19.

Higit sa lahat, huwag nawa kaming maging pabigat pa sa marami nang pagdurusa ng aming kapwa ngayong panahon ng krisis bagkus sa amin ay madama ang pagdaloy ng iyong buhay na ganap at kasiya-siya sa pamamagitan ni Hesu-Kristong Panginoon namin, sa kapangyarian ng Espiritu Santo, magpasawalang-hanggan. Amen.

Faith in the time of COVID-19

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Friday, Memorial of St. Peter Damian, 21 February 2020

James 2:14-24.26 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 8:34-9:1

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Traslacion 2020, Quiapo, Manila.

Praise and glory to you, O Lord Jesus Christ, for standing by our side through all the trials that have poured upon us this early 2020. In fact, since December you have been keeping us, blessing us, protecting us from all the problems we have been going through in the family and in the world.

You have never left us, Lord, with many of us now moving on with our lives since losing our beloved earlier this year while war between Iran and the US was averted. Thank you, Jesus, the alert level of Taal Volcano had gone down and despite the continuing threats from the new corona virus, things seem to be improving.

Except us, your people who are supposed to be “faithful”.

The words of St. James since Monday have been shaking us down into our very core, reminding us to get real and do away with all the pomp and pageantries of being your faithful disciples.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 2:14, 17, 19, 24-26

Continue to purify us, teach us how to truly “deny one’s self, take up one’s cross, and follow you, O Lord” (Mk.8:34).

How sad, O Lord, that as we approach your holy season of Lent, we are more preoccupied with how ashes should be distributed on Ash Wednesday.

What an “overkill” Lord in dealing with this disease when we have forgotten the more essential cleansing of our hearts, of our minds and conscience that flow into maintaining cleanliness and hygiene inside our churches.

Faith in this time of the new corona virus is proving to be a very crucial test of our being Christ-ians indeed through our genuine works of love and mercy for others.

Give us the same courage of St. Peter Damian in reforming not only your church but most especially our very selves. Amen.

When Jesus speaks

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Thursday, Week XXIX, Year I, 24 October 2019

Romans 6:19-23 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 12:49-53

The late Joey Velasco at work. From Google.

As I prayed today’s gospel, Lord Jesus, I remembered the late painter Joey Velasco who is best known for his “Hapag ng Pag-Asa”.

Joey portrayed you in a very unique way that is very disturbing, even harsh just like the way you spoke in today’s gospel.

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

Luke 12:49-51

Why did I feel that way, Lord?

It seems I have been so conditioned to your image of being “meek and humble”, so gentle like Isaiah’s Suffering Servant who bore all pains and insults.

But more than that imagery that we have nurtured of you like a “baby” within us, Joey’s paintings of you among the poor and suffering disturb us because we are so detached from you.

Yes, we are disturbed and even pained because we have refused to follow you closer among the poor and suffering.

So often, your words shock us and actually bring us back to life because we have actually been dead to sin and evil or the “wages of sin” according to St. Paul in our first reading today.

“That All May Be One” painting by Joey Velasco.
Photo from Google.

We are disturbed because our silence in reaching out to the poor and oppressed is more harsh than your words.

Your words are “harsh” because they are so radical in the truest sense, from the Latin radix or roots – you are shaking us down into our inner core and being to set the earth out on fire with your love!

Your words disturb us because they call us to leave our comfort zones and sidewalks to follow you right onto the dirty road of pain and suffering with the poor.

Yes, you have come Jesus to bring divisions, but not out of our petty quarrels and whims and fanaticisms.

Let us be divided for what is true and good, for what is just and fair.

Let us be divided, Lord, by choosing your side, by standing by your side at the foot of cross with the wounded and unaccepted.

Open our hearts, O Jesus, to the truest sense and meaning of your words to reawaken in us your fire and spirit of loving service for the less fortunate. Amen.

Let nothing disturb you…

Quiet Storm by Nick F. Lalog II, 15 October 2019

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa at Panglao, Bohol, September 2019.

Which is more difficult to confront, the fact of dying or that of suffering through a serious sickness? I have been thinking these for the past couple of days following my recent visitations of sick parishioners.

Today I visited a parishioner sick for the past three months with a lung disease. She’s 76 years old.

Right upon seeing me, Lola Milagros cried, telling me to ask God to take her because she’s so tired of suffering and waiting for death.

I just let her cry, holding her hands, as I listened to her pouring out of her aches and pains.

After that, I whispered to her the words of St. Teresa de Avila whose feast we are also celebrating today:

Nada te turbe… Solo Dios basta! (Let nothing disturb you… only God suffices!)

St. Teresa De Avila

So beautiful to hear and yes, easier said than done.

Can anybody with a serious ailment be not disturbed?

Been asking myself the same questions too. It is difficult not to be disturbed when one is sick. Aside from the costs of treatment are the enormous pains and sufferings one has to go through with the medical procedures and its many effects to the patient, who eventually would die.

It is a reality getting closer to home with me and I must confess, I am disturbed. Worried. And afraid.

Photo by Essow Kedelina on Pexels.com

The other week I visited another sick parishioner named Charlie, a former cook paralysed waist down due to a spine injury. He is only in his early 50’s.

What struck me when I saw him were the ropes tied to his both feet. I could not figure out how he could be restless when he is paralysed that his feet have to be tied?

He explained, “Father, I pity my wife when I have to wake her up every night just to move my legs. So, I improvised these ropes tied to my feet so I can just pull them with my hands in case I have to change positions even at night.”

Oh God! What a great love of a man to his wife!

Charlie loves his wife so much that he does not want her to be disturbed with his ailment and condition.

When there is love, we are not disturbed. And the only true love that can make us undisturbed is the love of Jesus Christ, the only perfect love we can have and find.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favors, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love calls for love in return. Let us strive to keep this always before our eyes and to rouse ourselves to love him. For if at some time the Lord should grant us the grace of impressing his love on our hearts, all will become easy for us and we shall accomplish great things quickly and without effort.

St. Teresa de Avila

“Love calls for love in return.”

So beautiful words by St. Teresa de Avila.

We can only truly feel that personal love of Jesus if we are also personally in love with him.

We are disturbed with so many things in life when there is not enough love in our hearts, when we have not felt loved enough by others too.

Without love, we would always be disturbed.

I told Lola Milagros this morning to thank God for the gift of tears because they are prayers coming straight from her heart. That God knows very well all her pains and sufferings. Most of all, I told her tears are clear signs of love in her heart.

Later on my way home, Lola Milagros’ daughter was also teary-eyed as she told me she was so glad to see her mother cried. According to her, Lola Milagros is a very tough woman of the “old school” who tried to bear everything and even hide what’s inside her so as not to disturb them. She always wanted them to be assured all’s fine.

Lola Milagros and Charlie do not want to disturb their respective family because they love them. It is love that moves the sick not to disturb others and it is also love that enables us to assure them not to be disturbed.

The challenge therefore is not to reflect on whether to die instantly or slowly but to always love truly!

Sacred Heart Novitiate (Novaliches), 2017.

Human love is always imperfect. Only God can love us perfectly. This he did exactly to us when he sent us Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for us.

To love truly is be personally one in Jesus Christ. When we were still seminarians, Fr. Memeng used to tell us in our class “Priestly Spirituality” that “if we can really cultivate a deep prayer life, we can also experience Jesus Christ in the most personal way.” It is the experience of St. Teresa de Avila and all the other saints.

Nothing can disturb us in this life when our love is borne out of a personal relationship with Jesus in prayer.

Prayer life is more than reciting prayers by following a schedule. Prayer life is a relationship, a communing with God, of being our true selves before him, seeing ourselves as he sees us. And because of this assurance of his love despite our many sins and flaws, that is when we are not disturbed because God loves us no matter what.

When we are not disturbed, then we become silent. Presence is more than enough to share and experience God’s love. St. Paul said “love is not pompous” because true love is always silent, more on deeds than on words.

One thing amusing with death is that it always comes in silence, when we least expect it. Whether we die instantly or slowly, it always happens in silence. And that is also why many are disturbed of dying.

But, if we love patiently our self, others and God, nothing can ever disturb us because when we love, we are already in God. That is when we realize too the wisdom and truth of St. Teresa’s contemporary who claimed that

A soul that walks in love is neither tired nor gets tired.

San Juan dela Cruz
From Google.

Let us love, love, and love until the end onto eternity.

Only God suffices because God is love. Amen.

Face of God, Face of Man

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Monday, 04 March 2019, Week VIII, Year I

Sirach 17:19-24///Mark 10:17-27 

Good morning Lord Jesus Christ. It’s the Monday rush again, as well as the Monday blues.  So often on Mondays, we feel like that young man in the gospel coming to you, praying and pleading to you with our life’s many concerns and baggages.

And you are always there present with us and for us, never failing to look at us full of love and compassion.

What a lovely scene we fail to recognize because our faces fell as we hurriedly went away sad from you.  We never bothered to even look at you because we are so occupied with our very selves!

Allow us to pause a little, to glance at your loving face, especially those going through many difficulties like medical procedures of surgery, chemotheraphy, dialysis, or physical theraphy.  We pray also for those burdened with so many problems with their very self or family members, with work and career, with finances and everything.

You know very well, O Lord whats eating us up inside, what’s bothering us as you could always see our sad faces so focused on the darkness within us and around us. Give us the grace to just turn a little and look at your face, see your glow, and feel the warmth of your presence.  In that way, we can slowly return to you and completely trust in you again.  Amen.

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.