Faith to read signs

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXVIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 12 October 2020
Galatians 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1     ||| +++ |||     Luke 11:29-32
Cross of Christ atop the church of our Lady of Lourdes in France. Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, September 2018.

Today O God our Father I thank you for the gift of faith we have always taken for granted. Faith is not just for believing in you, God; faith is for believing what is true! Without faith, life would be a drab and even senseless for there is nothing we can ever hold as reliable and true.

Without faith is like living without friction with everything sliding, slipping, escaping our grasps. There is nothing we would ever believe in. Most of all, without faith we can never read and understand any kind of signs, especially your saving work in Jesus Christ.

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

Luke 11:29-30

We live in a world of so many signs and symbols but it is only through your gift of faith that they all become meaningful and useful.

Teach us, Lord, to deepen our faith so we can read your signs better like St. Paul in the first reading whose deep faith in you enabled him to interpret the meaning of the signs of Abraham’s two sons, Ishmael by Hagar and Isaac by Sarah.

May we love and care more for your gift of faith to us, Lord, because it is through our faith that we know and discover, follow and hold on to your plans for us. Amen.

God never fails in finding us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 28 August 2020
1 Cortinthians 1:17-25 <*(((><< ||+|| >><)))*> Matthew 25:1-13
Philippe de Champaigne’s painting “Saint Augustine” (1645-1650) from wikimedia.org.

Whenever I look back in my life, Lord, the more I realize the truth that it is YOU who finds us when we are lost. Even before we searched for you, you have been asking us to come home to you. In fact, to look for you is a grace in itself because that is when you have finally found us!

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you… You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness… You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

From the Confessions of St. Augustine

Thank you dearest Jesus in giving us the great St. Augustine, another version of St. Paul who started so wrong in life but ended right on your side.

Please be patient with us, Lord, specially in those times we feel so wise, thinking we know everything, that we can direct our own lives without you.

Open our hearts and our minds that we may heed the words of St. Paul like St. Augustine:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

We pray, O Jesus, for the gift of wisdom like the wise virgins of your parable that even in the darkness of our lives, our hearts may always be aflame with your love. Amen.

Photo by author inside our parish at sunset, 25 August 2020.

Let nature remind us of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 20 July 2020
Micah 6:1-4, 6-8 <*(((><< )) + (( >><)))*> Matthew 12:38-42

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father for this beautiful Monday! We are midway through the month of July in this challenging year. Yes, 2020 is heavy for most of us with all the various problems we are going through but you have never left us, O Lord.

And that is why, Father, we also wonder what else have we not done that would set things right again?

Let us heed your words, O God.

Let us be reminded of your ways, of your very self by nature around us!

Hear what the Lord says: Arise, present your plea before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voices! Hear, O mountains, the plea of the Lord, pay attention, O foundations of the earth! For the Lord has a plea against his people, and he enters into trial with Israel. O my people, what have I done to you, or how have I wearied you? Answer me! You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:1-3, 8

Forgive us, merciful Father, for being “an evil and unfaithful generation” always looking for signs of your loving presence.

Teach us to trust you even if we cannot understand your plans.

May we learn from nature around us that thrives so well in your loving care – full of life, full of zest even without so much attention, reminding us of your saving power in Jesus Christ. Amen.

All photos by author except bougainvillea with our parish church by Gelo Nicolas Carpio in the collage above.

I believe!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Tuesday, Week VI, Year II, 18 February 2020

James 1:12-18 <*(((>< 0 ><)))*> Mark 8:14-21

Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul, La Trinidad, Benguet, 03 February 2020.

“I believe, Lord!”

I believe, Lord, that is why I understand.

So many times I cannot understand you, Lord, especially your words and your ways because my mind and my heart are always filled with so many other things and even persons that I cannot find a space for you.

Believing in you, O Lord, is the starting point of everything that enables us to understand things and persons. Belief in you, O God who is all-powerful and all-knowing, is on whom everything begins, the starting point of everything. It is when I believe that I understand, Lord.

Like the apostles traveling with you on the boat, I always “presume” what you mean when you talk to me, especially that “leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod”. You are our leaven, our faith.

I am sorry, Lord, when my heart is so hardened that I cannot understand or comprehend your teachings that invite me first to believe so I can understand.

Let me always have that firm faith in you, Lord, to always believe in you so that I may not be deceived that even temptations come from you.

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters: all good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.

James 1:16-17

Give me the grace to always look deep inside my heart, to look around and be surprised by nature proclaiming your loving presence among us.

To wonder and to believe always lead us to you, to believing in you even in the midst of trials and sufferings that never come from you. Amen.

Divine sighs, human signs

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Monday, Week VI, Year II, 17 February 2020

James 1:1-11 ><)))*> 0 <*(((>< Mark 8:11-13

Photo by author, Laguna Lake, Los Baños, Laguna, 13 February 2020.

How often does it still happen today, Lord Jesus Christ, that like in our gospel today you would “sigh from the depth of your heart” after we, your people, would ask you for more signs from heaven?

Have mercy on us, Lord, for our lack of faith in you after all these years.

Forgive us for being “unstable in all our ways” with you, always “a man of two minds” as St. James would describe us (James 1:8) in seeking wisdom and things from you.

Forgive us for those moments we doubt your presence and power especially when we fail to win your favor, to get your blessings for our particular prayers and supplications.

The fault is really on us, Lord.

If sighing is your way of keeping your patience with our being so stubborn, teach us to reach out to you in the depths of our hearts, to remember those countless occasions you have saved us.

That instead of asking for signs from you, we may just sigh deep inside us to experience you again. Amen.

How much do you love?

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul

Week XXXIII-C, 17 November 2019

Malaci 3:19-20 ><}}}*> 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 ><}}}*> Luke 21:5-19

The Wailing Wall of Jerusalem Temple, May 2019.

We are now at the penultimate Sunday of the year as Jesus continues to summarize his teachings today at the Temple area in Jerusalem about his final coming at the end of time.

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here — the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” He answered, “See that you not be deceived… “

Luke 21:5-8

On the surface, Jesus seemed like to be a “kill joy” in making those bold assertions about the coming destruction of the Temple while everybody was admiring it. But notice how the people reacted: instead of being worried, they asked when it would happen and what would be the warning signs before it takes place as if it is just an ordinary thing!

“Wala lang…” as the young would say these days. Nothing, duh…?

View of Jerusalem from the Church of Dominus Flevit where Jesus wept upon seeing the city from the Mount of Olives.

St. Luke tells us that before Jesus entered Jerusalem, “he wept over it” at the thought that it would be destroyed and that its enemies would not “leave one stone upon another” (Lk.19: 41-44).

If there is anyone deeply hurt and saddened with the Temple’s destruction, it is not other than Jesus Christ our Lord. He certainly shared the people’s admiration for the Temple which he had also claimed as “my Father’s house” (Lk.2:49) when he was accidentally left behind there by Mary and Joseph when he was 12 years old.

Imagine what Jesus must have felt when he spoke of the destruction of the Temple which is the heart of Jerusalem, the jewel of the city, and most of all, the sign of God’s presence among his chosen people!

There must be something deeper with his warning words of the Temple’s destruction that pertains not only to his people at that time but also to us today.

Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, may 2019.

For the Jews at that time, the destruction of the Temple is the end of the world, the signal of the apocalypse. More than a catastrophe involving the destruction of buildings and almost everything including life, it is judgment day that must not be taken lightly.

It is a day calling for conversion as the prophet Malachi in the first reading reminds us that every coming of God is a day of judgment and salvation.

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire… But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.

Malachi 3:19-20

Christ had already come and will come again.

This was his promise and this is what he meant at the cleansing of the temple, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn.2:19). At his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Jesus Christ had replaced the old Temple worship with himself!

This is what we celebrate in every Holy Mass, God’s coming to us in Jesus Christ his Son.

Jesus comes in every here and now, and his every coming is a process of destroying our old temple of self to give rise to a new temple in Christ. Our concern need not be about a future date of his Second Coming or specific signs of its fulfillment.

Every day Jesus comes again and the challenge is for us to live authentically as Christians daily and not be bothered about the future. He warns us not to be deceived by all of these apocalyptic predictions and statements.

The key word is conversion, of living in the present. Jesus tells us so many things that can be very frightening and scary because what he wants us to do in preparation for his Second Coming is to love, love, and love.

And to love is to always suffer in Christ, with Christ.

He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in in my name… Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky. Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you… You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair of on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Luke 21:8-19
From I.REDD.IT.

Yes, Jesus will definitely come again at the end of time. Like last Sunday, definitely, there is a resurrection of the dead and life everlasting. But both must be seen in the context of the present time, of the here and now.

When Jesus comes again to judge us at the end of time, he won’t be asking us about the things we have been so preoccupied with in this life like how much money we earn, what car do you drive, or how big is your house?

When Jesus comes again, he will be asking us questions we have always refused to answer in our daily lives like how much have you loved, how much have you sacrificed and suffered for a loved one, or how much have you shared to a stranger?

These are the questions we must be asking ourselves as we near towards the end of the year: how close have I followed Jesus Christ in his Passion and Death so I may be with him in his Resurrection?

May we imitate St. Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians today to faithfully and calmly fulfill our daily tasks in this life, avoiding being idle for each day is the day of the Lord. Amen.

Angel of God, Reminder of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Wednesday, Memorial of Guardian Angels, 02 October 2019

Nehemiah 2:1-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 18:1-5, 10

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Your gospel today, Lord Jesus, brought me with mixed feelings of embarrassment and joy.

Embarrassed because like your disciples then, until now we are still preoccupied with the same old question of “who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Mt.18:1).

How funny – and shameful too, Lord, that as we grow older, the less we believe or at least disregard your guardian angels assigned to each one of us. As we get older, we feel we know everything, we can do everything, and we can be on our own.

How sad that in similar manner of dismissing our parents and elders as guardians, we have also abandoned belief and acceptance of angels.

Thank you for never abandoning us despite of this attitude, O dear God!

Thank you most of all, dearest God, for not withdrawing from our side our guardian angels!

Joy fills my heart today on this feast of the Guardian Angels that even if so many times in the past I have turned away from you, my guardian angel never left me, guiding me back to you in those many instances of discovering your wonder anew.

Our guardian angels remind us O Lord of your great love for us.

I can still recall so many instances in my life how I felt someone I do not see yet so personally present with me, personally saving me from so many occasions and situations that were harmful and even fatal.

Yes, guardian angels are not only for kids but for everyone who believe in you, Lord, to remind us of you.

Teach us to be child-like, humbly admitting there is an angel on our side, and most of all, you are always with us, Lord Jesus Christ.

As your messengers who are very close to you and closest with us, teach us to be like our guardian angels always close to you too and with others guarding and protecting them from harm. Amen.

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Who is my Neighbor.com?

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 July 2019
Photo by John Bonding, Architecture&Design Magazine, 25 May 2019 via Facebook.

This is not another homily about yesterday’s Parable of the Good Samaritan. I am very sure you have heard so much about it. In fact, you must have memorized that parable, too. And most likely, you also believe there is nothing else new in that parable. Its conviction remains true that we are all neighbors, that the question we must be asking is not “who is my neighbor” but, “do I act as a neighbor to others”?

However, in this complicated age of tweets and hashtags when everything is shortened, either abbreviated or initialized, the question “who is my neighbor” has become very legitimate again these days when technology has taken the center stage of our lives and relationships.

Two months ago I officiated the wedding of a friend’s youngest brother who sent me a gist of their “love story” that I may incorporate in my homily. Fact is, I have already worked out the outline of my homily for his wedding except that I really had a hard time deciphering the meaning of the three letters he had mentioned about their love story: “LDR”.

After several minutes, I finally got what he meant with those letters that stand for “Long Distance Relationship”.

Okay, I admit being too old for those kind of talkies with so many abbreviations that litter Facebook posts from “OMG” to “ootd” with a host of other letter combinations that I really do not understand at all even when given with their meanings.

This sudden surge in usage of so many abbreviations and initials is spawned by modern technologies in communication that still continue to evolve. Truly, the medium is the message. When we were growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, typewriters reigned supreme. We knew only two important abbreviations that time, “cc” for “carbon copy” and “asap” for “as soon as possible”.

With the demise of Messrs. Remington and Underwood following the rise of PC’s and Macs along with smartphones that all use the venerable “qwerty” board of old, we are now deluged with all of these initials and abbreviations. At least, those hardly used signs on the typewriter keys like @, #, and _ finally came more alive in this age of dot.coms.

There is nothing wrong with these developments but when these abbreviations and initials as well as signs and symbols are applied onto humans, problems begin to happen. This is when people are “materialized” while things are “personalized”. See how the benighted souls on television, from program hosts and celebrities to journalists using the Filipino personal pronoun “siya” for he/she/his/her when speaking of food and typhoons like “masarap siya” (he/she is delicious) or “siya ay magbubuhos ng ulan” (he/she will pour rains). How insanely they use the Filipino demonstrative pronoun “ito” or this for persons like “ito ang nanay ko” (this is my mother instead of she is my mother) or “ito ang mahal ko” (this is my beloved instead of he/she is my beloved)!

You see how we have now come to regard persons as things and things as persons?

And worst, we now see persons as food to be eaten and consumed when good looking men and women are described as “yummy” and “delicious”. It is utilitarianism at its worst when people are seen like food as if they are good only when “fresh, hot and tasty” but when already old and sickly, they are regarded like leftovers kept on the fridge, even discarded. In the same manner, see how in our country we take people like ice cream with those belonging to the “AB” crowd or the rich and famous as “flavor of the month” or “all-time favorite” while those from the lower segment of the society, the “CDE” or “chineleas-duster-estero” crowd as “dirty ice cream” or sorbetes.

From Google.

Here lies the legitimacy of the question who is my neighbor? — when we not only shorten words for the sake of convenience and do the same to persons, shortchanging them with the respect and dignity we all deserve.

A friend and fellow blogger recently wrote a piece about the growing number of young people who are so inconsiderate in using specific lanes and counters reserved for seniors and PWD’s in malls and stores. Even in churches, there are also inconsiderate, and hypocrite or unChristian, able-bodied people occupying pews reserved for seniors and PWD’s, claiming they will just leave and move when they arrive?! How I really feel like adding to our notes that “This pew is reserved for seniors and PWD’s. And morons too.”

How ironic that in this age when almost everyone is supposed to be tech savvy, being able to read every sign and logo yet refuse to respect give way to our seniors and PWD’s. Here is a classic case of us having smartphones but not so smart people, guided missiles and misguided children. They are like the Levite and the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan who simply “saw” the victim lying on the road, failing to see him as another person in need. Unlike the Samaritan who saw the victim and was moved with compassion to help him.

From Google.

The question “who is my neighbor” becomes more legitimate and pressing when we in the Church, in our own homes and family are overtaken by things of the world, from money and gadgets to fame and convenience that we not only forget one another but ultimately Jesus Christ our Lord and Master.

When we are more concerned with raising funds or earning money for more buildings, more gadgets, for more privileges and convenience, becoming vain even if beyond our means or not in our calling and state of life, that is when people start asking again “who is my neighbor” because nobody seem to care anymore. No one is with compassion and mercy anymore that everybody seem to have become robots and sadly, inhuman when all we see are things than persons.

The Church since Vatican II has always seen these modern means of communications as gifts from God meant to be used for the the “advancement and unity” of man (Communio et Progressio). Let us put technology and things at their proper place. And that is always at the service of mankind and glory of God.

God’s Word, God’s Sign

40 Shades of Lent, Wednesday of Week 1, 13 March 2019
Jonah 3:1-10///Luke 11:29-32

Open “the ears of our hearts”, O Lord, to always heed your words especially in this holy season of Lent when your readings are so rich and meaningful. So many times we are like your contemporaries, “an evil generation always seeking signs.” (Lk. 11:29)

Or, like your reluctant prophet Jonah: we cannot believe your words, always trying to escape responsibilities and mission from you to proclaim your word.

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: “Set out for the great city of Nineveh, and announce to it the message that I will tell you.” So Jonah made ready and went to Nineveh, according to the Lord’s bidding.

Jonah 3:1-3

How funny and even insane, Lord, for us to run away from you, hide from you like Jonah because we find your words so simple, doubting its powers to move and change people.

But when like Jonah we proclaim your words, we are amazed and surprised at its efficacy not only with the people they are directed to but most of all with us. Your words indeed are alive and so powerful especially if our whole heart is humbled and contrite from our sins.

Help us to always recognize your presence in your words for you are the Word who became flesh. Take away our stony hearts and give us a natural heart that beats with firm faith, fervent hope and unceasing charity and love. Amen.

Images from Google.

Of Sighs, Signs, and Sin

Words-may-be-false-Quotes-by-Thomas-Shadwell-By-POPOPICS
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, 18 February 2019, Week VI, Year I
Genesis 4:1-15, 25///Mark 8:11-13

Good morning Lord Jesus Christ!  I hope you don’t mind my asking you on this first day of work and studies:  why did you sigh in the gospel today?

The Pharisees came forward and began to argue with Jesus, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.  He sighed from the depth of his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign?  Amen, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”  Then he left them, got into the boat again, and went off to the other shore (Mk.8:11-13).

Some people tell me it is not good to sigh; but, they have never explained to me why, and so, I sigh even more!  Most often, I sigh when I feel helpless and even hopeless with people and situations; but, surely O Lord, you neither get helpless nor hopeless with us as we keep on asking you for more signs.

Did you sigh, O Lord, because you were so tempted to get down to their level?

Did you sigh, O Lord, so that you would not give in to sin and be like Cain who lost sight of himself and of his brother Abel and eventually of God?

What a beautiful sign of your humanity and divinity as well is your sighing, O Lord, reminding us of our need to always reconnect with the Holy Spirit in the depths of our being especially when temptations for us to sin are so strong that we forget we are our brother’s keeper.

Remind us always O Lord when we sigh that we may think of your many signs of wonder before us, of the many signs of your mercy and love so that we remain rooted in you.  Amen.  Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.